Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Eat the Garnish! Pesto Kale Chips

My mom visited last weekend, and while I planned to take her to regular restaurants the whole time, she actually requested that I make her a raw meal! We had a sampling of things…among them, my pesto-flavored kale chips, which she had heard me rave about and was eager to try.

I can understand how even someone whole loves veggies might be a little turned off by kale…you could call it tough and chewy straight from the garden, and it definitely tastes very, very green. But it has tons of nutrients – tons of vitamin A and C, and a bunch (pun intended) of iron and calcium. And, if you turn kale into chips, it is really darn tasty! My Guy frequently refers to them as his favorite “greasy bar treat.” When something that used to be the garnish under a pile of onion rings becomes the main event, you know it has arrived.

For my chips I use an entire huge bunch of kale. Tear it into pieces the size of, say, large Tostitos, excluding the huge center stems, and wash it really well – you want the chips to be crunchy for all the right reasons, and sand is not one of them.

In a food processor, combine:

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil (use more if you love basil, or none if you want your chips to taste cheesy as opposed to pesto-y)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Juice of one lemon

About ½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons olive oil

Hefty dash of black pepper

2 cloves of garlic

Working in batches (I do half and half – of you have a huge bowl, you can do it all at once), smoosh dressing into kale so that all the leaves are well coated

Lay on mesh dehydrator sheets…its okay if the edges are touching, but you don’t want them to overlap…and dehydrate for 4 hours or so at 105, until they are dry and crispy. If you are lucky, you’ll still have half a batch in there by the time they are all done – they are so tasty, I’m dipping into the dehydrator all day! If you don’t have a dehydrator, you could just marinate the kale in this dressing and then eat it up, or put them in a regular oven at the lowest temp…I’m not sure on the timing in a regular oven, and I would imagine you’d want to flip the chips occasionally if they were on a non-breathable surface.

Collard greens also work pretty well, and they are flatter than traditional kale, and also come out really yummy. And this is a bargain…kale is very inexpensive, whereas I’ve bought tiny packages if kale chips at the health food store for literally $8 (shame on me, I know), so this recipe is a winner all around. And FYI, mom LOVED ‘em!

Raw appétit!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sprouty McSprouterson….and why he and all his cousins had to be sacrificed for my falafel

Sprouting works, you need not fear it, and it lets you make some pretty cool stuff. I sprouted chickpeas this week to make falafel…the chickpeas start out as hard little things that look like a small version of their bloated, canned selves. You can buy seeds for sprouting at the health food store, and specific instructions usually are listed on the package. For chickpeas, I soaked the cup or so of seeds in a LOT of filtered water overnight. They expand more than you think! Then I drained the water, and spread the little sprouts-to-be around and up the sides of a big shallow bowl, covered it loosely with paper towel, and rinsed and drained them two or three times a day for three days, until most of them had about a quarter to a half inch of sprouty growth. They are so cute, it makes me feel bad eating them. (If eggs are rape and meat is murder, what is eating sprouts?)

I stopped feeling guilty once I made this delish falafel.

In a food processor, combine:

2 cups sprouted chickpeas

½ cup onion

Juice from ½ a lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1-2 tablespoons curry powder, to taste

Form into golf balls sized balls or flatten into patties, and eat as is or over a salad, or dehydrate overnight (or longer, if you prefer them very dry). An oven on the lowest setting & cracked open will dry out the outside if you don’t have a dehydrator but don’t want to eat them totally squishy. I made a falafel “pita” with a big old collard leaf, with cukes and tomatoes and a drizzle of tahini.

Raw appétit!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Raw Chocolate Layer Cake...Gluten, Wheat, Dairy, and Guilt Free!

Even the biggest veggie-thumping, wheat grass-slurping health nuts need a little treat now and then. And as much of a veggie monster as I am…I have a pretty big sweet tooth. I had a birthday party to attend yesterday, and none of my regular, humble sweet treats would I created a special layer cake that was a heck of a lot simpler, and way better for you than a traditional birthday cake…plus it was wheat, gluten, dairy and egg free! A great one to make if you know someone with an allergy, or just want a better-for-you indulgence.

Don’t get me wrong…this bad boy still does some hefty caloric damage, and has plenty of fat…but it is also packed with good stuff, like nuts, cocoa, and coconut butter, so it delivers a nutritional punch that will knock out your sweet tooth!

