Meatless Monday: What Raw Vegan Looks Like

She's hot, she's vegan, she's the grandmother of seven.

Mimi Kirk, author of Live Raw, was voted PETA's sexiest vegetarian over 50. How much over? She's 72.

"You can be healthy as you age," says Kirk. "I'm an example."

As she inched closer to 70, Kirk, who's been meatless since she was 30, started seeing signs of age-related issues like arthritis. Then there was the weight she'd gained by cooking fab meatless meals to impress her (much younger) boyfriend. "I felt I was getting up there," she says. "I didn't want to have what my family has -- cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis. I felt like there was no time to mess around." She went raw in 2008 and hasn't looked back since.

"Within a week, I could tell the difference," she says. The weight left, along with the arthritis. "My doctors are happy every time they check me out, I feel my energy, I can go , go, go."

A raw vegan diet -- uncooked produce, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains -- works on the premise that nutrients, especially healthy enzymes, are destroyed when food is cooked at over 112 degrees. Though controversial, raw vegan is the diet advocated by the Hippocrates Health Institute, which has worked with hotties including Demi Moore and Alicia Silverstone but prides itself on helping tens of thousands of people reverse catastrophic illness. As for Kirk, "Improvement was immediate for me. That's how I know it works."

Kirk started out in television as Mary Tyler Moore's stand-in, founded and edited The City Planet, a Los Angeles environmental newspaper and raised four kids. She wrote Live Raw because she believes in the benefits of a raw diet but also because "I love good food. I love lasagna, I figured out how to do that raw." Likewise quiche, cornbread and chocolate -- all dairy-free raw delights her grandchildren love.

Making the switch to a raw diet "does take a little time to figure out," she admits. "You have to figure out how things to stick together, how to soften a vegetable, make a soup." Most raw vegans rely on dehydrators and vita-mix blenders to do what Kirk calls uncooking. "Now all the raw food is really easy."

It's easy to make, luscious to eat, healthful and don't forget the hotness factor. Kirk realizes her looks make for a big selling point, and she's working it. She's got fans from teenagers to "people in my age bracket," but her biggest fan base is " women in their forties worried about not feeling or looking good. They're scared because they don't want plastic surgery."

Neither does Kirk. She admits to color assistance with her hair, but plastic surgery? Botox? Fuggetaboutit. She's into raw vegan for other reasons, too. "Being vegan means not killing to eat, that's the first thing. And with raw, nothing is packaged, everything is fresh. We're lucky to have a farm stand ten minutes from here -- that's where we get most of our food. I'm making a difference with my carbon footprint."

You can do it, too. Kirk recommends taking small steps. Start with a smoothie or green drink. Or make something you already know that happens to be raw, like Kirk's summer-perfect gazpacho.

"I think this food is very healing for the planet, for the soul. When you go to the farmers market and the farmer says he just picked it that morning, there's so much pride, so much love -- that's a huge thing. You're ingesting love, it's got to make you feel good." And with Kirk it shows.

"I feel like a cheerleader, I want to get my my pompoms out." And the thing is, Kirk probably can. Not bad for 72.

From Mimi Kirk's Live Raw

You can also make this juice in your blender by adding water to the mixture.

Tips: Serve with a side bowl of chopped tomatoes, cucumber,red onion, avocado, and red chili peppers for guests to add more chunks or spice to their soup.

3 cups ripe red tomatoes, seeded and diced (heirloom whenever possible)
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 avocado, diced
2 cups cucumber, diced
2 cups red bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne, if you like it spicy
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon juice from a lemon or lime
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups of veggie juice--made by juicing a combination
of any vegetables you have on hand including celery,
carrots, broccoli, tomato, leek, cilantro, spinach, and
red bell pepper.

Mix together diced tomato, celery, avocado, cucumber, red pepper, and onion. Divide the mixture in half, placing 1/2 into your blender along with the garlic, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and vinegar. Blend until smooth. Add vegetable juice to the blender and blend until incorporated.

Taste for seasonings and adjust to your liking. Pour the mixture into the bowl of diced vegetables and store covered in the refrigerator. Let sit overnight, or at least 3-4 hours if you just can't wait.

Spice it up a bit with jalapeño or dried red chili flakes. You can serve in shot glasses with a wedge of lime for a dinner starter; or for a lunch portion, ladle into large colorful bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves and a thin wedge of lime.

Serves 4 to 8.