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Fresh, raw plant foods are the key to vibrant health, glowing skin, and high energy. But many raw and vegan recipes require trips to specialty stores and long hours in the kitchen; Laura-Jane Koers is on a quest to create amazing recipes using staple ingredients that can be found all year round and might already be in your kitchen. (Think bananas, apples, carrots, celery, and onions-no need to make a special trip for fresh coconut and celeriac.) Koers is known for her easy and accessible plant-based cuisine on her blog TheRawtarian.com. In Cook Lively, she shares satisfying recipes to whip up healthy meals with as few ingredients and prep as possible. Cook Lively is the go-to cookbook when you’re hungry for something wholesome, delicious, and quick.
Welcome to the world of simple, satisfying plant-based eating! The easy, gluten-free, vegan, and mostly raw recipes in this book are practical and doable and use easy-to-find ingredients. If you're like me, you want to make a recipe at any time of year, no matter what's in season. My own cooking journey began on a remote rural island, where I didn't have the luxury of easily darting to my local farmers' market in February. Some days we'd be snowed in, but I'd still be able to make delicious fresh dishes using basic ingredients I had on hand in my pantry.
But I wasn't always such a whiz in the kitchen. As a child growing up on an island off the west coast of Canada, I dreamt of becoming a writer. I assumed I'd write a mystery novel one day—not a cookbook. And my parents, who divorced when I was five, had very different ideas about food!
A gypsy at heart, for my mother cooking was not a main event. My mom is a professional violinist and music historian who values family history, reading, kind words, creativity, and, of course, music. For her, eating was just a necessary grind in between life's real adventures. We ate healthy, hippy-esque meals that leaned toward the vegetarian side, but food was not the focal point of our days. My health-conscious mom rarely brought sweet treats into the house, and I quickly learned that the easiest way to get cookies into our house was to bake them myself. At Mom's, life was happy and healthy, but not centered around food.
Meanwhile, weekends were spent at my dad's. At Dad's, life happened in the kitchen, mostly thanks to my stepmother. She skillfully plated gourmet dinners for 19, the menu planned weeks in advance and the table set the night before. And Dad cooked too—his favorites were Dutch specialties: oliebollen on New Year's and pannenkoeken with blackberry syrup and yogurt on Sunday mornings. In December, we ceremoniously stirred the Christmas cake batter in a heavy, vintage yellowware bowl and made wishes. Being the youngest, afterwards I got to lick the bowl. I can still conjure up the flavor of the batter: sweet and buttery with a hint of lemon, the rich dough dotted with jeweled squares in red, yellow, and green. My childhood memories of Dad's place are all anchored around mouthwatering traditions.
Despite this, I hadn't cooked much for myself before moving out and into a home of my own. At 19, I moved with my vegetarian boyfriend into a tiny house next to a sheep farm. It was important to him that I become a vegetarian, and so I reluctantly agreed to give up red meat, poultry, and seafood. But that didn't mean that I knew how to cook! Instead, I unwrapped, I microwaved, I snacked, and I ordered in. I ate ice cream for dinner and reheated pizza for breakfast. Ramen noodles were in steady rotation, and an overflowing candy drawer saw me through university cram sessions and television commercial breaks. When grocery shopping, occasionally I'd add a few token vegetables into my shopping cart, but, once home, I didn't know how to incorporate them into my regular routine or what to do to make them taste appealing. The vegetables inevitably wilted in the back of the fridge, and eventually I stopped buying vegetables and fruit altogether, because I really didn't see the point. I was a vegetarian, but I didn't know how to cook, and I was addicted to instant food.
Meanwhile, there was my body to contend with. Although I had been a tall and skinny kid, once I hit puberty I kept finding myself on the wrong side of the scale. And now I was getting even slower, even heavier, and even grumpier. Plus, although I was way past teenage-hood, my acne was getting worse, not better. It seemed that my fast-food diet was being reflected on my outside, and I did not like what I saw.
By 25, I was carrying an extra 25 pounds, eating terribly, and having a difficult time staying awake past 8 p.m. My energy was low and my skin was angry, but this had become my new normal. A few years later, I looked in the mirror and truly saw myself and how I had turned out. I realized that I was now an adult, and it was time to own my choices. If I was already overweight and sluggish, What would I be like at 45? I wondered. I did not want to find out.
