If ever there was a living, breathing, radiantly glowing testament to the raw-food way of life, this girl is it. After discovering white flour, sugar and deep-fried snacks in college—and suffering through the ill effects of these ickies—Ani returned to the raw-food roots embraced by her family and has never looked back. Her first book, “Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen,” won Gourmand World Cookbook’s “Best Vegetarian Cookbook USA” award for that year; she followed with “Ani’s Raw Food Desserts,” “Ani’s Raw Food Essentials,” and, most recently, “Ani’s Raw Food Asia.” Consider us converted! Part Two of Five.
EcoStiletto: In what ways is raw healthier for people—and healthier for the planet?
Ani Phyo: Research has shown the more we heat food, the more we damage its nutrient properties. Raw food is nutrient-dense so we get more for our money. It’s full of water and fiber to detox our bodies. And shopping locally and seasonally means less resources are used to transport, manufacture, warehouse and package our food. How we eat makes the largest impact on our planet.
ES: What’s typically the most difficult thing to change or give up when someone goes raw?
AP: It’s a new way of thinking. It’s a lifestyle shift. But once the raw kitchen is set up, it’s way simpler and faster to prepare raw than cooked. Nothing is baked on, cooked on. No soaking or scrubbing needed. Clean up is a snap. I abandoned raw food in college and gained 15 pounds. After eating 100% raw for the first month, I immediately lost the weight and all my allergies disappeared.
ES: What are some of the things a novice can do to ease into a raw food lifestyle?
AP: Add on a large green salad to lunch and dinner. Then, add on a raw dessert and a raw shake.
ES: What positive changes can someone expect when they switch to a raw food diet?
AP: Mental clarity, increased productivity, focus, energy, vitality, clear skin, radiance. Basically, looking and feeling better.
ES: As if all those awesome effects haven’t convinced us…which delish dishes are sure to convert a skeptic to raw?
AP: Raw food desserts! One of my favorites is cobbler. I make the crust with pecans processed with dates to make a crumble texture. I add coconut oil for a buttery mouth feel, and vanilla and salt, and sprinkle the crumble over sliced peaches, pears and mangoes. I’ve put this out at numerous parties and potlucks and no one ever stops to think it’s not baked. It’s just delicious!
Another great on is my chocolate fudge raspberry cake. It has a flourless chocolate cake texture and is made with ground walnuts held together with dates, chocolate powder and salt. The frosting is made from whipped avocado, chocolate and agave.
Truffles and Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake from “Ani’s Raw Food Desserts”
3 cups dry walnuts
2/3 cup unsweetened cacao powder or carob powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup pitted Medjool dates
1/3 cup pitted Medjool dates
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup ripe avocado flesh (from about 1 medium avocado)
1/3 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup raspberries
To make the cake, pulse together walnuts, cacao powder and salt in the food processor until coarsely mixed (don’t overprocess). Add the dates and pulse until mixed well. Shape into two stackable cakes and set aside.
For the frosting, combine dates and agave syrup in the food processor and blend until smooth. Add the avocado and blend until smooth. Add the cacao powder and blend until smooth.
To serve, spread half the frosting on one of the cakes and top with the raspberries. Stack the second cake on top and frost the top and sides of the stack. Serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator for a couple hours to firm up.
Chocolate Truffles and Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake from “Ani’s Raw Food Desserts.”
Want more? Ani Phyo talks growing up green, keeping things cool (like under 104 degrees) and winning over skeptics with whipped avocado frosting in our exclusive five-part interview.