Stephanie Tourles is the author of the just-released "cook" book Raw Energy: 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothies, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body. She'll be appearing at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th Street, on Monday, January 11, at 7:30 p.m. to sign copies of the book and offer a demonstration (and samples!), to prove that healthy snacks don't have to taste like cardboard.
We recently caught up with Tourles and asked about her journey through food, the benefits of going raw and what people can expect at the book-signing event.
Describe for us your journey through food.
I actually got my education, or began my education, on the importance of -- and I also discovered what I call the taste sensations of -- raw food when I was a child, frequently visiting my grandparents on their north Georgia farm. They had two large gardens in which they grew a substantial portion of their annual food, and having lived through the Great Depression, they always stressed to me the importance of growing your own food -- I didn't at the time, but I thought it was fascinating; I watched them garden and they had wicked green thumbs -- and being prepared for an emergency, and they also taught me that you needed to consume the freshest, most nutritious food possible so you could ensure a lifetime of energy and health and strength, because you never knew what was going to come your way. That was my introduction into the importance of diet, and that's where my penchant for gardening blossomed. I'm an avid organic gardener. Some of my favorite foods were their huge Georgia peaches, raw sugar corn right off the cob, cole slaw (they grew their own cabbage), raw sourwood honey directly from my grandfather's hive, they had wild persimmons and wild figs. So some of my best food memories are of some of the things they grew or that grew wild in the woods and in the fields. Raw food has always been an important part of my diet. I've never eaten raw food totally 100 percent, all the time, but it's probably varied from a low of 20 percent to a high of 90 percent.
What would you say are some of the benefits of raw food?
Well, Raw Energy is a raw snack book. I'm trying to get people to integrate more raw food in their diets. I'm not trying to scare people or saying cooked food is just horrible. I'm just trying to get people to get away from junk food. Most conventional snacks are made with very processed, refined, nutritionally empty ingredients. Then you add your sprinkling of preservatives and synthetic flavor, and usually there's a heavy-handed complement of white sugar and sodium. When you eat snacks like that, you do get some instant energy, albeit temporary energy. But your energy will come crashing down because it is not energy derived from slow-digesting whole foods. It's quick energy. So raw snacks, on the other hand, are made with whole grains, raw nuts and seeds, nut butters, dried fruits, whole foods, vegetables and fruit that will digest slowly and they'll maximize your vitality, your energy, your vigor. They'll satiate your appetite much longer than a refined snack would. They're extremely tasty, usually quite colorful, and if you make a regular habit of replacing your empty-calorie snacks with nutritionally dense snack foods, you will find that your endurance and your stamina for whatever you have to do in life -- whether it's physical or mental challenges -- you will have energy to do what you need to do and energy to spare.
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What about the convenience of commercially available snacks? How does it compare to the raw snacks you advocate in your book?
I try to talk people into planning ahead, but if you have four children crawling around your ankles, you just grab and go. I have a chapter on energy balls, and most of those energy balls, you can make the night before, stick them in the refrigerator, pull one or two out, wrap it in waxed paper, put it in your purse or backpack and go. Some can be made in twenty minutes. You just have to think ahead. If you're really that busy, you can grab a little packet of almonds or walnuts or a raw trail mix. And even places like Whole Foods -- if you really don't have time or just can't stand to cook or be in the kitchen -- the better health food stores have raw food bars that you can buy made with all kinds of nuts and seeds and dried fruit; you can buy delicious trail mixes. One of the easiest and most portable snack foods is going to be an apple, pear or banana, but sometimes that's boring to people. I love the raw food bars, they're so convenient. Kids can carry them, you can put them in your gym bag. They're extremely energizing, so you don't need to worry about making raw soup or dip, which can be more time consuming.
What can people expect at your Tattered Cover appearance?
I'm going to give a little bit of my background and talk about Raw Energy and why I wrote it. I'm going to talk a lot about the benefits of raw foods, the benefits of the live enzymes in raw foods and what the enzymes can do for your body. How to form a new habit, how to integrate more nutritious foods into your life. I'll be telling people some tips on how to get started adding more raw foods into their life, give them a persuasive argument for why they would want to eat more raw food and also let them know about the actual beauty benefits to eating a diet that's rich in raw foods. There are some physical benefits -- yes you get more energy, your immune system will be boosted -- but your appearance will be dramatically enhanced by long-term use of raw foods. I come from the background of being a licensed holistic esthetician, and that's one of the reasons that I got into adding more raw foods to my diet, because of the beauty benefits of it. And I work over 100 hours a week, and raw foods give me lots of energy, and I need that. So if you're a very busy, active person, raw foods will really, really enhance your energy levels. In terms of the demonstration, we'll be featuring two recipes. One is a raw fudge, it's called almond-raisin cocoa bites, made with raw cocoa and raw almond butter, it's raw fudge to die for, good enough that you could eat it for breakfast. And the other one is herbal energy balls that actually has Siberian ginseng root powder in there which is a real good energy enhancer.