Master chef Charles Finney keeps his cooking demonstrations simple and keeps them healthy. From the time he lit a portable burner to the serving of his finished dish, Finney easily walked about 40 people through a recipe for cashew chicken Wednesday as part of a healthy cooking education venture called Chef-n-Action. The idea of Chef-n-Action is healthy food for healthy people through healthy cooking.

Master chef Charles Finney keeps his cooking demonstrations simple and keeps them healthy.

From the time he lit a portable burner to the serving of his finished dish, Finney easily walked about 40 people through a recipe for cashew chicken Wednesday as part of a healthy cooking education venture called Chef-n-Action.

The idea of Chef-n-Action is healthy food for healthy people through healthy cooking — not just for seniors but for anyone who wants to eat healthy despite being pressed for time, said Marilyn Palazzo, co-owner of East Bank Center, which hosted the demonstration, and HomeBridge Rehabilitation Center in Belvidere.

Palazzo and Finney, corporate chef for both facilities, began offering the cooking classes in June and had presented seven other classes before Wednesday’s demonstration.

“We use all fresh vegetables, nothing frozen,” said Finney, who also has done live cooking classes at private homes and farmers’ markets during his 25 years as a professional chef. “We try to stay with mild sugars, and we will use all natural ingredients. We’ll use raw sugar, natural cane sugar or honey instead of refined sugars.

“That’s pretty much it. We keep it fresh, low-fat and low-sodium. If I do use salt in a recipe, I’ll use sea salt or kosher salt because they’re better salts, they have less sodium.”

The presentations are free, and reservations may be booked by calling Palazzo at (815) 582-0306 or (815) 633-6810. Future classes at the East Bank Center are planned for the fourth Wednesday of each month.

“I think it’s very important for us to eat healthy to stay healthy,” Palazzo said, “so this program is not just for seniors but also for busy younger people. You don’t need two hours or four hours to prepare a healthy meal. The idea is an easy 1-2-3 steps to make a healthy meal.”

Finney said his recipe repertoire is unlimited “because if I have a recipe that I don’t like they way it is, I’ll change it to fit our needs.”

Finney also provides a copy of the recipe for each demonstration for everyone in the audience, and the recipe is written for a single serving. He said he breaks the recipe down to a single serving to emphasize simplicity and because many of the people in the classes are seniors who are cooking for one.

Mike DeDoncker can be reached at (815) 987-1382 or mdedoncker@rrstar.com.

Cashew chicken

Ingredients
2 ozs. boneless chicken, cut into 1-inch strips
1/8 cup orange juice
1/16 cup light soy sauce
1/16 cup honey
1/8 tablespoon corn starch
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/16 teaspoon pepper
1/3 tablespoon vegetable oil
2-3 green onions, cut up
1-2 large carrots, cleaned and sliced
1-3 celery stalks, sliced
1/8 cup cashews
Hot cooked rice

Method
Combine juice, soy sauce, honey, corn starch and seasonings to make a sauce. Heat oil in pan until it begins to smoke, and stir-fry vegetables for several minutes until the onions become fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside. Add oil to pan and stir-fry chicken until browned and tender. Return cooked vegetables to pan, add cashews and sauce mix. Continue cooking until sauce bubbles and thickens. Serve over rice.

Makes one serving.

Per serving: 357 calories; 16g fat (40.1 percent calories from fat); 23g protein; 33g carbohydrate; 3g dietary fiber; 44 mg cholesterol 1,110 mg sodium.