Monday, December 24, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a Raw Christmas

In the summer when the weather was hot and produce was plentiful, I couldn't imagine what it might be like to be raw in winter, especially during the winter holidays.

However, while produce varieties aren't the most plentiful in this season, tips for raw holiday feasting are.

Check out this free gift - sign up with your email address and receive  12 different PDF file gifts for tips and recipes for the holidays.

To help get into the holiday spirit, I attended Chef Areeya Marie's Raw Prep Class at the Go Raw Cafe.

Chef Areeya

On the menu was Ree's Spiced Holiday Nog Milk, Herbed Root Vegetable Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette, Country Cornbread Stuffing Rollups, Rosemary Crusted Sweet "Neats" on a bed of Savory Greens, and for dessert, Spiced Pear Crisp with Mango Fig Drizzle.

It was delicious, and as always, Ree's class was fun and informative.  Her Rosemary Crusted Sweet "Neats" inspired me to try to make some holiday "sham" for our holiday meal.

Right now I'm marinating pieces of young Thai coconut meat in a mixture of organic shoyu, maple syrup, ground clove, ground allspice, ground dried onion, ground dried garlic, smoked paprika, sea salt, mustard powder, a drop of liquid smoke,and a smidgen of marjoram and thyme.  I'm hoping that after marinating and dehydrating, the flavors will resemble ham.  We'll call it "sham."  Of course, I realize that the maple syrup is not raw and the liquid smoke is probably not optimal, but at least it isn't cured pig with nitrates!

Here are some links to some recipes and ideas we might try.  Later I'll return and report on how it went.

Raw Wassail

Raw Figgy Pudding

Or perhaps this raw Christmas pudding

I've already commented on this delicious Persimmon Nog

Maybe some Gingerbread Cookies

Walnut Pate


Raw Snowman

Raw Triple Layer Cake 

Excalibur Presents A Healthy Holiday Menu


What a terrific day!  We made a raw Christmas pudding by putting together a mashup of two recipes from the links we posted above.  We used dried fruit without sulfates, and it was mostly raw except for some agave nectar, which can be replaced with dates for those who wish to be 100% raw.

Raw Vegan Christmas Pudding

1 cup hazelnuts, soaked 8 hours and rinsed
1 cup walnuts, soaked 8 hours and rinsed
1/2 cup pecans, soaked 8 hours and rinsed
12 deglet noor dates
4 kalamata string figs
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
5 dried pineapple rings
1/2 cup dried montmorency cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots
juice and zest of two oranges
juice and zest of one lemon
3/4 cup almond pulp
1/2 cup mesquite powder
1/4 cup lucuma powder
1 tsp vanilla bean powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix the nuts and fruit in a large bowl.  Place about 1/3 to 1/2 of the mixture in a food processor, (whatever your machine can handle,) and process until finely chopped.  Repeat with the rest of the mixture.  For added texture, reserve about 1/3 of the chopped mixture to stir back in at the end.  Stir into the remaining 2/3 of the chopped mixture the orange and lemon juice and zest and the dry ingredients, and process again in batches until the mixture starts to bind and form a ball in the machine.  If it doesn't bind, add small amounts of  orange juice, processing until it does.  Return it to the large  bowl and stir in the almond pulp and the reserved chopped fruit and nuts.  At this point the mixture should be approximately the texture of cookie dough.

Form the dough into small cakes using ramekins or cupcake tins.  I used silicone cupcake liners, which worked very well.  Place on a dehydrator screen and dehydrate at about 105 degrees Fahrenheit for about 4 hours, or until the cakes begin to shrink away from the sides of the molds.  It smells divine as it's drying!  This made 14 little cakes.

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups macadamia or cashew nuts, soaked 8 hours and rinsed
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla powder
juice and zest of one lemon
1-2 cups water as needed  (if you aren't a 100% raw purist, you could consider adding a bit of dark rum to the water for flavor)

Blend the first 4 ingredients in a high speed blender.  Add just enough water to get it going.  After the mixture is smooth and creamy, continue adding water and blending until it is the thickness you like.

A note about mac nuts vs. cashews:  I think that cashews would be better for this recipe, however in our family some members are allergic to cashews.  I think cashews make a lighter, more velvety topping with a buttery flavor.   

I'll try to write about the "sham" tomorrow. . .

Update on the "sham:"

It did look and taste like ham.  I added dried powdered beet to the marinade, which tinted it pink.  Brushing it with cold-pressed roasted sesame oil at the end of drying gave it a sheen and added to the "meaty" flavor .  Unfortunately, the texture wasn't right.  It turned out more like the texture of chewy baked lasagna noodles than ham, (you know, the ones on the edges of the pan after they get a bit dried out.)  Perhaps with trial and error it will be possible to produce and acceptable "sham."  Or maybe we'll call it hamish.  Because it is rather ham-ish.

The Christmas pudding recipe, on the other hand, is a keeper,  Not only was it good, but it's a bit better each day.

2nd update on the "hamish:"

Yesterday, my husband made "hamish sammiches" by putting the marinated coconut on Ezekiel bread with mustard.  It was good, although it would have been better on raw bread.  I asked him if I should make it again, and he said yes, definitely.  Next time, I'll start sprouting seeds and grain for raw bread when starting the coconut marinade.  That way, by the time we have leftover hamish, we'll have fresh raw bread.

When making hamish, I'll pay closer attention to the texture of each coconut in the beginning of the process.  In young Thai coconuts, the texture of the meat varies in each fruit, and you never know what will be inside before you open it.  My current theory is that the thicker, firmer coconut meat should be reserved for making milk or cream, and the thinner, softer meat makes more tender hamish. 

I am under the impression that many of the more seasoned raw foodists don't bother with trying to make fruits and vegetables taste like meats and cheeses.  They mostly consume green juices, smoothies, salads, raw soups, and occasionally raw nori sheets and maybe some almond butter.  We eat a lot of that too, but we are still in transition.  I don't want my family to feel as if they are missing anything.  We like the flavors and textures of meats and cheeses, we just don't like the consequences of eating them.  Perhaps, gradually, as time goes by, we will eat fewer raw desserts, raw "uncheeses," "hamish," etc.  For now, we enjoy them.

Many thanks to Chef Areeya for the tips and inspiration to make raw food appealing and accessible for everyone. 

Raw Food Express

In a previous post I observed that there are three raw vegan restaurants in Las Vegas.  There are actually four, and I'd like to do a writeup of each of them, starting with a recent visit to the Raw Food Express.

The first time we visited the Raw Food Express, it was strictly for convenience.  One of my children had a medical appointment that ended at 5:00 p.m., and the other had a dance rehearsal that started at 6:00  We didn't have time to go home to eat in between.  Fortunately, Raw Food Express was minutes away from the dance studio.  I called my husband and asked if he could meet us there for dinner.

Upon arrival we were expecting something like every other cafe we have visited, but there were some important differences.

Raw Food Express

The main difference is the way the food is presented.  I had explored the website to look at the menu before we left the house, and as a result I was anticipating typical menu ordering upon arrival.  However, this is not quite the way it works.  If you pop in on the spur of the moment you can select your food from the deli case, which is refreshed throughout the day.  Clients who prefer to order from the menu may call in their orders in the morning at (702) 992-0499 in order to pick up their food for lunch or dinner.

Chef Xavier

Another difference is Chef Xavier Dillard, who is the grandson of the owner of the restaurant.  Warm, gentle, kind, and passionate about raw food, Chef Xavier takes the time to explain the concept, and serves samples of the food to try before you make your selection.  By the time you are finished eating, it almost seems as if you have been a guest in a private home.  More than a chef, he is also a good host.

The food:  the flavors are very similar to the raw food that we eat at home.  Our palates are adjusted to raw food, and so to us the fresh flavors of deliciously combined raw fruits and vegetables speak for themselves. I'd love to know if newcomers to raw food have the same reaction.  My experience was that the fresh flavors exploded in my mouth and it made me feel renewed and energized within minutes of eating it.

