New raw foods book recipes worth repeating

By Elena del Valle
Photos: Watermarked photos by Gary Cox, book cover and author photos by Trevor Lush

The SimplyRaw Kitchen

The SimplyRaw Kitchen

We’re always on the lookout for healthy, flavorful and nutritious recipes to expand our meal options. The SimplyRaw Kitchen (Arsenal Pulp Press, $21.95), an all-vegan, gluten-free 206-page softcover cookbook and lifestyle guide due to be released October 2013, by Natasha Kyssa of Ontario, Canada promised new ideas.

Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

In the first quarter of the book she explains the reasons she prefers a raw vegan lifestyle, outlines the kitchen tools she uses and defines ingredients she favors in her recipes. The remainder of the book is divided into Beverages; Breakfasts; Soups, Salads and Salad Dressings; Pates, Dips, Spreads and Cheezes; Mains; and Desserts & Sweet Treats.

Ingredients for Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce

Ingredients for Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce

We sampled two recipes, one from the Mains and another from the Desserts & Sweat Treats chapters, with very satisfactory results and plan to try more. The first recipe we tried was for Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce. While we had most of the ingredients the rice wrappers and tamari were challenging to find in our suburban town. In the end, a thoughtful neighbor shared her rice wrappers and we used soy sauce in lieu of tamari. I used shredded carrots to complete the red cabbage necessary for the recipe. We made the dish the same day we bought the produce. We chilled the six rolls and the bowl of sauce for about 45 minutes in the refrigerator to cool them down from our subtropical temperatures. The combined flavors of the rolls with the sauce were excellent.

Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce

A Vietnamese Salad Roll with Dragon Dipping Sauce

There was some leftover sauce which we sampled the next day in a simple salad of greens, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and red cabbage. While it was acceptable the sauce had changed; the garlic flavor was more pronounced as was the ginger, making the sauce too pungent as a dressing. In future we’ll plan to eat the sauce the day we make it.

Ingredients for the Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

Ingredients for the Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

The next day, we were in the mood for something sweet at the end of the afternoon. We had most of the ingredients for the Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting except the coconut flour which we procured easily. The brownie part, mixed in a food processor, still had some chunks when we molded it into the pan. The frosting, mixed in the blender, was smooth and liquid, easy to pour over the brownie. A few minutes in the refrigerator did little to keep the frosting from running. It was rich, creamy, crunchy (from the brownie chunks and the cacao nibs), chocolaty and mildly sweet. While not a replacement for oven baked chocolate and nut brownies the Righteous Brownies were surprisingly filling and satisfying.

Natasha Kyssa, author, The SimplyRaw Kitchen

Natasha Kyssa, author, The SimplyRaw Kitchen

We are planning another meal of rolls as soon as we find some tamari. The brownies have been well received and we plan to continue sampling recipes.

Kyssa, who wrote the book with her mother Ilse, runs SimplyRaw, a healthy lifestyles consulting company, and SimplyRaw Express, a vegan restaurant in Ottawa, Canada. The recipes in the book, she says in the Introduction, are contemporary interpretations of traditional Eastern European comfort foods. She strives to guide others to achieve a healthy and wellness oriented lifestyle through workshops, her café, and detox program. A past speaker at TedX she also hosts professional seminars and workshops. Her first book, The SimplyRaw Living Foods Detox Manual, was published in 2009.

Cookbook expanded our nutrition food horizons

Article by Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox (except book cover and author courtesy of Sterling Publishing)

 Superfoods Kitchen book cover

Superfood Kitchen book cover

When we first looked at the recipes in Superfood Kitchen Cooking with Nature’s Most Amazing Foods by Julie Morris (Sterling Epicure, $24.95) we were taken aback by the number of ingredients we were unfamiliar with and the difficulty in finding them in our suburban area. In the end, we had to shop at a number of stores and order part of the ingredients online. What we liked about the recipes we tried was their taste, simplicity and nutritional value. Morris is executive chef for Navitas Naturals, a superfood seller.

Energy bars use a lot of intgredients

The energy bars required ingredients we had to buy

Energy bars are tasty and made with healthy superfoods

Our energy bars, made with superfoods

The 237-page hardcover book published in 2012 is peppered with color photos and divided into four main parts: Understanding Superfoods, Creating a Superfood Kitchen, Recipes, and Extras. Morris beings by defines superfoods as nutrient rich and beneficial for health and well-being. The idea behind her book, she explains, is to combine flavors and textures in a nutrient rich way toward a “collection of some very super parts.” She goes on to list and define the ingredients of the superfood kitchen and their nutritional benefits. Morris, a natural-food chef, advocates whole plant-based foods and superfoods.

