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.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Appliance Junkie

There are few things I love more than food, Bikram, and Kev&Lish car dance parties. Ok, Real Housewives of NY and NJ too. (Am I the only one who wishes they could hire Caroline Manzo as their body guard???)

I've got a serious soft spot for gadgets of the kitchen variety: appliances, kitchen trinkets like ceramic measuring cups, mini-tart pans, Le cruset mini-pots, multi-coloured silicone cupcake molds, etc. I window shop at William-Sonoma and Sur La Table like an OC Housewife at Bloomies.

Luckily, I also suffer from a pretty bad case of shoppers remorse so there is no impulse buying going on in this nerdy kitchen.

With that being said, I've been eyeing those Blendtec Blenders with the BPA-free 96 oz carafes /4 inch blade for quite some time. Bigger green smoothies? Ability to pack that thing solid without having to use a plunger to blend? No more dirty sleeves as I try and scoop out every last ounce of food from the VM carafe? Simply having another high-speed blender to work with? HELL FREAKING YES! Don't get me wrong, love my Vita-Mix, but anyone who watches Matt & Angela's TV Show: Raw Food World can see the differences between the Vita and the Blendtec. By the way, making ice cream (w/nanners and ice) now takes 2 minutes instead of 25 + a whole crap load of cursing.

So, for my very belated birthday my grandparent's generously bought me this beauty which is currently on sale at The Raw Food World store!

And you thought my appliance in-take had reached its max for this week? Well, so did I...until my class on Wednesday...

 Rewind to Saturday Night:

Kev and I went to Au Lac (without a doubt, the best, raw food I've ever had!) with two women, Louann and Kim, who have been coming to all my classes - we've gotten to be good friends as they are so sweet and I just adore them! It seriously felt like easter dinner with la familia - I was waiting for someone to bring out the big cannoli or something - tons of delicious food that was passed around and shared. One of the best things Louann ordered for us was the Winter Roll. I wrongly assumed this to be a standard nori wrap, but came as mandolin-ed zucchini! Genius! Once again, channeling my inner Bethenny Frankle, "holy shitballs" it was insanely good. While discussing the nature of the winter roll we got to talking about mandolins and how awesome they were. I briefly mentioned that I didn't have one, but wanted one - so that I could make this winter roll at home, damn straight!

Fast-forward to my Wednesday night "Just Desserts" class at the ENC which holy heck went from seven people to eleven at the last minute!

Louann gives me this:

From Sur La Table, like the Cadillac of mandolins. That's right, thinly sliced layers of zucchini for lasagna and ravi's here I come!

And as if I wasn't entirely grateful already...

During my class one of my other loyal students, Grace, asked me about my food processor. It's a Hamilton Beach, it does the job, but we have a love-hate relationship. Like, I love the fact that it shreds my zucchini and cucs in two seconds flat, but I HATE the fact that it sprays sauce all over the lid as it 'processes'. I told her that it was "alright", but that I was in the market for a new food processor and that the Cuisinart are the best. (My parents have one, my grandparents have one, and I've been complaining to Kev about getting a new food processor for like a year now. Every time we go to Target - I'm window shopping for food processors - no joke.)

At the end of class Louann tells me that she bought me this:

::Heavenly music::
The coveted 16 cup Cuisinart food processor!

Which also comes with the 12 cup AND 3 cup not to mention a whole slew of other kitcheny gadget essentials!

I felt like the Grinch who stole Christmas, my heart swelled ten times its normal size and I was nearly in tears.

Sheer acts of generosity like this make me even more grateful for everything in my life. Talk about spreading good Karma, right?

In return, I'm planning something deliciously splendid and making dinner. It's going to be a raw food feast!

Now, my Rolls Royce of a raw food kitchen is nearly complete...Hurom juicer, someday soon you will be mine!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dessert Class Blur, Foodie Stress, & Curried Coconut Thai Veggies

Is it really Wednesday? I mean, that's it? Feels like Friday to me for some reason. However, that's the way it usually is when I have classes coming up during the week. My real life + my food life seem to blur together into a hazy amalgamation of shopping, recipe testing, and overall preparation. Regardless of how many times I teach these classes I always stress over them: Will everything turn out ok? Will people like my food? Do I have enough for sampling?

