It’s not uncommon for a family to have its own version of a cookbook.
Usually, though, said volume involves an uncoordinated collection of recipes, torn from cookbooks and magazines, or hastily scratched onto notecards and scraps of paper — all combined in a three-ring binder or plastic sleeve.
But, in the case of cousins and friends Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer, their assemblage of family favourite recipes is picture perfect. Which is to say it’s exactly the way the fans and followers of the two lifestyle and food multi-hyphenates (combined, the duo boast more than 1.2 followers on Instagram, alone) would expect it to be.
“If anybody follows me on social media, they know that I love sharing my whole life with everybody. And same with Tori. So, to be able to share this part of our lives and our passion and our hearts with all of the people who have supported us over the years, our community, is such a gift,” Harris summarizes of the cookbook debut.
Titled Fraiche Foods, Full Hearts: A Collection of Recipes for Every Day and Casual Celebrations ($40; Penguin Random House Canada) the book features light, bright images of more than 100 delicious dishes that range from vegan offerings to casual cocktails.
But, according to Wesszer, the most important element of the book isn’t how perfectly the plates are photographed, but rather how it highlights the unique connection their families have with food — and the bond the two cousins share with one another.
“We are two years apart, I am two years older than Jillian is, so we have literally been doing everything together — all of the major events in life together since both of us can really remember. So, for us to have something as significant and amazing as our own cookbook is a pinch-me moment for me, for sure,” Wesszer says. “It’s absolutely surreal.”
“This book is years and years of not only our grandma’s recipes and our parents’ recipes, but also our husbands’ recipes and their families’ recipes and then our recipes — to have them all compiled it is really is, like Tori has been saying, ‘Food is love,’” Harris adds.
The dishes, the duo says, go heavy on plants — but Harris is quick to add the Fraiche Foods, Full Hearts is not a vegan recipe book.
“I’m not vegan because I haven’t mastered that yet. But I kind of look up to vegans and I’m a vegan wannabe,” Harris says with a laugh. “And I certainly have been trying throughout the past six years, but there were just certain times, like throughout my pregnancy or with the kids or when I’m travelling, when I quote-unquote ‘failed.’ But, I really am happy that I’ve learned to take it easy on myself. I’m really proud of what I have done with my diet, so far.”
Harris says that, while she initially wanted to create a vegan cookbook when they first set about writing the recipes three years ago, Wesszer pushed for the book to offer readers more flexible food options.
“I, at one point, wanted to completely strip it down, basically start all over, and make it completely vegan,” Harris says. “But, after we talked to each other and our family, we really thought about what the cookbook was supposed to be. And, thinking about a lot of my community and followers and how they’re all thinking about taking this plant-based journey but they don’t know where to start, or that it might be complicated or it might be expensive, we thought, you know what? Let’s try to do as many plant-based recipes as we can, but make it flexible. And make it easy.”
With Wesszer, who is a dietitian, as a guide, the pair cooked up the recipes with an eye on making them part of nutritious and “wholesome meals,” including options with meat, fish, eggs and dairy, as well as vegan-friendly, dairy-free and gluten-free substitutes for many of the ingredients.
“We’ve really tried to flex it for our readers,” Harris says.
In the end, the decision was as much about building breathing room into their own family menu as it was for other people’s, she says.
“With our family, there are some people who are vegan, some who eat plant-based, some who are Celiac, so, when we are entertaining for our families it’s always like: ‘OK, what do we make?’” Harris says. “We feel like most families are a lot like ours.
“So, when you open up the cookbook, the recipes are labelled as vegan option, nut/nut-free option and it really gives people the tools to say, ‘OK, whoever is coming over for dinner, we can make this work for them.’”
Wesszer hopes the cookbook also prompts people to take the stress out of eating by removing the labels from their eating habits — and to simply enjoy the food.
