I have released four recipe books so far:

The Best of the Sunny Raw Kitchen
The Best of Raw Freedom Community
Delightfully Raw and
Deliciously Raw

These feature some of the most delectable creations to have come out of my raw kitchen and will appeal to anyone interested in a healthier diet, regardless of their level of knowledge and experience. From easy one-step everyday fare to more elaborate and involved gourmet dishes and layered cakes, they offer something for everyone and every occasion. Incredibly tasty smoothies, creamy and comforting warm soups, sexy salads, delicious nut cheezes, satisfying entrees and scrumptious guilt-free desserts...

Healthy food never tasted so good!

To learn more about my recipe books, click here!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Simple Sprouting Secret

Well, gardening is definitely in the air, isn't it! When we went to town earlier this week for our bi-monthly shopping, virtually every store we went to was displaying gardening supplies of one kind or another: tools, gloves, soil, seeds, plants, you name it!

While everybody else is getting their hands and knees dirty, sadly we won't be joining in the fun. The land on which we live is surrounded by tall trees so 'no can do' for an outdoor garden. (Sigh) Actually, right now I'm kinda glad I don't have to take on gardening; not sure where I'd manage to fit that into my busy schedule these days, what with our new major project in the works and all.

I may not be blessed with the greenest of thumbs and a sunny garden spot, but I've been keeping a little kitchen garden of my own for years, regardless of the season.

Kitchen Harvest
I discovered sprouting early on when I became vegetarian. Although I did dabble a little into home-grown beans, sunflower and buckwheat sprouts, my specialty has always been small 'leafy' varieties, such as alfalfa or clover. The very first vegetarian book I bought was written by a well-known figure on the Quebec veggie scene; Renee Frappier. Amongst the many things I learned from her is a very simple sprouting trick I've been using successfully for years. I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else, so I thought I'd pass it along to you guys. (Here I am, giving away all my secrets again! lol)

4 Steps To Successful Sprouting
Don't know whether you've ever tried your hand at sprouting, but not to take any chances, I'll walk you through the process I use. (Those of you who are experienced sprouters will recognize it as the 'Jar Method' with an added twist.)

What You Need
So first, let's have a look at what equipment you'll need to have on hand:
  • A wide-mouth glass jar (canning jars work great!) For my part, I use a big gallon jar, as I prefer to make a huge batch and be set for a while rather than have a constant ongoing sprouting operation.
  • Some kind of screen type lid to cover the jar. You can easily make one by cutting a piece of cotton cheesecloth or some kind of mesh, held in place with an elastic band. Most health food stores also sell plastic screen lids especially designed for sprouting that will fit on top of the wide-mouth jars.
  • A large plastic bowl
  • A cup, fork, and spoon
  • 1 or 2 round or rectangular plastic trays such as those used for germinating seeds
  • 1 or 2 pieces of plastic to cover the trays
  • A spray bottle
  • Oh, and I almost forgot! A few tbs. of sprouting seeds such as alfalfa, clover, radish, or sprouting mix packages you can find in HFS

Alright, now that we've got our equipment, let's get a-sprouting!

Step 1 - Soaking
The first thing you want to do is soak your seeds in fresh water for 8 to 12 hours to rehydrate them and initiate the sprouting process. (I usually put them to soak before going to bed and leave them overnight.) The amount of seeds you use depends on what yield you're looking for and the size of your jar. I use 4 tbs of seeds to fill up a gallon jar so I guess you'd need roughly 1 tbs per quart jar.

Step 2 - Rinsing
Once the soaking period is over, drain the soak water well, then give the seeds a good rinse. (I usually swirl the jar around for a few seconds.) It is key that you thoroughly drain the water, as it may otherwise cause your sprouts to rot. (Yuck!) For that purpose, tip the jar over at a 45 degree angle for at least a few minutes (a dish drying rack works well for this or you can just use your sink). Once the water is fully drained, leave the jar in a standing position on an out-of-the-way corner of your counter.

Some sources say that it doesn't matter whether you leave the sprouts exposed to light or not. Personally, I've found that my sprouts do better if I recreate a 'natural environment', so I start them out in the dark, by covering the jar with a towel.

Continue to rinse your sprouts with fresh water twice a day, for 3 to 5 days, being careful to drain them well to avoid spoilage. Length of sprouting time varies depending on how warm you keep your kitchen. (I've found that they generally do better in the cool.)

When the sprouts are a little over an inch long, take the towel off and continue the rinsing process for an extra day.

OK, this is all pretty basic, mainstream stuff so far. But here's where it gets interesting and differs from most sprouting techniques...

Step 3 - The Bath
Sometime by the 4th to 6 th day, your sprouts should be about one and 1/2 inch long and your jar nearly full:

Time to give these little guys a bath!

Fill up a large plastic bowl with fresh water. Take the lid off the jar and transfer the sprouts over to the water by gently loosening them up with a fork. (If you're doing a large quantity, you may need to do this in 2 or 3 batches.)

Then carefully separate the sprouts with the fork, since they've all gotten entangled in the sprouting process, and stir them around in the water. This will cause the hulls to loosen up and come to the surface. With a spoon, bring these over to one side of the bowl (see photo below) and scoop them out into a cup. This step is important, as it will make your sprouts more easily digestible. Plus, your sprouts look so much more appetizing without a bunch of little brown hulls.

Once that's done, transfer the sprouts over to a large tray with the fork. I use a couple of big plant trays inserted in one another. If you look closely at the next picture, you'll see that Don has pierced a few holes in the top tray to allow for drainage.

Alternatively, you could use rectangular gardening trays that are being sold for starting seeds from scratch. Once the tray is full, tip it over a little to one side so as to help drain some of the excess water.

Lastly, cover the trays with a piece of plastic (germination trays come with a clear plastic top which is perfect for this), making sure it's airtight. You don't want the sprouts to be exposed to air, as it will cause them to dry out.

Step 4 - Greening
Leave your freshly bathed sprouts close to a window, but not in direct sunlight, to allow chlorophyll to develop. When they're all nice and green (which can take one or two days), the sprouts are ready for harvesting. (If it takes more than one day, you might want to check on them to make sure they're not dry. In which case, just spray them with a little water.)

Finally, store your crispy fresh kitchen harvest into a sealed container or plastic bag. I like to use those 'Spring Mixed Greens' containers with some paper towel which I lay on the bottom to absorb excess moisture. I get to fill one and a half of those with the yield of one gallon jar, and we're stocked up in sprouts for a couple of weeks.

That's it! You're all done!

I know this may seem like a lot of work, but really it isn't. The whole bathing process only takes me 10 minutes or so and, believe me, is well worth the extra effort. Once you get to enjoy your very own beautiful home-grown sprouts, you'll no longer be able to settle for the store-bought variety!

As for the total sprouting period, I find that it can take from 6 to 8 days, depending on the season and how warm it is in our home.

Want To Know More?
For additional information as to the health benefits of sprouts and how to sprout other kinds of seeds/beans, you may want to have a look at the following sources:

Karen Knowler has also published an excellent article on the 'how to' of sprouting in a recent newsletter. It's still not available on her site yet, but fellow blogger, Raw Vegan Mama has posted it on her 'Journey to Raw'.

Happy year-round indoor gardening!

