Tag Archives: Chef AJ

UPDATE – Organic Food Made in China?


30 minutes after posting the news story last week about Whole Foods and the possibility that some of their organics were made in China, I found a response from Whole Foods and updated my post.  If you have not had a chance to read their response, click HERE.

I learned from one of my readers that the original news story aired in 2008, so I had a feeling that A LOT had changed since then. ¬†My friend Chef AJ, who does a lot of wonderful work with Whole Foods, saw my post and contacted Whole Foods to get some more information. ¬†I have since learned directly from Whole Foods that ‚ÄúSince the summer of 2010, the only frozen vegetables we source from China are our 365 edamame. We have great confidence in our vendors in China, and we take great steps in verifying those suppliers, the same as ALL our suppliers. Please look at our blog‚Ķ(click HERE to see it)”

I want to reiterate that  I am a HUGE supporter of Whole Foods and do a lot of my shopping at their store.  I wholeheartedly believe in their business and all of the good that they do for their employee’s health and the health of the general public.  Whole foods has revolutionized healthy grocery shopping.

In my opinion, the two most important “take-aways” from all of this are:

1.  ALWAYS listen to both sides of any story

2.  Pay attention to where your food comes from.  Turn the package over and if you are not comfortable with what you see, contact the company directly and give them a chance to share their side of the story with you.


Image courtesy of Flickr and Hail Merry Foods


Filed under Education, Vegan, Vegetarian

VIDEO – How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind


At the beginning of the year I spent some time thinking about where I want to take Veggie Grettie and setting some goals. ¬†One of my goals was to make video available on the site…done!

The video from this past Sunday’s Doug Lisle presentation of How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind¬†is now available on the Forks Over Knives YouTube channel.

To read my recap of the presentation click HERE.



Filed under Education, Events, General Vegan, Heart Health, Junk Food, Research, Vegan, Vegetarian, Video, Weight Issues


The event with Dr. Doug Lisle today was truly eye-opening.  I first heard Dr. Lisle speak when I was going through the process of getting my certification through Cornell and he was one of the Guest Professors.  His lecture on the Pleasure Trap was absolutely engaging and one of the most interesting and insightful lectures I had heard to date.  He presented that lecture again today and it was every bit as interesting the second time around.

Seeing as it is after midnight here as I type this (thus excuse any typos), I will give you the quick recap because I want you to have the information…it is that important. ¬†Having this background information is KEY to understanding WHY our nation is experiencing unprecedented weight / health problems. ¬†First and most importantly you need to understand this one piece of information:



Why is it that once you know what to do it is so hard to do? ¬†Let’s get into some evolutionary psychology.

We run on instinct and all being’s instincts are to eat, survive, and reproduce (I think Dr. Lisle chose the right profession…he was not destined to be an artist, but I love the self-deprecating¬†humor within which he shares his art!).

While each animal has their own nature, we all have the same Motivational Triad.  We are all hard-wired to unconsciously make decisions using this triad.  By nature we seek out pleasure, try to avoid pain, and attempt to do both by expending as little energy as possible (i.e. fish swim in schools to draft off one another and conserve energy).

The PLEASURE TRAP occurs when you take someone and put them into an environment they were not designed to handle.  FOOD is now the #1 pleasure trap.

The slide above lists the most popular foods at present time. ¬†What do all of them have in common? ¬†Sugar, fat, and salt…foods that we were DESIGNED to seek out. ¬†These processed foods have a much higher caloric density than whole unrefined foods. ¬†These calorically dense foods are much more attractive to us biologically because they support the Motivational Triad by giving us pleasure, quickly eliminating the natural anxiety that accompanies hunger, and by being so calorically dense they give us the biggest bang for our buck which supports our biological need to conserve energy.

