Posts Tagged ‘raw’

I love “traditional” granola, but I don’t love that it has to be super high in sugar and fat in order to clump and get crunchy. (Go ahead – read the label of your favourite boxed granola.) So I was thrilled when I discovered raw granolas, which are typically based around buckwheat and clump due to their time in the dehydrator.

Buckwheat, despite its name (and here I feel like I’m repeating a million other articles, sorry if you know this already) isn’t related to wheat and isn’t technically a grain at all – it’s a seed. (Although I have to say, I’m no biologist, but the line between grain and seed seems odd. I mean, you can plant both of them to get another plant.) In any case, it’s gluten free so safe for those with celiac or other gluten-related problems, and it’s very nutritious and high in protein. Toasted whole buckwheat is common in Eastern Europe but the buckwheat we’re talking about today is untoasted. You can tell them apart in the store by their colour – toasted buckwheat is a lot darker.

Your basic raw granola recipe involved soaking buckwheat overnight and then rinsing well (it gets a slimy texture naturally – don’t worry about this, just rinse it off) and combining with other ingredients, including a liquid sweetener, so that a sticky almost-dough (which will be crumbly) is created. Then it’s dehydrated until dry and crunchy.

This time, I reproduced a recipe from Live – if you live in Toronto, you might have seen their packaged granolas for sale at places like Fiesta Farms and The Big Carrot. I recently downloaded their recipe e-book so I could make things like this and save a bit of money. (Although fairly priced due to quality ingredients and a lot of effort, packaged raw foods aren’t cheap.) It’s a chocolate granola (yum!) with tons of raw cacao powder and cinnamon, dried (but soaked before using) apricots and cherries (my sub for their raisins) and pecans (my sub for their walnuts). As a sweetener I used maple syrup.

Ready to dehydrate:

And ready to eat! I serve with homemade hemp milk.

Now I’m ready for the week month.


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Dinner at Raw Aura

Last night was my second-ever (excluding the airport) trip to Mississauga. (The first was many years ago, when I was studying Croatian and we went on a trip to a Croatian opera.) I met up with two friends (with cars) and we headed to Raw Aura in Port Credit as part of our tour of Toronto’s raw restaurants. Douglas McNish, the chef at Raw Aura, was one of the people I interviewed for my raw-food article in Edible Toronto and I wanted to check out his work. (Apologies in advance for badly lit iPhone photos.)

The restaurant is small, and cute. Street parking is free after 5! And my first impression after reading the menu was that I wanted to try one of everything.

And I tried. First, the Muddy Waters juice: kale, apple, celery, beet, lemon and parsley. As the name suggests, it’s not the prettiest of juices, but it has its own special beauty.

Appetizer: the beet ravioli, filled and topped with a cashew cheese and red pepper marinara sauce. And this is the point where I caution you that portion sizes aren’t small at Raw Aura. I could have stopped here and been completely satisfied (with a bite of dessert at the end, of course.) I loved the kale chips on top – this was my favourite dish of the night.

One of the nightly specials was a mushroom soup. I’ll go for anything with mushrooms in it so of course I ordered it. It came topped with watercress, which was delicious and pretty but kind of a pain to eat unchopped. The soup was a lot simpler and milder in flavour than the ravioli so while delicious, it might have been better served first.

What did my friends order, you ask? One had the falafel, made of sprouted chickpeas and wrapped in collard leaves, with a cauliflower tabouli.

The other started with the avocado tartare:

And chose the miso soup as her main. It’s a hearty one, with kale, kelp noodles and sprouted beans.

For dessert we shared a platter of three selections. From top: blueberry cheesecake, pumpkin pie and pecan pie.

We were all completely stuffed, but we were up to the challenge.

The winner was the pecan pie, but as you can see, we managed to polish them all off.

The verdict? All three of us agreed that while all the raw restaurants we’ve tried are excellent in their own rights, Raw Aura has the best raw food in the city – and it isn’t even in the city. Thanks, Doug!

