Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In the kitchen with Evie

Yes, I know that my usual raw kitchen assistant's name is Hayden (who is still here with me today), but the two of us (Hayden and I) are showing off a recipe we made from the book, "Evie's Kitchen: Raising an Ecstatic Child," by Evie's mother Shazzie.

I have wanted this book for so long that I can't believe I hadn't picked one up myself (oh, that's right; it's from the U.K., which means it's not just sitting on your average U.S. bookstore shelf). Luckily, I scored a copy from Joanna Steven's blog (you may recall the interview I posted with her on my site a while back). Thanks so much Joanna; you have no idea how happy I am to get this.

First of all, I have been thoroughly entertained by all the info provided in the beginning of this book (don't you love it when the text is just as good as the recipes), presented in Shazzie's own Shazzilistic way (yes, I just made that word up; if you're not familiar with her, check out her website and you'll see why it makes sense). She invites you into her and Evie's world, sharing photo by beautiful photo (she really is raising an adorably glowing child), stories and memories.

Shazzie recognizes that what works for Evie may not be a one-size fits all approach. Don't let your child be a science experiment; instead, make sure you do your best to feed them healthy food, provide them with the nutrients they need and know when to seek assistance if you feel your child is lacking in something.

However, if your child is blessed with the mature palate and an abundant access to nutritious and ecstatic (Shazzie explains what this means in the book) foods like Evie, he or she will most likely fare well eating this way. Yes, there are the usual kid-friendly snacks, smoothies and desserts with cute names (Hayden loves the Zebras and wants to make Evie's Oompa Loompa Cake), but the book is also packed with recipes to entice the taste buds of a more experienced raw foodie (I guess you could call Evie an experience raw foodie, as she has actually been raised on raw foods since before birth), like Russell Brand's Hair Fell on My Plate.

The photos are bright and practically pop off the page. With Halloween almost here, it's no surprise that we had our eyes on the Halloween Howlers, but in the end, opted to quickly blend up a simple mango pudding from the book (okay, maybe it's not as simple as Hayden's mango puree, but it's still easy to just toss all the ingredients in and blend).

To jazz up our puddings for the holiday, we dressed them up to look like Jack-O-Lantern faces. They were almost too cute to eat (although I tasted mine in our video, and Hayden only admired it long enough for me to shut off the camera; then, hers was gone, too. Yum!).

You could do the same thing with your favorite raw pudding, but I advise garnishing with actual ingredients in your pudding, like we did with the mango and hemp seeds.

Thanks again Joanna for sending me this amazing book. I can totally see you raising your cutie pie (her son is a handsome little guy; love the guitar pic) on these recipes, too :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hayden, oh Hayden, let down your hair

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have caught me tweeting about what (make that who) Hayden is going to be for Halloween. She looked so cute playing in her costume that I decided to snap these quick preview pics for you.

So, who do you think she is? I think the hair (and the title of this post) kind of give it away.

I've been wanting her to be Rapunzel for Halloween since around Christmas time last year. I saw the wig in a toy catalog, and just had to find an excuse to get it for her.

You may recall that she didn't have much hair leading up to that point, which makes it even cuter to see her with golden locks down to her feet (the wig actually goes all the way to the ground; I might have to braid it to prevent her from tripping on it). She also thinks it is fun to match her dollie.

Rapunzel was also my favorite fairy tale growing up, so I guess she was bound to be the pretty princess at some point (you have no idea how excited I was when Disney finally made a Rapunzel movie).

Anyway, I just wanted to share my little princess with you. What is everyone else going to be for Halloween? I need to come up with something for myself, as I'm participating in a Trunk-or-Treat (although I'm planning on giving out something other than candy; maybe something with a Halloween theme).

For those of you looking for food in this post, here's what I'm having for dinner. It's just a simple salad with mixed greens, romaine, shredded cabbage and carrot, mushrooms, snow peas, red bell pepper, apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic and sesame seeds. Spicy!

Have a good evening!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Creating Healthy Children"

Don't worry mom; I'm not getting into the specifics as to how my hubby and I "created" my little masterpieces (this is a kid-friendly site). Instead, I'll be reviewing a book about how to raise happy, healthy children, entitled "Creating Healthy Children Through Attachment Parenting and Raw Foods," by Karen Ranzi.

