2011 has been my biggest year yet, by far – I was named Hot Raw Chef; I scored a cookbook contract; I studied nutrition at Living Light; I traveled to San Francisco, Toronto, Minneapolis, Dallas, Los Angeles, and many more; I even got engaged – but 2012 is shaping up to be even bigger! (Cookbook release and more traveling and wedding, oh my!) Today, I thought it’d be fun to glance back over the highlights of the past year and reflect on how far I’ve come.
After my graduation from 105degrees (i.e. the Matthew Kenney Academy) at the end of 2010, I was ready and raring to go in my new career as a raw chef. The year started out with a bit of a hiccup when I received a nasty blog comment about my famously flexible food philosophy, but the overwhelming reader support that poured in warmed my heart and stoked my fire. I repaid that kindness in the form of perhaps my most well-loved recipe yet: the 5-minute, single-serving, raw vegan blondie. It remains one of my most popular blog posts, and recipes, to date. You’ll see a full-batch version of it in my cookbook!
I also made the decision in January to enter my caramel-fudge brownies into Living Light’s Hot Raw Chef contest, which completely paid off, because the next month…
…I WON! Thanks to your votes, I was named Hot Raw Chef of 2011 by Living Light International and awarded the life-changing prize of a $5,000+ scholarship to the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute. More on that later.
Immediately after San Fran, Matt and I road-tripped to Oklahoma City, OK (where we revisited Matthew Kenney OKC for the first time since graduation and dined with Philip McCluskey) and Dallas, TX (where we ate at Bliss Raw Café again, as well as Medieval Times!).
My raw chocolate almond butter cookies this month were quite a hit.
This was a busy month, which saw blog posts about my raw red pepper-pistachio bisque…
I spent most of the month of May at the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in Fort Bragg, CA, cashing in my scholarship prize from winning the Hot Raw Chef competition and earning my Nutrition Educator certification. Besides the incredible day-to-day eats (six posts of delicious raw meals!), I learned to like salad (sort of), enjoyed a luncheon with the mother of gourmet raw cuisine herself, Cherie Soria, and hosted an informal (and super-fun!) raw desserts party with my classmates at the Living Light Inn, where we had a blast making my raw brownies and blondies.
I also basked in the glory of a heavenly dinner at Ravens Restaurant, the world-renowned vegan dining establishment in Mendocino, CA, where a certain warm pecan torte in particular stole my heart.
Another road trip south occurred in June, with more meals at Matthew Kenney OKC on the way to and from, and trips to ZPizza, Spiral Diner, Café Elite, Best Enchiladas Ever, Pizza Lounge, and of course Bliss Raw Café in Dallas.
We did even more traveling than that in June, but I didn’t get a chance to write about it until the following month. Perhaps most importantly, though, I made my biggest announcement ever mid-month: I’M GETTING PUBLISHED! My first cookbook will hit stores in Spring 2012!
…and then I got to work blogging about our trip to Toronto, Ontario in June. We ate at Merge in Buffalo, NY and visited Niagara Falls on our way into Canada, where we didn’t quite enjoy Raw Aura, grabbed raw treats at Mylk Uncookies, attended a veg-friendly wedding and the Toronto Raw Vegan Festival, had probably the best raw meal of our lives at Live Food Bar…
…and meals at Fresh Restaurant and Green Earth. Whew!
You can tell I was majorly backlogged in my content in August, as it was then that I finally wrote about our trip to small-town Kansas back in June AND our trip to Minneapolis, MN in early July. We ate at Gateway Market in Des Moines, IA and Ecopolitan, French Meadow Bakery (three times!), Seward Café, and Galactic Pizza in Minneapolis.
The raw sunny cashew apricot energy cookies I posted in August became very popular.
At the end of August, Matt and I traveled to the veg paradise of Portland, OR for the first-ever Vida Vegan Blogger Conference! We had a blast and made lots of new friends over the course of our eventful four days there.
I professed my undying love for watermelon and posted some raw Brazilian “cherob” energy bars before Matt and I got the news that we won a trip to Los Angeles from Vega! To say “we made the most of our short weekend in LaLaLand” would be an obscene understatement. We ate at Real Raw Live, Café Gratitute, KindKreme, Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, Real Food Daily, and California Vegan. We hung out with Brendan Brazier and the Vega team at a pre-Emmys expo and rubbed elbows with the glitterati of Hollywood.
We also ate at Sage Organic Bistro and Sweet E’s Mini Bake Shop, got an LA “makeover” on Melrose Blvd, and dined at Flore Vegan, Babycakes, and Native Foods Café. Wow.
I “flashbacked” to my birthday in July to blog about Matt’s and my wanderings in my college town of Lawrence, KS and my vegan b-day brunch at home in KC. There were also raw raspberry cream filled chocolate candies in October. Can’t forget those!
The real excitement, though, happened when Matt proposed to me over a 10-course vegan dinner during yet another road trip to Dallas. We’re gettin’ hitched!
The rest of that trip to Dallas was very eventful as well, with the Texas State Veggie Fair kickoff party and my raw culinary demos (cookbook recipes: Kale-Tahini Salad and Famous Five-Minute Blondies) at the Fair itself.
In November, I blogged about the jaw-dropping 10-course vegan tasting menu over which Matt proposed to me the month before. I also made almost-raw chocolate-pumpkin mousse, enjoyed a leisurely local Sunday brunch, dressed like a zombie (and ate like a [prom] queen), was thoroughly impressed by Matt’s mom’s veg-friendly Thanksgiving, and created these easy raw chocolate apricot kernel butter cookies.
I spent most of the past month holding a “12 Days of Giveaways” bonanza, which has been a lot of fun. After the madness of the holidays passed, I posted my much-anticipated recipe for raw white chocolate coconut-macadamia nut butter. Have you tried it yet? What do ya think? Amazing, right?!
This year has been a whirlwind, to say the least, and 2012 is looking to be even more epic. I hope you’ve had a wonderful 2011. Cheers to 2012 being the best year of all of our lives!
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Traditionally, I don’t bother to—my attitude has always been, why not make healthy and positive changes year-round, any time you want? I must admit, though, that the concept of a new year being a fresh start is enticing and invigorating, so I’ve actually been considering making a few resolutions this year. How about you? Do you have any resolutions for 2012? Do share!