You ferment for me

canned-veggies

You know how your mum always told you to drink water because you’re body is made up of 70% water? Well, using that logic you should be eating ten times more probiotic-rich food too.

Healthy bacteria, found is fermented food, is vital to our micro biome – the ecosystem of bacteria that lives inside our bodies. It turns out these bacteria outnumber our other cells by a factor of 10 to 1!

Basically, we are more bacteria than we are human.

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Scientific research is now finding that a balanced microbiome regulates the immune system, metabolism, sustains the gastrointestinal tract, supports mood and brain function, produces crucial vitamins and nutrients, and helps us maintain a healthy weight.

Fermented foods are also found amongst the traditional diets of cultures worldwide, due to their health benefits. Unfortunately we our over-pasteurised processing of foods, many of us are not getting these vital bacteria in our diet.

I have been a fan of fermented food and beverages for a while now.

What I really love about them is after a period of over-indulging – take Christmas time for example – when my tummy is growling like an angry bear, after a week or so of eating fermented foods with my meals and drinking coconut kefir, and I’m right back on track.

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They also don’t go off in the fridge. If you are anything like me, you go out and buy healthy food with all the best intentions, and then the next week you are clearing out the remains of wilted organic kale from your crisper.

Fermented food doesn’t really go off, because it’s already done its fermenting. So it is naturally preserved and lasts for ages, but you must keep it in the fridge.

Probiotic bacteria will balance your tummy from the inside, which makes for a flatter tummy on the outside.

Fermented foods help you lose weight by maintaining the right proportion of friendly bacteria for  digestion, and an efficient digestive system equals optimal nutrient absorption and weight loss.

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“I highly recommend these foods, both for weight loss and for overall improvement of numerous symptoms, including depression, anxiety, brain fog, skin problems, hormonal issues, immune weaknesses, digestive problems, and fatigue.” Raphael Kellman, M.D. is the author of The Microbiome Diet: The Scientifically Proven Way to Restore Your Gut Health and Achieve Permanent Weight Loss (July 1, 2014)

How to make Kimchi:

Enjoy!

 

Images:

Kimchi

Canned veggies

Chosun Bimbo. Chillis drying in the sun 

Traditional”Kimchi jar”. Olkhicha Appa

Korean cuisine-Gimjang-Preparation for making kimchi. Caroline Knox 

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Day 8. It’s only for today

live_for_today

One week down. 7 consecutive days of raw.

Many years ago I learned the power of living in 24 hours increments.  It can sometimes seem easier to postpone making resolutions to change bad habits because it can feel as if the rest of our lives are looming in front of us like an endless procession of deprivation from that thing we gave up. “How will I find pleasure without X (insert relevant vice here).” A perpetual awareness of lack and self-denial. Yes, I know I have a somewhat melodramatic mind!

Yet who can’t give something up if it’s only for one day? Humans only need oxygen, water and a little food, maybe shelter and rest, to get through 24 hours, the rest is gravy. So why do we attach ourselves so much to the gravy? As if we couldn’t possibly survive without it. Sometimes it’s pleasure, but often we cling to so-called pleasures that are really causing us harm (cigarettes were a great example of that for me) and where’s the joy in that?

It feels like my adult life has been an experiment in the pursuit of balance. If you can call wildly swinging from nothing to too much of a good thing, back to nothing again, balance.

I have definitely inherited my Dad’s love of the Bacchanalian pleasures – food, wine, sex and song – but life experience has forced me to address this tendency to over-indulgence. In my twenties I had to address the wine, in my thirties and forties it’s the food. (We’ll leave sex and song alone for now, shall we?)

My food journey began not with me but with my son. He was diagnosed with autism 9 years ago. In my quest to find healing for his little mind, body, and spirit, I investigated kinesiology, homeopathy, naturopathy and diet. (To great success I might add).

In the process of changing his diet, I discovered my body was much also happier without wheat and dairy. When I told my mum, she said, “Oh, yes you were lactose intolerant as a baby!”

It’s possible, it seems, to eat foods that harm our bodies, but for the symptoms to be mild enough (or to accumulate so gradually we just ‘get used’ to them) to not realize there’s a problem. Ironically wheat and dairy were the two mainstays of my diet and the foods I least wanted to give up. Craving food we are intolerant to is apparently a strange but common phenomena.

Then on the advice of a naturopath, I also took sugar and caffeine out of my diet. I know, right? Me! A sweet-toothed latte chugger – at the time it seemed so cruel and unnatural. Do I miss it now? Not at all!

I’m here to tell you folks I wouldn’t do this stuff by choice. But when you are faced with a lifetime of stomach issues, bad skin, hormonal imbalance, anxiety, depression, mood swings, lethargy, and possible escalation into even more serious health issues, well drinking decaf without the donut doesn’t seem so dramatic.

So over the last 15 years I have been getting progressively healthier and healthier. But like I said, I’m a perfectionist. I saw glimpses of myself with more vitality than I could imagine, but they were fleeting. How did I go about making that my natural state? Then I found out about raw.

I think that adjusting to a raw diet will be much like all the other adjustments I’ve made. At first it seems like a deprivation, everywhere I go is evidence of what I can’t have. Then over time it becomes habitual and the occasional forays into my ‘old ways’ usually make me feel rotten enough to find new appreciation for how good the new ways are actually making me feel.

And the way to get there, is just doing it for today.

This is my hope, that after 3 weeks I’ll be feeling so fabulous that you couldn’t pay me enough money to change my eating habits back. One of my colleagues at work yesterday said “You look great. Whatever you are doing sure is working!” And that, my friends, is called incentive. I mean, it’s only a week. How good will I look in another two? Move over Elle! Not that it’s about the superficial (not that I’m adverse to that). But it’s the glow from inner health that people notice.

Now about my day of food. I had plenty of left over rawsagna from yesterday and it tasted even better today. But then I had a hankering for pudding…

I love pudding. One of the best pudding experiences I ever had was years ago at a little pub in Cornwall. We stopped for lunch and I had their sticky date pudding for dessert. It was moist and full of real ginger. God, it was good! This is my raw hommage to that memory.

sticky date flan

Sticky date flan with ginger cashew cream

Coconut flour raw pastry
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup almonds
1/2 vanilla pod
1/3 cup coconut oil

Sticky date topping
1 1/2 cups dates
1 cup mixed nuts
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 vanilla pod
1/2 cup water

Ginger cashew cream
1/2 cup cashews
Dessert spoon coconut nectar
1/2 cup dates
Tsp grated ginger
Blend until creamy

Blend almonds until ground. Add coconut flour to mix. Add rest of the pastry ingredients and blend until forms a dough. Press dough into lined spring form tin.

Blend sticky date mix until gooey paste add on top of pastry and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Slice and serve with Ginger Cashew Cream.

Day 5. To buy or not to buy (organic), that is the question

Ryan-Gosling-KaleTo paraphrase The Smiths, I’m a woman of means (of slender means). That’s my way of saying I’m not loaded with dosh. I would love to eat organic food exclusively but I can’t always afford to. I know it’s the preference of raw foodies, but I also don’t intend to throw in the towel and order a drive thru Happy Meal in preference to eating non-organic produce.

I do buy from markets and green grocers, because I believe in buying fresh, local food. If you are interested and live in Victoria, check out farmers markets near you here: http://vicfarmersmarkets.org.au/

I make sure I wash my fresh produce in water with a dash of apple cider vinegar, which helps to lift off any surface residue.

