Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are you living "The Raw Food Lifestyle?"

I have to admit that when I started making some major changes to my blog format (reviews, Q&As, giveaways and shirts, and to top it all off, releasing my raw cupcake e-book), I bit off a little more than I could chew. Would my mostly raw diet be enough to sustain me during this stress fest? Luckily, the subject of today's Q&A had the answers to get me through.

Andrew Perlot was kind enough to think of me when sending out advanced copies of his new e-book for review. Unfortunately, it has been in my possession so long that maybe you've already read it, too.

However, I must say that the timing in which I found to read it was perfect for me. I had just released my own e-book (of course I was worried about the critiques), was still organizing product reviews and Q&As for the upcoming weeks, and feeling a bit anxious about my Brendan Brazier interview, as I haven't conducted such a thing in years. Can you believe I actually used to work for a newspaper for a living?

That's something I have in common with Andrew, who discovered the confidence hidden within himself to interview/write articles, but most importantly, to inspire others to pursue their goals, like how he wrote this e-book. Not only did he utilize the nutritional aspect of his raw diet to lose weight, improve his health and gain energy, he also began living "The Raw Food Lifestyle" (the very appropriate title for his e-book) to its fullest and gaining a whole new outlook on life.

This e-book is filled with positive thoughts from both Andrew and other inspiring individuals. It will have you conquering your own anxieties and putting things in the right perspective. It is worth a read, and you're worth it, too. Are you living "The Raw Food Lifestyle?"

Q.: What made you decide to write this book? What do you hope readers learn from it?

A: "I regularly receive e-mails through my website, www.raw-food-health.net, from people who seem to think of raw foods as a deus ex machina that can solve all problems. They wonder why they're not thriving as much as they'd like on raw foods. They ask me for advice, because they've read about my past of overcoming numerous health problems, along with depression and feelings of worthlessness.

"One of the ideas I try to express to them is that you really need a holistic raw food lifestyle, but I lacked the body of written text to back up what I was saying, and usually failed to get through to them. Writing this book forced me to put down the years of research and personal discoveries I've made, and the end product seems to have the power to move people.

"You don't have to be depressed to benefit form this book. Anyone who is not thriving to the degree that they wish can use it to examine their life and find weak spots to improve. In our lives we stand on a platform supported by 'life' pillars. If a few of the pillars are weak or too short we'll be fine, but when too many of the important ones are lacking we will start to flounder. When we start picking out the weakest pillars an build them up, our lives start to improve rapidly.

"Joy, fulfillment and drive are not things that can only come to us in small spurts. If you mark the pursuit of certain things a focus in your life, you can make your days much more enjoyable."

Q: Why do you advise not skipping the beginning section on depression, even if the person reading it doesn't feel he or she is depressed?

A: "Most people who have never been depressed think of it as some alien syndrome that only a few deal with. They don't realize that in their darkest moments they've probably been fairly close to it, and even if they haven't, their current state is just one point in a continuum of states that includes depression. By understanding what causes depression and how people can get out of it using only their mind, they'll also gain the foundation they need to understand how they can use a few more advanced concepts to go from their current state to the level of thriving they want."

Q.: I know you tend to stick to a lowfat raw vegan diet. Do you ever indulge in the occasional "heavier" raw vegan treat, like a raw cupcake? Maybe I can come up with one that's fruit-based for you (well, I made an apple look like a cupcake).

A: "Certainly. Usually around Thanksgiving and Christmas I make this raw persimmon pie. It's absolutely delicious, and an amazing holiday treat."

Q.: I love the famous quotes scattered throughout the book. What are some of your own words of wisdom?

A: "I'm a big fan of reading, and I've recorded those quotes over the years from various sources that have impressed me. As someone who was never really "normal," and a big believer that the status quo is a dangerous thing, this is one of my favorites:"

"That so few now dare be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time," - John Stuart Mill

Q. Where can my readers find out more about you and your e-book? What are your plans for the future?

A: People can find out more about my ebook at: http://www.raw-food-health.net/Raw-Food-Lifestyle-EBook.html

I hope to greatly expand the resources I have available at www.raw-food-health.net in the future, diving into a number of diet-related health, societal and lifestyle topics.

