Thursday, December 31, 2009

happy new year

Wishing you and yours a wonderful, safe, and healthy New Years! This time of year holds a special place in my heart, as it marks the one year anniversary of my 'raw journey' (I believe I even joined the Gone Raw forums on January 1st, 2009!)

I don't usually make staunch new years resolutions, but last year I knew that I definitely needed to make a change in my life. I'd seriously injured my leg on New Years Eve day (of all days), pulling my IT band from over-running and causing stress to my muscles. What soon followed with my recovery (which took over two months) was a re-evaluation of my diet and lifestyle choices. I became more interested in raw foods as a mode of healing and improving my well-being. The raw food lifestyle really opened my eyes to a whole new way of being, and has brought me so much joy. Being creative in the kitchen with raw food recipes is so much fun, and I really enjoy sharing these treats with others - be it a raw birthday cake, raw chocolates, or a raw dinner party with family and friends :-)

Here are some new years resolutions for 2010 that I would like to follow (they may seem a little heavy, but rest assured they are resolutions you can really 'set your watch to'):

1. Stop worrying: fear is just a thought in the mind, and it isn't a healthy mode of being, for both yourself and others around you. Fear and worry impede our ability to really enjoy life and have wonderful, happy experiences with ourselves and others. Along the same lines as worry and fear, over-analyzing is also super detrimental to our healthy and well-being. Analyzing can project judgement, as well as negative thoughts onto a situation or experience which have no merit outside of the person/'analyzer's' mind. This is where thoughts and words can become misconstrued.

2. Be more kind and caring towards those in my life: in the shuffle of the everyday, we can become forgetful of showing gratitude and being appreciate of those in our life. Showing someone we care can take form in such simple gestures as a smile, helping others with items or tasks in their day, or a little gift of kind gratitude (homemade raw choccies anyone?!).

3. Emphasize positive, rather than negative, thoughts: I categorize negative thoughts as being part of the worry-fear-stress-anxiety-judgement-resentment-anger 'family'. Negative thoughts are really just that: thoughts. They don't exist outside of the mind. While certain experiences in life can 'trigger' a negative thought or reaction, we have control and choice over how we react in certain situations.

4. Pursue my interest in raw foods: whether it be teaching raw food classes, devising recipes, and playing in the kitchen. I really want to become more knowledgeable on the subject with every passing day, and help others :-)

5. Express more love and gratitude for every waking day: taking time to enjoy moments of beauty (the sunrise, sunset, nature, wonderful friends and family) helps us to appreciate the 'little things in life'. Also, to be truly 'present' in our daily experiences can really enhance our health and well-being, and also the way that we treat others.

Anyhow, enough about me! What are your resolutions for 2010?!

"Everything is zen, in 2010"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

raw christmas treats

For Christmas this year, I decided to make the majority of my gifts. I've never been much of a shopper to begin with, and I find that the stress/anxiety level of consumerism during the holidays is no fun! :-) Combining my interest in making gifts with raw food treats was such a fun experience, and I'd like to share some of my creations with you.

This was my first time attempting to make raw chocolates. I used the raw chocolate/cacao powder I received for my birthday, and followed a few recipes as guidelines. Since I only had coconut oil on hand, I looked to Ani Phyo's recipe for Liquid Chocolate (from Ani's Raw Food Desserts), but found that it was much too rich with little to no sweetness.

Trust Carmella to save the day! Seriously, any time I am in a raw food dilemna, Carmella's blog seems to have the answer. For most of my chocolate, I followed her recipe for Chocolate Coating (which is delicious!). By the way, Carmella's posts on Chocolate are an absolute trove of information for making raw chocolate - check out
For the Love of Chocolate and All Things Chocolate for more information. Here are some of my raw chocolate endeavours:

Chocolate Truffles
(recipe derived from Rawmazing)

1 c cashews (soaked three hours)

1/3 c agave

1 c shredded, unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup hazelnuts (soaked three hours)
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract

These truffles were such a hit, even moreso when I paired them in beautiful white gift boxes with some coconut macaroons. I renamed mine after the Christmas tree/tannenbaum shapes they seemed to take:


White Tannenbaum Coconut Macaroons
(recipe derived from The Happy Raw Kitchen)

2 cups dried shredded coconut
½ cup cashews
3 tablespoons agave
¼ cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon chai spice mix*
additional coconut to garnish macaroons


* Vanilla Chai Sugar

1 tablespoon sweetener of choice
(I used raw can sugar - fair trade!)
½ inch vanilla bean, pod and seeds
6 -8 cardamom pods, seeds only, hull removed
2 points of star anise, pod and seeds
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves, or 2 whole
12 coriander seeds
4 allspice berries
2 white peppercorns
few grinds of nutmeg

a delightful little gift box of raw Christmas treats

For my next post, I will share my experiments with chocolate molds as well as my lemon-coconut bars! Also, I will give an overview of my first raw christmas! :-) Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

a raw christmas with david wolfe

Christmas is just around the corner, and what better way to bring in the holiday season than attending a raw vegan event with special guest lecturer David Wolfe?! I attended the event, "A Raw Christmas with David Wolfe" this past Saturday, held in an incredibly intimate (I'll explain why) venue in Toronto. I convinced two school friends, Armando and Suze, to attend with me, and we embarked on an incredibly interesting evening, full of yummy raw vegan food, an informative lecture, as well as a myriad of raw vegan vendors, and even a marriage proposal between two young raw vegans!

David 'Avocado' Wolfe

I'm sure that many of you have heard of David 'Avocado' Wolfe, the esteemed raw food guru and raw cacao king ;-) For this lecture/talk, David rovided an overview of his areas of expertise, which focus on raw cacao, wild edibles, and the preservation of natural resources. Incredibly knowledgeable and well versed as a public speaker, Wolfe kept the crowd engaged through the use of a Powerpoint with key images to highlights his main points of discussion.

Overall, I found the lecture incredibly interesting, yet perhaps a bit too broad, as he tried to discuss multiple raw food topics in a short amount of time. Nevertheless, it was an incredibly informative lecture, and drew an incredible amount of people, which amounted to a sold-out, packed crowd in a small space. This became problematic at times, as there was little standing room or space to meet with other people in attendance (eeek!). Oh well, it just goes to show how raw foods are gaining much popularity, and that the community is definitely expanding in size!

one side of the lecture

During the talk, the audience were given samples of David's special raw cacao Christmas eggnog drink, which was amaaazing! A combination of raw cacao, young thai coconut meat and water, nutmeg, cinnamon and other ingredients that have since left my mindscape, this drink was both creamy and refreshing:

David Wolfe's special raw cacao Christmas drink: uhh, yum!

Armando and Suze enjoying the raw cacao goodness

The ticket for the event also included a delectable assortment of raw vegan goodies from such Toronto area raw restaurants as Raw Aura and Rawlicious. Maegan, who was the previous chef at Raw Aura and now works at Rawlicious, made the most delicious raw pizza and coconut macaroons ever! I also met with Doug, the new chef at Raw Aura (previously of Live restaurant), and he informed me that there will be a new menu for the restaurant in the new year. I am definitely looking forward to trying out some of the new raw dishes. I also really need to check out Rawlicious, soon!:

a compilation of raw foodstuffs c/o Raw Aura, Rawlicious and other raw food 'vendors': a mixed green salad, crudites with guacamole, sushi, assortment of kale chips, raw pizza, carrot cracker with some sort of raw dip, and coconut macaroon!

As I mentioned above, there were also some interesting raw related vendors. Living Libations, a company that uses only the purest essential oils and beeswax for their beauty products, had such an interesting booth that I had to peruse their offerings. I purchased two lip balms, Hot Lover Lips (!) which uses cinnamon, as well as a Lavendar lip balm. Both were equally sumptuous and great for the skin:

a shot of Living Libations' table

David Wolfe also had a table, which featured copies of his books and bars of his 'Sacred Chocolate'. he even had some agave for sale:

David Wolfe's table of goodies

Overall, it was a really interesting evening and I am glad I got to see David Wolfe in action ;-) I'd best get back to my 'sunny raw kitchen', as I'm whipping up some delectable goodies for Christmas. I will post them soon! :-)

Friday, December 18, 2009

my reasons for going raw

"strawberries mean love" (anyone get the popular music reference?)

I've been inspired by a recent comment on my blog (by the way, a big thank you to EVERYONE who has taken the time to send such wonderful comments my way re: this blog - it is incredibly encouraging, and I have become more and more impressed with the cyber-raw community every day!). Michal (whose fabulous blog is
Earth Muffin) recently asked me "what made you decide to get into raw foods? Just curious, and im not sure if you've talked about it before". Great question Michal - I am also always curious about other raw bloggers and their reason to go raw!

I briefly discussed my personal history with vegetarianism/veganism in my first post for this blog,
A Vegan Thanksgiving?, but I will try to offer a more in-depth tale of my reasons for going raw! But first, a little back history:

I became a vegetarian at a very young age (around 11 or so), but my diet could have been more balanced (I tended to eat a majority of refined carbs). I also found out I had some food sensitivities/allergies around the same time (the usual culprits: wheat, eggs, corn, dairy), but again, at that point in time, there wasn't as much cultural importance/information on the severity or problems associated with food sensitivities.

I continued to eat wheat and dairy (no eggs though - never been a fan!), stopping dairy at age 16 and wheat shortly thereafter (the latter was of and on until I was in my early twenties). Throughout my teens, my diet became more balanced, but still relied on whole grains and soy products for the majority of my diet, moreso than fresh fruit and vegetables. I also continued to eat fish (on occasion).

My interest in 'going raw' began last January, 2009. Some of my initial reasons for changing my diet were the result of some digestion issues I had been having; stomach issues/pain, and thought 'there has to be some way I can remedy these symptoms on my own'. (As Tim Van Orden stated during his guest lecture at Raw Aura, "most people come to raw when they are looking for something to improve their lives, and are disatisifed with their current condition/state of mind"-paraphrase). Well, somewhat disatisified I was! I had also injured my leg while running (pulling my IT band - ouch), and sort of re-evaluated my health regime at the same time (it took about two months for my leg to fully recover). Also, I stumbled upon Carmella Soleil's blog, The Sunny Raw Kitchen, as well as Heather Pace's Adventures of Raw Goddess Heathy and was immediately inspired by their raw food kitchen endeavours and interesting recipes. Plus, they are Canadian (like me :-) !), as well as around the same age.

What also really impressed me was the concept of 'healthy dessert' (still boggles my mind from time to time). How could dessert be delicious AND nutritious? Well, Carmella and Heather certainly prove that raw desserts can be an everyday occurence! And don't even get me started on chocolate - HEALTHY CHOCOLATE?! I had never been a dessert or chocolate fan, and now, I can't get enough of such desserts and raw cacao.


If you can believe it, I had never heard of the term 'raw food/raw food veganism' before, and was immediately curious and started to do more research, looking at other blogs and web resources, absorbing the information like a (cellulose) sponge! I also became interested in food combining, looking at online charts such as this one below, which made quite a bit of sense. I had heard of food combining during my vegetarian/vegan teens, but had never really investigated it before. I really do think food combining is a great way to cure most digestive ailments, but it does require some time and planning. I try to food combine whenever possible:

food combining chart

During my early stages of raw, I started to incorporate more fresh fruit (something I didn't really explore before - I usually stuck to apples and raisins and absolutely deplored bananas (now I can't get enough of the latter). With a fresh raw food perspective, I welcomed mangoes, papayas, pineapple, bananas, and berries of all different colors into my diet. I also became fascinated with green smoothies, which was the first truly raw item I incorporated into my daily routine. Out with the heavy bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, and in with the delicious green smoothies. Before going raw, I didn't really eat enough green (leafy) vegetables, and green smoothies certainly helped with upping my green intake:

my first green smoothie

1 mango
1/2 banana (my fear of bananas is evident here)
3 handfuls spinach
1 c water
1 tbsp hemp seeds

While on the topic of raw 'firsts', my very first raw dessert recipe was Carmella's version of Ani Phyo's Lemon-Coconut Bars. These were so simple and so incredibly delicious, I still make them to this day whenever I need a surefire raw dessert (I made these for my first raw uncooking class, and am even making some as part of my Christmas goodies):

lemon-coconut bars

I also bought a juicer, and began juicing from time to time, which I found so refreshing (I had been craving enzymes and nutrients from juice-something fresh for my newfound raw diet). I still juice, and go through my 'juicing phases', but have not embarked on a true blue juice fast (as of yet). I admire those of you who have the determination to do so!

Fast forward to the present, and I eat a very high raw diet. I also shed about ten pounds after going raw, which is a welcomed benefit for being more lean and healthy! In addition, I have kicked my soy milk addiction in the past few months, and now make my own nut mylks (usually almond). I've explored some supplements, such as spirulina, which I find has really helped with my 'protein' intake. While not 100% raw, I claim to be about 80-80% raw, as I still eat some edamame, cooked grains such as quinoa or millet (on a seldom occasion), and steamed vegetables.

I think the raw food diet is a great approach to eating, as well as the associated lifestyle. There is a real sense of community amongst raw foodies, which I have experienced with the online raw community, as well as in 'real life'. While not for everyone, I think the incorporation of raw foods into ones diet can have significant improvements to ones health.

Well, that's all for now, but the question remains:


What are your reasons for going raw? 
How has your raw journey been thus far?!

I am quite curious about all of you! :-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

second raw uncooking class

Last week, I had the pleasure of leading/teaching a second raw uncooking class! This time around, I decided to make the following recipes: cashew cream parfait with mixed berries and a pear,almond, and cranberry green salad. I felt that these recipes were somewhat festive, as they use cinnamon, cranberries, and could be served at a holiday meal. Here are the recipes:

cashew cream parfait with mixed berries
makes four large parfaits

1 ½ cup cashews, soaked an hour or so beforehand
¾ cup water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp psyllium husk
2-3 cups mixed berries
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Blend first four ingredients. Add psyllium husk and blend until well-mixed. Chill in fridge before assembling parfait. Will keep for four days in the fridge, or several weeks in the freezer (thaw before serving).

orange glaze:

1 tbsp maple syrup
juice of 1 orange
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

Mix fruit and glaze together, setting aside mixture so fruit will soften. Assemble parfait in serving glass, layering cashew cream, berries, and slivered almonds. Garnish with orange slice and slivered almonds.

carob ‘chocolate’ sauce:

½ cup carob powder (or cocoa powder).
½ cup pitted dates
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil (optional-to thicken)

Blend ingredients until smooth. Transfer to squeeze bottle. Drizzle as a topping for the cashew cream parfait. Will keep for four-five days in the fridge.

pear, walnut and cranberry salad
makes four servings

8 cups baby greens
2 large ripe bosc pears
¼ cup slivered almonds (or walnuts)
¼ cup dried cranberries
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled (optional)


Dressing:
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp flax oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup

For the dressing, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard. When serving, distribute greens to four large salad plates, and add rest of ingredients to each portion. Top with dressing and serve (*I found I had to make double the amount of the dressing).

Here are some of the mini parfaits that were served to the class:


cashew cream parfait with mixed berries, almonds and orange garnish
with pear, almond, and cranberry salad with mixed greens

Overall, the class went really well, and it was nice to hear some comments re: my previous recipes from the first class (the lemon bars were a definite hit!). As noted, I did use some goats cheese (not raw!), as I assumed that some of the 'students' would like some with the salad. Sometimes compromise is an option :-)

Here is another sneak peek from my kitchen. This recipe was inspired by Carmella (surprise, surprise!) and her recipe for a nutless pie (see: Nutless Strawberry Chocolate Pie). While this pie does have some nuts (from leftover almond pulp), it is mostly made with bananas (yum!):


banana creme pie with fig and almond crust

fig and almond crust:

18 dried figs (approx)
1 cup almond pulp

Process in a food processor until smooth. Place in a pie plate.Layer with sliced bananas. Chill.


layered with slices of banana

Fill with
banana creme filling
:

3-4 bananas
1/2 cup almond mylk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp mesquite powder

Blend in a personal home blender until smooth and creeeaammy! Top with additional layer of sliced bananas. Chill/freeze and serve!

banana creme pie topped with additional layer of banana slices

Now, my next post will focus on some Christmas recipes I've been wanting to try and make for the holidays! If all goes well, I would like to give them as gifts! Anyhow, I will keep you posted :-)



Tuesday, December 8, 2009

fresh again

Another trip to Toronto, another trip to Fresh on Spadina! This visit was much more subdued (but equally, if not moreso delightful), as my man/boyfriend and I stopped in for a quick bite to eat on a Monday evening before a comedy event. During my last visit, I was so thrilled with the big salad (see post: saturday afternoon at fresh), so this time, I opted to order the same salad, with a side order of sunflower sprouts (wish I was talented enough to grow these at home!), alfalfa sprouts, and crispy tempeh bits (not raw, but oh so delicious):

the big salad with the house dressing:
yummy hulled hemp seeds!

alfalfa, sunflower sprouts,
and crisby tempeh bits

my man's meal:
the soup-salad-corn bread combo

While I am here, I'd also like to share some random kitchen endeavors from the past week or so. I just can't seem to stay out of the kitchen these days :-):

fig and almond apple tarts


These fig and almond apple tarts were the result of an abundance of dried figs and some leftover almond pulp from delicious almond mylk. Combined with cinnamon, these made for an interesting snack/breakfast that also could double as an apple crumble:

5 or 6 dried figs
handful of walnuts (about 1/4 cup)
½ cup almond pulp
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of cardamom
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of ginger
squeeze of lemon juice
¼ tsp vanilla extract
3 apples, processed

Process all of the ingredients except for the apples. Mold the mixture into cupcake shells. Process apples with some cinnamon. Spoon into individual cupcakes and chill. For crumble, add 'nut crust' as a topping over processed apples. Will last for 2-4 days in the fridge. Enjoy!

buckwheat-sundried tomato pizza crust as a 'bread' for a sumptious sandwich with veggies and sundried tomato 'cheeze'

fig and bosc pear parfait with cashew cream, slivered almonds, and carob sauce

delicious with an orange garnish

Anyhow, that is just a sneak peak at some delicious raw food treats from this week. I will be posting more raw food fun shortly :-)

Also, feel free to check out this interview with one of my ultimate fave raves, Billy Corgan discussing Food Inc., Whole Foods, GMO foods, eating habits, and food information as propaganda with Steve Jones (of Sex Pistols fame): Jonesy's Jukebox. One more rock and roll related note, memories of another ultimate fave rave today -

John Lennon (1940-1980).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

latest raw kitchen endeavours

This past weekend was full of off-guard experiences and fun times in the kitchen. To make a long story short, as they say, I went to check out one of the classrooms associated with the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, and had the great opportunity of auditing an Ayurvedic practicum class. Although somewhat familiar with this Indian practice, I learned about the different doshas (I'm definitely a Vatta, for those in the know) and how they relate to digestion. It was incredibly interesting, and I was fortunate to meet some of the students in the program.

