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Beautiful Living: Cookbook Features Clean Eating

Cindy Burnett
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Cal-a-Vie cookbook

The new Cal-a-Vie cookbook is a work of art. 

Andria Frankfort, Back Porch Table columnist, and I are collaborating again with another cookbook for me to review and Andria to recipe test. I love working together on these cookbook articles and am excited about this one because the author and editor/project manager live here in Houston. This time we are highlighting Beautiful Living: Cooking the Cal-a-Vie Health Spa Way, an oversized cookbook that shares numerous healthy recipes served at the Cal-a-Vie Health Spa in Vista, California. The book is stunning and will make a fabulous holiday gift for the hard-to-buy people remaining on your holiday gift list.

Houstonians Terri and John Havens have owned Cal-a-Vie for almost 20 years. Cal-a-Vie is a destination health spa resort focusing on fitness, health and nutrition. Executive Chef Curtis Cooke creates the healthy food served at the spa, and guests are constantly requesting the recipes for many of the items served. As a result, Terri decided to create a cookbook that would share both the techniques and flavors that contribute to the popular dishes at Cal-a-Vie as well as focusing on living the healthy lifestyle that the spa espouses.

To shepherd the cookbook to fruition, Terri hired editor/production manager and Houstonian Roni Atnipp to guide her through the process and to manage the myriad of details that are required to produce a sumptuous cookbook. Such details include locating beautiful, high-end paper flown in from Italy, rounding up dishes and place settings for each recipe (the place setting and flowers for every recipe are unique to that recipe only), hiring the food photographer, and many more items that contribute to the gorgeous result. (Roni Atnipp was chair of the Junior League of Houston’s Stop and Smell the Rosemary cookbook committee. Read more about the Junior League of Houston cookbooks here.)

Beautiful Living focuses on “clean cooking,” the concept of embracing the flavors of the ingredients used and eliminating butter and whipping cream. Most recipes contain ingredients that are easy to locate, but a few may require a bit more effort to track down. Salad dressings contain no more than 25 calories a serving. There are a wide range of recipes, some that can be prepared quickly and easily and others that will take more time and effort. Terri says that the cauliflower soup (page 98),  chocolate mousse (page 267) and kale salad with Persian cucumbers, salted pepitas, and whole grain mustard vinaigrette (page 110) are some of the most popular items in the cookbook. The two recipes that immediately caught my eye are the King salmon with honey sesame glaze, soba noodles, and green beans (page 159) and the chilled avocado soup with roasted corn salsa (page 80). I look forward to making them both soon.

While Beautiful Living is a cookbook, the term “coffee table cookbook” is really the perfect description because the book contains more than just the fabulous recipes. Those who purchase the cookbook will struggle with where to keep it – in the kitchen or on the coffee table? The splendid photographs of both the food and Cal-a Vie combined with Terri’s ruminations on how Cal-a-Vie came to be and the philosophy of both the health spa and the chef will appeal to a wide range of people whether they cook or not.

There are two upcoming signing events for Beautiful Living: Cooking the Cal-a-Vie Health Spa Way: Dec. 14, 1-3 p.m. at Kuhl-Linscomb and Dec. 18, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Studio 106. The cookbook can also be purchased at Bering’s, Kuhl-Linscomb and River Oaks Bookstore for $75.  See Back Porch Table by Andria Frankfort on Friday for a recipe from this cookbook. 

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram or Cindy’s Reading Recs.

Editor's Note: See cookbooks written by - and featuring - Houston chefs here.

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