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Thai Sweet Sticky Chia with Mango

2 Apr Coconut Chia with Mango

Ataulfo Mangoes are now in season and Whole Foods is giving one of my readers a $75 Gift Card!*

Coconut Chia with Mango. I prefer it a lot more mangoes.

Do you ever crave for Thai Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango?  Well… I do!  This is so easy and simple to prepare, I wish I had done it sooner.  I love this as a dessert and even as a breakfast pudding.

Mix together in a bowl and set aside overnight:

pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup raw local honey

1 cup chia seeds

3 cups fresh coconut milk (about 2 Thai coconuts: open and place white meat and coconut water in the high speed blender and puree)

The next day, top the pudding with mangoes and sprinkle on some sesame seeds.  If you want, you can drizzle some sauce on top (freshly made coconut milk mixed with more raw local honey).

*To join the Whole Foods Giveaway, just comment below with your fave mango recipe and we will choose the winner noon, 15th April 2014. Whole Foods will email you the $75 Gift Card! Good luck! And enjoy other ways to eat mangoes!

Sweet Rice Cakes: Quick, Healthy and Gluten-Free

26 Jan

When I asked my son what he wanted for breakfast, he smiled at me and hugged me tightly, “Cupcakes!”

Really?  Hmmmmpf!  Let’s just say I made an extra effort to be sure he enjoyed his healthy meals today.

green-sundae2001

For breakfast, we had our favorite Green Sundae.  It is always a big hit!  Instead of oranges, bananas and avocado, today I substituted pears for oranges.  Delicious. My hubby actually prefers it with pears.

Sweet Rice Cakes

For a snack, I made Palitaw, which I grew up eating for ‘merienda’ (snack time).  It’s quick and easy to make.

1. Boil water.

2. Make a thick batter of Sweet Rice Flour and water. Make sure the batter is thick enough so you are able to form small balls and then flatten them in your hands to resemble pancakes. The batter is not as sticky when your hands are a little damp with cold water.

3. Carefully drop the cakes in boiling water.

4. When the cakes resurface and float, they are done.

5. Carefully lift the cakes out of the water and place on a plate.  Sprinkle with equal parts Sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar) and coconut (I used raw dehydrated coconut, but freshly grated mature coconut is traditionally used). You can also add a little mixture of sesame seeds and salt.

6. Serve.

My son ate two pieces and exclaimed, “Mama! This is the best!”

I guess he didn’t miss his cupcake.

Yummiest Raw Coconut Milk Ever

13 Jan

My son calls this the Yummiest Raw Coconut Milk Ever!  Not only is it yummy, it is also very easy to make. You only need three ingredients: young Thai Coconut, Vanilla Extract and Raw Honey.

IMG_9123001

  1. Open up a Thai Coconut.  Pour the coconut water in a Vitamix.  Take all the white meat out and place in the Vitamix along with the coconut water.
  2. Add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of the Singing Dog Vanilla Extract (the one with the vanilla bean in it!).
  3. Add raw honey to taste (usually a tablespoon).  Or alternatively, choose another sweetener.
  4. Blend all together.  Serve.

DIY Raw Anti-Aging Face Mask and Moisturizer

6 Sep DIY Face Mask

DIY Face Mask

This Face Mask is so delicious… I was eating it before, during and after applying it on my face! I adapted PeggyKotsopoulos’ Anti-Aging Homemade Natural Skin Face Mask recipe into a Raw Vegan one.

Simple Face Mask Ingredients

Raw Vegan Face Mask

Puree all together:

  • 1 banana (potassium revitalizes the skin)
  • 1 avocado (for vitamins A and E to soften the skin)
  • 1/2 orange, juiced (vitamin C)
  • 1 big spoonful raw almond butter (more vitamin E and protects skin from pollutants)
  • 1 big spoonful raw honey (for blemishes and zits, and anti-aging properties) (if you don’t use honey, try olive oil or a few drops of sea buckthorn oil instead)

Step 1: Apply generously to your face. Leave it on for 10 – 20 minutes. It will begin feeling firm and tight.

Step 2: Wipe off. My face felt kind of ‘matte’. Then rinse.

Step 3: Apply just enough DIY Anti-Aging Moisturizer and feel your face loving it. Notice my cheeks are a little rosy and glowing.

Anti-Aging Moisturizer

In a small tub, mix together:

Peggy’s book Must Have Been Something I Ate also contains other very easy and simple homemade beauty products, suck as natural skin exfoliators, toners, lip balm, lip gloss, body moisturizer, cellulite treatment, acne zapper, age-spot remover, teeth whitener and breath freshener.

Step 4: Allow your face to soak it all in.

I was surprised that extra-virgin olive oil is not at all greasy. The skin soaks it all in and my skin feels wonderful!

Review: Good Life Cafe

18 May Vegetable Cashew Quiche

My first taste of Raw Vegan Cheesecake was during a private ‘un-cooking’ lesson with Sharon Wright. I was surprised at how the cashew, lemon and honey together tasted like pure cream and how it just melted in my mouth. It was her Cheesecake that got me HOOKED on RAW desserts!  I would order meals and juices from her once in a while too. Fast forward a few years later, Sharon now runs her own Raw Vegan Restaurant called Good Life Cafe in West Columbia, South Carolina.

For Mother’s Day, my dear husband and son treated me to Brunch at Good Life Cafe. I knew they were both making a big effort to go because

1. my husband is a cheapskate and I could hear his head figuring out how much that Raw Vegan meal would cost him even before we stepped into the restaurant, and
2. my son tends to get some kind of nut allergy at most raw vegan restaurants.  Sharon’s food has never given him problems before because she was always careful preparing his food… but one never knows how careful other chefs/cooks are in a bigger operation.

The minute we walked into the restaurant, we were amazed at how many people were dining there.  At around 1pm, the 3 of us were able to sit at the last free table.  Moments later, 2 groups of people came in and they had to wait at least 10 minutes to sit down.  The waitstaff were very busy, but after ordering, the food came out very quickly. Looking for fast food?  This is it!

Here’s what we ordered:

Banana Crepes filled with strawberries. Sharon made these without cashew cream for my son.  My husband found them a little too chewy, but my son enjoyed them immensely.

Eggplant Bacon Sandwich. My husband loved the eggplant bacon. He didn’t care for the bread, but he said the eggplant bacon alone or as a topping in salad would have been delicious.

Vegetable Cashew Quiche.  I really should have eaten half of the huge Southern sized portion and brought the rest home for later, but I indulged and finished the whole thing instead. It was wonderfully creamy!

Biscuits with Gravy: my husband ordered this, but I could’ve finished it and would’ve been happy to exchange. I thought this was the BEST of all the dishes we ordered. Delicious, wonderful texture, just the right amount of gravy.  Now I want to make some for myself!

Chocolate Coconut Balls: my son loved this, but we both really loved the Cinnamon Rolls. Very sweet but delicious, the Cinnamon Rolls were topped with a Macadamia Cream and filled with Sweet Pecans… No wonder I don’t have a photo… It was gone before I knew it.

Raw Drinks served at the Cafe

I had a great time at my own Mother’s Day brunch.  Besides my hubby cringing at the $93 bill for 3, we were satisfied overall with our meal and the service: I didn’t have to slave away to make our meal myself, the dishes were tasty, my boys were full, plus my son didn’t vomit everywhere (always a good sign that the chefs are clean and conscious about cross contamination).

What’s more, Sharon dreams of expanding nationwide! Watch out! You may see her Raw Vegan products at your own local health food store within a year!  Local peeps – she’ll be selling at Earth Fare soon and opening up another shop in downtown Columbia soon!

Good Life Cafe Granola

Pineapple Ginger Lemonade

8 May Pineapple Ginger Lemonade

 

If you loved the Strawberry Ginger Lemonade I posted a few days ago and you love pineapples, then this will be a hit at your house too! Puree in a high speed blender till smooth:

1 – 1 1/2 tspns grated ginger (we prefer more ginger for this compared to the strawberry version)

zest from 2 lemons

juice from 2 lemons

1/2 cup raw local honey or your choice of sweetener (we found that this drink usually requires a little more sugar than the 1/3 cup in the strawberry version)

2 cups fresh pineapple

3 cup water (or a mix of ice and water)

Slice some pineapples to garnish. Yummy! By the way, if you have some leftovers, these are great for popsicles too!

