Sunday, August 28, 2011

Inspired By Mint

First I want to say thanks to those of you who shared what diet works best for you! It seems as though a lot of us have similar requirements and feel best on a high raw diet with some animal protein. I'm SO happy that I made the shift. I'm not sure where I'd be today if I hadn't.

Now, onto the food. Mint has been a summer inspiration! I have it growing in my herb garden, but there are patches of magnificent wild peppermint growing in my yard too. It was begging to be used in a creation last week so I came up with Chocolate Mint Cream Bars. Oooh were they good and I have a few tucked away in the freezer for a special occasion. If you're a regular reader, you know I'm a huge fan of irish moss and love soft mousses and puddings so I decided to add this element to the mint bars. The result was a light, flavorful moussey topping on a dense chocolatey base which also acts as the brownies I sell at the Farmer's Market. I couldn't resist drizzling my favorite raw chocolate sauce on top.

Chocolate Mint Cream Bars

Chocolate Brownie Crust

1 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1/4-1/3 cup cacao powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons water, as needed

Grind the almonds in a food processor.
Add the remaining ingredients and process to combine into a dough.
If the mixture is too crumbly and dry, add a little water.
Press into the bottom of a 9x9" pan. Set aside.

Mint Cream Topping

1/2 cup irish moss gel
1 cup cashews
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup packed peppermint leaves
1/4 cup liquid sweetener of choice
5-7 drops stevia
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
1-3 drops pure peppermint essential oil*
2 teaspoons melted cacao butter

Blend all ingredients until smooth, except the cacao butter. Start with less mint oil and add more, to taste.
Add the butter and blend again to incorporate.
Spread the mixture over the chocolate crust and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before slicing.
Drizzle chocolate sauce or any other garnish you like.

*Irish Moss Gel

3/4 - 1 cup water
2 oz soaked irish moss

1. Rinse a handful of irish moss in cold water until any bits of debris have been removed. Rinse until the water runs clear.
2. Allow the moss to soak in cold water for 6-12 hours.
3. Remove the moss from the soak water - do not rinse.
4. Chop the moss and blend it with the 1 cup water until it warms up and turns into a gel (you may have to scrap the sides of the blender down a few times).
5. Chill the gel in the fridge for 6-7 days, or use immediately. When using in recipes where it's already chilled and firm, make sure to pack it into the cup to get a proper measurement.

*Use a high quality one. Remember, a little goes a long way!

My latest book, Ice Cream In The Raw was released earlier this summer and in addition to creating the recipes, I use the book often. The vanilla is still my most tried and true favorite but many of the others are a second best. A customer requested Caramel Ice Cream with "some kind of crunchy things throughout". I made the Lucuma Caramel Swirl Ice Cream from the book with a little extra sweetener and without the swirl - then added chopped caramel pecan turtles. I have to say, it was pretty heavenly. I recently made the Mint Chip Ice Cream for an order and naturally had to make extra for myself as it's just so darn delish.

On another note, here are some cool pics I thought you might like - all taken by my mom this summer. This is the beauty we're fortunate enough to see on a daily and weekly basis around my house.

Mister Beaver going to make his home which is just around the corner from my home :)

This fox keeps coming around our house so we feed him. Isn't he adorable?!

This eagle has his nest just down the river so we see him from the boat. 

Great blue heron. 

I'm off to enjoy some sunshine by the lake before driving to the city this afternoon. I hope you're having a great weekend and to those of you on the East Coast, I'm sending loving vibes your way.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

From Vegan to Omnivore - An Update

It's been a while since I've brought up the subject of my health status yet I continue to receive regular emails from people who are going through the same/similar issues as myself and are wanting support/advice. Other readers are just plain curious to know where I'm at in this journey. The most common questions I'm asked are: 1. Are you still eating meat? 2. I'm experiencing 'a,b,c' just like you did. Can you help me? 3. How do you feel these days?

The good news is that I'm still feeling great! A million times better than I did this time last year. Last summer was a terrible one physically, mentally, emotionally, and I'm so grateful to feel like a normal human being again. For a quick breakdown (full story HERE) - my digestive tract was in bad condition and I had constant gut pain, was constipated, got to the point of daily headaches, was so depressed/purposeless that I was on the verge of suicide, had constant angry outbursts, anxiety, fatigue, weakness, etc, that lasted about 8 months.

