Jelepis recently lost 30 pounds, so he brings a healthful approach to the family table. "I've always thought of preparing meals by focusing on the traditional plate: half the plate is a meat, a quarter of the plate is a starch, and a quarter of the plate is a vegetable."
Now meat is an occasional add-on, he said. "We went mostly vegetarian, so a big change was moving portions to lots of vegetables, whole grains such as quinoa, farro and brown rice."
Jelepis found the Internet a big help as he modified the family diet. He often turns to mynewroots.blogspot.com for recipes and nutritional information.
Although his mom never used cookbooks much, she did pass along a book that has become his favorite, On Cooking: A Textbook of Fundamentals. It has recently been revised in a fifth edition by Labensky, Martel and Hause.
Jelepis's biggest tip to other home cooks is to invest in a really good chef's knife.
"I liked learning how to make stock the right way," said Jelepis. "By building up on fundamentals, I think you are really able to understand the cooking methods."
The following recipe is very adaptable. Jelepis suggests substituting sweet potato for the carrot - or take inspiration from what's in your refrigerator. He makes his own vegetable stock so he can control the amount of salt in the dish.
1 large white or yellow onion, cut into medium dice
1 teaspoon butter
1 clove garlic
1 to 1 1/2 pounds carrots, unpeeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 stalks celery with leaves, cut into small dice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Cinnamon, a pinch or to taste
Allspice, a pinch or to taste
Ground ginger, a pinch or to taste
3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup 2 percent milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
In large pot, sauté onions in butter on medium heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Do not brown.
Add garlic and sauté another minute.
Add carrots, potatoes, celery, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice and ginger. Sauté for another 3-5 minutes.
Add vegetable stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are tender, about 20-30 minutes.
Puree using a hand blender or carefully transfer to a stand blender.
Add milk, and salt and pepper, to taste.
Garnish with julienned red pepper or fresh cilantro, if desired. Serves 4.
Lari Robling is the author of the cookbook, Endangered Recipes: Too Good to Be Forgotten. . Follow her on Twitter @larirobling.
Every month, "Top Cooks" spotlights a home-cooking whiz and one of their recipes. To nominate a cook, email email@example.com, or write: My Top Cook, Philadelphia Daily News, 801 Market St., Suite 300, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Include your name and a daytime phone number.