Review: Your Right To Be Beautiful

5 May Your Right To Be Beautiful Volumizing Shampoo and Anti-Aging Facial Cream

Your Right To Be Beautiful Volumizing Shampoo & Anti-Aging Facial Cream

Well, I tried the Anti-Aging Cream a few years ago and didn’t like it.  It just didn’t work for me then.  But my friend Cayce recently reminded me of Raw Food Advocate, Tonya Zavasta’s, Beautiful on Raw Products after she tried the Multi-Herbal Green Clay Mask.  Cayce said she absolutely loved it.

So, I decided to give it another try recently and was really surprised because it works!  Apparently, just this year, Tonya tripled the amount of sea buckthorn fruit extract in her cream… and it has made a big difference!  My skin feels wonderfully hydrated during the day and night.  In fact, in my vain search for Vegan cosmetics, I think among the moisturizers, Your Right to Be Beautiful Facial Cream has given me the best results so far in hydrating my skin and for lessening my wrinkles.  Yes, in my opinion, even better than Acure’s moisturizers!

Less wrinkles and more hydrated on Your Right To Be Beautiful Anti-Aging Cream… and no make-up in this photo too!!

I also decided to try the Volumizing Shampoo and was surprised again by Tonya’s products.  The shampoo lathers very well.  Although every time I use it I feel like the suds are stripping my hair of its natural oils as I rinse, but my hair is always easy to comb afterwards and as it dries, I find my hair just ‘falls’ well.  I’m wearing my hair down again without doing anything to it.  My son, who has had a fetish for his Mama’s hair since he was born, exclaimed as soon as he touched my dry hair after I used this shampoo, “Mama!  You’ve never had softer hair!  It’s like baby hair!”  And this is true, I haven’t had softer hair since using ‘healthier’ shampoos.

My son wanted to take this photo of me today while we were playing in the garden. It is rare for me to leave my hair down because it is so fine and thin.  I don’t have the time to fix it nor do I want to put product on my hair.  I only have time to wash, comb and let it air-dry.  My hair falls well naturally with Tonya Zavasta’s Volumizing Shampoo!

I am truly surprised by the quality of Tonya’s cream and shampoo!   To me, her website seems a little dull and old compared to the more updated websites of AcureSuki or even 100% Pure.  The packaging of the Your Right To Be Beautiful products also looks cheaper.  The woman I was e-mailing at her company didn’t know how to entertain the idea of sending me samples to review.  She didn’t.  And in fact, she stopped responding to me, so I had to buy the cream and the shampoo for this review from my health food store.  Judging from the website and my communication with its representative, this company does not seem like it would have quality products… but they do!  The cream and shampoo are definitely worth a try!

Now I want to get her facial brush and start dry brushing my face!

 

Did it pass my cosmetics criteria?  Absolutely!

1. smell – I love the smell of the cream. It smells luxurious.  I’m not crazy about the Lotus Flower smell of the shampoo, but it smells… ‘clean’.

2. sensitivities – none.  It says it is safe for very sensitive skin.

3. taste – no adverse taste when I drink water right after the application of the cream.

4. moisturize – Yes it does (cream and shampoo)!

5. everyday comfort – Yes.  An all-in-one cream that works is a wonderful product for a busy Mama who just wants results with minimal work.  As for the shampoo, it softens and at the same time adds volume to my thin and fine hair!

6. lasting effect – According to the website: “Your Right to Be Beautiful Facial Cream contains sea buckthorn oil, known for its amazing nourishing, regenerative and restorative actions. Coconut oil, aloe vera leaf extract and avocado oil add soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. Mango seed butter helps to protect your skin from dryness.  The cream is suitable for every skin type, including sensitive skin and can be used as a daily moisturizer or as an enriching night cream. You can apply the cream under makeup foundation or as a soothing aftershave.”  As for the Volumizing Shampoo, “You’ll notice my shampoo and conditioner contain more ingredients than the average similar products. Why? Because I wanted these products to include everything known to deliver shine, volume, softness and manageability to hair while still being as pure and natural as humanly possible.”

7. eco-friendly – The ingredients are Vegan and a handful are Certified Organic.  Not exactly completely RAW like Bee Yummy’s products, but, as a Raw Foodie, Tonya says she keeps the quality of her beauty products as high as she can too. She sources the best ingredients that she can for the products that she personally uses and sells.

Half Raw and Half Cooked: Avocado, Corn and Tomato Salad over Beans

21 Apr Corn Salad over Beans

Corn Salad over Beans

We got to our local health food shop just in time the other day to buy the last 5 ears of local and organic sweet corn.  We were excited because we love our Avocado, Corn and Tomato Salad!  We enjoy the salad plain, or in lettuce as wraps… or even in a half-raw/half-cooked meal.  Today, we enjoyed them over Mashed White Kidney Beans.  Yummy!

For Mashed White Kidney Beans (the easy for Mama way): 

1. Soak 3 cups of white kidney beans in water overnight.

2. Drain and rinse the beans the next morning.

3. Place in slow cooker on high until soft (usually around 9 hours).

4. Drain.

5. Heat a pot and add 1/2 cup of water.

6. Sweat 1 chopped sweet onion in the water until softened.

7. Add 2 tsp ground cumin.

8. Add all the cooked beans and mash.

9. Season with some sea salt and your choice of herbs.

Raw Corn Salad on top of Cooked Mashed Beans, served with Flax Crackers

To Serve:

1. Place some mashed beans on a plate.

2. Top with Avocado, Corn and Tomato Salad.

3. Garnish with cilantro or a flax seed cracker.

4. Enjoy!

Review and Give Away: Bee Yummy

16 Apr Bee Yummy Face Products: Eye & Lip Cream, Face Lift and Skinfood.

Are you looking for RAW facial products?  I have tried Alkaitis day and night creams before.  Although I loved them, they left my face feeling greasy and sticky all the time.  The fragrance was also pretty overpowering.  Applying make-up, which I seldom do, was a little difficult on a sticky face too.

After asking around for Vegan product recommendations for my face, nobody recommended Bee Yummy.  Maybe because their products are not fully Vegan.  Although they are RAW FOOD products, honey, bee pollen, proplis and Royal Jelly are their primary ingredients.   Many Raw Vegans like me, who consume raw honey, would use them.  I stumbled upon them through my own research and I wondered how well they would work on my face.  live live organic accommodated my curiosity and sent me 2 sets of samples: 1 for me and 1 for one of my lucky readers!

Bee Yummy Face Products are made of RAW ingredients: Eye & Lip Cream, Face Lift and Skinfood. Feel free to eat some while applying on your face!

Bee Yummy Eye & Lip Cream is simply Olive Oil, Beeswax and Balsam Fir Needles.  It is a solid, but you can melt a little at a time when you apply it on your skin.  I had come back from a trip to Colorado, where it was dry and cold.  My lips were a little chapped – and after only a day of application, this made my lips feel soft and smooth.  I tried to use it on my eyes, but found it a little difficult (I am used to dabbing eye cream, not applying some with so much pressure that it stretches my skin) and time consuming to melt and apply around my eye area.

Bee Yummy Face Lift is simply Wildflower Honey & Honey Cappings, Kombucha Mushroom, Royal Jelly and Pure Water.  I used it twice in the past 2 weeks as a mask for 30 minutes (though they suggest using it throughout the night too) and I loved the feeling!   On my search for more products that work, I recently tried one mask that was so tight it felt like my skin was going to crack.   Bee Yummy Face Lift was not like this at all.  It made my skin feel moisturized and firm without being too tight at all. In fact, it will be the mask I use from now on! Although I still want to try some DIY Superfood Facemasks… when I have some extra ingredients and time on my hands that is!

Bee Yummy Skinfood is simply Wildflower Honey & Honey Cappings, Bee Pollen, St. John’s Wort Flowers, Propolis, Royal Jelly, Balsam Fir Needles and Pure Water.  I haven’t had a chance to try this product myself at all because I gave my sample to my son.  He ate something he was allergic to 2 weeks ago and broke out with eczema on his face.  I usually use coconut oil or shea butter to help reduce it and more high-raw Vegan foods in his diet to help cleanse his system.  This time, I wanted to try Skinfood instead of the coconut or shea butters. Well… after seeing how fast my son’s eczema disappeared after using Bee Yummy Skinfood, I went ahead and bought my son a 2oz bottle to keep in his drawer.  I wish I had some photos but I frankly didn’t think his skin would be better so quickly and I lost the opportunity.  Another good thing about Skinfood is that a small amount goes a long way too.

