Back-to-School-Swag: Review and Giveaway of Unprocessed by Chef AJ

[Rich and delicious raw Cream of Zucchini Soup]

Hope y’all had a great Labor Day weekend (or Saturday and Sunday, as the case may be). The HH, Girls and I had a lovely weekend despite my need to do some school work.  We brunched, enjoyed a couple of sun-kissed walks (and the Girls even had a swim), I supped with a couple of nutrition school friends, the HH and I watched another of our newly-purchased DVDS and then I saw The Help with my buddy Eternal Optimist yesterday evening (loved it–so many fine performances!).  And smack in the middle of the weekend, we were visited out of the blue by an old friend of the HH’s as he drove from Calgary to Kingston and opted for a pit stop at our house.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready for summer to be over just yet!  *Sigh.* Yet somehow, the weather here in Toronto has co-opted my favorite season and set the perfect backdrop for back-to-school today with chilly, 12 C (54F) temperatures.

In an attempt to prolong that good summer vibe as long as possible, I thought I’d revisit a series that I ran last year called Back to School Swag (ha ha on you, TIFF–you’re not the only one giving out swag this week!).  I received a few products and books for review over the summer months, and I’ll be giving away some of them (just the ones I liked!) over the next month or so.  Today’s inaugural giveaway features a cookbook that impressed me quite a bit.

Some of you may recall the Crazy Simple Kale Salad I posted last winter.  It’s a simple salad with a quick and stellar dressing that really elevates it to something spectacular.  The HH and I adored it and I often make it as a way to enjoy raw kale.

Well, wasn’t I just tickled when my post received a comment from the salad’s creator, Chef AJ! Chef AJ is the author of Unprocessed: How to Achieve Vibrant Health and Your Ideal Weight and a whole foods, vegan chef who has worked with the likes of Dr. McDougall, Colin Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn. Her recipes feature whole, often raw, ingredients and lower fat options.

As soon as I opened the book, I knew immediately which recipe I wanted to try: the Hemp Seed Lime Dressing. I know, a dressing, of all the possibilities! But raw kale salads are such a staple in our house now that I’m always looking for new and interesting toppers.  I whipped it up that evening–so quick and simple–and we devoured it before I could even snap a photo.  Luckily, I used the leftover dressing the following day on my Baked Sweet Potato Falafel:

[A perfect rich and creamy foil for the falafel!]

Once I’d scoured the book for recipes and filled it with my trademark sticky-note bookmarks, I sat down to really read the intro chapters.  In the author’s own no-nonsense, engaging and humorous voice, the book’s first five chapters introduce the concept of “unprocessed” (the basic criterion is, “can you make it in your kitchen?”); explain the “evil trinity” of sugar, fat and salt, and why she never includes them in her recipes; relate Chef AJ’s own story and how she came to follow a vegan, high-raw, unprocessed diet; and provide pointers, tips, and questions for the reader to determine whether s/he wants to attempt the same type of diet, or perhaps move in a more unprocessed culinary direction.

I found AJ’s personal story to be both touching and compelling and gained a great deal of respect and admiration for her both as a person and a chef after reading it (without revealing too much, let me just say that she experienced illness, eating disorders, personal and family tragedy and a variety of other crises in her life–and came through it with a renewed determination, vibrancy, and, ultimately, health and energy).

The book will make you laugh (“Kosher salami, for those of you taking notes, differs from regular salami in that one kills you and the other  is blessed by a rabbi before it kills you”); will motivate you (“The fact that you are even reading this book tells me that you are the kind of person who can see the possibility of something wonderful for your life, for your health and the health of your family. I’m guessing you already have done many difficult things in your life and have succeeded at them, so why should this be any different?); and will inspire you.  Most importantly, it will provide you with over 100 easy, quick, unprocessed and delicious recipes to help you achieve better health.

After delving more deeply into the book, I turned to a couple more substantial recipes.  First up was the raw Spanish “Rice” (made from cauliflower).  This was a flavorful mix of veggies and creamy avocado with a spicy kick.  I could have eaten the entire bowl myself (oh, wait, except for the HH’s sampling, I did!):

[Tangy, spicy, filling raw Spanish “Rice”.]

Finally, in honor of fall (I may wish it weren’t here, but there’s no denying that chill in the morning air), I blended up the Cream of Zucchini Soup (also raw).  This lovely, full-bodied and velvety soup combines a protein boost from hemp seeds with a subtle sweetness of fresh basil and dates (I used stevia instead).  Filled with rich flavor and the luxurious silkiness from the hemp, it was a perfect lunch before moving on to a productive afternoon. (For the recipe, see below.)

