Friday, August 17, 2012

Healthy Blender Recipes/Excalibur event plus an original recipe!

I am super excited to announce that I was selected as one of 30 Raw food blogger/chefs to be in a fun event with The Blender Girl (aka healthyblenderrecipes) using the Excalibur Dehydrator. I still have NO idea how/why they chose me, but I am not one to turn down an amazing opportunity.  And it was a challenging one too!  If you know me, you already know how much I adore baking, but using a dehydrator is a whole 'nother thing.  I hadn't even started the Raw part of my diet study yet, so the dehydrator had yet to be touched when I said I'd come up with my own recipe for this event. It took me a few days to come up with an idea of what I wanted to accomplish, but after actually trying to put those thoughts into action, and failing miserably three times, I started to get a little nervous. I was absolutely sure I was in over my head. But, I've felt that way before and made it through just fine, so I just kept telling myself to keep moving forward.

When my first idea for pumpkin pie wraps filled with a caramel cashew cream didn't work out (first of all, there's no pumpkins around right now, and second, sweet potato is NOT a good substitute. Yarf.), I tried going in a different direction with a cauliflower pizza crust.  My experiment smelled so good and filled my house with the aroma of a pizza kitchen. I was jazzed. Until I peeked on the progress of my crust.  More like soggy, splotchy, crackly nastiness. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.

Once I tasted the pumpkin wrap, I quickly realized I didn't like that texture for a dessert anyway. I wanted something more cake-like, but couldn't find any recipes to give me an idea on where to even start. Since my recipe won't be shared until the end of August, I wanted a dessert that would be fitting for fall, and pumpkin desserts are my favorite for that time of year.  Since I knew the actual pumpkin was not an option, I went a different direction: pumpkin seeds!  They are so nutritious and tasty, it just made sense to give them a try. My first attempt at using them was a bust though.  While *a few* pumpkin seeds are tasty, a whole entire cake made with them...not so much.  So, I compromised and used walnuts, pecans, and pumpkin seeds along with a few dates to keep it all sticking together, and some pumpkin pie spice to give it a little seasonal kick. I knew I wanted a stacking dessert, so I cut this mixture into circles and placed them in the dehydrator.  I wasn't sure what texture I would end up with, so I took some of the cakes out at 6 hours, 12 hours, and then left the final ones in until 24 hours.  I ended up liking the 6 hour texture best. Go figure.

I also used the dehydrator to candy some nuts and pumpkin seeds to give the dessert more texture, and let's be honest, to make it look cute.  I love plating foods and making my meals look fancy.  Heck, why not!? After all, you start eating with your eyes before you actually taste your food anyway, you might as well have fun with it.

The caramel cashew cream took me a few tries because I wanted to make it a) tasty and b) not a pain in the butt to make. I think it turned out well. You gotta love cashews!  From dairy free sour cream, to raw cream soups, to vegan cheesecake, to this yummy creamy goodness...cashews are the queen of the nut kingdom!

The chocolate ganache I had made plenty of times before, as it was from another recipe I came up with for some yummy chocolate tarts! But even that posed a tiny issue with all this unbelievable heat we're having.  It started to melt almost as soon as we took it outside to photograph. But you won't have that problem, because you'll be eating it immediately.  ;)

And finally!  I love salted caramel, and this dessert just screamed SALTED CARAMEL!  I could have gotten more elaborate, but since it was mostly just a drizzle, I kept it easy and simple with just some date paste, and a few other ingredients. You could totally leave this out, but you use date paste for the cashew cream, so you might as well give it a shot.

Photo credit: Melissa Hitzemann, Whirlygig Photography

At first glance, this recipe may look overwhelming and complicated, but each step can be made well in advance and stored for when you're ready to use it. And any leftover candied nuts can be used in salads to give them a fun, sweet and spicy kick!


Pumpkin Cakes
½ cup pumpkin seeds, soaked 4-6 hours
½ cup walnuts
½ cup pecans
2 medjool dates
½ t. pumpkin pie spice
¼ t. salt

Pulse above in food processor until mixture holds together when pressed against the side of the bowl.  Dump out onto waxed paper and flatten/roll out to about ¼” thick. At this point you could cut them into circles with a cookie cutter, or cut into squares, or just leave it as a large rectangle and make one big cake out of it.

Place on teflex sheets in dehydrator at 115 for 6 hours, flipping half way through. I also placed them on the regular dehydrator screens after 3 hours for a drier texture. These can be dehydrated for longer, depending on what texture you want. The longer they are in the dehydrator, the crunchier they become.

These cakes store very well. You could make them days ahead, or even freeze them for a future event.

Caramel Cashew Cream
1 cup cashews (soaking not necessary)
¼ cup date paste
1 T maple syrup (or agave)
2 t. maca powder
2-3 T water, until desired consistency

Blend ingredients in Vitamix or high speed blender until smooth, but still thick. You can always add more spices or sweetener to this until it suits your taste buds.

This can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days before use.

Chocolate Ganache
1 cup raw cacao powder (or other cocoa powder)
1 cup maple syrup (or agave)
½ cup coconut oil

Mix all ingredients in food processor until blended.  The mixture will harden once it is refrigerated.  To drizzle on dessert, I put some aside in a squeeze bottle and refrigerated the rest.  You can use a spoon just as easily if you don’t have a squeeze bottle. You may need to take your ganache out of the refrigerator a few minutes to soften before it can be piped.

This can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks, if it lasts that long!  I can eat it with a spoon! 

Candied Nuts
You can use any amount of nuts you like. Just place desired nuts and seeds in a bowl and put just enough sweetener (maple syrup, agave, raw honey) to make sure all the nuts are covered. I added ½ t. of pumpkin pie spice and ¼ t. salt too. Maple syrup and honey seem to work better than agave, in my experience. 

Dehydrate on 115 for 8-12 hours, or until they are dry and no longer sticky to the touch.

These candied nuts/seeds are great to have on hand to use in salads with some dried cranberries! They can be stored in an airtight container or ziplock bag for weeks.

Salted Caramel Sauce
2T date paste
1 t. maca powder
1 t. vanilla
¼ t. salt
1 t. agave

Stir together in bowl, and use a spoon or squeeze bottle to drizzle on dessert. This really adds a little something special to the final dessert, and it’s super quick and easy to throw together. 

This can be made a few days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.

You can arrange this dessert in any way you like, but I drizzled the unrefrigerated ganache and the salted caramel onto a plate, placed one pumpkin cake, then piped ganache, then candied nuts, then piped the caramel cashew cream, repeat.  If you are making one large cake, you could just spread on the ganache and cashew cream, and top with a sprinkling of nuts, and drizzle.  You really can’t go wrong no matter how you arrange these yummy layers!

I hope you enjoy this recipe!  Please let me know if you make it and what your thoughts are!  


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Whole to Healthy reaches 1000 fans!

Thanks to everyone for following Whole to Healthy!  Here is a little giveaway as a way to show my appreciation.  Ends 8/14.  No international shipping.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The end of Raw, and a review of the last 60 days

New to my story?  Read these first: Part 1Part 2Part 3

Wow! The day is finally here. I am officially done with my crazy diet study.  Those two months just flew by!  I am so glad I did it, and have learned a ton about myself in the process. And I feel like I learned some valuable tools to help my clients find their right path, as well. The main reason for wanting to do this study in the first place is because I felt that there was just too much conflicting, confusing, frustrating information out there!  I have been bombarded with completely opposing viewpoints while studying nutrition to the point where even I was ready to just give up. I can't imagine how a typical person just looking for healthy eating tips would feel with all that mind boggling information. So, I wanted to put myself on two completely different diets just to see how I reacted, but also to hopefully take some of the mystery out of nutrition.

I have to say that this was exactly what I expected and nothing like what I expected all at the same time.  I knew it would be hard and I knew my body would react differently to what I ate, but I didn't know I'd have to dig pretty deep on several occasions to just keep going.  I didn't know that I would change so dramatically (and rapidly!) from one diet to another, and I didn't know how attached I was to cheese until these studies began.  Oh, how I love me some cheese.

But, before I tell you how the study ended, I want to say thank you to all the people who shared their stories with me, who motivated me, were motivated by me, and who encouraged me along the way. Without you all, I would not have been able to do this. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!! <3  You rock!

