Raw Foods Tutorial: The Raw Cocktail Party

by Gena on July 26, 2009

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Hello, all.

It’s Sunday, which means another week is looming. As I stave off thoughts about unread manuscripts and neglected editing, I’m checking in to share—as promised—some recipes from Tuesday’s highly eventful cocktail party.
Raw entertaining (is it just me, or does that sound naughty) can be great fun. It’s a chance to show guests just how delicious raw foods can be. And, if you’re lucky enough to have open minded friends, it’s also a nice chance to share some green juice!

My advice for the newbie raw hostess (or host) is the same advice I give all raw foodies: keep it simple. Believe me when I tell you that planning elaborate raw dinner parties or hors d’oeuvres can be rough, at least at first: you’ll spend a few days prepping and a lot of time stressing. My first raw dinner (Christmas ’07) was, good intentions notwithstanding, a true disaster. It involved a soup that demanded three strains through a cheesecloth, not to mention eight hours of soaking walnuts; a salad that involved ungodly expensive truffle oil; the lasagna from Raw Food, Real World (which is truly delicious, but seriously time consuming); and a raw cheesecake that would not, in spite of my superhuman efforts, set in my freezer. Oh, and did I mention raw flax crackers? Those too.

Since that fateful night, I’ve learned that well-prepared salads and simple soups are usually enough to wow family and friends; I’ve never served a kale salad that wasn’t a hit. For special occasions, I typically just break out my spiralizer and make some cashew alfredo, and I watch my guests marvel over the fact that they’re eating a vegan sauce.

It’s very much the same for cocktail parties. A few simple appetizers are enough to please my friends and keep my sanity intact.

With that in mind, I present to you Gena’s quick and easy tips for a raw cocktail or dinner party:

1)    Be selective. It’s tempting to plan a five-course tasting menu that features all of the recipes you’ve been eying for ages. But it’s more satisfying to get two or three recipes (say, carrot-avocado bisque and simple raw sushi) right, than to attempt four or five and feel harried—or, worse, to produce culinary flops. Quality over quantity folks: for any hostess, this is a good lesson!

2)    Think about pairing dishes together that utilize the same ingredients (in the meal I’m about to share, the avocado cumin dressing and guacamole are a good example; so are jicama rolls two ways). This will help you save on time and on an outrageous grocery bill. And if you honor food combining, it will of course help you to keep your tummy in tune :)

3)    Select dishes that are somewhat familiar. If your guests are somewhat new to raw foods, this may not be the night to test out that sprouted buckwheat breat and seaweed soup you’ve been meaning to try. Stick with foods that are recognizable enough to be welcoming, but utilize them in fun ways: stuff guac into romaine leaves, rather than serving it with chips and salsa, or make a bit of zucchini “pasta” with marinara sauce.

4)    Rely on dips and sauces! It’s so much easier to make a few simple foods (veggie roll ups, a crudite platter, some nori rolls) with a variety of dressings and sauces than it is to make a variety of dishes themselves. In the case of the cocktail party lineup I’m about to share, dressings truly made all of the difference.

For last Tuesday’s event, the pressure was on: my guests comprised a bevy of seasoned chefs (and by the way, I am still grateful that Heather and Ashley provided the desserts, since it’s not my specialty!). My first recipe was inspired by the asparagus and summer squash rolls I made some time back. I loved these, but I figured that jicama would make an even easier and more delicate wrapper than squash. I was right. These were perfectly light and tasty.

To make the jicama rolls, simply peel a whole jicama root. Next, cut it in half (so that you have to half moon shapes). Lay it with the cut side facing down and slice the two narrow sides off so that the cut side takes on a rectangular shape. Next, slice the root, cut side still down, thinly on a mandolin.

Take the slices, and stuff them with veggies of your choice! For this party, I made one set stuffed with cucumber and carrot, and another stuffed with asparagus, yellow pepper, and cilantro.

jicama-asparagus2

I served them alongside two dipping sauces. The first was my avocado cumin vinaigrette, inspired by a Myra Kornfield recipe. I’ve blogged about it before, but here’s the recipe again:

Creamy Avocado Cumin Dressing (makes 1 cup)

Ingredients:

1 tsp whole cumin seeds
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp EVOO
1 ripe avocado
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ to ½ cup water (depends how thick you like it)
Black pepper

To make the dressing, dry toast the cumin seeds in a heavy bottomed skillet until fragrant. Grind into a powder using a spice grinder. Add the cumin, lime juice, oil, avocado, salt, mustard, garlic, and water and blend in a blender until very smooth. Sprinkle with pepper and season to taste.

The other was an Asian dressing:

Asian Dressing (Makes 1 1/2 cup)

Ingredients:

1 inch ginger
1 cup olive oil (or flax oil)
2 tsp sesame oil (toasted)
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp mellow white miso
6 dates, pitted, or ¼ cup maple syrup
2 tbsp nama shoyu
1/3 cup water

Blend all ingredients on high till creamy and emulsified.

Here are the carrot and cucumber rolls with the Asian dressing:

jicama-peanut

And the asparagus rolls with the avo-cumin dressing:

jicama-asparagus

I decided that no evening at my pad would be complete without some of my famous guac. So I whipped up a batch.

my-guac1

This is so easy to serve: you can pair it with crudités, healthy tortilla chips (in case you guys are wondering, I recommend the Guiltless Gourmet brand), or my serving method of choice: some romaine leaves so that guests can make their own tacos. Like so:

guac-tortilla

To round out the party, I decided to show off some of my pizza cheese. And how better than in mini “pizzettes”? I made a batch of the nut cheese, sliced a zucchini, and topped each slice with about a tablespoon of the cheese. I covered each with a basil leaf and half of a cherry tomato and voila! A fancy looking but uber-simple hors d’ouevre.

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This was all I was planning on, but I had a late-day realization: two of my guests (a Hangry and a Hippie) are hummus fiends. So I figured I had to keep them happy. I whipped up some raw zucchini hummus and paired it with a big crudite platter.

hummus1

What about drinks? Since I don’t drink myself, I always encourage guests to bring over whatever they like. Elise was kind enough to bring over a lovely bottle of Zinfandel. But I always like to offer my guests some green juice, too; why not alkalize as we socialize? (WOW. Did I just write that? I think blogging has officially decreased my cheesy humor threshold). Because juicing for six (let alone two) is a major pain in the a**, I’ll always hit up Liquiteria for some bottled juice on the day of a dinner party. On this evening, we were all treated to greens with apple, lemon and ginger.

juice

(Photo courtesy of Heather)

The best thing about this menu? None of it required more than a few extra minutes of chopping and blending in the days before the party. On the Sunday before, I whipped up both dressings (which took about thirty minutes, Vitamix washing included), chopped my jicama and shredded my veggie fillings for the rolls (another 20 minutes), and chopped my zucchini and cherry tomatoes. I put everything in airtight containers, so that it would be ready to assemble and roll the day of the party.

On Monday, I made my hummus for the Hangry Hippies, and I made the cashew cheese (another 30 minutes). The day of the party, I spent a grand total of thirty minutes rolling the rolls, assembling the pizzettes, and laying out the crudités and hummus. After everyone arrived, and as they were chatting, I mashed up my guac. And away we went.

See? No sweat. Much less sweat, actually, than if I were to make hors d’oeuvres that necessitated  oven time or stovetop prep. Best of all, the food kept nicely for a few days hence. (All but the guac, which was pretty much gone by the time the girls left, anyway!)

I hope this gives you all a sense of how to put together some easy raw nibbles for a party! And if it doesn’t, here are some other appetizer ideas:

-My spicy thai dressing with spring rolls (you can make your own, or order from a thai joint – these have rice paper rolls, but they’re basically raw-ish!)

-A raw soup, like the carrot avocado bisque, served in individual shot glasses

-Cucumber or zucchini rounds topped with a nut pate

-Flax crackers (you can purchase them if you don’t have time to make them) and dip of choice

-Celery sticks filled with raw almond butter or tahini

I hope you’ll all be inspired to invite some friends over for some fresh and energizing raw treats and some good conversation soon. And hopefully your bathroom ceiling won’t collapse while you’re at it.

I wish you all a great start to the week!

xo

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

ashley (sweet & natural) July 26, 2009 at 7:36 pm

You were a fantastic hostess! I wish I lived near Liquiteria so I could buy that green juice all the time – I want a juicer when I get a big enough kitchen to store it in.

Glad to hear your bathroom got fixed so quickly. :-)

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A-K July 26, 2009 at 7:47 pm

That party looks amazing! I overdid it with a raw food dinner party once and it was utterly exhausting. Your tips are really awesome; thanks!

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JB July 26, 2009 at 7:56 pm

i’m moving in three weeks for college, and will be sharing an apartment with a vegan roommate. where we’re moving to is hugely environmentally friendly, and has a large vegan community. the farmer’s market there is so great, as well as the co-op…so in other words, there will be fresh produce up the kazoo! and i think it would be so fun if we were to have a raw night sometime! i’m sure we’ll probably meet some friends who would be interested in coming over for a raw feast. so i’ll be sure to remember this post if i ever follow through with the idea! the wraps with the dressings look delicious. simple food really can be amazing. i already know how delicious your raw zucchini hummus is! i’ve gotta make another batch of that soon! yum yum yum.

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Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) July 26, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Why have I never made your cashew alfredo sauce? So making that when I get back to Nashville! Man, I miss my spiralizer. :)

Thanks for all these wonderful ideas. Love the Pizzettes, and I totally would have eaten that entire bowl of guac – no doubt about it.

Have a good week – best of luck with all the manuscripts and editing!

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MarathonVal July 26, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Gena I may have already mentioned this – since I am not working this summer my mind has turned to mush please forgive me lol – but I wanted to let you know that the other day I made your carrot bisque soup AGAIN – for the THIRD time in about a week and a half.

Now that I’m typing this it sounds familiar so maybe I did already give you props… anyway clearly this fabulous soup is all I think about ;)

PS you would be proud, I made some raw vegan treats that were just to die for this week! Thanks, Mentor Gena!

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Rosey Rebecca July 26, 2009 at 8:53 pm

This is such a great post! I love all the recipes!! I want to try the Zucchini Hummus! I also love Guiltless Gourmet Chips!

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Danielle July 26, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Wow G, these all sound like such fantastic plates! I really might just have to have a raw party! Love the “why not alkalize as we socialize?” comment, haha, can’t wait to see you this week :)

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Caroline July 26, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Fabulous tips! I’ve already bookmarked some of your recipes to be prepared later in the week!

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Sarah (LovIN My Tummy) July 26, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Of course I love all the recipes and am now dying to have a raw cocktail party, but I just ADORE the idea of serving green juice instead of cocktails. I know you believe me when I say that I would much rather have a glass of GJ than a glass of wine.

I hope you got your cover done and all your other editing too!

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raw.la July 26, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Trackback: “Raw Foods Tutorial: The Raw Cocktail Party” on the top of the latest news at Raw.la

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Casey July 26, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Hey lovely Gena, all looks delicious!! Can I come from Iz for one next time?? ;)

Sorry to hear about your bathroom – eeek!! What a shock that wold have been! Glad nothing more serious happened of course. Bathroom reno anyone??

xx

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Gena July 27, 2009 at 8:20 am

Welcome home from your trip, Case!

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GingerRose July 26, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I’ve been a longtime lurker on your blog, and it’s been such a rich resource of ideas for me. Thanks for the great recipe ideas! Jicama is a longtime staple for me, but I never thought to use it as a wrap. That’ll be on the menu next week, most definitely, as well as the spicy thai dressing, as I’m hooked on spring rolls currently.
Glad to hear the repairs went well – the beauty of renting, management deals with the mess :)

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Gena July 27, 2009 at 8:19 am

Thank you for un-lurking! It makes me happy when me readers do that!! Glad you liked the recipes.

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Ada July 27, 2009 at 3:11 am

Wow, thank you for all the great tips! I cannot wait to try hosting a raw party:)

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VeggieGirl July 27, 2009 at 5:02 am

“Raw entertaining” = sounds naughty indeed, hahaha ;-) But in all seriousness, these tips are wonderful – especially since we host a lot of parties at home. This would be a fun new twist for the catering!!

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gina (fitnessista) July 27, 2009 at 5:57 am

thank you so much for all of the info, raw hostess with the mostess :D
the pizettes look to-die-for and i love that you served green juice! i’d be all over that guac, too ;)
hahah ‘what not alkalize as we socialize’… i love you
hope you have a happy monday!

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Gena July 27, 2009 at 8:19 am

Love you more, chica :)

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Shelby July 27, 2009 at 6:58 am

I don’t think I could control myself at a cocktail party thrown by you. I would be eating until everything was gone! haha

Every single recipe you have posted is amazing!

