I have released four recipe books so far:

The Best of the Sunny Raw Kitchen
The Best of Raw Freedom Community
Delightfully Raw and
Deliciously Raw

These feature some of the most delectable creations to have come out of my raw kitchen and will appeal to anyone interested in a healthier diet, regardless of their level of knowledge and experience. From easy one-step everyday fare to more elaborate and involved gourmet dishes and layered cakes, they offer something for everyone and every occasion. Incredibly tasty smoothies, creamy and comforting warm soups, sexy salads, delicious nut cheezes, satisfying entrees and scrumptious guilt-free desserts...

Healthy food never tasted so good!

To learn more about my recipe books, click here!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sunny Raw Kitchen Tour Adventures - Florida Part IV

I hope the new year has begun on a positive foot for you all! Sure has been the case for us.

Three Candles
Without realizing it, I posted the previous article right smack on my blog's 'birthday'! Yep, the Sunny Raw Kitchen has embarked on its third year of existence already! Wow, did that ever fly by! Again this year, it was nominated for Best of Raw and I am happy to report that it came in 6th position as Favorite Raw Blog. (You can find out the full list of winners here.) Thank you all for your ongoing support and dropping by to read about what all we've been up to week after week. I couldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for you guys, my attentive audience!

On that note, here's the last chapter recounting our time spent in what turned out to be not-so-sunny Florida after all. ;-)

Raw Feasting In Tallahassee
Jaimee stumbled upon my blog only recently. She and her boyfriend, Travis, haven't really had a chance to connect with other local raw enthusiasts, so when she saw that we were in Florida, she invited us to drop by for a visit. We gladly accepted as it was right along our route toward Mississippi. I'd written to Jaimee to say that we wouldn’t be coming until early January, as we thought we'd be able to stay at the gorgeous Hanna Park over the Holidays. But as I was mentioning in my previous post, The Mystery forced us to move on so I called Jaimee to announce that we would be coming sooner after all. Such a lesson on how plans can change, especially so when you think you've got them all nailed down! lol

Jaimee and Travis don't usually make raw soups, so our visit offered an opportunity to introduce them to something new. We had a chance to sample a few of our favorites, such as Sweet Pea Soup, my new Cheezy Almond Spinach Soup (to LIVE for!), Cream of Tomato and Cucumber Soup.

Some of the entrees we enjoyed together include Asian Spinach Salad, Nori Rolls and a couple of zucchini pasta dishes (so easy to prepare and so good!)

Zucchini Pasta Alfredo, Marinated Mushrooms and a mixed green salad with my Caesar Dressing.

The Alfredo Sauce was a variation of one I posted last winter using Irish moss. The funny thing is that Jaimee had actually tried it before! lol As we didn't have jicama as in the original recipe, we simply used more cashews and macadamia nuts.

Almost Nutless Alfredo Sauce

Serves 4-6

1 cup macadamia nuts or cashews
3 tbs Irish moss gel (see recipe below)
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs light miso
1 tbs nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Dash nutmeg
Water until desired consistency is reached

Blend all ingredients into high speed blender. Add water until desired consistency is reached.

To make Irish Moss Gel
As described by Elaina Love

¼ cup soaked, packed Irish moss (moss should be soaked about 3 hours at room
temperature or in the refrigerator then rinsed well).
1 cup filtered water

1. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. No lumps!

2. Store the paste in the refrigerator in a glass jar for up to 10 days and use in ice creams, gravy, veggie loaf, potatoes and more.

We served the sauce on a bed of zucchini pasta and topped the dish with mushrooms marinated in equal part olive oil and tamari, 1 crushed garlic clove and some dried tarragon.

Cannellonis filled with Cashew Cheeze and spinach, topped with Tomato Sauce and a sprinkle of Brazil Nut Parmesan (a simple mixture of Brazil nuts, salt and garlic ground up).

