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!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunny Raw Kitchen Tour Adventures - Florida Part II

Happy Winter Solstice everyone!!!

For both Don and I, this is our first time escaping the Canadian winter in a tropical like location. Surrounded by palm trees and sandy beaches as we are now and sans the freezing cold we're so used to at this time of year, it’s hard to get our minds around the fact that we’re only a few days away from Christmas. I was waiting for Don in a store parking lot the other day, luxuriously soaking up the sunshine while listening to Xmas carols coming from an outdoor speaker: "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" hehe It felt so surreal! Although it's been rather chilly lately (barely above freezing at night), we're not complaining. No sirree!

In Palm Tree Land
We were told that Florida is actually the only state where palms are native. I've been fascinated by their different shapes and forms and the seemingly endless varieties of leaves.

My favorite of all is the Royal Palm. You can distinguish it from the other species by its divided trunk; while the bottom is rough and barky, the top part is smooth and green. The following picture doesn't do it justice, but you can still get the idea.

So majestic!

What I didn't know is that coconuts grow on certain types of palm trees. Here in Florida, they have green coconuts. Don actually found one on the ground while walking Kylo and brought it back to Stephanie's home. Yay! If you get them early, the coconuts are filled with sweet water (much like young Thai coconuts), but this particular one was more mature and therefore had thick white flesh and hardly any water.

Yum Yum!

Walk on the Wild Side
Steph wanted to show us some of the 'real Florida' as there is so much more to its landscape than beautiful sandy beaches. One late afternoon, we drove over to Micco Scrub Sanctuary near Palm Bay for a stroll.

The trail first took us among a sea of saw palmetto...

...then to scrubby flatwoods sprinkled with pine trees. I don't know why, but the scenery reminded me of Africa, maybe because of its desert-like appearance.

Kylo had a great time! He very nearly had an encounter with an armadillo but he missed the action as he happened to be exploring behind us.

It was very close to full moon and we could distinctly see the latter in the sky. Notice the little white dot among the trees?

When we headed back, we were blessed with the breathtaking sight of the sun setting in the distance. Perfect timing!

Room With A View
After spending a little over a week at Steph’s home, it felt like it was time to give her personal space back, so we set up headquarters at Wickham State Park, right in the heart of Melbourne. I was expecting a crowded and not-so-quiet campground, you know, it being in town and all, but I was up for a pleasant surprise. Wickham Park's camping area - although a little tight - is very comfortable. For some reason, it seems to attract mostly retirees in their great big RVs who were ideal neighbors. ;-) As a bonus, the park also offers several ponds and hiking trails which made for lovely walks.

Wouldn’t you know it, the weather turned on the very night that we arrived at the campsite. It started to rain and almost didn’t stop for 36 hours straight!!! Amazingly, there’d be short lulls here and there, just long enough to allow us to do whatever we had to do. Unfortunately, we soon found out that our new tent had a leek. Bummer! Don managed to keep us dry by rigging a couple of tarps on top on the tent. It may not have looked pretty but it worked!

When we returned the tent to the store, they didn't carry this particular model so we ended up buying a different one. This actually proved to be a good thing as it's really comfy and considerably larger than the other ones we've had. Not only is there room for our air mattress, Puss' toilet and Kylo's blankie, but we can even do our rites in there and bring in our folding chairs on rainy days. The tent is also in the shape of a dome which is totally cool!

Our new palace

But one of the tent's best features is a little window nearly at ground level which seems to be specifically designed in order for small furries to get in and out. The funny thing is that we didn't even know about it until we first assembled the tent.

Puss absolutely ADORES it and is virtually glued to the window all the time, checking out what all is going on out there.

Everybody Loves Kyky!
Ever since our arrival in Florida, it’s been amazing the number of comments we’ve received about how beautiful and well behaved Kylo is. It seems that he draws attention everywhere we go, be it on our walks, hanging around our campsites, even at highway toll booths! lol Guess Floridians (if there’s such a thing as everyone we meet seem to have come from another state! lol) are real dog lovers, eh? Someone pointed out that folks here tend to have smaller dogs too which probably accounts in part for their awe.

I love the look on people's faces when we tell them that we feed Kylo about 75% raw fruits and veggies, and that he’s never been trained or tied up! ;-)

Magical Mystery Dust
In our lives, Don and I often have the opportunity to witness Life (or 'The Mystery' as we like to call it) work its magic. I know it can be easy to forget as it's sometimes very subtle (or perhaps we're the ones not paying enough attention!) Now that we're on the move, Life's mysterious quality, with its intricate connections and synchronicities, seems to be even more noticeable, no doubt as not only is Life coming towards us, but we are also now going towards It.

