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Are You Throwing Medicine In The Trash?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Citrus is in season!..at least it is in California. If you are lucky to live in an area where you can get organic lemons from a trusted source, you are probably as happy as I am :)
But do you toss the seeds and the peel? You may be squeezing lemon juice on salads or add some to your drinks but does the peel end up in the trash? I used to throw away the non-juicy parts…not for quite a while though!..
I've always loved lemon zest. My mom used to add some to some sweet dishes and desserts so it's nothing new to me. In certain parts of Africa and other parts of the world it's also commonly used as a condiment, usually in a fermented form. The zest is used every now and then by people in western cultures but, in general, the peel is not nearly as utilized as it could be. I, personally, used to throw them away because I just never trust the ones from the store. Lately, however, I have been getting a lot of Meyer lemons from a friend and I couldn't be more grateful! I've always left the seeds in for juicing and dressings (blended ones) and now the peels are saved too! More often than not, the peel gets used in something soon after I used the juice of the lemon, and if not, I save it for later so I will have some handy when I have no lemon to peel. Why bother?

The Hidden Treasures of Lemon (and other citrus*) Peels
Being rich in vitamin C and calcium is a good start, but did you know that lemon peels have a myriad of other health benefits? By adding lemon zest to your dishes or consuming whole lemons instead of just their juice, you'll get to take advantage of their

- cancer fighting properties
- ability to dissolve bad estrogen (a lot of which we have accumulated over time in our bodies)
- anti-fungal qualities
- mood enhancing / uplifting, anti-depressant properties
- high fiber content (to support digestion and regular elimination)
- maintaining of youthful skin / anti-wrinkle qualities (hence the frequent usage in cosmetics)
- boosting of the metabolism (which supports weight loss)
- strengthening the bones (due to their high mineral and vitamin C content)
- blood pressure regulator quality (potassium content)
- cleansing effect (lemon juice and the peel are both known to assist in the cleansing of the liver)
- ability to reduce oxidative stress (elimination of free radicals, and thereby, prevention of diseases)
- amazing flavor (lemon peel is an amazing flavor balancer if not used in large quantities)

*Be aware, that lemon and lime peels are edible raw, but others, like the peel of orange, grapefruit, etc, have to be fermented / candied / cooked or prepared some other way before consumption.

Quite a list, right? If these benefits appeal to you,  I recommend that you…

Get organic lemons from a trusted source.
Wash them and either juice them whole, or peel them first (you will save some of the pith that is so rich in bioflavonoids) or carefully cut the zest part of the peel off with a sharp knife. This way, if you're not using the whole lemon then you can save the peel or zest for later to be used in other dishes.

What do I do? At first, I thought I would save the zest only. But why break them down more than necessary? Before I ever grated any I realized the ideal way would be to just save the entire peel and if I don't use them soon freeze them that way. So I cut 1-2 inch pieces and put them into jars (any container will do) and I always have some within reach.

How to eat them?
Besides the obvious (eating some peel whenever using lemons) you can:

- add a piece of peel to a smoothie (avoid using too large of a piece because it can throw off the flavor, for example, make your smoothie more bitter than you'd like)
- add zest to salads by sprinkling some on top or mixing some into your salad dressing
- add zest to desserts by mixing some into your cookie dough or adding some to a batter or cake mix, or sprinkle some on top of any sweet dish

What Else To Use Citrus Peel For?
Since I love the aroma, I also put a lot of peels on top of the heat vents, in the colder months when the heater is going, and keep replacing them. They provide a small amount of humidity as well as a wonderful smell that fills up the space. Obviously, they're a much better "air-freshener" than the chemical-based, artificial diffusers you can plug into an outlet.
They're also a great disinfectant so you can use them to clean your cutting board or sink by just rubbing them on the surface to be cleaned.

Warning: Watch out for rabbits (or other pets??) because my little guys "steal" them and run off with them! They love peels, however fresh or dried out they are, they grab them off the vents and run, like dogs with a bone. So funny! :) So if you notice that yours are missing you might know where to look for them, or who is to blame….haha. Also, make sure to use entire halves (like after squeezing a lemon) or longer / larger pieces to avoid having them fall through the slots and end up in your heat pipes!

Alright, hopefully, just in time before you start preparing a lot of New Year's party drinks and end up with tons of peels that you would toss…now you know what to do with them! : )

Have a Wonderful New Year, Everyone!  

Raw Travelings: Kansas City's Cafe Gratitude in the Spotlight

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"It's 8˚F (-13˚C) outside right now" said the woman on the other end of the phone… Ouch. I was pretty much ready to cancel my flight! ;)

It was my first time, since living the raw lifestyle, to go on an adventure to some place so cold that I didn't even remember what that felt like. No matter how often I used to freeze my butt off waiting for the bus as a child on my way to school, I somehow forgot how that feels. Living in California for the past 3+ years has definitely left its mark on my "comfort zone", ha!

Ok, so I was that brave. I got on a plane, not knowing what to expect at all once we land there. NO. Not exactly. Guess what! The universe is always there for you, right? So, while you might think (and righteously) a raw girl could never survive those conditions, I did my best to prepare for the 4, weather-wise-challenging days I was about to go through...

The first thing I do (and have been doing for many years) when I travel is get online and take a virtual tour of the vicinity of my destination. When you care about what you put into your body you want to know ahead of time where to get the good stuff. Being aware of what is accessible and how much of an effort it will take to get it can save so much stress. You know what to pack, you know how to plan your route from the airport to the place you are staying at and you know where you will be able to go for daily replenishment of your tiny ice box in that hotel room, or where to get fresh produce to prepare in the kitchenette (if you can book one) that will be your temporary home for your stay.

But how on Earth is it possible that my favorite restaurant (in my neighborhood) is also in Kansas City (and nowhere else!)? I mean, what are the chances of that???? Tons, you may say…knowing how the Universe operates... Yes, there is a Cafe Gratitude in KC and you better believe that I was a daily guest! In fact, I was there twice a day! With Whole Foods being far away, what else would I have done?

And it doesn't stop there! I had a friend with me who had never eaten dishes that are made of, well, plants, and yet, he was not only willing to try it once but came with me to the restaurant every single time! The first day I thought he would just drop me off (we shared a car) but no, he came in with me  and ate and kept doing that every day.

