Our idea of what constitutes "food" in American culture has become so skewed that it is almost unrecognizable. Our supermarkets are packed with products whose ingredients include unpronounceable chemicals, dyes, bacteria, and growth hormones. They are irradiated without our consent and contain GMOs.It's time to bring back FOOD. Pure unadulterated organic RAW food.This blog is a documentation of my continuing journey on a plant-based lifestyle.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fruititarian Without The Label

Bon jour fellow foodies!

Ok, I feel like I need to clarify some things from my "rant" yesterday as well as some things about myself.

1. While I may whine about not being able to indulge in raw gourmet all the time like most raw foodies I actually feel better this way. Nuts can be very heavy and for someone who has had a long time suffering with feeling bloated, I do not enjoy that heavy feeling. After eating nut heavy dishes I always crave fruit anyway. The fruit + fat combo = fermentation = badddd!

2. I've been eating a modified fruititarian diet for the past year now. It began in France two summers ago. In France there are no flax crackers, chocolate chewies, or spirulina pie (things I used to eat everyday from Lifethyme which was near my university, The New School, in the beginnings of my raw food transition). And the French idea of salad is either a small bowl of plain greens or greens piled high with lardons and oeffs (ham and eggs) slathered in a mayo/butter dressing. Needless to say, I gave up eating in the cafes early on. During the day I ate mono meals of bananas and coconut. I began making my own salads at night with an entire bag of lettuce, 1 whole english cuc, 1 red/yellow/orange pepper, sundried tomatoes, raisins, mushrooms, and 1 whole avocado with a very simple dressing of orange and olive oil -- no salt, no spices. I snacked on whole baby pineapples, mangos, and baskets of strawberries as well as some organic dried fruit from the spice shops in Les Halles section of Paris. Very simple. My digestion was fantastic. My skin (for the first time since going raw) was glowing with no blemishes. I had tons of energy which was totally essential as Kev and I walked EVERYWHERE plus our usual exercise. I left for France weighing around 125lbs and came back a toned 115 lbs. I tried to maintain the same lifestyle at home, but Europe is so far ahead of us when it comes to food quality that it was almost impossible. I yo-yo-ed back and forth between fruititarian and high fat raw gourmet for much too long. And it wasn't until this past March that I think I finally gained control over my health. It's been a slow learning process.

3. Right now, I think I am just going through a phase. Driving across the country from NYC to CA was a very strange transition for my normally active body. I went from doing Bikram yoga everyday plus walking maybe 5+ miles all over the city to sitting in a car for 8 to 9 hours at a time. Plus, eating in the car and then that food just sitting in my stomach. It totally compromised my digestion. Now I have finally found a balence. I walk as much as I possibly can, go to the gym every other day, and do Bikram everyday. The more active I am the better my digestion is. They say that your skin is a clear sign of the internal health of your body. Since I have begun eating a blended diet, more fruit, green smoothies, and incorporating Vitamineral Green my skin has totally cleared up. I always blamed Bikram and the excessive amounts of sweat for my bad skin. Tisk tisk.

4. First and foremost, I am a chef. That will never change. I will always love food; it's been my passion since before I could reach the counter. The desire to create delicious food for those around me will never die. And, I will always have sentimental emotional ties to the foods of my past and the urge to create raw food that is reminicent of the staples of my childhood. Am I going to eat it every day? No. Will it be the basis of my diet? No. However, to deny myself small pleasures like going out to raw restaurants just because it doesn't fit the mold of my typical fruititarian diet is crazy!

5. Fruitarian or raw gourmet, taste must never be sacrificed! I grew up watching old school Food Network with Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse and even Julia Child on PBS. Before I was a raw food chef, I was simply, just a chef. I ate meat. I made pies with regular refined white sugar. I used to pretend that our kitchen in Stockton was the studio for my own television show and I would demonstarte for my "audience" how to make the perfect plum reduction for leftover steak. When you begin this way, taste, is perhaps the single most important element of any food that you create because when you are dealing with raw food or even vegan skeptics they don't give a rats ass how healthy your food is.

