Ani’s Raw Food Essentials: Basically…Bliss.

June 23rd, 2010 · Lisa · book review, gluten-free, raw, Recipes, Review, sugar-free, Sweet · Comments
It is a long review…but don’t miss the amazing Chocolate Cherry Cake recipe at the end!

When I was a kid I loved the Babysitters Club and The Saddle Club. I enjoyed getting to know the characters intimately and following along as they learned, grew and evolved. My family was really into books – my Mom is an author and single mother of four – so, we were frequent visitors of the local library. When a new book in a favourite series arrived on the shelves I was thrilled. I would carry it around, devouring each chapter with enthusiasm and savouring the final pages with bittersweet anticipation of the end.

As you can see by the list on the right hand side of this blog, my love of books has not wavered (although they now tend to focus on social policy or veganism rather than what Dawn and Logan have planned for the summer). I have a lot of vegan books, but there are few authors who have truly captured my heart. On this short-list of spectacular women, Ani is right near the top. She has written three books about creating incredible raw, vegan cuisine with affordable, available ingredients and simple techniques.  With each new title, I have been amazed by the creative use of flavours, the innovative ideas and impressive results that Ani inspires. Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen and Ani’s Raw Food Desserts were already my top recommendations for people who wanted to eat more raw, vegan meals, but now Ani’s Raw Food Essentials provides such a comprehensive collection of diverse and delicious recipes, I think it has become my top pick.

Unlike, Ani’s Raw Desserts, this isn’t a book to carry around in your purse. It is 320 pages of resources and recipes to equip you for living a satisfying life, nourished by delicious raw, vegan food. Each recipe section starts with “basic” recipes that are then used in different variations throughout the chapter. I find this approach very empowering. I have a lot of friends who cook from recipes but don’t have the confidence to adapt the ingredients to their own preferences. Learning basic recipes and different ways to use the results to create satisfying meals is the ideal way to make raw foods easy and accessible to everyone. 

The recipes range from: flatbreads; fermented foods; smoothies; shakes; cultured drinks; breakfasts; snacks; soups; salads; wraps, sandwiches, burgers; pizza and noodles; dumplings and rice; desserts; sample menus and raw for dogs! You might notice some familiar categories and some that fulfill a gap in flavours and preparations rarely tackled by raw chefs. I have been particularly impressed with Ani’s adaptation of traditional Asian recipes in this book. The Jap Chae, Vietnamese Pho and Korean Dumplings expand the options for creating a adventurous dinner party this summer. As usual, Ani also provides helpful tips to for developing a healthy lifestyle that respects ourselves, the planet and those we share it with.

The great thing about finding an author you love (especially movie and restaurant critics) is that you can start to trust their taste. When Ani writes a recipes I know it will make me happy and impress my friends. I haven’t tried every recipe in any of her books, but I have yet to make one in my own kitchen that hasn’t been voraciously enjoyed. 

Here are a few of the recipes I’ve tried from Ani’s newest book:
Super Chia Cereal
Nutella Hazelnut Sauce (pre cacao)
Nutella Hazelnut Sauce (post cacao)
Apple-Flax Crepes (with banana and nutella)
Corn Tostadas (made by Nelly)
AB & B Sandwich on Zucchini Bread (almond butter and banana with agave)
Buckwheat Biscuits (with almond cream and kiwi)
Avocado Pistachio Pesto and Salted Flax Crackers
Basic Flax Crackers
Chinese Chickenless Salad
Sunflower Seed Bread (made into a sandwich with avocado and greens)
Sunflower Seed Bread with Fresh Cherry Jam and almond butter
Chocolate Cherry Cake (see the recipe below)
I have barely started my journey of discovery into the wealth of deliciousness that this book holds and yet it is already a favourite resource. The raw crepe recipe alone revitalized my mornings, they actually had me looking forward to my alarm. Although, buying local, organic produce can be expensive (relatively), Ani’s recipes provide you with the techniques you need to create snacks and entrees that rival those you find in fancy raw restaurants and on health food store shelves. I rarely buy raw crackers, cookies or cakes because I now know I can whip up something that I will love in minutes. 

