Cooking class review: Radha Yoga and Eatery
For a long time now I’ve wanted to go to a cooking class, mostly because it’s something different to do and because I was hoping that the chef leading the class might be informed about wonderful foodie secrets that I might be able to sweet talk out of her/him. I settled on taking a few classes at Radha Yoga and Eatery in Vancouver because the offerings seemed to be more of the type of intriguing classes that I was looking for. They are hosted in the midst of the eatery, which is located in a lovely 100-year old building in a warm, inviting space. This past Sunday I attended my first class, Vibrant Quick and Make-Ahead Meals, hosted by Jill Boadway, a founding partner and former Radha chef and a partner at The Conscious Table.
I chose this particular class because most of the time I start and end my workdays wondering what the heck I am going to make for dinner. And I was hoping that Chef Boadway would help turn on that proverbial light bulb over my head. It’s not that I have any shortage of cookbooks or places on the Internet to find recipes. The problem is there are too many choices and I just don’t know where to start. While I’ve gotten pretty good at creating off the cuff recipes from scratch, a lot of the time it’s pretty tiring to deal with the dilemma of what to make so there’s also enough leftovers lunch for the next day. And as I prepare for and contemplate my impending transition toward an almost entirely local vegan diet, I was hoping Chef Boadway’s knowledge would inspire me toward discovering simple techniques that I was overlooking in my tendency to be more fancy and complicated with my food.
For people who don’t know how to decide what constitutes healthy, vibrant foods that make them feel nourished and satisfied or really don’t know where to start when it comes to preparing various healthy ingredients, this class offers a wealth of new ideas and some very easy approaches to eating healthy food. For me, however, Chef Boadway didn’t tell me much of anything I didn’t already know about or use any ingredients I don’t already have in my refrigerator and haven’t cooked with extensively. Rather, what I learned was that it isn’t necessarily the types of ingredients I use that make some meals easier to prepare than others. And it isn’t always handy knife skills or having electric mincing and shredding gadgets that make preparing meals faster. What needs to change are my habits that make preparing meals a hassle and time-consuming. I came away from the class understanding that despite my tendency to be annoyingly analytical about most things, I am a mess when it comes to having my kitchen in order and organizing my time so that I never have to think twice about what to do when deciding what to eat. For me, this class was very much worth my time and the relatively inexpensive cost, because I came away with several very simple and useful strategies that will go a very long way in helping to keep me de-stressed and nourished, as well as with a lot more money in my pocket.
Create a set of easy to make favourite recipes and keep their key ingredients on hand
Sometimes when we just don’t have any ideas about what to make for dinner, the stresses of the day and demands on our time have us opting for take-out and prepackaged convenience foods that may save us time. Many times these quick fixes can cost us not only more money but also our well-being. Having a collection of favourite recipes that are easy to prepare can be a redeeming freedom on those days when we just don’t know what to do about dinner. In addition, always having the key ingredients to those recipes on hand in the kitchen will make deciding what to have for dinner at the last minute effortless. Making sure these recipes are based on minimally processed whole foods will also help in making healthy eating choices.
Think about meals and plan them in advance
Many of us may not be used to planning our meals in advance or thinking ahead of time about what we might need to have ready for those meals. And sometimes thinking and planning ahead might seem like too much of a time-consuming chore. But a key strategy Chef Boadway recommends is taking a little bit of time every week to sit down and plan out a few simple meals that you would like to eat in the week ahead. Planning meals in advance will actually save you more time later on for other activities instead of searching for recipes and ingredients at the last minute that may take a lot of time to prepare. Also, knowing when you have an ingredient you’ll need get ready in advance — as with soaking, sprouting or marinating — can help you take steps to ensure you are prepared and not left without an important part of a dish that can’t be substituted for with something else.
Dedicate a time every week to food shopping
Set aside a specific time every week to do food shopping. Make sure you bring a list with you of the ingredients you will need to make meals in the week ahead, as well as any ingredients you tend to rely on often. Daily or last minute stops at the grocer waste both time and money that could be better spent enjoying your meals and de-stressing from the day. Also, taking the time to shop at a dedicated time each week will keep you from finding yourself without important ingredients while in the midst of cooking. Having a kitchen well stocked with simple dried, fresh, frozen and preserved ingredients that can be used to create nourishing meals will help ensure you aren’t tempted to rely on expensive and unhealthy overly processed foods.
Set aside some time for food preparation
Often the most time-wasting part of making a meal is in washing and chopping, cutting, or shredding the ingredients you’ll be using. When you return from the farmers market or grocery store, take a bit of time to wash, prepare and store your produce in containers or resalable bags so they’re ready to use when you need them. Chef Boadway also recommends taking an hour or two each week to cook staple ingredients in advance and store them raw or pre-cooked to make meal preparation during the week even quicker. Grains, pastas, beans, and other ingredients can be cooked, cooled and stored in the freezer or fridge, as well as items like onions, squash, carrots, and other fruits and vegetables that can be peeled and sliced or diced and stored in airtight containers ready to use when you need them.
Make extra amounts of staple ingredients
When you’re going to be cooking ingredients like beans or grains and roasted or steamed vegetables for a meal, it helps to cook more than you need for a recipe and store the excess in the fridge or freezer for use at a later time. This also comes in handy for ingredients we tend to rely on often, cutting down on preparation time and making the use of ingredients easy since they are already prepared. Frozen grains and noddles can be steamed to restore their freshly-made textures, cooked chickpeas can be frozen and amounts for a recipe taken out of a freezer bag as needed, and frozen vegetables can be tossed directly into a pan or pot, or thawed and reheated.