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food and product reviews

Orgain Nutritional Shake Review: Chocolate/Vanilla Protein Drinks

Hi all!

Something that Michael and I like to do every now and then is play a bit of food detective. We like trying new products, and do some comparing and contrasting. That’s where this Orgain nutritional shake review comes in – it’s basically a protein drink, in chocolate and vanilla flavors – and I hadn’t seen them at the health food store before, so decided to pick some up (with our own dolla bills).

(A note on the packaging: It seems to be different on the website. On the website, the drink is called a “nutritional shake”, and our versions have the label “organic protein”, but I’m 99% sure it’s the same thing).

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food and product reviews, recipes, Soups and Stews, Uncategorized

Blendtec Unboxing and Delicious Cauliflower Soup

On Monday this week I got one of the best surprises of my life.  I arrived home from work to see a little piece of paper sticking out of my mailbox – a little piece of paper that told me I had a parcel waiting at the post office.  I had, of course, been expecting this, but I had not entirely expected it to arrive one day early.  The drive to the post office was full of excitement and anticipation, and the drive box home more so.  Once I got back into my house I sat down with my package, my camera, and my iPad, and had to share this momentous occasion with Allysia over Skype.  So, once we were both good and ready, we looked at what sat in front of us.

Even the sight of the box still fills me with happiness.

Popping the box open reveals the sweet treasure inside.

First up is the information package.  A blender-based cookbook, warranty information, and a DVD!

The cookbook itself is in full color, coil-bound, and even hard cover!  In a surprising moment of awesomeness, I opened the book to a random page and saw a recipe for cauliflower soup.  Allysia and I had just talked about making cauliflower soup the previous day – it seemed like a sign.

Next up is probably the most exciting part: the blender bowl.

We opted to go for the slightly newer and slightly more expensive Wildside blender jar.  This jar has a few advantages over the standard Fourside jar.  It has a roomy 3 quart volume and a special shape involving a fifth side in the blender jar.  This fifth side apparently shifts the blending vortex a bit so it mixes ingredients much more efficiently.

The blender lid followed the jar.  Shiny and gorgeous.

Another exciting moment: the blender base.  While the normal Blendtec blender is beautiful, we choose to upgrade to the Designer Series (for the same price as the regular blender!)  You can’t get these delivered to Canada through the Blendtec website, but we ordered from Upaya Naturals and got it in only a few days!

The biggest reason we got the Designer Series, aside from the awesome red color, is the touch screen on the base.  All of the controls are operated through this screen, and it just looks solid black when turned off.  It looks cool, works well, and talk about easy to clean!

And now we have a little before and after photo.  Definitely an upgrade.  High-end blenders tend to get a bad rap for being massively huge and taking up too much counter space (especially a certain other brand of blender), but comparing the Blendtec to a cheap Walmart blender, the size different isn’t anything absurd.

Once the blender was powered up it became even more lovely.  The six picture buttons correspond to preprogrammed blending cycles.  From left to right they are for: mixing batters, crushing ice, making smoothies, creating ice creams, juicing produce, and blending/cooking soups.  The large slider at the bottom of the faceplate allows you to select a blending speed manually and speed it up/slow it down at will.  The bottom-right button, shaped like a heartbeat monitor, is the pulse button (clever!).

The blender itself is amazing.  The blending cycles work really well – they speed up/slow down the blades automatically, allows the blender to chop through rough ingredients before speeding up to blend.  One thing that I noticed is that this blender does not create as much heat a other high-speed blenders.  The Designer Series has some improved venting which allows it to blend without heating the ingredients too much.  Great news for smoothie lovers and raw foodists alike!  Another interesting feature becomes apparent only when the blender is powered up.  For the first few seconds a number will flash onto the screen.  This number is the total number of times the blender has been used.  We have owned ours for less than forty-eight hours now, and it has been used twelve times.

One of the first things I wanted to do with this blender was create a smooth and awesome blended soup using some of the random ingredients I had laying around.

Creamy Corn and Cauliflower Soup
yields 2 large servings
1 medium sized head of cauliflower (about 3 cups, roughly chopped)
2 medium sized potatoes (about 1 cup, roughly chopped)
2 ears of fresh corn
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground thyme (fresh would work better, but alas, I had none available)
salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:

1. Boil a pot of water large enough to hold the potato, cauliflower, and corn.  Add the potato first, then the cauliflower, then the corn so everything cooks the appropriate amount of time.
2. Pan steam (or saute) the onions and garlic.