As far as my expectations….let's just say they were quite high, but this sister restaurant delivered!
Great ambiance, knowledgable staff, fresh and delicious dishes that came so fast….yep, I was impressed right away, on the first visit…And so I tried a lot of things over the rest of our stay and so did my friend.

…here is the line-up:

I had to start with the "I Am Dazzling" caesar salad, the one I've had many times in California and always love

…….Ouch, ok, I'm trying to get passed the poor quality of these iPhone shots and move on…….

Dazzling was ever so rich and creamy. It's romaine lettuce and chunks of avocado plus capers, tossed in a generous amount of dressing, and topped with ground up brazil nuts (in place of pasteurized cheese)….so yummy.

I'm notorious for sticking with dishes I like and ordering the same old stuff whenever I'm in Berkeley, but this time I had to browse the menu and "try to" find something other than my usual favorite since they had different creations at this restaurant. And let me just say, I'm so glad I did, because everything was very tasty! So, next, I tried a new-to-me dish that was incredibly delicious. "I Am Happy is an apple-curry wrap filled with seed pate and veggies and it comes with a side of mixed greens salad

but I substituted "Kim Chee" (truly that pink, btw), which was spicy, just the way I like it. I could have eaten a large bowl of it!

The first thing my friend tried was the "I Am Super Plentiful", a bowl of chili (off the cooked section of the menu) and he said it was delicious and filling.

But we didn't stop there, or at least, I didn't. You will understand why, once you see the dessert plate they brought out…

Starting from the top left corner, the selection on our first day there was tiramisu, key lime pie, "Bliss", which is a chocolate-hazelnut cream pie, coconut cream pie, macaroons, truffles, and a chocolate-dipped superfood bar. If you don't know yet, they're famous for their dessert but even if they were not, how could you pass? I went with the tiramisu and took it "home" with me to devour it in the hotel room…ahhh so delicious…

And it continues, since we were regular guests there during our 4-day visit… My friend tried the "I Am Extraordinary" sandwich, a CLT with spicy cashew aioli, toasted chipotle-maple coconut, romaine, tomato and guacamole

And I chose the buckwheat flatbread, " I Am Creative". It was basically a large cracker topped with hemp seed pesto, tomatoes, basil, nut parmesan and cashew ricotta cheese…fabulous, I will definitely go for it during my next visit!

Pesto up close…it's obvious I liked this one… :)

Mint chocolate chip shake was the dessert of the night. "I Am Cool" was so delicious, I had to order it again our last morning for our ride to the airport…of course, I ended up having to "inhale" it too fast before going through the TSA "stuff"

And, since my friend decided to get his first piece of raw vegan dessert, I got to try Cafe Gratitude's key lime pie for the first time ever….yummy!

My friend tried the bruschetta, "I Am Present", one day and loved the crunchiness of the toasted baguette and especially appreciated the cashew mozzarella, all drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette

and I tried a new-to-me salad, "I Am Gorgeous", which was incredible! I highly recommend this delicious pile of mixed greens, carrots, dukes, apples, herbs and mission figs, tossed in a sesame-ginger dressing. I really was wishing it was a never-ending buffet instead of "just" one plate! So good...

The last slice of pie I tried was a chocolate-mint cream pie. It was so rich and creamy, dense, like "Bliss" that I'm so used to. It was our last night and how could I have turned down this green and brown marbled wedge sprinkled with cacao nibs?…

I didn't. I took a piece with me to eat in the car while we were on our way to a steak house where I watched a couple of friends have a different kind of dinner ;)

So, yes, it was a lot of eating over a short period of time…too much of the gourmet for me all at once but I couldn't be happier about having this restaurant there! It saved me!

Thanks, Cafe Gratitude, for being there! I'm so grateful!… See you soon! :)

What are YOU grateful for?

One Savory, One Sweet..

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thank the Universe for laptops and Wi-Fi!  I'm sitting at the airport in Las Vegas, waiting for mechanics to replace a part on the airplane I'm supposed to take home….and I've decided to use this time to share an experience…

Yay for high-resolution phone cameras...I even got some usable photos! :)

While on a business trip, I stayed with my best friend who was more than enthusiastic about learning to prepare some raw foods.  We had lots of fun making 2 - 4 dishes a day (!) and one of the days she had guests over so we even got to introduce others to the magic of this way of eating.

Truth be told, I had no idea whether they would even want to touch raw foods but I wasn't worried about it because my friend was planning on cooking a big pot of veggie soup as well… Except, she didn't end up to...

So, what was initially planned to be a "tea party", later changed to being a girls' night in with dinner, ended up being a raw finger food sampling experience...

Oops, new update, they've just announced that this plane can NOT be repaired, so I got plenty of time to give you this recipe, or at least, finish it sooner than later : )

So what did we make? As you know, I believe in keeping things simple. I don't think there is a better way to inspire people than showing them how easy it is to prepare delicious, healthy dishes. We made some savory bites and some dessert to top them off.

Savory Walnut Pâté Bell Pepper Boats
2 - 3 bell peppers (I like using red and orange but it would look really nice to have all colors, yellow and green as well)
2 cups walnuts (you may soak them if you have time)
1 small shallot (or half a medium size purple onion)
6 - 8 leaves of fresh sage
juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 tsp (or to taste) salt
few sprigs of parsley for garnish
optional: 1 clove of garlic and some parsley added to your ingredients

To prepare:
1. Place walnuts into the food processor and grind them until they're fine but not so much that they start becoming a nut butter.
2. Chop the shallot, the sage leaves, and the garlic and parsley (if using some in the pâté) really fine, into tiny pieces
3. Add the chopped ingredients and salt to the lemon juice, stir, and add the mixture to the walnuts.
4. Mix your ingredients well and add more lemon juice / olive oil to your pâté if it's on the dry side. Ideally, you'd like it to have a spreadable texture. Set it aside.
5. Cut up the bell peppers into quarters (try cutting along the veins, where the "dimples" are, that way you'll end up with "boats" that will hold the pâté nicely. Then cut the quarters in halves again.
6. Fill each pepper boat with a couple of spoonfuls of the pâté, arranged them alternating the colors you have on a plate or tray and garnish each with a leaf of parsley or other herb of your choice.
Serve immediately.

