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.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's recipe time!

Good day foodie peoples!

It's Thursday and I am feeling recipe-ish today. A couple of you asked if I would share more concrete recipes from my little Italian feast a couple posts ago and I figured today would be the perfect day to do just that!

These recipes are from a recent class I taught at the Environmental Nature Center. We did a "Ladies Night" where I made all the toppings and the ladies used Ezekial Spouted Grain Tortillas as pizza crusts. I will say, toasting them up in the dehydrator or oven for 5-10 minutes makes a more authentic 'pizza' crust, but we made due without!

Maiorelli’s Authentic Italian Marinara:

3-4 large Heirloom tomatoes
1-2 cloves of garlic
¼ cup Extra-Virgin, Organic, Cold-pressed Olive Oil
2-3 Tablespoons New Frontiers Pizza Seasoning
1 Tablespoon dried Oregano
1 cup (soaked, unless oil packed) Sun dried Tomatoes
Sea Salt to taste
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped

In a food processor combine all the aforementioned ingredients with the exception of the fresh tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Blend until a thick paste forms. Add in your fresh heirloom tomatoes and puree. Taste to make sure it’s well seasoned.

Transfer your gravy (marinara) to a separate bowl. Add in fresh chopped herbs and mix.

Almond ‘Ricotta’ Rustica:

2 cups Organic, Un-Pasteurized, Raw Almonds (Soaked in filtered water over night)
2 cloves of garlic
¼ cup Extra-Virgin, Organic, Cold-Pressed Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning or New Frontiers Pizza Seasoning
1 T Garlic Powder
3 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea Salt to taste
Filtered water as needed

Fresh Parsley, chopped
Fresh Basil, chopped
New Frontiers Pizza Seasoning

In your food processor combine almonds, garlic, and olive oil. Pulse until almonds break down and become grain-like. Add in your remaining ingredients and process until fully combined. Taste for seasoning.

Ricotta should be light and fluffy. Mix in your fresh chopped herbs and drizzle with Olive Oil.

*Option: Blend in Culturelle Vegan Probiotic while processing. Place in a wide-mouth jar (mason jar) and cover with a napkin secured with a rubber band. Store in a dark place overnight. This will essential ferment/culture your Ricotta, giving it a more authentic flavor.

To make the lasagna you will need:
3-4 zucchini sliced using mandoline or veggie peeler
1-2 T EVOO
1 clove minced garlic
sea salt
In your baking dish lay sliced zucchini. Top with EVOO, minced garlic, and sea salt. Toss. Let sit for 1 hour so that the zucchini softens. 
After one hour remove your zucchini from the pan. Sauce your pan with gravy and then place one layer of zucchini - making sure to cover the whole pan. You don't want the bottom of the pan to be visable at all.  Do another layer of gravy, again covering the zucchini. Then do a layer of ricotta. I like to do dollups of ricotta- gently pressing them down to spread them out. I try not to mix the sauce and ricotta together, but if that happens, don't sweat it. It's still going to taste just as good. Continue layering, placing another layer of zucchini to cover the gravy/ricotta. And keep on going until you run out of zucchini. Do a final layer of sauce and top with dollups of ricotta and sliced heirloom tomatoes. Garnish with chopped basil, parsley, and drizzle of EVOO. I like to let mine sit overnight in the dehydrator set at 105-110 degrees. This is what really gives it that true lasagna mouth-feel and taste. Yum, yum, yum!  
Sometimes I like to make different variations of this adding in marinated spinach and arugula or 'sauteed' veggies on top of the ricotta or sauce. You can even use pesto instead of marinara or ricotta. Be creative!
Here is my easy-peasy Pesto recipe just in case you want to switch things up a bit!
Pesto alla Maiorelli:

2 cups walnuts (option to do a mix of walnuts and pine nuts)
2 cups basil
1 cup parsley
1 cup spinach
3 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 cup Extra Virgin, Organic, Cold-pressed Olive Oil

Combine above ingredients in the food processor adding Olive Oil slowly while the ingredients blend.

*For a thinner Pesto slowly add water.

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Monarch-Stokes Festivities!

Oh boy, I've been holding this little secret in for a while now...

I'm not fond of secret keeping especially ones like these! So, I have been unfathomably anxious to announce this mega OC event on my blog:

::drum roll please::

Matt Monarch & Angela Stokes-Monarch are coming to give a talk at the Environmental Nature Center in Orange County on August 25th!!!!

Matt contacted me a while back and asked if I would be interested in helping to organize the event and naturally I jumped at the chance. I've been a HUGE fan of both Matt and Angela for quite some time now. I literally check my inbox twenty times a day waiting for The Raw Food World TV Show to pop up!

This is going to be an awesome event and a fantastic chance to learn from two experienced, long-term raw foodists.

A little bit about Matt & Angela if you don't already know who they are:

Matt Monarch, Raw Food Educator and author of 'Raw Spirit' and 'Raw Success' has been eating 100% raw for nearly 13 years. Matt will address the question, "Is the Raw Food Diet for me?" He will discuss overcoming health challenges, why some diets work and some don’t, difficulties that may arise on your journey and the benefits of eating Raw Foods, juicing and colonics.

