Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fueled on Raw Take 1: Crudessence, Montreal

There are days, where you eat so much amazing raw food that you actually have to split it into two posts instead of one so you don't look like a total glutton. That was pretty much our day trip to Montreal last Friday, which was pretty much a food trip... just the way I like 'em, and just like I had planned! I've been really wanting to go to a raw food restaurant since moving back to Canada. Though I know Toronto is rife with raw food places, but my heart went out to the slightly closer option, Montreal's Crudessence (get the title? Cru=raw essence=gasoline so "fueled on raw"? I know... I'm so clever)

In fact, because I'm a food nerd, I've been studying their menu for months now. We even almost went there for my birthday back in October because they happened to be having a special fall harvest raw food testing menu event. (Instead, I chose to stay in town and go to Cafe My House.) I've been waiting to check out this place for a long time.

During a thankfully uneventful drive, we figured we would try both of their locations (one for lunch and one for dinner). We chose to check out their smaller place at 105 Rachel Street West first. The place was adorable (it also really helps that we were coming in from the cold and snow too...) this location had much more of a lunchy, cafe feel. It was sunny and warm, and you felt right at home. Randomly enough, the first thing I fell in love with were their chairs. Every single chair was unique. It had its own design and I couldn't help but take as many shots as I could before they thought I was weird:

























I love it when restaurants aim to be as healthy as possible, and Crudessence definitely achieves that being both organic AND raw (and gluten-free!). While all their choices were ridiculously enticing, we opted for their Om Burger (that name is more clever if you say it out loud in French accent) and their Tacos Supremes:

Assiette Om Burger
A mushroom, sundried tomato, flax seed and veggie burger
served in raw bread with tomato, red onion, lettuce, raw mustard,
homemade ketchup, a fantastic aioli sauce,
and a side of salad and homemade sauerkraut

Tacos Supremes
Corn, flax, and sundried tomato tacos
garnished with chipotle pate, tomatoes, sprouts, red onion, & avocado
served with hot sauce, sour cream, & a salad

While I did enjoy my burger, these tacos changed my life. To be more specific, that chipotle pate changed my life, spicy, sweet, and wonderful. As a soft shelled taco filled with so many veggies, it had the perfect texture and was the perfect size. Its size reminded me of how difficult it is to eat one of those Chipotle burritos... you just don't know how to start fitting it into your mouth.

Strangely enough, my second favourite thing about all this wonderful food was the salad dressing. I don't know what it was but it was delicious, sweet, sour, tangy, fantastic! In general though, their texture combinations were fantastic. They managed to recreate everything I love about a sandwich (aka. a yummy vehicle for lots of veggies that's not just a plain ol' salad). I loved that these plates were pretty much 70% veggies and 30% your main dish (though it was that 30% that really filled you up). The platage was beautiful and was totally representative of how delicious the food was. Also, for those who think you can't get full on raw food, you can (and this is on top of the fact that their portions are very generous).

Of course, we couldn't have driven all the way to Montreal without having dessert with lunch too! While I had my eye on their banana chocolate crepes (there's always a next time!), I wanted to make Andrew happy by sharing what they called their triple chocolate Noir Desir cake, while Andrew got their sugar pie a la mode.

The ice cream (maple flavoured) was amazing. I think I would have been quite happy just getting lots of ice cream. Otherwise, maybe I just wasn't in the mood for dessert (in all fairness, I rarely am) or maybe I just have to accept that I'm a fantastic raw chef, but their supposedly sinful chocolate cake, tasted very much like my own or Meredith's version of fudgy goodness. The sugar tart was a pretty standard sweet creamy raw dessert (like I said, to be fair, if you're don't spend nearly as much time in the kitchen as I do, these are great desserts! I may just be spoiled...). But the ice cream!!!!!

All in all, the food was amazing, the place was really cute, and the atmosphere was really laid back. It was definitely on par with some of the best raw restaurants we've ever been to (that being NY's Quintessence and the now closed Grezzo in Boston)

The only thing is I felt like I was being watched in the bathroom...


Haha.