Now to calculate times to Port Credit on the Go bus…

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I really enjoy Ani Phyo’s cookbooks – so much so that I just bought her most recent one, Ani’s Raw Food Essentials. While I haven’t tried any recipes from that one yet, I wanted to share the slaw that I’m addicted to, from her earlier book, Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen. I can’t say yet which book is my favourite, but if you’re at all interested in raw food, you should definitely pick up one of them.

The recipe calls for red cabbage, but I recently made it with green (that’s what comes in my box) and it was just as good. Garden-fresh kale is a lot more tender, but any will do. I’ve made the dressing with macadamia nuts instead of Brazil and it worked that way, too. You could probably also use cashews.

Don’t skip the wakame, it adds delicious crunch and flavour. But if you don’t like soggy seaweed, and plan to keep this in the fridge for a few days like I often do, don’t add the wakame until serving. I don’t often keep hemp oil in the house so I usually use olive oil.

Hempseeds at the store are expensive. I buy mine online.

Ani Phyo’s Wakame Hemp Power Slaw

1/2 head of green or red kale, ribs removed, and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 head red or green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup dry wakame
1/2 cup hempseeds

3/4 cup Brazil nuts
2 cloves garlic (I find this very garlicky, so if you’d prefer a milder taste, cut down to one)
1 tablespoon grated ginger (I use extra and just toss peeled chunks in the food processor)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup hemp or olive oil
Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup water

Mix kale, cabbage, green onions and wakame in a bowl. In a food processor, process nuts, garlic, ginger and salt until well mixed. Add remaining ingredients, and process until smooth. Toss with slaw.

Top with hempseeds to serve, or you can just mix them in with everything else.

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I just picked up two awesome raw-food “cookbooks” by Ani Phyo: Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen and Ani’s Raw Food Desserts. My sweet tooth being what it is, of course the first recipe I tried was from the desserts book: Halva Chia Thumbprint Cookies. And now I can’t stop eating them…

I made them pretty much according to the recipe, but next time I think I’d use honey instead of agave (I agree with Ani that agave syrup is overrated) – you’d have to cut down on the quantity, though, and I even found this amount of agave too sweet – and I might leave out the dates, or chop them before adding.

What makes these local? Well, I used my handpicked, handmade blackcurrant jam instead of her suggested (and actually raw) raspberry sauce. I have a thing for jam-making, and I think that one day, when I die, they’ll come into my house and find cupboards full of years of jam. So there’s no need to add to the stash.

Also, she says this makes 9 but I got 12 decent-sized cookies, and you could make them even smaller.

Halva Chia Thumbprint Cookies
from Ani’s Raw Food Desserts

3/4 cup sprouted chia seed powder
1/2 cup tahini
3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/3 cup pitted semi-soft Medjool dates
jam or fresh fruit sauce for filling

Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add the agave syrup and mix well. Add the dates and mix with your hands or a spoon.

Roll the dough into 9 balls (about 2 tablespoons each) and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Use your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon to make an indentation into the centre of each cookie. Fill each with a generous 1/2 teaspoon sauce or jam.

To serve, chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or more to firm up.

Will keep for several days in the fridge or many weeks when stored separately from jam.

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Totally off-topic with the raw (and not local) stuff, but here we go. Like many people, I’m a bit of a sweets- and choco-holic, but I prefer not to eat a lot of fatty, sugary sweets if possible. (Read: I keep them out of my house as much as I can for a very good reason.) But that doesn’t mean I don’t want dessert, so I’ve taken to making raw chocolate puddings for a yummy treat. They’re still somewhat sugary, and high in (unprocessed plant-based) fat, but they’re also full of nutrition and don’t make me feel gross after I eat them.

The first is a chocomole, from the blog Choosing Raw. Basically, it’s a mixture of avocado, cocoa or raw cacao powder (I like Green & Black’s), dates (Medjool blend up the best), vanilla and a bit of water, processed until smooth. The avocado sounds weird, I know, but it really is good. You’ll note mine isn’t as smooth as Gena’s, but maybe I was in too much of a hurry – extra time in the food processor really does help.

