cooking on a budget.. nina & raul go on a mission!

nina + raul

ladies & gentlemen, presenting.. nina and raul!

 

RAUL: hi there! my name is raul valle jr. some of you may know me or have seen me at the office at skinSALVATION.  for those of you who don’t know much of me, let me formally introduce myself.  i have been a client at sS since september/october of 2014. and now, i am also a receptionist at sS.  like all of us at sS, i suffered from stubborn acne.  my case, however, was a bit more severe; i had very high inflammatory levels, so i had to take stronger measures than the ‘regular’ acne client to control my response.  as we all know, part of the clearing process for our acne involves changing our diets. for me, cutting out certain foods was super tough. i was so used to eating very unhealthy foods, and making that lifestyle change was (almost) unbearable.

however, i slowly started getting used to eating healthier because getting rid of the acne was way more important to me than keeping that junk in my life!  but, with the elimination of certain foods, it left me with very little to choose from.. or so i thought.  i had to learn how to start cooking with healthier foods, but since i knew very little recipes, i would always cook the same thing.  it would always be salmon in the oven, steamed brown rice or quinoa, steamed veggies, or chicken with a squeeze of lemon.  the main problem i had was adding flavor to my foods. i eliminated most of the yummy, but unhealthy, flavors to the foods i would eat because i was scared to incorporate them and break out even more.

so, i pretty much endured a boring, low-glycemic diet (i even cut out grains and nightshade vegetables, because my inflammation was so bad!) until i got clear, but wasn’t sure how i was going to continue living life and eating this way..  but thankfully, after starting to work at sS, kim signed nina, the other receptionist, and i, up for a cooking class at 18 reasons and that definitely has changed the way i will now approach cooking.

NINA: my name is nina and i have my challenges in choosing healthy meals. when i was growing up, my mom served as a great inspiration to hate cooking. if you can imagine a witch throwing in anatomical parts of random animals into her boiling pot or a mad scientist experimenting in her lab — that would be my mom in the kitchen with her veggies, meats, herbs and spices.  after expressing my discontent with her cooking (overcooked, bland, bitter, etc.) my mom would reason that it was because i did not want to eat healthy food.

thus, leading me to think, “if it doesn’t taste good, it’s actually good for you.”

well!  no wonder most people don’t eat healthy!   besides, healthy food is expensive, which is why i always have dinner with one of my best friends — mickey dee, jack or parry (aka mcdonald’s, jack in the box, or parry’s pizzeria). although unhealthy — they always delivered fast, convenient, inexpensive, and flavorful food!

then…came my turning point in life.

i became part of skinSALVATION where cooking at home was highly encouraged.  as raul has already mentioned, he and i were sent to 18 reasons, birite grocery’s educational outpost.  it is here where we learned how to cook a whole chicken (and stretch it out for many meals) on a budget!

 

making chicken soup, preparing aromatics for the soup, dukkah & homemade flatbread!

making chicken soup, preparing aromatics for the soup, dukkah & homemade flatbread!

18 reasons: our cooking experience

RAUL: the class was intended to help people learn how to cook delicious food on a budget. i swear to you it was like the class was designed for me ☺. while we were there, we learned how to cook a whole chicken, how to make broth, how to make curry, how to make flatbread, and how to prepare our very own spices to season our foods!

through learning how to cook these different things, i personally learned one or two things about each particular food.  for example, one major takeaway i got about cooking a whole chicken was that if you cut out the backbone and put the chicken in the oven at 500 degrees, it will be fully cooked in 25 minutes. if you don’t cut out the backbone, it will take 50 minutes to fully cook.

for the broth, i learned that every food, including onion peels and garlic with its skin – things that you may think is no longer useful for your recipe – is always useful in broth. just throw in anything you could possibly think of into the broth and just add salt and it will taste delicious ☺!

in cooking the curry, i found out that if you add some chiles de arbol into the mix, it will add more flavor and maybe even a little spiciness to it.

the flatbread was another food that tasted amazing.  i observed that adding the curry on top of the flatbread and then sprinkling it with thinly sliced stems from kale, cilantro, turnip greens, and etcetera will bring deliciousness to your taste buds.  plus, it’s also healthy & economical!

and lastly, the thing i learned from preparing our own spices is that if you dry roast them in a pan you’re taking away the oil from them, increasing aroma, flavor, and shelf-life, ending with a product way better than a store-bought blend!

