Excalibur is here!

I finally have my Excalibur dehydrator after snagging it pretty cheap on a 4th of July Sale, and for the past week I’ve been experimenting with different raw recipes!

Raw Pizza

One thing that I’ve been eager to make is raw pizza – it looks super pretty on any of the websites I’ve looked at recipes on, and I’m sure it tastes as good as it looks.  Now I can dehydrate crust and jump on the raw pizza bandwagon!  I spent quite a while looking for an easy recipe with relatively few ingredients to try out, and I found one at The Rawtarian. I didn’t have all of the herbs she used, so I added an Italian spice blend from Aldis.  I also added in a few handfuls of hemp seeds, and although not raw, some wheat germ, in an attempt to give it a pizza-doughy flavor.  When I came back to my room after a few hours of dehydrating, my room smelled like fresh baking herb bread! I was nervous to leave it on while I was sleeping, so I unplugged it after they’d been drying for about 7 hours, and turned it back on in the morning for about 2 more hours.  The only thing with the recipe that confused me was that she wasn’t very clear about what temperature to start out dehydrating at, unless I missed it… 😡 But I used 115, and then lowered it to 105 like she said.  With the amount of dough the recipe made, I was able to make 2 medium sized and 3 smaller crusts that were about 1/4 inch thick.  I tried one out with some hummus and chopped veggies, and loved the flavor and the texture – can’t wait to try making some sauce and raw cheese to go along with it!

IMG_0699

IMG_0701

Raw Bagels

Along with raw pizza, a dehydrator also means raw breads, crackers and bagels!  I’ve been using Eziekiel bread for the most part, but it can get to be pretty expensive.  Since I usually eat bread in the morning, I decided to give bagels a try as well.  Like pizza, many of the recipes involved a lot of ingredients and didn’t sound good to me.  I adapted this recipe from Women Go Raw, soaking a combination of oat groats, hard wheat berries, buckwheat, and 7 grain cereal overnight. I processed them with the dates, and made them into bagel-y shapes for drying.  They look like they might not cut in half nicely like a regular bagel, but almond butter can definitely still be spread on the top, which is the best way to eat bagels 🙂

IMG_0704

Coconut Milk Yogurt

Like I mentioned in my last blog, I planned on giving coconut milk yogurt a try. Cultures for Health, the company I bought my vegan yogurt starter from, has a recipe right on their site for making non-diary yogurts.  I followed their recommendations, using tapioca starch as the thickener, and my dehydrator as the incubator.  If all goes well, I’d like to strain it with cheese cloth to get a Greek yogurt texture, and maybe add in some agave or jam for added flavoring. For now, I just used 2 cans of a Taste of Thai unsweetened coconut milk.  I read on another blog that when using canned coconut milk in your yogurt, it’s best to choose ones with the full fat content, and that have no added ingredients other than guar gum, which is a thickener.

IMG_0705

 

I was able to make the pizza crusts at school, but I decided to wait until I was home for the weekend before trying out the bagels and the yogurt.  Mainly it’s because I don’t have a food processor anymore (I killed my $10 one trying to make brownies…oops), and I also needed to buy a candy thermometer so I didn’t culture the yogurt at the wrong temperature. Even vegan bacteria can spoil, apparently..

I will be honest that my percentage raw dwindled quite low for a few weeks, with a camping trip, hormones and cravings, grad parties and other summer festivities.  The last week or so I’ve been doing a pretty good job at eating more raw foods, and mixing random things from the fridge, like a zuchinni noodle, avocado, cucumber, sprouted lentil and chick pea mixed salad with hummus for a dressing.  When I go home for the weekend I try to clean out or eat as much as I can, so I decided to throw a bunch of things together for lunch Friday.  I was surprised at how good it tasted!  I’ve been using Oasis hummus lately, and I really like that it’s so low in calories and fat.  Normally I’m skeptical of such things, but I noticed that tahini is surprisingly absent from the list of ingredients, which is where a lot of the fat in hummus comes from.  It doesn’t have such a creamy texture, but I think the flavor makes up for it.

