Localicious: Fit Feasting Without the Fuss – How 3 North State Women Make Healthy Eating Easy For Busy Families

In a society ruled by the clock, Liza Wood, Michelle Cave and Jena Trzaskalski oppose the dichotomy of fast-and-easy food versus hearty-and-healthy meals. These creative, entrepreneurial women have instead found ways to make nutritionally dense meals that save their clients time and stress. Even better, each of these chefs works her culinary magic to invent flavorful, dynamic dishes their customers can’t seem to get enough of. Easy, healthy and delicious? If such a combination seems too good to be true, read on to learn how these women make each mouthful memorable.

Liza Wood, along with her husband and business partner, Aaron Simpson, take pride in offering delicious food to the community with the help of their son Iggy, 6.

Liza Wood – Lunchbox Dinners and Catering

Liza Wood and her husband, Aaron Simpson, own Lunchbox Dinners and Catering Company in Dunsmuir, CA. Like other catering companies, the business serves up delight at events like weddings, baby showers and family gatherings. “But our main focus,” says Liza, “is our Tuesday night boxed dinner for four. The entrée is take-and-bake style, usually accompanied by a big salad and side vegetable or dessert.” For $40 a package, busy families can order a home-cooked meal via email, skipping preparation and clean-up. 

Liza began cooking in her mother’s restaurant and says, “I ended up being good at it. It was a nice change from just chopping vegetables!” Lunchbox Dinners came to life when Shelby Garcia, who ran the preschool Wood’s son attended, encouraged Liza to make to-go meals for families at the preschool. Little did they know how the idea would take off. “I started with 12 clients on my weekly menu email list,” Liza says with a laugh, “Now I have 500!”

“Liza has created a genius of a business with her Lunchbox Dinners. As one of the most creative chefs I know, she has consistently delivered a great meal at a great price…Our family eagerly awaits this meal every Tuesday evening!”
~ Shared lovingly by Nancy, Tom, Meski and Mihret

Although packaged in a box, Liza’s menus often go “outside the box.” An artist at heart, she lets seasonal produce, her culinary creativity and international dishes inspire the menu. North African and Middle Eastern specialties have led Liza to some particularly powerful flavor combinations. She also makes meals for the less adventurous – baked lemon chicken, for example – that still excite the taste buds.

Whenever possible, Liza uses organic produce and prepares meals to meet vegan and gluten-free diets. “I’ve been taking my customers on a health journey,” Liza says. “As a restaurant cook, I learned to cook with lots of butter, cream and cheese. But now that I’m getting older, I’m more conscious of my health and what I put into my body, so I’ve been cutting back on fatty ingredients. I want to make good, healthy food that people enjoy.”

To learn more or download a menu visit lunchboxdinners.com.

Michelle Cave and good friend and sous-chef, Guenn Gentry, love preparing good quality foods together.

Michelle Cave – Red Bicycle Catering

Michelle Cave’s Red Bicycle Catering Company in Redding, CA, evolved out of 17 years of nutrition consulting. “You can tell people to eat wholesome foods, but if they aren’t familiar with the ingredients or don’t cook, eating wholesome foods can be a challenge,” Michelle explains. Frozen meals, which often offer little nutrition, frequently win the prize for fast and easy. In an effort to help her clients choose and prepare healthy foods, she began grocery shopping with them. When that turned into cooking meals for them, Michelle realized she could meet a practical community need: she could stock kitchens with nutritious, fresh, ready-made meals.

For Michelle, cooking begins not just with the ingredients, but with the source of the ingredients. All of her menus are gluten free, and she seeks “clean” ingredients (non-genetically modified) to ensure delicious, healthy meals. She selects meat from humanely-raised animals, like Hat Creek Grown’s 100% grass-fed beef. She uses organic ingredients whenever possible, such as produce from Churn Creek Meadow Organic Farm. After cooking, Michelle also strives to make her kitchen a “green kitchen,” recycling and composting to maximize the usefulness of every resource.

