Monday, April 26, 2010

Moving House: Announcing

The virtual Gnome Home is on the move.

When setting my intentions for 2010, I made the decision that it was time to set up a new home for the Raw Gastronomy blog. Blogger has served as a great launchpad, but it's time to move to a site with more flexibility and potential. So I've taken the Wordpress plunge! From now on you can read about my explorations in the world of nourishment at:

Just click the link above, add the new site to your RSS feed, and join me on my delicious, nutritious journey into the culinary unknown. Easy peasy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Using the Whole Pumpkin

Hot and Sour Pumpkin Soup

There’s no particular reason that Australians should cultivate such a strong fondness for two particularly brilliantly-hued vegetables. The love affair with the bloody beetroot is fairly obvious: it’s the color of a ruby, it’s got a fantastically sweet and earthy flavor, and it packs a nutritional punch of antioxidants. But as an American, it’s taken me a long time to understand the ubiquity of pumpkin on Aussie menus - it’s just not something I ever ate, aside from in pumpkin pie (which, strangely, isn’t popular here).

Upon planting a few pumpkin seeds in the back of the veggie patch, I quickly came to understand why pumpkin seems to show up in nearly every dish this time of year. The expansive vines have taken over at least half of the garden, and are blocking the footpath to the lemon tree. We must eat pumpkin or be overrun by it. It’s a survival situation: woman vs. pumpkin.

First off, a word about pumpkin. As a child in New England, the only pumpkin I was familiar with was big, orange, and full of seeds. While it was fun to carve (and Mom’s roasted pumpkin seeds were an addictive snack), nobody eats that technicolor specimen. The humble Aussie pumpkin is a totally different animal - er, vegetable. While my seed packet simply said “pumpkin,” my internet detective skills have identified the final product as kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin. This variety is fleshy, sweet, and creamy, and you can even eat the skin.

So being fond of the wise old motto “waste not want not,” I’ve set about my erstwhile battle with the attitude that these pumpkins are going to feed me and my family throughout autumn. So far I’ve made a killer Thai-flavored soup, have added wedges of roast pumpkin to every salad and vegetable dish imaginable, have taken a trick from Mom and roasted the seeds into crunchy, salty, delicious morsels, and have even discovered that my dog loves to eat the raw pumpkin “guts” surrounding the seeds. I think a pumpkin-coriander dip is in my future, and I also have my eye on a recipe for pumpkin muffins. My American sensibilities might just insist on a pumpkin pie, too.

Yes, I’ve come to love pumpkin for much more than just looking pretty. I love it because you can do just about anything with it, from sweet to savory. I love it because it grows in abundance in my backyard, costing me only pennies. I love its color, its nutritional value, its easy adaptability. And I love it cause it’s downright Australian.


Gourmet | October 2001

Adapted from chefs Ming Tsai and Tom Berry

Blue Ginger, Wellesley, MA


  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 (3-lb) sugar or cheese pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 qt chicken stock, or 1 qt canned chicken broth and 1 qt water
  • 6 lemongrass stalks (bottom 5 inches only), coarsely chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece galangal (thawed if frozen), peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 to 5 fresh (1 1/2-inch) Thai chiles or 2 fresh jalapeño chiles, trimmed and coarsely chopped (seed chiles if a milder flavor is desired)
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • Note: i used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, rice wine instead of white wine, vegetable stock and water instead of chicken stock, and omitted the galangal (because I didn't have any!). I also used lemon leaves from my lemon tree instead of kaffir lime leaves, reduced the amount of fish sauce by about half, and used coconut sugar. I pureed in the blender after adding the sauteed lemongrass and chilies. 'Twas creamy and delicious!

    Cook onion, garlic, and ginger in 1 tablespoon oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add pumpkin and wine and boil, uncovered, until wine is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Stir in stock and simmer, covered, until pumpkin is tender, about 20 minutes.

    Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté lemongrass, galangal, and chiles to taste, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

    Purée pumpkin mixture in batches (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Stir in lemongrass mixture, lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Pour soup through a sieve, discarding solids, and season well with salt and pepper.

    Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

    Scoop the seeds from the inside of the pumpkin. Remove all the "guts" and feed them to the dog. Give the seeds a good rinse and pat dry. Toss with a bit of olive oil, some good salt, and a dash of cumin or another favorite spice. Spread on a baking tray and roast at 200 degrees C for 5-10 minutes, stirring once, and checking constantly as they can burn quickly. Let cool and enjoy as a crunch snack.

    Roast Pumpkin

    Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into 6-8 wedges. Arrange on a baking tray; rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 200 degrees C for 3--45 minutes, until soft.

    Suggested ways to eat pumpkin wedges:
    • Hot with other roast veggies such as leeks, brussel sprouts, onions, beetroot, potato, etc.
    • Hot on top of salad of rocket/arugula and grated raw beetroot with some fresh olives.
    • Cold mixed into a green salad.
    • For breakfast, mixed into hot steel-cut oatmeal (porridge) and drizzled with a simple dressing of one part miso paste, one part sesame oil, one part apple cider vinegar.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    New Directions

    Recently I've been asking myself a big question: Is 100% raw the best way to eat?

    Seeing as this blog has the word "raw" in the title, you probably expect me to say absolutely YES. But having experimented with different degrees of engagement with raw foods over the past few years, I'm currently at a point where the answer falls somewhere along a spectrum. So in order to completely answer the above question, let me tell you a little bit about my journey and where I'm at now.

    Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I did not realize the connection between diet and health.

    In my early 20's, I couldn't understand why I felt depressed, had low energy, and couldn't stop gaining weight despite rigorous daily exercise. You'd think I might have realized that chips for brunch just might have had something to do with it, but honestly I didn't make the connection at that time. Looking back on photos of that period recently with a friend who had been in a similar place, we were more than a little shocked by our chubby grins - not to mention the dark circles under our eyes! My friend said to me, "I just want to tell those girls to stop eating."

    The reality is a bit more complicated. Of course I was eating too much at that time. I was also eating the wrong "foods" - things that didn't satisfy me nutritionally, so I had to eat more and more to feel full. I was also using food to deal with emotional issues - which of course exacerbated my unstable state as I shoved refined sugar and flour into the void.

    It feels like I spent years in a self-perpetuated cocoon, but I did eventually emerge. Not quite as a stunning butterfly, though. At a trainer's advice, I cut out carbs and started exercising like mad. I counted calories and worked myself into a fitness frenzy. And I got skinny, had more energy, harnessed more mental alertness and was able to focus in on my goals and choose positive directions for my life.

    There were telltale signs that despite my steps toward health, I still had compromised well-being. My skin would break out frequently, I still experienced extreme emotional shifts, and I was so restrictive with my daily eating habits that I would sometimes loose control and go into binge mode until I made myself sick. I knew my doctor well and had a list of physical and mental health complaints. I sometimes cried for no reason.

    Enter raw foods. I can't believe how much this shift changed my life. I haven't been to a doctor since I started eating this way. (As an aside, I did once go to a naturopath who really helped me clear up my skin problems by identifying not only nutrients I should focus on, but also turning me on to skin brushing and the use of affirmations. Score one for alternative health!) I have plenty of energy, and my emotions are more even. I don't obsess over calories. I feel clearer, more certain of the direction that I want my life to take. I am attracted to and attract people who support the way I want to live my life and give me strength and courage. My creativity has skyrocketed. I don't get depressed, and even when I feel a bit down or low energy it passes quickly.

    Despite all these benefits, I did notice a change in the past few months. I just didn't feel as clear or as energetic as I had been at the start of eating high raw, and I was gaining weight again. And I started to consider my raw diet. Looking at what I eat every day, I realized that a huge amount of my calories have been coming from fat. I think that was okay for a while, but in the long term it took a lot out of me. One option would be to switch to a diet of almost all raw fruits and vegetables with very little nuts and oils, but I'm not quite ready for that mentally.

