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Food for thought



Summer is a busy time for Karen Kay. Aside from her usual culinary exploits - running her own catering business and teaching Community Kitchens cooking classes for Whistler Community Services Society - she's also been busy tending to her garden, producing loads of fresh veggies like tomatoes, basil, beets, kale, Swiss chard, squash, zucchini, and grains like millet, barley, quinoa and rye.

And to top things off, this Red Seal chef also just released her first cookbook, "Harvest Cuisine: Whole Foods Cooking."

Through her experiences at the Community Kitchens cooking classes, and teaching culinary skills at the local high school, Kay quickly realized there was a huge lack of kitchen knowledge and skills amongst the younger generations.

"We've become a society that doesn't know how to cook in the kitchen and we're not teaching our children the skill of cooking wonderful homemade meals - it's a lost art."

A mother of three, Kay wanted a comprehensive guide to hand to her now-adult kids, something that would offer step-by-step instructions on how to cook vegan dishes, but also educate them in the process. So, about two years ago, she decided to make one.

"It's a cookbook, but it's also a cooking manual."

"Harvest Cuisine" teaches aspiring chefs to create nutritious and delicious meals that are low fat, high in fibre and chock-full of nutrients, thanks to the array of fresh veggies, grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruit and herbs that are featured in each and every dish.

Interspersed among the recipes found within its pages are facts about nutrition, the healing properties of food and tips on how to save time and money when preparing meals.

The final result is a glossy tome that's broken into nine chapters that span everything from eating healthy on a budget and changing your family's eating habits to invaluable staples and shopping lists to have on-hand to easily create Kay's suggested recipes.

"One chapter is about carbohydrates and the glycemic index, and fill up and not out, and just sort of different nutritional stuff," she explained. "It's all kinds of stuff that I think everybody needs to know, whether they're going to be a chef or not."

Each recipe identifies one key ingredient, which Kay then goes on to explain in detail.

"Say like spinach: I tell you all about the nutritional properties of spinach, how you can grow your own, the history of it, how much is actually grown in B.C."

Kay is a huge advocate of eating whole, unprocessed foods, and local, seasonal, organic products. Most ingredients she features within the book are grown within the province.

"I grew up around a lot of fresh produce and fruit and whatnot, but I also grew up, on the other hand, with a very busy mother and ate a lot of bad food."

In her teenage years, Kay changed her own diet significantly, and began to explore her interest in nutrition at a deeper level. She eventually went on to graduate from the Okanagan College in Kelowna in 1982 and 12 years later became a certified holistic nutritionist.

Each chapter of her new book has four or five recipes to try, plus some suggested snacks and an overall nutritional breakdown, so anyone following the book as a meal plan can get a comprehensive picture of their servings.

"A lot of research went into it and every recipe, I have the nutritional facts, so it's got the calories, fat and protein all broken down."

Contrary to popular belief, the staples that are needed for many of Kay's vegan-friendly recipes are not obscure or expensive. She says that nothing could be further from the truth.

"It's the total opposite - your budget goes so much further, especially these days when we're all trying to look at local and seasonal (foods)," she pointed out.

To prove that point, Kay has also included a cost breakdown with every recipe to help people budget properly according to what they have in their wallets.

She has self-published the book and will be selling it at the Whistler Farmer's Markets during the summer. On Tuesday, June 23 Kay will also be speaking about the book at the Whistler Public Library and offering up samples of her recipes.

"The feedback that I've been getting so far from the books that I've sold to people is that they're loving it and most of them haven't even started cooking yet - they've just been reading it!"