Photo Credits:
gardening tools by mysparetimedesign

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Beyond Blogging

While searching through Blogger's Help pages the other day, I came upon some general guidelines about blogging. Amongst other things, they were recommending to keep posts short and to the point. Oopsie!

Outside The Box
Internet newbie that I am, when I created The Sunny Raw Kitchen, I had no real idea what blogging was 'supposed' to be like. In fact, I had only (and very briefly) visited a couple of other blogs. So I ended up doing what I know best how to: I 'sat back', so to speak, and let it rip; allowing for things to unfold. In retrospect, I'm really glad I did. I can't imagine keeping a lid on my creative bouts!

And so, The Sunny Raw Kitchen has evolved into a strange cross between a journal, a chronicle, a newsletter, a visual 'how to' gallery and a recipe collection, interjected with the occasional commentary on Life as perceived by yours truly, and lots and lots of mouth-watering photos.

Well, whatever this blog has developed into, it looks like it's working. The response has been way beyond anything I could have ever imagined! A little over 3 months after its launch, TSRK has something like 120 regular subscribers and hundreds of visitors dropping by every week. Wow! I remember telling Don that if what I had to share assisted a single person on their raw journey, it would be well worth all the energy I pour into it.

If you'd have told me 2 years ago, when we still didn't have a phone of our own, that we'd one day be interacting with thousands of people from all over the world, I would have laughed in disbelief. This is not to say that I get surprised easily by Life. (Don and I call it "The Ultimate Roller Coaster Ride"! lol) Still, in more ways than one, I'm in shock at the unexpected directions that this blog has taken.

What Next?
With the warm weather setting in and a new major project in the works, I can feel that a change in format is being demanded, but it's all good. Certainly the posts will be shorter and less involved. This will allow all of us to spend more time outdoors, enjoying the many blessings of the season, rather than staring at a computer screen.

Regardless of how this blog continues to evolve, my intention remains the same: to provide my readers with quality information, recipes and tips to help you on your journey to Raw and a healthier lifestyle. Oh, and have fun in the process too!

One thing is for sure; there is no shortage of ideas for exciting future posts. In the coming weeks, you can expect to learn about sauerkraut making, my special sprouting technique, and suggestions as to how to best equip your raw kitchen. In the works are also a post about Asian food in the Raw, as well as the 'Simply Raw' Series in which I'll be sharing lots of awesome recipes that can be prepared in a flash. Perfect for summertime!

My heart-felt thanks to you, my readers, who keep coming back, week after week, to find out about my latest 'rawdventures'. Without you, The Sunny Raw Kitchen would be a very lonely place. (Plus, this is soooooooo much more interesting than to be talking in my head to myself by myself! lol)



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Monday, April 16, 2007

Maha'raw'dja's Feast

On a personal note, I've been feeling tired and somewhat 'out of it' lately. Not sure as to exactly why. Perhaps too many balls in the air all at once. I've heard of others going through something similar, so maybe it's to do with the collective unconscious. Who knows? But more to the point, what does it matter? This is what's happening and my challenge is to embrace it fully and without judgment.

No Man's Land
In the middle of the night I remembered Karen Knowler's article which I shared with you last week, and it suddenly hit me! With some upcoming major changes in our lives, this is totally a transitional time for me right now, and transitions are hardly ever easy or comfortable. You know, 'dark-before-dawn'-and-all-that kinda hard. Internally, it's as though I'm sort of in between gears, not quite ready yet to make the shift to the next level. My own personal 'no man's land'.

I can also feel how this phase has been taking its toll on my creativity. Hard to be creative when you can hardly muster the energy to go about your day. All I can say is 'Thank God for freezers!' Days like these sure make me appreciate being able to dig out pizza crusts or burgers from our frozen stash of raw goodies, and come up with a quick, no-brainer meal. Raw Fast Food.

In spite of all this, on the weekend, I somehow managed to create a rawsome Indian feast. I've actually been wanting to post a raw Indian menu for a while, but somehow, the time hasn't felt right until now.

I Heart Indian Food
I first fell in love with Indian food during my 'roam around the world days', while working at an Indian restaurant in England. During my breaks as a waitress, I'd go hang out in the kitchen and watch in amazement as the cook would expertly dip the tip of his huge spoon into different spice containers (forget about measuring!) and throw it all into the pan. Culinary alchemy! Needless to say I got to eat my fare share of his delicious concoctions and became hopelessly hooked.

I was more than stoked to realize that I could still enjoy fabulous Indian-style dishes, minus the not-so-fab side effects. I'm here to share the good news: Indian food lovers rejoice and behold our amazingly delish Maha'raw'dja's Feast...

First Things First
We began our festive Indian meal with a delicate curry soup I created on the spot. Don got a head start while I was busy taking pics. "Oh, man," he says to me, "you've got a recipe, babe!" He declared (and I quote) that it's "delicious, spicy but not too much, all of the different tastes balanced to perfection, with just a hint of sweetness. One of the best soups you've made!"

Well, in case you think he's bias or something (now why would you think that?), give it a try and let me know what you think!

Carmella's Curry Soup
1/2 avocado
3 " piece cucumber
2 " piece zucchini
1/4 cup red or yellow pepper
1 celery stalk
1 green onion
1 garlic clove
Handful dill (or 1 tsp dried)
Handful cilantro
A little lemon juice
3 apricots soaked in a little water
1/2-3/4 tsp curry, or to taste
Dash cayenne
Salt, to taste
2 cups water (or more)
Apricot soak water

Blend until smooth.

Carmella's Notes: I just made it again for supper to check on my measurements and a couple of things popped to mind. Unless you have a high-speed blender, make sure the apricots are really soft so that they dissolve fully when blended. I also used more like 1 tsp of curry and it was a little overwhelming, therefore, I'd recommend you start with less and work it up to what feels right for you.

Joz just reminded me of another yummy soup I used to make a lot last summer and that fits right in with today's theme:

Curried Cauliflower Soup
From Matt Amsden's "Rawvolution"
Posted on rawsacramento.net

Water from 1 Thai coconut.
1/4 cup distilled/ spring/ filtered water.
1/4 cup stone pressed olive oil.
1/8 cup Nama Shoyu (an unpasteurized soy sauce).
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice.
2 cups cauliflower.
2-3 ribs celery.
1/3 cup raw macadamia nuts (can sub with cashews)
1/2 tsp. curry powder.
3-4 cloves peeled garlic.

1. In a blender, combine all ingredients and thoroughly blend.

2. Serve garnished with chopped cauliflower florets.

Next came our entree: Samosas, Ginger Un-Steamed 'Rice' with Snow Peas, Curry Sauce and Marinated Curry Broccoli:

Samosas: Indian Finger Food
I used to adore SAD samosas: little pockets filled with a mixture of veggies and spices, and (unfortunately) deep-fried. During my visit to Calgary last January, I had the privilege to meet Raw Chef Diana Stoevelaar and her partner Manu. As I was telling them how I'd like to make some kind of wrap using fresh coconut, Manu silently went to get his cell phone and came back with this huge grin on his face. "Look at this!", he said proudly. On his tiny phone screen was a photo of a platter of raw samosas; one of Diana's most prized creations.

