The day I discovered raw food cuisine, my entire body filled up with passion and excitement. The beauty and creativity of utilizing Mother Nature's raw gifts to create elegant, gourmet, unique dishes had me utterly fascinated.
Now, I did not turn into a raw foodist because of this, but rather started viewing raw foods cuisine as an artist would, using fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds as her medium. The vibrant colors of oddly shaped heirloom tomatoes, fresh figs, rainbow chard, or dazzling limes are nature's artistic palette designed for me to create exquisite, delicious works of art.
Gently chopping a handful of garden fresh herbs allows their aromas to be released filling my lungs with their potent and intense smells. Parsley, tarragon, basil, rosemary and thyme, oh my! The culmination of this sensory explosion ends in my taste buds screaming for joy at the pleasure of this live food artistic creation.
Vegan food + creativity = my heaven!!!!
My first experimentation with raw foods cuisine was to make a nut cheese. I was inspired to do this for two reasons...for my inquisitive mind to know what a cheese made out of nuts would taste like and because I know many people who are lactose intolerant and would love to indulge in a cheese like food.
I went to the store, bought some almonds and cheesecloth and decided to experiment. In my research of raw cheeses I learned that many of the specialty vegan cheeses are made with a fermented product known as rejuvalac, but my cheese was not. I went the easy route and was quite pleased with the outcome. If you do want to get fancy, try checking out recipes using rejuvalac and you will be amazed at what types of vegan cheeses you can create.
My first try with nut cheese involved a three day process. The first day I let the nuts soak in a bowl of water overnight. The second day I drained the nuts then placed them in a blender with oil and spices. The result was a pureed nut blend which I wrapped up tightly in cheesecloth and let sit in a bowl overnight to drain. The next day the cheese was drier and similar to a goat cheese consistency. It was delish!!!
My taste testers and I ate it like you would a goat cheese with crackers, but also tried it as a baked topping on stuffed tomatoes. It tasted amazing and eerily like cheese! Of course this way is not raw, but it is still a great alternative to dairy cheese.
Here is my recipe, but as I always say... experiment, have fun, and don't worry about messing it up because this is meant to be an enjoyable and delicious experience. You can add more or less herbs to taste.
Italian Spreadable Nut Cheese
1 cup whole blanched (skins removed) almonds
3 Tablespoons cold pressed olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove of peeled garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh basil
1.5 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons fresh parsley
1.) Place almonds in a bowl, cover fully with water, and let soak overnight. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
2.) Place almonds, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices in a high speed blender and puree until a smooth creamy paste forms (about 5 minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
3.) You can eat this as is by shaping it into a round or rolling it into a log. You may drizzle more oil and sprinkle more herbs over it, or use it in raw foods creations such as rawsagana or rawvioli's. Or you can forget the raw thing and bake it alone or in dishes. If you want to get more liquid out and make it drier without baking then place mixture into a triple layer of cheesecloth. Tie up into a ball and place over a bowl. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to drain. The next day discard remaining liquid, remove from cheesecloth and place on a serving platter either in a round or roll up in wax paper to make it resemble a goat cheese log.
Add different herbs or no herbs at all if you want. You may also add water to the first stage of blending but then you will definitely have to place the puree in a cheesecloth to drain overnight. Experiment to see what consistency you would like and what flavors you enjoy the most.
Have fun with this amazing culinary art of creating dishes with raw foods. Experience the RAWvolution and enjoy!!!
At the wise age of 15 I decided to become a vegetarian. Why? Not because it was healthy, or more sustainable, or because I was spiritual, but because my step-father said I was a hypocrite. So merely to defy him and prove him wrong, I stopped eating meat. But there is more to this story....
At the time I was living in a small town in Central Florida that was consumed by trailer parks, mini malls, and residents whose furthest and most exotic adventure was a trip to Tampa. It was a safe town and of course had great weather, but it was definitely void of culture, different perspectives and environmental awareness. Somehow, though, I was the epicenter of these different perspectives and environmental awareness. I wrote poetry about the destruction of Mother Nature, created art that centered on her beauty, voiced my opinions about how to live sustainably, went to animal rights protests, and gave up eating red meat. But despite all my efforts to “save the world” I still ate chicken and turkey because, well, they tasted good.
One evening after vocalizing how horrible my step father was for eating a rare, bloody steak (while I was ingesting a chicken pot pie) he said to me that I was being a hypocrite. Thus to prove him wrong, because that is what teenagers do, I said I won’t eat ANY meat again. And over 20 years later I am still a strict vegetarian, but for reasons of my own truth and not because I am trying to prove something anymore.
In my teen years I admit, I was more like a Greenpeace environmentalist and less like the EPA. I was a bit over passionate about saving the world in a way that was negative and not the most productive. Although surprisingly my step-father and many others admit that they have made positive changes in living sustainably and eating less meat due to the somewhat nagging voicing of my opinions. But that being said as I attended college and studied Environmental Conservation I realized that I needed to go about making changes in a different way. It wasn’t about nagging people to make changes, it was about me living life in a positive way as an example. So I stopped being so vocal and focused on living my beliefs; and being vegetarian was a way that felt true to me in my personal quest to lessen my impact on the planet, heal the destruction, and sow the seeds of love for all beings.
It was then that my vegetarian ways became the target of ridicule, questioning, and defensive attitudes. People laughed at me because I didn’t eat meat, said that I was a wuss because I cared about animals, constantly (and I mean constantly) questioned as to WHY I chose not to eat meat, and almost always had to defend themselves as soon as I said I was a vegetarian. I was really confused as to why people cared so much about my choice of food.
This confusion soon turned to frustration once I entered the professional culinary world. Let me tell you that it is not easy being incredibly passionate about the culinary arts and being vegetarian. After being rejected for apprenticeships, not able to go to traditional culinary school, and laughed at during a pastry chef/garde manger position at a top restaurant, I wanted to give up on working in this field. It became so tiresome that I started questioning my beliefs and thought it would be so much easier if I just ate and cooked meat. How funny. As something as simple as my choice in food could be the source of so much anguish. And it all started because I was a stubborn teenager with something to prove.
A stubborn teen who turned into a passionate adult that holds true to her beliefs despite the ridicule and challenges. And thus I remembered why I choose this lifestyle…because I love seeing curious cows chewing stalks of grass while staring inquisitively, pigs frolicking in the mud like children on a rainy day in puddles, and deer in open fields peering at me with their beautiful eyes. Knowing that my choice allows these animals the right to a long life, the earth to be impacted less, and my body to be full of vibrant energy, brings me joy and peace internally. I honor being vegetarian in a world of meat eaters and trust that this is the right choice for ME. And I am thankful for the day my step father pointed out, in a loving way, that I was a hypocrite. Choosing to be vegetarian is not about proving anything anymore; it is about what feels right, living my truth, and honoring my beliefs.
After recently indulging in a handful of fresh almonds and Brazil nuts that I soaked overnight, I was definitely feeling nuts for nuts. The rich, meaty taste and delicate crunch of these earthy delicacies reminded me of how satiating they can be. I wanted to consume more than the proportioned handful I gave myself, but the little nutrition angel on my shoulder reminded me about moderation with nut consumption.
Nuts are known to be high in calories and fats, but are nevertheless a part of a healthy diet in moderation. Luckily their high fat content is mostly in monounsaturated fat, A.K.A. the good fat. Yippee! Monounsaturated fat, unlike the big bad saturated fat, is a valuable macro nutrient important in the normal functioning of your amazing body.
Nuts also are filled with necessary nutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamin E, protein, fiber, phytonutrients, and minerals. As part of an enjoyable and healthy diet you can count your serving of nuts as part of the protein group. A portion size of 1/3 cup of nuts is equal to 1 oz. meat. Try incorporating these grounding life sources as a mid morning or mid afternoon snack for an energy boost.
When buying nuts, purchase those that are super fresh, unsalted, and organic if possible. It is best to buy un-shelled nuts which have a longer storage life. Nuts can go rancid quickly and you do NOT want to eat rancid nuts as they wreak havoc on your body. Once the shell is removed make sure to store the nuts in closed, glass containers in the fridge or freezer to prevent rancidity.
I also highly recommend soaking your nuts to release their enzymes which will help you digest them better. Place the nuts in a glass cup and cover with water. Allow them to soak overnight, rinse, dry and store in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. You can eat them raw, dehydrated, or lightly roast them to bring out their flavor (350 degrees for 5-10 minutes). Yummy!
Good ways to add nuts to your diet aside from just snacking on them include adding them to cereals, granola or muesli, and salads. You can also use them to accentuate casseroles, pastas, vegetable dishes, or encrusting tofu (check out this recipe by one of my favorite vegan chefs) I was once served a unique dish that consisted of tofu encrusted with toasted macadamia nuts, spices, and a popular Colombian coconut seasoning called Titote which is normally used to make coconut rice. Oh my goodness was that an explosion of flavor that tantalized my sweet tooth and made me feel instantly transported to a tropical island.
So once again, be creative and have fun with Mother Nature's ingredients. Food is a total sensory delight and also livens our spirit. Eat good quality and fresh nuts in moderation and maybe you'll go nuts for nuts!
This blog is an exploration of life, love, adventure and art primarily through the medium of food.