January 24, 2011

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First things first:


Massive game last night! And only one way things could get bigger. Can’t wait for the Superbowl victory–right, Elise??

When you start to read about raw foods and “going raw,” you hear a lot of talk about “transitioning.” This of course refers to the process of going from cooked foods to raw foods (in some cases, raw vegan foods—don’t forget that not all raw foodies are also vegan!). If you want it, you’ll find all sorts of supportive advice on how to “transition” painlessly—some of this will be in the form of elementary tips (“warm up your veggies in a dehydrator!”) and some of it will sound a lot like something you’d find in a a self-help or spirituality book (“prepare yourself to experience ‘emotional detox’…”)

These latter kinds of dialogs never really resonated with me, mostly because my own discovery of raw eating was more a practical and nutritional journey than a spiritual one. I didn’t feel sudden freedom from negativity, or spiritual awakening, or bliss, or anything like that. I had moments of high energy in the first few weeks that were kind of euphoric, but mostly, I was just psyched to be feeling so good, and to be learning so many new cooking techniques. It was as if a whole new world of vegan food had just revealed itself to me, and I was excited.

But was it akin to finding God? No, not really. As I’ve said before, I don’t think that raw foods are a magic pill or a panacea; I think they’re just one way to maximize nutrition and feel really great. I wasn’t looking for magic, and maybe that’s why magic didn’t find me, but it didn’t matter: I felt awesome, and that’s what was important.

Perhaps because of the fact that my expectations were modest, I didn’t find that my transition into raw was all that rocky. I did experience some headaches and some fatigue after the initial few weeks, and maybe these were “detox”—detox is a word that’s hazily defined in raw circles, and usually overstated—but after that, I felt great. And it didn’t feel emotionally taxing, either: if anything, I was so happy that I’d stumbled on the raw scene.

Of course, you might point out that I’d been a vegan for a long time before I was raw, so of course I never had to cope with the difficulty of living without animal foods. That’s true, and one thing I always try to keep in mind when I write CR is that a lot of my readers who are exploring raw foods aren’t coming from the same place I was when I found them: I was eating a mostly whole foods vegan diet already, with lots of fresh veggies. Some of my readers are coming from food backgrounds that are 100% cooked and 100% omni, so of course getting into green smoothies and meal sized salads is going to feel like more of a jump. I hope that my site feels welcoming to all of you who are in this position; I was a vegan before I was raw, but I’m not impervious to how hard any food transition can be. And my whole practice as a nutritional counselor is geared toward easing those rocky little crossings.

My friend Kristen is another raw educator who is highly sensitive to how difficult transitions into raw or vegan foods are. And though she’s best noted for her work in the raw food world, I’ve always admired Kristen because she strikes such a terrific high-raw balance. As you know, I like to call my lifestyle a “semi-raw” one; Kristen probably falls closer to the raw end of the diet spectrum than I do, but she and I share a laid back and non-neurotic attitude about how raw we eat, and it’s one of the things we’ve always bonded over. (For those of you that don’t know, Kristen is one of the closest friends I’ve made through blogging.)

It didn’t surprise me, then, when I found out that Kristen’s newest raw cookbook would be about easy raw, vegan transitions. The book—Kristen Suzanne’s Easy Raw, Vegan Transition Recipes—provides cooked, whole foods recipes, transition (semi-raw) recipes, raw recipes that don’t “feel” raw (like smoothies and guac, which are familiar to all eaters), and raw recipes for new raw foodists. I think that all of Kristen’s e-books are amazingly helpful, information-packed, and approachable for budding raw foodists, but this one, which features favorite recipes from her previous collections, really takes the cake. It’s totally unintimidating and the recipes are all delicious, and I’d gladly recommend it to anyone who’s serious about becoming higher raw.

When I told Kristen I’d happily review the book for her, I knew that it would sort of be unnecessary. I mean, Kristen’s food inspired me a lot as I was going raw, and since then I’ve made her recipes countless times (I make her Harvest Soup at least once every two weeks, usually once weekly). And I don’t really need any “sneaky” raw transition recipes, so I suspected I’d be making the usual sorts of raw recipes I’d make from her site: soups, smoothies, salads.

I was right about all that. But that didn’t make reviewing the book any less fun. First, I made her banana protein shake, which features hemp seeds, frozen banana, and carob (three of my favorite recipes). It was so rich and delicious that I served it in a bowl, just like my recent green pudding:

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Next, I sampled Kristen’s “Kick Ass Raw Soup.” Why? Well, it sounded really good to me (red pepper, hemp seeds, kale, cucumber, apple, dulse—all of my favorite stuff). But moreover, one of the things that Kristen and I tend to commiserate over is our mutual love of cursing, and all things profane. Seriously, guys: we may seem nice and sweet and articulate on our blogs, but we both have potty mouths. And we love it. Of course I had to make a recipe with “a**” in the title.

I served the soup with some sweet potato hummus (recipe coming!) stuffed collard wraps:

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Note: this is a VERY green soup. I love that (as I write this, I’m chuckling at the fact that I love extremely kale-y green soups, but not green smoothies), but if you’re sensitive to it, I’d suggest omitting the kale, or just using one leaf. I think I made it supergreen by using three GIANT leaves, but that was just fine by me.

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These recipes are fast, tasty, and absolutely accessible—just like all of Kristen’s food. If you’re exploring raw, or even if you’re not, I highly recommend checking Kristen’s Easy, Vegan Transition Recipes out! I’m a fan.

For those of you who went from cooked to raw, or omni to vegan: how would you characterize your own “transition”? Was it easy? A nightmare? What sorts of emotions and challenges did you face?

I’ll be back tomorrow with an awesome recipe for quinoa breakfast porridge!


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  1. I went from a clean omni diet to raw vegan literally overnight 10 months ago (I’ve since incorporated more cooked food into my diet, but would still call myself high-raw). I actually identify a lot with your transition. I found it very easy and didn’t experience any major detox or other symptoms. Like you, I was motivated by health rather than other spiritual or ideological reasons. I was also excited about the prospect of learning new recipes and cooking techniques and haven’t looked back!

  2. Kristen is a superstar. I’m neither raw nor vegan and have no immediate plans for transitioning toward either, but I value real food and good nutrition and to that end it doesn’t get much better than Kristen! Recipes like her chocolate cherry smoothie and holiday chia pudding are regulars for me. And Gena, let’s not forget that you have her to thank for all those pulp crackers chez moi–my recipe is definitely based on hers!

    Speaking of which, I should get back on cracker detail asap…

  3. Hi Gena! I was a long time reader last year and took a blogging hiatus after some health issues – I’m back and recently saw your recipes in Crazy Sexy Diet! How cool! I made the chocomole and it was amazing! Thank you for sharing that.

    I am transitioning back into vegetarian and also gave up dairy and coffee. I think the coffee was the hardest part of the dietary changes actually! It’s going well so far and I’m so glad for blogs that share all of their great resources and recipes!

  4. Hi
    I am from europe and Kristen is the most awesome teacher that I have. I went to high raw vegan diet after my girl was 1 year old. I was totally new in this world and very busy taking care of my baby. Kristen teached me and still does everything, she respons all questions about food about blenders about juicers about raw cosmetics, about everything…….She helped me with finding blender finding juicer finding right balance for me and also writes the most wonderfull recipies books!!!!. Two of her books( the easy way to get started & succeed at the raw food and transitions) explain everything you need to know about raw food raw life ( highly recomended). It has been 9 months already and I still find new thing new recipies I still need lots of advice, so I have to say big THANKS to Kristen for everything you have done for me.

  5. damn straight!! gooo packers!!

    interestingly enough, the guest post i have on standby waiting for you is about that damn panacea post. haha.

    i also just came across kristen’s harvest soup this weekend when browsing raw soup recipes. if you are a fan, ill give it a go.

  6. I love Kristen’s recipes and her books! Just last night I made Cheezy Corkscrew Macaroni from this book. It was SO good and my omni husband loved it as well. It was so nice to have a vegan, semi-raw meal that both my husband and I could enjoy together. And if I wanted to, I could have made my portion 100% raw by putting the cheez sauce over zucchini noodles and still make a cooked dinner for him so everyone is happy with 1 easy meal/recipe.