3. When the veggies are cooked, drain the water.  Cut the kernels off of the corn cobs and place all the ingredients in a blender jar.  Use only 3 cups of veggie broth to start, adding more until the desired consistency is reached.  Blend until smooth.

Alternatively, you could save some of the cooked veggie and stir them into the soup after blending for a slightly chunkier soup.

A little side note: in keeping with our super healthy eating plan I opted to boil and steam the veggies for this soup.  I can only assume that roasting the corn, potato, and cauliflower would make the soup even more incredible.

Apparently being able to blend corn completely perfectly is a rare thing indeed.  The Blendtec did it with ease.  The soup was smooth after about thirty seconds of blending.  After struggling with a super cheap blender for so long, it is so nice to have access to perfectly smooth soups and smoothies.  I’m a big fan of green smoothies in the morning, and this blender destroys kale leaves like nobody’s business.  I love our blender like a newborn child. Peace out.

food and product reviews, recipes, smoothies and juice

Oriya Organics: Review, and Banana-Peach Smoothie

Hey guys!

A while back, Oriya Organics sent me their protein powder and green powder to review, which made me giddy with glee for so many reasons, namely:

-I’ve been chugging smoothies every morning before school
-Depending on what we’re cooking in the classroom, I can’t always depend on balanced lunch meals
-I’ve been paying more attention to purchasing organic and gmo-free food
-The ingredient lists on these are beautiful.

So let me talk about their Superfood Protein Medley first, since I’m featuring it in a recipe today.  Not only does it blend a few protein powders that are allergen-free (brown rice, chia, hempseed), the chia seeds and brown rice protein are sprouted for maximum digestibility.  How cool is that?

In addition to those ingredients, this protein blend contains chlorella and spirulina, which are high-protein, super-nutritious sea plants.  Because of this, this protein powder has a slight green tinge, which is a-ok with me since I usually drink green smoothies anyway.

What I absolutely love about this protein powder is that the nutrition you get out of it stretches far beyond just protein – in one serving, you’re also getting chlorophyll, omega-3’s, and lots of vitamin A, C, E, K and iron, among others.  In this way, this powder is really more like a whole food as opposed to just isolated protein. And it definitely doesn’t skimp in the protein department, as each scoop contains 18 grams of the stuff.

I can also highly recommend their SuperGreen Medley powder, which is a blend of wheat and barley grass, chlorella and spirulina.  It’s nice because I’m really not a big fan of spirulina’s flavor, but when it’s in a mix like this it’s totally fine.  I like adding a spoonful of this to my morning smoothies – it tastes great in the following recipe if you don’t mind a vibrant, emerald green hue to your smoothie.

And did I mention that both of these powders are raw (in addition to being certified organic, certified gmo-free, vegan and gluten-free)?  Score!


Banana-Peach Smoothie
I like to balance the coldness of this beverage by using frozen peaches and fresh banana, but you can feel free to use all frozen fruit, or all fresh – just adjust the almond milk for the right consistency.

Ingredients:
Serves 1

1 medium banana, peeled
Generous 1/2 cup sliced frozen peaches
1 cup almond milk, homemade or store-bought
1/2 scoop (2 tablespoons) Oriya Organics Protein Medley
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Fits perfectly in a 16-ounce mason jar to take on the go.

This smoothie has a pale green tinge from the protein powder that I find gorgeous, but if you’re really opposed to that you could mask the color with some blueberries.  I love the flavor combo of banana, peach and vanilla, to the extent that I’m excited to wake up in the morning just so I can eat this. 🙂

I’m a big fan of smoothies, but you can also blend the powders into a juice, or even straight-up water.  I don’t enjoy drinking protein powder mixed with water, but I bet it could be nice blended with some sweetened non-dairy milk.  I’ve also been playing around with the protein powder as a flour substitute in raw treats – hopefully I’ll have a recipe up for that soon.

So there it is, guys – I really have nothing but good things to say about Oriya Organics, and I urge you to check out their website for more details.  Their products are on the pricey side, but I do think it’s worth it for the quality of the ingredients used.

And for those of us who live in Canada, the raw online store Upaya Naturals (Toronto-based) does carry these products.  I can personally vouch for the awesomeness of Upaya, since I bought my juicer from them several years ago.

So there you have it!  Catch you folks later.

food and product reviews

Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts – Week 3 & 4 In Review

Hey guys!

