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Be a Better Cook

Cooking With Sunny Anderson

Food Network cooking show host Sunny Anderson opens up about eating and cooking clean.

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Clean Eating: How would you define clean eating?

Sunny Anderson: To me, clean eating is eating food in its most raw form. It’s not doing too much to it to elicit the flavor – because it has lots of natural flavor already. We often complicate or muddy up our proteins and plants a little bit more than they need to be. Some things taste great with just a little crack of black pepper and a tiny sprinkle of sea salt.

CE: We try to help our readers with cooking clean even when life is hectic. When you’re at home, do you have any easy go-to meals that you cook up?

SA: I really like the idea of fish and chicken breasts because I know that I can pound them thin and cook them in 10 minutes flat. You can season them really fast, broil them and they’re done. And they’re healthy, too. My go-to is definitely a big grilled chicken salad. I start my meals with a huge salad and try to stuff myself with the goodness of veggies.

CE: What are your pantry staples?

SA: I always have the basics: flours, grains, oatmeal and lots of different kinds of pasta and rice. I also like to keep stock and broth, for when I don’t have time to make my own. It’s a very inexpensive and fast way to impart flavor on a lot of cooking. You could do wheat bulgur with water, but why? You can do it with broth and add more flavor.

CE: How would you describe your show Cooking For Real?

SA: My mission for the show is to get more people interested and excited about getting in the kitchen and trying new things. There are so many different things you can do in the kitchen! I take new dishes and make them easy and simple and accessible. I create very foreign flavors with unforeign ingredients. I like to make people aware of the fact that their grocery store has so many possibilities. I just want people to cook more and eat more. I’m an eater [laughs].

CE: You make food that’s uncomplicated with easy and affordable ingredients. Why do you think that’s important for your viewers?

SA: I grew up loving to eat but I never cooked. When I finally decided to try, it was all about that first foray into the grocery store. If I couldn’t find something or the store was out of stock or an ingredient wasn’t available to me, I wouldn’t try the recipe. Because when you’re just starting out, you’re getting your wings. You want to try new things, but you want to make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row first. I’m doing my best to make cooking accessible to anyone who wants to try something new. I’m not going to go from zero to 60. This isn’t about beautiful, high-brow, artsy-fartsy plates [laughs]. I like to keep it really easy and simple so people will say, “Yes, this is something that I can accomplish on a weeknight.” It’s not just weekend cooking or special occasion cooking – it’s everyday cooking.

CE: Do you think that’s why some people shy away from home cooking and turn to convenience foods? Because cooking at home is intimidating?

SA: We’re lazy [whispering]. If we can go to a drive-through for something fast or even the grocery store for something pre-marinated or frozen, we will. But with a little bit of preparation, you can get both. Instead of paying for the marinade, you can marinade at home the night before or the next morning. It’ll marinate while you’re at work and it only takes five minutes to cook when you get home. You’ll be saving time and money. And, in the long run, buying groceries and cooking at home is far less expensive than doing the fast-food route or the fast prep-food route.

CE: Do you have any upcoming projects?

SA: The new season of my show is coming up on the Food Network Saturdays at noon. I also have a cookbook that I’m working on, but it’s so early in the planning stages that I couldn’t even begin to tell you its focus. I do know that it’s probably the next big project on my plate.