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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? : )