Note: This recipe can be made into a dip as well and served as part of a crudité. Add more lemon juice and/or oil of your choice to make it into a softer, more liquidy, consistency and serve it with a variety of chopped up veggies.

For dessert, I intended to make macaroons, because they're so easy but our guests were already there and starved when I haven't even finished the pâté so by the time I got to start on the sweets I decided to quickly roll them into balls and we served them right away as well.

2 cups dry shredded coconut (plus some extra to roll the balls in)
1/2 cup almond meal (or ground almonds)
1/2 cup honey/agave syrup/sweetener of your choice
1/4 cup coconut butter/oil (I used about half of each for a total of 1/4 cup)
1/2 - 1 tsp ground vanilla
tiny pinch of salt
optional: few tbsp of cacao powder to add to half the mixture if you wish

To prepare:
1. Grind the shredded coconut in a food processor so that it's finer
2. Combine the dry ingredients: the coconut, the almond meal, and the vanilla, in a mixing bowl
3. To melt the coconut butter/oil and honey (if necessary), place your jars in hot water. As an alternative, you can measure them in the unmelted form and place them all in a small bowl that is sitting inside another bowl with hot water in it. Stir your wet ingredients and the salt until melted and homogenous and add this mixture to the dry ingredients.
4. Combine everything till your mixture holds together and you are able to form balls by rolling a spoonful of it at a time between your palms. Roll each ball in the shredded coconut and place them on a serving platter. About half way through, add a few spoonfuls of cacao powder to the mixture (if you want two colors and flavors) and finish up making balls the same way.

It's probably not much of a surprise that all of the pepper boats and snowballs were gone in no time so they've been tested…you can make these for someone who might have not had a chance to try raw foods yet. They're quick, easy an delicious. What else would you need?

I just wish we had taken photos of all of us! We even had the honor of having a beautiful baby entertain us but no pictures…hmmm…oh well, next time.

Some Nutrition Facts 
The two main ingredients, walnuts and coconut, in the above menu, are both "brain foods". They both contain very healthy fats. Walnuts are high in Omega-6, and even more importantly, Omega-3 fatty acids. Coconut is high in saturated fat (yes, it's good for you!), is a good "hormone precursor", especially when it comes to the production of testosterone and progesterone, and coconut oil supports the thyroid and weight-loss.
Bell peppers are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. If you are using red ones you are getting more antioxidants, overall, more health benefits but it's good to eat a "rainbow diet" and include as many colors as possible, if not in every dish, throughout the day. Herbs (used in the pâté) are loaded with minerals and vitamins and sage is particularly known for improving memory and helping those with Alzheimer's disease (Did I mention coconut oil does the same? If you know someone who needs help in this department, I definitely encourage you to look into this and maybe give it a try, say, start with a  spoonful of coconut oil mixed into a breakfast dish, whatever that may be for you, or the person to be helped.) and it has high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory qualities. How many foods / dishes are there that do all this? : )

Survival Tips For The Holidays

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Here we are…It's the season for…

eating foods that are "not your food"
over-consuming food unnoticed, while socializing
drinking alcohol when you don't normally or drinking more than you do usually

…any of these sound familiar?

Thanksgiving is here and, with that, we are entering the holiday season that can throw us off balance quicker than you can blink…ok, maybe not, but within a couple of hours you can surely reach a state of "I'm not feeling so well".
It is challenging for most of us, not only the ones who are practicing a different lifestyle and are followers of a diet that many have not even heard of.  For some, it's the season for falling off the wagon and completely abandoning their healthy eating habits while it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. For others, it may be an extremely stressful time, working till the night before the guests are coming over or getting on the plane to visit family on the other side of the country, trying to do all the shopping, decorating the home, preparing more meals in a few hours than one would do over a week sometimes, while the kids and pets still need your attention, not to mention our self that we tend to forget about while focusing on how to please everyone else…..Whew, that might have been the longest sentence ever typed! :)

In some cases, it is harder if you are following a "other than mainstream" lifestyle and in some cases that's what makes it easier. I've been on both sides and in my case, it's easier if I'm sticking with mine. SO what can you do??? Here are some tips that might help, especially if you are the only one who is living "in the raw".

Tip #1 - Do not panic!
I remember how stressful it was for my mom to try to get everything done in time. She was working full-time, did all the shopping (without a car), cooked all the meals, started baking 3 weeks ahead of time to fill up the cookie jars with holiday treats, cleaned, etc. The list goes on.
I couldn't relate because I was a child. I was sad to see her stressed and it also kind of ruined the holidays for me. But the one thing that was on her side is that she did make an effort to take care of herself. If you feel like it's all on you; you are the one who has to do everything, take care of yourself first. Whether it means meditating or doing some yoga before the crazy preparations marathon, or taking a relaxing bath, or just taking time off, period, so your life doesn't become madness all of a sudden. DO it. And if you can get help, even better. My mom always distributed chores (which I didn't necessarily like but, looking back, I'm glad I could help her during these extra challenging times) and, lucky for her, I always asked how I can help her in the kitchen. I loved the kitchen already as a little girl and it was so much fun for me to hang around :)
So TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF first. That is the ONLY way you can take care of others.

Tip #2 - Plan ahead
Make a to-do-list at least in your head and try to do whatever you can ahead of time. The fewer chores you have left on the busiest day when you are rushing, the less stressed you will be.

Tip #3 - Cater to yourself first
As in most cases, it is difficult when you are the only person in your household who is an advocate of raw foods or maybe even living a 100% raw lifestyle. If you are alone it's easy to attend to your needs but during the holidays you might be going somewhere where nobody has even heard of your "diet". And if you are the only raw member of a family then you might be preparing cooked, traditional foods for others as well...