Angela Stokes-Monarch lost over 150 lbs and overcame morbid obesity with a raw food lifestyle. She will share her message of natural recovery. Angela will discuss healthy, rapid weight loss, how to break overeating patterns, balancing detox with slimming, taking care of the body naturally and addressing the underlying issues.

Just to entice you more, I'll be making some snacks to nibble on during the talk AND Matt and Angela will be selling a whole bunch of products from their online store, http://www.rawfoodworld.com/ -- one of the best places to find below and at cost deals on all your raw food essentials!

This is one of their last events for a LONG time so sign up ASAP! You will NOT want to miss this extraordinary information powerhouse! 

To register call 949-645-8489 or email Lori Walen at lori@enc.org
And for questions please email me at maioa827@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Unholy Creations of Italian Goodness...

Ah, if only there were such a thing as virtual 'smell-o-vision- because the aroma of sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and faux oven-baked lasagna has been a constant in the apartment. Seriously, it smelled like when my Mim used to make big pans of Baked Ziti. Mmm, cheeze, saucey, love!  It's like a big warm hug of deliciousness.

Lasagna alla Maiorelli:

Mmm, Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms:

Italian food in general is so simple to prepare which makes it that much more difficult to recreate well. The secret? Keep the sauce simple: tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, a little garlic, dried spices and finish off with a touch of good olive oil and chopped basil and parsley. Do not, under any circumstances, puree the rest of the ingredients with the fresh parsley and basil. It muddles the flavors and turns the sauce green. And the ricotta? Culture/ferment it. That's it. It's amazing, spectucular, and really freaking good.

Lasagna, post-dehydration:

It's entirely difficult to abstain from eating the whole thing. You start with small slivers and before you know it there is absolutely nothing left...Oh well, guess I just have to make more, darn!

I also made a whole stinking bunch of cookies while on hiatus. I'm obsessed with the Almond Amaretto Tecchino herbal coffee so that was my inspiration for these cutesy cookies of almond ameratto goodness. A little Almond extract and you've got yourself a sweet little treat; it's almost too easy!  

Almond Amaretto Cookie Dough Bites:

These were so soft, chewy, and almond-y. I think next time I might add some of the actual tecchino to the dough to make it taste more like the coffee. yum, yum, yum!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Better Planned Upheaval

Pardon moi, Raw Food Nerd has been on hiatus for the last two weeks. It's that time again, i.e. better planned upheaval -- except in Season 2 of Alysha: This Is Your Life I've actually got a well-mapped and finalized plan.

I'm moving back home, to New York City- right where I belong. I'll be resuming my old job (the one that so easily filled the emptiness in my heart and gave me purpose).

I feel like a ginormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders; like I can breathe again. Given the circumstances, I've been quite successful in California. However, since the moment my feet (or our tires, whatev) planted themselves in this Sunny State I've had an unquenchable feeling of regret. (I cried all the way from LA to The OC the day we arrived...and for several days after...)

We left everything, everything behind. And while at first it seemed exciting, spontaneous, new - once the realization that this was permanent and not a three week vacation set it, it became even more apparent that perhaps I had made quite the mistake.

And then I realized I'd be living in the OC and not LA and my heart sunk a whole lot more. This was not how I envisioned my new California lifestyle. Wilkes-Mesa anyone?

And I'd have to fly home for Christmas every year...

And I'd have to spend Thanksgiving in CA...

And Christmas would be the only time I would see my family because it is so expensive to fly...

And working for yourself is never consistent...

The list goes on...

California never felt like "home", but more like a self-actualization of who I really was. (Obviously, I'm not the bohemian nomadic type who can just pick up and move without a second thought.)

Unfortunately, there is one MASSIVE con to all of this: Kevin has to stay here for another eight months to finish his masters. The very thought is gut-wrenching and physically painful. We've been together going on seven years and in that time we've spent, at most, five days apart. Needless to say, other than planning and getting mine and Kev's shimmelz together (he's moving into on campus housing, etc.)  this is the reason for my hiatus.

It's been a rather emotional time as September is steadfastly approaching; everything is changing once again and neither of us in all our sentimentality take well to change (though you'd never know it). It's hard to picture my day to day life without Kev. It's hard to picture New York itsef without Kev...

We're bothing taking it pretty hard and I haven't felt much like doing anything but hiberating.

Yet, in my heart of hearts I know this is what I have to do...what I really want to do.

Hi, my name is Alysha and I'm in a Bi-Costal Long Distance Relationship. Oye vey!

Anyway, Raw Food Nerd is up and running again; we'll be back with regular scheduled blogging tomorrow--  pictures and all!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Very Thought...

And I thought life couldn't get any better...

Then I discovered these at World Market, my most favourite store:

To the untrained eye these look like a 1950s vintage throw-back of the plastic Tupperware containers that my Nana might have used back in the day. But, oh, they are so much more.

These my friends, are not made of plastic. Nope, no plastic to be found on these cute little Tupperware containers that are covered in carrots, corn, and beets (I really couldn't resist. Can you tell? ...because I bought two sets..)

They are made completely of bamboo fibers!!!

Which is a superbly splendid discovery because I really wanted them and I absolutely hate plastic, but, bamboo? Yes, please!

It's environmentally sustainable and an excellent replacement for all things BPA-laden and yuckishly plastic.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fruit-a-loos, My Papaya, & A Coconut Secret..

My organic fruit consumption has reached unparalleled and staggering levels this summer. First, with watermelon. And now, with my two most favourite fruits of all time : cherries and figs!!! The pounds of fruit I eat could honestly feed a small country...whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen.

Seems as though my body knows when I am good and done with a particular fruit though, so I'm not too worried about my fruity grubbing lifestyle. (See crisis of the watermelon below.)

 It's official - I am watermeloned out and I am pretty sure my tum is too. Unfortunately, my affair with the juicy deliciousness that is all things watermelon and watermelon juice has come to quite the early end. I was literally devouring an entire 12 lb. beast of a melon everyday after bikram; blending half into juice and eating the rest. After a while, I started to get this surging pain up my entire torso midst consumption everytime I ate it and it was constantly leaving me bloated...and not just watermelon baby belly bloated - like bloatedness that wouldn't go away...ever.  (Me + stomach flare-ups = bitchy, irritated, and extremely unpleasant to be around.) I was in a full scale watermelon-coma and it's honestly taken me up until today to feel normal again! 

In my quest to make my tum feel better and quell my watermelon hangover I discovered papaya. I've never been a big fan of papaya because well, let's be honest, most of the time it tastes like the smell of throw up! (Not to be graphic, but it really does!) I've only ever liked dried papaya spears for that very reason. However, on a trip to Mother's Market I sampled the most crazy, maple-syrup tasting papaya. Wha-wha-what?! I couldn't resist. I stocked up on that papaya and I've been eating it in both savory and sweet forms daily.

You'd be surprised all the things you can do with papaya - when it's ripe. Pretty sure that's been papayas problem all along. When it isn't that ripe it tastes gross. However, ripe papaya is sweet, juicy, and kid-you-not-tastes like maple syrup.  

In an effort to ease my belly flare-up I put papayas digestive-easing and belly-soothing properties to work and created this creamy, sweet, delicious pudding shake: 


This was:
  • Half a papaya peeled and de-seeded
  • Organic, ripe figs
  • 2 Organic ripe (spotted) bananas
  • Filtered water for blending
  • 1 T Organic, Coconut Secret Coconut Nectar (holy moly, I need to buy like 25 gallons of this stuff!)
Last week, I was invited to a rather new Raw Food store in Newport Beach. Chele and her crew have definitely tapped into something extraordinary within the raw food community -- they get that people don't want to spend their life savings on going raw! (As crazy as this sounds, it's true, I love the raw food community, but I often feel like they all live in some alternate universe where the economy isn't in the toilet and it's like they think people have got all this spare cash to spend $10 on four slivers of flax crackers.) Their mission: to bring raw to the masses in the most affordable way from those who are just 'raw-curious' to the long-time raw foodist. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly and so knowledgeable. I can't stress it enough: they get it! 

The highlights of this gem of a place: (there were so many more than this, but these were the ones that stood out in my mind because in all my years as a raw foodist I don't think I've paid less than $20 for a lb of cacao that apparently wasn't even raw...)
  • REAL raw Balinese cacao powder for $12 lb
  • Raw, Organic, Unpasterized almonds $7.50 lb
  • Sale items: Nut butters from Wilderness Poet $7-$9
And perhaps, my favourite: Coconut Secret. Yeah, pretty much the WHOLE line from the Coconut Aminos to the Coconut Nectar and Sugar Crystals. I've been eyeing this stuff up in the store for months now...seriously, Coconut Secret, where have you been all my life?!

Adios, Agave! Hellooooo, Coconut Nectars. This sap is outrageous. It makes my shakes taste like a cross between caramel and vanilla. Like most things coconut, it's just exploding with minerals and nutrients and it doesn't spike your blood sugar at all. I know, because usually after my nightly shakes which typically contain raw honey and in the old days, agave, I was always starving again within an hour. After using the coconut nectars, I am prefectly content. Not a stitch of returning hunger here!

The Aminos? Just as excellent. It almost has a bit of a smoky essence to it. And it doesn't over power your food with saltiness. This is the perfect replacement for Braggs which is made from soy and contains naturally occurring MSG. Yuck! Thought we were trying to avoid all that crap! I haven't used Braggs in ages for that very reason, opting to use wheat-free tamari or miso instead because it used to make me swell up like a ballon, give me a headache, and I could smell it come out my pores while exercising the next day. I'd be on the treadmill gagging because I smelled like soy sauce at 7 in the morning; not very pleasant way to start the day.

Chele has been working hard to really put Coconut Secret on the map to make it even more available, especially in bulk form. (Hurrah!) Trust me, one lick of this stuff and you're going to need more than just the 8oz bottle. Coconut Secret it where it's at.

Oh, btw. Eclipse was everything I hoped it would be and more. I still like the books better, but it seems las though they got rid of the guy who directed New Moon (thank god, that movie doesn't even pale in comparison to Twilight and Eclipse) and this new guy seems to understand what us Twi-fans want: more jacob/edward/bella/cullen relationship development and less action. Eclipse, does have a fair amount of action, but it fits in with the story. Oh, what I wouldn't give to be K.Stewart for just like TWO minutes.

