Friday, May 21, 2010

Raw Nutiva Protein Powder - Great For Smoothies!

I like their environmentally friendly packaging option.

A Great Addition for Smoothies
Now that the weather is finally warming up, I start almost every day with a raw smoothie. For me, it becomes a chemistry experiment, adding a little flaxseed oil for omega 3, a little VitaMineral Green, fresh or frozen raw fruits, a handful of greens, some organic hemp or soymilk (or raw nut milk), topping it off with the contents of a calcium/magnesium capsule.

I recently came across an organic, raw protein powder by Nutiva. They have two kinds. One is Hemp Protein with Fiber (with a profile of 37% protein, 43% fiber and 10% healthy fats including omega 3, 6 and 9). The other product is Hemp Protein 50% (with 50% protein, only 20% fiber and 11% fat). I find that by adding a few tablespoons of this protein to a smoothie, I’m pretty satisfied until lunchtime. It also is a perfect thickening agent and makes any smoothie thick and creamy.

Hemp protein contains 66% edestin, a highly digestible bioactive plant protein. It is a “complete” protein and contains all the essential amino acids. This product is also gluten, dairy and lactose free.

You can try adding a few tablespoons to any of my smoothie recipes. If they get too thick, just add some additional cold water. Nutiva also makes their own Hemp Shakes. I prefer to mix up my own since I can control the sugar content, but I've tried theirs and most of them have a pretty low sugar content and are quite delicious. They come in Amazon Acai, Berry Pomegranate and Chocolate.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Try A Raw Food Cleanse - An Introduction To A Raw Food Diet. Forward This To People You Care About

Start your day with a simple, raw breakfast salad.

For lunch try creamy raw zucchini soup with crushed pistachios.

Snack on guacamole and raw jalapeno corn chips.

Zucchini spaghetti and walnut meatballs make a hearty dinner.

Chia pudding and fresh fruit make a nourishing dessert.

It's Time for Spring Cleaning
When my iris are in bloom, and the weather starts to get warm, I feel like cleaning. There's something about this time of year that makes us clean out the garage, spray wash the driveway and spruce up our yards. The most important thing to cleanse, of course, is our body. After a winter of eating comfort foods and lower activity levels, a gentle body cleanse is a great way to get ready for summer.

Why Cleanse with Raw Food?
There are different ways people cleanse their bodies. Some go on a juice or water fast, some do it with the help of herbal supplements, others with colonic irrigation or other techniques. Each have some drawbacks.
Fasting is hard, especially for me. When I skip a meal my blood sugar drops, I get dizzy and unfocused and extremely grumpy! My husband and children will surely attest to that. Fasting for anyone can trigger severe detoxification reactions and should be done with the help and presence of a knowledgeable practitioner.
Herbal supplements can contain numerous ingredients and most people take them without a good understanding of what's in them. Looking at some of the more common herbal cleansing formulas on the market, I see a mixture of over 50 herbs. As you know, herbs can be strong medicine and combining that many of them is a bit worrisome for me.
Many people find colonic irrigation unpleasant and I certainly don't have to explain that. It is recommended by many experts, especially when undergoing severe detox from from chemotherapy or a lifetime of poor eating habits. This can certainly be done in conjunction with a raw food cleanse.

I find eating a diet of mostly raw food for a period of time to be the easiest, most gentle and certainly the most appealing of all the options. The advantages are:
* Eating mostly organic raw food for a period of time gives your body a break from adding to its toxic load.
* The high fiber of whole, raw foods is cleansing.
* The enzymes contained in raw foods help in their own digestion. This allows your body to spend the energy usually spent generating enzymes on doing other things, like healing and rebuilding.
* The numerous antioxidants and phytochemicals in raw fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables have the ability to prevent and combat many diseases.
* Eating and preparing meals from foods in their most natural state (versus eating processed foods out of a box) rebuilds a connection between you and the earth.
* A raw food diet allows many options for accomplishing these health benefits while enjoying delicious food.

Who Should Do This
Anyone who wants to improve their general health would benefit from eating a mostly raw food diet for a week, two weeks, three weeks or a month or more. Some people exclusively eat a raw food vegan diet but I believe you can achieve many of the health benefits of this food regimen without being 100% raw. (Read "Raw Food Diet - How Raw Do You Need To Be?").

If you are trying to lose weight, lower your cholesterol and triglycerides, prevent type 2 diabetes, improve your energy level, detoxify your body, get rid of heartburn or other gastrointestinal disorders, lighten your mood, or just improve your general health, you may want to try a raw food cleanse. Even if you can only do it for 10 or 20 days, you will see improvements. See how my friend Kannan significantly improved his health when he ate mostly raw food for 41 days.

When it starts to warm up in the spring, I eat at least half of my food raw and by summer, when my garden is flourishing, I eat around 70%. But once a year, sometime between May and July, I go on Raw Food Cleanse and I eat at least 90% raw food for one month. When I feel like eating a bit of cooked food, I eat brown rice, or a steamed grain.
How To Do It
For the next month eat mostly all raw food. I've listed some favorite raw food vegan recipes below for each meal of the day but there are many other raw food recipes on this blog in addition to those listed. If you are really craving some cooked food throughout this cleanse (especially in the beginning), eat some brown rice. If you eat a cooked meal for whatever reason, don't worry, just get back to raw food with the next meal.
This will not feel like a diet or fast. It will just seem like you are eating delicious, fresh, natural food.
So today or sometime over the next few months when the weather in your area starts to warm up and the farmer’s markets start to sell delicious, fresh produce, cleanse your body naturally and gently with a diet of raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and sprouted grains and legumes. Here are a few recipe ideas for each meal of the day:
My favorite breakfast is a simple smoothie. A few of my favorites include:
A Fruit Salad is always a great start to the day. Try
For a more hearty breakfast, try
Note that whenever a recipe calls for hemp milk or soy milk (which are not raw), you can always substitute any raw nut milk of your choice.
Lunch And Dinner
I'll combine these two meals since many of the recipes can be eaten for either meal.
Raw soups are usually pretty quick to prepare and surprisingly very filling. Some of my favorites raw soups are:
For colorful, healthful and delicious salads try:
For a hearty entree check out:
Snacks and appetizers are an important part of your day. These are recipes you'll still crave long after your raw food cleanse:
And of course there's dessert. I've always thought raw desserts are better than any others. Check out:

Some Mild Reactions
Depending on how much processed food you consume in your present diet, you may experience symptoms of mild detoxification. You might get a headache. Or, if you are not used to eating much fiber, you may get an upset stomach or experience some gas. Be sure to drink plenty of fresh water and eat some cooked brown rice to help settle your stomach. These will pass after a few days.

Pass This On
If you know anyone who really needs to take a first step to improve his or her health, pass this along. If you know anyone who is curious about raw food or is just starting to eat a raw food vegan diet and would like some good recipes, pass this along. If you know anyone who is battling obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heartburn, depression, fatigue, and many other health issues, pass this along.

It is always wise to inform your doctor before you begin any new dietary program.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Vegan Potato Salad - A Healthier Way To Prepare America's Favorite Vegetable

Start with thin skinned, red or yellow new potatoes.

Drain "small diced" potatoes after boiling a short time.

For a creamier texture, gently stir in half a diced avocado.

Potatoes Have a Bad Reputation
Most people love this comfort food. In fact, it is the highest produced vegetable in the world! However, there is a lot of guilt involved with its consumption, mostly because it is often eaten fried as chips or french fries or as a butter, cheese and sour cream laden baked potato. But actually, the potato is a pretty healthful food, high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. One large potato provides over 100% of your daily requirement of vitamin C and 1/3 of your fiber needs. Potatoes are also low in calories, fat free and contain phytonutrients that provide protection against heart disease and cancer.

A Recipe with a Mediterranean Touch
Being raised in an Italian home, I didn't grow up on the typical American diet. I didn't even know potato salad could be made with mayonnaise and eggs until I moved to Texas to attend college. My dad always made potato salad with a simple lemon and oil dressing and some fresh parsley. Instead of mayonnaise and eggs that make this popular salad heavy and high in cholesterol, the lemon makes the salad taste light and fresh. In today's recipe, I add some inflammation reducing, cancer fighting turmeric which gives the potato salad the color of an egg potato salad without the egg. If you miss the creamy texture from mayonnaise, add the avocado. Besides the creamy texture, you'll get a good dose of fiber, vitamin K and folate, and of course the delicious flavor of avocado!

The Secret to a Good Potato Salad
The hardest thing about making potato salad is getting just the right texture to the potatoes. I've tried cooking the entire potato and then dicing it but by the time the potato is cooked throughout, the outside of the potato is too soft. Also, you lose a lot of vitamin C with excess cooking. Dicing before cooking is also risky if you cook it too long, especially if you start with big, starchy russet potatoes. To get a nice, firm, potato:
* Start with red or yukon gold, thin-skinned potatoes
* Dice them very small and leave on the skin
* Cook in a large pot (like a 5 quart Dutch oven), so the potatoes are spread out, and just barely cover them with salted water.
* Boil them for a short time - this will depend on how small you dice them but taste them after 5 minutes. I usually boil them for about 6 minutes or I shut them off at 5 minutes and let them sit in the pot for another few minutes until they are just fork tender.
* Drain - no need to rinse.


Vegan Potato Salad
[makes 6 servings]
4 cups small diced new potatoes with skins
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 large stalks celery, finely diced (1 cup)
2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 medium avocado, diced (optional)
For the dressing
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a 5 quart Dutch oven, add water to just cover the potatoes and stir in salt. Bring to boil and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until they are just "fork tender". Taste after 5 minutes and DO NOT overcook. Drain and let sit until they cool a bit.
To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil and turmeric and blend well with a fork. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the drained potatoes, celery and red onion. Mix in the dressing and gently stir in the avocado and parsley. Add additional salt if needed and top with freshly ground black pepper.

Per serving without avocado: 123.2 calories, 4.7 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2.8 g protein, 20.2 g carbohydrates and 3.0 g of fiber.

Per serving with avocado: 142.2 calories, 6.4 g fat, 0.9 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 3.1 g protein, 21.2 g carbohydrates and 3.8 g of fiber.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Strawberry Banana Green Tea Smoothie With Chia Seeds

Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea contains catechins, powerful antioxidants that have a role reducing free radical damage which can lead to cancer and heart disease. Because green tea receives minimal processing, its catechins are very concentrated, especially their unique catechin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). In the laboratory, EGCG has been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth. Some human studies have shown a link between increased green tea consumption and lower recurrence of breast cancer after surgery and a lower risk of developing stomach, esophageal, prostate, pancreatic, lung and colorectal cancers. Other human studies showed a correlation between green tea consumption and reduced risk of heart disease.

Other Ways to Consume Tea
Besides just making a cup of tea, there are other ways to receive the health benefits of tea. Try adding green tea to soups or using green tea as the liquid in your morning smoothie. There is some caffeine in green tea so be sure not to drink it or cook with it too late in the day or it may disturb your ability to sleep. However the amount of caffeine in an 8 oz. cup of tea is only around 20 mg compared to 60 to 120 mg in brewed coffee or 40 to 50 mg in black tea.

My Favorite Green Tea
By far, the best green tea is from Japan. It's sounds obvious, but green tea should actually be green! So many of the large corporate tea companies make green tea products that don't look or taste anything like real, Japanese green tea. You can buy genuine green tea online from Den's Tea company. You can buy loose tea or these very cute and convenient pyramid tea bags. My favorite is the Pyramid Tea Bag Sencha.
Here's a smoothie recipe that provides all the advantages of green tea, chia seeds and fresh fruit.


Strawberry Banana Green Tea Smoothie with Chia Seeds
[makes 2 servings]
2 cups strong green tea (cooled)
1 cup vanilla hemp milk or soy milk
2 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 large banana
1 cup fresh strawberries
3/4 cup ice
few drops of liquid stevia or sweetener of your choice, optional

The night before, put one or two green tea bags in 2 cups of boiling water and steep for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bag and put the tea in the refrigerator to cool overnight. Put the chia seeds in the vanilla hemp milk and stir vigorously. Wait 15 minutes and stir again. Wait another 15 minutes and stir one more time and put the chia mixture in the refrigerator overnight. It will become the consistency of pudding - (in fact, it will become "chia pudding". I usually make this smoothie when I have left over Vegan Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding .)
In the morning, place the chilled green tea, chia pudding, banana, strawberries, ice and optional sweetener in a VitaMix, blend and serve immediately.

Per serving: 190 calories, 8.0 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4.5 g protein, 37.8 g carbohydrates, 9.8 g fiber, 3.6 g omega 3 and 2.9 g omega 6 fatty acids.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Vegan Wheat Berries With Fresh Asparagus, Crimini Mushrooms and Red Bell Pepper

An Extra Cup of Wheat Berries
It's funny how new recipes get developed. The other day I was cleaning my refrigerator (a rare occurrence) and I came across some organic wheat berries in a brown paper bag. These were evidently left over from my Hearty Vegan Bean Chili with Wheat Berries recipe I posted in February. I realized that it was unlikely that I would ever think of cooking these unless they were more "visible" so I put them in a large glass jar. Unfortunately, the jar wasn't big enough so I had an extra cup of wheat berries on my hands. So I soaked them overnight which gave me some time to figure out what to do with them. The next morning I cooked them up and set them aside and headed out to the market to look for other ingredients. I found some beautiful fresh asparagus and some other veggies which all ended up in this dish. Other than the time it takes to cook wheat berries, the dish cooks up in minutes. You can always cook wheat berries in advance and freeze them for use later. But you'd better put them in a glass jar or who knows how long they will stay in your refrigerator before you notice that they are there!

Try Making This with Pasta or Other Grains
If you don't have the time to make wheat berries, substitute orzo pasta, couscous, quinoa or brown rice for the wheat berries.

Vegan Wheat Berries with Asparagus, Mushrooms and Bell Pepper
[makes 8 servings]
1 cup dry wheat berries, soaked overnight
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt
1 bunch fresh asparagus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 pound crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
5 medium scallions, sliced (the bulbs and lower stem)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)

After soaking the wheat berries overnight, rinse them well and cook in 3 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sea salt. After bringing to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until they reach the desired texture. Drain and set aside.
To clean asparagus, snap off the bottom ends and soak in a bowl of water. Shake the asparagus under the water to clean, changing the water until there is no sand in the bottom. Cut of the entire tip of the asparagus intact and then cut the rest of the spear in small, half inch slices. Set aside
Heat oil in a not stick 5 quart dutch oven. Sauté the mushrooms until they release liquid, stirring continually for several minutes. Add red bell pepper, scallions and asparagus and cook for a few minutes until the veggies are "crisp tender". Add soy sauce and wheat berries and stir until heated. Shut off the heat, stir in the lemon juice, top with freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Per serving: 118.2 calories, 2.0 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4.0 g protein, 12.8 g carbohydrates and 2.8 g of fiber.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Raw Vegan Texas Pecan Pralines

A Family Favorite
Having lived in Texas for so many years, pralines became a favorite sinful treat. They were always the finale of a wonderful Tex Mex meal. I still can't walk through the Dallas airport without being drawn to the Lammes Candy stand, a company that makes pretty awesome pralines. But knowing what's in them, it's become impossible to indulge. Most pralines are made from granulated sugar, corn syrup, butter and cream - not exactly the food groups I endorse. So I took a shot at duplicating the flavor with simple, guilt-free vegan ingredients - just good old raw Texas Pecans, medjool dates, and a little sea salt and vanilla extract. Although pecans are high in fat, it's the good kind. They are high in oleic acid which is the same fatty acid found in olive oil, one of the mainstays of the healthful Mediterranean diet. They are a bit of a challenge to "hold together" but I find refrigerating them for a few hours really does the trick.


Raw Vegan Pralines
[makes 12]
1 cup raw organic pecan pieces or halves
6 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chopped raw organic pecans
12 whole raw organic pecan halves

Place the cup of pecans, the medjool dates, salt and vanilla extract in a food processor with an S blade and process until the mixture sticks together. Place the processed pecan mixture into a bowl and mix in the 2 tablespoons of chopped pecans. Form into 12 small patties and press one whole pecan half into each patty. Place on a flat plate covered with wax paper and refrigerate for 4 hours or more. Serve chilled.

Per praline: 107.4 calories, 7.7 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.0 g protein, 10.5 g carbohydrate and 2.1 g of fiber.