If you are the host of a party or get-together…
Ok, so everyone is coming to your house. You must have invited people you care for and love to be around. And they must be coming over to spend the holidays with you because they feel the same way.
If you are alone, how about asking them for help? Or maybe even make this a potluck so everyone can contribute and you're not the one trying to make it all happen by yourself. If you're not alone, you've got help, right? Everyone, your significant other and / or children are probably ready to help, and if not, distribute chores (like my mom did :) )! This is not the time to play superhero and then feel the effects later and regret having pushed yourself too hard.
You are home, in your own kitchen, with all your tools. Yay, you're half-way there to sticking with your ways. If nobody else really cares for raw food (yet) then figure out at least one meal, one snack, and one dessert that you will make for yourself. Make your favorite ones if you know you might be tempted to indulge and reach for the rest of what is served. At least fill up on "your food" first and see how you feel about having to eat a serving of that other stuff you never would on a regular day. If you know you will be busy preparing food for your guests all day then try to make your own ahead of time.

If you are invited to someone else's home (within driving distance)…
PLAN AHEAD; have I mentioned that before? This is especially important if it's hard for you to stick with your good habits and you find yourself wanting to eat what the rest of the people around you are having. Maybe it is really hard to not take a piece of that freshly-baked pecan pie or bread pudding...
Chances are, you knew ahead of time you were not going to spend the holidays at home but if it's last minute, you can always grab whatever you have in your pantry. You can go simple and fill a bag with fruits, crackers, leftover dip and some cucumber and celery, don't forget that jar of nut butter that's half-full, and whatever else you can find. Ok, you're set. (BTW: You're probably better off if you never go to some place where the host is not understanding your lifestyle and you find yourself worrying about offending him/her by bringing your own food.) But even more ideal, prepare your favorites. Make an effort and prepare at least a meal that you absolutely love, a snack that is your favorite to reach for, and a dessert that you can't ever wait to devour. That is the bare minimum to get you through if you feel challenged at events where you are surrounded with aromas that bring back memories and foods that you think you can't resist. If you have enough of your favorite dishes with you, you have a much greater chance at sticking with them. Ideally, you may prepare more than what you will bring with you just for yourself. If you have the time and the means, make a dessert that you know everyone will love. This will give you a chance to share and introduce people to a way of eating that they might not be familiar with but will much appreciate once they do learn about. And wait till you have one after the other coming up to you asking you for the recipe! Happens all the time :)

Here's the marble "cheesecake" I've made just now...

If you're flying somewhere to be with family and loved ones…
Well, you know what that means. You are limited as far as what you can get on the plane and might be limited as far as what you can buy in the area where you are going.
Obviously, everything you take with you will be x-rayed but most raw foodies will rather eat x-rayed raw superfoods, etc, than not being able to eat what they want. Pack whatever you may need while traveling, such as easy-to-eat fruits (oranges and bananas travel very well and they have their own "packaging") and veggies, maybe your favorite powders, chocolate, crackers, snack bars, nuts and seeds. Take plenty with you because you never know when your flight is delayed, etc, you might end up spending a much longer time at airports than your itinerary says you will.
If you are preparing some food where you are going, then it's best to bring at least the hard-to-find ingredients with you because you never know what's available. The first thing I do before I travel is spend a good chunk of time Google searching for health food stores and / or raw or organic restaurants. Look up ahead of time whether there is a health food store in the vicinity where you know you'll be able to stock up on produce and raw snacks for your stay out of town. As long as you have tons of snacks around you'll be less likely to reach for those food items that you will regret having eaten later.

Tip#4 - Don't beat yourself up!
Ok, you "failed" at it…at least, that's how you feel.
Most important step for success: Love yourself even if you "failed" at sticking with it. It's the holidays.  This is when we eat more than we should and sometimes things we wish we hadn't. Don't beat yourself up over it! If that's what happened, oh well. You'll be back on your juice or smoothie or plate of fruit or whatever it is that puts you right back on track the next morning. Note to myself too: Worrying about what you have done and / or you shouldn't have done is probably causing more damage than an entire dish of green bean casserole topped with a whole pumpkin pie in your stomach.
It is NOT A BIG DEAL. Maybe even thank yourself for not being so strict. Your flexibility might have allowed you to have more fun and spend a more memorable time with your loved ones.

Happy Holiday Season, Everyone! 

Thai-Inspired Creamy Bowl of Deliciousness

Friday, October 25, 2013

A soup, that is.  One that you will never forget! Promise. 
I had my wisdom teeth removed (ouch) and I'm still recovering.  Needless to say, I'm on blended foods and since it's day 10, I'm really tired of eating the same stuff over and over.  So, today, I said "This is it, I'm making something different!"  Savory and buttery is what I wanted....And I could have had a gallon of this... It's simply orgasmic!

Thai-Inspired Creamy Veggie Soup
(Makes about a quart to serve 1, maybe 2)
1 small red bell pepper
1/2 stalk of celery
1 slender (stalk) lemongrass
1/4 of small red onion (or use 1-2 green onions)
1/2 carrot (or a tiny one)
3 cloves of garlic
ginger to taste (I only used a piece the size of a raisin)
1 tiny hot pepper/jalapeno
2 heaping tbsp coconut butter
pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1/2 - 1 tsp (to taste) salt 
cilantro (no more than what you can tear off a bunch with three fingers)
~ 3 cups water

Optional: pinch of turmeric, honey (not vegan) or other sweetener, soy or shoyu sauce

To Prepare:
1. Warm the water on the stove top carefully, to desired temperature. (You definitely don't want to bring it to a boil if you chose to stick with eating raw)
2. In the meantime, chop all vegetables into chunks and place them in a blender with the lemongrass (pealed back and the core chopped fine; a bit of a tough task) and the spices you are using along with the coconut butter.
3. Add the water and whirl it all up, adding the cilantro only for the last few seconds of blending.
4. Taste test. Some people like it saltier, some prefer it sweeter.
5. Garnish and serve immediately.

It's savory, warming, and incredibly flavorful and satisfying. Enjoy! : )



Cinnamon-y Rolls

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This recipe might as well be dedicated to my dearest sister, not only because today is her birthday but also because she will surely appreciate it. The traditional pastry version of these were one of our childhood favorites. I remember how excited we were whenever we stopped by a bakery and got to pick out whatever we felt like, which, quite often, was a cinnamon roll made of phyllo-dough. But that's a different story...

