The Art of Healthy Cooking

Cooking tips and recipes from Diane Hoch, the founder of a nutrition center and a specialist in the art of healthy cooking and eating.

By Arlene Hisiger

Diane Hoch

Diane Hoch was, by choice, a stay-at-home Mom for her three children in the early 2000’s, when the public became aware that certain food ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil, were unhealthy. Soon she became a leader among the parents fighting for healthy school food. In 2004, the federal government legislated new food guidelines for schools that included setting up wellness committees to monitor and promote proper nutrition. But staff members at various schools—including the school in Rockland County that Diane’s children attended—resisted the mandates. Even the school’s president expressed his dismay to Diane. “Isn’t it enough that we provide these children with an education? Do we have to be accountable for their nutrition, as well? Isn’t that the parents’ responsibility?” he asked her.

A New Focus

Diane ultimately decided that the school’s president was right. It was up to parents to advocate for and consistently monitor proper nutrition at schools. So she promptly joined two school wellness committees. In addition, she founded a non-profit organization called Rockland Coalition for Better School Food in order to publicize her deeply felt conviction that proper nutrition is vital to good health.

But not everybody shared Diane’s convictions. Within the school system, she and the other wellness committee members endured great backlash from parents. During open forum discussions, parents angrily told the committee that they didn’t want anyone telling them how to feed their kids. One woman was particularly distressed that the committee decided to make pumpkin decorating, rather than cupcake decorating, the focal point of the school’s Halloween celebration. The irate mother vowed that her child would not be denied this cherished tradition.

While Diane had hoped to bring about change through education, after a while, she tired of being the “barking dog.”

By 2005, Diane was coping with an impending divorce and knew that she would need to step back into the workforce. The memory of an obese child who was unable to fully participate in school Field Day competitions crystalized her career choice. “I had always loved cooking and feeding people. I’m the nurturing type,” Diane explains. “If I was going back to work, I wanted to do something I was passionate about, something that would make a difference in the world.”

So she entered the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in Manhattan, where she was certified in integrative nutrition—an approach to good health that stresses the interconnectedness between food and various aspects of life such as exercise, relationships, careers and stress. She was also educated as a gourmet chef at the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan. There she learned about nutrition and different cuisines, but it was the cooking classes that intrigued her the most. As she watched the instructor she thought to herself: “I’d love to teach a cooking class!”

There’s Gonna be an Evolution

And that’s how she founded her business—The Food Evolution—a nutrition and cooking center based in Bardonia, New York, a Rockland County hamlet, thirty miles north of New York City. There she teaches class participants how to prepare delicious and nutritious whole foods in a state-of-the-art kitchen that they can recreate in their own homes. Most importantly she aims to demonstrate that this type of cooking should not be daunting. “Things are only difficult until we learn how to do them,” she says. “Evolution is a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change and at The Food Evolution that is my intention.”

Diane typically teaches four recipes in one of her cooking classes. At every step of preparation, she discusses the nutritional components of the dishes as well as culinary tips and tricks at every step of preparation. Class participants prep, create, cook and eat what they have prepared.

“Having attended many group cooking sessions, I can share that laughter tends to fill the air as participants get comfortable sharing experiences and asking questions—it’s a perfect environment to learn and stay motivated,” says Kelly Petrillo, a class participant. “Even after class, Diane is a constant source of support and guidance through group chats and weekly recipe suggestions. She wants her clients to succeed and does all she can to empower them.”

Diane soon decided to expand her offerings. If people weren’t able to attend her classes at her Bardonia headquarters, she would go on the road and bring her kitchen to them. She has taught at the Woodloch Resort Spa in Pennsylvania and at schools, libraries, doctor’s offices and civic centers in New York City. She also teaches a 10-week corporate wellness program, the Healthy Cooking Challenge, at companies in New York City, such as Cigna Insurance, its constituent agencies and other top accounting firms.

