Friday, May 29, 2009

Viva Las Vegan

Jayson was, er, "sick" today, and we celebrated having a lovely, crisp sunny day together by riding our bikes to Las Vegan in Collingwood for lunch. I've been meaning to visit Las Vegan since I moved to Melbourne, but somehow it has never been convenient (they're only open for lunch Tues-Fri). An entirely vegan cafe, featuring an assortment of yummy meals and baked goods - how fantastic! Actually Smith St. in Collingwood is kind of a vegan heaven, because it is also home to Friends of the Earth, Organic Wholefoods, Soulfood Cafe, and a vegan shoe store. Why don't we have all of this in Brunswick (though in all fairness we do have an Organic Wholefoods and the Radical Grocery, but I'm holding out for a vegan cafe)?

The cafe is lovingly decorated and offers an assortment of lunch options, including calzones, soups, salads, and heartier meals. Jayson had the "chili non-carne" on rice with salad, and I had a lentil patty on a beautiful bed of salad. We both had some room left so we took home some muffins (chocolate orange and carrot). Somehow it felt like the ride was uphill both ways. What's up with that?

As I sit here writing this, I am drinking a pot of gorgeous "plum pudding" tea (a lovely Christmas gift from my lovely former housemate Jackie) and eating my vegan carrot muffin. Totally un-raw, I know. But that's part of what I want to talk about today, and where this review of sorts is heading. I mostly write about raw food recipes on this blog, and I LOVE raw foods and how they taste and make me feel, but I do not eat 100% raw food in my life. I have gone through periods when I did, and I probably will be at that place again. But right now, that just doesn't work for me for reasons both practical and emotional.

I've been reading Kevin Gianni's new ebook "High Raw" lately and I have found that his advice is fantastic. His first principle for following a high raw lifestyle is to "think like a raw fooder," which means to build a foundation by which I'm eating approximately 75% raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. When I have this foundation, I don't have to stress over an urge to eat, say, a vegan carrot muffin. Because sometimes I do have these urges, and I think stressing out about them is the worst thing I can do! Either eat the muffin and love it, or don't eat and and eat something else instead, but either way don't stress.

By the way, I have tried to make raw muffins but haven't been satisfied with the results. I'm not sure this is the kind of thing that is really going to translate well into a raw form. But I'm open to ideas.

In conclusion, if you love healthy vegan food with lots of raw ingredients and happen to be in Melbourne, visit Las Vegan. And if you're at all interested in optimising your health and feeling great every day without stressing over it, read Kevin Gianni's "High Raw" immediately!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Simple Simple

A simple but delicious lunch of juicy persimmons

I got really sick last week! I came home from my Wednesday night shift, got into bed and started shivering. It wasn't even a cold night. I couldn't stop shaking for over an hour, even after covering myself with layers of clothing and blankets. I spent the next 2 days in bed with a fever.

I had been working without a single full day off for about a month, not getting regular exercise and my diet was kind of erratic. For several days leading up to my illness I was eating calorie dense foods - a lot of nuts and raw desserts, as well as some cooked food. My stress levels were high and I wasn't allowing for any release through relaxation or exercise. Is it any wonder that my body reacted by overheating and then shutting down?

The cure was SIMPLE, however. I just stopped eating and rested! I drank water at first, adding in juice as my appetite began to return. Then I moved on to some simple vegetable soup. I slept a lot, and went for some short walks as my strength returned. Within two days I was feeling pretty great.

The lesson I learned, which I'd like to share with you, is this: keep your raw food simple! Raw desserts are great, but they should be treats for special occasions. I am now focusing on designing a daily way of eating that incorporates fresh juice, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, greens, and lots of water and herbal tea. I personally have a tendency to forget that the above is the basis of a happy, healthy diet and go overboard with the raw sweets and gourmet recipes. Yes, these are raw, but they are really dense and hard to digest and shouldn't be eaten every day.

The other lesson is to give myself time off to play and relax! So I have now adjusted my work schedule so that I have one full day off every week. And that day happens to be Sunday, which is a day off for Jayson as well, so we can spend the day together having fun. This past Sunday we went bushwalking in a kind of eerie feeling gorge near Bacchus Marsh.

My question today is, what do you do to remind yourself to "keep it simple?" And what do you do to relax?

Friday, May 15, 2009

A little bit of unbaking

I've been working like a fiend lately - full time at one restaurant, casual at another, and a 2-day-a-week temp job in a government office. Needless to say I haven't had much time to spend in the kitchen, and the spare time I have had has mostly been spent sitting on the couch in a daze or sleeping. But I finally had a few quality hours to myself on Wednesday morning, and I decided that what I needed to do more than anything else was make cookies!

