After all the food, get-togethers, parties, and too much indulging overall during the holiday season, it is not surprising that come January, the biggest trend for New Years’ Resolutions has to do with realigning our lifestyle habits such as eating and exercising. In this part of the world, January is also synonymous with snow and below freezing temperatures, which makes it difficult to stick to those salad regimes we fantasize settling into with little effort. It is easy to succumb to some of our favorite comfort foods that may not be kind to our bodies or our resolutions. Cravings for hot stews, roasts, braised meats, butter, breads, pasta and all those hearty dishes are inevitable. Just because you want to eat better and feel better to start off the New Year, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore your cravings. It’s all about finding the right balance between satisfying your need for comfort in these cold months and choosing the right foods to make you feel better.
This recipe is inspired by this risotto recipe that appeared in Bon Appétit. I have since made my own version over and over again, and even turned it into a quisotto (quinoa, cooked risotto style).The quinoa provides more nutrition than the white starchy Arborio rice, the egg is the touch of comfort and vegetables are simply good for you. Try using different vegetables, keeping in mind that depending on cook time you may need to stagger adding your various veggies. For an even lighter version, poach the egg or skip it altogether and top the quisotto with roasted tomato slices. Ingredients make two hearty portions (or two smaller ones, with some leftovers for lunch).
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 mushrooms, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 zucchini, diced (about ½ cup)
- ½ bell pepper, diced (about ½ cup)
- 2 celery stalks, diced (about ½ cup)
- 2 carrots, diced (about ½ cup)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp dried herbs (I like using the Provence blend)
- ½ cup quinoa
- ½ cup white wine (optional, replace white wine with broth)
- 1 ½ cup broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 eggs
In a small pot, heat up the broth and keep warm while cooking the quisotto. The reason you want to keep the broth warm is because you want to avoid slowing down the cooking process when adding ladles of cold or room temperature broth to the quinoa/vegetable mixture. This applies to any risotto as well.
In a pot on medium-high, heat the olive oil, add the herbs and sauté the garlic, onion, celery and bell pepper until soft but not browned. Add the carrots, mushrooms and quinoa, stir for about a minute to coat well and toast the grains. Add the white wine, stir the mixture while simmering until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Turn down the heat to medium or medium-low and add a ladle of broth. Add the zucchini and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Repeat until the quinoa is cooked through and has absorbed all the broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you find you do not have enough broth, you can easily add a touch of water at a time until everything is cooked through. The consistent stirring adds “creaminess” but unlike Arborio rice, it is not fussy and does not risk becoming sticky.
In a pan, fry the eggs as desired and serve atop of the quisotto dish.
For those of you detoxing or doing a cleanse, why not try making a raw version of this quisotto with some sprouted quinoa, combining it with the raw diced vegetables and just barely covering with warm miso broth. Of course, skip the wine and the egg. ;-)
For information on sprouting quinoa, click here.
And last but not least, a very happy belated New Years to everyone, thanks for reading and I wish you all health and happiness for 2012!
Thirty days… boy, does time fly! It certainly did not feel like a month just rolled by, during which I was not consuming coffee, alcohol, gluten and embarked wholeheartedly into this raw/living food lifestyle. The first two weeks were though (Read about it here and here). I struggled to regain my appetite, to drink enough water, to find recipes, to feel happy and satisfied with every one of my meals.
All in all, I can count on two hands the amount of times I had a cooked product (such as rice or lentils), on one hand the amount of times I times I ate a dairy product, and on three fingers the times I ate meat. I stuck to it and I’m proud of it! Thanks to the workshop given by the very talented people at Crudessence, I opened up my mind and my body not only to a new experience but also to a better understanding of what it means to be thirsty, to be hungry, to crave something, to understand what I truly need, rather than what I desire. I am a foodist, and I will always desire all sorts of food. However, I have entered into a level of consciousness about what I am eating – as opposed to scarfing down a bag of chips without realizing it – and I think, that is my lesson learned through all this. To be conscious!
So here is the million dollar question: am I going to keep this up? The short answer is yes. I will keep my fruits and smoothies for breakfast. Salads are easy enough to put together and take with me to work for lunches. I will definitely keep the raw/living food lifestyle for two out of three meals a day. On the other hand, I will once again eat meat and fish – but much smaller portions than I used to. I will eat pasta, bread, dairy but in limited quantities. I want to enjoy food and life, but I also want to take care of myself and my body. I want to get back down to basics, explore basic ingredients, making things from scratch at home rather than purchasing processed food, and most importantly discover my local community and share its resources. I feel a paradigm shift in the making…can you sense it?
I am really excited to share this week’s recipes with you. They are fun, tasty, whimsical and best off all, taste-tested on skeptics. The skeptics loved it and were surprised at how filling the first recipe is and did not believe me when I listed the ingredients in the dessert. These recipes are best prepared in advance.
Curried Swiss Chard Rolls
- 4 leaves of Swiss chard
- 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 ½ cups of broccoli chopped into small florets
- 1 ½ cups of cauliflower chopped into small florets
- 1 ½ cups thinly sliced cabbage
For the Curried Dressing:
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 3 tbsp cider vinegar
- 5 tbsp grape seed oil, or any other mild flavoured oil
- Pinch of salt and cayenne to taste
In a large salad bowl whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Combine the vegetables and mix until well coated. Remove the stems of the Swiss chard leaves – assume one leaf per roll. Thinly slice the stems and combine with the other ingredients in the salad bowl. Let the salad sit for about an hour to allow for the vegetables and flavours to macerate.
To create the rolls begin by laying-out the leaf and using a roller or a glass or any other tool you have on hand, roll over each Swiss chard leaf to soften. Place about one cup of vegetable mixture onto the Swiss chard leaf towards one end and begin to roll. Once rolled-up, use two toothpick to fasten the roll toward the middle and slice the roll in between the toothpick. Repeat with remaining Swiss chard and curried vegetables. Serve with the Thaï Avocado Dip
Thaï Avocado Dip
- 1 small bunch basil
- 1 avocado
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tbsp white miso paste, a.k.a. Shiro Miso
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and germ core removed
- 4 tbsp coconut milk
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Add more coconut milk or lime juice to taste or for softer texture.
This dip works super well with the Curried Swiss Chard Rolls but use it to serve with crudité, chips, anything!
- 2 large avocadoes
- 1 cup agave nectar, or honey
- 1 cup raw cocoa powder, or regular
Credit for the original recipe goes to Crudessence, but I have made noticeable changes to it. This recipe is surprisingly chocolaty and fudgy, and no one will be able to taste the avocadoes. You can fool anyone you know into eating vegetables for dessert. Although there is no added fat, avocadoes are still a fairly fatty compared to other vegetables; and although you are not using refined sugar in this recipe, sugar is sugar and should be consumed in moderation.
Now onto bliss… Combine the avocadoes and agave nectar in a food processor and blend until smooth. Agave nectar can be found in most health food stores but if you are not vegan then go ahead and use honey. Scoop out the sweet and creamy avocado mixture into a large mixing bowl and into it sift the cocoa powder (this avoids lumps). Using a spatula, mix in the cocoa powder until well combined. This fudge does not solidify in the fridge (as I later discovered), so I would suggest spooning or piping the fudge into individual servings, such as mini preserve jars always make for a nice presentation (or gift even?). I scooped it into mini silicone cupcake cups.
So that is the end of it folks. I hope you all enjoyed reading about my 30 day raw/living food detox. Thanks to each and every one of you for all of your support and encouragements. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the experience with you and worry not, it may be the end of the detox but it is not an end to my consciousness.
Somewhere through the pouring rain, I’m starting to see the light at the end of tunnel, feeling more comfortable preparing raw/living meals that aren’t just salads, and I am proud to say that I have kept my cravings in check, following the daily detox regimen at 95% if not 100% raw. It would appear – according to the fine folks at the Crudessence Detox Workshop – that in week three is when the toxins really start to come out of your body. It can come out in various manners: disturbed sleeping patterns (check!), breakouts (check!) and cravings of all sorts (and, check!), just to name a few. For the last few days I was dying for that big plate of pasta with tomato sauce. It was something serious. I was constantly thinking about the spaghetti, the warm tomato sauce, the sharpness of the parmesan cheese…. BUT! I wasn’t about to cave so I had to find a way around it. A recipe that would give me that same warm and comforting feeling you can only get from a bowl of rich carbs.
So I decided to try to make just that: a big bowl of raw spaghetti pomodoro. Part of the credit for this recipe goes to my friend K., who had mentioned using zucchini to make spaghetti by essentially cutting the zucchini into a julienne (aka cut into thin matchstick pieces) and using that instead of the actual pasta. I did not have the tool to shortcut my way to julienne so I went to my nearest kitchen gadget/accessories/supply store to hunt for a julienne peeler (see above picture). For the cost of about $12 it was well worth to make my julienne-ing life easier. If you do not have such a device or a mandoline with a julienne slicer, you can just as easily use a standard vegetable peeler to cut thin slices, stack them to slice thin spaghetti-like strips.
