Thursday, May 31, 2012

What it looks like today

In our house we aren't 100% raw yet.  We aren't even 100% vegan.  We aren't even 100% vegetarian.

For years we have been saying that we are flexitarians, eating vegetarian anywhere from one to six days per week.  Rarely did we go a whole week without eating some form of meat, and often our vegetarian meals included some form of animal protein.

Last February I was at a gathering at the home of a friend, and one of the guests there is a chef who prepares raw vegan food.  She fed us a raw vegan snack, and I noticed how that snack made me feel in my body.  Not like a sugar rush.  Not like a caffeine pick-me-up.  I felt nourished.  The feeling seemed almost instantaneous.  Like my body was grateful. Somewhere in the back of my mind I filed away a little tidbit:  Raw vegan feels good.  After that I visited her restaurant a couple of times, and both times the meal gave me that deeply nourished feeling.

It's more than nourishment though.  I also get a sort of peaceful, zen quality from the food.  As I eat the food I can almost feel my stress levels going down.  If I were to take a sip from a fountain of youth, this is what I would imagine it might feel like.

Since I made a commitment last summer to teach our youngest how to cook, we've been enjoying a lot of cooking shows on Netflix.  On the documentary Take Home Chef, we saw how a chef goes into different homes to prepare a meal for the people who live there, and sometimes those people are vegan.  The chef was able to prepare some amazing gourmet meals for all of these people regardless of their food lifestyles.  Then we saw Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue.  I thought it was going to be about a group of firefighters cooking up mouthwatering meals in a firehouse.  Instead, it was about a firefighter who found that most of his rescues weren't about fighting fires but coming to the rescue of people who need help due to medical problems caused by diet.  This led to the creation of a plant based diet to save lives.

This short documentary had a huge impact on me because I thought we were already eating pretty well.  We've already been talking about increasing our intake of fresh vegetables.  But in this documentary they were extolling the virtues of the plant based diet.  My husband and I looked at each other, astonished to realize that there was more that we could be doing to be healthy.  The fact was staring us in the face:  What we had been doing was not working.

We went on to watch other documentaries that showed how animals proteins contribute to a myriad of health issues that are typically blamed on the aging process.

One example is the informative documentary Fork Over Knives.  Perhaps later I will compile a list of documentaries and other media materials that helped to inform our decision.

My husband began looking into raw veganism, and he liked what he saw.  The two of us quickly came to be on the same page, and now we are in the learning process.

We have just started to begin sprouting seeds.  A food dehydrator and new parts for our food processor have just arrived.  In the meantime, a little at a time, we are consuming the last of the animal products that we have on hand.  We aren't having one last meat fest, it's more like occasionally we incorporate some of it into the meal. But when it's gone, it's gone.

I keep wanting to emphasize that we aren't saying we will never eat meat again.  This isn't like giving up smoking cigarettes.  We are not equating non-vegan foods with addiction or a bad habit that we need to "kick."  We simply wish to improve our nutrition.  We want the foods we consume to be easier for our bodies to deal with, with more helpful nutrients and fewer ingredients that take a toll.  The ultimate goal is to feel better and to be more healthy.

Raw Vegan Alfredo Sauce, Vegan Ranch Dressing

The other night we had cheese tortellini with a vegan Alfredo sauce.  I realize it's an odd combination, but I am learning how to make the sauce while using up the groceries on hand.

The recipe is here.

Here is my version.  One of our kids is allergic to cashews so we had to adjust:

Raw Vegan Alfredo Sauce with Macadamia and Pine Nuts


1/2 cup soaked macadamia nuts

1/2 cup soaked pine nuts

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp white low salt miso

1tbsp minced garlic

2tbsp dried minced onion

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbs dried basil

Drain the nuts and process them in a blender with about 1/12 cups of water until smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to process until well blended.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to mingle.

Last night I made a vegan ranch dressing.  It wasn't raw because tofu isn't raw.  However, the tofu gave us a relief from all the nuts.  Until we are able to get up to speed on sprouting and dehydrating, our raw diet mostly consists of raw vegetables, raw fruit, and nuts - sometimes nuts with every meal - which is not good.

Comment:  Since I originally wrote this post, we have learned that we don't need to eat nuts and seeds with every meal to get enough protein.   With time we have adjusted our diet so that a large potion of our proteins come from leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards and chard.  We do this by drinking a lot of green juice and green smoothies, and by eating a lot of large salads.  We still eat nuts and seeds, but not more than about a handful a day each.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Recipe here

My version, which was changed based on what we had on hand.  It needed more seasoning than the original recipe called for, hence the long list of spices.  We just kept going until we liked how it tasted:

19 ounces firm tofu, drained slightly
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
 3 tbsp dried celery

2 tbsp dried minced chives
1 tbsp dried cilantro
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp white miso low salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tsp fine black pepper

1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 Tbsp maple syrup - grade A
 1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp spike salt
3 tbs olive oil

Blend ingredients until smooth and refrigerate a couple of hours to allow the flavors to mingle.  We added the chives toward the end so that there would be larger pieces in the mixture.  Next time I'd like to replace some of the maple syrup with stevia.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bountiful Baskets

Saturday is our day to go pick up our fresh produce from the food co-op, Bountiful Baskets.  It's so much fun to bring all of that home, line it up on the kitchen counters, and begin to plan what we'll do with it.  We never know what we'll get ahead of time, and it's always a pleasant surprise.

An advantage of Bountiful Baskets is that once we bring that produce home, we are committed to eat it.  If we don't it will go to waste.  It's a great way to make sure that the family eats their vegetables.  Fortunately the produce seems to be fresher than it is at the grocery store, so it keeps a bit longer.

Another advantage is that we save save time and money.  It's not that the produce is really all that inexpensive.  A person might be able to read the grocery ads, figure out what's on sale, and buy at the lowest prices.  It saves us money by keeping us out of the grocery store, so there is no temptation to buy things that aren't on the list.  Often the more trips we make to the grocery store, the more we spend.

Getting up that early on a Saturday is usually a bit painful, but since we have been starting our day with the Amazing Meal, it's a lot easier.  I have a lot more energy with fewer aches and pains.  I am loving it!  It's about $35.00 for 15 servings at Sunflower Market, -  and we add fruit to it so it costs a bit more.  We looked at other brands but at that price it's one of the best raw green drinks with enzymes, probiotics and raw vegan protein.  It may seem like it's expensive but it's a lot less per meal than a visit to Starbucks or heaven forbid, the drive -through at a fast food place.

This has been a wonderfully healthy day.  We ate well, and after picking up our produce we visited one of my favorite stores, Herbally Grounded, and picked up some sprouting jars and alfalfa seeds.  More on that later.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Raw Parsnip and Carrot Pasta Pesto with Hemp Seeds and PIne Nuts

Today we each started the morning with a serving of Amazing Meal by the company Amazing Grass.  Our four servings were made by blending it with almond milk, strawberries, an apple, a papaya and two handfuls of spinach.  It was very delicious and it gave me a lot of energy.  It felt as good as a complete breakfast.  I wasn't hungry again for four hours and there was no blood sugar crash.

For dinner, we made our own twist on this recipe for Pesto Carrot Pasta Fettuccine

It was necessary to increase the recipe and substitute some ingredients, and it we tossed in some extra items for more flavor and nutrition.  I wasn't able to find organic parsnips and the dried basil isn't raw, but overall we were pleased.  Sorry to not include nutrition information.  There is a lot of oil and nuts in this, so be careful if you are counting calories.  It was full of delicious flavor!

Raw Parsnip and Carrot Pasta Pesto with Hemp Seeds and Pine Nuts
Serves 4 generously

9 medium carrots
6 large parsnips
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup cold pressed grapeseed oil
2 tsp salt
3/4 cup raw shelled hemp seeds
3/4 cup raw pine nuts
6 cloves garlic
6 tbsp  dried basil
3 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tsp nutritional yeast

After peeling and trimming the carrots and parsnips, use the vegetable peeler to create long thin strips of the vegetables.  It should look somewhat like fettuccine.   Place it in a bowl.  Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, grapeseed oil, and salt together.  Drizzle about three tbsp of the mixture over the long shreds of carrot and parsnip, toss and set aside.

Place the remaining ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor and process.  Drizzle in the rest of the oil and lemon mixture until smooth and creamy.  There will be a somewhat bumpy texture from the hemp seed.  Divide the carrot and parsnip into four portions and pile onto plates.  Top each portion with 1/4 of the pasta sauce.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Here in the Mojave desert, temperatures can get up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit and higher in the summer.  This is the especially true in the city, where concrete and asphalt traps and holds the heat.

Preparation for summer in the desert often reminds me of preparation for winter in the midwest.  Instead of winterizing the house and stocking up for storms and blizzards, I start to think of how we will hunker down and weather out the summer heat.

Each spring we begin to look ahead to the hot months, and begin to plan ahead.  We summer-ize our home.  My husband climbs up on the roof and uncovers the evaporative cooling system, taking care of necessary repair and maintenance.  We dust off the oscillating fans and begin to arrange them strategically for optimal air flow.  Out come the cooler clothing that wicks moisture away from the skin.  We start to use the windshield sun shade again, and cover the hot car upholstery with beach towels.

I begin to think about summer meal preparation.  How can I cook for a family of four without heating up the kitchen?  In the past we've used small appliances on the counter top to avoid using the oven, and we've seriously considered trying a solar cooker.

But this summer will be entirely different.  We are going on an adventure in raw vegan food.

The reasons for this are many.  My husband and I both want to get healthier and feel better.  The combined weight of our family of four - two adults and two children - are six hundred and forty pounds - at least twenty percent too heavy.  These days, being a vegan is easier than ever.  My beloved husband and I have both been vegetarians in the past, and found it difficult for reasons that no are longer applicable.

My husband and I made a pact.  We will prepare at least one raw vegan meal per day between now and the first day of school at the end of summer.  We won't let it get stressful.  There will be no pain, no cravings, no hunger or deprivation.  There will be no crazy pantry purging - if it's there and it's still fresh we'll eat it, even if it isn't vegan.  We'll strive to not waste any food.  We won't bring any new non-vegan groceries into the house, but if a family member can't stand it anymore and must go get some non-vegan food, they can as long as they keep it out of the house.  We won't bore friends and family with lectures about our new found food wisdom.  We won't try to convert anyone.  We won't turn down offers of hospitality, instruct any host or hostess on our dietary preferences or refuse free food samples at Costco just because it's not vegan.

What we WILL do is try new food preparation techniques, new kitchen equipment, and new recipes.  We'll read new cookbooks, blogs and articles, and learn some new ideas.  We'll make it fun.  I will write about it.  He will take pictures.  And we'll do all this on a food budget of $145.00 dollars per week.

Comment from several months later:  The $145.00 per week goal turned out to be impossible for us.  If we are being extremely frugal, we can manage to be high raw for about $70.00 to $80.00 per person per week.  It's extremely difficult to do it for less, especially in winter when fresh produce is not as readily available.   Some good resources for saving money on a raw food diet are, Raw On $10 A Day (Or Less!), and "Raw Foods on a Budget" by Brandi Y Rollins.