Any of you want a sample?  Please simply comment here and the winner will be announced on Earth Day!

Did it pass my cosmetics criteria?  Absolutely!

1. smell – who doesn’t love the smell of honey?

2. sensitivities – my son is allergic to so many sweeteners.  The only sweetener that his body is truly fine with is honey.  Needless to say, we don’t have honey allergies at our house.  We love raw honey.

3. taste – you can EAT all of Bee Yummy products.

4. moisturize – I love the Face Lift!  It is now my preferred face mask.

5. everyday comfort and 6. lasting effect – According to their website: “As a cosmetic cream Bee Yummy™ nourishes your skin with at least 27 minerals, 22 amino acids, 105 live enzymes & co-enzymes, hormones, antioxidants, bioflavonoids, and pigments. Another amazing, if not the  main feature of  Bee Yummy™ is it’s healing effect. It is excellent to help heal wide range of skin conditions: burns, sunburns, open wounds & cuts, pimples, blemishes, bed sores, stretch marks, chapping etc. We have reports from our clients that it has been very helpful for psoriasis, eczema, rosatia, poison ivy, and other conditions.”

7. eco-friendly – Vegans won’t like that honey is their primary ingredient, of course.  According to their website, their “ingredients have been hand harvested in a small wilderness area with it’s own micro climate. Honey, Pollen, Propolis & Royal Jelly are made by the same colony of bees from a small apiary, which accounts for energetic harmony and synergy of our cream. Honey is collected from the wildflowers, is unfiltered (just dripped from the comb), and contains the cappings of the hive with their precious, mysterious substances. Pollen, depending on season, is from a mixture of Wild Dandelion, Wild Roses, Raspberries, Asparagus, Goldenrod, Wild Apples, and Cherry Tree blossoms. Propolis is of the highest quality: only from Poplar and Fir trees. The flowers of St. Johnswort are picked by hand at noon, when the juices are drawn up from the roots, stems, and leaves into the flowers. Only select, young tips of Balsam Fir are used as a vitamin C source. No preservatives are needed because Honey, Propolis, and Balsam Fir are the nature’s  best preservatives and antibiotics. Honey is the only food on earth that will keep forever, and so will our cream.”

Want to try them? Just leave a comment below and the winner of the sample set will be announced on Earth Day!

Raw Green Gazpacho

12 Apr Raw Green Gazpacho

My Raw Green Gazpacho To-Go while cleansing on the go.

I took my Raw Green Gazpacho to our homeschool coop today and the kids kept asking “What’s that?!?” I was trying to explain to a 4 year old that like soap cleans something dirty, my green juice full of veggies cleans the insides of my body. She looked at me, wide-eyed and disbelief, “You clean your body with veggies???” Yes, I do!

I have been participating in CleanseAmerica’s 10-day cleanse since Monday. I have been craving my thick and creamy Coconut Gazpacho full of umami-ness – but decided I wanted something greener and much less fattening. So, today, I created this Raw Green Gazpacho that is perfect during a smoothie cleanse: full of green goodness and still reminiscent of Gazpacho flavors.

Puree all together in a high speed blender:

1 handful of cilantro leaves

2 handfuls of spinach leaves

2 cucumbers, peeled

2 pieces of celery

2 big tomatoes

1/2 lemon, juiced

sea salt, to taste (optional)

Enjoy!

Everyone wanted a different flavored Sun Tea so…

12 Apr Sun Tea

Our different flavored Sun Teas

Our recent fave plain sun tea is peppermint tea.  No sweetener added, it makes a cool and tingly flavored water for a hot day.  2-3 teaspoons of loose leaf peppermint in 1 quart of water and simply leave it out in the sun for a day.  Easy peasy for busy Mamas!

Creamy Plantain Green Smoothie

9 Apr Plantain Bananas

Plantain Bananas

Because they are in season all year round in the tropics, I grew up eating plantains fried or baked or boiled or steamed almost daily.  They were one of my fave foods.  I was told not to eat them raw, but I couldn’t resist trying one as it ripened on my kitchen counter one day a few years ago.  Now I love them RAW when they are all black, soft and super sweet.  Sometimes, I can’t wait and eat them when they are a little soft, but still quite yellow (like in the photo above).  For breakfast, I love them with a little raw almond butter and raw honey or with cayenne spices.  For lunch, I like to eat them plain with a huge salad to bulk up my meal when I am really hungry.  Sometimes, we love them in smoothies because they create really lovely creamy drinks.  For days when you are really hungry, these smoothies have a heavier creaminess than regular bananas.  Plantains are an excellent source of potassium, magnesium and vitamins B6 and C.

Today, my whole family enjoyed a Strawberry Plantain Green Smoothie.  For me, the fewer ingredients, the better.   I like keeping things simple.  I used to add dates when my family was transitioning to a more raw food diet, but we find dates in green smoothies too sweet now.  We prefer them a little plainer these days – so we can really taste the ingredients in the smoothie.  I also used to add only 4 cups of greens, but now we prefer 6 cups or more.  But feel free to experiment with other veggies and fruits and add your fave raw ingredients too like nuts and/seeds.  Here’s my basic recipe.

Blend all in a high speed blender:

2 really ripe, soft and black plantains, peeled

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 cup water

1 pint of strawberries or fruits in season

6 cups of greens, or more

I find it easier to add the greens to the blender first, so I can measure it to make sure I have at least more than 6 cups.

Then I add the strawberries.

Then I add the orange juice and water.

Then I add the plantains last.

Puree it all together for a creamy green smoothie.

Our Pirate’s Smoothie

8 Apr Our Pirate's Smoothie

Our Pirate's Smoothie

What’s better than seeing my family truly enjoy something I made from scratch in my own kitchen and with my own hands?  For me, it’s when they enjoy something that tastes like I slaved over it, but it actually only took a few minutes and consisted of only a few ingredients.  Not only does that mean I get to spend more time with my familybut I also have a fantastic recipe.  This is definitely a keeper. And guess what, you only need 3 ingredients: 1 ripe pineapple and 2 young coconuts!  How can you beat that!

Simply place the pineapple chunks, the coconut water and the coconut meat in a high speed blender and puree away.  This is heavenly especially after a day at the beach!

Orange, Cucumber and Celery Juice

15 Mar Combine 4 cups of orange juice with 4 cups of the green juice.  Use less orange juice for 'Superhero Green Juice Guzzlers' and more for when the kids aren't into Superheroes!

Tip of the day Mamas

It feels like Summer outside. And Summer reminds me of cool cucumbers. I love cucumbers because when you juice them, you get A LOT of juice! I spend less time juicing when I use cucumbers!

Orange, Cucumber and Celery Juice

We have lately loved this mix of juices, after drinking it on our recent travels. This is easily my son’s favorite drink these days, although it is best in Summer or Autumn when 2 out of 3 ingredients are in season. Very simply, you need:

4 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice (In the Autumn, use Sour Oranges. In the Winter, use Washington Navels. In the Spring, use Sweet Oranges, Tangelos or Temple Oranges.)

3 cucumbers and 4 celery sticks (both best in Summer and Autumn)

Juice the cucumbers and celery. You should have about 4 cups in total.

Combine 4 cups of orange juice with 4 cups of the green juice. Voila! A delightful drink! Use less orange juice for 'Superhero Green Juice Guzzlers' and more for when the kids aren't into Superheroes!

Blissful Bites: Heavenly Raw Chocolate Mousse

8 Mar Heavenly Raw Chocolate Mousse is also heavenly to prepare with only 5 ingredients.  You will have a delightful dessert in less than 10 minutes (clean up included)!

Heavenly Raw Chocolate Mousse is also heavenly to prepare with only 5 ingredients. You will have a delightful dessert in less than 10 minutes (clean up included)!

When little hands help... you never know what they are going to add. Hmph... those sprinkles don't look like anything RAW to me, but what's important is he's helping me create a RAW TREAT that he absolutely loves.

As my sous-chef, I think my son purposely miscounted the dates and added 1 more to our mixture.  It was a little sweet for me and my husband, but my son was in dessert heaven.  The recipe is reprinted here with the kind permission of Christy Morgan, chef and author of Blissful Bites.