Time to get moving on dinner!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Total ECLIPSE of The Heart

It's  been a very Robert Pattinson kind of weekend for me thus far. Last night I watched Remember Me and tonight I am going to see Twilight: Eclipse!!!! We had planned on going Wednesday night, but I wanted to prolong the experience as long as possible as I realise that Twilight movies all together are slowly coming to an end. (gasps!)  Remember Me is tragically fantastic. Regardless of how you feel about Twilight or R.Patt. for that matter ::swoon:: it's an utterly shocking and wonderful movie; you'll be sobbing at the end. 

 My kitchen has seen non-stop action this week and I've been prepping food for lots of hungry people. With Summer officially here in California the organic produce is just out of this world which has allowed for a wide variety of water-rich, nutrient-dense veggie packed meals! Raw in the summer is nearly effortless!

This week I threw together a quick Mediterranean-inspired marinated veggie dish with zucchini, mushrooms, and grape tomatoes. I let it sit in the fridge for a few days before I packed it up and set this lovely veg melange on it's way to be enjoyed.

Here it is marinating! Yummm, garlicy-goodness!

Other than Italian, I am an Indian food apologist for sure. I swore up and down that when I went raw I would never abandon my love for Indian food and always indulge regardless of how entirely cooked it was. Well, here I am two plus years later and I've yet to eat any cooked Indian food. Now, raw Indian food, well that is a different story!

 I make a mean Vegetable Korma that's jam packed with vegetables and drenched in a super flavourful almond curry sauce. It's the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and slightly spicy.

 Can you see the plump little raisins peeking out? You'd be surprised how well raisins and curry taste together!

 I was on the curry train last week and still craving sauerkraut, I made a Curried-Dill Kraut that is probably the best I have made yet! Thank goodness I made a HUGE jar because I've been devouring this nearly everyday!

A generous scoop of nutritional yeast on top and I'm in curry kraut heaven!

I used to buy these wee-bittle jars of sauerkraut all the time. When you figure that they were about $7 for a 16oz. jar and the fact that I used to eat at least one a week - that is a pretty large portion of our food budget spent on sauerkraut alone! If only I would have known how easy to was to make my own I could have saved so much money! As long as you've got a good quality sea salt and fresh cabbage, making your own kraut is so simple it's crazy. I would suggest heading over to pure2raw.com and looking up their videos on how to make fermented veggies and kraut because that's how I learned! Thanks girls!

Speaking of ferments, I also made a cultured Sunflower Seed-Tahini Cheeze this week too! Ahh, cheezy love in a mason jar. It smells like onion dip and the small taste I did have (for quality control of course!) was out of this world. It reminds of the nut pates I used to eat when I first went raw.

 I'm convinced that tahini makes everything delicious...

Raw Food Nerd Kitchen has not been without sweets this week. In fact, my kitchen has been producing oodles of little treats!

I made a huge batch of Cinnamon & Coconut Sugar Doughnut Holes for Kev to take to a BBQ at school. Apparently they were a big hit, but he could just be humoring me...

                               This was all that was left...                     

I also made yet another Strawberry Cobbler since my clients seem to really love them. And I agree, cobbler is the bomb.
This is leftovers. It was much prettier in the baking dish...
And lastly, Almond Amaretto Cookies. I slathered these in homemade Almond, Walnut, and Jungle Peanut Butter. Breakfast cookie anyone?

Raw food = O.K. to have cookies for breakfast in my book!

Hope everyone has a safe, fun, holiday weekend!

P.S. Glad you all enjoyed my Vegas post. I really hope it didn't come off as stuck up or anything, I liked Vegas, it just definitely wasn't what I expected and we all know what happens when you have expectations that aren't entirely accurate! If it's any incentive, gas prices were insanely cheap for some reason...$2.69 a gallon which I really don't understand. Kev and I now have a running joke that we're going to go back to Vegas just to get gas because it is so expensive in California...even though there are oil refineries everywhere.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vegas Is Not For Hippies

Nope. It most certainly is not. And if you go there thinking you might find an awesome health food store tucked away on a side street off The Strip... Or buffets piled high with various fruits and a cornucopia of salad options (like I did) you are sorely mistaken. Not even at The Bellagio, not even.

I suppose my idea of what Las Vegas was really like was something out of a movie, say, Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicholas Cage-type Vegas. I pictured only gambling tables, men in suits, women in '80 shoulder-padded dresses -- like a cross between Dynasty and Miami Vice; classy with a drive through wedding chapel and a fake Elvis here and there...

Vegas was a culture shock.

Vegas 2010 is really: People that start drinking at 8:00 A.M., that is, if they've even gone to bed from the night before. They stare like inebriated zombies into dollar slots while chain smoking. They've got mullets and missing teeth. They wear nascar jerseys and acid-washed cut offs and mom jeans.  Everyone is ENORMOUS, yet they dress like they wear a size two. Their kids, who I'm positive all have asthma and will surely develop lung cancer from all the second hand smoke thanks to their parents, have RAT TAILS and are running wild like feral children all over the casinos. The old women haven't gotten the memo that they're OLD and shouldn't be wearing mini-skirts and tube tops, especially when they've got a muffin top and a behind the size of Texas.

Oh, what I wish my eyes didn't see.

And the buffets, good luck, because you couldn't pay enough to eat that slop; I've seen better variety and quality at Old Country Buffets and that's saying a lot.

We had planned that on the second day we would buy the all day pass and just eat at the buffets, so in preparation we literally checked out EVERY buffet on the Strip from Excalibur to The Venetian. I had imagined overflowing bowls of pineapple, watermelon, spring mix, avocados galore - I mean, it's a buffet...there's supposed to be OPTIONS. I planned to gorge myself and bring containers for late night snacking.

