Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The dehydrator arrives - and I'm not sure I'm ready for it

After the series of mishaps concerning the dehydrator Rob ordered over two months ago, it finally arrived while we were at the Raw Union fest in Southern Oregon. I am happy to finally have it, but uncertain of what to do with it. After the abundance of creativity at the Raw Union, I think I am gourmeted-out.

I completely enjoyed the ability to purchase raw tostadas, tacos, pizza, ice cream (my Achilles heel) and brownies. It felt over-the-top amazing to be in a place where everything was raw
and there was nothing I felt I couldn't have. There were somethings, however, I felt I shouldn't have.

I was very surprised by the presence of Agave at the festival - almost everything contained Agave! Not just the brownies, ice cream, and wedding cakes, but the smoothies and the taco spreads as well. I had thought that the majority of the raw community felt uncertain about agave, as I do. I find the taste entirely unappealing, a kind of crawly metallic tang on the back right of my tongue that gives me an immediately unsettled feeling. So imagine my displeasure when nearly everything that a girl with a serious sweet-teeth would like (ice cream, cookies, doughnuts!) contained agave.

I had the pleasure of meeting John, the man behind www.living-foods.com. He agrees that agave has far too much prevalence in raw foods. This is what he says about agave on his website :

"While this "concentrated sweetner" is very popular in raw cuisine, I believe it has no place in a truly "raw" diet. This is primarily due to the fact that it is a concentrated sweetner. The "nectar" is collected or "cooked" out of the agave plant, then must be "cooked" or dehydrated down, much like "boiling down" maply syrup. There is even some rumors about "corn syrup" and other sweeteners being added to "raw" agave nectar to give it the sweet taste. In any case, it is a processed, product, and not a raw, whole food in my opinion."

I was also very suprised at the prevalence of "superfoods" such as raw cocoa, various powders, oils, supplements and other things that I consider very highly processed and therefore not exactly the optimal thing to eat. I was under the impression that the entire point of the raw lifestyle was the avoidance of highly processed foods that are not as they would be found in nature. On what basis can we promote and defend the raw food diet if it is primarily composed of isolated and concentrated compounds that have been broken down and manipulated by human technology? On the one hand, I understand this superfood craze as it involves so many miraculous plants and promises concerning nutrition and health. But on the other hand, I have read many arguments for eating our food whole and in its naturally balanced state. It is true that scientists still do not have a good understanding ofhow the ratio of different nutrients in our food aid in absorption of different minerals and vitamins. A good example of this is that the presence of vitamin C aids the absoprtion of iron.

I will be thinking more about what degree of processing I would like to include in my diet and I hope others will too. I will see how I like using the dehydrator. After the abundance of dehydrated and gourmet foods at the wedding, I am feeling an even greater attraction to a diet more akin to fruitarianism or the 80/10/10 diet. For our first go-round, Rob made us some buckwheat sandwiches. Here's what we made for din-din tonight.

Mashed Mexican Potato
I copied this recipe into my notebook from somewhere online, I really can't recall where now. But it is quite reminiscent of mashed potatoes, only a little sweeter. It will definitly come in handy during the cold comfort-craving months in winter.

  • 4 cups Jicama, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups soaked cashews
  • 1 tsp diced garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp salt (the recipe called for 1 tsp, but I feel that is far too much salt for anyone's health)
  • black pepper to taste

Blend it all up in whatever you have with a motor. The texture is pleasing, slightly crunchy and fluffy. I also added chopped up spinach for a little color.

Rob loved eating his first sandwich since going raw, but said my jicama mash was the best thing on the menu :)

So there's your food for thought from me, the cabbage patch kid.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Diet pepsi - my new pet peeve!

Rob and I are headed down to Southern Oregon for the Raw Union fest. Hope to see you there!

While I was down visiting the folks I brought my dad a delicious raw lunch. This was what was on the menu:
  • Cauliflower spanish rice
  • sunflower seed "refried beans"
  • guacamole
  • organic lettuce from my mom's coworker's garden
I brought some Tabasco for my daddy-o too because I suspected that raw might not please his SAD palette. I really wanted to impress him so that he might think about incorporating more raw veggies into his diet. Now that he's been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, (which he is convinced is primarily genetic, aka not his fault) its important that he make changes now before he has to go on insulin.

My family's diet is primarily bread: toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, bread with a dinner of pasta. For my dad, that includes a beer. How many simple, crazy processed carbohydrates is that?? I don't even want to try to approximate the numbers. Now that my dad is trying to change his diet, he is cutting out the breads. My mom has bought him special "low-carb" tortillas to help him out. This is a great transition food, but I sure hope he won't continue feeling good about "low-carb" stuff. I want to know how they make it "low-carb". Do they just replace the carbohydrates with chemicals the body can't assimilate? What the heck is this "low-carb"?

After brining my daddy all that scrumptious food, you can imagine my upset when he bought himself a diet Pepsi as a drink. Diet pepsi? AAAAAAHHH! It is my pet peeve in nearly every way.

1. I hate Diet anything. I wish my dad could recognize that Soda is what caused his diabetes and JUST QUIT DRINKING SODA. It's got to be some kind of corporate conspiracy that they get people hooked on drinking sugar with every meal, and then once the people are so sick they can't drink that stuff anymore, they offer an equivelently bad alternative!! This alternative even makes people think they are being healthy. Diet my ass.

2. Aspartame. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener composed of two amino acids. Or as my dad said when I fussed at him "It's a protein". I'm not sure why anyone would think that aspartame would be a better source of sweet for diabetics than any other sugar, except that it is marketed this way. It's a chemical; something's wrong there. It's been a subject of controversy since its FDA approval in 1974 concerning some shady events around its release. It has also been linked to being a source of brain tumors, lesions, and other cancers, although the Aspartame Information Center says these are merely internet email hoaxes.