Besides the class, I had fun times in the kitchen and whipped up a few quick and easy raw vegan delights, including a delicious strawberry and almond salad, fruit salad (for Carol ;-), and strawberry-banana soft serve with coconut whipped cream. The latter was 'discovered' by accident, and was made using the contents of a can of coconut milk, whipped with a hand blender (while I don't like to use a lot of canned ingredients, opting for fresh, this was a great surprise and would work well if you are in a 'pinch' for a recipe - the whipped coconut cream would also double as an ingredient for a pudding). It was amazing to see that the coconut cream kept its whipped consistency for a few days in the fridge (most likely due to the preservatives - potassium sorbate, whaa?), of which I used some as a delicious whipped topping for some lemon-coconut bars, fruit salad and soft serve:

strawberry and almond salad

mixed fruit salad: strawberries, figs, bosc pear, mandarin oranges, red grapes, blueberries, pineapple

strawberry-banana soft serve with coconut whipped cream

I thought I would also share some of my latest kitchen endeavors with you (from the past month or so). As you can tell, these range from simple salads to more ambitious projects such as kale chips, as well as buckwheat pizza crusts with sundried tomato cheeze which resulted in some delicious dehydrator pizza:

autumn salad with spinach greens, bosc pear, cranberries, walnuts. served with maple-dijon balsamic dressing

luverly breakfast fruit salad:
strawberries, bosc pear, bananas and a slice of pineapple 'love'

ginger-almond-apple kale chips
(inspired by a delicious trip to Raw Aura)


While I am 'here', I thought I would give a quick 'shout out' to buckwheat. While I originally assumed that buckwheat was a member of the wheat family (and therefore, not a good option for my tum), I soon learned after some internet research that buckwheat is indeed NOT a wheat derivitive, and is in fact a psuedocereal, meaning that it is not a cereal or grass.

These days, I have been having quite a bit of fun in the kitchen with buckwheat groats, which are the raw kernels of the pseudo-cereal. I was able to find some reasonably priced at Whole Foods, and found that they also carry them at Planet Organic.

Over the past month or so, I've made buckwheat crispies (inspired by Ani Phyo's simple recipe), and flavoured them with a carob 'chocolate' sauce (carob, dates, water). After a few hours in the dehydrator, these turn into a crispy and sweet cereal, perfect as a topping for banana soft serve, or with some chopped apple, walnuts and dates (grawnola anyone?) :-)

My latest endeavor with buckwheat found me making a sticky dough for buckwheat pizza crusts, inspired by the one and only Raw Goddess Heathy (Heather Pace). It is always a thrill to find inspiration from other raw bloggers:

chocolate buckwheat crispies

a dollop of banana soft serve topped with:
raw cacao nibs, carob sauce, and buckwheat crispies


buckwheat, rosemary, and sundried tomato pizza crusts/bread

Although inspired by Heather Pace's fantastic recipe, I made a few adjustments according to my taste preferences/what ingredients I had on hand. Here is my version:

2 c buckwheat, soaked overnight
1 c sunflower seeds
1/2 c ground yellow flax seed
1/3 c sun dried tomatoes, soaked
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 c water
1 clove garlic
1/3 c chopped sweet onions
1 tsp himalayan salt
1 tsp agave syrup
1 tbsp fresh rosemary

I found that the rosemary really heightens the overall flavor. I even found myself sneaking in some bites as the dehydrator 'rolled on' for a few hours ;-)

the buckwheat 'dough' pre-addition of other ingredients

For the 'pizza', I whipped up a fabulous sundried tomato 'cheeze', using macadamia nuts as the base, and some leftover soaked sundried tomatoes:

sundried tomato 'cheeze'

1 ½ c macadamia nuts
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic
1 cup soaked sun dried tomatoes
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp oregano

Blend ingredients in a blender, adding in water as you go along. Serve on top of pizza crusts, or use as a dip for crudites. Will keep for four days in the fridge, or a few weeks in the freezer (thaw before serving). Warning: this cheeze is seriously addictive :-)

All in all, its been a busy few weeks in the kitchen, but I love it! More recipes to come, and I've got my second raw cooking class scheduled for next week - can't wait!