• time to come clean

    January 1, 2010

    Happy New Year!

    This is an article I wrote for a well-known raw website, but it was never published.  And since a lot of you might be thinking of starting the year with a detox, I thought it was the perfect time to share it.  May all your dreams come true in 2010, for the good of all.

    There is a lot of conflicting information out there regarding raw food, let alone nutrition and wellbeing as a whole.  One of the testiest topics I’ve come across is colonic irrigation.  To cleanse, or not to cleanse?  That is the ongoing question.

    My first brush with colonic irrigation happened quite accidentally – well, as unintentional as finding yourself attached to a long-tube dangling from a bucket of diluted coffee could be.  I was at The Sanctuary in Thailand, a resort and spa that became my home for two blissful weeks in January 2008.

    Sanctuary1

    When I arrived at The Sanctuary, I made a beeline for the legendary restaurant and its thick menu with page after page of mostly vegetarian dishes.  There was a raw-food section at the back, one I barely took note of.  I wondered how I was going to try everything during my stay, and when I cast an eye on the homemade bakery case, I knew I had to get a move on.  Back then, my life revolved around food, and not in the healthiest way.  I had trained as a pastry chef and built not just my travels – but my days – on what I was going to eat next.

    Then I happened to stumble into the resort’s detox centre.  I had heard murmurs about the fasts being supervised there and had seen people on the beach checking their watches before downing a handful of tablets.  Just what the heck was going on here?  I had to find out.  Of course I had zero intention of not eating for several days in a row, or so I told myself.

    Padding barefoot up the wooden steps, I spied a couple drinking watermelon juice at the bar.  Trying to keep a low cover, I eyed up the chalkboard offering 3.5 and seven-day fasts.  I could tell the couple was watching me, and soon I learned they were fasting veterans who, when they found out I wrote about food for a living and was obsessed with it, told me I absolutely had to do this.  “No use coming all the way here if you’re not,” they agreed, “And no better way to confront your attachments to food.”  Then they told me about the colonics, and with such zeal you’d think they were talking about a massage or bingeing out on ice cream, something I had been doing with abandon to cope with the tropical heat.

    I signed up for the shorter fast and was sent off with a bunch of literature in preparation.  And read it I did, but not before gorging myself on coconut ice cream shakes and goodies from the aforementioned dessert case as if these were my last few days on Earth.  Looking back, I realize how counterproductive – even a waste of my money – this approach was.

    We were told to switch over to the raw-food menu two days before the start of the fast, an idea I couldn’t get my head around and implemented reluctantly.  My, what a difference a year makes! I now eat a “pre-fast” menu practically all the time, and with pleasure.

    The fast at The Sanctuary is actually not a fast at all.  You’re putting something into your belly about every two hours, be it psyllium husk and clay (something my gag reflex never got used to), mineral tablets, your choice of juice (coconut, apple, watermelon or carrot), and an evening vegetable broth spiked with cayenne pepper.  The group atmosphere is almost cult-like with people popping pills in synchrony, but I’ll tell you: it works.

    While you’re taking a lot in, you’re also evacuating quite a bit – via those colonics I mentioned earlier.  To say I was skeptical is an understatement.  If we were meant to have colonic irrigation, wouldn’t we have been born with the required equipment?  There are a lot of arguments against colonic irrigation, and this is a legitimate one.  But if the idea of it goes against nature, how about the mounds of unnatural stuff we subject our bodies to in modern times?  I kept mulling this thought as I joined my fellow first-day fasters for a colonic demonstration given by Moon, the detox center’s lively manager.

    Yes, a demonstration because, as I soon learned, these weren’t colonics at all but rather a super-sized enema self-administered on a colema board.  Once inside the little colema hut, Moon stretched out on the board – fully clothed – and proceeded to give us a surprisingly tasteful step-by-step demo on how to do this.

    Later that day, it was the moment of truth.  I undressed from the waist down, double-checked the shaky lock on the hut door, and made myself as comfortable as you can on a wooden plank while “Girl from Ipanema” pumped out of the speakers and a giant bag of diluted coffee flowed into my bowels.  If that sentence seems long, imagine what 45 minutes of this felt like.  That’s how long my first colema took, and, as I would soon discover, I wasn’t alone.

