Sunday, May 25, 2008

Raw Food Week Wrap-Up & Book Review

My first venture into eating raw foods was not only fun and satisfying, I ended up feeling better and fitting into a pair of jeans that were too tight just last week.  w00t!  It also helped me realign with my original intentions with regard to being vegan, and I can officially say I've put the veg back into vegetarian in this house.

Just about every recipe I prepared this week was a Renée Loux Underkoffler dish - most from her book, Living Cuisine, and a couple from her website, Euphoric Organics.  For those concerned that eating raw foods may take too much time to plan and prepare, I say pshaw!  Keep in mind I'm a stay-at-home mom of a very busy four-year-old.  If I can do it during finals week, you can do it, too.  There's actually something really nice about knowing I'm going to start each day with lots of fruit followed by a huge salad for lunch and whatever recipe I've selected that day for dinner.

As promised, here's my review of Living Cuisine:

Living Cuisine by Renée Loux Underkoffler provided my introduction to raw foods. I'm ashamed to admit that despite the fact that I've owned it for a couple years now, I haven’t prepared anything from it until my raw fest this past week. Nevertheless, I’ve done much page haunting and I think it's a great resource. The book is organized into four sections:

Part One: The Basics
This is where the author introduces the concept of raw eating, the benefits, modern farm practices, enzymes 101, and general health.

Part Two: The Raw Foods Pantry
A fantastic resource covering everything you need to know about every kind of fruit, vegetable, legume, grass, grain, nut, bean, seed, spice, herb, sweetener, oil and other sundries you either never knew about or even thought you knew about. She even goes into various types of salt, algae, seaweed, and edible flowers. There are handy charts and tips on selecting produce, slicing onions, and my favorite - soaking and sprouting nuts and seeds. Plus, there's a fantastic chapter on the best kitchen tools and various pieces of equipment you'll need.

Part Three: Raw Foods Preparation Techniques
Here we learn about flavors and the various elements of the makings of good-tasting food. We get a tutorial on various chopping and cutting techniques and learn which is best for what veggies, herbs, and fruits. There’s a fantastic chapter on juicing, including the various types of juicers and which is best for what purposes. We then dive into sprouting, with detailed instructions on the hydroponic, soil-grown, and clay methods. There are several useful charts and lists explaining exactly what types of seeds and nuts can be sprouted and which method works best for each. After that, we learn about culturing and fermenting and get tutorials on making nut cheeses, kimchi and sauerkraut. From there we turn to dehydrated and sun-fired foods and learn all about low-temp baking. Finally, Renée Loux rounds things out for us with information on blanching, steaming, garnishing, and presentation.

Part Four: The Recipes
The dishes in this book, at least the ones I’ve tried this week, are outstanding. Renée Loux is extremely creative and clearly has an experienced palate. The recipes, which are clearly written and cross-referenced, are organized thusly:
  • Beverages
  • Soups
  • Salads and Salad Dressings
  • Appetizers: Great Beginnings
  • New Sushi
  • Vegetable Sides and Accompaniments
  • Classic and New Entrées
  • Burgers and Patties
  • Cakes and Frostings
  • Pies, Tortes, and Crusts
  • Cookies and Biscotti
  • Parfaits, Custards, and Frozen Treats
  • Crackers, Crisps, and Flat Breads
  • Dehydrated Extras 
I recommend Living Cuisine to anyone who is interested in giving raw foods a try. The recipes range from simple, using only a handful of ingredients to complex, pulling together several intricate components. Throughout the book there are informative and handy charts and graphs. It’s well-organized and Renée Loux’s enthusiasm for food and healthful eating shines throughout.

I can think of only two things that would make this book better. First, pictures. I love cookbooks with pictures but this one has none. But in all honesty, if it did have photos, it might make the book huge.  It's already about 500 pages.  Second, no mid-recipe page changes. For the most part, each recipe can be viewed in its entirety with the book splayed open on a holder or cookbook stand. But some of them are split between pages and it’s a personal peeve of mine to have to turn a page in the middle of a recipe or worse, have to flip back and forth between a list of ingredients on one page and the directions on the next. It takes extra time and gets my cookbooks dirty. But really, my second complaint is totally a personal preference and I’m not sure that sort of thing bothers others.

This is a great book and should probably be in everyone’s cookbook collection, but most definitely in those of vegans and raw foodies. I’m very excited to try sprouting, nut cheeses, and even more recipes out of Living Cuisine. As always, I’ll share my experiences as I go.

All things considered, I give Living Cuisine 4.5 out of 5 chickpeas.  It would have earned a perfect 5 if it had photos.


Kristen's Raw said...

Great post, and I like that adding some Raw helped you put the "veg" back in vegetarian :) Cool!

Cheers :)

Marni said...

Hey Kristen, thanks! Too many vegetarians and vegans live off carbs and meat subs. And although I don't think there's anything wrong with a hearty bread or a tofu stir-fry, I feel like a lot of us are straying too far away from fresh whole foods.

I loved eating raw this week and am hungry for more. Looks like your blog is a great resource! Thanks for the note. :)

jessy said...

this is stellar, Marni! i've been looking for a good raw book to purchase & try out! think i'll snag hers this weekend, and maybe the ani phyo raw book, too - i've heard some good reviews on that as well. your review is very informative, and i'm glad you had such a success with your raw foods week! this makes me want to do a raw week, too! hooray!

Marni said...

Sweet! I haven't heard anything about the Ani Phyo book so if you pick it up, please blog about it.

So ... when's your raw week going to happen? :::grin:::