The book, UPROCESSED, by Chef AJ is an insightful quick read loaded with valuable vegan tips, resources, and a heaping spoonful of heart-warming inspiration.

Chef AJ shared her thoughts on reducing your consumption of processed foods and eating healthy in this brief interview below.

Elisa: I’ve worked with a number of self proclaimed “food addicts” and believe we all have the ability to be addicted to certain foods, especially with what you dub “The Evil Trinity” (sugar, oil, salt). Yet it’s almost taboo as a Chef to prepare food without these ingredients. How have you overcome this requirement while creating pleasing combinations in the kitchen?

Chef AJ: Well, I certainly didn’t learn it in culinary school.  People love sugar, fat and salt.  I find ways to give them the flavors they love using whole foods.  Nuts, seeds and avocados instead of oil, fruit and whole dates instead of sugar and greens, low sodium miso or low sodium tamari instead of salt.

Elisa: What’s your response to folks who say they don’t have time to prepare meals from scratch?

Chef AJ:  I tell them then you better have time to undergo expensive medical procedures because if you keep eating crap, eventually you will succumb to them.  Time is the only commodity that we all have the exact same amount of.  If you are reading this site, then you have a computer and are probably on Facebook too.  We all make time for the things we truly value,  if healthy eating was a priority you would make time.  It does not have to be complicated. Anyone can make a green smoothie or oatmeal for breakfast and a salad for lunch. You can get a Cuisinart electric pressure cooker at Costco for $69 and make delicious meals in 10 minutes!

Elisa: Well said! I love how you describe the difference between processed and unprocessed foods. Will you briefly explain your “rule of thumb” for readers?

Chef AJ:  if you cannot easily make it in your own kitchen don’t eat it!  If you can’t make olive oil, agave nectar, Gardein or Daiya cheese in your kitchen, don’t eat it!  If it didn’t grow out of the ground, don’t set it!  If it’s made IN a plant, and not FROM a plant, don’t eat it!

Elisa: I noticed you use date paste quite a bit, which is a spectacular strategy. Would you mind sharing why you do this in place of date sugar and how you do it?

Chef AJ: Date paste is simply whole dates that have been soaked in a liquid (water, nondairy milk, juice) and then processed in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade.  I can make it easily myself.  To make date sugar you need a dehydrator.  Commercial date sugar often has flour in it so it’s not gluten free.  I see my rich date nut desserts as “methadone” for people to get off of sugar/flour/oil dessert.

Elisa: That’s a great tip in the kitch! What other projects and publications can we look forward to from you in the future?

Chef AJ: I am coming out with a new book based on the program I run called, ” The 30 Day UNPROCESSED Challenge.”  I am also writing a date sweetened dessert cookbook.  I will be speaking at Vegetarian Summerfest and at Get Healthy Appalachia with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Michael Roisen.  I also produce an annual event in Los Angeles in November called Healthy Taste of LA.  This year’s speaker is Dr. Esselstyn.  You can get tickets at here.

There you have it, through her tasty talents without the palatability of oil, salt and sugar – Chef AJ is a culinary wizard!

Now we’d like to hear from you. What do you do in order to reduce your consumption of processed vegan foods? Let us know in the comments below…

Image Source: jules/Flickr