Many of you have mentioned wanting to eat more raw food this summer. If you’re looking for a book that can make that goal easy to attain and truly satisfying with each bite, then I highly recommend picking up a copy of Ani’s Raw Food Essentials

You can find more information about Ani, recipes and videos on her website. If you’re looking for special raw ingredients check out the (Ani’s online store).

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ani for the Toronto Vegetarian Podcast, you can listen online (let me know what you think). Last summer I reviewed Ani’s Raw Food Desserts.

Finally, here is one pretty spectacular dessert from Ani that you can all try while celebrating the current cherry bounty.

Chocolate Cherry Cake
1 recipe Basic Flourless Cake (see below)
2/3 cup cacao or carob powder (I used cacao)
1 recipe Fresh Cherry Jam (see below)
1 cup pitted, halved cherries
1 recipe Whipped Cashew Kream (see below)

Add the cacao to your cake mix and mix well. Divide the cake batter into two equal parts. Form two cake rounds by hand, or, line a small cake pan with plastic wrap and press one portion of the dough inside to form the shape. Flip the formed cake out of the pan and peel off the plastic. Repeat with the other portion of dough.

Place the first cake round on a plate. Top with cherry jam, half of the cherries, then half of the whipped kream. Top with the second cake round, remaining kream, and remaining cherries.

I made 1/3 of the recipe and used a small spring form pan to shape the cake rounds.

Assembled the cake will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge.

Basic Flourless Cake
3 cups nuts (I used pecans and Brazil nuts)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup pitted Medjool dates, packed
1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons agave syrup (optional- I left it out)

Place the nuts and salt in your food processor and break down the nuts into chuncks. Add the pieces of dates (spread out among the nuts) and the vanilla. Process until the nuts bind together with the dates to create a cake batter that holds together when squeezed between your fingers. Add the agave to increase the stickiness.

Whipped Cashew Kream
1 cup cashews
1/2 coconut oil (I melted mine in a bowl of hot water)
1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
1/2 cup filtered water

Place all the ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. 

Will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge

Fresh Cherry Jam
1 cup cherries
1/4 cup pitted Medjool dates, packed

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse lightly to mix into a chunky jam consistency.

Will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.

From the book Ani’s Raw Food Essentials by Ani Phyo.  Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright (c) 2010.  Find out more at (Thank you Lindsey and Ani!)

Do you have a favourite Ani recipe?
Are there authors or a book series, from whom you anxiously await the next title?


  1. Posted June 23, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    yummy!! I am hoping to get this book for my bridal shower in a few weeks!!!!!! 🙂

  2. Posted June 23, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Everything in this post looks AMAZING!!!! We love ANI!!!

    Pure2raw twins

  3. Posted June 23, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Wow, you certainly know how to make a convincing argument through photos! Those pictures of ALL those recipes look DELICIOUS.

    To answer your questions, I haven't yet tried any of Ani's recipes (though I'm certainly wanting to now!), and Terry and Isa are cookbook authors whose newest titles I eagerly await! I'm also a big fan of Robin Robertson's books, because I like all the unique themes she has.

  4. Posted June 23, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    You are a prolific raw food chef! That all looks amazing. Thanks for a great review. Ani rocks!

  5. Posted June 23, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    what a fantastic review, i absolutely love it…

    i too was a very big fan of the babysitters' club…

    i'll have to disagree with one point though, i actually do carry ani's raw essentials in my purse…6 out of 7 days, so where there's a will there's a way (joking)! ani's book is certainly essential to a raw foodies' library…even someone interested and raw curious…it is just so easy to follow and very down to earth! such a beautiful book…and i too adore ani…

  6. Posted June 23, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing that cake recipe. One of the local stores here recently had a one day sale on cherries – $2.00 a pound – I bought A LOT of cherries, and that cake looks like a fabulous way to use them. I have Ani's first book (the first "uncookbook" I ever bought) and like many of her recipes. This past week I discovered a new favorite that she posted on her website (perhaps it's in the new book?, not sure). The recipe is called Simple Rosemary Oregano Noodle Salad. Zucchini sliced into noodles, avocado, tomato – all tossed and seasoned with garlic, rosemary, oregano and lemon – and topped with hemp seeds. I made this twice for lunch last week. A quintessential Ani recipe; simple, very few ingredients (I made it in about 5-10 minutes), super satisfying and delicious. I can't wait to get her new book. Perhaps for my birthday next month. Thanks for a great review!