She then told me how she did a lot of research and experimentation, wanting to surprise Manu (who is of East Indian background) with a raw version of samosas. Well, her efforts paid off big time, as she was successful in creating a recipe that faithfully reproduces the spices used in the part of India Manu comes from. Diana said that when she presented them to him, he actually had tears in his eyes. (Ahhhhhh...Manu, you're such a sweet, lovely man!)

I was thrilled when Diana generously offered to share her samosas recipe with me. On the down side, she's also asked that I don't reveal the ingredients, as it will be featured in an upcoming raw book. But that doesn't mean you can't salivate over the photos! lol

Samosas In The Making
Needless to say that I put on my Chef's hat and made her samosas as soon as I got home. They truly are sublime! A subtly flavored coconut wrapper filled with a mixture of cauliflower, carrot, celery, sweet peas and an exotic blend of Indian spices. Heavenly!

There are different coconut wrap recipes floating around the net that would work really well as pastry for samosas. You might want to check out Vanessa Sherwood's Vietnamese Spring Rolls wrappers, posted on GLiving. Sarma Melngailis, author of "Raw Food Real World", has a very tasty samosas recipe on there too. Just make sure you spread the batter thinly and score it into 3½”x 6½” strips.

For my part, I still had some of Diana's samosas pastry in the freezer, so all I had to do was prepare the filling. I warmed up the mixture in the D for a couple of hours, uncovered, then proceeded to assemble the samosas. Alternatively, you could use your favorite 'rice' recipe (I'll be sharing mine a little further along) with some sweet peas and Indian spices. Again, Sarma's version is really delicious so you might want to give it a try.

I personally had a hard time visualizing how to make the little buggers, from just reading the instructions. Here's something to help you out in case you're in the same boat...

A'right! Let's do it!

First, place a generous tablespoon of the filling at one end of a samosas wrapper:

Fold one corner over diagonally to meet the other side, so as to form a triangle:

Continue folding like a flag...

Finish off by wetting the end of the wrapper slightly to seal.

Voila! A delicious raw samosas!

I then popped the assembled samosas in the D for a couple of hours so they were nice and warm.

The funny thing is that Luna99, of Raw Food Talk Forum, just posted about a recent meal she had at Pure Food and Wine, Sarma's raw restaurant in New York city. Wouldn't you know it, amongst all the beautiful food she ordered were Cauliflower Samosas! In fact, she's even taken a few photos and given a review of her culinary experience on her blog: All You Need Is Raw. (Cool name, by the way!)

OK, 'nuff said... Here's Sarma's recipe:

Cauliflower Samosas
By Sarma Melngailis
Posted here on Green Chefs

Makes 20 samosas

For the samosa wraps:
2 cups young coconut meat
1 ½ cups coconut water (or more)
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon sea salt

In a Vita-Mix or high-speed blender, puree the coconut with the coconut water, cayenne, and salt until completely smooth. Using an offset spatula, spread the coconut very thin on Teflex-lined dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 115 F for 2 to 4 hours, or until the surface is dry. Carefully flip over and peel away the Teflex sheets. Dehydrate further on the screen only, just to dry the underside, 15 to 30 minutes longer. The wraps should be very thin, almost transparent, and very pliable.

Carefully slide the wraps onto a flat cutting surface and cut into large rectangles, about 3 by 7 inches, and set aside.

For the filling:
1 large head cauliflower, florets only
½ cup raw macadamia nuts
1 cup filtered water
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons Chunky Chat masala (or substitute garam masala)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
1 handful julienned cilantro

Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop into small pieces. It’s okay if they are not entirely uniform in size - they add texture.

In a high-speed blender, add the nuts, water, garam masala, Chunky Chat, and ginger and puree at high speed for 2 minutes until completely smooth. It should be the consistency of heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cauliflower, peas, and macadamia cream to a shallow glass bowl or pan and stir to combine. Place the bowl in the dehydrator and dehydrate at 115 F for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower becomes somewhat tender and the cream thickens a bit.

Toss the cilantro in with the cauliflower mixture just before filling the wraps.

For serving:
Place a heaping tbs of cauliflower filling at one end of a coconut wrapper. Fold one corner over diagonally to meet the other side, to form a triangle. Fold the samosa over and continue folding like a flag. Wet the end of the wrapper slightly to seal.

Sarma then suggests to serve these with the following sauces:

For the tamarind sauce:
1 cup soaked and strained tamarind pulp
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon nama shoyu
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt

Place the tamarind pulp, maple syrup, nama shoyu, and olive oil in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt if necessary. Place in a separate bowl and set aside. This sauce may be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 2 days. It can also be frozen if you have leftovers or want to make it in advance.

For the banana tamarind sauce:
1 cup Tamarind Sauce
1 small banana
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 small red chili pepper, seeded
Pinch of sea salt

Puree the sauce ingredients in a blender until completely smooth. Transfer to a separate container and set aside.

For the Mango Chutney:
4 cups diced ripe mango
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 green onions, white and 1 inch of green, diced
½ small jalapeno, cored and seeded, diced
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 small handful cilantro leaves
For serving:
1 cup Mango Chutney
1 small handful mint leaves, finely julienned

In a food processor, add all of the ingredients and pulse to combine well, but keep it chunky. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 days. (Makes about 4 Cups and is a nice accompaniment to other dishes or on it’s own as well.)

I served ours along with an incredibly easy and tasty curry sauce by Richard Salome. Oh my! The banana, apples and raisins called for in the recipe made me a little skeptical at first, but they really make the dish! So go ahead, surprise your taste buds... They'll be grateful that you did!

Curry Sauce
By Richard Salome
Originally posted by vegangelist on Raw Food Talk Forum

Makes 8 servings

1 cup almonds, soaked 12-24 hours, blanched
16 ounces purified water
2 medium sized Fuji apples, cored & diced
1 cup raisins, unsoaked
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons flax seed oil
2 tablespoons tamari or to taste
1 medium sized ripe banana

Place the almonds in a blender and add enough water to cover them. Blend until creamy.

Add curry, flax oil, banana, tamari and process for 20 seconds.

Then add apples and raisins by hand.

Pour sauce over veggies of choice (if using).

Stir well and place in dehydrator, covered, for at least 2 hours until warm to the touch, below 112 degrees.

This is a rich dish, and makes a wonderful Thanksgiving dish or for a special occasion.

Carmella's Notes:
This makes a LOT of sauce so you might want to halve the recipe.

As you can see, even Da Puss wanted to check it out! (Although I'm beginning to think that she just plain loves to be in front of the camera! lol)

I've served this fabulous sauce before over a mixture of chopped up broccoli, red onion, zucchini and sweet potato. Mmmmmmmmm.... It's also lovely as is, on top of a bed of 'rice'.

Not Quite Rice
Now, there are many versions of 'rice', usually calling for cauliflower. Personally, I like to use a mixture of cauliflower and parsnip as I find it takes some of the 'bite' away. For this particular feast, I came up with the following and it was one of the best I've made so far.

Ginger Un-Steamed 'Rice'
1 1/2 - 2 cups cauliflower
1 1/2 cups parsnip
Salt, to taste
Heaping spoonful of almond butter or tahini (I used both)
1 T grated fresh ginger
A little lemon juice

Process cauliflower and parsnip in food processor until rice-size.

Mix other ingredients by hand.

Finally, I also prepared some Marinated Curry Broccoli. I put some broccoli florets and chopped stems in a bowl and tossed them in a little olive oil, Braggs, curry powder and garam masala. Then I left the whole thing, covered, in the dehydrator for a couple of hours.

I think that about wraps it up (pun intended!)

Oh, here's a photo of a previous Indian meal we've had: Samosas, Curried Broccoli and Greens, Richard's Curry Sauce, Cauliflower Rice and Peas and some left-over samosas' filling.

There are other Indian-style raw dishes I have yet to try. One of them is Raw Chef Russell James' Spinach Masala recipe posted on his ever so inspiring blog. I'm anxiously waiting for good mangoes to show up in our local stores, as they're still really not-so-hot at this time of year (at least, in our boony part of the world.) But that's not to keep you from trying it!

I guess all that was missing was an Indian sweet treat, but to tell the truth, we were so stuffed there wasn't any room left for dessert.

Well, that was some awesome feast worthy of a Maha'raw'dja indeed!

And about my 'rough spot', not to worry! "That, too, shall pass," as Buddha would say. Actually, come to think of it, I bet he would have also enjoyed our scrumptious Indian spread!

Photo Credits
Cauliflower Samosas by Sarma Melngailis

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Journey

One of the greatest lessons my meditation practice is teaching me is that everything changes from moment to moment. In other words, whether we are aware of it or not, what makes up 'Life' (including us), is in a state of constant transformation. But in many cases, those changes are so subtle/slow, that we fail to notice them. Look at yourself in the mirror everyday and nothing will jump at you, but take a snapshot of yourself in 10 years time and it's a different story. Another way to describe this process would be to call it 'growth'.

Growing Pains
When we stop for a moment and look around us, Nature itself shows us how growth is a fundamental part of Life. It's easy enough to see how we, as adults, are no longer in children's bodies. There is also a less obvious kind of growth; one that is made up of becoming better human beings by learning from our mistakes and making peace with who we truly are. I feel that, although we may not always like it (especially when we're caught in the midst of some crisis), personal growth is the real reason we're here. Whether it pertains to the physical or the psychological/spiritual, growth is often a slow and organic process, not to mention painful at times (no kidding! lol)

The 'Flow'
I was telling you in a recent post about Karen Knowler's excellent weekly publication, "Successfully Raw". Aside from her engaging writing style, I also enjoy how she examines the raw food diet, not as an 'end' in itself, but rather as part of a greater journey of self-transformation. In her latest, truly inspiring article, Karen points out how vital it is to honor our own timing - or what I like to call our 'flow' - when it comes to changing our diet (or anything else, for that matter!) She also describes some of the obstacles that may be lying in wait along the way, and how we must trust the process.

In case you've missed Karen's outstanding piece, I feel it's so powerfully moving and relevant to this season of new growth, that I thought I'd share it with you.

Over to you, Karen...

Extract from the "Successfully Raw" newsletter, published on 6 April 2007:

"When struggle is present I like to remind people about the journey of the caterpillar to butterfly. If you know how the journey plays out, you'll know that the most struggle happens just before the butterfly emerges fully from its chrysalis - its own private version of the dark before the dawn.

I've seen this so many times that when I hear about struggle I know that it's actually a GREAT sign! A major breakthrough is usually only just around the corner, it's simply about recognising the struggle, relaxing into the situation and letting things clear as we make peace with the emerging new - that's how we come out flying the other side.

With this in mind, this week's article is all about the importance of timing. Again, drawing on the caterpillar's incredible story, you may also know that if the butterfly tries to fly too soon before its wings have had a chance to fully dry, then it dies, and flying never becomes an option. So too, do you experience pain when you push harder and faster than is necessary with yourself or with life (or your diet!). This week's article will give you a new perspective on why sometimes, when you're struggling with your raw food journey, what appears on the surface to be "less" is actually so much "more"."

The Importance of Honouring
Your Own Timing
One of the great things about working with so many clients at the moment, both in group and 1:2:1 situations is that common themes, patterns and problems become even more obvious than usual.

This week there have been many themes coming through over and over again, but the main one that I’m going to pull out of the mix is the importance of timing.

It is only too common that I come across people who want to go raw “overnight” or “now!” or “in the next month” or at least some time really soon. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having that kind of passion and excitement about something; in fact I wish there were more of it in this world! However, as I learned myself and as I see time and time again, sometimes these transitions take a fair bit longer than we hope, think or expect.

For my own part it took me five years to go and stay raw. Which I did for the next 5½ years, with no effort at all – but only because I was then fully ready.

I share this with you firstly to put some perspective on things (yes, five years of yo-yoing for me, that’s a long time!) and second of all to bring up the importance of honouring your OWN timing.

As with all things in life, whether they be moving home, changing jobs, leaving or starting relationships, generally speaking we do this, if circumstances permit, in “our own time”. And sometimes this can be a fast process and other times more lengthy.

Along your raw food journey you will encounter challenges that you never knew were possible. You will come face to face with things you have been burying for years (usually using food), you will realise things about yourself that both amaze you and sometimes sadden you. You will be able to sense a potential that before you had no concept of, and while one part of you will want to reach out and grab that with both hands, another part of you will cower away at what that might mean.

All of these things and more can mess around with our mind as we try to figure out what on earth it is we really want. “To be raw or not to be raw?" That is the question!

Add to this the most common derailer and demotivator of all – fear (and fear comes lurking up at every corner) – and it’s no wonder that the “overnight”, “now” and “within the next month” can stretch on to become months away or even, as in my case, years.

I have a belief that goes something like this:

"The greater your fear, the larger your potential."

Ponder this for a moment in relation to your own experiences on your raw food journey so far, and see if it doesn't bring up some deeper sense of knowing for you...

One of my biggest and most constantly pressing observations is that for those of us who choose to live life “in the raw” the world is not really that brilliantly set up for us. And this can be why it feels like it's hard to play "big" or full out as the person we truly are or know we can be.

And no I don’t just mean food-wise, I mean in all ways.

Indeed, the further I go on my own journey (and right now the whole thing for me has speeded right up – more later), the more I realise how incredibly important, nay imperative, it is that I only do things I love, only surround myself with like-minded people, only make choices that work for me and everyone else (and not just everyone else!), and that I am true to myself on a moment-by-moment basis.

Now, getting to this place can take time. And sometimes “time” means a long time. For me this has been 14 years and only now am I operating consistently in the way that I have aspired to for probably every single one of those 14 years.

Walking this path has been riveting, amazing, fascinating, challenging, turbulent and even grueling at times, but not once have I ever felt it wasn’t worth it; even though I may have sometimes wished I could have gone back!

Indeed, no other path has brought me so wonderfully and so consistently back to myself and to a place of peace that is unparalleled. There is no price that is too high to pay to feel this level of peace.

And yet, to get to this peace, we do have to struggle through the swamp sometimes. And that swamp, if you haven’t already figured it out yet, is largely, if not completely, self-created. It’s the world, the life that we have created through choices we made days, weeks, month and years ago and it’s the canvas that we have chosen to paint, whether that be consciously or unconsciously.