It’s hard to believe I’ve already been living in the wonderful city of Austin for a month – time flies!  It’s truly been a month of new experiences, like trying new foods, meeting new people, listening to new music, experiencing a warm winter without snow, adjusting to a long-distance relationship, in addition to learning a new language (Japanese!) and how to play guitar.  Oh yeah, and exercising regularly and eating well.  Sound like fun?  It’s been a ride so far!

But since the focus of this blog is food, I want to take you on a tour of some of the yummy eats we’ve been concocting at the Natural Epicurean.  We’ve been focusing on foundational veggie foods like tofu, tempeh, beans, grains, and veggies, which are all things I love to nom.

Tofu and tempeh, which I adore (especially ‘fu).

Working with grains, the superstars being dolmas (of course!) and the black bean, corn and avocado salad.  It was super bright and fresh with cilantro and lime juice.

Beany goodness.  Dudes, if you’re making baked beans (bottom left), I totally recommend throwing in some baked and cubed tofu – it’s such a wonderful addition.

Breakfast foods, like my savory grits concoction and some yummy cereals in the backdrop.

Plantain chips and fruit salsa?  Hell yeah.  Tortilla chips were surprisingly good with savory apple chutney, too.

All the vegetable classes made me so super happy, but I especially enjoy hearty roots and squashes.

Carmelizing onions is definitely a test of patience (which I apparently don’t have, since my batch was burnt and non-photogenic), and they were lovely atop a rutabaga, turnip and ‘tato puree.

Light and fresh veggies are fun too, like these yogurt and dill cukes (and some spiralized zucchini noodles in the back).

But greens are probably my favorite of all – this was a mix of kale, chard, mustard greens and escarole, steamed and then sauteed with paprika, cumin, and salt, and served with kalamata olives, tomato and lemon juice.  I feasted on this, let me tell you.

We also had an exam yesterday which included ingredient identification, knife skillz and making recipes.  Everything went smoothly for me, and I made this kick-ass risotto, but the stress of it all made me completely forget about photo-taking.  Next time!

Hope you’ve all been having a wonderful week, and I’ll catch up with you at brunch!

food and product reviews

Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts – Week 2 In Review

Good evening!

This week of school at the Natural Epicurean was fast-paced, high-energy and tons of fun, albeit tons of work.  This is when we really delved into cooking and concocting fundamentals like stocks, sauces, and basic cooking methods (wet and dry).

I didn’t take any pictures of the stocks, because I’m sure you can imagine them.  But it was fun creating a variety of depths (light, medium and dark) and flavor profiles (like herb and roasted garlic, or dashi).  I did picture some of the other goodies, though.

For our sauce class we made a rich tomato sauce (front and center), a salsa verde with tarragon and toasted walnuts (right), a roasted red pepper coulis (left), and some nifty things you can’t see in the back – a mushroom jus, and demi-glace.  I was super excited to create the demi-glace, which is a savory brown reduction sauce that’s almost exclusively made from meat, and it tasted great done veggie-style.  Sauces are fun but challenging, since there are so many things to consider – flavor, color, texture, what you’re serving it with, and etc.

Next up, we had a lab on wet cooking methods, which is something I really don’t focus on much here on the blog (unless we’re talking soups and stews – I could eat those forever).  But things like braising and poaching, and even steaming?  These are all things I do far too seldomly.  Why have I never braised before? Pictured in the very center is braised fennel, cabbage and leeks – the cabbage was scorched on each side prior to braising to give it a nice rich flavor, and holy hell was it good.  More where that came from in my future.

And to contrast the wet cooking methods, we did a day of dry cooking, which involves pretty much everything with oil – think sauteing, stir frying, frying, grilling, and so on.  Clockwise from the top left are sweet potato fries (tossed with applewood smoked salt, OMG), cauliflower-beet fritters, sauteed apples (with coconut milk ice cream), and grilled asparagus and eggplant.  Somehow the roasted mushrooms missed the cut, which is a shame because he was plated as a mustached mushroom man.  For real.  The mustache was made of parsley.

We also had a couple of other non-cooking segments – one that was sort of an introduction to conscious cooking, getting us to consider the energetics of food and all that nifty hippie stuff, and another class that was math-based – yay conversions!  Next week, we’ll begin to get more in-depth with certain food categories, like tofu, tempeh and grains.  I’m pretty stoked!

And I even made a new friend in my neighborhood.  This dude was totally chillin’ with me outside, he was way too cool.

