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Ask A Connecticut Chef: Ways To Keep Your Meals Lean And Clean

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Photo Credit Thinkstock

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Eating healthy, green, lean and clean is something that even a child can learn – provided they have a teacher like Chef Kashia Cave. The classically trained chef has eschewed the world of commercial cuisine to commit herself to teaching young people how to make healthy, sensible and affordable food choices. At her My City Kitchen in Meriden, Chef Cave does just that – and a lot more.
 
My City Kitchen
384 Pratt St.
Meriden, CT  06450
(203) 630-2870
mycitykitchen.org

“Nothing’s Better Than Farm to Table”  
 
Perhaps nothing better reflects the move by chefs to go “green” than the whole farm-to-table movement, of which Ms. Cave is a proud proponent. “Nothing’s better than farm to table,” says Chef Cave, who not only uses local farm produce in her cooking whenever possible, but also takes her young students to farm markets – such as Farmer Joe’s Garden, which she and her budding young chefs visited in October. The Wallingford store owner donated bags of fresh produce to each student, along with recipes on how to use them to make meals and treats for their family.
 
Chef Cave delights in working with children and in showing teens and younger kids that a kitchen is not just for adults. It need not be as daunting as science lab, as so many youngsters seem to fear, but can instead be a place to have fun – and to create and take pride in their creations. This can be as simple as putting together a healthy trail mix or whipping up a fruit smoothie, or something more ambitious like stuffing and cooking a chicken or making macaroni and cheese from scratch – instead of a box. From snacks for one to meals for the entire family, Chef Cave teaches children that they can take charge of making sure that they, and their families, eat lean, eat clean, eat green and, above all, eat healthy.
 
“I’m Not a Nutritionist – I’m a Chef!”
 
Although Chef Cave is a big promoter of healthy eating, she is quick to note that “I’m not a nutritionist – I’m a chef!” While she was classically trained at Connecticut’s Lincoln Culinary Institute and furthered her education abroad at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners, the best lessons she learned about cooking, she says, were taught in her grandmother’s kitchen in her native Trinidad. Learning how to cook at a very young age taught her how to express herself, and gave her confidence. Perhaps almost as important, it taught her how to cook and eat healthy, and have fun while doing both.
 
It is that kind of joy that Chef Cave seeks to instill in her young students at My City Kitchen in Meriden and at other places in the community she visits. She shows young chefs how to use natural ingredients as a healthy alternative to commercial, processed products, and how the result can be not only better for them – but just as tasty if not more so than what they are used to eating.
 
Fighting Child Obesity the Natural Way
 
The fight against child obesity and the diabetes and other diseases that often follow is dear to the heart of Chef Cave. Not only does she work with young people in the community to show them how to eat and cook better and healthier, she also sponsors fundraisers to support the cause. Last April, for example, her second annual culinary “Plant a Seed” extravaganza raised over $12,000 for the cause. Ms. Cave has, through her passion and perseverance, convinced many other chefs – including Timothy Cipriano and other celebrity chefs – to support and appear at her annual fundraiser.
 
Hers is not a once-a-year celebrity event, but is instead a daily battle – and one fought not only in the cozy confines of My City Kitchen but at churches, schools and community centers she visits in and around Meriden.
 
Chef Cave is also the driving force behind REACH – which stands for Recreation, Education, Arts, Community and Home, a program she says is designed to encourage “the love of learning” in children through cooking.

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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.


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