I Am Grateful and Sweet Gratitude: The Cookbooks of Cafe Gratitude by Terces Engelhart, Orchid, Matthew Rogers, and Tiziana Alipo Tamborra

I Am Grateful book coverSweet Gratitude coverNo two books fit the philosophy and focus of Spiritualitea quite so well as this pair from Café Gratitude.  Inherent within them is the idea that food is nourishment for both body and spirit.  Take, for example, the titles of each of the dishes, both at the café and in the book I Am Grateful:

The Café Gratitude menu gives you the opportunity to start practicing saying something new and affirming about yourself by simply placing your order.  All the items on our menu have self-affirming names like I Am Adoring, I am Loved, or I Am Fulfilled, which is how we encourage customers to order what they want.  Then when the servers bring them their food and drinks, they place them down saying, You Are Adoring, Your Are Loved, or You Are Fulfilled!

The recipes in I Am Grateful are fairly straightforward, though a good many of them require you to have a dehydrator. The recipes in Sweet Gratitude on the other hand can seem involved at first they may entail learning to use unfamiliar ingredients such as Irish Moss (a sea vegetable) or learning to create your own liquid vanilla but once youve learned the techniques, the recipes arent as complex as they first seemed and the results are oh so worth it.  In one taste test, non-raw friends sampled the Sweet Gratitude pecan pie side by side with one from Marie Callendars and deemed the former superior.  With regular desserts, you can expect only sin and guilt from your indulgence, but with these recipes you get living enzymes, protein, and healthy fats.    I can personally attest to the fact that even with desserts like these as a semi-regular part of my diet, my previously pre-diabetic glucose levels have remained stable and I continued to lose weight.  What more could you ask?

While of the two books I loved Sweet Gratitude more I’ve been blown away by every recipe Ive tried in it Id recommend getting I Am Grateful if you are deciding between the two rather than planning to purchase both. I Am Grateful not only includes a broad range of raw entrees, salads, sauces and drinks, but also includes some of my favorite desserts from Sweet Gratitude, such as the Pecan Pie and Banana Cream Pie.  I Am Grateful also includes the inspiring story of restaurant founder Terces Engelhart and a bit on the philosophy behind her creation.

I am so inspired by the food of the underlying philosophy of the restaurant, I hope to make a pilgrimage of sorts next time Im in the Bay Area of California where it is located.  Its no doubt a favorite destination of raw vegan pop star Jason Mraz he mentions it in his song Make It Mine (from the album We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things) and used a reference to the restaurant as the title for his recent tour.   Like Jason Mraz, I am grateful for many things, and among them are these two books.

Sample Recipes:

The Stress Management Kit by Alix Needham

Stress Management Kit
Stress Management Kit

To say that stress is a problem in todays society is to grossly understate the situation. Since readers of this site are assumed to be already actively involved in managing their health, this book should be a great start for anyone who hasnt as yet read a book on stress reduction.

The kit consists of a book, a CD, and two Stressdots . The book gives the same information on stress as many other books I have read, but for the first-time reader, it presents the reasons why stress reduction is necessary and the ways to achieve it in a clear-cut, no-nonsense manner. For example, Chapter Two is all about recognizing the symptoms of stress. In this chapter the author describes the fight or flight reaction that the body demonstrates when under stress–its not pretty, and explaining it works well as an argumentation technique by showing a concrete example of why stress management is important. In addition, three questionnaires intended for self-diagnosis explain the physical, psychological, and behavioral effects of stress.

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Chakra Foods for Optimum Health: A Guide to the Foods that can Improve Your Energy, Inspire Creative Changes, Open Your Heart, and Heal Body, Mind, and Spirit by Deanna M. Minich

Book CoverRather than a traditional diet book that advises you to avoid certain foods to lose weight or lower your cholesterol, this book takes the approach of changing your diet to heal your chakras, and therefore heal your entire energetic system.

It would be easy to assume the book is based on new age fluff, but the dietary recommendations are based on real science about the energetic properties of different foods. The authors argument is that by balancing your chakras through dietary changes, you can recover from illnesses or stress and restore your energy and creativity.

Minich offers a scientific approach to her recommendations, starting with a quiz that indicates which of your chakras is most in need of balancing, and which is the most balanced. She recommends starting your recovery with the healthiest chakras so you build a foundation for healing. She predicts that most modern Americans have severe throat chakra issues.

Each chapter focuses on one chakra in order, and focuses on using that chakra to balance the energetic activity associated with it, such as communication in the throat chakra. It includes the diseases commonly associated with imbalances in that chakra and an exploration of the foods that could be consumed and avoided in order to start the healing process.

Although she argues that changes to your diet can help heal your chakras, she doesnt argue that healing the chakra alone will cure all diseases. It can, however, make the disease easier to manage. In the back of the book, she lists a variety of foods and the chakras they either activate or balance, as well as a list of common health concerns and the chakras they either activate or balance. Finally, she includes a chart of the chakras and the foods associated with them.

The book is designed to allow you to quickly flip through it for the advice you need, or to work through it chakra by chakra in order to heal your entire system. To get you started, she provides healthy recipes for each chakra, most of which sound like tantalizing treats rather than traditional diet food.