I made mine in layers, upside down in a round container with the bottom perpendicular to the sides. A very small sauce pan would also work…you just don’t want something more than 5 or 6 inches in diameter.

For this fabulous cake, first make your “batter”:


1 ½ cup walnuts

1 cup medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped

¼ cup raw cocoa powder [Full disclosure: The health food store has been out of raw cocoa for weeks, and they don’t have carob either, so I used natural, unsweetened cocoa NOT processed with alkali…the alkalization process is sometimes referred to as “dutched.” So, best to use raw, but if you can’t, don’t get alkalized cocoa.]

Pinch of salt

Process in food processor until thoroughly mixed into tiny crumbs


½ cup walnuts

½ cup shredded coconut

¼ cup coconut butter

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Process till smooth


½ cup coconut butter

1 cup cocoa powder

½ cup agave nectar

Pinch salt

Dash vanilla extract

Process til smooth…this may make your food processor a little cranky

Lay a big sheet of plastic wrap over the container in which you’ll build your cake, and press into sides of container (so that when you invert it later, your cake will just slide right out, with just a little tug of the plastic)

Press into the mold…I used ½ of the chocolate crumb layer – press the layers really well! – then the entire coconut layer, then 1/3 of the ganache, then the rest of the chocolate layer. I let my set up in the fridge for about an hour before I did the ganache frosting, and then gently inverted it onto the serving plate (do like Martha Stewart and put about a teaspoon of your ganache on the plate first to keep the cake from sliding around). Leave the ganache out at room temp until you are ready to frost the cake. To make the frosting layer, put the remaining ganache blob between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment on a big surface, and press/roll out to a diameter that will cover the entire top and side of the cake. Flip on top of the cake, and press lightly down, then trim any extra at the bottom. Serve chilled or at room temp…sooooooooo good.

Raw appétit!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Raw Tacos...A Crowd Pleaser Even Mikey Will Like!

I made these raw tacos the other day when a friend came to visit. Their familiarity raw food newbies and just the fact that they are super yummy make them a good recipe when entertaining the uninitiated. My brother is SUPER picky, and thinks raw food is very strange, but when he was a little kid he said once he must actually be Mexican because he likes tacos so much…I think he might even eat these (but hold the guacamole for him!).

I make fancy taco shells in the dehydrator, but you can also use lettuce as a little wrapper…these are just as delicious in a romaine leaf boat!

The taco shell recipe I made up after looking at a couple of other ones…it dehydrates in like four hours, which is great in case, like me, you didn’t know last Monday what you are going to have for dinner tonight!

For the taco meat, I actually bought a packet of taco seasoning from the grocery store to see what they put in there for spices…I think my blend is pretty good!

Raw Taco “Meat”:

1 ½ cups of walnuts, soaked for like 2 hours

½ a cup of sundried tomatoes, chopped and soaked for an hour or two if not packed in oil

¼ cup onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon chili powder (which contains stinky tacos spices already)

Extra ¼ teaspoon of cayenne if you like ‘em spicy

½ teaspoon oregano

¼ teaspoon salt

2-3 tablespoons olive oil….

Food process it up until it looks like taco meat from Tuesday night suppers that mom used to make with the supermarket taco kit!

Taco Shells:

16 oz. bag of frozen corn (you could also use fresh, but that’s a lot of corn to cut off the cob!)

¾ cup ground flax seed

¼ cup lime juice

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chili powder (or more, to taste)

Blend it all up in the food processor…if you are still living in the stone age, or have no counter space and therefore still only have a mini chopper, like me, you may need to do this in batches and mix it all together in a bowl.

Spread thin on teflex sheets – about ¼ inch thickness, or a little less if you can manage and not see through it at all.

Dehydrate at 105 for around 4 hours, flipping onto mesh screens half way through.

When the edges get crispy, but the whole thing is still a bit pliable, flip the whole think onto a cutting board and use a jar lid or something to cut 5 inch circles out with a paring knife. Fold in half into taco shapes, and lay them on their sides with a chopstick on top so hold they the shape (or just fold them up when you eat them).

Top with taco meat, guacamole and pico de gallo (chop up a couple of tomatoes, an onion to equal half that amount, throw in a handful of cilantro, a good squirt of lime, and you’re in business)….deliciosa!

