Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Raw Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

I start just about every morning with a juice and a smoothie. I usually have a salad about once a day. I eat a fair amount of fruit. But I'll be darned if I don't need a dessert treat every once in a while to keep me balanced.

Cookie dough ice cream used to be one of my favorites, of course, as it is essentially fat on fat. But not all fats are created equal. This recipe gets all it's fat from coconuts, and is nut-free for those of you who suffer from allergies. If you want to take this recipe to the next level and make cookie dough ice cream, just freeze some bananas and run them through the food processor and add the dough bites!

I would also like to take this opportunity to honor my husband, who is going through a fruit fast and sat next to me with great discipline and patience as I downed an entire plate of these, gushing over how decadent they were.

3/4 cup dried mulberries
1/3 cup dried coconut flakes
2 tablespoons coconut butter
5 dates, pitted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of pink Himalayan salt
1/4 cup cacao nibs

Combine mulberries, coconut flakes, coconut butter, dates, vanilla extract, and salt in a food processor and blend until you get a dough-like texture. Pour in cacao nibs and stir evenly. Roll into small 1-inch balls. Balls may have some excess oil, which you can pat off with a paper towel or dish cloth, if you prefer. Serve at room temperature or chill in the fridge for a slightly harder consistency. Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Raw Vegan-Friendly Family Dinners

One of the challenges of adopting a raw vegan diet is that it is very unlikely that everyone is embracing your diet in exactly the same way. When making family meals we want everyone to be healthy and happy, but also know they are accepted for their diet choices. When everyone has different tastes though, it can be easy to want to give up entirely and get carry-out.

Over the weekend I visited my sister, her husband, and their adorable newborn son. Along with my husband and son we were all vegan, but even so it can be difficult planning meals. My son is a fussy eater and only my husband and I try to eat raw. With so many different appetites to satiate I decided the best course of action was to set up build-your-own bars. While this does mean a lot of chopping, it also means that everyone can have their food exactly the way they want it!

Here are some meal ideas for big families where everyone should be able to find something to be happy about!

-Noodles. Zucchini noodles are a great raw replacement for pasta, but what if your kids won't touch them? Spiralizers are also great for making noodles from carrots, cucumbers, and beets. Set up stations for each kind of "noodle". Give sauce options like raw marinara, nut-based alfredo, or pesto. Have add-ins available like peas, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, olives, spinach, or basil. Another raw option is kelp noodles. Have some quinoa pasta set off to the side for the kids, if you want to ave something cooked.

-Tacos. Set up some large romaine leaves to use for taco shells. Make fresh salsa and guacamole. Chop bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and olives. If you are feeling adventurous make a nut-based nacho cheese or sour cream. Make "re-fried beans" out of black sesame seeds. Another raw option is dehydrated coconut wraps. If anyone wants cooked food along with this meal it is easy to warm some beans or throw some tortillas on the side. 

-Pitas. Set up dehydrated coconut wraps or large collard leaves. Make carrot falafel balls and marinated portobello mushrooms. Chop up cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and olives. Tahini or a nut-based dill sauce are great for topping. Easy non-raw additions are pita bread (explore the healthier brands available) or baked falafels.

-Salad. It is SO EASY to set up a great salad bar, and also a great way to use up scrap produce. Chop up lettuce and kale. Set up all the leftover veggies in your fridge. Make a few different raw dressings, such as hemp ranch, lemon tahini, spicy mango, or just oil and vinegar.

-Breakfast bowls. Sometimes I am even a fan of these for dinner! You can use sprouted buckwheat, chia seeds, or bananas for a base. Pour in your favorite nut milk. Add-in foods like raisins, apples, goji berries, blue berries, strawberries, cacao nibs, coconut flakes, mulberries, or golden berries. If your kids don't like these raw cereal options, help them pick a healthy packaged cereal to go along with your choices.

-Pizza. Everyone loves pizza, but let's be honest. Not everyone loves raw pizza. Dehydrate some raw crusts (made from flax, zucchini, apples, buckwheat, etc.), but if the kids won't go for that set aside a sprouted frozen crust or some pita bread. Top with raw marina. Have a selection of bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, and pineapple chunks to top with. Make a nut cheese or sprinkle with nutritional yeast. If the kids won't go for that there are still good vegan options like Chao cheese or Daiya they could add. If you choose, they could even warm these up in the oven.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Go Raw

I've reached the year mark of eating a high raw diet. I use the term high raw for the 1% of the time when I have decided to eat a bit of cooked vegan for when there has been a special occasion (a wedding, a co-worker bringing in a home-cooked vegan treat, or getting a Thai curry in cases of extreme fatigue). While I feel raw food is best for my physical health, I do take these periodic breaks for my emotional and mental health. I am happy with my diet in how it tastes and in terms of my improving health. Over the past year of eating this way I have made a lot of mistakes. I am still making mistakes today, but I make a point to learn from these.

Keep your vision clear. Do not be swayed by fads and trends. Do not succumb to what is convenient or readily available. Even though we have three meals a day and they all seem to be a blur, separate each of these and ask, "What is best for me?"