6. Even the best of chefs like Gordon Ramsay will tell you that food should be simple and easy. It should not be a complicated mess of 20 ingredients and spices. The best dishes are typically the ones that come together in minutes and whose ingredients number no more than five. If you apply this to the raw food lifestyle it becomes much more managable. I went through a phase where I felt I had to create these elaborate dishes every night for dinner in order to achieve optimal health, when in fact, it was quite the opposite. Screw the super foods that cost 25 dollars per oz. Not to be a negative nancy but I bought into that stuff in the beginning too. From personal experience, it made no difference when my hair was falling out or my horomones where so f-ed up that I stopped getting my period and ovulating. What did work? Well, exactly what you would think - the reason why we all become raw foodists in the first place - RAW FOOD. Green smoothies, lots of fruit, lots of greens, fresh herbs , and healthy fats like avocado.  Plus, Vitamineral Green...totally Vitamineral Green...because unlike everything else that shiz actually works.

Oh, while I am on the topic of simple food. Gordon Ramsay, a ten mischlin star chef with restaruants on just about every continent, makes a broccoli soup. Want to know what's in the soup? Broccoli boiled in sea salted water, strained, food processed with the sea salted water added back into the broccoli. Nothing else. Food does not have to be complicated to be good.

Ok, so, I think that is it. I'm a modified frutitarian who dabbles in the raw gourmet because that is what makes people happy. And I want nothing more than for people to enjoy my food.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tales of a Compromised Raw Food Nerd

 My lack of postage has been grating on my mind lately. My camera ran out of batteries and I have been too busy preparing for my Holidays Gone Raw classes at the ENC to worry about camera batteries. Shame on me. I found batteries so food pictures will resume shortly.

Moving along. I swear, I have the digestive system of an 80 year old woman on a steady diet of bacon and hard candy i.e. no matter what I do my digestive system hates me.  (Maybe i've just got a complex? I've always felt my D.S. was working against me.) I love raw gourmet -- I could eat wraps, pizza, and nut burgers until the end of time, but my body will simply having nothing to do with it. It says to me, "Alysha, you are past the transition stage, moooveee onnn!" I respond, "But d.s., it tastes so good! Why can everyone else eat that way without getting bloated or feeling exhausted or perhaps the worst- breaking out?! Whyyy me?!"

My whining does absolutely nothing to change my very stubborn digestive system who stands her ground and honestly, who am I to fight? I've tried my best to make it work: digestive enzymes galore, powders with pre and pro-biotics, green smoothies to build up my HCL (stomach acid that works to break down your food) all with only a slight improvement. Certainly not enough to allow me to eat raw gourmet more than once or twice a month. Such is the life of a raw foodist who transitioned to a very clean diet much too soon.

Let me explain.

So, when you begin on raw foods and move away from the processed garbage, meat, and diary - even the vegan mock processed food- your body is in a total state of bliss. You begin to clean out all the crap and a transition from junk to the nut-heavy goodiness of raw gourmet is such an improvement that your body simply feels greatful and lets you eat all the nut burgers and flax crackers you want. However, much like exercise, you can plateau on raw foods and a diet heavy in nuts WILL slow the healing process. I guess you can say a raw gourmet diet is like a buffer for detoxification because nuts contain a lot of fat and oil. Fresh fruit and veggies are what cleanses and heals our bodies. When you are in  transition (even if your transition period lasts 5 years!) raw gourmet is the perfect way to overcome cravings and the psychological effects of adapting to a way of life that is very "radical" for the world we live in. (Fast food, fast food, fast food, horomones, pesticides, chemcials blah blah blah) I do believe there is a place for nuts and seeds beyond the transition period, but for me, it is a very small part.

So, what's a serious foodie to do when her body rebels against the food she loves yet again? I mean, I love green smoothies and straight up fruits and veggies as much as the next girl (or guy) but, I like my savory foods. I need something hearty - I exericse twice a day! Givee me caloriessss! (God, this sounds like one of those chunky meat lovers soup ads with the football players. Apologies.) Straight up blended soup is not my deal. Neither is a blended salad that uses greens like romanine lettuce. Gross. And I had already exhausted the zucchini pasta option with marinara as I ate that straight for a couple of weeks. (Would you believe that even THAT bothers my tum! And forget big salads! Yup, FML.)

