As the resident wellness chef at The Chopping Block, I spend a lot of time thinking about our relationship with our food. Chefs are known to obsessively tinker with flavor and plating. Some restaurants even go so far to select music and wall colors that enhance the dining experience so that diners know nothing but pleasure during the moments that they eat.
But, in my opinion, not enough attention is paid to how we feel after we eat. While it’s pleasurable in the moment that we eat it, food is also able to bring pleasure and power to our bodies, emotions, and minds, hours, days, and even years after eating.
As a wellness chef, though, I want to have it all! This year, I’ve been really thinking about how I’d describe my drive to create good tasting and good-for-you food, and I’ve come up with the following mantra:
Eat, make, and share food that nourishes and excites.
In the spirit of nourishing and exciting you, I am SO excited to share my latest, greatest and biggest cooking class yet: the Clean Eating Boot Camp, happening Saturday, October 15, 10am-4pm at The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square. After months of planning and recipe-testing on my part and suggestions and questions from my amazing students, I’m thrilled to announce the most comprehensive clean eating workshop in Chicago to-date! Check out the details here.
I’d also love to share a few basic principles of clean eating so you can start to create your own good food mantras, as well as give you a little teaser of what you’ll learn in the Clean Eating Boot Camp.
Basic principles of a clean eating diet:
1. Eat whole foods.
The building blocks of a clean eating diet are whole, unprocessed foods. Think things like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. I tell my students to have most of their plate be things that grew in the ground and that are close to that initial state. (Sweet potatoes and kale? Yay! White flour and flavored yogurt cups? Not so much).
Most of the Clean Eating Boot Camp will be devoted to learning the ins and outs of using whole plant foods. I’ll also show you how to use meat to accent to a meal, rather than the main attraction in a short, optional animal protein demo, making this class a good fit for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike.
2. Season your food well.
My students know that seasoning is where all the magic happens in the kitchen. You can check out my Culinary Color Wheel for a primer on balancing major tastes when cooking, and we’ll dive deeper into this topic in the Bootcamp. The Spiced Lentil Soup in class is the perfect way to learn how to balance sweet, sour, salty, bitter and more in your cooking so that you can learn to make all your meals taste good, even when you don’t have a recipe.
3. Play with spices, herbs, technique, texture, and sauces.
Your food—like your life—should be interesting and fun! So often we get stuck cooking the same recipes or preparing a single vegetable the same way every time. Make sure to play with your food a little and make slight changes each time you cook, even with old favorites. For example, sub cilantro and mint for basil in a soup or roast your broccoli instead of steaming it.
In the Clean Eating Boot Camp, I’m going to challenge you and your fellow students to come up with your own signature “bowl” meals—a mix of grains, protein, vegetables, topped with a flavorful sauce. You’ll have me and other chefs on hand to provide guidance and the ingredients, but you’ll use a template I’ve developed to learn how to make an interesting bowl meal based on what you already have in your fridge!
4. Use foods that make you feel good, day after day.
In addition to eating more whole foods, seek out some anti-inflammatory ingredients like turmeric, ginger, leafy greens, and hemp seeds. We’ll start the Boot Camp off by chatting at a big table with our Turmeric Spice Lattes and utilize other anti-inflammatory and high-antioxidant ingredients throughout the day.
5. Consider affordability and speed.
Good tasting, nutritious food does not need to take a long time or be outrageously expensive. While superfoods and slow-cooked meals are fun from time to time, you want to make sure you’ve got meals and recipes in your arsenal that are quick to put together and don’t cost a fortune. That’s the key to making clean eating a fun and fulfilling part of your life. In class, you’ll build my Green Smoothie Jars to learn how to prep this nutrient-rich, powerhouse breakfast for the week so you have them ready to go when you need them.
Hope to see you at the Clean Eating Boot Camp but in the meantime, please go enjoy some food that nourishes and excites YOU! You can also download my Clean Eating: Getting Started Guide. It's a great read to get you excited about clean eating before Boot Camp!