real raw kitchen: May 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013

chocolate hearts: a recipe

Chocolate is so romantic. Any time I share a piece of chocolate with my SO I feel like I'm having a private moment, letting him in on a secret that only we can enjoy. This is especially true when I make my own chocolate.

It might have something to do with the fact that my favorite movie is Chocolat but I think it's also because chocolate really is magical.

I have a basic recipe that I use, and then adjust according to what my goals are. I like to add flavors, change the ratios, and play with it each time so that I may have a new discovery in chocolate every time I get to the kitchen.

This time I made little shapes with a silicone mold and added goji berries and a little bit of vanilla. I popped them in the freezer for the day and after a day out in the sun I pulled them out as a little surprise for my SO and I to enjoy, privately.

Que romantico ...

Chocolate Hearts:
a recipe
1/2 cup maple syrup (non raw)
3/4 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 t vanilla
goji berries

Mix the sweetener, cacao powder, coconut oil and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.

Place a few goji berries in each mold and then, using a spoon, put some chocolate into each mold until it is full. Place in the freezer for at least a few hours so it hardens completely.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

RECIPE: fresh apricot lemon (nut-free) cheesecake

At the market this weekend there was a bin of fresh apricots. I immediately grabbed a bag and filled it up. I love apricots. The flavor is nice but I mostly have a romanticized obsession with them based on their size, shape, color, and the way they feel to the touch. They are the most delicate fruit, almost sinful in size, so that when you take a bite into the soft skin you can't help but savor the moment, knowing that you will be finished with the fruit shortly after.

Knowing this, I filled the entire bag. I'm glad I did because my SO went through half of them before I could even get to this dessert. 

The apricots are really the shining ingredient and inspiration in this dish. They represent everything wonderful about the end of Spring and early Summer. They are light, juicy, refreshing, and innocent. There are no two people that could not bond over freshly picked apricots in the orchard (highly romanticized view, right??).

However, this is not the exciting part of this dish. There is a secret ingredient in here that I did not tell anyone about until they had eaten the entire tart: sea vegetables.

It is true. I used sea vegetable in this dish. I have a friend that is allergic to nuts and though this dish still has almonds in the crust it has allowed me to play with nut-free variations of a raw cheesecake/tart. Certain sea vegetables provide a firm base in which you can create a dessert and build from there. With this in mind I designed this dessert so eventually I can feed my friends ... all of them.

The sea vegetable I used here is Agar. It is used as a plant-based gelatin (versus actual gelatin, which is made from animal hooves ...). When combined with hot water it thickens and sets at room temperature. When combined with other thickeners it can provide a nice creamy based for puddings or tarts.

Agar is actually loaded with essential nutrients, as well. It has calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, folate, choline, and vitamins E and K.

It is also an excellent ingredient in desserts because it helps stabilize your blood sugar by absorbing glucose in your stomach so that it doesn't flood your bloodstream. Pretty neat, huh?

Basic crust:
a recipe
1 cup almonds
1 cup dates, soaked in warm water

Process in a food processor until incorporated but still a bit chunky. Dump contents out into a spring form pan (or any dish you'd like) and press down until even. I used a 6" spring form pan.

Nut free cheesecake filling:
a recipe
1/4 cup hot water
1 T agar flakes (not 100% raw)
2 T coconut nectar
3 T coconut butter
1 T coconut oil
2 lemons, juiced
1 t lemon zest
1 t vanilla (either from bean pod or extract, your choice)

In a small bowl, mix everything except the agar and hot water and set aside. Bring a pot of water to a near boil (and if you're okay with it, to a complete boil). Scoop 1/4 cup out of the pot once it's ready and mix with the agar. Whisk thoroughly until it is smooth. Once it has cooled for a couple minutes, add to blender with remaining ingredients. Blend on high until completely smooth. Pour on top of your crust and spread until even. (Now you must move quickly since the agar sets once it's cooled)

Apricot topping:
the ingredients
3 apricots, thinly sliced
1 T coconut nectar
1/2 lemon, juiced

Toss ingredients in a bowl until well coated. Place the slices on top of your dessert in any way you'd like!