Going back to January when I stopped posting updates on Universal Eater... I felt amazing on my sugar free/cacao free diet, eating mostly meat, eggs, veggies, plain yogurt, and a bit of nuts/chia. I feel that cleansing my body of ALL sugars  (yes, even fruit) and cacao for a while was extremely important, and something that I'd like to do once a year. Mentally my status was on an even keel, and physically my strength was back so I started working out. My body started to lean out immediately after cutting the sugars (since I was still imbalanced, even a little sugar was causing my body to puff up). My motivation was high and all was good. An interesting thing happened too. Normally I despise winter. In my northern location in Canada we have very long, cold, dark winters that get me down and leave me with a perpetual chill. For the first time since I can remember, I felt comfortable in the cold. Near the end of January I started eating a small amount of sugar and cacao again and still felt great. By the time I went to Australia in mid February I was still eating meat (wild kangaroo!), occasional eggs, raw milk, and incredible biodynamic yogurt. By the way, chia pudding made with raw milk and topped with goji berries and cacao nibs is so rich, creamy, and satisfying!

These days I still eat meat on a regular basis and I do eat some form of animal protein every day. I feel off if I don't and end up reaching for too much sugar and cacao. Actually, it's my natural tendency to want to eat sweet things over anything else so I do have to be careful and make sure that I get sufficient protein. If I don't eat meat I enjoy fish (my dad catches it a few times a week) or eggs. In addition I eat daily salads, lots of fruit, nuts, seeds, moderate cacao, and my beloved daily raw dessert. I feel much more balanced physically/emotionally eating this way. I know that excess cacao throws me off (especially when eaten on an empty stomach) so I know when to take a little break from it.

Just to be clear - this is what works for ME. I'm NOT suggesting that this is the way for everyone - in fact, I know that a raw and/or vegan diet works for some people. I DO believe that everyone on a SAD diet can benefit from eating raw vegan for a period of time in order to cleanse the body and mind. After that, it may be time for a rebuilding phase and this is where the animal protein comes in. Veggie proteins just don't do it for me in the same way. I've finally discovered that it's important to listen to my body instead of my head. Some days I crave eggs and the thought of meat turns me off - so I eat up my eggs with my veggies and feel great! Other days the opposite is true so I eat accordingly.

A meal of 2 eggs with spinach, zucchini, and tomatoes. I love runny yolks - a yummy form of biotin!

Interestingly I got many compliments about my looks when I was sick. On a regular basis I was told I looked great, looked healthy, looked fit. Yeah I was thin but I was tired 24/7 and slogging along. Last summer I went to my friend's gym in the city and while he was doing his workout, I took an exercise class - the same style of class I've taken many times in the past. I couldn't believe it when I was so weak that I could barely make it through 12 pushups on my knees.

I've put on some weight since changing my diet (I'd rather be 10 lbs thinner) but I'm healthy and strong again. Whoa am I strong! (well for my standards). Some muscles have reemerged that I think had started to atrophy over the past few years. I'm able to do super workouts now. I'm up to 20 "real"/man pushups in a row and complete up to 60 full pushups in a workout, something I couldn't do before. It's a great thing and I feel extremely empowered and motivated to continue.

So on that note, I'm happily forging ahead with my omnivorous, high raw diet. I feel purposeful again and life is pretty darn good...

I'd love to hear from you. Do you feel amazing on a long term raw food/vegan diet? Have you tried raw and run into any imbalances? Is the thought of eating cooked food or animal protein scary if it means gaining a few pounds, even if it means becoming healthier?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Berry, Cherry, Fruity Goodness

Besides the berry goodness, I've been into some cherry goodness in the past month. The BC (British Columbia) cherries are normally stellar but this year they're over the top. Big, fat, juicy cherries! Mostly I enjoy them straight up, but I've gotten a little creative too. Cherry Coconut Breaky Parfait was a simple banana coconut pudding layered with cherries and garnished with coconut whipped cream and cacao nibs.

At the end of dipping chocolate truffles for the market, I couldn't resist dipping a few cherries. What a divine combination!!! I love the crunch and slight bitterness of the dark chocolate paired with the sweetness and juiciness of the cherry.