To check out Crudessence on Rachel Street, head out Monday to Wednesday from 11am to 9pm or Thursday to Sunday from 11am to 10pm. They can be reached at (514)510-9299. This location serves as a sit-down restaurant as well as a take-out place. They also have some ready-made raw foodies (granola, cookies, squares, and some packaged superfoods and dried goods). They also sell their own in-house made kombucha in a variety of flavours as well as a whole bunch of great raw food books and resources. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Day in the Life of an LFRVer

I know, the last thing this world needs is another acronym, but I'll throw one out at you anyway... LFRV stands for Low-Fat Raw Vegan, which is kind of a handful to write down every time. LFRV is known under a few other names, namely "811" (based off of Dr. Doug Grahams'80/10/10). The gist of the being 811 is that you get 80% of your calories from carbs (fruits and veggies), 10% from protein, and 10% from healthy fats (avocados, nuts, and seeds). Because you're primarily eating healthy alkalinizing foods, you have to eat A LOT more of them than you would on a standard diet (think how quickly it would take to digest 1lb. of bananas vs. a 1lb. steak). As an active person, it is suggested you eat your weight x 200 in calories (so for me that would be 2400ish+). That usually means 2 ginormo fruit meals during the day (we're speaking pounds of fruit here) and a big salad for dinner. Who says you have to go hungry this way?

The thing is, when I decided to go raw almost two years ago now (wow, already?!), I didn't really read up on anything. I knew how nutrition worked (how much of what I should be getting a day to get all my vitamins/minerals) and I knew where my ethical limits related to food were (eating only organic food, vegan foods, honey), but that was pretty much it. Sure I read up on some raw blogs and talked to a couple of those blog writers online (thanks forever, Meredith!!) but I mostly followed my intention, and I now realize that my gut instinct on a raw diet was pretty much 811. It's what I naturally chose to do when I thought of what eating raw "should" mean.

Problem was that I was probably only getting about 1200 in calories per day while remaining highly active. While this initially gave me fantabulous results (busting a 10k run out of nowhere, having clearer skin than ever, getting to my goal weight, having more mental clarity and energy than I thought was possible, and never EVER needing to use an alarm clock), it wasn't sustainable. I think I was only about to keep that up for about 6 months before I started wanting more, which led to a lot of the more recent stuff you've been reading (more cooked vegan foods, gourmet raw deliciousness and the like). Had I known it was just about eating more of the same thing I would have done that!

I am in no way advocating against anyone's personal choices (except I do still take a stand on eating organic), but I am saying that this is easily the dietary choice that has helped me feel the best in my life seems to be the one I want to focus most of my attention on. I will never be a fascist about my food choices, but I do want this to be 90% or more of my time (with the other 10% still being some degree of raw). Sometimes I'll eat more protein, sometimes I'll have more fat, and sometimes I may just eat that raw macaroon.

My first day (Monday) was quite the challenge. Most of the produce we bought over the weekend wasn't ripe yet (mostly the high calorie fruits I need like bananas and mangos), so I struggled to eat enough. Just so you know, it's a lot easier to down 5-6 bananas then it is to eat 5-6 apples in one sitting. But here's what I tried to stick with in the meantime:

Breakfast Day 1: 1.5 C blueberries, 1/2 bunch of spinach, some goji berries and mulberries, and spirulina

Lunch Day 1: 3 apples, 3 dates, irish moss

Dinner Day 1: massaged kale salad with lemon juice and avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, celery, carrot, broccoli, and a side of homemade sauerkraut

Tuesday was a breeze since we found a stash of ripe bananas at the Wheat Berry. My day went something like this:

Breakfast Day 2: 4 kiwis + 1.5 oranges + goji and mulberries

Lunch Day 2: 4 bananas and 1 date

Dinner was another huge salad, and breakfast this morning was 2 mango, cilantro, lime, smoothie. Delicious! And as usual, the energy is high, the need for lots of sleep is decreasing, and the world is bright and shiny again :)

But of course, for those who want more than fruit. I also made a carrot cupcake for Andrew using Bitt's recipe. It was AWESOME. Definitely try it out!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Spread aka. Homemade "Rawtella"


Sprouted kamut bread from our favourite bakery? Check.
Bread knife and cutting board ready to go? Check.
So, what's missing? Why a spread of course.