Here is a list I came up with of some mistakes I have learned from over the past year. I hope they are helpful to you during your journey towards self-improvement!

1. Wasting food. Juicing is great, but you know what doesn't feel great? Throwing tons of leftover vegetable pulp in the trash. Separate your fruits and vegetables when you juice, and save the pulps for future recipes. Apple and carrot pulp make great crackers. Green pulp makes a great pesto or soup base. Nut pulps make a great cheeses.

2. Trying to make raw food exactly like cooked food. Sure, with 48 hours of soaking time, 24 hours worth of dehydrating time, and countless ingredients you can make something that resembles a raw vegan bacon double cheeseburger, but you know what? That salad you made the other day with that simple yet amazing dressing actually tastes better. Go figure.

3. Not eating ripe fruits. The number one fruit which constantly goes eaten when unripe is bananas. Everyone seems to love their green bananas, maybe because they think those brown spots mean they are rotting. The truth is those brown spots mean they are READY. Not only are ripe bananas better for you, but they will make your smoothies creamier and your treats less starchy.

4. Buying oily dried fruits. This one really gets me mad. Here you are trying to get healthy, buying some dried fruit to blend into healthy raw treats, but you forgot to read the label. Why would you need to read the label? It is just dried fruit. But the average raisin is coated in canola oil, sun-dried tomatoes can have sulfites, and dried cherries can have added sugar. Aren't bad oils, sulfites, and sugar what you are trying to avoid with this whole process? No worries, this is an easy fix. Just read your labels, even when you assume it is just fruit.

5. Overdoing the nuts. Firstly, the majority of nuts are not raw. Cashews are hardly ever truly raw. All almonds from the United States have been pasteurized, due to regulations. The term "raw" is not held to the same standardization that the term "organic" is. So even if the nuts claim to be raw, chances are they are not. I am not trying to be a downer here, but these are the facts. If it is essential that you have 100% guaranteed raw nuts I would recommend purchasing them online for a specifically raw supplier. In any case your nut intake should be limited. If you are trying to recreate meats and baked goods all the time, you may be going heavy on the nuts. Try thinking of what else you may use instead, such as seeds, sprouted legumes, vegetables, or fruit. Mix it up.

6. Relying too much on prepackaged raw foods. It says it is raw on the box, therefore it must be good! Right? Prepackaged raw foods should be viewed as treats, not as something to really on constantly for sustenance. For one thing, packaged raw foods are expensive. You could easily go broke spending $15 on a raw truffle 3-pack. Secondly, most of those raw treats are heavy on nuts, oils, and sweeteners. While they are a more healthy alternative, they should still be viewed as treats.

7. Okra. I used to love deep-fried okra. I used to love gumbos. But okra contains mucilage which, in most simple terms, is slime. Cooking can reduce the slime, but there isn't much you can do with it raw. If you don't believe me just ask my husband about the Snot Soup Disaster of 2014. Yikes.

8. Not making your own milks. So you have given up dairy. Congrats! The stores are stocked with a million options for people who don't consume dairy. But most of those nut milks are packed with preservatives and additives. Making your own milk is easy! All you need is a nut milk bag, a blender, and a glass bottle. Keep the ratio 1 cup nuts to 4 cups of water. Blend, strain, and you are done! Not only is there no junk in there, but you haven't wasted all that lovely pulp! Feel free to get creative with your blends. My favorites are hemp, coconut (use the flakes), and almond.

9. Forgetting the magic of fruit. Nature was pretty kind to us. Fruit is just healthy fast food! Most fruit is pretty convenient to eat and the healthiest choice you can make! Don't over-think things, just grab an apple! Or 10!

10. Giving up. You tried going raw and something went wrong, so it obviously isn't the right diet for you. Or is something in your diet not right for you? Maybe going 100% raw isn't your style, but surely your health would benefit from incorporating more raw foods into your diet? Maybe your dehydrated pizza was gross, but that doesn't mean you should order that new Pizza Hut atrocity with the mini pigs-in-a-blanket crust. (Don't even get me started on the nasty...) Instead think about how you can conjure up the pizza flavors with a few key ingredients like tomatoes, oregano, and basil, and build a new recipe using that inspiration! Also, don't be afraid to eliminate ingredients that don't agree with you. As much as I enjoy the taste of garlic, my bowels don't seem to enjoy it. Making adjustments for what will benefit your body is the heart of the raw food movement. Take ownership of your own well-being. You deserve to be healthy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Herbalist's Pesto

I love pesto. It is delicious and versatile, and can be used in countless recipes. Since I have transferred to a high raw diet I have become found of putting it on spiralized noodles, or in zucchini layered "lasagna".  Pesto makes a great spread on veggies or raw crackers. It works in soups or wraps. And a little pesto drizzle over top of almost any dish elevates it to a higher culinary level.