Have a good weekend, folks, and I’ll catch up with you on Sunday for some mad brunch action!

food and product reviews

Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts – Week 1 In Review

Good morning!

So on Friday I was walking around in a t-shirt enjoying 20+ degree weather in Austin, all while my friends and family back home in Saskatchewan endured a crazy snowstorm and intense cold.  Mike did the math – there were 60 degrees difference between us today.  Hard to fathom, eh?

All crazy weather happenings aside, what I’m really here to talk about is my first week of school at the Natural Epicurean.  I’ll keep it fairly brief since I don’t really have much for pictures (we’ve just done preliminary food stuff).

Our class is small and intimate, totaling eight people in our group, and we’ve got a pretty even 50% ratio with men/women, and vegans/non-vegans.  I couldn’t be happier with how that worked out – it’s good to have an even variety so I’m not the lone vegan in the room, or that there isn’t one lonely omni.  Plus, we’ll have the opportunity to learn multiple techniques (vegan and non-vegan), which I think will round out the learning experience quite well.

Right off the bat, I really appreciate the two main instructors in the initial segment – both have traditional culinary backgrounds and were trained at classic French-style schools, branching off in different areas of expertise.  One of them owns a vegan bakery, and she’ll be teaching us the baking class (can’t wait!).  I like learning a more classical approach to vegetarian cooking (although later on it will be far from classical, what with the macrobiotics, raw and ayurvedic classes).

Pictured is the kitchen (though it looks a little different now, I think this is an older picture) – it’s a nice, intimate workspace with all the fixins.  I love that there are big windows and a door leading to outside so close – it means that it’s easy to grab a breath of fresh air during a five minute break.  Plus it’s nice to be able to see outside.  I spent six years working in a basement, so it’s extra-awesome because of that!

Another perk is the student fridge for bringing lunches, and we’re allowed to use the school’s equipment to prepare the food. So if I needed to heat something up, or pan-fry a veggie burger (or whatever), I can.

This week we focused on preliminaries like knife skills, learning about different herbs, spices and seasonings, and briefly touched on broth-making (whee!).  We also spent Wednesday taking a food safety course and writing an exam, which is less fun than playing with food but definitely necessary.

Practicing my knife skills

All in all it’s been a great week – it definitely flew by in a hurry.  I’m excited to get more and more in depth with certain techniques (like baking!), and making stocks sauces next week should be super fun.  I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures!

food and product reviews

Associate Chef and Instructor Training at Living Light, Week 2

Whew!  I just accomplished my second and final week of Associate Chef and Instructor Training, and it certainly flew by in a crazy whirlwind of great food, student demos and shenanigans.  During the entirety of my training here, the food’s been getting better…and better…and better, and I’m kind of sad now that the food part is over.  Of course, I still have one week to go, though it’s a week in the classroom instead of the kitchen.
If you want to catch up with what I’ve learned up until this point, just check out the links below.
Associate Chef and Instructor Training, Week 2

I’m gonna walk you through more of the great dishes we learned how to make during my training – I’m so excited to make these meals in my own kitchen, and play, and create more recipes.  I’m so fueled up that hopefully it will compensate for my lack of MoFo preparation.

In this Asian-themed meal, we made Teriyaki Veggies (Stirred, not Fried), which tasted great – actually, I almost preferred them to fried veggies for how fresh they tasted.  The vegetables were marinated, which softened them, leaving a crisp-tender bite.  And you’d never know the thick Teriyaki sauce we used was raw.

Possibly my favorite thing on this plate is the pineapple skewer, which was also marinated and then warmed – I definitely ate more of it than pictured.  But I’m not telling how much more.

Raw pizza!  Each pizza was all little and cute, about 6 inches in diameter, and we had a variety of toppings, along with a choice of pesto or tomato sauce.  I opted for pesto since it’s so delicious, and also because fresh basil is hard to get in Saskatchewan.

Minestrone soup, served warm and full of chunky veggie goodness, was lovely and sweet.  Most of the raw soups I eat are smooth and pureed, so it was nice having something a little different.  The flavors were nostalgic, kind of like canned tomato soup, but, you know, better for you.

Here’s a spinach-mushroom quiche served with a red pepper remoulade, and it was delectable.  I especially loved the crust, which was very close to a traditional wheat crust in both flavor and texture.  And it was coconut-free!  Logan will be thrilled about that.  Once I’m back in my own kitchen, this crust is bound to make a reappearance on the blog.