If, like me, you can’t buy exclusively organic, there are some known offenders in terms of pesticide residues, these I aim to buy organic.  Check out this list for foods to buy organic and those that you can get away with buying non-organically grown: http://waterworksvalley.com/food-thats-safe-to-eat/

I think buying my green leafies organic is a good idea, especially in the quantities I’m eating them. Although Australian pesticide residues are supposed to be relatively low, it’s a cumulative effect. It’s somewhat depressing to think that all my good work munching away on raw food could be undone by eating food covered in chemicals.

This also got me thinking about the nuts and seeds I’m buying too. So I found some pesticide-free almonds at the health food shop near work. Score!

It’s easy for me to get disillusioned thinking about this. I tend to be a little black and white about things, a wee bit towards the extreme far right on the perfectionist spectrum. I have to keep bringing myself back to the idea that change happens in increments. I’m learning more every day. And the positive changes I’m making to my eating habits will surely stand me in good stead for the time in my life when I can afford to eat exclusively organic.

And you know what, I feel good. Everything I have eaten in the last few days has been super tasty and nutritious. And my body is thanking me. (My mind, on the other hand, wants a soy latte, but it’s been told that it should sit in the corner quietly and be seen and not heard).

Here’s a happy thought. How divine is Ryan Gosling? That one’s for you Kel. (Sorry folks, private joke).

So I guess you’d be wanting a recipe about now? Well, I mentioned my ol’ faithful, the Rainbow Salad the other day. Seeing as the post today is all about organic vegetables. Here it is. This one I served with raw tomato walnut bolognese sauce (recipe to come – I can’t give away ALL my secrets at once – oh alright then, I’ll give you that one too!) and nut butter (from Day 4). It was to die for!

The great thing about rainbow salad is you can use any vegetables you like. The main thing is getting lots of colour, so it’s actually like eating a rainbow. And the pot of gold at the end, you ask? A very happy body! (You can also buy this pre-prepared if you’re running late for work and don’t have time to grate veggies – just sayin’).

rainbow salad

Rainbow Salad

1 carrot

1 beetroot

1 broccoli stalk

1 zucchini

Thickly grate or put vegetables through slicer/spirooli to produce long thin strips.

Top with nut butter and raw tomato bolognese sauce and enjoy!

Tomato walnut bolognese sauce

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1 tomato

1 clove garlic

A few sprigs of fresh herbs (I used thyme, bay leaf and basil)

1/2 cup walnuts

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend tomatoes, garlic, and herbs in food processor. Add walnuts and blend to desired consistency.

So there  you go – two recipes in one day. Don’t say I’m not good to you!

Day 2. Eating raw zucchini

Zucchini noodles with pesto

I know what you’re thinking. How sneaky. I entice you with dessert for breakfast then slap you in the face with a cold zucchini! But humour me a little here.

I am intolerant to wheat and dairy. In fact before I started eating raw I had begun to feel so unwell I thought I may actually be intolerant to all food. Without wheat and dairy many favourite foods become like a distant dream. Cheesy, creamy pasta is one dish I have spent (too) much time reminiscing over.

I would read recipes for raw noodles made from raw zucchini and it would leave me, well, cold. Don’t get me wrong I loved zucchini, but COOKED zucchini. I had never eaten it raw. Why would you? Salad vegetables were for eating raw, other vegetables are for cooking. Oh, poor misguided one! Abandoning my old ideas about cooking certain foods have revolutionised not only my eating but my taste buds.

Guess my favourite raw veggie discovery? Turnip. Right? So sensational in a rainbow salad, which oooh! I think I’ll have tomorrow. But I digress, let’s leave turnips for another day and return to zucchinis.

The raw lifestyle is more to me than just food. It means taking effort and care with what I put into my body, mind and spirit. Food, ideas, people and places all contribute to my state of wellbeing. Okay, so at the risk of outing myself as a little New Age-y (oh wait, did I do that already by starting a raw food blog?) I am going to quote Louise Hay.