    I like how this book shows you how to easily add raw foods to your meals. It really goes along with your recommendation of adding first, then subtracting. That advice along with using your mantra of “progress not perfection” have really helped me transition from vegetarian to vegan and now being vegan and trying to add more raw/green foods into my diet.

  7. I think I have to buy this book for two things in this post – 1. The fact that you, Gena, and Kristin swear like sailors makes me just want to hug you both and that is reason enough to buy the book. And 2. I had no idea you were a Packer fan?!?!

    I realize some might think these are silly reasons, but me? I think they are as good as any! Plus, I love soup. And a Kick Ass Soup? How could I not love it?

    Oh AND, I make sweet potato hummus too. Nuff said.

  8. A truly great book, I am happy to have it on my shelf.

    I am intrigued by the sweet potato hummus, I think I saw something similar on Ricki’s blog once. I am ona hummus kick lately.

    Random question: What can one do if one is vegan but wants to see a nutritionist. When I went to one ages ago she tried to convince me not to be vegetarian and I don’t want to face that again.

  9. Transitioning is something I’ve taken much too lightly when approaching a higher-raw vegan diet. I’m not one for ‘details’ and have a stubborn, all-or-nothing attitude that tends to result in spectacular success, or most commonly, overwhelming failure. I went 100% raw cold-turkey for a couple of weeks late last year, and despite feeling supremely energised, vibrant and healthy, I simply did not have the recipe repertoire, support or experience to be able to maintain such a drastic change. Ultimately, I was forced to admit that despite having an aversion to gentler transitioning because it ‘takes too long’ or is ‘boring’, its better to make gradual progress, build confidence and evolve in a way that does not send your system into shock/overdrive, than use force to go 100% raw, or 100% vegan, and risk creating negative situations that may hinder your progress yet further.
    For now, 2/3 meals a day being raw is an approach that’s working nicely for me, because I can appreciate the merits of both cooked & fresh food without imposing destructive ‘rules’ that, evidently, are no fun at all!
    Kristen’s blog and e-books have been a continual source of inspiration and balanced, practical advice for including more raw in my day. Because whatever the %, raw foods can bring extra zest to anyone’s life!

  10. Great post! I appreciate both you and Kristen- and your potty mouths. 🙂 The book sounds great.

    I agree with Amalfi Girl that the transition from fake to real is one of the most challenging. Doing a No Impact experiment really helped me with this. I stopped buying food in packaging, and my diet got a lot healthier really quickly. And I found new things that I love!

    When I switched from vegan to raw/whole foods vegan, it was because of my health, which I think made diving in a lot easier. I had something that overwhelmed all my other ideas about food, a driving force. And I happen to prefer green juice to just about anything! 🙂

    The biggest challenges for me are creating a plan that works for me, instead of following someone’s else’s plan (scary when you are fighting an illness and want to be able to predict what will happen to your body, but necessary for it to be my own, rather than a rule I follow), and learning how to celebrate, comfort myself and entertain myself without abusing food.

  11. That books looks great! I have a million cookbooks, but whats one more, right?? I love that you love profanity..LOL you look so sweet and innocent, I can’t imagine a bad word coming out of your mouth.

    • Oh believe it. I thought the same thing. Then, we met up while I was in NY and she started, ehem, tallking. I was like, “Holy Sh*t, you little devil!”

  12. One of the main reasons that I love your blog, Gena, is because you write with a tone that accepts all different backgrounds of diets. Your approach is accessible and open.

    I tried a green juice today at a raw food place near my school and it was soooo good! Mostly apple (I need the sweetness for now, haha) and romaine and lime. so good!!!

    • I totally agree Hannah! You phrased it so well. I love the fact that ‘choosing raw’ is so open and informative without being narrow minded or judgmental.

      And I’m glad that you liked the juice! I thought that it tasted great too! (:

  13. My transition to veganism was barely even noticeable, except that I felt better afterward. I’ve transitioned to a raw diet several times (and fallen of the wagon as many times, but hey, life’s a journey), and every time I have experienced a massive detox reaction. I get what seems to be a flu about 2 days after going all or mostly raw every time, and the emotional detox is crazy. But after a couple weeks I feel amazing. I don’t really know why I ever stop!