  7. Posted June 23, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    There is a new book out I would love to see you review. Raw Food: A Complete Guide for Every Meal of the Day by Erica Palmcrantz. Erica lives in Sweden, and is a cousin of Jinjee Talifero. I just saw it in a bookstore today and glanced over it. I think it will be second on my list of "cookbooks" to get, after Ani's new one. It's visually beautiful, the recipes seem to be simple and elegant (just like Ani's), but as she has grown up in Europe, the recipes are different from Ani's asian American slant, and they seem unusual (in a good way). There are some different combinations of ingredients that I have not seen before in other books. I hope you get a copy for review at some point. I'd love to hear what you think – you are my favorite cookbook critic, and I look forward to all your posts and reviews!

  8. Posted June 23, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    :O um… holy moly… a raw version of jap chae?!?! i NEED THIS!

    beautiful pictures… i'm drooling.

    i grew up reading a ton too (i also have a single mother). though i was more of a judy blume kid than baby sitters club… i miss public libraries. university libraries just aren't the same!

  9. Posted June 23, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Back again! I just finished listening to your interview with Ani. It was excellent! I have listened to several interviews with her, and you brought out some points and ideas I have not heard covered elsewhere. Great job!

  10. Posted June 24, 2010 at 12:02 am

    who me? carry a recipe book in my purse? i have been known to do that.

    love this new book, it has skyrocketed to the top of my raw recipe book list.

    i need to make that nutella stuff. soon.

  11. Posted June 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

    So excited! I just won this book from Nelly! Whoohoo!! 🙂 My favorite Ani recipe is her rawcos! YUM!!! Everything looks so delicious!!

  12. Posted June 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Great review! I was also a HUGE fan of The Babysitters Club back in the day and, like you, my book interests now centre around veganism. I'm a particular fan of cookbooks by Colleen P-G as well as Terry and Isa.
    I currently have Ani's dessert book out of the library, but her newest book sounds fab, too! Thanks for the review.

  13. Posted June 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    By the way, did you get my FB message, Lisa?

  14. Posted June 24, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Jessica – I really hope your wish comes true!

    Lori and Michelle – I can't wait to review your book one day soon.

    Barbee- Isa and Terry are definitely on my list too. I love those ladies.

    Camille – I can't wait for our next dinner party to share the amazing things you create in your kitchen.

    Nutellacube – I know, Jap Chae is on my list. I need to buy some kelp noodles first.
    Nelly – your passionate embrace of Ani's book is pretty fabulous. It is obvious that I need to invest in a larger purse.

    Mind – It is wonderful to hear from you and that you're enjoying Ani's recipes. She has lots posted online. I'm really excited to hear that you listened to the interview. Thank you! I will look into the book you suggested. I have seen it once or twice in bookstores so I'll have to pick up a copy to play with soon.

    Lauren- you have so much kitchen fun ahead of you. Congratulations on the win.

    Nic – Have you made anything from the dessert book? There are so many great recipes in there. I did get your message – I'm really sorry. FB is blocked at my work and I forget to check there at night. Are you on twitter?

  15. Posted June 24, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Lisa,
    I haven't tried any of the recipes from the dessert book yet. Do you have a recommendation? They all sound really good!
    I'm not a Twitter girl, but you can email me at and maybe we can connect through email instead. Thanks!

  16. Posted June 25, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Wonderful review, Lisa! If I did not already have this amazing book, I would run right out to get it!!!

    Everything you made looks incredible, especially the cherry cake:)

  17. Posted June 26, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Here's a question: For a first raw cookbook, would you recommend this book of Ani's you reviewed here, or one of her earlier books?

  18. Posted June 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    What a great review–and your photos are wonderful! That cake looks divine. Cherries, chocolate, cream–um, yum?!!

  19. cheri knock
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Just made this cake for the first time and I’m impressed with the recipe and my skills! :o) Thank you for sharing this review.

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