I've got a pretty full life and I'm not sure when I'll get to it, but one of my huge goals is to publish a book exploring the absolutely amazing connection between increased fruit consumption and mental, physical, economic and environmental improvements. In short, fruit can rock the very foundations of our world, and I hope to chronicle that connection.

*****

By the way, I didn't forget about the Raw Revolution bar drawing today. Here's who Hayden picked in pics:

First up is the chocolate drawing.

Hayden grabs a winner. Who can it be?

Hayden opens it up to reveal Michele, a.k.a. Raw Juice Girl!

Next, Hayden pulls out a chocolate-free entry.

Looks like the winner is Mindy!

Congrats girls! Thanks for playing :-)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Coconutty convenience


As you know, being a busy mom, I sometimes have to rely on some convenience products to keep me going. After speaking to Brendan about salba/chia and coconut oil energy gels, I had a similar idea for hydration after my workout.

Although in a perfect world I'd love to down the liquid from a fresh young Thai coconut, I don't always have access to such delights, nor the time to crack one open with a baby around (I get a little dangerous with these things). Rather than give up "nature's sports drink," I opted to check out another more convenient source.

The good people at ZICO were kind enough to ship some samples of their pure premium coconut water my way to try. Knowing I'm a raw foodie, they gave me a heads up, saying, "ZICO, as all non frozen coconut waters, is flash pasteurized for safety, but is still nutrient dense."

That was fine with me, since I was really beginning to miss this yumminess and its hydrating effects on my body. According to the company, coconut water contains five essential electrolytes (K, Na, Mg, Ca and P) and more potassium (670 mg) than a banana, making it "nature's sports drink."

So far, I've been drinking it straight out of the container, as well as adding it to my smoothies. Mmmm! I'm mostly fond of the standard natural coconut water (ingredients: 100% natural coconut water), but I also like the passion fruit flavor, mixed up with chia seeds in my jar (yup, there it is again). I would've loved to have added some fresh passion fruit for more texture, yet settled for the grapefruit segments I had in the fridge (still good though).

The other flavor is mango, which is tasty, too; I just found the passion fruit to be more interesting. And, since I have some extras, you can try it for yourself.

I'll be giving away one of each flavor (natural, passion fruit and mango) to a lucky commenter below. Just post your comment about why you'd liked to try ZICO for one entry, and post about/link to this post on your site for an additional entry. The giveaway ends on Tuesday, April 6, 2010, and I'll draw the winner on Wednesday, April 7, 2010. Good luck!


By the way, don't forget my current Raw Revolution Bar giveaway ends today.

Also, Lisa at Raw on $10 a Day (or Less) is giving away one of her e-books, she has for sale on her site. Don't forget to check it out, as well as Isle Dance's Stawesome Glass Straws Giveaway. I love how she gets her readers to share their personal thoughts :-)


Still looking for more fun contests? Raw Juice Girl is giving away an iHerb gift certificate and Debra of Vegan Family Style has a DVD giveaway. I can't keep up with all this stuff. Can you?

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Thriving" beyond raw cupcakes


You may think this body's built from raw cupcakes, but that's not really the case. Sure I love to indulge a bit here and there, however, I "Thrive" on so much more.

I love fresh produce, brightly colored fruits and veggies. I eat them everyday in salads, puddings and smoothies, and of course, I enjoy them in their perfect unaltered state. I start every morning off with some fruit fuel to charge up for my workout, which I follow with a yummy green shake.

Most of what I eat is inspired by none-other-than vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, who I had the pleasure of conducting an interview with recently. I have to confess that it wasn't the most professional session (can you believe my phone died at the end?), but one I will remember for a long time (thanks Brendan).

As you know, I've been a long time fan of his books, fitness tips and recipes. All of these things have helped me bounce back after having my second baby (I was back in my size 0 jeans within the first week postpartum) and keep me going through my busy days (up early, taking care of the kiddies, still breastfeeding Hayden, trying to work from home and just in general, "holding down the fort").