Blend until it becomes a paste:

12 dates, soaked for 2 hours and pitted, or ¾ cup maple syrup (we used wet dates, so we didn’t need to soak them)

Add and blend until smooth:

2 ripe avocados

1/3 cup raw cacao powder (we used raw carob powder)

1 tsp vanilla flavouring or 1 fresh vanilla bean

Serve in martini glasses with:

4 strawberries, sliced

Makes 2 – 3 servings.

Blissful Bites: Raw Mock Tuna

8 Mar I wanted to follow Christy Morgan's recipe to the tee for my review of her book.  Feel free to use raw cauliflower rice (simply pulse in food processor until you get 'rice') for Mock Tuna Sushi.

I wanted to follow Christy Morgan's recipe to the tee for my review of her book. Feel free to use raw cauliflower rice (simply pulse in food processor until you get 'rice') for Mock Tuna Sushi.

This makes a delicious Mock Tuna Sushi.  Chef Christy Morgan says the walnuts here replace the omega-3 of the salmon and the sea veggies give a hint of fish flavor.  I loved the taste and texture with the seaweed and rice.  The only thing I would change next time is that I would use cauliflower rice instead of the brown rice for a real RAW meal. The recipe is reprinted here with the kind permission of Christy Morgan, chef and author of Blissful Bites.

Blend in food processor until finely ground:

1 cup almonds, soaked 4 hours, drained and rinsed

½ cup walnuts, soaked 4 hours, drained and rinsed

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth:

2 carrots, grated

2 stalks celery, minced

1 lemon, juiced

1 lime, juiced

3 tbspns kelp granules

2 tbspns dulse flakes

2 tbspns nutritional yeast

2 tbspns dried parsley

1 tsp maple or brown rice syrup (I used raw honey because son has maple allergy, I am agave sensitive and we have never used brown rice syrup)

1 tsp coriander (ground)

3 tbspns tamari (I used Nama Shoyu)

¼ cup filtered water, as needed

Serve with crackers or bread or as a filling for veggie sushi rolls.  Makes 6 – 8 servings.

Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals That Nourish Mind, Body, and Planet

8 Mar

One thing that I love about being a Mama in the Kitchen is being able to read cookbooks and recreate the recipes that have inspired me to take my nose out of the book and move about in the kitchen.  I have enjoyed looking through Christy Morgan’s new book Blissful Bites.  I love how mainstream Vegan Chefs are now embracing more and more RAW foods into their own diets and recipe books – even a Macrobiotic Vegan Chef like Christy (check out her website and her video… she’s adorable)!  At least 10% of all recipes in Blissful Bites are RAW! 

EH…

Unfortunately, the book was published before all the brown rice syrup hullabaloo, so it is an ingredient in many of her recipes (an option with maple syrup, which you can easily substitute).

THINGS I LOVE ABOUT THE BOOK

-           the recipes are divided according to season, with a special place for ‘anytime’ recipes.  This is a time saver for busy Mamas who want to feed their families seasonally!

-          the sample menus at the end of the book is helpful. It even includes ‘perfect no-oil potluck dishes’ and ‘food for kiddos’.

-          labels for recipes include: RAW, GLUTEN-FREE, SOY-FREE, NO/LOW-OIL, and UNDER 45 MINUTES.

-          all the recipes I have tested, both raw and cooked, taste wonderful!

RAW RECIPES IN BLISSFUL BITES

Ginger-Miso Dressing: I used unrefined sesame oil for the toasted sesame oil and raw honey (we have sensitivities and allergies to other choices) instead of the brown rice or maple syrup. Very tasty!

Mock Tuna: you can serve as a RAW side dish or as a filling for Sushi. I chose to follow her Veggie Sushi Rolls recipe with brown rice for a half-raw, half-cooked dish. It was delicious!! You could also use raw cauliflower for the 'rice' in this recipe.

Heavenly Raw Chocolate Mousse: we substituted the raw cacao powder with raw carob powder. My son went wild for this pudding!

If you are thinking of getting hold of the book, thought you’d like to have the full list of the RAW RECIPES first:

Easy Guacamole
Chilled Corn Bisque
Heirloom Gazpacho
Mango Pineapple Tropical Soup
Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho
Raw Pear-Walnut Bisque
Citrus Herb Cashew Crudites
Spring Kale Salad with Sweet Miso Dressing
Creamy Basil Dressing
Avocado, Strawberry and Grape Tomato Slad
Zucchini Pasta with Mint-Cashew Pesto Sauce
Raw Pasta with Almond Sauce
Cilantro-Lime Dressing
Fall Harvest Fruit Salad
Mac N Kale Salad
Tropical Relish
Mango Peach Salsa
Heavenly Raw Chocolate Mousse (photo above)
Strawberry Mint Limemade

There are other recipes that have not been labeled Raw, but are or can be tweaked easily for Raw Foodies, like Mock Tuna (photo above), Ginger-Miso Dressing (photo above), and Blueberry Hemp Drops.

Cooked Recipes in Blissful Bites

I am always looking for gluten-free recipes that really work, these Gluten-Free Savory Biscuits have a fantastic consistency and are delicious. My boys enjoyed these very very much! Note, the recipe states it makes about 5 biscuits only... but I made about a dozen.

Lemon-Roasted Asparagus: these were very tasty. I did roast them much longer than the recipe states in order to get them 'crispy' and I would suggest tossing the asparagus spears in the remaining liquid after they have cooked just to make sure the flavors are mixed well before serving.

We also tried the Azuki Beans with Squash and Chestnuts, which my son devoured.

Now, if you want to meet Christy Morgan…

…and live on the East Coast, then you are in luck!  Her East Coast Book Tour just begun this March.  You just missed her in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but you still have lots of time to see her in Washington DC, New York, Boston, Portland, Maine, New Jersey, Philadelphia. In April, she will be in Austin and Fort Worth, Texas.

30 Lessons this Raw Vegan Mama Learned from Traveling and Dining Out with Omnivore Loved Ones

4 Mar

In the last 6 months alone, it seems like my family and I have traveled non-stop to be with friends and extended family.  These days, I feel like I am a bit of a pro when traveling with and dining out with loved ones who happen to be non-Raw Omnivores. 

I wish I could tell you we did wonderfully: I ate 100% Raw Vegan Foods and my family kept up their 50% Raw Vegan diet. But we did not.

What we did a lot of instead was, what I call, nutritional compromising. Why?  Well, believe it or not, for harmony’s sake.  We love our friends and family dearly and being together with them means a lot to us.  We didn’t want to alienate anyone… or ourselves.

I cannot say I was very much OK with all the nutritional compromising in the past few months… but I met Perry the other day who made me feel a whole lot better.  He sold me a bottle of E3Live.  I asked him if he was Raw Vegan.  He said he used to be.  “Why?” I asked.  He said, his mother had cancer when he was growing up and foods were designated as BAD or GOOD, ALLOWED or NOT ALLOWED.  So Young Perry rebelled. He would go behind his mother’s back, steal her money and buy the foods that were verboten at their house.  Needless to say, he thought it was a good idea that I allow my son some slack. 

Here is what I learned while traveling with Omnivore loved ones:

Our Travel Food Bag

I always have fruit (bananas, oranges, apples) and salad for everyone. I also always have some cooked Vegan foods for the boys. Hopefully we can recycle the plastic containers.

1. I always pack my family’s meals for road trips and national/international flights. Unfortunately, the food lasts only about 8 hours and after that we have to make do with what we are given or find at the other end of our trip.

Vegan Meals up in the friendly skies: include preservatives, coloring and a bunch of other stuff we wouldn't normally eat. But - this is the best option we have when we run out of food.

2. On planes, we request either the Raw (not always available and this tends to be fruit or cut carrot and celery sticks) or Vegan (although some are cooked with many processed Vegan ingredients) options for flights.

3. Clearly, our family’s highly raw/unprocessed Vegan diet tends to go down the drain pretty much from the get-go.

I love this old photo of my son snuggling with his step-grandmother. In the first 5 minutes after they met, it was clear they had already bonded so wonderfully.

4. We want to spend time and create strong bonds with our extended family and friends while traveling/visiting with them.

5. But, this means mealtimes more often than not emphasize non-raw and non-vegan foods.

6. We tend to eat out at mainstream restaurants a whole lot while traveling with others.

7. We have lengthy and careful discussions with servers about our family’s food preferences and allergies before ordering. It seems to us that waiters, on the whole, are not trained well on matters relating to Veganism or food allergies.  Neither are they made aware of the repercussions of food allergies. Sometimes, the problem may be that they don’t properly convey diner’s requests to chefs in their kitchens.  So, we like to take our time in our communication with them.

