Cooking Class: Power Up with Plants

Amanda Skrip is a Chicago-area natural foods educator, chef, health coach, and wellness expert.  I think she also may be just a little bit magical too.  She often teaches classes at the Whole Foods Market on Halsted and Waveland in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, and I’d heard from several like-minded individuals that her classes are fantastic.  My sources were SO right about that.

When my friend Cindy suggested we attend one of Amanda’s classes together I jumped at the chance.  This month, Amanda started off the new year with a series of classes around the theme “Delicious Detox“.  The all-vegan & gluten-free classes included “Clean Eating 101“, “Power Up with Plants“, “Super Energy Foods“, and “Curb Your Cravings“.  I desperately wanted to sign-up for the entire series, but knowing how difficult it would be to get there after work on time, I reluctantly decided to register for just one session – the Power Up With Plants class.

I arrived at Whole Foods a few minutes before the class – just enough time to make a visit to the salad-bar/hot-bar and scarf it all down.  This particular Whole Foods had a huge selection of their “Health-Starts-Here” items on the h0t-bar, which are all completely oil-free and plant-based. I loaded up exclusively on items with the “Health-Starts-Here” seal and then topped them with a healthy dollop of shredded veggies & steamed kale.

When I walked upstairs to the “classroom”, I realized quickly that my hurried dinner was completely unnecessary.  There was an awesome spread of snacks for us, including Whole Foods’ fresh guacamole & salsa, gluten-free chips & crackers, perfectly fresh fruit, and several flavors of Kaia Kale Chips, which I couldn’t get enough of.  I wish I had taken a photo of the spread, but class was about to start!

The recipes were all fresh, simple, healthy, and delicious – but Amanda herself was the highlight of the class.  In just ~2 hours, she not only taught us 6 recipes, but also so many great ideas and concepts along the way.  Plus her personality is so warm and inviting that the group (including my usually very shy self) was perfectly comfortable asking tons of questions and occasionally chiming in with our own tips & tricks.

Here’s just a few of the tips, tricks, and facts I learned from the class:

  • Don’t toss out your broccoli stems/stalks!  Once peeled, you can steam them, or even better, cut them into raw sticks and use them just like celery or carrot sticks. (she even passed some broccoli stalk-sticks around for us to taste – I loved it!)
  • Did you know you can use a spoon to peel ginger?  Or… you can be like me and not peel it at all.  I just scrub it well and don’t mind a few specks of skin in my dish.
  • And since both Roasted Cauliflower & Roasted Broccoli were on the menu we got lots of tips for Roasting!
    • Veggies will shrink when roasting, so don’t over-salt them – consider adding all or some of the salt after roasting
    • Since Roasting brings out natural sweetness, it’s a great method for introducing a new vegetable to your diet – or to your kids!
    • For more caramelization, consider these tips:
      • Use a slightly higher heat
      • Place the pan in the oven for a few minutes to heat it before adding your veggies
      • After washing your veggies, be sure to dry them thoroughly
      • Don’t overcrowd the pan
      • Don’t use too much oil
      • Add a little bit of a sweetener like Maple Syrup or Honey

As she taught her lesson, Amanda even threw in periodic trivia questions to her eager audience, complete with some some seriously awesome prizes, courtesy of Navitas Naturals.  In addition to Cacao Powder and Hemp Seeds, one of the prizes was a bag of Coconut Palm Sugar.  As soon as I saw the Palm Sugar, I had a mission – I simply had to win that bag for Mike.  We’ve only had Palm Sugar once before -freshly made at a roadside stand in Cambodia – and he still hasn’t stopped raving about it.  Thanks to my newly acquired Roasting knowledge, my mission was successful!

Before I knew it, it was already time to sample what Amanda had prepared for us:
  • Caramelized Cauliflower with Wilted Arugula (I loved this one – call me crazy, but the taste of roasted cauliflower tossed with a splash of lemon reminded me of my beloved Sauerkraut)
  • Crispy Broccoli with Lemon & Pine-Nuts (The roasted pine-nuts made the classroom smell so, so, so delicious!)
  • Moroccan Carrot Salad (The classic pairing of Carrot & Coriander)
  • Sauteed Cauliflower ‘Rice’ (I’ve been so curious to try Cauli-Rice and was so excited to see it on the menu)
  • Spicy Sweet Potato Mash (I loved this combo of Sweet Potatoes, OJ, and cayenne)
  • Winter Vegetable-Noodle Soup (This soup was so delicious. Way better than restaurant-soup!)

As Amanda was cooking one of the Cauliflower dishes, she completely impromptu came up with this awesome statement:

“Cauliflower is the New Kale”

– Amanda Skrip

The minute it was out of her mouth, the complete truth of that statement completely resonated with me.  Cauliflower-Mashed-Potatoes are one of the top sellers at my office’s Cafeteria.  My sister, who loves cooking classic comfort foods, recently told me how much she loves Cauliflower Rice.  And I’ve seen dozens of recipes for Cauliflower Pizza Crust popping up all over the blog world.  Plus, according to Amanda, popular methods like ricing and roasting cauliflower help make it more digestible.

I left class not only armed with new knowledge, new recipes, and my prize – I was also completely inspired!

I knew I had to work two things into my next week’s meal plan:  Roasted Cauliflower and also my new Coconut Palm Sugar


Check. and Check.

I loved the crunchy coating of the Cinnamon & Cornmeal Roasted Cauliflower from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats (a cookbook which I borrowed from the library).

And I decided that FloraFoodie’s Lemony Deep Dish Pizza would make a perfectly awesome breakfast.  The crust contains 2 cans of Garbanzo beans, yet plumped up very nicely.  I used my Palm Sugar in both the crust and lemon curd-topping, hence slightly darker color of both.  I buried the banana slices under the lemon curd to prevent them from browning, allowing me to enjoy slices of this for breakfast for 7 glorious days.

I’d Love to Hear from You

What’s your favorite vegetable (or combination) to Roast?

What’s one of the best (or craziest!) recipes you’ve made with Cauliflower?