The beauty of pesto is that you can take almost any green, add a few seeds or nuts, dash with a bit of oil, and presto! Deliciousness awaits! My goal in this recipe was to up the health factor a bit. Many of the herbs in this recipe were foraged. If you decide to go that route PLEASE know what you are doing. If you are unsure when identifying a plant, don't use it. I also used dried nettles which can be purchased in huge bags inexpensively online. (We have used Vitacost and Amazon.)

Let me go into the herbs a bit further and discuss some of their benefits. The two foraged herbs I used in this pesto are dandelion and plantain. Both are considered weeds and many people in America spend a lot of money to cover their yards in chemicals to kill these off. However, they are both edible and healthier for you than many lettuces stocked on supermarket shelves.

Plantain is good for cleaning the blood. It is a diuretic and helps with kidney or bladder problems. Externally plantain can also be used to treat wounds, so if you get a scratch out on a hike just chew a bit into a wad and place it on the scar.

Dandelion is also a diuretic. Rich in antioxidants, as well as anti inflammatory, dandelions are a great green for people with skin problems. Another benefit to dandelions is that they are high in calcium. Nowadays you can even buy dandelion greens at some grocery stores, but they grow everywhere! Just be sure you are picking them from a clean area that isn't chemically treated.

The final herb I used which you may not be familiar with is stinging nettles. Nettles are safe for everyone to take, even small children. They are high in iron, which makes them a great benefit for vegetarians (also, as a woman, I find them beneficial certain times of the month). Nettles are recommended for people who suffer from allergies. They are a great digestive aid and, along with plantain and dandelion, help with kidney and bladder functioning. While I purchased my nettles they can also be foraged, though aren't quite as easy to find as dandelion and plantain.

 Plantain, nettle, and dandelion. 

There is a delicate balance between making recipes with optimal  health benefits and making something that tastes good. Medicinal herbs should be thought of a bit differently than many culinary herbs. Both dandelion and plantain have a slightly bitter taste, so I paired them with basil, which is a sweeter herb. Using lemon and high quality oils also make for a more appealing treat. So follow this recipe, or go out yourself to find some greens and get creative!

Herbalist's Pesto:

large handful of basil
medium handful of dandelion
small handful of plantain
small handful of arugula
1/4 cup of dried nettles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon hemp oil
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup of brazil nuts
sprinkle of nutritional yeast
pink Himalayan salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Put it on whatever your heart desires. Enjoy!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Raw Vegan Black Forest Brownies

I've got a lot of German in me, in case having the last name of Otto didn't tip you off to that! And what German girl doesn't love a nice slice of black forest cake? Cherries are one of my favorite fruits and I am ecstatic that they are finally in season. They are great on their own of course, but finishing a dessert with them is just, well, the cherry on top! Had enough of my horrid puns for the day? Okay then, on to the recipe!

Side note: Be careful with the pits... I almost took out my mother-in-law's tooth by forgetting one!

Brownie Layer

1 cup brazil nuts
12 dates, pitted
1 tablespoon coconut butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/4 cup cacao powder
1/4 cup carob powder
dash of salt

Cream Frosting Layer

meat from 1 young coconut
1/2 cup coconut water
1/2 cup coconut butter
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon liquid sweetener (coconut nectar, honey, agave or maple syrup)

Fruit Layer

1 cup cherries
1 teaspoon liquid sweetener (coconut nectar, honey, agave or maple syrup)
1 tablespoon cacao nibs

In a food processor combine all brownie layer ingredients and blend until evenly tacky. Scoop out mixture and pat down into a pan to make an even layer. Next combine all frosting layer ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Scoop out frosting and evenly coat brownie layer. (Frosting layer may rise slightly.) Slice and pit cherries and place evenly on top of frosting. Sprinkle with cacao nibs and coat with a drizzle of your favorite sweetener. Slice carefully and enjoy!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Raw Vegan "Beer and Cheddar" Kale Chips

Okay, okay. I am pushing the envelope here. There is no beer. There is no cheddar. And technically I don't think dehydrated kale even qualifies as a chip. But that isn't the point. The point is that you can give yourself healthy, pure, live ingredients in a way where you will not miss out on the flavors you crave.

I guess some may consider this a "man's kale chip", but I think I craved this one much more than my husband. The sharp, cheesy flavors are enough to make you forget you are eating your greens. You will  be warmly welcomed to any party with this treat, whether you are socializing with raw foodists, vegans, or meat eaters. Simply speaking, this recipe is the pub food of raw foods.

I am drooling just remembering these chips. Man, this is the hard part about food blogging...

1 bag of kale
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup hemp seeds
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons hemp or almond milk
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sauerkraut juice
1/2 a red onion
1 1/2 tablespoons stoneground mustard
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
dash of smoked paprika
pink Himalayan salt to taste

Put kale in large bowl. Pour on olive oil and massage evenly until tender. Put all other ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour sauce mixture over kale and stir to evenly cover. Evenly place kale chips on dehydrator sheets and dehydrate for roughly 6 hours at 105 degrees. Serve and enjoy!