Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers – Lesson 72 Lighten Up

Last class I gave you some quick tips to make it easier for you to make all your favorite dishes. People are always asking me for tips, so I thought I would continue with this theme and give you some quick and easy ideas to help you eat more healthfully. I hear all the time that it costs too much time and money to eat a healthy diet. The truth is, with a few go-to recipes and tricks, healthy eating can be both affordable and easy. I will be giving you three meals that you can build upon on your path to healthy eating.

Before I get into the recipes, I want to talk a little about nutrition. First of all, I am not a nutritionist, very few chefs are, but I was lucky enough to marry a woman that has taught me quite a bit about this subject. Healthy eating and nutrition can feel daunting, so I am concentrating on recipes that are low in sugar and sodium and are high in fiber and flavor. Remember, the easiest way to eat better is to avoid processed foods. They are usually high in sugar, sodium and preservatives. Whenever possible, use fresh food and if you do use any processed foods, read the labels and choose low sugar/low sodium whenever possible.

Let’s get cooking!

A healthy breakfast can seem almost impossible to accomplish with everyone having such hectic mornings, but it can be done. I love a berry smoothie because not only is it quick and nutritious, but it is also portable which means I can “eat” my breakfast in the car on my way to work. This recipe will make one smoothie, so if you are making it for more people, simply increase the amounts, keeping the ratios the same.

You will need: blender, one cup frozen berries (no need for ice!), ½ cup nonfat/no sugar added Greek yogurt, one packet Stevia, ½ cup nonfat or light soy milk and if you would like add in a scoop of protein powder or fiber.

Put all of the above in a blender and blend until desired consistency. That’s it! You can make this with any of your fave frozen fruits.

Lunch is another meal that people tend to grab anything they can get their hands on due to the fact that there is a limited time in which they can eat it. The best remedy I have found for this is to make lunch the night before and bring it to work. Yes, even I, as a chef, bring my own lunch into the kitchen. I find it keeps me from mindlessly eating and it helps to keep my nutrition on track. I love a sandwich and my favorite is this California Chicken, but if you prefer, you can prepare this recipe as a wrap using a low carb/high fiber wheat tortilla.

Again, this recipe is for one, but you can increase amounts and make for as many people as you like. For this recipe you will need: two slices double fiber whole wheat bread, ½ an avocado, one six ounce boneless skinless baked chicken breast, spray oil, salt, pepper, juice of one lemon, two slices tomato, arugula, olive oil, red wine vinegar, baking pan and a small bowl.

For the chicken breasts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking pan with oil and spray both sides of the chicken breasts with oil. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook for ten to twelve minutes until chicken has no translucency. Remove from oven and squeeze half of the lemon over all the breasts. This will create a nice punch of flavor without adding fat, sugar or salt. Make an entire pack of chicken breasts at once and keep in your fridge, these are great to use in all sorts of healthy dishes.

While the chicken cools, salt and pepper the tomato slices and using a fork, mash the avocado to a spreadable consistency. Then add in salt, pepper and the other half of the lemon juice.

Now in a small bowl, put a handful of arugula, drizzle about a teaspoon of olive oil on top and ¼ teaspoon of red wine vinegar. Toss to coat and then salt and pepper to taste. Why all this trouble? Just as in any other dish, you season at every level to create delicious. This is even more important when trying to eat healthfully because without flavor, you won’t eat it. Next, cut one chicken breast into thin slices. Now to assemble, spread both pieces of bread with the mashed avocado. Put sliced chicken breast on both sides of the bread. Now on one side place the tomato slices then top them with the arugula. Finally, top with the other slice of bread.

That’s it! I do believe this will become one of your go to lunches.

Okay, you’ve made it to dinner! This recipe is quick, delicious and a real crowd pleaser. The recipe for Orange Glazed Pork Tenderloin will serve two. You will need: fourteen ounce pork tenderloin, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, juice of one orange, one packet stevia, ¼ teaspoon fresh chopped sage, medium sauté pan, roasting pan, spray oil, tongs, medium saucepan, spoon, pastry brush, meat thermometer, salt, pepper and a knife.

Preheat the oven to 400. Pull out the tenderloin and let it sit on the counter. In the saucepan combine the juice of the orange, red wine vinegar, packet of stevia and chopped sage leaves. Put uncovered over medium-high heat and stir. Let it cook about five minutes until it becomes syrupy then set it aside.

Spray the medium sauté pan with oil. Salt and pepper all sides of the tenderloin then place into the pan. Put heat to medium- high and cook each side for about two minutes. You are looking for a nice golden brown color. Once all sides are browned, put into a sprayed roasting pan and cook for about 10 minutes. Cook until internal temperature is 140 degrees. Remove from oven and generously brush the glaze over the tenderloin. Repeat several times as it rests at least ten minutes before you slice it. Remember you let meats rest so the juices stay in the meat. That’s it!

I like to serve this thinly sliced with a little more of the glaze spooned over it. I usually eat this with some roasted veggies or a nice green salad. Delicious!

See, not so hard, right? Once you get in the habit of making and eating these healthy dishes you will feel so good you won’t want to go back to your old eating habits. Remember, as with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what helps you create delicious meals you’ll never forget.

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Chef Ivan Flowers

Chef Flowers has over 25 years of fine cuisine experience. The former Executive Chef at Top of The Market, San Diego, also owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.