Thursday, October 29, 2009

(Sometimes) It Ain't Easy Being Raw

I spend a lot of time telling people how easy and yummy it is to be raw…and it is, under ideal circumstances, with health food stores and great grocery stores and a dehydrator always at your disposal.

But when you are away from home, sadly out of range of a food processor and stuck in the land of SAD food (standard American diet), it gets a little tricky.

And if you are like me, it’s NOT GOOD to get over-hungry, and then be faced with irritating factors like an inability to find anything raw to eat. I seriously sometimes go berserk when I’m past the point of needing to be fed. [Side note: My mom told me that she recently saw on Dr. Oz that this is an actual medical condition, where some kind of chemicals in my brain or belly aren’t working right. So I’m not nuts. Well, I am nuts, but it’s not that I want to be! Still, this information is of little consolation to those around me when I get HANGRY – a combo of hungry and angry.]

Last weekend, there was an entire day in which my hangry reign of terror nearly made my boyfriend lose his mind. First, we made impromptu plans to stop at the home of friends of his, whom I’d never met, for lunch on the way back from a little road trip. Great, but I don’t know these people, and I don’t want to walk into their house demanding to be fed only raw goodness. On the other hand, the likelihood is low that they just happen to be firing up the dehydrator to make me some kale chips. And of course, it’s always polite to bring food to a party…but all we can do is stop at a regular grocery store, and hope for the best.

Fortunately, they had a few prepared packaged salads – carrot-apple-raisin and cucumber-tomato – that were reasonably nice to bring to share. Otherwise I might have tried to hit the olive bar. I was dreading the idea of rolling in with my own bag of lettuce. Is that any better or worse than refusing egg salad sandwiches or a quiche someone slaved over? I didn’t know…it was a careful balance of not wanting to seem rude and also wanting to eat. I got really anxious at the store, trying to figure out what I should do. Walking into someone’s house with plastic containers of supermarket fare is not my idea of being a gracious guest, but that’s what happened. Our hosts had made Caesar salad, so I had just the veggies along with the side salads we brought, and it all went fine, and we had a lovely, lovely time.

Until later that night, when we were in search of some takeout to just go home and eat and not have to prepare anything or wash any dishes. The first Italian place had literally nothing raw. The second sandwichy place had seaweed salad – that does not a dinner make, and it was getting late, and I was hangry and anxious! I melted down, like a two year old with a tantrum, and then my meltdown embarrassment made me melt down further. Not at all pretty.

After the adult equivalent of throwing myself on the floor and beating my fits on the ground, I ordered veggie sushi (no rice! Just avocado, cuke, and carrot handrolls. I believe the nori was probably toasted, but this was an emergency) from a Japanese place, with, duh, seaweed salad on the side. There was joy – well, at least no more hangriness – in Rawville.

Fast forward to the next evening: I’m in New York, and my sweet, kind and not remotely raw or vegan friend Jean suggests we hit a raw restaurant for dinner. I honestly nearly started crying while I was reading the menu, looking at all the possibilities for my meal. No stress, no worry, just tons of delicious, fabulously healthy raw dining options. A little slice of raw heaven.

Fast forward again to the evening after that: Ordering takeout from a fancy pan-Asian place. A friend orders RAW veggies for me. They promise they will be raw, and I can add my own sauce…but alas, somehow they arrive steamed. What can you do? I could just eat the veggies – will steamed broccoli and greenbeans kill me? – or I can make everyone feel bad and demand lettuce. I went cooked, and I’m still alive!

I envision a day when every restaurant will have a raw entrée on the menu – just as most have vegetarian options now – and life will get a lot easier. Until then, I will pack Lara bars to help stave of the hangry horrors.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Salad is what’s for dinner several times a week. And it is frequently what’s for lunch, just about every day. Once I’m comfortably situated in front of my trough of tasty greens, I am usually pretty happy, but sometimes the thought of first of all making, and then sitting down to ANOTHER salad makes me want to run in the direction of Chinese takeout (I kid!).

