What We Ate Wednesday & Cookbook Review: Choosing Raw By Gena Hamshaw (Plus A Recipe!)

July 16th, 2014 - filed under: The Food » Food Styles

choosing raw book

I remember, very clearly, sitting in a cafe in New York City. February 2013. I was in town for Main Street Vegan Academy, fresh off a redeye with nearly zero sleep, hollow-eyed exhausted and so happy to be right there exactly where I was. Amped on adrenaline, espresso, and green juice, I fell into an easy rapport with my dining companion. We were playing catch-up – life, the universe, and everything – when Gena looked across the table at me and kind of smiled this secretive half smile, and confided: “So I sort of signed this book deal.”

I squealed of course (I blame the redeye) because Gena, and her blog Choosing Raw, are two of my favorite forces in the vegan community. We talked a bit about what she was hoping to do with the book, as we finished our brunch that day. And we talked about the project some more when we caught up with each other again a few months later, at Vida Vegan Con. But Gena waited a long time to announce it on her blog, and many many months went by, and I have to admit . . . I kind of forgot about it!

That is, until I got an email a few weeks ago, announcing the release.

choosing raw book cover

You guys. I’m not going to lie: this book is fucking AMAZING. I know, I know. She’s my friend and you think I have to say that. But seriously, this book is A – MAZ – ING.

It brings together everything I love about Gena and the work she does over at Choosing Raw. It’s smart and sensible and thorough and thoughtful and practical and did I mention smart? And it’s gorgeous, full of vibrant photography (thank you to the incomparable Hannah Kaminsky for that). And it’s more than just a cookbook. Gena is a certified clinical nutritionist, and operating on many years of personal experience in the vegan and raw communities. Which is why the first 95 pages of the book are devoted to words and words alone – advice, nutritional information, raw food FAQs, health myths and misconceptions (my favorite part, everything from protein to soy, oil to supplements, and so much more), and a complete 21-day meal plan. For reals, this book isn’t messing around. It WILL become my standard new-to-vegan/new-to-raw recommendation.

But okay, enough of my gushing. You want to see the food, right?? Well, last weekend Jeremy and I spent an entire day eating directly from these pages, and taking many pictures along the way. Here’s what that day looked like:

morning coffee

Oh hello! Good morning!

Jeremy and I enjoyed our lazy morning coffee in the back yard, flipping through the pages of the cookbook, deciding exactly what deliciousness we’d be [un]cooking up that day. Not a bad way to start the morning, I’d say.

For breakfast we decided on the Mocha Maca Chia Pudding, an incredible blend of energizing coffee, raw cacao, and tonifying maca. Mixing it up:

making mocha chia pudding

And served pretty, parfait-style:

mocha chia pudding with mintmocha maca chia pudding

Mocha Maca Chia Pudding layered with blueberries and garnished with cacao nibs + fresh mint.

It was, in a word, divine (but I’m sure you can tell that just by looking at it!)

This was one of those weekend days that drifted along. No plans except to putter about the house, which is exactly what we did. I was in my pajamas until well after noon. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon cleaning my kitchen from top to bottom – and I mean *really* cleaning. Like, polishing up the cabinet faces, on hands and knees at the baseboard lip, taking everything off the shelves, that kind of cleaning. It felt great but unfortunately, that sort of day doesn’t make for many pictures.

Jeremy ventured out for a haircut, and to pick up a few odd ingredients at the market. And when he returned, it was lunch time. Creamy Basil and Ginger Noodles.

creamy ginger basil sauce

I must admit, I was a bit hesitant to try this recipe. For one, I have a love-hate relationship with kelp noodles that often leans more towards the “hate” side of things . . . but then, I had multiple bags of them just sitting there, taking up prime real estate in my fridge. And two, my brain has trouble putting “basil” and “ginger” together in a sauce.

However, I trust Gena, and so this strange flavor profile definitely intrigued me. Thus, Creamy Basil and Ginger Noodles it was.