  14. Great review and I know so many people that would love this book as a gift. My transition was a little hard, I missed dairy products at first and it took a few months to fully eliminate animal products being a seafood fan. Huge raw salads weren’t a problem because I was eating so many of them already. There were some emotional ups and downs, energy sags and digestion adjustments, but nothing too extreme.

  15. I honestly think the hardest transition is from “fake” to “real”, whether you are vegetarian, vegan, or omni. There are plenty of “junk” vegan foods out there, but for a vegetarian or an omni, there are TONS. (Just think, Little Debbies are vegetarian, as are M&M’s…) So going from the S.A.D. to a more whole foods diet was certainly the biggest change for me in my life, but I am LOVING cooking with real foods that a toddler could identify (i.e., not dextrose, soy protein isolate, or modified food starch).

  16. Transitioning from omnivore to vegetarian and then to vegan was actually pretty easy for me.
    I already loved to cook and experiment with food.
    Eating meat and dairy made me feel not well.
    And I kept studying the health benefits of a totally plant based diet.

  17. “Seriously, guys: we may seem nice and sweet and articulate on our blogs, but we both have potty mouths. And we love it. Of course I had to make a recipe with “a**” in the title.”

    You just made my day with this. For every instance I’ve typed the word “shiz” on my blog, I’ve said sh*t in real life 100 more times. F*ck is definitely one of my favorite words. And working from home has just made my potty mouth worse because I have to hold back for…? Nobody! 😉

    Kristen’s book sounds bada** *giggle*

    • Lol – for real, right? And people tell me I need to tone it down because I have a baby now or her first word might be F*ck. Oh well, at least I’m going to homeschool her so it’s not like she’ll be saying that in a class full of kids. 😉

  18. Ooh I didn’t know about this new book, thanks for the review! I have a few raw books but I find them (dare I say) a bit intimidating…but I obviously don’t find blogs like yours intimidating 🙂 and I do love Kristen’s blog too so I must get my hand on her books.
    I think a mix of raw and cooked vegan meals makes the book a bit more accessible to a lot of people.

  19. I transitioned from omni to vegetarian 9 months ago, and I’ve really enjoyed trying new foods & cooking techniques, and reading insightful blogs. I had a failed omni to veggie attempt during college, but was doing it for reasons I wasn’t passionate about. Now, I am more educated and informed and feel like a contributing member of a very special group of people.

    There are three things that have been hard during my transition, but certainly can and have been overcome…
    1. Convincing my meat-eating friends and family that this is my decision and it feels right for me. And yes, I get enough protein.
    2. The convenience factor- it’s simply easier to order meat in restaurants, and I often find myself asking several questions when choosing menu items. I’m fine with that, but feel bad when dining with others.
    3. My meat eating husband. He probably won’t ever stop eating meat, which is his personal preference, but it makes dinner time interesting…

    Do other people have these issues? Any advice?
    – Julie

    • I agree – eating out in restaurants can be very difficult, depending on what area of the country you are in. Even in a fairly large metropolitan city, I have a tough time. Something that helps is trying to pick ethnic restaurants, like Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, and even Mexican, which are more likely to serve grains and vegetables than a typical American restaurant.

    • In response…
      1) Get your blood work done and showing it off to people who question your diet. 😉

      2) Hard to get around this one. Order more mainstream raw foods like salad. Eat before you go out and then you can eat something smaller like… salad when you’re out. OR… don’t be afraid to order two salads! I do it all the time. Another idea is picking places that are more friendly toward your lifestyle. Or, lastly.. if you’re not militant on your lifestyle, then choose to eat more socially during those times and pick right off the menu without alteration. Personally, I don’t mind taking as long as needed to order what I want so that I stay within the lifestyle I’ve chosen. This means getting the word out to more restaurants with more people asking for healthier options. Finally, don’t feel bad about others. You’re responsible for your health, not them. You’re setting an excellent example of health.

      3) Have him read The China Study. That’s what did it for my husband (he was my boyfriend at the time).

      • There are serious flaws with the China Study. Try to be aware that what you’re reading is not always silver and gold. I may be biased because I am not vegan…but with an open mind, I just have to say that book is quite flawed.

        • There are of course many other books on the topic. I merely suggested the one that impressed my husband the most.