In that moment I knew I was ready to make a change, but I truly did not know how or where to start. But I was ready to learn, and I knew that I had to change my relationship with food—forever.
Around this time, I received a timely gift of a raw vegan recipe book. The small book was full of no-nonsense recipes made from basic fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. For someone like me who had almost no cooking experience, the idea of making easy, healthy dishes using real ingredients was exactly what I needed. Not too many ingredients, not too many steps. Just a few rules and a few pieces of kitchen equipment. "This is as good a place to start as any," I thought. And so the experimenting began.
I started slowly, with a few days of tasteless sliced apples and uneventful green salads. I was not impressed with the flavors, but I was proud of myself for sticking with this boring, hellish way of eating healthfully. A few days later, I shyly purchased a food processor to try out the most exciting recipe I'd seen so far: a chocolate-ball concoction made by powerfully mixing a few basic ingredients together. I carefully measured the walnuts, dates, cocoa powder, and sea salt and let the food processor whirr for 30 seconds. Skeptical, I wondered how anything chocolaty and sweet could ever emerge out of these basic ingredients. But once the food processor finished spinning and I stole a pinchful of batter, my whole world changed.
My mind wasn't registering the flavor of dates and walnuts. No, I tasted deep, dense, sweet chocolate. Somehow, this simple combination of nuts, dried fruit, and cocoa powder had transformed into chocolate truffles, with no hint of their constituent flavors to be found. It was in this moment that I realized that healthy ingredients, when combined in the right way, could taste just as sinful as junk food.
I was on a natural high; I couldn't believe what I was tasting! I binged on the healthy chocolate balls and, soon after, raced to the store to buy the ingredients for my next conquest, cashew lemon cookies. I didn't yet understand the hows or the whys, but when each recipe churned out jaw-dropping, flavorful dishes made purely from healthy ingredients, I became a believer in the magic and power of food.
Over the next few months, I quickly mastered more than just healthy desserts. I went from not knowing how to make any wholesome recipes to mastering everything from nutritious pastas and salad dressings to soups, veggie burgers, and kale chips. Once I understood how to make all of my favorite treats at home with simple, healthy ingredients, I no longer felt the need to reach for the junk food that I'd been used to. Soon enough, my inner excitement was being reflected on the outside.
Physically, I looked and felt better than I could ever remember. Very quickly, I lost the extra weight I'd been carrying, I woke up with energy, and my skin glowed. Plus, I no longer wanted to eat any of my old favorites, since I now had a new way of eating that satisfied my cravings healthily and easily. Soon enough, my friends, coworkers, and family noticed a change in me and wanted copies of my recipes (especially my desserts!). In 2009, I began a small blog to keep track of my recipe creations. And as the years trickled by, the blog took off: my recipes have been featured in magazines and newspapers around the world, and I taught raw food classes and hosted a podcast. But the best part was that I had found my tribe. I was making a difference every day in kitchens all over the world.
Over time, I added some cooked foods back into my diet. I wanted fewer nuts and to bring beans back to my plate. I was missing healthful cooked grains, and I had a yearning to roast a spaghetti squash. Taking everything I'd learned from my five-year adventure in raw vegan eating, I added about 25 healthful, cooked, whole vegan ingredients—like beans, fluffy quinoa, and steamed vegetables—to my already abundant diet. I also began modifying some of my popular raw vegan recipes (like falafel and kale chips) to work both in the dehydrator and the oven, which is quicker and more accessible. But I will always retain my signature recipe values: simple, satisfying, and plant-based.
You'll love these recipes that stick to staple ingredients that are in your pantry all year-round, including bananas, apples, oranges, dried dates, almonds, cashews, frozen fruit, spinach, celery, carrots, onions, and broccoli. (You won't find these ingredients inside this book: fresh coconut, celeriac, rhubarb, passion fruit, or fresh tarragon.) Once you pick up a few healthy ingredients, you'll be able to flip open this book and cook, not flip open the book and make a long shopping list for the specialty grocery store.
When creating recipes, I have a relentless commitment to using as few ingredients as possible and pared-down cooking methods. My recipe signature is stripping out unnecessary steps and superfluous ingredients while still maintaining full flavor. For example, I love creating easy recipes for crustless pies and one-pot meals to reduce prep time and dishes. I offer optional ideas for jazzing up a recipe, but I like to leave the recipe itself in the most streamlined format as possible so that it doesn't look overwhelming.
