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!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SRK Tour Adventures: Oregon Part I

Hey guys! *waving*

I was thinking that it would be hard to beat my last post about our time at Cafe Gratitude and all the amazing food we enjoyed. You know what though? I've got another great one for you with heaps of vibrant and delicious raw desserts we had from Living Light Institute. (This trip is turning into quite the raw pilgrimage!) But I'm getting ahead of myself so I better back track a little...

Before I get going with my story telling, first let me share a cute pic of Kylo. He's never hanging too far away from the van to make sure he comes with wherever we go. As you can see he's also usually the first one in. Sorry Kyky, you're gonna have to move a bit as your head is lying right on Puss' spot. ;-)

The Long Journey North
We left Sunnyvale early as we had to drive close to 400 miles to Oregon, probably the longest distance we've covered so far in a single day. (We normally like to take it slow on the road; you know, steady as she goes...) We thought the highway might be quieter being Saturday and all, but that was wishful thinking. Apparently not many people are into low-key-hanging-out-cozily-at-home sort of weekends. *shrugs*

It really hit me in earnest how crowded some parts of California are. Up until then we'd seen plenty of desert and coast so it was easy to forget that Cali is the most populated state in the US. As we were traveling north there were towns every few miles along the highway and we encountered stretches with as many as 6 lanes on either side! Phfew! Thankfully traffic lightened up once we passed San Francisco. Yay!

The landscape before our eyes transpired a quiet beauty: farmland, fields, grazing cattle and horses, olive groves and nut trees.

At some point we were virtually surrounded by the snowy mountains of Mendocino and the Shasta Trinity National Forests. Wow! Then the climb in altitude began... As we worked our way up we could feel the temperature drop in the car. Oh - oh! Time to say good bye to the southern 'eternal summer' (at least to us Kanucks).

We passed by Mount Shasta which is internationally known as a sacred mountain. On this site it says that "Mt. Shasta... has been compared to Mt. Fuji for its great beauty and sacred importance. The mountain has long been revered by the Native Americans of the area who regard it as the center of creation. In recent decades it has also attracted New Age followers who believe the mountain to be a source of mystical power."

The enigmatic lenticular clouds that are sometimes seen hovering over Mount Shasta certainly contribute to the mystical air of the place.

A little later down the road we approached the snowy tops of Black Butte.

When we stopped to gas up somewhere there was actual snow on the ground. Brrrr

The last stretch of Northern California was very desert like.

We reached Ashland soon after crossing into Oregon. The town is on the shore of a lake and is in such a beautiful location.

Yay We're Here!
After some 7 hours on the road we finally arrived at our destination: Jozzie’s home in Medford. Some of you may remember that we hooked up with her in LA and feasted at Au Lac a few weeks ago. While I never dreamed of undertaking such a journey around the US, the thought of visiting Medford had previously crossed my mind so that Jozzie and I could brush shoulders in the kitchie and have an uncooking blitz of our own. It was hard to believe that we were there at last!

Interestingly I was bedridden for the first couple of days. I thought I might be coming down with a flu or something as I had all the symptoms; sensitive skin, chills followed by fever… but nope. I woke up on the third day with no trace of anything askew except for a residual tiredness. I think it was just my body screaming for some TLC and embracing this opportunity to detox and get some rest after all the recent busy-ness. I had developed a mega cold sore (I can't even remember the last time I had one of those!) and also had to put my right hand officially on a break for a while as I had seriously hurt it picking avocados in California. As painful as it was I was glad for these reminders to listen to my body, as I hadn't realized how stressful and demanding that last stretch of our trip had been.

I was back on my feet in time to give an Italian uncooking class at Jozzie's. This was a theme I'd never worked with before and it turned out to be a lot of fun. We made Cheezy Spinach Almond Soup, my House Dressing, Alissa Cohen's Calzone which we served with her Marinara Sauce (Jozzie's special request as she had never dared to make it on her own) and Chocolate Hazelnut Pie for dessert. Delicioso!

Jozzie and I also had a chance to play with food a little. (You should have seen me give her instructions from the couch on how to prep my Spinach & Cream Casserole when I wasn't feeling well! lol) Amongst other things we came up with a fabulous Durian Chocolate Cake!!! The texture and flavor turned out just right. Yay! I promise to share the recipe and tell you all about our culinary ventures in my next post.

Off to the Coast!
Jozzie had made plans to take us to the Oregon coast which we had heard was a 'must see'. And so we went on a short getaway in Jozzie’s car one weekend. Between Joz, her hubby Wayne, Don and I and Kyky, it was a little tight quarters but we somehow managed to all fit in. We would have liked to take Puss along too but there simply was no room plus we figured it would be less stressful for her to stay in a familiar environment.

