I recently had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Iserloh who recently wrote her first book, ‘Secrets of a Skinny Chef’.  I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer last year and learning some ‘tricks of the trade’ through baking and cooking with her as she truly is an incredible chef and an amazing friend.  I love Jennifer’s philosophy of believing that “…the essence of good healthy springs from your own kitchen…you can eat the foods you love by cooking them the healthy way to satisfy both body and soul…I celebrate delicious, easy to prepare dishes that can be enjoyed for a lifetime, reinventing meals that grandma would be proud to serve.”  What’s not to love about that?

Secrets of a Skinny Chef is the perfect cookbook for any kitchen, whether you are trying to scale down your meals, loose weight or simply enjoy your indulgences without the guilt as Jennifer’s creations are delicious and healthy.  Say good-bye to your fat-laden comfort foods and snuggle up with Jennifer’s ‘Secrets’ to create dishes for your weeknight dinner, a holiday cocktail party or even a go-to snack when you’re in the mood for a tasty dish.

I tested Jennifer’s Black Bean Soup and Apple Butter recipes, which were out of this world.  I am a huge fan of hearty, bean soups and this one was amazing to say the least.  Not only was the final result delish, but it was a quick n’ easy dish to whip up on a chilly night.  I even had leftovers for a cool soup the next day to pair with my lunchtime sandwich…it was perfect!  I love creating chutneys, salsas and fruit butters, therefore I opted for Jennifer’s Apple Butter recipe and served this alongside gluten-free crackers, wafers and my homemade sweet potato chips for a delectable condiment.  Again, another simple n’ easy recipe that had my taste buds jumpin’ for joy.  These two recipes are only the beginning, head out to find your copy of Secrets of a Skinny Chef and I promise you, you’ll be whippin’ up Jennifer’s tasty recipes in no time…Each recipe is well written and easy to follow, which is key when you are in a time crunch and looking for an easy to prep, yet healthy dish.  I hope you enjoy Jennifer’s delicious ‘Secrets’ as much as I did…what are you waiting for? Aren’t you just dyin’ to know what her secrets are? Hehe…have fun in your kitchen exploring this adorable cookbook….Enjoy!

Here are a few questions Jennifer was kind enough to answer for my readers:

How did you come up with the idea for ‘Skinny Chef’?

Actually my husband came up with the idea when I told him about some of my experiences working in restaurant kitchens in Manhattan.  When I used to work with restaurant cooks, the guys used to tease me for being able to squeeze by them where we worked in cramped quarters.  They would say “you’re such a skinny chef”.  So we used the name to start a blog over 7 years ago where I could write about my passion for food and health.

Tell me about your typical day as the ‘Skinny Chef’.

Most days I work at home. I get up around 7 or 8 and feed my kitchen sidekick Chester. After I walk him I start writing or cooking right away. Depending on the day I work on my blog, kitchen daily, skinny chef, or I might be developing a story for SELF magazine or Clean Eating magazine.

What was your inspiration for writing your book, ‘Secrets of a Skinny Chef’?

I’ve always wanted to publish my own cookbook, it’s been a dream of mine even before I applied to culinary school.  I’ve been developing recipes for print, both books and magazines as well as web for six years, so writing a book came naturally to me.

What is your favorite recipe from your new book?

Oh gosh, I have a few I love the salsa for the nachos is something that I use on fish or eggs. I also love the poolside soup because it can be a low snack or a whole meal that I can add shrimp or chicken to.  For the desserts, the banana cream pie is tops.

What is your favorite meal to cook (and eat)?

I never get tired of cooking and apart from okra and calves liver I love all ingredients.  So my favorites change daily, depending on my mood and what’s in season. Yesterday I made a lemon mango ice cream with green cardamom, that my new favorite flavor.  You’ll be able to get the recipe on my upcoming kitchen daily blog.

What is your favorite New York City restaurant?

There are so many excellent ones to choose from it’s hard to say but there are two that I go back to time and time again. Lavagna in the East Village- their rabbit papardella is extraordinary. I’ve been going there for over 8 years and the food is always outstanding.  They also have a tight little Italian wine list that is nothing to sneeze at. The other is Apiary – it’s what I call “elegance” at a bargain price – an undiscovered gem in the East Village Manhattan. Scott Bryan from Veritas does more modestly price fare with the same high quality as his other restaurants including Veritas, Luma, and Indigo.  The desserts are amazing and their chocolate molten cake is the best I’ve ever taste.  Be sure to make a reservation- last time I was there it was packed.

What is one kitchen tool that you couldn’t live without?

A chef’s knife of course!  Simple tools are best although I do love my food processor for making dough and pie crust.

How would you describe your cooking technique?

I’m professionally trained so a lot of what I teach people is basic technique I learned in restaurant kitchens – for example how to properly season and sear meat and how to use a knife. That being said, sometimes I “cut corners” when a recipe procedure is too complex or time consuming for the home cook. As long as it doesn’t vastly change the flavor I make the recipe instructions as simple as I can.  I want to encourage people to cook as much as possible.

What do you see in the future for the ‘Skinny Chef’?

I have so many hopes for the future. One of them is to start a government run initiative to fight the obesity crises with healthy eats that taste amazing.  One of my missions is to teach people that they can be fit and enjoy food more simply by cooking healthy meals at home- it’s not about fad dieting.

Describe your kitchen at home.

I live in a railroad style apartment so my space is pretty limited.   When we had the kitchen renovated I wanted countertops and a sink that could take a beating since I spend anywhere from 4 hours up to 10 hours a day cooking (if I have an event. So I have pounded granite countertops and a sturdy apron style sink.

Do you consider yourself to be more of a cook or a baker?

Definitely a cook although I do a lot with baked goods.  For me being a good cook is crucial to eating well since desserts and sugary snacks are only a twice a month treat for me.

What is your best kitchen advice?

Vegetables should be at the heart of every meal, get them in – because they are mother’s nature perfect food because they are in the bad stuff like saturated fats, sugar, and preservatives and rich in vitamins and minerals.

What inspires your recipes?

Lots of things, travel, eating out in restaurants, reading books, and even dreams sometime.

Did you always have a passion for food growing up as a child and throughout your adolescence?

I was an emotional overeater so I had sort of a love/hate relationship with food. Now that I’m totally rehabilitated, I enjoy a passion with food on a healthy level that extends to writing, photography, and other creative pursuits that go beyond just eating.

What is always in your pantry?

Whole peeled tomatoes, whole wheat breadcrumbs, olive oil, sea salt, canned beans, hot sauce, chipotle chilies, and reduced sodium soy sauce

Desert island cookbook?

I love the “Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home”, where he cooks it his way and she does it her way.  I used to cook out of that a lot before I became a professional cook and used the recipes often. I also love the Provence Cookbook from the Beautiful cookbook series.

Thank you, Jennifer for a fabulous interview and an amazing book…Secrets of a Skinny Chef is a great way to get your taste buds dancin’ while keeping your tummy trim and your mouth happy!

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