Anyhoo, I thought you guys might enjoy this little story...

One evening while we were staying at Steph's, a man named Spencer knocked on the door. He said that Kylo went over to his van the previous day in order to greet him when he was driving down the street. (By the way, Spencer doesn't live in the neighborhood or anything, he just 'happened' to be interested in renting a house a few doors down!) For some reason, this encounter with Kylo stayed on his mind and intrigued him so much that he decided to come over and say "hi". As he was talking, Don noticed that Spencer was wearing a cap with the words "raw foods" on it. (I mean, what are the odds of that, right?)

Donnie called me over and we all got talking, swapping stories. As it turns out, Spencer started eating raw some months back, hoping it would help with his health issues. He's actually a regular customer of Happy Healthy Human, the raw café/wellness center where Stephanie works! When we told him a little about us, he immediately thought of hooking us up with a friend of his, Carmen, who is in charge of a local raw meet up group called "We Love It Raw". Less than a week later, we found ourselves giving a small raw class at Carmen's home. She was excited that we'd been so mysteriously brought together.

A few months ago, it became clear to Carmen that she badly needed to make some changes in regards to her health or her days were being counted. That's when she stumbled upon some information about raw foods and started introducing them more in her diet. The results have been dramatic, to say the least! In fact, she saw her doctor the day before the class and he gave her a clear bill of health; no more diabetes and high blood pressure! Hee hah! Carmen showed me some pictures taken last year and she looked like a different woman altogether. In-cre-di-ble! Now she's got her coworkers all curious, asking about her major weight loss and new glow. Yay raw! ;-)

The way this incident unfolded was such a good reminder of how we need to stay fluid and trust the flow. We just never know what the Mystery has in store for us next!

Feasting at Café 118°
I was initially going to stop my post here, but then realized that I haven't put up a single food pic!!! Now we can't have that, can we?

When I found out that Matthew Kenney had opened a raw café in Orlando, I managed to tempt Don into making a little detour for this unique experience. I mean, how often do we get to enjoy the creations of someone like Matthew? (It was also the perfect excuse to avoid most of the dreaded I-95 traffic as we were making our way back north towards St-Augustine.)

In case you don't already know about Matthew Kenney, he is the author of the raw best sellers Raw Food Real World and Entertaining in the Raw and the co-founder of the famous Pure Food And Wine restaurant in New York. Of all the raw chefs, I’d say that I admire his work the most. Matthew's approach to raw food preparation is closer to art than that of anyone else I know.

Café 118° is located in Orlando's Winter Park, a quiet ritzy area with charming cobblestone streets. The space is artfully decorated with paintings and to win extra points, the music was really very good. (We even unconsciously found ourselves moving to the beat a few times! lol)

As the restaurant was almost empty, the waitress took ultra good care of us; describing some of the dishes and answering any questions we had.

Making our choice among the mouth watering menu was no easy task. After much pondering, we decided to go with the Beet Ravioli which I was told was an exclusive recipe not published in any of his books. Plus it was still early in the day and I didn’t feel like having anything too heavy. (Not to mention that we wanted to make sure we’d have room left for dessert!)

The dish consisted of paper thin coconut beet wrappers filled with a sublime Cashew Ricotta. Wow, don’t know how he does it but that ricotta’s texture was a-ma-zing! So like the real thing! It was accompanied with a subtle Pear Wine Sauce which complemented the Ravioli’s flavors perfectly. We normally stay way clear of alcohol, but it didn’t bother us at all. The Ravioli was served with an excellent simple arugula salad with lightly dehydrated cherry tomatoes.

Mushroom lovers that we are, we also opted for the Portobello 'Steak' with South American Potato Salad.

The dish’s aroma felt rich and almost sexy to me (hum, never guessed I’d think of mushies as sexy but there you go! lol) The ‘Steak’ had a wonderful smokey flavor that was achieved by soaking the Portobello mushrooms in lapsang tea. They were then slightly dehydrated, sliced and napped in a delicate tamari sauce. I was fascinated by the subtle hint of smoke. Delish! The Potato Salad was made with jicama cubes tossed with avocado and red onion; extremely simple but I thought it complemented the Portobello 'Steak' very well.

When the waitress asked me which one of the entrees I liked best, I honestly had a hard time replying; both dishes were so tasty yet very different!

But the best part was dessert…

We ordered the 'Smores' which I’d read a raving review about. We’ve never had the original SAD version (which is totally fine by us! lol), but being camping and all, it felt very appropriate to try it. The 'Smores' consisted of graham crackers (again, how does Matthew come up with these creations!?! His talent never ceases to amaze me!) filled with a slightly gooey cream (yep, reminiscent of marshmallow) and drizzled with a divine Chocolate Sauce. A little too sweet for our taste buds, but still very very decadent.