“The point of power is always in the present moment”

I’m a new convert to Louise. I was always more than a little skeptical of the whole New Age publishing empire and twee commitment to affirming our problems away. Then one of my dearest friends got sick. Really, scary kind of sick and I did not know what to do to help. I’m a book person, a librarian by profession, so that’s what I did, I starting looking for books on healing. I found Louise’s “You Can Your Life”. I read it for my friend first, but then I read it for me..

The point is I, like many people I’m sure, always think self-defeating thoughts about positive change. “It’s too hard” “I’ve been doing things this way for too long” “I won’t stick to raw food” “I’ll do it next week, next month, next year”… And on, and on. Those negative thoughts never seem to end. And so I wouldn’t change.

My motivation for this blog was to challenge those thoughts. So it might be hard, I probably won’t do it perfectly and I might flake out before the end. But how will I know if I don’t try? And surely the attempt to make positive changes is better than doing nothing.

So I’m a convert to Louise Hay. I am challenging my old thinking and in the words of one of my favourite movies (Dead Poet’s Society – remember young, pre-House, Robert Sean Leonard? Swoon!): carpe diem! “seize the day!” and trust that any little change is a step in the right direction.

Boy, do I go off on tangents! Zucchinis. I was supposed to be talking about zucchinis and creamy pasta goodness. So, as I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, I wasn’t inspired by the idea of raw zucchini. Then my friend gave me a spirooli – this cool hand operated machine that turns veggies into noodles. It makes the noodles just the right shape to be like spaghetti. Add a dollop of raw pesto to that and trust me, because I didn’t believe it either,  you have such creamy, tender, yummy goodness that you will have no choice but to moan like Meg Ryan in When Harry met Sally.

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado and Basil Pesto

Noodles

1 zucchini makes about one bowl of noodles

Pesto sauce

½ cup almonds

½ cup walnuts

handful basil (about ½ cup)

clove garlic

pinch salt

pepper to taste

1/3 avocado (keep separate for now)

Make your noodles using a spirooli or food processor.

Blend sauce ingredients (not avocado) to desired texture, I like it quite crunchy but you can make it as smooth and creamy as you like.

I don’t mix the avocado in yet. Any leftover pesto will keep in the fridge for days or you can freeze it.

Take about a tablespoon  (serves 1) of the pesto mix, mash in avocado with a fork, mix through noodles.

Add extra basil  and pesto on top and enjoy!

Day 1. Dessert for breakfast

day 1 breakfast pie

Let’s start with the good news – dessert for breakfast!

When I first started investigating raw food I was not inspired by the idea of eating cold zucchini noodles with cold sauce and well, cold EVERYTHING. My friend gave me a book on eating raw food but it seemed really complicated. So I googled raw food recipes, (go on I DARE you). I was impressed. As a vegan I have spent years reminiscing about the days I could eat caramel slice and banana cream pie and here was the promised land, raw versions of every dessert known to man. Well that got me interested. And because the ingredients are mostly nuts and fruit, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat as a healthy breakfast.

So here’s my special Day 1 breakfast treat. Banana Cream Pie. (I’d suggest making it and freezing it the night before, let it defrost for about half an hour, slice a banana for the topping and voila!)

Oh, and it’s all raw – that’s kind of the point here –  so I’m not going to write raw this, raw that. K? You’ll need a food processor to blend the ingredients for this one.

Banana “Cream” Pie

Base:

½ cup walnuts

½ cup almonds

½ cup coconut

½ cup dried apricots

¾ cup majool dates

1 tsp vanilla paste or 1 vanilla pod

Filling:

¾ cup cashews

¾ cup macadamias

½ cup coconut

1 cup dates

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup “milk” (almond or whatever raw milk you like) or coconut water

1 tbsp coconut oil

stevia or agave to sweeten to taste

Blend base ingredients and press into lined spring form pan.

Blend filling, spoon onto base. Freeze for at least 2 hours. Thaw slightly before serving topped with sliced banana and chopped almonds.

Yummo!