Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Creamy Capsicum and Sunflower Dip

Just like any other cuisine, it's easy to get in a rut with gourmet raw foods. You know the scenario: preparing the same limited repertoire of dishes over and over again until you're bored sick. While I don't think I'll ever get sick of big salads, I do need some variety from time to time as well. So I got to thinking of other ways to make eating raw veggies a little more fun.

The answer? Dips! The beauty of dips as a raw food eater is that not only can you pack lots of veggies and greens into the dip itself, but you can also use different veggies and greens as the dip vehicles, so to speak.

Rocket in my veggie garden

I love celebrating seasonality, so I've developed a few new dips using the best of local summer produce. First is a simple rocket pesto, made from the bounty of my garden. The wild rocket in my garden is ultra peppery, with a much more spicy and juicy flavor than the kind you buy in a shop. I like to balance this with some sweet sundried tomatoes, crunchy pumpkin seeds, and intense local olive oil. It's lovely as a dip with crisp veggies sticks, makes a great condiment for marinated portobello mushrooms, and can be tossed with some zucchini pasta.

The second dip is all about capsicum. As any Italian cook knows, roasting capsicum really intensifies and sweetens the flavor, but it turns out that dehydrating does the same thing! To make a creamy dip similar to the ubiquitous dairy-rich version, I used germinated sunflower seeds. Lots of lemon juice and a generous application of spices creates a symphony of flavors.

Mushroom Dip

Finally, creamy mushroom dip was inspired by these amazing swiss brown beauties that have been grown just down the road at CERES. I've been lucky to play with these lovelies all summer, and this is my favorite dish so far. It tastes even better on the second day, as the mushroom flavor just seems to grow overnight. The texture is creamy - you'd swear there was cheese in there!

I like to serve the dips with a variety of vegetables and greens for dipping. Cucumber rounds are great with the mushroom dip, rocket or spinach leaves compliment the capsicum dip, and any sturdy vegetables match the rocket dip.

Rocket Pesto
2 cups fresh rocket, tightly packed
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked to rehydrate
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp sea/himalayan salt

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until fairly smooth (leave a bit of texture). Voila! Super easy.

Creamy Capsicum and Sunflower Dip
2 large red capsicums (bell peppers), chopped and dehydrated 8 hours
2 cups sprouted sunflower seeds*
1/4 red onion, chopped
juice of one lemon
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne
up to 1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in food processor and whir until smooth, adding water as necessary to achieve a very smooth texture.

*For info on sprouting, see my post on Sprouted Wheat Salad with Tangy Tamari Dressing. In this case it is sufficient to soak the seeds overnight, but you'll get more nutrition out of them if you leave them a day or two until they have tiny tails.

Mushroom Dip

12 swiss brown button mushrooms
1/2 tsp sea/himalayan salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 leaves fresh sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp cashew butter, or 1/4 cup really raw cashews, soaked
1 Tbsp tamari

Reserve 2 swiss brown mushrooms; finely chop the remaining 10 and place in a bowl with salt, olive oil, sage and thyme. Let marinate for 1/2 hour or longer. At the same time, cut the remaining 2 mushrooms into thin slices and marinate in the same mixture but in a separate bowl.

In a food processor, combine marinated mushrooms along with the marinade and juice, nutritional yeast, cashews or cashew butter, and tamari. Whir until very smooth. Place in a bowl and top with the marinated mushroom slices.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

If that title doesn't have you salivating yet, how about this photo?

Yeah, this recipe is a stunner. I'm not going to bother with too much chatter here, because I think it really speaks for itself. Let's just say I had two dinner guests last night, and I served them a main course of salad because I didn't want to detract any attention (or room in their tummies) from these blue babies.

Credit where credit is due: the inspiration for this dish came from Vanessa Sherwood over at G Living. I opted for blueberries in my version because they are absolutely perfect and abundant right now in Victoria. I also cheated a little and used cashew butter instead of whole cashews because I don't have a Vitamix yet (I'm saving up).

So use my version, or use Vanessa's, or come up with your own creative variation. Go forth and make cheesecake!

Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

1/2 cup brazil nuts, soaked 4-6 hours and drained
1/2 cup shredded dried coconut
1 heaped Tbsp cacao powder
1/2 vanilla bean, or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 generous Tbsp raw honey/agave
1 Tbsp cacao nibs

In a food processor, combine brazil nuts, coconut, cacao powder, vanilla and salt. Pulse until you achieve a fine, crumbly consistency.

Add honey or agave and cacao nibs. Continue to pulse until the mixture comes together into a crumbly dough. If necessary, add more honey/agave.

Press the dough into the bottom of either a small (9 inch or smaller) springform cake pan, or six cupcake molds. Put into freezer to chill while you make the filling.