Our Dynamite Fudge

The Dynamite Fudge has become a favorite dessert

Cacao, she explains, is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods. It also offers “useful quantities” of iron and calcium as well as phytochemicals and amino acids that aid in elevating mood brain chemistry. It tastes like strong chocolate without the sweetness, she goes on to say, and improves when served with mesquite powder, carob, dates or ingredients with caramel flavors to soften the bitter edge.

She says maca is a root from the Peruvian Andes, and that Inca warriors relied on it for stamina and strength in battle. As an adaptogen, she says, the plant food may counter the different stresses of the body. It provides energy and combats fatigue, according to the book, without stimulating. It also offers sixty phytonutrients including sterols believed to help block cholesterol.

Kale crisps taste way better than they photograph

We often have kale crisps in between meals

To date we have tried four recipes: Chocolate Energy Bar from the Breakfast section, BBQ Sweet Potato Fries from the Sides section, Cheesy Kale Crisps from the Snacks section, and Dynamite Fudge from the Sweets section. On more than one occasion we adjusted the recipe to the ingredients we could find or to our preferences. For example, we left out the chili powder and cayenne pepper powder in the fries recipe.

The first time, we tried the fudge we substituted the maqui powder with additional quantities of the other ingredients in the recipe because we had been unable to find the maqui powder in our area. Eventually we received the maqui powder in the mail and made another batch of the fudge. We liked both fudge types, with and without the maqui.

Julie Morris, author, uperfoods Kitchen

Julie Morris, author, Superfood Kitchen

The recipes we have tried have become regulars in our dietary rotation. We keep energy bars and fudge in the refrigerator and make fresh sweet potato fries and kale crisps the day we eat them. As time allows we plan on sampling additional recipes.

New Masai Mara bird book available

Birds of the Masai Mara
Birds of the Masai Mara book cover

In 2010, after arriving in the Masai Mara, Kenya’s famed national reserve, Adam Scott Kennedy, a private safari guide, discovered information and photos about birds in the area were hard to come by. He began taking photos of birds he saw daily to share with guides and before he realized it a book was born, Birds of the Masai Mara (Princeton University Pres, $27.95), this year.

“The biggest challenge in producing this book was completing the species accounts while running a busy luxury camp in the Mara (Naibor), but thankfully my wife Vicki offered to take on the lion’s share of the office work during that period which freed several hours of time for me each day to write,” said Kennedy who already had an extensive image library before the concept of this book came about, from Kenya. “That image library contains around 25,000 images (offline) and our website has around 3,000 images that can be perused at leisure. When we refined the species list for the book, I realised I was missing a few species so had to put myself ‘on assignment’ to get the images required.”

The 176-page softcover book full of color photos mostly taken by Kennedy (some of the photos are from is divided into Birds of the Plains; Birds of the Marsh and Water; Birds of Woodland, Scrub and Garden; Birds of Acacia Scrub; Village Birds; Forest Birds; Birds of the Air; and Night Birds.

“I began birding at the age of 4 so I guess the biggest reward for me is the response from my friends and family, who are seeing me achieve, what I guess, they always expected me to do with my life,” said Kennedy.

Each bird listing is accompanied by at least one photo and a description. The book lists 300 bird photos and 200 bird species in the area known widely for its wildebeest migration.

Kennedy, also author of Animals of the Masai Mara, and his wife Vicki specialize in photographic and wildlife safaris. According to his website bio, he has seen a third of the world’s 10,000 known bird species.

Birds of the Masai Mara

Click to buy Birds of the Masai Mara

Sommelier writes about well priced wines

Unquenchable book cover
Unquenchable book cover

Following the success of her book Red, White and Drunk All Over Natalie MacLean, a sommelier and writer, set about finding well priced wines in several countries. Five years later, the results of her travels and research were outlined in Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines (Penguin USA, $15.99) first published last year in hard cover and most recently in paperback just in time for the end of year holidays. In the 344-page book, written in a conversational style MacLean insists good wine can be found at affordable prices.

She shares wine appreciation and food pairing tips and favorite value wines and wineries from eight regions: North America, Germany, Australia, southern Italy, the Mediterranean, Argentina, Chile and South Africa. She also includes a list of resources for the regions and a list of her notes, wine picks and top value producers in the back of the chapters. In each region she visited between 30 and 40 wineries and tasted thousands of wines. Wine can be complex without being complicated, she says in the book.

