Shattering expectations: this is what Kansas City native Amber Shea Crawley's new cookbook, Practically Raw, is all about. In a land overflowing with burnt ends and barbecue sauce, there are a few expectations to shatter, and the classically trained chef and successful blogger is more than ready for that challenge.
Practically Raw: Flexible Raw Recipes Anyone Can Make is a friendly, informative and easy introduction into the world of raw food, packed with money- and time-saving tips. Prepare to have your preconceived notions of raw and vegan food demolished.
Amber's list of reasons for considering a raw food diet is as long as the line outside a local gas station waiting to order pulled pork sandwiches. Among them: raw food is filled with the nutrients your body wants and needs. Raw food is gentler on your digestion. Raw food sends your energy levels sky-high. Oh yeah, and did we mention it's more sustainable and animal-friendly?
Unsure what fruits and veggies ought to be bought organic? Want to know how to get the most from your leftovers? Trying to find another time-saving corner to cut? Amber alleviates the stress of the learning curve by packing her cookbook with friendly and accessible pieces of advice and wisdom. (We loved her note to toss just a few pieces of kale or spinach into your morning smoothie. A handful of these powerhouse veggies won't affect the flavor, but will significantly amp up the nutrition.)
And here's what most people don't know: a raw diet needn't be inconvenient or cost a fortune. More than that, *gasp* eating raw food can be satisfying!
"It can take a lot of time to go raw," Amber inserts a significant pause before she concludes, "if you’re wanting to go the gourmet route. But all it really takes to go raw is just a shift in planning." The time spent dehydrating (a secret weapon in the arsenal of a raw foodie - it evaporates water without cooking out any of the nutrients) doesn't require any attention or active participation.
You don't have to spend your life savings on shiny, one-purpose kitchen gadgets or mystical nut pastes from the East Indies. "Keep it logical and realistic when you're at the grocery store," she says. "As in any other part of the kitchen, if you want to spend money, there are infinite possibilities. However, with simple tools and a few food staples, you can make a great many of my recipes."
Her food lays claim to be not only filling, but satisfying. She boasts that the world of raw foods is diverse and doesn't grow bland. We’re not talking carrot and celery sticks here… (Be glad we didn't write the book.) The recipes range from sweet smoothies and nut crumbles to savory mushroom scrambles and taco salad with nacho cheese sauce.
Not all of the recipes are completely raw, and some offer slightly cooked and fully cooked options. She doesn’t believe it is realistic to be strictly 100% raw. "It’s just not compelling to me to achieve that label," she says, "but adding more raw food into my diet is. I find I’m healthier and happier if I don’t forbid myself to have any particular type of food."
All that said, prepare to have your mind blown, with delicacies like Deconstructed Sushi Bowl, Pizza Kale Chips, Warm Apple-Walnut Cobbler, Parisian Street Crêpes, Fiesta Taco Roll-Ups, and over 130 more. Her fail-safe recipe to introduce the uninitiated to the world of raw food is her Famous Five Minute Blondies. (The final recipe can be found on page 195 of Practically Raw, but you can test out an early prototype here: http://almostveganchef.com/2011/01/22/the-5-minute-single-serving-raw-vegan-blondie/.) Sweet and nutty, this little guy is something you can really sink your teeth into.
(Side note: We're so excited to be a part of Amber and Matt's wedding! Congratulations, you two!)
A little more about Amber:
City Market, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Green Acres, online sources. Wherever you’re at in Kansas City, you’ve got access to a farmer’s market!
Coconut – it’s so versatile, you can use it for its meat, shreds, water, butter, oil and milk.
Find Amber online