Inside her Munjoy Hill demonstration kitchen, Elizabeth Fraser adds soaked almonds, whole vanilla beans, Medjool dates, a pinch of cinnamon and water to her Vitamix blender. After less than five minutes of mixing, the blender contains a white, frothy liquid.

Fraser pours the mixture into a special mesh bag positioned over a bowl.

“You kind of milk it like a cow,” she says as she squeezes all the liquid from the bag, leaving behind the almond pulp, which will be dried and used in desserts and crackers.

Then she presents me with a glass of the freshest, most delicious almond milk I’ve ever tasted.

The ease with which she made the almond milk coupled with its flavor was like a health food revelation to me. But to Fraser, it was just another day in the life of the Girl Gone Raw.

That’s the name of her raw vegan chef business, which offers classes, private parties and food coaching from her Munjoy Hill studio to groups and individuals.

Fraser started off our visit by whipping up one of her signature green smoothies. While it tastes like a regular fruit smoothie, this beverage packs an extra nutritional punch in the form of fresh kale leaves.

“Kale can be a little bitter,” Fraser cautioned, as she added it to the blender along with blackberries, blueberries, bananas, cinnamon and water. “So if you’re new to green smoothies, go with spinach.”

Raw, leafy greens are a key to good health, Fraser said, and everyone could benefit from eating more of them.

“By breaking down the greens (in the blender) you get all the nutrients they have to offer,” she said.

The smoothies, along with all the other foods in a raw diet, aim to improve health. Those who consume a large percentage of raw food do so because they want to benefit from the living enzymes available in food that hasn’t been heated above 120 degrees.

Fraser said common health benefits of eating a lot of raw foods include increased energy, weight loss, clear skin and mental clarity.

“It’s really important to switch up your greens,” said Fraser, suggesting Swiss chard, dandelion greens, arugula and cress as alternatives to kale.

In general, she recommends a ratio of 40 percent greens to 60 percent fruit in the smoothies. However, for folks who want a more savory smoothie, she advises cutting the fruit and adding in ingredients such as cucumbers, cilantro or parsley. This is also a better option for diabetics and people on low-sugar diets.

In addition to the drinks, Fraser presented me with an attractive and delicious spread, which included cashew cilantro burgers, parsnip stir-fry, flaxseed crackers with cashew cheese, whoopie pies and carob candies. Not only did it look gorgeous, but every dish was bursting with flavor and texture.

Fraser started down the road that would lead her to raw cuisine more than 20 years ago.

“My mom passed away from breast cancer when I was 18,” Fraser told me. “I became really aware of health.”

She adopted a pescatarian diet, which is a vegetarian diet that includes fish. Around the same time, she developed arthritis in her right hip and had to give up her passion for running. As a result, she began to gain weight.

“Three years ago, I decided to go vegan,” Fraser said. “I felt a lot better, but I still had struggles with weight.”

While making the switch to vegan eating, Fraser kept hearing about the health benefits of raw foods. So she trained with Kittery-based raw chef Alissa Cohen, the internationally renowned author of “Raw Food for Everyone” and “Living on Live Food.”

“At first, I said I could never eat like this,” Fraser recalled. “But then within that week, I felt so much better and more connected.”

After 2½ months of eating a diet made up of a high proportion of raw foods, Fraser dropped 18 pounds and was back to her high school weight. Her hip pain also disappeared.

“I didn’t feel deprived in any way,” Fraser said. “Everything tastes so good, and the desserts are too die for.”

Now Fraser has taken her raw food skills to the next level by offering regular classes to the community.

Each class is an intimate experience, with three to six attendees, where Fraser demonstrates how to make more than half a dozen dishes.

“It’s all about showing them it’s really easy and delicious,” she said.

Even though she doesn’t warm any food over 118 degrees, Fraser uses a dehydrator to show her students how to create such dishes as warm vegan chili, casseroles, crackers, corn chips, bread and pizza crust.

When people tell her the food is great but the preparation involves too much work, Fraser does her best to set the record straight.

“We’re in a society where people are used to instant gratification,” Fraser said. “People aren’t used to doing food prep. I make all kinds of different recipes that take 10 minutes or less.”

Fraser is also a painter known for her vibrant landscapes and dog portraits. She finds parallels between raw food preparation and her art.

“I think it’s the creativity of raw foods,” Fraser said. “I love the bright colors.

“This way of eating is so nice, because you’re eating to nourish your body. You’re not just living to eat.”

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter at: Twitter.com/AveryYaleKamila