Raw food dishes offer healthful alternatives

Raw food dishes offer healthful alternatives

It’s likely that the No. 1 New Year’s resolution is to get healthier: exercise more, reduce stress, eat right. Enjoying more fruits and vegetables is high on the list of ways to build a more healthful diet. Eating less processed food and getting more fiber are also on the checklist.

So maybe this is the year you’ll dabble a little in the world of raw foods, a philosophy of eating that emphasizes uncooked and unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains and beans.

Raw food doesn’t have to mean a plate of carrot sticks and a handful of sunflower seeds. “Raw foodists,” as they’re known, have developed a world of recipes that turn those carrots and seeds into creative dishes that are delicious in their own right.

Debra Jill Mazer’s company, Vibrance, offers catering, recipe classes and a weekly menu of raw food dishes available for pickup or delivery. Her clients come from all walks of life.

One of the things she appreciates about the Atlanta area is the multicultural community that enjoys raw food and vegetarian diets. “That’s something special we have here where we can be an example to other places,” she said.

Mazer remembers her reaction when she first met people who were devoted to raw foods. “I told them that was really great, but there was no way I could ever do that because I love food,” she said with a laugh.

Still, hearing people speak of the health benefits of raw food, she decided to try it for a week.

Mazer found that the raw food diet made her feel energized and seemed to help with some of the small health challenges like allergies that had long been a part of her life. “I wanted to nurture that feeling and do more of eating to live versus living to eat.”

Mazer soon found herself developing recipes and at one point was putting on four-course raw food meals. Now she has a small list of clients who order from her weekly menus. “Most of them are not strict raw foodists; this is more of an addition to their diet,” she said. “Eating this way adds something special to their diet.”

Raw foodists believe that heating food above about 115 degrees destroys nutrients. Their diet is based on the belief that the more healthful and less processed the food, the easier the food is to digest and the more energy your body can put into things other than digestion, including healing.

Mazer demonstrated an easy first step to enjoying raw food by making a kale salad, a raw food classic you’ll find on the takeaway menu at Whole Foods.

Kale, broken into bite-size bits and massaged with a dressing of avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, surprises those who would never think of kale as a salad green.

“With raw food, you can really be creative. You think about how to duplicate some of your favorite cooked dishes in a raw form, like making a burger out of sunflower seeds and walnuts,” she said.

Desserts are a particular passion for Mazer, who said, “Raw food desserts are guilt-free. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and still lose weight.”

She’s developed alternative recipes for such classics as chocolate pudding by making a puree of young coconut meat and cacao powder, or chocolate truffles by combining ground almonds, agave nectar and cacao powder to make a small bite that is less sweet but still satisfying.

In testing these recipes, I found that many dishes can take less time to prepare than traditional foods. If you plan ahead for the recipes that require soaked ingredients, actual preparation time is quite short.

If you’d like to check out raw foods in a restaurant setting, try a meal at Lovin’ It Live in East Point, where the menu is totally raw and organic.

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Recipes

All these ingredients are available at a natural food store or DeKalb Farmers Market.

The piece of equipment you’ll use the most when making raw food is a food processor.

Recipes like the crackers and mock meatballs here are most easily finished in a food dehydrator. If you don’t have one, you can duplicate the low, steady heat by putting the cracker mixture or meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and heating your oven to the lowest temperature possible.

Temperatures above 115 degrees will mean your dish doesn’t qualify as raw food, but as long as the heat is low and steady, the recipe will turn out fine.

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Italian Flaxseed Crackers

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes, plus soaking and dehydrating time Makes: 32 crackers

These crackers were a revelation. Easier to make than traditional baked crackers, they will keep for weeks in an airtight container. Dehydrate a little less to make a tortilla-style wrap, which can be refrigerated for up to a week. Add up to 1/2 cup fresh herbs to vary the flavor.

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup flaxseeds

1 cup chopped fresh tomato (about 1 large)

1/2 medium red bell pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 small clove garlic

In a small bowl, soak sun-dried tomatoes in filtered water to cover for at least 4 hours. When ready to use, drain water off tomatoes.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine sun-dried tomatoes, flaxseeds, fresh tomato, bell pepper, lemon juice and garlic. Blend until smooth. Pour half the mixture onto a smooth dehydrator sheet and spread evenly into an 8-inch square. Repeat with remaining flaxseed mixture on a second sheet. Dehydrate at 105 degrees for 6 hours, then flip cracker sheets and continue to dehydrate for at least 2 hours. If preparing in the oven, check every half-hour. When crackers have reached desired crispness, break into 2-inch square pieces.

Adapted from a recipe at www.therawfoodcoach.com

Per cracker: 31 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 1 gram protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 2 grams fat (trace saturated), no cholesterol, 41 milligrams sodium.

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Mock Meatballs

Hands on: 15 minutes Total time: 15 minutes, plus time for soaking and dehydrating Makes: 36 “meatballs”

Our testers nicknamed these “yum” balls and could see them as appetizers or used with the marinara sauce to make a dish of spaghetti and meatballs. To make raw food “spaghetti,” rub mung bean sprouts or thin ribbons of zucchini with sea salt until they have wilted. For a less expensive version of the meatballs, substitute raw sunflower seeds for the nuts.

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup pecans

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 onion

3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup fresh basil

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In separate bowls, each filled with 3 cups filtered water, soak almonds, walnuts and pecans for at least 8 hours. If soaking for longer, refrigerate. When ready to use, drain the water off each.

In a small bowl, soak sun-dried tomatoes in 1/4 cup filtered water for at least 4 hours. When ready to use, drain off and reserve water for this recipe or for use in a soup or salad dressing.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine onion, garlic and basil. Process until smooth. Add the soaked tomatoes, then the soaked nuts, olive oil, oregano and sea salt. If needed, add enough reserved tomato water so the mixture holds together when squeezed into a ball.

Form into 1-inch balls and dehydrate at 105 degrees until solid on the outside, about 3 hours. If preparing in the oven, check every half-hour until the meatballs are solid.

Adapted from a recipe provided by Debra Jill Mazer

Per 3 meatballs: 122 calories (percent of calories from fat, 71), 4 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 10 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 183 milligrams sodium.

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Marinara Sauce

Hands on: 5 minutes Total time: 5 minutes, plus time for soaking Makes: 2 cups

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup chopped fresh tomato (about 1 large)

3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons raw agave nectar

1 tablespoon olive oil

Italian seasoning to taste

Sea salt to taste

In a small bowl, soak sun-dried tomatoes in 1/4 cup filtered water for at least 4 hours. If soaking longer, refrigerate. When ready to use, drain tomatoes and reserve soaking water.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine soaked sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomato, garlic, agave nectar and olive oil. Add Italian seasoning and salt to taste. Add tomato soaking water to make sauce desired thickness.

Adapted from a recipe provided by Debra Jill Mazer

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 53 calories (percent of calories from fat, 21), 2 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram fat (trace saturated), no cholesterol, 311 milligrams sodium.

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Sweet and Sour Sauce

Hands on: 5 minutes Total time: 5 minutes, plus time for soaking Makes: 5 cups

7/8 cup dates

4 cups fresh pineapple

1 tablespoon fresh ginger

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/8 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons psyllium seed husks

In a small bowl, soak dates in 1 cup filtered water for at least 4 hours. If soaking longer, refrigerate. When ready to use, drain dates and discard soaking liquid.

In a blender, combine pineapple, ginger, soaked dates, vinegar, lemon juice and psyllium seed husks. Pour over meatballs and serve with fancy toothpicks.

Adapted from a recipe provided by Debra Jill Mazer

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 22 calories (percent of calories from fat, 4), trace protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, trace sodium.

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Raw Lemon-Pineapple Squares

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes, plus chilling time Makes: 16 squares

If you find a great fresh pineapple, you can substitute it here. For our tasters who are used to sweeter traditional desserts, this dish was a surprise. Raw food desserts are not going to have that big sugar/fat hit they’ve come to expect, so a little adjustment of expectation is required. These refreshing squares with their cashew crust also struck some as being a lot like a traditional Southern congealed salad.

For the crust:

3 cups raw cashews

1/2 cup ground golden flaxseeds (optional)

1 cup agave nectar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch cayenne pepper, optional

For the filling:

3 cups frozen pineapple (two 10-ounce packages)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup raw agave nectar

3/4 cup psyllium seed husks

1/4 cup finely shredded unsulfured coconut

In a small bowl, soak cashews in 3 cups filtered water for at least 8 hours. If soaking longer, refrigerate. When ready to use, drain.

To make the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine cashews, flaxseeds, agave nectar, sea salt and cayenne pepper. Pulse until the mixture is chopped and begins to hold together. Press into the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.

To make the filling: In the bowl of a food processor, combine pineapple, lemon juice and agave nectar. Blend together. Add psyllium seed husks and pulse to combine. Pour over cashew crust. Top with coconut shreds. Refrigerate for 2 hours until congealed. Cut into 16 squares.

Adapted from a recipe provided by Debra Jill Mazer

Per square: 233 calories (percent of calories from fat, 50), 6 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 14 grams fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 37 milligrams sodium.

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Sunflower Seed Hummus

Hands on: 5 minutes Total time: 5 minutes, plus soaking time Makes: 21/2 cups

Every taster preferred this recipe over traditional hummus made with cooked garbanzo beans, and it’s perfect for people who have a hard time digesting beans. Serve with Italian Flaxseed Crackers or with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and carrot sticks.

11/2 cups raw sunflower seeds

3 small cloves garlic

3/4 cup raw tahini

Juice of 4 lemons

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

In a small bowl, soak sunflower seeds in 2 cups filtered water for at least 8 hours. If soaking longer, refrigerate. When ready to use, drain and discard soaking liquid.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine sunflower seeds, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, pepper and salt and pulse until mixture is as smooth. Add water, if necessary, to thin to the desired consistency. Garnish with additional olive oil, if desired.

Adapted from a recipe provided by Debra Jill Mazer

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 163 calories (percent of calories from fat, 75), 5 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 132 milligrams sodium.

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