Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Raw "Cadbury" Eggs

In the world of raw foodism, cacao is controversial.

But first, while we think about this, let's enjoy some chocolate.

This idea was inspired by this recipe for healthy Cadbury Creme Eggs over at Chocolate-Covered Katie's blog.

I started with two Navitas Naturals Organic Superfood Chocolate Kits, which I had previously purchased at Whole Foods in anticipation of an occasion such as this. The kit is apparently no longer for sale, but the ingredients for the chocolate are organic cacao butter, organic cacao powder, organic mesquite, organic lucuma, and organic maca. These are ingredients I like to keep on hand for special occasions, but do not use every day.  The kit also contained some goji berries, which I did not use for this recipe.

Navitas Naturals has some great recipes on their website, by the way.

Raw Vegan "Cadbury" Eggs

4 oz. raw cacao butter
2 tbsps raw cacao powder
1 1/2 tsp mesquite
1 tsp lucuma
1/2 tsp maca

For the egg white filling
2 young Thai coconuts, reserve the coconut water
1 tbsp raw honey
1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder

For the "yolk"
1 10 oz package frozen organic mango
1/2 cup orange juice

Tools:  Egg-shaped confection molds,  bowls, spoons, either a double boiler or a saucepan OR a dehydrator to melt the cacao, high-speed blender, sharp heavy knife, spatula.

Wash and thoroughly dry the mold and place it in the freezer.  Melt the cacao butter at a low temperature.  Cacao butter has a melt point of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  I found that just by putting the bowl of cacao in the Excalibur dehydrator and setting it at 105 degrees, it stayed at the perfect temperature to work with.

When the cacao butter is melted, add the cacao powder and other ingredients and stir.  When the ingredients are smooth, take the mold out of the freezer and use a spoon to coat thoroughly coat the mold.  Return the mold to the freezer.

Meanwhile, begin opening the coconuts.  If you don't know how to open one, here is a pretty good illustration.  Blend the coconut meat with just enough liquid to help the blades turn.  You' ll want about two cups total of the blended coconut meat.  Add in the vanilla powder and honey and blend.  Place in a container and refrigerate.  The vanilla flavor will develop if you can refrigerate it overnight.

After the cacao eggs have hardened, take them out of the freezer and add another coat of chocolate.  Look carefully at each eggshell for thin spots and holes because your eggs will crack when you un-mold them unless the chocolate is thick enough.  I had better luck with four coats of chocolate.  Freeze the eggs between each coat, and let them get really hard before you un-mold them.  I froze mine overnight.

After un-molding the egg shells, return them to the freezer and make your "yolk."  Place the orange juice and frozen mango in your high speed blender and blend until thick and creamy.  If needed, add additional liquid.

Remove the eggshells from the freezer and carefully fill each one with the coconut mixture.  Top each egg with a teaspoon or so of the mango mixture.

Notes:  My cacao came out of a pre-measured kit, and so I listed the ingredients on the box and estimated how much I would start with of each ingredient if I didn't have the kit.  While it's probably not a good idea to add water to your cacao butter, you may want to experiment with other ingredients, such as coconut oil, honey, carob, vanilla powder, etc.

So how do the two eggs compare?
I cut open a Cadbury Creme Egg so that the two could be compared side by side.  My taster said that he could taste the sugar and the chemical artificial flavoring in the commercially produced egg.

In my opinion, if we must have some confection this time of year, raw vegan confection is the way to go.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Simplifying for Spring and What It's Like Today

This is a personal update.  It's been about 9 months since we changed our diet.

Thinking back on our raw food journey, it's clear that we've been through many changes.  Today things seem much simpler, easier and more relaxed than it was in the beginning.  Raw food doesn't have to be complicated or hard or strict.  These days it's nothing new.

For a while we were making about a gallon of green juice per day for our family of four.  It's really terrific and I recommend it highly for optimal health.  After keeping that up for several weeks, I started to feel badly about the waste.  A gallon batch of green.juice creates a lot of pulp, and while there are some breads and crackers that can be made with pulp, most of it was going into the compost.  I shared my concern with my husband, and we decided to tone it down a little.  Maybe we'll make smaller quantities of green juice some mornings, and perhaps we'll "juice feast" some weekends.  It would be different if we could successfully grow most of our own produce but we aren't there yet.  All that juicing has resulted in a lot of money down the drain, and that is not a good thing when you are feeding children.  For now, moderate juicing is best for us.

Our visits to Fresh Mama helped get me interested in learning how to make different types of raw wraps at home.  In the interest of simplifying, I'd like to move in the direction of more smoothies, wraps and salads for most of our meals.  Most of the time I no longer feel like I need to make a large, complex  raw feast for a meal.  I remember that several months ago, when I read comments by raw vegans saying they mostly live on simple salads and smoothies, it sounded incredibly boring and unsatisfying to me.  It's not, though.  It's fresh, delicious and satisfying.  It's happy food!