We were adamant to try one of Matthew’s ice creams so we ordered the Banana Almond Butter Cup. This one really had us on the verge of moaning, but we duly exercised some restraint. Rich, sumptuous and beyond creamy young coconut based banana ice cream (man, I gotta get one of them ice cream makers!!! Hear that Santa?) with little cubes made of cacao powder and almond butter, and topped with Chocolate Sauce. Need I say more?

As we were getting ready to leave, more scrumptious plates suddenly appeared at the kitchen's little window. I would have gladly grabbed a few spoonfuls of each as it all looked so delicious and, once again, impeccably presented. Ah well... Maybe another time! *fingers crossed*

Wishing you all a blessed and joy-full Holiday Season!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Time to Cast Your Votes for Best of Raw 2009!

Voting has now begun for Best of Raw 2009! Woo Hoo

BEST OF RAW 2009 is a publicly nominated Raw Vegan Celebration produced by Laura Fox + Visionary Culture, honoring movers and shakers in the raw vegan movement! 517 raw vegan enthusiasts have nominated HUNDREDS of raw people, products, websites, restaurants, etc in 30 categories!

The BEST OF RAW philosophy is to have fun while encouraging the energy of playful coopetition — cooperation plus competition. We truly wish to celebrate all leaders and to have some fun with an engaging community activity designed to be delightful and promote the raw vegan lifestyle.

Join us and cast your votes for your favorite raw vegan educator, chef, restaurant, website, book, snack and more. Oh and let's not forget the Sexiest Raw Vegan Woman and Man of 2009 categories! ;-)

To my great surprise (and excitement!), my websites and I have been nominated in seven categories:

Favorite Raw Vegan Educator: Carmella Soleil

Favorite Raw Vegan Chef: Carmella Soleil

Sexiest Raw Vegan Woman: Carmella Soleil (hehe)

Favorite Raw Blog: The Sunny Raw Kitchen

Favorite Raw Vegan Website: Raw Freedom Community (rawfreedomcommunity.info) and and The Sunny Raw Kitchen (thesunnyrawkitchen.blogspot.com)

Favorite Raw Vegan Book: The Best of Raw Freedom Community E-Book

Favorite Raw Vegan Online Community: rawfreedomcommunity.com

Phfew! Wow, I'm really speechless guys!!! THANK YOU!

You have until noon on New Year's Eve to cast your votes. Winners will be announced on the Dec. 30 Visionary Culture/Raw Inspirations Radio Show!

So don't forget to pop by the Best of Raw 2009 website and vote for your faves by clicking on the link below!

Sunny Raw Kitchen Tour Adventures - Florida Part I

It was chilly and rainy the morning that we left South Carolina and continued further south, but by the time we arrived in Florida, the sun was out to welcome us. (Yah baby!) As we drove, we could distinctively feel the change of temperature; we went from having the heater running to the air conditioner! Throughout the day, I peeled off four layers if you can believe it! lol

Wet Happens
First thing we did once we reached the sunshine state was drop by the visitor’s center in order to stock up on maps and other Florida paraphernalia. As we were locking the car, a man walked towards us. He said he'd been following us on the highway and noticed that the lids of our containers were flapping in the wind. Oh-oh! NOT good! We’d hit a mega rainstorm in Georgia (Don doesn't remember seeing rain falling so hard!), so we thought we better check if anything got wet. Sure enough, some water had sneaked into two of the bins. Nothing catastrophic though, as the clothes bin had thankfully remained sealed. Phfew! All our books managed to remain dry, except for one recipe book I hardly ever use anyways. No biggie. Boy, were we ever glad that the man ‘happened’ to also stop at the visitor’s center and was able to let us know. Imagine opening the bins weeks or months later, not to mention after the hot and humid Florida weather! Yikes!

Amazingly for us, we were going to be in the vicinity of not one but two raw cafés, so we decided we were up for a treat. (Woo hoo!) After a quick online check (what would I do without our laptop!?!), I discovered that the Present Moment Café in St-Augustine wasn’t open that day, so that pretty much solved it. We (very gladly!) hopped off I-95 in Jacksonville and made our way towards Atlantic Beach to the lovely Shakti Life Kitchen. I'd heard about this place via my friend Eva who recently taught a series of raw food prep classes there. I was actually hoping to bump into her as she's also been replacing someone on leave in their kitchen. Sadly, Eva wasn't around. In fact, as we walked in they were getting ready to close shop, but after telling them how far we’d come they kindly offered to prep something for us. Yay! The food was delightful! I love LOVE their wraps; pliable yet sturdy. They reminded me of the Soft Veggie Wraps but with whole flax seeds in them. On the staff's recommendation, we had...