    So I've introduced some cooked whole grains and vegetables into my diet, and I seem to be feeling a lot better. Mostly sweet potatoes and quinoa, but I've also tried millet, oats, rice and faro. I've read a book on macrobiotics and am experimenting with cooking steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast, having some grains and cooked vegetables at dinner, eating more miso and (raw) pickles, and bringing a sense of balance back into my diet.

    The lesson I've learned with all of this change is to KEEP IN TOUCH WITH MY BODY. We are all in a constant state of change - of becoming, evolving, whatever you want to call it. The important thing is to keep the goal in mind, and the details become clearer. The goal is not to "be 100% raw." The goal is to experience vibrant health that inspires me to be a super creative person that spreads joy and beauty. Whatever fuel my body needs to attain that goal is what I need to consume.

    As a girl who doesn't do things by halves, I've decided that along with the changes in my diet, I'd like to implement some changes here at Raw Gastronomy as well.
    • Redefining the concept of Raw Gastronomy as an exploration of holistic nourishment.
    • A shift towards simpler recipes that use wholesome ingredients - some raw, some cooked - with less focus on gourmet raw recipes.
    • More discussion about ideas about how to nourish ourselves on all levels.
    • A beautiful new site with a new design!
    I've spent the past 2 months traveling in the US and working on designing a new site for Raw Gastronomy - hence the lack of posts lately. The new site will be live soon - and an announcement will be posted here so you can all find it! I'm very excited about the new directions for my life, my creativity, and my blog - and I hope you'll continue to join me on my journey into the vibrancy vortex.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Gastro Gnome at Rainbow Serpent

    Wanna get inspired and excited about making some living and superfood recipes at home?

    Come to a gastro-gnomic workshop at Rainbow Serpent Festival this Saturday, January 23, in the Lifestyle Village at 4pm.

    Super Natural Foods for Super Powered Creatures

    I'll be talking about the energy, creativity and deliciousness of raw, living and superfoods, as well as demonstrating some easy recipes - with samples! Here's a taste of the action:
    • Super Powered Snack Mix
    • Easy Almond Milk
    • Maca Maple Chia Pudding
    • Chocolate Sauce with Fruit
    I'm looking forward to noshing with you!

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Good Intentions

    Vintage postcard - less obsession with weight loss in 1915?

    New Year's Resolutions: do you make them, or not? If you make them, do you brake them?

    I've always liked the idea of New Year's Resolutions, in theory. It seems like such a positive concept: starting off on a fresh note, untainted by the missteps of the past, we set out to create a new sense of who we are by changing our habits. But old habits die hard, and so often within a few weeks, days or hours we're back into our old, destructive routines.

    So I gave up on New Year's resolutions a few years ago after observing both myself and others encounter failure after failure. I came to realize that the error of our ways is not in the difficulty of trying to change our habits, but in the nature of the resolutions themselves.

    According to the website, the most popular New Year's Resolutions are:
    1) lose weight
    2) manage debt
    3) save money
    4) get a better job
    5) get fit
    6) get a better education
    7) drink less alcohol
    8) quit smoking now
    9) reduce stress overall
    10) reduce stress at work
    11) take a trip
    12) volunteer to help others

    While these are certainly all worthy goals, of the twelve resolutions, five of them are worded in a negative way - things we want to do less of. And the others, while written in either a neutral or positive way, are still very vague goals, and very impersonal. The truth is, I've been in the bad habit of making similar resolutions all the time in my life. "I'm going to eat less cooked food." "I'm going to drink less alcohol." "I'm going to spend less money going out." And like many of you, I generally fail to follow these resolutions after a few days. Not only are they pretty much impossible without a plan, they're also not helpful and not fun.

    This year, instead of making resolutions about what I don't want to do or setting vague, unrealistic expectations for myself (which might even be based more on what society expects me to want rather than what I really want for myself as an individual), I'm going to set good intentions instead. Good intentions are different than resolutions. They're based upon a vision of being my best light-self - my most creative, fun, vibrant, glowing, abundant self - and they're things that I actually want to do. These are practical concepts that I can grasp onto immediately. And most importantly, these are positive changes. They're action-based, and I can start them immediately. The more positive actions I'm taking for change, the less room there will be in my life for the old behaviors that I'd like to leave behind.

