The Choosing Raw Cookbook + Raw, Vegan, Blueberry Cheesecake

Oh friends, do I have an awesome book to tell you about.

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I was so excited about this one for a few reasons: 

1) It was written by one of my dear friends, Gena Hamshaw from Choosing Raw (If you haven’t heard of her blog before, please click here and enjoy)

2) I knew it would expand my horizons on the plant-based food front and

3) I looked forward to devouring it like a novel; like the recipes, the words would undoubtedly be savored, as Gena truly has a gift with writing.

Of course, it surpassed my high expectations (as I knew Gena would do an amazing job). It’s a gorgeous book that will soon have spice smudges, dog-eared pages, and green juice splatters all over it. The only bummer?

I wish this would have existed years ago.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while (thank you!!) then you already know that I was really into raw food for some quite a while. When I say “really into,” I mean that I devoted quite a bit of time into reading and learning about a raw diet, experimenting with recipes, and even attended a raw foods culinary school. In the end, I decided that a totally raw lifestyle wasn’t for me. I still love and frequently enjoy raw recipes, and I’m confident that a mostly raw diet didn’t last because I made it too hard for myself.

The “raw foods” lifestyle I had created was so far from the one that Gena discusses in her book. I fell into the “raw or nothing” mentality, and was making complicated recipes that wouldn’t be sustainable for the long term, especially now that I have a little one to feed. Many of the fancypants raw recipes involve multiple steps, which can include blending, juicing, dehydrating, sprouting, fermenting, etc. “Oh, I think I want pizza in three days. Ok, better start making it now!”

Raw pizza

Not the most efficient way to go 😉 Choosing Raw would have changed a lot of that.

For starters, Gena debunks some of the common myths in the raw food world including food combining. She also breaks down the basics of safe vegan nutrition, the staples to include in your kitchen, and practical tips for anyone looking to increase the amount of fresh and raw foods in their life. The best part is that it incredibly informative without coming off as judge-y. I consider myself somewhat of a vegan cookbook connoisseur, but there’s no getting used to feeling badly about my lifestyle and eating habits after reading a condescending vegan cookbook. I’m happy to say that’s definitely not the case here. Gena writes with a sassy, knowledgeable demeanor that’s humble and inviting. It encourages readers to make positive changes, whether they’re from large or small steps. So much love and heart went into the creation of Choosing Raw. You can feel Gena’s beautiful spirit throughout the book, especially when she shares the details of her history with an eating disorder and how a plant-based lifestyle assisted her on the path to health. (I didn’t know her before, but the Gena I know now is the epitome of vibrant health. Just hanging out with her from time-to-time inspires me to eat more plant-based foods.)

While the book does include recipes (125 vegan recipes, many of which are gluten-free), the best part is that it includes 21 days worth of meal plans. You learn how to enjoy raw meals with non-raw dishes, use leftovers throughout the week and create well-balanced meals. Choosing Raw begins with the basics of raw food + recipes, and through three “levels” increases the unique ingredient or complication level. Level one (“Tried and True”) includes raw and vegan twists on usual staples (like pumpkin granola, sweet potato and black bean enchiladas and “rawvioli” with nut cheese and pesto), while levels two and three (“Something New” and “Brave New World”) feature more unique ingredients (like superfoods!) and raw “cooking” techniques. There’s a host of information and options to make your meals as raw and as simple or more adventurous as you’d like them to be. 

Of course, one of my favorite chapters is the dessert chapter: 13 Desserts for Everyone. In my personal experience, I’ve noticed if anyone is a doubter of a vegan or raw lifestyle, just make them dessert. Gena includes a lovely variety of new recipes, like carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, no-bake tartlets with chocolate ganache filling, and this decadent cheesecake. I’m lucky enough that I had enough batter left for the actual dish because Liv and I got a little overzealous “saving” batter for us to eat 😉

Choosing raw cheesecake  1 of 1 3

The secret to creamy consistency: soaked raw cashews.

Choosing raw cheesecake  1 of 1

Gena kindly offered to share the recipe with all of you! Hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

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Whether you’re vegan, raw, vegetarian, an omnivore like yours truly, I think you will love this book. It would also make a wonderful gift for vegan or health-minded friends!