A lot of the time I try to keep it very simple, especially with dressing (salt and pepper, oil & vinegar or lemon, thrown right on top of the salad before I toss it) but, again, it gets a little boring, and you can start to feel like a bunny.

If your nose is starting to twitch like mine is, here’s a cool way to have a little fun with your salad toppings, making the whole thing feel a little more special than just feeding time.

Last night, I found myself in a typical situation of having several items that I wanted to use before they passed their prime…several very ripe avocados, a red bell pepper, some celery that was turning a little floppy.

I whipped up Alissa Cohen’s salmon pate recipe from Living on Live Food, which consists of 2 cups of walnuts, one red pepper, two stalks of celery, a scallion, and ¼-1 tsp of salt, blended til smooth in the food processor. I didn’t have a scallion so I used a few tablespoons of onion, and it came out just fine.

Here’s where I got creative: I used a large tumbler lined completely with plastic wrap (make sure it sticks out over the top of the glass) and layered halved cherry and teardrop tomatoes, ¼ cup of salmon, ¼ cup of avocado, and repeated it, and then inverted the glass onto a plate, and carefully lifted the glass, and removed the plastic wrap. And voila! A nifty layered tower of salad goodies! I surrounded it with a whole lot of greens (dressed with a “fancy” dressing, by my standards – juice of one lemon, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, and salt and pepper, all processed together). This would make a pretty salad if you were having mom or a girlfriend over for lunch…and the possibilities are infinite! You could use guacamole, a nut cheese, chopped olives or tapenade, mango or other fruits…raw appétit!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Plenty of Peaches...Raw Peach Pie

We got a whole bunch of peaches the other day – probably won’t be too many more of those this year! – and, as often happens when you get a lot of something at once, I have been scrambling to put a dent in the batch before it starts to go bad.

Hence, raw peach pie!

And it’s easy as…you guessed it…to make.

This recipe will work for your plentitude of fall apples or pears as well!

For Crust:

I used Jennifer Cornbleet’s recipe from “Raw Food Made Easy” for the crust…

2 ¼ cups ground almonds

¾ cup pitted medjool dates

¼ teaspoon salt

You just grind it all up in the food processor. I was pretty approximate in my almond measurements, and I added a handful of dried cherries for a little extra flavor.

Press the pie crust into a standard pie plate, about 8 or 9 inches, into the bottom and up the sides, just as you would a graham cracker crust.

Slice 4 medium peaches (or pears, or apples) to about ¼ inch thickness.

Toss fruit with 1 tsp cinnamon and 2-3 tablespoons agave nectar, depending on how juicy the fruit already is.

Let the fruit marinate for about half an hour, and then arrange it all pretty in the crust. Drizzle an extra few tablespoons of the leftover juice over the pie (and then drink the rest).

This comes out of the plate more easily than a regular pie!

Raw appétit!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Aw, Nuts!

It’s College Game Day…gotta have some snacks! I whipped up some guacamole, with carrots and cukes for dipping, and made some spicy “beer nuts”…nothing like something they serve at a bar, and definitely not full of everyone’s fingernail germs (which may be a good way to get your B12? Hmmm…).

I get bored of plain old nuts all the time, but even just salt won’t stick to raw almonds…so here’s what I do:

In a medium bowl, combine the juice of 2 limes, 1-2 tablespoons agave nectar (depending on how sweet you like them!), ½ tsp cayenne (or more, to your preference), ½ tsp sea salt. Stir it all til the salt is dissolved, and add 2-3 cups of almonds or cashews, a cup at a time. Toss to coat, and let the topping dry in the dehydrator at 105 degrees for about an hour, shaking the trays a couple of times while they are in there, or spread on cookie sheets in a cracked-open oven at the lowest temp until dry to the touch. Very classy to drink with a glass of wine (beer ain’t raw, folks!) while cheering on your favorite team!