These were so good! I sun-dried the kelp noodles after soaking them in a solution of water, salt, and apple cider vinegar (lemon juice works as well) to try and loosen them up. If you’ve never eaten kelp noodles before, they have this strange sort of “popping” texture which can be a bit off-putting (on the other hand Waits loves them, but then again he’s uncannily attracted to foods which have almost no calories, oof, so that makes sense). But after laying them out to dry in the sun (half an hour or so), I was beyond thrilled with how they turned out. For the first time ever, they were wonderfully relaxed and delightfully non-”poppy”. And of course the sauce turned out to be delicious and Jeremy and I devoured the entire batch.

Oh also, I’m me so I added white beans because PROTEIN.

Right after lunch I whipped up the dressing that we were going to eat with dinner, and if you think I’ve been raving too much already, then I’m sorry but it’s about to get worse. Much worse.

creamy herb dressing

You guys. This dressing!

This dressing tastes like summer. Like tangy summer! Herby and savory and amazing with umami but also that lightness and freshness of flavorful herbs. We had it for dinner that night and I literally woke up craving it the next day. So do you know what I did? I ate salad for breakfast. And then I ate salad for lunch. And then I ate salad for dinner I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING THREE MEALS STRAIGHT.

This is my new favorite dressing, which is why I made a double batch of it again just today. And why I begged Gena to share the recipe with all of you! And you lucky ducks – she obliged:

Green Herb Dressing

Makes 1 1/4 Cups Dressing 

1 cup packed fresh parsley

1⁄4 cup fresh dill

1⁄2 cup packed fresh basil

1⁄4 cup tahini

1⁄2 teaspoon Herbamare (a very delicious and healthy seasoned salt and herb mix) or sea salt

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1 green onion, green part only, chopped

Blend all the ingredients, along with 1⁄2 cup of water, in a blender until smooth.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Dressing will keep for 5 days.

From Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014.

Make this dressing, k? You won’t regret it!

sunflower bud

Our tallest sunflower towers above me these days, and it’s just about finally to open up.

I spent the afternoon and evening back and forth between kitchen and yard, tending to whatever needed tending. It was such a lovely day, lazy but always in motion, working while also relaxing. A podcast to keep me company, and easy, steady housework.

Bromeliads only bloom once in their whole lives, and two of mine are blooming!

homegrown tomatoes
Homegrown tomatoes for our dinner salad.

Zucchini noodles! FYI, I got my spiralizer for like, thirty bucks on Amazon, and it’s one of my absolute favorite kitchen tools. A surprisingly affordable little treasure!

quinoa meat balls
Mmmm quinoa meatballs! These were flavorful and easy to make and also, they held together really well.

And then finally, it was dinnertime! All said and done, we had a butterleaf and tomato salad with the Green Herb Dressing, and Zucchini Pasta with Quinoa Meatless Balls, paired with our favorite Spanish Rioja.

quinoa meatballs choosing raw


But we weren’t done yet! For dessert I’d made the Raw Key Lime Pie.

choosing raw key lime pie

Jeremy said this was the best dessert – okay maybe the best thing – I’ve ever made. And since then it’s been approved by both wee Waits Rebhal, and Jeremy’s roommate.

This is good pie.


And thus concludes our day of eats, and this cookbook review. I do hope you’ve enjoyed both, and I hope you’ll check out Gena’s book, Choosing Raw. And if you’re not already doing so, for goodness sake go read her blog!


♥ ♥ ♥

  • http://www.abbyhasissues.com Abby Heugel

    I love Gena and am so excited to get her cookbook (asked for it for my birthday.) Great review!

  • http://howtofeedawookie.blogspot.com/ WookieWifey

    This book is going on my wishlist. Also, I think salad craving is just in the air. At the beginning of last week, I had lunch at my sister-in-law’s house where she had this brilliant idea to use the bruschetta her husband had made as a dressing. I got his recipe and ate salad with bruschetta as dressing for the ENTIRE WEEK, and already made plans to make some more today so I can eat MOAR SALAD, so reading this cracked me up.