NINA: coming from a background of not really knowing anything about cooking.  i did learn a few tricks:

how to properly cut a chicken

i learned how to cut a chicken by cutting out the backbone using kitchen scissors!  i’ve always cut the chicken legs off with a knife, and then took a deep breath, and proceeded to try and cut the chicken right in the middle of the backbone!  now that i think about it, it is so sad to imagine myself struggling to cut a whole chicken!

how to make broth (with chicken or vegetables)

i also would throw away the chicken bones, but i can actually make chicken broth by boiling the chicken bones (you can refer back to kerry’s blog, “gelatin: an amazing superfood reinvented!” where she listed benefits of gelatin – which is actually bone broth) why buy a can of chicken broth when you can make your own? it the same with vegetables, don’t throw away the leaves from those turnips!  throw it in boiling water and make a delicious, nutritious and inexpensive veggie broth!

put down that peanut butter, use cooked stock vegetables

one of the things that i thought was interesting was that our teacher (michelle mckenzie,  program director of 18 reasons), was that because she hates the idea of wasting food, she uses as much of the vegetables as she can.  instead of throwing away the cooked vegetables from making broth, she mashes them and slather it on stale bread.  wow! healthy, acne-safe, no food wasted and more money saved on food for the next few days. (kim also takes those cooked veggies and some of the finished broth, and with a quick whirl with an immersion blender, makes a thicker, richer soup).

 that curry color didn’t come from curry powder or food coloring!

making curry soup is not as hard as i thought!  1.  sautee onion, turmeric, ginger, garlic spices, salt, tomatoes.  2. toss in blender until smooth and 3. bring it all to a boil and occasionally stir!  no need for curry powder (according to michelle mckenzie, that’s not really curry) – just add curry leaves ☺

the spatchcock chicken

18 reasons: our biggest take aways

RAUL: in conclusion, this class has forever changed the way i will cook foods in the future. i can definitely incorporate the little details i took away from this class and apply them to my every day meals. spices were a huge obstacle of mine in the past. i would make my foods, but they would taste so bland because i wasn’t sure how to make them more flavorful. now, that will no longer be an issue. by the way, the spice that we created from scratch was dukkah and it was intended for the flatbread and olive oil, but i ended up mixing it into every other meal that we created in that class and it was the bomb.com ☺.  i cannot thank kim enough for signing us up for this class because now i know a little more about cooking and the best thing of all is that we don’t have to spend much money at all to make our foods taste amazing while healthy at the same time!

NINA: My old friends – Mickey D, Jack, and Parry promised me four reasons to eat unhealthily, but 18 reasons promised me the same reasons and 14 other reasons.

  1. fast      
  2. convenient
  3. inexpensive
  4. delicious flavor
  5. control of ingredients
  6. higher quality
  7. acne-safe ingredients = clear face
  8. creativity
  9. cooking knowledge
  10. bonding with friends and family
  11. weight loss
  12. make use of and benefit from every part of vegetable
  13. make use of each part of the chicken (make broth!)
  14. healthy food = healthy body and mind
  15. colorful meal = no food coloring
  16. a reason to go shopping for cooking utensils (and actually know how to use them)!
  17. teach my mom how to cook (the right way)
  18. recreate my own recipes to share with my own children (someday)

i will end in what program director, michelle mckenzie mentioned in class, “use less ingredients that deliver many punches.”

what’s your reason?