I've always wondered about the hype there is around Rawtella. I mean, if it's anything like Nutella, I can totally understand. Who hasn't dreamt of taking a swim in a big pool of chocolate hazelnutty goodness... okay, or a least just wanted to eat a jarful, whatever.

Being the person I am though, I've always figured I could probably just try to make some myself. However, it just never happened, because at the end of the day, I don't actually eat that many "treats" unless they serve some higher nutritional purpose. Tonight, after Andrew bought a yummy loaf of his favourite spelt bread, I decided he needed something to put on it, so the time had come. I've seen a lot of homemade rawtella recipes floating around the web, so I combined a bunch and tried my own. So far, it's still spreadable and hasn't solidified yet (which I know is a problem with most sweet raw spreads) and it's yummy so I'd call it a successful!

Homemade Rawtella
1 C ground hazelnuts
4 tablespoons of raw cacao powder
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 C liquid sweetener (maple syrup or raw agave)
1 tablespoon of coconut oil + 1 tablespoon of cacao butter
(or just use two tablespoon of coconut oil)

Blend, blend, blend away til smooth and creamy!
Enjoy!

Also, for those interested in all things gardening-related, check out my new Garden 2011 page in my tab section, on which I'll be journaling our first real garden adventures from the earliest planning stages to our first bountiful (fingers crossed!) harvest and beyond. If you are a pro-gardener by any chance or you just generally feel like you have a green thumb, please feel free to offer us any advice you can think of! I'm sure we can use all the expertise we can get!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Balls!!!

I'm officially obsessed! Since Tuesday's kitchen fail/success, I've been obsessed with sprouted lentil balls and have been having them as the protein in my salad every night. When I ran out yesterday, I figured I'd just treat myself to making socca the right way again. However, when I found myself in front of the Vitamix to make the socca batter, I had a change of heart and opted for making sprouted falafel balls instead.

(having a phone camera is making me way too lazy to take legit pictures)

Rather than going through the whole process of making my own chickpea flour again, I just sprouted my chickpeas and then put about 2 cups of them into the Vitamix with a few slices of yellow onion, a clove a garlic, a few tablespoons of water, sea salt, a handful of parsley, a teaspoon of cumin, and blended away. Because I knew there was no use to attempt to shape them into balls yet (because they just break down in the pan), I just threw the whole mush into the pan until the bottom was well browned, then tried to flip it a couple times so the water would escape and it turns into a more doughy paste. Only after I let it cool down for a bit did I shape them into balls, and served them over raw zucchini pasta with tomatoes, sundried tomato pieces, and some other veggies. It's fun to purposefully mess up recipes! And while none of those instructions are very clear, it's only because the whole process kind of involves just going with it and accepting that I'm making a yummy mess based on a failed cooking method! (Once again proving how much one forgets to cook when they eat almost exclusively raw... I did mention how I forgot to turn on the oven when baking cookies for a potluck a few months ago, right?)

In other news, today felt like one of the first days of spring here in Ottawa! While I know that this may just be Nature's way of giving us a fake taste of warmth before we plunge back into another couple weeks of winter, I was able to walk back from the gym in shorts today and that was fantastic. It's also made us super psyched to start planning our garden this year, which I may just add a tab for on the blog so those who are interested in organic gardening can see how simple the process is!

Finally, I've always been a huge fan of Ruth's Chia Goodness. Gluten-free, raw, and packed with loads of vegan-friendly proteins and nutrients, the main ingredients of it are chia seeds, hemp seeds, and celtic sea salt. The mix is amazingly crunchy when eaten straight up and glutinously yummy when you add water or almond milk to it. Because I tend to be a purist and only ever buy original flavours when it comes to any prepared foods, I was reluctant to try any of the other Chia Goodness flavours but when I saw their chocolate flavour on sale for a ridiculously low price at our local health food store I couldn't resist... and man, have I been missing out! It's SO addictive. I think it's the added yumminess of the salty-sweet combination resulting from the mix of celtic sea salt, cacao nibs, cacao powder, and dates, but it's fantastic... I've been trying to not just eat it by the spoonful. Unfortunately, just trying to find a link for it now made me realize that I think the chocolate flavour was on special because it's being discontinued (I couldn't find it on the Ruth's website)... so that's a real bummer :o( It's always frustrating to find something you love right when you find the company has just stopped making it. Oh well, such is life. I'll just have to savour this bag and make it last as long as I can! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kitchen Fail... or not?