A Selection of Diane’s favorite cooking tips:

Diane is an avid proponent of coconut oil since it does not turn into a trans-fat at high heat, as do other cooking oils. She also uses it as a butter substitute and in vegetable sautés—see Coconut Curry Quinoa with Roasted Beets recipe below.

A good way to incorporate dark leafy greens into your diet is by making a smoothie for breakfast that can be poured into small mason jars or any small container to drink later in the day. Be sure to keep the smoothie refrigerated. See Green Evolution Smoothie recipe below.

To minimize fat intake, Diane suggests using avocado (a good fat) in place of mayonnaise and use low sodium vegetable broth in place of oil in sautés. She also suggests using apple cider vinegar as a salad dressing instead of store bought salad dressing. Fermented foods, such as vinegars and sauerkraut help promote good gut health.

Women wishing to avoid soy products, such as soy or tamari sauces, can purchase coconut aminos (available in many supermarkets and health food stores) to use in sautés or any recipe with soy-based sauces.

Green Evolution Smoothie
Ingredients:
8 cups spring water
2 cups kale leaves, spine removed
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
Handful of parsley
1/2 apple, cored
1/2 lemon, peeled
3 Medjool pitted dates

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a high power blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Yield: 4 cups

Coconut Curry Quinoa with Roasted Beets
Ingredients:
1 cup rinsed quinoa
2 cups water
2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
1/2 cup white onion, chopped small
1 cup Swiss chard, chopped small
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 medium size beets
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

Directions:
Preheat Oven to 400°
1. Roast Beets: Peel and dice 4 medium-size beets. Toss with 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil and place coated beets on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
2. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and place in oven to roast for 30 minutes.
3. Cook Quinoa: Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa to an uncovered pot and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, cover pot, turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté onions in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, until translucent—approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Add chard and sauté until greens are wilted and lighter in color. Add curry powder, salt and pepper and stir to incorporate before folding in raisins, pumpkin seeds, cooked quinoa and roasted beets. Serve and enjoy!
Yield: 6-8 servings

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Lunch and Learn Workshops
Diane offers workshops with tantalizing titles such as Sensational Smoothies—Supporting Your Immune System and Beating the Sugar Blues—Decadent Chocolate Desserts at the venues listed below.

How to enjoy The Food Evolution experience:

To contact Diane regarding any of the items listed below, call 845-507-0260 or email Diane dianehoch@thefoodevolution.com.

Private one-on-one counseling Cost: $225 per hour.

Attend cooking demonstrations and workshops at Body Fit ’n Life Fitness at 245 East 40th Street in Manhattan. Cost: $125 per person. Contact Diane or sign up on The Food Evolution website class calendar.

Participate in a Healthy Cooking Challenge in a company or business setting. Interested companies contact Diane to present this program. Women currently employed can ask the appropriate person at work to contact Diane to arrange for the “Challenge” at their company.

If you have a kitchen that can accommodate 10, in the city or country, Diane will conduct a 2–hour lunch and learn session discussing such issues as menu creation, customized recipes and buying and prepping foods. Cost for 2-hour lunch and learn for group: $650.

Hire Diane to cater and do a food demonstration at private events such as birthday and anniversary celebrations. Cost is determined by client needs and specifications. Base cost: $650.

Attend a cooking class at The Food Evolution headquarters: 295 Route 304 Bardonia, NY 10954 Classes start at $75 per person.

Attend a lunch and learn at The Lodge at Woodloch Spa Resort, in the Poconos Mountains, in Pennsylvania, 109 River Birch Lane, Hawley, PA 18428. The cost of Diane’s classes at the spa are included in the price of the weekend package rate at the time of reservation.

For more information and options visit Diane’s website: The Food Evolution or call 845-507-0260.

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Arlene Hisiger is a world traveler who now lives in Rochester, NY where she writes for local media and corporate clients. Arlene’s website is wordtailor.net.

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