Buckwheat Bean Burrito:
A Shakti Classic. Sprouted Buckwheat Beans, Sunflower Seed Cream Cheese, Fresh Greens, Tomato, and Sweet Onion rolled in a Fiesta Spinach Pepper Wrap.

"Don't have a Cow" 3 Cheese Sandwich:

Layers of Pumpkin Seed Cheese, Cashew Cheese, and Chipotle Pepper Cheese are stacked with Fresh Greens, Sweet Onion, Cucumber, and Sprouts on Stunning Spinach Pitas. (My personal favorite!)

Both platters came with Fiesta Crackers which are like THE best flax crackers I've ever had! If I remember the ingredients correctly, they were made with flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sundried tomatoes, fresh cilantro, sea salt, lemon juice and LOTS of garlic.

For dessert, we had Cinnamon Rolls with Whipped Cream, left over from their brunch menu. To live for!!!

In Florida's Jungle
We spent that night at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park which was conveniently located in Mayport, just a few miles north of Atlantic Beach. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous; a mixture of palm trees and live oaks with big streamers of moss hanging from them. So magical! We considered staying for another day or two, but as we soon found out, we were camped next to a rather loud family (to put it mildly) which definitely was a turn off. Still, we’d like to spend more time there when we'll return to the area.

Our new tent as the old one was pretty much toast after last summer's deluge. It has a bit of a funky shape, doesn't it?

There are several trails that you can hike around the park which we were looking forward to exploring the next morning. It was Kyky's first walk ever among palm trees and live oaks.

Come to think of it, ours too! lol

Saw palmetto, a renowned natural remedy for prostate related conditions.

Melbourne Goes Raw
Our next stop was Melbourne, about 3 hours south of Jacksonville. There seemed to be a lot of energy drawing us to that area. For one thing, we'd been invited to stay with Stephanie who works at yet another brand new raw venture called Happy Healthy Human. (I swear they're growing like mushrooms! Yay!)

HHH is her friend Jason's baby; he'd been selling weekly organic food boxes out of his living room for a while and decided to expand. They like to think of Happy Healthy Human as a community life center as opposed to only a restaurant. Besides offering freshly made food, smoothies and wheat grass juices, their intention is to be a resource of education, support and empowerment, trying to send positive energy out into the community and encouraging people to be responsible for their own health. Some of the envisioned activities that HHH will offer include guest speakers/teachers, catered events, yoga classes and live music, kombucha and dessert nights. Sounds promising to me!

Since Steph was working when we arrived in town, we went straight to the center/café. It felt as if we'd walked in among a bunch of friends! Everyone was so vibrant and welcoming!

Carmi & Steph; glad to finally meet!

Steph harvesting wheat grass. Notice the cute little girl in the background?


Danielle, Jason and Steph lovingly whipping up some yummy food in the kitchen.

The delicious platter Jason prepared for us to munch on: Onion Bread Sandwich on a gigantic bed of mixed greens, heaps of home grown sprouts, coleslaw, flax cracker, kale chips with an awesome hemp dressing. I love Jason's emphasis on fresh ingredients rather than the dehydrated goodies.

After giving a hand at the Happy Healthy Human on their crazy busy food box day, we stopped for a short walk at a nearby park. Kylo went for a little dip... Ahhhhh, so refreshing! Except that we later found out that there were alligators in the lake!!! Eeek!

Time To Rest
Stephanie lives in a cozy old style home with a nice big backyard. Predictably, the latter became our favorite place to hang out in the sun. ;-) There's even a grapefruit tree, some of the harvest from which we enjoyed in our daily juices and smoothies.

Steph was working a lot of the time so we had the house pretty much to ourselves. We took the opportunity to go into complete recovery mode; hitting the hay super early, not doing much, laying in the sun, even not preparing anything too fancy in terms of food. Just taking it reeeeeeeal easy!

Failed Experiment
On the day of our arrival at Steph's, I brewed a couple of batches of kombucha tea as we'd run out some time back. If you're a kombucha drinker, then you know how much you miss the stuff when it's not around! Since it looked like we were going to be there for at least 10 days and the weather was super warm, I figured I could take my chances. I didn't have quite enough cane sugar, but after doing some research, I decided to use some sucanat sugar as well. I've never seen the scoby grow so fast! Within a week's time, it had developed a new layer of almost half an inch!!! Unfortunately, the tea itself didn't taste right so I ended up throwing the whole thing out. (Boo hoo!) I strongly suspect that the sucanat was the culprit as everything else I did the same as always. Live and learn, eh?

Stephanie shares her home with several cats. It was so neat to watch them interact, especially since our Puss is such a loner and doesn't really get along with other felines. Sometimes we think that she must consider herself human or something. Meet Steph's furry buddies...



and Marley

All super stressed, as you can see. ;-) They were very very curious about what was laying on the other side of the bedroom door where we and Puss slept. I had actually taken a photo of all three of them staring at the closed door (soooooo funny!), but then somehow it got erased. *scratching her head*

When you live with animals sometimes you can stumble upon the cutest moments. I couldn't resist capturing some of those on camera while at Steph's.

The boys chilling.

Steph & Don had company as they were talking at the dinner table one night.

A few sweet cuddling pics...

Rocko, the Sphinx, found a cozy spot.

Speaking of Rocko, the little guy is completely obsessed with tomato. We discovered his passion the hard way when we left tomatoes on the counter overnight. As soon as you'd start prepping tomatoes, Rocko would come running over! lol

A very attentive audience...

One day while having dinner, Rocko was nonchalantly lounging on the place mat close to mine. His paw started to inch closer and closer. Next thing you knew, he was diving into my plate in search of the precious red candy! It was beyond ha-la-rious! hehe I personally thought it was so cute, I didn't have the heart to scold him. ;-)

A Thrift Lover's Heaven
The last few years, Don and I have been buying most of our clothes used. I mean, there's just soooooo much in circulation already and the things you can find!!! As we were both needing some summer clothes for the beautiful Florida weather, I asked Steph about thrift stores. "Oh, you're going thrifting!" she goes to me. (Hehe... "Thrifting", I like that!) Little did I know... Melbourne almost has one on every block! I've never seen so many thrift stores in my life! We found four of them on the main little downtown stretch alone! I find that used clothes seem to be considerably cheaper than in Canada. Good thing I don't live here is all I can say! lol One store we went in had a room full of clothes at 50 cents a piece. Wow, definitely my kind of place! We totally scored that day; a whole new wardrobe for under $6!!! Woo hoo

Family Reunion
Another pull towards Melbourne was the fact that our dear friends, Lisa and her family from Ithaca, happened to be visiting relatives in the area during the Thanksgiving holidays. What are the odds of that!?! In fact, they were even staying at a small mom & pop's motel by the beach where Stephanie used to work! I mean, come on, isn't it incredible?

As you know, holidays can be a crazy time, so we only had a short visit. Still, we were happy to get a chance to see them again, even if not for long... We hung out on the beach below the motel while the kids got to splash in the ocean and make sandcastles one last time before returning home.

As you can see, it's not easy to get little Gabe to stop for very long! lol He did take the time, though, to give us extra big smoochies when we parted. How sweet!

We'd brought along a decadent banana coconut pie creation that Holly in Tobaccoville had shared with us. So rich and oh-so-delicious!!!

HoneyMoon Torte
"There were some bananas that Don & Carmella had left behind so I created a raw dessert with them. Here is the recipe inspired by one beautiful Carmella!"

2 cups dry coconut, finely shredded
2 cups pecans, fine meal
¼ cup coconut oil
3 bananas
¼ cup raw honey, or dates
½ tsp himalayen salt

Place coconut and pecans in blender, blend until fine. Place in bowl.

Blend bananas, coconut oil, honey or dates, and salt. Blend until smooth.

Slowly add the liquid mixture to dry mixture and stir until combined. There will be about a 1/4 cup of liquid mixture left over. Reserve for Filling.

Press crust into spring form pan, 9 inch, or regular round cake pan.

1 cup cashews
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut oil
2 tbs raw honey
½ tsp himalayen salt

Blend cashews until fine. Scrape down sides.

Add reserved liquid mixture, vanilla, coconut oil, honey and salt. Blend until smooth.

Pour filling over crust. Freeze for at least three hours. Can then be put in the refrigerator.

To Serve:
Drizzle with honey or agave, if so desired.

Carmella's Notes:
~ I used only 3 cups of nuts total in the crust as I preferred to keep it on the lighter side. As a result, I had an extra cup of liquid mixture which I simply added to the Filling. It still worked beautifully!

~ I used dates as sweetener for the entire recipe.

~ I used less salt than Holly calls for, probably 1/4 tsp in the crust and 1/4 tsp in the filling.

~ I served the pie with a few banana slices and Heathy's amazing Chocolate Sauce. Heavenly!

Definitely something to be grateful for... ;-)

Hum, not a bad note to end this post on... Stay tuned for the rest of my account of our time in Melbourne!