The second, which I tried for the first time tonight, is a chocolate coconut pudding. The creamy base is young coconut meat and water (I used plain water because I’d already drunk all the water from my coconuts), blended up with cocoa powder, vanilla and a sweetener (I used a blend of agave syrup and local honey). This one I did in the blender and I ran it for quite a while, so it got fairly smooth. The taste was shockingly reminiscent of the classic pudding cups, and not as coconutty as you’d think, and it disappeared pretty fast.


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Sometime in the summer, I found out about the “green monster” trend – these are smoothies with green leafy vegetables added, often spinach. So I started adding spinach and occasionally other greens to my smoothies for added nutrition, with mixed results and a great degree of dislike from my significant other. I’ve made it a habit to add greens most days now, and I find I don’t notice them as much as I did when I started. But I didn’t think much of it other than as a way to add more green veggies to my diet, and I was basically adding the greens to my standard smoothie recipes – banana, milk (nut these days), fruit, protein powder, etc.

I recently got a copy of a book entirely about green smoothies: Green Smoothie Revolution by raw-foods activist/author Victoria Boutenko. She’s pretty fervent about the value green smoothies can have for your health – the gist of her theory is that we are meant to eat a large amount of green leaves every day (she points out how many greens chimpanzees eat) and that by blending them, we are a) making them easier to digest, translating into needing less greens for similar nutrition, and b) making them easier to eat, as most of us have a hard time eating bucketloads of raw kale salad.

But what I really find interesting is that she recommends blending your greens with nothing more than fruit or water. No nuts, no oils, etc. She claims that this makes them easier to digest, and the book has tons of recipes, from kid-friendly to beginner to advanced. (No, really.)

On the one hand, I’m a born cynic. On the other hand, this makes a lot of sense. So I’m going to try adding some basic green smoothies to my diet and see how I feel. Tonight I did young coconut/papaya/banana/arugula – kind of a cheat because coconut meat adds creaminess, but delicious and very hydrating.

Are you into green smoothies? What are your favourites?

Edited to add: My favourite green smoothie I’ve ever had was at Crudessence in Montreal. But the Tropical Green at Rawlicious is a close second.

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Whenever our organics box arrives, inevitably the first thing to disappear are the lovely local shiitake mushrooms. We usually fry them in olive oil or butter and salt, nothing else, but as a change of pace (and as part of my raw food experiments), I’ve been marinating them.

I based my recipe on one from the Live cookbook: half a cup of sliced mushrooms, a tablespoon of soy sauce (nama shoyu to be truly raw) and two of olive oil. (I think. I don’t have it in front of me.) But I just do a bunch of sliced mushrooms with oil and soy drizzled on top and stirred up. Let them sit for 10-20 minutes and they’re good to go.

I’ve been serving them up on raw pizza (Live raw pizza crusts + pesto + mushrooms + cashew cheese), but they’d also be good on pasta (zucchini noodles and raw marinara, of course) or homemade sushi (but they’re not sweet like the ones in Japanese restaurants). Or just to eat, if you’re a mushroom lover like me. Or even on regular, not-raw pizza. 🙂

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Plan B is back to sending me tons of carrots, and I improvised this salad to help use them up. (Excuse the terrible picture, I made this when it was already dark out.)


Mix together (all to taste):

• Grated carrots and beets
• Sunflower seeds
• Olive oil and lemon juice
• Salt and pepper
• Crushed garlic
• Chopped fresh parsley
• Chopped beet greens (optional – if your beets came with them)

This makes a delicious side dish, or you can make it a full meal – serve with a hard-boiled egg and some black bread and pickles to make it really Russian-style. You can embellish it in a number of ways, too – tonight for my dinner I tossed some with mixed greens, a chopped apple and a spoonful of sour cream.