I would have been lucky to find a piece of ripe melon...

We wound up eating at Whole Foods both days and saving a considerable about of cashola. They must know that there is nothing for Vegans in Vegas because nearly everything from the bars was at least vegetarian. And they had a Burrito Bar with tons of Vegan options and Vegan Veggie Pizza as well...two days in a row. You can't even get that kind of consistency in Cali! Fortunately, I'm a smart biatch and brought my usual stuff with me to Vegas: dulse, my huge farmers market organic cucs, lemons, nutritional yeast, avos. I added some stuff from the salad bar like romaine lettuce, arugula (love this lately), and red peppers and made myself a delicious raw food meal 'on the road' so to speak. I was even able to snag  considerable amount of vanilla-cakey coconut date rolls!

Whole Paycheck Foods sometimes makes me very angry with their over-priced products and conventional produce, but they seemingly always come through in travel situations and for that I am so, so greatful!

So what the heck did I actually do in Vegas??

Well, when I wasn't having to plug my nose, hold my breath, and run from inhaling cigarette smoke - Kevin and I walked up and down the Strip, just checking out the hotels and some of the free shows that they offered (Mandalay Bay and Wynn were my favs.) I got Kevin to do Bikram with me and we both got our bums kicked. We did some window shopping in the Bellagio and in the Planet Hollywood mall. And we treated ourselves to some Starbucks Soy Mistos and Iced Lattes.

Hey, if my only Vegas vice was some decafe coffee and soy milk then I'm wayyy ahead of the game! Right?!

Overall, Vegas was...interesting...to say the least. I love love LOVED the heat and all the sun and wish I could have taken it back to California with me. The highlight of the trip for me was definately discovering Rick Moonen's seafood restaurant which only uses sustainable seafood and ingredients. And Susen Feniger's restaurant that uses only organic, all grass-fed, sustainable meats and produce, with no processed food whatsoever. They even had some vegan options (tho wildly expensive) and sweeten their food with agave necter! I'm a Top Chef Master's nerd, sorry, I nearly peed my pants with excitement since RM and SF are incredible culinary masters and they really have done a lot to bring awareness to sustainablity in the reataurant biz.

Not sure if I would go back again, this was kind of like an "I only live four hours away and have to go to Vegas at least once," kind of deal.

Although...I could be persuaded with a room at Mandalay...or the Wynn..

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You Know You're Italian When...

Thank you so much everyone for the well wishes a la the eco-friendly wedding planning and finally settling on a place. I swore I would never do a 'destination' wedding and here I am planning not only the very thing I swore I would never do, but taking on the raw vegan eco-wedding challenge as well. Apparently, I like to do everything the hard way. Alas, I think it's important and I don't think I would feel right otherwise.

 This was another busy food week for me. Kevin and I were leaving for Vegas on Sunday morning (more about that later!) so I had to have all food prepped and ready to go by Saturday for early deliveries. Just thinking about it makes me exhausted. I can't believe how fast I was able to get everything done. I had Kev wash dishes (lol) so that cut a considerable amount of time off my work load.

Anyway, last week I finally got around to making what was supposed to be Eggplant Rollatini di Melanzane except there was no rollatini-ing here since all the eggplants I could find at the farmers market were pretty stubby and in no shape for rolling. I just laid them flat, stuffed 'em, and stacked them instead. I guess this was more of a lasagna than anything else, but either way, my sources are telling me that this is turned out exceptionally well.

Eggplant Rollatini di Melanzane

I went for an all out Italian-themed menu last week. Italian is my favourite and I love trying to create raw versions of the food I grew up with. I don't normally use beans, sprouted or otherwise, when making raw food. They never taste the same as the cooked version and I'm just not a fan. However, I figured, 'what the heck' and made this raw minestrone soup. I soaked the beans for almost 48 hours but, didn't sprout them to avoid that strange taste they develop when sprouting and made a tomato, celery, parsley based broth. I loaded it up with a variety of greens and three different types of beans. I have no words. I couldn't believe how similar it tasted to the real thing. Yum yum!

Minestrone Soup

Italian-themed menu's wouldn't be the same without pizza. I veered from the traditional margarita pizza and opted for a white pizza with raw, ricotta cheeze, 'sausage', garlic cashew cream sauce, and lemon-parsley butter on an herby crust. Two thumbs up all around!

White Pizza

We've been getting really ripe, juicy fresh strawberries from the farmer's market lately. I love farmers market strawberries. You can totally taste the difference; they are so much sweeter and make for a mini raw cobbler that is out of this world. I like to put it in the dehydrator so that all the juice from the strawberries turns into this yummy, thick syrup. Pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but it is worth mentioning again. Cobblers have become one of my favorite raw desserts to make. Their simple, but always allow the flavors of the fruit to come through. The only sweetner I added here was some coconut sugar- my new fav. It tastes like graham crackers!!