Also, if you can't tell already...I am so not one of those people who will eat anything no matter how bad it tastes just because it is good for me. Oh, I totally DO NOT ascribe to that way of life. I think if you approach food in that manner you are setting yourself up for disaster. Who the hell wants to eat food that tastes like crap? I certainly don't. Food is fuel, sure, but it is also so much more.

So, I started with Cauliflower Mash. So simple you could make it blind-folded...ok, maybe not blind-folded, but still really easy. Cauli-Mash gets such a bad wrap because people cauliflower has a very strong taste esp. raw and esp. blended but I love it. I topped it off with a Rosemary and Black Pepper Au Jus. Best part is -- there is no measuring involved. And with the Holidays cominng up this is a perfect recipe. If you can take the nuts, feel free to add a cup of cashews or pine nuts or for a decadent rich mash add mac nuts.

Dill & Rosemary Cauli-Mash:
2 scoops tahini
Bunch of fresh dill
Green part of 1 scallion
2 heaping scoops of Nutritional Yeast
Dash of black pepper
Dash of sea salt
Couple shakes of rosemary powder

Throw it all into your food processor and blend into smithereens! You may have to stop every once in a while in order to push down whatever gets stuck on the sides. It should full blended, no little pieces of caultflower. If you are going for a more authentic looking mash then I would suggest adding the herbs at the end because they will turn your mash a lovely shade of green otherwise.

Rosemary Au Jus:
1 Cup hot water
1 T Dark miso paste
3 T Nutritional Yeast
1 T Rosemary Powder
Dash of pepper and sea salt to taste

I simply just mixed this up in a bowl until the miso had dissolved, but you can easily throw this in the blender, but I didn't feel like having another dish to wash so I just blended my self! Depending on your tastes and how much you like rosemary (I love it) you may want to add more or less. Adding some fresh chopped rosemary or other herbs would also be yum as well. Experiment! There is no right or wrong!

Pour au jus over your mashies and enjoy! 

Ah, more recipes from this compromised d.s. to follow. Along with pictures...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Who Doesn't Scream for Ice Cream!

God, I freaking LOVE ice cream. In my S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) days I could eat an entire carton of ice cream on my OWN. Gross, I know, right? It's ok, call me a pig, because I totally was. My love affair with ice cream runs deep and it's creamy coolness is one of my ultimate comfort foods.

These days, I like to treat myself with Coconut Bliss or Agave Nectars cashew or coconut based ice creams instead of the puss-filled diary variety. (That was supposed to make you squimish by the way.) It takes every fiber of my being NOT to eat an entire pint when I buy it. Luckily, I often have someone to share it with!

In my Bikram yoga class today, as I was sweating my life away in standing head to knee pose, the chilly goodness of raw ice cream began to call my name. Huzzah for intutition, I remembered I had frozen some over ripe bananas yesterday! But whatever is an ice cream loving girl to do without her trusty ice cream maker! (It was one of the few appliances I parted with when we moved here to California. My future mother-in-law is taking very good care of it for me though!) Ah, the food processor. So I whipped up this ultra-guilt free banana ice cream that is sitting in my freezer as we speak waiting to be eatin!

Banana-Vanilla Ice Creame :
As many frozen bananas as you got!
1 T vanilla
2 T mesquite powder
2 T lacuma powder
1 handful of Trader Joe's freeze dried banana chips
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 pinch of cinnamon

Blend in the food processor until all ingredients begin to combine to a thick, creamy, consistency. Keep checking it. You want it to be REALLY thick so do not add any water or nut mylk. It should look just like soft serve coming out of a machine. I put mine back in the freezer because I wasn't going to eat it right away, but it is ready to eat right away Totally de-lish, totally guilt free!

I plan on eating my ice cream with some choco-avo pudding tonight with some chopped nanners on top!

(Picture courtesy of myrecipes.com -- would have posted my own, but my camera seems to be out of batteries at the moment. oppsy!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Potluck Yums: Veggie Pizza & Apple Cobbler

Italian Veggie Pizza
For potlucks I always like to make more complicated dishes. As I mentioned in my last post, I don't eat this way on my own because my body fares better with simpler food, so whenever I get the chance to flex my culinary muscles, I'm a happy girl. This pizza really wasn't that complex, but did take time because I had to dehydrate the crust.

