Rosemary and Maple Roasted Almonds - my spin on Giada's Rosemary Cashews and Sunflower Seeds
I eat a lot of delicious food.
I am constantly cooking (with lots of butter and cheese), baking (again with the butter) and eating out in restaurants. And I don't hold back. If I order a pizza at Morris East, I'm getting it on white crust with tons of sautéed wild mushrooms, Oulton's double smoked bacon and truffle oil garnish. When I go to The Italian Market, not only do I get their (amazing!) prosciutto sandwich, I also order a puff-pastry wrapped sausage on the side. And don't even get me started on the Aglio Olio (Spag Garlic) at da Maurizio.
I eat a lot of meat.
I eat a lot of bread.
I eat a lot of cheese.
Fruits and vegetables are an afterthought.
But sometimes, something's gotta give you know?
I think it was perfect that these two things happened at the same time. 1. My friend Dallas, from Eating Real, Being Real In Nova Scotia, who is studying to be a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, posted on Facebook that she was looking for ten volunteers who would complete 8-week nutritional assessments and 2. Giada de Laurentiis' new book 'Giada's Feel Good Food', from Random House of Canada arrived in my mailbox.
Dallas sent me a ton of awesome information and recipes that I am using to supplement my 8-week program, although, after 8 weeks I'm hoping for some permanent habits. For example, every morning, as soon as I get up, I've been drinking a big glass of water with the juice of half a lemon squeezed in (my tastebuds just puckered as I typed that), I've switched from morning coffee with milk and sugar to orange pekoe tea with honey (I had a headache the first couple of days but it's pretty much subsided), and I've been trying to make healthier choices all around (avoiding dairy/gluten and eating more fruits and vegetables - except for the other night when I had the aforementioned pizza at Morris East as well as a scoop of Bailey's ice cream (!!omg YUM!!).
The cover of Giada's new book heralds what's to come as 'my healthy recipes and secrets' and there's a picture of a perfectly styled Giada on the front, wearing a simple white fitted t-shirt and jeans, holding an apple with a bite out of it. The cover sets a light airy tone that is carried out throughout the pages.
I expected Giada's identity as a Food Network Italian cook to be somewhat present in the book, but let's get real. Italians are not known for healthy eating. Yes, Italy produces some of the world's best fruit and vegetables but what Italy is most renowned for is cheese, meat and wine. Giada has taken a step away from the Italian side of things in 'Feel Good Food' and focused more on what makes her feel and look good on a personal level.
Like, really personal.
As I was reading the book and making notes on which recipes to try, I was surprised to come across the first of a number of lifestyle sections. In the first, 'Lazy Sundays', Giada describes what she and her family do on Sundays - her husband Todd makes breakfast, she and her daughter hang out and then they make a family dinner together. There's an accompanying photo of she and her daughter in bed while her husband, in his pajamas, stands next to the bed holding a breakfast-in-bed serving tray.
More lifestyle segments are sprinkled throughout the book - 'My Morning Routine' (drink water, yoga, ice water face bath, eat breakfast), 'Acupuncture' (she goes once a week for ten to twelve weeks in a row, twice a year) and 'Sugar Fixes' (freeze sweet things like chocolate chips when you get a craving so it takes longer to eat/savour). I think it's great to include the lifestyle segments in the book - there are some nice little tips and tricks - however, I own a lot of cookbooks, and 'Feel Good Food' is the first time I've noticed no-holds-barred product placement in a cookbook. For example, on the 'Sugar Fixes' page, there's a photo of Giada, standing by herself next to a stainless steel freezer, holding a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips and the logo on the bag of chocolate chips is perfectly lit and squarely facing the camera. I'm not saying product placement is a new thing or a bad thing - the book is a beautifully photographed well-designed hardcover which is not cheap to produce and so I understand sponsorship may be necessary. And come on, every issue of Donna Hay magazine devotes an entire page to her 'needs, wants, must-haves' (read pretty and expensive products and brands that you should buy) and of course, there's the Lifestyle Queen herself, Martha Stewart, who has always promoted her 'Good Things'. I'm just saying it's the first time I've noticed it in a cookbook. I know it won't be the last.
I made Rosemary Cashews and Sunflower Seeds with almonds instead of cashews, and no sunflower seeds (pictured above), for a little pre-holiday party and everyone went crazy for them (the jar pictured above was empty about ten minutes after I photographed it). Sweet, salty and crunchy with a wonderful herby hit from the rosemary I will definitely make them again and again. They're the perfect (healthy!) cocktail party snack (or even midday snack since they're sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar).
Other recipes that stood out to me in the book are Avocado Hummus, Halibut with Artichoke and Olive Caponata and Vegetable 'Meatloaf' with Checca Sauce. Giada's Feel Good Food has lots of inspiration to keep me going as I complete Dallas' recommendations over the next 8 weeks and who knows? I may even freeze a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips.