Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fun food fast

As promised, this is the first of a few posts about how I've used the contents of my care package to make fun fast food.

I started out by sampling Lydia's Organics Tropical Mango Bar and the new Cacao Crunch Bar. I really could've used these by themselves on Friday, as I spent the day going from one doctor's appointment to the next. However, I think I was able to enjoy them much more yesterday.

Unable to decide which to try first, I cut open both packages, dumped them out onto a cutting board and sliced them into squares, each yielding two even squares with a smaller rectangular shaped excess piece. The leftover rectangles were perfect for taste-testing on their own, so that's what I did.

The Cacao Crunch Bar was definitely my fave (no surprise, due to my love of all things chocolate). Its perfect mix of puffy sprouted buckwheat and quinoa, crunchy sprouted sunflower and sesame seeds, glued together and flavored by agave nectar, cacao powder, cinnamon and original Himalayan crystal salt, reminded me of the chocolate Rice Krispies Treats I ate as a child, but better. It had a more complex texture, wasn't overly sweet and had a spicy note in the background that makes one wonder, "hey, what is that?" (I believe it was the cinnamon, which is great for enhancing chocolate).

Now, how does one make this treat even more special? Well, I decided to turn it into a n'ice cream sandwich (they are all the rage this time of year; my friend Jenny and I have been indulging in this childhood snack all summer).

I made mine very simply, both to make things easier on myself, as well as to show you how to take your convenience raw foods up a notch while traveling or short on time. I filled it with a lucuma banana n'ice cream, whipped up in my mini food processor out of frozen banana, lucuma powder, vanilla and sea salt.

If you don't have a food processor with you on vacation, you can use a blender or just mash the mixture together with a fork. And, if you don't have access to a freezer either, then enjoy some sliced banana inside your cacao sandwich. It doesn't get any easier than that.

As for the Tropical Mango Bar, I had hoped to fill it with a pineapple, mango and coconut sorbet, but opted to use up the rest of the lucuma banana n'ice cream with the addition of some frozen mango and pineapple. The flavor was much more subtle, which complemented the bar beautifully.

The bar's ingredient list is short and sweet (bananas, coconut, mango and pineapple), which lend me to the assumption that its flavor would be just as sweet. However, to my surprise, the taste was not as strong as I had suspected; it was actually more like a granola bar should be (not like the sugar-laden heavily processed ones in the stores).

Speaking of granola bars, the texture reminded me of the Nature Valley ones I used to tote along with me. Great for eating on their own, I was concerned at how they would work for the outside of a n'ice cream sandwich. Luckily, once out of the freezer, I was still able to sink my teeth into my tropical treat. Delicious.

Again, if you don't have a lot of appliances on-the-go, you can always eat this bar like a cracker, topping it fresh fruit or even some sliced avocado (I love avoacdo with mango). As always, enjoy :-)

Reminder: Today is the last day to vote for the VegNews 2008 Veggie Awards. I was thinking about it last night as I ate Kristen Suzanne's winning raw food recipe: Raw Teriyaki Noodles. Yum! I can see (make that taste) how it won.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Care package

Lucky me, somebody was thinking of moi. Actually, it was just coincidental that it arrived when I returned home with my new footwear (I'm now styling the one boot look, like Michael Jackson and his sparkling white glove) and crutches, but I still consider it to be perfect timing.

There it was: a box addressed to yours truly from Lydia's Organics (you may remember the review I did recently of one of its newest additions). It was filled with some wonderful products that I'll be sharing with you soon.

Although I make a lot of my raw recipes myself, sometimes it is nice to have either part or all of a meal already made for you (especially when traveling or when you're not quite yourself, like I am right now). These convenience products are great in a pinch, for raw newbies just starting out, as a shortcut ingredient in your own creations or simply as a special treat.

Due to my current condition, I am very happy to have these around (I'm ecstatic right now). I am finding it to be a bit more difficult to maneuver around my kitchen, much less make anything in it. And since my hubby knows next to nothing about making a raw meal outside of cutting an apple or peeling a banana, I'm basically up a creek without a paddle.