Raw appétit!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Oat Groats: The Breakfast of Raw Champs

Today as I was making my own raw breakfast of champions, I realized I have never blogged about the most important meal of the day!

Typically, I just have a lot of fruit for breakfast, over the course of a morning. Fruit digests quickly and easily if it is on its own in your belly, so it is best eaten on an empty stomach, and if possible, one kind at a time. For example, melons digest really quickly…best to eat them first and give them a while before you start downing bananas or raisins or what have you. I might have a whole bunch of watermelon, then a peach or two an hour later, then a banana or two a little later.

That is, unless I’m in marathon training.

Today I ran my first longish run to train for the Philly marathon (12 miles…I’m a little behind schedule!) on November 20, and made myself a breakfast of raw champs: soaked oat groats!

Before I went raw, I would usually have a bagel before a long run, and if it was before the actual marathon, I might slip in a few pretzels for a little extra salt. I didn’t like bananas because I felt like I regurgitated them a little when I started running (sorry, too much info!).

I ate soaked oat groats during training for last year’s Boston Marathon, and had great results, although I managed to gross out one of my fellow runners on the bus…I had blended it up with a few other ingredients…she asked if I was eating tuna salad! Hey, whatever works…

Anyway, oat groats are as easy as regular oatmeal. The groat is the whole grain kernel, before it is steamrolled or whatever those Quakers do to all those oats them sell.

To eat the groats, you have to soak them, for at least 24 hours (change the water once in there). I have about ½-3/4 of a cup dry for one serving. Once it is soft, I like to give the groats a quick chop in the food processor. Sometimes I add in a little almond butter to make it creamy. Bananas, raisins, cinnamon, and a little squirt of agave are also delicious toppings to stir in. In a pinch (meaning, it is the night before a long run and I haven’t soaked my groats yet), I use steel cut groats (eg, Irish Oatmeal), which are already chopped up and absorb water a little faster, and just soak over night.

Interesting to note…I don’t have problems digesting bananas now that I’m raw!

Best thing about raw oats…no sticky pan to clean after!

Raw appétit!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Raw Tapas for Dinner...Guess What I Turned Into "Bacon"!?

Tapas are on the menu for dinner! Small portions of several tasty treats make my ideal meal, because I like really tasty things (which can be too much for a whole meal) and because I love experimenting and making up raw recipes.

A few of my favorite tapas from my pre-raw days included patatas bravas – spicy, fried potato chunks – and these super tasty dates wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cheese and an almond sliver, from Boqueria in New York. I made my own version of those as well as kale chips last night for din din along with a big salad.

So first, I had to accomplish my most amazing raw feat yet, to turn a date into bacon...well, turn a date bacon-y. I've had "bacon" made out of eggplant, but had the brainstorm that a smooshed date could be made to resemble the porky treat a little bit more. I pitted a medjool date, and sliced it into ¼ inch pieces, stuck them together and pounded them out between plastic wrap, then drizzled a teensy bit of oil and a little salt on ‘em, and warmed in the dehydrator. I felt like a pretty big genius having figured this out, so I took a few pictures. Then I wrapped pieces of the “bacon” around an almond…so it wasn’t EXACTLY like the cooked version, but the salty/sweet, crunchy/gooey combo was spot-on.

The patatas bravas idea was born out of my attempt to turn avocados into something like french fries…I’ve tried a few times, and the results have been so-so…but the patatas bravas for some reason worked really well. Here’s how to do it:

Cube an avocado

In a small tupperware bowl that you have a lid for, mix up 1 tsp of paprika, ¼ tsp cayenne (more if you like a lot of spice), ½ teaspoon of granulated onion, and ¼ tsp of salt.

Toss the avocado to totally coat (no green peeking through!) and dehydrate on mesh screens for 2ish hours, until they are a little crispy on the outside. I fooled my guy – he thought there were real potatoes inside the crispy coating!

I'll save the kale chips recipe for another time...