    Probably the best part about doing a group cleanse like this are the post-colema conversations, especially the ones started by men.  Men, of course, tend to be slightly more squeamish about the procedure, and the ones in our group dealt with it by conjuring up a steady stream of comic material.  In short, all we talked about was poop – how much, what color, what size.  The buzz word at the center was “mucoid plaque,” a digestive by-product considered the holy grail of colon cleansing.  There were pictures of the stuff in the literature we gaped at every day, and it ain’t pretty.  We all secretly hoped to pass the elusive monster, but by the end of our fasts not one of us had produced a trophy.

    Once you get the hang of a colema, it’s a breeze and goes fairly quickly, although the point of it is to hold the fluid in as long as you can before expelling it.  One of the guys in my group was a wedding singer from Northern England, and he had us howling with laughter when he revealed he was able to hold the entire contents of the colema bag before releasing it.  A medical marvel?  Moon said he was one of two people he’d met who possessed this special talent.

    As the days went on, I was amazed at how light and alive I felt.  By the end of the fast, my skin cleared, I felt incredibly alert, and my little belly had disappeared.  Of course, attributing these changes to the colema, the fast or both would be ridiculous.  Let’s not forget there was plenty of sunshine, serenity and seawater.  In short, there is no magic solution.  It’s the total experience that counts.  My time at The Sanctuary was magical and cleansing on many different levels – physically, spiritually and emotionally.  I can neither credit nor discredit colemas.

    But I can tell you I haven’t had coffee since.

    MoonTheManager

    Me post detox with Moon, the manager at the Wellness Center at The Sanctuary in Thailand.

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  • how do you like them apples?

    December 24, 2009

    I know I’m just sliding in with this one so close to Christmas Day, but it’s so good I think you’ll want to make it long after the holiday madness dies down.  So, without (any) adieu, I present:

    new recipe: please pass the pumpkin pie

    I came up with this one last year from a mishmash of recipes, and this year I’m substituting almond milk for soy.  One of the best parts about this pie is the crust made with oats and pecans:

    piecrust

    I wish another experiment had proven as successful.  For months I’ve been reading about raw apple pie and tried some at VitaOrganic in London.  When a work colleague asked about my slice, I gave an enthusiastic “ok,” but the truth was I thought the pie was terrible.  I thought I could do better; and, wanting to put a yet healthier spin on one of my favorite desserts, got in the kitchen and threw together this raw apple pie.  Except that it was labor-intensive and messy, something I don’t mind and am happy to do most of the time.   But I have no desire to try this pie.  I’m not going tell you I love it just because it’s raw, or that I prefer it to regular ole apple pie.  When you look at it you might wonder what I’m talking about.  It sure does look pretty.

    rawapplepie

    Or, you might be like my friend Sarah who exclaimed, “Nothing says Christmas like vegan and raw!”

    I’m going back in the kitchen to bake an apple crisp.  It’ll still be vegan, but I’ll be able to smell it.

    Merry Christmas!

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  • i am not entirely convinced

    October 28, 2009

    I had heard about Café Gratitude through the raw-food blogosphere, so when Liz asked if I wanted to go to the San Francisco branch, I couldn’t resist.  However, her first and only experience there had not been very friendly, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be in for Café Attitude.

    I found the opposite: an ebullient staff making sure the restaurant’s feel-good concept echoed everywhere.  Before you even place your order, you’ll be asked the question of the day.  “What do you have faith in?” says the waiter with a beatific smile.  Liz thinks he looks like the comedian Carrot Top.

    All the menu items are written in affirmations. Our live pizza – a salad, cashew cream, and tomatoes atop a sprouted buckwheat base with the biggest sprouts I’ve ever seen – was dubbed “I Am Passionate”.

    IMG_0997
    Had I first encountered Café Gratitude – or any other live-food restaurant – a few months ago, I would have been all over the idea.  But now the heavy emphasis on nuts and seeds turns me off and feels too heavy.  I know that these foods helped me transition to a high-raw diet; but once I did, my food choices became very simple.  Live food?  Spare me the dehydrating and elaborate nut concoctions in favor of simple foods that really let you live.  Personally, if I’m going to have something cooked-like, I’d rather just have it cooked.

    That said, the nut-free coconut cream pie, aka I Am Devoted, was worth the visit.

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  • instant pear pudding

    September 3, 2009

    The statement “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” assumes that whatever the “norm” is the simplest approach to begin with.  But what if you found that a new way is not only easier, but produced a better result?

    Enter pear pudding, if you can call it that.  Take a few pears, throw ‘em in a high-speed blender; and watch them go from grainy fruit to silky puree with no heat, no scrubbing pots, no waiting, and even no need to core or de-seed.

    It’s like applesauce, only better and fresher.  You can do this with apples, too, by the way – and I’ve been known to toss a few in with the pears.  But I find that pears alone are magic here, and I can polish off a deep soup bowl of it for dinner.

    new recipe: instant pear pudding

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  • raw temptations and working lunches

    August 30, 2009

    I’m so used to working from home now that the idea of taking a “lunch hour” like regular folk fills me with both excitement and dread.  On the one hand it’s what I most look forward to; on the other I don’t have the luxury (and control) of my fridge and my Vita-Mix.  But I’ve been reporting to an office for the past two weeks, and it’s the first time since switching to a high-raw diet.

    Have I been high raw at the office?  Kinda sorta.  Here’s how it goes:

    -I start the day with a breakfast bowl packed with fruit (recipe to come).  That’s all raw.
    -I blend up a big green smoothie before I leave and put it into my Sigg bottle, then I down it the minute I settle into my desk and power up the PC (massive culture shock for a Mac user).

    So far, so raw.  This particular office has the added touch of fruit bowls in the kitchen, but the bananas are terribly unripe, and you know how I feel about that.  And crunching an apple in an open office space just doesn’t feel right.  So what do I do?  I’d love to tell you that I gamely scoop out the neglected tangerines in the bottom of the bowl.  Nope.  Not since I discovered that the vending machine stocks Green & Blacks 70% chocolate.  Someone in Human Resources is very smart.

    Yes, folks, that’s right, I’ve been having one of those 30g mini bars every day.  What’s this thing Natalia Rose says about having a square of dark chocolate?  Who the heck can have just a square?  Notice how she doesn’t specify what size such square should be.  The bar comes out of the vending machine cold, so I also got in the habit of setting it atop a mug of tea to warm it up.  Oh boy.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself, because between the green smoothie and the square(s) is lunch.  Except for when I have the chocolate in the morning, and that only happened once, when I had bought a large bar of dark chocolate from Marks & Spencer, ate half of it, and “hid” it under some papers for the following afternoon…

    Anyway, lunch.  Raw options in Farringdon where I’ve been working are not easy to come by, but I’ve found a few things that are pretty close:

    First up is Abokado, an airy little sushi place where, surprisingly, they had this salad box with falafel.  Nice and colorful, just how I like it.
    abokado

    Cute, eh?

    And then on Friday I headed over to Exmouth Market again to Spinach & Agushi, the Ghanaian stall.  I love, love this place.  Not only am I overcome by the smell of frying plantains – a frequent presence in my Cuban upbringing – but the staff are very warm, and the food is fantastic.  The menu is simple: pick a stew or two, and ask for it with the plantains or red rice.  I went for the rice with spinach  & agushi plus black-eyed bean stew. The agushi looks like ground beef but is actually made with crushed pomegranate seeds.  Everything is layered in a box and then topped with an optional “garnish” of shredded carrots:

    jollof

    Oh, wow, I could have this at any hour of the day.  Add “Ghanaian recipes” to my list of things to look up.

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  • our big raw greek picnic

    July 29, 2009

    potluckspread

    It wouldn’t have been Britain without a sprinkle, but we managed to eat everything before ducking for cover.

    I’m talking about Sunday’s Raw Food UK potluck picnic.  Raw Food UK is a friendly Yahoo group I’ve belonged to for a few months now, and this past weekend we decided to get together for a little food and fun.  Lucky me, it happened just down the road from me at Kensington Gardens where I normally run.

    Check out the spread: that’s Sandra’s mango salsa and beetroot flax crackers, Lucy’s chocolate coconut brownies, Debbie’s sunny melons, David’s studded gingerbread, and my tomato corn salsa and guacamole (notice how the stone keeps things perky green!)

    But wait, that was before Gina got there.  Gina, a.k.a. The Raw Greek, came armed with a bunch of can’t-believe-they’re-raw goodies, including these amazing dolmades made with vine leaves from her mother’s garden:

    dolmades

    I actually prefer these to rice-filled leaves because the parsnip is so crisp and refreshing.  These things were like potato chips, and they were gone just as quickly.  I thought they were the star of the spread, until she brought out another winner.  Kiwi leathers:
    kiwileather
    Oh my.  These were reminiscent of the fruit roll-ups I had as a kid but so much better.  And there’s only one ingredient in ’em.  Yep: kiwis!  Really ripe ones, says Gina, blended to a pulp and spread out on a dehydrator.