    Which brings me to the reason I'm writing this post - because after all, everybody and their mom blogs about New Year's Resolutions, and there's plenty of other good advice out there, so why should you read mine? According to a Quirkology study, women achieve better success with resolutions/intentions when they make them public. So I'm writing this post partly for selfish reasons - to make myself accountable to my readers for the goals I'm setting here, and also to create a space for you to state your intentions in a safe and nurturing environment. So, here are my good intentions for the next journey around the sun:

    1) Design a new Wordpress blog and post 3 days per week on really fun topics, expanding my readership and allowing for the blog to become profitable as well as a labor of love :)
    2) Seek out one new writing assignment/market every week.
    3) Open myself up to the many possibilities of supporting myself through writing by repeating an affirmation daily.

    1) Be grateful for every morsel that I eat or drink by stopping to say "I am grateful for this X."
    2) Drink one green juice or green smoothie every day.
    3) Drink a bilberry tea every day to improve my eyesight.

    1) Email one old friend every week (I've set up an alert on my computer to remind me!).
    2) Phone one overseas friend or family member every week (see above).
    3) Invite someone from my broader social circle to join me in an activity that I love every week, or accept a similar invitation from someone I want to get to know more.

    1) Spend one entire day outside in a beautiful place hiking/camping/swimming/skiing every month.

    So there you have it, my 10 good intentions for 2010. I actually have a lot more, but this seems like a manageable amount for me to focus on at the moment.

    What are your good intentions for 2010?

    Thursday, December 31, 2009

    A Heat-Beating Treat

    While the folks back home in New England are buried under masses of snow, here in Melbourne we've had three high-30 degree days in a row. To keep cool and nourished, I'm drinking this:

    Come here glass of yumminess, I'm going to drink you...

    It's a banana-date-almond frostilicious glass of cold creamy joy. Takes about 1 minute to make, so it's perfect for a hot day when even moving is an effort. You could also add any superfood powders that you like for an extra boost.

    Banana-Date-Almond Frostilicious
    Serves 1

    1 frozen banana
    4-5 dates, pitted
    small handful of almonds

    Chop the frozen banana into a few pieces. Toss it in the blender with the pitted dates, almonds, and enough water to cover. Blend until smooth.

    Chia Power

    Chances are if I say the
    word "chia
    " to yo
    u, it con
    jures up this image:

    Amazingly, it turns out that this same little seed that gave us not only the Chia Pet, but also the Chia Mr. T, Chia Britney and Chia Obama - I know, quite a miracle seed! - is also a serious nutritional powerhouse. But why eat something that you can grow into a decorative piece of greenery? Here's a few reasons:

    1. It's a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids (including the famous omega-3 and omega-6) that our body needs to survive but can't produce itself. There are very few plant foods that fall into this category, so it's a fantastic food for vegans or anyone looking to decrease their meat and dairy intake - or just anyone looking for low-cal, high-energy protein source. Chia has been reported to contain twice as much protein as any other seed or grain.

    2. It has more iron than spinach! Again, great for those who don't go to red meat for iron.

    3. Chia is really high in those good old antioxidants, which we know help fight free radicals and keep our lovely cells stable and cancer-free. It is reported to have three times more antioxidants than blueberries! Further, all those antioxidants help keep chia really stable at room temperature, and can be stored in the cupboard for years without going rancid (unlike flax and many other seeds and nuts).

    4. It contains way more calcium than milk (and none of the dubious hormones found in conventional dairy). Don't get me started on the dairy = calcium myth! Let's suffice it to say, it's a big industry with a powerful lobby and a long, strong history. Getting calcium from chia is a much better choice for many reasons. For starters, it also contains the trace mineral boron that helps our bones absorb calcium.

    5. Chia has more potassium than bananas. Mix these two together in a smoothie and you'll be cramp-invincible!

    6. It slows the release of sugars into the bloodstream, helping to prevent energy spikes. Great for diabetics or anyone, really. Add some chia into your sweet foods or drinks, and the chia creates a barrier between the carbs and the enzymes that digest them. It also means your carbohydrate energy becomes longer lasting, so you feel stronger for longer.