8. Raw Vegans are not the best for diners with nut and maple/agave allergies.  After talking very carefully to servers about our son’s allergies, my son has had very bad vomiting spells after eating/drinking something at Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco and Quintessence in NYC.  Needless to say, we are not going back to these 2 places to eat.  I can, however, recommend The Farm in the Philippines, Good Life Café in South Carolina and Pure Food and Wine in NYC.

9. We tend to eat what our host provides.  “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do!” Right?  As guests, we are really at the mercy of our host, especially when they want to treat us all the time and/or we are in a foreign country.

10. I have discovered that food allergies are difficult for others to understand.

11. The concept of Raw Vegan foods are even harder for many to grasp.  I have had, many a time, cheese and bread on my “all Raw Vegan” salad or been offered regular hummus with cooked chickpeas.

12. Requests for Gluten- and Vegan-free food is akin to speaking a foreign language.

My son kept asking for the white bread served at most mainstream restaurants. Having said 'no' so many times (due to allergies), I finally ordered some wonderful Rice Bruschetta at a Vegan restaurant we visited towards the end of one of our trips. My son was extremely happy. So was I for having found a half-raw, half-cooked meal for him too!

13. My son will want to eat what others are eating: i.e. the cooked or processed refined foods.

14. A loved one recently baked 6 loaves of maple syrup white wheat bread while we visited her for 2 weeks - even after I asked her to please stop at the first loaf.  The breads just kept appearing though, which my son gladly ate and I tried to stop.  She was thrilled of course to watch my son devour her bread. On the other hand, I was focused on his rashes (c/o maple sugar).

15. This Mama will compromise only to a certain extent.

Using a handheld immersion blender in a plastic tub while traveling to make a lamb's lettuce smoothie for my family

16. If a kitchen and/or appliances are available, I supplement our family’s meals with fresh fruit for breakfast and fresh juices or green smoothies before a meal (that is if we have access to appliances and/or a kitchen).

Someone shared this on Facebook and made me LOL!

17. If a kitchen is available and if possible, we eat ‘in’ as much as we can and I end up a Mama in the Kitchen with no holiday.  But, I can’t complain!  We minimize allergies this way.

18. You cannot simply trust labels.  My son has even reacted to packaged Raw Vegan foods we have purchased while traveling to which, according to ingredients on labels, he isn’t allergic.

19. On every trip these past few months, my son has had some type of allergy, despite our efforts.  He has been very mucus-y on the plane home twice.

20. Raw Vegan food options are not always available when eating with family and friends…or they are harder to come by when traveling or sanitation is an issue in certain countries. When eating at mainstream restaurants or at people’s homes sometimes simply boiled, steamed or stir fried veggies are the best and only options.  In many health food stores in big cities, Raw Vegan Foods usually means a lot of packaged dehydrated foods… exactly the foods we try to avoid.

21. Raw Vegan food does not win over many people.  Some of my loved ones returned home to eat SPAM with white rice after a beautiful lunch at The Farm, Philippines.

22.  I, on the other hand, will have some type of food sensitivity after eating at a Raw Vegan restaurant: headaches, swelling or bloating from an excess of agave syrup, soy products, or nuts.

Juice Bars are worth it! Here in SAF London

23. To minimize allergies or sensitivities, we order simply at Raw Food Restaurants: an abundance of green juices (not smoothies) or simple Salads, and avoid other foods altogether (unless the server/chef can be 100% clear on the ingredients used).

The food was so delicious, I made sure I bought their cookbook as soon as we got home!

Food For Thought in Covent Garden will win over Omnivores anytime for taste and bang for buck! Just be prepared for small spaces and a communal-type feel.

24. Cooked Vegan foods, on the other hand, have been the best way for us to introduce family and friends to the Vegan diet. My mother gave us a cooked Vegan party when we visited her.  My friends thought they would have to lug their families to McDonald’s afterwards – but they admitted to loving the food by my Vegan Chef cousin!  They all had second helpings of the healthy mains and the desserts!  And no trip to McDonald’s afterwards!

I got an "That doesn't look very good at all!" comment for my salad here.

25. Prepare yourself for negative comments from loved ones about your food. Yes, even those who say they understand and would love to be Raw Vegan. I have had an ugly grimace directed at my food with a “I would NOT like to eat that!”, “is that all?”, “how do you get your protein?”, “yuck! how do you eat that!” And all in front of my son too, who takes it all in.

26. People somehow forget about your family’s diet and lifestyle choice, no matter how close they are to you.  I have had a platter of Steak placed under our noses blatantly at dinner with a smile and a “here, you will love this”; baked pastry treats full of syrup, butter and refined flour placed in front of my son while he, as most kids will, drools; salmon offered to us which they know was my son’s favourite fish before our kitchen turned Vegan.

27. The good outweigh the bad.  What is important is that we are surrounded by people we love and who love us back.

28. By the end of the trip, I am always itching to return to my own kitchen, I can’t wait to shop at my own local health food store and I can’t wait to eat healthier food.

29. After returning home, it is always just a little harder to get my son to eat as healthily as he used to.  And I am OK with this too because after traveling for the past 6 months, I know in a day or two, he’ll be asking for his fave smoothie and his fave kale salad!

30. And at the end of the day, I love what traveling does for our family.

Review: Raw Shakti Chocolate

14 Feb Raw Shakti Chocolate

Raw Shakti Chocolate from North Carolina

from left to right: Single Origin Ecuador, Loco for Coco and Himalayan High

Want to give a gift of  Raw Vegan Chocolates?  But no time or want to make your own?  Or do you just miss Milk Chocolate? 

There’s RAW hope for you yet! 

Check out Raw Shakti Chocolate from Asheville, North Carolina!  Their chocolate bars are Raw, Stoneground, Handcrafted and Sustainable!

Raw, Stoneground, Handcrafted and Sustainable

There are only 2 Raw Stoneground Handcrafted Chocolate companies in the U.S. that I know of.  One on the West Coast called Sacred Chocolate, and one on the East Coast, Raw Shakti ChocolateThere is a clear difference between the two companies: the sweeteners they use.

  • Sacred Chocolate, founded in part by David Wolfe, uses sweeteners like Maple Sugar, Inulin from Jerusalem Artichoke, Erythritol, Agave and Stevia.  If you are like my son, you are probably allergic to almost all of these.
  • Raw Shakti Chocolate, on the other hand, founded by Raw Foodie Don Rowe, uses only one sweetener: coconut palm sugar, one of the lowest glycemic sweeteners… to which my son is not allergic!  Note: coconut palm sugar (like maple sugar and agave) is not raw as it is heated during the evaporation process but Raw Shakti Chocolate believes that it is the healthiest chocolate sweetener available.  Check out their ingredient list too.

Taste Testing

I e-mailed Raw Shakti Chocolate if I could sample 3 of their chocolate bars in time for Valentine’s Day and they gladly obliged!  Today my family and I enjoyed our Valentine’s Eve chocolate tasting of:

  • Loco for Coco (dark chocolate with Hawaiian Black Lava Salt and Coconut)
  • Himalayan High (dark chocolate with goji berries and Ashwangandha root)

I liked the simplicity of Single Origin Ecuador.  My son was Loco for Coco.  My husband was on an Himalayan High.  We found the flavor, taste and texture of Raw Shakti Chocolate distinct and unique – unlike other raw chocolate bars we have tried before.  The stone ground cacao and the addition of coconut palm sugar create a very smooth chocolate.  The coconut palm sugar also creates a flavor reminiscent of malt, so these bars taste like milk chocolate!

If you do contact them, please let them know you heard about them from Mama in the Kitchen!

Moisturize with Raw Chocolate Cream!

6 Feb It smells like chocolate. It tastes like chocolate.  It feels simply luscious on the skin!
It smells like chocolate. It tastes like chocolate. It feels simply luscious on the skin!

Discovering Cacao as Emollient

My son has been obsessed with chocolate since we read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Last week, we were traveling and he discovered Palmer’s Cocoa Butter in the bathroom where we were staying. My son only uses extra-virgin coconut oil on his skin at home, and then only when his skin is dry… so bottled lotions are absolute novelties to him. Clearly, ecstatic in finding one made from ‘cacao beans’, he applied thick layers of that yellow cream all over and delighted in his new smell.