It is best to serve this immediately so the topping doesn't make the dessert soggy. Otherwise, save the last step for just until you're about to serve.

What do you think??


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday: may 29, 2013

This past week included a three day weekend, which means that I made only about half of my food in my kitchen and ate out the rest of the time. It's usually pretty easy to stay raw, and even easier to eat vegan. Don't be afraid to be creative! (and flexible...) I ate LOTS of fruit and of course salads. I even ate out at a touristy Italian restaurant ... ain't nothin' raw about it. When I go bad, I go all the way!

Of course this is not an everyday thing and it's also important to feel good about what you're doing. While in the moment I was enjoying the focaccia and garlic I can say with 100% certainty that I felt terrible the next day. People often ask me if I love eating out as a "treat" and my answer is usually "no". They don't really understand how that's possible if all I'm eating is salad all day! Well, this experience sums it up beautifully. A couple glasses of wine, a couple slices of bread, and a meal void of anything fresh and light led me to a toxic hangover the next day. I love my salads, they rock beyond belief and are usually jam packed with goodies. Eating out, however, usually doesn't taste as fresh as my own homemade meals, costs a lot more, and leaves me feeling bloated and hungover for the following 24 hours.

I don't like feeling hungover.

The next day I ate lots of fruit to help ease my body back into speedy digestion. I drank lots of water to help flush everything out. And, I rested. A little rest is always a good thing!

Other than this mishap, I'd say the rest of my eats were pretty normal.

 Salad for two. I am loving this garlic dill dressing and a simple salad. I served it with a watermelon juice. Blend a couple cups of watermelon, one peeled lemon, and a cup of fresh coconut water for the best watermelon juice imaginable.

Memorial Day tart. I played with some new ingredients this weekend and this was born. A fresh angel food cake-like crust with fruit and coconut cream. It is divine. It is delicious. And my SO ate three of them ... so they must be good.

Apricot Lemon Cheesecake. I made a mini cheesecake simply because I could not resist playing with apricots (which just hit the markets this past week, here in Miami). It turned out beautiful and was a hit with everyone that tasted it.

Mango Butternut Squash Soup. This soup made a reappearance and was just perfect. It's filling and light at the same time. It worked perfectly for me as the temps rise here in Miami.

Roasted Squash. I love squash so much, it hurts. Sometimes I like to steam squash and also sometimes roast it. This batch was roasted at 375 for about 30-40 minutes. I chop up a beautiful acorn squash, toss it in nice olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, ground pepper, and rosemary from my Grandma's garden. I serve it over a huge bowl of fresh spinach. Done. Not raw but it's delicious and clean.

Fruit. My fruit of choice this past week included cherries, apricots, and plums. All reminiscent of my home (Central Valley, California) and all delicious. I couldn't get enough. Also, I had one of my students ask me after class if there is such a thing as eating too much fruit. When I asked her why she told me that she is worried that she eats too much fruit. Of course I smiled and took the opportunity to tell her to GO FRUIT herself ;) I must have the fruity glow ...

My food was very bright and colorful this past week! I'm hoping to include some more juices in the future ... I've been slacking in this department lately.

More on that next time!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

RECIPE: Carrot Ginger dressing and a South Beach salad

There is this salad shop on the beach that makes THE best salads. There are few places here in Miami that can really satisfy my salad needs and even fewer that offer salads with more than three ingredients. So when I discovered this place I was ecstatic. Any time I am at the beach I make a point to let myself get hungry enough to just have to get a salad from there. 

I usually order the Superfood Salad because it has the most fun ingredients in it. Then, one day I was craving the salad bad and didn't want to drive all the way to the beach (a quick geography AND cultural lesson on Miami: Miami does not equal the beach. There is a very small portion that is actual beach. Everywhere else is just.. well.. Miami.)

