Hi! I'm hibernating under my electric blanket whilst perpetually sipping hot tea. Wing It Vegan is on hiatus until I'm willing to come back out. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cookbook Love: Practically Raw

Thank you, pesky wisdom tooth extraction, for making me take an unplanned break from blogging. Also, thank you hot potato that burnt my mouth on the opposite side of the wisdom tooth "hole" so I couldn't chew painlessly on either side of my mouth. *deadpan face*

You know what kind of people don't burn their mouth with hot potatoes? People who eat raw foods. Now that I have so smoothly tied my first paragraph with the rest of this blog post, let's drool over some delicious recipes created by the one and only Chef Amber Shea Crawley from her fabulous cookbook Practically Raw. I think raw "cooking" is awesome, but it's not the fact that the food is raw that interests me, it's the ingredients that are used, and most importantly the ingredients that aren't. If this had been a raw cookbook without cooked options, I wouldn't be writing this post because it would be disrespectful to the author, but Chef Amber Shea is totally cool with us cooking the food if we want to, because she's awesome and breezy like that. The cookbook also offers plenty of ingredient substitutions in case you don't want to use a particular ingredient or you just don't have it on hand. It's definitely a mind-opening cookbook that inspires you to experiment with recipes and, well, to wing it!

First things first - this cookbook was not sent to me for review by anybody. It was a gift from Mr. Wing-It and I have received no compensation from anybody to write this post. Just a note for you skeptical squirrels out there.

I chose the cooked options for all the recipes that had that option, but Amber Shea tells you everything you need to know about preparing raw foods, from where to find certain ingredients to what kind of equipment you might need to put together some of the recipes. OK, let's jump in!

Practically Raw

I'm going to go ahead and start with what I think is the pièce de résistance: Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies and Chocolate Silk Ganache. These are two separate recipes, but I used the Chocolate Silk Ganache to make sandwich cookies. There are no words! This is embarrassing, because Amber is a linguist and I can't think of a word to describe how delicious these cute little morsels are. Heavenly? Delicious? Scrumptious? Nah. Those words don't quite cut it. The soft cookies and the creamy ganache make quite the perfect duo!

Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies with Chocolate Silk Ganache (Practically Raw)
A small army of tempting cookies!


Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies with Chocolate Silk Ganache (Practically Raw)
Tell me the ganache is not making you drool. You can't.

Don't cry if you don't have the cookbook yet, Amber Shea shared her recipe for the Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies on her blog. (Edit to add: I just realized that the recipe for the ganache is available on the "search inside this book" feature on Amazon.) Have you ever bought Coconut Butter? Sucker! I will never buy expensive coconut butter again now that Amber Shea has taught me how to make my own. And it's such a simple process that requires only one ingredient: coconut!

Coconut Butter (Practically Raw)
Eat it by the spoonful I can. 

Of course, I had to make more Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies so I could fill them with Coconut Butter. This time I made thumbprint cookies, half filled with Coconut Butter and half filled with Chocolate Silk Ganache. (Edit to clarify: I filled them with ganache and coconut butter after they had been baked and cooled down to room temperature)

Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies with Coconut Butter and Chocolate Silk Ganache (Practically Raw)

I also used my homemade coconut butter to make Strawberry Cheesecake Gelato. The coconut butter made this dessert SO exquisite! Fresh strawberries are pretty pathetic right now so I used frozen strawberries that I let thaw out in the fridge overnight. Of course I topped it with Chocolate Silk Ganache. But you already knew that, didn't you? I made the ganache a bit more fluid (with almond milk) so it wouldn't become too hard on top of the gelato. Fabulous! Just fabulous!

Strawberry Cheesecake Gelato With Chocolate Silk Ganache (Practically Raw)
Crying because it's all gone now.

Last dessert! These Crunchy Salted Cashew Cookies resemble lace cookies when baked. They were fantastic - and of course I drizzled Chocolate Silk Ganache all over them. Can you blame me? That stuff is da bomb! These are super chewy cookies (the baked version), so Mr. Wing-It ended up eating most of them because of my recent dental issues. They did not last long!

Crunchy Salted Cashew Cookies with Chocolate Silk Ganache (Practically Raw)

Let's move on to the savory recipes. The Stuffed Peppers with Sunseed Hash and topped with Basil-Parsley Pesto were so tasty, even though I had to wing it because I had very few sun dried tomatoes left. The Sunseed Hash filling is terrific, and it would also make delicious little "meat"balls, tiny little "meat"loaves, wee little patties for wee little sliders...

The Basil-Parsley Pesto was delicious and so very flavorful! Please ignore the peachy-looking bits. My pistachios weren't skinned and that's why it looks like that. I think it looks nice and colorful, though!

Stuffed Peppers with Sunseed Hash (Practically Raw)
I used cute mini peppers.