I've learned that stressing over these things is a total waste of energy. The classes always go really well and people are always happy. I guess, because these are my creations, I feel like the bar is raised a little higher. I am trying to teach people how to make raw food more fun and accessible; I mean desserts are like the raw food gateway drug, so to speak. You can take a total skeptic, give him some raw chocolate or cheesecake or a truffle and he/she automatically wants to know more. The potentiality is enormous! It's a big job that I really do take to heart!

Can you see why I stress despite the fact that I know I shouldn't?

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you all. Your comments a la my dessert experimentation were delightfully touching. You guys are too nice!

With that being said, I thought I would leave you with a quick recipe that I used to eat a lot of back in NYC. If you love curry and thai food then you're going to swoon over this yummy veg bowl. The best thing about it is you can swap out different veggies depending on what you have in the house or what you are in the mood for. I made this for one of my clients this week as it is one of her fav.'s. I used broccoli and carrots because they looked especially good at the FM this week.  I put it over cashew cauliflower rice and drench it in a creamy, curried, coconut sauce. It smells and tastes out of this world.

Curried Coconut Thai Veg Bowl Over Cashew-Cauliflower Rice

-meat from 1 young Thai coconut OR
 1 can of organic coconut milk
-1 clove garlic
-1 T curry powder
-1 T onion powder
-1/4 t turmeric
-sea salt to taste
 (water to blend if you use
meat from young Thai coconut)

Throw all your ingredients into the blender and puree it all together!

Veg Mix:
-1 head of broccoli, chopped
-3 carrots shredded

Toss with a pinch of sea salt and extra virgin olive oil to soften. You can either eat as is with the sauce OR pour the sauce over the veggies, mix, and pop in the dehydrator for about an hour at 110 degrees.

Cauliflower Cashew Rice:
-1/2 head cauliflower
-1 cup soaked cashews
-Sea Salt to taste

Put cashews into the food processor and pluse just to break up into pieces. Add in cauliflower and pulse until it begins to look like "rice". Be careful not to over process into a cauliflower mash - you want a 'grain-like' consistancy.

Fluff with a fork, just like you would cooked rice to make sure cauliflower and cashews are incorporated.

*You can also add parsnips to dull down the cauliflower taste or add pine nuts too!

A great addition to this would be some soft raisins!

Yum, yum, yum!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Hot and heavy, pumpkin pie, chocolate candy, jesus christ"

 Although this post is hot and heavy, on sweet confections that is...you will not find pumpkin pie, chocolate candy, or jesus christ here - sorry! However, I promise the oodles of yums will not disappoint.

I think it is pretty obvious, I am by no means a pastry queen. My skillz in the kitchen are predominately of the savory kind. I can throw together a green monster of a soup or an apple wood smoked dulse mac and cheeze lettuce wrap in minutes and have it taste out of this world; my raw marinara sauce, fan-freaking-tastic. (I'm not bragging, honestly, it just happens...like divine-kitchen-intervention...)

Creamy Green Soup:

Apple Wood Smoked Dulse Mac & Cheeze Lettuce Wrap:

Are you listening Bobby Flay??? I'm ready for my throw down!

However, in the vast arena of raw desserts, I am not as blessed. Coming up with successful pastries that work is often more difficult then what I picture in my mind. Sure, they taste good -- it's not hard to make a tasty combination out of nuts and dates but, actually forming them into food that people want to eat? Well, that's a whole other ball game. And so it begins...

Some time around 1 am, when I know I should be sleeping, I quietly mosey on over to the kitchen and open the fridge- plotting. Unlike Daris from The Biggest Loser, my motives are not to stuff my face until four in the morning and sabotage my chances at winning $250,000- Jillian's words, not mine! Oh no, I gave up late night snacking long ago, I'm here purely for experimental reasons. (And, the fact that, well, I have a "Just Desserts" class coming up at the ENC and I want to make sure I'm super-prepared!)