Obviously we all know that junk food is not good for us, but another detrimental effect of eating junk food is that we quickly become addicted to it.  When we eat this food it definitely does trigger a pleasure response in our brain, however that pleasure response deafens with time and the same exact junk food does not taste as good to us as it originally did which makes us want/need a little bit more (i.e. During the holidays did you walk into a home with a fresh Xmas tree and notice how wonderful it smelled [stage II] and then notice that within 15 minutes you barely smelled it anymore [stage III]???  Your senses were dulled).

When it comes time to try and eliminate junk food aka the Evil Triad of fat, sugar, and salt from your diet, you are going to go through a painful¬†withdrawal (stage IV)…whole unrefined foods are not going to taste very good to you initially since your senses were dulled.

Fortunately if you understand this process you can expect it and push through to stage V where your body has adjusted to the healthier food and truly likes it.

One of Dr. Lisle’s quotes was so powerful, “(When it comes to food) If you do the wrong thing it feels right and when you do the right thing (after having been doing the wrong thing) it feels wrong.”

Dr. Lisle did have a few suggestions to help you power through from stage IV to stage V:

  • Fast
  • Juice
  • Go to jail

When he jokingly refers to jail, he is referring to going to a center such as True North or Dr. McDougall’s Health and Medical Center in Santa Rosa. ¬†These are medically supervised health centers that can really shock your systems into health in the most efficient ways.

All of the above three methods take your fat, salt, and sugar receptors offline and essentially resets them.


According to Dr. Lisle, there are only three species on the planet with weight problems:

1.  Dogs

2.  Cats

3.  Humans

It is troubling that all three of those species are primarily found within our homes and are fed by us.

Conversely, even in NATURE when food is abundant, animals still do not get fat.

Dr. Lisle made a point of debunking the slide above stating that weight problems are NOT because of psychological issues, but did emphasize that weight problems can CAUSE psychological issues.

Many people believe that we all got so heavy by eating large volumes of food, but Dr. Lisle basically broke it down to the fact that we are eating food that is too calorically dense (i.e. we could all easily eat four pieces of bread, but we could NOT as easily eat 4 cups of brown rice).

He believes that the leading cause of weight gain is oil.  Apples are 300 calories a pound.  Oil is 4000 calories a pound.  They did a study and gave women 500 calorie plates of pasta and vegetables.  There were two groups of women and both received the same plates of pasta and vegetables, however one of the groups had 300 calories of oil added to their plate for a total of 800 calories.  BOTH groups of women reported the same amount of fullness after the meals!  It was as if the oil went unnoticed!!!

Another interesting statistic is that between the ages of 20 and 40 women gain about 1 pound per year.  NOT by massively overeating, but by systematically eating a LITTLE too much (see example above).

It has been some time since the developed world has eaten food in its natural habitat.  We have been eating food that has been chewed by steel jaws (grain processed into flour) before it even gets into our mouths, processed oils instead of olives, and sugar instead of fruit.

The most powerful quote of the entire presentation in my opinion was this:

“If you are overweight you are eating foods that are too concentrated. ¬†Simple as that.”

Eat an appropriately calorie dense diet of whole unprocessed food and your body will take you where you need to be…you do not need to try and consciously eat less.

In fact, trying to deprive yourself of the proper volume of food will lead you to problems in that your biology will kick in and push you to seek those calorically dense (fat, sugar, salt) foods that we need to avoid.  YOU MUST NOT GO HUNGRY or you will set yourself up for failure.

By eating less calorically dense food you are literally able to fill-up your stomach which will signal your brain that you are full and that your nutrient needs have been met.

There are strategies you can follow to assist yourself even further.  Dr. Lisle suggests you eat in the following order:

You don’t need to be perfect to overcome your weight problems. ¬†Dr. Lisle coached a woman who was approx 350 pounds and the ONLY change she made was to have oatmeal for breakfast. ¬†In one year she lost 70 pounds!!!

While our biology means that we will always have to look over our shoulders a little bit, knowing WHY and understanding WHY helps us conquer those issues in today’s modern world of excess.