This is not a traditional diet book. Its a wellness book and a resource for living a more balanced life through food and spiritual health.

My only quibble with the book was the size of the text. The print is rather small, which can be hard on tired eyes.


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The Three Only Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, & Imagination by Robert Moss

book coverAs a social worker, I am continually interested in the mind, especially in finding ways to help my clients heal. At a glance, I found this book fascinating for its sheer title. More specifically, Moss reframes nightly dreams to be more than coincidence by giving dreams the power to guide us to a larger purpose. Often people give meaning to dreams, which is soothing or validating to them individually. However, I agree with Moss that dreams should not be dismissed as mere subconscious fantasies.

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12 Steps to Raw Foods by Victoria Boutenko

book coverWhile an entirely raw foods diet may not be for everyone, there is
little disagreement even amongst omnivores that increasing the proportion
of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet is something that can
benefit any of us (for example, see Michael Pollan’s Ominvore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food).  But is cooked food an addiction?  This is author Victoria Boutenko’s contention, and while you may or may not agree with this premise, her use of a “12 Step” inspired model does provide a some useful approaches for those who are trying to eliminate or decrease their consumption of cooked foods and increase their consumption of whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  Pair this with the some basic, approachable raw foods recipes and it is a book that could benefit everyone, even those who would not remotely consider themselves “raw fooders.”  


Some of the steps that will benefit even those who hope to just eat healthier without necessarily giving up all cooked food include:

  • Nourishing Your Body to Eliminate Cravings
  • Acquiring Skills and Equipment
  • Avoiding Temptation
  • Gratitude and Forgiveness
  • Embracing Other Healthy Habits
  • Searching for One’s Spiritual Mission
  • Giving Support to Others

 12 Steps to Raw Foods: How to End Your Dependency on Cooked Foods (North Atlantic Books)  is a significant revision and expansion of the earlier edition.  So much so, that even if you already have the first edition (from Raw Family Publishing), you will still want to purchase a copy of the new edition.  For those familiar with Boutenko’s works, this book contains material that will be familiar — Part 1 contains some of the same information found in Raw Family and Green for Life in condensed form — but there is also new information such as chapter four’s review of scientific studies that support Boutenko’s contention that cooked food is damaging to the human body.   For those new to Boutenko, this is a great introduction to her ideas, methods and life experiences, the latter of which includes the inspiring account of how she healed her families illnesses through healthful eating and exercise.

There is a Cure for Diabetes by Gabriel Cousens

book coverGabriel Cousens book There is a Cure for Diabetes: The Tree of Life 21-Day+ Program is a comprehensive guide not to living with diabetes but for learning how to live without it.  It is, as the author explains, about embracing a culture of life rather than a culture of death.  In reading this book, do not expect an approach of moderate changes to your lifestyle adding this, or subtracting that this is about total physical and spiritual transformation.  Are you ready?

The first half of the book looks at the medical science of diabetes to establish the basis for the Tree of Life 21 Day protocol.  It is rich in information to help you understand the why and how of this method.  This scientific grounding will no doubt also assist you later when you need justify to the world around you why you are taking such a radical approach, eliminating most, if not all, cooked foods and thereby seizing control of your own wellbeing.  The second half of the book shows you how to do it.

If you are skeptical that this method works, I urge you to watch the movie Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days.  The movie takes place at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Arizona and follows six individuals with type one and type two diabetes under Dr. Cousens care.  By the end of 30 days, all who stuck with the program have either eliminated medications and insulin use completely or dramatically reduced them.  This book is a further refinement of the treatment these individuals underwent, enabling you to take charge of your health at home.

The program itself can be daunting to tackle on your own without the support of the Tree of Lifes medical and culinary staff, but if you begin by implementing even a few of the changes recommended (some of the easiest are on pages 285-288), you will see such a dramatic improvement it will no doubt inspire you to begin the journey, which as all journeys do, begins with the first step.

DVD Review: Simply Raw, Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days

Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days

Simply Raw begins with a quote:

Diabetes is a chronic disease that has no cure.  — American Diabetes Association

This is a dismal statement, and one consistent with the kind of information most diabetics and pre-diabetics (including myself) are given by their doctors.  But is it true?  The people at Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Arizona have set out to disprove that claim.   The film tells the story of six individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who go to Tree of Life to find out if these medical rebels are right and their own doctors are wrong. 

Ill get to their stories, but Ill begin by telling you my own: When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had gestational diabetes.  With a controlled diet, I was able to keep it in check but the diet was difficult.  My sweet indulgence during those months? Half a grapefruit.  Really.  This wasnt easy for someone who was known to order dessert before or even instead of the entre.  Still, I did it.  My daughter was worth it.  After the pregnancy, the condition ceased, but about a year later I found myself experiencing frequent hypoglycemic spells:  Id break out into a sweat, get shaky, have to sit down and immediately eat something.  I went to my doctor, and after sending me to get a glucose tolerance test she determined I was pre-diabetic.  She referred me to an endocrinologist who informed me that once you are pre-diabetic you could postpone the onset of diabetes with diet and exercise but you could not avoid it entirely.  

My mother had gestational diabetes when she was pregnant with me, and she developed diabetes later in life.  She did not control it at all and she eventually suffered a stroke.  That was the first of innumerable other problems: difficulty walking (sometimes she managed with a cane, other times she needed us to carry her), balance issues (how many times did I pick her off the floor?), incontinence, dry skin, mental changes,  etc. etc. etc.  I took one look at my mother and knew that could not be me. It was time to decide if I was worth it.

I began exercising and restricting my sugar.  I also went to a homeopathist.  Between the two, within months my blood was coming back normal on the A1C test (which tests your glucose control over 3 months).  Nonetheless, I was still experiencing periodic hypoglycemic spells.  The specter of the doctors statement Diabetes is inevitable rang through my consciousness.  

At some point I stumbled across the trailer for the movie, Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes for 30 days.  It was inspiring enough for me to try introducing raw foods into my life.  For several weeks I ate two meals a day raw and one meal each day of my regular ovo-lacto vegetarian diet.  Then I caught the stomach flu from my daughter.  You might be familiar with the phenomenon where you cant look at whatever you were eating immediately prior to vomiting, no matter what the actual cause.  Bye-bye raw foods.  But those hypoglycemic spells continued.  About six months later I decided to try again.  I got more serious. This time I went mostly raw with the occasional cooked vegan meal but with no processed sugar or fried food.  A month and a half later I noticed I hadnt had a single hypoglycemic episode since I began.  And this while eating fabulous raw vegan desserts regularly!  The changes Im experiencing are so dramatic Ive since decided to eliminate even the occasional cooked vegan meal.  Living, and eating, this way feels too good and tastes too good.

All this life change began because I watched a single 5 minute trailer!  It was clearly time I saw the whole movie, but I hesitated buying it only because I was now on sabbatical and making 75% of my normal income.  As fate would have it, the film company offered review copies to those with websites.    

Upon watching the full-length film, I was moved almost to tears by the stories of the six individuals documented.  All of them were experiencing significant health problems due to diabetes, much more severe than my own.  Four had Type 2, two had Type 1.  Some were young and some were old.  They came from all walks of life.  They arrived at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center hoping, like me, that their doctors were wrong.  Diabetes doesnt have to be forever.

Here I have to pause to give credit to the filmmakers.  While the film does have an agenda to convince the viewer of the health benefits of the raw diet, especially for diabetics they are remarkably unbiased in their depictions of the patients reactions.   At their first meal, one patient says of the food,  This is different. You could get used to it.  If you grew up eating it you could like it.  Not a ringing endorsement for what are billed as gourmet raw vegan meals!  One man doesnt make it through the entire month because of the food, even though he experiences dramatic changes after just two and a half weeks. When he arrived at Tree of Life his blood sugar was at 450 on medications, and on the day he left it was at 200 without them. His blood pressure was normal, hed lost 30 pounds, and he went from taking 17 medications a day to none at all.  But he couldnt stomach the food:  My brain dont want the food, he told them, It just rejects it. Literally. I look at it and I just want to scream.  When the day is done, this is simply a good documentary, whether you are diabetic or not, whether you are interested in eating raw or not.  The story is simply compelling and the production values are high.  This is a PBS-worthy film.

In fact, the film is so unbiased, on one level it may hurt its own agenda: the food seems so unappealing in the eyes of most of the participants, unless your motivation to cure yourself of diabetes is high, you might watch this and abandon all hope.   I am almost certain that when I show this movie to my mother she will say You have willpower and can do this.  I cant. I hope Im wrong, and this is too important not to show her so I will.  In fact, this film is too important not to show everyone who is diabetic, pre-diabetic, or genetically pre-disposed to diabetes, and to the doctors who treat them.  

The doctor who told me Diabetes is inevitable sprang back into my memory as I watched the young man in the film who used his own doctors words as an excuse not to believe in the regimen and sabotage himself.  He repeats over and over to anyone who will listen that every doctor he has ever had has told him he will be on insulin the rest of his life. Yet despite a mid-retreat unauthorized field trip across the border to Mexico where he gorged on enchiladas and alcohol, by the end of the film he had gone from injecting 70 units of insulin a day to just 5.  The other type 1 diabetic is off insulin and medication entirely.  Doctors think they are doing a service by letting us know the reality of our chronic conditions, but what they are doing is planting the seeds of disaster.  As the movie tells us, it was Hippocrates who said Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.  We can heal ourselves, but first we have to undo the power of disbelief planted within in us by the very doctors who we went to for advice.  We have to undo the damage done to us by lifetimes of eating S.A.D (Standard American Diet).  We have to be willing to take that first step toward wholeness.

In the months since I first learned about raw foods, Ive read so many personal testimonies about how becoming raw has changed peoples health in innumerable ways, curing all sorts of supposedly irreversible or chronic conditions.  I hope there will be other films that document their stories.

Purchase Simply Raw from the Filmmakers

Purchase Simply Raw from Amazon.com