 2 Cups Buckwheat groats (soaked and sprouted)
 1 Cup of ground flax seed
1 T Organic Cold-Pressed Olive Oil
1 Clove of garlic
1 Medium sized zucchini
1 T Italian seasoning

Process all ingredients in the food processor until you have a semi-sticky dough. Spread dough in circle shapes on the dehydrator sheets - size and thickness is purely personal. For these pizzas I went with a thinner, but bigger crust. Last year for Xmas I made thicker, but smaller crusts. It all depends on what you need/want! Put in dehydrator at 115 degrees for 2 hours or until the top is dried. Take it out of the dehydrator and flip it over. Dehydrate at 105 degrees overnight.

 2 cups Sun dried Tomatoes (soaked until soft)
2 or 3 Medium sized Tomatoes
1 T Cold-pressed Organic Olive Oil
2 T Italian Seasoning
1 Plump fresh date

You want a thick gravy so as not to make the crust too moist. In this case I used smaller tomatoes so I needed a third one to make the sun dried tomatoes move more in the food processor. This was one of the best sauces that I have made. Usually, I add basil and parsley to my marinara, but this time I opted for a straight forward thicker sauce focusing on the heartiness of the sundried tomatoes.

Mozzarella Cheeze:
 1 Cup of Mac nuts
 1 Cup Cashews 
(soaked for at least two hours)
 2 T Nutritional Yeast
 1 T Nama Shoyu or Wheat-free Tamari
 Juice of 1 whole lemon
 1 Clove of garlic
 2 t Sea Salt

Process in food processor until you reach a semi-thick, spreadable, consistency. A great idea, if you have time, is to add 1 or 2 more cups of cashews to the cheeze and then add a half a cup of Rejuvulac and let it sit over night. This will add a really tangy flavor to your mozzerella, but real mozz. is more salty so adding sea salt makes this much more like real mozzarella.

Pine nut Parmsean:
1 Cup Cashews
2 T Pine nuts
1/2 Mac nuts
1 T Ground Flax seed
2 T Nutritional Yeast
Juice of 1 whole lemon
1 Clove garlic

Process ingredients together until you get a consistency that is like parmsean cheeze which means you don't want to pulverize the nuts to release all the oils, but you want everything combined. It should be crumbly. This makes a lot and is great to store in an air-tight glass container which you can sprinkle on pasta or on a caesar salad, etc.

Marinated Veggies:
1 Package of sliced white mushrooms
1 Red bell pepper
1 Zucchini
2 T Red Onion

2 T Italian Seasoning
2 T Flax or Olive Oil
2 T Wheat-free Tamari or Nama Shoyu
1/2 Cup filtered water
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea Salt to taste

Dice all your veggies. Mix up your marinade. Toss your veggies in the marinade until they are equally coated. I put my veggies and marinade in a pie plate because I wanted all the juices from the veggies to release into the marinade and the veggies to soak up all that goodness! Place in the dehydrator at 105 degrees for at least two hours, checking periodically to see how tender they are and mixing them up to continually make sure that all the veggies are evenly coated. These veggies should smell/be reminiscent of the veggies you used to find on everything pizzas or in stromboli.

Last, but not least: BUILD YOUR PIZZA! And throw in the dehydrator at 115 degrees until you are ready to serve!

(Doesn't this look like you just opened a SAD pizza box??)

For the second potluck I decided to test out one of the recipes I am making for my Holiday's Gone Raw class at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach.  I opted for my signature dish - Apple Cobbler. It is a cinnamon-y, rendition of the apple pie my Grandmere has been making for me since I was little. The apples are tender and tart and the walnut/pecan/date crust on top adds the perfect amount of sweetness. I added a bit of maple syrup this time even though it is not raw. It was sooooo good! I overheard the host of the potluck tell another woman that it was, "To die for."  I still have to figure out the exact recipes since most of my creations, both sweet and savory, come from my head and are thrown together on a whim without regard to exact amounts. Sorry! I really have to start writing this down as I go along! Here is a picture to tempt your taste buds! It is perfect served warm out of the dehydrator and topped with some shredded coconut!