Every once in a while, it's normal to have a kitchen fail, whether it's burnt cookies, overly dry fish, or rubbery mash potatoes... but what if you turned those failures into successes? Last night, my growing love for sprouted beans and legumes had me trying the lentil socca I knew was on my to-do list after last week's culinary orgasm.

Like I did with the sprouted socca, I diligently made my own flour, sprouting, soaking, and dehydrating my lentils until I had the amounts I needed follow the recipe... except... a gooey non-flippable mess happened instead of socca. It resulted in something that did in fact look more like rubbery green mash potatoes than anything even remotely pancake-esque. Hrm.

What to do with a few giant globs of lentil paste? Why, faux meatballs of course!


Refusing to admit failure, I took the paste and rolled a tablespoon or two of it into balls, quickly fried them again for another couple minutes, and served them over a massaged kale salad. The result was fantastic, and better than I could have ever expected from the mess! In fact, I think I may always make this recipe in ball form rather than as socca. I'm thinking they would be fantastic over raw zucchini pasta with marinara... again, the possibilities are endless! I'm actually really glad I messed up the original recipe because I really loved these in the end!

The other culinary success of the evening (though this one was on purpose) was a chocolate cheesecake I'd had in mind for the longest time:


I used a sweetened almond pulp crust as a base, a raw chocolate avocado mousse as the first layer, a sweetened version of Meredith's fermented nut cheese recipe as the second layer, and topped it with cacao nibs and vegan chocolate chips. Mmmmmm. And because good things always come in 3s, here's a picture of my kitty giving me a hug while I'm studying on the couch:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day & Pear Smoothie Recipe

Happy Valentine's Day! Whether you're celebrating the single life or spending some quality time with your other half, hope you have a beautiful day :) While we try to hold to the whole "show your love to each other every day" credo, it's still nice to be more formal about it every once in a while and indulge in the whole wooing/date thing. I'm totally going to show off here, and tell you that the Valentine's Day wooing began on Thursday, when these were delivered especially for me during my class:

I know, right? Talk about planning!
you so much.

Secondly, by pure coincidence, I received the Ottawa vegetarian/vegan association's (the NCVA) newsletter this week. I have to admit I rarely read it, but this time I did, and was psyched to find out that the NCVA has just helped a local Italian restaurant, Trella, veganize a lot of their menu items for people just like us (those would be the green dots on the menu).

Not being able to eat Italian (and by that I mostly mean yummy crusty melty pizza) is often something I rant about because of all the cheese and meat and what not, so when I read that there was now vegan pizza at a nice place in Ottawa, I went on and on to Andrew about how awesome it was, reading out what they were offering, when they were open, and how we should check it out sometime. Little did I know that he is the more clever monkey in this relationship, and had already made Sunday night reservations for us there long before I knew the place even existed, let alone, that it offered vegan options. So when we showed up there last night after I was told to get dressed up, it was such a surprise, a deliciously veganized glutinous faux-cheesy surprise...


But on to, breakfast and raw-er things! As much as I love spontaneity, I'm also a big fan of routine, especially when it comes to breakfast. I think I've been having some permutation of the smoothie/cereal breakfast combination for about four years now and I'm still not tired of it. So when I woke up this morning and realized that we didn't have anymore of my usual smoothie-making ingredients, my breakfast-mind went into a panic. No blueberries? No ripe mangos? How does one live??? Time to get creative! This was the delicious outcome:

Pear Ginger Puree
1 ripe pear
1 inch piece of ginger
1/3 C almond milk

Blend! (serves 1)

I added a heaping teaspoon of hemp protein to mine later. Andrew's version became more of a pear-ginger-chia pudding, by adding 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and letting it sit for about 10-20 minutes for the chia to do its gelatinizing thing. When it had set, I sprinkled it with hemp seeds and drizzled maple syrup over it. Andrew's latest contention for using maple syrup is that it maintains a healthy prostate... if girls can use their period as an excuse to eat lots of chocolate, than why not! And with it being Valentine's Day and all, shouldn't I be behind this healthy prostate idea?