We tried an experiment.  We had a few paleo/whole food meals over the last several weeks.  I guess I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  We still were eating a lot of raw food, just having a cooked meal once a week or so, that also included free range eggs and some wild or free-range meat.  Sometimes we'd add potatoes and/or a vegan cheese made from rice, which probably turned it into more of a "whole food" dish rather than a "paleo" dish..  For me, personally, while I enjoyed the food, I didn't see any improvement in my body or the way I felt.  The animal products, especially the eggs, smelled terrible to me when they were raw.  Cooked meat smelled and tasted pretty good to me but I no longer care for the smell or the taste of eggs, no matter how fresh and free range they are. The thought of the milk from a cow or a goat is repulsive to me.

I felt badly about the fact that an animal died so I could eat that food.  I can't emphasize this enough.  I felt genuinely sad and remorseful.  People might laugh at that, I guess.  It might be hard to understand unless you've seen what goes on in the agricultural industry and been on a mostly plant based diet for a while.

I understand that people have been killing animals for food for many thousands of years, it's just that for me, at this time, in this place, it isn't at all necessary.  I'm lucky as a human omnivore because I can get the nutrition that I need from many different sources - I can choose. 

The interesting thing about the paleo experiment was a few days to a week after eating animal protein, I experienced strong cravings for more.  This was especially strong over St. Patrick's Day.  For me, corned beef and cabbage are a tradition this time of year.  If I'm feeling especially industrious I might make colcannon and soda bread to go with it.  The corned beef was for sale in all the stores and I imagined that many people were eating it in their homes up and down our street.  Friends posted status updates on Facebook about how they were celebrating the holiday, complete with menus.

So if I was craving corned beef and cabbage, why not just eat some?  Seems like a reasonable thing to do, right?  First off, I don't think it's healthy for me.  In fact, some might say it's rather selfish to eat unhealthy food for immediate gratification when we have people who love us and depend on us and want us around for a long time.  The second reason is that I do not need to contribute to the cruelty to animals in industrial agriculture.  They aren't protected by animal cruelty laws because they are classified as livestock.

I am very thankful for my husband.  I kept telling him that all he had to do was say the word and I would go get us some corned beef.  He kept saying "no."  We got through it.  I watched Russell James make Green Goddess salad dressing in his nod to St. Patrick's Day, and on Monday I attended another of John Kohler's live presentations, this one about coconuts.   Those actions helped me stay motivated.  After riding out the worst of the cravings, they are greatly  diminished, although my husband continues to make teasing remarks about going out for a steak, and I keep telling him that I am very tempted to do it.  I choose not to give into the temptation, though, because I know that if I do, I'll regret it.

In going raw and then reintroducing certain foods to my diet, I have noticed that I do have a reaction to cheese, and dairy, which cause sinus congestion.  Refined sugars, corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, and things like MSG and artificial sweeteners cause fatigue and inflammation which I can feel in my body.  I don't have a reaction to gluten in foods like wheatgrass juice and raw breads, but I do experience gastrointestinal discomfort after eating processed breads and cereals.  The only reaction I have to eating meat and eggs is a little tiredness as my body works to digest it.  But when I eat these foods I think about the suffering of the animals and the harm to our planet caused by industrial agriculture, and I realize that it isn't worth it to me.  In my opinion, there are kinder, more efficient ways to consume dietary protein without contributing to the suffering of animals and harm to the planet.

I do not judge others for consuming animal products.  First of all, I believe in free will and our right to choose.  Secondly, I can't judge others for something that I have done myself. And there are probably choices that I make that I feel are perfectly fine, that someone else wouldn't make.

The bottom line is that this week, three out of four in this family are vegan and mostly raw.  One of our children is not vegan or raw for reasons I've described previously.  I've been making a cooked vegan meal about once a week and that's about right for us these days.  Will I ever eat meat again?  Will I ever be 100% raw?  I don't know.  This is just today.  I can't speak for others in my family, but I am still in transition.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Delicious Melon Shake Recipe

My 12 year old son Ehren, just created this delicious new recipe:

(On his own.  He asked me to say that.)

Melon Shake

1 fresh ripe cantaloupe
1 ambrosia apple, cored
2 thick slices hothouse cucumber (about 2 inches or to taste)
ice as needed

Place the melon seeds in a high speed blender and blend on high with a small amount of melon juice for 1 minute or until finely ground.  If you are concerned about the mixture heating up, add a bit of ice.

Remove the rind from the remaining melon, and place the melon flesh in the blender with the apple and cucumber.  Blend until smooth and creamy, adding a small amount of ice as needed.

 Serves 2