1 punnet blueberries
2/3 cup cashew butter, or 1 cup soaked cashews
2 Tbsp melted cacao butter
1/4 cup honey or agave
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt

Blend all of the filling ingredients in a vitamix or food processor until smooth. Fill your cake or cupcake molds with the filling, then lick every last yummy morsel (I like to give this last job to my dog - he waits so patiently at my feet throughout the whole process, sweet little thing)!

Place in fridge to set at least one hour. Can be frozen, just take it out 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Embracing the Journey

Sometimes I feel like the whole world is vibrating on my frequency.

Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement. But I can't help but notice that as my raw food journey continues, and my thoughts regarding this process evolve, that people with similar views and ideas just seem to pop into my life. Is this synchronicity, or is it simply a natural instinct within me seeking out the likeminded?

I refer specifically to a recent blog post by the awesome Raw Diva Tera, announcing "The 90-Day Don’t Be So Obsessed About What You Eat Detox." Wow, has she been reading my mind? And on the same day, I discovered the group A.C.E. (Accepting Conscious Eaters) on the bangin' forum Give It To Me Raw. What these guys are suggesting is that maybe there are many ways to eat healthy. And maybe it's more important to relax a bit about what we're eating and put our energy towards various creative endeavors. I, personally, have come to this same conclusion, but would like to take it a step further and suggest that we actually embrace the confusion, the difficulties, the ups-and-downs of the journey as we move along our personal raw (and general life) paths.

Part of my personal raw journey is this insatiable appetite for knowledge. I visit all of the forums, read blogs, check out books, try recipes. I try to keep an open mind, but sometimes this learning can be frustrating. Just as in the non-raw nutrition world, there are so many conflicting ideas out there! Is cacao good or bad? How much? What about supplements? Superfoods, or green smoothies? Avocados and coconut oil, or 80-10-10? And suddenly, instead of loving my food and feeling 100% confident that what I'm eating is good for me, I'm feeling stressed out. A little voice in my head is saying, "Oh no, you're eating too much cacao, too much fat, gotta go on a juice feast." And yet I don't desire to fast at the moment. And I feel unsatisfied without the fats. Am I doing something wrong?

This is when a little voice in my head starts to tell me to relax. Anxiety over food choices is causing all this stress, which is about the most harmful thing I can do for my health! So here's my answer:

Enjoy the journey.

The thing about transitioning to raw foods is that it involves undoing not only my own lifetime of less-than-ideal eating patterns, but also those imprinted in me by my parents, their parents, and 4 or 5 more generations who grew up eating largely processed diets. This is going to take time! It's unrealistic to expect that after just over a year of raw eating, I'm going to feel perfectly healthy and satisfied living off of greens and fruits. Yeah, in an ideal world, I'd eat like a chimp. But chimps didn't grow up eating mashed potatoes, pasta, and -gasp- hamburgers. So, a bit of patience as my body catches up to my high-minded ideals, please.

This doesn't mean I'm going back to cooked foods. But it does mean that I'm giving myself time - as much time as it takes. Probably a number of years, though I'm not putting a number on it because I just don't know how my journey is going to progress. What I have decided is to stick to an entirely vegan diet (except for honey, which I have particular reasons for eating, more on that in the future), because I feel that the stress on my body of the occasional meat, fish or dairy is too great. I have also noticed that in general, my body naturally prefers raw food. Even eating out at a vegan restaurant, I feel heavy and sluggish the next day after consuming rice and tofu. I don't really WANT to eat cooked meals, but I also don't want to put pressure on myself in social situations. So, for now, a few cooked vegan dishes here and there is a decision that I can feel comfortable with.

The next decision is to be okay with my relatively high fat diet. Long term, yeah, I want to cut back. But I just don't feel ready. What I can do, though, is make sure the fats I'm eating are lovely raw fats, like avocados (miracle food), coconuts, olives, flaxseed oil, etc. I wonder if, in time, I will begin to desire fewer fats. I have already noticed that I crave greens like crazy, and I eat salads and green smoothies or juices every day. So perhaps the abatement of my love for fats is something that will happen naturally as well.

About that juice feast - this is something I do highly desire to accomplish within the next year. But again, it doesn't feel like the right time. Sometime soon it will be. No rush.

Realizing that transitioning from a cooked, omnivorous diet to a raw one is a long process is a huge relief to me. I am, by nature, a perfectionist, and this realization allows me to see that what I'm eating now is exactly perfect for where I am now! Everything I consume is intended to nourish me on some level, and therefore it does. What a wonderful gift to give myself. And to whatever forces in the universe or within myself brought these great people with similar ideas into my life at precisely the crucial moment, thank you!
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