Hi, I’m Christine and you can read more about my kitchen experiments at my blog, The Raw Project. I started the blog about 3 ½ years ago when I discovered a passion for a high raw vegan diet. I've always been a fan of a healthy lifestyle, but was introduced to a whole new level of it when I attended a raw vegan recipe and food prep class months before starting the blog. The idea of eating a high raw, plant-based diet to do more for my health, the environment, and compassion for animals thrilled me.
Since childhood, I've always had a conflicted relationship with eating meat. My father was into catching, raising, and growing a lot of the family's food. We had a large garden for veggies, fished a lot, and even raised rabbits for slaughter which was very tough for me to deal with as a kid. But I’m thankful for the experience because I always knew where meat came from and couldn't stomach the thought of eating beef or pork.
My mother is a nurse and worked in cancer care for most of my teenage years. The patient stories I heard had a huge impact on me as well, I grew up paranoid of cancer thinking I had it with everything little pain. And I had a difficult time trying to deal with the fact that we can only do so much to treat it and prevent it with a limited understanding of what causes it.
I’ve always been curious about a vegan/vegetarian diet feeling conflicted about eating meat, but afraid I might not get enough protein or nutrients on one. And I was unsure how such a diet change would affect my relationships. Going to this first class opened my eyes to a diet that was more fitted to my lifestyle and soul and how not only possible it is, but easy. I know it was right for me even though the reaction of my husband and family to my transition was a little scary. Thankfully they were very supportive, especially my husband being a BBQ-loving meat eater raised on a southern diet. We do play dueling chefs making our own meals in the kitchen a lot, but it works because we’re both passionate about preparing good food.
My transition to veganism took 6 months as I phased out animal products and became familiar with vegan recipes and vegan friendly foods while researching a vegan diet. Beef, chicken, and pork were the easiest foods to give up because I was never a fan, in fact eating chicken seemed like a flavorless utility food for me always tossed into salads for a typical “healthy”, girly restaurant meal. Dairy was more of an adjustment because I quickly learned that so many prepared foods had some sort of dairy or eggs in it. The hardest and final food I gave up was seafood, crab and salmon were regulars for me especially when eating out. Over three years later and I don’t miss any of it and see myself being a vegan for the rest of my life.
Since transitioning to a high-raw, plant-based vegan diet, I've noticed having a lot more energy especially in my running. In my non-vegan days I was a casual runner mainly doing 5k races. I got back into running a few months after completing my vegan transition and have been able to take my running to a whole new level finishing my first half marathon a few months after that and 4 more half marathons in the last 2 years. I’m considering a whole marathon if I can find the training time with my work schedule. I've also noticed not getting sick nearly as much as I used to and I sleep less, about 6 1/2 hours a night instead of 8.
The basic concept behind a raw vegan diet is to consume a majority of plant-based foods uncooked because it contains the highest amount of nutrients that cooking might otherwise kill. And when I first got into it, I strived for a 100% raw vegan diet following raw vegan recipe books and experimenting with my own recipes. That lasted about 4 months before I decided a high-raw vegan diet was better for me allowing for more flexibility when eating out and to fulfill my higher carb and protein needs as an athletic type with cooked grains, tempeh, and tofu.
Currently I’m about 60% raw, I usually have a raw vegan protein smoothie for breakfast with hemp protein powder, kale, and other fresh fruits and veggies I have on hand. And usually huge raw salads for lunch loaded with sprouts, nuts, and seeds. Dinner is usually partially raw or a cooked vegan meal. And that works well for me giving the flexibility to enjoy foods like cooked vegan meat alternatives with my husband at home and spicy Thai tofu dishes when eating out.
One concept that really drew me to raw vegan recipes is creating familiar flavors, comfort foods, and desserts using healthy, whole food ingredients instead of processed foods, such as refined sugars, bleached flours, and even canned foods. And raw vegan desserts are my favorites because they are so easy to create often using only a blender and/or a food processor requiring no baking, while being a delicious crowd pleaser. And with such a simple list of ingredients, they can easily be tailored for food allergies such as using hemp or sunflower seeds in place of nuts.
On the topic of hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, they’re one of my favorite ingredients to use because they contain more complete protein and less fat than other seeds and nuts. They can also be purchased in bulk and stored in the freezer and used right out of the freezer, no soaking or defrosting needed. I typically buy them in bulk from online retailers like Amazon or at Whole Foods, but they’re starting to show up in more stores now like Costco and the bulk/health foods sections of regular grocery stores.
This recipe isn't the cheapest to make since it contains hemp seeds, chia seeds, and raw cacao powder, three raw vegan superfoods for an energizing dessert or snack. But it’s a recipe that you can make big batches of at a time and store the dessert balls in your freezer. They’re fantastic right out of the freezer for a cooling, post-workout snack or chilled dessert. And the balls can be rolled smaller for more bite-sized servings.
Hemp Seed Fudge Balls
2 cups shelled hemp seeds or hemp hearts
1 cup pitted medjool dates
1/4 cup cacao powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. agave nectar
Place all in ingredients except dates into a food processor and process until well blended. Feed dates into the food processor and process until a dough-like texture is reached. Roll dough into 1 1/2″ balls, place in fridge for about 30 minutes to chill and enjoy! Makes about 20 balls.
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