Chef Lala is determined to share with the world what she knows about nutritious yet delicious cooking. The Cordon Bleu-trained chef is also a cookbook author, certified nutritionist and motivational speaker who has brought her message to the Today Show, Martha Stewart, Dr. Oz, Discovery Health National Body Challenge and The Biggest Loser, Spanish edition.
“I grew up in a family of restaurateurs in Los Angeles,” said the former Conejo Valley resident whose son still attends school locally.
As a teenager, Lala travelled the world as part of an all-girl singing group that toured with Menudo, the renowned 80s Latino boy band. “I got a true taste of international cuisine during that time,” she said. But a car accident changed the course of her life.
With a history of familial diabetes, Lala was always concerned about her predisposition to the disease, so she went back to school to study diet, nutrition and cooking. “The sign of a great chef is one who understands cultural background and lifestyle,” she said “And I wanted to become educated, so I could be the best teacher I could be.”
As a certified nutritionist, with special interest in the obesity and diabetes crisis in urban America, LaLa is focused on inspiring families to live healthier lives. “Healthier eating is not about sugar; it’s about eating a balanced diet,” she said. “I, personally, don’t count calories. I eat what my body needs.”
Lala emphasizes the old adage about mixing colors. “Adding a variety of nutrients, especially food that comes from the earth, is what’s best for all of us,” she said. She advises eating five small “fist-sized” meals a day rather than three large meals.
As someone who has struggled with her own weight, LaLa has supported health and multicultural health education through her work as a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Foundation and the NBA Fit, as well as with a wide variety of other organization.
She runs a catering company and has launched a line of Chef Lala Homemade sauces and marinades.
She will be a regular columnist for Conejo Valley Happening, contributing nutrition advice and recipes. In the sprit of Valentine’s Day this week, Lala offers tips for a special holiday plus a warm and cozy recipe for us to enjoy.
During the month of love and friendship, one of the best and thoughtful gifts is a meal prepared with love. Some of the benefits of making the meal yourself include:
• Sharing time with over a candlelit dinner is wonderful way to spend time alone.
• It can be less expensive to eat at home on a holiday.
• You can avoid a long wait at a busy restaurant.
• It may be tough to find a babysitter and even if you did, you might rush home.
• Put the kids to bed and the night is yours.
• It is safe not to drive if you have had something to drink.
• Cooking together is very romantic.
• Incorporate foods that celebrate your love (example: something you ate on your first date)
• Keep the menu simple and light. You don’t want to feel too full and uncomfortable or worse yet – fall asleep!
• Prepare something you are comfortable cooking. You want the meal to come out right.
• Prepare all your ingredients ahead of time, so when it comes time for dinner, you just have to add the final steps, like cooking off the steak and placing the vegetables in the oven.
Creamy Tomato Soup Recipe
• 4 medium tomatoes, quartered
• ½ small onion, peeled
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 cup chicken stock
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ cup heavy cream
• 1 pinch white pepper
Preheat oven to 400°.
Place the tomatoes, onion and garlic on a piece of aluminum paper and drizzle with olive oil. Place foil with vegetables on a baking sheet and transfer into oven for 40 minutes or until brown and tender.
Transfer ingredients to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Transfer mixture to a soup pot. Add chicken stock, salt (optional), heavy cream and white pepper.
Stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes. To serve place a ladleful of soup in each soup
bowl. Dab three medium dots horizontally of heavy cream. With a toothpick start at the top
to bottom, drag the toothpick making a line through the dots which, then become hearts.
Makes 2 cups.