Fay Kazzi — nutritionist, dietician, and food photographer — has just published her first cookbook, stuffed with mouth-watering photos and recipes that will keep your gut happy.
Question: Your new book, The Earthy Canvas Vegan Cookbook, has just been published. What kinds of recipes do you share in the book? How is it different than other vegan cookbooks?
Answer: My new cookbook is comprised of plant-based recipes with an emphasis on nutrient-dense foods. These recipes are designed to maximize flavor and nutrient density while minimizing calories and use of processed foods.
There is a misconception that just because something is labeled vegan that this automatically equates to it being healthy. That is not the case at all. My approach with this was to stress the importance of vegan and plant-based ingredients for my recipes.
It is different from other vegan cookbooks because it does not include the use of highly processed ingredients such as alternative “vegan” meats and dairy. These foods can be quite high in preservatives, salt, hydrogenated fats, sugars, and chemicals. Most of the ingredients that I use in my cookbook are in their whole-food state and I endeavored to highlight the most nutrient-dense ingredients I could find that are both affordable and readily available.
Also, as the author, this book is unique because I personally produced nearly every aspect of it including the recipe creation, prep, food photography, food styling, and design. It is truly a personal production.
Can you tell us about one or two of your favorite recipes in the book?
It’s pretty hard to pick one or two since this book is basically a compilation of my favorite recipes. One that stands out though is in the entrée section, which is my Herbed Mushroom Stroganoff. I’d describe it as silky pappardelle noodles wrapped in a deliciously rich translucent roux dominated by the umami flavors of cremini mushrooms. The flavors are all the best variations of the savory spectrum with a fragrant touch of fresh herbs like thyme that gracefully elevates these humble ingredients into such a gorgeous dish.
What I might like most about it is how easy it is to put together and yet how sophisticated it can come out to be, which is a little twist I’ve pulled on a lot of my recipes. A few of them can look intimidating but they are actually very easy to do.
Another recipe would be my Bartlett Pear Cast Iron Skillet Cake. I love using cast iron skillets when baking, it helps to distribute heat beautifully and still manages to keep your cake moist while baking. This cake is semi-sweet, fruity, nutty, and I just love the hints of almond extract and lemon zest. It’s a dream with a topping of coconut whip cream!
(Recipe included at the end of this article!)
Are you a vegan?
I’ve been vegan most of my life and feel that it’s more about including mostly plant-based foods than it is about just being a vegan. One can be vegan and live off Oreos and potato chips (both of which are vegan by definition), so the challenge for me was to reinvent the term of veganism with a plant-based emphasis, meaning mostly utilizing ingredients that originate from plants in their whole state, and minimally processed. The focus of my recipes are combinations of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dates, and legumes, this is what should comprise the majority of one’s diet for healthy living.
You are a dietitian. Does the book include lots of detailed nutritional information?
As a health professional with a BS and MS in Nutrition and Dietetics along with my credentials as a registered dietitian and a PhD in Rehabilitation Science with an emphasis in gut rehabilitation, a part of me wanted to go wild with developing the nutritional content. Then I settled on a less conventional approach given my background, and decided to simplify what I could have put into it.
Although there are nutritional highlights on nearly every recipe, it’s actually very modestly presented overall, and this was intentionally done. I decided not to include caloric counts and the breakdown of the protein, fat, and carbohydrate for these recipes. If one is consuming a balanced diet high in plant-based foods, and if you don’t have any underlying health conditions, counting calories and measuring out macronutrients is simply not essential.
My goal was to make the vegan, plant-based lifestyle a lot more approachable and less intimidating in this way.
Why did you want to create a cookbook? Is this your first one?
I really wanted to share my love of beautiful, healthy dishes and food photography, and this cookbook seemed the perfect way to do that. I’m a creative at heart, but chose to go down the science pathway for my education and career based on the belief that the health message was to be the right hand of the gospel. Midway into my PhD program, juggling three jobs, I was burned out and in desperate need of a creative outlet. I had played around with photography before, but never settled on a particular subject.
Being a foodie at heart I decided to explore the world of food photography, which led me to recipe creation with the goal of creating healthier versions of popular foods. I started uploading photos of my work to social media and before I knew it, I was getting paid by high-end food stores and clients to produce healthy recipes and food photography pieces for their customers.
I did this for over two years and built up the courage to compile some of my favorite recipes and put them all into a cookbook. This is my first, I’m very excited about it, and I’ve learned quite a lot throughout the process as a solo creator.
You also have a podcast about food, I believe. Can you tell us about that?
The podcast is called The Virtue Pantry Podcast. It’s actually designed just for women as a place to grab nuggets of wisdom to strengthen one’s life as a God-fearing woman. I get to interview some wonderful ladies who are experts in their fields whether as mothers, therapists, or scientists. I created it mostly so I could learn myself, as a new mom to an energetic eight-month-old baby boy. I guess you can call it my little ministry. It’s available on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.
