In this article, Ani Phyo shares on cacao, raw almonds and raw food desserts that “wow.” Ani Phyo is a raw food chef extraordinaire and the author of Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen and Ani’s Raw Food Desserts.
Kevin: Julia asks, “What’s your best dessert to wow cooked food people?” I love how she said “cooked-food people.” I think it’s kind of funny. Like us against them, right? I’m just kidding.
Ani: [Laughs] The one that’s been getting a lot of reaction from everyone in the press and the media is the chocolate raspberry ganache fudge cake. That’s in my book. The cake, rather than a traditional ganache cake which is made from white flour, refined sugar, the cake is actually made of walnuts. So that’s the dry powder. It’s walnuts and cacao. Then it’s bound together with medjool dates. Walnuts are touted as a superfood by the FDA, as is cacao, because walnuts are packed with omega-3s. Walnuts, as all nuts, have been found to lower cholesterol. It’s really good for heart health. Omega-3s are really healthy for our skin. It also has vitamins A, C, D, E, all the vitamins that are really great. Nuts and seeds all have vitamin E. It’s great for our skin. It helps rebuild the matrix that holds our skin taught and our collagen. It keeps us resilient and bouncy so that when you press on it bounces back and keeps it from aging quickly. It’s also high in antioxidants so it slows the damage, or undoes the damage, that free radicals are going to be doing, causing illness and disease and also speeding up aging.
Then as far as the cacao, raw cacao, luckily, as raw fooders we know this, it hasn’t been heated so the antioxidant properties are really high.
They’re starting to use the word cacao now, Hershey’s and all these other companies. But it’s really just chocolate or whatever, cocoa. Their cocoa has been dutched. Dutching means that they’re cutting the cacao that has actually been toasted with an alkaline chemical. The alkaline chemical helps that chocolate dissolve in water easier. It also helps it go further. So that dutching process is really what enables the whole chocolate bar industry to happen. So if you can imagine dutch chocolate has much less chocolate in it in the first place and then because it’s heated the antioxidant properties are much less. But yet the FDA still touts chocolate as being a superfood.
So our raw food chocolate is raw. It has way more antioxidants. So that’s my cake. It’s bound together by whole fruit, medjool dates. It’s a whole fruit so it has fiber with the sugar, which time releases the sugar into our blood. So it has fiber and potassium and iron and all these other great nutrients that are going to feed our body healthy things.
Then the frosting is made from cacao and a little bit of agave and avocado. I think in Asian cultures, even in Mexico, they blend avocado and they use it for desserts and shakes. It has such a healthy fat for our hearts. It’s really great for our skin. It has a really creamy, fluffy texture. And it has a great flavor profile. I’m blending that, processing it with the cacao and some dates to sweeten it and a little bit of agave. That is creating a really fluffy, sort of like a packaged really bad for you frosting. But it’s really good for you. Then you frost your cake. The cake is a really rich cake, sort of like a flourless chocolate cake texture. You can either take fresh raspberries or strawberries work really good too, and put it on your cake. Then you have your chocolate raspberry fudge ganache. And it’s so good.
If you compare it to the cooked version, the cooked version has like cream and eggs and butter and all these things that are actually going to create high cholesterol in your body. It’s going to make you gain weight, put on weight. It’s going to also create an inflammatory response. A lot of our bodies are allergic to dairy, it’s a foreign substance. So when we take it in it creates inflammation so we swell. It actually makes us look as though we weigh more or are bigger than we actually are, because we’re swollen from the inside. Also, the wheat. Some of us have gluten allergies. My raw food ganache cake has none of those. It will actually help you lose weight, look better, build your skin. It helps you grow healthy hair and strong nails and all that. The healthier our insides are, reflects on the outside of our skin, which is our largest organ. It means that we’ll be radiant and healthy and glowing and look really good on the outside.
Kevin: What’s your take on frequent or periodic use of raw cacao?
Ani: I think frequent use of anything…Again, I think everyone is different. So if somebody is coming from a place where a lot of people are drinking like three cups of coffee a day, or more, a whole pot of coffee a day. If somebody is drinking cups of coffee every day and then now they’re starting to substitute their coffee with cacao every day, that’s still one step along the continuum to a healthier lifestyle. If it’s someone like myself who’s been doing raw food for a very, very long time, I’d have to say pretty much my whole life, by this point I actually personally cannot do any cacao at all. [Laughs] I don’t need any more stimulation than I already have in my life. The littlest bit of cacao, I can’t handle it very well. But I think it’s just a personal thing. I know people who do it every day and they’re fine. I know other people who can’t do it anymore, who may be used to do it.. Some people do it occasionally. I think it’s a personal thing. I think that in general, not to be an alarmist or an extremist or anything, but in general I think that anything in extreme is not good for us. So it’s always good to just be aware.
Caffeine does drain our adrenal glands. Our adrenal glands is our body’s center for handling stress. We get stressors from all over, from our environment, from our work, from our family, from our responsibilities, from exercising too much, from the food we eat. There’s a lot of stressors that come in. There are things that help to combat that, like maca, which is an adaptagen that helps you build the adrenal glands. So I like to use maca in conjunction with cacao, if I’m going to use that, to sort of help with the caffeine that is sort of draining our adrenals a little bit. It’s just good to be aware of that. Again, I think everyone is different and is at a different point along the continuum. So we all have to just experiment and see how we feel, find out what works for us.
Kevin: Here’s the 10,000 dollar question – where do you get your raw almonds?
Ani: I get my raw almonds from Natural Zing. I work with Natural Zing. They actually supply my website with the raw almonds as well. They have a farm that’s actually here in California, where they have an agreement with them where they actually have raw almonds that are shipped to their warehouse and they provide it to the raw community. That’s where I get my raw almonds from.