This collection of beautiful, satisfying recipes comes from my heart to yours. I want to join you on your journey toward feeling fresh and vibrant. My greatest joy is that I get to join you in your kitchen. It is my hope that my recipes will inspire you to play with, eat, and love plants. Let's do this together!
1 FIRST STEPS ON THE PATH TO VIBRANT HEALTH
LEARNING to EAT WELL
We all recognize that eating more plants and fewer processed foods is the answer to the seemingly complicated question of how to eat well. In other words, it's not the lack of knowledge that is the problem. Rather, it's putting this knowledge into action that is the tricky part. It's the eating "not too much" and eating "mostly plants" bit that is the trouble.
We are humans. Naturally, most of us crave fats, salts, and sugars; few people come out of the womb craving cucumbers and apples. Enjoying flavorful food is one of the greatest pleasures of our lives.
Since we were toddlers, we've been crafting our food habits. We've created snacking habits, grocery-shopping habits, holiday food traditions, TV-related food habits, brand loyalty, and restaurant-ordering routines. We've learned to prepare meals a certain way (whether that means unwrapping a frozen pizza or ordering takeout). These habits are grooves in our brains that are deeply etched. Eating and preparing food is something we do every day, and, depending on your age, you've most likely had decades of experience. If you're 40 years old, you've eaten over 40,000 meals. You've become the world's foremost expert in eating and preparing food in your unique way.
Depending on what you're accustomed to, your expertise and food habits are most likely both a blessing and a curse. Your food habits are a blessing because you've got skills to quell your hunger (or your boredom, as the case may be). But your habits are also a curse if they lean toward the unhealthy, because you're such a master that learning a new way of eating feels like learning to walk again. If this sounds like you, recognize it. Honor it. Be patient with yourself.
If you're trying to learn new habits, it can feel as though you're learning how to write with your other hand. When you're stressed or in a rush, it's natural to go back to writing with your normal hand, because you mastered it decades ago and it takes zero effort. Similarly, when learning a new way of eating, it's not about willpower or cravings. It's about what you know, what you've mastered. The trick is to teach yourself new skills and habits when it comes to food, so that they become your new normal. It can be done, and with less time and effort than you might think. When I started my own journey toward healthier eating, breaking those old habits (unwrap, snack, microwave, order in) was a big challenge. Over time, I realized that adopting a few simple rules to live and eat by could make this daunting task easier—and even enjoyable!
"Eat food. Not too much.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. Consistently eat a little healthier than you ate yesterday, and you will be on the road toward wellness. When it comes to food, consistent steps in the right direction beat short-lived extreme diets, hands down. Eating well is an ongoing practice, not a short-term event.
ADD RATHER THAN SUBTRACT. When getting started, focus on adding healthy ingredients and recipes in addition to your regular routine. Your mental energy should be spent on bringing new foods into your life. For example, don't dwell on the tragedy of giving up Sunday-morning waffles. Instead think, I will start with an Easy Green Smoothie (here) first, then if I still want waffles I can have them.
SAY YES TO THE GOOD STUFF. Start with the low-hanging fruit! If there are certain healthy foods or recipes that you already enjoy, give yourself permission to splurge: to buy or make them in large quantities and even to enjoy them at odd times. This can help you look forward to eating those healthier foods—like the day I discovered those healthy truffles after days of drab green salads. And I've always loved fresh cherries and berries, so I regularly keep them around.
SAY NO TO THE YUCKY STUFF. If you can't stand the taste of a certain food, don't force it. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of healthy, flavorful ingredients to choose from. Don't force yourself to try to like something that doesn't do it for you. We all have our likes and dislikes! I can't stand the graininess of pears, and I'd never voluntarily eat a piece of plain raw cauliflower. Move on and keep trying.
THINK ONE MEAL AHEAD. It's tough to make healthy choices for yourself at the last minute. A fascinating study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that we will happily plan healthy snacks (like apples) for ourselves in the future, but when it comes to right now, we'll take that cookie, please: "When the participants were asked to plan their future snack in advance […] they chose an apple over a cookie. 35% of the participants chose an apple on Day 1, but 65% of the participants did so for Day 2" ("Mining Behavioral Economics to Design Persuasive Technology for Healthy Choices" study by Lee, Kiesler, and Forlizzi, Carnegie Mellon University). Use the power of psychology for your benefit and plan ahead. By mentally planning what you're going to eat for your next meal (be it by packing your lunch the evening before or firmly deciding what you will eat a few hours before your meal), you can avoid the stronger impulse to make unhealthy choices in the moment.