    Thanks to Sandra for scribbling the details down – as you can see it’s a fairly loose recipe.  Now I just need a garden full of vine leaves.

    The Raw Greek Dolmades
    Makes 30

    30 fresh vine leaves
    4 parsnips
    2 tablespoons mint
    4 tomatoes
    1/2 red onion
    3/4 cup pine nuts
    Lemon juice, olive oil, and salt for marinade

    Marinate the vine leaves overnight in lemon juice, oil, and salt.

    Pulse the parsnips in a food processor; then add remaining ingredients.  Drizzle lemon juice and olive oil marinade from the leaves and continue pulsing until combined.  Fill and roll.

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  • spoilt/spoiled for choice

    July 26, 2009

    I often get completely overwhelmed by the online world.  If I could follow every blog I wanted to – let alone keep up with the news – there would be no time to have a real life to put it all into practice!  And Twitter?  Don’t even get me started.  A lot of people recommended it to me when I launched Green Appetite, but I felt I had to draw the line somewhere.

    In an age of information overload, we need to make choices.  And one I make nearly every day is checking what’s new on Choosing Raw, the popular, well-written blog by Gena in New York City.  I have no idea how she manages a full-time publishing job while running a food coaching business and writing frequent, thoughtful posts that always teach me something new.

    One such entry was her raw zucchini (aka courgette in the UK) hummus.  Given my laisez-faire approach to food, I liked the idea of not using beans and all the prep that goes with them, but I must admit I was skeptical.  Yet as soon as I whipped it up I knew I was onto a winner.  I made some modifications to Gena’s recipe in order to cut down on the fat, and it was still wonderfully filling.  I also cut the salt by half and made up for it with more lemon juice.

    I had it one evening with lightly-steamed broccoli florets, then the next day I followed Gena’s tip and put a dollop of it onto endive (chicory) leaves, adding my own touch of basil, chopped walnuts and freshly-ground black pepper (pictured with my version of the recipe below).  The result: an elegant, no-sweat appetizer that would be perfect for a romantic tête-à-tête.

    new recipe: zippy zucchini hummus

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  • will the real super food please stand up?

    July 4, 2009

    In my recent video tour of my kitchen, I mentioned that whole, fresh fruit and greens are the true super foods; and that I was taking a closer look at the maca, lucuma and cacao lurking in my fridge.

    There’s no money in fruit and veggies.  You can’t brand them like you can processed goods.  That’s why there’s no advertising, no spiel.  The closest I can think of are the vegetable box schemes or CSAs that have become so popular.  But here again, no one can stake claim to produce as proprietary.

    Yet producers are aware of the public’s desire for natural, plant-based nutrition; and someone was bound to cash in on it.

    Enter “super foods”.  At £20 (around $36) for a pack of lucuma – a dried Peruvian fruit boasting high levels of beta carotene in its WHOLE form – the only super thing we can be sure about is the price.

    I can’t say I agree with everything in the latest issue of the Glycemic Index newsletter (I can think of better after-sports options than pasteurized chocolate cow’s milk, for example), but Nicole Senior’s assessment of the super food craze is right on,  She also makes a very good point about the environmental impact involved in the production and distribution of so-called super foods.

    I use lucuma in my Dulce de Leche recipe, but to do so with the belief that it alone will super-charge my health is ridiculous.  In short, the Earth gives us a wealth of vitamins and minerals distributed amongst an incredibly varied plant kingdom for a reason; and each is packaged with pure water for a purpose.  To think that a single food – let alone a dehydrated supplement – can nourish us is completely contrary to our nature.  T. Colin Campbell calls it “scientific reductionism”; Dr. Douglas Graham refers to it as the “fragmented approach.”  To be healthy, we gotta be whole.

    It’s also important to remember that plants produce toxins in order to ward off predators, yet another reason to rotate the produce we eat and keep concentrated foods to a minimum.  As I was telling a client yesterday who works in finance: it’s smart to shop for food as if you were investing in a portfolio; spread your investments in order to minimize risk and maximize reward.

    Have a super 4th of July!

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  • sprouting for smarties

    June 15, 2009

    sprouts1

    The incredibly popular for Dummies books each start from the assumption that the reader knows absolutely nothing about the topic at hand.  This post – and Green Appetite in general – is founded on the belief that you already know everything you need to when it comes to your health and wellbeing.  My job is only to help you awaken what’s already within.