  • veggiesara

    I received Choosing Raw just yesterday and scanned through the pages yesterday evening. That combined with your review, I can’t wait to start cooking from it!

  • Lisa B.

    Okay, I also totally forgot about this cookbook, so THANK YOU for the reminder! (As if I need another excuse to spend money on cook — er, uncook — books). Order has been placed, excitement level = 100. Also, what a great idea to spend a whole day playing around with a cookbook — I’m totally doing this once I get my copy!

    There’s a raw vegan fella extraordinaire here in Vancouver, who has his own raw vegan restaurant and an accompanying cookbook. I think you might like it! I’m not sure if it’s for sale in the US, but just in case, here are the deets: http://www.amazon.ca/Gorilla-Food-Living-Eating-Organic/dp/1551524708

    Each recipe is humble, relatively straightforward, and delicious. One thing I particularly love is the fact that his cookbook contains recipes for each of his menu items — a reflection of his own personal ethos, which is to make raw vegan food accessible to the masses. He doesn’t feel a sense of ownership towards his recipes, which I think is a huge departure from the way in which many view food and recipes, which seems to veer towards either a form of art or a highly commercialized commodity (the former of which I’m okay with; the latter, I think you can guess…).

    Anywho, I digress. If you’re ever in Vancouver, check out Gorilla Food (his restaurant): http://gorillafood.com/

    Enjoy the week, lovely lady!

    - Lisa

    p.s. There is something so special about the two Bromeliads blooming at the same time. Very symbolic! I think it’s a reflection of all the love you have in your home!

  • Sarah C.

    I love Gena’s blog – she’s so thoughtful and level-headed about everything. Super voice – glad it will be spread with this book.

    And I have to say (since we’ve comment-chatted about the FODMAPs thing before) that I almost wept with joy when I read the ingredients for this dressing. A goddess-style dressing without all that infernal garlic (my mouth loves it, but my gut doesn’t!)? I can’t tell you how happy I am about this! I thought I’d never have a goddess-style dressing again, so I am beyond thrilled to see this recipe and hear it’s that good.

  • Rebecca Carnes

    1. I need to get this cookbook stat!
    2. Key Lime Pie!!!! I have missed Key Lime since going vegan… so this was meant to be:)
    Thank you so much for this post!!!! I have been in a meal rut and needed some inspiration :)

  • Leslie Ennis

    I am so excited about this! I just bought all the ingredients for the dressing today and plan to make a kickass salad tonight. Thanks for posting about Gena – am now following her blog as well.

  • Nat

    Thank you for the dressing recipe! Made it this morning with fresh picked herbs that still had some morning dew, so delicious :) Great post thanks!!!!

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com/ Monika {windycityvegan}

    Lovely review! This might be the last cookbook I purchase for awhile. I have a feeling a LOT of my meals this coming semester are going to be based around delicious dressings, dips, drizzles, and anything else that will make Big Ass salads interesting – this dressing may become my new go-to staple. And overnight soaked grains and seeds are probably going to get me through my morning classes (or my hour commute to campus, oof).

    Thanks for sharing the dressing recipe – I also saw the key lime pie and quinoa meatball recipes floating around in other reviews – hopefully I can make one of Gena’s recipes before we leave our vacation cabin!

  • Bianca

    Oh yay!! I didn’t even know Gena was working on book. But I love her! And I love her blog! So I must get this. Everything you made looks amazing, esp the quinoa meatballs. I have that same spiralizer and I love it too.

  • vegyogini

    Words can hardly describe how much I love, admire, and respect Gena. Coincidentally, her book just landed in my hands today! I am so excited to read it cover to cover and cook/uncook my heart out.