I've already started tearing into these lifesavers, tasting them by themselves, as well as in other fun fashions. I'll explain more in my next post :-)

By the way, don't forget to vote for your raw favorites in the VegNews Veggie Awards. I think tomorrow is the last day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Shannon rocks!

And rolls her foot. Ouch!

When I went to pick up Jacob from the bus stop yesterday, I had a bit of an accident. You see, on my way out the door, I put on an old pair of high-heeled flip flops that had seen better days. The straps had been stretched out a little, so I paid the price for not tossing them out a long time ago.

The walk to his stop is all downhill, and I was in a bit of a hurry. I ran halfway, and then, I slowed down to a walking pace. That's when it happened; the bottom of one of my shoes turned to the side, causing my foot to twist and the rest of my body to go down with it.

There I was on the pavement, all scraped and bruised. One of the neighbors ran to help, so I asked that she leave me there for the moment and get my son off the bus safely.

While she made her way to the bus stop, I turned to see my husband coming up over the hill (he came home early from work and was going to meet Jacob and I when the bus arrived). Next thing I knew, everything went dark, the lights came back up and there was my hubby hovering above me, checking to see if I was okay.

I guess I had passed out from the trauma, while I was trying to access my own injuries. At that point, I was bleeding quite a bit near my pinkie toe, could feel the scrapes through my jeans (thank goodness I wasn't wearing shorts) and was having trouble moving my foot. But, after passing out, I had added a few more scrapes, as well as a bruised chin (I'm a mess).

Matthew had to go get the car to transport me back to the house. Of course, I am quite stubborn, so I spent most of the evening trying to do everything as usual. I was in a lot of pain (actually, I still am), but I still managed to hobble around a bit.

My foot is very bruised and swollen. Hopefully, I didn't make it worse. I guess we'll find out today, when I see a doctor. I think it needs to be x-rayed.

Anyway, enough about the foot. On the bright side, to make dinner easy last night, I made a ginormous (Rawbin and Blaq Berry, there's that word again) sandwich, using two huge portabello mushroom caps as the bread, and romaine lettuce leaves, a variety of heirloom tomato slices and avocado slices as the filling. This was served alongside some yellow bean fries (I love the idea of something that resembles fries even if they don't taste quite the same).

Dessert came from none other than NaturalZing. I had placed an order for some chocolate rocks (Jeff started the "Shannon Rocks" thing, hence the name of this post), raw cocoa powder and Gone Nuts maple walnuts, which were delivered not long after my fall. Also in the box were these UliMana Hemp Nib Brownies; they made for a perfect ending to this not-so-perfect day.


Since starting this post, I've been on a wild goose chase, trying to get my foot taken care of before the holiday weekend. I went to my doctor, who set me to the hospital for x-rays. Then, I went home, found out it is fractured and managed to get an appointment with an orthopedist today. You should check out my new footwear. Ha ha.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Steel Magnolias

Remember that movie with the amazing cast? Let's see, it included Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Julia Roberts. Oh yeah, there were also some men in supporting roles (Tom Skerritt, Sam Shephard and Dylan McDermott), but this is really a chick flick.

Dolly Parton's character, Truvy, owns a beauty salon, where the ladies spend a great deal of time getting their hair done, like for Shelby's wedding in the beginning ("Runaway Bride" star, Julia Roberts, actually makes it down the isle in this one), as well as chatting about the local gossip (usually involving each others happiness and heartbreak).

I would've blogged about who knows what on Tuesday, but I was having a "Steel Magnolia" moment of my own. You see, my youngest sister, who will be leaving for college this weekend, had us all lined up for haircuts before the big move (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that she cuts hair; my mom even set up an in-home beauty salon in her basement, also referred to as "Curl Up & Dye").

It was bittersweet to get together one last time for a girls' day, complete with hair cutting, styling, in my mom's case, coloring, and of course, tons of chitchatting. Even my grandfather got a turn, although I think he managed to block out most of the conversation.

I got my hair done first, but I stayed for a while just to visit. Since I hadn't planned on eating lunch there, I tied myself over with some farm fresh peaches from a nearby stand. Yum. They reminded me of the juicy ones my mom and I picked up at the farmers market in Ocean City, where we also purchased matching t-shirts as souvenirs (they make great beach cover-ups).