I've said this a million times, but, why would anyone eat SAD food when you can eat this way without the guilt or worry! Apple Cobbler and Pizza, good for you?? Hell yeah, with raw food!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Overeaters Guide to (Stop) Overeating

Ok, so let's be honest. Raw Food Potlucks are the bomb! It doesn't get much better than sharing delicious food with like-minded people. For me, as a raw food chef, it is a chance to test my new recipes on people who are not family. Potlucks are my favorite part of being a raw foodist: Lots of yummy food, that's well...free! However, for some, the potluck can turn into a serious digestive complication that can leave you bloated and wishing you hadn't gone back for that second...or third...plate of food. And this is a crime which I have committed more times than I would like to admit, but, fear not, there is hope on the other side! It IS possible to go to a raw food potluck, indulge, and not feel like death afterwards.

My overeating began in my teenager years and its roots are purely emotional. Even to this day, certain foods instantly take me back to a certain memory: everything bagels with cream cheese = Christmas morning. Not to mention the fact that I just really LOVE food. I have always been pretty lean as well and never really thought about the connection that food and ones body had. In my junior year of high school I became aware of my body and the fact that sure I was thin..but, I could always be thinner. (I never said my story was original as I believe most girls find themselves in this position when they hit adolescence.)

My best friend got me into the Atkins Diet which is one of the most dangerous fad diets out there. It is based on the"low-carb" principle which means that the consumption of meat and cheese is paramount because both contain barely any carbs. (Just LOADS of fat and calories, oye.)  You are instructed to not eat any fruits and veggies for the first two weeks and only 20 carbs a day. I have never been so hungry in my life.

This lead me down a horrible road of more fad diets, binging, and then starving myself. When I binged, I would eat ten egg omelets or an ENTIRE loaf of "low-carb bread" with butter and jam. I could easily eat half a block of cheese and I CRAVED red meat. One time, my friend and I ate an entire package of Jimmy Dean sausages. And all this time I was wondering why my skin was so bad, my stomach ALWAYS bloated, and why I was always sick and tired. By the time I got to college I had let go over my binging and starving, but my eating was still Atkins-centered, full of fat, factory-farmed meat, and pounds of cheese. All my salads were loaded with blue-cheese dressing and cottage cheese. I would eat three burgers w/ cheese minus the bun. (Notice the dairy pattern here??) I don't even want to get into the cartons of ice cream I consumed on my own during this perilous dietary abomination. Oh, what my body has endured! When I think back, it all makes sense now. Ahh, so that's the reason why I couldn't fit into my pants, why I had the worst/longest/heaviest periods ever, and had migraines so bad that I had to go to the hospital twice. Not to mention the random bouts of depression.

When you eat this way, you get what you deserve. Eventually your body just says, screw it, and stops fighting. This is where disease and illness comes into play as your body slowly degenerates. To this day I am STILL repairing my digestive system and working on eliminating all the poly cystic fibroid I created from such high meat consumption. Meat takes at the very least 3 or 4 days to digest and by the time it makes it out of your body (if it ever does) it is no longer meat, but rather a petrified/fermented/rotten mess which only means problems for your stomach, intestines, and colon. Your body has to work overtime to break down that meat and in the process uric acid and a host of other toxins are released into the body. Cancer anyone?

When I became vegan, things improved, but, still were not as great as they could have been. I went vegan essentially because I couldn't stand it anymore. Every time I ate I felt sick - like I was going to puke. Trust me, I wish I could say it was for ethical reasons, unfortunately, it was purely health-related. (Although, a sure blessing in disguise as it has lead me here!) As a vegan I ate A LOT of tofu. And often I ate eggs and fish.  (I was far from the model vegan!) My digestive system was still pretty shot and tofu contains a digestive inhibitor which really didn't help matters. Veganism lead me back into my old habits of overeating because I was always hungry. I would go out to dinner. Eat. And be thinking about what I could eat when I got home. The notion of digestive combining or spacing my meals to let my food be broken down and absorbed was not on my radar.

Not sure where I read it, maybe Alissa Cohen's book, Living on Live Foods, but I believe she said that people who are seriously underweight and those who are overweight share the same problem -- they are malnourished. Both sides usually have a poor diet and their bodies are forced to work extra hard to try and find the nutrients it needs to survive and sustain itself. I don't think I was ever getting the proper amounts of nutrients my body needed and therefore, I was constantly hungry. Naturally, my body was yearning for the correct vitamins and minerals to feel satiated.

It wasn't until I became a raw foodist that I found some sort of balence and overeating peace. I finally would eat and feel full,  but not gross and bloated. I didn't even have the urge to overeat anymore which was something that I hadn't experienced in years! I stopped fixating on my food in general as I had read in Victoria's book 12 Steps to Going Raw about intuitive eating; in essense your body will crave what it needs -- so if you want to eat a basket of figs or a whole watermelon go right ahead! I live by this principle still and I have been a raw foodist for two years at almost 100 percent. When you eat this way your body just knows what it wants and when to stop eating; it's whether we choose to listen or not that makes the difference.

And then I discovered Raw Food Heaven -- the Potluck. (Hope I haven't digressed too much as this IS supposed to be about potlucks!) My first was at Arnold's Way in Lansdale, PA; a cute store/cafe whose owner, Arnold, has been raw for eons and works very hard at helping people go and stay raw through green smoothies. (He has tons of videos on youtube.com from people who have healed themselves of a myriad of illnesses ranging from diabetes to all types of cancer all using raw foods.) It was here that I met two of my best friends and sometimes stuffed myself to the point where I could barely stand up. Then came the familiar feeling of guilt that always accompained my overeating and of course the bloat and swearing that I was never going to do this again. They say that when you have negative feelings while you eat, you compromise digestion. So, not only was I overeating, but the feelings that came with overeating only further compromised my digestive process.

When I came to California and found the Orange County potlucks on meetup.com I made a promise to myself that I was not going to over-indulge. I wanted to start fresh and prove that I was capable of controlling myself. My first potluck was not a sure success. I would say that I didn't totally overeat, but I was definitely filled to my max. I waited about four or five hours before eating again. However, I ate way to many figs and then a green smoothie which made me feel sick.

My second potluck was this past weekend in Laguna Beach. For the first time I did not overeat!!  I knew that I was in more of a dessert mood and decided to save room for that versus the savory dishes.  It really is so hard not to keep eating because when things taste good I don't want to stop. Nevertheless, to have a happy belly, it really is a must, esp. for someone who has always had digestive problems.

I have been on a quest to find the best digestive supplements since I started taking them a year ago. Honestly, I do not know how I ever survived without them. I am not a supplement type of person, but I really think digestive enzymes are crucial regardless of how you eat. Two of the best are Healthforce Nutritionals and MRM Digestive Enzymes.

With the holidays coming up, a notorious time for stuffing thy face, here are some tips I use to try to control my urge to over-indulge:

-Pace yourself!
-Take smaller portions so if you plan to go back up for seconds.
-Think positive: when you are positive about what you are eating your digestion of that food will be much better.
-TAKE DIGESTIVE ENZYMES WITH YOUR MEAL. I never leave home without them. They are imperative for a happy non-bloated tum!
-Eat slowly.
-CHEW YOUR FOOD. Gosh, cannot tell you how important this is. It keeps you in the moment w/ your food and your body won't have to work as hard to digest.
-Fast pre-potluck. On potluck days I have a green smoothie and that is about it. And I always make sure to drink A LOT of water before you eat.
-Wait 30 minutes to one hour before drinking anything after or during your meal.
- Always wait at least 3 hours from your last bite to eat again.
-After the potluck drink some digestive tea.

If you follow these tips you are sure to prevent both the emotional and physical issues that plague us overeaters!

*pictures are from google images

Monday, November 2, 2009

Little Bit Of Green

 Ah, the infamous green smoothie; it's combinations never ending, both sweet and savory. It packs a powerful punch of nutrition in the form of easily assimilated vitamins and minerals. In my humble opinion, they are the best way to eat greens without the fuss and never ending chewing that greens often require due to their tough outer structure. (The cellulose in greens is what makes it hard to break down and often people do not chew their greens well enough to get the full spectrum of nutrients and we also loose some of those nutrients through digestion.)

Well know raw foodist and one of my personal inspirations, Victoria Boutenko, wrote an excellent book all about the importance of green smoothies called Greens for Life. The book delves into the scientific nature of raw food, inparticular greens, and is backed up by several studies and an interesting experiment using green smoothies. I would seriously suggest reading this book if you want to find out more ways to incorporate greens into your life or learning how to seriously improve your health through greens. The Boutenko's as a family have over come some pretty devastating illnesses using raw foods which you can read about in 12 Steps to Raw Foods. This was one of the first books I read when I first went raw over two years ago and after reading how this family transformed themselves with simple, fresh, organic foods I was hooked. Check out their website as even Victoria's children have some pretty awesome cookbooks. Victoria Boutenko's Raw Family

As a raw foodie, I learned early on that green smoothies were essential to succeeding on a raw food diet. They helped me beat any cravings I had for vegan junk food and coffee, were a simple breakfast that kept me full for hours, and most importantly, helped me finally beat my horrible anxiety. Greens for me have a very calming effect and no matter how I eat them I always feel balanced when I am done. Perhaps it is because I know I am consuming something that requires barely any effort to make and is amazing for my body.

The green smoothie is an evolution in and of itself. I began by using a regular old Oster blender so that should tell you that you don't need a Blendtec or Vita Mix to make a green smoothie! Seriously, it should be a fun experiment. My first smoothies were not wonderful and were more of a liquid then a smoothie, but after some tweaking I have finally found what I would consider the best green smoothie ever. I like to use spinach or baby romaine because they are mild and I can throw a pound of spinach in there without it tasting like spinach. If you can handle it you can upgrade to more intense greens like kale and swiss chard, but you might need to add some more fruit to mask the taste.

Some good combos:
figs, spinach, blueberry, banana
pineapple, swiss chard, banana, strawberry
mango, pear, banana, spinach, strawberry
raw cacao, mint leaves, spinach, banana (frozen)
spinach, cherries, banana, spirulina

If you like them thicker, which I do, you can add less water and then they turn out more like a pudding and depending on how much frozen fruit you use it can be like soft serve ice cream. I typically always use frozen mango and like to alternate between frozen strawberry and regular. Adding a frozen fruit is important to having a great green smoothie because a warm smoothie is pretty, well, gross. Pineapple is a great addition because of the bromelain(helps with digestion) and it adds a tangy/sweet flavor. Frozen cherries are mean in green smoothies because they make it super creamy. I usually don't need to add any extra sweetener, perhaps some green stevia powder or a date but the fruit generally takes care of the sweetness. You could also add agave or raw honey. And feel free to add any other ingredients you may like such has Vitamineral Green, Spirulina (love this!!!) Greener Grasses, E3Live, Hemp Seeds (excellent sprinkled on top) etc. Sooo delish! Ok, so here is what you have been waiting for (drum roll!) the best green smoothie to date!

The California Green:
1 ripe banana
2 organic oranges
4 cups of organic spinach
1 cup frozen organic strawberries
2 cups frozen mango

Non-essential Extras:
MSM powder (A sulfur compond that does naturally occur in the body, but I like to add it in as a supplement because MSM keeps your joints nice and lubricated which helps with any soreness after working out. And for me, this is essential as I do Bikram yoga everyday and stretching and flexibility are key.)

Green stevia powder ( I only like the green powder because it means that it hasn't been processed like the white variety. It has a strong flavor so you only need a pinch.)

Vitamineral Green ( A full range of probiotics, superfoods, and powerful greens such as dandelion, wheatgrass, etc. This too is really strong so for me one scoop is enough.)

P.S. Adding more bananas makes this into a serious meal. If I am going to have this for dinner after a second workout on the elliptical I might add two or three bananas for extra calories and of course, potassium which will prevent any charlie horses and muscle cramping!

Blend banana and oranges first until they are fully combined. Then slowly add in the spinach one cup at a time until each cup is fully incorporated into the smoothie (if you have a high-powered blender you can just throw it all in together.) Add in strawberries and mango and your non-essential extras. You should have a thick, green, frozen wonder. Pour into a bowl and top with more fruit or drink it like a think green mylk shake and enjoy!!!

(Picture to follow!)