Hi! I'm taking a little break and it might take me a few days to reply to comments and emails. I'll be back soon! :)

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!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Consignment-Shop Table Makeover!

Are you having a good 2013? We're already three days into the new year - have you been able to keep your resolutions if you made any? I have kept mine! It's been a challenge, but I've been able to keep my resolutions to eat lots of chocolate and watch lots of TV. Sometimes I do both things at the same time! I'm hard-core and fully committed like that.

I have a non-edible post for you today. Last week I went to a nice little resale shop where I found a cute little table for only seven bucks! Seven bucks! Even though the table top wasn't really my style, it was in excellent condition and I knew she was coming home with me.

Plant Table Before
Not a fan of the top. Big fan of the price.

My first instinct was to paint the top a solid red or yellow or turquoise. Something bright. But then I thought this would be a great opportunity to for me to try Mod Podge for the first time! Using a small roller, I applied an even layer of gloss Mod Podge to the (clean and dry) table top, placed a cut-to-size piece of paper with a black and white diamond checkerboard pattern, smoothed it out nicely, let it dry, rolled on some more Mod Podge on top of the paper, let it dry, another layer of Mod Podge, and that was it. It dried and hardened overnight, and now I have a pretty little plant table that I love!

Plant Table After

She's not perfect, and she has a few small bubbles that hide under the plant, but it was only my first Mod Podge project so I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I didn't feel like changing the color of the legs, but I can already tell that I will paint them at some point. Red? Sunny yellow? Aqua? Let's take a closer look at the paper...

Plant Table After
Hello, Piggy! The roller gave the Mod Podge a nice textured look.

What do you think? Was it a makeover or a makeunder? Do you like the pattern? Did you like the grapes better? Do you shop at resale/consignment/thrift shops? Have you found any awesome thrifty deals lately? Why am I asking you so many questions?