When I got home, I continued to reminisce about the beach with a salad I made a few times on vacation. You could barely see the lettuce sticking out beneath a nice pile of cucumbers, orange tomatoes, strawberries and blueberries. I just love that combination.

Still left with some berries (I don't know how I got so lucky), I decided to sprinkle them in between thick layers of raw chocolate pudding (something Lauren inspired me to whip up again after she requested some tried and true ideas for making one). I'm embarrassed to say I ate this for dinner that night, but that's the beauty of being raw; you can disguise a lot of nutrition in something that looks and tastes like dessert.

This pudding contains a banana, half an avocado, a small ripe pear, a spoonful of coconut butter, some cocoa powder, vanilla and sea salt. Gotta love it :-)

Monday, August 25, 2008

It is written ...

... in my most recent copy of Bay Weekly (I bet you were thinking "in the clouds" or something like that, due to my photo selection - I took it myself), some of the craziest horoscopes I've ever read. They were so out there, that I had to share. To start, here's mine:

Taurus (April 20-May 20): After studying your astrological omens, I closed my eyes and asked the spirits for a psychic vision that would symbolize your imminent future. The scenario that came up was a pair of toddlers dressed in fine purple satin garments and wearing golden hats. They looked like a prince and a princess and were wandering around inside a ritual circle about 10 yards in diameter, drawn with white chalk in a green meadow. Vases of cut flowers and statues of gods and goddesses ringed the circle. So what does this vision mean?

I was about ready to ask the same question. Huh?

Maybe this: Two magnificent possibilities have recently been born or will soon be born. You should cast a protective spell around them, letting them amble and dally within a proscribed area as their magic ripens.

I wonder what they could be. Any ideas?

Then, I cracked up laughing after reading my husband's sign:

Gemini (May 21-June 20): Some spas are now offering their clients "butt facials." The cost for smoothing and toning your skin in the lower realms can range up to $800 per session. At that steep price, I can't in good conscience mandate the procedure for you. But the astrological omens are favorable for you to take special care of the things at the bottom (ha, ha ... I get it) of your life, even if they are metaphorical in nature. So please brainstorm about how you could upgrade your ballast, strengthen your foundation and give your center of gravity a boost.

After reading that one aloud to my hubby, I couldn't stop snickering. My laughed turned into one of those silent ones, where you can barely breathe (tell me you know what I'm talking about). Tears rolled down my cheeks, and he began to worry.

"I'm okay," I finally was able to get out. "Want a butt facial?," and I was back to cracking up again.

I know; it's not that funny. I guess you had to be there. I need more sleep :-)

Anyway, lastly I'll share Jacob's horoscope, which actually related to his biggest obstacle at the moment (no, not the bouncing course from Bayfest, but something very similar). Here it goes:

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Michelangelo never finished two-thirds of the sculptures he started. Basketball mega-star Michael Jordan failed on 26 different occasions when he was given the ball to try the game-winning shot as time ran out. Of Bob Dylan's 57 albums, maybe only 15 of them are masterpieces. I bring this to your attention Sagittarius, in the hope that they will give you some perspective on the down times in your own track record.

You see, Jacob has been frustrated about trying to get across the monkey bars at school. He falls before he makes it to the other side. Rob Brezsny (the guy who writes these things) might be on to something. And so he continues:

More importantly, I want to let you know that in coming weeks you should have access to the kind of energy that Michelangelo, Jordan and Dylan had when they were creating their legends.

I hope this means Jacob will conquer the monkey bars soon. What do you think?

If you've managed to make it to the end of this post, you deserve a treat. Check out my latest idea on We Like It Raw. Thanks Dhru :-)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mine's better than yours :-)

Back to the beach again, we headed to our boardwalk to celebrate Bayfest, an annual event around here. Paw Paw, Grandma Terry, Jacob and I enjoyed a leisurely stroll down the street and alongside the various vendors, who were displaying their wares and serving up the standard boardwalk fare (good thing I ate lunch before we left).

Jacob was excited to make his way to the rides, which were mostly inflatable moon bounces, slides and obstacle courses. He had a blast until the fatigue set in, probably due to the excessive jumping, as well as his lack of sleep this week (he goes to school as early as the middle schoolers now).