Rewriting your life script takes time and energy, no doubt about it. And, although I am normally a “shades of grey” person, typically seeing subtleties in life and gradients in most things, when it comes to being “in the raw” or not, as far as I can see it, there is either a sense of moving forward with things or a sense of going back – never standing still, as life is always moving alongside us as we move forward with it, or past us, which leaves us feeling “behind” even if we thought we were standing still.

So as far as timing goes, sometimes on our journey, when things seem to be going a little fast, it is exactly the right time to pause, or to stop. Sometimes we DO need to let life pass us by a little so that we can feel cocooned from whatever growth was feeling intimidating to us. Some of us will choose a hefty chunk of bread or tub of Ben and Jerry’s to work this magic, others alcohol, others some other form of “less-than- supportive” behaviour which may or may not be of the edible variety. It’s all just detail, but the essence remains the same: We need to pace ourselves.

Learning when to stop, when to go, when to pause and when to leap forward is all part of the intuitive journey. Only YOU know what feels good and when. And often there is no external rhyme nor reason to this, it just feels right.

And then sometimes it can feel very wrong!

All these feelings, the good and the not-so-good, are simply signs to us as to what we should really be doing. And this can mean upping the ante in our diet, or stepping it back for a day or more, in order to recalibrate before moving on – when it feels right.

As far as words of wisdom go, if there’s one thing I want to leave you with you this week, it’s that giving yourself permission to be real with yourself in this way, to hear whether your whole person is giving you the green, amber or red light is to take a huge step forward in your evolution even when the outside appearance might appear to dictate otherwise.

Awareness is everything.

It’s what you do with it and how you approach that “what” that really counts.

Growth is not always linear and it’s not always what we think it is.

When you got at your own pace, you are only ever really moving forward, even if you choose to believe otherwise!

When you relax into this knowing, conversely, the whole journey can seem, in its own sweet and irony- laden way, to suddenly speed up and us with it! But when it's on your terms and only yours, then speed never equals "too fast", it can only ever truly be present moment perfection when you honour your own timing, precisely because it is your OWN timing.

This is where you will find your peace waiting for you too.

© 2007 Karen Knowler

About Karen
Karen Knowler is The Raw Food Coach and former Managing Director of The Fresh Network, the UK's Raw and Living Foods organisation. With over 14 years of personal experience of eating a raw food diet, Karen has been teaching, writing and coaching professionally on raw foods for almost nine years.

She publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love, get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at www.TheRawFoodCoach.com.

Photo Credits
Nr.4 in a serie of 8: Caterpillar Oleander Hawk Moth by siebe
blue morpho by creativity+
Satisfaction Guaranteed by *GaryP*

Raw Almonds: An Endangered Species

"Almonds", originally uploaded by Rune T

I'm not much of an activist, as I believe that we can only change the world from the inside out, not the other way around.

Having said this, I was shocked to hear about the newly passed law regarding mandatory pasteurization of ALL almonds.

Seth Leaf of Living Nutz states that "starting in August or September of 2007, raw almonds available in the USA, Canada and Mexico, will no longer be "truly raw" due to a mandate passed by the USDA, FDA and the California Almond Board, announcing that all almonds including organic must be pasteurized."

Still according to Seth, "the primary reasons for passing this law are two isolated outbreaks of salmonella, in conjunction with conventional almond farms a few years ago. To the best of our knowledge, no salmonella outbreaks have EVER been associated with organic almonds."

Sure makes you wonder where society is going with that kind of fear-based and irrational line of thinking.

In a recent article by Mike Adams on News Targets.com, he points out that "the issue at hand here is not merely that all California almonds will now be sterilized, but that cooked almonds will be deliberately and falsely labeled as raw." A prospect that has created an outrage in the raw foods community.

For those of you who would like to contribute directly towards reverting this sad decision, here's a good place to start:

- You can sign the petition that's already in circulation here.

- You can check out Raw Food, Right Now!' for Heidi Ohlander's latest blog post, "I Love Raw Almonds", in which she offers positive and constructive ways to tackle the issue.

Be back a little later today to share an inspiring article...

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

All Things Chocolate

"Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life." ~ S.D. Gordon

I recently discovered this lovely quote and thought it so captures the spirit of this season. Whether you observe Easter or not, this time of year certainly has lots to rejoice about.

So much life awakening around us...

We were blessed earlier this week with the sight of the first flowers to appear in our garden. True beauty indeed!

A few weeks ago, Wyjozu2 of Raw Food Talk Forum asked that I come up with a raw version of SAD Chewy Turtle Tarts for Easter. What I didn't know at the time was that her simple request was to launch me on a creative uncooking spree of unsurpassed proportions (at least, for me!)

Never Say Never
Well, I can honestly say that I never dreamed I'd one day write an entire post on chocolate. Until recently, Don and I hadn't had chocolate in about 4 years, as we didn't care at all for the undesirable side effects of caffeine. It's after reading raves after raves about RP's Brownies on Raw Food Talk Forum that, a few months ago, we gave it another try. It was a very tentative one at that; generously cutting the cacao called for in recipes with carob powder.

Stripped To The Bean
As you probably know, David Wolfe and Shazzie teamed up a few years ago in order to write their book "Naked Chocolate", in which they reveal "the astonishing truth about the world's greatest food."

According to David, "Every study on chocolate is pointing to the same conclusion: there is something in chocolate that is really good for us. That something is the raw cacao bean, the nut that
all chocolate is made from. The cacao bean has always been and will always be Nature's #1 weight loss and high-energy food. Cacao beans are probably the best kept secret in the entire history of food."

Chocolate: Can It Really Be Good For You?
In a pamphlet prepared by my friend and Raw Chef Chantale, I just learned that aside from being the best known dietary source of magnesium, raw cacao is exceptionally high in sulphur (the 'beauty mineral'), rich in antioxidants, is an anti-depressant, AND an aphrodisiac! In fact, the cacao bean "contains over 300 identifiable chemical compounds, making it one of the most complex foods known to man."

Experiments have shown that the caffeine and the theobromine contained in chocolate are quite different when consumed raw rather than cooked. Still according to Chantale, "one experiment conducted with a decoction of roasted ground cacao beans in boiling water produced an excitement of the nervous system similar to that caused by black coffee, an excited state of circulation, and an accelerated pulse. Interestingly, when the same decoction was made with raw, unroasted beans, neither effect was noticeable, leading the experimenters to conclude that the physiological changes were caused by aromatic substances released during roasting."

Once again, raw makes ALL the difference! (Why am I not surprised?)

From The Tree...To Your Kitchen
Cacao beans are the seeds of the cacao fruit, which grows on a jungle tree in Amazonia. You can buy raw cacao as powder and nibs in most health food stores. You can also enjoy the "food of the Gods" in the form of cacao butter. Although the latter is more difficult to find, it can be ordered from a number of online sources, including Real Raw Food (a Canadian raw food distributor) and the Raw Life Health Store.

Welcome To Chocolateland
These findings have dramatically changed the way we've been looking at cacao. So I turned my sunny kitchen into a veritable little chocolate factory to come up with choc (olate)-full recipes to help us all celebrate Easter (or the return of Spring and New Life) 'in the Raw'.

When taking a breather, I looked back at my 'working space' and couldn't help but laugh at the sheer mess! It's a wonder I managed to operate at all! lol

See for yourself...