The first time we went to Raw Food Express we were in a bit of a rush, so we didn't have time for sampling.  The four of us shared the spicy red bell pepper hummus, the crispy corn confetti salad, the mac "chicken" salad wraps,  and the apple sauce with cinnamon.  It was tasty and satisfying.

Lebanese Salad

Zucchini Pasta Alfredo

The second time we ate there, my husband and I arrived without the children so that we could focus solely on the food.  We each had a Lebanese Salad, shared an order of the Zucchini Pasta Alfredo, and topped it off with the Chocolate and Vanilla Peanut Butter Balls, washing it down with alkalized water and Chef Xavier's delicious "The Works" Smoothie.  The alkalized water was offered free of charge with the meal.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls, Vanilla Peanut Butter Balls

During both visits, our meals were delicious and affordable, and Chef Xavier was a pleasure to meet.  We walked in hungry, and walked out feeling quite full and happy.

Chef Xavier offers something called "The Smoothie Program." so that his clients can order fresh smoothies to take home in larger quantities.  He created his delicious signature smoothie, "The Works" as a way to introduce fresh vegetables into his own diet. He says about the smoothie program, "To maximize the benefits you have to do something on a consistent basis.  So people would come in here every day or every other day, drinking a smoothie."

Now he offers 32 oz. size containers that people take home with them.  They can put it in the refrigerator, and drink a glass first thing in the morning before breakfast.  It contains cinnamon and avocado, which helps control the blood sugar and helps prevent cravings between meals.  Drink two a day, with meals or between meals, for optimal nutritional benefits, and to help reduce intake of empty calories.  Eventually, after drinking a smoothie twice daily on a consistent basis, the palate will adapt to the flavors of the healthier foods, reducing cravings for sub-optimal "junk" foods.  He says, "Keep doing that on a consistent basis, your palate is going to change.  You won't want to eat the same foods."

He has several smoothie clients who are athletes, some professional and some aspiring to become professional.  The antioxidants in the smoothies help eliminate lactic acid in the muscle tissues.   

We are very lucky to have the Raw Food Express in our community as an alternative to unhealthy fast food.   We'll be visiting again soon. Go on in, meet Chef Xavier, and try the food for yourself! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dark Chocolate Pudding with an Extra Helping of Love

The other day I made raw vegan banana pudding for  my children by blending bananas, dates, and chia seeds.  One of my kids protested, "I want REAL pudding!"  He was referring to the stuff that comes in the little plastic cups and has next to ZERO nutrition.  I had to laugh.

So here is my challenge:  To come up with something that is nutrient dense, with no processed sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or unhealthy fats, that my children will LOVE.

The little guy who wasn't enamored by the banana experiment is at home sick today, and chocolate pudding is one of his favorite foods.  So how can I make it super healthy and good for fighting winter viruses?  I went to work making a pudding with natural healing properties and terrific chocolate pudding flavor. 

Recently I read that papaya is good for fighting colds.  Manuka honey, while not vegan, is said to be effective both internally and externally against both viruses and bacterial infections. I began with two of the main ingredients for a popular recipe for raw chocolate mousse and improvised from there.

Raw Dark Chocolate Pudding with an Extra Helping of Love

2 medium avocado, pitted and peel removed
1/2 to 1 whole medium papaya, peeled and seeds removed.  (reserve seeds for salad dressing - delicious!)
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsps cocoa powder, (raw cacao powder is better if you have it)
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 1/2 tbsp raw manuka honey (substitute pitted dates to taste if you don't use honey)
2 tsp xyletol
1 tsp ground vanilla bean
1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt
(note:  keep chia seeds at the ready in case your mixture doesn't turn out thick enough, and a date or two in case you want it sweeter.)

Process all ingredients in a food processor until glossy and silky.  I had chia seeds on hand in case the mixture was too soupy, but they weren't needed.  Taste and adjust.  You don't want to taste the papaya - just sweet chocolateyness.  For this reason, you might want to start with half the papaya, taste, and continue to add more as desired.  Also, I think it's best to not use too much manuka honey - it has a strong flavor that will compete with the chocolate.  If this isn't sweet enough for your liking, and you don't wish to increase the xyletol, try adding a pitted date or two.

Note:  This makes 4 generous servings.  We found that the combination of papaya and avocado does NOT keep well.  It's delicious when it's freshly made, but the next day the leftovers tasted a bit. . . odd.  So make this one up right before you intend to eat it.

The verdict?  The little guy loved it and said thank you.  The other one reminded me to write this one down - it's a keeper!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Few Dinner Recipes

Here are a few of my go-to dinner recipes that seem to be working well lately.

The first one is for an asparagus soup.  It was inspired by this recipe.  It's fast, simple, filling, and serves 4.  

Asparagus Soup

2 bunches of asparagus
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, soaked and rinsed
juice of one lemon
3 stalks celery
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp sea salt, more to taste
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
sprinkle white pepper

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and discard for compost.  Slice off the tips and marinate them in about half the lemon juice.  Place the remaining ingredients in a high speed  blender and blend until smooth, adding just enough water to get the blender going. Season to taste.

I've also made this with a young Thai coconut, and have added seasonings like thyme and marjoram.  In the future we'll try it with walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.

Russell James offers a delicious recipe for Broccoli in Hoisini Sauce with Parsnip Rice.  It's absolutely delicious, simple, light, and required no adjustments.  I'll definitely make this one again and again.  The broccoli shrinks down quite a bit in the dehydrator.  Next, time, I'd like to experiment with increasing the broccoli marinade and increasing the time in the dehydrator, so that the meal can be made in the morning before starting the work day.

Next we have Susan Powers at Rawmazing, and her Brussels Sprouts with Figs.  The only change I made to this one was to omit the figs because they aren't easy to find right now, and I added a drizzle of balsamic vinegar for a little extra flavor.  If you make this one, quarter the Brussels sprouts unless they are really tiny.  This way the dehydrator will penetrate and wilt them all the way through, making them easier to eat.  Or, experiment with a longer drying time.  Next time, I'd like to see how this dish is with chopped persimmons or pomegranate seeds instead of the figs.

Another one from Rawmazing:  Sprouted Red Lentils with Curry Sauce and Kale.  This one was also delicious.  We omitted the crushed cashew topping and used brown lentils instead of red.  This is another one I plan to make again and again.  This one can be whipped up in minutes, especially if some of the people who will share the meal with you also help.  No dehydrator is needed.

And finally, Cauliflower Cheese.  This one can be started in the morning and finished right before serving.  We used macadamia nuts instead of cashews.  Place your nuts in water in the morning, and wash and trim the cauliflower, leaving it in the marinade during the day.  Right before serving, whip up the sauce in the blender, stir the cauliflower.  If you want it warm, place it in the dehydrator for an hour or two before serving.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Raw Food In Winter

Two of the local farms we were visiting every Saturday have closed for the winter. The change of season has brought changes in what we eat.

Living a raw food lifestyle in winter may seem like a bit of a challenge at first. Brandi Rollins includes some strategies for eating raw food in winter in her book, Confessions Of An East Coast Raw Vegan.   Some of those strategies include eating more hardy greens like collards and kale, and investing in a freezer to store the fruits of summer and fall to use over the winter months.

At this time there are plenty of delicious persimmons in the markets.  One of the most delicious treats we enjoyed over Thanksgiving was this Persimmon Nog by Kristina of Rawfully Organic.
It really is every bit as delicious as Kristina describes.

Here's our adaptation:

The meat and water of 4 young Thai Coconuts
4 ripe, soft persimmons
20 fresh pitted dates
1 tsp ground vanilla
1 tablespoon of cinammon
2 tsp nutmeg with extra for garnish

Soak the dates in the coconut water for two hours in the refrigerator. Remove the leaves and stem from the persimmon. No need to remove the seeds. Combine the dates in coconut water with the coconut flesh, persimmons, dates, cinnamon, clove and vanilla in a high speed blender until smooth and creamy.  Pour into glasses and garnish with an extra sprinkle of nutmeg.  Serves four generously.  Note:  If you use twice the persimmons, it will taste a lot like pumpkin nog.

