Raw desserts with unprocessed, healthy ingredients that taste even better than butter-drenched desserts full of refined sugars you feel oh-so-guilty eating afterwards?
Why would you ever want to go back to your Godiva milk chocolate truffles?
To name a few, making raw desserts is fast, doesn’t require you to “cook” (no-bake), and contains fresh, unprocessed ingredients.
And making raw desserts is also easier than you might expect. Better yet, your waistline will also thank you.
Today, I’ve invited Emily von Euw, the creator of the blog This Rawsome Vegan Life, with over 1 million views a month, as well as author of Rawsome Vegan Baking, published by Macmillan. Emily’s blog won The Vegan Woman’s 2013 Vegan Food Blog Award, was named one of the Top 50 Raw Food Blogs of 2012, and was nominated for “Favorite Blog” for the 2013 VegNews Awards.
Among other topics, we’ll zip through:
- How Emily became a leading raw food blogger and published her first book with Macmillan without having taken any courses or certifications on making raw foods
- 3 simple raw dessert recipes for busy people on the go – without spending over 30 minutes in the kitchen
- Easy tactics to enhance flavor and make your raw desserts taste divine
- Tips to fix your raw dessert “cooking” disaster
- Five basic must-have ingredients you should stock in your pantry
This is a transcript of the audio interview. Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background?
Emily von Euw: I live in Burnaby, by Vancouver. I have lived there all my life. I’ve been making my own food for as long as I can remember. I really liked helping my mom make dinner and bake things when I was younger.
I started getting into baking, and I wanted to open up a bakery. I was really passionate about healthy living too. And then I learned about veganism, so I challenged myself to go vegan for 30 days.
One day into it, I knew that veganism was the lifestyle for me. It just felt so right. I jumped right into the lifestyle and I started learning about raw foods as well. Naturally, I transitioned my passion for baking into a passion for creating raw vegan desserts. Most of my recipes are for desserts.
Q: Awesome! How did you learn to bake, especially given your mouthwatering recipes?
Emily von Euw: I learned baking myself. My parents got me a baking cookbook a several years ago for Christmas and I got into that. When I saw the pastries in the book, I told myself I would make every recipe in the book.
However, I became vegan half way through, so I stopped that and invented my own raw vegan desserts. I got better as I continued to practice my craft.
Practice makes perfect is kind of my thing, likewise with my food photography. It’s just learning through my own experiences.
Q: So you didn’t have any raw food teachers?
Emily von Euw: No.
Q: Tell me more about your journey, from when you first start to right now, publishing your book and being an extremely popular vegan food personality on the Internet. How did you build your audience?
Emily von Euw: The process has been very gradual. It is kind of surreal because it was so gradual.
There was never a point where I thought “Oh, I’m popular now!” or “Oh, this is can be my living now because I have so many people reading my blog”, or anything like that.
Getting my book deal was a moment like “Okay, this is next level” but it has really been a gradual process.
In my archives it says I started my blog in the October of 2011, I think. And that was after I’ve been vegan for about a year and I got pretty comfortable making raw vegan food and desserts.
I often share what I make with my family, friends and everybody, and they were always like “This is so good. You should put this on the internet!”
For a while I didn’t think anybody would be interested in my desserts at all. At that time, I also had no skills for food photography. I was into landscape photography and a bit of abstract photography, but nothing to do with food, whatsoever.
I’ve never been the type of person to write down recipes either. I make it up, make it once and then move on.
Q: Like me.
Emily von Euw: Yeah, right, just total improv in the kitchen! I put what my friends and family said off for a while. However, they finally convinced me to start a blog. So I googled “What’s the easiest blog platform?” and found Blogger, the simplest template.
Since I’ve always been into design and making things look nice, I got obsessed with the template and spent quite some time customizing it, making the template look the way I want it to. In most of my first posts, the photos were terrible and the recipes were very vague, because I have not gotten used to writing down the amounts of stuff required.
Q: Yeah, I understand.
Emily von Euw: I thought that nobody was reading my blog at all, especially since I was just starting out. My blog was completely amateur. Even the tone of my posts is different because I was in a different position then, which is kind of interesting now that I look back. It’s fun to look at my old posts ’cause when I was writing those early ones I had no idea that they would take off, like right now.