For those of you not familiar with Brendan, grab yourself a Vega bar (I'm digging the Vibrancy bars lately; I formed this natural flavored one into a cupcake shape and topped it with an optimizer paste/frosting) or shake, and continue to read this post. Usually I'd do a word-for-word Q&A, but since this was a live interview (without a tape recorder; it's been a while since I've used one of those), I jotted down the basics and just a few direct quotes. Enjoy!

Adopting a plant-based diet

Brendan's story starts off in high school, when he fell in love with running (later he added swimming and biking). Like most athletes, he tried a bunch of popular diets: high carb, low carb, high protein. He also experimented with a plant-based approach, but it didn’t work at first, as it left him feeling tired.

Although his coach (at the time) was, in fact, "a good coach," he didn’t see the value of diet in terms of performance. So, Brendan decided to take it upon himself to reevaluate what he was eating and its effects.

"I became very curious," he said. "The reason I was feeling tired all the time was because of five major things that were missing (from my diet): those being complete protein, vitamin B-12, iron, calcium and omega fatty acids."

Once he started to add those missing pieces to the puzzle (blending them into his smoothies, discussed later in this post), he saw a huge improvement in just a matter of weeks, and he was able to recover at a faster rate.

Pre-workout and recovery foods

"A lot of people don't realize that it's not just what you eat, but when you eat it," explained Brendan, who addresses more about pre-workout and recovery foods in his books, "The Thrive Diet" and "Thrive Fitness."

The type and duration of your workout will determine what your body needs nutritionally before you begin, but in most cases, "carbohydrates are your prime fuel for before a workout," he said, although endurance athletes may benefit more from a combination of the three: carbohydrates, protein and fat.

"When fueling up for longer workouts, make sure to consume a small amount of protein, soluble fiber and fat. This will help slow the rate at which carbohydrate will be released into the bloodstream, thereby allowing its energy to spread over a longer period of time," he stated in his "Thrive Fitness" book, which contains recipes for pre-workout snacks and drinks, as well as those for recovery. "Simply put, this approach will increase endurance."

When it comes to recovery, he advises having protein to rebuild. "Breaking down muscle tissue on a regular basis and then consuming, without fail, the right nutritional building blocks after a workout is the basis for a stronger, more vibrant, biologically younger body. What is consumed after the workout is vital for cellular reconstruction," he explained in "The Thrive Diet," where you can find even more recipes and ideas for both post exercise snacks and heartier recovery meals.

"... Once an hour has passed since eating your post-exercise snack, it's time for a complete, nutrient-rich meal. Ideally this meal will consist of high-quality, easily digestible raw protein such as hemp, omega-3 fatty acids (also from hemp and flaxseed), and vitamins and minerals from natural whole-food sources."

As for his day as a whole, Brendan said he gets most of his carbohydrates in the morning from fruit. He also consumes pseudograins, which are actually seeds, although often referred to as "grains." For instance, sprouted buckwheat can be found in a variety of his recipes and even in that Vibrancy bar I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Later in the evening, he eats more veggies. "I have a big salad for dinner, usually with avocado or sprouts," he said.


Shaking it Vega-style

Did you know Vega's shake formula is based on one Brendan has been whipping up in his own kitchen for years? Thank goodness he did a lot of the testing himself before making it public.

"It evolved quite a bit over the years," he said. "... I just started putting prime sources of these things (the protein, vitamin B-12, iron, calcium and omega fatty acids, mentioned earlier in this post) into a blender. At first, it didn't taste too good at all."

He experimented with soy, until he did some more research. Then, he switched to hemp, added pea protein, rice protein, etc., eventually ending up with a complete broad spectrum plant-based protein blend, now referred to as "ProVega."

In 2004, he partnered with Charles Chang of Sequels Naturals, and soon after, Vega was born.

