I have released four recipe books so far:

The Best of the Sunny Raw Kitchen
The Best of Raw Freedom Community
Delightfully Raw and
Deliciously Raw

These feature some of the most delectable creations to have come out of my raw kitchen and will appeal to anyone interested in a healthier diet, regardless of their level of knowledge and experience. From easy one-step everyday fare to more elaborate and involved gourmet dishes and layered cakes, they offer something for everyone and every occasion. Incredibly tasty smoothies, creamy and comforting warm soups, sexy salads, delicious nut cheezes, satisfying entrees and scrumptious guilt-free desserts...

Healthy food never tasted so good!

To learn more about my recipe books, click here!

Monday, May 31, 2010

SRK Tour Adventures: Oregon Part III

Hiya everyone! *waving*

I've done it again; dropping off the face of the cyberworld for a few weeks. (Thanks for your patience guys!) Sure feels strange whenever I don't blog for a while; the virtual reality has become such an integral part of my life.

I had a sense that our return to Canada after so many months on the road would be a radical shift of pace. What I hadn't expected was that the considerable backlog of stress and deep tiredness would bubble up to the surface and hit me all at once the moment I stopped.

Vipassana: A Simple Path
As I told you in my previous post, I went to serve a Vipassana meditation course at the center in Merritt, only a 2 hour drive from where our friends live. While there, I learned that a short 3 day sit for old students was scheduled immediately afterward, which I decided to stay on for. I figured I could definitely use a little refresher.

I know that I've mentioned Vipassana in passing over the years but perhaps it's time I tell you a little more about it. When I sat my first 10 day course in 2000 I felt such a natural resonance with the technique; I knew I'd at last discovered the right one for me. While in the past I had experimented with several other types of meditation, these were mostly focused on calming the mind (a pretty good thing in and of itself). Vipassana, however, took it a step further by delving deeper in order to deal with the so-called 'unconscious' and uproot the dormant impurities (conditioning).

For a short introduction about the technique you can watch a really good little video by S.N. Goenka called 'A Simple Path'. The following is some basic information that you can read on Vipassana's website.

Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to begin to experience its beneficial results. The first three days are dedicated to sharpening the mind by observing the natural flow of the breath. By the fourth day the mind is calmer and more focused, better able to undertake the practice of Vipassana itself: observing sensations throughout the body, understanding their nature, and developing equanimity (objectivity) by learning not to react to them.

There are no charges for the courses - not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. (One of the many aspects of the technique that blows my mind!) All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit.
There are centers in India, Asia, North America, Latin America, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East and in Africa. (I have a friend who will be doing a course in Dharamsala later this month. How cool is that!?!) Ten day non-center courses are also frequently held at many locations outside of centers as they are arranged by local students of Vipassana in those areas. An alphabetical list of worldwide course locations is available as well as a graphical interface of course locations worldwide and in India and Nepal.

When I walked out of my first Vipassana course, I immediately incorporated the technique into my daily life and have since then witnessed dramatic results, including being more objective, calm and less reactive. Of course I still have my moments where I lose mental balance and get overwhelmed by emotions, but these don't last as long as they used to. (Thank goodness!) As soon as I 'come back to my senses' I know exactly what I need to do: get in touch with my bodily sensations.

I sometimes get emails from people who are considering giving Vipassana a try and truly I cannot recommend it highly enough! It has undoubtedly played a major role in the incredible transformation that I have experienced since my moving to BC. (I'll be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of this mega new chapter of my life next month! Yay!)

Anyhoo this opportunity to sit a short course was soooo what I needed (although I would have gladly stayed longer!) I quickly realized just how much my daily practice had suffered during our months on the road, leaving me gradually less and less capable of meeting Life's challenges effectively. With everything going 100 miles an hour and the constant change of location/routine, it was so difficult for me to set time aside to 'stop the world' even for just a few minutes.