It was very gradual. I started getting more readers. When I received my first two emails from people, I was so excited. I was jumping around and telling my parents, “Someone emailed me and asked a question!”
Q: That was three years ago, right?
Emily von Euw: Yes. When I received my first comment, I was so pumped about that. Now, getting comments is a daily thing. A huge part of my day is just responding to comments, so I got accustomed to it. Slowly but surely I was gaining more and more readers. The Internet works exponentially. It has just gotten bigger and bigger…
How Emily Started Publishing Her First Book
Q: So was landing the book deal your tipping point?
Emily von Euw: Writing a book has been in my mind for a long time. I was hopeful thinking, “Okay, I’m getting enough people here now. Maybe this could be a job somehow.” People have been telling me “Oh, you need to write a book…” but I didn’t.
I was imagining doing it years later, like desperately throwing a manuscript at every publishing company I could find, you know. However, my publisher, one of the biggest publishers in the world, Macmillan, first contacted me a year ago. When they asked if I wanted to write a book, it was like a dream come true.
This is the turning point when things really shifted and I thought “Okay, this can and will be my job!”
Q: So you didn’t contact the publisher, and they contacted you after reading your blog?
Emily von Euw: My publisher emailed me, and we had a few phone calls. They asked me to create a few recipes in a week and show them to see what I can do in a certain time frame.
My publisher was happy with what I was able to show them, and they were impressed with my blog, which is why they contacted me in the first place. It all worked out very well.
My publisher asked me to write a second book, which will be out in December. I’ve pretty much done my end of the work for that now. There’s tentatively a third book, but we’re going to take a break for a while. I need to give myself and my readers a break from books, and focus on my blog again.
Q: What influenced your style and led you to your “popularity” online?
Emily von Euw: Yeah, I know, “What term should I use?” I just have a community of people who read my blog.
“Why are there so many people interested in what I’m doing?” Most definitely because of my photography, because food is all about what it looks like. If you look at the text for a brownie recipe, no one is going to stop and look at that.
But if you see this amazing picture of gooey healthy chocolate brownies, and think “Oh my God, these are healthy!” you’re going to click on that. It’s kind of as simple as that a lot of the time.
I think people probably also appreciate how transparent I am in my posts. Often I don’t write about the recipes, I write about what’s going on in my life, and a lot of time people can connect to that, which is nice.
As far as influences for my work goes, I don’t know. I see photography that I really like and I’ll just take note of why I like it and keep that in mind next time I’m taking photos.
My readers often give me ideas for my recipes. After writing my first book, which is all about raw vegan desserts, my specialty, I got burnt out. I created, photographed and put over 100 raw vegan dessert recipes into this book within four months over the summer.
Q: You’re crazy!
Emily von Euw: It was crazy! So many desserts every day. It was nuts! No pun intended. After that I was a bit burnt out of making desserts.
Q: I would be too!
Emily von Euw: I lost my creativity for a while as far as recipes go. But I’m just starting to get back into it now, actually. It was kind of perfect that my publisher wanted me to write a book about juices and smoothies after my first one, because over the past four months or so my diet has just mostly been juices and smoothies.
I didn’t want any rich and sweet stuff, because I had so much when I was writing my first book, especially since I had to make so much every day. After not making my raw vegan desserts for a while, I’m getting back into it now.
Before I would get my ideas when I was going to sleep or randomly during the day: I’d suddenly have an idea for a cake or whatever kind of recipe. I’m starting to get back into that mindset which is good. Because I know that’s what people want and I want to be able to give people what they want.
Q: I think that’s a lot of hard work. Even though you love what you do it’s still not easy to take pictures all the time and make desserts. Would you like say you’d make say two, three a day at that time.
Emily von Euw: At that time, I’d make three in a day. Sometimes I wouldn’t make one for a few days. But on average I’d make one a day or so.
I’d then type it all up and photograph it.
Emily’s Top 3 Easy Recipes for the Busy You On The Go
Q: Great, now that we talked about how you got to where you are, let’s talk about your tips and recipes. Can you give me three recipes that you think is super easy for busy people on the go, people who don’t really like the kitchen, to make?
Emily von Euw: That’s a good question. Generally speaking I don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Even though I love making food, I don’t want my recipes to be complicated, because I don’t want other people to spend all this time and be so meticulous with my recipes.
Most of my recipes are really easy and quick.