The best part about working on this post was of course that we got to taste-test all the recipes (and that's beside the very necessary nibbling that the Chef - yours truly - had to do along the way...) lol

The thing is, not wanting to overdose on chocolate (we have yet to buy raw cacao), we've been only trying a couple of these scrumptious creations every day. Talk about discipline!
Everything turned out above and beyond what we expected! Sooooooo good that Don was standing in the corner spitting nickels! (Boy, are we ever glad we've made a truce with cacao!!!)

Choco Nuts beware! What's coming up is close to 'food porn' and serious drooling material, so have a towel handy.

A'right, are y'all ready? Let the Choc-A-Fest begin...

Maraw's Chocolate-Dipped Date Truffles (back) and sweetgoddess' Raw Easter Chocolate (front)

Truffles And Turtles
The following was posted by sweetgoddess and is a wonderful, simple recipe which looks and tastes just like the SAD version... only a thousand times better!

Raw Easter Chocolate
By sweetgoddess

1 cup coconut butter
3/4 cup carob powder ( I bet raw cacao would be even better)
4 Tbsp agave nectar ( or more to taste)
2 tsp vanilla (next time I will use orange, mint would be good too)

Put coconut butter in a bowl and place in another bowl of hot water, stirring until liquified. Stir in other ingredients until smooth. Pour onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and pop into freezer for 5-10 mins. Alternatively, you could put mixture into little molds.

Carmella's Note:
Lots of room to play with this recipe. You can use a mixture of carob and cacao, throw in some coconut or almonds or whatever nuts you like. You could even give it a fruity touch by adding orange zest or fresh raspberries.

Cacao Basic Truffle
From Alivefoods.com

1/4 cup cacao
6 Dried Apricots
1 teaspoon melted coconut oil
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1/2 Vanilla Bean

Grind cacao and vanilla bean in a coffee grinder on the espresso setting (if your grinder has one). Add all ingredients into a mini food processor* with the “S” blade. Start by using a pulsing motion until the batter begins to blend. Continue blending until the batterforms a smooth ball on one side of the processor.

*If a larger food processor is used, it will be necessary to double, triple or even quadruple the above ingredients to make sure the batter is above the blades.

Makes 12

Carmella's Note:
These were really sticky and difficult to work with, so I wet my fingers and voila!

I came upon the following thread on Raw Priestess' new site, RF Living.com, which couldn't be more timely...

Yummy Truffles
By Christine D. Winters aka Rawpriestess

When I make the truffles, plain, I just use the nuts and dried fruit as a base. I add cacao, or carob or whatever as I see fit, to make them all different. It's just like a basic cookie recipe, where you can add almonds or peanut butter, or chocolate, etc.

1 cup nuts
1 cup dried fruits

Blend in food processor and enjoy!

You may find other ones to try, but these are my favorites:

- almonds/apricots
- dates/walnuts
- pecans/raisins
- macademia/dates
- almonds/ 1/2 dried cherries & 1/2 dates mmmmmmmmm add a dab of coconut, and more mmmmmmmmmm

I couldn't talk about truffles without mentioning Maraw's incredible Chocolate-Dipped Date Truffles, which I had the privilege to recipe-test for her new raw magazine, Purely Delicious. Although I've already posted the recipe, I thought I'd make it easier for you and post it again...

Chocolate-Dipped Date Truffles

Chocolate Dip Ingredients:
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup coconut oil (at slightly warm room temp - need to be liquid)
3-4 tablespoons raw cacao powder (you may also use carob)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sea salt

8 large medjool dates
cold almond butter

With a sharp knife, carefully make a small slit in one side of each date. Remove seed while trying to keep the date as intact as you can. Fill the center of each date with a small bit of almond butter and pinch to close. Set to one side.

In a small bowl, combine, coconut oil or butter, with cocao power, vanilla and salt. Add agave and stir very well until smooth. Take your dates and dip each one in the chocolate mix and place them on wax paper. Allow them to sit in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes. Remove from wax paper and enjoy.

If your agave nectar is cold, you will need to move quickly so that the coconut oil doesn't harden too fast. However, this makes a much nicer, thicker coating for the truffles.

Turtle Truffles

Here's a recipe that is as versatile as it is delectable, by Cherie Soria of Living Light Institute.

Turtle Truffles, Chewy Caramels, and Chocolate or Carob Fudge
Recipe posted in Living Light's February 2007 Newsletter

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen truffles.

Chewy Caramel
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1 cup pine nuts, minced
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate or Carob Fudge
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2/3 cup pitted dates
1/3 cup seedless raisins or dried pitted cherries
dash cinnamon
3/8 cup cacao powder or carob

Garnish for Turtle Truffes
1/2 cup perfect pecan halves

1. To make the Chewy Caramel, combine dates, pine nuts, and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth. Form into small squares to serve as Chewy Caramels. Or, if making Turtle Truffles, place the mixture in the refrigerator while making the carob or chocolate coating.

2. To make the Chocolate or Carob Fudge, put measured coconut oil in a sealed glass jar and place it in warm water to liquefy. Put liquid oil in the food processor with raisins or cherries, dates, and a dash of cinnamon, and process until it forms a smooth ball. Add carob or cocoa powder and continue processing until well mixed. Be careful not to over process the mixture and cause the oils to separate. The mixture should be smooth and tender, but not greasy. Press the fudge into a square shape and cut into small squares.

3. To hand roll Turtle Truffles, form small round balls of caramel using 1 teaspoon of the caramel mixture for each.

4. Next, form small round balls of the carob (or chocolate) mixture using 1 teaspoon for each.

5. Using your thumb, form an indentation in the middle of one ball of fudge. Place a ball of caramel into the indentation and carefully pull the fudge coating up around the caramel, covering the bottom and sides of the caramel with fudge coating. Press a perfect pecan half on top. Repeat until all truffles are formed and refrigerate until firm.

6. Truffles may be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container until serving. May be frozen or refrigerated for up to one month. If desired put each truffle into a paper candy cup prior to serving.

Carmella's Notes:
As Cherie points out, be careful not to process the pine nuts and dates too long as the mixture will get REALLY oily.

Chewy Caramel Turtles with Ganache Topping
I came up with this delicious variation. Heavenly!

One batch of Cherie's Chewy Caramel (see recipe above)
Chocolate Ganache from Raw Food Real World (keep scrolling down)

I formed the Chewy Caramel mixture into little balls and flattened them lightly.

Then I covered these with the Chocolate Ganache. To make it easier, you can spread a little circle of chocolate on parchment paper. Then put a caramel ball on top and finish covering with chocolate.

Brownies To Live For
This all-time favorite chocolate treat sure has had quite the 'face lift', thanks to two of Raw Food Talk's creative souls. Raw Priestess' Brownies are now a legend around the board (and probably beyond too). There are so many threads devoted to them, I've stopped counting. A masterpiece of simplicity and goodness.

RP’s Brownies
By Christine D. Winters aka Rawpriestess

1 cup walnut (unsoaked)
1 cup dates (pitted unsoaked)
1/4 cup cacao powder (you may use carob if you like)

Place in food processor, and blend until well blended, should still be dry and chunky, maybe blend about 30 seconds,

Press into a small spring form pan .

Refrigerate until you can insert a knife and it isn't too sticky.

Cut into little pieces, then pop into a zip lock baggie and freeze.

They can be eaten fresh, from the fridge or from the freezer, they won't last long though, these are my newest addiction.

Jocelyn has also contributed a wonderful recipe which got some notoriety of its own. Her Choc-onut Brownie was recently featured on RawReform.com when she submitted it to an 'All Time Favorite Raw Treat' recipe contest. And let me tell you, they're now one of our faves too! These were unbelievably good and, to quote Don, "beyond aaaaaaawesome!"

Jocelyn's Choc-onut Brownie
The chocolate brownie is adapted from RawGuru's recipe. And then I came up with the coconut creme filling on my own.

Chocolate Crust & Crumb Topping:
4 cups unsoaked pecans
4 cups unsoaked brazil nuts
1 teaspoon sea salt (original recipe called for 3 tsp.)
1 1/4 cups. raw cacao powder
3/4 cup raw carob powder
2 cups soaked raisins (pureed)
6 tbs. agave nectar (I added a little more agave than it called for - to my desired sweetness)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil

Coconut Creme Filling 1:
Meat and 1/4 of the juice of 2 young thai coconuts (add more juice to the blender if too thick)
2-4 spoonfuls of coconut oil
agave nectar (to your desired sweetness)

Coconut Creme Filling (new version):
2 cups coconut meat
1 cup coconut water
1 cup cashews, soaked
1/3 cup agave nectar or dates pitted (to your desired sweetness)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon celtic salt
2 T. coconut oil (optional – to make it a little firmer)

1. Prepare Chocolate Brownie Recipe as follows:

Blend pecans into a fine meal and place in a bowl. Blend the brazil nuts to a fine meal and combine with the pecans. If you want the brownies chunky leave some nuts slightly chopped. Add the salt, cacao and carob powders to the nuts, and mix until well combined. Mix pureed raisins thoroughly into the dry nut mix. Add your agave nectar and coconut oil into the brownie mix and work through it with your hands. The texture will be a bit crumbly.

2) Place 1/2 or 3/4 of the brownie mixture into a 9 X 13" glass dish and press down evenly. Keep the remaining brownie mix for use as the topping over the coconut creme.

Note: Keep the remaining brownie mix crumbly for the topping and be sure you have enough remaining mixture to fully cover the coconut creme filling.

Coconut Creme Filling:
Blend in a blender until smooth and set aside.

3) Pour Coconut Creme Filling on top of pressed brownie mix. Place in freezer until creme is firm - about 1 hour or so.

4) Take choc-onut brownie out of freezer and sprinkle remaining crumbled brownie mix on top of coconut creme filling.

5) Return entire choc-onut brownie back in freezer until ready to serve.

Serving suggestions:
Drizzle berry sauce over individual slices for presentation. For the sauce, just blend your favorite berries (raspberries, strawberries, etc) with agave nectar or honey.

** You may want to thaw the brownie a little before you serve it so it is not so hard. The original Chocolate Ecstacy I was trying to mimick freezes this recipe until ready to serve - which is how I got the idea to freeze. You really don't have to freeze it if you don't want to.

** If you don't have the cacao powder, you can definitely substitute carob powder for it. I'm sure it'll taste just as good. I am going to try that the next time I make it.

New Notes:
I have since made another version for the creme filling that is just as good and a lot more "creamier" (see above). For both versions of the filling, to make it a little more firmer, simply add a couple of T of coconut butter.

Carmella's Notes:
I used part cacao and part carob. I served these with fresh strawberries and a Caramel Sauce topping from "RAW" by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein. Oh well, since it's consistent with the theme of this post, I'll post the whole thing...

Banana Chocolate Tart with Caramel and Chocolate Sauces
From "Raw" by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein
Posted on Epicurious.com

Tart Shells
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sprouted flour (see tips, below)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
Pinch of Celtic sea salt

Caramel Sauce
3 teaspoons heaping raw cashews, soaked for 8 hours in filtered water
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon Cashew Milk
2 tablespoons raw dark honey
2 tablespoons Date Paste
2 tablespoons maple syrup

For Assembly
4 tablespoons Mexican Chocolate Sauce
8 tablespoons Chocolate Fudge-Almond
28 slices banana
4 tablespoons Honey Walnuts, broken

Method—To make the tart shells: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix well. Place 2 tablespoons of the mixture in the bottom of each of 4 ring molds each 2 inches in diameter. Pack the mixture firmly into the molds. (You will have more dough than you need for 4 molds. Because the tiny tart shells are fragile and time-consuming to make, it is a good idea to line additional ring molds with the remaining dough in case of breakage.) Place the molds on a nonstick drying sheet on a dehydrator shelf and dehydrate at 105°F for 3 hours. Remove the tart shells from the drying sheet and dehydrate directly on the shelf for about 10 hours longer, or until just dry.

To make the Caramel Sauce: Drain the cashews, pat them dry, and then measure them. You should have 1/4 cup; discard any excess. In a high-speed blender, combine the cashews, Cashew Milk, honey, Date Paste, and maple syrup and process until smooth. Strain the purée through a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside 4 tablespoons for the tarts; reserve the remainder for another use.

Assembly—Spoon 1 tablespoon of the Mexican Chocolate Sauce in a circle on each plate. Put a tart shell on top of the sauce. Spread 2 tablespoons of the Chocolate Fudge-Almond on the tart shell. Arrange 7 banana slices on top. Drizzle 1 tablespoon Caramel Sauce over the bananas and on the plate. Sprinkle with the Honey Walnuts.

Divine Caramel Chocolate Tarts and Creamy Chocolate and Custard Tarts

Tarts Galore

Since we're already into tarts, might as well continue...

Here are a few ideas for tart crusts and fillings. Once you get going, you'll see that the possibilities are endless. The sky is the limit! I didn't even get to create all the combinations that I had in mind. Ah well... I guess I'll just have to play some more later! (Darn!)

Just Like Baked Crust
This recipe was adapted from a savory crust by Elaina Love. It is light and looks just like the baked pie crusts.

3 medium sized yellow zucchini, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup olive or coconut oil (I used coconut)
1 cup flax meal (about 3/4 cup whole seeds, ground)
1 cup soaked almonds (about 1/2 cup before soaking for 8 hours)
2 tbs agave nectar

Blend the zucchini and oil until zucchini is smooth. (I'd recommend warming up your zucchini first, either in the D or in a bowl of warm water, otherwise the coconut oil will 'seize up' on you and you won't get the smooth consistency you're looking for.)

Add the almonds and continue to blend until the entire mixture is smooth. You may need to use a spatula to get the mixture to blend.

Pour the blended mixture into a bowl and add the flax meal.

OK, now I've experimented with a couple of different ways to form the dough into mini crusts. It's for you to pick the one that works best for you.

Method 1
First, line a muffin pan with saran wrap. Alternatively, you could use little paper muffin cups or even cut out little circles in parchment paper for the bottoms and lightly oil the walls of the muffin cups. Put about a couple of tbs of dough in one of the muffin cups. Then, spread it thinly with a wet spoon (makes it easier to work with) and your fingers, all along the bottom and 'walls'.

Pop into the D for a few hours. Once the outside shell is dry, pull on the saran wrap and gently turn the shells over onto the mesh to finish dehydrating.

Method 2
Here is my favorite method. Quick and simple.