The ingredients are listed for a single portion, so it is easy to double, triple or quadruple depending on how much you need. I had this as my main course for dinner but I will certainly be serving this as an appetizer next time I have a dinner party.
Raw Spaghetti Pomodoro
- 1 zucchini
- 1 fresh Roma tomato, core removed (or any tomato of your choice)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Basil leaves
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt, pepper, chili flakes
Using your vegetable/julienne peeler, slice the zucchini until you have a bowl of ‘spaghetti’. Put the tomato in a blender or food processor, add a pinch of salt and chili flakes, and blend until liquefied and smooth. Take a couple basil leaves, stack them on top of each other, roll them up and slice them very thinly. The end result is what you call a chiffonade. Only when you are ready to serve, toss the zucchini with the garlic a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. If you mix the zucchini with the salt too early it will extract too much moisture from the zucchini and may get soggy.
Serve the zucchini spaghetti topped with the tomato sauce and a scattering of your lovely and fresh basil chiffonade. Serve it cold or at room temperature. You can also serve it warm, which is exactly what I did. In order to keep the raw/living food factor in this dish, you want to make sure you are only warming and not cooking. To do this, bring a dry pan to low heat and toss in the zucchini for a minute or two, just long enough to heat through and plate-up immediately. With the remaining heat in the pan, pour in the tomato sauce and give it a few swirls so that it warms. Serve over the zucchini and sprinkle your basil chiffonade on top. This dish hit the spot just right and killed my craving right where it originated. It was so good, that I actually prepared a second helping for myself immediately after licking my first plate clean.
So, I caved. I had half of a smoked meat sandwich over the weekend. I was out shopping in the Montreal downtown core with my mother and it was time for lunch. For lack of any living-food options in the near vicinity, I figured that Reuben’s would offer at least a salad. They indeed had salads, and enormous ones at that. In the end my mother and I decided to split the enormous salad and a smoked meat sandwich. It was good; I inhaled that half sandwich, eating it faster than I should have. It was also very very salty. I hadn’t noticed before how much salt was packed into that sandwich. I guess two weeks eating raw, therefore no processed food and limited sodium overall, it felt like I had just swallowed a salt-lick. Since, all I have been craving are those sodium rich processed foods: burgers, chips, hot dog, you name it. Aside from that small indulgence I’ve been good. Promise.
I’m about halfway through the Crudessence 30-day detox and only now am I starting to feel better. Like I said in my previous post, there are a lot of things going on in my life that are likely contributing to my state of wellness (more like, not-so-well-ness), so it makes it difficult to attribute it to one thing only.
Yup, it’s still a whole lot of rabbit food – but I’m enjoying it much more. I regained some of my appetite though I’m still not very hungry. Some of the things I’ve made include a gazpacho, a spinach salad with warm mushrooms and pears (on which a crumbled a tiny bit of blue cheese), a cauliflower “couscous” (credit goes to Crudessence for this one but it is amazing!), and miso soup (it was perfect for those rainy days we just had). I also experimented with snacks and made an avocado and kiwi salsa that I ate with endives and celery.
Here are a couple of recipes from my week that I will share with you:
Avocado and Kiwi Salsa
- ½ small onion, finely chopped
- ½ lemon juiced
- 1 ripe avocado
- 2 kiwis
- A few baby tomatoes
- A small bunch cilantro
- Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste
- 2 or 3 endives, separated into spears for dipping
Combine the chopped onion and lemon juice in a mixing bowl to marinade, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Scoop out the avocado a smash into the bowl. Peel and dice the kiwis, dice the jalapeno and cut the tomatoes in half. Finely chop the cilantro. Combine all remainder ingredients with the avocado mixture. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.
Serve with the endives; their bitterness is well complemented by the sweetness of the avocado-kiwi salsa. This is especially a crowd pleaser wherever you go or whomever comes overs; you can choose to add crackers for your guest but trust me, they’ll be amazed by the endives.
- 1 small onion, chopped and marinated in the juice of half a lemon(see my post on T&T for raw onions here)
- 2 small cucumbers, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 large celery stalks, diced
- 1 jalapeno, flesh only, diced
- 4 large whole tomatoes (I only had two on hand so it made for a very chunky soup)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
I usually only make gazpacho in the summer when the tomatoes are in season, otherwise it just doesn’t taste the same. For my detox I gave it a try and decided to change my original recipe. I usually use V8 as a shortcut but since that product is off my list for 30 days (15 days left!) I found a way around it. But first thing’s first!