According to the Sequels Naturals site, "After a year of product formulation and testing, Vega is a replica of Brendan's favorite shake. All the ingredients in Vega were chosen by Brendan to work synergistically to nourish the body and reduce nutritional stress. And now Brendan doesn't have to lug his old blender with him when he travels anymore."

And, neither do the rest of us, as it is becoming more widely available throughout both Canada and the United States (It's finally in my area Whole Foods. Hurray!) Although Vega was formulated for the vegetarian/vegan athlete, people consuming it are also comprised of just busy health conscious people of all walks of life.

He really does "Thrive" on these recipes

When I asked Brendan if he really is responsible for all those "Thrive" recipes in his books, his response was, "Actually I came up with all the recipes over the years. It took a long time compiling them," referring to his 15 years of experimenting in his own kitchen.

"I really like the energy bars," he said. "I have them on a regular bases ..." although he usually has the pre-made Vega kind, known as the Whole Food Energy Bars. The recipes are in the books, but you can buy them, too.

He also really enjoys the pizzas from the book, which are really easy to make. "The crusts usually have about three ingredients you just blend up in a food processor and spread it out. Put a little marinara (also from the book) and some veggies on top, and bake in the oven," he explained, adding that they can even be prepared in a dehydrator for a raw version.

"These pizzas are different in that the crust is where the protein is," he said.

My personal favorite is the one with the beet and sunflower seed crust. Lucky for all you readers, he is allowing me to share this recipe with you:


Sunflower Seed Beet Pizza
The crust of this pizza is lighter tasting, with a distinct beet flavor. Beets are alkaline-forming, so this is a good one to make when your stress level is high.

Crust
2 cups ground sunflower seeds
1 cup grated beet
1/4 cup coconut oil, hemp oil or EFA Blend
1/2 tsp. parsley
sea salt, to taste

Topping

1 tomato, sliced
1/2 Spanish onion, diced
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (skip this step if using a dehydrator). In a food processor, process all crust ingredients until the mixture starts to ball up. Lightly oil the baking tray with coconut oil. Spread the mixture on the tray to about 1/4-inch thick (it can be thicker or thinner if you prefer).

Spread Spicy Sun-Dried Tomato Marinara Sauce (1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, 1 clove garlic, 1 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup grated cucumber, 3 Tbsp. hemp oil, 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. rosemary, 1/4 tsp. thyme and sea salt to taste) or Sweet Pepper Hemp Pesto (process together 2 cloves garlic, 2 red peppers, cored and seeded, 1/2 cup fresh basil, 3 Tbsp, nutritional yeast ground with sesame seeds, 2 Tbsp. hemp seeds, 2 Tbsp. hemp oil and sea salt to taste) on crust; add topping.


Bake for 45 minutes (This will vary slightly depending on the moisture content of the vegetables and the desired crispness of the pizza) or use a dehydrator instead.

There are other meal ideas in the books, as well as sports drinks, smoothies, energy gels, puddings and bars, and some of these recipes are updated from one book to the next.
"The recipes keep evolving; as I learn more, I experiment more," he said.

For example, salba (a variety of white chia) is used quite frequently in his "Thrive Fitness" book. Brendan mentioned using it in his energy gels, which also contain coconut oil and dates. "Coconut oil is a great source of energy," he said.

Eating and exercising
on the road


"I'm actually pretty fortunate since my work has me going to health food stores. I'm around a lot of good food," said Brendan, who is lucky to have access to fresh fruits and veggies while on the road. He usually manages to find a good salad, and of course, he always travels with his Vega products.

As for exercise, "I find it quite easy; I just get up early and go for a run," he said, adding that he also tries to get to a gym when he can. "Running is good everywhere ... In a hotel, I might run the stairs; it really gets you fit."

Thrive diet/fitness
not just for athletes


Obviously, I'm not a professional athlete, and perhaps you (who's reading this now) are not either. Can the rest of us still benefit from the "Thrive" approach to diet and fitness?

"Well, it's about getting healthy," Brendan said, adding that it can help you reach your ideal body weight, improve your sleep patterns, deal with stress better, etc.

"I don't follow meal plans, as I don't like that much structure," he said, but for those who need it, he provides sample menus and workout plans in his books. These are just guidelines that can be adjusted to suit your lifestyle and needs.

"Just don't try everything at once," he advised, as your body may need time get through the transition period, based on your current lifestyle. You don't want to dive into a regime of three whole plant-based meals a day, if you are not used to eating this way. You might want to just start with one a day, and then go from there.

"Change is stress. Even positive change is stress," he said.
"This should be enjoyable. You never want to force yourself to do something."

Raw cupcakes?

Can you believe Brendan was not in on my raw cupcake craze? I had to tell him what was in them (no surprise there, ha ha), before he could comment about whether or not he'd consider indulging in one. Then, I asked him if they'd be okay as part of my diet/fitness plan.

"For sure, agave and dates are good sources for fuel," he replied. "The nuts are fine, too, before a workout, as long as (the cupcakes) are not too (nut-)heavy."

So, does he give into his cravings, too?

"I eat whatever I want. I just really enjoy healthy food.," he said. "I don't force myself to eat this way."

The same can be true for the rest of us, too. If you start just by adding whole foods to your diet everyday, "your palate will change. Overprocessed food won't taste as good anymore," he said.

If you still need some encouragement, here is one of my favorite recipes from Brendan's "Thrive Fitness" book. It is meant to be a bar, but I, of course, formed it into a cupcake shape, topping it with lemon zest "sprinkles" and a small strawberry on top. If you like this one, consider picking up a copy of the book to test out more of his bar recipes.



Carob Strawberry Energy Bar
From "Thrive Fitness" by Brendan Brazier

1 cup fresh dates (or substitute soaked dried dates)
1/4 cup raw carob powder (or substitute roasted carob powder)
1/4 cup hemp protein
1/4 cup salba
1/4 cup strawberries
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
seas salt, to taste
1/2 cup sprouted buckwheat (or substitute cooked) (optional)
1/2 cup frozen srawberries

Process everything except buckwheat and frozen strawberries in a food processor. After processing, work in buckwheat and frozen strawberries with your hands, then shape and cut into bars (I, of course, like to make cupcakes out of mine).

Vegan footwear

So does this vegan athlete continue being animal-free when it comes to his feet? Does he wear vegan shoes?

"I actually do," Brendan said. "My shoes are from a company called Mizuno ... Vegan Essentials also sells good vegan shoes, and then there's Moo Shoes in New York."

I asked him about running barefoot and a particular product worn to protect the feet in the process (I'll probably mention more about it in a future post). He had never used this product himself, but had heard some good reviews from other people.

Being flatfooted, as well as still dealing with the aftereffects of a foot injury, I'm always looking for advice on what to wear on my feet and tips to make getting back into running safer/easier for me.

Brendan said he's been pretty fortunate to avoid any injuries that would require him to used a particular shoe, although he's known other runners that have switched to alternate footwear and felt better. "I think if there is a problem, find an alternative. If not, stick with it," he said.

On another note, he advised that I check with a physiologist about how to safely train with my post-injuries, although gave me hope for getting back into my running shoes.

"Exercise helps pump blood through the body. It can actually speed healing," he said. "It is really important to remain active to speed recovery."

However, everyone's injuries are a little different, so definitely consult with your doctor first.


Future plans

Before my phone died, Brendan started telling me about his new book in the works that will focus on food issues. It will look at how we use resources, such as oil, land and water, to create food, and why it makes sense to eat foods that are less resource intensive.

I wish I could've heard more, as this book sounded like an excellent read. I also would've liked to hear more about his future projects, not to mention get a chance to thank him again for his time (Thank you so much Brendan).

If you'd like to learn more, check out Brendan's website, Sequel's Naturals Vega site, join the Vega Community or sign up for Thrive in 30.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I take the cake!

If you've been reading my blog since I first started revealing my raw cupcake creations, you may recall the excitement I had the first time I was mentioned on the Cupcakes Take The Cake blog (you know I'm a big fan). Although I made the pages a couple times after that, today I really "took the cake." Check it out.

