Chef Julie Butschli is all about crafty ways to cook things up.

Crafty, economical and healthy.

It’s not by coincidence that she is sole owner of the Kenosha based Crafty Kitchen.

Recently, Butschli shared some of her 25 years’ experience in the culinary trade with a group of professional women at the Center for Sustainable Living at Gateway Technical College, 3500 30th Ave.

For almost two hours, she demonstrated the creation of three foods that met the criteria of being healthy and thrifty. And when things didn’t exactly go to plan, she also illustrated crafty ways to improvise.

She also dispensed pointers on kitchen safety, sanitation and knife usage as well.

The healthy eating demo was organized by Mary Xiong, planning committee member for the Wisconsin Women in Higher Education Leadership Women of Color Organization. Most of the 16 women attending work in some capacity at one of Gateway’s campuses. Xiong is a student support specialist with the school’s multicultural program.

When it came to planning a hands-on food demo with a healthy menu, Xiong says that Butschli, whom she has known for several years, was her go-to. “She’s very detail oriented and health conscious,” Xiong said.

During the almost two-hour presentation — an hour and a half that went into overtime — Butschli demonstrated and involved attendees in preparing Hearts of Palm Ceviche, homemade pizza and an Apple Pie Parfait.

All of the recipes were vegetarian or vegan. “These are a good introduction for individuals who regularly eat meat to get thinking about vegetarian eating in other ways,” Butschli said.

Before getting the 16 attendees involved in the process, Butschli advised them all to suit up in aprons and wash their hands.

She introduced herself by saying she likes to teach families how to figure out better ways to eat more healthy foods and how they can save money doing it themselves rather than paying a personal chef to do it for them.

Throughout the process, Butschli sprinkled in tips and techniques for attendees to take away. Among them: How to hold a knife and sharpen it using a sharpening steel and how to dice onions, avocados and bell peppers.

She also demonstrated the versatility of color-coded thin plastic cutting sheets that can used to drop foods into pans or bowls. Color coding prevents cross contamination of meats, vegetables or dairy products, she noted.

While preparing baking sheets for roasting tomatoes for the pizza, Butschli used the end of a tomato as a utensil to coat the pan with olive oil, garnering “oohs” and “aahs” from the participants.

“I like to use everything,” explained Butschli.

Smashing garlic cloves with the blade of a knife, she said, “I like to use garlic chunks rather than mincing them to death because chunks will have a creamy texture.”

She sprinkled the sheet with garlic, salt and pepper, added a layer of sliced tomatoes, and topped these with another layer of garlic, salt and pepper.

While the tomatoes were roasting, Butschli prepared the Hearts of Palm Ceviche. She demonstrated how to efficiently remove an avocado pit by driving a knife blade into it and pulling it out. She then showed how to slice the avocado while still in its peel, resulting in small uniform chunks of avocado.

She explained that English cucumbers — long and skinny and sold individually wrapped — are great in salads because they are nearly seedless. She also showed effective ways to de-seed regular cucumbers by halving, then scooping out the seeds.

For two of the dishes — the pizza and the parfait — she did not provide recipes. “There aren’t any rules, you just want your food to taste good,” she said.

Butschli’s process for pizza was fairly laid back. For the demo she had prepared two 14-inch pizza pans with holes in the bottom with very thinly rolled homemade pizza crust. On one she spread a thin layer of homemade pizza sauce, the other a thin layer of pesto sauce. “I make my pesto with almonds rather than pine nuts,” she shared.

On top of the sauce, she put a layer of roasted tomatoes on each pizza, which was then topped with shredded mozzarella and cheese blends.

While pizzas were being assembled, Butschli got the women started on making the parfait. She amazed her audience with a demonstration of an old-school apple peeling, slicing and coring device.

The next step in the plan was to saute the apple slices in coconut oil, but when the electric/computerized stovetop failed to stay on, she said, “Now we have to get crafty with our dessert.”

Her fix was to use them raw, adding lemon juice to the apples to prevent them from browning, stirring in the vanilla and sprinkling then with Saigon cinnamon and brown sugar.

Butschli then mixed Greek vanilla yogurt and a peanut butter spread with flaxseed and chia and showed how to layer the parts to create a parfait.

Each of Buschli’s dishes had its fans. “I liked the hearts of palm salad the most,” said Dee Ford, an administrator at Gateway. “The creamy avocado and crunch of peppers and salt on the rim of the cup tastes like a bite of summer.”

Many felt the experience was as enlightening as the foods were tasty. “I was impressed to learn how you can use a tomato top — very clever,” said Marilyn Wikner.

“This lunch was a good example of a meal that’s flavorful and filling and satisfying,” Ford said.

Reyna Juarez also enjoyed the tip about heating a lime in the microwave to make it juicier. “I never had ceviche before; it’s very healthy and easy to make.”

The program offered the Gateway employees mirrors what the school wants to offer its students while fitting the goals of the women’s group, Xiong said. “Students don’t always have access to healthy foods,” she said. “Programs like this help families navigate food planning.”

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