My Vermicelli with Pecan Cream Sauce is actually more like a fettuccine because I don't have a spiralizer and I had to use a potato peeler to slice it instead. My zucchini fettuccine (heehee!) was lightly steamed to soften it a bit. It was a pretty small zucchini which left me with lots of extra yummy sauce to pour on top of it! Score! As you can see, I garnished my fettuccine with a few thinly-sliced Simple Seasoned Mushrooms. The juice of the Simple Seasoned Mushrooms fraternized with the Pecan Cream Sauce wonderfully, and almost stroganoffily! The mushrooms really are simply seasoned, but they are so good! I am no stranger to cashew cream sauce on pasta, but I had never made one with pecans before. Brilliant! It's amazing, and you must try it too!

Vermicelli with Pecan Cream Sauce and Simple Seasoned Mushrooms (Practically Raw)

Moving on to the Vegetable Korma Masala. I absolutely LOVED this spicy sauce! It's super creamy and flavorful. I used only (steamed) cauliflower for this one, but you can add whatever veggies you love.

Vegetable Korma Masala (Practically Raw)

Maybe The Italian Sausage Pizza should share the pièce de résistance status with the Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies with Chocolate Silk Ganache. It's not fair to compare a savory recipe to a sweet chocolate recipe, but this pizza actually deserves to share the gold medal with that chocolate-fest! It's THAT good! The crust is perfect - I would not change a thing. I thought that maybe it was going to taste like a big flax cracker with sauce and toppings, but I was put in my place as soon as I took one bite. I loved it! The recipe calls for almond butter, but I am glad Amber Shea gave me the choice to leave that out to make it crunchier rather than chewier. The "sausage" is what steals the show though - it's even better than the crust! It's made with walnuts and a combination of seasonings that makes it taste absolutely... heavenly...? delicious...? scrumptious...? There I go again! Truly, there are no words.

I discovered that my cheese-making abilities leave much to be desired. My Basic Nut Cheese was not firm enough to crumble, so I dropped little dollops here and there. An inadequate cheese-maker I am. It was still tasty and I enjoyed the creaminess, though! (Edit: Full pizza recipe here!)

Italian Sausage Pizza (Practically Raw)
I could eat this every day!

The Nacho Cheese Sauce/Queso Dip is zingy and as spicy as you want it to be, depending on the kind of chili powder that you use. It's very creamy but also firm enough to scoop. My "chips" below are actually pizza crust triangles. I loved the pizza crust so much I've also made it naked, as crackery chips. The pizza crust was naked. I wasn't. Just thought I should clarify that.

Nacho Cheese Sauce/Queso Dip with Pizza Crust Chips! (Practically Raw)

But if it is crackers you want, the book includes a super easy recipe for flax crackers too! I've made lots of flax crackers since I went vegan, but I've been complicating myself with unnecessary dough-rolling when I could have been making them Amber Shea's way all along. It takes my slowpoke oven a while to get these super crispy, but by cooking them at the recommended low temperature I never end up with 50% burnt flax crackers like I used to. My crackers are made with ground golden flax seeds and whole brown flax seeds for contrast...

Basic Flax Crackers (Practically Raw)

Want something to spread on your easy-breezy crackers? Blackberry Jam to the rescue! I was again put in my place when in spite of my skepticism this jam turned out perfect. I thought it would be more saucy than jammy, but it was indeed a jammy jam. It's delicious on top of the salty flax crackers!

Basic Flax Crackers with Blackberry Jam (Practically Raw)

Phew! That was a monster blog post! As you can see, I am incandescently smitten with this cookbook and I can't stop using it! Do you have a copy of Practically Raw? What's your favorite recipe? Aren't you glad you don't have to buy expensive coconut butter anymore?

 Stay tuned for the return of a cute Valentine's Day treat! :)

PS: Amber and Matt got married last year, and even though I am not into weddings I think theirs was the best ever. Ever! Gorgeous dress, batty wedding invitations, delicious food. Check it out!

33 comments :

  1. You totally rocked the sweet and savory, raw and cooked recipes - each dish looks perfect to me!

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    1. Thank you! I do believe that these recipes rock themselves though! :D

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  2. Omigosh! RIVER! I am so surprised, delighted, and flattered by this thorough and amazing review of Practically Raw. Don't worry about being at a loss for words, because I’m a little speechless myself right now! Your gorgeous photos...your ingenious combinations of different dishes/recipes...your relentlessly kind and glowing praise...my head is threatening to explode with all the awesomeness! GAH! I don't even know what else to say...this post is just pure amazing and makes me slapdashedly giddy with joy. I think I'm gonna go prance and skip around my apartment for a few minutes with a stupid grin on my face...I've also more than used up my ellipsis quota for the day in this one comment, so I should stop anyway. Long story short, THANK YOU SO MUCH! You absolutely rawk (I had to, I HAD to), and you are officially my queen of Practically Raw cookery. Squee! :D

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    1. No, thank YOU for putting together such an amazing cookbook! I am so in love with your recipes! Winging it is my thing, and I have had so much fun with your cookbook because it lets me play and do whatever I want. You are the one who absolutely rawks! :D

      Don't let your head explode! We need your brain to create more delicious recipes!

      I do proudly accept the title of Queen of Practically Raw Cookery! Will there be a crown involved?