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Abby July 27, 2009 at 7:40 am

I find it hard to believe there was any guac left at the end of the party :)

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Diana (Soap & Chocolate) July 27, 2009 at 8:17 am

Your raw cocktail party was indeed a success. Definitely gave me a little nudge to start including raw foods more aggressively than I have been! Glad to have the recipes for your party’s goodies in my arsenal as well. I am starting to feel very well-equipped to be my own raw chef! Helloooooo discount spiralizer. ::happy sigh::

Your “socialize while we alkalize” line cracked me up. If you ever decide blogging’s not for you, methinks you might be an excellent slam poet instead. ;)

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Gena July 27, 2009 at 8:18 am

Ha, thanks D! And if that doesn’t work, someone can hire me to write radio jingles.

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Rita July 27, 2009 at 8:55 am

I made your pizza cheese this weekend…it was amazing! Though I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I need a food processor. I made it in the blender and while it did the job, by the time I was finished I could smell the motor starting to go =P

Thanks for the ideas!

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Amy July 27, 2009 at 8:57 am

Hi Gena!
I’m also de-lurking because the timing of this post couldn’t be funnier! This weekend, I hosted a bbq and I served two AMAZING gazpachos (watermelon-tomato and mango-jalapeno). They weren’t a ton of work, but I was so excited and thought the summer flavors would be a hit!
They did not go over well. Granted, they were served to a crowd with “conventional?” palates along side burgers and hot dogs, but still.
I think it had a lot to do with the serving containers. I set out little cups that they could ladle it into, but people were confused and I saw a lot of them pouring it onto their plates… yikes.
I got a few compliments, but was stuck/blessed with TONS of leftovers. My boyfriend sweetly pointed out that my tastes have changed so much since I started my raw adventure. I think the dishes I make are phenomenal and sometimes can’t understand why others don’t agree. But sometimes, I think people who don’t eat this way on a regular basis can’t taste the deliciousness because their tongues are used to uber-sweet or salty.
What do you think? So you think there is any truth in that??

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Gena July 27, 2009 at 9:00 am

Absolutely, Amy. As obnoxious as it sounds, I think that most people’s tastebuds have been totally warped by years of eating fatty, salty, sugary, overly-stimulating foods. It’s always a joy to watch as my clients begin to re-connect with simple, natural flavors, but it takes a really long time!

Good for you for sticking to your tasty recipes. Next time, give serving instructions :) In the meantime, enjoy the recipes!

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Melissa (fitnessnyc) July 27, 2009 at 10:15 am

hell freakin yum! so sorry i missed this!

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Kathleen July 27, 2009 at 10:31 am

I know I said it before but I am so intrigued by the jicama rolls! I usually cut mine into crudites and eat with guac or another dip, but I can’t wait to get home and try it out on my mandoline.

Gorgeous party food. So glad the hear the repairs were timely :)

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earthmother July 27, 2009 at 10:39 am

I think your Cucumber Rolls and Asparagus Rolls rival anything my heart throb Mr. Kenney can whip up when Entertaining In The Raw. In fact, I was just saying that I mostly just drool over the photos. The few recipes I have taken a gander at have been the simplest ones to prepare (and quite delicious, I might add).

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Chelsea July 27, 2009 at 11:05 am

These are amazing tips, it’s always a joy to find new things to bring to potlucks at work.

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Lauren July 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

Thanks for the tips! I am def. going to use some of your recipes for my next get together! :)

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coco July 27, 2009 at 11:41 am

You made the raw party so easy Gena! And actually i think it might be the case since all raw recipes that I’ve tried so far are really easy and quick to prepare! I can’t wait to learn/try more recipes and eventually hold a raw party! :)

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Cindy July 27, 2009 at 4:03 pm

I wish more parties offred delish and healthy eats like yours!

I always put out one or two raw things; mostly for my guests to try. They are always pleasently surprised.

Thanks for the great inspiration!

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Kristen's Raw July 27, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Great Great tips!!! Love the food pics. Yummy!!!!

I love the simplicity approach and extra benefits of healthy food combining as a result. (I miss Liquiteria! Seeing the juices in that photo bring back many NY memories ;))

Hugs,
Kristen :)

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leslie July 27, 2009 at 5:45 pm

everything looks beautiful and sounds delicious – you definitely put together a fantastic evening (bathroom disasters aside).

i cracked open my first coconut to make a raw soup today – i am loving all the experimenting! :)

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Katharina July 27, 2009 at 7:34 pm

I love this tutorial! When I move into my new apartment I want to host a raw cocktail party :D And make everyone dress up of course!