We left well prepared. Wayne had filled up 2 big jugs of green smoothie which he then stuck in the freezer so that they would preserve better. That avoided us having to haul the Vitamix along to whip up our daily green drink. We also brought plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, lots of dehydrated snacks (including Lydia's Organics super yummy Tropical Mango Bars), all the fixings of salad and calzone left over from the Italian class (that stuff makes such an awesome travel food!)

About 15 miles outside of Crescent City we made a brief stop at the "Botanical Trail" in order to take a look at the carnivorous Darlingtonia, also known as pitcher plants. How do they go about eating insects, you wonder? There's a hidden opening into the stalk that is bordered by green hairs beneath the curved hood of the leaf. Nectar on the 'moustache' attracts insects to the plant and eventually into the hood. "Once inside, an insect becomes confused by the transparent areas in the hood that appear to be exits. The insect eventually falls into the lower part of the tube, and is trapped from escaping by downward-pointed hairs until it falls into a pool of water at the bottom of the stalk. Bacteria in the water decomposes insects into nitrogen that is then absorbed by the plant."

Nature will never cease to amaze me!

We then turned onto the 197 and headed north to Brookings. We first went to a beach that was strewn with large boulders and driftwood. So be- yu-ti-ful!

I love this shot of Donnie with his curly hair blowing in the wind.

Jozzie’s son Norm and her granddaughter Kylie had also come along for the day.

We then went to a different spot in order to admire what Jozzie assured us was "the best viewpoint in Brookings".

Looking at a whale making backflips in the distance.

Back To California
Around mid-afternoon we headed back to Crescent City just south of the Northern California border. After checking into a motel and tucking the calzone into Joz's little 4 tray Excalibur (so perfect for the road!), we went for a lovely walk. With its miles and miles of sand sprinkled with colorful pebbles polished by the waves, it's Jozzie's and Wayne’s favorite beach.

I just loved those gigantic stumps of wood. So picturesque!

Wayne and Kylo quickly became best buddies. Here they are having fun playing with a stick.

Pleasantly exhausted, cold and famished, we returned to the motel where we were greeted by the enticing smell of the calzone warming up in the D. Ahhhhhh, Life is good!

Raincheck at Living Light
I think I told you before how Jozzie is notorious for her seemingly crazy ideas. Well, she decided to whiz us down to Fort Bragg for a surprise visit to Living Light Culinary Arts Institute! Woo hoo! Cherie Soria started Living Light in 1997 at the request of Viktoras Kulvinskas and Dr. Ann Wigmore, who were urging Cherie to take her new cuisine out into the world and be "a beacon of light" - hence, the name. Living Light is now regarded by the raw community as the top raw vegan culinary school in the country. So many familiar names have received their training here: Jennifer Cornbleet, Elaina Love, the Boutenko kids, Renee Loux Underkoffler, and even Chef Ito of Au Lac!

It was rainy and miserable as we made our way down the 101 the next morning. As a result we didn’t get to stop and walk in the redwoods. The weather was supposed to lift by the time we'd be driving back so we figured we'd get to do it on our way home.

Shortly before Fort Bragg the map said there was 22 miles of winding road, and boy were they not kidding! This was THE most gut wrenching crooked ride Don and I had ever been on! Jozzie and Wayne thought it was almost as challenging as the road to Hana in Hawaii, which is only wide enough for one car. With some 10 mph turns I mean it was currr-vey!

We were joking that our appetite would be a goner by the time we’d arrive in Fort Bragg. Not a chance! We were hungry and looking forward to tasting Living Light's cuisine. But wouldn’t you know it, when we got there the café was actually closed for the day as they were short of staff. “Noooooooo!!! That can’t be!” I thought. We’d come all this way and couldn’t even eat there? Boo hoo! I was seriously bummed.

At least we could console ourselves by checking out the awesome kitchen store on location. Oh my, they’ve got virtually everything in there for the aspiring raw chef; from high power blenders to juicers and food processors, spring form pans, spiralizers and heaps of kitchen gadgets.

They had nearly all of the raw books on their shelves!

By the time we walked out of there we were starved and had no energy to start whipping up a last minute raw meal, so we picked up a few things from the local health food store’s deli. At least they had a generous salad bar and some Indian (cooked) items. It's in these type of situations that I'm reminded of how helpful it is to be fluid and flexible when it comes to diet.

After dinner the rain had stopped so we went for a ride around town, as Jozzie wanted to see Cherie Soria’s Living Light Inn. It’s an elegant and eco-friendly lodging in a gorgeous Victorian house where Living Light students can stay at a discounted rate. We were able to go in and take a little peak. We also got an opportunity to chat with a couple of the guests while they were prepping dinner in the common kitchen area.

