By Heather Dunhill
Celebrity raw food chef Ani Phyo, who's been featured in Food & Wine magazine, the Travel Channel and the Food Network, to name a few, has long been a strong voice at the forefront of the raw food movement; she's an author of five best-selling cookbooks, an eco-lifestyle advocate and a talented entrepreneur. Her love for what she does is infectious, whether it’s through her award-winning "uncooking" show on YouTube, Ani's Raw Food Kitchen Show, or through her healthful, motivational words on a page.
The good news is that the raw food landscape has evolved – it’s not an all-or-nothing concept. Personally, I'm about 75 percent raw, and I see the difference in myself; I've learned about the benefits of pairing healthy foods for maximum benefit, why and how it all works. Take green tea for example–did you know it’s a fat burner? Just add ½ teaspoon of matcha (green tea powder) to your morning shake for an easy added fat burn. In fact, I have one of Ani's shakes every morning – one in particular, found on page 197 of Ani's 15-Day Fat Blast, powers me through 90 minutes of yoga.
If you ever wondered about all the buzz surrounding raw food and why it’s gaining momentum, I encourage you to read on. And be sure to check out Ani's recipes, below, for kale, avocado and sprout salad and custard tartlets.
Q&A with Ani Phyo
What would the raw food-curious be surprised to know?
Raw food tastes delicious and is guilt-free because it’s good for you, good for the planet, and no animals are harmed. Raw food includes pizza, pastas, burgers, crackers, cakes, pies, truffles, chocolate, soups, sauces, and shakes that taste great and boost your vitality.
We didn’t hear much about raw foods 10 years ago - where do you see the movement heading?
People are becoming more and more aware of the importance of being connected to our food sources. We understand why avoiding processed foods is a good idea, and we want to take health into our own hands. Raw foods are the ultimate in unprocessed, whole, and fresh foods from Mother Earth. When eaten and combined properly, raw food can be used as medicine to heal disease, boost our immunity, increase our energy levels, clear up our skin, help us lose weight, detox, and tread lightly on the planet. The raw food movement continues to gain momentum and visibility, and is really spreading into the mainstream.
How about those with a sweet tooth--what’s in it for them?
Raw food desserts are completely guilt-free, so you can have your cake and eat it, too! Desserts are made using fruits, nuts, and seeds…superfoods loaded with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and beneficial nutrients to boost our health and longevity. There’s no such thing as overeating raw desserts because every bite provides our body with nutrients to help us thrive.
What are the biggest misconceptions about raw foods?
That it’s time-consuming and expensive to eat healthy. I hope to bust this myth wide open with my newest book, Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast, which offers a 15-day menu plan with fast, easy recipes that are blended or made using a food processor to speed up chopping time. Cleanup is a snap because nothing is baked or caked on, and all you need to do is rinse with a little soap and water. I also offer Ani’s Raw Food Certification Course, Level 1, to teach people simple but sophisticated home-chef recipes that can be made in just a few minutes with everyday ingredients.
I found the fat-melting thermogenic foods in Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast--or, as you call them, “rocket fuels”--to be highly interesting. Would you share a bit with the readers about those and how they work?
Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast offers three phases of detox that combines ingredients from four main categories: probiotics, prebiotics, thermogenics, and medium chain fatty acids. Foods from each of these four groups are combined in each phase to accelerate detox and fat burning. Ingredients like green tea, cacao, ginger, and chili increase fat burning. As a matter of fact, the active ingredient in diet pills comes from spicy chilies, capsicum.
For those interested in going beyond a book, what classes do you offer?
I'm offering courses monthly to inspire healthy life mastery. Level 1 focuses on the home chef, along with my eco-green living and healthy lifestyle philosophy. Using only a food processor and blender, I focus on easy, simple, fast recipes that are elegant, delicious, and accessible for everyday. I also offer upper-level food prep and planning courses for those who want to launch catering businesses and cafes. Mastery-level courses will focus on developing clarity around, and then creating a road map for, launching your business. Classes are intimate, with only 15 students. I will also be launching five-day global retreats in the autumn.
Talk to us about your own diet.
I considered myself 100 percent raw vegan for eight or nine years, so my foundation is in fresh, whole, organic raw foods. My focus is more on unprocessed foods today. I think of "raw" as raw materials, like the rocks and wood used to build houses. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds come straight from the Earth, and are raw materials as well. I may choose to warm these raw materials in the winter when I am craving a hot soup and choose to eat them unheated in the summertime when it’s hot outside. I believe it’s important to consider our environment, climate, and lifestyle when choosing our diets.
You’ve had incredible success as an entrepreneur with SmartMonkey Foods and as a chef and author. What’s next for you?
I'm now launching an international trading platform, and it becomes clear how companies and friends who could have be seen as "competitors" in the U.S.A. market now become allies and partners. By entering the global market together on one platform, we are able to share resources and lower export expenses that make it challenging to enter new markets independently. I’m hosting a new cable TV show this month, writing my next book, developing my mastery courses, planning for retreats in the fall, and have been granted a fellowship to participate in a leadership program at USC for the next six months. I’m also on the board for a couple nonprofits, including The Cancer Care Network Foundation, where we raise money to help patients with medical costs.
And before I end, thanks to Rich Schineller for connecting me with Ani – he provides strategic communications counsel and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RECIPE: Custard Tartlets
Makes about 6 tartlets.
To make tartlets, which are traditionally small pastry crusts, divide and press basic pie crust into the compartments in a tartlet pan to make individual mini pies. These tiny pies are filled with whipped Cashew Kream, and topped with a variety of fruits for a beautiful display.
1 recipe Basic Piecrust (below)
1 recipe Whipped Kashew Cream (below)
Your favorite small fruits for topping each tartlet, such as 1 blackberry, 3 blueberries, 1 raspberry, or cacao nibs Line the compartments of a tartlet or multiple brioche pan with plastic wrap first, then press the piecrust firmly into the pan. Remove by gently lifting up the plastic wrap. Next, spoon the whipped kream into each tartlet. Top each tartlet decoratively with one type of fruit or the cacao nibs. Serve immediately, or keep in the fridge, where tartlets will keep for 2 or 3 days.
Whipped Cashew Kream
Makes 1 ½ cups
1 cup cashews
½ cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
½ cup filtered water
Place all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Will keep 4 to 5 days in the fridge.
This is the simplest way to make a fast piecrust. It's made with chopped nuts that are bound together using sticky dates. I recommend lightly chopping the nuts for texture, but you can also grind them into a powder for a smoother crust texture. Try using different varieties of dates and nuts to change up the flavor and texture. You can swap out the dates for raisins, cranberries and other sticky dried fruits and the nuts for seeds, coconut and other dry ingredients.
2 cups nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon sea salt 2 cups pitted dates (any type, preferably semisoft, such as Medjool)
Note: If using drier dates, soak them first in filtered water for 15 minutes or more to hydrate before using. Pulse the nuts into a powder; you want small chunks for texture. "Flour" the bottom of your pie dish with some of the finer nut powder to keep the crust from sticking to the pan. Add the dates to the food processor with the nuts and pulse into a dough. If the dough is too crumbly, add a few more pitted dates. Process until you get a dough that stays together.