Several years ago, I went “high raw”, meaning I eschewed almost all cooked foods and stuck to sprouted grains, fresh raw vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, and indulged in the occasional glass of wine and bar of dark chocolate. I also ate a lot of hummus.
Going high raw for a month was one of the most, if not the most, profound experiences of my life. Not only did it lead me to a diagnosis of celiac disease, but it proved to me that food in its most natural state is really really good for you. Now I’m a far cry from a nutritionist, but I firmly believe that a diet high in raw fruits and veggies is the key to better health. After just a week of eating this way, I felt like a million dollars. Granted I had celiac disease at the time and didn’t realize it, so having no pain, migraines or stomach bloating was a nothing short of a miracle… but I felt energized and more in tune with my body in a way I never had before. Once I realized that it was gluten causing my health problems, I didn’t remain high raw, but I certainly changed my eating habits to reflect a higher proportion of raw foods to my usual intake.
Nowadays, several years after discovering the importance of raw foods on my general well being, I still incorporate at least one raw (or almost raw) meal into my daily routine. It’s amazing how good I feel after eating some leafy greens and fresh fruit. But it wasn’t always easy for me to do this. I craved a bigger thrill then just chomping into an apple, or chewing through a bland salad with only balsamic vinaigrette to save it. My love of pastry and pasta left my “cooked” palate much to desire… or so I thought. Turned out there was a lot of ways to make raw foods come together into a dishes just as extraordinary as the cooked versions. Sometimes better. But, you have to learn how to un-cook to fully enjoy all that raw vegan food has to offer.
One of the biggest challenges of going “high raw”, at first, was figuring out how to “uncook”. It didn’t take long for me to understand that not just the ingredients were essential in making raw foods taste amazing, but unique knife techniques and other preparation were crucial as well. I picked up some great tips and tricks from the internet, and found a few raw books to help me through… but what I longed for was a comprehensive guide to preparing vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruits not only so they were good for me, but that also tasted fantastic. And it’s also really great to have an expert in the field helping to make raw foods seem less intimidating—which makes having a good (un)cookbook essential in every cook’s kitchen.
Many raw books I own either go over the top with gourmet presentation, making it difficult to actually reproduce in your own kitchen without a team of helpers (and expensive gadgets), or are so basic that an entire book dedicated to such simple ideas seems a bit frivolous in my mind. But Practically Raw is different; it’s a mingling of the two–and it speaks true to its title; it really is much more practical than the other raw books I own. This book is exactly the type of book I’d been longing for in the days of first discovering a high-raw, or practically raw, diet.
The author, Amber Shea Crawley, of the blog Almost Vegan, created an extensive book describing not only how to make a variety of delicious raw vegan dishes, but also included a comprehensive (we’re talking 27 pages dedicated to telling you what you need to know before you begin) guide on everything from defining a “practically raw diet” to the ingredients you’ll need to get started. There’s not one person who would read this book and not walk away feeling like an expert in (almost) raw vegan cuisine.
Most importantly, there are a TON of recipes in this book? My favorite part about the book is how it’s arranged. It starts with Milk and Smoothies, then Breakfast and Brunch; Bread and Crackers; Cheeses, Spreads & Sauces; Kale Chips (yes, an entire chapter!); Hummus; Soups and Salads; Main Courses; Sides and Snacks; and finally Desserts. The recipes themselves are creative and comforting, a good combo. Some of the recipes that I have thoroughly enjoyed have been the Caramel Fudge Brownies, the Crunchy Salted Cashew Cookies, and the Mushroom Nut Burgers, all delicious and all highly recommended.
There are large full color photos scattered throughout and the colorful design and layout of the book is a real treat. Also, and fundamental to the meaning of this book, is that there are cooked options throughout the book, and unlike many raw books, no special equipment is needed that you wouldn’t find in most other cookbooks.
Amber takes the mystery out of (practically) raw cuisine with her debut cookbook Practically Raw. I encourage anyone, whether raw vegan or not, to try out the recipes included in this comprehensive un-cooking guide. There is much to learn from the talented young chef, and she packed this book so full of essential info that even a well-seasoned cook could walk away learning a thing or two. I know I did.
*Vegan Heritage Press kindly sent me a copy of Practically Raw book for review*