And you do cooking classes? Cooking shows?
For two years I was blessed to have the opportunity to be the instructor for a vegan plant-based culinary program for medical students at Loma Linda University. It was great to be able to put an emphasis on the importance of plant-based nutrition for future physicians for the overall health and wellbeing of patients.
I also ventured to conduct my own classes for the community. Last year I had a fun go at hosting a cooking show on Three Angels Broadcasting Network highlighting some of my favorite Middle Eastern recipes. There are plans to start my own cooking program on YouTube this year, which I’m excited about.
What else do you do in your work? Do you consult with private clients?
I consult for school districts and private clients through my corporation FK Nutrition Consulting, Inc. The programs range from basic nutrition education coordination for school sites and private one-to-one diet therapy and recipe creation for clients. My website www.TheEarthyCanvas.com has more information on my services.
Have you always been interested in food? What are some of your earliest food or cooking memories?
Yes! I’ve always been interested in food. I come from mixed Middle Eastern background. My father is part Lebanese and part Syrian, my mother is part Egyptian and part Iraqi. I lived in Lebanon for almost 13 years during my teenage years and early adulthood. While living there I was able to travel to the surrounding countries and experience a wide variety of Middle Eastern cuisines.
My earliest memory of food was when I turned three. My father was able to catch me asking for a pickle on my birthday instead of a piece of cake. It was hilarious to everyone. But you see, I wasn’t always allowed to have whatever I wanted, but on my birthday, I had privileges! It doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to have cake, but that pickle did something in my mouth that cake couldn’t do. There was something about the strength of flavors, the unapologetic saltiness that balanced beautifully with the subtle sweetness that married into the acidity of the brine and enveloped its goodness in a firm, cool morsel, coating my entire mouth and tickling the back of my throat with lingering delight. That is my earliest understanding and appreciation of flavor.
Can you give us some nutritional advice? What is one thing you wish more people knew about? Is there some latest science we should know or research we should be aware of?
I wish people knew more about the benefits of probiotic-rich foods for improving the microbiome. We now know that up to 80% of the body’s immunity is in the microbiota in the gut. The gut microbiota is made up of trillions of microorganisms and these bacteria play a key role in digesting, absorbing, and synthesizing nutrients. It is an underestimated powerhouse. The types of foods that are the highest in probiotics are fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and yogurts.
Of course, a plant-based diet high in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables also contains a large variety of prebiotics, which is basically food to the probiotics in the gut. Most of the evidenced-based research available now on the microbiome was put out within the past seven years, so it’s quite young, but immensely impacting. The science is showing that a healthy gut plays an important role in not only the overall health but also the mental wellbeing of an individual. There’s definitely a body-mind interaction going on.
While people are spending more time at home, it´s a good time to focus on cooking. Is there a cozy comfort dish recipe you would recommend people try while they cocoon at home?
I love variations of warm, broth-based vegetable soups. There’s nothing quite like it to cozy up to, especially in cooler weather. As the weather warms up, I absolutely love making refreshing salads like a big arugula salad with fruits, nuts, and a homemade vinaigrette. Can never go wrong with that!
Who published the book and how can we get it?
My cookbook was published through Pacific Press Publishing and is currently available on the Adventist Book Center website. This is the direct link: https://adventistbookcenter.com/the-earthy-canvas-vegan-cookbook.html
It will eventually be available on Amazon as well.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theearthycanvas (@TheEarthyCanvas)
Bartlett Pear Cast Iron Skillet Cake
For a 10-inch skillet
1 C all-purpose flour
½ C almond flour
½ C coconut sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 C almond milk
2 Bartlett pears (ripe, 1 for inside the cake, 1 to top)
¼ C vegetable oil
1 ½ Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
Coconut whip cream or non-dairy ice cream
1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Take one of your pears, cut out the seeds, slice into chunks and place in a food processor until small pieces form. Scrape out and mix with wet ingredients.
2. Incorporate wet with dry ingredients. Do not overmix the batter, just mix until well incorporated.
3. Slice your second pear into thin slices and set aside.
4. Lightly oil your skillet or pan, pour in the batter, top with slices of pear in desired pattern, sprinkle a little granulated sugar and cinnamon, bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Check the cake by placing a knife in the center, if it comes out clean, it’s ready, if not give it another 5-10 minutes.
5. Once ready, set aside to cool. Sprinkle powdered sugar and top with coconut cream or your favorite non-dairy ice-cream. Enjoy!
Alita Byrd is interviews editor for Spectrum.
Photos courtesy of Fay Kazzi.
We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.