Cookbook Potential: Vegetarian Strudel

Pesto Goat Cheese Vegetable Strudel

Today, Sexy Husband and I are celebrating 7 years of wedded bliss! So I wanted to make something nice and, let’s be honest, I never turn down a chance to experiment and maybe whip up something new for the cookbook. It turned out to be so so yummy so it may just make an appearance in the cookbook. I need to come up with some way of making phyllo pastry healthier(so basically I need a miracle), before it will really earn cookbook possibility. But I guess there’s always room for the odd treat. I haven’t written this down as a full recipe but here’s the basic idea in case you want to give it a try…

Make the pesto: In a food processor, pulse together fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt.

Prep the phyllo: Brush 8 layers of good quality phyllo pastry with a little bit of melted butter and layer them on a baking sheet.

Spread the pesto down the center of the pastry. Crumble a generous amount of goat cheese on top of the pesto. Layer with any vegetables you like. I used: zucchini, tomato, green pepper, mini patty pan squash, mushroom, onion.

Fold pastry over the vegetables brush with egg wash. Bake at 350 for about an hour.  This served four of us, as an entree with a little left over.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Thoughts On: Raw Food

People who eat a strictly raw food diet can only be described by one word: HARDCORE!!! It is not easy, or at least not convenient, to eat strictly raw food. And while it has received lots of media attention over the last few years, most people find the notion of a raw food diet highly intimidating. A few months ago I decided to give it a try, at least for a short little stint. My parents had experimented with the raw food diet for a month or so but they are definitely more hardcore, so I gave it a whirl for a week. While it was tricky and took some definite forethought, I definitely felt amazing that week and learned a lot of helpful things.

Why Raw? Food that is uncooked and fresh is FULL of enzymes. Enzymes are the catalyst for the chemical reactions that happen in our body: reactions that make our body work, help us digest food and use the energy. When food is cooked, these enzymes die. Thankfully the food still retains vitamins and minerals, however our ability to absorb and use the vitamins and minerals can be drastically decreased from eating cooked food. Amazingly, our bodies have enzyme reserves that we can draw from when we eat cooked food. But, these reserves are not bottomless and unless we replace the reserves with enzymes from raw food, we end up depleted which leads to all sorts of health and digestive problems. Many of the diseases associated with following a Standard American Diet (SAD) of highly cooked, processed and chemical laden food, are caused by an enzyme deficit.

The Good News: Eating raw food does NOT have to be an all or nothing experience. There are many ways of increasing the amount of raw food you eat without subscribing to a strict raw food diet. Here are a number of ways that I have been able to increase the amount of raw food we eat. Maybe some of these ideas will work for you!

1. Raw Lunches: Most of our cooked food is consumed for breakfast and supper. So I try pretty hard to serve raw food for lunches: fruit, vegetables, cheese made from raw milk, raw nuts and seeds. These have become normal lunches for us and as a side bonus, they are easy to prepare and I don’t have to use any energy to prepare this meal.

2. Salad Salad Salad: Several times a week, our dinner entree is a salad, or at least based around a salad. Pretty much any combination of vegetables, nuts and fruit will do. With a dash of olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar and voila! Successful salad!

3. If you are making a cooked entree, try to stir in some raw vegetables after it’s cooked. For example, if I’m making a stir fry, I will saute half the vegetables, the ones that are tricky for my kids to eat raw, or ones that need to be cooked for a certain taste(like onions), and then once it’s cooked, I will stir in shredded raw carrots and zucchinis.

4. Salsa! Salsas are so versatile and can be used to top grilled meat or any other cooked dish! With so many fun combinations of vegetables or fruits, you could have a different salsa every meal! My current summer favorite is the following: finely chopped peaches, strawberries, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and sea salt. Super yummy and unexpected on grilled chicken or paired with flatbreads as an appy.

The more you can fill your reserves with healthy enzymes in the summer when fresh food is so easy to get, the  better you’ll be served all year when fresh veggies are hard to find or have travelled a long way to your dinner table! Don’t forget that a healthy life is the sum of tiny decisions every day to be healthy and eat healthy.

Raw Food Life Force Energy by Natalia Rose was a really interesting and inspiring read in case you are looking for resources about this topic.

Local Fare: Communitea

Communitea

Sexy husband and I just returned from a little getaway to gorgeous Canmore. Of course any trip away ends up being about: the coffee and the food. Our favorite of both is found at Communitea. If you find yourself in pretty Canmore, make sure to check them out. Reasons:

1. The food is organic, healthy and delicious. The breakfast paninis are utterly amazing, organic freshly baked bread, red pepper hummus, scrambled eggs. mmm. Fridays feature chocolate matcha cupcakes, oh my. The lunch menu looks amazing as well. Super kid friendly!