Kale coleslaw, woo hoo!  This dish isn’t necessarily everyone’s idea of a good time, but it has lots of flavor, what with the full-bodied miso vinaigrette and capers and stuff.  Plus, I taught the class how to make this, so now it’s all sentimental.

This veggie burger spread had a ton of different components – mustard, ketchup, mayo, burgers, toppings, and onion rings – and was straight-up comfort food.  No one would suspect the ketchup and mayo of being made from raw, whole ingredients.  The mustard differed from the typical bright yellow stuff in that it wasn’t as neon and it was spicy, but was still an excellent condiment in its own right.

These were some damn good veggie burgers, pridefully standing on their own virtue, not trying to be like meat.  They had some chunky veggie pieces and seeds, making them a textural wonderland.

Whoa, onion rings!  Upon tasting one, my first impression was, “what the hell, these don’t taste like onion rings at all, they lack the characteristic deep-fried crunch”.  But then before I knew it, they all disappeared from my plate.  So while these might not have been an exact replica of onion rings, they made for a really addictive and low-fat snack.

There’s a fiesta on this plate, you’d better believe it.  With enchiladas served with avocado creme de fraiche and hot sauce, alongside a heap of fresh avocado salsa and some Mexican-seasoned rice, this might have been my favorite meal of all.  Maybe.  It’s a close call.

I must admit, I’d never had dolmas until the day I took this photograph, which is kind of unfortunate because look how cute they are! Needless to say, I don’t know what they’re supposed to taste like, but I do know that our version, made with softened zucchini “rice” dressed with seasonings and fresh herbs, was yumtastic.  The grape leaves were marinated in a tangy mixture involving some orange juice, and were tender and flavorful.  And the leaves have such a great texture – hearty and a little chewy and dare I say meaty.

I tucked away some dolmas to take home for supper, along with some crackers and raw zucchini hummus (holy crap that was good), and a simple greek salad with almond feta.

Alas, the end of the training meant the departure of some friends, like Acco and Sheli.  Acco’s blog is in Japanese, but it’s so cute and I love it all the same.  They’re both great chefs and great people, and I’ll miss them both dearly.  Ahh well, just gives me another reason to go do some world travelling, to Osaka and Jerusalem!

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Jenny Cornbleet, raw author and instructor extrordinaire.  She taught us about teaching and is just such a positive, encouraging lady.  Plus, look how little she is!  The first time I found myself standing beside her at the smoothie bar, it was a little startling, and kind of made me feel like a giant.  I giggled.  On the other side of me is Gina Hudson, another instructor who was so super friendly and a blast to work with.

And, the best for last.  This was our prize for completing the two weeks.  I would do it over and over again, just for some more of this chocolate mousse pie.  Heaven.
With today being my last day off in Fort Bragg, I must attend to some last-minute adventures.  I’ll catch you all next week, before I hop a plane and return to my hometown, and to Logan, and to my music.  Returning will be bittersweet, but for now, I’ve got my eyes focused on the intense week of classwork that lies before me.

Fare thee well!

food and product reviews

Associate Chef and Instructor Training at Living Light

Hey all!

I’m super excited about sharing the adventures of my Associate Chef and Instructor Training here at Living Light.  It’s a two-week program and I’m only halfway through it, but we’ve made (and created!) some pretty spectacular food, and I’m pretty damn amazed at how much we’ve learned in such a short span of time.

If you want to catch a look at what I’ve learned up until this point, just check out the links below.

Associate Chef and Instructor Training
Associate Chef and Instructor Training, Week 2

Food We Learned to Make

We learned how to make some things that I’m really quite happy about.  First and foremost are these super-cute Vietnamese fresh rolls, or spring rolls, or whatever you want to call ’em.  I’m just so happy that I can work with rice paper now, without making ugly little blobby rolls.  We also used cabbage (pictured center) which was a little trickier to work with, but hey, now I know you don’t need to boil the crap out of cabbage leaves to make them pliable.

I always get happy about candy-making.  Because…yum.  These were soft and ooey-gooey, like caramel, and probably among the tastiest raw truffles I’ve ever made.

Now for some absolutely gorgeous raw lasagna.  Using zucchini noodles, we layered on “cheese”, marinara, marinated mushrooms and wilted and chopped spinach, and then stuck it in the dehydrator for a while, where magic happened.  The filling became gooier, the cheese on the top developed a cooked texture, and it was very warm and pleasant to eat.  The taste was incredibly hearty and creamy, and I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it to anyone, even picky people.

Another treat that I would eagerly serve to everyone I know were these adorable little lemon tartlets.

Think of everything you would want in a lemon pie – a buttery crust, a soft but jellied interior, and a sweet-tart taste – this pie delivered on all of the above.  The texture of the lemon filling was spot-on, and dare I say the flavor was better than the original pie it was modeled after.  It would be sheer perfection with a dollop of a cashew whipped cream.

Come on.  You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t eat the crap out of that.  Next holiday meal, I’m whipping this pie out of my bag of tricks.

Lunches, and More Food We Made

Lunch might just be my favorite time ever – but I already knew that before coming to this school.  At lunch, we always get to enjoy a huge salad bar with a vast array of condiments, as well as food made previously in class.

This plate features “not-tuna” pate, as well as some crunchy nori snacks (pictured right) that were so addicting and disappeared at the speed of light.  Making them was as simple as spreading a small piece of nori with some pate, folding it up, and dehydrating it until crunchy.  They’d be perfect for travel!

A big salad for lunch is nothing to be sad about at this school – with tons of options like seasoned nuts and seeds, avocado, ‘kraut, olives, and all kinds of veggie goodies, lunch here is neither boring or unsatisfying.  Plus, you can always go back for seconds!

This is a rather chaotic picture, but the noodles were super gourmet – linguini with a white truffle sauce.  Oh yeah.  Logan would have absolutely hated this because of the mushroom flavors, but since I’m a mushroom lover, I found the taste to be quite gorgeous, earthy and clear.  It tasted like something you’d get at a fancy restaurant.

And this plate…ahh, this plate.  Brunch day was a glorious day, and we helped make all of the yummy food pictured here.  The triangular goodie is a scone made with kamut, next to a buckwheat granola bar, and a cute round almond mila muffin.  It looks like I enjoyed these treats with some ketchup and mustard, but I swear it was strawberry jam and “butter”.  And of course, everything was made with whole, all-natural and organic ingredients.

This is all stuff I’d love to make for people upon returning home – especially the scones and jam.  Despite using whole grains instead of flour, they still had a tender, breadlike interior, and I appreciated that they weren’t nearly as dense as a nut-based treat would be.

Recipe Creations

This week, our teams had to collaborate on an appetizer recipe and a dessert recipe – a definite step up from the soup/dressing creations of last week.  I wholeheartedly love concocting recipes, so this is the fun part of class for me.  Alas, my recipes weren’t randomly selected this week, but it was still fun to help the team with theirs!

Pictured here is an appetizer from each team.  Aren’t they pretty?  Ours was the “tuna” and avocado roll pictured on the right, and the flavors were spot-on, almost eerily so.  

And of course, we received a copy of everyone’s appetizer recipes, as well as beautiful pictures of them!  In this segment, we spent some time working with a nice camera and a photo station, and learning little tips and tricks for making food photos come out great (read: must have attention to detail!).

Here’s a photo of all the desserts we created.  Dessert posed difficulties for many of us – for our group, the ones in charge of Nanaimo bars (bottom left), our main challenge was assembling it AND troubleshooting AND slicing it AND doing more troubleshooting all in the span of an hour.

They might have come out a little homely, and the recipe still needs work, but we did a good job in spite of the time constraints.  What we found is that the taste of the bars were great, but they’d need time in the fridge to hang out and set, and it’s just not a recipe that can be fully executed in an hour.  Oh well, experiencing difficulties during recipe development often leads to even more insight and knowledge than getting it right without much effort.

Catered Dinner

On Friday, we catered our first dinner!

We set up the tables all pretty-like, and I learned how to fold napkins like cute little fans.  And while I was excited to help prepare food for the event, I was even more excited about getting to eat a 4-course meal, something I’ve never experienced.  Saskatchewan, you see, is a land full of farmers and people who pile up their plate and eat quickly, not a place where you typically eat slow meals and “courses”.  That’s practically a foreign concept where I’m from.

The canape, or appetizer, was “Golden Flax Shards and Almond Pesto Torte”.  Um, yum.  The torte was rich and cheesy and made a great dip for the light and crunchy crackers.  I loved the addition of the lively minced red bell peppers and capers.

For the starter, we enjoyed “Avocado, English Cucumber and Pepper Confetti atop Chilled Gazpacho Soup”.  A wordy title, perhaps, but this was hands-down the best gazpacho I’ve ever eaten.  I don’t know how someone could eat a bowl of this and then say “meh”.  Happily, I have the recipe and I fully intend to remake it at home.