Raw, Vegan, Blueberry Cheesecake
Serves 8
If you think authentic cheesecake flavor is impossible without the cheese, think again. Raw cheesecake happens to be one of the most authentic tasting raw desserts, thanks to the magical combination of cashews and coconut oil. The cheesecake is easier to prepare in a high-speed blender than a food processor, but the processor can work if that’s what you have. Just be sure to soak your cashews overnight!
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Crust Ingredients
  1. 1 1⁄2 cups almonds
  2. Pinch sea salt
  3. 2 cups pitted Medjool dates
Filling Ingredients
  1. 3 cups cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained
  2. 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
  3. 2⁄3 cup melted coconut oil
  4. Seeds of 1 vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  5. 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  6. 1⁄2 cup agave nectar
Topping Ingredients
  1. 2 cups blueberries
  2. 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  3. 2 tablespoons agave nectar or pure maple syrup
Instructions
  1. 1. Place the almonds and sea salt in a food processor and grind roughly. Add the dates and process until the mixture is well processed and sticks together when you squeeze a bit in the palm of your hand. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. 2. Use a high-speed blender or food processor (high-speed blender is preferable, but a food processor will work as well) to process all the filling ingredients thoroughly, until they are silky smooth. If you’re working with a processor, you may need to stop often to scrape it down. Pour the mixture over the layer of crust and use an inverted knife to smooth it over. Place the cheesecake in the freezer for an hour, then transfer it to the fridge and let it set overnight.
  3. 3. When the cheesecake has set, blend 1 cup of blueberries, the lemon, and the agave
  4. nectar in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the remaining whole blueberries. Pour the mixture over the cheesecake (or you can spoon it over individual slices). Serve.
  5. Cover and store the cheesecake in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 10. If you freeze the cake, defrost the slices in the fridge for several hours before serving.
  6. From Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014.
Notes
  1. If you don’t have cashews, macadamia nuts are a perfect substitute.
The Fitnessista http://fitnessista.com/

Hope you have a wonderful day <3

xoxo

Gina

What’s something you wish you would have known when you were first getting started in health or fitness? I still can’t believe I feared fats for so long. I’m still making up for lost avocado time.

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Comments

  1. I’m so making up for lost avocado time as well! Can’t get enough of it!!!

  2. Ashley N. says:

    YUM! This dessert looks good, and easy which is most important. 🙂 When you had a more raw-focused diet, did you find your grocery spending amount increased or it wasn’t too much of a difference?

    • Fitnessista says:

      it was more. i eat chicken and fish now (which are $$ for organic chicken and wild caught fish) but when i was more raw, i was buying a lot of superfoods and interesting ingredients, and in valdosta they were very pricey. if i would have followed a plan like gena suggests, with a focus on simple recipes and foods, i definitely would have spent less than i do now, still purchasing organic produce.

  3. I definitely feared fats for too long!

  4. Definitely avocados, now I can’t get enough. Healthy fats are your friend.. Now I need to invest in a food processor, any recommendations?

  5. RachelG says:

    This book sounds amazing! The one bummer thing for me about vegan dishes, especially desserts (yum!), is that my husband can only eat peanuts and almonds…no cashews, walnuts, pine nuts, etc. or his throat gets really itchy. It’s not a deadly allergy thank goodness, but bad enough where I would be the worst wife in the world if I were trying to serve them to him. ;P The same issue comes into play with certain vegan cheeses that are made from cashews but thankfully there is an AHMAZING vegan restaurant on the Connecticut shoreline we love that has a wide variety of nut free vegan dishes.

    Has anyone ever tried these kinds of recipes with soaked almonds? Are they absolutely disgusting? Neither he nor I are vegan but I’d love to experiment with raw dishes that we can both enjoy.

  6. um, the raw blueberry cheesecake looks unreal. i can’t believe i used to fear healthy fats in my disordered eating days either — i consume avocado, cashews, and almonds daily now and can’t seem to get enough!

  7. Yumm!! I would have to say fats as well… And over doing my cardio!

  8. I wish I had known that “fat free” and “sugar free” did not equal healthy way back when I first started losing weight!