On the sweet side, I suggested we prepare an Irish moss based dessert as they once worked with it and didn’t have much success. Unfortunately, they had made the same mistake Heathy and I once did and used the darker type Irish moss flakes usually sold at health food stores. The result was super seaweedy tasting and inedible. The Irish moss used in raw dessert making is actually transparent and, as far as I know, is only sold at a few online stores such as Elaina Love’s and, since very recently, at The Raw Life Health Store: . We decided to go with Café Gratitude’s decadent Chocolate Hazelnut Pie from Sweet Gratitude. I was especially pleased with the Coconut Meringue Topping which was my best rendition yet.

I swear this stuff melts in your mouth!

Screaming For Ice Cream
I was thrilled to see that they have an ice cream maker (a Cuisinart 2-Quart which Travis assures me is the best) as it's something I’ve been dreaming of for years! If it had been just up to me, we would have had raw ice cream every single night (which actually, we very nearly did! lol)

On the day that we arrived, Travis served us one of their staples, a light ice cream made with superfoods. Sooooooo good!

Here's his basic recipe...

Travis' Superfood Ice Cream
4 tbs lucuma
2 tbs mesquite
1 tbs cacao powder
Meat of 1 young coconut
Nut milk made by blending the water of one young coconut with a handful of your favorite nuts such as hazelnuts, Brazil nuts or cashews or milk thistle

Handful cashews (optional)
1 - 2 tbs hemp seeds
1 tbs psyllium husk (for extra fiber, optional)
Sweetener of choice (Travis uses 2 dropper fulls of liquid stevia and 1 heaping tbs raw honey or agave syrup)
Vanilla (optional but nice)
7/8 of an ice tray cubes

First make the nut milk by blending the coconut water and nuts/milk thistle, then straining the mixture through a sieve or nut milk bag.

Next, blend the strained nut milk, coconut meat, cashews and hemp seeds together until smooth.

Add rest of the ingredients except ice cubes and blend some more.

Finally add ice and blend. (This allows to skip the chilling step!)

Place mixture directly in ice cream maker and let it do its thing. (It usually takes 15-20 minutes.)

Man, I gotta GOTTA get one of those!

We also made Heathy’s Cardamom Ice Cream to accompany the Chocolate Hazelnut Pie as well as Eva’s Pecan Butter Ice Cream from her Ice Cream ebook. The ice cream itself isn't very sweet, but then it is accompanied by a yummy Caramel Sauce that you drizzle on top. Mmmmmm

We served it in a sundae along with left over Coconut Whipped Cream and cacao nibs. Heavenly!!!

Exploring New Raw Territories
One of the cool aspects about meeting other rawbies is that you get to discover different ingredients and products as well as other ways of doing things. Jaimee and Travis have been playing a lot with various superfoods and herbs on their raw journey; an area I'm really not that familiar with aside from mostly throwing a few scoops of mesquite, lucuma and maca into smoothies. They buy most of his products from an online store called Ultimate Superfoods. Travis says that their prices can't be beat and from what I've seen, their quality is really great.

Travis explained to me how you can make milk out of milk thistle and gave me a little bag to experiment with. A few days later, I ground up 3 tbs of milk thistle in the Magic Bullet (I bet you could blend it all at once in a super duper blender), then blended it with about 2 1/2 cups water. Next, I strained the liquid, as I would with any nut milk.

Whoa, that stuff is awesome; a super milk alternative! It can be made on short notice (no soaking required unlike with nuts) and with a way lower fat content to boot! Not to mention that milk thistle has some healing properties. It seems to develop a slightly bitter flavor as it sits so next time I'll try to make only as much as I'll be using right away.

Still in discovery mode, I tried liquid stevia for the first time and wow! I’d bought it before in powder a few years back and didn’t care much for the aftertaste, but the liquid form seems to be milder. Not to mention that you can now find it in different flavors such as chocolate or vanilla at the health food store. I’ll definitely play around with it when I get the chance.

And finally, while staying with Jaimee and Travis, we got to sample a couple of exotic fruits we'd never had before.

We found sapota (aka as mamey sapote) at a local Asian market. This fruit originally comes from South America and looks sorta like a potato, but don't be fooled! It tastes to me a little like a pear with a hint of honey. Sooooo good! I became instantly addicted! Jaimee told me that there's another variety whose flesh is reddish.

We also had prickly pear. I'd noticed it before at the store, and assumed that it was yet another exotic Asian fruit. Nope, I just learned that what is sold is actually the fruit of the prickly pear which is a cactus. The edible part is also commonly called cactus figs, Indian fig or tuna. (Wow, this is too cool!!! You'll understand my excitement later!)

Jaimee made a wonderfully refreshing juice by blending then straining two prickly pears. She returned the strained liquid to the blender and added a little lemon juice and honey.

Delish and so pretty too!

On our way out of Jacksonville, Don and I had stopped at Asian markets in order to buy seaweed and durian. (That stuff really DOES grow on you I tell ya!) We thought that we’d most likely be introducing Jaimee and Travis to it as it’s not that commonly known (at least where we come from), but as it turns out, they both LOVE durian too. In fact, they even bought two more durians while we were there so we had quite the durian feast!

Since Jaimee and Travis were going skiing in Colorado for the Holidays, we decided to have a small D day and stock up on treats for the road. We made Savory Nori Snacks and granola bars as well as dehydrated durian, which they assured us is 'The Bomb' when combined with anything chocolate.

Spreading durian on teflex sheets in order to be dehydrated. The best part is of course that you get to lick your fingers afterwards! hehe

We did a little experiment. We left some of the durian in the D only for about 8 hours (flipping the durian onto the mesh at some point) so that while the outside was firm, the inside was still soft. We also continued to dehydrate some of the durian overnight. I'd be hard pressed to tell you which variation I liked best, as they were both really good. Normally, I find that the process of dehydration intensifies flavors, but in this case it actually mellows it. It also gives the durian an interesting texture, and they were right, it totally rawks dipped in chocolate pudding! Yum yum!

Jaimee had whipped up the pudding and it was definitely one of the better avocado based ones I've tasted. She used a couple of tablespoons of Irish moss gel as we had some on hand, but normally she makes it somewhere along these lines.

Jaimee's Chocolate Pudding
1 med. avocado
1 tbs honey
2 tbs cacao
Touch cinnamon
Dash salt

Blend all the ingredients until very smooth.

After a few days of rest and beautiful food at Jaimee and Travis' home, we hopped back on the road and continued our travels west.

Falling Waters State Park, Chipley
We stayed overnight at Falling Waters State Park in Chipley. It has a fairly small campground with only a couple of tent sites, but it was very quiet. The park offered a small trail lined with huge trees (including magnolia!) along which we saw Florida's highest waterfall.

Falling Waters State Park is also reknowned for its fern-covered sinkholes - great big pits that have naturally occurred in the ground due to limestone erosion. I know it's hard to tell from the pictures, but some of these sinkholes are super deep. Falling Waters Sink is a 100-foot deep, 20-foot wide cylindrical pit into which flows a small stream that drops 73 feet to the bottom of the sink. The water's final destination remains unknown.

Christmas On The Road
After leaving Falling Waters State Park, our intention was to head straight to Big Lagoon State Park just outside Pensacola, but again Life had a different idea. When we arrived in town on Christmas Eve, the weather wasn’t cooperating; it was raining pretty hard and the wind was blowing fiercely. (We later found out that there was a meteorological alert for the area due to 25 to 45 mph winds!!!) We had a few chores to take care of since stores' opening hours would most likely be affected by the holidays. By the time we were done, things still didn’t look very promising. Not feeling like setting up our tent in the middle of a storm, we decided to spend the night at a motel.

We thoroughly enjoyed this rare treat! After leisurely preparing our dinner in the dry and warmth (two different raw soups, salad and spring rolls), Don had a nice hot bath while I caught up on some of my computer work. We then started watching a rather bad movie on TV while munching on persimmon and dried durian, but decided that our beds looked way more interesting. lol The night was surprisingly quiet and uneventful (I half expected parties) and the next morning the weather had cleared up as though nothing ever happened, so we were able to get back to our regular camping program. ;-)

Being Christmas and all, I felt like whipping up something a little special, so once we were settled in our new home for a few days, I assembled Snowdrop’s Blonde Fruitcake. (Actually, I saw on Heathy's blog that she had the very same cake for Xmas too! hehe) The latter doesn’t require setting in the fridge or freezer, which was perfect.

When me made this cake two Christmases ago, Don had accidentally put 2 TABLESPOONS of almond extract instead of 2 tsp! EEEK! Not this time though! The only changes I made was to use almond pulp instead of ground almonds, and to finely grate the fresh ginger. Since I had to skip the dehydrator part, I simply soaked the dried fruits in orange juice for a few hours.

I frosted the cake with a really yummy frosting that I created on the spot. It complemented the cake's flavors so well!

Ginger Maple Frosting
3/4 cup cashews, soaked
3 tbs water
2 tbs maple syrup
1 ½ tsp grated ginger
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup melted coconut oil and or butter (I used half half)

Blend first five ingredients until smooth. Add coconut oil/butter and blend again. Allow to firm up in the fridge (or in our case, the cooler! lol)

You'd be surprised at all that you can do while camping when you set your mind to it! ;-)

What a festive treat!!! A thousand times better than the traditional fruitcake (which I used to adore!)

Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola
When we checked out of the motel, we debated whether we should keep heading west instead of hanging around the area, but I had a good feeling about Big Lagoon State Park. I proved to be right, as it was actually voted among the best of America. This coastal park sits on the northern shoreline of its namesake, Big Lagoon, which separates the mainland from Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico. Its scenery was different from that of others we’ve been to: mostly pine trees, saw palmetto and super white and fine sand which suggests that at one time, the whole area used to be part of the ocean.

Although it was cold while we stayed there (in the 50s in the day and 30s at night), it was also sunny and clear. Thankfully, I had the idea (and a genius one if I may add!) to get a small electric heater for the tent. Boy, are we ever glad as it has made a world of difference! We're no longer so dependent on the elements as we can now relax comfortably in the tent (or get some blogging done! lol) on rainy/cold days.

During our stay at Big Lagoon, we went for walks on the several trails running through it. A few were covered over with water from the nearby salt marshes, so we had to turn around.

Here's some photos taken around the park...

Long Pond

Sunset on Big Lagoon

Salt Marshes

We had a nice long walk one afternoon on one of its sandy trails and saw some pretty neat stuff.

Mushrooms growing in the sand!

Bright red berry bushes (no wonder birds love this place so much!)

Natural bonsais ;-)

The first cactus in the wild I've ever seen!

Now, remember the prickly pear? When I took this photo, I had no idea that these little red thingies were miniature versions of what we had at Jaimee's. I only found this out while doing research for this post. How cool is that?

We even saw a wolf as we turned a corner! But wait a minute! No, no, it's only Kylo! ;-)

Big Lagoon Park itself doesn't offer direct access to the Gulf of Mexico, so we drove over to the beach one day. It was soooooo cold and windy that we didn't have the courage to go for a walk. Plus, animals aren't allowed on the beach which would be no fun for Kyky. Ah well, at least we saw it!

Brrrrrrrr!!! Can't you hurry up and take that pic?

Bird Haven
Don and I both feel a special connection to birds. (If you’ve been to Raw Freedom Community, you may have noticed how the members have different birdnames. ;-) ) After the idea to travel south first came to us, we would often point out birds and joke that we were going where they’re headed. Well, it proved to be true after all! Since the beginning of our US adventures, we’ve had soooooooo many bird encounters.

Pretty much every morning (except when it's pouring!), we get a stunning serenade from bird varieties we’ve never heard before. At Wickham Park in Melbourne, entire flocks would come hang out in the trees or on the ground next to our campsite.

A resident heron at Hanna Park in Jacksonville

Big Lagoon State Park is on the great Florida birding trail. The park's natural formations, ranging from saltwater marshes to pine flatwoods, attract a wide variety of birds, especially during the spring and fall migrations. While driving around the campground in order to pick a spot, we saw several birds at one particular site. The latter was actually really nice so we took it as an omen that it was “the one”. Sure enough, not only did it prove to be a great home for us, but also many little feathery friends came to visit us regularly, including a gorgeous cardinal.