    As I mentioned in my green smoothies post, children come into the world naturally craving what’s good for them and rejecting what’s not.  I was reminded of that today during my visit to Mummies’ Morning at Whole Foods.  One of the mothers was telling me how her toddler begged for a piece of birthday cake at a party only to have a tiny nibble.  Yet give her some fruit, and she can’t seem to get enough.

    This morning I introduced the mothers to what’s probably the simplest seed to sprout: buckwheat.  Packed with protein and full of fiber, buckwheat goes from dry seed to living sprout in just 24 hours.  When shopping for buckwheat, make sure you get the unroasted kind.  You can tell just by the color: it’s green, of course.  Roasted buckwheat is brown and will never sprout no matter how long you soak it.  It is, effectively, dead.  Here again, the power of living enzymes.

    Unlike many other seeds for sprouting, buckwheat only needs to be soaked for 20 minutes to one hour; any more than that and it’ll get waterlogged.  The picture above is actually of sprouted wheat berries, which take a little longer to soak and sprout but have a wonderful slightly sweet flavor that goes very well with the strawberries currently in season.  In addition, people who can’t tolerate wheat in things like bread or pasta may find that sprouted wheat agrees with them just fine.

    So, how do you actually grow these perfect little bundles of living goodness?  Very, very easily.  Forget any fancy sprouting equipment, especially glass jars.  For years I had been trying to figure out why I couldn’t sprout anything in a jar without it becoming moldy.  I actually gave up, thinking myself a sprouting failure.  That was until I attended a lecture by Sproutman – yes, you read right.  Sproutman, topped by his sprout-studded beanie, uttered what I had always intuitively known: sprouts need air!  And glass is simply not designed to circulate it.

    That’s when I devised my own little sprouting experiment fashioned from two cheap things I already owned: a mixing bowl and a fine-mesh sieve that fits over it.  That’s all you need.  While every seed, bean or grain for sprouting has its own soak and sprout time, the basic method is the same:

    1. Soak seed in filtered water in the bowl
    2. Drain in sieve
    3. Rinse twice daily

    That’s all there is to it.  Oh yeah, I also place a paper towel over the top between rinses to keep anything airborne out.  As for soaking and sprouting times, I know of no better resource than Sproutpeople.  These people seriously know their sprouts, and they make it a lot of fun, too.  Definitely one to bookmark.

    Oh, and sprouts go a loooong way both in bulk and bargain.  Once you get the hang of it – which will be very quick – you’ll want to sprout more than one thing at once.  For instance, I normally have wheat, rye or buckwheat going as a base for things like Divine Muesli as well as a sprout salad mix to toss in savory recipes like Lazy Sushi.  For the salad mix I like to use Sproutman’s hemp sproutbag, just because it stays out of the way hanging from a kitchen cabinet.  But my trusty mixing bowl and sieve formula would work just the same: fresh, crunchy, mold-free wholesomeness every time.

    A word of warning:  once you start sprouting, you’ll never stop.

    p.s. Have a sprouting secret or question?  Let me know!

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  • must-see green tv

    June 12, 2009

    I haven’t had a TV in over four years, but I do get a lot of video value out of my Mac.  Here’s a rundown of what caught my eye this week:

    HOME
    Apparently viewable on YouTube only until tomorrow, so it’s really worth blocking out 1.5 hours to watch Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s amazing aerial footage of the planet as you’ve never seen it before.  May I suggest a nice, big bowl of souped-up strawberries instead of popcorn.

    FOOD, Inc
    Exposé of America’s industrialized food industry opens today in select US cities.  Being in the UK, I won’t be able to watch this yet; but my interest is quite piqued after seeing a PBS interview with director Robert Kenner.  Can’t say I’d snack on anything during this one.

    Raw Spirit Festival highlights
    Matt Monarch talks to health warrior Jameth Sheridan, who shares his honest, thought-provoking views on the many faces of raw while Troy Casey of Amazon Herbs makes me want to grow my hair long and move to Ecuador. Best enjoyed with a glass of Drink Your Greens.

    TED’s eco double bill
    John La Grou plugs smart power outlets and Kevin Surace invents eco-friendly drywall.  Who needs TV when you’ve got TED?

    Reader plea: I’d like to make this a regular feature but can’t keep up with all the great videos out there, so if you come across any you think should be included here I’d be grateful if you’d send them my way.  Happy weekend!

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