Really Good Raw Desserts
Over-indulging in sweets during the winter festivities can produce unwanted weight gain and a general feeling of sluggishness—a not-so-wonderful gift for anyone. But adding a raw food dessert to our holiday repertoire could introduce a new, healthier tradition to holiday occasions that’s welcomed by everyone.
A raw dessert no longer means only a simple piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. While a traditional holiday story conjures sleeping children with “visions of sugarplums” dancing in their heads, the dreams of raw dessert chefs more likely spring from Medjool dates, cacao nibs and exotic fruits. That’s because raw desserts are made from uncooked, minimally processed and generally plant-based foods.
Raw foods aficionados say they are usually first attracted to this type of food preparation because the recipes do not contain wheat, refined sugar, eggs or dairy products, which eliminates the need to work around several food sensitivities. Plus, they feel better after they’ve eaten a raw foods dessert, which might feature nuts, fresh and dried fruits, agave nectar and/or chocolate.
When these raw foods are ground or puréed in a food processor or blender, they contribute mightily to dessert crusts, fillings, sauces and frostings to grace tarts, cakes, cookies, puddings and ice creams—all of which can be made without cooking.
Sometimes, dessert recipes call for using a dehydrator, a simple appliance that dries foods slowly at around 112° to 118° F, to avoid the enzyme changes that occur when foods are cooked at higher temperatures. The dehydrator yields a characteristic that raw foods enthusiast Nathalie Lussier describes as “a warm, chewy, comfort food feeling, so that you can make cookies that come out slightly warm from the dehydrator.”
With raw desserts, “You really can have your cake and eat it too, because the recipes are packed with nutrients and fiber,” advises raw desserts chef Heather Pace, the author of four raw dessert e-books, including Just Desserts and Raw Party Parfait.
Most raw foods desserts, like most exceptional sweets, involve several steps to make each part. “While at first glance, a raw dessert might appear to be complicated and time-consuming,” notes Pace, “it’s really very simple. Each component can be thrown together quickly and easily and can be made ahead.”
The benefits of raw desserts extend beyond the simply nutritional, affirm devoted adherents. Rose Lee Calabro, author of Living in the Raw and Living in the Raw Desserts, had experienced a host of personal health issues that virtually disappeared when she began to eat a mainly raw foods diet a decade ago. But more than that, she says, “Eating raw foods has contributed to a career change and a dramatic shift in my life.”
According to eco-lifestylist and raw foods author Ani Phyo, “Eating more organic, fresh, whole foods helps us maintain an ideal weight, lowers cholesterol, boosts the immune system and helps us look and feel our best.” But for her, as well, raw foods are more than a diet. She remarks, “It affects the way I live and interact with planet Earth and all other living beings.” Phyo is the author of Ani’s Raw Food Essentials, Ani’s Raw Food Desserts and Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen.
Lussier agrees all the way around. “I believe raw foods can heal you on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level,” she comments, because like many others, “I’ve personally experienced it myself.”
Judith Fertig is a freelance writer in Overland Park, KS; for more information visit www.AlfrescoFoodAndLifestyle.blogspot.com. Contact info: Heather Pace, www.SweetlyRaw.com; Nathalie Lussier, www.RawFoodsWitch.com; Rose Lee Calabro, www.LivingInTheRaw.net; Ani Phyo, www.AniPhyo.com
Click here for: Three Raw Cookbook Authors Share their Best Holiday Recipes