Three days barely scratched the surface of the accumulated tension and energy knots that were begging to be tended to, so upon my return from the center I continued to minimize my activities and interactions and meditated several hours daily. I know how much you guys were anxious to read the rest of our adventures and I'm sorry for having left you hanging like that, but I simply couldn't muster the energy to write a single line. As I'm typing this I'm still feeling somewhat uninspired and cob webbed - I think it will take some more time for me to fully recuperate from our traveling feat and get my creative juices a-flowing - so this post may be lacking in some ways, but I'm sure you will understand. ;-)

Alrighty, get comfy then cuz this is going to be a loooooooong one, but what else is new, right? Now for the rest of our uncooking fun in Jozzie's kitchen!

Get Those Ds Going
Jozzie, an old online friend and our host in Medford, OR, doesn't have one dehydrator, she's got four!!! lol Besides two 9 tray Excaliburs, she has two teeny 4 trays that are perfect for taking along on the road. We sure gave the big guys a good work out as we had 3 D days in 3 weeks! Call it the Dehydrator Marathon! First we made calzones for our Italian Feast class. I know they look intimidating but they're really not that complicated. To my surprise, Jozzie had never assembled raw calzones before so she was really keen to make them. They are definitely worth the effort and make such great traveling food! (In fact, we snacked on them during our trip to the coast.)

Next we cranked up the D to make pizza crusts and toppings for our mega pizza party which I told you all about in my last post. I was excited to give Cafe Gratitude's Buckwheat Pizza Crusts (also known as Sourdough Buckwheat Flatbread) another try so we threw a couple of trays of these in there as well. In an attempt to recreate the one we had at the Cafe in San Francisco, I cut down on the amount of carrot juice called for in the recipe and replaced it with water. While the flavor was very close, the color was still too orangey looking. *scratching her head* Hum, what to do? I decided to drop Dreux a line (he's the one who kindly gave us the tour of the Central Kitchen) to see if he could inquire about the matter to Nelly, Cafe Gratitude's dehydrator expert. He learned that instead of using carrot pulp and juice, lately she's been finely grinding whole carrots in the food processor. Ahhhhhh, that solves the mystery!

For some strange reason I'd never noticed that there's an Onion Bread recipe in Cafe Gratitude's first book, I Am Grateful. (Duh!) Not only that but it happens to be the very recipe that has been floating around RFC for years (The Famous Onion Bread) with the exception that it calls for a little agave nectar. Jozzie and I made a batch so that we could compare the different versions.

I'd be hard pressed to say which one I like best. They both rawck!

On Jozzie's uncooking wish list was for us to prepare an Easter brunch complete with bagels and cream cheeze. I saw (too late!) that Cafe Gratitude had bagels on their menu which I would have sooo loved to try. Guess I'll just HAVE to go back won't I? In the meantime I was all gong-ho for Jozzie's raw bagel experiment idea. We decided to make a couple of different recipes; one was a variation of Alissa Cohen's Rye Bagels but using kamut instead.

I sure had fun shaping them.

The finished bagels looking mighty yummy.


Adapted from Alissa Cohen's Living on Live Food

2 cups sunflower seeds
4 cups sprouted kamut
1 teaspoon minced onion
1 teaspoon sea salt
Water, as needed

Grind sunflower seeds in a food processor until fine.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well.

Add a little water as needed to allow the dough to process smoothly. Start with a tablespoon at a time and add up to ½ cup water. Be sure not to add too much, as this dough should remain very thick.

Form dough into 2 inch high bagels on teflex sheets and dehydrate at 115 degrees.

Flip onto mesh after a couple of hours and continue dehydrating.

Note: Make sure the bagels are not mushy in the middle. Breads can take a long time to dehydrate depending on the thickness and type of grain used.

We also made a bagel by Alex the 'Raw Guru'. I chuckled when I saw that his recipe called for kamut that is first sprouted, then dehydrated and finally ground into powder. When I was brainstorming at Au Lac, trying to figure out how they managed to create such an authentic raw bread, this is the exact technique that I concluded they might have used! lol Glad to see that I was onto something there.