“Thank you! I loved knowing that I was sharing the same meal with so many other families, like we were all part of this larger, healthier dinner table. Thank you for making me a better mom (without feeling guilty) and inviting us all into your kitchen and your heart!” ~ Eilyne

Michelle and her sous-chef, Guenn Gentry, spend Monday through Thursday preparing four meal options that families can take home and pop into the oven. The duo also offers business lunches and catering services. Customers place their order by noon of the day before they collect their meals. Pricing varies on the desired quantity; a two-person dinner costs $22 and dinner for up to six people costs $38. Customers have thanked Michelle for making it possible for them to “actually sit down and eat together.” For senior citizens, those who don’t want to cook for just one or two, and for families managing hectic schedules, these hassle-free meals offer nutrition for the body and soul.

Michelle desires to not only furnish customers with the finished product, but to teach them how to prepare food that will keep their bodies healthy, starting at a young age. This summer, she will instruct camps that teach kids about food nutrition, sourcing and preparation. Kids will explore a different theme each day and enjoy the fruits of their labor at lunchtime. Michelle says, “I’ve done kids’ cooking classes for a long time, and I’ve found that kids are much more inclined to try new foods when they have helped make them. Most of the time, they like what they try!” 

For more information or to order meals for your family or business, visit http://www.redbicyclecatering.com.

Jena Trzaskalski and her 7-year-old daughter, Cheyia, greet you with smiles and great food at Green Paradise Cafe.

Jena Trzaskalski – Green Paradise Deli Café

When Jena Trzaskalski bought Green Paradise Café, the little restaurant offered a small menu of tasty, healthy food options. Because eating out often made her feel ill, Jena had “dreamed of owning my own place where I could be in charge of what went into the food and select quality ingredients.” When presented with the chance to buy Green Paradise Café, her dream finally came true. Her creativity – and the café’s menu – burst into bloom.

Green Paradise Café’s extensive menu reflects Jena’s travels, restaurants she loves and her own innovative spirit. One unique summer favorite is a turkey peach melt panini. But whether making nachos, quiche, polenta, fresh-squeezed juice, rice bowls or potato bowls, she crafts every item from quality, clean ingredients, focusing on organic produce. The variety in the menu provides options for paleo, gluten-free, and vegan diets. “I want there to be something for everyone,” Jena says.

“Pure bliss! Serendipitously happened upon this precious gem and we feel exceedingly blessed to have discovered a restaurant that offers delicious gluten-free options…A true gourmet experience with flavor profiles which are on-point and multifaceted. The meals were inspiring as well as the smoothies and desserts.” ~ Sierra

If her guests can’t find a menu item that already matches their tastes and dietary needs, Jena customizes the menu. “Food is your life,” Jena says. “Like the old adage says, ‘you are what you eat.’ Consuming dyes and preservatives affects how we live, work and feel.” To help kids feel their best, Jena provides lunch at Children’s Community Charter School once a week. The kids love her healthy meals, especially her veggie-loaded marinara sauce. “Now they want to bring their parents to eat at the café,” Jena says. “It melts my heart!” 

A few employees work alongside Jena at the café, but she invents and makes the specials, bakes the quiches and mixes up the dressings – all from scratch. She also makes bakery items with a special ingredient: essential oils. “You can’t ingest every essential oil,” Jena cautions, “But some safe, high-quality essential oils add great flavor and nutritional benefits.” Her customers agree – she can hardly keep the mixed berry muffins made with lemon essential oil on the shelf. Paired with a “fruit loop” smoothie – a refreshing blend of vanilla coconut milk, spinach and lime essential oil – customers can indulge with a clean conscience.

To learn more or check out a menu, visit http://www.greenparadisecafe.com.

As busy moms and active members of their communities, Liza, Michelle and Jena understand the necessity of making choices. But none of them believe choosing healthy food has to mean sacrificing taste or time. Their businesses offer families and individuals the unbeatable opportunity to really have it all!  

Localicious is a monthly column celebrating food in the North State. If you would like to suggest a food-related business or organization, email us at localicious@northstateparent.com.

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

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