Strawberry Cobbler

Mangia! Mangia!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kraut Success, Bowls of Yum, & Thrifty Vintage Delights

After four days of poking, pushing, and prodding my Jalapeno-Cumin Kraut was finally ready to be eaten today! It turned out magnificently! Oh, it was sooo good, if I do say so myself. It was deliciously spicy, but with a subtle sweetness from the carrots.  I threw some on top of my usual bowl of yum, which is a varying amalgamation of cucs, avo, various herbs, zucchini, nutritional yeast, and dulse. I even threw some romaine lettuce on there like a raw food nerd interpretation of a deconstructed taco! (I'm reaching here, totally...)

The kraut is peeking out from behind the romaine!

I make food for other people all day long. When it comes to my own meals, I'm a certified lazy mclazerson. I like things that are simple and fast with minimal ingredients (aka less clean up, thank god.) If I can throw it into the blender and it tastes good together, I'm as good as golden. Don't judge the green mush soup...stew..(stewp???)

So, onto my exciting news!!! Well, I'm finally get married! We've officially set a date, found our location, and are getting the ball rolling on making all the arrangements. We got engaged last August right before coming to California after almost six years, but we didn't want to get married right away since Kev was going to be in Grad School. Let me tell you, a year goes by really fast! I am beyond thrilled. Though, in my mind, this is really just a mild formality. As far as I'm concerned Kevin and I have been 'married' since October 2006 when we moved into our first apartment in NYC together. Once you live with someone and really get to know them, getting married just becomes a nice way to declare your love in front of other people.

(picture from 100layercake.com & onelovephoto.com)

I'm determined to make this wedding as eco-friendly and green as humanly possible. I've already found a caterer who is going to work with me to plan a vegan and raw vegan menu. They also use all local and organic ingredients! My dress will be vintage for sure. Organic flowers. And I'm looking to get seed paper invitations. We're getting married in Sonora, CA which is about three hours outside the Bay Area. It's rustic, indie, vintage, and a bit French Provencal....in other words, everything I've always wanted.

We've been pretty set on getting married in New York City since it's always been our place, but when I looked at the pictures for this location I knew in my heart that this is where I had to get married. We've decided that we're going to get our marriage license in New York that way legally, we'll be married in NYC.

Nearly all our friends and family are on the East Coast so any advise about 'destination' weddings or planning weddings in general would be greatly appreciated. I've already decided that I am not going to get stressed over this in any fashion. I mean, this is supposed to be fun right? An un-complicated celebration, that's what I'm going for!

Time for yummy green smoothie ice cream and The City....and ok, I watch the Hills too, but only because it hilarious to watch it crash and burn...

Lots of yums coming this week!

Itzy Bitzy Kitch

What I wouldn't give to be able to work in a sizable kitchen with an island; big enough to accommodate two high speed blenders, a monstrosity of a food processor, a dehydrator, stock piles of mason jars & heaps of produce from thy farmers market. I've had it with wobbly make-shift cutting boards over oven tops and hardly any elbow room to speak of. (Hurrah, Top Chef comes back this week!! Sorry, kitchen-talk always makes me channel my inner Top-Chef-worshiping-self. This blog post really has nothing to do with Top Chef, except that their kitchens are enormous and make mine look even punier!)

And yet, my itzy bitzy kitchen still manages to turn out more food than I know what to do with sometimes...wobbly cutting board and shifting blender/food processor no counter space and all!

Last week my impractically small kitchen turned out some pretty delicious raw food goodness:

Strawberry Jam Shortcake Bars

Served warm and ooey gooey straight out of the dehydrator...

I'm a sucker for veggie loafs. They make for super quick and easy meals that are just packed with lots of veg, nuts, and seeds. It's a great way to sneak in veggies that people don't normally like. 

 This week I did a 'Parmesan' Encrusted Italian-style Veggie Loaf

The veg loaf is so versatile too. You can cut it up and eat it in a wrap or crumble it over a hearty kale salad.

Another yummy delight and an all around raw food nerd fav.: FALAFELS!!!! Raw, vegan dollups of herby deliciousness!

Cumin-Cilantro Falafels

I loooovee cumin...in everything. I mix it with nutritional yeast and add it to my many variations of avo mac&cheeze and my cucumber mash. It's sooo good. I try and eat pretty clean and I don't get too crazy with adding tons of spices to my food, but for someone who really doesn't eat nuts and seeds, I think seasoning is really important. It's a great way for me to remain 'consistant' and basically eat the same thing everyday while still allowing for variety.

On Friday, in the midst of a cleaning frenzy, I decided to whip up a batch of sauerkraut. I haven't had it in so long and I was really craving some. I threw together a rather spicy batch of green cabbage/carrot/jalapeno/cumin kraut.

I've read a lot of conflicting facts about the health benefits of kraut/fermented veggies. I can't imagine that eating what essentially is rotting food can be all that good for you, but it sure tastes good! If my only real vice is some delicious fermented food, then guilty I shall be. lol.

All jarred up and ready to be fermented!

I've been incredibly thirsty these last two weeks which probably has something to do with yoga. Bikram has been so humid and I've been sweating so much...like pouring in my eyes sweating..I go through an entire gallon of water during class. Afterwards all I want is juice, but alas, I am far too lazy to cut, blend, and strain everyday. (Ohhh huroom, I'mmm waitingggg!)

And so begins my love affair with melons of all varieties...watermelon and honey dew make the most insane tasting juice. Maybe I've just been a raw foodist way too long but, it seriously tastes like liquid cotton candy!