Also, I picked the rest of my beans from the garden today. Aren’t they pretty?


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Zucchini pesto noodles

As I’ve said earlier, I’ve been experimenting with raw food lately, and one cool new tool I’ve picked up is a spiralizer, which slices vegetables into noodle shapes. It’s very cool if you’re into fun gadgets and I finally pulled it out this evening to make zucchini noodles for dinner, served with pesto and sliced tomato and orange pepper from my garden (the basil was from the backyard too). Excuse the fuzzy picture, I think the black bowl confuses my camera.


Served with corn on the cob and steamed okra, all from the market. Delish!

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This is so not local, but I’ve had a couple of requests so I’m going to post a recipe for raw vegan coconut “ice cream”. But first a digression: while I started this blog mainly to share tips on local eating in Toronto – and especially what to do with CSA veggies in the winter – I’ve been experimenting with raw foods lately, which is harder to do locally because so many of them (especially desserts) rely on tropical ingredients like coconut, avocado and bananas.

So I want to emphasize that while I believe strongly in eating locally as much as possible, both for environmental reasons and to help local farmers, I don’t like to be a fanatic about it. I don’t like to be a fanatic about any eating philosophy, because following a strict set of rules is boring, way too simplistic, and prevents you from having to think about your food. I’ve been vegetarian since I was a teenager – no meat, no poultry, no fish – but I’m not going to freak out about a bit of fish sauce in a restaurant meal, or my grilled eggplant sitting next to someone else’s grilled chicken. Life’s too short, and really, neither of those affects any of the reasons I chose to stop eating animals.

In the same way, while I refuse to buy strawberries out of season (they don’t taste good, anyways), I’m not going to refuse them if someone serves them to me. And supporting Ontario peach growers doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of bananas. I try to buy things locally if they’re grown locally, but sometimes, I want fresh pineapple, too.

Which brings me to the coconuts. Young coconuts are an amazing food, and extremely versatile when it comes to creating dairy-free desserts. Coconut water is high in electrolytes, making it a perfect post-exercise (i.e., post-sweating) drink, and the meat blends up nice and smooth and creamy.

And besides, even though they’re shipped from Thailand to my local Chinatown, it’s not impossible that they have a lower carbon footprint than locally produced dairy – especially if it has sugar added. (I made the recipe below with local honey.) After all, as the Washington Post reported on last week, “a study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week.” That’s food for thought.

But back to the coconuts… as I said, I bought them in Chinatown, 3 for $5. These are the ones that you can get in the Caribbean with a straw in to drink the coconut water, and now that I know how amazing the coconut meat is, I’m appalled at how many get thrown away there and here after the water is drunk. You can find tutorials online for opening them, but basically, you chop them open, drain the water, then split them in half and scrape out the meat. I would estimate that you would need two or three to make this recipe, and if you don’t have access to coconuts, you can make it with dried coconut and regular water. A regular blender worked fine for me, and I used honey instead of agave syrup. I don’t have an ice cream maker so I made it with the first set of directions.

The recipe comes from the cookbook Ani’s Raw Food Desserts, but I got it from a British raw food magazine called Get Fresh (I get an electronic subscription).

Ani Phyo’s Coconut Ice Kream
(makes 4 servings)

1 cup cashews
1 cup filtered water or coconut water
1/3 cup agave syrup (I used honey)
1/4 cup shredded coconut or 1 cup fresh young coconut meat
1/4 cup liquid coconut oil

Combine the cashews, water, agave syrup, coconut and oil in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Scoop the mixture into a container and place in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours. Every hour or so, remove and mix well. Place back in freezer to chill. Repeat until you achieve the desired consistency (5 to 7 hours).

To make in an ice cream maker, chill the mixture in the freezer for an hour or two, until cold. Scoop the chilled mixture into the ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Will keep for several weeks in the freezer. Variations: swirl in a sauce, like raspberry or chocolate, or try folding in a fruit, like blueberries or chopped strawberries.

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