Gosh, I feel like I've known Gena Hamshaw for years! Okay, well, I guess I kinda have. I've been following her blog, Choosing Raw, since way back in the day when she was still working as a book editor. I was there, reading along, when she decided to go back to school for clinical nutrition, and just a couple weeks ago, I was there visiting her blog when she announced that her first cookbook, Choosing Raw, was for sale.
But we're not just blogger friends. I had the pleasure of first meeting Gena at Vida Vegan Con in 2011, and she's just as adorable and gracious and fun as she seems on her blog. I also love Gena's approach to healthy eating. She eats a high-raw diet, which means she also eats some cooked stuff. And she doesn't stress about eating perfectly all the time. Gena knows how to live a little, and that's refreshing in an age when so many rigid diets drive people to orthorexia.
Choosing Raw reflects Gena's relaxed approach to raw eating. Recipes for totally-raw dishes, like Jicama Fiesta Rice Salad (where the chopped jicama stands in for grains of rice), are included alongside cooked dishes, like Carrot & Millet Pilaf with Mesquite Glazed Tempeh.
And the book is organized in a way that would set even vegan newbies at ease. Recipes are organized into three levels. "Level 1" dishes evoke flavors and textures of foods non-vegans are used to, such as Chickpea Tofu Tahini Scramble and Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas. "Level 2" recipes are designed to take you out of your comfort zone just a tad. Think Quinoa Breakfast Pudding and Raw Carrot Falafel. And finally, "Level 3" dishes are raw, exotic, and more unusual or work-intensive, like Raw Lasagna and and Creamy Basil & Ginger Noodles (made with kelp noodles). And of course, there are desserts too! I can't wait for an excuse to make the Raw Key Lime Pie.
So what did I try? I started with the Raw Gazpacho with Raw Corn Salsa.
This was actually two recipes. Gena recommends topping the gazpacho with the corn & avocado salsa, but it's optional. I like my gazpacho chunky, and I'm a firm believer that avocado belongs in everything, so I opted for the salsa topping. I used fresh juicy summer tomatoes from the farmer's market for the soup's base, and those are blended with sundried tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, onion, garlic, and a touch of maple syrup for just hint of sweetness. The salsa was loaded with fresh off-the-cob raw corn, avocado, scallion, and olive oil. Such a perfect summer lunch!
The Mango Coconut Chia Pudding was just as perfect for a summer breakfast.
I love mango, but I rarely buy the whole fruit. This was a lovely excuse. You make a chia pudding with coconut milk, vanilla, and maple syrup and that's served atop fresh mango chunks. Coconut flakes are sprinkled on top. The flavors were so tropical, and the pudding was so creamy. I could eat this every day!
I bought Gena's book as soon as I heard it was for sale, and when it arrived in the mail, I messaged Gena to let her know how awesome it looked. And then she asked me if I'd like to do a giveaway for one lucky reader. Well, yes, of course I would! The giveaway is limited to readers in the U.S. and Canada for shipping reasons. All you have to do is leave a comment letting me know your favorite raw food dish and your email address (I must have a way to contact you if you win!). I'll randomly select a winner on Thursday night. Good luck!