The Blendtec has made juice making so easy. Especially when I've got ten trillion blood oranges and tangelos to get rid of. They were like eight for $1 at the Farmers Market. I heart minola tangelos - so tany and tart, but still sweet. Unfortunately, the tangelos had so many seeds it really wasn't worth the trouble of picking them out so I just made a yummy juice instead. Carrot/Orange/Lemon juice. You can stuff so much into that carafe!

I strain it through a nut milk bag and it's fantastic. It's actually still kind of thick which reminds me of drinking pulpy OJ. Although, I think regular navel oranges are the best for making homemade pulpy OJ!

In other, less foodly, news, I am trying to get better with blogging and commenting back! I suck, I know. I'll be better, I promise. Either way, I always appreciate the comments! It gives me some serious motivation to get my tush in gear. (Hence, it's 11:52 PM and I'm writing out the rest of this post that I started on Saturday! Saturday! Oye vey!)

I've also got something very exciting to share this week! No, I'm not pregnant...my bump is strictly from eating too much watermelon...lol

P.S. Has anyone else been watching Food Network Star? Am I the only one who thinks this season is a disaster? I feel bad for the two women, Artie and the Britney Murphy-look-a-like, since they are the only two who really have a shot at this. They should just send the rest home now and let those two compete, Iron Chef-style...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Exercising The Demons

Pour me a cup of MSM-ed Watermelon Juice and let's call it a day because I seriously (well, we really, but I don't think Kev would be doing this if it wasn't for me anyway...) must be a masochist. I've got one exception in life when it comes to reaching far..far..beyond my threshold for pain and being uncomfortable and that's the sweaty suffering of exercise.

I, however, am not a fan of lingering pain...especially involving my ankles and shins..

This jello-ing of my limbs was brought on by none other than LA's Runyon Canyon perched high in the Hollywood Hills. Apparently, though I have yet to spot one, a lot of celebrities exercise there. After a feast of delicious vanilla cake-esque coconut date rolls and 20 minutes of searching for parking Kev and I made our way to the base of the Canyon:

Let me just say that walking up the street alone to get to the entrance is a workout in and of itself; the hills are insanely steep. So much for Sunday being my Bikram-only rest day...I was dripping sweat after five minutes and my heart was nearly beating out of my chest. We only walked up, but a good portion of the people were running.

Runyon obliterated my ankles..and my shins...and my knees for almost an entire week; I think it was the going down part vs. up that did it since the path we took down was semi-stairs and extraordinarily steep. I was doing double Bikrams for extra stretching because it was the only thing that made them feel better.

Yet, in true A. fashion Kev and I went back to Runyon this Sunday. I know, I'm totally asking for it...

half-way up..

and this is why my extremities turned to jello...

and how Kev got rid of his farmer's tan...

while I stopped for a photograph break with the agave plant behind me...

When we were about 1/2 a mile-1 mile from the very top of Runyon we passed by this loverly little animal sanctuary with two horses and a goat that had been rescued. I used to ride horses and they're my favourite animal. No dogs or cats for me, I'm holding out for my own horse.

My ankles and shins don't hurt nearly as bad as they did last week so I guess muscle memory is kicking in...

Hope you all had a fantastic week. I'll be back tomorrow to share some weekend eats.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Watermelon Baby Belly, Afflictions, & Creamy Dreamy Spirulina Ice-a-cream-e

I've been pounding down the watermelon lately like it's going out of style. Nine pound watermelon? No prob. And I've got the watermelon baby belly to prove it. I've been eating them everyday after yoga because it's pure sugar water and super hydrating. (Sometimes two in a row! Shhhh!)

To be honest with you, watermelon isn't even one of my favourite fruits. There's that whole "got to wait 15-30 minutes" in between eating it and anything else bit and it doesn't combine well other fruits (or anything for that matter) so you always have to eat it alone. It's kind of a pain in the bum which is why when I eat watermelon I eat watermelon.

Go hard or go home, as they say. I'm that way about everything though, so it doesn't surprise me that I'd find a way to apply this to food.

Actually, I was discussing this with Kev in the car the other day on the way to Whole Foods to get cherries. (Mmm, cherry splendidness. Cherries, dates, and figs are at an even tie for my absolute favorite of all favorite fruits. You should see how crazy I get when figs come into season. I used to buy out the little farm market store on 96th and Lex and eat figs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My precious figs, ::le sigh::) Sometimes I think it is a serious personality default (this all or nothingness) because it prevents me from understanding/relating to people, especially since it makes its way into so many areas of my life.

For example, with Bikram. I've watched people walk out right before the last pose - which mind you is on the floor. Why would you spend 85 minutes in a hot, humid room with 30+ other sweating people just to walk out before the end? It's mind boggling to me! I mean, I understand people sitting out poses as we've all been there. Bikram never gets easier no matter what anyone tells you. As someone who goes everyday, it's no walk in the park just because you are consistent. There are some days that room feels like it's on fire and I'm seriously so nauseous I'm positive I'm going to vomit or I'm so thirsty that I don't think I can last another second...but, I do. You always do, because 99% of it is mental.

I have such a low tolerance for pain and being uncomfortable that the only thing that keeps running through my head is, "If I can do it, anybody can." The concept of putting forth that much effort to just give up at the end just seems crazy. I mean, right?