The lovely ladies were kind enough to announce the sale of my e-book, so I gave them the go ahead to share one of the recipes. They even showed off my shirts. They are so sweet; no wonder they are all about cupcakes. Love them. Thanks :-)


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Introducing my raw cupcake e-book :-)


You asked for it, so here we go. After hiding out on my computer for some time now (did any of you notice it hanging out unannounced on my sidebar last night?), my personal raw cupcake e-book has finally gained the confidence to reveal itself to the public. I'm happy to introduce it to you, as it is aptly named, "The Little Rawdorable Cupcake Book That Could."

I explained the title in the book saying,
"you're probably not surprised that I'm comparing my e-book journey to the tale of 'The Little Engine That Could' (you know; the tiny train who said, 'I think I can; I think I can'). It has been a long time coming, but with a little encouragement, it's finally completed just for you.

" 'You' refers to my loyal readers, who never stopped believing in and supporting me through this process ..."

For this, I thank all of you, as stated on the final page, along with my virtual autograph (an idea I got from Girl on Raw by her request). As usual, I just had to keep it real.

You'll notice that this raw cupcake manual has me written all over it. Since I did it myself (instead of going with a big time book deal), I was able to do it on my terms, with my designs, photos, etc. Although I'll admit that I'm not the most experienced computer chic, I somehow managed to lay out each and every page in a fun, Rawdorable way.

For a long time now, I imagined that this book would have a scrapbook-inspired design, similar to the cut and paste ones I have around my house (I am a traditional crafting kind of gal, so if I could, I would've had a blast making a bunch of hard copies by hand). Therefore, I just had to go with the old school composition book cover splashed with a collage of raw cupcake photos all over the front. I even used lined paper as the backdrop on the pages.

So, what else will you find on those 30-plus pages?

Well, most of the recipes are ones buried throughout this site, but now you can find them all in one convenient place (and you know how I'm liking convenient stuff at the moment). I've also revamped a few and added new photos. To top it all off, there are some more unposted recipes, my favorites being the Devil's Food Cupcake versus the My Little Angel Cupcake (my take on a mini raw angel food cake, seen in this pic).

It may not be the most professional publication, but it is definitely drool-worthy, as it is packed with raw cupcake photos. That alone is worth the purchase price.

To keep this blog afloat, I need to make at least a little income from home. If not this, then I'll have to find another option (which would mean blogging less, if at all anymore). With that in mind, consider your e-book purchase a donation to all the good times you've had reading this blog, revisiting memorable posts and looking forward to the next read. Receiving the e-book is just a bonus (now I sound like I'm doing a public television telethon or something).


$12.95



Anyway, I'm not the "salesy" type, so I'll just say it. With a $12.95 donation to this site, you'll receive the newest addition to our family (I'll do my best to e-mail it out within 24 hours of receiving payment, since I have yet to select a service to do it automatically; I guess I'm just having some trouble letting go).

I'm a bit overprotective of this one (as I am with my kids), so treat it as your own. Please keep any harsh critiques to yourself, as it took a lot to convince this e-book to go out into the world. It's still a work in progress (meaning that's probably not all you'll see of my cupcake unbaking; don't be surprised if I post more raw cupcakes in the future). Check back from time to time for more inspiring ideas.


Thanks for your warm thoughts and continued support :-)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A "Raw Revolution"-ary idea


I have a confession to make. Remember the slice of pie I posted the other day? Well, it was somewhat easier to make than I led you to believe. It's true that I got the idea to whip one up after viewing the DVD, but I didn't actually use their crust recipe (although if I had the time, it would've been my first choice).

As a busy mom on two (a 7-year-old and a just turned 7-month-old, who's a bit of a handful at the moment), I sometimes have no other choice but to cut a few corners. Although I have a reputation for mainly posting raw recipes from scratch, lately I've been more open to the use of convenience products, doing a "semi-homemade" thing like a raw Sandra Lee.