By Alex 'The Raw Guru'
Posted on From SAD to RAW's site

1 cup 1 day sprouted kamut grains, dehydrated (8-10 hrs) then ground into fine powder
1 cup almond flour (soak almonds for 10 hrs, grind em up and dehydrate this mixture till super dry (10 hrs)
3 tbs ground golden flax seeds
1 cup young coconut water and 1 tbs meat
5-7 dates (pitted) or 1 tbs honey
1 tsp olive or coconut oil
1 tsp Celtic sea salt

Put all the ingredients in the food processor and process until well combined. Remove the dough and knead it a couple of times to make it more pliable, if too wet add more kamut flour, or ground flax seeds.

Next, put the dough in a non metal bowl and cover with plastic wrap or towel and let sit in the fridge for 1 hr.

After one hour, remove dough on a a clean surface and divide it to make 10 separate balls. Take each ball, knead it a few times, and make into a bagel shape. Begin from the center and work outwards. The bagel should be no thicker than 2 inches. Take each bagel and press it into a topping (recipes below) and place on a dehydrator sheet, dehydrate for 3-4 hrs. at 145 degrees (only in the Excalibur at this temperature. All others at 110-115 degrees) or until the top is crisp.

Cut each bagel with a serrated knife and if you like you can toast it up in the dehydrator for 10-15 mins. Take each bagel slice, slather it with chive cream cheese (recipe below) and some marinated tomatoes or thinly sliced cucumbers. and there you have it! This recipe is also great for making pretzels and other fun shapes.

You can also make a sweet dough by adding more dates, dried fruits, blueberries, apples, cinnamon and raisins, nuts and seeds, carob chips or chocolate chips (home made of course), etc.

poppy seeds
black and white sesame seeds
garlic flavored sunflower seeds (soak sunflower seeds, drain roll em in some Celtic sea salt, and garlic powder and dehydrate till crisp)
dried herbs

Optional: You can put some "caramelized" onions into the savory dough mixture.

Caramelized onions
1 red onion (sliced very thin)
2 tbs honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt

Mix the water, honey, and salt. Put the sliced onions in there and marinate that overnight in the fridge. Place the onion slices on a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate it for 4 hrs. Remove and chop or leave whole.

Carmella's Notes:
~ The batter was way too wet to be kneaded and made into balls, even after adding lots of extra ground almonds and flax seeds. I'd strongly recommend cutting down on the amount of coconut water called for.

~ We had so much going on in the kitchen that we completely forgot to get the bagel batter out of the fridge after an hour! lol We ended up shaping and dehydrating them the next day, which meant they weren't ready in time for our Easter brunch. In fact they weren't even done dehydrating when we left Jozzie's, but I still took a few along with me which I popped in the D at our next hosts' home. ;-)

~ We also completely forgot to experiment with different toppings! Ooopsie!

Our beautiful and festive Easter brunch!

Kamut Bagels with all the fixings: Garlic & Dill Cheeze, spinach, tomato, thinly sliced red onion and Hollandaise Sauce. We served them with false Solomon seal (a type of wild edible greens) marinated in a little olive oil, tamari and crushed garlic. Exquisite!

Hollandaise Sauce
By Ani Phyo
Posted on Gone Raw here

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup of water
2/3 cups soaked almond
2/3 tsp salt
1/3 tsp turmeric
1/3 cup olive oil

Carmella's Note: I made a few mods: I added more lemon juice and a touch of agave and raw sesame oil.

In my previous post I mentioned Jozzie's friend Amy a few times. She's the wife of Dr. Donato, the director of the local Dolphin Health & Education Center. He is a licensed physical therapist and chiropractor who has been recommending to his patients a diet along the principles of Hallelujah Acres.

One day she brought us some really yummy coconut jerky. Their family goes through a lot of young coconuts which they covet mostly for their precious water (so high in electrolytes!) As they end up with heaps of meat, Amy freezes it in Ziploc bags and has come up with an awesome way to use it. She simply tosses coconut meat strips into a mixture of spices (usually a Mexican type seasoning with onion powder, chili and oregano), places the strips onto a teflex sheet and sprinkles them with a little sea salt. She then dehydrates them for a few hours so that they remain chewy or longer for a jerky like effect. What a neat and nourishing snack!

Our last dehydrating project was to inaugurate Jozzie's hubbie Wayne's creation. He has ingeniously designed and assembled special wooden dehydrator trays. These slide in perfectly along the ridges of an Excalibur and can be used for various purposes. For instance you can use the trays to hold heavy dishes. (If you've ever tried placing a lasagna pan onto a dehydrator mesh then you know how handy such a tray can be!) You can also make cannolis by forming the batter onto metal or plastic tubes, or make tacos by hanging the partially dehydrated circles. How totally cool!

We decided to put the trays to the test with a cannoli recipe posted by Snowdrop on Raw Freedom Community. We had to add quite a lot of water to the original recipe to allow the batter to process smoothly in the Vitamix. As a result the finished cannoli shells weren't quite sweet enough. Boo hoo. Still, Jozzie and I had a blast playing with these! First we shaped the batter into little circles (5 per tray) and dehydrated them for a few hours. We then gently peeled the circles off and rolled them onto the metal tubes. They were actually a tad too dry so we had to rehydrate them with a spray bottle.

Now off to the D!

Let's take a peek see if they're done.

Tada! Ready to be filled with creamy deliciousness (more details to come!)

Since then I discovered that both Matthew Kenney in his Entertaining in the Raw and Russell James' Chocolate Recipe ebook also have interesting cannoli variations. Will have to try these next time!

Oh and by the way, Wayne is selling these nifty wooden trays if you guys are interested. His Strurlee Products website isn't up and running yet, but in the meantime you can contact Wayne directly at lwayneski(at)aol(dot)com or 541- seven seven nine -2804.

I swear Jozzie has virtually every kitchen gadget imaginable! Among them were teeny metal cone forms. We simply shaped a few of the cannoli circles onto them.

Raw Desserts Til You Drop
Alright, since we're already dabbling into the topic of sweet treats, let's move onto desserts in earnest. *gleefully smacking her lips*

I'm gonna start on a light note with a lovely strawberry beverage from Sarma's Living Raw Food. I had a chance to briefly browse through it back in Washington, DC and was thrilled to finally have an opportunity to play with some of the recipes. Oh man! She's got some seriously seducing recipes in there, especially in the dessert section!

Nick's # 7 Shake: A blend of nut milk, strawberries, young coconut, cacao nibs, vanilla and agave. Soooooo creamy and delicious!

While I was on my back, Jozzie prepped Ani Phyo's Pineapple Icebox Dessert which I'd been reading lots of raving reviews about.


Pineapple Icebox Dessert
From the book Ani’s Raw Food Desserts by Ani Phyo
Posted by Carolg on Raw Freedom Community

2 cups cashews
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
2 tablespoons agave syrup

1 1/2 cups cashews
1/3 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup liquid coconut oil
1/4 cup filtered water, as needed
2 1/2 cups chopped cored pineapple

To make the crust, combine the cashews and vanilla in the food processor and chop to a crushed wafer texture. Add the agave syrup and process to mix well. Sprinkle half of the crust onto the bottom of a loaf pan.

To make the filling, combine the cashews, agave syrup, and coconut oil in the high-speed blender and blend until smooth, adding water as needed to create a creamy texture. Spoon the mixture into a mixing bowl, add the pineapple, and stir to mix well. Spoon the filling into the loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining crust on top. Pat lightly. Freeze for 2 hours or until chilled.

Will keep for 4 to 6 days in the fridge or for several weeks in the freezer.

When we met Jozzie in LA back in March we'd brought along a durian in order to initiate her. She immediately fell in love with its unique flavor. So much so that she asked us to get some in San Francisco as she couldn't locate any at her local stores.

I know the photo is a little fuzzy but how could I not share her expression of pure joy? Priceless!

Jozzie had found a cooked version of a chocolate durian cake which she challenged me to rawify. No problemo! I put on my thinking cap and the result is the following recipe. I must say that I was particularly pleased with the way it turned out. I thought it had just the right amount of sweetness and the texture was perfect. Yay!

A definite must try for durian lovers!

Durian Chocolate Mousse Cake

Chocolate Brownie Layer
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons raw cacao or carob powder
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons soft dates
Pinch sea salt

Process walnuts, cacao/carob powder and sea salt in food processor until fine. Add dates and process until crumbly. Press in the bottom of a cheesecake pan.

Durian Cheesecake Layer
2 cups durian
1 1/2 cups cashews, finely ground
1/2 cup raw honey or agave nectar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup + 2 tbs melted coconut oil
1 1/2 tbs lecithin powder

Blend all ingredients except lecithin and coconut oil in high-speed blender until smooth. Add these and blend some more until well mixed.

Pour mixture on top of the crust and set in the fridge or freezer.

Chocolate Mousse
2 medium or 3 small ripe avocados
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup cacao powder
1 tbs carob powder
1/4 cup raw honey or agave nectar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla paste or 2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup + 2 tbs melted  coconut oil
1 tbs  lecithin powder

Blend all ingredients except lecithin and coconut oil in high-speed blender until smooth. Add these and blend some more until well mixed.

Pour mousse on cheesecake layer and return to the fridge or freezer until firm.

Get ready for durian bliss!

We also made a few desserts from Sarma's new book.

I'd been drooling over her Congo Bars for months! Upon our return from our trip to the coast, I realized that the ingredients were almost identical to the Dream Bars that we had at Living Light. Oh my goodness! These were absolutely decadent! And you know what the best part is? They don't even require dehydration! Yippee!

I drizzled the Chocolate Sauce on top and somehow it didn't really want to stick to the coconut layer. A bit awkward to eat but it still tasted divine!

Then came her Chocolate Avocado Pudding. It distinguishes itself from other similar recipes by using pecan butter (so easy to whip up in the food processor!) Super simple and really very good! We served it with left over Coconut Meringue from making Key Lime Pie; my humble attempt to recreate the wonderful Parfait we enjoyed at Cafe Gratitude.

I had been languorously eyeing Sarma's Pecan Cake which consists of several components; definitely the sort of recipe that might be intimidating to tackle alone. One day we decided to take the plunge. Amy also dropped by to give us a hand which was a huge help. First we made the Pecan Cake which needed to be dehydrated. We found a way to cut down a bit on the D time by flipping it onto the mesh sooner than called for. Next came the Vanilla Creme Anglaise, a scrumptious blend of young coconut, cashews, water, agave, vanilla and sea salt. (Man, was this ever good!!!)

I was particularly intrigued by the Maple Mousse which uses Irish moss and agar powder as thickeners. The reason I found it so interesting is that the technique for preparing the moss is radically different than any others I've come upon. For one thing it is measured BEFORE soaking. This part gave us a bit of trouble as the recipe calls for 6 grams (or 2/3 cup). Besides sounding like a LOT of Irish moss to me, 2/3 cup didn't equal anywhere near 6 grams... more like 60 grams! We took a chance and decided to go with the higher amount and see what happens.

Another interesting bit... Instead of soaking the moss in cold water for several hours, you leave it for a mere 10 minutes in hot water. Needless to say I was extremely curious to see how it would turn out. The mixture was ultra thick and kinda resembled tapioca. Later on when I assembled and cut the cake I realized that a softer mousse wouldn't have worked as the Pecan Cake is quite dense and hard; there's no way I could have made nice clean cuts if it hadn't been so thick.

The last component for this dessert was the Apricot Caramel which we prepped the next day just before serving. Oh, and instead of the Pear Sorbet that normally accompanies the recipe, I opted for the Vanilla Ice Cream (also from Living Raw Food). The finished dessert was very rich and heavy - half of the serving would have been plenty - but boy, what a treat!

Jozzie drizzled hers with Chocolate Sauce and a little crushed pistachio. Doesn't it look decadent?

The cannoli shells which we stuffed with Coconut Meringue.

We served them with Sarma's amazingly creamy Vanilla and Chocolate Ice Creams and finished with a drizzle of Choccie Sauce.

A slight variation: Vanilla & Choccie Ice Cream Cone!

And last but not least Chocolate Mousse from Sweet Gratitude topped with Coconut Meringue and again with Chocolate Sauce. (What can I say? We love the stuff! hehe)

Hum, now that I think about it we were on a major choccie kick! lol Could that be what allowed us to keep all this incredible food coming for weeks on end? ;-)

Spreading The Raw Love
During our time at Jozzie's we gave a few raw food prep classes. We digressed from our usual selection in order to offer recipes based more on ethnic themes. We had an Italian Feast in which I demoed how to make a Cream of Tomato & Herbs Soup, my House Dressing, Alissa Cohen's Calzone and my Chocolate Hazelnut Pie. We also had an Asian Feast: Miso Soup, Watercress Salad, Spring Rolls with Ginger Dipping Sauce, Spicy Noodles in Szechuan ‘Peanut’ Sauce and Key Lime Pie.

At the last minute we decided to add a raw dessert class to our already busy schedule. (Some things just can't be helped! lol) It was a very intimate group as some of the people who were planning to come got snowed in and couldn't make it, but we still had a good ol' yummilicious time!

In fact, it gave the chance for some of the girls to have a hands on experience with the dessert making. Anna and Amy doing pretty swirls on the Berry Cheesecake.

Didn't they do a fab job?

We also made Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Mousse, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and my Fruit & Nut Choccies.

During the last couple of days, it was written all over poor Jozzie's face that she was ready for a kitchen break. "You wanted an uncooking blitz dodo, you got it!" ;-) She even started complaining that we were having too much food! "I did not realize that eating 'gourmet' is putting on rolly polly 'tires' around the waist!!!!!!!!!!" she wrote to me! he he I guess it's the price to pay when you play so much in the kitchen; someone's gotta eat all those concoctions afterward! (Ahhhhh, Life is tough!) The way I look at it, it was like a special 'rawliday'; it's so rare that we get a chance to whip up food together so might as well make the most of it, eh?

Changing Wheels
After spending some 3 weeks at Jozzie's it was time to move on and continue our journey north. But before we could go anywhere we had to boost the minivan's battery as it had ran down during our stay. In hindsight I see that it was a kind of omen for what was to come, as the engine died on us on the way to Portland! Eeek! Soon after we bought the Windstar last spring we'd noticed an engine rattle and knew that it was just a matter of time before something happened. The real miracle is that it was able to hang in there for so long, allowing us to very nearly complete the entire 'picture frame' of North America!

The Windstar had been nothing but trouble from the get go (it died on us on the very first day while we were moving! Yikes!) A true 'lemon' if there ever was one. We quickly learned our lesson and got the Canadian version of AAA before getting on the move. It's one of those things you wonder whether it's really worth it until something bad happens. Anyhoo, being Easter weekend all the garages were closed, but thankfully we were entitled to a tow of up to 200 miles. We were therefore able to be taken to our next hosts' home. Woo hoo! What a blessing! I mean, it could have been sooooo much worse! I could just picture us stranded in a crappy motel in the middle of nowhere for who knows how long!

As soon as it happened I just knew that it wasn't going to be worth getting the booboo fixed. Engine work means mega bucks. Plus before embarking on our journey we were really hoping to get some kind of camperized van or at least something big enough for us to sleep in (it would have made things so much simpler!), but nothing showed. This was finally the opportunity we'd been waiting for and so we decided to go for it.

The situation was made even more intense by the fact that we were expected in Washington state in less than a week, which meant we had to find new wheels... and fast! But somehow once again The Mystery worked its magic and everything fell into place. A classic customized 1979 Ford Econoline van popped up on Craig's List and our host, Gayle, graciously took us to have a look at it. Although it was not a youngster, it was obvious that it had been well looked after. The van felt good and the price was right, so we quickly decided it was 'the one': our new 'home on wheels'.

A lot of care has gone into it; the interior has all been re-done and is super clean. There's little cupboards for me to stash our raw ingredients! Yay! I thought I better take a picture of the inside before we fill it to the brim with our stuff. It even has swiveling seats. Cute!

On the positive side this had to be our simplest 'move' so far; all we had to do was transfer our things from one vehicle to the other. ;-) Although the new van has a luggage rack on top we can't really use it because of the two sunroofs. Believe it or not, we managed to downsize our belongings even more and got rid of two large plastic bins. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?

Bye bye Windstar! Thanks for taking us this far!