Ok, so by the end of the Paleo study, I was ready for something new. It probably seems hard to believe for most of you that I could possibly be bored with eating steaks, bacon and eggs, but yes, it got boring.  To be fair, I do get bored pretty easily, and am always looking to shake things up a bit.  And the summer was really heating up so I was definitely ready to be done cooking!  What a relief not to have to steam, grill, bake or broil!

I have mentioned throughout the study that checking my urine pH was one of the main tests I used to track how successful (or not) the diet was for me.  Throughout Paleo my pH was low, in the 5.5-6 range.  I wasn't too worried about it and told myself that it might just take time for pH to budge into the alkaline side of things, but less than half way into Raw I was already seeing some darker greens. A consistent 6.5 reading was giving me some encouragement. But, it was on day 18 that I knew I was onto something.  My pH was at 7.5 for the first time ever! That's as normal as it gets, folks. Say what you will about protein, but this Raw Vegan diet was clearly making an impact on my body in a positive way.

All those green juices and salads were really paying off, not only in my pH levels, but also in my energy levels!  I plan to do a longer blog post about my past health issues, but for now just know that I really struggled for the last few years with energy and motivation to exercise.  But with the Raw diet I was not only energized to work out, I was stoked to keep pushing my body!  I was waking up earlier and going to bed later. I was running for the first time in FOREVER. And by run, I really mean walk a bit, then run a bit, but it totally counts!

But, the raw study was not without its downside.  There were days when I looked at my refrigerator and felt like I never wanted to eat another fruit or veggie again.  There were days where my family ate burgers or pizza and I desperately wanted a taste.  Just a tiny lick. Towards the end I opted to only drink juice a few days, mostly just to see if I could do it, but also just because I was super tired of the foods available. It's not their fault, I just like more variety (see, I got bored of veggies too!). And since this wasn't intended to be a life-long diet for me, I had no reason to really invest in trying more new recipes, so I just got through the last few days any way that I could.  If you're following me on Facebook, you also noticed that I would have cooked veggies from time to time.  I was shooting for 80% raw, but I think overall I averaged much higher than that, and those cooked veggies made a huge difference in my attitude, which also helped me get through some tough spots.

Even though I struggled towards the end, and need more variety from time to time, I would be super dumb not to continue at least some (most!) aspects of this Raw Vegan diet.  I just did too well on it to chuck it all together just because I got bored.  That would mean that I learned nothing these past two months. And it would mean that I prioritized my taste buds over my health. I hope to find a happy medium.

I did crave meats on occasion, which really surprised me. The first time I did a raw foods detox for 7 days, I was already repulsed at the thought of meat by day 4, so I actually expected to be even more opposed to meat by the end of this study.  I will add some animal proteins back in to my diet, unless my energy starts to wane, or my pH starts to stay in the acidic range again. I will have to play around with what amounts of Raw foods versus animal proteins I'll be able to consume, if any, in order to keep my energy levels and balanced pH, which are both more important to me than any number on the scale.

Speaking of the scale...I don't know why I decided to weigh myself every single day throughout these studies, but I AM SO GLAD TO BE DONE WITH THAT!  Phew. Sorry for yelling at you like that.  But seriously. The scale can make or break you.  On the days that I had "gained", I felt bad, even though I totally knew I had worked out a lot in the days before and that it was most likely muscle. So, weighing yourself every single day can be bad if you are easily affected.  I plan to go back to judging my success by how my jeans fit. :)

Here is my recap for key aspects tracked while on both diets. Please keep in mind this is how MY body reacted during these diets. I followed the diets as closely as possible and feel that this is an accurate representation of how a typical person would follow these programs, but I am not saying that everyone would react the same way I did. EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.

Paleo: lost 10 pounds
Raw: lost 7 pounds
Total: lost 17 pounds (total inches lost: 13.5)

Paleo: Starting pH 5.5, ending pH 5.5
Raw: Starting pH 5.5, ending pH 7.5
*Since I started tracking my pH about a year and a half ago, I've never seen it above 6.5, so the fact that the Raw diet helped me get to 7.5 is noteworthy.

Paleo: Body fat percentage lost, 0% (went up initially, then back down to starting %)
Raw: Body fat percentage down 6%
*these numbers are from my bathroom scale, which is not as accurate as other methods, but still shows an interesting pattern.