So far, I’m impressed with my Excalibur, and excited to try out more recipes.  I think kale chips might be my next experiment with it. Kale salad is great, but anything in snack form is always better.

I’m Gonna Pop Some Raw Food Tags – Only need $49 in my pocket

Macklemore-Thrift-Shop-e1349215609811Hey Macklemore, wanna go raw foods shopping?
What what? What? What?
(Ditch the fur fox skin though, plz and I’ll pretend that’s beet juice you are drinking).

For a while, I had a problem shopping at Forever 21 online without justifying the ‘Free Shipping on orders over $50’ thing to myself; why not get some more clothes with that $7 shipping, even if it means spending more money overall?  Okay, so it doesn’t make perfect sense, especially in terms of trying to save money.  But now that I’m going high raw, I’ve discovered Vitacost and it’s magic ‘Free Shipping on orders over $49’ rule, and my cart quickly has gone from raw nori wrappers and more kelp noodles to…a raw food party. I’ve traded in and out a variety of items, from black sesame seeds to shredded coconut and garbanzo beans.  I’m still not completely decided on what I want to get, but as my pantry starts to drain after almost 3 weeks, I’m starting to realize it’s better to buy larger quantities, even if it means more money, because things will last longer.  Also, some of the things I bought at my local health foods store cost dollars more for less weight of product than on Vitacost!  My biggest surprise was hemp seeds, which I paid $9.99 for an 8 oz bag of Nuvitas Naturals.  Vitacost brand certified raw organic hemp seeds cost $8.88 for a full pound!  No hesitation there. Same thing with Chia seeds – $9.99 for 8 oz.  Bob’s Red Mill Chia Seeds are $9.99 for a full pound as well.
The first bag of kelp noodles I bought were from Amazon, and I paid $6.99 for a 16 oz bag.  At Vitacost, I can get a 3 pack of Sea Tangle’s 12 oz kelp noodles for $12.27 – 36 oz of noodles for $12.27 versus 32 oz for $13.98 (if I bought two bags of the first kind I tried) – more noodles for your dollar!
Because I’ve been a little too enthusiastic about raw desserts in my first two weeks (none this week – trying to recover from a graduation party this weekend that was a a vegarawatarian failure…), I’m running pretty low on agave.  I originally bought this 11.75 oz bottle from my health foods store for $4.29.  I will be getting 2 bottles of that size for $7.18.  It is worth noting that the company does make bigger bottle sizes; however, the next biggest size is 23.5 oz, the same size as two smaller bottles, and at my health foods store the larger bottle costs almost $8.  Not a huge savings, but anything counts!
I’ve still got about $10 to go until free shipping, and I’m not sure what to use it for.  This is one of the times where my brain tells me I’m better off just paying the $4.99 shipping and saving $5 since there is nothing else I really want.  Whenever I pay for shipping I feel like I’m paying for air, which is wrong of me because I know that it costs a lot of money for those things to travel to me, a lot of gas, a lot of emissions put into the atmosphere, so really I am paying to put more bad things into the air.  But if I buy an extra product, I’m still stimulating the economy in some confusing, complex way, aren’t I?

For now, I’m going to go and figure out how to spend my last $10 (and get Thrift Shop out of my head).  Keep checking back – within the next month I will be reviewing some vegan beauty products and other eco-friendly goodies!

Raw in Real Life

Being raw in my room is easy enough – I am in charge of what’s in my fridge, my pantry, and ultimately what I eat.  However, I know I am not alone when I say that being raw, even vegan, outside of the home can be challenging.  One of my professors and his wife have been vegans for 25 years, but when they travel they eat vegetarian because it can be too hard, and expensive, to maintain a vegan diet on the road.  Yesterday was my first real experience trying to eat raw in public.  My research group went out to lunch before visiting a county health official. One of the professors recommended a Dominican place, so that was where we went.  I was a little nervous about what I could eat, but when the professor I was working with asked me if I would be able to find anything (he knows I’m a vegan), I said most likely, because in most situations I have been able to tweak some option on the menu to fit my needs without causing a scene.  For the most part, any of my eating out experiences have been with friends and family who know that I am a vegan, and who are kind enough to choose places that have foods we all can eat. When we walked into this small ethnic restaurant in the heart of the city, my fears quickly became reality.  The man standing behind the deli counter began to stir up different pots of meat, listing us our options – oxtail, goat, pork… I had contemplated getting a RAWREV bar from the vending machine at school in case I couldn’t find anything, but I couldn’t have predicted this.  So, my turn came and I almost guiltily admitted to the server ‘I am a vegetarian.’  platanosfritos6