Exhibit A:
Cacao Nib Walnut Butter Balls Rolled in Coconut

  • 2 cups Walntuts
  • 1 T Cacao Nibs
  • 2 T Clear Agave
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • Shredded Coconut
To make the walnut butter you simply process them in the food processor for 2-3 minutes. The oil from the walnuts will begin to release and it will start to change from a powdery-flour to a butter. Add your raw clear agave as well as the pinch of sea salt and continue to process. Next, add in your cacao nibs until they are incorporated into the butter. Scoop out and form into balls. They should be rather gooey as that is what makes them so deliciously decadent. Roll in coconut flakes and then freeze or refrigerate depending on the desired texture you are seeking.

 Exhibit B: 
Oatmeal Pumpkin Seed Cookies Stuffed with Sweet Cashew Butter Cream 

Exhibit C:
Double Chocolate Layer Cake w/ a Deconstructed Cashew-Coconut Macaroon Center topped with
Chocolate Ganache and Coconut

Pardon the slightly mangled tin, lol!

Unfortunately, in order to get a photograph of the inside of this layer cake I would have also had to mangle the actual cake instead of just the tin, and I am pretty sure my client would not have been too thrilled. However, she did tell me that this cake is amazing. So, I guess we will all have to suffer without a picture. :-(

I was actually inspired to make this after meeting Ani Phyo, as she has some chocolate cake with chocolate ganache videos on youtube from her dessert book. Naturally, I had to twist it up and make it my own!

So maybe the world of desserts isn't too far out of my territory. After all, I used to man the dessert station at a very fancy restaurant for quite some time...however, I think I'll stick to dishes of the savory persuasion and leave the sweet treats to the masters...like whoever makes the doughnut holes at Au Lac... I'm going to have to go ahead and quote Bethenny Frankle here and say, "Holy Shitballs".

Monday, May 17, 2010

Holy Moley Me Oh My!

Happy Monday Darlings!

Thank you for all the supportive comments on my last post about devilish Aunt Flow (haha).  I know what works for me obviously, might not work for everyone else (or you might be totally content with the state of your period), but I think just putting the information out there is helpful...then you can be the judge and decide what to do with that information!

Anyway, on to the really exciting news! Holy moley I got to meet Ani Phyo this weekend!!! (Thank you Gia!!!) If you don't already know, Ani Phyo is an amazing raw food chef based here in Southern California. She came out to Au Lac (the best raw food restaurant on the West Coast, no joke!) to do a talk/book signing because her new book Ani's Raw Food Essentials is coming out in June (I've had that baby pre-ordered for months!)

I am so excited for what her new book has to offer considering it contains 250 NEW recipes! Me oh my! Come June there's going to be a whole lot of (non-work related) un-cooking going on in the Raw Food Nerd Kitchen that's for sure!

Ani is everything you would expect her to be: funny, down to earth, personable and a true 'chef-spiration'. She's so laid-back and not to be cliche, but, well, zen. I get the feeling that if one were lucky enough to assist her in preparing a meal it would rank somewhere between hanging out with your best girlfriend on a Saturday night and a totally meditative experience. She just exudes positivity, but not in that weird fake way that sometimes afflicts raw foodies. I'm going to be totally '90s here and say, Ani Phyo is cool.

Awful picture of me, but Ani looks great as always!

Aside from her abject awesomeness, she's got some serious kitchen skills. She makes raw food very approachable, especially for the novice raw fooder.  In fact, this past Christmas my future mother-in-law made a variety of recipes from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen that turned out so amazing even the non-raw foodies were going crazy over them!  [Dear Mom W. I'm still waiting for my Coconut Date Balls! lol] Her recipes are simple, creative, and absolutely delicious. They aren't nut or seed heavy either, which is a big plus for me since I try to avoid all that heavy raw gourmet food anyway.

I really feel so lucky and privileged that I was able to meet her. She is such a bright encouraging light for the raw food community and I think we can all learn so much from people like her.

Thank you again Ani! Can't wait for you to come back to the OC and good luck on your book tour!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!"