[A bowlful of whole-foods, raw, creamy goodness.]

I loved all three recipes that I tried.  Overall, the book offers dishes that are quick to prepare, made from simple, whole ingredients without added fat,  sugars (of any kind) or salt–yet Chef AJ excels at creating interesting and satisfying flavor combinations that will please all types of eaters.

If you’re curious about how to create tasty whole foods recipes without sugar, fat or salt;  if you’ve been leaning toward more raw foods; or if you’re simply seeking out healthier recipes, you’ll want to get yourself a copy of this book and begin enjoying flavorful, simple, unprocessed foods.  And you can also enter to win a copy!

GIVEAWAY: Chef AJ has offered to give a copy of the book to one lucky DDD reader! (open to Canada and US only).

Here’s how to enter:

It’s simple: just leave a comment on this page telling me what your favorite whole food is.

For extra entries, do any or all of the following:

  • Subscribe to Diet, Dessert and Dogs, follow me on twitter, or “like” the DDD Facebook page; then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so (a separate comment for each one, please);
  • “Like”Chef AJ’s page on Facebook, then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so;
  • tweet about the giveaway and use @rickiheller in your tweet so I’ll see it, then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so;
  • post about the giveaway on your own blog or Facebook page, tagging or linking to Diet, Dessert and Dogs so I’ll see it; then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so.

The giveaway will remain open until midnight on Monday, September 12th my time.  Then I’ll choose a winner at random and announce the winner the following day.

Good luck, everyone! 🙂

Never miss a recipe–or a comment from The Girls! Click here to subscribe to via email. You’ll get recipes as soon as they’re posted, plus cookbook updates and news about upcoming events! (“We love subscribers, Mum. . . almost as much as we love treats!”)

Last Year at this Time: SOS Kitchen Challenge for September (Apples)

Two Years Ago: Beet the Heat and Mint Salad (GF; ACD all stages)

Three Years Ago: Flash in the Pan: Ginger-Mint Iced Tea (GF; ACD all stages)

© Diet, Dessert and Dogs

[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]



  1. I can’t enter but that book looks so good, I love the salami comment! I love cauliflower rice too… and I’m going to check out your sweet potato falafel straight away 🙂

  2. Too many different ways to enter for a chance to win but that recipe looks fantastic, if only I could get basil leaves at my market. I laughed out loud at the sticker place markers. My books always look like weird yellow porcupines. 🙂

  3. My favorite whole food is a sweet potato. I wish I had one right now!

  4. My favorite whole food is roasted Kabocha Squash. Mmmmmmmm yummy!

  5. I liked Chef AJ’s page and I spelled my email address incorrectly in my last post. Forgot a crucial letter which I added on this post 🙂

    It’s still me. 😀

  6. This is perfect timing. You see, I just got a spiralizer and have been turning zucchini into noodles at a super-human pace. About now, I’m not sure I can eat any more, and the fridge is still stuffed with squash from the farmers market. A raw soup would be an excellent change of pace. I should look up your stellar kale dressing for the mounds of raw noodles still in the refrigerator. My favorite whole food is kale.

  7. Impossible to choose a very favorite whole food, so I’ll say any green veggie – kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage…

  8. I love broccoli and the satisfying crunch it gives.

  9. My favorite whole food is eggs

  10. I also subscribe to your blog

  11. Gotta say I’m a big fan of the meaty portabella mushroom. Kale is a close second.

  12. My favorite whole food is the almond. I love the versatility. Thanks for the recipe and giveaway!

  13. My favorite food right now is avocado. They’re so delicious.

  14. I subscribe to DDD.

  15. I like you on FB.

  16. I follow you on Twitter.

  17. I like Chef AJ’s page.

  18. I subscribe to DDD already!

  19. I follow you, the lovely Ricki Heller on twitter.

  20. Now I like you on Facebook – even though I do not like Facebook.

  21. I also like Chef AJ on Facebook – and in real life.

  22. I really really really want this cookbook! I have wanted it since it first came out–it looks so good! Can I have 2 favorites? Watermelon and artichokes…I don’t think I can pick one over the other!


  23. I subscribe to your blog 🙂


  24. my favourite whole food is broccoli and I bet it would be just as good as zucchini in that soup. Hmmmmmm. I might just have to give it a try.

  25. I like fresh corn on the cob, especially in the summertime. Yum.

  26. I already am subscribed to your RSS feed!

  27. i liked you on facebook!

  28. i subscribe to your blog!

  29. My current whole food is watermelon- especially in a smoothie.

  30. I love so much so food, I can’t choose. I’ll go with sweet potato since I just had some for supper.

  31. Favourite whole food….hmmmm….I’d say zucchini because you can make spaghetti out of it!

  32. Hi
    I love the idea of raw foods. I have a couple of Ani Phyo’s books and would love another raw book to get more ideas. My favortie whole food are almonds because they are an easy tasty snack, can tote in purse easy and can be made into yummy raw puddings and yogurt.

  33. I’d love to have a copy of this book! I’m pretty comfortable cooking without sugar, but salt and fat on the other hand, I need some work. I definitely try to keep the sodium content in my recipes in check, but I do often include just a little bit of salt to pull everything together; sometimes it truly does need it. I’d be interested to know what the alternatives are. Also, regarding fat, I feel like many vegan recipes are quite full of fat because they are heavy on things like nuts, coconut oil, etc. Of course I understand that these are better-for-you-fats, but they are still fat and I get a little hesitant to consume so much at once. So I’d love to see what kind of vegan recipes AJ has come up with!

  34. I follow you on twitter and like you on facebook 🙂

  35. tweeted 🙂

  36. shared on FB!

  37. My fave whole food lately is an organic spring mix/baby spinach mix….it’s a combination of lots of tasty greens and forms the base of a great salad!

  38. I liked Diet, Dessert and Dogs on facebook.

  39. My favorite whole food these days is raw walnuts. They are so versatile. I typically eat them as a snack or in a salad.

  40. I liked the DDD Facebook page.

  41. I Liked Chef AJ on facebook

  42. Eggs! My 2 year old is such a picky eater. It took over a year of trying (on and off) but now he finally eats…er…devours…eggs! They’re easy for him to chew, simple to make, and the whole family enjoys them.

  43. Shannon Lavin Vanjoske says

    My absolute favorite whole food is avocados. So many delicious food options!! Thanks for this opportunity!!

  44. Shannon Lavin Vanjoske says

    I subscribed to Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

  45. Shannon Lavin Vanjoske says

    I “liked” the DDD Facebook page!

  46. Shannon Lavin Vanjoske says

    I also “Liked” Chef AJ’s page on Facebook! Thanks again for this opportunity! 🙂

  47. any kind of squash!

  48. Our family fave is avocado!

  49. I subscribe to your facebook and twitter pages.

    My fav is mangos.

  50. Me want!!! 🙂

    Broccoli. Hands down.

  51. I subscribe to your blog and will tweet now, of course!

  52. I liked the chef.

  53. I love Mushrooms, especially exotic ones like the lobster.

    Thank you.

  54. Well, I’m ineligible, but I can’t resist commenting to say that I’m more than ready for your Summer to be over! It’s about time we had some warmth down here 😉

  55. My favorite whole food is kabocha. It always fills me up and puts a smile on my face. There’s nothing like slow-roasted kabocha fresh out of the oven to warm me up on a cold fall night!

  56. Mmmm I want to make that soup!! My favorite whole food might be asparagus.

  57. I am subscribed to DietDessertsnDogs!

  58. I like you on facebook!

  59. I liked Chef AJ on facebook.

  60. I tweeted about the give away just now.

  61. I don’t know what’s going on with my phone cuz it won’t let me leave another comment just a reply and I hope that the link I tweeted works cuz that only sent me back to where I can’t comment 🙁 It was working though……. My favorite whole food is Soy!! That’s a whole food right? Haha..

  62. lately in the cooler weather I have been loving butternut squash

  63. My favorite whole food is kale.

  64. I follow you on Twitter!

  65. I like you on FB. 🙂

  66. I subscribe via RSS feed.

  67. My favourite whole food is avocado. I eat it out of it’s skin with a spoon.

  68. I liked the DDD Facebook page.

  69. I follow you on twitter. lola_318

  70. Hmm..this is though, I would have to say home grown tomatoes at the moment!

  71. I just liked you on FB!
    And already subscribe.

  72. Avocado

  73. hard to pick between yellow zuc squash or sweet potatoes..they are both so versatile..but if I HAVE to it would be sweet potatoes!

  74. of course I subscribe and follow…or I’d miss out on all the fun!

  75. favorite whole food is kale, though somedays it feels more like cacao powder :). I already subscribe to your email and follow you on twitter! thanks for giveaway!

  76. My favorite whole food (right now, anyway), is brocolli! YUM 🙂

  77. I subscribe!

  78. I follow you on twitter!

  79. I like you on FB

  80. I like Chef AJ’s page on Facebook

  81. I subscribe to your emails and would love to win this book as I’ve been having some health problems and am trying to eat more whole foods and raw foods too.

  82. I shared this on facebook.

  83. I think my favorite whole food is avocados- good in anything!

  84. Favorite whole food? Tough one……..avocado.

  85. Right now my favourite whole food is freshly picked corn on the cob….soon I will turn to sweet potatoes and butternut squash!

  86. I am already subscribed to your blog!

  87. If I had to choose one, I’d say my favourite whole food is butternut squash – there are so many ways to eat it and I love every one of them!
    This cookbook sounds amazing!

  88. My favorite whole food would be…hhhmm…avocado.
    This book would be amazing. I love the Chef and the Dietition YouTube channel. They crack me up.

  89. It’s so hard to pick one. I guess I’ll go with sweet potatoes today. Mmmmm!

  90. What a nice giveaway! The book sounds delightful.

    It’s hard to pick just one favorite whole food, but I think I’ll go with Japanese sweet potato…although greens like spinach and kale are definitely up there. 🙂

  91. I subscribe to DDD.

  92. …and I follow you on Twitter.

  93. Just tweeted about the giveaway!

  94. My favorite whole food is crisp, tart, granny smith apples. I am about to have one for snack!

  95. Such a lovely giveaway!
    My favorite whole food would have to be summer squash. I’d say nooch, but somehow I doubt that’s the kind of “whole food” Chef AJ had in mind 😉

  96. ..and I’m already subscribed via RSS feed.

  97. Watermelon!

  98. I like you on FB…

  99. I like Chef AJ on FB…

  100. and I follow you on Twitter!

  101. Signed up to subscribe to your website!

    Zucchini soup looks so fresh!

  102. well maybe it is because it is not back to school here and we are still enjoying 16 C today (on one of our colder days recently) that us antipodeans aren’t included in the giveaway – I will just have to content myself with sunshine – and your glorious pictures of the zucchini soup

  103. What a gorgeous array of recipes you’ve showed us! My, my… Ricki, I feel the same: I adore Autumn, but I truly am a summer kid, born in August as I am, and I embrace the heat, no matter how humid it may get. It’s time to embrace the chill, though–and at least we have the colourful leaves to look forward to.

    Blame it on my Italian ancestry, but my favourite whole food has to be rapini 🙂

    Have a great weekend, Ricki! See some of you at the Vegetarian Food Fair in Toronto? 🙂

  104. Fave whole food? That changes with the seasons! Daily even!

  105. I subscribe. 🙂

  106. We ARE fb friends!

  107. I like Chef AJ too!

  108. I follow you on twitter

  109. I subscribe

  110. Favorite whole food? Simple – Brussels Sprouts.

  111. My favorite whole food is unequivocally avocado. This looks like a wonderful cookbook.

  112. I already subscribe via email and follow you on FB and Twitter, but I’ll definitley tweet your give-a-way…as soon as I can get Twitter to load. Ggggrrr….

  113. My favorite whole food at the moment is heirloom tomatoes. Mmm

  114. my favourite whole food has got to be the avocado. but shhhhh… don’t tell kale!

  115. Hi Ricki! So hard to pick a favorite whole food, but yesterday it was watermelon 🙂

  116. And I just “liked” Chef AJ’s page, which I must now go browse through as it looked very interesting at a glance!

  117. Just tweeted about the giveaway of “Unprocessed” and the contest here on your blog!

  118. How did I miss that sweet potato falafel? I’ll have to try that.

    I have so many favorite whole foods, but sometimes I feel like I can’t live without bananas and greens.

  119. You know I follow you on Twitter 🙂

    I’m not on Facebook 🙁

  120. I tweeted about it 🙂

  121. Favorite whole food: onions! It’s just not dinner unless the onion is invited.

  122. Followed! @coniecone

  123. My fave whole food is avocado! There’s nothing else quite like it.

  124. Now following you on twitter as well!!

  125. domestic diva says

    I love homemade guacamole.

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