Anyway, have a fantastic week!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fermented Veggies & A Special Congratulations

I know I don't post about my politics often, but this is a historical moment.

(photo from Le Monde)

So, solidarity and respect to all the men and women in Egypt, who have shown both their government and the world that peaceful protest can be the answer to freedom. You've shown us all something of pride and beauty.

On that note, I know that any of my achievements today will seem lesser compared to what else has been going on in the world today, but one of the reasons I was really excited about Friday was that I knew that... my homemade sauerkraut would be ready!

Yes, I finally bit the bullet and tried my hand at fermented veggies. Last week during my kitchie date, my friend Amanda all but held my timid little hand through the process of making sauerkraut. I recently started taking probiotics to feed my tummy gremlins (I've intuitively been feeling like they haven't been doing great) and it's been making me feel fantastic. I figured that getting non-capsule versions of probiotics couldn't hurt either, and I looove anything fermented, from kimchi, sauerkraut, to yogurt or mead (hey, mead is fermented, it should count!). So sauerkraut has definitely been on my mind!

While it did require quite some prep work (and I admit that a lot of it was accomplished thanks to Andrew, aka. my personal supply of man power), it wasn't that complicated at all! After slicing up two heads of cabbage, I added about 2 tablespoons of salt and we massaged and pressed away until the cabbage started losing its water and making its own brine. After about 45 minutes of hard labour, I placed them into two mason jars and packed them in really tight with a wooden spatula (pressing down on the cabbage with that spatula really helped release the water from the cabbage even more). Once I had pressed down enough, the brine came to about 1 inch above all the cabbage. I topped off the jars with a couple folded cabbage leaves, and sealed them up tight, and stuck them in my cupboard for a week.

The result was perfect. I didn't want overly soggy or acidic sauerkraut, and when I opened it, the smell was perfectly vinegary and fermented. I knew I'd done it! It was crunchy and the salt levels were great. I'm sure probiotics are multiplying in my tummy as we speak!

All in all, fermentation is really not that complicated, whether its kombucha or sauerkraut. Just make sure everything you use has been washed and sanitized, and let the magic happen. Like making bread, doing your own fermentation is definitely just an act of confidence! I'm slowly and surely becoming a master fermentor!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You had me at... Socca

Socca. A word I've been seeing all over the blogsphere and yet somehow never managed to see in my own native South of France where the stuff supposedly comes from! How, oh how, did I live so many years without it? It all started with the Pure2Raw twins whose love for socca was so strong that they created a whole tribute page to it. Then the Fitnessista developed her own crush. Then Bitt, amidst her recipe testing of the I am Grateful recipe book, made some time for socca. Even, Gena mentioned it a couple times like if it's existence was a given!

Again, I don't know what planet I've been living on, but every additional mention made me wonder why I'd never had it and made my mouth water. I love chickpeas, and I love savoury pancake-like things, what was there not to love? I've gotta say, since the whole raw thing came into my life, sprouted chickpeas just haven't done it for me. They're good, but they to have a taste that takes a little getting used to. So when Michelle and Lori mentioned they had mastered a sprouted chickpea socca recipe, I was ready for action:


It is kind of a process to soak, sprout, and dehydrate your chickpeas just to make about a cup of ground chickpea flour, but given the additional nutrients (that I arguably then fried anyway, sure...) I definitely thought it was worth the trouble. I'd pick my own lovingly ground organic chickpeas over commercial chickpea flour any day! And I know it's fresher too!

To cut to the chase, I... love... Socca. I followed the Twins' recipe and added a pinch of salt and some rosemary. It was like the perfect pancake, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. It actually reminded me of an omelet, and despite all my love for veganism and raw foodism, I was definitely an egg girl back in the day. To have something taste so close to the texture of eggs without having to deal with the whole came out of a chicken's... well, you know... it was great!