Part of raising happy, healthy children includes giving them the love and attention they deserve, which is why it took me a bit longer than expected to get through the 400-plus pages of this amazing book. It's obviously not due to lack of interest in the subject (believe me; I enjoyed reading this one when I had the chance), but because I sometimes have trouble finding a moment to sit and read something that's not geared toward a younger audience (no wonder Hayden and Jacob are usually involved in my blogging, and when we read together, it's most likely Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, etc. Jacob reads above grade level books independently).

I'd assume that Karen Ranzi (who so generously sent me her book to review. Thank you!) would totally understand, as attachment parenting has been so important in raising her own children. She writes about how she would make herself available to them, eventually opting to homeschool, although that's jumping to the middle 0f the book.

Ranzi addresses just about every topic on the path to creating healthy children, starting not only with the mother's lifestyle, but the father's as well. She talks about consuming a healthy diet (raw food being the optimum choice) and taking the time to detox prior to conception (water fasting is discussed).

Other topics include how to ensure all nutritional needs are met on a raw food diet (why to eat fresh, local and organic, whether or not to supplement, food combining, etc.), exercise, home births, her views on circumcision, skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, homeschooling, the truth about vaccines and more, all the while sharing her own personal story with you. By the end, you really feel like you've grown to know and love her beautiful family, and have been inspired by their natural lifestyle.

Her book is backed by and full of research from highly respected experts and well-known members of the raw food community. If you've ever doubted this lifestyle or found it difficult to explain your choices to others, this book is definitely for you.

I, myself, have had issues defending my dietary choices to friends and family. Armed with the information in this book, I feel more confident in my decision to eat raw foods.

Speaking of raw food, there is a recipe section in the middle of the book which provides kid-tested/-approved food ideas for the whole family. Some are Karen's personal family recipes, while others were contributed by raw foodies like Rhio, Nomi Shannon, Cherie Soria, Brigitte Mars and more. Even recipes by her own children are featured inside, such as Marco's Strawberry Splash (Hayden enjoys this smoothie with a handful of greens tossed in, as well as Marco's Banana Splits with Strawberry Sauce pictured at right), Gabriela's Stuffed Tomato (apparently, it was her specialty as a young child, but continues to be a favorite; I'm a fan of this one) and B.A.T. (a dish created by both Marco and Gabriela; you'll have to check out the book to see what it is).

My kids and I have enjoyed testing out these recipes in our raw kitchen, so today, Hayden and I decided to show you a couple of her favorites from the book (maybe one day, her own recipes will be published, as well, like her NB&J Salad and Peach Banilla N'ice Cream Cupcake). She loves to have a "Rise and Sun Shine" in the morning (Jean Oswald's contribution to this book and "The Health Seeker's Yearbook." The dish is pictured at the top of this post; we added a smile that can be seen more clearly and intact in the second photo of it), even if the sun isn't shining (it's been raining all day, which explains the terrible lighting in our video and photos).

She also likes traditional Ants-on-a-Log (Karen didn't forget to include this kid-friendly favorite; even non-raw foodies consider this a staple in their house) and Marco's Banana Splits with Strawberry Sauce.

His banana split is so much simpler and easier to make than the one I entered in the Hot Raw Chef 5 in 5 contest. Hayden likes to turn Marco's recipe into a hand-held version by placing some of it in a Romaine leaf, referring to it as a banana dog. You may recall me making these for my son and I a few years ago on this blog (above is a photo of our usual banana dog with pear "fries," while below is a pic of the split served in a similar fashion), as a raw way to celebrate the end of tax season with my accountant father (you'd have to read the post to understand the significance).

Hayden especially likes to serve her banana dogs with nut butter in a Romaine leaf (sounds a lot like her NB&J salad in another format, with bananas in place of the fresh concord jelly), but back to the book review.

My favorite part of the book is the collection of stories from other families with similar lifestyles. Some of the people profiled may already be familiar to you, while others you'll be glad to have finally met. Whether they are living the ultimate natural lifestyle in a tropical setting, growing their own food, bathing in pure rainwater, etc., or just extending their gratitude to Karen for introducing them to raw foods, you'll be sure to relate to at least one of them.

It's no surprise that it took Karen about 7 years to put all these stories, research and other information together into a very impressive book. It is worth the read.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Halloween Treats

When I was little, I watched "The Incredible Shrinking Woman," which was the inspiration for this title (she shrunk due to testing out an experimental perfume; now that's a warning to be careful with what you put on your body). Lily Tomlin just cracked me up in it, as well as in "9 to 5," another of my favorite flicks back then.

