RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Wyckoff Chef Carrie Weiss starts her “Zen and the Art of Clean Cooking” classes with a guided meditation.
“When you live life mindfully, your body is more relaxed, leading to improved digestion,” Weiss told her Tuesday class at the Valley Medical Group’s Center for Integrative Medicine in Ridgewood.
"When we're mindful," she added, "we increase our awareness of what foods we're buying, cooking, and eating."
Clean cooking starts in the food store where a shopper makes the healthiest choices in all the food groups.
These include organic, local, and sustainable products, such as grass-fed animal proteins, wild fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
“You are what you eat,” Weiss said. “It’s not a cliché.”
Some of those who take Weiss’s classes are patients with one or another condition who must eat better to gain health.
Others, like Paul Povolo of Totowa, are healthy people who want to avoid getting sick.
“I’m trying to get more organic, more natural,” he said, “and stay away from sugar and processed food.”
This week Weiss, who is trained in French, Mediterranean, clean, and raw vegan cooking, demonstrated how to transform some meals into healthier alternatives.
For instance, a Red Beet Detoxing Elixir features beets, carrots, a green apple, ginger, a whole lemon or lime, cold water, and ice cubes.
“It’s something different for breakfast,” Weiss said, “and you’ll have a lot of energy for the day.”
Other dishes she demonstrated making, with the help of Sous Chef Marta Kazirod of Garfield, were Moroccan Fish Cakes, vegetarian chopped liver with caramelized onions, and green salad with a zing.
She picked up a bowl before prepping the salad.
“Let’s do it like they do in France and make the dressing first in the bottom of the salad bowl,” said Weiss, who whisked together a Classic French Vinaigrette.
Last on the menu was a faux chocolate mousse, a raw vegan dish made with avocados, honey or dates, vanilla, salt, water, espresso, and coconut oil or cocoa butter.
Weiss whipped it all in a Vitamix, piped it onto plates, garnished the plates, and watched her class eat.
“Does it taste like mousse?” she asked.
Heads nodded. Spoons sunk into the creamy mixture again and again.
Weiss’s experience spans apprenticing with chefs in France and consulting with restaurants.
Weiss is so well traveled that stories, along with recipes and tips, flow from her. She extols the nutritional value of sprouts, reveals the power of capers, and even suggests a homemade yogurt-like treat for those with dairy allergies.
It was her own health concerns that brought her to clean cooking in the first place.