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 21, 2014

The Best Holiday Ever

It must be getting close to a year since I've written a 'proper' blog post, journaling recent events and happenings in my life. Dis-ease can do that; knock inspiration right out of ya. I was still hesitating a little about doing this post. For one thing, I can't say that I'm really feeling moved to writing again, at least not just yet. But more importantly, because of my compromised gut all of my action in the kitchen for the last several months has been of the cooked variety.

On the other hand, I finally have some 'blogging material' to share with you guys. So raw blog or nay, in spite of my reservations here I am typing away on my laptop (offline as we no longer have internet at home.) I figured that something other than the usual 'health updates' would be a nice change and a good way to start off the new year. I sincerely hope that the strict raw lifestylers among you won't be offended by the cooked content of this post. I promise that I don't intend to make this a habit. If I feel the urge to share more of my cooked culinary adventures in the future, I'll do so on a new dedicated blog.

OK, so let's get to it, shall we?

Family Reunion
If you have followed our adventures across the US in the past few years then you have probably already met our dear friend Diane from Santa Barbara. We first crossed paths during our very first tour in 2010. While we only stayed 3 days in her home back then it was enough to make two things very clear:

1. Diane and us share a wonderful, albeit mysterious, deep soul connection. To put it quite simply; we are 'family'.

2. We fell in love with the warm climate and delightful lushness of Santa Barbara.

And so we visited Diane again the following year, and I even flew over one winter to spend most of the cold months with her while Don held the fort back in Canada with the furries. This turned out to be one of the most wonderful winters of my life; waking up nearly every day to gorgeous blue skies and sunshine, surrounded by palm trees, roses and hummingbirds, and bathed in the sweet aroma of jasmine in the evening. *sigh* And of course the companionable presence of Diane with whom I spent copious amount of time playing in the kitchen and quietly crafting.

We hadn't seen her in almost 2 years (well, 3 for Don) so we were thrilled to learn of Diane's plans to come visit us in southern British Columbia over the recent Holidays. As it is with true friends, it felt like we picked up right where we'd left off, as though not a single day had passed since we were last in each other's company.

We quickly fell into a comfortable routine of starting our days off gathered around the wood stove. Actually, come to think of it, Diane and I didn't leave our cozy spots much other than to whip up something in the kitchen or watch a movie in the evening. ;-)

Toasty Toes


Of course, Miss Puss still lives up to her nickname of 'Heat Seeking Missile'; every now and then hopping from one lap to the other, melting in the luxurious warmth.


Don and I don't usually celebrate Christmas per se, other than to welcome the opportunity to cook up something special. Still, I couldn't resist knitting Diane a little token of my appreciation for having her in my life.

Admiring the doily that I made for her.


Perhaps not quite the purpose that I had in mind for it, but doesn't she look ravishing?

It's always a bit 'iffy' when it comes to landing at the nearest airport in Castlegar. Due to its location between mountains and next to the Columbia river, low visibility is unfortunately a common occurrence, especially in the wintertime. After monitoring the weather forecast for weeks, we woke up to a beautiful (and totally unexpected!) sunny morning on the day that Diane was due to fly in. The Mystery definitely gave us a hand here as it turned out to be the only clear day in nearly two weeks! It remained cloudy for most of Diane's stay but the sun did peek out on a couple of occasions. We took advantage of the weather to show Diane around a little and drive along our beautiful Slocan River.

We're so cozy, tucked away in our little cabin in the woods, that we try to keep our trips to the nearby town of Nelson to a minimum. We did go once with Diane to do our bi-monthly shopping and give her a little tour of the place.

In My Still Sunny But No Longer Very Raw Kitchen
As the list of ingredients my gut can tolerate has ever so slowly expanded over the months, I have been able to enjoy gradually more elaborate dishes. In the necessary shift from being almost solely focused on taste to giving my body what it needs, my enthusiasm for cooking has suffered a great deal. In any case, I certainly don't have a lot of extra energy to spare for being creative in the kitchen. For the most part, I am quite content to follow other people's culinary guidelines.

From my raw days I've learned that it can be a rare occurrence indeed to find a recipe creator with whom I have what I call 'taste bud alignment'. At the very least, everyone is so unique that it's almost to be expected that some slight adjustments will need to be made to bring a recipe to your liking, such as for salt, sweetener and spices. It can take a while to get to know a particular chef's proclivities in those regards, therefore coming to trust someone's recipes can be a slow process fraught with lots of trials and errors.