Now, I don't live right next to a Whole Foods or other health food store, so I get even more excited by any raw convenience food available in my local grocery store. Its small selection of Raw Revolution bars (I think they only carry 3 or 4 flavors) have kept me on the raw track in a pinch, as they are easy to find when hunger strikes while I'm out and about.

Curious about the other flavor options (specifically the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough I've heard so much about), I contacted the company (Raw Indulgence) to see if I could try some more. I have to say that I was truly impressed with its quick and polite response. To top it all off, I was even more surprised with the generous number of full-size samples in the box sent to me (Thanks Raw Indulgence!).

There were two of every flavor, except for only one Apple Cinnamon Organic Greens Super Food Bar and five of the Tropical Mango (I think it is because its about the same size as the apple cinnamon and the cookie dough that was absent from the box; but, I'm not complaining, as they really did send a lot).

Lucky for my readers, I opted to save one of each flavor (except for the apple cinnamon, since there was just one; I really need my greens) for a giveaway. I thought I'd pick two winners, one gets the chocolate flavors, while the other gets the chocolate-free.

The chocolate flavors include Hazelnut & Chocolate (I need to ask my grocer to add this one), Chocolate & Cashew, Chocolate & Coconut, and Raisin & Chocolate. If you like chocolate, post that you do for one entry and mention/link this post on your blog for entry No. 2.

As for you chocolate-free fans (or if you just want to try a break from the chocolaty stuff), tell me you want yours cocoa-free for entry No. 1 and link to this post to increase your chances of winning (don't forget to add a separate comment for the extra entry). Flavors include Cashew & Agave Nectar, Spirulina & Cashew (I'm a big fan of anything with spirulina), Coconut & Agave Nectar, and of course, Tropical Mango.

Since I had some extra Tropical Mango bars, I decided to dress one up a bit. Raw convenience foods are even better when you give them your personal touch. So, it's no surprise to see mine formed into a cupcake shape, using a reusable silicone cupcake liner/mold. It is topped with a mound of mango and some coconut flakes to complete the look.

Unfortunately, although it looked like a cupcake, it was too moist to replicate the crumb-like texture I strive to achieve in my usual raw cupcake recipes. With that in mind, I recommended opting for the chocolate flavors when forming your "semi-rawmade" cupcakes. The cocoa in them helps to absorb some of the oil from the nuts in the bars. I also advise using a fork to break apart the bar before gently reforming it into a flakier (yet still rather dense like a brownie) "cake."

Both the cocoa-based and chocolate-free flavors also work well for forming pie/tart crusts, like I mentioned at the beginning of this post. For example, the apple pie slice pictured at the top, is actually comprised of a Cashew & Agave Nectar bar, molded to hold an apple, date paste (I had some on hand from making my own raw cupcake recipes) and pie spice filling. I reserved some excess bar pieces to form the crosshatch pattern on top and garnished it with more apple pieces.

So if you're interested in getting your hands on some of these bars, pick some up at a store near you, and/or enter this giveaway (the directions already stated in this post) by Tuesday, March 30, 2010. I'll pick two winners (one for the chocolate and one for the chocolate-free flavors) on Wednesday, March 31, 2010. Good luck everyone :-)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hosting a raw Country BBQ is as easy as pie


Ever think about hosting a raw vegan barbecue? Although most people wouldn't think of putting "raw vegan" and "barbecue" in the same sentence, Jackie and Gideon Graff of "The Sprout Cafe" make preparing food for the event easy as pie, like this slice I whipped up after viewing their DVD (Thank you Natural Zing for sending a copy my way, check out the yummy pie recipes Jeff and Helen posted back in November, if you missed it).

Apple Pie with Nut and Date Pie Crust is actually one of the recipes they demonstrate in "Uncooking with Jackie & Gideon: Country Barbecue." They show just how simple "unbaking" your own pie can be, even giving substitutions and tips for making it look more like the traditional version. It is the perfect ending to their hearty menu.