I wished you were all able to be there today to hear Dr. Lisle speak live…he is much more dynamic and engaging than my recap can ever be. ¬†Did any of you catch the Livestream of the lectures? ¬†What did you think?

Gretchen , Julieanna Hever, Chef AJ (Joking as usual!), The Event Planner, Dr. Doug Lisle 

~I will post some of the Q and A from the event at a later date.  Valuable stuff!!!


Filed under Education, Events, Research, Vegan, Vegetarian, Weight Issues

DOUG LISLE EVENT – How To Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind

One of the superstars of healthy living, Doug Lisle PdD, is coming to Los Angeles on January 8, 2012, and you can hear him!

The topic of this talk is “How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind.”¬† This is a presentation you absolutely want to hear, if you can attend (I will be there and would love to meet you).

Dr. Lisle is the psychologist for the McDougall Wellness Program as well as True North Health.  He is the co-author of the bestseller, The Pleasure Trap, and a highly entertaining speaker.

The event takes place from 2pm to 5pm on Sunday, January 8, at the South Bay Adventist Church in Redondo Beach, CA.  Food at the event is catered by Chef AJ.

For more info and to purchase tickets, visit: www.EatUnprocessed.com or call 818-986-1325



Filed under Education, Events, General Vegan, Metabolic Syndrome, Vegan, Vegetarian, Weight Issues


I attended the 2nd annual Healthy Taste of LA for the first time last month and was very impressed! ¬†The keynote speaker at this year’s event was T. Colin Campbell. ¬†Being the nutrition geek that I am, I will forever be indebted to T. Colin Campbell for the work he has done in the field of nutrition and the discoveries he has made throughout his career pertaining to nutrition and its role in cancer and other diseases of affluence. ¬†It was great to have a few minutes to chat with him about nutrition in general and the plans he has with regards to evolving the Plant-Based Nutrition Certification courses at Cornell.

It was a packed day of amazing healthy cooking demonstrations (NO OIL, SUGAR, OR SALT) by Chef Ramses Bravo of True North, Chef Eric Tucker of Millenium, a live taping of The Chef and The Dietitian, a motivation speech by fitness guru John Pierre (Ellen’s Personal Trainer), more cooking demonstrations by Ann Gentry (pictured with me above) who is the founder of Real Food Daily, Chef Eric LeChasseur of Seed Bistro, and Lindsay Nixon the author of the Happy Herbivore.

Fortunately for us we also had three breaks throughout the day where we were given the opportunity to sample all of the wonderful food that the Chefs demonstrated making. ¬†Another exciting aspect of the day was the fact that the event organizers were short one staff photographer and asked me to fill in which basically gave me an all-access pass to move around and take pictures to my heart’s content!

The first recipe that was demonstrated at the event was Chef Ramses Bravo’s Coconut Vanilla Granola, which is the Granola that they serve at the True North Health Center. ¬† After the event I went home and made the granola and was really impressed with the result. ¬†I had never made granola without oil before and love that I now know how. ¬†Click HERE¬†for the recipe.

At the end of the event Chef AJ announced that the keynote speaker at next year’s Healthy Taste of LA 3 will be Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, the man who has figured out the formula to be heart attack proof (Did you all see Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN special by the same name highlighting Dr. Esselstyn?)!!!

I definitely plan on being there at the event next year (November 4, 2012).  I HIGHLY recommend purchasing your tickets in advance.  This year they had to turn people away from the event because the interest was so high.  Do yourself a favor and purchase your tickets ahead of time.

For more information about 2012’s Healthy Taste of LA3 and to purchase tickets click here.


Filed under Cancer, Cooking Demonstration, Education, Events, General Vegan, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian

HEALTHY TASTE OF LA – Sunday Nov. 6th

Chef AJ has organized and amazing event that will take place next Sunday, November 6th from 9 – 5 at the South Bay Redondo Seventh Day Adventist Church. ¬†I highly recommend this event…Just look at the list of celebrity chefs and experts that will be there…AMAZING!!!