GROCERY SHOP YOUR WAY TO HEALTH. The food you bring into your home gets eaten. (And what you leave at the grocery store does not.) Making healthy choices at the grocery store has one of the overall biggest effects on your health and results in a chain reaction of food decisions. Ideally, when shopping you'll be doing two things: adding healthier, fresh foods into your cart and leaving (some) of your normal processed-food items in the store, unpurchased (especially snacks and sweets).
START OFF SLOW AND STEADY. If you're just getting started with adding more fresh food into your routine, here is a loose plan to kick you off for success:
1- Your first healthier grocery-shopping trip should be normal, plus two additions: ingredients for one healthy recipe that you will make (such as a Forgiving Berry Cream Smoothie here or the Famous Raw Brownies here) and some easy, fresh, healthy snacks (like fresh grapes, blueberries, cherries, almonds, or dried apricots). When you get home, make that healthy recipe within the next 2 days.
2- On the following shop, try adding ingredients for two recipes, plus more healthy snacks to keep you going.
3- On the following shop, get the ingredients to repeat the same two or three recipes (if you enjoyed them)! This helps you improve your cooking skills, and you'll start to have a few recipes that you can call upon more frequently.
REPEAT RECIPES THAT YOU ENJOY. Enjoyed a recipe? Why not make it again? The second time you make it, you will find it so much easier and quicker. And the third time? It'll start feeling like a breeze. Repeating recipes (that you enjoy) will help you feel like healthy eating is easy.
MEAL PLAN IN A WAY THAT WORKS FOR YOU. We're all unique, and few of us have brains that can handle planning 7 days of meals in advance. (I wish I had that brain!) Perhaps you're a busy, disorganized type. There's no shame in that! Own it, and meal plan in a way that works for you. For example, maybe eating the same few recipes again and again will work best for you.
COZY UP WITH HEALTHY FATS. For years, we've been trained to fear the idea of fat in our foods. But the truth is, the body needs healthy fats! Saturated fat needn't be feared. In fact, much of the saturated fat contained in coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is thought to support the immune system. Plus, coconut oil has even been shown to promote a reduction in abdominal fat. Remember: a balanced and healthy diet includes healthy fats.
OPEN FREEZER IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. Keep simple, tasty desserts (like Light White Truffles here) and easy entrees (like White Bean Cakes here) in the freezer for when you need a sugar fix or a quick and easy meal. This is especially important if you're newer to healthier eating. Having something healthy to reach for when you get busy or stressed is crucial.
GETTING COMFORTABLE in the KITCHEN
I've been a prolific home cook since 2009, and I have developed kitchen systems through trial and error. Here are my most effective, practical, and revolutionary tips to make healthy cooking as easy as possible, especially if you aren't accustomed to spending much time in the kitchen. Revolutionize the way you eat by putting these common-sense tips into practice.
COOK AT ODD TIMES. Ideally, the bulk of your cooking should not occur at mealtime. At 5:30 p.m., you want to eat, not cook! In an ideal world, when it's time to pack a lunch or assemble dinner, you would have a variety of options at your fingertips, be they veggie-burger patties that you've frozen, a lentil soup, or a hearty grain salad marinating in the fridge. If you can get one meal (or even half a meal) ahead of your family, mealtimes become substantially easier. Of course, you can't always be ahead of the game, but when you do get it together, you reap the rewards. The best time to cook or do food prep is when you would otherwise be online or watching TV. Believe it or not, I prep or cook meals most often between 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
START WITH A CLEAN KITCHEN. Before beginning to cook, clean your kitchen (or a section of it) and wipe the counter. This will help you stay focused and feel less overwhelmed with the task ahead. Everything seems easier and more pleasurable when starting from a clean slate.
COOK FROM LEFT TO RIGHT. When cooking, distractions and interruptions often mean that you forget whether you've added an ingredient or not. To save my brain cells, I cook from left to right:
1- Gather every single ingredient (bottle of olive oil, spice jar, bag of almonds, etc.) together and place on the left side of the counter.