“Mama! Mama! Daddy! Daddy! Do I smell like chocolate?

“Yes, you do!” I smiled because I love my son’s innocent enthusiasm, I love watching his joy in the simplest of things and I love being present when he does make all these kinds of new discoveries. “Guess what! We can make your very own Chocolate Cream at home! Would you like that?”

“You mean from real Cacao Beans?” his eyes widen.

“Yes, from Raw Cacao Butter and Coconut Oil!”

“Can I choose the flavor?” he smiles.

“Of course! It will be your very own Chocolate Cream! It will be so pure, you can even eat it!

As soon as we arrived home, it was the first thing he wanted to do.

Our Chocolate Cream

I decided to experiment with Natasha St. Michael’s Natural Body Cream Recipe.

So, we gathered the ingredients: raw cacao butter, extra virgin coconut oil, raw Shea butter and my son’s choice of essential oils (doterra’s On Guard).
We weighed the butters in a bowl: 3 oz cacao, 3 oz coconut and a big dollop of shea.
We placed our bowl in hot water and stirred to make sure everything melted properly. Then, we added our essential oils (about 5 drops for my son’s cream).
We transferred our raw ‘Chocolate’ Cream into containers.
Then we refrigerated them without the lids until they hardened.
My son couldn’t wait to dig in! Note: we used a child-proof container for his cream.

Results

I lathered some on my hands and after half a day, they still felt like silk! Touted for conditioning and protecting the skin, I used to use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter myself 10 years ago, but this raw Cacao Cream is different. It brings moisturizing to a different level! So in the evening, I made time to quickly whip a tub for myself too! I added 15 drops of doTerra’s Whisper in mine, which has rose, jasmine, bergamot, cinnamon, cistus, vetiver, ylang ylang, cocoa, vanilla, sandalwood, and patchouli. It smells absolutely delicious! I think my husband may be tempted to try it too.

Note: at room temperature, this Chocolate Cream may melt or become grainy – if the latter happens, simply heat it between your palms and you are ready to moisturize! Don’t worry if it feels greasy at first, your skin will absorb it within minutes. Also, a little of this goes a long way!

What Essential Oils are excellent for the Skin?

According to Modern Essentials, the following oils are recommend for:

  • chapped/cracked skin – myrrh
  • dehydrated – geranium, lavender
  • dermatitis/eczema – helichrysum, thyme, geranium, melaleuca, lavender, patchouli, bergamot, rosemary
  • dry skin – geranium, lavender, Roman chamomile, sandalwood, lemon
  • oily/greasy skin – lemon, cypress, frankincense, geranium, lavender, marjoram, orange, rosemary
  • rashes – melaleuca, lavender, Roman chamomile
  • scars – lavender, rose, frankincense, helichrysum, geranium, myrrh
  • sensitive skin -lavender, geranium
  • stretch marks – lavender, myrrh
  • wrinkles – lavender, fennel, geranium, frankincense, rose, rosemary, myrrh, clary sage, cypress, helichrysum, lemon, orange, oregano, sandalwood, thyme, ylang ylang

Double Chocolate Delight

29 Jan Double Chocolate Delight

I can't keep those little hands away from my freshly made batch of Double Chocolate Delight!

Lou at my local health food shop is a Raw Foodie and he makes these delicious raw double chocolate cookies once in blue moon.  Last week, we bought 4 pieces – but my son and husband looked at me, as if to say: “Is that it?”  Needless to say, after reading the ingredient list, I decided to come up with my own version.  I didn’t use cacao nibs or lucuma powder in mine, but mine taste similar.  As you  can see from the photo above, my son just couldn’t wait to eat one.  And after he did, he ran excitedly all over the house looking for his dad to tell him they were fresh out of the food  processor.

Thank you Lou for the inspiration!  These Double Chocolate Delights are… delightful!!!

Grind in food processor until fine and set aside:

big handful of pecans or walnuts, raw or soaked and then dehydrated

Next grind in the same food processor until fine:

1 cup macadamia nuts, soaked for a few hours to soften, rinsed and drained

Add into the food processor and continue to mix together until you have a soft and even batter:

a big pinch of sea salt

1 tsp vanilla extract (non-alchohol)

2 soft dates (soak if you have to)

6 tbspns raw honey or agave syrup or maple syrup

Then add in:

1/2 cup ground pecans or walnuts

1/2 cup raw cacao powder

Dampen your hands when handling the batter so it isn’t too sticky.  You can roll a tablespoon of batter into a ball and then roll it in cacao powder for ‘truffles’.  Or as the photo shows above, roll a tablespoon of batter then flatten it into a circle. Serve as is or top with just a little of either raw honey/agave/maple syrup or raw chocolate sauce (mix raw honey/agave/maple syrup with a little raw cacao powder), and sprinkle with some cayenne seasoning too if you like!

Homemade Half-Raw, Half-Cooked “Happy Meals”

28 Jan Our Homemade Happy Meal

Our Homemade Happy Meal

We are part of a homeschool coop that meets once a week for a few hours, lunch included. There is one other Vegan family and another highly raw one too. It’s not like my son doesn’t have Vegan company in the lunchroom, but there are a lot of other eye-catching foods in the lunchroom too.

My son’s lunchbox doesn’t have cartoon characters on it. It doesn’t come out of a white paper bag that smells like something fried. Instead, it comes in a reusable container from my kitchen with clean food prepared and packed with love. The parents love it, but I have a feeling the kids don’t. I have a feeling it’s not so cool. My son has looked unhappily at it once or twice in the lunchroom and his grimace told me exactly what he thought of his lunch. “Eeeeewwww… is that all you have?” his face asked as he looked across the table with longing at the Goldfish crackers and a packaged fruit juice bottle with a lid shaped as a cartoon character. “Yup! That’s all we have!” I say, making a mental note to fix something more enticing next time.

So, what do I pack these days? The photo above shows our typical homemade half-raw, half-cooked “Happy Meal” for our homeschool coop days. It includes: my son’s fave Green Smoothie (hidden in a thermos so we don’t invite any comments – good or bad), fruit, raw green salad (in the photo, a radish, turnip, tomato and parsley salad*), baked veggies (in the photo, cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, sweet potatoes), turmeric spiced brown basmati rice and gluten-free muffins.

Although my son still looks at what his friends are eating, it seems to me there is less longing as he easily sips his fave smoothie, eats his baked sweet potato fries without question, asks for more oranges and carefully peels off his gluten-free muffin from the muffin cup. He looks around to see if anyone is watching. He has a treat today. I sigh. I am a relieved Mama. He is content with his homemade “Happy Meal”.

*Radish, Turnip, Tomato and Parsley Salad

A salad from what is left in the fridge can sometimes be one of the most surprisingly satisfying.  I don’t usually like turnips or radishes. I find them too spicy, but mixed with parsley and the right dressing… this makes the perfect winter salad… yum!

Mix together in a bowl:

a bunch of parsley, chopped

a bunch of turnips, peeled and chopped

a bunch of radish, chopped

a bunch of cherry tomatoes, halved

Toss with a vinaigrette (most of the time we prefer a 1:4 vinegar to oil ratio):

sea salt, to taste

oregano, to taste

lemon juice or red wine vinegar

extra virgin olive oil

Kid-Friendly Cayenne Spiced Kale Chips

17 Jan Cayenne Spiced Kale

Cayenne Spiced Kale

These are hands down my son’s favorite Kale Chips!

Simply stem a bunch of clean kale.  Toss and massage the leaves with a little extra virgin olive oil and some Sweet and Spicy Cayenne Mix (depending on how big your bunch is 1 – 3 tsp of the mix – I use 1/4 tsp of cayenne in the mix for this recipe).  Dehydrate at 105F till dry.  Enjoy as is or cracked into pieces as a topping on any meal, like soups or quinoa.

The Sweeter Side of Cayenne

17 Jan A perfect way to spice up your Valentine's Day Chocolate Treat!  Dip Mama's Easy Raw Chocolate in the Sweet and Spicy Cayenne Mix for a kick!

A perfect way to spice up your Valentine’s Day Chocolate Treat!

Dip Mama’s Easy Raw Chocolate in some Sweet and Spicy Cayenne Dip (I prefer using 3/4 tsp cayenne in the dip mix for this one) for a kick!

Add some Sweet and Spicy Cayenne Sprinkles on banana slices and enjoy with homemade Raw Almond Butter on the side!  Delish!