Some of the birdies we've seen at Big Lagoon...

Our buddy the cardinal who hang around our site.

I managed to catch one of those magical moments...

Super Bandit
But let's leave the winged creatures aside for now and talk about four legged ones. ;-)

One night, we were woken up by strange sounds close to the tent. We’re normally very careful not to leave any food out to avoid tempting any critters, but that night we’d left a square Tupperware container storing various spices and superfoods. That thing is quite heavy and sealed, so we figured that it was safe. Well, it certainly didn’t deter a young raccoon who, after first trying to open it – a much too difficult task! – proceeded to begin hauling it away.

When I came out of the tent to see what the racket was all about, the container was a couple of meters from its original spot. That was one determined little burglar! "Super Coon after the superfoods" I thought. hehe It is a apropos, isn’t it, that Nature has lent them a masked face! ;-)

Coming up next, our adventures in Mississippi and Louisiana!


  1. great pictures and stories. love reading about your adventures.

    was the dehydrating durian stinky?

  2. Hi Carmella and Don (And furpeople!)
    I'm really enjoying reading of your adventures, and thank you sooooo much for sharing your wonderful recipes. My hubby and I are relative newcomers to life in the raw, and your blog is proving to be a mine of useful information. You've also inspired us to re-connect with nature more deeply, so we're getting a new tent soon, to start camping again. We live in south east Queensland, Australia, so there are lots of beautiful national parks and waterways to explore. Thank you again; and may 2010 bring you both continued love, light, peace and wisdom.

  3. I need to try that milk thistle! I wonder where I could buy it...

  4. I so enjoy reading about your adventures and your lovely recipes! Have a lovely time in Missisippi and Louisiana:-)

  5. I Love your blog Carmella I really look forward to reading it and it inspires me.Thank you.
    ( Today Esp Loved the pic of take the picture quick its freezing lol)


  6. Thanks for dropping by everyone! Glad you're enjoying this post! ;-)

    Stinky? Well, that's the thing, durian so grows on you that you don't even mind the smell anymore! Weird I tell ya! It did make the house smell of durian but it wasn't as strong as when you first open it methought.

    I think you'd probably find it in the bulk section of any health food store. If not, I think Travis got his from an online store called Mountain rose.

    Thanks Bob's cat for your kind words!

  7. Wonderful adventures dearie! Beautiful pics - hehe, cute pichy of you decorating the fruit cake outside- looks great, as does all the food. Yummm!
    Continue to enjoy, much love!

  8. Thank you so much for your inspiring generosity. I feel constrained from travel right now, and it's a blessing to vicariously enjoy your travels through your beautiful photos and engaging tales. I enjoy birds also, and I've been intending to reconnect with our local Audubon Society. Seeing your pics just feeds the fire. I am also relatively new to raw, and all the lovely recipes you shared are greatly appreciated (esp fruitcake, can't wait to try, I loved the original also). To the person looking for Milk Thistle, I'm sure you can get it from Mountain Rose Herbs, as Carmella mentioned. I have purchased from them. It's a great company, very environmentally aware. They sell many, many herbs (also spice mixes, essential oils, herbal pet products and even a limited selection of sprouting seeds, and seeds for medicinal herbs to grow your own). If you go to Vimeo and search for Katrina Blair, you can see some awesome videos of her preparing things like acorn milk, flour and bread from cattails, and thistle lemonade.

  9. I just made the milk thistle milk and it's great! What a new world this opens up. I've always been reluctant to go too far down the road with nut milk b/c of the fat - but this was great.

  10. Wonderful post! Thank you.

  11. Hi Carm! I just wanted to pop by and say hello! its been a while sinse Ive been on your website... anyways, im glad to see your still doing your adventures, and creating yummy things :) take care. happy 2010!

  12. another wonderful post. been thinking of you and don a lot lately. =)

  13. lovely post and thank you so much for sharing part of your journey with us.We look forward to hearing about your future endeavors :)