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Happy Belly classes

Tacoma's feel good food spot offers cooking classes

Happy Belly’s Spring Sweets Baking Class sold out. Courtesy photo

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When you envision what a "Spring Sweets Baking Class" looks like, you are likely to break out in a sweat and be reminded of working alongside flour-covered counters with your granny. You may fear what side effects such a class will have on your waistline. Fear not, friends, because Happy Belly restaurant and juice bar is about to redefine it for you. Its sold out Spring Sweets Baking Class Saturday kicks off what will be a series of baking and cooking classes and pairing dinners that will feature guest chefs and nutritionists offering culinary cameos.

Happy Belly's cooking classes aren't only for the health conscious, but for anyone wanting to cultivate their culinary prowess. Saturday's class is a jam-packed 90 minutes that will include instruction, hands-on opportunities, dinner and social sharing. Chef/Owner Jennifer Johnson and enthusiastic team member and purveyor of "feel. good. food." Kate Swarner will provide uber informational instruction about everything from alternative sweeteners and gluten-free flours to the use of herbs and fruits, food as fuel, use of healthy fats and vegan baking options and techniques. Featured recipes include lavender shortbread, vegan lemon-candied ginger cookies, raw pumpkin, ginger, sweet treats, avocado chocolate truffles and green tea white chocolate cookies.

All of this decadent but healthy instruction will be followed by a communal dinner featuring spring greens, savory pastries and ancient grains. Afterward, enjoy social time accompanied by the desserts you learned to make.

Since it's been six months since Happy Belly opened its doors, I reached out to Johnson to talk shop and find out how things were going.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: Having been open for a bit now, do you think you've created some believers and maybe even converts to the concept that healthy CAN also be tasty?  

JENNIFER JOHNSON: Yes, in just six short months, I have seen many people that came in and were initially skeptical of dishes being complete and having enough flavor given the absence of meat. A fella named Shep stated, ‘I have to reevaluate my entire understanding of vegetarianism.' Offering a plant-based menu with quality meat options means people are able to try out what it may mean to be a vegetarian on one visit and enjoy a cheesy cranberry turkey melt on the next; it's really all about providing options.

VOLCANO: You have reinvented what clean eating/green eating/healthy eating can look like and made it more approachable.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Jackie. That's really the goal here. Happy Belly is an outlet for people to ask questions about a plant-based diet with limited animal protein, see what that means in action and taste, explore eating clean, and enjoy the benefits of healthful smoothies and fresh juices.

VOLCANO: What can folks look forward to in Happy Belly's immediate future?

JOHNSON: The weather is changing rapidly, and the menu at Happy Belly is about to change as well. Some hot dishes will depart to make way for leaf salads, chilled pastas and ancient grain dishes. Happy Belly's kitchen is very small, so to be able to offer a greater variety, the Mushroom Pear Black Bean Tacos are now only offered on Taco Tuesday. We will have a booth at the Broadway Farmers Market on Thursdays starting in May selling nutritious salads with protein options. Happy Belly will also have a presence at several upcoming fundraisers. Coming soon is The Chair Affair benefitting Northwest Furniture Bank on April 24; we'll also be at upcoming summer festivals.

Future course opportunities will focus on protein alternatives, vegan and vegetarian main courses, healthful kid-friendly foods and creative use of herbs and flowers. The next class, Summer Salads, will feature root vegetables and herbs, plus light dinner, recipes and take-home materials. Reserve your spot for this 7 p.m. May 16 class ($30) at Look for future courses to accompany pairing dinners partnering with local breweries, winemakers and distillers to create the ultimate foodnik matrimony in May, June, August, September and October.

HAPPY BELLY, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 1122 Market St., Tacoma, 253.365.6706

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