Over Thanksgiving we had family visiting, and enjoyed a wonderful holiday together.  I made a combination of raw and cooked Thanksgiving classics.  One of the things that I used to find difficult about Thanksgiving was working all day to prepare a huge meal for my family, resulting in a huge mess in the kitchen an hour after the meal, uncomfortably full family members and lots of leftovers.  A strategy that seemed to work better this year was to spread the dishes out over the week.  Instead of one huge meal we enjoyed some delicious, light, raw versions of seasonal Thanksgiving classics served over several days.  So, for example, I made a raw version of the classic green bean casserole  several days before Thanksgiving and a raw pumpkin pie the Tuesday before.  On Thanksgiving day, I had intended to serve a beautiful raw cranberry dessert thanks to a recipe by Chef Areeya at the Go Raw Cafe, but we were so full from the raw-and-cooked feast including a delicious raw dressing that we didn't eat it until the following day. 

At this time, we are no longer fasting on Fridays.  It was practical and beneficial at first, since we were picking up most of our weekly produce on Saturday mornings.  It was making me feel good.    However, after a while, I began to observe myself going off-track on Friday evenings and afternoons, ravenously devouring non-beneficial foods.  Then the farms closed for the winter, and we stopped picking up our massive weekly haul of produce. 

Perhaps we may go back to Friday fasting in the summer after the farms have reopened, but for now, our strategy is a little different.  Each day, we are striving to consume sufficient beneficial foods.  This includes at minimum three cups of leafy greens, three cups of brassica or cruciferous vegetables, and three cups of brightly colored fruits, vegetables or berries.  In addition, we include a small daily handful of nuts or seeds, a coconut or an avocado and occasional sea vegetables.  

We try to avoid eating later in the evening, and try to finish eating the last meal of the day by 6:30 P.M.  This can be a challenge when there are so many gatherings in the evenings where food is served.  There are also times when we are so busy in the late afternoons and early evenings that it seems like it might be a good idea to put off dinner until later.  Gradually I am starting to adjust to the idea that as the daylight begins to fade, it's time to begin to prepare to settle in for the evening, giving our bodies and our digestive systems time to rest.

One trick I'm learning is to prep the foods for all of the day's meals in the morning.  My husband preps his food in the evening for his lunch the next day.  Then I check the fridge to see if we need anything, and run out to the store for the next day's bunch of kale or fresh lemons.  I place the next day's nuts in water to soak.  The following morning, after making breakfast, it makes sense to prep the foods for lunch and dinner.  This way, it's like prepping one meal instead of three, and there is only one main kitchen cleanup for the day.  Another benefit to this strategy is that at any time during the day if we find ourselves suddenly hungry, there is already prepped food on hand, and no need to grab convenience or fast food.  Of course this is the ideal strategy and there are days when it doesn't work out this way.

Despite beginning the raw food lifestyle in May of this year, and despite being between 75% and 100% raw for weeks at a time, we are still in transition.  There are times when some family members still crave foods that are not raw vegan or at all healthy.  There are times at parties, events and special occasions when we decide to "go with the flow" and eat foods we would not normally eat.  One raw food blogger says that if a raw foodist is experiencing cooked food cravings and is healthy and well nourished, then they are probably not really craving the cooked foods but is feeling nostalgic for the happy memories from eating the cooked foods.  I have experienced some truth in this.  It seems like nearly every time I succumb to the desire to eat something that I used to think was "amazing," despite it being high in sugar, artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, salt, unhealthy fats, gluten, casein, nitrites, etc., I immediately begin to feel as ill from eating the food as I felt before we switched to this lifestyle.  The good news is that as we learn new techniques and prepare new recipes, we are laying down layers upon layers of new memories, and soon the cravings for old foods will be replaced by cravings for the new foods.

A year ago it was pretty common for us to stop at the snack bar at Costco and buy a hot dog for every member of the family, washing it down with soda.  A few weeks ago, my husband and I went shopping at Costco, and I told him I REALLY wanted to stop for a hot dog.  Shortly afterward, I was experiencing nausea and mild gastric discomfort.  These days, when I occasionally eat some of the less-beneficial foods that used  to be standard before cleaning up my diet, I pay attention to the sensations in my body.  Sometimes I experience body aches, headache, fatigue, mental fog, and gastrointestinal discomfort.  I pay attention to these feelings and learn from them.  Perhaps the most effective way to reduce cravings for less beneficial food, besides eating a nutrient rich diet of clean raw foods, is to eat less-beneficial foods and pay the price.

Our tiny garden, if you can call it that, is doing far better now in December than it was in the summer, with some robust arugula, a thriving dill, a few Swiss chard, a broccoli and a Brussels sprouts plant.  One tomato plant is bravely hanging on, with a small green tomato that seems to be taking forever to ripen.  I'm beginning to think that gardening in the Mojave Desert might be possible after all.

Next time, I'll post some of the go-to dinner recipes I've been relying on recently.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Raw Vegan Gingerbread

If you can't make it through the holidays without gingerbread and you want to keep it raw, try this recipe.  It does contain blackstrap molasses, which is not raw.  If you want to omit the molasses, you can try substituting with palm sugar.

Raw Vegan Gingerbread Slathered with Ginger Apple Butter

For the bread

8 cups raw pumpkin puree
3 cups almond flour
2 1/2 cups dates, soaked in water
3/4 cups coursely chopped ginger
1 tsp coconut oil
 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses (not raw)
1 tbsp of powdered ginger
1 tsp clove
 1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 cup flax meal

To make raw pumpkin puree:  wash and peel pumpkin, slice it into strips.  Run the strips through the shredding blade of the food processor.  Switch to the S-blade, and process the shredded pumpkin again until it is smooth.

For the almond flour, I used about 1/2 almond pulp from making almond milk, and 1/2 almond flour purchased from a store.  The Raw Chef Russell James says that you can dehydrate your almond pulp to make almond flour.  I haven't tried it yet.

Drain the dates, and place them in the food processor with the ginger.  I used some of the the coconut oil to grease the measuring cup for the molasses.  Add the coconut oil and molasses to the food processor, and process until it is a smooth puree.  Stir it into the pumpkin mixture.

Stir together the flax meal and dried spices, and then stir that into the pumpkin mixture.  Divide the batter into four portions.  One at a time, place each portion in the food processor, whipping it until light, then gently spread it on a teflex dehydrator sheet.  It should look like a large pancake.

Dehydrate on low, about 105 degrees Fahrenheit, for eight hours.  Then flip each "bread" over so that the other side can dry.  Before you put it back in the dehydrator, use a pizza cutter to score each sheet into about nine pieces.  Dehydrate until it has reached the desired texture.  This particular batch required another 24 hours.

The apple butter slather was so simple it's ridiculous.  Simply take about 6 sweet apples, wash and core them, (don't bother peeling them,) and toss them in the food processor with about 3 dates, a tbsp of dried ginger, and a tsp each of cinnamon and clove.  Puree until smooth and creamy.  Adjust the sweetening and spices to taste.

If you want, you can sculpt the gingerbread dough.  My husband made a Ninja Turtle for our kids:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vegas Is A Great Place To Be Raw

Last night my husband and I attended another talk given by John Kohler at the Pure Health Store here in Las Vegas.  It was terrific and every bit as good as his talks on YouTube.

Last night he talked about how to save money on a raw vegan diet.  He mentioned several resources, and there was one in particular that we haven't investigated, the Master Gardeners Orchard at 4600 Horse Drive in North Las Vegas.  They are currently open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon.  We already visit the Gilcrease and Cowboy Trails farms for local produce, so it's nice to have another one to add to the list.

He said one very interesting thing that caught my ear.  I believe he referred to himself as a "nutrientarian."   What a great word for a lifestyle where the food is chosen and prepared for optimal nutrition, rather than simply finding food that is fast, cheap, filling and tasty.

Unfortunately I needed to leave the talk early, but hopefully he'll post it to YouTube and it will be possible to watch the rest of it online.

So why is it great to be raw in Las Vegas?  Because we have a huge, terrific raw community!  There are over 1,000 people in the very-active Las Vegas Raw Food meetup group.  There are three raw vegan restaurants, and I am aware of a couple more that offer raw options on the menu.

At one of those restaurants, the Go Raw Cafe Westside, Chef Areeya continues to offer a terrific monthly raw prep classes.  The fee for the monthly workshop, $30.00, is a bit of a splurge for a family on a tight budget, but my husband and I feel it's important.  Food is central to our family culture.  After decades of cooking food the conventional way, I find it helpful to find support for our new lifestyle.  Chef Areeya comes up with amazing recipes that evoke the flavors and textures of old fashioned comfort food.  It's so delicious that it's easy to forget that it's good for you.

Anyone who is interested in the raw food lifestyle is very lucky to live in Las Vegas.  If you are one of those people, I highly recommend that you join the meetup group.  There are interesting events offered regularly and you are sure to find one that suits you.

Even if you don't live in Las Vegas, it seems like most cities in the USA have at least one raw vegan cafe or restaurant.  If you happen to live somewhere that doesn't have thriving raw vegan community, you might just be the catalyst to get one started!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tools and Equipment for the Raw Vegan Kitchen

This is the third installment in the series on information for going raw.  Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here.
Early on in our decision to go raw for the summer, we recognized that the small appliances we had been using to cook food were obsolete, at least for the time being.

Consider the toaster, the microwave oven, the coffee maker, the crockpot, and the countertop electric grill.  In our home, most of these items are wrapped up and put away in the back of a closet.   The electric grill was donated to charity.  The rest may follow - we aren't completely sure we won't need them at some point.  When we cleared the counters of these things, we  made room for the new equipment that eventually followed.

It's not absolutely necessary to have each piece of equipment listed below to get into raw food, although many of these items will make it easier.

Please note:  I do not receive any type of revenue or gifts for mentioning products here, and I can't make any guarantees that anyone will be satisfied with the products.  These are simply observations and suggestions.

1.  High Speed Blender

The differences between a high speed blender and a conventional kitchen blender are the power of the motor and the speed at which the blades turn.  Advocates of the high speed blender say that the blade speed is necessary to break down raw fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, increasing digestibility and making the nutrients accessible.  It's a terrific tool for making green smoothies which is a staple in the diet of many raw foodists.

These are a big investment, however the better ones will last a very long time, and a high speed blender is useful for any kitchen, not just for raw food.   Vita-Mix advertizes that it will take the place of your juicer and your food processor, and for those who eat cooked food, it even heats soups.  The Vita-Mix comes with a seven year warranty and certain parts like the blade bearing assembly and the drive socket can be easily replaced by the consumer.  Since we use our blender several times each day and depend on it fairly heavily, we keep spare parts on hand.  We've had to replace a part only once in the last 8 or 9 years.
How to put in a new blade bearing assembly

How to put in a new drive socket

The Blendtec and the Vitamix comparison

A Vita Mix demonstration

If you can't afford a high speed blender right now, you can make many of the foods using a regular blender.  For example, most salads do not require a blender, but it may help with the salad dressing.

In order to make smoothies with a conventional kitchen blender you may need to add water to the blender and run the blender longer.  You may find that it won't completely liquify all raw foods, especially raw greens.  If you have a good food processor and a conventional kitchen blender, you might want to try a two-step process, by first pureeing your more fibrous foods in the food processor and then transferring it to your blender with softer foods and liquids to make a smoothie.  In this way you won't be as likely to burn up your blender.

Here's a comparison of a Blendtec and a Ninja 

2.  Food Processor

Some VitaMix advocates claim that they don't need a food processor because their Vita-Mix will do the job of a food processor.  However, in our home we often run both machines simultaneously, and I can't imagine getting by without both.  I particularly like the food processor for shredding, grating and slicing vegetables and fruits.

Here is a comparison between a high speed blender and a food processor. 

It's possible to do most of the jobs that a food processor will do with a knife, cutting board, grater and a large mortar and pestle.  However, a food processor will save time.   

3.  Juicer

Many raw foodists are into drinking fresh raw juice, particularly green juice.  There are a few different tools that can be used for this.  If you already have a high speed blender, it can be used to make juice simply by placing the blended produce in a nut milk bag and straining it.  Here's a video showing how. 

There are different types of juicers for different jobs:

Masticating Juicer:  This type slowly grinds and presses the fruits and vegetables, pushing juice out in the end.  These are great for greens, however some brands are criticized for not separating more juice from the pulp.
Centrifugal Juicer:  This type rapidly grinds the produce with a spinning blade, then spins the juice of out of the pulp, similar to the way a salad spinner works.  They are liked for getting more juice out of the pulp, but don't do a great job of breaking down stringy greens and wheat grass.
Triturating Juicer:  Also called a twin gear juicer.  It slowly pushes the produce between two interlocking gears.  It's widely considered the best type of juicer because it extracts the most juice and works on more types of produce such as stringy greens, however it's also the most expensive.
Citrus Juicer:  These are nice to have on hand when you need some lemon juice for a recipe or want to make orange juice for breakfast.

4.  Mandolin

Some raw food recipes call for thin slices of vegetables, such as long thin slices of zucchini to be used as a substitute for lasagne noodles, or thin round slices of jicama as a substitute for a crispy corn tortilla.  A food processor slices vegetables thinly, but doesn't make large thin slices.  For larger items, a mandolin can make even, paper thin slices.

There are a couple of concerns about these types of slicers.  One is that it's very important to use the safety guard when slicing with them, to avoid slicing fingers.  At the same time, the guard won't easily hold larger pieces of vegetables.  For this reason, it's a good idea to use it with a kitchen cut-protection glove.

Another concern about mandolin slicers is quality and durability.  A low cost mandolin will be made of plastic with cheap blades that cannot be sharpened.  The professional grade stainless steel mandolins are more durable and some of them can be dismantled and sharpened.

If you are unsure whether a mandolin will be something you will use regularly in your kitchen, it might be a good idea to purchase a cheap one and see how you like it.  If you soon wear it out, then consider whether to purchase a more expensive model.

5.  Knives, cutting boards and other hand tools

Young Thai coconuts are frequently mentioned in raw vegan recipes, but they can be tough to open.  You'll need a really good strong knife.  We have a nice heavy cleaver which works well for that.  It was an investment but it should last a long time.  At first we purchased a cheaper one, but we bent the blade the first time we struck the coconut with it.

Some raw foodists recommend ceramic knives for chopping and mincing produce.  We have one, and it's terrific, but I don't notice much difference in how it performs over other knives.  Some raw foodists say that ceramic knives help prevent oxidation of fruits and vegetables.

Your cutting board should be a type that is easy to clean and will not dull your knife blades.  Additionally you'll need at least one vegetable peeler.  We find we need a vegetable  peeler and cutting board for each member of the family, because we often prepare our meals together as a family.

Additional hand tools that are helpful:  knife sharpening tools, a lemon squeezer for those times when you just want to quickly squeeze one lemon or lime, cherry pitter, apple corer, citrus zester, nut milk bag, coconut demeater,  and Cai Bao.

6.  Spiral Vegetable Slicer

One of the secrets to a great raw meal is to take a nice firm vegetable and turn the flesh into noodles.  Put some sauce over it, and you have healthy, gluten free pasta that you can make before a SAD (Standard American Diet) cook can boil water.  There are many brands of spiral slicers available, including the Saladacco, the Spiralizer or the Benriner Turning Slicer.  If you don't have one, you can just use a vegetable peeler to create long flat strips.  A good low tech option is the noodle tool available here

7. Dehydrator

A good dehydrator has a thermostat and temperature control, so you never heat your food above the recommended temperature.  This is important because one of the main ideas behind raw food is preserving the nutrients in the food that are damaged by heat.  Raw foodists differ, but the recommended maximum temperature range is normally between 112 and 118 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dehydrators soften some fruits and vegetables without cooking, which is really terrific for foods like broccoli, green beans and Brussels sprouts.  They are also used to make cookies, crackers and breads without high heat.  They are even used to warm casseroles and soups.  And of course, they are used to dehydrate fresh fruits and vegetables so that they can be stored longer.

Some say it's possible to manage with a regular oven at the lowest setting with the oven door open.  It didn't work for me.  Another option might be to use the sun to dry and warm foods.  I have had some success with a sun-fry recipe by Storm Talifero of the Garden Diet.  Simply warm and wilt your food by placing it a glass casserole dish with a clear glass lid, and place it in the sun for a few hours.  If you live in a place with strong sunshine you might try drying food outside. You can find information for building a solar dehydrator here and here.

We have an Excalibur dehydrator and we absolutely love it.  We use it to dry tomatoes, which saves money on sun-dried tomatoes, and I use it to dry extra produce so that it doesn't go to waste.  Once it is dried, the vegetables can be used to intensify the flavor of your dishes.  We also use it to make snacks and breads.  Some raw foodists think that dehydrated foods are not as healthy as fresh, ripe, raw food, largely because the water content is removed.  We think that dehydrated raw snacks and ingredients are fine as long as we are taking in enough fluids and nutrition overall. 

8. Food Storage Containers

If a person decides they want to purchase a dehydrator, then they are probably going to need somewhere to put to put all that chewy, crispy dehydrated goodness.  We found that when I stopped buying bottled, canned and packaged foods, we ended up packaging all the fresh delicious food we made with the raw produce.  My pantry is currently filled with containers of dried tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers, herbs, etc.  The fridge contains an assortment of fresh raw dips, spreads and salad dressings.  Salad greens and other fruits and vegetables are also placed in food storage containers.

Out of concern for the environment, we prefer reusable containers.  While we aren't big fans of plastic, it is sometimes practical when it is reusable, recyclable and  BPA free.  If it's made from recycled materials, that's a plus.

Canning jars are a great option for most food storage.  Since the seals and rings that come with conventional canning jars tend to rust, I have my eye on these reusable canning jar lids.

We also like large flat glass dishes with resealable lids, such as Pyrex or Snapware.  These are great for refrigerated leftovers as well as pantry items.

Here's a great YouTube video about storing raw food.

9.  Sprouting Devices

One really great way to obtain high protein greens is to sprout seeds.  If you decide to grow sprouts, you'll need some sprouting devices.  This website has several available in different sizes. 

Now we mainly prepare our food with a high speed blender, a dehydrator, a food processor, 3 juicers and 4 sprouting jars.  Occasionally I use an electric kettle to boil water.  My husband uses a small personal blender at work.  We found that the best tool to beat a raw cake frosting was still an old fashioned electric egg beater, just like any other frosting.  We store ripening fruit in our oven, and extra pyrex dishes in the microwave.  My son still occasionally cooks something on the stove, but usually we put a cutting board on it and use it as an extra counter top.

10.  More ideas:  a yogurt maker to make coconut yogurt, an ice cream maker to make raw nut ice creams, a small grinder for grinding seeds and nuts.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Raw Vegan Pan de Muerto and Cacao Carob Cookies

Each year around Halloween and Dia de los Muertos one of my favorite traditions is to visit a Mexican bakery and bring home warm, fresh Pan de Muerto.  Sometimes I'll even make it from scratch.

This year I set about finding a raw recipe to keep up the tradition.  Pan de Muerto is normally a sweet yeast bread made with white flour.  Many of the recipes include orange zest and anise seed, and some contain orange flower water.  Next year, I'll experiment with raw bread recipes that include these ingredients, but this year I simply used a raw pumpkin bread recipe found here.

Here's my adaptation: 

2 cups nut pulp
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp golden flax meal
2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups packed dates
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp.cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp salt

The nut pulp was made by making various nut milks and then adding the pulp to a storage container in the freezer.  It was thawed for the recipe. 

The pumpkin puree was made by placing fresh shredded pumpkin flesh in a high speed blender.  Add the dates to the pumpkin puree in the blender and blend again until smooth.

Place the pureed pumpkin and dates in a bowl and add the additional ingredients, stirring by hand.

The dough will have a very thick, batter-like texture, close to the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Because of the flax meal, it will continue to thicken if you let it sit for a bit.  Form it into the desired shape on a Teflex sheet placed on a dehydrator screen.  Basically I laid spoonfuls of the batter on the screen to form an outline of a man, then built it up until it was 1/1/2 inches thick.  I used my hands to smooth the top and edges the best I could, then used the last of the batter to built up the features of a face on the head.

Dehydrate for at least 8 hours at 105 degrees, or until it's firm enough to peel off the Teflex and flip over onto the screen.  After 8 hours I flipped him over again, used the handle of a spoon to deepen the man's "eyesockets," and pushed in raisins.  After 8 hours, I flipped him over again, and continue to dehydrate him for a total of 2 days.

We had it for breakfast, slathered with this Quick Raw Apple Butter: 

3 apples, cored
about 28 deglet noor dates
1 tbsp cinammon

Blend in a high speed blender and serve.

Cacao Carob Cookies

Original recipe found here.  My adaptation:

2 cups mixed carrot and beet pulp
1 cup raisins
1 medium zucchini, peeled
2 tbsp coconut oil
2/3 cup flax meal 
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1/3 cup carob powder
2 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
organic chocolate chunks for garnish, (raw if you can find it)

In a food processor, blend all the ingredients together except the flax meal.  Turn out into a bowl, and stir in the flax meal until the mixture thickens into a dough like consistency.

Roll the dough into balls and flatten slightly, making an indentation in the top center.  Fill each center with garnish.  Place on a dehydrator screen, and dehydrate at 105 degrees for 24 hours.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Raw Fatigue and Mock Tuna with Hemp Mayo

After being high-to-100% raw for four over months, last week I hit a wall.  Raw veganism was starting to seem dull and was no longer appealing, attractive, or fun.  I started munching on roasted peanuts, cooked vegetarian Indian food, telling myself, "at least it's not KFC or GMO corn chips."  A new repertoire of easy fall recipes is in order, one that uses the produce that arrives in the CSA each week. 

Of course with the cooked food the inflammation returned, and with it the achy joints and fatigue, and it seemed like I started to gain a lb a day.  I still weigh considerably less than when we started this, but lost a little ground.

I feel fine about it emotionally.  Not like a failure, or a loser or anything bad like that.  Rather than giving up, I just took a little detour.  Even while eating this wonderful fresh authentic Indian food, I was thinking how much better it would be if it were raw.

I'm back on track now.  Recently, we did make some really awesome meals, like a pumpkin pesto and a cauliflower "couscous."  The pumpkin pesto was made by using a vegetable peeler to make long pieces pf pumpkin "pasta," and using the raw seeds and stringy bits with basil, pine nuts, olive oil and nutritional yeast to make a pesto.  Not only was the pesto excellent, but we had leftovers, and on the second day they had somehow thickened into a savory pate.  Sorry I can't provide an exact recipe, but if you know how to make raw squash noodles and raw pesto, you are halfway there.  Next time I might soften the pumpkin pasta a bit by tossing it in a smidgeon of olive oil and sea salt, and putting it the dehydrator for a while.  Raw pumpkin can be a bit crunchy.

The couscous was made by processing a head of cauliflower in the food processor until it was broken down into pieces the size of cooked couscous.  The same was done with a head of broccoli. The recipe link is at the bottom of this paragraph, but I didn't follow it religiously.  I just used what I had on hand, ommitting the mushrooms, corn and fava beans, and adding broccoli and chopped red pepper.

I don't normally care for fishy flavors, so I'm not a big fan of most seaweed.  But I'd like to get seaweed in our diet at least once a week, for the iodine.  Yesterday I filled large tomatoes with raw mock tuna salad, and it turned out terrific.  I'll try to recreate the recipe down below.  It's one of those you really can't mess up.

A note on ingredients:  This time I used roasted seaweed and prepared mustard, because it was on hand.  A person who is 100% raw would probably skip these or find 100% raw replacements.  We are "high raw," meaning we strive for at least 75% raw overall, and I find that using some non-raw condiments and flavorings helps to prevent cravings for familiar cooked comfort foods.  Besides, if someone wants me to give up my smoked paprika, they'll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers!

Mock Tuna

This made a HUGE bowl of mock tuna salad. 

2 cups raw sunflower seeds, soaked 2 hours, rinsed and drained
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, soaked 2 hours, rinsed and drained
1 .23 oz package roasted seaweed (raw dried seaweed would have been better)
3 cups fresh raw carrot juice pulp
1/4 cup fresh raw beet juice pulp (for color)
1 red onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, slice thinly
1/2 English cucumber, chopped finely
dulce flakes to taste
1 tsp prepared mustard (mustard powder would be better)
1 tsp smoked paprika
hemp mayonnaise, (recipe below)

Pulse the seeds in one cup batches, until they start to resemble the texture of flaked tuna. Place in a large bowl.  Pulse the carrot and beet pulp with the roasted seaweed, and combine with the seeds.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir.

 Hemp Mayonaise

1 cup hemp seeds
1/2 cup young Thai coconut water and flesh, blended
juice of one lemon
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey or to taste
1 cup olive oil
sea salt to tast

I didn't include the salt when I made this, because in the mock tuna recipe there is salt in the seaweed.  Start by grinding the hemp seeds in the coconut water.  If you don't have a young coconut, you could substitute with coconut milk, coconut water, or plain water.  When the hemp is smooth, add the remaining ingredients except the olive oil, and blend until smooth.  Last, add the olive oil in a thin stream, while running the blender.
On Saturday, we put in some plants from the nursery:  some arugula and chard, and one each of dill, sage, purple basil, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas, peppers, and a producing tomato.  All this went into some self-watering planters and a smallish planter box.  Yes, it's October, but winters tend to be mild here, and the hope is that we'll have a bit of fresh produce until January.  Unfortunately, the chard is already fading, but everything else is holding up okay.  We are learning about square foot gardening, edible landscaping and companion planting.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Our Current Raw Strategy

Here's our current way of doing things. It's in a constant state of evolution, and what is working for us to day might not be what we are doing tomorrow.

Every Saturday, we pick up produce from Bountiful Baskets, then we go to the local "pick your own" farm and pick whatever is in season.  (This weekend will be pumpkins, yay.)  Then we go pick up produce from a community supported agriculture program we are signed up with.  On the way home, we pick up extra supplies from Costco and Winco. 

So on Saturdays, with the kitchen overflowing with fresh produce, I try to figure out how we are going to use it all up by the following Saturday.  It's a good day to wash everything so that it will keep longer, and start making decisions about what should be consumed first.  I may start hunting for recipes, and making a list of additional items that will be needed.  Most meals are high-raw vegan, and what I mean by that is that we sparingly use non-raw flavorings and condiments like maple syrup, agave nectar, smoked paprika, tamari, etc. 

Thanks to what we learned on The Garden Diet, my husband and I are attempting a three day mini cleanse nearly every week until the rest of our excess weight comes off.  The three day cleanse mostly consists of juices and smoothies on Thursday, mostly water or herbal tea with lemon on Friday, and more juices and smoothies on Saturday.  The idea will be to rest our digestive systems during that time.  On water fast day, we can add a bit of fruit to the water and blend it if it gets too difficult.  We avoid spices and non raw condiments during the three days.  However, this is not a succeed or fail type thing.  Each week we try it, and if it doesn't work out that's okay.  If it conflicts with a special occasion or an event with food, we won't stress if we break the fast.  Of course, the kids will eat as usual while the grownups are on their mini-cleanse.  After my husband and I reach our ideal weight, we will fast less often, and increase our overall caloric intake.

While most of our meals are as simple as possible, once a week or so I may try to do something a bit more fancy.  That is, if I feel like it and have time.  For example, I keep thinking that one day I'm going to attempt a raw vegan Indian meal, complete with samosas.

My 12 year old still enjoys making pizza and other cooked foods, so perhaps once a week or so we enjoy a cooked vegan or vegetarian meal.  However, I find that the more adept we are at prepping raw meals, the less I enjoy cooked food.  When we do eat cooked vegan food, I can feel the difference in my body as well.  I have less energy and more soreness and stiffness in my body the next morning.  The feeling is similar to that of a hangover.

Once in a great while, we may partake in a typical SAD meal, either because of social circumstances or because of family traditions.  It's not something that I necessarily think is a great idea for myself, but for us I feel this lifestyle should not be too rigid or difficult.  So at times we may decide to "go with the flow."

One thing that does complicate things a bit is that one of our children was born with a disabling medical condition which caused a problem called oral praxis, and is in ongoing occupational therapy to work on his ability to process food in his mouth.  He is progressing nicely, but has difficulty eating sufficient quantities of food to grow and sustain life.  The process of chewing and swallowing causes fatigue for him.  At one meal, he can only manage about half the amount of food a young man his age should eat.  As a result, he is fed a supplemental liquid nutritional formula via gastrostomy tube.  The formula is dairy based.  Because learning to eat food is critical to his long term health, anything that we can get him to eat is better than nothing.  For years, one of our goals was for him to be able to chew and swallow meat, and he began to approach this goal just as my husband and switched to the raw vegan lifestyle.  Also, because of his feeding difficulties, he needs to eat high fat, calorie dense food so that he can consume as many calories in as few bites as possible.  In his case, processed foods are better than nothing at all.  He doesn't have a problem with weight, and he is in public school where he is exposed every day to the Standard American Diet.  Of course we encourage him to eat as much raw food with us as he can, but we also allow him to choose foods from the Standard American diet, including animal products.  As a result of this, our home is not 100% raw or even vegan.  But it's okay, and I suspect that many raw foodists share their kitchens with family members or roommates with different diets.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

John Kohler lecture at Pure Healh Foods

The other night I attended a lecture by John Kohler at a shop called Pure Health Foods.  It's a friendly store with great deals on health products and a helpful staff.  It was advertized by the local Las Vegas Raw Food Meetup, and he spoke to a full room of raw food enthusiasts.

John Kohler is a raw food coach who has two great channels on Youtube and is probably one of the busiest guys in the raw food world. 

He started the lecture by telling his story.  Here's a place where he tells it.  The cleanse he mentions, "Arise and Shine," can be found here.  We haven't tried it yet, but perhaps one day we will.

He made a couple of really great points.  One point was that a lot of the raw recipe books include too much oil and salt in their recipes.  I have to admit that many of the recipes I've tried and posted here included oil and salt, and the meals with more oil and salt felt heavy.  We aren't ready to cut all oil and salt from our diet, but each week we try to set aside three days where we do not consume anything but fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds with no salt, oil, or cooked condiments such as tamari, agave or maple syrup.  However, I do occasionally enjoy making a "gourmet" raw meal with these ingredients.

Another point he made was that we only really need one or maybe two handfuls of nuts per day.  I have experienced the truth in this.  When we consumed more nuts than that, it did affect my energy.

He gave some great tips on where to find certain raw foods here in Las Vegas.  He mentioned Mariana's as a great place to find coconut because their turnover is high.  Vons is a good place to find decent organic produce.  Cowboy Trails Farm is a great local organic farm that offers a variety of fresh heirloom produce.  One big surprise was the 99 Cents Only stores, which he said sells bags of organic spring mix for 99 cents.  I can't wait to look into that!

He also said we should chew our food 200 times!  He's right when you think about it.  The nutrition in raw veggies, particularly greens, is contained within the cell walls of the plant.  Most people probably just chew long enough to turn the food into a bolus that can be swallowed, trusting stomach digestion to do the rest.  Unfortunately any nutrition still locked in the insoluble plant fibers will pass out of the body undigested.  Victoria Boutenko, in her book, "Green For Life," says that we should chew our greens until they are of a creamy consistency in our mouths.  John Kohler said that it can take him up to two hours to finish a meal. 

One of the most useful tips he mentioned was about vitamin K2.   K1 is found in leafy vegetables, so as raw vegans we are getting plenty of that.  K2 however, is different.  It's a bit harder to get that on a vegan diet.  We produce it in our gut from bacteria, but the problem is that if you've taken antibiotics or if you are older, you might be at risk of deficiency. He mentioned natto as a good source of vitamin K2.  He said that fresh organic natto is best, but if that's unavailable, then the next best thing would be in supplement form.

He also demo'd a great tool for getting coconut meat out of mature coconuts.  He called it a coconut demeater. 

He had a few copies of his recipe book available, but I didn't get one because there weren't enough there for all the interested people to get one.  When I asked if they were available online, he said yes but he it can take a while for him to fill the order because he travels so much.

A shout out to John Kohler:  It was a great lecture!  Thank you!  Maybe someday you'll have time to make your recipes available in a PDF download with a Paypal transaction?  Please?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why I Love Raw Food

Summer is long past, and we are still raw.  I love it.  Why?

*I feel fabulous.  It used to hurt to stand up in the morning.  I used to have to take the stairs one step at a time, gingerly putting weight on my feet.  I was puffy and swollen.  My joints ached.  Now I can skip down the stairs in the morning, and there's no pain.

*I no longer need an entire pot of coffee in the morning to get going.  I rarely even drink caffeinated tea anymore.

*My husband is doing much better and has cut down his medication.  He is looking good!

*My youngest son has lost excess weight without dieting.  He's grown taller and looks to be the perfect weight for his height.

*I'm going to need new clothes soon.  The other day I reached into the back of the closet for a favorite dress that had been too tight, and now it's too loose.

*We have so much flexibility - we can be on The Garden Diet, or we can be 80/10/10, we can fix a raw gourmet meal if we want, we can drink green smoothies or eat a pile of bananas!

(or, if we want to, we can have a non-raw vegan meal if we want to.  Why not?  Who says it has to be all or nothing?)

*I"m experiencing a sensation of "heart opening" or "spiritual awakening."  It's hard to explain, but it's an increased feeling of serenity, more compassion for our fellow beings, more appreciation for the world, greater feelings of connectedness, acceptance, awareness, contentment and joy.  I feel more able to identify my needs and ask for them.  I'm more accepting of myself and my own value, so it's easier to speak my truth.  I'm less anxious, calmer, and more loving.

*I love that this is not a rigid lifestyle.  Every bite is a choice.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Information about the Raw Lifestyle

This the second post in a series of posts about things a person needs to go raw if they are new to the lifestyle.  The first thing you need is a reason.  I listed a couple of reasons here but of course every person's reasons will be personal and individual.

The second thing I think a person needs to go raw is information, particularly about nutrition.  If everything you've ever known about nutrition can be summed up by the Food Pyramid it may be time to go back and do some research.  I used to think I knew how to be healthy by eating foods that included animal products.  I'm only beginning to learn how to get sufficient protein by eating plants, which is actually much easier than one might think, and how to get enough nutrients like vitamin D and B12.  I also think that oral hygiene and dental care is extremely important on a raw food diet, especially for those people who eat a lot of fruit.  It's important to get enough calcium and phosphorus in the diet and to clean the teeth properly.  Calcium and phosphorus are found in greens such as kale, chard, spinach and dandelion greens, and I believe that for most raw vegans an optimal daily diet includes greens. 

So far my two favorite books about the health benefits of raw foods are:

"Becoming Raw, The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets" by Brenda Davis RD and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD
"Green for Life" by Victoria Boutenko

I like these books because they contain solid science.  Lots of people will go on about how raw food has "life force energy," and that's fine but it's not for everyone.  It's good to know that there is some scientific fact behind the lifestyle. 

Another good resource is well- known nutritional expert Dr. Michael Greger M.D.  Currently he is offering regular informational vlogs which can be found on, which is funded by the Jesse and Julie Rasch Foundation.  He also has a channel on Youtube.

Speaking of, it's a very good source of information concerning the raw food lifestyle.  Some of the people on youtube make what I think are some pretty outrageous claims, but that doesn't mean this is not a good lifestyle choice.  I just think that these are the opinions of some very passionate people, and leave it at that.

Here is an interesting article concerning the science of raw food:

"Ted Talks" about food, diet, health and the environment are a good information source:

There are plenty of documentaries that might be helpful to people who are interested in a plant based diets or the raw vegan lifestyle.  Here's a short list:

These are not necessarily raw, but about the benefits of a plant based diet:

Forks Over Knives

These documentaries focus on the raw food lifestyle:
Supercharge Me!
Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days
Vegan 2 Raw Vegan
Heal Yourself 101
May I Be Frank
Food That Kills
The Raw Natural

These are about how our health and the health of our planet is being systemically harmed by the major food, agricultural and chemical industries and related government policies:

Food, Inc.
The End Of The Line
Dirt!  The Movie
Food Fight
Killer At Large
King Corn  
Super Size Me
The Garden
The Future of Food
The Real Dirt On Farmer John
Vanishing of the Bees
Queen of the Sun
Food Matters and Hungry For Change

Finally, I think testimonials can be very helpful.  A lot of people will say that raw food worked for them and can describe how it transformed their lives on a personal level, but they can't explain the science.  These stories experiences can be valuable as the science, in my opinion.

One of the best testimonials comes from Dave The Raw Food Trucker.  His story is incredible.  He was morbidly obese and had diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular problems and kidney problems.  Any one of these issues could have killed him.  He healed himself completely with raw foods and green juices.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Latkes: What To Do With Potatoes

It can be a challenge to find recipes for potatoes in the raw vegan world.  It seems that most raw vegans don't eat them.  Apparently, the enzyme inhibitors are in the skin, and they contain solanine if they are green, so as long as they are peeled and not green they can be eaten raw.

We like potatoes, and we keep getting them in our weekly Bountiful Baskets order, so we've been trying to figure out how to use them.

My husband found this recipe for raw garlic and lime potato chips.  We tried the recipe and didn't like it because we found it tedious.  Each potato chip had to be sliced paper thin, then dipped in lime juice, sprinkled with garlic and laid on dehydrator screens to dry.  I found that if every chip wasn't done exactly right, it tasted like the type of dehydrated potato you might find in a box of packaged processed scalloped potatoes.

I scoured the internet and my budding collection of raw recipe books, and I found one recipe for raw potato latkes here.  The OP said she hadn't tried it, so it was risky, but it was worth it. 

Here is my version.

Spinach and Potato Latkes

2 cups Brazil nuts, soaked for 8 hours, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsps South African Smoke Seasoning Blend, (from TJs)
freshly ground chili pepper to taste (optional)
the juice of 5 small lemons, (next time I want to try limes)
1 cup filtered water, more if needed to make the blender go
1 cup pine nuts soaked 2 hours
1 10 oz bag cleaned spinach
3 leeks, cleaned with roots and green part removed, loosely chopped
one bunch garlic chive flowers, (optional)
6 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
paprika for sprinkles

Blend Brazil nuts in a high speed blender with lemon juice, water, minced garlic and salt.  Blend until the mixture turns well in the blender with no lumps.  If it won't turn, add water a little at a time until it does.  Add the pine nuts last, processing just enough to distribute them and break them up a little.  In this mixture, plenty of the pine nuts were left whole, which was nice.

Pulse the spinach, leeks and garlic chive flowers in a food processor until chopped fine.  Place in a bowl and stir in the nut mixture.  Run the potatoes through the shredder blade in the food processor, and stir into the mixture.  Add any additional seasonings at this time, keeping in mind that they shrink as they dry and the flavor is concentrated.

Drop by spoonfuls on a Teflex sheet.  I think an ideal size is about 2 tbsp.  Flatten them slightly so that they are like pancakes.  Sprinkle each one with a bit of paprika.

Dehydrate them at 112 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 hours, or until they easily slide off the Teflex without sticking.  Place them on the dehydrator screens and continue drying for at least 4 hours or until they are crispy. 

 This one was a success, and we will definitely make it again.  Next time I might try to grate the potatoes more finely, and experiment with the flavors.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sources and Purveyors

This is just a short list of websites that sell products that are useful to raw vegans.  I have not tried all of the vendors listed.  I'll be adding to the list periodically, and if you can recommend any good sites that provided quality, value and good customer services, please let me know.

Lou Corona's website:

nunaturals stevia

I don't know if this is a good company to buy from, but this looks like a great poster:

Reasons To Go Raw Vegan

I want to do a series of posts specifically targeted at helping people go raw.  The first thing a person needs to go raw is a good reason.  Going raw is not convenient. A person can't keep doing what they've always done if what they've always done is to eat the Standard American Diet.  There are no raw drive through restaurants.  I don't want to discourage anybody.  What I'm saying is the reason to go raw needs to be stronger than the pull of the SAD.

I've gone over my reasons in previous posts here, but other people have different reasons.

 Wyn Matthews spells it out nicely here:

One of the reasons he gave stands out as one that anyone can relate to regardless of their values.  That reason is self preservation.  Here is a link to the video by the respected Dr. Gregor of,  It's worth watching.

My biggest reason is my boys.  Two of them are not yet grown.  A little over two years ago, my younger brother died suddenly of a heart attack.

This morning when I arose, I lightly trotted downstairs to make our morning smoothie breakfast.  Three months ago I was taking each step painfully, one at a time, pausing between each step, gripping the handrail tightly so I wouldn't fall.  That alone is a good reason for me.

Another reason Wyn gave for going raw is a bit more complicated.  It has to do with the meat industry and it's impact on the planet, human health, and animal cruetly.  When we think about the business of turning cows into beef, we think of cattle happily grazing in meadows, eventually ending up in slaughterhouses where we hope their death is quick and painless.  We don't want to know otherwise, because if we know then we are responsible for the choices we make.  But what if the reality is worse than you can imagine?

A few years after "Earthlings" was released, a good friend suggested that this is a "must see" film.  At the time we were discussing vegetarianism.  I mentally filed the film away but didn't see it.  So when I saw the clips on Wyn's blog, I ordered it from Netflix.

At the very least, this movie will make you think about the impact the meat industry is having on the planet.  It's a very hard hitting film, with images that are hard to see.  Once you see it, you can't unsee it.  I've looked and not found an intelligent argument against the points made in the film.  I've never been in favor of animal cruelty, and I hope that most educated people aren't.  The really sick part is that when we buy these meat products, we are participating.  We may not know that we are participating, and we may not want to know.  But the grownup thing to do is to know, and then live according to one's own conscience.

Here's another good article about ethical veganism, "Why Are Few Spiritual Teachers Vegan?"

Wyn also mentions the films "The End of The Line," and "Genetic Roulette."  To that list I would like to add "Forks Over Knives."

Edit:  March 20, 2013 -   Recently a long-time raw vegan speaking at an event said that in fact raw veganism is the easiest diet in the world.  The only thing you have to do is cut a piece of fruit and eat it.  He has a point.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Review of The Garden Diet

My husband and I just finished the "28 Days Raw Transition" program with The Garden Diet.  I'd like to share how we liked it, and what it did for us.

There are so many raw vegan recipes available online.  When we first began our raw journey over the summer, I had focused on finding raw alternatives to our accustomed SAD (standard American diet.) Those recipes are often a bit complicated or required hard to find ingredients.  Although enthusiastic about raw food, I was sometimes discouraged by the amount of work involved.  This is because there are few raw convenience foods - no raw bottled salad dressings or packaged sauce mixes and certainly no frozen entrees.  I served several complex raw meals that took the entire day to prepare, (longer when dehydration time is taken into account) and a couple of the more successful meals made it to this blog.  I'm not sorry we went through this phase in our transition.  It was an important part of it.  I'll be making those types of meals again from time to time, but they aren't for every day.

The Garden Diet menu plan provided simple recipes that I could make as quickly as any SAD cooking mom could fry a pound of hamburger and open a cardboard box  of dry noodles and seasoning packets.  Often the meals were much quicker to make than the old "TV dinner in the microwave" routine.  The ingredients were mostly very easy to find, and there were readily available substitutions for those that weren't.  Simple can be very tasty and satisfying.

The great thing is that after 28 days, now I have a repertoire of quick, easy recipes that my family loves, and the confidence that I can keep this up without a lot of extra effort.

One of the ways in which The Garden Diet helped us was that it included complete menus.  I didn't have to worry about whether I was providing my husband and I with enough daily nutrition.  The menu plans in The Garden Diet were like "training wheels" that gave me the confidence to know that I could provide my family a healthy raw diet.  Shopping lists were also provided, which saved us time.

The Garden Diet also helped to re-educate us about our food.  One of the things that was hurting us when we ate the SAD was the size of our meals.  A "real meal" consisted of a salad, meat, starch, and a vegetable.  Sometimes we also had bread, dessert and some type of beverage.  We were eating ourselves to death a meal at a time.  When we switched to the raw lifestyle, I was trying to replicate those tastes and sensations with raw food.  We quickly learned that raw food is more nutrient dense and so we needed to eat less of it, but we were still making things way too complicated.  I was trying to serve too many courses.  During The Garden Diet, it was such a revelation the first time we sat down to a mono meal, which was a large bowl of one type of ripe, raw fruit.  Another revelation came the day of the water fast.  I honestly did not know that I was capable of going a whole day without food when surrounded by so many opportunities to eat.  I learned that I could not only do it, but would benefit from it as well.

Now I can serve my family twelve-ounce glasses of blended fruit and vegetable smoothies for dinner without feeling like I am depriving them.  Instead of starting a meal with a salad, often the meal IS the salad.  What a concept!

Before, special occasions and events were centered around food.  We had trained ourselves to expect food indulgences at those times.  Now, while we still make delicious raw vegan treats for special occasions, and I plan to make a raw feast now and then, we take joy from the moment and the love in our family without making it all about food.

The program also provided exercise programs, a collection of positive motivational articles about the raw lifestyle, an online community with supportive like-minded people, a place to write in an online journal, and daily happiness exercises.  For those who chose to participate, there was an optional study group based on the book, "A Course In Weight Loss."

The program wasn't strict or rigid.  If you didn't want to do the water fast or participate in cleansing week, they just suggested that you repeat another menu from the plan.  By the last week, I was varying the menu, using the food that came in our Bountiful Baskets order rather than shopping for what was on the menu for that week.  If we were hungry between meals, we simply ate more.  Since the food was healthy, whole, raw, nutrient-dense, lacking in chemicals and unprocessed, you couldn't go wrong.

If the individual needed to gain weight they offered tips for that too.  I was able to serve the meals on the plan to the entire family, and make additional healthy options available for our growing children.

I've lost 8 pounds in the 28 days, compared to the 5 pounds per month I was losing just by eliminating most cooked and processed food, animal-based food and alcohol during the previous three months.  I'm happy with the 8 pounds, and I know it might have been more if I had exercised as much as I intended to.  However, this is just the beginning.  Next we are doing the 21 Days Raw Cleanse offered by The Garden Diet.  Whether the rest of the weight comes off during this program or whether it takes a year, it doesn't matter to me.  I'm happy with the process.  I love how great I feel, and how loose my clothes are.

This wasn't a radical crash diet.  This was a lifestyle adjustment. After the 21 Days Cleanse, we will begin the process of fine-tuning our eating habits for maintenance and the changing needs of our bodies.

During this 28 days, I've looked honestly at myself, my spouse, and the way we live our lives in this family.  There are hidden gifts in our struggles, and I've come away with strong feelings of gratitude and optimism for the future.

Changing the way we eat has been empowering and that change is leading to more positive changes.  I can't change the entire world but I can change MY world.  This has brought deep feelings of peace and joy.  Switching to the raw vegan lifestyle is just one of many positive changes we are either making or plan to make in our lives.