    7. As above, because chia slows the release of carbs, it seems to be a great exercise food. If I eat chia and go running or practice yoga later that day my endurance and strength seem to be increased. Perhaps this is also due to chia's water absorption capacity, which keeps the body hydrated and full of electrolytes during exercise. In Mayan tradition, chia was eaten by runners carrying messages over far distances - they always had a little pouch of this "running food" with them.

    8. Chia is great at cleaning out your intestinal tract. It acts like a little broom, sweeping into those out-of-the-way corners and removing accumulated waste (yuck, I know, but so much better to get it out of there!).

    Chia is one of my favorite superfoods because it is not only packed with nutrition and a source of endless energy, but it is also incredibly versatile in terms of culinary creativity. Here's what the little salvia hispanica seeds look like when dry:

    And here's what they look like when soaked in water:

    They go all gell-y when soaked and can absorb up to 10 times their volume in water (or juice, or any other liquid). Chia doesn't have much flavor of its own but has a kind of tapioca-like texture, which makes it great to use in recipes. I especially like to create all kinds of puddings using chia as the base, or add the gell to smoothies or juices for some extra slow-release energy.

    Black Sesame Chia Pudding

    Chia Pudding, Three Ways
    Serves 4 for a light breakfast or dessert, or 2 for a hearty breakfast

    Basic Recipe
    5 Tbsp chia seeds
    2 cups almond milk*
    1-2 Tbsp raw honey, agave or maple syrup (adjust to taste - sweetness is a very personal thing!)

    For Middle Eastern Chia Pudding
    1 tsp rosewater
    1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    1 tsp ground cinnamon

    Add the vanilla, rosewater and cardamom to the basic recipe. Stir well and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Stir again. Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with cinnamon.

    For Vanilla and Nectarine Chia Pudding
    4 nectarines
    2 Tbsp agave nectar, honey or maple syrup
    1/2 vanilla pod

    Cut nectarines in half and remove the stone. Drizzle with sweetener and place, cut side up, on dehydrator screens. Dehydrate for at least 4 hours, or overnight if eating for breakfast.

    Scrape the seeds from the 1/2 vanilla pod and add to basic recipe. Stir well and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Serve in shallow bowls, topped with 2 nectarine halves each.

    Variation: Omit the nectarines. Mascerate 1 cup of berries in orange juice to cover for 1 hour. Spoon on top of pudding to serve.

    For Black Sesame Chia Pudding
    1/2 cup +1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
    2 cups water
    1/4 cup dried coconut

    Omit the almond milk from the basic recipe. Instead, grind the black sesame seeds in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Blend the ground seeds with the water in a blender. Add the black sesame milk to the chia seeds and sweetener. Stir well and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Just before serving, mix through the dried coconut. Serve in shallow bowls, garnished with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and a dusting of dried coconut.

    As you can see, chia is highly adaptable. For more sweet chia inspiration check out:
    Chia can also be added to savory recipes. Carmella's (of The Sunny Raw Kitchen fame) Chia House Dressing is so beautiful, and it has inspired me to being adding chia to all of my favorite salad dressing recipes to thicken them without adding more oil. I recently created the following adaptation and served it tossed through a salad of raw rocket, zucchini and red onion mixed with cooked millet.

    Sweet Sunny Chia Coriander Dressing
    2 Tbsp chia seeds
    1/4 cup sunflower seeds
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
    3 Tbsp tahini
    2 Tbsp honey
    1 1/2 Tsp himalayan salt
    1/4 cup (packed) coriander/cilantro leaves
    1 cup water

    Place everything into the blender and blend away. Mmmmmm. This would also be lovely over sweet potatoes, or any salad really.

    Chia are really one of most versatile, remarkable and nutritious foods I've ever come across. I eat the slippery seeds nearly every day, and I suggest you give them a try. And if by some off chance they don't do it for you, you can always use them to do this:

    "I pity the fool who don't like chia"

    Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin