Adventures in Raw Food

Annie’s Tropical Mousse

Summary: This light, tropical mousse makes a great side or garnish to a main course, or a wonderful dessert.

This light, tropical mousse makes a great side or garnish to a main course, or a wonderful dessert.

It is very light and refreshing, and amazingly simple to make.

Annie’s Tropical Mousse:

3 small avocados
1 young coconut *
zest and meat of 1/2 lime
small amount of agave nectar, to taste (optional)

Place the meat of the avocados, the meat of the young coconut, and the zest and meat of the 1/2 lime into a food processor with the “S” blade (the regular chopping blade). *

[*Here are easy directions for how to open a young coconut.]

If you are serving this as a dessert, and want it a bit more on the sweet side, add a bit of agave nectar, to taste.

Process everything until it is light and creamy. Spoon into bowls or onto plates, and serve.

The Best Way to Cut Open a Young Coconut

Summary: With all of the great nutrition, taste, and versatility packed into one young coconut, they are a bargain at the $2.00 to $3.00 they cost. But opening them is nearly as difficult as opening a more mature coconut, and because they are so wonderful, you will want to do that much more frequently than you probably open mature coconuts. But it doesn't have to be difficult. Here's how to open a young coconut.

As anyone who has perused raw food websites, raw food cookbooks, or raw food books for more than about 5 minutes knows. young coconuts (mostly marketed as “young Thai coconuts”) are a fantastic source of all kinds of healthful goodness, and not only are they great for you, but they taste great as well. The liquid inside them, known as “coconut water” (as compared to the thick milky stuff you get with older coconuts) is incredibly good for you, low in calories, and tastes divine.

And the tender meat of a young coconut..only 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, and almost like Jello in consistency. It tastes fantastic, and is the basis for all sorts of yummy recipes, both main dish and dessert (like Annie’s Tropical Mousse).

You’ve probably seen them in the produce aisle, and maybe not even realized what they were, as they don’t look like the coconuts you are used to. That is because they are still covered with their outer fiber – the shell you are used to seeing is encased within that fiber, with the tender meat and coconut water housed within the still-thin shell.

Usually the fiber housing has been shaped, and so the young coconut looks something like this:

With all the great nutrition, taste, and versatility packed into one young coconut, they are a bargain at the $2.00 to $3.00 they cost.

But opening them is nearly as difficult as opening a more mature coconut, and because they are so wonderful, you will want to do that much more frequently than you probably open mature coconuts.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Here’s how to open them, and it’s quite simple:

First, you need to have a nice big heavy cleaver. Not the thin-as-a-razor kind you can get in so many shops, but a big meat cleaver meant for hacking through bones – one with plenty of heft. Henckels has a fantastic one that I use, and I’ll show it to you in a bit.

Now, put that coconut on a cutting board, on it’s side, and give it a really good whack with the cleaver, straight down into one of the slopes which leads to the point at the top of the coconut.

Hopefully that whack broke through into the inner shell enough so that you can now turn the coconut upside down over a bowl, and let it rest and drain out all the wonderful coconut water. (If it didn’t, give it another good whack, and another if necessary, until you can drain out the water.)

A small young coconut can contain as much as 1 1/2 cups or more of coconut water.

Once all of the coconut water is drained out, if you have the right cleaver for the job, like my Henckels, you can turn the coconut back on its side, insert the cleaver back into the slit you made, and actually just work the cleaver down, straight across the top of the coconut, neatly slicing off the tip, and opening up the coconut straight across – it will now look like a cup (in fact many Asian restaurants do exactly this, serving a coconut-based drink in this ‘cup’).

Inside the coconut, along the walls of the shell, you will see the tender young coconut meat. The best way to get this out is to take a rubber scraping spatula, and gently pry and scrape the meat away from the sides. Try to keep the pieces as large as possible, because lots of recipes call for cutting the meat into strips, and using it like a pasta.

But even if you can’t extract it in larger pieces, it’s wonderful for all kinds of recipes, including my Tropical Mousse.

This is the Henckels cleaver I have (click on the picture for full info, including pricing from Amazon):

Henckels International Classic Stainless Steel Meat Cleaver

Cafe Gratitude, Berkeley

Summary: Cafe Gratitude and its founders can seem a bit over the top, even for the most open-minded of souls. BUT, and this is a big but - even if you think that this might put you off - THE FOOD IS AMAZING!!

Yesterday for dinner my family and I went to Cafe Gratitude, in Berkeley.

The original Cafe Gratitude is in San Francisco (now with two San Francisco locations), and the Berkeley Cafe Gratitude is their new third location.

For those not familiar with Cafe Gratitude, it was founded by Matthew and Terces Engelhart. Cafe Gratitude and its founders can seem a bit over the top, even for the most open-minded of souls – raw food enthusiast or not. Their “about us” page on their website opens with “Matthew Engelhart started training in the being of abundance in 1984 and today he is skillful at being able to keep his attention on all there is to be grateful for.”

Terces Engelhart’s presence, we are told, “is the gift of being present and listening for our most genuine Self to emerge. She grants acceptance and love to whomever she encounters as her commitment to living in Oneness.”

Their menu (the same at all three location) reflects this attention, abundance and Oneness. Every single thing on the menu is named “I am [something]”, such as “I Am Bountiful” (their bruschetta appetizer), or “I Am Insightful” (samosas) or, my favourite, “I Am Magical” (stuffed mushrooms).

Their waitstaff are all trained to say these menu choice names as though they were complimenting you… “You are bountiful” (I know, but I’ve been trying to lose weight), or “You are magical.”

BUT, and this is a big but – even if you think that this might put you off – or that you might not appreciate the communal dining (their tables all seat about eight, so if you have a smaller party you will be sat with others, or have others sat with you) – even if all of that might otherwise put you off… THE FOOD IS AMAZING!!!

Every single bit of it is live or raw, or live and raw, and it is simply phenomenal. If you didn’t know better, you would never guess that the food was raw, you would just think that you were eating a slightly different but fantastic rendering of whatever it was that you’d ordered.

Every dish is so vibrant, so alive (no pun intended). The flavours were incredible, and the presentation just beautiful.

We started out with the bruschetta (“I am Bountiful”), the magical mushrooms, and guacamole (“I am Generous”).

By way of example, the bruschetta was “Four slices of our live toast topped with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, stone ground olive oil and brazil nut parmesan.”

I don’t know how they made their “toast”, but this was no cardboard flax cracker (and even their flax crackers were fantastic).

For dinner my husband had the “I am Abundant”, which was a sample platter featuring “live nachos, kale-sea veggie salad, stuffed mushroom, olive tapenade, live hummus, and a mini Thai coconut soup. Served with assorted live crackers and almond toast.”

I had the special enchilada of the day, which always changes but is always a live soft veggie tortilla filled with the special filling of the day and topped with a spicy salsa verde, and is always called “I am Elated”. And I was! It was so delicious, and the filling – which I think was their chipotle and sunflower seed “refried beansâ€? – was exquisite.

Despite being utterly and wonderfully replete (“I am Full”), we just had to try dessert. I had the cobbler of the day, and our son had one of their sundaes made with their homemade softserve “ice creams”, made from nut milk (“I am Lovely” and “I am Deserving”, respectively).

They were both fabulous – and in fact my ‘cobbler’ was incredible. Fresh, sweet, perfect strawberries, blueberries and apricots topped with a melange of chopped nuts and cinnamon.

All in all it was an incredible meal – enhanced by or despite the ultra gratitudinous atmosphere – depending on how you look at it.

We will definitely be going back.

Cafe Gratitude, Berkeley is at:

1730 Shattuck Avenue, Corner of Virginia
Berkeley, California

Their San Francisco locations are at:

1. 2400 Harrison Street
2. 1336 9th Avenue
San Francisco, California

The Cafe Gratitude menu is here.

The Hardest Thing About Eating Raw: Changing How You Think About Eating

Summary: We are so used to thinking about food as something bad for us. Yes, we know that we need to eat to live. But when was the last time that you ate something and thought "wow, that was really good for me"?

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday: the hardest thing about eating raw is changing how you think about eating, and food.

We are so used to thinking about food as something bad for us. Yes, we know that we need to eat to live. But when was the last time that you ate something and thought “wow, that was really good for me”?

Not just not bad, but affirmatively good?

At most, generally speaking, you may eat a meal and think “hey, that was nice, and it wasn’t even bad for me!” But rarely do you walk away from a meal, full, and think “and to think that it was actually good for me.”

But that’s what is different about eating raw food. You are not only not doing something bad for your body, but you are actually doing something good – something positive.

The more you eat of it, the better for your body!

That is a very hard thing to actually grok, as simple as it may sound.

It is extremely difficult to get from thinking “this meal is less bad for me” to actually getting “this meal is good for me”, and “I can eat all I want of this and my body will thank me!” and “the more I eat of this the better!”

Extremely difficult, but extremely liberating.

And fun.

Cafe La Vie, Santa Cruz, California

Summary: We went to Cafe La Vie, a raw food restaurant in Santa Cruz, for Father's Day. All in all it was wonderful and delicious meal, and all three of us agreed that we'd gladly go to Santa Cruz again just to eat at Cafe La Vie. Santa Cruz is about a 40 minute drive for us, so that's saying something.

Yesterday, for Father’s Day, we went to Cafe La Vie, in Santa Cruz.

Cafe La Vie isn’t entirely raw, but it’s about 80-90% raw, and entirely vegetarian, with lots of vegan options. And even the things which aren’t 100% raw are pretty close – mostly it’s just that the dish is served hot to cater to those who want something, well, hot.

In any event, it was, in a word, fantastic!

There were so many choices, and between three of us we tried a lot of them!

Soups sampled included the Thai coconut soup (served hot), the sweet and spicy (more…)

My Disgustingly Healthful Homemade Bread Machine Bread Mix

Summary: Warning: this is not raw food. But it is my disgustingly healthful homemade bread machine bread mix. And if you are going to have bread, it's a good bread to have.

Annie’s Disgustingly Healthful Homemade Bread Machine Bread Mix

(Makes enough for several loaves)

5 pounds bread flour
5 pounds whole wheat flour minus 4 cups of the whole wheat flour
3 cups oat flour
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup walnut meal
2 cups date sugar
1 cup powdered milk
6 Tablespoons powdered egg replacer

Mix all ingredients really well (we put it in the bottom of a big container and then use a hand-held electric mixer on it!)

To make bread, put in your bread machine:

3 1/2 cups bread mix
1 1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 teaspoons (or 1 envelope) yeast

You can also add 1-2 Tablespoons of oil to this, although we don’t.

Bake in bread machine using the whole wheat or whole grain setting.

Note: You must use the whole wheat or whole grain setting or it will not rise properly

Garlic Almonds

Summary: The raw food garlic almonds smell so good while they are in the dehydrator, and taste great!

This recipe is my own, but inspired by and based on the chili almonds in “Raw Food/Real World”.

It’s a very easy recipe!

Take 4 cups raw, organic almonds.

Put them in a bowl, cover them with water, and let them soak overnight (at least 10-12 hours).

Rinse the almonds and let them drain.

To the almonds add:

1/4 cup agave nectar (available at health food stores and Whole Foods – use like honey, and it’s cheaper than honey!)

1/4 cup Nama Shoyu or other soy sauce

1 tablespoon fine garlic powder

1 tablespoon garlic granules (the coarser stuff)

Mix this all up very well, and divide onto two dehydrator screens covered with Teflex sheets.

Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 3 to 4 hours (to give the sauce a chance to dry up a bit), and then turn the almonds out onto the dehydrator screen (i.e. remove the Teflex sheets) and dry overnight, until crunchy.

These smell so good while they are in the dehydrator, and taste great!

Teflex Dehydrator Sheets: Tips for Handling and Storage

Summary: Teflex sheets are a wonderful thing, and open up a world of possibilities for things you can make with your dehydrator.

Teflex sheets are a wonderful thing, and open up a world of possibilities for things you can make with your dehydrator, such as crackers and flatbreads, and the delicious ‘sauteed’ mushrooms in the dehydrator.

Here are some hints for cleaning, drying, and storing them:

1. Wash with mild soapy water, and rinse them. Then, to dry them you can either:

a) Hang them from one of those magnetic clips which are so popular these days, stuck onto the side of some nearby appliance; or

b) Simply put each one on a rack in your dehydrator!

To store your Teflex sheets you can (more…)

Spiral Slicer Reviews: And the Winner Is…

Summary: Even though everybody recommends the Saladacco spiral slicer from Joyce Chen, all of the reviews for it give it terrible marks. The Benriner spiral slicer (sometimes called the vertical spiral slicer), on the other hand, is everything that a spiral slicer should be.

A spiral slicer is a device which literally cuts your vegetables into long thin spirals. It’s what you use, for example, to make curly fries from potatoes.

Anywhere you look in the raw food world you’ll see a recommendation to get a spiral slicer, and pretty much everyone recommends the Saladacco spiral slicer, by Joyce Chen.

Raw food folks use them on things like zucchini, using a very fine-toothed angel hair blade, to make an angel hair “pasta” out of the vegetable. It’s quite spiffy, really.

But the thing which is amazing is that everyone recommends the Saladacco, and by all accounts – and reviews – the Saladacco, well, sucks.

Every review site which offers customer reviews gives it two big thumbs down. Yet nearly every raw food site recommends it.

Here are some representative reviews, from Amazon (more…)

Tips for Making Crackers and Flatbreads in the Dehydrator

Summary: Nearly all recipes I have seen for raw crackers and flatbreads call for dividing the dough onto two or more Teflex sheets, and spreading the dough out to the edges of the sheet, using either your hands or a spatula of some sort. Now, I have discovered three things which make the process of spreading raw cracker or flatbread dough onto a Teflex sheet a snap.

If you want to make crackers or flatbread (such as the fabulous raw corn tortilla recipe), you will need to have some Teflex sheets, as all recipes call for them. Teflex sheets are thin flexible sheets which you put on top of the dehydrator screen, so that goopy or drippy things don’t end up falling through the screen, or so that, in a case such as crackers and flatbreads, you can smooth the dough on to them.

Nearly all recipes I have seen for raw crackers and flatbreads call for dividing the dough onto two or more Teflex sheets, and spreading the dough out to the edges of the sheet, using either your hands or a spatula of some sort.

Now, I have discovered three things which make the process of spreading raw cracker or flatbread dough onto a Teflex sheet a snap (more…)