To this day, I still think of the part (in "9 to 5") when she's running and pushing what she thinks is her boss's dead body on a stretcher through the hospital, every time I'm making a quick grocery run (okay, so it's not a hospital, nor is there a dead body involved, but you should see me push that cart through the store in a rush). I also picture her dressed like "Snow White," and later confessing she "thought it was Skinny & Sweet" that she put in Mr. Hart's coffee (I guess you'd have to see it to know what I mean).

Well, I assure you there are no poison apples in this post, but they are tempting. I tested out Family Fun Magazine's idea to make mini caramel apples by using a melon baller to scoop the apple into the perfect round bite-size shapes. I quickly dipped mine in some raw nut butter and rolled them in chopped raw chocolate (any raw chocolate bar will do) and nuts. You could also make a raw caramel out of date paste, nut butter, pure maple syrup and vanilla, like I've posted about in a full-size version (or just date paste, if you make it out of good quality caramel-tasting dates).

To add interest, I garnished my mini nut butter apples with a tiny baby spinach leaf, to look like a fresh apple leaf. I even continued the trend with my other two mini treats.

You may also recall the raw version of "dirt & worms," I made on my site a few years ago. If not, let me refresh your memory.

Basically, "dirt & worms" is a kid (and kid at heart) treat made out of cake and pudding, to represent "dirt." Then, gummy worms, candy bugs, edible plants (herbs or greens; mint is used a lot), etc. complete the look.

I usually whip up a raw avocado-based chocolate pudding and sprinkle raw "cake" crumbs (leftovers from making raw cupcakes, crumbled up Larabars, etc.) over the top. Then, I add dried fruits (cut and shaped like worms), a cinnamon stick stem, spinach leaves and set it in a pot to really make it appear authentic.

To make a mini version, simply make mini raw chocolate cupcakes with a hallowed out well to fill with the raw chocolate pudding of your liking. Sprinkle some cupcake crumbs over the top and garnish with a goji berry "worm" (stick about four goji berries together and form it into a worm shape) and some tiny baby spinach leaves.

If you really want to jazz these mini "dirt & worms" up, try serving them in teeny tiny flower pots. So cute :-)

To complete the tiny trio of treats, I made a raw version of a smiling popcorn ball or rice crispy pumpkin.

Instead of popcorn, I substituted a raw cereal, much like in these treats I posted about on the Natural Zing blog (I used to blog for their site when I had more time; you can find more of my 2010 posts for them there). I had some leftover raw whipped icing (from making these Halloween cupcakes and these Star Wars ones, too), so I dyed it orange with a little carrot juice and mixed it in the raw cereal (you could use a premade raw cereal or your own; even plain soaked/sprouted/dehydrated buckwheat will do) to bind it together.

The sticky treats were then formed into mini pumpkin shapes and decorated with chopped raw chocolate (I was out of cacao nibs) to create a smiling face. Then, I placed a mini baby spinach leaf on top to add some color and tie it in with the other two minis. I also let them set in the fridge to help firm them up a bit.

All three treats can be served on toothpicks, but be careful to remove them before serving to a small child. Happy early Halloween. What are your raw treat plans?


On another note
Like I said in the beginning of the post, I think it is important to be careful with what you put on your body. There are plenty of natural options on the market now that still let you be a girlie girl (or properly pampered guy).

Of course, you know I'm a huge 100% Pure fan. In fact, I just ordered some more products from the company yesterday, including that naturally-scented, kid-friendly gift set I mentioned in my 100% Pure post. I had hoped to get the strawberry ice cream one, but it was sold out (I guess you all beat me to it). We got the chocolate mint ice cream scent instead (still a yummy smelling choice).

I also opted to test out Carol Alt's Raw Essentials line (I've been very curious about this line, because it contains raw ingredients ... and because Carol looks amazing), purchasing the basic products in a set via OpenSky. I just got them a couple days ago, and I must say, I am loving them so far. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to post more about them soon (they smell really good, too).

Monday, October 10, 2011

"The Monster Mash"-up

As I was making the raw vegan cupcakes in this post, I was amazed at how they "mashed up," making me think of my youngest sister. This may sound a bit weird, but it might make sense by the time you finish reading this post (or it least it makes sense to me).

It all started when I saw this yummy vegan cupcake post on Girlie Girl Army (you know it is one of my favorite sites). It was a recipe for Dracula's Bite Halloween Cupcakes from Lily Vanilli's "A Zombie Ate My Cupcake!" book. Inspired by its pomegranate vampire bite decoration, I decided to make a raw version with a unique twist.