Interested in sampling delicious plant-based recipes from some of the best chefs in the world of Plant-based nutrition like Chefs Ramses Bravo, Eric Tucker, Ann Gentry, Eric Lechasseur, Lindsay Nixon and Chef AJ?  How about listening to lectures from experts in the field like T. Colin Campbell and Julieanna Hever?  Healthy Taste of LA II is Sunday, November 6th from 9 Р5 at the South Bay Redondo Seventh Day Adventist Church.

South Bay Redondo Seventh Day Adventist Church 
401 S. Prospect Avenue
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

For more information and to register for this one of a kind event visit: http://healthytasteofla.com/

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Filed under Cooking Demonstration, Education, Events, General Vegan, Vegan, Vegetarian


Congratulations to Lynette who is the UNPROCESSED giveaway winner!

Right now I am on my way to a wonderful event, the Back Bay Stand up for CF¬†(World Champion Dave Kalama will be there!). ¬†I will be there representing NEXT by Athena and can’t wait to try my hand at Stand Up Paddle (SUP). ¬†This is sure to be a fun day for the family and it all goes to a good cause, the Cyctic Fibrosis Foundation’s Pipeline to a Cure.

I’d love to see you out there today. ¬†I will be there from approximately 10:30am-12:30pm. ¬†Come one out for a good time and good food (I believe Wahoos will be there).

Newport Aquatic Center
1 W hitecliffs Dr · Newport Beach


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Filed under Contests, Giveaways, Vegan, Vegetarian


After attending Chef AJ’s cooking class (click here¬†to read the post about it)¬†we were hanging out at her house when she mentioned a vegan soft serve place nearby…my ears perked right up. ¬†Everyone starting raving about how amazing the vegan ice cream was and that it was made with sweet potatoes as a base. ¬†I was in like Flynn.

We headed over to Hugo’s to get some amazing soft serve vegan ice cream. ¬†They serve chocolate, vanilla, or a swirl of the two (which I opted for). ¬†It was AMAZING and so creamy!!! ¬†I can’t wait to take my family next time I am up in the LA area with them.

While we were there we ran into one of Chef AJ’s friends, Chef Rawsheed¬†who is a celebrity raw chef and leader within the raw movement having founded Sun Power Natural Cafe. ¬†Chef Rawsheed is on the left in the picture below along with Nick whom I met at the class.

Hugo’s vegan ice cream stand is in Studio City at the 101 and Coldwater. ¬†While I haven’t eaten an actual meal at one of their restaurants (they have 3 locations), their¬†menu looks great and is filled with lots of vegan and vegetarian options. ¬†I am going to have to have lunch AND ice cream next time I go.

I also hear that there is a vegan ice cream parlor called Atomic Number 7 in Henderson Nevada, so you can bet we will check that out too the next time we are in Vegas.


Filed under Product Reviews, Restaurants, Vegan, Vegetarian


Chef AJ and Julieanna Hever recently contributed a Guest Blog for Veggie Grettie where they showed us how to make Chef AJ’s Hail to the Kale dressing (click here¬†to view the post). ¬†Earlier this month I was contacted by Chef AJ and invited to attend one of her cooking classes. ¬†It was great fun to meet Chef AJ in person. ¬†She is wacky, zany, full of life, passionate, knowledgeable, friendly, and kind. ¬†Interesting fact – Chef AJ was once on Johnny Carson playing two flutes with her nose while standing on her head and blowing bubbles out of her nose (I told you she is wacky)!!!

Chef AJ has been a vegan for over 30 years, but has only been a “healthy” vegan for the last 7 years. ¬†During the class Chef AJ took a moment to tell her story and explain why she is so passionate about eating a whole foods unprocessed plant-based diet. ¬†She explained that her typical day was filled with big gulp slurpies (embellished¬†with 8 pumps of vanilla syrup), Dr. Pepper, sugar, pastries, and other forms of JUNK with the occasional serving of steamed broccoli on the side. ¬†Eventually it caught-up with her and her health suffered in a major way.