2- Use the middle of the counter as a blank workspace. Lay out the required utensils, including mixing bowls and appliances. Prepare any ingredients as needed, like chopping vegetables or making almond meal. Once all of this is in place, you're ready to cook!
3- After adding each ingredient to the recipe, place used ingredients on the right side. Place used utensils in the sink.
HALF-COOK SOME RECIPES. If it's tough to find the time to cook longer recipes like crackers, cookies, or veggie burgers, split up the work into Preparation vs. Cooking. For example, one morning spend 10 minutes laying out the dry ingredients (on the left, as mentioned above). That evening, spend another 15 minutes cooking the recipe and cleaning up. This splits the work into shorter, more manageable intervals. I often lay out the non-refrigerated ingredients in the early evening and complete the meal later that night or even the next day. I do this all the time!
CLEAN BETWEEN RECIPES. If cooking more than one recipe, clean the kitchen and all equipment between recipes. For example, make veggie burgers. Load the dishwasher, hand-wash appliances, and wipe counters. Now make cookies! It will only take a few extra minutes to reset your kitchen, and it will help you feel ready to tackle the next recipe without feeling like you're a mad scientist in an explosive laboratory.
TAKE A SEAT. When forming cookies or assembling veggie burgers, you'll be more patient with yourself and the process if you're physically comfortable. I cook standing up, but I always sit at my counter or table when forming cookies, icing cakes, or doing finicky things in the kitchen. Cooking can be physically tiring, and giving your body a break helps.
WASH PLASTICS NOW. Wash appliances, like blenders and food processors, immediately. Simply rinse with hot water and place in the dish rack to dry. Appliances are a snap to clean right away when still wet, but they become difficult to clean after they sit, even for a few minutes. Blenders are the worst for this, so make sure to rinse your blender carafe as soon as possible. Never store a leftover smoothie in the blender carafe, because an unclean carafe is a major barrier between you and your next smoothie!
HAVE SPOONS AND CUPS APLENTY. Stock your kitchen with lots of measuring spoons (especially tablespoons and teaspoons) and measuring cups so that you don't have to hand-wash them. (If you live in an urban area, your local restaurant-supply store may be one of the most affordable places to stock up.)
STOCKING your PANTRY
This comprehensive list provides a snapshot of the ingredients used in this book to give you a sense of the ingredients you may want to add to your kitchen cupboards. Please don't rush out to purchase everything, because you'll end up with too much fresh produce at once! But if you're at your local grocery store with a little extra time, pick up some of the asterisked (*) staple items (like coconut oil and sea salt), which are used often throughout the book. A few of these ingredients are a little pricey, but they are usually used sparingly and will often last you for months.
DRIED FRUIT - UNSWEETENED
*Bell peppers - red
Black olives (optional)
Corn on the cob
Fresh parsley (optional)
*Onions - green, red, white, and sweet
*Tomatoes - cherry
Tomatoes - large
NUTS AND SEEDS - UNSALTED, UNROASTED
Almonds - whole and slivered
- "Laura-Jane has created a beautiful recipe book with flexibility in mind. I love the fact that it caters to raw food enthusiasts and newbies alike by providing dehydrator and oven instructions. This is something I get asked about a lot, so I know this book is going to be well used by anyone who owns it. This book is the perfect way to bring more healthy and delicious raw and plant-based foods into your life."—Russell James, the UK's leading raw chef (www.therawchef.com)
- "Get ready to discover a plethora of simple, delicious, healthful plant-based recipes to take your well-being to the next level. Laura-Jane's recipes and photos were one of my first sources of inspiration when I got into raw food and veganism myself. Her personality--friendly, charming, down-to-earth--comes through in all her work and this book is no exception."—Emily von Euw, award-winning food blogger (www.thisrawsomeveganlife.com) and best-selling vegan cookbook author (Rawsome Vegan Baking; 100 Best Juices, Smoothies and Healthy Snacks; and The Rawsome Vegan Cookbook)
"Teaches vegan cooking without fuss."
—Milwaukee Shepherd Express
"Showcases thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' dishes that are as palate pleasing as they are appetite satisfying. Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout...unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended."
—Midwest Book Review
"Koers' easy recipes take the fear out of plant based eating by introducing simple instructions that use basic, accessible ingredients."
- On Sale
- May 30, 2017
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Da Capo Lifelong Books