I love eating apples (especially sour ones) with a side of sea salt. Dipping apple slices in some Sweet and Spicy Cayenne Rub brings apple slices up to a whole different level! Try it also with freshly sliced jicama ‘fries’!

Doing It Right

11 Jan We are an indoor rowing family.  My son is dressed as Wolverine with a serious look on his face.  He wants to beat his record too!

Our son dressed up as Wolverine. He wants to beat his record too!

After a week of Vegan Athletes in the news, exercise has been on my mind. Vegan athletes aside, I think Vegans need to be aware that besides a plant-based diet, they too need to properly exercise for health.

Last month, I rowed about 120,000 meters on my indoor machine. I thought I was fit – after all, I was now world ranked in a sport and I had never exercised so much in my entire life. But then I recently took The Four Minute O’Neill Fitness Test, a test “designed to give a simple and reliable test of aerobic fitness.” Well, I discovered I was below average! I was shocked. My husband (a.k.a. my personal trainer – that is when I want one) recommended I start cardio training as soon as possible. Not one to change my exercise regime so easily, I had a lot of questions for him.

My Husband and Exercise

My husband spent six years as a competitive cyclist in the US and Europe. Not satisfied with just being good, he wanted to understand why and how to become better; so, he got a Masters in Exercise Science. He’s used these experiences to help others train for competition and for the ability to do activities more easily. Recently, he’s taken up indoor rowing and is currently top 5 in the world for his category.

Needless to say, my husband is my in-house expert on anything to do with exercise. So, I decided to interview him – for myself and for you!

The Interview: Doing It Right

Why exercise?

A quick answer is our muscles (and neurogenesis) will slow or reverse without increasing stimulation. The key phrase is increasing stimulation.

Why do we have to increase stimulation? Why can’t we stick with the same old exercise program that we are used to?

Just like counting by 2 until 100 will not increase your mental abilities much once the pattern is learned and walking around your yard will not increase muscle or cardiovascular strength once you can do it without shortness of breath; intensity of effort, physical or mental, needs to increase or our body will not continually adapt.

What do you mean by “our body will not continually adapt”?

This means that our muscles are not getting stronger and may actually weaken.

Resistance training leads to trauma of the cellular proteins in muscle. This prompts cell-signaling messages to activate satellite cells to begin a cascade of events leading to muscle repair and growth. Once this adaption is complete, continual exercise at the same intensity will not generate repair and growth and, as one becomes more efficient at that set intensity, muscle strength can actually decrease.

If I understand correctly, our muscle strength can actually decrease if we don’t continue to challenge our exercise regimen? It really doesn’t just remain the same?

Yes. However as we age, muscle strength will decline. Challenging the muscles will slow the process but not return your youthful power.

How do I know that my muscles are getting stronger?

Your muscles will, at times, experience a low-grade ache. This mild trauma to muscle fibers from resistance training, coupled with the inflammation that accompanies these tears, causes the pain that we often feel 24-48 hours after exercising. Longer lasting ache, or more painful ache, is more likely a sign of over exercising and if continually repeated, will lead to muscle decline.

Is there a way to ease the pain?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but lightly exercising at a level that elevates body temperature will help reduce this pain. Increased body temperature causes blood flow to increase, bringing fresh oxygen and healing nutrients to the traumatized area which assists in removing the chemical irritants responsible for pain.

I get it. There is just no escaping exercise as a means to better health! We need to exercise even more just to ease the pain of exercise itself.

Now, how can I properly monitor my exercise by myself? How do I know I am challenging myself?

Exercising within a set heart rate range is a reliably way to ensure intensity increases as strength improves. With increased strength, the effort to do the same intensity decreases which lowers the heart rate associated with that set level of intensity. By keeping the heart rate within a set range, one needs to increase intensity as one becomes stronger: this is what challenging the muscles/increasing intensity means. Researchers from Rush University examined the exercise stress tests of over 5,000 women and found that those whose exercise capacity was less than 85% of their age-specific maximum were twice as likely to die of any cause during the eight year study. For people with heart disease who followed a similar intensity for 30 minutes 3-5 days a week, there was approximately a 25% reduction in mortality over a one–three year time period and for those without documented heart disease there is a 50% reduction in risk of death from a heart attack. Increasing intensity to match increased strength is also noted for helping long-term weight loss. When you lose weight, your muscles get more efficient (change in the ratio of carbohydrate to fat enzymes that a muscle burns), resulting in using fewer calories when you move around. Overtime, this increased muscle efficiency can lead to the return of weight gain. Exercising at increasing intensities, rather than longer duration, was found as an effective strategy for keeping weight off over the long-term.

Is it better to exercise longer or harder?

More research is concluding that the benefits of exercise continue to climb even at the most intense levels of exercise. According to a 2005 study from Great Britain, Just six minutes of intense exercise a week does as much to improve a person’s fitness as a regime of six hours… The catch is the level of intensity is much greater than most are willing to tolerate, but the findings support the point that harder exercise is better than longer exercise.

So, for better health, we have to get the heart pumping for a shorter time rather than exercise at a relaxed rate for longer?

Assuming you are not someone with heart disease or risk factors for developing heart disease or stroke, then the answer is Yes. A similar correlation is being discovered that the results of exercising harder (not longer) could surpass the results from lengthy periods of moderate exercise in preventing and treating type 2 diabetes to increasing the cardio and muscular strength of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.

OK, increasing the intensity of our exercise is good for our body’s health and longevity. That’s a lot.

Actually, there are more benefits. Increasing exercise intensity has been found to increase neurogenesis. The hippocampus is important for the acquisition of new memories and is one of the few regions of an adult brain that can generate new nerve cells. Studies have found that exercise increases neurogenesis in this area and other research found that a lack of exercise reduced neurogenesis. More studies are supporting the belief that exercise alleviates major depressive disorder through hippocampal neurogenesis similar to the therapeutic effects of antidepressants. A study from University of South Carolina found that physical exercise strengthens the brain by creating new mitochondria (the power plants of your cells) in your brain. A school in Pennsylvania installed fitness centers and added 10 minutes to the school day to increase daily gym time. Standardized test scores have risen from below the state average to 17% above it in Reading and 18% in Math. A German researcher found that people learn vocabulary words 20% faster after exercising. And, University of California at San Francisco researchers found that stressed-out women who exercised vigorously had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and not active.

Is this research saying exercising can make you smarter and happier?

That is the direction of the findings: getting stronger, living longer while also being happier, less stressed, and possibly smarter. All for a reasonable, chemical free, exercise schedule.

What kind of exercise schedule would you recommend for non-athletes?

Given that for the majority of individuals, the most common cited barrier to regular exercise are a lack of time, it seems increasing intensity to maintain 75%-85% of maximum heart rate (208 minus 0.7 times age) is a viable, time-efficient strategy to improve physical and mental abilities over the long-term when one exercises 3-4 times a week, 20-25 minutes per session.

Vegans Need To Exercise Properly Too!

11 Jan Kayaking on the Oleta Rivera in Florida

Kayaking... it can be so relaxing, but is it considered 'proper' exercise? Well, it all depends on how hard or far you go!

Do You Want To Exercise Just To Get By?

“Why can’t I just exercise to get by?  The CDC recommends only 2 1/2 hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity and 2 days of muscle training!  That’s what I do.” I rationalized.

Eating processed foods is getting by.  Do you just want to ‘get by’?” my husband responded.

Hmm… that’s a good point.  He’s always known just how to get through to me!

For many years I thought my exercise regimen was just fine.  I was content with its predictability.  In fact, it hadn’t changed much since high school.  But when I married an athlete, who has a Masters in Exercise Science, he made it clear I wasn’t doing enough for my health.  What I needed was to constantly challenge myself once I got used to my exercise routine, if not, my muscle strength could actually decrease.

Veganism and Exercise In Mind

Since Forks Over Knives came out, more and more people have turned to Veganism. We usually hear about famous actors and, of course, how can we forget, Bill Clinton. But in the past week alone, we have heard more about athletes choosing a plant based diet: Venus Williams is now a Raw Vegan to improve her recently discovered autoimmune disease and Vegan Bodybuilders are now on the rise!  This got me thinking about Exercise and recent Vegan non-athlete converts:

Are non-athletes choosing to change their diets in order to “control, or even reverse” “most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us,” as claimed by Forks Over Knives? And will they exercise just to get by – rationalizing that eating a plant-based diet in itself will take care of a lot of possible health problems?