I had my dearest friends over for an afternoon to share some vegan and some raw foods with them under the red woods in the yard.  Since they're neither into a vegan nor a raw lifestyle, it was nerve-racking enough to come up with something that, hopefully, they'd like.  And lo and behold, she couldn't have coconut butter or honey!  You know what that means when it comes to making raw desserts (which I was in charge of creating, of course)....constraints, to say the least! :)  I had already planned on making certain sweets when I found out and had to figure out something completely new since my original recipes contained both the ingredients she avoids.  So, I ended up making a much healthier version of an all time favorite.

Cinnamon-y Rolls
1 cup almond flour
1 cup ground yellow flax seeds
a dozen dates
2 handfuls of (crimson) raisins
bit of coconut oil (just have some ready)
pinches of salt
handful of pecans or walnuts

1.  Make a "sauce" by blending all of the dates (pits removed, of course), a handful of raisins, dashes of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt with a little bit of water.  Make sure you end up with a thick and smooth date paste by starting with very little water and adding more as needed.  You will probably have to give it a whirl several times and scrape down what ends up on the walls of your blender.
2.  In a mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, the flax seeds, salt, and a dash of cinnamon. Add some of the date paste and a tad bit of (start with a half a teaspoon) coconut oil and work your mix into a somewhat sticky dough.
3.  Roll the dough into a ball and then spread it out, using a bottle or a rolling pin with oil on it, on a teflex sheet.  Roll it into about a half-inch thick sheet, as close to a square shape as you can manage.
4.  Here comes the first test: try rolling it up to see if it breaks. You need a pliable dough that will not break and/or stick to the surface it is on. If you have trouble with it you might need to add a bit more oil and work the dough a little longer before you roll it out again. This takes practice so be patience.
5.  Once you're confident your dough will work, spread the rest of your date paste on top of it, sprinkle it with nuts that you have chopped up into tiny pieces, and sprinkle it with more cinnamon, to taste.
6.  And now, the really tricky part: roll up your dough carefully and as tightly as you can.
7.  Cut the rolled up "pastry" into about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick slices and lay the slices flat on a teflex sheet.
8.  Dehydrate them for a few hours, depending on how much time you have or how crisp you prefer them.
9.  Serve them warm by themselves or with ice cream (that's what I did this time)

Have a sweet and lovely day!

Love and Blessings!

Thirst Quencher Of The Season

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Enjoying the hot summer days? I sure am! Unlimited sunshine and a farmers market so abundant...more fruit than what I could do with, sometimes.
This time, I had a half a watermelon left over. Couldn't finish the "ten-pounder" so I had to figure out how to take the rest to work...

It was either going to cut it all up and take it with me in a huge bowl so I can sit and eat it for an hour....not ideal...OR, make a drink out of it...excellent idea! Easy to transport, easy to carry around and consume throughout the day. Here's what I combined:

Watermelon Slushy
(Makes ~2 quarts / liters)
The red part of 5 pounds of watermelon
2 cups ice cubes
1 lime without the peel (or use ony the juice, if you wish)
Leaves of 8 sprigs of peppermint

Of course, you could add sweetener, if you'd like. The lime and mint will add a sort of bitterness to it but I like it that way. This melon was also particularly sweet.

Blend the ingredients for just a few seconds and serve it in chilled glasses with a sprig of mint or a slice of lime, or pour it into a large mason jar if you're taking it with you, like I did, or keep it in a pitcher chilled, to have within reach if you're lucky to be hanging out at home.

Watermelon is very cleansing and it's very rich in lycopene (good for your eyes), high in vitamin C, and even has a notable amount of magnesium (an important mineral for maintaining strong bones).

Hydrating, sweet, and so refreshing...enjoy!

Are you ready for the 3-minute "Ice Dream" ?!

Monday, June 3, 2013

94 degrees (34 ˚C) calls for a frozen treat and that's where the thermometer sat the other day so...this is how it went down in the kitchen...

I had to make up something like ice cream but without the less-than-good stuff in there, of course.... What do we know ice cream for? Its sweetness, creaminess, and icy, cooling effects. So I grabbed ingredients that meet and surpass those qualities..

mango - for flavor, and the creaminess it provides
banana - for choline, because chances are you don't get enough if you're a raw vegan, eating only whole foods (I'm not into supplements / pills)
coconut butter (or oil) - for more creaminess and healthy fat
hemp protein - for Omega 3 and healthy protein

selection of herbs, etc. - for the "super" aspects of it :)
ginkgo biloba - for brain power, why not
maca - excellent hormone-balancer that also adds creaminess
cayenne - to spice it up and deliver nutrition
turmeric - not for the color but for its amazing anti-inflammatory power

Here's the trick to ensure you're able to make such instant treats any time you feel like it:
1. keep glass(es) in the freezer for serving cold treats
2. have frozen fruit readily available at all times. I always try to keep a variety of berries / mangoes cut in chunks / sliced bananas, etc. in the freezer and here are the exact quantities if you wish to follow along:

Mango Ice Dream
(Serves 1-2 lucky people)
1 banana (sliced and frozen beforehand)
1 large mango (cut into chunks and frozen beforehand)
1 heaping tbsp coconut butter
sweetener of your choice: I used raisins
handful of ice cubes - I have small hand :)
1/2 cup water (maybe a little more if your blender is struggling)

1 tbsp hemp protein powder
1/4 tsp maca powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
pinch or two of gingko biloba
1/4 tsp bee pollen (you can use more if you're used to it)

Add as little water as you can start with and blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender, using the tamper. Keep pushing down the contents and add a bit of water if it's a struggle (don't kill your blender) but keep it on the low end with the water so that you do get ice cream instead of shake. Serve in chilled ice cream cups, devour, enjoying every bit of it, and give thanks : )



Start A Garden!....If You Haven't Yet

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My sister and I grew up with a garden. Well, kind of. We had a grandma that lived in a village where everybody grew their own food and going to the store for anything was very rare. If one didn't have something, chances were he/she could trade with or borrow from the neighbor or someone else down (or up) the street. It was a one-street village so those were pretty much the choices you got. Everyone knew everyone and you knew exactly where to go for what when you were in need.