Paleo: Average energy was a 5/6 out of 10
Raw: Average energy was 8/9 out of 10

Paleo: Consistent constipation and other number 2 issues (as described in the final paleo blog)
Raw: Super normal, regular 2-3 times a day number 2's (never a single "problem poopy" ever!) ;)

What did I learn these past two months, besides the above numbers?

  • Do not let anyone tell you that their way is the only way. Do not fall into the diet name game trap.  Once you start to follow a certain diet, the next step is to "fall off" that diet, feel like a failure, and repeat your old processes.  Once you stop following a plan, and start following your own instincts (and nature!) you will find what works for you. Are you feeling good?  Are you at or nearing your goals? Then you are NOT doing it wrong no matter what they say.

  • I can do anything I put my mind to! What a great feeling! 

  • I love food! Ok, I've already known that for years, but being able to fluctuate from high meat/no grains to all raw/no animal products is pretty amazing!  I found lovely foods that I truly enjoyed in both studies.  I am super thankful that I'm not a picky eater! 

  • Veggies rock!!  No matter how you choose to eat, veggies should be THE NUMBER ONE thing to focus on.  Number one. Done. End of story.

  • Paleo was more expensive than Raw.  But, keep in mind these few details: I followed Paleo based on protein three times a day/the size of your palm, which does not seem to be a strict paleo rule, so you may not buy as much as I did. Also, fruits and veggies are in season now. If I were to have done this study in February I most likely would have had a different outcome. I also chose to use a lot of nuts in my Raw study. They are freakishly expensive, and absolutely not mandatory for a successful Raw diet.

  • I no longer feel compelled to find the perfect diet. I went in to this wanting to find answers to how to eat, and I believe I found those answers.  I believe that people can be healthy on a Paleo diet, and I obviously believe people can be healthy on a no meat diet. Some decisions are made for moral reasons, but if you are deciding what to eat just based on how you feel or look, learn to intuitively understand your body's needs and you will finally end the dieting roller coaster. Dieting doesn't work. I think we all know that by now.  Consistent, healthy life choices that you are comfortable with...those work.

So, the big question of the day, how will I eat from now on?  Well, my initial plan is to stay about 50% raw, mostly vegetarian, with an occasional animal protein thrown in there as I feel like having it.  I know that my diet before Paleo was somewhat higher in animal protein and lower in veggies than I'd like, and I know that the Paleo diet wasn't ideal for me, so to go back to that doesn't make sense.  I will start with a very heavy focus on organic veggies, more juicing, lots of salads, as much raw as I can possibly eat (there are many recipes from the Raw study that I will definitely keep using!), cooked grains, nuts/seeds, lots and lots of yummy fruit (I ain't afraid of no fruit!), and occasional meat and dairy.  But truly, if my pH or energy levels go drastically lower with this way of eating, I will return to a Raw Vegan diet until I am comfortable with dabbling again, if ever.

I would probably never have come to this conclusion had I not done this 30 day study. I strongly encourage everyone to do a 30 day study like this!  You will not believe how quickly it goes, or how quickly you retrain yourself with some new habits!  That's a win-win! If you don't have the energy you feel like you should have, keep looking for it! Life is too short to just suffer through fatigue. Typically there is a dietary fix for it, so start experimenting!  If you would like my assistance on conducting one of your own studies, please contact me and I'd be happy to work with you.

My wish is for each and every one of you to find a balance in your life. I feel like I have finally done that, and it feels amazing!  Keep searching for your best might just be in the bottom of a green lemonade.  <3

**If you are interested in tracking your pH, I highly recommend these. I have used several brands and found these to be easiest to read and most accurate. I believe that at least finding out where your pH is gives you an idea of if your body is truly in a healthy state. If you're exercising regularly and eating a clean, whole foods diet, then you probably don't have to worry. But what if you're doing all of that and your pH is still low?  That is an indication that something is off in how your body is processing nutrients and eliminating toxins.  It's worth looking into, and if you're on the alkaline side of the scale, breathe easy. If you're more acidic, start tweaking your foods to see if anything helps.  Add more veggies. Limit meat for a few days. Drink more water. Exercise more. Eliminate grains. Cut out sugars. Anything you can think of that *might* be the culprit. If the pH improves, you'll know what to do.  I don't see this as anything other than just another gauge of health. Nothing to obsess over, but a tool to make sure you're as healthy as you think you are.