In January of 2003 (There is no way to say this delicately) she went in to the bathroom to have a bowel movement and ended-up with a toilet filled with blood.  With a strong family history of colon cancer and bowel obstructions she finally woke-up after finding out that she had multiple nasty adenomatous pre-cancerous polyps in her sigmoid colon.  Her colon was so ill that they were not even safely able to remove the polyps.  This was her official wake-up call.

Chef AJ sent herself to the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego¬†(Their organic gardens pictured above)¬†for a total body overhaul. ¬†She ate a 100% organic raw diet while there and it wasn’t easy as she suffered mass withdrawal symptoms within the first 3days . ¬†Despite the discomfort of withdrawing from sugar, oil, and salt (what she deems the “Evil Trinity”) she committed to the program and 6 months later she had the colon of a newborn baby without having surgery or taking meds…what a testament to this way of life!

Chef AJ knew that this was the lifestyle for her and enrolled in culinary school at the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in order to learn how to make health promoting food as palatable as possible.

The class she that I attended focused on just that.  Chef AJ teaches classes out of her home in Sherman Oaks with the goal of teaching her health promoting ways to as many people as possible.  In the picture below she is channeling her Johnny Carson days while performing a song about health (her sous chefs are also back-up singers / dancers).

During the 3 hour class I attended she made:

It’s Easy Being Green Smoothies loaded with kale and mint…my new favorite green smoothie ingredient

Nutrient Rich Chocolate Smoothies, ¬†fresh almond milk (forgot to take a picture!)…

Nutrient Rich Smoky Black Bean Soup where she added all the veggies WHOLE to a pot of water and then just used the immersion blender at the end (Why didn’t I ever think of that???…MAJOR time saver!)

Raw Dream of Tomato Soup

One of my favorites…Hail to the Kale Salad

Fresh Banana Ice Cream in her Champion Juicer that was so creamy and amazing (I need to get me one of those!).  I have made this in my food processor and it is really good, but NOTHING like what the Champion Juicer makes.  It was crazy good.

Chocolate FUNdue…so good. ¬†I make this regularly and keep it in my freezer in single serve cups otherwise I will eat it all in one sitting! ¬†The picture below is the FUNdue in the processing stage. ¬†It is such a great dip for fruit, truffle filling, ¬†or sauce for desserts.

And last but not least, her version of a very popular Starbucks drink, a Caramel “Fake”iatto (I also forgot to take a picture of this!)

I was also sent home with a giant slice of her German Chocolate Cake that was eaten before I even had a chance to take a picture of it!

To learn more about classes with Chef AJ click here.  I believe she does not have any classes on the schedule at the moment because she is traveling to promote her new book, however you can check back regularly for updated class listings.


Chef AJ’s Book¬†Unprocessed

Chef AJ generously provided me with a signed copy of her book Unprocessed as a giveaway. ¬†To enter the giveaway simple leave a comment at the end of¬†this post¬†about either of the following topics. ¬†One entry per comment, so you have LOTS of chances to win…enter as many times as you’d like.

1.  What was your own personal health wake-up call?

2. ¬†Ask me a question for my Ask Grettie column on Chic Vegan. ¬†You never know…your question might be featured!


If you are not an e-mail subscriber of Veggie Grettie, become a subscriber, leave a comment in the comment section that you are now a subscriber, and that will count as an additional entry.

The giveaway winner will be announced Sunday, October 9th.