In situations like this one, or when I am visiting a friend’s house for dinner, I often call myself a vegetarian – the one rule I will not break.  If somebody’s mom orders cheese pizza for dinner, I will eat it.  I am fortunate enough that occasionally adding dairy or eggs into my diet does not make me ill – for my sister, who needs to eat strictly vegan for digestive reasons, it’s not that simple.  Also, I have found that in my area, there are some people who are confused about what a vegan can and cannot eat. Once, a girl tried to give me chicken noodle soup, which would make no sense even if I said I was only a vegetarian.  At this restaurant, I was hoping that he might know of something I could eat that was at the least, meat-free.  Luckily, he had some rice and beans behind the counter, and was kind enough to cook me a sweet plantain.  I had never tried plantain before, and apart from being fried in oil, they were sweet and delicious! In the end, I was able to eat vegan, only temporarily sacrificing my raw tastes for one meal of the deal.

I think that this post helps to explain exactly what I mean by vegarawatarian.  Maybe some people would disagree with me that allowing this degree of flexibility in my food choices makes me a vegan, and rather classifies me as a ‘mostly vegan’, or not even one at all. In my mind, as long as the food I am eating on a regular basis makes me feel good, does not make me feel restricted in my social life, and shows others that I am willing to be flexible (so they don’t avoid asking me to do things with them – it’s happened before!), then I feel completely satisfied with my lifestyle.  Over and over again, we see things like ‘Diets are not one size fit all’ and I agree with that completely.  For some people, a vegetarian lifestyle is all that is doable – and that is great!  Others choose vegan for their own reasons, and some choose raw because they are willing to commit to that lifestyle.  It all depends on what works for you, and I find that being a vegarawatarian is the healthiest, and easiest way for me to live. I will say that on a day to day basis, when I am not with friends or eating out, I eat almost 100% raw.  Because I am new to this lifestyle, I want to commit to it as completely as I can so that I can learn the benefits and options before I decide to commit as completely as I did vegetarian.  If a few months from now, I’m cooking my quinoa rather than sprouting it, or baking a batch of vegan cookies, I won’t say I’m no longer raw – I’ll just continue to consider myself vegarawatarian.

Starting off Raw: First Week Summary

Although my first ‘official’ day of Raw was last Sunday, the 2nd, I have been trying to incorporate some raw, whole foods into my diet for the last few weeks.  I tried out collard wraps, filling them with raw peppers, carrots, avocado, tomato, cucumber, and some cooked quinoa. However, I put the leaves in hot water to soften them, so technically they weren’t all that raw – but still really good!
IMG_0602

Before going raw, I started doing a lot of research online about what kinds of ingredients and tools I would need, what foods I could and couldn’t eat, and how to prepare them.  I got out three books from my library: Going Raw by Judita WignallEat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish, and The Complete Book of Raw by Lori Baird and Julie Rodwell, and started marking out recipes that I felt I could afford the ingredients to, could realistically make with my current skills and equipment, and that I would actually enjoy.  As you can see, I found quite a few.  I’ve only made a handful so far, and for many of them I have been substituting or omitting ingredients as I saw fit.  Also, because these recipes are designed for 4-6 servings, I have been ignoring the suggested measurements and adding in whatever I thought I’d need.