I was blessed to stumble upon two gluten-free chefs very early on this forced cooked phase that are not only very talented but that I quickly discovered I could trust for consistent yummy results: Bette Hagman, a lady who has been cooking gluten free for more than 40 years, and Carol Fenster. I'll be pointing to the relevant books from which some of their wonderful creations have been taken.

As you may remember, I used to be a huge fan of raw soup. I have created my fair share of them over the years as Don and I would enjoy one every single day to begin our evening meals. Sadly, I no longer can enjoy those bowls of raw deliciousness but once in a while I do make a cooked potage. Carol Fenster has several excellent soups to choose from in her book 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes. All of the recipes I've tried so far have been awesome! While Diane was staying with us we enjoyed her Cream of Broccoli and Carrot-Ginger Soups (sorry, no pics), as well as her Creamy Potato-Leek...

... and Butternut Squash Soup.

Our Christmas feast: Carol's Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Vegan Gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts and Herb Bread Stuffing from Annalise G. Roberts Gluten-Free Baking Classics. Yummo!

We enjoyed the left-overs a couple of days later with the addition of Quinoa Burgers and sweet potatoes (which we actually forgot to serve at Xmas! lol)  Oh, and we drenched the whole thing in a delicious Mushroom Gravy.

Since I no longer feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen, I have been building a repertoire of simple entree staples that I can count on, many of which we shared with Diane.

Our go-to recipe when we're in a pinch: Rice Pasta with Sauteed Mushrooms and Green Onions in a Cream of Mushroom Sauce. I usually top it with vegan cheese shreds (made from tapioca) and pop it in the oven for a few minutes for the cheese to melt.

Comfort food at its best: Bette's Vegetable Potpie topped with Buttermilk Biscuits from The Gluten Free-Gourmet Cooks Fast And Healthy.

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole from Bette Hagman's The Gluten Free-Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods


I do occasionally come up with my own concoctions. Here's a Spinach Quiche made with Bette Hagman's Featherlight Vinegar Pie Crust.

I can't have anything hot or spicy so I've been mostly using dried herbs to highlight savory dishes. However I recently discovered that I'm actually fine with Indian spices, as long as I stay away from chili powder and any kind of pepper. Hurrah! This Vegetable Tikka Masala from Carol Fenster's 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes tasted like heaven to me after all these months of blandness!

Since giving the Specific Carbohydrate Diet a try last summer, I haven't been really drawn to eating meat. I did the latter out of necessity at the time and, quite frankly, I don't enjoy consuming animal flesh very much. I still have some wild BC salmon and locally raised organic chickens in our freezer, so I thought Diane's visit would be the perfect opportunity to make a dent in those supplies.

Indian Spiced Salmon with Bette's Curried Rice from More From The Gluten Free-Gourmet

I used locally raised organic chicken mainly for making stocks and broths which are considered to have very healing and soothing properties, especially for the gut. As a result the chicken meat I was left with was both tasteless and rubbery. With Diane here I made my very first roasted chicken which I opted to do in the slow cooker. If you are going to cook chicken what a fabulous way to do it! It's energy efficient, mess-free and the resulting meat is very moist and tender.

We served some of it in the following Bean Flour Crepes, stuffed with mushrooms, green onions and spinach, and baked in a white sauce. Another excellent recipe from Bette Hagman featured in The Gluten Free-Gourmet Cooks Fast And Healthy.

And on the not-so-sweet side...

Since I must carefully monitor the sugar/fructose I eat in one sitting it has turned dessert making into a bit of a challenge. Thank goodness for stevia is all I can say! I try to limit the amount of sweetener I use (mostly coconut sugar, honey or molasses), to about 1 tbs per serving and make up the balance with stevia in powder or liquid form. I used to absolute hate the stuff until my friend Matthew introduced me to KAL's products which don't have any aftertaste at all.

One thing I remember from the Holidays of my childhood is my mom always having a platter of cookies lying about. I somehow managed to whip up 5 different kinds with Diane's precious help, but boy, was it ever a lot of work! Below you can see Orange Spritz Cookies from Cybele Pascal's The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook on the left/bottom (very, very yummy! Almost like shortbread...), Roll Out Cookies from Beth Hillson's Gluten-Free Makeovers at the top (nothing special) and Snickerdoodles also from Cybele Pascal on the right (OK but a little dry).

The most fun part was of course decorating Cybele's little Gingerbread people with Diane. We had a total blast!