What I was craving the most was the dressing. It is so simple and refreshing. Every time I'm there I make a comment to my SO (who is a good sport) about how I could probably easily make something similar. So the day I craved the big salad was the day it came to fruition.

The sign always says "Carrot Ginger Dressing" so I thought carrots and ginger was a good place to start. Then I just added water and oil to liquefy it and thicken it up at the same time. And then I had a dressing!

Carrot Ginger Dressing:
a recipe
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4" piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup water
1-2 T olive oil

Blend the carrots, ginger, and water in a high speed blender. Add the oil last and blend until smooth.

SoBe inspired salad:
3-4 cups greens, spinach and spring
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 purple cabbage, sliced
1 T pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup mulberries, dried raisins work too

Mix everything and enjoy! Play with it, add what you've got, leave out what you don't. I like these ingredients and I find that especially cruciferous veggies taste good with this dressing.


Friday, May 24, 2013

how no TV and no internet saved my relationship

Okay, that's a bit dramatic. Even my SO rolled his eyes at that title. But I do believe that in the long run this really is true. When I was in grad school I had a TV with fancy cable and a very large DVD collection. What I found was that I was spending a significant amount of money on things I didn't need and wasting a colossal amount of time sitting on my couch doing nothing.

Then, almost within a matter of months, I got my life together and ditched the TV. I started spending time outside, I made a lot more friends, and I got my grad assignments done in a non-stressed way. My life turned around in ways I hadn't imagined it would and since then I have been an anti-TV advocate.

When I moved to Miami, and then in with my SO, I made a compromise with him and said I'd be okay with having a TV again, as long as our free time didn't get sucked up by HGTV and Sports Center. A few days in and that compromise was out the window. We were eating every meal in front of the TV and camping out on the couch. We began fighting about how we spend our spare time, his channel-changing obsession, and why we can't just make ourselves smarter instead of dumber every evening. I cried. He fumed. Neither of us understood why the TV was such a big deal, but it always was.

It represents so much more than a guilty-pleasure. To me, it represents the downfall of my health and of our society. We are so lazy that we'd rather bring mindless entertainment to our living rooms than go and exercise our bodies and brains in the real world that exists around us.

Finally, my SO discovered that his best friend didn't have a TV and suddenly realized that I'm not the crazy one for wanting to do without. Instead, it became an extremely wise economical move to cut the cable. And so that is exactly what he did; he cut the cable. And with it, the internet.

I know. I cringe just thinking about my life without internet. But you know what I've found? I have free access to internet 8 hours a day at work and then free access at the Starbucks down the street and free access at the Whole Foods around the corner. So if I just need to see something online after work hours then I can get to it--for free--at these places.

And do you know what's happened since then?

We have gotten a nice glow from all the extra sun we are getting just by being outside more. We have been nicer to each other. We have eaten more elegant and romantic meals together. Our home is cleaner. We sleep 8 or more hours a day. We have more special time together. We fight less. We cuddle more. My SO has picked up a book for the first time since grad school. I've become a better professor because I'm more prepared for class. I've talked to my friends more, called home more, and even remembered to mail Mother's Day cards. The energy in our home has changed and I can feel the support and love between the two of us unlike any other time in our relationship. I haven't even opened my laptop at home since we cut the internet and as a result I'm more engaged with myself and my partner.

Also, we've watched a lot more movies. Our date nights have become more intimate and our biggest life goals are actually being discussed. I give more, he takes more. And the opposite is true, as well. He is giving more, and I'm taking more.

Life, in general, just is not as complicated since we have cut the cable and internet.  Everything is brought back into perspective and everything is just easier. Really!

In fact, I'm not the only one to notice a difference in my relationship as a result. Mothers in this study were observed for their interactions with their children during TV time versus reading time versus play time. What they found was that there was almost no interaction with the mother-child pair watched TV, and any interaction to exist was mostly robotic with no successful communication being accomplished. The same thing would happen with us.

