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From The Asian Reporter, V19, #20 (May 26, 2009), page 13.
Kiss your oven goodbye for a summer of delicious raw desserts
Ani’s Raw Food Desserts
By Ani Phyo
De Capo Press, 2009
Paperback, 199 pages, $17.95
By Pamela Ellgen
My idea of a good dessert is a homemade chocolate cake with a pound of butter, eggs, brown sugar, and the best melted chocolate on the market, dense enough that even frosting seems unnecessary. However, I recently moved into an apartment with an oven that heats to only one temperature: fiery hot. So, I resigned myself to a summer sans baking.
Days after moving in, I stumbled across Ani Phyo’s new book, Ani’s Raw Food Desserts. You can imagine my skepticism given my aforementioned love for baking with butter. But, I’m happy to say, Phyo not only answered my oven woes, but also opened my palate to the glorious world of raw food. Best of all, her concoctions satisfied my sweet tooth. Goodbye chocolate cake. Hello Mango Sorbet-Macaroon Tartlets, Pecan Pie Cookies, and Mini Chocolate Lava Cakes.
Although Phyo’s delicious treats and stunning photos are incentive enough to follow her lead in the kitchen, she lays the groundwork for her recipes with a myriad of reasons for raw, vegan living.
"You’ll feel stronger, healthier, and more vibrant on the inside. Radiant health, clear skin, shiny hair, and a powerful, lean, and beautiful body is what shows up on the outside," she says.
She had me at Mayan Crunch Truffle Balls, but the health benefits were a bonus I didn’t expect from a book of desserts. And it gets better; raw, vegan living dramatically lessens one’s carbon footprint.
Nevertheless, my prejudice for baked goods survived throughout the grocery store as I shopped for agave nectar, cacao powder, and raw cashews. And as I formed the last of Phyo’s Pecan Pie Cookies, I worried I might be accused of false advertising when I asked my toddler, "Do you want a cookie?"
I held my breath as I handed him the moist cake. He gobbled up two of them before dinner was over. And, thanks to Phyo’s recipes being chock full of fruit and nuts and forgoing gluten, dairy, and refined sugar, I didn’t even feel guilty! Pecans, dates, cinnamon, and orange juice — what could be healthier?
So, did the cookies pass the taste tests of anyone outside a high chair? Yes. With help from my spouse, I ate almost half of the recipe before covering and storing them in the refrigerator. Aside from being simple and absolutely delicious, the cookies took me less than 10 minutes to make and tasted even better than the inordinately expensive energy bars I’ve been buying for years.
After the cookies, I moved on to a slightly more complicated recipe, Mango Sorbet-Macaroon Tartlets. I say "complicated" only in comparison to her other simple, straightforward fare. Phyo says simplicity came as a response to limited time, but it allowed her to discover the power of using fewer ingredients and letting each unique flavor really come through.
The tartlets were a perfect balance of sweet and savory with a crust of ground cashews, agave nectar, and shredded coconut and a mango sorbet filling. However, mine would have been better if I had more than a hand-me-down food processor and pulsed the crust mixture to a finer grain.
Ani’s Raw Food Desserts is a knockout. It’s proof you can have your cake and eat it too: sweet treats, a slimmer waistline, and a healthier planet. And, I didn’t miss my oven for a moment.
Ani Phyo will talk about Ani’s Raw Food Desserts at Powell’s City of Books, located at 1005 West Burnside Street in Portland, on Sunday, May 31 at 7:30pm. To learn more, call (503) 228-4651 or visit <www.powells.com>.
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Pecan Pie Cookies
1 cup pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange oil or orange juice
1 cup pitted Medjool dates
Combine the pecans, cinnamon, and orange oil in the food processor and pulse into small chunks. Add the dates and process until mixed well. Scoop the dough by 1½ tablespoons onto a sheet tray lined with parchment, and flatten into cookies.
Will keep for a week in the fridge or several weeks in the freezer (thaw before eating). Makes 10 cookies.