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 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
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’s 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 “infotainment” documentary, To Your Health, Julieanna interviewed a host of the plant-based world’s 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
¼ cup fresh lime juice and zest
2 cloves garlic
Fresh, peeled ginger (approx. 1” or ½ ounce)
2 Tbs. low sodium tamari
4 pitted dates (soaked in water if not soft)
½ tsp. red pepper flakes **
* I used a combination of almond and cashew butter** I used ¼ 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 crudités (carrot, celery, cucumber, belle peppers, etc.)
"The diet that helps to reduce weight in the short run needs to be the same diet that creates and maintains health in the long run."
~T. Colin Campbell
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