In this particular write-up on TV, they outline how it impacts your mental capabilities both short term and long term. And since you can see where I'm going with this, they found that TV essentially makes you dumber. Now, to be clear, TV isn't necessarily directly lowering your IQ, but it is lowering your mental exercise and creativity which definitely lowers your IQ. It also raises your health issues because, well, you're just not moving like you're supposed to.

Cut your cable (and maybe your internet!). You will go through withdrawals. And you will be okay. And then you can do a money dance with all the money you're saving.

It's one of the best decisions for your overall health. I promise.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

RECIPE: tea time cookies

I'm a Scorpio. That means I tend to become very passionate about things. So much so that when I decide I'm going to do something, I do it all the way. When I fall in love, I fall hard. When I go raw, I go all the way. And when I make nut mylk, I save all the pulp. I don't know why. Every once in awhile I actually get around to using some but I mostly just keep it in large bags in the freezer, hoping that one day I'll have a really special recipe that calls for year old, frozen nut pulp.

I recently made nut mylk and I saved the pulp, as usual. This time, though, I vowed to use it within a few days on something spectacular. And so these cookies were born. 

Cinnamon Tea Time Cookies:
a recipe
nut mylk pulp, from 2 cups of nuts
1 cup dates, soaked in warm water
3-4 T maple syrup (non raw)
1-2 T cinnamon
1 t vanilla
1 T coconut oil (optional, helps to bind)

Place everything in a food processor and process until a dough forms. Using a measuring spoon, measure out 2 Tablespoons per cookie and press into a cookie cutter. Line your Teflex liners and dehydrate at 104 degrees for 4-5 hours. Flip onto a mesh liner and peel the liner off and then dehydrate overnight, or 8-10 hours until firm and almost crispy.

This cookie has a very mild flavor so if you're serving as is then feel free to up the cinnamon, vanilla, or even adding a little bit of sumtin'-sumtin' ...

Chocolate Frosting:
a recipe
1/4 cup maple syrup (non raw)
1/4 cup cacao powder
3 T coconut oil

Play with the ratio but mix your ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Frost your cookies and either set in the fridge to set or eat immediately. I ate mine immediately. You can also dust your cookies with cacao powder and cinnamon. YUM.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday: may 22, 2013

It has been another simple week for me with a little bit more activity added in. A new schedule, a few more miles run, and busy workdays usually means I'm exhausted when I get home and not interested in salad. On nights like this--when I work from 9 a.m. to almost 9 p.m.--I usually eat a bowl of cooked oatmeal. For whatever reason this just works for my body in unprecedented ways.

I buy the whole oats in the bulk section at Whole Foods because it's only a few dollars for enough oats to last the two of us for awhile. I put it in a pot with a 2:1 ratio of water:oats, set it to med-high, then walk away to shower and wind down from my day. I periodically walk back, adding a few tablespoons of water here and there, letting it cook slowly and get soupy. Finally, when I can't take it anymore I put LOTS of cinnamon, about a teaspoon of maple syrup, almost a cup of blueberries, and about a tablespoon of nut butter. It provides a small amount of fat and is an incredible powerhouse that can even support weight loss (if that's what you're interested in). It is high in fiber, low in calories, and contains calcium and iron, which makes it an excellent food for women.

Anyway ... so this past week I've eaten several bowls of slowly cooked oatmeal. YUM. And then this:

Avo-Mango Salad ... again... I wasn't kidding when I said I am beyond excited for mango season. Yes, this is a recycled picture but the ingredients are the same. And so is my enthusiasm.

Green Smoothies. I go through phases with green smoothies and they usually fall to the back burner when new fruits come into season. I'd rather eat a bowl of a fruit that has been MIA since last year than guzzle a green smoothie. But then I made nut mylk and immediately began craving this. Instead of hazelnut and kale I've used Brazil Nuts and Spinach.

Carrot-ginger Salad. This is so simple and is just a bowl of greens with some superfoods thrown into it. Then dressed with a dressing made from carrots, ginger, and water. So easy. So refreshing and delicious, as well. 

Fruit. When do I not have a big bowl of fruit on here?

Cherries. It is finally cherry season and the California cherries have finally made it to Miami. I know I know. "Eat local". Well, I'm a California girl and I miss--badly--all of my drier climate fruits. And coming from the Central Valley means that cherry season is a big. deal. And it's cherry season. And it's a big deal.

Guac. I must be missing home because I've been craving stone fruits and guacamole like crazy. California has a big Mexican population and so Mexican food is abundant. This week I had guacamole almost every other day. What I like to do is mix is with a simple salad. If I make a big batch ahead of time it makes for a quick snack or meal for the next couple days. 

As far as Miami is concerned, summer is here. We have had hot and humid days with rain and temperatures in the 90s. So for me, this means I'm eating refreshing summer foods. And I love it.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

RECIPE: massaged kale picnic salad

One of my favorite deli treats at our local Whole Foods is the massaged kale avocado salad. Unfortunately, they don't offer this often and most of the time when they put it out on display it stays there until it's brown and mushy. Ew. 

Finally, I got fed up with paying $10 for a massaged kale salad that happens only once every few months. It became obviously absurd to me that I would even pay money like that for something I could make so easily at home. And then this salad was born.

I like to make guacamole in batches and then use it in various meals. I love avocados and I love guacamole and so it's usually a key ingredient in at least one meal a day. In this particular meal it is the shining ingredient, though you could simply use mashed avocado, instead, if you'd like.

I like to call this my Kale Picnic Salad because it reminds me so much of a potato salad you might take to a picnic. I really think it's the crunch-factor that takes me there. Either way, this salad is perfect for sunny days and fresh air. I often bring this to picnics or BBQs for this exact reason!

Massaged Kale Picnic Salad:
the ingredients
1 bunch of kale, washed and de-stemmed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 avocado, mashed
seasoning to taste (i.e. salt, pepper, cumin, etc)
herbs to taste (i.e. cilantro, green onion, etc.)

Mash the avocado in a small bowl and mix in the lemon and seasonings and/or herbs. Set aside. Next, wash the kale thoroughly and then pat dry with a paper towel. De-stem the leaves and tear apart, by hand, into bite sized pieces. (I like to hold the base of the stem with one hand, wrap my other hand around the base and then pull my hand along the stem, quickly, to pull the leaves off) Place the kale in a large bowl and toss with the pepper and onion. Next, spoon the avocado mash into the bowl and then use your hands to massage the avocado into the kale for a minute or two until it is well incorporated and wilted. The longer you massage the more palatable the kale becomes.

I feel like a bad raw foodie for not immediately enjoying kale. But this is one of the few ways that I actually enjoy it, immensely.


Do you like kale?? Give this a try and let me know what you think!


Monday, May 20, 2013

RECIPE:Brazil Nut Mylk and MSG

I made a huge batch of nut mylk--huge--and ever since I made it I had been craving this smoothie, below. I love the simple pairing of greens, nut mylk, and banana. It's creamy, it's light, and it has a healthy amount of leafy greens hidden in it. Also, there was no need to add a sweetener as the bananas were sweet enough. Win!

I like to pair nut mylk with my greens because it increased the nutrient bioavailability for the greens. Greens contain a lot of calcium and magnesium but are often times lost in the process of digestion. The nuts help release these nutrients so our bodies have an easier time picking them up. By pairing nut mylk with the greens (instead of whole nuts) you also eliminate a large part of the nut, which is a good thing in many cases since raw food tends to be calorie-dense with all the nut-based dishes.

I don't use nut mylk often mainly because I favor coconut water or plain water in smoothies and puddings because of the lower calorie count. I also rarely buy prepared nut milks because it's loaded with so many unnecessary ingredients and preservatives making it no more healthy than regular milk!! (okay, it is still a better option than regular milk but definitely not a "natural" version) 

Here is just an example of the ingredients listed for commercial Almond Milk. There are a lot of different goodies in there that are mostly questionable. The one that makes me cringe is "natural flavors" because this could be essentially anything! There is a certain threshold that the FDA has created where if an ingredient in an item is not a main ingredient, and sits below this arbitrary threshold set by the FDA, then it is legally satisfying to name it "natural flavors". This can include bugs that fall into the food item, various spices, flavor enhancers, etc. The biggest offender in this case is usually MSG. Now, I'm not a fan of conspiracy theories so let's not get too into that. But what I am aware of is that MSG is dangerous and MSG is legally allowed in packaged foods under the identity of "natural flavors". There are many other terms that can be legally used to identify MSG, such as: natural flavor, natural flavorings, natural beef flavor, natural chicken flavor, malt flavoring, chicken flavoring, seasoning, spices, enzymes and simply "flavoring."

Pretty vague, huh?
 None of that is worth the headache. Which is why I opt for my own homemade version that has very few ingredients.

Brazil nuts are incredible powerhouses when it comes to nutrition and it just take two of these guys to get your daily recommended amount of Selenium. Selenium is a crucial mineral that is found in soil and then absorbed by the plants that are grown in mineral rich soil. It is helpful in combating hormone related cancers--like breast, female organs, and prostate cancers--as well as balancing thyroid function.

Brazil Nut Mylk

  • 2 cups brazil nuts
  • 32 oz coconut water*
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2-4 dates (optional)

  • Soak the nuts overnight in a container in the fridge. 
  • The next morning combine everything in your high speed blender (Vitamix is best for this stuff) and blend on high until blended and frothy.
  •  Into a large bowl , place your nut mylk bag and then pour the contents into the bag (over the bowl). 
  • Once everything is poured in, wrap one hand over the top, tightly squeezing. 
  • With your other hand gently squeeze the contents so the liquid can strain. 
  • Continue doing this until all of the liquid is squeezed out, completely. 

*I like to use a whole coconut, or 2 coconuts, for the water. Then I save the meat for another use (you can never have too much coconut meat on hand). If I don't have enough coconut water to fill the blender then I just fill it with regular water, as well. You can do this with regular water, to begin with, but it's not as tasty as coconut water..

I save the pulp that is left in the bag for other uses, like macaroons or pancakes...

And now, onto the smoothie ...

Creamy Dreamy Green Smoothie

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 2 cups homemade nut mylk
  • 3-4 large leafs of kale
  • 2-3 cups spinach
  • 1 T maca powder (optional)
  • 1 t chlorella (optional)

  • Place everything in your blender and blend until well-incorporated and smooth. No green chunks allowed in this one!!

This is quite the indulgence for me when it comes to green smoothies but it is so satisfying. 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

eat more fruit: an obsession

I love fruit. It's amazing. One of the first things I noticed to change, as far as my personal preference, after I went raw was that fruit just tasted so. much. better. It's true. It was juicier, sweeter, fuller, and more filling. It is completely satisfying and energizing. It also digests so quickly that it speeds up my metabolism

One of the most painful things I hear is that fruit is evil. Evil!! How could something so beautiful be evil?? The sugar content and the carb count seem to be the offenders, but still, I just don't see how fruit could be worse than a protein powder, or a pasta, or a burger, or whatever! Fruit is nature's perfect food source. It has the perfect balance of macronutrients with 10% of its calories coming from protein, 10% coming from fat, and 80% coming from carbohydrates. And as much as this makes people cringe ... for whatever reason ... this really is an optimal package of balanced macronutrients. 

There is a sub-category of raw foodists that adhere to this ratio, strictly. They call themselves low fat, high carb fruitarians (check out the "Banana Girl" for a real life advocate, or Fully Raw Kristina), 801010ers (after the ratio), or lfrv for low fat raw vegan. I tried this out for a bit but I wasn't a fan for my body. My teeth became incredibly sensitive and I was dizzy all the time. I love fat. I thrive on fat. I eat about 60-70 grams of fat a day--which is admittedly high--but I'd still say it's within a healthy range. The lower my fat content, the grumpier I become. And more exhausted.