IMG_0585

Because I’m working 9-4 on campus every day with a 1 hour lunch, I’ve been preparing a lot of my lunches the morning before so I can come home, eat, and get back to work. This Sprouted Quinoa Tabouli took me 15 minutes to cut up and mix in the morning, and the quinoa only took 24 hours to sprout – 1 cup dry quinoa gave me almost 3 cups of sprouted grain to use.  It made enough for leftovers for lunch the next day, and I still had a lot of quinoa left over for another dish. I omitted cilantro, a typical tabouli ingredient, because I didn’t have any on hand.  I didn’t follow any particular recipe for this, just went off of my knowledge of what goes in tabouli: grain (usually bulghar, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, onion, and olive oil – raw or not, it’s one of my favorite vegan dishes.

IMG_0539

One of my first raw meals came from Going Raw, and was very easy and fast to make – Spaghetti Bolognese without the walnut meat (no dehydrator) and Simple Kale Salad. I used my Zyliss Julienne Peeler to shred 1 zucchini  and made the sauce in my food processor, which included sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fresh tomato, olive oil, italian seasoning, a clove of garlic, sea salt, crushed red pepper, and ground black pepper.  I was completely surprised by the strong, fresh flavors of the sauce, and how similar to regular noodles the zucchini was.  As for the kale salad, I put it together in the morning, and had half for lunch and the rest for dinner.  In the past, I never really liked kale because of it’s hard, sometimes rough texture.  I never knew that massaging the lemon juice and oil into the kale before eating it made a world of difference – I am addicted to it now!  I also included a chopped tomato, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, salt and pepper.  After this meal, I was feeling satisfied, and full – and excited to try more raw recipes!

IMG_0586

Another dinner I was satisfied with came from Eat Raw, Eat Well.  I made my own version of the Lentil Chili because I was missing a few ingredients such as orange juice and chili powder.  The lentils soaked in the fridge overnight; the website I used recommended 18 hours if done in the fridge, 12 if left at room temperature.  They came out tasting crisp, fresh, and with a little crunch that I have never known the soggy lentils I’m used to to have. The sauce was very similar to the one in the Spaghetti, but had cumin and I used cayenne pepper in place of chili powder.  Paired with Cauliflower rice, this dinner was also filled with strong flavor.  For the rice, I thawed out some of the cauliflower I had in the freezer  pre-chopped into rice-consistency, and mixed it with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and Italian seasoning.

I also tried out a few recipes for my chocolate-loving side. I made my own version of this recipe for Cacao Ganache Tortes – which I have been calling brownies, because that’s what they taste and look like.  Because I didn’t have almond meal, or a lot of raw almonds, I blended a handful of them into as fine of a powder as I could, and then mixed it with some flax meal for the crust.  Because cacao is expensive, I also used half of the suggested amount for that, and the coconut oil.  They still came out delicious, and they only lasted a little more than two days in my fridge… Besides their quick disappearance, they were easy and quick to make, and satisfied my chocolate cravings even when eaten in small pieces (which also requires an extreme amount of will-power).

IMG_0540For breakfast (don’t know why I’m writing about this last), I’ve been having green smoothies and homemade muesli of my own recipe – my first raw invention! I’m sure a similar recipe exists elsewhere, but I combined rolled oats, goji berries, dried cranberries, golden raisins, dried coconut, golden flax seeds, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds.  Not only is it good for breakfast, but it’s easy to take along as a snack – I brought some in a plastic baggie in my purse when going out with friends in case I got hungry during the afternoon.

Today was also a day of inventing recipes, as my fresh vegetable supplies dwindle at the end of the week.  I used my left over quinoa and lentils to create a green protein salad, also mixing in avocado and chopped cucumber, lemon juice, and some black pepper.  It was filling, but also quite light and refreshing.  During the afternoon, my stomach was feeling upset (not from the salad!), so I decided to try inventing a smoothie to help with that.  I blended a piece of fresh ginger, coconut milk, and some frozen banana for a creamy, stomach calming afternoon snack.
IMG_0541

This week has been full of experiments, good food, and also quite a few messes…I lost a good portion of my muesli when I angled the jar sideways to put a label on it, and the top fell off 😡 Being the clumsy chef that I am, I have learned to laugh at myself – and to keep a vacuum handy!