  • http://kellisvegankitchen.com/ Kelli

    I LOVE Gena’s cookbook. I haven’t walked into a bookstore and purchased a cookbook in a long time and hers was the one. And thank you for this info, Sayward – I was about to post a distress call on Facebook saying “I hate kelp noodles. Help me” and here you are with a very happy-sounding solution. I can’t wait to try it!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh you’ll love it Abby! Soo much goodness in this book. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh my gosh that sounds amazing. And ahaha, “MOAR SALAD” has basically been my mantra for weeks. Must be summer in our blood, I want all the salad, all the time!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Let me know what you make! I want ideas for what to try next . . . ;-)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yeah, cooking from one book for an entire day is something I’ve done a few times and I LOVE it, it’s such a great way to really get a feel for an author’s style. Plus it keeps you focused on the recipes for the day, thinking about the food, and you really get to experience the book on multiple levels – it’s full immersion! Haha.

    And yes, I will check out Gorilla Food, thanks for the heads up!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I KNOW RIGHT?! That’s one of my fave things about the dressing, and about a lot of Gena’s cooking in general. Very little garlic!

    I’m not ready to go totally low-FODMAPs yet (waiting until after some upcoming traveling), but in the meantime I’ve been cutting way down on Fructans (since wheat definitely bothers me and it’s one of the fructans, so maybe the others bother me as well, right?) Man I miss garlic and onions, which I used to eat at literally every meal, but I have to say I think I notice a difference. Very interesting, this FODMAPS stuff . . .

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Girl, this key lime pie is THE BOMB. This book is so good, you’ll love it. Plus, it’s dessert that’s totally great for kids, it’s basically just nuts and avocado and coconut oil. Waits loves it and I feel great about giving it to him! =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yay, hope you liked the dressing, Leslie. And I’m so glad you’re following Gena’s blog now! She is a wealth of information and creativity.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    The best kind of food! That must have been amazing, with herbs fresh off the bush. It’s a pretty great dressing, right??

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yes, this book would be perfect then! There’s a whole section of dips and dressings – and not the old standard flavor combos either. Very good stuff, I’m sure you’d love it. ♥

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Isn’t that spiralizer the best? So cheap and SO MUCH FUN. Haha.

    By the way, every time I try and comment on your blog, it won’t let me! Don’t know why but it’s weird, and it’s been going on for months. =(

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh let me know what you end up making!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh I hope the trick works for you! I’ve tried boiling them before and that didn’t work, so it’s not only about heat. But yeah, something about letting them sit in direct sunlight for 1/2 hour to an hour – it COMPLETELY relaxed them. They were so easy to eat this way! Hope it works (will you let me know?)

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com/ Monika {windycityvegan}

    I’ve been on the fence about a spiralizer for way too long, but you two just convinced me to get one already! Thanks to the magic of the internet, mine should be waiting for me when I get home in a couple of days.

  • Katrina Fleming

    Loving the blue flower plate. So lovely and delicate. I also love this blog – it’s “real” and inspiring at the same time. Inspiring a real way. Not in a get-out-of-town way. It’s like you notice all the little gems around you and highlight them in an artistic manner that makes me relook at my own surroundings. Quite a gift you have.

  • http://kellisvegankitchen.com/ Kelli

    Thank you! I will definitely let you know how it goes!

  • Melanie

    Made the dressing, had to pry the spatula out of my baby’s hands! Going to buy the book now :)

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  • veggiesara

    I made the curried chickpea and carrot salad (p.162) today, sooooo good! Next up: the green herb dressing (your words of praise make me way to curious).

  • Rebecca Carnes

    People tell me P will “miss out” on being a kid since he won’t be having all the candy/cookies/cakes…. I just decide to make my own treats & books like this make it sooo much easier! And seriously with those ingredients I feel incredibly happy and content feeding him all the fun stuff:) This kid is NOT missing out:):)

  • mckensiek

    Completely loving on you today! Haven’t been able to read for about a week or so and I just love your perspective on life and your big heart! Cheers :)

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