Lily Vanilli's cupcake is a traditional red velvet with vegan cream cheese frosting and cherry sauce oozing out of the pomegranate bite marks. Obviously, that vampire had a true sweet tooth.

My vampire, on the other hand, got a taste of something unexpected. I combined the basic raw whipped icing with some of Alissa's Punk Rawk Labs Herb Nut Milk Cheese (on sale Nov. 1; until then, learn how to make your own by watching her demo, but be sure to order some already made for you - or a friend, as it would be a lovely hostess gift - during the busy holiday season) to add a savory note. It tastes surprisingly good atop a basic raw chocolate cupcake filled with date sweetened pomegranate seeds.

When I say surprisingly, it's because my youngest sister April discovered garlic isn't the most welcome flavor in pomegranate juice (maybe it's because she's a vampire; just kidding ... although she does like to stay up all night and sleep during the day sometimes).

A while back, she was hooked on pomegranates (Hayden likes to call them "Pom Poms;" so cute, but back to the story). She decided to make some fresh juice out of the seeds and, in a pinch, used a garlic press to do so. I still recall the look on her face when she took her first sip. She has no plans of doing that again, but I can't think about or see pomegranates without recalling that story.

The vampire cupcake is much tastier than her garlicky pomegranate juice. I wonder if she would think the same. She is deserving of a cupcake after what she did the other day.

After hearing the tale myself, I ran to pass it along to my hubby. "Did you know April has superhuman strength?," I asked him.

Matthew replied, "yes, she lifted a car off of someone."

"How did you know?," I responded.

"Lucky guess, because that's what people usually mean when they say someone has superhuman strength."

Now, you probably want to know the details, but I'll give you the summary instead. My sister's friend offered to teach her how to change the oil in her car. She wasn't feeling well that day, so she just watched him do it.

While her friend was under her car, it (the car) suddenly fell on him. She was shocked and horrified, as she saw her friend trapped and screaming for her help to get him out.

She screamed for help, too, as she tried to get him, but no one seemed to notice ... until after the unthinkable occurred. Between him pushing beneath the car and her attempting the lift the corner of it, they actually raised it enough for him to escape, all covered with blood and in pain.

That's when my sister's neighbors came to assist and call 911. Her friend was taken to shock trauma and various tests were run. Lucky for him, he only required some stitches (although he is still experiencing some pain, especially when he laughs). The doctor came out to shake my sister's hand, telling her that he (her friend) probably wouldn't have been so lucky if she wasn't there to help get the car off of him so fast (the pressure of the vehicle couldn't have injured him far worse or even killed him).

Sounds like my sister is a hero with the strength of a loving Frankenstein (I like to think he was a very caring monster). That's why this Franken-Chai Cupcake also reminds me of her (except she's not a monster, unless you count the fact that she's a Lady Gaga fan, a.k.a. "Little Monster").

Inspired by the Yoda cupcake in my last post, it is also chai-flavored with some Vega Vanilla Chai Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer and filled with a candy bar-like filling (perfect for Halloween, don't you think?). Then, there is that familiar green friendly monster face.

Speaking of faces (but not monster ones), my sister April looks a little like Alyson Hannigan, especially when her hair was dyed red. I was always a big "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fan, which brings us back to the vampire cupcake. Here's the recipe, followed by the recipe for the Franken-Chai Cupcake.

Chocolate Pomegranate Vampire Bite Cupcake
Inspired by Lily Vanilli's Dracula's Bite Halloween Cupcakes
  • 1/4 cup almonds, finely ground into a "flour"
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts (or more almonds), finely ground into a "flour"
  • 1-2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. date paste
  • 1/2 Tbsp. raw whipped icing (like I used in this recipe)
  • touch of vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt
  • *for filling/garnish: pomegranate seeds mixed with more date paste, to taste (make sure to mash some of the seeds to release their juices)
  • *raw whipped icing mixed with herb nut milk cheese, to taste (I like Punk Rawk Labs Herb Nut Milk Cheese, which goes on sale Nov. 1; until then, check out Alissa's raw cheese demo to learn how to make your own)
In a small bowl, combine the almond and hazelnut flours, cocoa powder and sea salt. Stir with a whisk.

Next, add 1 Tbsp. date paste, 1/2 Tbsp. raw whipped icing, and a touch of vanilla. Whisk to combine. The batter should be moist, but not so damp that it requires "baking" in the dehydrator (although you could if you desire).