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) Lady Macbeth was referring to a different type of "spot", however, if Lady Macbeth were not a fictional Shakespearean character, I'm positive, she too would harbor the same negative feelings towards 'Aunt Flow' too.

Disclaimer: There's gonna be some serious discussion about the female menstrual cycle. I take no responsibility for any reactions that may come as a result of reading this post.

So, about a year and a half ago I stopped getting my period after being raw for almost 9 months. That's right, it just stopped. And damn was I happy...and admittedly, kind of scared too.

Aunt Flow and I haven't always had the best relationship. She came at 16 like a tsunami during a huge July BBQ that my parents' were throwing and it only got worse from there. I'm talking fetal-position inducing cramps, cold bathroom floors, many pairs of discarded undergarments, spots on coveted blankets, and raging PMS. No matter what I did, within an hour, I was leaking all over the place. And this would last for a minimum (that heavy too) for two weeks at a time. I was miserable. So, my Mim did what any concerned Mim would do - she took me to the gyno who put me on birth control. This did nothing, other than make me gain a few pounds. So, they upped the dosage because of course to conventional doctors when a problem arises it's prescribe! prescribe! prescribe! That didn't help at all either, unless you consider morning sickness, throwing up in the girls bathroom, and passing out in the laundry room working and normal for a teenager...?

After that, I went off the birth control. And my dastardly menstrual cycle continued, unabated for years to come with the same force; even during my reckless dieting phase!

So, one can imagine the surprise/shock/concern one would feel after years of putting up with an unwanted house guest who seemingly just picks up and leaves....and then doesn't return for quite some time...honestly, I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel. I mean, society tells us that the female menstrual cycle is a right of passage: Ta-dah! You're a woman now! But, what if that isn't really true? We all know ovulation is necessary, but what if that's all we require to pass into the stage of woman-hood? I mean, if our nose was bleeding for a week every 28 days I doubt we would consider this normal...right?

A hemorrhaging of blood from anywhere can never be normal, at least in my opinion.

Anyway, I went to a local NYC clinic to get my blood tested. I had heard through various sources that often on a raw food diet women do stop getting their period, but since mine happened so soon after starting the diet, I wanted to make sure my hormones were balanced and everything was in check. My blood work came back perfect; now mind you at the time I was eating a modified 811 diet - still eating spices and an occasional raw gourmet meal, but for the most part I had severely cut back on my nut and seed intake.

Once I got my test results back, I was like a woman on a mission: I was going to find out what the hell was wrong with me that I had stopped getting my period. I even went for a pelvic exam to make sure there were no abnormalities on my ovaries or uterus. I tried EVERYTHING to get my period to come back: no fat, low fat, high fat, bikram, no running, raw gourmet, no raw gourmet, eating soy products again, 100% organic, more greens, wild greens, juicing, smoothie feasting, ph-balanced water, vitex, zinc, herbal teas, -- you name it, I've done it. I mean, NYC is a pretty toxic place to live as far as clean air goes. The fact that I could be clean enough to not get my period every month just seemed unreal to me!

However, after a while I started to appreciate the fact that I didn't have to deal with Auntie Flow anymore. Ahhh, bliss. No more forking over the cash for organic tampons and pads. No more PMS. No more spots and discarded under-roos. I felt great physically and mentally so I kind of gave up on my mission. Inwardly and outwardly there seemed to be no visible sign that anything was wrong or that I should be concerned simply because I wasn't bleeding every month. [Since 16, every time I was about to get my period, like a week or so before, I would get a sharp pain in my ovary. And I was still experiencing that same feeling despite the fact that I wasn't physically getting the period -- that's how I knew I was really ok.]

While on my mission I read several thousand articles on women and their periods and how necessary or unnecessary it really is. Some say that the period is like any other detox through the body; toxic blood essentially releasing via the womb. You should read these two articles if you are curious about more concrete information: The Bloody Truth and Diet and Menstruation.

I wasn't sure how true all this was until it happened to me...

