GENEVA – Vanessa Argentieri-Mahoney has always loved cooking and even prepared Italian dinners for her family when she was 10 years old.
The Blackberry Township resident said she participated in cooking competitions, even winning second place in Denver for the Best Italian Cook when she was 20.
After her husband’s job prompted a move first to Geneva eight years ago – and more recently to the Mill Creek area near Geneva – Argentieri-Mahoney said she “fell in love with” 360º Flavor & Spice, formerly the Spice House in Geneva.
“I always appreciated their fresh spices and quality,” Argentieri-Mahoney said. “And I especially like using them in my baked goods and other savory dishes.”
Argentieri-Mahoney, 40, said after working on it for five years, she published her first cookbook, “Pure Food Joy," in December. The cookbook features the spices and flavorings found at the Geneva store.
She wrote it as a guide of how to minimize the use of refined and processed foods.
Argentieri-Mahoney presented her book and offering samples Feb. 11 at 360º Flavor and Spice, 577 S. Third St., Geneva.
“What inspired me to write the cookbook was that I have always had talent in cooking,” Argentieri-Mahoney said. “I have two children, age 13 and 7, but when they were little, all my mommy friends wanted my recipes. It was about feeding children in a healthy way and getting them to eat their vegetables.”
Argentieri-Mahoney has a degree in equine science and agriculture business management from Colorado State University. She said she turned down acceptance to culinary school while she was there because, “I knew I could always cook.”
The 160-page cookbook has 100 recipes covering everything from breakfast to how to cook whole grains to better baking, Argentieri-Mahoney said.
“The whole book is about getting away from refined and processed food, making pure food choices,” Argentieri-Mahoney said. “It’s about making healthy eating fun and delightful.”
The book includes gluten-free dishes, slow cooker recipes, raw foods and vegetarian meals.
While at 360º Flavor and Spice, Argentieri-Mahoney featured samples of her carrot cake with cinnamon cream frosting, which she makes with raw honey instead of confectioner’s sugar, she said.
“The carrot cake itself is healthy enough for a breakfast muffin … as it has enough whole grain flour and lots of fruits and veggies in it,” Argentieri-Mahoney said. “Or you can frost it as an elegant carrot cake for brunches or Easter.”
She also featured homemade chorizo and classic chili – both using ground cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika from the Geneva store.
“Cooking has always been a passion of mine,” Argentieri-Mahoney said. “I cooked for my college roommates. I started writing things down because I thought I can make a lot of foods healthier. My book is a guide to help other enjoy healthy food.”
Her cookbook is available for sale on her website, www.purefoodjoy.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.