I ended up wrapping my socca in a lettuce leaf with cucumbers and sprouts, and it hit the spot perfectly. I also tried a tiny piece with raw almond butter and half a date, and I think I may have glimpsed heaven. I'm sooo going to be experimenting with these while the weather is still freezing enough to turn my stove on every now and then. I have my eye on their fermented veggie socca next! Though I'm also thinking of a blueberry banana socca to simulate blueberry pancakes... The possibilities seem endless! I'm so excited...

But this would be no post of mine if I didn't give a little lesson on the origins of socca or something, so here goes: As I've mentioned, socca is from right where my family is, around the Nice area, but it's from anywhere from Nice to Pisa. Like my love rant would indicate, socca is an unleavened chickpea flour pancake. The ingredients are essentially chickpea flour, water, a dash of oil, and whatever else your heart can dream up. It can be oven-baked or pan fried (oh, if I had a cast iron pan...) and is generally seasoned with herbes de provence. I'd always assumed chickpeas were a Middle Eastern thing, but did you know that they've had chickpea plants in Southern Europe since about 6,700 BC? Who knew... But, the main lesson of the day: EAT SOCCA!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kitchen Date & Girl Time

From girls nights out to women circles or Stich n' Bitch get togethers, women have always appreciate the act of getting together to just be... well, girly. Though I definitely love participating in all the of the above (including aspects of the latter... I won't hold myself to the unrealistic standard that I don't sometimes just want to get together with girlfriends to complain), I've always really really enjoyed my version of girl time: kitchen dates.

These dates probably began when I was a kid and a bunch of us would get together to decorate pre-made gingerbread men with gumdrops and sprinkles. Maybe it was the days we spent appreciating the culinary delicacies of an Easy Bake oven. Either way, I started early. These dates followed me through high school, when my best friend and I would make her infamous chocolate cake of decadence, crepes, or we'd just stuff our faces with cookie dough.

For some reason, those days just kind of dropped off when high school finished, college took over and girly kitchen time was replaced by house parties, watching the OC (yes... I know), and clubbing. Then my Other Half came into the picture, and girly time was generally replaced by being madly in love, spending 24/7 together, and forsaking much of our social lives to live in our warm and cuddly bubble of relationship bliss. While I enjoy every single minute of that, the feeling grew that I was missing something... I wanted to believe that we were enough for each other, who needs time for anything else when you only need each other and you enjoy time together more than anything else? And while that's still true, I slowly realized how much I missed it, that capacity to just be girly in a way you can only ever be with other female friends, to talk about things that your supportive significant other is probably secretly so sick of hearing about (that goes for anything from what happened on the latest Glee episode to your "I'm feeling so fat" days). That might all sound really obvious or stupid, but it is a lesson I've had to learn.

All that to say, I have awesome friends. Especially you, Amanda, who came over for a very belated kitchen date, one that I'd been waiting for for years. Andrew of all people knows that I don't let anyone into myour kitchen, so if you do ever manage to get in there and share the space with me, you're a real friend of mine. Luckily, I was right do so this time. Aside from being generally amazing, Amanda is a culinary genius and really open-minded on whatever food journey I'm currently on. Of course, that wasn't even an issue, considering that she too has been a longtime raw food aficionado. So without further ado and after much girl talk, I give you our feast:

Raw Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
(jerusalem artichokes, olive oil, red pepper, cumin, marinated chipotle pepper, sea salt, water, and probably some other stuff I can't remember)

Raw Massaged Kale Salad (Dulse Sprinkled & Plain)
(I could eat these for the rest of my life:
kale massaged in sacha inchi oil, lemon, sea salt
with a raw almond butter, apple cider vinegar, and herb dressing)

Raw Green Bean Salad
(Green Beans, cucumbers, red pepper, hemp seeds,
with a parsley and rosemary vinaigrette)

Cooked Quinoa Pilaf
(tricoloured quinoa with coconut oil, sea salt,
baby tomatoes, red onions, and garlic)


So whatever you need to do to take that culinary time-off or if you just need that girl time, set up a kitchen play date with your friend(s), because it's so worth it! Here's to the start of many more...