“We are addicted to all-or-nothing thinking. For some reason, we’ve developed this propensity to think of things as black or white in our society. Like, you’re vegan or bust. Or you’re gluten free. And we love slapping labels on ourselves — like, there’s nothing sexier than a label,” Wesszer says. “I would encourage people to think about making healthy choices. And keeping nutrition pretty simple. For the most of us, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Because there are people who have health conditions that do need something more complicated, and that’s very legitimate. Fill your plate with half vegetables, try to make plant-based choices more often, make local choices. Just make better choices. And cut yourself some slack sometimes.
“Because, I think that we are living under this guise of perfectionism, and it can be really paralyzing and depressing for people. It makes me sad that, moms especially, are feeling this way. They’re feeling like they’re not good enough and are trying to live up to an unrealistic standard.”
In the end, she stresses, food should be nourishing rather than a source of stress.
“Sometimes that means eating a kale-and-chickpea salad, which gives you so much rich nutrients and is so nourishing for your body. And sometimes that means having a piece of chocolate cake at a birthday because that’s nourishing in a different sense of the world. That’s nourishing for my soul and I’m celebrating with my family,” Wesszer says. “And that feels good and it feels right and I do it guilt-free. And then I carry on and have a kale salad again the next day. And, that’s OK. I think we need to give ourselves a little slack and some self love and be able to know that all foods can fit.
“Moderation isn’t a sexy word, but it truly is a sustainable word in the world of nutrition.”
2 cups (500 mL) grated peeled apple (2 to 3 large Spartan, Gala, or McIntosh)
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) grated peeled carrots (2 to 3 medium carrots)
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) grated peeled red beets (2 to 3 medium beets)
1 cup (250 mL) grated zucchini (1 small zucchini)
6 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or vegetable oil
2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) sugar or coconut sugar
4 tsp (20 mL) baking powder
2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 tbsp (15 mL) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 mL) ground allspice
1/4 tsp (1 mL) nutmeg 2 cups (500 mL) raisins
1 cup (250 mL) chopped toasted raw walnuts or pecans (optional)
24 raw pecan halves, for topping (optional)
Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease 2 muffin tins or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl, stir together the apple, carrots, beets, zucchini, eggs, olive oil, and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.
Stir the flour mixture into the vegetable mixture until well combined. Fold in the raisins and chopped nuts (if using).
Fill the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Top each muffin with a pecan half (if using). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean, rotating the muffin tins top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Let cool completely in the muffin tins on a rack before removing from the tins. Store in a resealable container at room temperature for a few days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Makes 24 muffins
Jilly’s Almost Famous Stuffing
1/2 cup (125 mL) vegan butter
1/4 cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups (500 mL) finely chopped celery (3 to 4 stalks)
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) finely chopped yellow onions (1 medium onion)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound (450 g) finely chopped white and/or brown mushrooms (about 4 cups/1 L)
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh sage
2 tsp (10 mL) fresh thyme leaves
1 Granny smith apple, unpeeled and finely diced
1/4 cup (60 mL) white wine (we use Chardonnay)
4 tsp (20 mL) poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups (250 to 375 mL) vegetable stock
1 loaf day-old white bread, roughly cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 10-inch (25 cm) round or 10½- × 7½-inch (2.3 L) rectangular baking dish.
Heat the vegan butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the celery and onions and cook until soft and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic, mushrooms, sage, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the apple, white wine, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the apple slightly softens. Add 1 cup (250 mL) of the vegetable stock, stir, and cook for another 3 minutes.
Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Pour the mushroom mixture over the bread and lightly toss with a rubber spatula to combine. Drizzle with additional stock if you prefer a moister stuffing, and season with additional poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper, if desired.
Spread the stuffing evenly in the prepared baking dish and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Excerpted from Fraiche Food, Full Hearts: A Collection of Recipes for Every Day and Casual Celebrations by Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer. Copyright © 2019by Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer. Photography copyright © 2019by Janis Nicolay. Published by Penguin Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.