Natalie MacLean, author, Unquenchable

Natalie MacLean, author, Unquenchable

“I’ve spent the past several years traipsing around the world, visiting wineries, tasting their offerings, and searching for the world’s best inexpensive wines,” said MacLean in promotional materials. “The narrative is as familiar as Arthur’s quest for the grail and as naïve as the little bird’s plaintive search for the affirmative in Are You My Mother?”

MacLean, named the World’s Best Drinks Writer at the World Food Media Awards in Australia, won the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation and the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing from Les Dames d’Escoffier International. Her wine columns in print reach 5.1 million readers, her complimentary wine e-newsletter has a following of 145,000. For 15 years she was a competitive Highland dancer.

Author photo courtesy of Natalie MacLean, book cover photo courtesy of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Unquenchable book cover

Click to buy Unquenchable!

Picture book showcases wild cats beauty, endangered state

Fierce Beauty book cover
Fierce Beauty book cover

There was a time not long ago in the history of our planet when one hundred thousand tigers roamed the Earth. Today, less than three thousand remain. Other wild cats are threatened with extinction including the famous King of the Jungle and of course the fast cheetahs because of man’s encroachment on their ancestral homelands. Hoping to draw attention to the plight of these beautiful animals and the link between their and our lives a group of caring individuals pooled their efforts to showcase some animals in photos and draw attention to their South Carolina organization.

Fierce Beauty Preserving the World of Wild Cats (Earth Aware Editions, $50), a 246-page hardcover book published this year, is filled with striking full color photos of many of the large cats that make their home at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S) in South Carolina, described in promotional materials as a wildlife education organization, dedicated to promoting global conservation with informative, educational and entertaining interactive programs.

The photos, by Barry Bland and Tim Flach, in outdoor and studio like settings take up a large part of the book which also includes articles by conservation and wild cat advocates, quotes by famous people and biographies of the Institute staff. The book was published in China.

Many of the photos take up a full page or two pages. Tigers, leopards, ocelots, lynx, ligers, cheetahs, panthers and lions in varied colors and ages appear in the photos individually and in groups, alone and with the staff.

The contributors, listed in the back of the book with their photos, are Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, David Barron, founder, International Conservation Caucus Foundation; Lynn Culver, executive director, Feline Conservation Federation; Jim Fowler, zoologist and former host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom; Terry Lincoln, director, Dakota Zoo; Stephen O’Brien, chief, Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institute; and Jim Sanderson, founder Small Cat Conservation Alliance. The Foreword is by Robert Duvall.

Fierce Beauty book cover

Click to buy Fierce Beauty

Story of Buddha drawn in Japanese manga comic style

By Joachim Castellano

The Story of Buddha A Graphic Biography

The Story of Buddha A Graphic Biography book cover

Money, power, and beautiful women, three desires of countless men throughout the ages. Imagine a man who has all three. A charmed life indeed, promising years of comfort and pleasure, yet he finds nothing but emptiness. He rejects this life to pursue one of meaning and purpose, and after great struggle, he finds true happiness and enlightenment. Of course, this is the story of no ordinary man, but that of Buddha, the legendary spiritual leader whose teachings have been passed on for thousands of years.

In The Story of Buddha A Graphic Biography (Ichimannendo Publishing, Inc., $10.95) Hisashi Ota tells of Buddha’s life through manga (Japanese comics) in a 248-page softcover book filled with comic panels. Focusing on Buddha’s transformation from the wealthy Prince Siddhartha to a spiritual teacher, I found myself drawn into a world paralleling modern day pressures: opportunities to escape reality and the expectation to live a typical life set by societal norms.

I enjoyed following the story through the expressive faces of the author’s characters, and I especially felt Siddhartha’s struggle to stay true to his own chosen path of life. Chapters end with Siddhartha’s insights, seeds that later blossom into the tenets of Buddhism. It was engaging to learn about Buddhism through the progressive rhythm of a narrative story with stylized visuals instead of a dry historic text.

Hisashi Ota, author, The Story of Buddha A Graphic Biography

Hisashi Ota, author, The Story of Buddha A Graphic Biography

Ota poured feeling, action, and passion into each page. The story felt like a mirror to reflect upon modern life. Ota’s book pulses in the present, not the historic past, introducing Buddha’s teachings to audiences new and old, perhaps inspiring others to find joy and meaning in life.

I found Ota’s manga approach to Buddha’s story appealing because of the art form’s cinematic visual style. Ota, a graduate of Nagoya University’s School of Science, has been drawing manga for 20 years and his manga about Buddhism in Japan has been published regularly. Born a Buddhist, to this day Ota continues his training at the Jodo Shinshu Shinrankai Buddhist center in Toyama, Japan.

Photos: Tetsuji Yamamoto, Ichimannendo Publishing, Inc.