• banana pancakes and going all the way

    June 9, 2009

    A few days ago, I received a very nice email about my banana pancakes from a reader named Mindy.  I was wondering when I’d get a query about this recipe since, as you may have noticed, it’s the only non-raw one in the bunch so far.  I tried to reply to Mindy, but my email keeps bouncing back.  And since I believe everything happens for a reason, I reasoned it could only be that the universe wanted my answer to reach Mindy through this blog and, consequently, all of you.

    Here’s Mindy’s question:

    Dear Jessica,

    Your website is just beautiful. So glad I found it!!! About those pancakes… they look wonderful but I am wondering if there is a way to cook them so as not to destroy any enzymes. I just began eating 100% raw in March and am still learning what I can and can’t make and eat. What are your thoughts? Many thanks, Mindy

    Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, Mindy.  A great question, especially as it presents a springboard for talking about transitioning to raw foods and how cooked foods can fit in.

    Food is considered raw if it has not been heated above 118F (some sources say 115F).  Heating, as you know, can destroy the digest enzymes in food, meaning that when we eat cooked food, the body has to call on its own enzyme reserves in order to facilitate digestion.  Digesting enzyme-depleted food is hard work for the body, draining our energy and re-directing it away from other bodily functions.

    Consuming food as close to its natural state as possible gives us the most access to those amazing digestive enzymes, hence the vitality-boosting power of raw food.  As I indicate in the recipe, cooking the pancakes at a low temperature (low to medium on the stove) as opposed to the traditional high-heat method helps conserve as much of the enzyme and nutrient content as possible.  But no, the pancakes aren’t raw.

    I debated whether to include the recipe, but my philosophy is that promoting an all-or-nothing approach is unrealistic.  While I think eating 100% raw is wonderful and admirable, I also realize that many people prefer to tip toe into raw foods rather than dive in, especially since it’s so easy to become discouraged if something doesn’t go to plan.  Raw is a lifestyle change on many levels, and it takes some time to get used to.  In short, I’d rather get people to add more raw and replace their usual cooked meals with healthier alternatives instead of advocating an extreme approach that can lead to giving up on one of the most life-enhancing gifts our planet has to offer.  Brendan Brazier, the plant-fuelled professional tri-athlete, has several pancake recipes in his book The Thrive Diet, and he also suggests low-temp cooking within the context of a high raw, plant-based diet.

    The other reason for including healthier cooked alternatives is that going too suddenly from years on a heavily-cooked diet to 100% raw can lead to discouraging detox symptoms that can cause you to jump the raw ship if you don’t know what’s going on.  The easiest way to slow down this natural cleansing process is to include some cooked foods.  Another way is complementary techniques such as dry brushing and colonics, which I’ll address in separate posts.  Natalia Rose talks about this in detail in her book The Raw Food Detox Diet.  I like her flexible, easy-does-it approach and encourage you to check her out if you haven’t already.  The other thing I love about her books is that there isn’t a single dehydrator recipe in them.  For me, one of the best things about raw food is how fast and simple it can be.  With that in mind, I prefer to eat a high-raw diet that includes occasional cooked foods rather than a 100% raw diet with lots of dehydrated foods.  Again, there are many solutions in between, and if you own a dehydrator I’d love to know if you decide to experiment with it and create an all-raw version of banana pancakes!

    As for my own journey, I used to be a complete pancake addict.  It wasn’t just a weekend treat for me, but a several-times-a-week indulgence I’d get up especially early for.  Funnily enough, I haven’t made pancakes at all since I began eating high raw.  I never believed it before, but cravings and habits do change; and now I wake up with luscious green smoothies on the brain.  That doesn’t mean I won’t make or eat pancakes ever again.  Which brings me to my last point…

    I firmly believe in not getting caught up in labels, and I think you’ll find that the more you explore the raw food community, the more you’ll discover a refreshing lack of judgement.  Instead, there is a profound respect for wherever you are on the raw continuum and a heavy emphasis on listening to your heart…and your belly.

    I’m really excited to welcome my fellow We Like it Raw readers and would love to hear your thoughts, so I hope you’ll put that comment box below to work with all your wonderful wisdom!

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  • guest feature on we like it raw

    June 8, 2009

    Buenos dias, amigos!  A few weeks ago on my snacking smart post I mentioned I would be telling you about my recent family reunion in Madrid and how I managed my green appetite while I was there.

    Well, here it is…and on none other than We Like it Raw!

    A huge thanks to Dhrumil for being so cool with the idea and showcasing it beautifully with the photos I took.  In it, you can read about how I stuck to a high-raw diet amidst la familia plus tips on how to navigate Madrid menus while enjoying Spanish cuisine that’s good for you and the planet.

    But wait, there’s more!  I wanted to welcome my fellow We Like it Raw readers with a seasonal recipe they and you can make in a jiffy.  Bienvenidos and enjoy!

    new recipe:  speedy gazpacho

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  • blissed-out in southern california

    June 7, 2009

    Right now I’m experiencing a bit of a challenge with regards to living in the moment, because to be quite honest I’d much rather be living this moment at the Raw Spirit Festival in Santa BarbaraMatt Monarch has been giving us stranded folk an insider’s peek with his trusty camera, and I just had to share his latest clip, especially since it ties in nicely with yesterday’s post on slimming foods and my previous one on plant-powered fitness.  Have you ever seen such shiny, happy people?  Talk about the joy of plant-based food and the beautifying power of raw!

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  • charlie and the raw chocolate factory

    June 4, 2009

    Just as I had grown weary of Facebook, suddenly it turned into a way to link up with people on this same joyful path of loving great food that loves you back.  That’s how I bumped into Charlie Lagoa, creator of Charlie’s Raw Treats.  When we realized we both lived in London, we just had to meet up – and where else but at Whole Foods!

    Charlie has bravely launched her new business while holding down a full-time job, and her passion and dedication were evident the minute I met her.  You can read all about her journey into raw foods on her blog where she already beat me to the punch by writing a very thoughtful post about this site.  Thank you, Charlie.

    Of course, I was secretly hoping that I might get a nibble of her raw treats with the excuse of writing about it here.  But Charlie was already on the case, and when we sat down she whipped out a bag of sweet surprises.  Being a life-long lover of cheesecake and never having tried a raw one, I was very curious about hers and, dare I say it, quite skeptical that it would induce the same kind of swoon state as the ridiculously rich cheesecakes of my past.  But one spoonful and I couldn’t believe my taste buds.  Charlie’s Lemon Cheesecake is phenomenally lemony and can’t-believe creamy!

    Her homespun business is actually as far away from a factory as you can get; she makes every single one of her treats by hand in her kitchen from honest ingredients.  The Lemon Cheesecake gets its tangy taste from coconut, cashews, agave and lemon.  That’s it!  Proof that good-for-you food should be simple and delicious.  Keep your eye on Charlie; she’s going to soar.

    And speaking of Facebook, come join us on the Green Appetite group.  Something sweet might be just around the corner.

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  • get water wise

    June 2, 2009

    In the spirit of simple and tasty, I’m going to be posting more quickies to the blog, and more often.  What better way to start than with the great common denominator:  water.

    If you’re like me, right along with the marketing machine’s “need milk for strong teeth and healthy bones” you probably have another sound bite lodged in your head: drink at least eight glasses of water a day.  Or wait, was that two liters?  Or was it take your body weight, multiply it by pi and divide the number by your age?

    Forget all that.  There’s only one thing you need to know:  eat more raw fruits and veggies.  The reason we grew up with the great water myth is because the standard western diet is comprised mostly of denatured, dehydrated foods.  When you think about the fact that processed, starchy carbohydrates form the bulk of typical western diets, you start to see why companies have made millions selling bottled water.  By contrast, Mother Nature, the original rawntrepreneur, designed her products to come perfectly packaged with plenty of pure – no need for fancy filters – water.  Start eating more raw fruits and vegetables, and suddenly you’ll realize you aren’t so thirsty anymore.

    Okay, so maybe that wasn’t so short.  I’m an English major and I’m half Cuban; what can I say?

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  • are you snacking smart?

    May 25, 2009

    One of the most important aspects of sticking to a healthy diet is having no-brainer, good-for you snacks on hand at all times. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable is key to maintaining optimal energy levels between meals and controlling cravings, so the ideal snack is rich in fiber and low on the glycemic index.  Luckily, whole, plant-based foods are just the ticket.

    I always keep a stash of cashews (raw unsalted!) and fruit on me when I’m on the go.  Dried fruit can spike your blood sugar and should be eaten in moderation, so having a handful of nuts along with them is a much better option and keeps things interesting.  One of my favorite snacks is simply tucking a Brazil nut or almond into a pitted date – it tastes like pecan pie!  You can pre-prep these and put them in a re-sealable (reusable) bag to carry with you.  They’ll keep well in an office desk and in your car, too.  Use common sense in especially hot weather, but you’ll probably want fresh fruit during those occasions anyway.

    When shopping for dried fruit, read the labels closely to make sure you’re not buying a bag of preservatives.  Most health-food stores stock sulphur-free dried fruit; you just have to look for it.  You can also make up a batch of my Trail Less Traveled Mix and change up the dried fruit or leave it out altogether.  Dried cranberries are a nice variation; just make sure they’re not marked “sugar infused.”

    While dried fruit is certainly handy, Mother Nature does know best; and fruit eaten in its natural form is always superior.  After all, dried fruit doesn’t grow on trees and is high on the glycemic index because it’s missing the necessary water that nature packages beautifully in fresh fruit.  The same principle applies to juicing: the fibrous pulp in whole fruit keeps the sugars moving nice and slowly through the body rather than causing a rapid rise in blood glucose.  Therefore, save for an emergency energy lift, it’s much better to have a blended smoothie than stripped fruit, a.k.a. juice.  Green juice, on the other hand, is a great, quick way to get a ton of alkalizing phytochemicals into the body with minimal sugar.  Still, I much prefer my luscious smoothies!  In fact, I don’t even own a juicer.

    The high water content in fresh, whole fruit not only results in a lower concentration of sugar; it also means you’ll feel fuller faster and stay full longer.  Fresh fruit digests very quickly, causing other foods (especially fats) to sit in the stomach and ferment.  More on food combining in a future post, but for now just remember to try to eat fruit on an empty stomach and at least 20 minutes before a fat, starch or protein.  Berries, plums and apples are especially low on the glycemic index.  Bananas take a little longer to digest (about 45 minutes). They’re also perfectly portable and my on-the-go fruit of choice.  Make sure they’re ripe; lots of brown spots and no green tops are good.

    Speaking of portability, I treasure my Ziploc bags because my mom sends them to me from the US, but I only need about a box or two a year because I simply wash them out and re-use them.  I use and reuse the larger-sized bags to freeze fruit for making smoothies.  Similarly, I rarely buy stuff in plastic containers – preferring the bulk bins at the health-food store – but when I do I make sure to wash them out and put them to work storing nuts, sprouts, snacks and leftovers.

    On a similar note, I’ve just returned from a family reunion in Madrid and will be posting tips soon for healthier traveling along with a summery Spanish recipe, so please stay tuned!  Also, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  Happy low-sugar snacking, amigos.  Hasta la proxima.

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  • put a real spring in your step

    May 14, 2009

    new recipe: oh, happy day smoothie

    I have been so excited to read all your amazing feedback about the site and can’t thank you enough for giving me a real boost.

    So, I thought I’d offer you more of the same in return with what’s probably my favorite change your diet a little bit, change your life a lot tip.

    I’m certainly not the first to write about the life-boosting, Popeye power of the green smoothie, and yet it took me a long time to find out about them and give them a try myself. As they say, once you are ready, the teacher appears. Similarly, every time I rave about green smoothies I’m amazed at what a new concept this is for most people. Well, you are ready and the teacher has appeared!

    If you make just one change this week, make it this.

    Everyone knows that dark, leafy greens – lots of them—are good for our bodies, but how many of us actually sit down to a huge bowl of them every day? It just doesn’t happen.

    The answer? The green smoothie. By blending the phytochemical powerhouses of green leaves with the sweetness of fruit, you’re tricking and treating your body at the same time. Not only that, it takes less than five minutes to whip up. And there’s no better time to try them than right now, when the weather’s getting warmer (well, one can hope in London) and fabulous fruit is coming into season. I encourage you to be recipe rebels and play around with different combinations, but a basic guideline is 50% fruit/50% greens. I like to use a mix of fresh and frozen fruit so things are nice and cold. To that end, I always keep bags of frozen berries in the freezer along with other fruit like pineapples and peaches I slice, peel and freeze.

    This week, I hit the fruity jackpot when my friends Arti and Sunil brought me a box of glorious Alphonso mangoes from India. Peel one and it’s like pure sunshine in your hands. I can’t get enough of this luscious concoction and hope it brightens up your day, too, even if your mangoes come from the corner shop, which I’ll sadly be reverting to soon. Even so, it’ll still be amazing. Have this first thing in the morning or in a safe, reusable bottle on your way to work, and you’ll already have consumed more greens than most people do in a week.

    By the way, whenever I post a new recipe it’ll appear in the recipes section so you can find it easily. Here’s the link again for this one:

    oh, happy day smoothie

    And to learn more about the many benefits of greens, check out Victoria Boutenko’s Green for Life.

    Cheers!

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