A Raw Food Portrait

When my friend Brendan, who is an art student, asked me to create a portrait of him, he was pretty loose on the details. He must have sensed my nerves and apprehension because he quickly told me that it could be words, or something abstract, or anything I felt comfortable with. The thing is… I consider myself creative, but I’m certainly not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. I did, however, accept the challenge.

Brendan
Raisins, silverbeet, celery, zucchini, mushroom, red capsicum, strawberries, carrot & apple.

I decided on a food portrait for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Brendan and I met via our mutual interest in raw foods. He constantly works towards a happier, healthier existence, so it felt fitting to portray him with a variety of items I found in my organic food delivery! Secondly, food is a medium I’m obviously pretty comfortable with – I’d say most of us are fairly well versed in making faces out of our food from a young age (am I right?).

These days I just eat… And sometimes talk. I’m starting to re-think my strategy – afterall, what’s wrong with a bit of re-arranging and day dreaming? Life is so fast paced sometimes. A couple of pea-eyes in my mash could transform a horrible, exhausting day at work into a happy, relaxed evening of silliness and laughter.

House Toast
“House Toast”. Not because I have kids, but because I AM a kid. And yes, I realise the chimney is crooked and that’s a horrible photo. Whatevs! I’m in it for a smile today, lack of perfection isn’t going to bother me.

Don’t Waste Produce: Juice & Freeze

Although our diet isn’t 100% organic, our home is fairly well stocked with organic foods compared to most and in addition to never wanting to waste money, I never like to waste food. You know that line parents use to guilt their kids into eating everything on their plate? “What about all the starving kids in Africa?” Well, it stuck with me and I can’t waste food without feeling like an ungrateful little brat – so the trick is to not waste it.

A lot of people carry on about organic food being expensive and sure – in some cases, it really is outrageous (I’ve seen celery for $6.95 a bunch lately and red capsicums for $24.95/kg) but in most cases, you can shop smart by buying in season and in bulk. It’s common sense, really.

So what’s a girl to do when she buys in bulk but can’t eat it all?

Freeze it. In some cases I will juice and freeze things, or blanch and freeze them – it just depends. Today, I’m going to focus on juicing.

Apple Juice
Frozen organic apple juice.

I’ve recently started juicing all the fruit & veg that I realistically won’t be able to eat before it goes bad and freezing it in mini silicone cupcake trays – each pod holds exactly one tablespoon of liquid. When they’re solid, I transfer them to a container or zip lock bag and keep them in the freezer; I also freeze the pulp. For the most flexibility/options for use, I juice only one fruit or vegetable at a time, rather than mixing items together.

What’s it good for?

  • Blend cubes in smoothies with fresh or frozen fruit of your choice. It’s a great alternative to plain ol’ water ice cubes.
  • Cocktails. Need I say more?
  • You can defrost the juice (in the fridge or at room temp) in any combination you like for a refreshing, cold juice.
  • Add the frozen juice to a glass or jug of water.
  • The pulp can be used for making raw crackers. I’m yet to come up with another use for this, but feel free to throw some ideas at me!

This simple act feels like some kind of genius accomplishment to me. For one, it means I only have to dirty my juicer once to get several serves of juice. That’s right, folks. No more messin’ about trying to clean the 5,632 parts of your juicer while you’re still half asleep in the morning!

Breakfast on the go!

I had every intention of eating these with a basic chia pudding and some raw caramel, but I ran out of time. These are the last of my organic cherries – I bought a tub (yes, a TUB) at the local market last week. I’m going to have to pick up some more this Sunday… What I can’t eat, I will have to pit and freeze for smoothies/raw desserts. They’re just too good to pass up!

Recipe Review: Mini Raw Sweet Potato Caramel Pecan Pies

Raw Swt Potato Pie 1
Mini Raw Sweet Potato Caramel Pecan Pies

A friend of mine form out of town visited yesterday – she’s a raw food lover and requested that I make this pie for her from Fragrant Vanilla Cake. Admittedly, I was pretty apprehensive about eating raw sweet potato because I know it can get that floury coating on it like regular potatoes so I decided to make a back up recipe as well. To my surprise, the sweet potato was superb and my back up recipe was the one that failed!

Raw Swt Potato Pie 2

The most time consuming part of this was soaking, sprouting and dehydrating the buckwheat for the crust. The rest was fairly easy to put together, but it ended up being a very expensive dessert – I used about $15 worth of pecans, $10 of medjool dates, $5 of vanilla extract & beans, plus all the other specialty items (coconut oil, coconut butter, raw cashews etc.), some of which I thankfully already had on hand.

That being said, the recipe yielded double what I expected. Instead of two mini pies, I actually had four – so you could easily use this recipe to make one small to normal sized cake.

Raw Swt Potato Pie 3

Flavour-wise, it was pretty impressive. The caramel alone was the best sweet thing I’ve eaten in ages and I could have downed it by the spoonful (ok, maybe I did). The sweet potato filling was bursting with flavour – heavily spiced and no trace of floury-ness from the raw sweet potato – though to be sure, I whizzed it up in my Blendtec rather than my food processor. I didn’t want to risk any grainyness. And the crust has a great texture – which included a little extra crunch from the buckwheat. Individually, each element of the pies was astoundingly delicious, but altogether it was a little too sweet and rich for me. It probably doesn’t need the caramel, but I wouldn’t skip it, because that’s the best part.

The price alone will turn me off making these adorable little pies again, but the caramel is most likely going to be a staple in my repertoire. I can’t get enough of it and want to eat it over and over again. Perhaps even with my sweet quinoa porridge or a basic chia pudding!

Emma & Tom’s Life Bars

I’d never heard of Emma & Tom’s – I accidentally found their life bars when I was craving chocolate, so I picked a couple up and thought I’d give them a whirl.

Emma & Tom's Life Bars
Life bars: Cacao & Orange, Banana.

Similar to the popular Larabars (which are a little harder to find in Australia than the USA), these are raw energy bars with limited ingredients.

Orange & Cacao: Dates, raw cashew, raisins, cacao powder (5%), cold pressed orange oil (0.2%).

This flavour was awesome! It was a little fudgy, not too sweet and the orange flavour was there, but it wasn’t overpowering. I’d definitely buy this again.

Banana: Dates, dried banana (22%), raw almond, ground chia seed (8%).

This one wasn’t as tasty. In fact, it was outright foul – I ate less than a third of it. The banana flavour seemed a bit off, like bananas that aren’t quite ripe yet. I tried to go back for a few more bites, but I just couldn’t like it. I love fresh bananas, but these dried banana bars definitely aren’t for me!

At around $2.80 each ($2.55 sale price!), they’re not very economical, but for a convenient on-the-go snack, they’re perfect. I’d be keen to try the other flavours or even some of Emma & Tom’s other products. Their juices seem to be widely available at supermarkets, but I haven’t managed to spot any of the “habitat” drinks (organic sparkling fruit drinks), which I’m most keen to try!

Raw Lunch Platter

My job can be pretty hectic and demanding… Sometimes, having food on my desk that I can pick at all day is the best way to eat, as I don’t always get a clearly defined lunch break.

Raw lunch platter
Raw lunch platter.

Mixed greens, capsicum (bell pepper), corn, cucumber, carrot, guacamole & cashew sour cream.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne

Las Vegan Bakery/Café
22 Smith St
Collingwood
VIC 3066
AUSTRALIA
Ph: (03) 9415 9001

Upon entering Las Vegan, it was apparent to me that my anxiety levels were quickly rising, so Mr. AA & I opted for a table outside, even though the weather was a little questionable. The space is small and cramped with badly arranged furniture that makes you feel like an intrusion. I didn’t take any photos inside because it felt too awkward, but there’s potential for the space to feel a lot more comfortable, it just needs some attention. Thankfully, our waiter was kind and relaxed, and after looking at the menu, I could see these guys had a sense of humour.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne

Everything on the menu is reasonably priced, though I’m not sure much of it would appeal to a non-vegan. There was a few mock meat & fish options, lentil options and black bean options. The specials of the day were eggplant parmas and lasagne – both were tempting! However Mr. AA & I were both drawn to the same item on the menu: the mushroom mince.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne

Mr. AA chose the sloppy joe burger with chips and I chose the mince on rice with salad. The mis-matched plates amused me… I’m not sure if this was an attempt at being kitschy or a symbol of their firm hippy/recycling beliefs. Either way, I didn’t have a problem with it – it made me feel like I was eating food made with love in someone’s home.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne
Las Vegan Sloppy Joe Burger with mushroom mince.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne
Mushroom mince on rice with gourmet salad.