Poor boy suffered a bit of a meltdown to say the least, but we still managed to hang out for a while to breathe in the fresh sea air, feel the sunshine on our skin (actually it was piping hot down there) and take in all that was happening around us.

Just look at the beautiful scenery. It was such a gorgeous day that I had to share it with you :-)

Did you see the smoothie stand in the last pic? The sign stresses that their smoothies are all natural and made with real fruit. Shouldn't they be made that way anyway?

Well, in case you were wondering, I didn't get one from there. They probably were loaded with refined sugar (and maybe even some dairy), so I was happy to cool off at home with a frosty beverage of my own. I kept with the frozen banana and fresh strawberry theme, but I added some strawberry kombucha for a kick (I must have needed it after Jacob's shenanigans ... I've always liked that word).

Speaking of kombucha, I actually was able to toast with some on vacation, since I found three flavors at the Food Lion grocery store nearby. Who'd've thought? (Yeah, I know it's not good grammar, but it's what I thought at the time). Crazy, but cool :-)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"I'm a farmers market reporter"

Last week, I was invited to share my farmers market experience as part of Kerry's Farmer's Market Report. Lucky me, I was offered the chance to do it again.

So, here it goes in mostly photos:

Last night, I managed to bring my trusty camera to the beach's weekly farmers market, where I started off at Swann Farm. There, I picked up some peaches the size of softballs and a cantaloupe. I also would've grabbed one of their watermelons, but I'd already bought one the day before at a nearby stand (I had half of it for breakfast this morning).

The line for their stand is usually the longest, but well worth the wait. Their corn is very popular, and I purchased the best cucumbers of the summer there a couple weeks ago. I would've taken a pic, if I had my camera that day. Instead, one of their crew posed for this one last night (if you're reading this, see you next week).

At least I managed to get my hands on some sweet cucumbers (I hate it when they're bitter) from the same stand I purchased my watermelon. I hope to make this granita I found at work yesterday in a copy of Cooking Light magazine (someone left it on the lunch table). I never would've thought to make a frozen dessert out of cucumbers.

Speaking of granita and Cooking Light, I also brought home a recipe for Heirloom Tomato Salad with Tomato Granita, which would be lovely made out of the tomatoes I purchased from my favorite tomato guy. He lets you pick and chose your favorites, mine being the green zebra stripes hidden in the bottom of my box (they were the last ones, so I had to grab them fast). He also sells some pretty pesticide-free flower bouquets.

From there, I moved on to the Omish stand, where I found green and yellow string beans, as well as some figs. They were also selling tomatoes, baked goods, handmade bath products, clothes and more.

There was so much to experience that I was unable to capture it all. This was just a taste. Other stands had plums and apples, a sign of fall being near. There was also the usual squash and peppers, baked goods, fudge, and these gorgeously green plants. Tons of people supported the local farmers and other businesses, all carrying home their purchases in reusable totes designed specially for this event. Something tells me I'm going to miss this when its over.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Side-by-side comparison

When you last left this empty nest (well, at least for the school day), I was wondering what I was going to do to occupy my time while Jacob was away at kindergarten. It took a while to get inspired, but eventually I came up with something.

Poor pathetic me found myself on the couch, remote in hand, switching back and forth between Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart (due to the fact that I've mentioned these shows on more than one occasion, you might think I do this quite often. However, this is actually a rare occurrence).

And then, there it was: a side-by-side comparison of Rachael's recipe of the day, alongside Duff from Ace of Cakes interpretation of the same dish (although his was made out of cake).

This was right up my alley for I love to "rawify" Ms. Ray's recipes, as well as the culinary creations of other non-raw chefs/cooks. I even like to make raw versions of my mother's cooking, and take my own comparison photos, like this pasta dish I made on vacation. My mom whipped up one of Rachael's roasted vegetable and pesto pasta meals, while I used most of the same ingredients to create an uncooked serving for myself (keep in mind that I did not have my own knives or a spiral slicer on our trip).

On this particular episode, she was making pasta again (Roasted Caprese Spaghetti to be exact), and this time I had my spiral slicer ready to go. I, of course, substituted zucchini for the spaghetti, but kept many of the other ingredients the same. It is tossed with a pesto I made in basically the same fashion, except I eliminated the cheese and swapped the pine nuts for raw pumpkin seeds.

So, what did I use in place of the fresh mozzarella? Cubed mushroom. Similar to tofu (which is what I first suspected was in the original dish, based on the photo), it does a good job of absorbing the flavors around it, and it mimics the color and shape of the traditional cheese (I also happened to have some on hand).

Thanks Rachael, for inspiring another deliciously raw meal. I'm looking forward to more uncooked recipes on future shows. Hint, hint :-)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back to school

Today, it finally hit me. Jacob started kindergarten yesterday, without a tear in sight. But now, it's starting to sink in that he'll be in school all day, while I'm left here all alone.

It's funny how the kids adjust so well to this new situation; it's the parents who worry about their precious cargo handling the trip to and from, not to mention the hours in between. Will they make new friends? Will they get along with their teacher? Will they know where to go and what to do?

I know I'm just being selfish, but I miss him already. Yesterday was much easier, since I went to work after seeing him off. I had some pics I downloaded off my camera and e-mailed to my hubby before I left. "He made it on the bus alright," I typed in the message.

Then, I kept myself busy at work, only stopping to enjoy a raw Pop-Tart I pulled out from my freezer, which seemed perfect for the occasion. You may remember the post I did about them on We Like It Raw in February. They've even turned up again on Gone Raw recently (Thanks hannah.hunnicutt for reminding me about that blast from the past).

Okay, so maybe I did catch myself looking at the clock a bit, anxiously awaiting the time my boy would be home. I wanted to call and find out about his day.

When the moment arrived, I raced for my cellphone, dialing the digits as fast as my fingers would allow. His sweet little voice on the other end of the line was still happy, telling me all about the fun he had.

So why am I so sad today? I guess it's just going to take a little while to get used to him not being here. Maybe I'll be able to find some more time to focus on my interests. You may even hear from me more on this site. Hey Dhru, I should put some stuff together for you, too.

Don't worry about me; I'll make it through :-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mmm ... so "toasty" :-)

I've always wanted to be a food critic (unfortunately, there aren't many restaurants around here catering to my food preferences, i.e., raw vegan), or perhaps a product reviewer. Thanks to my buddy Jeff from NaturalZing, I've now been given the opportunity to take a fairly new product for a test drive.

I so wish I had this product in my hot little hands before leaving on vacation. But alas, it had to wait until my return.

You see, I'm referring to Lydia's Organics newest raw cereal addition, Vanilla Crunch Cereal (according to Jeff, the line has also added Apricot Sun Cereal, which would have been perfect for watching the sunrise on the beach).

Unfortunately, Lydia's website mentions the fact that to make room for its new flavors (which also include the Lemon Ginger Bar, Figtastic Bar, Cacao Crunch and Fiesta Cracker), as well as to improve the line/streamline production, some of its past products will be making their departure.

"We will be discontinuing our triple pack (4.5 oz) size bars, the 8oz size Savory Trail Mix and we will be ceasing production on the Crystal Manna Bar, Apple Ginger Bar, Apple Fig Bar, Curry Crackers, and Luna Nori Sprinkles. Some of these products are no longer available and others will be phased out as the newer foods are made available in August."

But, that's okay. As long as the company keeps its cereals (as well as its Luna Nori Crackers; I've always liked them in a pinch), it's fine by me.

I actually have fond memories of Lydia's cereal helping me through a beach vacation a few summers ago. I was first introduced to the product line at a little store called Water To Go, not far from the Bay Bridge. I recall stopping by there on the way to Ocean City in hopes of finding some prepared snacks to keep me raw that week.

I picked up some bars and crackers, but was most impressed with the cereal. Perfect for travel, I ate it dry on its own, sprinkled on top of fruit, mashed into a bowl of ripe bananas or drowning in almond milk (lucky me, I had my Magic Bullet along for the ride, as well as some raw almond butter, which makes a quick "milk").

Usually, I would choose the Grainless Apple Cereal or the Berry Good Cereal, which had set themselves apart from many of the raw pack by not adding buckwheat to the mix. So, you can understand my hesitation when Jeff first gave me a bag of the Vanilla Crunch with these ingredients: apples, sprouted sunflower seeds, sprouted buckwheat, coconut, raisins, agave nectar, vanilla.

Don't get me wrong; I'll eat buckwheat groats on occasion, but many of the prepackaged raw cereals are mostly sprouted buckwheat with very little else. To my surprise, this combination cast this seed (yes, it's actually a seed) in a supporting role with coconut as its star (at least in my opinion).

To me, the most predominant flavor (outside of the tender dried apples pieces and plump raisins, which made their way into every bite, like the two scoops of raisins in my childhood Raisin Bran) was the coconut. Although the name suggests a basic vanilla variety, I actually preferred its more complex notes, reminiscent of toasted coconut (must be due to the "toasting" in the dehydrator). Maybe they should have called it "Coconut Crunch Cereal."

My first few bites I tried dry (no fruit or "milk"), as not to mask its true taste and texture. It's good on its own, but I still prefer it in the traditional cereal fashion.

Opting to stick with the apple and coconut theme, I chopped up some Pink Lady apples, added them to my cereal bowl and poured on some coconut milk. Not a bad combination, if I do say so myself. And, since I had to pause a bit for a photo op prior to diving into my bowl of deliciousness, I was impressed at how it absorbed some of the liquid, while still maintaining its "crunch."

Overall, I give this raw convenience product high marks for taste, texture, versatility and shelf life (mine says best if used by 1/11/09). It's even reasonably priced at a little more than $8 for a 16-oz. bag. I'd reconsider the name, but that's just a suggestion :-)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Missing melons for breakfast

I was so spoiled while on vacation. I started out everyday with a run/walk on the beach, and then I cooled off on the balcony with an entire melon to myself. Yum-O!

It's such a treat to be able to just sit down with a bowl full of melon, especially when you use the melon as your bowl (I think nature planned it that way). Just grab a spoon and eat :-)

I was lucky to have a variety of melons from the farmers market nearby. Sometimes I ate cantaloupe or honeydew, while other days I opted for a personal size watermelon, like a Sugar Baby or this yellow flesh variety (pictured below). Those were the best.

In my opinion, local melons have the most wonderful flavor. They are also very economical. The lady who sold me the yellow watermelons, priced them at 3 for $5. She also charged me $2 for the honeydew, and tossed in an extra ripe one for free.

The freebie melon was ginormous. It was nearly the size of a traditional oblong watermelon (okay, maybe not as big, but I said "almost"). I got a deal, since it needed to be eaten that day, which my mom and I had no problem with doing. It was amazing.

So, I guess I did eat more than my share of melon last week. It probably is time for a change. I had plums for breakfast today, before heading over to Jacob's new school for orientation. He starts kindergarten on Wednesday.

Maybe I'm just sad that vacation is over. I go back to work tomorrow. At least I have a lot of memories to share, and there is always time to make more :-)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Five years and counting

For once, I'm not referring to my 5-year-old at home. This time, I'm blogging about the NaturalZing potluck I went to in Mount Airy last night. The popular raw food source (don't forget to vote for them in the Veggie Awards in the category of online vegan store) was celebrating its 5-year anniversary, as well as its final event of the summer.

I'm so happy I was able to make it, especially since I wasn't sure if I'd feel like going right after my vacation (I was actually scheduled to leave the beach yesterday, but we decided to beat the traffic a day earlier). Lucky me, I made it to the Friday night farmers market to pick up some farm fresh peaches as my contribution to the feast. They may not be as exciting as some of the other dishes, but they made for a nice palate cleanser in between samplings.

Just check out this spread:
I see coleslaw, a spicy okra dish Jeff (owner of NaturalZing, as well as an amazing raw chef) made that was delish, marinated cucumbers, romaine scoops of pate, fresh raw corn on the cob, Jeff's famous sauerkraut, a variety of veggies and olives, and some lovely garden greens to help lighten up our plates.

There also was an avocado mayo-based coleslaw, as well as a simple but wonderful cucumber/avocado/cilantro salad, a hot (in taste, not temp) curry dish, and who could forget Blaq Berry's yummy apple cinnamon cereal crisps with almond milk? Not me, for sure. Someone needs to help her package and sell this one.

