Go Raw this Summer: Beat the Heat with These Cool and Delicious Vegan Meals

My philosophy on food is rooted in natural plant-based nutrition – so it’s only natural that raw foods are a very big part of my lifestyle. In fact, they comprise a majority of my meals every day, whether in smoothies, granola, salads, or raw pizza and pasta.

Why do I love raw foods? Because they make me feel good, they taste good, and they look good on a plate. What more can you ask from your food? The best part is that you can get creative with them, they don’t take long to prepare (unless you are dehydrating), and you can impress your guests with innovative dishes!

The term “raw food” refers to any natural food which has not been heated above 48°C or 120°F. So this type of cuisine excludes any food that has been cooked, boiled, grilled, steamed, fried, barbecued, microwaved, or pasteurized. Just about every processed, tinned, packaged, and convenience food has been heat-treated “for our safety” to prolong shelf life. But in the process does it reduce our own lives?

Health Benefits of Raw Foods

Adding more raw foods into your daily menu is a great way to boost health and increase your longevity. This means including more fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, seaweeds, and sprouts. With these foods as the foundation of your diet you will have more energy, lose weight, and feel great. Raw foods are loaded with enzymes, vitamins, and nutrients.

This lifestyle is not about becoming 100% raw and following strict guidelines – it is about eating better and getting some pure, clean, and fresh foods into your diet. If even half of your meals each day consist of raw foods, you are on the right track. Your entire meal doesn’t have to be raw; you can simply enjoy a cooked meal alongside a salad or fresh juice. My advice is not to get caught up in the details – just start simply by adding more “raw” foods into your diet.

However, if you are looking to kick it up a notch and wish to not only eat more raw foods but also know why and how to soak and sprout, then keep reading. These are some easy steps to help you get started on making raw food cuisine more accessible and a part of your everyday life.

Getting Started

  • Have at least one serving of fresh fruit every day. This can include an apple, pear, orange, or a fresh fruit smoothie – all are raw, and high in enzymes, vitamins, and nutrients.
  • Have multiple servings of fresh vegetables and leafy greens every day – cut up carrots, celery, peppers, a large dark leafy green salad, or a fresh-pressed green juice.
  • Enjoy a handful (or two) of raw organic nuts and seeds. These can be eaten alone or in a trail mix with raisins, goji berries, apricots, and you can even add some raw dark chocolate (cacao) into the mix.
  • Pick up a bag of fresh sunflower or pea sprouts from your local health food store or farmers’ market. These make a great addition to salads, sandwiches, soups, stir-fries, and smoothies
  • Get creative and try to prepare new raw meals each week, experimenting with different ingredients and combos

The Next Level – Raw Superfoods!

Superfoods are a category of foods found in nature; they are superior sources of essential nutrients – nutrients we need but can’t make ourselves. We all may be adding more salads and vegetables to our diet, but concern for the quality of foods grown in mineral-depleted soil makes superfoods even more popular. They are nutritionally more potent than regular foods and many provide incredible sources of antioxidants and other vibrant nutrients.

Superfoods are the most powerful, nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and have virtually no calories, no bad fats, or harmful substances. They are powerhouses in the transformation to a slender, healthier you!

Some of my favourite superfoods include:
Greens – leafy greens, grasses, and algae
Seaweeds – nori, kelp, dulse, arame, and kombu
Herbs – parsley, dandelion, oregano and chickweed
Fruits, nuts, and seeds – goji berries, blueberries, raspberries, almonds, coconut, cashews, chia, hemp seeds
Other favourites – cacao, maca, mesquite, cinnamon

Living Foods and Sprouts

Adding sprouts to your diet is a sure way to maximize your nutriitional intake. Whether you are home sprouting or picking up sprouts at the store, you will immediately taste and feel a difference. Since sprouts are “living” foods they are nutritionally bioactive, giving your body an extra dose of protein, enzymes, fibre, and chlorophyll, along with trace minerals and vitamins.

Enzymes make everything work in our bodies. They form a catalyst for all the chemical reactions – from digestion and immunity to other metabolic and regenerative functions, such as breathing, talking, walking, and digesting foods.

All fruits and vegetables come equipped with their own enzymes needed for humans to digest them. Raw foods with the highest enzyme content, in addition to sprouts, are mango, pineapple, papaya, and avocado.

Make Your Own Sprouts in 10 Easy Steps

Making your own homemade sprouts is an easy and cost-effective way to add enzymatically active and highly alkaline-forming food to your daily routine. What to sprout: amaranth, buckwheat, beans, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, and sunflower seeds.

You can buy sprouting kits in most health food stores, or you can do-your-own sprouts using three readily available household objects: a jar, cheesecloth, and a rubber band.

Here are the 10 steps to sprouting:
1. Rinse the seeds well and pour into a jar (fill to ¼ mark).
2. Fill the jar at least ¾ full of water.
3. Soak overnight at room temperature.
4. Pour out the water and seeds, and rinse with fresh water.
5. Return the rinsed seeds to the jar.
6. Cover the jar with cheesecloth and secure the cloth with rubber band.
7. Briefly turn the jar upside down to drain the remaining water.
8. Sprouts will begin to appear within 24 hours (give or take).
9. Make sure the sprouts stay moist by rinsing and draining them, so that they sprout fully  (part of step #7).
10. Rinse your sprouts before eating.
Note: your sprouts are ready when the shoot or sprout is as big or bigger than the seed itself.
Sprouts can be stored in the fridge for up to one week in a sealed container.

Benefits of Soaking and/or Dehydrating

If you’re short on time, soaking nuts and seeds can give you many of the benefits of sprouting, such as improving digestibility and increasing nutritional value, in as little as four hours. Soaked seeds won’t sprout, but they will still benefit you nutritionally for the minimal effort required to digest them. What to soak: almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, macadamia nuts, oats, wild rice.

How to soak in 10 minutes a week:
1. In the evening put nuts or seeds of your choice in separate bowls.
2. Cover the nuts or seeds with purified water.
3. Allow to sit overnight on the counter.
4. In the morning, drain the water and rinse well.
5. Use immediately, or store in fridge for up to a week.

Dehydrating is a great way to preserve fruits, nuts, and seeds for snacks and meals. There are many “raw food” uncook books that can help get you started with all the required times and temperatures. Dehydrating can be as simple as slicing up bananas and drying them! Other good candidates for dehydrating are: dried fruits; nuts and seeds (after being soaked); crackers, breads, granola, kale chips; cookies and crusts for raw treats and pies.

This is a delicious spread to serve with raw bread, flatbread, crackers, or with crunchy raw veggies, kelp noodles, or shredded zucchini.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp torn fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 cup whole almonds, soaked overnight or for 8 hours
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove or garlic scape
  • ¼ cup olive oil (or more) for a creamier consistency

1) Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Place mixture in a small bowl and refrigerate.

2) Serve with cucumber slices, zucchini noodles, carrots, whole grain or raw crackers, flatbread, or bread, brown rice pasta/kelp noodles or steamed vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds, soaked 10-12 hours
  • 1 cup almonds, soaked 10-12 hours
  • 1-½ Tbsp dill, fresh and minced
  • 1 Tbsp oregano, fresh and minced
  • 1 tsp sage, fresh and minced
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp kelp or dulse granules
  • ½ Tbsp Celtic sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup celery, minced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, minced

1) Mix almonds and sunflower seeds in a food processor and blend until smooth. Remove and place in a large bowl.

2) Add in the remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly.

3) Serve by itself or wrapped in nori with veggies (cucumber, lettuce, carrots, beets, sprouts) or with flatbread, raw crackers, or on a salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cabbage, chopped finely
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 beet, shredded
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped (any variety)
  • 1 fennel, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • Dressing:
  • ½ cup hemp seed oil
  • ¼ cup unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 to 4 Tbsp honey or coconut nectar
  • 1 tsp Himalayan rock salt

1) Use a mandolin or the shredding blade of a food processor and shred the cabbage, carrots, and beet. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add in the chopped fennel and kale.

2) Mix the dressing ingredients and then pour onto the mixed veggies. Mix thoroughly, squeezing as you mix to “wilt” the kale.

3) Allow the salad to marinate in fridge for a few minutes – or up to an hour, mixing in hemp seeds just before serving.

(Makes 1-½ cups)

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup cashews (soaked in water for 1 hour)
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • Handful of basil or 1-2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil (if necessary for consistency)

1) Drain the cashews and place in food processor with dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Process until the mixture takes on the consistency of ricotta cheese. Set aside.

2) Sprinkle on raw pizza crust, raw pasta “zucchini noodles”, or on a salad.

(Makes 2 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp coconut nectar
  • 4 Medjool dates (soaked overnight or in warm water for 20-30 minutes)
  • 1-2 Tbsp of pure unsweetened raw cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp almond butter or ½ cup raw almonds (soaked in water overnight for 8 hrs)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ripe banana (optional)
  • Cacao nibs for garnish

1) Combine the ingredients in a blender and whirl on high until well blended into a thick creamy pudding.

2) Divide the pudding into 2 servings.

 

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