Vegans Need To Exercise Properly Too!

So I decided to interview my husband, a National Cyclist, World Ranked Rower and Master of Exercise Science to find out exactly why and how we need to exercise.  Here’s the interview!

New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

30 Dec New Year's Resolutions 2012

There are 3 ingredients that make eating Raw Vegan food more appealing to transitioning mamas, hubbies and kids: raw sugars, raw oils and sea salt.  It is time for me to decrease my family’s consumption of all 3.  

1. Prepare food with less sugar.

My plan:

  • use less raw sweeteners all together
  • use more fruit (fresh or dried) to replace sweeteners
  • omit any unnecessary sugars all together in Green Smoothies.

Note: I have been successful this past week in serving my boys their favourite Pooh Bear Smoothie without additional dates AND with another handful of greens without complaints!

2. Prepare food with less oils.

My plan:

  • use less extra virgin olive oil in salads
  • use more flax seed oil to replace extra virgin olive oil in salads to increase our Omega 3 intake.
We enjoy our favourite Kale Salad at least once or twice a week and it contains a lot of olive oil.  I have prepared it before by substituting 1/4 of the olive oil with plain water and we loved it just the same.  I am going to try substituting some of the olive oil with flax seed oil too.

3. Prepare food with less salt.

My plan is to:
  • simply decrease our intake of salt by using less of it.  While my general rule is to add 1 tsp sea salt for every 1 pound of food, I want to decrease this to 3/4 tsp.
This will be difficult for me because I love sea salt.  Salt brings out the flavor in food.  Will my family be ready to eat bland food?  I guess more importantly, will I?

There are 2 ingredients that have made the transition into a Vegan Diet much easier for my husband and son: soy and wheat, which has given them the texture and heaviness of animal products they have craved.  These are the 2 ingredients I struggle with the most because of the GMO’s in soy and the gluten in wheat.  

4. Avoid soy and other GMOs.

The contamination of organic products with genetically modified counterparts are increasing, as they are inevitable.  This is scary.  Now I just have to figure out what to do when preparing Asian fare without Nama Shoyu?

5. Avoid wheat.

Dr. Hyman’s Huffington Post article on Gluten opened my eyes on why eliminating wheat is very important.  He writes that “… an estimated 99 percent of people who have a problem with eating gluten don’t even know it. They ascribe their ill health or symptoms to something else–not gluten sensitivity, which is 100 percent curable.” And that a “study comparing the blood of 10,000 people from 50 years ago to 10,000 people today found that the incidences of full-blown celiac disease increased by 400 percent (elevated TTG antibodies) during that time period.”  WOW.
My plan is to:
  • eliminate all wheat
  • then substitute with spelt (although it contains gluten, people with wheat allergies and not gluten allergies, can tolerate spelt)
  • then continue to experiment with and use home-milled gluten-free flours from now on.  Here’s how to substitute for wheat with other grains.

Supplementing a Family’s Vegan Diet is important!

6. A continued search for fantastic food-based vitamin supplements for:

  • B12
  • other B vitamins
  • iron
  • zinc
  • iodine
According to Gabriel Cousens, we all need to supplement Omega 3s, minerals, carnosine, Vitamins A, B12, C, D, K.  I just found his supplement recommendations and will be working from this list!  Note: he doesn’t advice taking nutritional yeast as the B12 supplement because of fungal potential.

On Exercise

7. Continue to exercise better.

My husband is an Exercise Scientist and an Athlete.  Last month, he got me to row 120,000 meters.  I think that is more exercise than I have ever done in my entire life.  And I don’t think I have ever felt as physically well as I do today!  And yet, I took a physical test yesterday that placed me below average for my age range in cardiovascular strength… I was sorely disappointed, but I guess I have a lot of room for improvement in this department!

 

One with Nature

8. Make more time to be outdoors.

My family’s days are not complete anymore if there isn’t at least half an hour each day outdoors, rain or shine.  I/We want more!

What are your and your family’s New Year’s Resolutions for this coming year?

Easy Raw Dark Chocolate Bars for Every Season

25 Dec Easy Raw Dark Chocolate Bar

Easy Raw Dark Chocolate Bar

After trying to get rid of his allergies for almost 3 months, my son told me the other morning that he only wanted to eat processed candy on his birthday and on Christmas Day because he didn’t want to get sick anymore. Well, he has been obsessing about Peppermint Candy Canes and Peppermint Chocolate Bars even before this holiday season came around. Hmmm, sound familiar?

Well, believe it or not, where we live, all the ‘pretty healthy’ candy canes were all sold out by December! Lucky for my son, a dear friend whose child also has allergies, bought an extra box of TruSweets for him. He decorated our tree with nine of them and ate only one today. As for Peppermint Chocolate Bars, my son was happy to discover that his Mama can make pretty healthy Raw Dark Chocolate Bars for him in less than half an hour! Here’s how:

I use my weighing machine quite a bit. I prefer to weigh ingredients instead of use measuring cups because I have less to wash up afterwards! Notice: my weighing machine is permanently in a ziplock bag to ease clean up!

Melt by placing a bowl of cacao butter in another bowl full of hot water and stir occasionally:

4 oz raw cacao butter (before melting, I first use my fork to break the cacao butter into small pieces… so melting takes only a few minutes)

When melted, add to the cacao butter:

pinch of sea salt

1 drop of doTerra peppermint essential oil (optional, or other flavours to suit your taste)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 oz raw agave syrup/raw honey/maple syrup

2 – 3  oz raw cacao powder, depending on how dark you want your chocolate

Mix well. Pour into molds and place in fridge or freezer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from fridge or freezer, pop out of molds and enjoy!

I use metal moulds (above) and silicon mini-muffin moulds. For the latter, I only fill them halfway. After they solidify in the fridge/freezer, I pop my thin chocolate

Chocolate Hearts are for every season!!!

Holiday Thick, Creamy and Frothy Raw Vegan Chocolate Milk

17 Dec Holiday Thick Raw Chocolate Milk

Holiday Thick Raw Chocolate Milk

We have been loving our DIY Raw Almond Butter with lots of holiday chocolate milk!  I don’t mean the thin liquid-y kind of chocolate milk!  I mean the thick, creamy and frothy kind that reminds me of wintry Frosty-the-Snowman days and the scents from our Christmas tree.  I love this!

Puree together very well and until frothy in a high speed blender:

1/4 tsp vanilla extract (non-alcohol)

1 tsp cinnamon (my son prefers peppermint chocolate milk, so we substitute this sometimes with a drop of doTerra peppermint oil)

1 – 2 tbspns raw cacao powder (my hubby and son prefer less, I love more)

2 tbspns homemade raw almond butter

5 big pieces of pitted dates

2 cups water

Enjoy!

DIY Raw Almond Butter

17 Dec Raw Almond Milk

Raw Almond Milk

Although I have made Raw Almond Milk from scratch many times before, throwing a tablespoon of store bought raw almond butter, a tablespoon of sweetener and a cup of water in my blender and pureeing the mix was just easier and faster for this busy Mama.  Well, until recently, I didn’t know what kind of Almond Milk I was missing by not making my own Almond Butter first!  I have one of my readers, Heinz, to thank!

Recently, Heinz asked me how to make Raw Almond Butter.  Frankly, I never had, so I researched and found an amazing post on it instead.  I would like to thank the writer of A Bowl of Plenty because the photographs are amazing, as well as the instructions.  Note: I would first soak the raw almonds overnight, drain, rinse and dehydrate them.  Although I blended mine in my Vitamix, the process is basically the same as in a food processor.  I think it just takes much less time.  By the way, I also added a little extra virgin olive oil to my almond mix… I guess I was afraid my expensive Vitamix would die on me.  And, as they say in the A Bowl of Plenty, the machine and the almonds do get hot if you don’t take a break.  So, please do.  The result is a wonderfully smooth and delicious raw almond butter.

Like me, if you always seem to need Raw Almond Milk NOW instead of tomorrow, just throw a tablespoon of homemade raw homemade almond butter, a tablespoon of sweetener and a cup of water in the blender and puree away.  As you see in the photo above, you’ll get the richest and creamiest Raw Almond Milk ever… and you don’t have to strain it either, which I used to do with store bought Almond Butter.

So, A Bowl of Plenty, thanks for converting me to a DIY Almond Butter Mama!  I used to buy it to make my life so much easier… but doing it yourself is worth it!

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