Combine the chopped onion and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Let this sit while you chop and dice the rest of your ingredients. Dice the cucumber, bell pepper, celery, jalapeno (use more or less or omit depending on your taste), and any other raw vegetables you’d like to include. The key here is to dice them in uniform sizes; I like small pieces of about 1 cm.
Cut the tomatoes in half, remove the core and put them in a blender with the olive oil. Process the tomatoes until you get a uniform liquid. I only had two tomatoes on hand and it wasn’t enough liquid compared to the amount of diced vegetables. In the ingredient list I do suggest double the amount of tomatoes but play around with the quantities depending on how chunky you like your gazpacho. And this, my friends, will be my new replacement for V8. I can’t imagine the flavours of this tomato “juice” when made with perfectly ripe summer tomatoes. Mmmmm… I’m already imagining a potential for Bloody Marys or Ceasars.
In the mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, including the blended tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and let it sit for about 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to intermingle. This recipe serves about four people.
Since the version I made is super chunky, I decided to serve a few spoonfuls over some sprouts and topped it with avocado slices. This combo was incredible!
Detox. Vegetarian. Raw-food. Living-food. Ughhh…Seems that those words everywhere on the Internet and on the library shelves are more synonymous with weight-loss mantras than anything else.
Be forewarned that I am not doing this 30-day detox because I want or need to lose weight. I maintain a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables to begin with, I eat and love meat, I eat pasta and all sorts of carbs and sweets. I exercise on a regular basis, and I always choose the stairs over the elevator.
So why am I putting myself through a 30-day living-food detox, you ask? I rarely dwell into my personal life or feelings here but truth be told, I hadn’t been feeling well for quite some time. I’m not saying I am sick – just that my body has been feeling somewhat ill, aside from the fact that I’ve kept up my exercise and balanced eating regimen.
I’ve lost my hunger for food; simply put food doesn’t turn me on anymore. My life since the New Year has been quite tumultuous, and perhaps my not-so-hot feeling is in part due to that. However, with a series of blood tests and allergy tests coming up, I figured why not try the detox and see if I can figure out the causes and can get my groove back.
Thankfully, I am not embarking on this journey solo. I signed up for the 30-day detox workshops offered by Crudessence here in Montreal. Last week I went to the first introductory class, where we were lectured about the Why of the living-food and raw-food nutrition and how different foods may affect our bodies. Though lots of information was covered and I made my way home feeling completely overwhelmed, what I enjoyed the most about this first experience is that we were told to take what we needed from it and to slowly adjust our habits towards incorporating the points outlined to us.
So my goal in this first week is to have two raw/living-food meals per day and in my third meal I can incorporate chicken, fish, quinoa, lentils, sweet potato, just to name a few. I am cutting out coffee, gluten, red meat, refined sugars and most dairy (I will allow myself small amounts of cheese once in a while). Though not part of the detox, as per my doctor’s recommendation I am cutting out all nuts until further notice. So what does that leave me with? A WHOLE BUNCH OF RABBIT FOOD! Now I really got to think out of the box for this one: give me a challenge, you get results!
So far my days start off with a variety of fruit based smoothies. I add some dates for extra natural sugar and energy. My favorite combination so far was a pineapple and fresh ginger smoothie. I really came as a surprise to me at how amazing the flavours tasted. You have to try this, it tastes unreal!
Pineapple and ginger smoothie
- 1 ½ cup of fresh pineapple
- ¼ cup water or a couple ice cubes
- 2 fresh dates, remember to remove the pit
- ½ tbsp fresh grated ginger
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
My body if still in full winter hibernation mode; all I’m craving are hot, hearty and satisfying dishes. Faced with the raw paradigm, I struggled to see how I could shift it to at once stick to my new regimen and fulfill my need. As I’m reading through the materials that were handed out to us at the workshop (yes, we even got reading material!), I noticed that some things can be eaten warmed up! The key here is not to boil or cook any of the ingredients because that is what alters their enzymes and nutrients, turning the fruit or vegetable from alkaline to acidic. So here’s my first attempt at making a raw soup – and it’s not gazpacho.
Raw Curried Carrot Soup
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp pickled onion, soak onions in cider vinegar for at least 30 minutes
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp sea salt (while detoxing we’re supposed to avoid table salt; in my case I always use sea salt in my cooking)
- ½ lemon, juiced
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Add a couple splashes of water if you find the soup to be too thick. Pour into bowls and serve garnished with avocado slices and/or chopped cilantro. I can imagine eating this on a hot summer day but until spring actually shows its face and the trees starts to grow leaves again, I will slowly heat it up in a pot and eat it warm.
You got three more posts coming up all about my detox experience, and another post about a surprise partnership on my end! Can you guess what it is?