I had a hankering for good old fashioned oatmeal cookies - I suppose I was really craving something wintery and comforting. I used to make an amazing oatmeal raisin spice cookie in my pre-raw days, but despite their tastiness they were loaded with butter and sugar and flour. Not the best way to coax nutrition out of the remarkable little oat! So I set off to find something that would satisfy my cravings and give my body lots of energy.

I found a great recipe in Heathy's Just Desserts ebook (which, by the way, is incredible - this girl really knows what she's doing with raw desserts - I've made a couple of the cakes and they are spectacular). Just looking at the photo had me longing to curl up on a couch with a plateful of these babies, a mug of warm almond milk and a good book. So I ran out and bought the ingredients, as well as lots of fruits and veggies for juices and salads (a girl can't live on cookies alone!). Arriving home, I made myself a giant green juice and got to work on my cookies.

A tempting bowl of raw oatmeal raisin spice cookies, perfect with a cuppa and a good book.

There were quite a few steps involved in these cookies, but it was definitely worth it. Basically, it involved mixing a lot of wet ingredients in a food processor, grinding nuts and oat groats, and then stirring it all together with raisins. I guess that's actually not any more steps than is involved in making traditional cookies, come to think of it. I added extra spices - nutmeg, allspice, clove and cardomom - to the original cinnamon because I just love a spicy cookie. I had them in the dehydrator by early afternoon, and ate warm cookies for breakfast in the morning! I also ate a lot of batter along the way. And I'm not the only one who was eagerly licking the bowls:

Bazza, my kitchen companion and bowl-licker extraordinaire.

I had enough extra batter to make a batch of Heathy's Super Granola Bars. The base was the same as the oatmeal raisin cookies, but to these I also added goji berries, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped dried apricots and dried coconut. Heathy's recipe called for cacao nibs, but I left these out as I feel that I already consume enough cacao in hot chocolates and desserts. I spread the batter out on a teflex sheet in my annoyingly round-shaped dehydrator, and when they were finished cut them into wedges. They are a perfect, filling snack, and easy to take on the go. I found that eating just one before work kept me feeling satisfied for hours, so I've actually individually wrapped the rest so that I can grab one and throw it in my purse for emergency munchie situations (seriously - when working in hospitality, these do occur regularly, and it's good to have a yummy raw snack on hand so I'm not tempted by less healthy foods).

How gorgeous are these babies?

Super yummalicious granola bars to keep the munchies at bay.

The only question now is what kind of cookies should I make next?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Inspiration: Golden Canneloni and Carrot-Butternut Soup

Inspired raw dinner!

I have been doubly inspired lately. First, by the glorious wisdom of nature, bestowing me with a garden and farmer's market full of beautiful, seasonal fruits and vegetables. And second, by the creative genius of all the wonderful raw chefs around the world who share their creations so graciously via the web! This desire to give, this sense of abundance at the very heart of the raw food movement is exactly what I love about it. The more we eat natural foods prepared with love, the more we appreciate the gift of such foods, the more energetic and grateful we feel, and the more we want to share our passion and creativity with others. It's a big cycle that I am so happy to be a part of.

So today's inspiration comes, firstly, from golden zucchinis and pumpkins in the garden. I've had lots of fun playing with both of these gorgeous fruits this autumn, but I'll admit I was starting to feel a little bit bored of them. Then I saw Matthew Kenney's drool-worthy Golden and Green Canneloni over at G Living and, viola, I was suddenly excited about golden zucchini again! What a miracle to have such special fruit growing in my own backyard! I didn't really follow Matthew's recipe, just kind of took his general idea and ran with it, using whatever I had on hand to make my own version. This was a pinch-dash-handful-drizzle kind of recipe, no measurements as such: a few slices of mandolined golden zucchini for the canneloni shell, layered with thick slices of luscious farmer's market tomatoes, a simple pesto of basil and rocket from the garden pulsed with a handful of walnuts, a bit of garlic, pinch of salt and drizzle of walnut oil, and an impromptu cheese made with cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a dash of water. Here's the result, which was oohed and aahed over and then gobbled up hungrily by J and myself:

Golden Canneloni: inspiration from the garden and Matthew Kenney

With the canneloni we also enjoyed a nice big green salad with rocket and ruby chard from the garden, a bottle of quite drinkable but ultimately immemorable red (I think it was Shiraz Grenache Viognier?) from Organic Vignerons Australia, and a couple of little mugs of my spiced-up version of Pumpkin Pie in a Bowl from Gina at Choosing Raw. Gina's recipe combines carrot juice, butternut, avocado, stevia, cinnamon and nutmeg for a sweet, creamy bowl of yumminess. I prefer my soup a bit more savory so I added some turmeric, a bit more himalayan salt, and a nice big pinch of cayenne (and then another pinch of cayenne). It was pretty spicy, and very orange. Definitely a big beta carotene kick!

Sweet and Spicy Carrot-Butternut Soup

So happy to be inspired again! C'mon nature and raw chefs of the world, what are you gonna throw at me next?
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