Later, when I was 13, we moved into a house and started our own garden. We had red current (my favorite fruit) bushes, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, a pear tree, a quince tree, and grapes. My mom also planted vegetables every year. We had tomato plants, rows of green peas, carrots, and maybe even some greens but I can't recall....I was on a different diet back then ;)

Besides having to pull weed with my sister (I remember how much we moaned and groaned while squatting over small patches of dirt that were densely populated by a variety of weeds that were seemingly impossible to extract, even with the help of a spade. We were less-then-ethusiastic about this weekly chore and counted the minutes...) I really loved being outside, chasing butterflies, watching the ants being busy and of course harvesting fruits and veggies. This part of my life lasted till I was 19, which is when I left that house. And ever since then I've been just dreaming of having a garden and growing food that's as pure as it gets.

After a few years of growing some tomatoes, peppers and herbs in planter boxes while moving around the country it was time to go on an adventure and try to create a small garden outside last year. The tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries all did quite well but it was still not the real thing. This season, however, we're taking it to the next level and I couldn't be any more excited about it!

New Beginnings...
I spent yesterday planting tomatoes, peppers, basil, mint, and oregano in the green house and outside are the squashes, cucumbers, corn, kale, mustard greens, dill, and even purslane (for some reason they're not popping up here wild, unless they do but the deer get to them before I do).
I wouldn't call myself an expert at gardening but I've done my best researching (as always) and I'm confident that with all the love I give the babies they will do more than fine : ) While I have farmers I go to on a regular basis for produce, there's nothing like fruits and vegetables raised at home. Besides, one's food can't get any more inexpensive and eco-friendly...

What have I done so far to ensure their best "upbringing"?
1. Needless to say, they're all organic and heirloom, whenever it was possible.
2. The babies were planted in organic soil.
3. Newly purchased baby worms are working the soil as we speak.
4. The water I use to water them I let sit at least overnight or however long it's possible. This is a practice I have been following for as long as I can remember for my (argh, every once in a while I still do that) the plants indoors as well. I highly recommend that you adopted this simple "trick" for better water. Most of us are not lucky enough to have spring water or well water or any kind of clean water around and might not even be able to collect rain water (some places it just doesn't rain much). City water is full of stuff, of course and letting it sit lets the chlorine escape from it and makes the water sightly acidic....just the way the plants prefer. Just do your best.
5. They have been fed organic vegan food...yay :)
6. Finally, I've planted marigolds in the "pflanzengarten"for added color and to keep some of the bugs away.

What do I need to work on?
1. No matter how little it rains around here (I live in zone 9a), I insist on getting a rain barrel and collect whatever amount of water possible. It will be more than what buckets can hold.
2. COMPOST. I need to start a compost. Shame on me!!!!! This has been my dream for so long too and since nearly 100% of my "trash" is scrap from produce and pulp from juicing I really am ashamed that I still don't have one. What's wrong with me? Well, ok, moving into a new home and starting new jobs in a new area comes with its own hectic schedule, but still...*sigh* I'm going to get on this ASAP.
Anyone has a compost tumbler he/she doesn't want anymore??? There better not be anyone! You should be using it.

Ok. I need to get busy. Here are some more pictures of the nursery and updates will follow!
What have YOU planted this season???

When Sweet & Tangy Unite...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The perfect combination of sweet and tangy comes in this tiny, oval-shaped citrus fruit I love. They're so delicious but so rare. I wonder what the reason is? I sure haven't seen them at the market until a couple of weeks ago, and when I did I pretty much screamed, and probably looked like the happiest kid in Disneyland. I have a radar for treasures like this at the market. They haven't been around since, so I'm grateful to have caught them the one time they were there.  These olive-sized treats are great by themselves or added to salad, desserts, and dressings. Here's the lovely dressing I make with them. Tangy, sweet, and sour....so delicious.

Kumquat Dressing
~1/2 cup (I used 7 pieces) kumquats
1/2 avocado or 3-4 tbsp oil
1 clove garlic
piece of shallot (about the size of a garlic clove)
4-5 tbs apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water (to start, you might add more)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cayenne / small chunk of jalapeno / other hot pepper

To prepare:
1.  Do not attempt to peel the kumquats, the entire fruit is used. They might have a lot of seeds (mine were full of them) but they will blend well. Just remove the tiny stems and leaves and leave the rest intact.
2. Blend all of the ingredients, taste test, adjust salt, water, etc. and pour over some mixed greens.

You can store this dressing for days in the fridge if you happen to have any leftovers. I generally finish them off. Fresh dressings are just so yummy. : ) If it separates, just give it a stir, if it thickens, just add water/vinegar/lemon juice to it. Either way, make sure you taste it before pouring it all over a large bowl of greens.

Now, onto the health benefits..
As you might have guessed, similar to all citrus fruits, these olive-sized treasures are loaded with vitamin C, and provide a moderate amount f vitamin A along with minerals, such as manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, and copper. They're also a very good source of fiber but if I were to eat them for their nutritional value I would really concentrate on the (1) antioxidants they provide due to the high amounts of vitamin C in them and (2) the phytonutrients in the peel. Phytonutrients such as limonene are in citrus peel that most of us throw away on a regular basis. Ironically, they have exceptional cancer-fighting and antiviral qualities, so we're putting medicine in the trash. The good news is, kumquats are eaten with the peel, meaning you're really eating a whole food, with all of its nutrients working together to help your body prevent or fight disease! Aren't we so blessed?!?



Blessings of Nature...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

....all around us.
Have you ever been out of greens, that is, opened your fridge only to be reminded that yesterday you used up your last piece of kale or spinach or whatever used to be there? This happens to me waaaay too often, but the truth is I don't forget, I just simply run out because when I stock up while visiting the farmers market nearby (that is, only once a week during the winter) I simply don't have any more greens to juice or blend after a few days, period. So what's a raw girl to do? Well, let's be reminded that nature has always taken care of us! And even during times when GMO crops are spreading around the world at the speed of light, it seems, there's a place to go for the freshest, highly nutritious, unmolested, purest, wild, tender greens....and that place is called the YARD!

Don't have a yard? Surely you can find a place nearby where you can hike and pick some greens along the trail. Well, I hope you can, for sure you can if you live in the Bay Area...

What is there to find?

