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Back-to-School-Swag: Review and Giveaway of Unprocessed by Chef AJ

[Rich and delicious raw Cream of Zucchini Soup]

Hope y’all had a great Labor Day weekend (or Saturday and Sunday, as the case may be). The HH, Girls and I had a lovely weekend despite my need to do some school work.  We brunched, enjoyed a couple of sun-kissed walks (and the Girls even had a swim), I supped with a couple of nutrition school friends, the HH and I watched another of our newly-purchased DVDS and then I saw The Help with my buddy Eternal Optimist yesterday evening (loved it–so many fine performances!).  And smack in the middle of the weekend, we were visited out of the blue by an old friend of the HH’s as he drove from Calgary to Kingston and opted for a pit stop at our house.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready for summer to be over just yet!  *Sigh.* Yet somehow, the weather here in Toronto has co-opted my favorite season and set the perfect backdrop for back-to-school today with chilly, 12 C (54F) temperatures.

In an attempt to prolong that good summer vibe as long as possible, I thought I’d revisit a series that I ran last year called Back to School Swag (ha ha on you, TIFF–you’re not the only one giving out swag this week!).  I received a few products and books for review over the summer months, and I’ll be giving away some of them (just the ones I liked!) over the next month or so.  Today’s inaugural giveaway features a cookbook that impressed me quite a bit.

Some of you may recall the Crazy Simple Kale Salad I posted last winter.  It’s a simple salad with a quick and stellar dressing that really elevates it to something spectacular.  The HH and I adored it and I often make it as a way to enjoy raw kale.

Well, wasn’t I just tickled when my post received a comment from the salad’s creator, Chef AJ! Chef AJ is the author of Unprocessed: How to Achieve Vibrant Health and Your Ideal Weight and a whole foods, vegan chef who has worked with the likes of Dr. McDougall, Colin Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn. Her recipes feature whole, often raw, ingredients and lower fat options.

As soon as I opened the book, I knew immediately which recipe I wanted to try: the Hemp Seed Lime Dressing. I know, a dressing, of all the possibilities! But raw kale salads are such a staple in our house now that I’m always looking for new and interesting toppers.  I whipped it up that evening–so quick and simple–and we devoured it before I could even snap a photo.  Luckily, I used the leftover dressing the following day on my Baked Sweet Potato Falafel:

[A perfect rich and creamy foil for the falafel!]

Once I’d scoured the book for recipes and filled it with my trademark sticky-note bookmarks, I sat down to really read the intro chapters.  In the author’s own no-nonsense, engaging and humorous voice, the book’s first five chapters introduce the concept of “unprocessed” (the basic criterion is, “can you make it in your kitchen?”); explain the “evil trinity” of sugar, fat and salt, and why she never includes them in her recipes; relate Chef AJ’s own story and how she came to follow a vegan, high-raw, unprocessed diet; and provide pointers, tips, and questions for the reader to determine whether s/he wants to attempt the same type of diet, or perhaps move in a more unprocessed culinary direction.

I found AJ’s personal story to be both touching and compelling and gained a great deal of respect and admiration for her both as a person and a chef after reading it (without revealing too much, let me just say that she experienced illness, eating disorders, personal and family tragedy and a variety of other crises in her life–and came through it with a renewed determination, vibrancy, and, ultimately, health and energy).

The book will make you laugh (“Kosher salami, for those of you taking notes, differs from regular salami in that one kills you and the other  is blessed by a rabbi before it kills you”); will motivate you (“The fact that you are even reading this book tells me that you are the kind of person who can see the possibility of something wonderful for your life, for your health and the health of your family. I’m guessing you already have done many difficult things in your life and have succeeded at them, so why should this be any different?); and will inspire you.  Most importantly, it will provide you with over 100 easy, quick, unprocessed and delicious recipes to help you achieve better health.

After delving more deeply into the book, I turned to a couple more substantial recipes.  First up was the raw Spanish “Rice” (made from cauliflower).  This was a flavorful mix of veggies and creamy avocado with a spicy kick.  I could have eaten the entire bowl myself (oh, wait, except for the HH’s sampling, I did!):

[Tangy, spicy, filling raw Spanish “Rice”.]

Finally, in honor of fall (I may wish it weren’t here, but there’s no denying that chill in the morning air), I blended up the Cream of Zucchini Soup (also raw).  This lovely, full-bodied and velvety soup combines a protein boost from hemp seeds with a subtle sweetness of fresh basil and dates (I used stevia instead).  Filled with rich flavor and the luxurious silkiness from the hemp, it was a perfect lunch before moving on to a productive afternoon. (For the recipe, see below.)

[A bowlful of whole-foods, raw, creamy goodness.]

I loved all three recipes that I tried.  Overall, the book offers dishes that are quick to prepare, made from simple, whole ingredients without added fat,  sugars (of any kind) or salt–yet Chef AJ excels at creating interesting and satisfying flavor combinations that will please all types of eaters.

If you’re curious about how to create tasty whole foods recipes without sugar, fat or salt;  if you’ve been leaning toward more raw foods; or if you’re simply seeking out healthier recipes, you’ll want to get yourself a copy of this book and begin enjoying flavorful, simple, unprocessed foods.  And you can also enter to win a copy!

GIVEAWAY: Chef AJ has offered to give a copy of the book to one lucky DDD reader! (open to Canada and US only).

Here’s how to enter:

It’s simple: just leave a comment on this page telling me what your favorite whole food is.

For extra entries, do any or all of the following:

  • Subscribe to Diet, Dessert and Dogs, follow me on twitter, or “like” the DDD Facebook page; then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so (a separate comment for each one, please);
  • “Like”Chef AJ’s page on Facebook, then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so;
  • tweet about the giveaway and use @rickiheller in your tweet so I’ll see it, then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so;
  • post about the giveaway on your own blog or Facebook page, tagging or linking to Diet, Dessert and Dogs so I’ll see it; then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so.

The giveaway will remain open until midnight on Monday, September 12th my time.  Then I’ll choose a winner at random and announce the winner the following day.

Good luck, everyone! 🙂


Cream of Zucchini Soup (adapted from Unprocessed by Chef AJ)

Suitable for ACD all stages

This rich and creamy soup is a great way to use the bounty of zucchini you’ll find around this time of year.  If the weather is chilly, I bet it would be just as good warmed a bit as well.

2 small zucchini, washed and trimmed, cut into chunks

3/4 cup (180 ml) unsweetened plain almond, soy or hemp milk

1 clove garlic, chopped

3 Tbsp (45 ml) fresh lemon juice

4-6 large basil leaves

5 drops plain stevia liquid, to your taste

heaping 1/4 cup (70 ml) shelled hemp seeds (or hemp hearts)

1/2 large fresh tomato, chopped

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until silky smooth.  Garnish with more basil, if desired.  Serve immediately, or warm and then serve.  Makes 2-3 servings.


Last Year at this Time: SOS Kitchen Challenge for September (Apples)

Two Years Ago: Beet the Heat and Mint Salad (GF; ACD all stages)

Three Years Ago: Flash in the Pan: Ginger-Mint Iced Tea (GF; ACD all stages)

© Diet, Dessert and Dogs


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