Organic garden picture courtesy of Optimum Health Institute


Filed under Books, Contests, Cooking Demonstration, Education, General Vegan, Giveaways, Vegan, Vegetarian

GUEST BLOG – Julieanna Hever and Chef AJ

I am always looking for fun ways to dress kale because it is soooooo good for you, but can be a very strong taste on its own. ¬†The other day I received a blog post in my inbox from The Plant-Based Dietitian (I am a subscriber) and it was an episode of The Chef and the Dietitian wherein they demonstrated how to make Chef AJ’s ¬†“Hail to the Kale” dressing. ¬†I decided to give it a try and loved it so much that I contacted Julieanna and Chef AJ to see if they would allow me to share the recipe with all of you. ¬†Both were so responsive despite the fact that they were out of town at Vegetarian Summerfest (I would have LOVED to be there too!). ¬†This is an absolute winning recipe!

Before we get to the recipe, I want to give you some background on Julieanna Hever and Chef AJ…

Julieanna Hever, M.S., R.D., C.P.T. , The Plant-Based Dietitian, is a passionate advocate of the miracles associated with following a whole food, plant-based diet. ¬†Julieanna is the nutrition columnist for VegNews Magazine, author of The Complete Idiot‚Äôs Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking (click here¬†for more info). ¬†Julieanna maintains a private practice in Los Angeles and lectures throughout the U.S. As co-producer and star of the ‚Äúinfotainment‚ÄĚ documentary, To Your Health, Julieanna interviewed a host of the plant-based world‚Äôs most respected doctors and researchers to bring this important information to a broad audience. ¬†As Executive Director of EarthSave, International, Julieanna has had the opportunity to bring nutrition to the forefront of efforts to improve the current global health crisis. ¬†To learn more, visit Julieanna at her website (click¬†here)¬†and her blog¬†(click¬†here).

Chef Abbie Jay (otherwise known as AJ), is a graduate of The Living Light Culinary Arts Institute and has been a vegan for 30 years. ¬†At the age of seven she received an Easy Bake Oven as a gift and hasn’t stopped cooking since. ¬†Teaching both vegan cooking and raw food prepartion, AJ’s passion is showing people how to incorporate more fresh, organic fruits and vegetables in their diets in ways that are easy, delicious and fun. ¬†Chef AJ is also the author of the book, Unprocessed (which I can’t wait to review for you!). ¬†She especially loves showing others how to make decadent, delicious desserts with out using white sugar, white flour or artificial ingredients. ¬†Chef AJ, has cooked for many celebrities, and has volunteered at The Braille Institute for 2 years teaching healthy cooking to the blind who have lost their sight due to type II diabetes. ¬†Many of her students have decreased their need for insulin through switching to a healthier diet. ¬†One of her creations, Rockin’ Nut Crunch, will soon be sold at Whole Foods Market.

I also learned a new tip from Chef AJ in the video episode (click here) which has been a HUGE¬†time-saver for me when prepping the kale from my garden (my latest harvest is in the picture above…it is the most gorgeous greenish-blue!). ¬†She shows us a really fast and simple way to remove the hard center stem from the kale. ¬†How did I not know this before?

You must make this dressing…it is that good!


INGREDIENTS – Enough to dress two heads of kale

1 cup raw almond butter (unsweetened and unsalted) *
1 cup coconut water
¬ľ cup fresh lime juice and zest
2 cloves garlic
Fresh, peeled ginger (approx. 1‚ÄĚ or ¬Ĺ ounce)
2 Tbs. low sodium tamari
4 pitted dates (soaked in water if not soft)
¬Ĺ tsp. red pepper flakes **
* I used a combination of almond and cashew butter
** I used ¬ľ tsp. since I served it to children


Place all ingredients in the blender (I used my Vitamix) and blend until smooth…it’s that simple!

When the dressing is nice and smooth pour some over your prepared kale and sprinkle with chopped nuts. ¬†Since I made a smaller salad, I did not use all of the dressing. ¬†To store the remaining dressing, I poured it into a mason jar and placed it in the fridge. ¬†I ended up using it as a dip as well…it was great with all kinds of crudit√©s (carrot, celery, cucumber, belle peppers, etc.)

For a printable version of this recipe click here.


Filed under Books, Guest Blog, Nuts, Raw, Recipes, Salad, Salad Dressing, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian