Incorporating a Quality Diet Into a Busy Lifestyle
Inside this Denver chef’s cookbook and how it helped him beat cancer
When Dan Witherspoon was diagnosed in 2016 with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer that adversely affects plasma cells in the bone marrow, he immediately changed his diet to one of only fresh, whole foods. His healing plan also included excellent medical treatment and continuing his transcendental meditation practice and 17-years-long martial arts training.
Today his cancer is in full remission.
The 63-year-old owner, director, and lead instructor of Denver's The Seasoned Chef Cooking School, however, took his healing approach one step further: He applied his more than 40 years of professional cooking and teaching experience to writing. The 157-page cookbook showcases a sizeable part of the The Seasoned Chef Cooking School's recipe library and serves as proof that anyone can cook and eat well, both at home and on the run, every day of the week.
"I began to write ‘Mix Match Make Take’ because of the cancer diagnosis," Chef Witherspoon says. "It was originally meant to be a pamphlet, but it quickly morphed into a full-blown cookbook, incorporating all my years of accumulated culinary training and teaching.”
Prior to running and owning The Seasoned Chef, Witherspoon studied and apprenticed under celebrated Belgian chef Henri Bergmans and led kitchens as an executive chef in both Southern California and Colorado. Founded 25 years ago, The Seasoned Chef Cooking School initially provided cooking demonstrations, but is now a full, hands-on classroom.
A comprehensive guide to creating healthy, delicious, quick and flavor-bombed recipes that can be mixed, matched, made and then taken on the go, the cookbook features nearly 40 easy-to-master core recipes, more than 100 diverse menu components, and nearly four dozen time-saving, next-day recipes that transform a dinner into a fresh take the next day.
"The concept is simple," Chef Witherspoon says. "We've devised nutritious, delicious and transportable meals that can be eaten for dinner on the first day and then slightly adapted the following day with new flavors for variety."
The dishes, which Chef Witherspoon describes as "conscious cuisine.” Rich in proteins, whole grains, vegetables and fruit, the recipes contain minimal gluten, sugar or dairy. "It's remarkable how a few simple steps can lead to amazing results," he says.
The average home cook often knows little about incorporating a quality diet into a busy lifestyle. Blake Stoffel, an airline pilot and Seasoned Chef veteran student knows the dilemma well. "I married and divorced and never learned to cook so I decided to study with Dan,” Stoffel says. "I am a slow learner and his mastery of communication made the learning process a breeze.
"Dan is a natural communicator, and both he and the recipes in ‘Mix Match Make Take’ are all about techniques and the ease and joy of learning those techniques,” Stoffel says.
Today “Mix Match Make Take” occupies a permanent spot on Stoffel’s kitchen counter. He knows he can eat well from the arsenal of Witherspoon’s recipes and that he'll surprise himself with his accomplishments.
"You've got to start somewhere, and this book helps you do that," Stoffel says. "If you're eating an unhealthy diet, you could spend $30 on takeout, or you can buy $15 worth of wholesome ingredients and build a beautiful meal from this book and the next day’s meal is ready to go.”
A Summertime Recipe From the 'Mix Match Make Take' Cookbook
With summer in full swing, it's time for backyard barbecues, and that means firing up the grill and showing off your mastery of flames. There are tons of summertime grilling recipes in “Mix Match Make Take,” including this terrific grilled pork chop recipe elevated with a bright and tangy green olive tapenade and a side dish of delicious green lentils.
Green Olive Tapenade
Makes approximately one cup
1 cup Sicilian or Greek olives, pitted
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 anchovy (optional)
1 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
2 tbsp stemmed fresh oregano
1/4 olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor, add olives, garlic, anchovy, lemon juice and oregano and pulse until roughly chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more lemon juice if needed. Set aside.
1 cup green lentils
1 tbsp olive oil
Rinse lentils in a strainer under cold running water. Place lentils in a small sauce pot and add just enough cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil and add salt. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 16-20 minutes, or until lentils are tender to the bite. Remove and drain. Toss with olive oil and salt to taste. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
Grilled Pork Chops
4 each 6-8 oz boneless pork chops, about 1-inch thick
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat a grill or cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat. Season chops generously with salt and pepper, patting the seasonings into the meat. Brush both sides with olive oil. Place chops on the grill or in the skillet and cook for 6-8 minutes. Turn the chops over and cook for an additional 6-8 minutes, or until chops are firm to the touch. Remove from grill and serve with tapenade and green lentils.