          • Yeah, and for all of the ladies out there, keep in mind that CHINA STUDY has a really good success rate with male readers. For whatever reason 🙂

        • I like the China Study, but I agree that it’s not a perfect book. Of course, the problem (in my mind) isn’t so much the book itself, but rather the fact that some vegans insist on treating it like the Holy Grail. It’s frustrating.

          Of course, a lot of the China Study critiques are miserably biased, too — most of the ones I’ve seen were on psuedo-scientific paleo sites.

  20. I am not sure I ever had a transition with regards to eating more raw foods – if anything, sometime last year, my husband pointed out that I was eating semi-raw and I was kind of like “yeah, good point” – honestly, the biggest transition I felt was when I cut out all dairy, eggs, gluten and sugar. In some ways I felt massive amounts of energy (since it turns out I am intolerant to dairy, eggs and gluten, that makes sense) but I also had a bad headache from the lack of sugar. The interesting part is that I was not eating that much sugar back then anyways, but I definitely was overdoing it on evaporated cane juice and agave in hindsight.

  21. I love Kristen! She is such an awesome woman, mother, and friend 🙂

    Thank you for the book review and for your thoughts. And yes, I agree, raw foods are not superfoods, not a panacea, just one way of eating that happens to be helpful to many people. And if it works for that person, great! Enjoy raw foods. Or cooked, or whatever they feel optimally with.

    For me…I feel best eating mostly plants, mostly raw, and just prepared simply, wholesomely, and as close to nature as possible. So my ‘transition” was really a lifetime of eating patterns that just kind of led down this path, the current one, with a concentrated raw-ish effort (not by ‘trying’, just happened that way) the past 5 yrs or so.

    Thanks for the review, Gena. And thanks, Kristen, for writing all your great books!

  22. I had a weird experience with going raw. There were some recipes that I really liked, and many that I loathed. I also put on weight (don’t hate me for mentioning that again here) and I struggle from being over, not under, weight. So I quickly gave up any fantasies I was having about going raw and how I was going to easily be able to maintain a healthy weight and went back to a mix of 50% raw and 50% cooked vegan. I’m a very happy camper now!

  23. Gena, as you know, after nearly one year eating vegan I have decided to go higher raw. I’ve been reading your blog for inspiration and recipes and I did, in fact, purchase Kristen’s transition book. So, so helpful!

    I did not have trouble transitioning from vegetarian to vegan because I think I was read. I wouldn’t say that I’m having a tough time with higher raw, I’m just learning new habits. I’ve been a cook-in-bulk on the weekend / reheat during the week gal. Now I need to re-think how I plan and prepare my meals so that I’m getting higher raw foods during the day. It’s a process!

  24. With only a few days left in my 30 day high raw *detox* I’m doing a lot of soul (and stomah and emotional) searhing as far as what my next step will be. I have no moral issues with meat or dairy so long as I know where it’s coming from but I have simply not craved those things this month. The only thing I have truly felt denied or restricted from was wine and cooked veggies and salmon. Bread too, although not nearly as much as I imagined. This month my energy levels have been higher than ever and I’ve had remarkable success with it and feel truly happy eating this way. I think I’m going to try to just eat intuitively and increase my raw food intake starting in February but all in all I’ve found raw eating to be more of a challenge to my creativity than to my ability to give up other foods.

    • Galaxy Foods has an amazing parmesan cheese substitute. Unlike Daiya and nutritional yeast, it tastes exactly like real parmesan cheese. They sell it at Whole Foods!

  25. I went from omni to veg to vegan, so it was an extremely easy transition for me. However, I did struggle with giving up my beloved cheese. Once I discovered Daiya vegan cheeses, I never mourned the loss of cheese ever again. I’m definitely going to check out Kristen’s book. Thanks for the review!!

  26. I can’t speak to a vegan transition, but I’m working to significantly reduce my families meat intake. For us, this process has involved a lot of consideration about what a balanced meal is composed of and learning to shift that balance. I also means I’m learning to accept the occasional dinner disaster with dignity (or something like that).

  27. Yay Packers indeed!

    I’ve been considering getting some of Kristen’s books for awhile (love her blogs)….I think you just convinced me!

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