And then there is the more serious aspect to this personality affliction of mine which applies entirely to food. I'm the type of person where if I find out something is bad for me and there is enough evidence to back it up, then I'm done with it forever and cut it out immediately. (There's a replacement for everything anyway...) I can't understand how other people don't do the same (do you seem my problem here...)

For example, rewind three years. I'm on my way to class and there is a little yellow flier stuck to the wall outside the elevator in the EL Building of New School. "Splenda tested on rats...processed with arsenic..etc." Silently, I shrieked in horror since this was my drug "sugar replacement" of choice at the time. From coffee, to splenda cheesecakes (pre-vegan days), to grapefruit. Sometimes I used to just dip the spoon in the bag and eat it like fluffy white snowflakes of tumor-inducing goodness! ::points:: Splenda-holic right here.

After that, I ditched the Splenda. Threw it all away. Haven't had it since.

The same thing happened when I was slathering up an apple with good old conventional Jiff peanut butter (who claims to be so natural) and my dear friend Martin was like, "That has partially-hydrogenated oil, a trans fat that's pretty horrible for you." You know when someone who can pack away some serious junk food tells you there's something deathly in your food, you had better stop eating it.

Little did I know, P.H.O., was in just about everything I was eating..yogurt, dressings, my freaking PB...along with high-fructose corn syrup...interesting..

Further research proved Martin right and I cut out both immediately. Which meant finding an entire new way of eating (yay veganism!) since both are basically staples of conventional American 'cuisine'. And, of course, becoming a compulsive label checker. (Like did you did you know Tofutti, the company that makes those vegan cream cheeses and ice cream bars and all that good stuff, yeah, their products contain partially-hydrogenated oils too! I mean honestly, they are sold in health food stores everywhere! Wouldn't have known that unless I read the label...)

I guess what I am really saying is that I cannot, for the life of me, understand how people can continue living in ignorance when they know how bad something is for them. I mean, I know this is entirely irrational, but it honestly makes me so angry. And this anger comes wholly from a place of concern and love because I just want everyone to be healthy, happy, and live a long time. The pharmaceutical dependency in this country and reliance on conventional doctors to just prescribe and right all our wrongs is devastating.

Have you ever noticed how everyone who eats like crap has some sort of ailment or disease? They are always complaining about something: my shoulder, my back, I've got this cancer and so and so just died of that cancer, I'm fat, I've got diabetes, allergies, etc. It never ends.  Honestly, what did you expect after years of abusing your body? I have a hard time feeling any sort of sympathy for people who make bad choices and refuse to correct them.

I know this seems rather bitchy, but think of this as the "Skinny Bitch" or Gillian McKieth's "You Are What You Eat" approach to life and healing the body. I feel like I can say all this because I'VE BEEN THERE. I've had the migraines, sinus infections three times a year, chronic strep throat, digestive problems galore, the list goes on forever...I know what it is like to not be able to lose the weight and feel like crapola all the time. Up until a few years ago, I was that person. And then I found out all these little tidbits of information, changed my habits accordingly, and now I feel excellent.

As Ann Wigmore so candidly wrote, "Why Suffer?"

And this has nothing to do with raw vs. cooked or even vegan vs. omnivore. It's more of the Matt Monarch philosophy: it isn't what you put into your diet, but what you take out. Raw food is a personal choice. Same goes for veganism. And neither of these are strict requirements to being "healthy". If people simply switched to Organics and cut out the shitzel their health would improve ten-fold.

You cannot even cry "taste" here. Health food has comes leaps and bounds since its granola-only days where it's all carrot sticks and celery. I'm a serious food nerd (duh)...like to the point where I dream about food and eating it and how good it tastes. I'm all about flavor biatches! And while I may be able to suck it up and take one for the team by drinking cups of Vitamineral Green alone for greens-on-the-road sake, I'm not the type to just eat food just because it's "healthy". I love food too much to let that happen.

Kevin says I just have an over abundance of will power and that's why it is so easy for me to give up things once I discover how bad they really are. But, I don't think that's necessarily the case. I wasn't always this way. (Like Splenda I had quite the attachment to non-dairy creamer and it's assorted flavors even though my Mim used to plead with me to ditch it because it was nothing more than powdered chemicals. I ignored her for the longest time.) Now, I feel like it's just common sense: how can something with an ingredient list the size of Texas be good for you? Or ingredients that you cannot pronounce or identify as a real food? Does the light bulb not go off?

Maybe 10 or 15 years ago ignorance could be justified, but there is far too much information available today to allow this "blissfully unaware" excuse to be rationalized.

A lot of the time I find myself wondering whether I am simply far too jaded...have I seen to many Food Inc.'s? And read to many Michael Pollan books and Organic Consumer Association Newsletters??

Either way, I know I've got to find some way to let it go because I can only do so much. I'm really not a confrontational person, so peacefully educating people I suppose is the best way to go...
In other, happier news, the countdown to the release of Twilight Saga: Eclipse has begun! I saw the first billboard last week!! I'm marking down the days on my Edward calender! Seriously, I'm going all out in my Twilight gear. I know, so nerdly..

And thanks to my glorious blendtec I've been making this scrumptilly ice cream number every night. It's thick, icy, and the perfect nightly treat. I can't get enough of it!

Spirulina Dream Ice Cream

P.S. Thanks for listening to my rant. I've been mulling over these thoughts for quite some time now and it feels very good to get it off my chest.