Local Gal Makes Good Meals: {Healthy} Cooking Camp Wants You

by Carrie Havranek

Are you afraid of your kitchen? Do you want to cook good meals, but you’re not really sure where to start? Does it seem like there’s not enough time in the day to figure out how to plan meals? Is take-out your best friend? If, like many of the energetic duo Quinn Asteak and Robyn Youkilis’s clients, the answer is yes—and you don’t want it to be—then you’ve come to the right place.

The friends have started {Healthy} Cooking Camp, an outgrowth of their individual health coach/life coach practices and schooling at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Asteak is a native of Easton but the pair live in New York City. Drawn together by their love of cooking healthy food and holistic philosophy toward health and wellness, they’re launching their live cooking class on Wednesday, January 25, at 7pm-9pm; classes will run for three consecutive Wednesdays.

They’ve taken a slightly different approach to schooling novices. Rather than a strictly skills-oriented lesson, it’s outcome-based. Want more energy? Need to focus more at work? Looking to slim down a bit? Trying to fit cooking into your on-the-go lifestyle? Their four classes are designed around these themes and will get you chopping kale and sauteeing onions in a jiffy. If you’re motivated by any of these ideals, chances are this will appeal to you. As Asteak describes the camp, “There will be a big focus on healthy ingredients. Ingredients that bring you into balance, give you energy and help you naturally slim down. We won’t tell you exactly WHAT to eat, but will give you the 411. There is so much information out there and as health coaches it’s our job to do all the research,” says Asteak.

Scallions & Quinoa, Simple and Healthful meal by Quinn Asteak and Robyn Youkilis
Scallions & Quinoa, Simple and Healthful meal by Quinn Asteak and Robyn Youkilis

The pair want to demystify the process of cooking, and help people make the right choices for their own lives. In our pop culture, there’s an abundance of information about food, health, diets, and cooking. We live in a world where Food Network runs on people’s televisions 24/7, where chefs have the benefit of staff members who prep veggies and mix sauces. Online, food blogs have a tremendous following. And there’s a new diet born for every minute there’s a sucker born, as the old saying goes. None of this means anything unless you have the knowledge base that helps you to synthesize what you’re reading. And if you don’t know how to cook, you’re at a distinct disadvantage; the kitchen can be a daunting place. Their camp is designed to mitigate that—you’ll be able to tell your swiss chard from your kale, your quinoa from millet, in no time.

When asked what she feels one of the most important things people need to know about cooking, Asteak says “that it does not have to be a major production. Each dinner doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving. You can easily get a healthy meal on the table in 20 minutes if you have the right ingredients around.” They also stress the importance of tasting your food as you go, and adjusting seasonings, ingredients, salt, as needed.

Apple and Cabbage Salad by Quinn Asteak and Robyn Youkilis
Apple and Cabbage Salad

One of their favorite teaching moments involves explaining cooking in fashion terms. “We have this analogy that quinoa is like the little black dress of food, vegetables are the jeans and t-shirt and herbs/spices are your accessories.  And, boy oh boy, do we love some statement jewelry. Playing around with different flavor profiles to completely makeover a basic dish is probably our favorite thing to do,” Asteak says. It’s also the kind of thing that encourages experimentation in the kitchen, and increases your confidence. It also teaches you what doesn’t work, too—mistakes are all a normal, fun part of the process.

So how does it work? You sign up for the classes, and receive an email with instructions for signing up to the service (which includes a user name and password), along with a grocery list for the evening’s meal. If you can’t make the live stream, no problem. Just download the class when you can, and the videos are yours to keep.

Ready to go? Asteak and Youkilis are offering a discount of $50 for Little Pocket Guide readers. Just make sure you enter “pocketguide” at check out.

Carrie Havranek is a writer in Easton who hasn’t been to camp since she was about 12 but is going to take a baking class at CIA in March.

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