Form the "batter" into a cupcake shape, using a reusable silicone cupcake liner or small ramekin. Scoop out the center of the "cake" and set it aside.

Fill the center with a combination of date paste and pomegranate seeds (make sure to mash some of the seeds to release the juices into the date paste). Form the aside "cake" into a disk and adhere it to the top of the cupcake to hide the filling.

Frost the top of the cupcake with a combination of herb nut milk cheese mixed with basic raw whipped icing to taste. Garnish with a drizzle of date paste mixed with pomegranate juice and two pomegranate seed "bite marks."

Franken-Chai Cupcake

In a small bowl, combine the almond, pistachio and pumpkin seed flours, Vega powder and sea salt. Stir with a whisk.

Next, add 1 Tbsp. date paste and a touch of vanilla. Whisk to combine. The batter should be moist, but not so damp that it requires "baking" in the dehydrator (although you could if you desire).

Form the "batter" into a cupcake shape, using a reusable silicone cupcake liner or small ramekin. Scoop out the center of the "cake" and set it aside.

Fill the center with a combination of date paste, nut butter, pure maple syrup and chopped pecans. Form the aside "cake" into a disk and adhere it to the top of the cupcake to hide the filling.

Frost the top of the cupcake with a combination basic raw whipped icing mixed with more of the Vega powder, to taste. Decorate it to look like a Frankenstein face using basic raw whipped icing, more of the icing mixed with the Vega powder, and a quick chocolate icing (pure maple syrup mixed with cocoa powder).

For Samantha's son
My blogging friend Samantha has a son who is allergic to a lot of things, especially dairy and nuts. I'm not sure if he can have seeds, but if he can, his mom could easily make the Franken-Chai Cupcake for him (as well as the Yoda cupcake from my Raw Star Wars Cupcakes post). All she has to do is substitute the almonds and pistachios for more pumpkin seeds, and maybe another seed, too (hemp seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds would do).

The pumpkin and hemp seeds would provide the green color, and wouldn't require the addition of the Vega powder, as long as chai spices, like cloves, ginger, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon, are added.

A seed butter, rather than a nut butter, could be used in the filling without the chopped pecans, or it could just be date paste made out of good quality "caramel"-tasting dates.

As for the frosting, a quick nut-free green version can be made out of an avocado blended until smooth with a couple dates, some vanilla and the same chai spices. For those of you whole are also nut-free, give this version a try and let me know how it turns out for you :-)

On another note
Just wanted to say Happy Vegan Mofo to all you Mofo-ers out there. I participated a couple years ago, but didn't think I would be able to keep up that kind of pace this year. Don't forget to check out those who have made the time to blog about all things vegan this month.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Raw Vegan Star Wars Cupcakes!

Yes, you read that right. I've been thinking about making them for a while, inspired by some baked ones I've seen online. My Twitter friend, Sarah Henning, pointed out these to me and hinted that I should make some raw Star Wars cupcakes.

How did she know we were such big Star Wars fans (my hubby probably wouldn't have married me, if I had no interest in the flicks)? Why hadn't I done this before?

I guess I just never had the opportunity, so last night, I vowed to change that. I whipped up some date paste and the basic raw whipped icing from my e-book (it's Cafe Gratitude's whipped icing from this book that I'm so grateful they allowed me to use; they have been so supportive of my blog), and dreamt up some flavor ideas while I slept.

Silly me thought that was all the preparation I needed, although I was anything but prepared this morning. I'm still amazed that they turned out as cute as they did. I just wished Darth Vader looked a little more like Vader (Jacob keeps teasing me about this one).

Oh well, at least we had fun making the video. Hayden and I rocked the Princess Leia look, while Jacob did the videotaping. You'll have to actually watch the video to see what costume he's wearing (he makes a brief appearance to battle Princess Hayden with carrot stick and celery lightsabers).

And now for a little more info about what's in these raw vegan cupcakes:

Princess Leia Cupcake
The base of this beauty is a girlie girl pink cupcake, much like the strawberry one Hayden and I made in this video/post. Just follow the recipe for our Rawdorable Strawberry Lemonade Cupcake (Hayden wanted cashews in this one), minus the lemon. Don't forget to hollow out the center and fill it with some of the basic whipped icing (Then cover it up with the "cake" you removed from the center).

The top is frosted with more basic whipped icing, and decorated with some quick chocolate icing eyes (cocoa powder mixed with pure maple syrup) and a strawberry heart mouth. The hair is piped out of more whipped icing blended with cocoa powder to create a light brown.