If you all recall a few blog posts back I talked about all that cooked squash I was eating...and the hummus..and the diaya cheese. Sometimes I would gently melt the diaya cheese over zucchini in the oven...that month I had more cooked food than I had ever eaten in two years.

And what do you know, the very next month after nearly two years without a period...Aunt Flow came a knockin'!

It was one of the worst periods I had ever experienced, much like those from my teenage years - full force and lasting almost two weeks. And that doesn't even include the two weeks BEFORE my period where I was extremely exhausted, felt weak, lack of appetite, nauseous, etc.

At first, I was entirely confused. What the hell was I doing wrong now that could bring my period back!? Nothing about my diet or routine had changed since moving from NYC to CA. As mentioned, I am pretty OCD about consistency and I simply couldn't figure it out. I was also a strangely befuddled because I had spent so much time and energy trying to figure out how to bring my period back and here she was! And then, one night while on our way to Mother's for snacks, it clicked! The only thing that had changed for me since moving to California was the fact that I had been incorporating the cooked food into my diet the previous month. Ah, ha!

Now, you may be thinking, "Don't blame your period on a couple baked squashes and some hummus! That's crazy talk!" And while you are entirely entitled to your opinion, the proof is in the [raw] pudding, as they say.

This week, I was supposed to get my period again. And while I did feel the pangs of ovulation, I am successfully without period, once again.

My diet has been nearly all raw with the exception of yummy Coconut Bliss ice cream...and hell will freeze over before I would ever consider giving that up.

So what does this all mean? For me, this means, that if I ever want to suffer for a month straight I should just eat cooked food! No, really, this just proves to me how toxic cooked food is to the body. That I tried absolutely everything to get my period back for the longest time, EXCEPT eating cooked food, and all it took was in fact, the cooking of the food. This is not to say that I'll never eat a squash or a sweet potato again. (When I am el prego I plan on going straight to east side bagel on the lower east side and ordering an everything bagel with tofu cream cheese. Yes, you heard me.) However, I'm not going to make a meal of it...or eat it for two weeks straight (my consistency habits be damned).

So you see, the connection between food and body and our toxicity levels really is legit. We experience such a heavy toxic load daily from things that are completely out of our control via the environment or people who don't share the same conscious beliefs that we do..like the woman in line at the grocery store who apparently can't/doesn't leave the house without bathing in her eau de toilette that smells like cucumber melon and nursing home....so why would we want to further pollute our bodies when they already have enough toxicity to process everyday?

So, ladies (and maybe gents??) if you feel a craving for cooked food coming on because you are stressed or pmsing read some raw food blogs to stay inspired and maybe throw together a raw food dessert...or just something tasty...


Almond Cookie Dough Balls

 Cinnamon Pecan Doughnut Holes Rolled in Cinnamon-Pecan-Coconut Flakes

*** My dear friend Averie of Love Veggies and Yoga requested the recipe for these super yummy doughnut holes and I am never one to deny good friends, good food. Unfortunately, I am not one for exact measurements...I just kind of make a list of what I think something should taste like and throw it together. Also, I make BIG batches for clients and what not so you would have to seriously adjust anyway.

Doughnut Hole:
2 cups soaked almonds
6-7 coconut date rolls
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pecans 
2 cups coconut
1 T cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

Blend in the food processor until you have a dough. Make sure not to over process as you don't want the 'batter' to be super oily. You just want to make sure all your ingredients are incorporated. Form into balls and set aside.

To make the oustide layer:
1/2 c pecans
2 cups coconut
1 T cinnamon
pinch sea salt

Process until you have a powder with little bits of coconut still visable (gives texture). Then roll your doughnut holes in your cinna-pecan-coconut flour mixture.

I keep these in the freezer until I need to use them so that they stay fresh. However, you can eat these straight away (obviously) and if you are going to be serving them with in a few hours of making them you can just keep them in the fridge. These last a LONG time.


Or maybe even some homemade Cashew and Walnut Butter on top of Cinnamon Raisin Brazil Nut Bread....

Hell, why not some Cheezy Curry Kale Chips??

Or... Walnut Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms too!

Because honestly, I can't think of anything better than never having to deal with Auntie Flow..