That's right; this is one hearty buffet, full of Barbecue Nibs with Barbecue Sauce (it's a little spooky how they doctor up the nibs up to give them the look of "ribs"), Brunswick Stew (which also contains their barbecue sauce; I love it when recipes build off of one another), Squash Casserole (they sprinkle a certain ingredient on top to give it a "cooked" appearance) and the most decadent raw corn bread I've ever seen (it contains heavy "cream," whipped up out of raw macadamia nuts).

The corn bread, like many of their dishes, is made by "rawifying" (a term I use for turning a traditional cooked dish into a raw version) the original recipe. This is my favorite approach to raw "uncooking," as it makes you feel like you're preparing what you already know and love; it keeps the memories alive.

For example, to round out the menu, Jackie and Gideon also serve up a Green Salad with Ranch Dressing (what's a country barbecue without Ranch dressing?), Spicy Marinated Herb and Greens (my favorite; I like the texture of the very thinly sliced and marinated collards, which almost look like noodles. I even used this technique to top the olive dish featured in my post about Natural Zing), Cole Slaw, Avotato Salad (this is some rich stuff) and Corn on the Cob.

The best part of the DVD is how real it is; it's like you are right there with their live audience, sipping on freshly made Lemonade out of mason jars and enjoying the Deviled Tomato appetizers. The couple doesn't edit out the accidental additions to the blender that need to be fished out or the moments they don't agree about what goes in where and when; these are the takes that brought a smile to my face. It was really fun to watch.

The only criticism I have, if you can call it that, is concerning their excessive use of macadamia nuts, which can be pricey. During the Q&A session at the end of the DVD, one of the audience members asked the same thing. Jackie and Gideon responded with a nut substitution, but also reminded everyone that this menu is for a big event to impress your guests with your raw food know how. Feel free to go all out on this one or just offer up the dishes you like best. This is a menu worth celebrating. Check it out :-)


*****

After making the slice of raw pie, I was surprised I didn't make it in raw cupcake form, as I am prepping to release my raw cupcake e-book. To get you in the cupcake mood, here is a blast from the past, a photo of my Gingerbread Apple Tart Cupcake (sorry that it is a bit blurry, as it was taken a while back with my son's camera). Enjoy!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Time for the big reveal


Oops. That's not what I meant. Quick, cover your eyes, kiddies. They shouldn't be seeing a "naked" cupcake. This photo wasn't supposed to be made public. Ha ha.

If you read yesterday's post, you might recognize the Kookie Karma-inspired cupcake with its "clothes" off, but please don't go sharing it all over the Internet without its dressed up top. You can find the recipe here on Juli Novotny's Pure Mamas blog.

Speaking of raw cupcakes, I was so excited to receive a package in the mail, containing one of my "Dreaming of Raw Cupcakes" designs. My hubby thought I should own one of the shirts, if I was going to be selling them.

Of course, I tried it on and snapped a quick pic (sorry for the lack of professional photography, as I took this one myself; I'm also apologizing to my hubby for posting yet another one of me without hair and makeup. I guess that means I'm going "naked," too). It fits perfectly, but I will give everyone a heads up that they do run small (mine was printed on an American Apparel shirt, so if you are familiar with the company, you know how most of their merchandise is cut snug).

I also wanted to inform my readers that the shirts are available in both organic and standard cotton versions. All organic would be amazing, but also more expensive. I left the option up to you.

Now, finally on to the real big reveal. I bet you're wondering who won the contests. Since Hayden drew the winners, I'll show you in the following photos:

First up, she draws the winner of Joanna Steven and Tonya Kay's “Raw Analysis II: Spring Athlete Diet.”

She carefully separates her handful, narrowing it down to one.

She gives the slip her lick of approval, so let's see who it could be:

She fought me for it, but Kaysie won! Congrats :-)

Onto the next one, she dives in for a Natural Zing Peruvian Sundried Salt-Free Olive winner.

She samples her selection ...

Thinks about going back for more ...

It's good!

Hayden, get out of that bowl; the winning name is already on your lap. But, what does it say?

mgonyeo, you have some olives coming your way! Congrats to you, too :-)

Thanks to everyone for playing :-)