Bette has a low sugar version of Confectioner's Sugar made with milk powder substitute and tapioca starch which turned out to be a life saver for making icing.



Meet our Gingerbread Babies. Pay particular notice to my 'Alien' one in the top row, and Diane's 'Avon Woman and Man' at the bottom. He he

Also, my Devilish Gingerbread Bear at the top and my Pirate at the bottom. The only problem with making Gingerbread People is that they're so cute you don't want to eat them afterwards. But eat them we did and they were super delish: spicy and moist.

Since I often end up with extra egg yolks from Bette's breads, one of my fave ways to use them is to make a simple Vanilla Custard on the stove. I've come up with a slightly more elegant rendition in which I add melted coconut oil and lecithin to the custard and serve it on a gluten-free Graham Cracker Crust. Need I say more?

I was all excited to find a silicon tube pan on sale just before Christmas and could hardly wait to use it. Unfortunately I've had a few duds in my gluten-free cake experiments, but I was rewarded with this Zucchini Bundt Cake from Bette's More From The Gluten-Free Gourmet. It rose really well and was very moist. The only booboo I made was to forget to add stevia to the batter (ooops!) so it was seriously short on the sweet side. This was easily remedied, though, with a couple of shakes of stevia powder for me and a drizzle of extra maple syrup for Don and Diane.

I must stay away from flax or any other type of seeds, therefore I can't eat any type of raw crackers. And so I've been experimenting with gluten-free breads. It's been a rather long and bumpy road as baking without gluten is definitely an art that I have yet to master. Thankfully, Bette Hagman has once again come to the rescue with her The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread - a must have for anyone interested in the subject. She shares dozens and dozens of bread recipes, using a variety of home made gluten-free flour blends. Every single breads I've made from her book has turned out fabulously well (except for the odd mistake on my part due to the oven being too hot or taking the bread out before it's ready.) In fact, after picking this book up at my local library I was so impressed with Bette's recipes that I proceeded to order all of her other books (you can buy them used on Amazon for super cheap!) Two of my favorite breads actually come from Bette's earlier works.

Tapioca Bread from The Gluten-Free Gourmet

This turned out to be the lightest and closest in both texture and flavor to regular wheat bread of all the gluten-free recipes I've tried so far!

I made some of the dough into dinner rolls. Simply sublime served warm with a dollop of homemade Coconut Vegan Butter.

Old Fashioned Potato Bread from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Fast And Healthy.


As was to be expected, two weeks went by waaaay too fast! Before we knew it it was already time to say goodbye to Diane at the airport. Once again we were looked after as her flight took off without a hitch. In a recent email Diane confided that it was "the best vacation/Holiday I remember ever having." Yay! ;-)

I hope that you too had a fabulous Holiday Season and that the New Year has begun on a positive note for you all! 

A Brief Health Update
Before I go, I'd like to say just a few words about how things are looking for me health wise. I've managed to remain mostly pain free for the last few weeks by carefully sticking to those ingredients that I know are considered 'safe'. However I continue to experience symptoms and can feel that something is still getting in the way of my gut truly healing. Since I've run out of options in dealing with it myself through diet or natural remedies and, quite frankly, after some 13 months I have totally run out of energy, I will be going ahead with the colonoscopy exam scheduled for January 27th. While I don't intend to necessarily follow the Western medicine approach (it will largely depend on what measures are recommended, of course), I'm hoping that the scope will at least shed some light on what's really happening in there. *fingers crossed*

Will you hold me in your prayers and hearts so that it all goes smoothly?

I'll be keeping you posted on the results as soon as I can...


  1. a sunny post - surely this will be a power year of renewal for you with better days ahwad

  2. Thank you for the update - You will surely be in my best thoughts for continued healing on this journey .... sending you love for day by day
    improvement and an easy and safe scope

  3. Wish you all the best, I hope you will be healthy again very soon. You are truly beatiful soul and I enjoy your blog posts so much :)

  4. Prayers and hugs for you and Don as he helps you through this healing process Carmella. You are on the road back, I know. Be strong and be safe.

  5. You certainly will be in my prayers as you do the diagnostic test. Hoping for continued healing and guidance in your path to health again! It pains me to see what journey you've had to traverse after enjoying such a clean, clear, & lovely diet for so long! I miss your raw creations and hopeful that one day you will be able to share your raw delights with us again!