Another thing that I’m very ready to make at home is the lovely “Classic Caesar Salad tossed with Creamy Caesar Dressing finished with Herb Croutons”.  I know you’re thinking, “Salad as a main dish?  Really?”  But this is no ordinary Caesar.  This is the best Caesar known to the universe.  It’s not your typical white dressing – it’s better.  It’s so flavorful and not nearly as heavy as a typical Caesar salad.  The herb croutons are very lovely, and superior to any bread-based crouton I’ve made – and they’re just made from almond pulp, flax meal and some seasonings.

I was the leader of the Caesar Salad production, which meant keeping preparation time to a minimum, and making sure all the flavors were a-ok.  It also meant a lot of math, since we made such a huge quantity, but the process went very smoothly, and the end result made it all worthwhile.

Who could forget dessert?  We greatly enjoyed “Vanilla Ice Cream, Brownie Crumble and Mocha Glaze”.  The ice cream was fantastic – I could have eaten an entire bowl of the stuff.  I practically licked my plate clean.

What I Learned

Of course, making food wasn’t the only thing we did all week.  We also learned the basics of teaching classes, how to present a food demo, and everything in between the two.

Honestly, one of the most important things I learned this week was more in the self-revelation category.  I love creating food, such as making old favorites vegan-style, healthifying desserts, and coming up with new ideas.  What I don’t love is spending all day in the kitchen.  This means you will never see me run a restaurant or work in a commercial kitchen, no matter how nice the kitchen or how fancy the restaurant.

And while the catering experience was very valuable and I’m eager to make food for people I know, I will never be a caterer, for the very same reason I don’t want to work in a restaurant.

When it comes down to it, I’m a cerebral gal.  For me, time in the kitchen needs to be balanced with brainy things like research, writing and developing ideas.  So what you can expect from me in the future is more of what I’m already doing – I plan on taking this blog to the next level, using the skills I’m learning here in school to create lots of awesome food, especially kooky healthy food.  And I want to share it all with you guys!

And oh, I’ve got lots of plans up my sleeve for the next few months. 🙂  I’m participating in MoFo again this year (gulp!), with no theme at all – way I figure, I’ll be arriving home just as MoFo starts, and I need to spend some quality time with Logan, and my band, all of whom I dearly miss.

So ta ta for now as they say, and I’ll catch y’all later on in the week.  And until next time, enjoy lots of beautiful food. 🙂

food and product reviews

Essentials of Raw Food – Team Awesome!

Meet Team Awesome, conqueror of plants…
Pictured on the left is myself, looking way less enthused than the rest of the team because I’m just that badass, next to Fran of Simply Mindful who talked me down when the soup-making got tough, and Acco of Lovege who was the team artiste, and then Sheli on the right, whose tahini dressing we wield in this picture.

Team Awesome represents the four corners of the world – myself as a Canadian, Fran as an American, Acco from Japan and Sheli from Israel.  We gotz it covered.  And all week we created amazing food together.

For the full scoop on my schooling at Living Light, check out the links below:

The Essentials of Raw Food, Part 2

Such as this raw apple torte, all gooey and splendid.  Acco dished us out some huge pieces (thank you Acco!), that we eagerly devoured.  And the teachers, kind as they are, let us take as much home as we wanted.  

We churned up two great sauces for zucchini pasta, a pesto and a marinara…

…We made dehydrated wraps out of vegetables for burritos as mentioned on the first Essentials of Raw Food post…

…But perhaps most exciting was when we each had to come up with our own recipes, and then try to bring them to life as a group.  We made Sheli’s Creamy Tahini Dressing and collaborated on ideas to make sure it came out delicious.  Well, I’d say Team Awesome had a big success.

I want cute dressing bottles like that for home!  And of course, I am no longer the only weirdo who takes pictures of food – I learned that at the Vida Vegan Con!

After conquering a dressing, it was time to conquer a soup.  My soup recipe happened to be the one selected (gulp!), but luckily Team Awesome came to the rescue and had a bunch of great ideas to make my soup vision a reality.

It was a Curried Zucchini and Apple Soup, with a broth that was at once thin but not watery – it held together and had grip, but was not creamy.  We had to dish out enough samples for everyone in the classroom to try – believe me, after tasting 6 soup samples in a row, I was already full!

The entire class came up with awesome soups – there wasn’t a single sample that I had to choke back.  And we all had completely different styles, too – there was everything from refreshing cucumber soups to creamy carrot soups, from spicy to sweet.  
And on the last day of Essentials, we got to nosh on this as celebration…

Hell yeah.  Nothing says celebration like (vegan) cheesecake!  

Look at all of those beauties!  The best part is these cheesecakes are made out of whole, natural ingredients like nuts and seeds – no cream cheese ever gets involved.  And they’re certainly calorie-dense like their cooked counterpart, but at least it’s from from whole fat in nuts, and not processed crap.  And I’m learning how to make desserts like this, how cool is that?

Over the weekend we enjoyed Science of Raw Food Nutrition classes, which I’ll be sure to talk about early next week.  I loved every minute of it, and I have a huge desire to take more of the science classes in the future.  Loved it!  I have such a happy brain now after the oodles fun information.  More details shall follow, but for now I must retreat for some R&R before another full week.

Peace!

food and product reviews

The Essentials of Raw Food at Living Light, Part One

After the fast-paced fun of last weekend, it was time to get down to business and learn the essentials of raw food.  For those of you who haven’t been following my adventures, it all started with an introductory class called “FUNdamentals of Raw Food“, as well as a day spent learning crucial knife skills.  These classes happen in the small town of Fort Bragg, California, at the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute.

During the Essentials of Raw Food, we’ve been in teams practicing recipes, playing with various equipment, learning things like how to select, ripen and store produce, as well as how to balance flavors and create recipes of our own.  That’s the short of it – there is so, so much more that goes on in just a week, and my head’s about ready to explode from all of the information I’ve been packing into it.  In a good way.

For the full scoop on my schooling at Living Light, check out the links below:

The Essentials of Raw Food, Part 1

Luncheon Time!

On most days, we’ve enjoyed huge, luxurious and healthy feasts for lunch, served buffet-style, and often using recipes we’ve made in class.

This was a Mexican-style spread, with a tossed salad (using our own dressing!), obligatory sprouts, beautiful homemade wraps made with zucchini, bell pepper and avocado, as well as fresh salsa and a huge bowl of guacamole, which is totally hiding from the camera, but I assure you it was beautiful.

There was also a secondary table of condiments, with a variety of things like pizza flax crackers, pickled onions, saurkraut, seasoned seeds, hot sauce, and a bunch of toppings like nooch (nutritional yeast), salt and pepper.

Here’s my plate, the finished product – a burrito with all the fixins on an aforementioned wrap, which was very flexible and even rolled nicely.  I was especially proud because we made them in class!  In the back is the Mexican “rice”, which we also made in class, and it uses cabbage as the rice base.  Doesn’t it look charming? The flavors were spot-on, and though I really enjoyed it, the burrito was easily the star of this lunch’s show.

This plate is a variety of different salads, which doesn’t sound too exciting – until you tasted the caesar pictured on the bottom.  Holy crap was this good.  I overheard hearing one of the students say, “I don’t usually go back for seconds of salad!”  Happily, I have the recipe.  There were even cute little croutons that had the perfect crunchy, bready texture.

Another big pile of various salads, this was a very aesthetically pleasing meal that also happened to be full of flavor.  I loved the soup so much that I went home and made it for supper!  It was just your typical garden blend raw soup, but the flavors were so perfectly balanced.  A+.

The Lady Behind It All

If you’ve heard anything about raw food, you’ve probably heard Cherie Soria’s name dropped.  This lady has been there since the beginning, back when people thought vegans were crazy hippies munching on grass.  The majority of all famous and esteemed raw chefs have studied under her tutelage – and doesn’t she look great there, hanging out with all of that beautiful food?

Which brings me to another point.  I have never been to a more beautiful kitchen than the one at Living Light. There’s no grease, no heavy odors.  You walk in and you see life.  Sprout jars are everywhere and fresh food is abundant – and every single person is happy to be there!  Who wouldn’t be, right?  If I had a giant fridge full of beautiful veggies, I would be smiling a lot, too.

Cherie is pretty much my ultimate role model, not only because she is a wonderful person, but damn I want to look that good when I’m 65!  And not only do I want to look good, I want to feel good, and have a limber body, and have an abundance of energy.  I want to live long and be able to enjoy my time here without the burden of various ailments.  And it’s all within my control!  (As long as I go easy on the beer and vegan donuts, of course.)

Tomorrow I’ll return with a second recap of The Essentials class, with pictures of Team Awesome and our beautiful, healthy creations.  And now I’m off for a full day of nutrition 101!