Stormtrooper Cupcake
The stormtrooper has a white cupcake base made out of 1/4 cup coconut flakes and 1/4 cashews finely ground into a "flour." It is then mixed (I like using a whisk to keep a light flaky texture) with about a Tablespoon of date paste (dates soaked and then blended into a paste), a touch of vanilla and a dash of sea salt.

The "cake" is filled with basic whipped icing, just as I did with the strawberry cupcake. It is then iced with more of the icing, and decorated with the same quick chocolate icing (cocoa powder mixed with pure maple syrup).

Darth Vader Cupcake
Darth Vader has to represent the dark side, so he had to be a chocolate cupcake, like the one I use as my German Chocolate Cupcake base (see recipe here). I spiced it up with some cinnamon and cayenne pepper, and hide some basic whipped icing and a cherry inside (a little like a black forest cake).

The top is frosted with the same chocolate frosting as in my Raw Neapolitan Brownies/Blondies. The details are piped on out of more of the basic whipped icing.

Yoda Cupcake
The flavor for the Yoda cupcake started with the color. I needed a "swampy" green shade for his face, which was made my mixing some Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer in Vanilla Chai (my favorite flavor) with more of the basic whipped icing. The greens in the Vega powder provided the perfect shade.

I also added more of the Vega powder to the cupcake base for some added chai flavor (although you could substitute some green powder and chai spices). It's filled with some raw caramel bar filling (I always thought Yoda snagged one of Luke's candy bars in the movie - I guess you have to see it to know what I mean -, so I mixed together some date paste, nut butter, pure maple syrup and chopped pecans to create a candy bar filling).

I opted to pipe the icing on top to look like yoda's wrinkled skin and used tiny romaine leaves as supports. The details were piped on with basic whipped icing (his eyes) and quick chocolate icing (cocoa powder mixed with pure maple syrup).

Just a quick note
You may have noticed that I didn't mention agave nectar in any of these recipes. As it seems that everyone is on the fence about using it these days, I, myself, rarely use it anymore. It is still listed in my old recipes and in my e-book, but I tend to eliminate or substitute it with other sweeteners. Feel free to do the same.

For example, I used date paste in the basic whipped icing this time in place of the agave. I also didn't add it to the cupcake bases.

To make the quick chocolate frosting, I substituted pure maple syrup for the agave, but you could also try date syrup (a runnier version of the date paste), yacon syrup, coconut nectar, etc. It's up to you. Use these recipes as inspiration and make what works for you :-)

BTW, as good as they are, raw cupcakes aren't meant to be eaten every day. Save them for special occasions, and take the time to really make them special!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Punk Rawk "Cheesiness"

Since I started this blog in 2007, I have made quite a number of blogging friends, including Alissa of PunkRawkLabs.net, who I met online back then. She has remained one of my favorite (if I can say that; it's like using that word with one of my kids or something, which of course, I know not to ever play favorites with them) bloggers and a true friend.

If you've never checked out her site, you really should. In the blog portion, she gets very personal and doesn't seem to hold anything back when it comes to her thoughts and her health issues. Then, there is also the lighter side of things with her videos (Hayden just loves the music in them and usually sings along) and raw food (you can purchase kale chips in the warmer months, up until Oct. 15, and nut milk cheese in the winter, starting online Nov. 1, although New Yorkers can pick some up at Live Live and Organic).

Recently, Alissa also celebrated a birthday, and instead of me sending her a gift, she sent one to me. Knowing that I had been dying to try her nut milk cheese (I wanted to buy some at the end of last season; it's been a long wait, but well worth it), she sent me a sample of the herb flavor (it also comes in plain and smoked), along with the nicest hand-written note (you know how I love hand-written notes) recommending I try it in her date appetizer recipe.

You, too, can find a video of the recipe on her site. Hayden and I made a video demonstration, as well. Hers is a bit more professional than ours, as she did attend Matthew Kenney Academy (and she didn't pick her nose, like Hayden did in our video. Yuck! Don't worry; Hayden won't be making them for any guests any time soon).

The sweet and savory appetizer really hit the spot and showcased the nut milk cheese beautifully. Alissa makes her cheese with probiotics to both balance out the sweet and to provide a more authentic cheese-like flavor. It is so worth it.

If you would like to try some yourself, Alissa should be selling it soon on her site. Make sure you place your order. Something tells me I'm going to want more of this :-)

Thank you, Alissa!