A highly favored writer at Self Magazine, Jennifer also regularly writes for Yoga Life and AOL Food, and was the spokesperson for the GO Florida Grapefruit Campaign. She shares her expertise on health and cooking, making appearances on the Today Show, CBS, Montel Williams, and Better TV. More recently, Jennifer appeared as a judge in General Mill’s new baking competition 350F-One Hot Cooking Show that was watched by millions on the Betty Crocker website. In addition, Jennifer is the recipe developer for Joy Bauer’s Food Cures and Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook on hidden nutrition entitled Deceptively Delicious. Jennifer continues to guide families toward health, showing them that healthy cooking can be fresh and fun.
After graduating with honors from the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kumps), Jennifer was invited to intern with Chef Scott Bryan, chef owner of Veritas restaurant. While there, she met Tyler Florence of the Food Network. Serving again upon invitation, Jennifer interned on Tyler’s cookbook, Eat This Book, where she learned the essentials of food styling and photography.
Jennifer received her most formative culinary experience in her granny’s kitchen starting at age eight. Growing up in her grandmother’s house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she learned in-depth cooking techniques, how to use the freshest ingredients, the ups and downs of baking, and most of all, how to cook with love. Jennifer lives in New Jersey with her husband, Ulrich, who shares her passion for food and healthy living.
Diet Detective: Hello Jennifer, thanks again for the interview. You’ve had so many great accomplishments in your career — it’s exciting. How did you get so involved with healthy cooking and nutrition? Was it an early passion? What was your motivation?
Jennifer: I grew up in a family of food fanatics, outstanding cooks and passionate, overindulging eaters. Food is my great love and in the past has been my greatest enemy. I grew up as an overweight teenager and young adult, always fighting weight problems in the midst of a family where everyone was obese. Food has always been central in my life and when I became a chef, I realized that my passion for food could be healthy instead of problematic.
Diet Detective: Many readers believe that cooking healthy requires more attention to details, more time, and is typically bland. Is that true to a certain degree? Can you give us a few tips that we probably haven’t heard about?
Jennifer: I don’t believe that cooking healthy is difficult. It’s more about the choices you make when you shop and get to the stove! Cooking with low-fat dairy products, such as low-fat mayo and cream cheese, takes the same amount of time and you don’t need any special skill to make the swap. Healthy food doesn’t have to be bland either — fresh herbs, spices, and using salt correctly can make low-fat food taste incredible! My number one healthy cooking tip? Watch the fat. Until you know how to eyeball a tablespoon of oil or butter, just have a measuring spoon handy. Adding too much fat or not enough fat is the home cook’s downfall.
Diet Detective: Tell us the biggest secret that chefs typically don’t tell anyone about healthy cooking, but should?
Jennifer: Professional chefs use lots of fresh herbs and cook with wine. Home cooks might be intimidated by cooking with wine or feel it’s too “fancy,” but using a little wine in a sauce can add major flavor without any fat, at around 100 calories per cup. Fresh herbs are loaded with antioxidants, antibacterial agents, and most of all, flavor. Tuck in a handful of basil for a burst of flavor in pasta sauce, on pizzas, and even on a sandwich or in soups.
Diet Detective: If you had to pick one or two healthy cookbooks to recommend which would you choose?
Jennifer: I love books by Lorna Sass, like her Complete Vegetarian Kitchen. Her recipes are so simple but can also be elegant enough for a dinner party. The Cooking Light series is a favorite — those recipes always turn out great.
Diet Detective: I’ve heard you’re a yoga enthusiast. It’s always interesting to hear how someone “discovered” yoga — how did you start?
Jennifer: Before I became a chef, I had a desk job. When you sit all day, it’s harder to manage weight gain if you love food as much as I do! I tried yoga on a whim, and it turned out to not only be a great way to stay fit, but it also helped me in other ways. I realized that it was just fear of failure that was holding me back from following my dream to be a chef.
Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy breakfast?
Jennifer: Smoothie with tamari almonds, fruit, and Greek yogurt.
Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy ingredient? What’s the one thing you’d suggest people keep in their kitchen if they want to cook healthy meals?
Jennifer: That’s a tough one — I have so many. I love low-fat dairy, including sour cream and yogurt. Low-fat chicken broth is another way to add flavor without fat and tons of calories.
Diet Detective: What’s the one kitchen utensil or tool that you can’t live without?
Jennifer: A good quality, super sharp knife!
Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food?
Jennifer: I don’t think there is one perfect food — but in terms of weight management, beauty, and hydration, it would have to be pink grapefruit.
Diet Detective: If you could eat one unhealthy food whenever you wanted without gaining weight, what would it be?
Jennifer: Cheese, glorious cheese. I love salty, rich foods. Cheese with crackers hits the spot. I’ve never met a cheese I don’t like! Beef nachos with extra cheddar cheese and jalapenos are my “cheat” dinner.
Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?
Jennifer: Working the 4 AM shift at my dad’s deli.
Diet Detective: What did you want to be at the age of five?
Jennifer: A cabaret singer — strange, I was a pretty shy kid until Lawrence Welk came on!