A few weeks ago, I was shopping at Whole Foods in Pasadena and decided to grab a salad to snack on later at home. As I was perusing through the salad bar, I noticed a pre made salad that I had not seen at any other location. The salad was called “Hail To The Kale” and looked rather yummy, so I grabbed it to go and was on my merry way.
It was love at first bite. I finished the entire salad and left no dressing behind. At that moment, I knew this wasn’t just any kale salad. This was the holy kale! I took to my google searching skills to find the recipe for the salad. Followed by a few searches and clicks, I found out that the salad was created by a plant-based chef named, Chef AJ. After finding some basic information about Chef AJ and her contribution to the “Health Starts Here” initiative on Whole Foods’ website, I found my way to her personal website. I was so intrigued by Chef AJ’s take on healthy cooking and her no sugar, oil, or salt, recipes that I needed to know more, so I bought her book “Unprocessed” and signed up for her intro cooking class right then and there!
Her book “Unprocessed” is an easy read and gets to the point as to why she made the decision to obtain an unprocessed, whole food, plant based, vegan diet. Her story is remarkable, and made me appreciate her even more. The book is filled with over 100 nutrient-rich recipes that so far, taste incredible. Her dishes are easy to prepare and require little cooking, which is fabulous for someone who is intimidated by the kitchen. Her ingredient lists are simple and can be found around the perimeter of any grocery store, with the exception of some fun new natural products and vegetables that I was introduced to!
The night before my cooking class, I was so excited and antsy that I could not sleep, so I found myself watching Chef AJ’s web series “The Chef and the Dietician” on YouTube until the early hours of the morning.
Chef AJ had emailed us prior to the class and informed us that anyone who was in their seat early (by 9:50am) would get a special treat, and informed us to bring a medium size piece of Tupperware. I’m sure you could imagine my excitement level at this point! I arrived early with my book, camera, and tupperware in hand.
When Chef AJ walked out, I had the biggest smile on my face. She has the greatest personality, and tons of energy! We started the class off with a sample of her “It’s Easy Being Green Smoothie,” which was fantastic. It was the perfect combination of bitter kale, balanced with sweet bananas and mangos, along with creamy almond milk. The class was rather casual and intimate with only 16 students, AJ and her lovely kitchen assistants. From time to time, students would throw out questions and Chef AJ would answer with enthusiasm and full detail.
We learned to make (and got to taste) 10 healthy plant strong meals including:
It’s Easy Being Green Smoothie
Nutrient Rich Chocolate Smoothie
Fresh Almond Milk
6 Minute Split Pea Soup
Smoky Black Bean Soup
Hail To The Kale Salad
Quick 6 Fat-Free Salad Dressing
Peanut Butter Fudge Truffles
Banana Ice Cream
I loved how simple everything was to make. Almost anything could be made in a Vitamix. Chef AJ explained that she taught cooking classes to the blind, which led her to these easy to prepare recipes.
Every second of the class was informative yet fun. Chef AJ even burst into song, complete with instrumental track, and her own lyrics about healthy eating. She is a hoot, as my grandma would say. Oh, and she even did a headstand in the middle of class. Yes people, this is the kind of energy you get from eating whole, unprocessed foods!
When it was time for the “Chocolate FUNdue,” which was served with strawberries, Chef AJ brought me apple slices in their place since I am allergic. She is so fabulous. What other chef would cater to your allergies like this in their cooking class? After we finished our last dish, it was time to get our “special treat” for arriving early, which was a slice of Vegan German Chocolate Cake.
I stayed for a few minutes to talk to Chef AJ and shyly asked her to sign my book. I shared my story with her, and she was so encouraging and excited for my healthy new life. I had such a great time at her class and would love to attend another in the future. She has great ideas for healthy alternatives and cooking and is very informative as to why she eats this way, but does not force anyone into it. I love that she bases her teachings on scientific research and does not force her opinion on anyone, yet encourages her healthy examples. If you live in the LA area, you should definitely attend one of her intro cooking classes.
After I got home, I couldn’t wait to try Chef AJ’s Vegan German Chocolate Cake and Peanut Butter Fudge Truffles. I have no words to describe the amazingness. Just a photo, and a very very happy tummy.