Form the batter into uniform circles of about 3 " in diameter on the teflex sheets. Dehydrate for a few hours, then proceed as follows.

Gently peel a circle off onto one of your hands:

Place on top of a muffin cup, 'wet' side up:

Carefully push the circle of dough onto the muffin pan...

...then press with a wet spoon or your fingers to even the dough out.

Dehydrate for a few more hours until completely dry.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust
By Renee Loux Underkoffler
Posted on Raw Food Talk by NoGMO!

2 cups pecans
4 to 6 soft dates, pitted
1 tablespoon agave nectar or raw honey
2 tablespoons raw carob powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, ideally ground fresh
1 tablespoon non-alcohol vanilla extract (optional)
Pinch sun-dried sea salt
Soak 1 cup of pecans in 2 cups fresh water for 2 to 4 hours. Drain and rinse.

In food processor, chop 1 cup of dry pecans into fine meal. Set aside.

Chop soaked pecans into fine meal. Cut or break dates into pieces. If dates are very dry or firm, soak them in 1/2 cup of fresh water for 5 minutes to soften.

Add date pieces, agave nectar or honey, carob, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and sea salt to ground soaked pecans and chop until well mixed.

Dough should be crumbly but sticky enough to hold a shape when pressed.

Press dough evenly into a pie plate or a torte pan. (To make tarts, press into muffin pans lined with saran wrap. This will help remove the assembled tarts later without damaging them. If you aren't too keen on the stuff, I'd recommend making a big pie instead of tarts.) It is best to press dough to sides of plate or an first and then press into bottom for even depth.

To scallop edge of crust: Use thumb and forefinger to pinch edge of dough successively around rim.

Use forefinger of other hand to press against pinches to keep them neat. Fill, frost and serve.

OK, now that you've got your crusts all ready, take your pick amongst the following scrumptious fillings...

Divine Caramel Chocolate Tarts
In the end, WyJoz is the one who suggested the caramel and chocolate sauce recipes that went into these raw 'Turtle Tarts'. They are the absolutely most decadent raw dessert we've ever, EVER tasted! Thanks Joz, you deserve all the credits!

RP's Caramel
By Christine D. Winters aka Rawpriestess

1 cup dates (pitted and unsoaked)
1/4 cup almond milk
1 dash sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 inch vanilla bean scraped
1 tablespoon raw honey

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and well blended.

Chocolate Ganache
From "Raw Food Real World" by Sarma Melngailis and Matthew Kenney
Posted by RawYogini on RFT

2 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used part agave)
1 cup cacao powder
1 1/4 cup carob powder
1 cup coconut oil

Blend until smooth.

NOTE: It was so thick it caused my blender to over heat so split the recipe in half and do it in 2 batches. Pour into your favorite nut/date crust. I used a springform pan. Chill in fridge for 2 hours. Amaze your SAD family and friends!

Caramelized Pecans
By Renee Loux Underkoffler

2 cups pecans
2 tbs maple syrup, honey or agave nectar

Soak pecans overnight. Then drain and soak in mixture for 30 mins. to 1 hour.

Dehydrate until crisp.

Put some Caramel mixture into your crust of choice. Top with a layer of Chocolate Ganache. Decorate with Caramelized Pecans (or plain pecans would work too.)

Be prepared for a blissful experience!

Double Chocolate Cream Tarts

Chocolate Cream
I came up with this variation of Cherie's Fudge from her Turtle Truffles recipe (posted above). Simply add a little nut milk to the ingredients to obtain a creamy consistency.

In crust of your choice, put a couple of tbs or so of Chocolate Cream. Then finish off with a layer of Chocolate Ganache (see recipe below). Decorate with a dollop of Chocolate Cream and nut of choice.

Alternatively, you could replace the Chocolate Cream with your favorite chocolate-based mousse or pudding, such as Maraw's Raw Vegan Chocolate Pudding or Cherie Soria's Chocolate Orange Mousse, and with or without the Ganache topping. Oh......... the possibilities!

Chocolate Orange Mousse with Almonds
By Cherie Soria
Posted in the San Francisco Chronicle food section.

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Pinch salt
2 avocados, about 6 ounces each, peeled, seeded and mashed
1/2 cup peeled slivered raw almonds, for garnish, optional

Place coconut oil in a small work bowl and place the bowl in a pan with about 1 inch of hot water. The coconut oil will melt.

Combine melted coconut oil, agave nectar, cocoa powder, orange juice, evaporated cane juice, orange zest, cayenne and salt in a high-powered blender. A regular blender will work, although it may not make the mixture quite as smooth. Puree until smooth; use a small rubber spatula to keep folding the mixture into the center to keep the mixture blending without adding water (you may stop the machine to do this). Make sure cane juice crystals are fully dissolved.

Add the mashed avocado and blend just until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Pour into six 4-ounce ramekins. Serve each portion topped with slivered almonds.

Note: Agave nectar and evaporated cane juice are minimally processed sweeteners. They are available, along with raw cocoa powder, at natural food stores.

To peel almonds, place a heaping half cup of almonds in a glass bowl. Cover with hot water and let soak 15 minutes. Drain, peel skin off of almonds and slice into slivers with a sharp knife. Dry the almonds slightly before using, either by allowing to air-dry for 15 minutes, or spreading on a sheet pan and placing in a 100° oven for 5 minutes.

Creamy Chocolate and Custard Tarts
My original intention was to use Ertarox's Raw Vegan Bavarian Vanilla Custard for these, but since I had some Coconut Creme left-over from making Jocelyn's brownies, I went with that instead. Here is the recipe anyhow...

Amazing Raw Vegan Bavarian Vanilla Custard
Posted by Ertarox on RFT

2 cups young coconut meat (tough to say - 4 - 6 young coconuts?)
1/2 cup coconut water
2 tbsp. OJ
1/8 tsp celtic salt
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tbsp. lecithin granules
1 tbsp. coconut oil (I use expeller so it doesn't taste coconutty)

*Note: I'm Italian, so I use a bit more almond extract. Like EVERY Italian dessert is "Amaretto" flavored. LOL! But NONE are as good as this!


This is DIVINE.

In crust of your choice, put a tbs or so of Chocolate Cream. Then fill the rest of the tart with Coconut Cream or Custard.

Am I missing anything? Let's see: Brownies, Truffles, Tarts, Turtles, Puddings... Wait a minute, I forgot to mention cheesecakes! Take a peek at my post, Healthy Decadence, for droolsome chocolate cheesecake recipes.

Well, as they say, "all good things must come to an end"! Except, not really! Now you get to try all these wonderful treats and show your family and friends that chocolate never tasted so good!

Enough to make the sad Easter Bunny run off and hide in shame... lol

Sunny Raw Tip
To help spread the chocolate mixture evenly when making truffles or tarts, simply smooth it up with wet fingers .

Whenever a recipe calls for agave syrup, I find it helpful to warm it up along with the coconut oil. This will prevent your chocolate mixtures from turning grainy and 'seizing up'.

Happy Easter everyone, and Blessings to you all!

Photo Credits:
Raw cacao beans by A30_Tsitika
Cacao Butter from Naked Chocolate's site
Chocolate-Dipped Date Truffles by Anna (Maraw)
Choc-onut Brownie by Jocelyn