  6. Good luck with the colonoscopy and everything else! You will be just fine, I promise! I have done one and although it is a bit uncomfortable it is over really quickly! I will keep my fingers crossed that they will see what is going on in your gut and what you need to eat to get well again. <3

  7. I will pray for you for healing, wisdom and peace <3 Deb

    PS I have been following you for years. Thank you for all of your beautiful and incredibly creative recipes.

  8. Option to consider is a GI Tract stool analysis which I did through my Naturopathic Dr. It will tell you if you are able to absorb fats, proteins, carbs as well as candida overgrowth, parasites, bacterial composition, etc.

    I've had gut issues and discovered I still had a candida overgrowth as well as a diminished ability to digest fat.

    If you've researched the SCD then you probably came across the FODMAP diet which some people do better on than SCD for SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). There is also a test to determine if you have this. Dr. Pimental/Dr. Sibecker / Dr. Sandberg-Lewis are all good sources of information for this and researchers in this field..

    Yes the colonoscopy will tell you if you have obstruction/inflammation/etc. which based on your symptoms you more than likely have one of them. The GI and SIBO breath test are less invasive and will tell you more about the profile of organisms in your tract which a ND will be able to treat.

    Possibly after the liver cleanse, your gall bladder could have contracted which impacted the bile delivery system and upset the digestion of your food.....and the balance of bacteria in your gut.

    1. Thanks for the info, it's really appreciated!

      The scope went well but wasn't very helpful. As I feared, most of my issues are located in the small intestine so the scope couldn't see.

      I'd researched SIBO a while back but had forgotten about it in the midst of all the other info I'd found. I re-read an article explaining how fructose malabsorption (which I know I definitely have) is caused by small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Interestingly both can be tested for in the same manner with the same breath test. I suppose that this will be my next step. In the meantime I'm beginning a Low FODMAPS diet as you suggested.

  9. Thanks guys for your continued support and thinking about me last Monday! The colonoscopy exam went smoothly. As is often the case, it turned out to be less challenging than I anticipated. The prep the day before went well - no obvious abdominal pain or cramps - and the procedure itself had no complications.

    When I regained consciousness after the scope, the first thing the nurse told me was that "everything looks normal." While for most people that would be considered good news, in my case it was a major disappointment. I had a sense that the pain I've been experiencing is mainly located in the small intestines (which isn't covered by the colonoscopy) but I was still hoping to get some information re: obstructions in my colon and possible parasites.

    The most challenging aspect of the scope is that my gut has been so traumatized by the laxative and procedure that I've had to return to a diet of very soft foods. Right now I can only eat a few things and it will most likely be a long, and at times painful, process of gradually reintroducing new foods over the coming months. A girl's gotta do what she's gotta do... ;-)

    1. Much as I hate to suggest it, you can also have a scope done through the mouth and down the esophagus to examine the condition of the small intestines. I forget what it's called, but that is how I was officially diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2008 - also they could actually see patches of candida in my esophagus and in the intestines too, I believe. It is much less difficult to prepare for than the colonoscopy prep, which was a disaster for me when I did it. There is no "prep" to do, other than fasting for a number of hours before they do the scope. For my Celiac diagnosis, he took small biopsies from my small intestine, and he also could see that the villi in my small intestines were literally wearing flat, a real frightening realization, and a result of the damage done after developing Celiac as an adult and having it for several years without realizing what it is. Anyway, you are in my thoughts. I know you are spent, and maybe one more suggestion is too many, but I did want to throw this out there, since your instinct is that the small intestines may be the problem.

    2. Hi Mindy,

      I actually did get that scope done as well but they can only see the very beginning of the small intestines. In my case the pain seems to be located further on so they didn't notice anything.

      I guess I should take the opportunity to give you guys a little update.

      In the week following the scope I quickly realized that I couldn't really begin to introduce new foods as the pain in my gut kept getting worse. It seems to be mostly located in the small intestines so is probably damage caused by the laxative I had to take prior to the colonoscopy.

      I did two 3 day water fasts with the idea to give my gut a good break. The only food I can tolerate right now is white rice congee, banana, egg and chicken. I can also have elemental shakes although they irritate a bit. I think I'll just have to be patient and give my gut as much of a rest as possible so that it can get a chance to heal. I will most likely have to stick to those few safe foods and not try to add anything else for some time (prob 1 or 2 months). Yah, I know, not a happy thought, but I don't see that I have much choice at this point. *sigh* Gotta keep on truckin'... ;-)