True story.

This experience did not change my love for fruit, though. I am still a huge advocate and I will always support natural foods over unnatural ones, and fruit is no exception. The important thing about fruit, no matter what your dietary beliefs, is that you find what works for you. For example, when I eat a large bowl of grapes in the afternoon then I will likely be bloated the rest of the day (a powerful lesson in proper food combining). But when I eat a bowl of fruit like this, below, in the morning on an empty stomach my mood and energy levels are happy throughout the entire day.

Happy, happy fruit bowl:
the ingredients
1/2 large papaya
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 lime, juiced

Scoop out the meat from the papaya and then chop up with a knife into bite sized pieces. Combine with everything, being sure to toss the fruit to coat with the lime juice. It is important not to skip the lime in this case. Papaya is funky without the lime.

So good. It makes me so happy. Enjoy!


Friday, May 17, 2013

but where do you get your protein??

Nothing is quite like nails on a chalkboard as someone asking me where I get my protein from. I always feel I need to follow up with a "where do you get your protein from?" along with a slap on the forehead. The protein discussion is not a fun one, but it's inevitable. Ironically, most Americans are actually consuming twice the recommended daily amount! 

Now, this is not a drop-the-meat-because-meat-eaters-are-evil kind of post. Not at all. Instead, this is meant to be an informative post on the basics of protein. If you choose to eat meat then good for you! But please, be informed of your nutritional needs and the quality of meat you choose to eat.

The issue comes when protein is hailed as the primary source of nutrition at the exclusion of a lot of other nutritious foods. A lot of pro-protein eaters (well, pro-HIGH-protein eaters because who is against protein??) argue that a diet high in protein can promote weight loss. Lots of gyms across the country are now promoting this high protein obsession for that very reason, however, it is a very flawed trend to subscribe to. In fact, the AHA does not recommend a high-protein diet for weight loss, stating that those that focus on increased protein intake often miss a lot of other vitamins and minerals found in other foods. When you focus so much on eating so-many-grams-of-protein the focus often shifts to grams per ounce of food--which inevitably leads a lot of people to lots and lots of meat. This, consequently, turns people away from beneficial fruits and veggies in their whole and complete forms (and even worse, demonizes fruit ... poor fruit!).

It also throws off the balance of carbohydrates to protein to fats, leading a lot of heavy meat eaters on questionable carbo-binges.

The government recommends that women get about 46 grams of protein a day, or 10% - 15% of your total calories. Now, I hardly take heed to anything the government recommends but we must start somewhere and this seems like a great place to start.

Truthfully, 10%-15% is not that much protein, at all. In fact, most fruits and vegetables--by themselves--are composed of, at minimum, 10% protein calories. Yes, you read that right. I'm ingesting protein whether I like it or not. 
In reality, a lot of pro-protein eaters are the ones that are actually consuming dangerously high levels of protein. In fact, you likely don't even need extra protein just because you lift weights (which is so contrary to the current trends). Not to mention, protein powders are absolutely unnecessary. There is plenty of healthy and real protein available right at your fingertips (meat included). 

So where do I get my protein? There's a lot of protein in plants, and here's some of it:

Vegetables Protein in grams (g)
Asparagus (5)             2
Avocado (1)               4
Beets (1 c)                  2
Broccoli (1 c)              4
Brussel Sprouts           4
Cabbage (1 c)             2
Collard Greens (1 c)   4
Corn (1 ear)                5
Kale (1 c)                   2.5
Mushrooms (1 c)        3.5
Sweet Potato (1 c)      3

Nuts/Seeds (per 1/4 cup) Protein in grams (g)
Almonds                    7
Brazil Nuts                 5
Cashews                    4
Chia Seeds               12
Flax Seeds                 8
Hazelnuts                   5
Hemp Seeds            10
Pine Nuts                  4
Pumpkin Seeds         7
Sesame Seeds           7
Sunflower seeds        8
Walnuts                     5

Just as a perfect example, today for lunch I had a salad:
steamed sweet potato (1.5 c; 4.5g)
sunflower seeds ( 1T; 2 g)
 kale (1 c; 2.5g)
 lettuce (3 c; 3g)
 sesame seed dressing ( 1/4 c; 7g)
 avocado (1/2 of; 2g)
total protein: 21g

This is one meal only, one salad only, and I've reached half my daily requirements! How incredible is that?? And it's so clean, so easy, and so delicious. My breakfast and dinner look pretty similar and are loaded with TONS of greens and only small/reasonable servings of healthy fats (that are also, coincidentally, loaded with protein per ounce). 

...and I think I'm living a pretty full, adventurous, and active life, don't you think??

Thursday, May 16, 2013

RECIPE: Strawberry Chocolate Pie with Coconut

My favorite desserts almost always come from combining my favorite parts of other desserts. To start, I was filling inspired by the coconuts I had sitting in my fridge. From there I started dreaming up what could be paired with it. And then this was born.

Macadamia provides a light crust that I tend to favor when pairing with coconut, so I started with that, hoping to build more decadent flavors from there. Then, I wanted to use the chocolate layer from my Raw Snickers Bar again ... I had to. It was begging me to. So I added that, next.

 Then, chocolate and strawberries just go hand in hand to me. I'm never quite as happy as when I pair chocolate and strawberries. So naturally, that came next. Lastly was the coconut. The coconut cream from my banana cream pie is one of my favorite dessert contributions to date--and was my original inspiration for this recipe to begin with--so that came next.

And the topping. Ohhh the topping. I had seen this idea around the blogger-sphere for quite awhile and I'd been wanting to try it out. It was so easy and delicious.

I debuted this dish at a friends where we all got together to watch some NBA finals game (or something, I don't know. I was just playing with their newborn baby and eating this pie). It was a fabulous evening.

Then I took the leftovers to work the next day and my colleagues happily finished it off for me. My SO was a bit annoyed with that ...

 macadamia crust:
the recipe
1 cup macadamia nuts 
2 cups shredded dry coconut 
2 T coconut oil 
3-4 T maple syrup (non raw)

Process ingredients in a food processor (I used my Vitamix). Dump onto your pan (I used a tart pan) and press down until firm. It should be crumbly but also sticky enough to hold. Set aside on the counter.

chocolate layer:
the recipe
1/2 cup maple syrup (non raw)
3/4 cup cacao powder
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup water, added slowly

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, adding water slowly as needed (don't over water). Spread on top of the crust and put in the fridge for an hour (or so) until set. 

the strawberries
5-10 strawberries, de-stemmed and sliced

Slice all your strawberries and layer them over the chocolate layer. Any leftovers can be folded into the coconut cream topping.

coconut cream topping:
the recipe
2 whole young coconuts, meat only 
½ cup coconut oil 
1/4 cup maple syrup (non raw)
coconut water (if needed) 
2 grinds of sea salt
½ tsp Vanilla Extract (or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean) 

Blend the ingredients in a blender until smooth. ( ... add coconut water if needed, 1 T at a time) Pour filling into a bowl and fold in the remaining strawberry slices. Pour over the chocolate and smooth out.

optional toppings:
the ingredients
1 can coconut milk (in the fridge overnight)
1 cup coconut flakes

Canned coconut milk is probably not raw so if you're a stickler about it then skip this step ... Leave the can in the fridge overnight. The next day open the can and scoop out the hardened cream. Leave the liquid for another use. I mixed the cream in a KitchenAid mixer with a couple tablespoons of maple syrup and an 1/8th of a teaspoon of seeds from a vanilla bean. Spread over the top of the pie and sprinkle the flakes over the top.

Let the whole pie chill until you're ready to serve.

It is the perfect combination of creamy and decadent and light and tart. It really is and it's hard to explain. The chocolate provides just enough sweetness to feel like you're indulging in something naughty. The strawberries provide a tart zing that compliments the chocolate. The coconuts is creamy and light and just perfect.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!!