Fun with Raw Foods!
by Ali Seiter
Once in a great while, when my schedule doesn’t threaten to burst with Calculus homework, European Literature essays, gymnastics competititons, piano lessons, or yoga classes, and I actually discover a moment to simply breathe, I prefer to print off a handful of recipes from my ever multiplying “Recipes to Try” Word document (currently, it boasts a whopping 262 potential culinary adventures), and relegate myself to the kitchen for hours on end. Having completed my last Final Exam of the first semester this Friday, I found myself with no school assignments or obligations and decided to devote the rest of the day to cooking, which I consider a calming, rather meditative practice.
Desperate to toy with the products in my recent shipment from The Raw Food World—lucuma powder, yacon syrup, kelp noodles, and a kefir starter kit—I first began rifling through recipes from Choosing Raw as well as from two of my newly acquired Kindle cookbooks (Thrive Foods and Ani’s Raw Food Essentials) to pin down a good introductory recipe for kelp noodles. However, being the hopelessly experimental cook that I am, I shrugged off following a specific recipe for the crunchy sea noodles and instead contemplated that they would serve as an interesting addition to the Raw Pad Thai over at The Taste Space (listed under the Salad section of my “Recipes to Try” document). The verdict? Ehh…
I essentially overhauled the entire salad, utilizing five of the seven original base ingredients (grated carrot, napa cabbage, grated apple, finely chopped cauliflower, and unsweetened shredded coconut), throwing in three additional veggies (1 package of kelp noodles, 1/2 cup chickpeas, and a large handful of arugula), and coating the mixture in Mama Pea’s Mmm Sauce instead of the peanut-sauce-inspired dressing given.
My distate for this salad probably stemmed from three factors: 1.) I opted not to first soften the kelp noodles under warm running water before adding them to the dish, thus retaining their unpleasantly crunchy yet somewhat slimy texture. 2.) No matter how adamantly I attempt to pretend that I enjoy the sharp taste of raw cabbage (exluding my beloved sauerkraut, of course), the uncooked crucifer never fails to leave a sour taste in my mouth. 3.) I failed to add enough dressing to adequately coat the veggies—a classic misstep that can ruin any salad.
While my first kelp noodle experience proved less than delicious, I do intend to once again face the spaghetti-like sea veggies, next time following one of Gena’s well-crafted recipes to an absolute T.
Next up in my raw foods package: yacon syrup. Forever on a quest to discover the least processed, healthiest sweetener available (so far my favorites are homemade date paste and storebought locally made date syrup), I ordered a jar of yacon, fascinated and quite excited about its potential health benefits:
- Good source of potassium.
- Moderate source of calcium, magnesium, and antioxidants.
- Very low glycemic. In fact, yacon passes through the digestive track unmetabolized, thus eliminating any sugar spikes.
- Awesome source of inulin, which increases the amount of “good bacteria” in your colon while reducing the amount of “bad bacteria.”
For my first culinary voyage into the yacon sea, I implemented the sticky brown syrup into a batch of Coconut-Oat-Fig Bars adapted from the Healthy Oat Squares with Coconut and Dates recently featured on One Green Planet. My changes to the recipe: used gluten-free oats instead of instant, replaced the dates with dried figs, replaced half of the cinnamon with cardamom, used 2 tbsp yacon syrup instead of the date syrup, substituted 1/2 small mashed banana for the coconut oil, and omitted the coconut oil in the topping.
Though I hugely enjoyed the subtle sweetness from the coconut, the protein kick from the chickpea flour, and the dense chewy texture, I yearned for more of a flavor presence from the figs and didn’t much care for the topping. As for the yacon, I most certainly plan on incorporating it into all my baking needs (at least until the little 8 oz jar runs dry!), both for its caramely flavor and nutritional profile.
After including the Kefir Starter Kit from Body Ecology on my birthday and Christmas gift wishlists for the past two years, I finally took matters into my own hands and ordered it myself. The kit includes six small packets of white probiotic powder, each of which can culture a quart of non-dairy milk or coconut water, to produce a beverage similar in taste and aroma to yogurt and bursting with amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Astounded at the ease of homemaking my own probiotic drink, I simply heated 4 cups of soy milk (Edensoy Extra, of course) to about 92°F in a saucepan, dissolved in a packet of powder, poured the mixture into a lidded glass jar, and allowed it to sit in a warm place for 24 hours.
After the culturing process, the soy milk solids and liquids had separated, just like dairy kefir or yogurt (sorry for the lack of photo!), and harbored the same soured aroma. I gave the mixture a stir, reserving 6 tbsp as directed to culture the next batch, and placed it in the refrigerator where it should keep for about a week, continuing to slowly ferment. Probiotic smoothies, here we come!
My last raw foods experiment does not involve a specific product I ordered, but rather stems from the numerous raw cookbooks I procured this Christmas, specifically their enthusiasm for sprouted grains. Rawesomely Vegan, an unabashed collection of wonderfully creative and unique recipes for the experienced raw foodie (authored by one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Sayward), includes a useful chart of appropriate times for soaking and sprouting a wide variety of grains and legumes. For my premier sprouting adventure, I opted to employ buckwheat and quinoa, soaking the latter in an ample amount of water for 45 minutes, the former for 3 hours, and allowing both to sprout in glass jars covered with cheesecloth for 24 hours, rinsing every 8 hours.
To my sheer amazement, after a mere day the two grains had grown tiny little tails—I had successfully sprouted! The process could not have proved any more ridiculously simple, requiring only running the buckwheat and quinoa under some water every few hours coupled with a bit of patience, and produced enzyme-rich, easily digestible versions of the usually dormant grains. I plan on using them to top smoothies and salads, as well as to make a baked version of the Raw Quinoa Granola from VGANJAR.
Comment Provoking Questions: What are your favorite raw food products? How do you like to use them? What is your take on kelp noodles? Have you ever tried sprouting before?
Until next time, Ali.