#1: Raw Chocolate
I’d say raw chocolate for sure is the number one. All you have to do is:
- Melt some coconut oil or cacao butter
- Whisk in cacao powder or carob powder, and a liquid sweetener like coconut nectar or maple syrup.
- Let the chocolate harden in the fridge till it’s smooth.
- Throw that in the freezer and you’ll have chocolate within a few minutes.
- Sprinkle on some sea salt, Gogi berries or put in some nuts, whatever you want.
So that one is really quick.
#2: Vegan Milkshake
Secondly, I’d say go for a vegan milkshake, with frozen bananas as the base.
You can do a chocolate, strawberry, vanilla one, or whatever flavor you choose.
What you need are frozen bananas in your freezer. They are great to add to smoothies or whatever.
- Slice up some frozen bananas, however many you want
- Throw the bananas into the blender with some vegan milk or even water
- Add a bit of vanilla, some dates, some cacao powder if you want the chocolate flavor
- Blend the smoothie for a few minutes, and you have the most delicious milkshake ever
- If you just want a giant bowl of ice-cream, don’t add any liquid
#3: Avocado Chocolate Pudding
Thirdly, you can make an avocado chocolate pudding which is just an avocado blended or mashed with cacao powder and a little bit of sweetener, such as maple syrup or dates, if you want. And then you have the best chocolate pudding on the planet!
Q: How do you make the chocolate pudding not taste like avocado? Sometimes the pudding tastes a little bit avocado-ey.
Emily von Euw: The first time I heard avocado pudding, I thought “What the heck, I don’t know about that!”
As I had a spoonful of the pudding, the dessert tastes better than any chocolate pudding I’ve ever had. If you think the dessert tastes too much like avocado, add a tiny bit of salt which enhances the chocolate flavor if you’ve got chocolate, and maybe a bit more sweetener if you want.
In my experience the avocado flavor disappears and just turns into the texture which is super creamy.
How to Enhance Flavor of Raw Desserts and Fix “Cooking” Disasters
Q: This leads me to my next question. You said add a little bit of salt to enhance the chocolate flavor. I also see you throw dates into your milkshakes. What are other tips that you have to enhance flavor of raw desserts?
Emily von Euw: Those were my main ones. Add just a pinch of Himalayan salt if you want because salt enhances the flavor, right. It’s kind of like a seasoning.
It’s just like the salty and sweet combination that I think people are getting to understand now. If you’re making a dessert, adding some dates is usually a good idea. I eat as many dates as I want, so adding a few more dates is totally fine.
Q: The dates make the texture of desserts smoother and thicker?
Emily von Euw: Yes dates will thicken the texture of desserts.
And if your dessert crust is too gooey, just add coconut oil, nuts that have been grounded, or dates. These ingredients will thicken the texture.
If your dessert is too crumbly, add a bit of water, melted coconut oil, or dried fruit to make the dessert gooey-er.
To simplify the above, if something is too crumbly, add something that’s moist or liquid-y. If something is too liquid-y, add something that’s going to thicken the texture.
Of course, what ingredients to add depends on the situation.
However, raw food recipes generally have the same kind of basic ingredients that you can just put together in different ways. It is very simple.
Top 5 Basic Must-Haves for Raw Desserts
Q: What are the five basic ingredients for raw desserts?
Emily von Euw: Dates, or any dried fruit, but specifically Medjool dates. I also like to use figs, raisins, or prunes.
Nuts, I really like walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, sometimes pine nuts. Macadamias and brazil nuts (good source of selenium) are also great to have.
Oats or buckwheat, you can just grind that into flour.
Coconut oil, which is the butter of the raw vegan world.
Cacao powder, because I like raw chocolate so much. *laughs*
How to Balance the Taste of Different Ingredients
Q: How do you pair your ingredients to balance taste (other than adding a little bit of salt to enhance the taste of chocolate)?
Emily von Euw: You want to balance all sort of flavor profiles. You want something sweet and salty, a good combo for dessert, with the sweet being the major one.
But if you’re making any kind of sauce you want to mix some sweet, salty, savory and tangy flavor profiles.
When I make icings or sauces for my meals, I like to add in something a little bit sweet. So I’d add a few dates and then something savory like tomatoes, a pinch of salt or miso, and then a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar for that kind of tanginess.