We were both big fans of the mince – it has a really good, mild flavour and a realistic texture. Admittedly, I was expecting a higher mushroom to TVP ratio – in fact, I was hoping for no TVP at all because I don’t really dig it, but in this case, there’s no question about making an exception. It was pretty damn tasty. Also – two thumbs up for serving this with brown rice, not white.

The “gourmet salad” was fairly plain and barely dressed, but I liked the grilled eggplant and capsicum in it and I honestly prefer salad to be under dressed as opposed to over dressed and soggy. My only complaint here is that the olives weren’t pitted, so I almost broke a tooth! Watch out for those little suckers.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne

The chips were… pretty amazing. Perfectly crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside – they’re exactly what Mr. AA & I look for in a chip!

We (*I*) also grabbed a slice of the raw lemon cheesecake to take home. There were Mr Nice Guy cupcakes on display and a dense looking chocolate bundt cake with icing dribbling all over the place (which looked delicious!) but I wanted to take a chance and try something that I’d only ever made at home, to see how someone else’s version compared.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne
Raw Lemon Cheesecake.

This was, hands down, my favourite item. I took it back to the car with the SOLE intention of sliding it out of the bag and taking photos before the agave spread out and looked ugly/messy. My stomach was full and I planned to save it for after dinner that night, but… Well, look at it, guys. I couldn’t resist having a little taste and before I knew it, I’d stuffed the entire slab of compressed nuts into my face and my hands were sticky with agave. But I didn’t care. Because it was incredible.

These guys do take-away and have gluten free options. One thing I didn’t take a photo of (and wished I had) was the glasses of juice we ordered. It wasn’t fresh juice, but I suspect it was organic and the size of the glasses was impressive. You know how most places serve a $7 juice in a slim high ball glass with lots of ice? Not these guys. They’ll give you your money’s worth!

Raw Chocolate Custard & A Healthy Parfait!

This miracle happened when I was trying to make a lower fat version of my chocolate mousse – I wanted to omit the use of coconut altogether and thought zucchini would make a pretty brilliant substitute, considering its lack of calories and how neutral its taste is when raw. Luckily, it worked. I really hope you make this; your life won’t be the same without it!

And just a quick note: This is best made and eaten fresh. Don’t leave it in your fridge for more than 2 days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Serves 6

2 Haas Avocados (flesh only)
1 C Zucchini, peeled and grated
5 t Raw Cacao Powder
6-10 T Date Paste* (to taste)
1 T vanilla extract or half a vanilla bean, scraped out
Pinch of Salt

    • Peel and grate zucchini, then pat down with paper towel to dry out a little. If your zucchini is too watery, your custard will be, too; and if you don’t peel the zucchini, your custard will end up a little lumpy, as the skin will have a bit of trouble breaking down into a puree.
    • Pulse zucchini in a food processor. Add avocado flesh and pulse again.
    • Add the cacao powder, date paste and vanilla. Blend until smooth. This may take up to 3 minutes; be patient.
    • You can serve straight away or pop in the fridge for half an hour to chill and firm up a bit.

To make the parfait pictured above (serves 6):
1 batch Raw Chocolate Custard (recipe above)
1 Batch Sweet Quinoa Porridge
750g Strawberries
Chopped nuts of your choice

      • Wait until your quinoa has cooled down.
      • Layer quinoa and custard in a martini glass with diced strawberries in between each layer. If you’re having trouble spreading the quinoa, use a teaspoon dipped in hot water to help smooth it out.
      • Top with chopped nuts and a whole strawberry.

*Date paste is a wonderful, natural sweetener that you can make at home. Simply pit some medjool (fresh) dates, soak for 10 minutes, then blend with water and a little squeeze of lemon juice. If you’re feeling unsure about this and would like a recipe, go here.