Raw appétit!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"As Seen on TV" (Raw) Dinner: Jamie Oliver's Funky Pasta, Done Raw

Are you like me and find TV cooking shows absolutely mesmerizing? I don’t know what it is…but I could watch Giada and Ina all day long. Not that I can use most of their recipes, since they are mainly cooked, but I have found some that are easy to adjust, and work as good kind of crossover dishes if you are cooking for someone who isn’t raw…

To that point, the other night I made “Funky Spaghetti” that I watched Jamie Oliver make with Oprah on a repeat the other day. I had a mix of zucchini fettuccine (just start peeling with a potato peeler, and don’t stop!) and angel hair out of the spiral slicer, while my Guy had regular spaghetti.

According to Jamie, you just crush up a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes or other little tomatoes in a bowl, with all the seeds and juice and everything (just use your hands, tear ‘em in bite size pieces), tear up a couple of good handfuls of fresh basil (and he added marjoram and garlic, too – I forgot those), and let that sit for a few minutes (eg, while you make your pasta) with a little salt and pepper and a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss with your pasta, and that’s it!

I’ll keep the “As Seen on TV” recipes coming!

Raw appétit!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Raw on the Road: Raw Snackathon in Boise, Idaho

I just got back from Boise, Idaho, and brought back a few souvenirs in the form of raw treats.

There’s a great co-op there, which is just about heaven for a hungry raw-food eater, with raw snacks galore…all kinds of crackers and cookies and lots of CHOCOLATE. So I stocked up and had a little raw food snackathon.

I find the hardest thing about staying raw is that you get so darn sick of salads, and if you are traveling or just want something quick, salads and fruit and plain nuts are kind of the only option (until McD’s starts serving billions and billions of raw burgers, that is!). So it’s fun to find goodies that are different and unusual and best of all, you don’t have to make yourself!

Not that you should subsist on raw junk food alone, anymore than you would eat only Doritos and Twinkies, as raw snacks are still pretty high calorie. But man, was it fun to have me some treats!

I sampled raw onion rings, “Mac’n’Cheese” crackers (tasted like spicy Cheez-its – yum!), Carob Fudge Balls, sauerkraut seed crackers, “Focaccia” bread, and chocolate filled with “caramel.” I recommend these mac’n’cheese crackers if you come across them, and the seed crackers and focaccia are great to accompany a salad or a dip, although they are pretty dense.

The great thing about these treats is that if you really like one, you can probably re-create it…all the ingredients are listed in the order of their concentration (that will take a guess), but it isn’t like you have to be worried about oven temperature and timing! Just spin the dial to 105 or 110, and it is ready when it is ready! I’ll write about my forays into raw snacks on Raw Appétit very soon!

If you happen to be in Boise, the Boise Co-Op is great for raw foodies, as well as the Farmers Market on 8th Street on Saturdays, where there are tons of seasonal fruits and veggies from farms near by…and yes, there’s MUCH more than just potatoes!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pesto? Presto!

This time of year is great for fresh veggies and fruit…everyone is reaping the rewards of their gardens. While the little basil and parsley plantings in pots on my deck have long since been depleted – save for a few “volunteers” that have sprung up in the window boxes – friends have been nice enough to share with us, including my Guy’s colleague who has given us TONS of gorgeous basil from her gardens. As they say, when life gives you basil, make pesto!

Although traditional recipes usually include cheese, you hardly miss it if you make your pesto RAW, and it is one of those really simple, yet kind of fancy seeming, recipes to make for yourself or others. My recipe is a little something like this: use a LOT of basil (just the leaves, and wash ‘em good), at least 2 cups tightly packed, a handful (1/4 cup) of pine nuts, a clove or two of garlic, a quarter cup or so of olive oil (depending on how much basil you have), and blend it up well in the food processor, then salt & pepper to taste. You can use walnuts or pistachios, and add other herbs as well.

For pasta? I like to use a zucchini, either making angel hair pasta with a spiral slicer or just using a potato peeler lengthwise to turn it into fettuccine. This is a great substitution for pasta- with all the awesome pesto, you won’t miss the starchy regular pasta. And for someone trying to diet, it’s a huge calorie saver. Zero Weight Watchers points! I usually warm mine up in the dehydrator or the oven on the lowest setting for a few minutes first. Yellow or summer squash works, too, or use your pesto as a dressing or dip for veggies.

Last weekend I kept the pesto on the thicker side and stuffed cherry tomatoes with it (just cut of the very top, and scrape out the seeds with the top of a paring knife).

Here is an example of my Guy’s foray into food styling…it’s like a little pesto smiley face! Too cute!