In Gayle's Sunny Kitchen
We were so grateful that this whole ordeal didn't happen while we were traveling (and camping!) somewhere in the southern states. At least we were cozily looked after at Gayle and Rick's home. They had only just returned from visiting their son in Japan but still welcomed us with open arms. For the past 25 years they have hosted their entire family for an Easter brunch and had invited us to join them for the occasion. They have a little tradition going where each attendee signs the tablecloth and during the year Gayle embroiders the names with a different color. What a wonderful idea! My humble contribution to the array of dishes was teeny colorful sweet peppers stuffed with a sunflower pate.

Gayle and Rick are Hallelujah Health Ministers and have been hosting raw potlucks and classes in their home. On Hallelujah's site I read that "since the founding of (their) official training program, more than 5,700 people from all 50 states and 67 foreign countries have become trained Health Ministers, sharing their passion and knowledge of The Hallelujah Diet and committing to their promise of supporting others on a journey to self-healing." Wow, that is quite an accomplishment!

This was the second time in just a few weeks that Hallelujah Acres came up. Although I've known of them for some time I never really had a chance to look into their program closely. In a nutshell the Hallelujah Diet consists of 85% raw, uncooked and unprocessed plant-based food, and 15% cooked plant-based food. The cooked items which are recommended are mostly whole grains, beans and veggies. While I myself don't advocate consuming beans and grains other than quinoa, millet and buckwheat, which are alkaline, I must say that I really resonate with their approach of being flexible and not all 'black and white'. In my opinion the Hallelujah Diet is much more realistic and accessible than the ideal of maintaining a 100 % raw diet.

Besides offering a variety of seminars, retreats and information on their site, HA also has a store and sells its own products. Conveniently Gayle and Rick had a stash of different kinds of bars so we bought some for the road. Wowsers! They are some of the best raw snacks we've tried! They've just come out with new flavors that totally rawck: Pecan Pie, Mocha Coconut (my fave!!!), Orange Cranberry and Blueberry. Yummo!

During the few days spent at Gayle's I was busy scouting for a new vehicle, so poor Gayle did most of the uncooking. Ah well, guess we'll just have to come back some other time so that we get a chance to play together in her kitchen! ;-) She prepared for us one of the family's staples, Mangavo Wraps, along with a lovely and refreshing pineapple salad recipe she had recently found on Gone Raw.

Carmella's Note: We enjoyed this filling in romaine as well as collard leaves.

Peppered Pineapple & Cucumber Salad

Servings: About 2

This is a quick simple salad for those of you with a sweet tooth. Choose a nice ripe pineapple. Look for one that is yellower on the outside and smells fragrant. If it’s still quite green it will be tart and can burn your mouth. Unfortunately most fruit we buy from the supermarket is picked before is has fully ripened to extend the shelf life. However, you can sit your pineapple on the shelf for a few days to ripen if there are no ripe ones available. Eating fully ripened fruit is important. The fruit has properly developed and has just the right amount of enzymes to help you to digest it properly.

1 pineapple
1 English cucumber
About 2 handfuls of spinach
About 1/2 handful of fresh mint
Juice of 1 lime
Cracked black pepper

Slice the skin off the pineapple, quarter and core. Dice into small chunks and place in a mixing bowl.

Quarter the cucumber lengthwise and dice into small chunks. Add to the pineapple.

Roll the spinach and slice finely to create thin ribbons and add to the bowl.

Chop the mint very finely and add to the bowl.

Finally add the lime juice and a generous amount of cracked black pepper and mix well.

Carmella's Note: While visiting kellymyra's site I discovered Jonsi & Alex, two Icelandic musicians and raw food enthusiasts. You guys just gotta check their site out! They have a cute and really well made little recipe book (it's also free!) that they've put together for friends and family. While you're there make sure to watch the raw videos they've made; so candid and refreshing!

Feasting at Blossoming Lotus
One day we treated ourselves to a meal at Blossoming Lotus, a vegan restaurant in Portland that offers some raw items on their menu.

Gayle ordered the Live Wrap: tahini-cilantro pate, cucumber, sprouts, carrot and avocado-goddess sauce in a leafy green wrap, with cashew sour cream.

Her friend Carolyn had joined us for the occasion and ordered the Live Pasta: zucchini ribbon pasta, spinach, carrots and tomato tossed in basil & hemp seed pesto, topped with cashew cheese, served with a small green salad. I had a small bite and it was super tasty.

For my part I got the Live Mediterranean Platter: walnut & brazil nut falafel, hempseed tabouleh, tahini-cilantro pate, savory flax crackers, served with mixed green salad and sour cream.

Ha ha, it's only now that I realize that I didn't get falafels after all but rather wraps. Between the pate and the wrap filling, I thought this was a rather heavy dish.

We still managed to find a bit of room for dessert! ;-) Live fudge which was super smooth and thoroughly delicious.

And a wonderful Chocolate Ganache Pie with a Raspberry topping. All I can say is 'Wow!' Their raw pastry chef sure knows what he/she is doing! Man, this was everything a raw dessert should be; not too sweet, but creamy and utterly decadent.

Let's Rawck Together
The timing for our visit couldn't have been more perfect as they hosted their monthly potluck while we were there. Yay! I took over Gayle's usual function in order to demo the now famous Corn Chowder.

The savory spread!

I served little Tuna Salad balls on lettuce leaves.

Marcie had brought an entire case of young coconuts (what a fab idea!!!) which she then proceeded to punch holes and stick straws into so that we can enjoy their divine content.

She gave me the biggest one I've ever seen! I was in pure coconut heaven! (Notice my dreamy eyes? lol)

Then came the desserts... Oh my! There was Berry Chocolate Pie, frozen bananas dipped in a carob coating and cashew pieces, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies which I'd also demoed, and Joyce's scrumptious Maple Coffee Ice Cream Cake.

I'd been meaning to make this one for a long time and was so stoked to learn that Gayle was planning to whip it up for the potluck. Woo hoo! If you love maple syrup then you're gonna love love this!

Maple Coffee Ice Cream Cake with Candied Pecans

By Joyce of Beautiful Living Food in Vermont
Posted on Raw Freedom Community

Use a 9 inch spring form pan

Candied Pecan Crust
* 2 1/2 cups of pecans
* 1/2 cup of dates, chopped and soaked for 20-30 minutes
* 1 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup
* 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup extract (I use Frontier brand)
* 2 dashes of cinnamon
* 1 heaping tablespoon of coconut oil (not melted)

Process the pecans in the food processor until they have formed crumbs. Add the remaining ingredients and process until well incorporated. This should make a nice moist and sweet crust.

Lightly grease the spring form pan with coconut oil. Then press the crust into the pan. Place crust in freezer while making the filling.

I like to start melting the cacao butter used in the filling while I make the crust. Using the dehydrator works like a charm!

* 3 cups of soaked cashew pieces (a little more than 2 1/2 cups dry)
* 2 cups of homemade almond milk, lightly sweetened with maple syrup
* 1 cup of pure maple syrup
* 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
* 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
* 2 1/2 teaspoons of maple syrup extract
* 3 1/2 teaspoons of granulated maple sugar
* 3 tablespoons of organic lecithin
* 3/4 cup of melted cacao butter

Using a Vitamix, blend all the ingredients except the lecithin and melted cacao butter until smooth. Then add the lecithin and melted cacao butter and blend again until smooth. Pour on top of the crust and place in freezer for 6-7 hours. The batter is very thin and will need time to set up in the freezer. After 3+ hours, place the candied pecans on top of cake in a decorative manner. Once completely frozen, take the cake out of the freezer and remove the sides of the spring form pan. Place cake in the fridge

Candied pecans
* about 24 pecan pieces (pick out the best looking ones)
* 1/2 cup of maple syrup
* 2-3 teaspoons of granulated maple sugar
* couple dashes of cinnamon

In a small bowl, mix up everything except the pecans. Coat the pecans with the mixture and place on teflex sheets. Dehydrate over night. In the morning, turn pecans over and dehydrate a few more hours. Use them to decorate the cake when it’s firm enough.

Phfew! I did it! *wiping the sweat off her brow* Me say I deserve a little breather! (Hopefully not as long as the last one though!) What do you think? ;-)