  9. This book looks great! I would love to incorporate more raw food into my diet but I definitely need more guidance since I am always short on time when preparing food.

  10. I just received my copy of Gena’s cookbook and I’m so excited to start cooking! I’ve been a big fan of hers for years now and I love her balanced approach to eating. I just bought a huge tub of fresh blueberries so this cheesecake will be on the menu soon 🙂

  11. This looks AMAZING. I can’t wait to try it with other fruit too!
    I wish I had gotten around to buying protein powder earlier. I was always a little scared of it because 1) it can be expensive, and 2) some of them can have sketchy ingredients, and 3) some of them taste chalky! Ive now found a couple brands I love (Vega and Kaizen Natural Whey) and love them!

  12. I resisted yoga for a long time because I didn’t view it as a “good workout” as I was so used to heavy cardio like running. Fast forward 7 years later, and I am completely obsessed. I value it for what it brings to me on a mental and spiritual level, as well as a physical level (I feel so strong!) and it definitely gets my heart rate up!

    I am totally intrigued by the cookbook – I love playing around with new types of recipes in the kitchen. Definitely picking up a copy!

  13. Jennifer says:

    What a well rounded review, Gina. I’ve never been interested in eating raw (though I do eat vegan during the week) and this review made me want to give it a try.

    Also, love your eye makeup in the title photo, so pretty! Totally curious about this book now, thank you.

  14. i saw you post a raw cheesecake before and I was drooling! can’t wait to try this- do you know the servings/cal/nutritional info for this recipe? Thanks!

  15. Oh my YUM! That looks delicious.

  16. Growing up I didn’t like fruits or vegetables! I was such a crazy kid!

  17. That book looks really interesting. I eat paleo now but at one point years ago looked into raw food and had the same reaction that it was just too much work. It also didn’t jive with my digestion! But now that summer’s here a few raw recipes here and there seems really appealing and definitely worth giving a try.

  18. This book is now on my amazon wish list. I think I would love it! After watching way too many food documentaries, our family experimented with a plant based diet almost a year ago. For about 2 months we cut out all animal products. But I felt like I was running out of meal options. My little boys were tired of eating another variation of a starch/veggie/bean combo. So it was hard to keep going and feeding my kids that way. So now we eat alot less meat. I would love to hear your thoughts and knowledge on those documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, Food Matters and others that tell us that animal products are BAD BAD BAD BAD! Then I watch something like the Perfect Human Diet and I get so confused. I know that might be a touchy subject to tackle. I just have a lot of respect for you and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

  19. Raw foods is a tough one. If only we didn’t have full time jobs, we could devote all our time to it. This recipe looks delicious!

  20. I love raw! I’ve been experimenting with raw recipes for the last few weeks, and this recipe seems right up my alley. I’ll be trying it out sometime this week for sure!

  21. michelle says:

    Oh my goodness that looks absolutely delicious. I will absolutely be getting this cookbook.

    When I was younger I took a really unhealthy approach to getting thin (I also avoided fats and carbs like the plague), so I wish someone told me that just because you’re losing weight, that doesn’t mean that you’re fit and healthy.

  22. Ugh. That carbs aren’t bad for you and I was shocked that I actually lost weight when I ate more food. Derp. Rookie moves. Can’t wait for that ravenous-eat-all-day-and-still-can’t-get-enough month of weight loss after the baby comes haha. Stocking the freezer a little bit every day during naps so I have healthy options to shovel in! 🙂

    This cheesecake looks amazing! I made a strawberry one for Valentine’s Day (because I’m corny and had to make a pink dessert…like my husband cares haha) but he’s a cheesecake connoisseur and LOVED it. I’ll be making this soon for sure.

  23. My best friends and I have tried out a few raw recipes and its a ton of fun!

  24. The book sounds great, thanks for the review! Want to try the cheesecake but would prefer not to use agave. Could I substitute brown rice syrup or coconut sugar instead? Trying to figure how it might affect the consistency. Thanks for the help!

  25. That looks delicious, I am new to eating raw so would love to try this recipe…Maybe I should buy that book whilst I’m at it 🙂
    http://mumswearlipstick.blogspot.com.au/

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