3. Aspartame is produced by Monsanto. Isn't that enough incentive to avoid aspartame at all costs right there? I mean, Monsanto was the one who manufactured DDT and used it on children and soldiers during WWII to kill lice. A swiss guy even got a Nobel Prize in 1939 for discovering that DDT kills insects (while they were using it to kill lice). Should we trust Monsanto that aspartame is safe? Hell, no. It took over 40 years for people to figure out that Agent Orange is really bad for people. Should we wait again to find out the effects of aspartame? I won't.

All in all, lunch with my dad was a success. He didn't say he liked it exactly, but he did suggest to my mom that she make the cauliflower rice sometime, and when I left for home he was dipping carrots into the leftover sunflower spread. I'll try again next time. :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Breakfast of Champions

Like most American children, I was a habitual cereal eater. My mom new better than to pay out the extra cash for a box of brand-name sugar (Lucky Charms, anyone?), but our cabinet was full of square cardboard boxes that supposedly contained healthy food. They had all the colorful squares, circles, and leaping humanoid shapes that announced high fiber, heart health, or vitamin fortified. I'm not sure what any of that means anymore, but at least the mom's of my generation were trying.

I found from the beginning of my raw journey that grains were not appealing. I don't miss wheat, rice, or corn (unless you mean fresh corn on the cob). It's interesting to think about the number of grains I could have been eating my whole life, like rye, barleyt, kamut, spelt, teff, or amaranth, except for the monotony of the standard american diet. Why is it that nearly all breads are made from wheat, even the ones that advertise the other grains as part of the reason you should buy them? You would think that when buying barley or rye bread the bread would be made from rye flour, instead of wheat flour with a few handfuls of rye and carraway thrown in for flavor?

And then I discovered Buckwheat. Different from wheat berries or rice berries, the raw buckwheat groat can be eaten without soaking. It's a little crunchy, but it tastes good and isn't difficult to chew. It also softens easily in water, with a sweet mild taste. It sprouts in only a day or so, growing a little white tail that shouts "Eat me! I'm delicious!"

Sprouted buckwheat is one of my favorite meals.
At first I thought I liked buckwheat cereal so much because it reminds of what my mom used to give me for breakfast. I don't care for any other grain - so why buckwheat?

As it turns out buckwheat isn't a grain - ha! Its actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel.Buckwheat used to be quite popular in the US, until the advent of modern agriculture in the 1950's shrank U.S. crops from 1 million acres to 50,000 acres in the 1960's.

Buckwheat is thought to have originated in central and western China. Yes, the Chinese at one time ate a greater variety of grains than rice. They might still eat a variety of grains, but since I haven't been to China I couldn't say.

So why should we eat buckwheat? For one, recent studies show that eating buckwheat lowers blood glucose levels in animals with type 1 diabetes and may lower the risk of developing diabetes. Canadian researchers published a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showing that the compound chiro-inositol in buckwheat appears to increase sensitivity to insulin and even act as an insulin mimic. While this study was conducted on animals, which I don't condone, it does give me an excuse to sing the praises of my raw buckwheat breakfast to my newly diabetic father, who has been told not to eat carbohydrates. Who knew? Raw whole grains could have positive effects on glucose levels. Maybe not all carbs are created equal.

Buckwheat is also a great source of flavonoids, especially the nutrient called rutin. Rutin is sometimes used in home remedies as an anti-inflammatory for people who suffer from hemmorhoids, inflammatory bowel disease, varicose veins, and other problems with the cardiovascular system.

Buckwheat is one of the highest sources of magnesium, packing 86 milligrams a cup. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow, lowering blood pressur. To my lady friends: Have you ever craved a chocolate bar during your cycle? It's not only the comfort of chocolate and theobromine your body's craving, its magnesium. So maybe next time you get the full moon munchies, pass on the guilt of a chocolate bar and go for a nice bowl of buckwheat.
It's cheap too, my co-op carries it for $1.29 a pound.

For more info on buckwheat, follow this link: www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=11#nutritionalprofile

Or do your own research and tell me what you find out!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What's in Your Fridge?

I'll tell you what's in ours...Strawberries!

Summer is almost here, although it's still raining in typical Oregon-fashion. Which means that the first fruit of the year is finally hitting the Saturday Market. Strawberries!! Hooray!

As a kid, I could never get enough strawberries. Mom would buy two pints of strawberries at the Growers Market each week and we three kids would carefully divide them up between a few lunchtimes. Now that I'm a big kid, I went to the market and bought a whole box just for me. heh-heh.

I also found a couple stalks of rhubarb on the distressed shelf of my co-op. So its strawberry rhubarb pie for this week! I'm still working on the recipe, as it didn't come out quite as I had hoped. Here's a pic of the first go around:

What didn't work was that I added an orange to the filling, which made it too watery. The filling also wasn't quite sweet enough to balance a crust of plain sprouted buckwheat. I'm thinking about making this again tomorrow and using a rhubarb compote recipe that has been really delicious in the past. This made a terrific breakfast, but as a late night sugar-splurge it was a bit of a disappointment.

Here's what else has been uncooking in my kitchen:

Mango and tomato stuffed Red Bell Peppers

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado

On another note, my computer has made its peace with this world and left us. Rob has kindly been letting me use his until I can find a new one. With the onset of final papers and term projects, its been a little hard finding the computer time to put up a post. So until the universe allows me to meet with a computer of my own, I'll keep posting from Rob's.