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    2. Dawww. ::blush::
      Good news: my head did not explode. It was a close call, though.
      A crown? Hmm, that depends...can the crown be made of raw cookies? Ooh! And then we could splash Chocolate Silk Ganache all over you at your inauguration! (I would say coconut butter, but that would look reeeally wrong.) Could be messy...could also be some dude's weird fantasy...but it could also be tasty. ;P

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    3. I'm glad your head did not explode! A crown made of your cookies would be very suitable indeed. Yes, you are right about the coconut butter, so let's go with the chocolate ganache instead. Phew - that could have ruined my coronation! :D

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  3. K, I'm back from prancing and skipping. I'm still floored by your review, and I'm so grateful you took the time, unsolicited, to write it all up and post it--that was very, very cool of you. You are the best!

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    1. Now I want to prance and skip too! You are so welcome. I had lots of fun getting ready for this blog post because I had even more fun making all the tasty recipes. You deserve all the praise in the world!

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  4. Unbelievable review! This is the second one I've read this week and Practically Raw sounds like a must-have. I can't believe all the fabulous dishes you've made. I want it. I want it.

    Glad you're on the mend from the wisdom tooth (and potato) interference.

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    1. It most definitely is a must-have! It's probably my most used cookbook these days.

      Thanks! Wisdom teeth are such a pain in the mouth! At least I don't feel less wise now that the tooth is gone :D

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  5. OK, I really HAVE to get this book now. I mean, like, NOW now. :)
    Thanks for the review and the mouthwatering pictures!

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  6. Wow!! I just added this awesome cookbook to my wishlist. I'm hoping to be able to get it next month. I don't think I would have ever even looked at it had it not been for your amazing review and beautiful & yummy food photos. Thank you! :)

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    1. I hope you can get it soon! My cookbook wishlist is always overflowing, so I feel your pain! :)

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  7. Ah, I loved reading your post! Like you, I have completely fallen head over heels for this cookbook. I kept planning on posting about the recipes on my blog, and then I'd put it off again and again because I wanted to make more recipes first.

    The very day that I posted about it on my blog, I made two more things that were fabulous - the sour cream and onion kale chips and the sausage pizza you posted about above. (My basic cheese turned out exactly like yours. Maybe there's a texture difference between using macadamia nuts & cashews.) I've had my eye on that korma for a while now. It sounds like I need to make it pronto! And I haven't made any of the dessert-y items yet. I'm so missing out! Thanks for all of the gorgeous pics and inspiration! :)

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    1. That's exactly what happened to me! I wanted to make more and more recipes so I kept putting it off.

      Can you believe I have not tried any of the kale chip recipes yet? I'm relieved to hear I'm not the only one with cheese problems. I will not give up though!

      Yes! You are missing out! I think you should make some Strawberry Cheesecake Gelato STAT! :D

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    2. Oh yeah! About the cheese, you two: in a future edition of the book, I may lower the water amount to 1/3 cup (instead of 1/2 cup) and advise readers to just add more water if necessary to blend, because it does seem that more people choose to make it with cashews than macnuts. Macnuts behave a little better in that recipe with the full amount of water, though of course they're more expensive.
      One thing you can do to firm up the cashew cheese, though, is spread it into a thick round on a silpat- or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and put it in the oven on the "Warm" setting for a couple/few hours, until the outside looks dry and slightly cracked. Then you could even flip it and dry it some more on the other side if you wanted; it depends on how crumbly vs. creamy you want it.

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    3. Thanks for the tips! I will make another batch with 1/3 cup of water, and I'll try the oven trick just to see if I prefer a creamy or crumbly cheese.

      Macnuts - my new favorite word! :D

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  8. what an outstanding review, river! the pictures are amazing and the food looks SO DELICIOUS! that's the best review i've ever read. i love that you paired so many recipes together. i've never been good at that!

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    1. It's an outstanding cookbook! I had lots of fun pairing up recipes, and it was easy to do because they were all so delicious. The cookies and the ganache were amazing on their own, but they are even better when they mingle! :)

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  10. Your review made me buy this book. THANK YOU! :) I love it.

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    1. Awesome! I hope you love it as much as I do! :)

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  11. Everything looks amazing. Just ordered the book. :-)

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    1. Yay! I think you will love it, Jenn!

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  12. Wow, this looks amazing! I would never have ordered it without this review, but now I must!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have if you order it, Susan!

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  13. Wow, I'm not normally into raw/rawish foods, but everything you made looks amazing! That korma! Oh, I love a good korma. And the cookies--hello, who wouldn't like those.

    Awesome review!

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    1. Me neither! If it hadn't been for the "with cooked options" note, I would be missing out now!

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  14. I've been looking for a cookbook - everything I've been cooking so far has been off vegweb and Pinterest. May have to buy this book now!

    -Stephanie
    veganstate.blogspot.com

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    1. I used to be so hooked on Vegweb before vegan blogs took over the internet! This cookbook is definitely one I would recommend. Also Vegan Brunch, anything by Dreena Burton, Chloe's Kitchen, Cookin' Crunk, and about a thousand other cookbooks! :)

      Sorry about the slowpoke reply!

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  15. Oh my goodness all of the recipes look amazing! Makes it hard to choose which ones to make first!!

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    1. It took me a couple of days to figure out what I wanted to make first!

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