These different flavor profiles round each other out and make something really delicious. Even in my dessert recipes, I’ll add a bit of lemon juice. You don’t want your dessert to be too sweet which is why you use bulkier stuff, like nuts or oats to add that savory aspect. So it’s just balancing all those elements.
Q: Can you talk about some cooking disasters you had?
Emily von Euw: Not really. The first time someone asked me “How many times do you make a recipe before you post it?” I said “Oh no, I just make it once!”
Raw food recipes are so easy to make. You can’t really mess it up. If you make something too sweet, add some more nuts, or even vegetables to balance out the sweetness or saltiness.
If something is too liquid-y, like I said, add something to thicken it.
If something is too crumbly, add some dates to make it gooey-er.
You know, it’s really about getting the right texture, but you’re not really doing anything to the food that you can’t undo, since you’re using raw ingredients. You’re making the food into smaller pieces but you can’t burn the food or anything, so it’s hard to mess up.
Q: Sure. But, what if you make a cake that’s really bad because you threw in a wrong ingredients? Maybe your mint was too overpowering, or the texture wasn’t right. Do you just throw it away and make something new all over again?
Emily von Euw: I’ve never thrown anything away. Definitely just taste as you go. If you’re adding something like mint or whatever, taste it as you’re adding it.
Don’t add in a huge amount and then be like “Oh oh, that was too much!”
Just add small amounts at a time until you like it.
This almost never happens to me but the other day I added way to much peppermint oil to a smoothie *laughs*. And I was like “Oh my golly, I cannot even drink this!”
So I basically just doubled the amount of smoothie. I added five more bananas, a bunch of water or something and ended up making this massive smoothie. I sipped the smoothie the whole day and, you know, that was okay.
I wish I had more advice, but my recipes usually work out the first time I make them.
Q: Have you had any major challenges when you were designing these raw recipes to make them more appealing to the general public?
Emily von Euw: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think once I realized how delicious and simple raw desserts are, I thought “Wow, people should find out about this, because this is unreal!”
The ingredients I use are what you’re going to see on a granola bar, but you can turn them into these amazing decadent desserts that people didn’t even know were healthy for them. That’s such an amazing thing! Nuts and dried fruit are the ingredients you’re making raw desserts with. So it wasn’t really that hard to make the raw desserts appealing.
I think photography is a huge part of why people like my blog and why I have a book now. I try to make things as appealing to the eye as possible. I also use simple ingredients that people recognize.
My recipes don’t really contain a crazy amount of nuts or coconut oil or anything. I try to keep my ingredients to a minimum. I think nuts in season and coconut oil are really great to have in your diet, and they’re pretty necessary. We just don’t need that much of them every day. So I’m trying to get those to a minimum more than ever in my recipes now.
For a short period of time I thought, “What the heck am I going to do about the fat from nuts?” and then I realized, oh I can use other stuff like oats and buckwheat. So it wasn’t really a challenge but it’s just sort of another option for people.
Q: Where do you get all your ingredients?
Emily von Euw: I get a lot of them sent to me by cool companies, and it’s kind of nice to get stuff in the mail that I can just use.
However, even if people don’t send me stuff, it’s pretty easy too.
You can find dried fruit in your grocery store and nuts in the bulk isle.
I might also recommend getting nuts and seeds online. I just got a bunch of stuff from Prana, which is a company that sells all kinds of raw vegan stuff with good quality.
I have also reviewed stuff from other companies that I’m really happy with. For instance, Rich Nature is another good one. Nuts.com also has a good selection of raw organic nuts. Left Coast Naturals, if you’re in Canada, has really great stuff.
You can find dates almost anywhere, such as at your local market. And dates are not that expensive if they’re not organic.
You can tailor your desserts according to your budget and I think making raw desserts is pretty flexible!
Q: Thanks for your time!
Emily von Euw: You’re welcome.
Please see below for the audio interview:
About Emily von Euw: Emily is the creator of the blog This Rawsome Vegan Life, with over 1 million views a month, as well as author of Rawsome Vegan Baking, published by Macmillan. Emily’s blog won The Vegan Woman’s 2013 Vegan Food Blog Award, was named one of the Top 50 Raw Food Blogs of 2012, and is nominated for “Favorite Blog” for the 2013 VegNews Awards. You can follow Emily here.