Published Sept. 2014 | www.livingmaat.com

Wisdom Says:
Flyness is an essence; an 'aura' if you will. It's that special touch that you give to anything you're involved in!: 
Jamila Crawford

Q: Have you always been a healthy eater? If not, what was that transition like and what inspired you to remove meat from your diet?

A: I can't say that I've been a healthy eater all my life. In fact, I loathed most vegetables as a child! It wasn't until I was 19 when I decided to completely remove not only meat, but also any animal by-products from my diet. I wanted to lead a healthier lifestyle, and explore the wonderful world of veggies and I must say, I haven't looked back since!

What has been your top 3 favorite meals that you have prepared to date?

It's challenging to narrow my favorites down to three, but if I must, I'd go with:

1) Empanadas

2) Spicy Kale Salad

3) Nacho Salad

The reason why I especially enjoy preparing the empanadas and nacho salad in particular is because in my meat-eating days, I used to chow down on these meals. Therefore, "veganizing" these items has made it all the better!

Favorite cookbooks? And speaking of cookbooks, what can we expect from your upcoming book?

I enjoy skimming through "Southeast Asian Specialties" and "The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking". I am a huge fan of Asian cuisine. I cook foods from this part of the world more than anything else. So much so, that I think in my past life I was an Asian chef! LOL! As for my cookbook which I'm currently working on, expect international cuisine as well as classic comfort foods, all re-imagined and 'veganized', many culinary creations from my mind's eye, and a nice helping of raw vegan dishes!

Raw & vegetarian food contains a lot of fresh produce, do you have any tips on storing fruits & veggies for better longevity in our kitchen AS well as any meal planning tips?

As for storing fruits, make sure the ones that require refrigeration are kept in a crisper drawer, as it helps to extend its life. The same goes for vegetables. Now, if you happen to overbuy fruits and veggies (and it can happen when you find yourself meandering through the produce section, enticed buy the vibrant colors and unique textures, picking any and everything up, swearing you're "gonna make ________ soon" but you really won't!), freeze them. Chop, ziploc and label them up. Simple as that. As for planning meals, I say make what you "feel"! I've tried mapping out a week's menu, but honestly, I never know what I want until I wake up and have that 'feeling' on my tastebuds! Luckily, my second home is the Farmer's Market, so I have no qualms about hopping in the car and picking up the necessary ingredients needed to satisfy my craving!

If you had to name 9 foods/spices/herbs, etc. that one should keep in their kitchen at all times, what would they be and why?

1. Red Onion

2. Yellow Onion

3. Scallions

4. Cilantro (fresh)

5. Basil (fresh)

6. Garlic (fresh)

7. Ginger (fresh)

8. Hot Peppers

9. More hot peppers, onion, garlic and peppers are like my "Holy Trinity" that I use as a base to almost all my cooked dishes. With cilantro, I can blend it with said "Holy Trinity" and add seasonings and vinegars, making a RECAO (Hispanic seasoning blend) which is also known as Cilantro Chutney (used in Indian cuisines). I keep basil on hand because my children love pesto and ginger is simply a must-have, whether I want to cook with it, juice it, or nurse a stomach ache.

How do you define flyness?

"Flyness" is an essence; an 'aura' if you will. It's that special touch that you give to anything you're involved in, creatively speaking. It's adding your individuality to anything (styling, cooking, interior design, etc.) and being recognized as your flyness, without having to say a word! Now, that's FLY!

Just for fun! If you were throwing a get together for a few of your closest friends, what would you serve for the following AND what type of music, if any, would you play in the background?

Beverage: "FUSIONADE" (a blend of tropical juices, berries, sweets and LOVE), with a little "spike" on hand (coconut rum for those who partake in alcohol, Ginger-flavored KOMBUCHA for my non-alcholics)

Appetizer: Mini Empanadas (hands-down, all-time favorite with meat and veggie lovers alike!)

Salad: Vietnamese Fresh Rolls w/ Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Entree: Dominican Rice and Peas with Jerk Tofu & Veggie Skewers and Platanos Maduros (an ode to my Caribbean heritage).

Dessert: Raw Strawberry Cheesecake

Last Thoughts

We are anxiously awaiting a cookbook from Jamila! But for now, you can keep up with all of the fabulous things that she has to offer by bookmarking her website [www.earthcandyarts.com}