By the way, I’ve made a dip with cumin and avocado and it is such a wonderful combination. I hope you’re doing well!!!

Much love,
Katharina

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Christina July 27, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Those mini pizzettes look so good – and easy to make! I just got a raw food cookbook but most of the recipes seem so complicated. I think I may just try out your recipes first!

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Anonymous July 27, 2009 at 8:24 pm

thank you for such good ideas, you def make going raw look more attainable!

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michelle July 27, 2009 at 8:27 pm

hi didnt mean to be “anonymous” so that one above me is from me! thanks again!

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Emily Eats July 28, 2009 at 4:33 am

Hi Gena,
This sounds great – more fun than work! The pizzettes are a fabulous idea.
I am now about to start reading back through all your posts I missed whilst on the road :)
With best wishes for a wonderful day,
~ em.

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Sheri (Green & Crunchy) July 28, 2009 at 6:56 am

Hi Gena, I’m a longtime lurker and decided to finaly de-lurk and say…WOW! Your food looks amazing and your recipes are so elegantly simple. Those jicama rolls are gorgeous and the mini pizzettes look so fancy!
I SO wish I was invited to that yummy dinner party :)

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Gena August 6, 2009 at 11:36 am

Thanks for de-lurking, Sheri!

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fitforfree July 28, 2009 at 8:11 am

Gena, this spread looks incredible! Thank you for sharing the recipes. My blender is arriving in the mail in 2 days and I look forward to making them (my immersion blender just doesn’t cut it!). I think I will be checking out Beam Green next month – see you then if you’ll be there!

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Gliding Calm July 28, 2009 at 10:43 am

GREAT TIPS!! And thank you so much for the recipeS!!! Everything looks amazing and FRESH. I loveeeee.

Looking forward to trying some of those dressings very soon!! One reason I love hot weather is I CRAVE fresh, raw, cold foods!!!

HAPPY TUESDAY beautiful Gena!!!!!

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Melissa July 28, 2009 at 7:21 pm

These look amazing!

I’m headed to NYC for a few days at the end of August – is there anyway you could write a quick list of your favourite raw/vegan spots in the city?

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Gena August 6, 2009 at 11:34 am

Hi Melissa!

Bonobos
Pure Food and Wine
Quintessence
Caravan of Dreams
Liquiteria

Enjoy!

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Jill July 29, 2009 at 8:12 am

I am totally inspired to do a Raw Cocktail party now. This is a great inspiration for me to kick off my Radiant R.A.W (Real Authentic Women) Living it RAW get togethers! Thanks. When I get my website up and going I will share more about this! Definitely will be highlighting your website and other women that live it RAW in mind/body/spirit!
Cheers Gena,
Jill

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Neven September 16, 2009 at 9:31 pm

I made the Asian dressing last week. It was so delicious I ate it in two days. I can’t wait to make it again!

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emily October 2, 2009 at 9:19 pm

i just wanted to tell you that i love your site. i’ve been toying with the idea of going raw, but all the websites i’ve found bordered on the edge of zealous. i’ve been vegan for about 2 years, but even that, i’ve found, is not the total key to good health and energy. frozen veggie burgers and potato chips aren’t exactly nourishing foods.

i like that you sometimes eat cooked food, and i like that you even recommend tortilla chips. it’s less intimidating to the cooked-food world. after seeing your site, i’ve felt confident enough to increase my raw food intake. i’m now about 60% raw, and i don’t even realize it half the time. green smoothies and salads have become a regular part of my diet — no weirdness about it. and i still go out for the occasional dinner with my family and friends; i just order a large salad and then whatever entree i’m digging. oddly, it usually ends up being something as close to raw as possible. i think i’ve developed a taste for this way of life.. and it was through baby steps and not seeing cooked food as off-limits.. unlike those fanatical “GO RAW OR DIE!” mantra chanters who franky, scared the hell out of me. i thought “live my whole life on salad? no way!”

so thank you!

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Andria @ Veg is Sexy March 13, 2010 at 12:35 am

I moved out of NYC in Oct 09…I seriously just got choked up when I saw those Liquiteria bottles. I MISS YOU LIQUITERIA!!!

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studio Photography February 23, 2014 at 12:03 am

Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after
I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m
not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say great blog!

Reply

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