Last month I ate watermelon like a champ. By the slice, as lemonade, and in smoothies. I was surprised to discover that watermelon and banana are a yummy combo when blended. All kinds of recipes were sprinkled around the blogsphere, especially watermelon lime slushies which I'm a big fan of. Simply blend fresh and frozen watermelon (or all fresh and sub ice cubes), with lime juice and a few drops of stevia.  It's perfect on a hot day!

Watermelon, strawberry, mint, and lime are another fabulous combo.

The raspberries in my yard inspired me to make a summery Lime Berry Tart, inspired by a Sweet Gratitude Recipe. This was sweet and sour and downright delicious!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Berries Galore!

I know I said that my next post was going to be a health progress report (it's half written), but I've been racing against the clock these days to cater heaps of food.

Mango Berry Pudding Parfait

Here's my easy peasy strawberry pudding, which works as a template for any fruit. This time I paired it with mango and peach pudding for a summertime parfait! For my catering menu last week, kiwi, strawberries, and an almond coconut mixture were layered together for a color and flavor explosion (no time to snap a pic of that). The Ontario peaches are ripe and I'm taking advantage. They're beautifully juicy and flavorful!

Strawberry Pudding

3 cups diced strawberries*
1 1/4 cups cashews
2-4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup liquid sweetener
Pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Taste test and adjust!
Yum yum, make your parfait!

Mango Peach Pudding

2 cups diced mango
1 cup diced peach (leave skin on)
1 1/4 cups cashews
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup liquid sweetener

Blend all ingredients  until smooth and creamy. 

On another occasion I used an abundance of raspberries from the garden to create a simple parfait. In the bottom of the glass I spooned a mixture of blended and whole berries, followed by the mango peach pudding and more berries.

Speaking of raspberries, we've had a bumper crop this year! There have been necessary daily trips to the stalks to pick baskets to be eaten fresh and many to be frozen for the winter. What a treat!

With more berries on the menu, a Peach Banana Raspberry Smoothie was a sweet breaky the other day. Frozen bananas, water, fresh peach, ice, stevia, and tocotrienols all blended up with lots of raspberries floating throughout.

What fruit are you enjoying this summer??

On that note, I'm off to the kitchen and then some time at the beach. Chocolate truffle tart, Coconut pecan bars, cakes, turtles, and truffles are on my to-do list!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sweet Summer Recap

It's been a whirlwind for me lately. All kinds of food is being pumped out of my kitchie for catering jobs and I've been selling my sweeties at the local farmers market. In between all the food, I've been enjoying ample time in the sun by the lake and spending quality time with friends and family. Summer is favorite time of year and I wish it lasted all twelve months! While I've barely had time to pull out the camera, here are a few of the latest eats around here...

Raw Berry Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream

Such a classic, right?! How can you go wrong with this dessert in the heat of summer? This crumble is a simple mix of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) tossed with a berry sauce (handful of berries, a medjool date, squeeze of lemon juice), and topped with my "go-to" crumble topping. A scoop of vanilla ice cream tops the whole thing off!

Speaking of ice cream, here are the marbled results of leftover raw chocolate and vanilla ice creams! It's really quite easy: two slightly softened ice creams layered together in a container. Freeze for a while and then scoop through all the layers. Voila! Swirls of yumminess! I topped it with dark chocolate fruit and nut clusters (which I'm selling at the market now). Yummm!

Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes were the results of leftovers from a large cheesecake.

I really should be documenting my fun trips to the Farmer's Market but there's always such a flurry of activity that it never happens (I've gone in two so far this summer and will participate in the remaining markets that run to the end of September). I've been selling my chocolate caramel turtles (top seller!), various truffles, coconut macaroons, granola bars, oatmeal raisin cookies, mini cheesecakes, fruit and nut chocolate clusters, date nut balls, etc. It's a bummer that I only have two pictures to share...

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Just Desserts. These are always a hit!

Lemon Berry Swirl Cheesecake was part of a catering job last week...

...So were these Cacao Brownies!

And last, but not least, I made my white chocolate orange cake from Just Desserts for a birthday. I covered it with a raw chocolate ganache and garnished it with cherries.

On another note, I continue to receive emails from readers who are curious to hear where I'm at in my health journey. I've been remiss for not keeping up with that - BUT have starting writing a little post with an update.