Healthy Meals For the Busy Individual
One of the biggest challenges for my clients is having healthy food choices, but also finding time to cook healthy meals from scratch. I often stress that what you feed your body plays a greater role over exercise. You can have a good exercise program, but if you do not pay attention to what you are feeding your body, all that hard work will be for nothing. Your body needs quality nutrients to function and maintain all of its metabolic functions. If you feed your body junk, just imagine how you will feel.
For many of you that know me, I am a huge supporter of local farmers and sustainable foods. I prefer to have a direct source to my food and ingredients. This was a choice my husband and I made six years ago, for health reasons, as our digestive systems had negative reactions to certain foods. Cooking our food from scratch has dramatically improved our overall well-being. Cooking and sourcing locally is nothing new, but it seems that we have moved far away from doing these things. The busier our lives get, the less we make cooking a priority. Convenience is an important factor for many of us, but that usually equates to packaged foods or eating out.
If you can relate to this, I have found a great option - CJK Foods. I heard a great deal about CJK Foods recently and when my friend asked me to try some of their meals, I was pretty excited. With many prepared meal companies cropping up, it can seem overwhelming. What I like about CJK Foods that sets them apart from the rest, is the use of organic and locally sourced foods. For those with food intorerances, you are also in good hands. CJK Foods specializes in providing superfoods that are nutrient dense, gluten-free, and dairy-free. I wanted to learn a little more on how CJK Foods was created and asked founder Chef Josh Katt to share his story.
Can you tell me about your background? What inspired you to start CJK Foods?
I first fell in love with food at the age of 19 when I landed in a local farm-to-table style restaurant Grand Rapids, Michigan, called Bistro Bella Vita. I had worked in a bunch of chains and local pizza joints up until that point, so hadn’t really been exposed to the artistic side of cooking. On my first day I was told to whip cream with a fork, add some vanilla bean, and a bit of sure to make “Chantilly cream”. My mind was blown. I had always thought whipped cream came from a can. I attended culinary school at the Secchia institute while working in Grand Rapids, and after finishing moved to Chicago to work in the fine dining scene. I knew after a few short months here in Chicago that I loved cooking, but wasn’t in love with what can be an unhealthy restaurant culture.
After a few years exploring different avenues in food I got a call to be a personal chef for someone who wanted me to cook according to the Anti-inflammatory diet. I bought a few cookbooks and the book “anti-cancer” and dove into the world of healthy cook. The thing I LOVE about the Anti-inflammatory diet and real food cooking is that it isn’t about what you’re leaving out, it is about using the right ingredients. Local, pasture-raised and grass-fed meats, organic and local produce, healthy gluten-free grains, and then eliminating a few inflammatory items like soy, corn, dairy, and peanuts. I was inspired to continue to grow my business because I knew I could make people happy with delicious and original cooking, but also that I could add value to their lives by supporting their healthy lifestyles.
You work with a holistic-minded dietician - can you tell me a little more about her and her philosophy?
We first met Jenny through Twitter! She was working for SportFuel, a sports nutrition consulting firm in Chicago, where she worked one-on-one with professional athletes, spoke to a variety of audiences, and even helped with their organic meal delivery service, Eat Like the Pros. It was during her five years at SportFuel that the owner and Jenny's mentor, Julie Burns, opened her eyes to holistic nutrition, functional medicine, and organic and local whole food. At CJK Foods, Jenny ensures that our food is meeting the highest possible standards in nutrition. She also educates our customers on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle both with and without the help of CJK Foods. By regularly attending nutrition seminars, educating herself through reading and research, and witnessing her clients succeed with a holistic nutrition approach, Jenny truly appreciates, understands, and agrees with CJK Foods' super standards.
Where do you draw inspiration for the meals? Are there certain ones that are regular items? What are some of the popular items?
I have a few go-to cookbooks for flavor and seasonal inspiration. One of them is “Culinary Artistiry” which is less of a cookbook and more of a flavor/seasonal guide. It helps with the whole creative process. Blogs are also a great resource to compare recipes and stay current with the trends.
Our menu format is always changing. Currently we have a few staple dishes like our Summer Garden Paleo Pizza, our Detoxifying Beet Salad with Chicken, and our New Mexico Turkey Burger. We change these up every few weeks, and then also rotate some weekly seasonal choices that we come up with in the kitchen based on what is coming in from the farm. In addition to entrée options, we have also just launched a breakfast menu that includes our current best seller - the Paleo Sweet Potato Waffle. Each week we have a couple vegetable sides as well as freshly made Superfood smoothies.
What local farmers do you work with to source your meat, poultry, and pork?
We source our poultry and pork from Gunthorp farms in LaGrange, Indiana. It’s pretty awesome to say that we use the same meats that Stephanie Izard and Rick Bayless choose for their restaurants. Our grass-fed beef comes from Q7 Ranch, in Marengo, Illinois. With the help of Local Foods (a startup all-things-local distributor in Chicago) we’ve had access to tons of local produce on a weekly basis. Currently we’re getting 10+ cases of organic kale from a farm called Harvest Moon. They have the best kale, collards, and swiss chard I have ever seen and tasted! So good. On top of that we are sourcing from our very own rooftop garden! We’ve been experiencing great results with salad greens as well as baby kale. If you can’t tell, we love kale!
It is great that you source your ingredients from your rooftop. Do you also source ingredients from any of the local farmers markets?
As I mentioned above, we have been partnering with Local Foods. They bring the farmers market to us! We need to buy in such large amounts that it really makes sense for us to use a wholesale distributor. Lucky for us, Local Foods is just getting its feet wet here in Chicago with plans to offer a significant amount of local produce (year round), as well as an extensive amount of local meats, including 100% grass-fed bison.
Having sampled their meals, I can say they do not disappoint! The Paleo Sweet Potato Waffle was definitely my favorite and I can see why it is their current best seller. CJK Foods partners with lcoal fitness studios for drop-offs which is plus after a training session. You can also pick up from their kitchen or have your meals delivered. To try it out for yourself, they are offering my readers a first time discount. Use code cjktasting10 on your order.