Hey, something is missing in this pic. What happened to the gazpacho? It was so good that we must have eaten, or perhaps drank it all. Everyone was carrying around a compostable cup of this fiery soup/drink.

Speaking of drinking, we also washed down some of this fare with either some raw chocolate "milk," or one of these tasty beverages.

I don't know how we all found room for dessert. As an appetizer, there were whole cacao bean brownies, marked "adult only" (I'm still not quite sure what that meant) and various truffles. There were even some raw candy bar bites (I hope Jeff put away a couple for his wife Helen, who is expecting their second child; congrats you two).

On the lighter side, guests nibbled on ripe strawberries, juicy blackberries, fresh watermelon wedges and my local peaches. But, then there was pie, starting with a almost cobbler style peach one containing a secret ingredient. We had a lot of fun trying to guess what nearly destroyed the whole thing. Thank goodness it turned out rather tasty.

My buddy Rawbin proudly showed off her dragon fruit cream pie, before we all devoured it. The brightly colored concoction she created herself, surprisingly survived the lengthy trip in an unairconditioned (I think I just made up that word myself) vehicle. Don't worry; she did have it in a cooler, which probably explains the little dent in one side. Its flavor held its own against Jeff's peach and chocolate pie offerings.

Here he is cutting into the peach one. Something tells me this fuzzy fruit is in season.

Jeff is a rawsome pie maker. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on one of the older NaturalZing catalogs, you can recreate one of his masterpieces in your raw kitchen.

Being the sly guy that he is (we all find him very entertaining), he cleverly disguised one of the company's past brochures as an uncookbook. One side gave away a few of his pie recipes, but if you flipped it over, there was the catalog. By displaying both sides at last year's Green Festival, many were tricked into picking up twice as many handouts (one to pass along to a friend). I think I may have fell for it, too. I'm so embarrassed.

In the future, he hopes to put together some mini uncookbooks to sell on his site. At the March event, we had discussed teaming up to make this happen. We'll see how it goes.

As scrumptious as his peach pie is, his chocolate one really takes the cake (oops, I meant to take a picture of this girl's shirt that said "90% raw, 10% cake." Ha ha; gotta love it). I missed getting a pic of the whole thing, but maybe you can find it on my dessert plate.

If not, don't fret. Even better was this coconut-based chocolate mint n'ice cream (my term for raw nondairy "ice cream"). Yummy!

After all that eating, we had to go outside for some fresh air and fun. We joked around with some crazy shots (Nic took this one herself; she's the one slightly cut off at the bottom). Blaq Berry and Rawbin were also nice enough to let me help recreate this Raw Fu pose (How did I get my fingers to bend back like that?).

"Patience young grasshopper." Hey, we actually found one in the garden. I'd show you more of the scenery, but Rawbin beat me to it in one of her past posts about NaturalZing and Spirit Bliss Farm. Check it out.

We were like little kids, running around on the farm. Nic taught us some kind of workout routine, while Blaq Berry and I toned our arms, legs and abs on the swing set (it's amazing how this childhood activity hits so many muscles on your body; I need to do this more often).

Later in the evening, Jeff scared us half to death by leading a walk through the darkness to the edge of the property, where Nic had heard an usual animal call. Could it have been a fox? I wasn't sure if I wanted to find out. To add to the spookiness, we found ourselves dodging some swooping bats (okay, so maybe I am exaggerating a little, but they were flying above our heads).

As a sweet treat after our trek, Jeff showed us the raspberries growing in the yard. I got the honors of sampling one that was ripe and ready for picking.

Then, we moved onto the blackberries. It was so dark that we needed to use our cameras for light. Some of us took random shots to help locate the berries. Look! I think Nic found one :-)

At the end of the night, we went inside to retrieve our dishes and fill them with products to take home. Jeff gave me some Artisana Raw Coconut Butter (a favorite of mine; he was out of it the last time I tried to order) and a new flavor of Lydia's Organics raw cereal (I hope to review it on this site or We Like It Raw soon). We were also given the opportunity to purchase some products, like these olives, chia seeds and some bars.

To make sure we had the energy to get home, we also got to sample some Live Liquid Marine Phytoplankton. Try it for yourself and see how long you can keep it under your tongue. I double dare you :-)