Sunday, October 9, 2011

Energy Boosting Seasonal Whole Food Meals for Busy Families

Clay at Beets Cafe in Austin, Texas
At first, eating whole foods or raw food can seem challenging because it is so very different than the usual American diet. You might be worried about getting enough carbohydrates or whether or not you'll be full. The truth is that when you eat organically grown fruits and veggies, healthy fats such as olive oil or avocado, natural sugars (including honey or real maple syrup) or nuts, your body feels full and nourished because you are receiving the nutrients your body needs. 

I personally have never felt better or had more energy than I have eating a clean diet free of gluten, corn, dairy, soy, starches such as rice and potatoes and refined sugar. Eating nutrient dense whole foods helps you sleep more soundly and helps to decrease inflammation that can cause a whole array of problems from arthritis to allergies to headaches to cancer. Your skin will also bounce back looking more youthful than ever and the dry, irritated skin you thought was just a normal winter annoyance will be a thing of the past. What I thought was eczema for my son and me was really just a reaction to a food intolerance. I don't miss my migraines or upset stomach after meals either. 

 I'm in the middle of reading the book Thrive: 200 Plant Based Foods for Peak Health which chronicles the food journey of triathlete, Brendan Brazier. Many of the issues he addressed in his diet are similar to what we have been going through over the last two years. Some of the best advice he gave is to start with easy to digest foods in the morning (smoothies, fruit, veggies with little to no grains) and end with easy to digest foods in the evenings. The best part is that it not only mentions a favorite raw food restaurant in Austin, Beets Cafe, but it also has an index of easy to prepare vegan and raw recipes. You might also check out Forks Over Knives or Brendan Brazier's other book, Whole Foods to Thrive

Switching to a raw or mostly raw diet doesn't mean you need to call in the food police. Go easy on yourself at first if you decide to make the change. The hardest part of making the switch will be the mind shift, learning what to order and how to order when you go out to eat (like the yummy reuben sandwich at Beets Cafe!), when to bring your own food and how to explain the change to family and friends. Your desire for sugary, starchy foods will pass. Your body is hungry for nutrients, not just food. We changed our diet almost 2 years ago and I can say that I have no problem passing up sugary, starchy, dairy laden foods that make me feel bad. My body no longer craves those foods.

Although we still eat meat, we choose it thoughtfully. Our meat comes from Salt & Time, a local company that turns locally sourced beef, pork, lamb and poultry into artisanal salumi. We receive a Butcher's Box from Salt & Time each month (in addition to venison) that supplies us with our monthly supply of meat.
Our pantry now looks like the bulk section at Wheatsville with staples such as dried dates, local pecans, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, chia seeds and nutritional yeast, but we save ourselves time and trips to the grocery store. We also make batches of our most used foods such as almond milk, cashew creme, almond cheese and breakfast and snack date bars.  

Below are a few meals we had this past week. The recipes are not 100% raw but they are gluten, dairy, soy and corn-free and most of the ingredients are locally sourced, organic and wholeThe web is full of raw recipes and sites dedicated to this type of diet such as The Alkaline Sisters and Russell James, The Raw Chef

Quick Fix Mid-Week Meals

Local Green Bean Salad (just leave our the goat cheese) with Squash Blossoms with Olive & Sun-Dried Tomato Almond Cheese

1. To prepare the squash blossoms, fill a bowl with water and add a generous amount of salt. Let the squash blossoms soak for several minutes. The salt in the water will kill any little critters that like to hang out inside. 

2. In your food processor add the "cheese" left in the nut milk bag after making almond milk with chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, olive oil and salt and pepper. 

3. In a cast iron skillet, heat a small amount of oil on medium. 

4. Using a small spoon, scoop the olive & sun-dried tomato almond cheese into the blossoms. 

5. Fry the blossoms in a cast iron skillet for a few minutes on each side or until they are slightly crispy. 

6. Serve immediately over the Green Bean Salad. 

Apple & Thyme Chickpea Salad

For a quick lunch, add sliced apples, chickpeas marinated overnight with olive oil, shallots, lemon, garlic, thyme and rosemary in a mason jar over local butter lettuce. Make a quick dressing with lemon, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. 

Lettuce Tacos with Cashew Sour Cream

This recipe was one of Clay's favorites. He loves when he gets to be the chef and pick out the ingredients for his meal. 
We took some of the larger leaves from our local butter lettuce head and fanned them out on a plate, made a quick pico de gallo with black beans, tomatoes and cilantro and sliced local jalepeƱos from Johnson's Backyard Garden. We added some sliced avocado and whipped up some Cashew Sour Cream. We also piled on some local salsa. 

This recipe would be delicious with Russell James' Avocado & Lime Soup, guacamole and BeanitosRed Pepper(or JalepeƱo) Poppers or Cashew Queso.

Easy Desserts

Peach Tart

Press the pecan crust (I left out the Rawtella in this version) into a small ramekin or tart shell. Spread the almond "cheese" leftover from making almond milk onto the crust. Fan the peach slices on top, drizzle with local honey, dried lavender and fresh mint. 

We followed the recipe, but added local Persian limes from our Farmhouse Delivery box

Homemade Almond Milk
So easy to make and so delicious!

1 cup blanched raw almonds

2 cups water
1-2 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons vanilla or 1/2 vanilla bean

1. Add the almonds to a high powered blender and blend while slowly pouring water into blender. 

2.Add vanilla and honey and blend until combined. 

 3. Holding the nut milk bag over a bowl or pitcher, pour the mixture into the bag so that only the liquid pours out. You may need to push it through with a spoon or squeeze the bag. The leftover almonds in the bag can be used to make almond cheese later. 

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