Today, I’m rooting for the Irish!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ben & Jerry Ain't Got Nothin': Raw Chocolate Ice Cream...with Avocado!

Last week I made ice cream for breakfast…but I have a healthy, raw version that’s even more indulgent…perhaps a little more lunch-y. The secret ingredient is one of the richest, creamiest things found in nature…and also not something you associate with sweet treats: avocado.

Believe it or no, this raw chocolate ice cream tastes like the most amazing premium ice cream, and it is soooo easy to make. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, freeze it in a block and then whip it up a little before you serve it, or just omit the water and have decadent – and great for you – chocolate pudding. This is the best recipe for when all the avocados are suddenly ripe at once, and you need to use ‘em up!

Raw Chocolate (Avocado!) Ice Cream

2 quite ripe avocados

½ agave nectar

1 cup water (omit or add to desired consistency to make pudding)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup cocoa powder

Blend all ingredients in a blender. Pour into ice cream maker, and let it do its magic. Eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner…or maybe even dessert! Raw appétit!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ice Cream for Breakfast

Who hasn’t eaten ice cream for breakfast (a few times!)? But if you eat RAW ice cream for breakfast – or lunch, or dinner, or all three – you can feel good about it, and its good for you.

My banana ice cream recipe is crazy easy, really yummy, and another good one for traveling – easy for non-raw folks to try, easy to make anywhere that has a freezer and food processor.

And for nutritional value, I’ll watch it go head to head with crusty old Cheerios any time!

Here’s my raw ice cream recipe, although it barely even deserves that name, it’s so simple:

3 bananas PEELED (don’t try to freeze and THEN peel, or you’ll get frostbite…I know from experience), cut into one inch chunks and frozen

3-4 tablespoons raw cocoa powder (I used 4 heapers…don’t tell)

And that is it. Throw the goodness in a food processor, and let it do its magic. Depending on how cold your freezer is, the mixture might be really crumbling at first. Let it sit and warm up a teensy bit, maybe like 3 minutes, and try again. It will turn into thick, custardy, chocolately heaven once it defrosts a little. Add a tablespoon or two of raw almond butter for an extra rich treat. Do it in a blender with ½ - 1 cup of water or coconut water, and it’s a milkshake!

Still traveling – I’ll post a picture of my raw banana ice cream when I can find a camera cable that fits!

Raw appetit!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Raw on the Road: BYO Raw Cocoa

Im in Massachusetts visiting my family, and although traveling and eating raw usually means lots and lots and lots of salad, my mom prepared the cupboard for me with tons of fresh fruit and veggies, raw nuts, and…RAW COCOA POWDER! It has been ages since my local health food store has even had any of my sweet, dark master in stock, so I was doing the happy dance when I found it in the cabinet. And the first chance I got, I busted out the food processor (mom has a normal size one, which is also a nice treat compared to my usual mini chopper ways) and made a raw chocolate snack.

Here’s a super easy, yummy raw recipe for brownies that’s easy to make on the road…it requires few ingredients, and you can get all but the raw cocoa at the regular grocery store. BYORC, and you’re all set! They are also pretty palatable to raw newbies, and cocoa powder is an amazing superfood: according to the package of mine, 2 ½ tablespoons has 60 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 8% of your daily iron, and a slew of antioxidants. But the bottom line is: it’s chocolate!

Easy Raw Brownies:

1 cup medjool dates, pitted (use 1 ½ cups if they are the smaller, drier supermarket variety, and you may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if it is still very dry and crumbly in the food processor after all the ingredients are added)

1 cup walnuts (or cashews, or almonds, or whatever nut you’ve got, unsoaked.)

¼ cup (or so!) cocoa powder

Pinch of sea salt

Combine all in food processor until a dough ball starts to form. Add water a tablespoon at a time if this doesn’t happen, which may be because your dates are dry. Form into a ¾ high round or square shape on a plate, or roll into bite sized balls. Cover and freeze or refrigerate…raw appetit!