We chatted with L.A.-based celebrity chef Devin Alexander, known as the life-changing chef on NBC’s “Biggest Loser,” about her new highly anticipated cookbook, “You Can Have It!,” that features indulgent recipes for anyone who wants to be healthy without sacrificing taste.
By Sara Smola
You’ve achieved huge career success, but let’s start at the very beginning. What inspired you to become a chef? I weighed 200 pounds when I was 15. I had an Italian grandmother who taught me how to cook and I just loved cooking from the time I was little. When everybody else went to the library and got their summer reading list, I snuck into the cookbook section.
You spent 10 years working on NBC’s hit show “The Biggest Loser.” What was that like?
It was the most amazing [experience] ever. I still have tons of friends who were cast members. It’s so inspiring to see that level of transformation and how ¬ red up everyone is.
You are truly your own success story, maintaining a weight loss of 70 pounds for close to 30 years. What’s your secret?
I tried, like everyone else, yo-yo [dieting] and then I heard if you cut just 100 calories a day, on average you’ll lose 10 pounds in a year, so instead of focusing on what I couldn’t have, I started focusing on what I could have. I kind of turned it into a fun game. I was having more fun losing weight than I was “trying” to diet.
Tell us about your new cookbook, “You Can Have It!” (created in partnership with the American Diabetes Association), which proves one doesn’t have to sacrifice taste or forgo indulgent and comfort food altogether. How does it apply to your own life?
This is a book for everyone who wants to be fit, and it happens to be OK for people living with diabetes also. Through the book, I purposely put lifestyle photos of my friends and me with the food because [these are] real situations that we actually do on a regular basis. I don’t think people are supposed to “diet in a vacuum.” You’re not supposed to be in your own personal hell trying being healthy. I’ve never had willpower—I crave sweet, I crave salty. I hated vegetables. I was in my 20s before I really enjoyed a bite of a vegetable ever. So if I can [lose weight], anyone can.
What types of indulgent recipes can we expect to find?
For me, having a book called “You Can Have It!,” I knew it had to have pizza, it had to have burgers, it had to have something chocolate and decadent, it had to have fun stuff for kids, so that’s what I did. e book tackles everything from a banh mi burger to a Sriracha roasted turkey breast to gingerbread overnight oats. There’s a bacon ranch pizza, which one would never guess could possibly be in a diabetes cookbook, but I was just working really hard to defy what people think.
I serve these crazy, yummy, insanely easy morsels at my Girls Night Thin™ parties all the time. They are truly one of my favorite in-a-hurry appetizers, and they’re always a huge hit. They come together in minutes and look so elegant that people often comment that I must have spent so much time on them!
Shrimp Guac Apps – By Devin Alexander
12 large shrimp
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt-free Mexican or Southwest seasoning
1/16 teaspoon sea salt
1 medium English cucumber
6 tablespoons prepared guacamole
1 Preheat a grill to high.
2 Peel all but the tail and last joint of the shell off the shrimp and devein them by cutting a slit down the back and then running them under cold water. Dry them well with paper towels. Place the shrimp in a small bowl and in the olive oil, seasoning and salt. Place the shrimp side by side on the grill so they do not touch. Grill until they are no longer translucent, about 1 minute per side.
3 Meanwhile, run the tines of a fork from 1 end of the cucumber to the other in a straight line, tearing into the skin slightly to score it (visit www.devinalexander.com/diabetes for a video demonstration). Rotate the cucumber and repeat running the fork down the length of it, starting with the fork close enough to the fi rst set of score marks to continue the pattern. Repeat this all the way around the cucumber. Cut the end from the cucumber on a slight diagonal and discard. Then, cut 12 (about 1/4-inchthick) cucumber slices on a slight diagonal (to yield about 6 ounces of cucumber slices total).
4 Place the cucumber slices side by side on a serving platter. Add 1/2 tablespoon of guacamole to the center of each slice. Place 1 shrimp on each so that it’s standing up with the tail nearly at the top. Serve and enjoy immediately.
SERVES: 4 (3 pieces each) • PREP TIME: 10 minutes • COOK TIME: About 2 minutes
PER SERVING 90 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 150 mg potassium, 4 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 10 g protein, 95 mg phosphorus
Recipe from “You Can Have It!” by Devin Alexander, copyright American Diabetes Association. For more: www.devinalexander. com. Photo by Mittera.