Remember the days when you were assigned chores by your parents? I do. And maybe the list included  pulling weeds??? Mine did! Little did I know back then that I was killing stuff we could have eaten. They were considered harmful invaders...haha. I find it really funny looking back.
Now, do you remember the yellow flowers of a weed with long stemmed green leaves that when you picked them released a milk-like substance? How about the puffy ball that you picked to blow on and make a wish? All these memories are describing dandelion. The weed that some health-food stores sell by the bunches for $3-5 a bunch! And it's free to pick. Chances are, you just have to step outside your home and they're there for you. More good news: the more you pick them, the more they'll grow, so you'll have an endless supply of dandelions, the incredibly nutritious, liver cleansing plant, freely provided by nature.

Where to find dandelion?
I've lived in many places and this weed is literally everywhere. I'm pretty sure you won't have a hard time finding some. Go picking!

What does dandelion have to offer?
Since they're dark leafy greens it won't come as a surprise that they're loaded with vitamin K and A, also have a good amount of vitamin B and they're high in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, and iron. All-in-all, they're very good greens for beautiful skin, strong bones, and for cleansing the liver, as I mentioned before. But wait, would you have guessed that just about two cups of them provide you with 3g of protein?! They also have antiviral qualities and are a good addition to your diet for cancer prevention. Pretty respectable, isn't it?

Ok, let's move on to my new found delicacy...

Miner's lettuce
I've recently learned that these heart-shaped, tender greens, called miner's lettuce (claytonia perfoliata), are edible. I've been picking them over the past couple of weeks and adding them to juice mainly. I even picked a few and ate them just like that out in the yard but they will be a great addition to a salads too. They have a very mild flavor, no wild-green bitterness one might expect, at all.
The leaves and the stems, basically the entire plant is very delicate. They have somewhat of a velvety feel to them when you sweep your hands along the top of a cluster of them.
When they're young, especially when they first pop up, they have heart-shaped little leaves, which later become a different form with a tiny white flower at the center. Quite unique, in other words, easy to identify.

Where to find miner's lettuce?
They might be around anywhere in the Northern states of the U.S. especially during spring time, but this plant I have only seen here, in California. If you can find them where you live (as long as you live somewhere other than California), let me know, please, I'm curious to learn of its whereabouts!

What's in miner's lettuce?
This wild lettuce is famous for having qualities that help prevent scurvy, from which we can guess that they're rich in vitamin C. Wherever you find information about them the same historical fact is mentioned: they got their name from being consumed by the miners during the California Gold Rush to prevent scurvy.

An exert from the fed database http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/claper/all.html  states:

The nutritional composition of miner's-lettuce has been determined to be
37.1 percent protein, 42.5 percent total carbohydrate, and 12.4 percent
crude fiber.  The calcium:phosphorus ratio is 0.66:1.0 [37].

Note: be careful when picking them. Do not pull on the stems, if you do, the entire plant will come out with the root. They seem to be barely connected to the earth. You can just pinch them off or use scissors if you wish instead and leave the bottom part of the stem and the root undisturbed. Also, try to not clear a large area because the seeds need to spread for next season. Leaving some scattered will ensure their existence : )

So look around in your yard and see what's waiting for you there. There's not a more eco-friendly way of living. Expect more on "what's in your yard".
Happy Foraging!


Drumroll, please...Winner of free coaching contest announcement!

Friday, March 15, 2013

For the very first time, I decided to give away free coaching for one lucky person who is determined to take it to the next level. If you've missed out on this opportunity, don't worry, there will be more in the future. I already know that...
The winner of this contest has been playing with raw foods for a while and is now ready to get on the fully raw path. I can not wait to connect with her! Please send her good vibes as she continues on her journey. Thanks, everyone! : )

...And without further ado, this lucky, special person is Filiz, from North Dakota!!! Congratulations, Filiz!!!


"It's never too late to be who you might have been."
                                                                     ~ George Eliot

Special Announcement: Free Coaching For One Lucky Person!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Have you noticed the new header? There will be more changes made around here to honor my two year anniversary of choosing the raw path. February also happens to be my birthday month and I'd like to celebrate all this by extending a helping hand to one lucky person!
I know of the hardships of transitioning to and adopting a new lifestyle. I was raised on all kinds of food that included everything (many things I didn't even want to touch) and only after leaving my nest I turned to vegetarian, then vegan, then macrobiotic, then came raw foods. I know the hardships of transitioning alone and having no support whatsoever. While I had nobody holding my hands throughout these times, I had times when I wished I had someone around for support, or to answer my questions, or help me avoid mistakes. We are very emotional creatures and a lot of times the foods we eat are tied, in one way or another, to the types of foods we crave and can't seem to be able to let go of. This is true no matter what kind of a lifestyle/diet we adopt. We try to create dishes that are similar to ones we love but have ingredients we no longer eat. We long for steaming plates of freshly prepared favorites made from scratch by grandma, etc. We've all been there.
In my 16+ years experience, research, and talking to people going through challenging times and struggling to make these changes I am yet to meet an individual who had a smooth ride. Lifestyle changes take a serious decision, commitment, willpower, and usually a good reason that will keep you going. Sometimes you find a person or a book inspiring but that's not always enough to start you or  keep you on the path.
It is you who will have to do the work.....and I will help. Whether you are just playing with the idea of eliminating dairy from your diet, or need help with grocery shopping and how to read labels, maybe you've been on a 50% raw path and would like to take it to the next level...it doesn't matter where you are... This is for anyone who wants to feel better and is ready to take another step forward.

Why am I doing this?
Besides the fact that I'm so aware of the challenges of such transition, I'm also aware that not everyone has a friend, acquaintance, or any source helping him/her. Also, at the going rates of $50+/hr for health coaching most people can not afford to get help from an experienced person.
This has been the most amazing experience of my life and it is time for me to give back.

Who may enter?
Anyone who is interested in changing his/her lifestyle and improving his/her diet by incorporating more raw foods. This offer is not restricted to those wanting to go 100% raw at all. Whether you're just ready to give up coffee or hamburgers or coke...it doesn't matter as long as you're willing to change something that hasn't been working. All I ask for is desire and commitment on your part.
I do NOT ask that you subscribe to or "like" my page or anything of that sort.
This is open to all, however, if you're under the age of 18, I need a written consent from your parents.