2. The coffee is delicious! Their signature drink is a maple latte with real maple syrup(sexy husband’s fave). They serve Intelligentsia coffee. http://intelligentsiacoffee.com It is strictly direct trade coffee, which means that the company works hands on with coffee farmers across the world, not through a third party, assuring that farmers are paid fairly and the quality of beans are exactly what they’re looking for.

3. The staff are adorable and sweet as pie.

Check them out: http://thecommunitea.com

Cookbook Preview: Upside Down Vanilla Peach Cake

Upside Down Peach Vanilla Cake

The biggest concern most people express to me when we talk about healthy eating is: I don’t want to give up the sugar! Sugar is tricky. It’s in EVERYTHING and it is mildly addictive. However there are some wonderful, natural ways of meeting our “sweet” needs. For me, with baking, I mostly use: fruit, honey, maple syrup and agave nectar. Most people would never know there’s no sugar in these recipes. And once you’re used to sweetening food more naturally, it takes less and less sweetener to make things palatable.

Upside Down Vanilla Peach Cake
Serves 10

1/2 cup butter – divided
2 tbs raw sugar
3 medium peaches, skin on, pitted, sliced into 1/2” wedges
1 cup coarse cornmeal
3/4 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (not non-fat, preferably greek style)
1 tbs pure vanilla
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 eggs

preheat oven to 350. Place a 10 inch round cake pan over medium low heat on a burner and melt 1/4 cup of butter. Brush sides of cake pan with melted butter. Add raw sugar and cook until melted and lightly bubbling, about 3 minutes. Cover bottom of pan with peach slices, spiraling once around the outside and then filling in the middle. Reduce heat to low and cook until peaches start to soften and bubble, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together, cornmeal, flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together remaining 1/4 cup of butter, yogurt, agave nectar and vanilla, until well combined. On medium speed, add in eggs and beat until well combined. Reduce speed to low and add the cornmeal mixture. Mix until just combined. Pour batter, which will seem quite liquidy over the peaches and spread evenly with a spatula.

Bake until a cake tester inserted in the centre of cake comes out clean, approximately 20 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for about 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen from the pan. Quickly flip cake over onto a serving plate and tap the bottom to loosen peaches.

**This cake serves nicely with maple syrup sweetened whipped cream or frozen yogurt!

What?

For the last year or so, I’ve been working on a cookbook: fig & fennel. I am just about done with the production stage and entering into the graphic design stage. It’s been such a fun “job” and I hope to release it early 2011. I thought it would be beneficial to have a blog to promote the cookbook, with some sneak peeks of recipes and photos. The spectacular Kristy-Anne Swart of Up and Away Studio has been the photographer for this entire project. I am always moved by her photography and ability to capture the beauty around her.

Over the last few years, my family has made some pretty drastic lifestyle changes to reflect our desires to be healthy in our bodies, healthy in our minds, and to do as little harm to the earth as possible. We have yet to arrive at any spectacular destination, but have found the journey to be life changing. Shopping locally(at least in the summer), teaching our children how the food we eat gets from earth to plate(hard lessons for city kids), and being mindful that our bodies run smoothly and happily if they are fed food as close to natural as possible. These have become things that are highly valued in my life. I want to use this blog to highlight some of the local places we go to for this kind of inspiration and some of the people who make this healthy lifestyle possible.

I think the organic, green, healthy-eating micro-world has a bit of a reputation as being judgmental and hardly attainable. I hope to be able to present recipes and ideas that are simple steps to a healthier life. I believe that every day we make 1000 little decisions about our health and our impact and our power to change our lives is in those little decisions.

The cookbook! The cookbook is full of recipes that are healthy, fresh, and feature food that is as close to nature as possible. It is chock full of healthy baked goods: scones, muffins, cakes, cookies, and one dish meals that are family friendly and easy to make. I’ve been working on them for a long time. They are recipes I cook, recipes we eat, approved by my Picky Princess (4 year old) and a panel of strict critics (you know who you are). I’ll keep you posted as it comes together.

The Picky Princess Herself

Who?

My name is Alison and this is my blog of passions: food, writing, organic living, raising my sweet girls to leave tiny footprints on the pretty earth, entertaining and more. I am 29 years old, in love with beautiful people and beautiful things. I am moved by the depth of color in a blackberry, stopped by the scent of basil. I would walk 100 miles for a great cup of coffee. I would stop time to hold hands a little longer with my beautiful daughters Aria and Poet. I love my husband so much it makes me blush. I am at rest with my artist soul, which loves too widely to be defined. So this blog, hopefully, will allow me to celebrate my wide and varied loves. It is, and will always be, an expression of gratitude for the many blessings in my life.

My Loves

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