Healthy Cooking Class

by posted on 19 February 2014

Who says a daily spoonful of sugar is good for you ????

Hillary Frederickson and Chef Maria Elba host a healthy eating class and debunk the idea that sugar is one of life’s best ingredients for cooking…

Have you ever wondered what you can substitute for sugar when baking cookies or cakes? Have you ever wondered what types of foods makes you sleep better at night ? Or what helps regulate blood sugar levels ? Or what to avoid for the rest of your life because it clogs your arteries and is now proven to be the worst type of oils to cook with ?

These were all interesting revelations that were told to us during a healthy cooking class hosted by Hillary Frederickson and her cooking partner Chef Maria Elba.

photo K Stehling
Hillary giving advice
Maria Elba
Chef Maria Elba preparing dessert
Close up Hillary and Maria Elba
photos by K Stehling


I usually don’t have the time to attend a cooking class because it  requires 3 or 4 hours of your day. I decided to attend this healthy cooking class hosted by Dr. Hillary (as I fondly refer to her as)because she helped me regain my strength which I lost a substantial amount of after five months of cancer treatment. My digestive system weakened by radiation and chemotherapy treatment, almost ruined my eating habits to the point that I could not eat more than one meal a day without suffering great pain and discomfort. I felt exhausted and ill at ease with myself –until I was introduced to Hillary by a fellow INC member, Kelly Pietrangeli. Hillary is a certified nutritionist and I can truly say a bonafide one. Unlike other nutritionists from hospitals in Madrid who were uninspiring and telling me that I should eat more jamon to regain my strength (by the way,completely untrue because I truly believe that meat was the source of my cancer and I no longer eat ANY meat ), Hillary led me on a great path towards eating healthily without any stress. I learned the value of certain herbs and spices and the right type of proteins that would help me rebuild my appetite and my strength. Today I am back to my original strength and exercising as regularly as I use to due to the change recommended in my diet.

The great thing about Hillary’s cooking classes is that you learn so much about what not to eat and what to eat and more importantly when to eat. The recipes and the advice she offers in the class are very healthy, extremely tasty and easy to make. With the number of errands, mothers have to do every day, who needs to be burdened with heavy duty cooking for the family ?

Dr. Hillary provides her students with the nutritional aspects of the ingredients used in the cooking class. Her partner Maria Elba Ortiz de Zevallos is a professional chef who arrived in Madrid two years ago. She ran a very successful catering business in Florida and is now based in Spain. She provides private cooking classes and catering services as well. She’s a passionate cook and we had a feast for lunch and learned a lot of interesting insights on certain ingredients we used for the dishes she made.

Maria prepared a hearty squash soup with coconut milk, lots of ginger and Thai lemongrass and cumin powder—all available from an organic storeor an Asian shop (there’s a great one just outside the Principe Pio train station as you exit towards the entrance at street level). The soup was thick,spicy (an excellent kick to the system !), delicious and easy to make. If you want to make the soup less spicy, reduce the number of lemon grass sticks and ginger. The beauty of coconut milk is that coconut in general is a wonder food for our intestinal system. It works like a lubricant for our bones and muscles. Cooking with coconut oil or coconut milk is also the best way to regulate one’s digestive system. According to Hillary, studies today are beginning to show that cooking with coconut oil or coconut based products is far healthier for us than cooking with corn or vegetable oil. When I suffered from stomach aches during my recovery period, I stopped cooking with vegetable oil and corn oil completely. Hillary introduced me to coconut oil and at first, I was concerned about the taste. Don’t worry because one gets use to it. I can tell you from my experience I feel a lot of better and no longer feel so bloated after eating. That’s what saturated oils do to your system–make you feel bloated after eating, not full or satisfied.

KS Squash soup
photo K Stehling

Next was a California Quinoa Salad. We learned that the best way to make quinoa is to soak it overnight in water. Boil it in vegetable stock made from fresh vegetables (carrots, spring onions, cabbage in a pot of water) so that flavour is added to this lovely food. Quinoa is a terrifically healthy substitute to rice or pasta. Maria showed us how to make quinoa fluffier after cooking it. When the quinoa is soft and the stock has completely evaporated, place a kitchen towel over the pot and cover it. Just before preparing the quinoa for serving, remove the towel and gently stir the quinoa with a wooden spoon. It develops a light fluffy texture. She then prepared the quinoa with ripe avocados, crushed walnuts, goat cheese and a yoghurt dressing on top– full in protein and non fattening. I was actually satisfied just from eating this salad. It was like a meal in itself ! It is a great dish for a light lunch or supper with the family.

KS Quinoa Salad
California Quinoa Salad
photo K Stehling


Poached Cod KS
Poached Cod
photo K Stehling









Maria then went on to prepare a poached cod which was cooked in a pan with gently simmering water with sliced lemons, ginger, coriander. She first placed sliced lemons in simmering water then added the fish slices on top of the lemons for a few minutes until tender. The zest of the lemons and the rich fresh taste of coriander flavoured the cod magnificently. Because the cod was cooked in water, there was none of the greasy taste one gets when eating deep fried fish. The taste was so fresh and organic and the fish was soft almost melting. The coriander with the lemon gave the dish an oriental flavour to it.

The dessert was the coup de grace ! I have never baked cookies without using sugar so I was surprised to see that it can be done. Maria prepared a wonderful set of cookies and instead of sugar, used banana puree as a substitute. She then mixed crushed chocolate with oats with the banana puree and with an ice cream scooper, placed little balls of dough on a baking dish lined with baking paper. The taste of these little gems was out of this world.

Chocolate Banana Oat Cookies
Chocolate Banana Oat Cookies
photo Veronica Mittino

For those who missed this wonderful cooking class, fear not. There will be others. Maria Elba has kindly provided the INC members with the recipes and would like your feedback. She caters as well so if you are too busy to put together a menu for parties, send her an email. She will make sure the food is healthy as well as delicious !

Finally if you are wondering what are the answers to the questions I posed at the top of my blog ? Here they are :

Substitute for sugar while baking desserts –BANANA PUREE

CARBOHYDRATES make you sleep better at night

CINAMMON is the best food source or spice for regulating blood sugar levels (great for diabetics or those prone to high blood sugar levels)

OILS TO AVOID –Hydrogenated oils like CRISCO, and oils with transfats like SUNFLOWER OIL,VEGETABLE OIL AND CORN OIL. According to Dr. Hillary, you can substitute one to one all these oils with coconut oil.

Do you have a healthy recipe you would like to share ? Post it on the INC blog and share it with other members ! Chef Maria Elba’s recipes are posted in the INC blog.

Chef Maria Elba Ortiz de Zevallos

Tel. +34 633203319

For nutrition advice, contact Hillary Frederickson at

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