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.

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So what do you think? Have you tried raw vegan food?