How to enter?
There are three ways to enter.
1. E-mail me at rawfoodfortruth@gmail.com. Tell me about why you've decided to make this transition, why you think you're the one who should get the free coaching, why you need the support, etc. Provide an e-mail address and/or phone number (if you live in the U.S), and/or Skype contact info (especially if you live outside the U.S. and prefer chatting over e-mail).
2. Comment below and tell your story the same way I just described above.
3. Comment on this post and/or send me a message through the facebook page  http://www.facebook.com/rawfoodfortruth?ref=hl and tell your short story there.
Note: I will absolutely not share ANY of your information with anyone.
Submit your paragraph by March 11.

How is the winner selected and when is the winner announced?
I will select one lucky person based on the stories submitted so be sure to explain why it is you who needs the support more than anyone else and what the reason is for your wanting to transition and/or what it is you're struggling with.
I will announce who the lucky person is on March 15. Good luck!!! : )


A Salad Dressing You'll Want Every Day

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ok, another favorite of mine, lemongrass, is the pick of the day.
I love salads so much that I really don't like going without one for a day. Remember the party I wrote about yesterday? A woman asked which dish I liked the most (there were dozens of dishes, many of which were more like the raw gourmet kind of foods that took a long time to prepare). And what was my answer? The salad! : ) She was so surprised; she was shocked!...haha. Yes, I do love salads. Naturally, I get to play a lot with creating salad dressings to vary the flavor and nutrition poured over the greens and veggies. My latest favorite is this almond-butter-based, aroma-filled concoction. It's very much like a Thai dressing and it will be wonderful in the summer to toss fresh cucumbers and chilis in it.

Lemongrass Dressing
1 lemongrass
1/4 cup (or more) almond butter
~3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic
2-3 tsp coconut sugar or your preferred sweetener
1/2 cup (or less, to taste) water
optional: piece of jalapeno / other hot pepper / dash of ground cayenne 

To prepare:
1. Lemongrass is a very fibrous herb and the outer leaves, most of the top, and the bottom stem are all removed. Only a relatively small piece of the fresh herb you'll end up using.
2. Once you end up with just the core that is much easier to slice, chop it to small pieces to help the blender.
3. Place all ingredients in a blender with only some of the water to begin with so that you can add more as you adjust the flavors when taste-testing.
4. Blend the ingredients on a high speed until you get a smooth, uniform consistency. Taste-test and adjust ingredients.
5. Pour it over your favorite salad ingredients...so yummy.

Note: the dressing will keep in the fridge for days. It will thicken and separate but can be simply stirred and you can add a little vinegar or water if you find it too thick.

The incredible flavor is paired with many health benefits
Lemongrass is a cleanser, in other words, it helps the elimination of toxins. It's a digestive aid and it has warming energy, which means it helps improve blood circulation and this makes it a great cold weather raw food ingredient. It can come to your rescue when fighting a fever (it's even referred to as fever grass at times), coughs and colds, can help lower high blood pressure and balance cholesterol levels.
This grass of wonderful aroma also has antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal qualities, is very high in fiber, and rich in minerals especially manganese (a hard-to-get mineral!!!), iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. This adds up to a "nutrition facts" label that says eat this to support strong bones, great brain function, and heart health. I still eat it just because it's so delicious : )
Enjoy and have a lovely weekend!

The Rawking Bay Area ~ Two Events In A Week!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

...Yep, there's no shortage of them and lately, I'm trying to make it to as many as I possibly can.
I started with a party titled "Chocolate Love Affair" that took place in Berkeley. This was an all raw event that's put on annually around Valentine's Day and it consists of recipe demos by chocolatiers, samples of all kinds of products made of cacao, treats and samples by local vendors, etc. and is attended by many chocolate lovers, local raw chefs and other well known, public figures in the raw food community.

Upon entering, you were greeted by chocolate samples at the door, then you found yourself in a room full of different kinds of chocolates by a variety of companies. You could taste all you wanted and they were also available at a special price to take home with you. There was even a chocolate fountain set up with strawberries underneath. How often do you see something like that, let alone get to dip into it?

The middle room had an elexir bar with superfood chocolate samples and incredibly nourishing smoothies made to order. Needless to say, the space was filled with people asking questions, tasting, buying products. I wonder how many (if any) of them were following a fully raw diet / lifestyle? These kinds of events are invaluable when it comes to introducing the health conscious crowds to something they might not be familiar with. And all the information, even most of the food, is available at no cost, so anyone can learn and taste. You even get to meet people you might have only seen on your computer screen before or maybe read their books, but it's rare that you see them in person.
David Wolfe, Blessings, and others were there and some of them I only met for the first time too. What a night! I feel so lucky to have been part of it. : ) Can't wait till next year's party!

It's an event you'll walk away from with loads of information, unparalleled experiences and conversations with very interesting people, and a chocolate high (no kidding!). Were you there? If not, you better make it next time!

Few days later the San Francisco Vegetarian Society put on a Valentine's Day party. Again, it was my first time meeting people in that group but this time I even got to prepare some of the food because most of the food served was raw vegan...yay!
We made numerous dishes such as "pasta" marinara, patė, pesto, guacamole, fruit salads, strawberry cake, and many more... Look at all the gorgeous food:

Some of the items on the menu are shown above, from the top left corner to the bottom right:

Greek Salad
Sunflower Seed Patė 
Lettuce & tomatos for Tacos
Hummus-Filled Bell Pepper Boats
Pomegranate Seeds
Walnut "Parmesan Cheese"
Apple-Pecan Cobbler
Strawberry "Love" Cake
Zucchini Pasta
Papaya Salad
my plate with some of the many yummy dishes
"just" Oranges 

Again, if you have a chance to go to one of these parties you'll meet a lot of health-conscious people and many of them are interested, or at least heard about, raw foods too. I'm so glad I've made it and I'm thrilled that I had the opportunity to prepare some of the food to feed the exciting crowd!
The society has been around for decades and it looks like it will be around for many more. They put on parties and different kinds of events so come join us if you can..I sure will, as often as I can make it :)