Sun and Waves
We came out just in time to watch the sunset! We found a street that took us to one of the buffs. It looked like it was a popular hanging spot as the parking lot was filled with cars; everyone awaiting that special and colorful moment. The landscape reminded me a lot of Ireland with its rugged cliffs.

A man, a woman and half a woofie! ;-)

Who Says You Can’t Have Dessert for Breakfast?
We woke up early the next day as we had a long drive back to Medford. Thankfully Living Light Cuisine Cafe was open this time (Yippee!) so we headed there for breakfast. It wasn't even 10 am when we got there so many of the savory dishes were yet to be assembled, but their dessert display was full and inviting. Everything looked soooooo good! What to pick? We solved the problem by ordering pretty much one of everything! hehe

At least we started off with something sorta breakfasty...

Kamut Walnut Scones with Raspberry jam and Coconut Butter
Sprouted kamut, dates, walnuts, spices

Coconut Vanilla Chia Pudding
Chia seeds, coconut meat, coconut sugar, vanilla extract, vanilla powder, sea salt

But then the dessert feasting began... Wow is all I can say! I feel they’re right up there with Café Gratitude in the dessert department. Everything was sooooo delicious!

Carrot Apple Kuchen with Cashew Cream
Apples, dates, carrots, coconut, cashews, agave, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, almond extract, salt, probiotics

This was the best raw version of carrot cake I've had by far! In fact this was so yummy that we ordered a second serving to take with!

Carrot Apple Kuchen
By Cherie Soria, Angel Foods
Posted on From SAD to RAW

1 cup ground dried apples
30 pitted dates (about 1 cup packed), minced
4 medium carrots, scraped and shredded
4 medium apples, cored and shredded
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut (divided use)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup firm Almond or Cashew Cream Cheese
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
½ teaspoon almond extract

Hand mix ingredients for Kuchen, reserving 2 tablespoons of coconut, then grind ingredients in . Firmly press Kuchen mixture into an 8-inch springform pan or any comparable sized pan. Combine ingredients for frosting and mix well. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting evenly on top of cake and top with reserved coconut. Chill for at least 2 hours. Remove from springform pan and serve. Will keep in refrigerator for up to three days.

Coconut Dreambar Brownie
Walnuts, pecans, cacao powder, maple syrup, coconut oil, coconut, raisins, agave, vanilla extract, salt

Oh man was this ever decadent!!! Just a teeny bit too sweet for our taste buds.

Chocolate Fudge Coconut Dream Bars
Recipe by Vinnette Thompson of Living Light Institute
Posted in the Fifth Annual Vibrant Living Expo Recipe Book

Chocolate Ganache
2 1/4 cups cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups maple syrup
1 cup coconut oil

Blend all the ingredients for the ganache until smooth and set aside.

Bottom Layer 
4 cups walnuts
4 cups pecans
3 1/2 cups chocolate ganache
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried shredded coconut
1 cup dehydrated maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. In the food processor process 2 cups of walnuts, 2 cups of pecans.

2. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

3. Repeat with the remaining 2 cups of nuts.

4. Add 3 cups of chocolate ganache, raisins, coconut, maple sugar, and salt mixed until thoroughly combined.

5. Transfer the mixture to a parchment lined pan and spread into an even layer.

6. Place in the fridge to set up.

Top Layer
2 cups coconut meat
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
4 cups dried shredded coconut
1/2 cup chocolate ganache 

1. In the high speed blender blend the coconut meat, agave, vanilla, and salt until very smooth.

2. While the blender is running add the melted coconut oil and continue blending until smooth, then transfer the mixture to a bowl.

3. Stir in 2 cups of shredded coconut.

4. Spread evenly on top of the chilled bars.

5. Sprinkle the remaining shredded coconut on top.

6. Drizzle the half cup of chocolate ganache over the coconut.

7. Place in the fridge to set up.

8. Cut into bars.

Yet another sublime concoction... Chocolate Coconut Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
coconut, almond, cacao powder, zucchini, agave, Irish moss, lecithin, psyllium husk, vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Raisin Crust and Cashew Cream Topping
Carrots, avocado, rapadura (evaporated cane sugar), maple syrup, pecans, raisins, lemon juice, agar, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, salt, cashews, agave, vanilla

I’d say that this was probably my least favorite, but then again I didn't have pumpkin pie growing up and therefore never really cared for it.

By this point we were pretty much 'desserted out' so we packed up what was left to enjoy later...

Chocolate Pecan Tart
Pecans, maple syrup, cacao powder, coconut butter, dates, cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg

Flourless Chocolate Cardamom Cake with Rosewater Cashew Cream
Cake: walnuts, dates, cacao powder, maple syrup, cacao butter, coconut oil, cardamom, vanilla, brandy extract, salt. Cashew cream: cashews, coconut, agave, rose water

This was soooooo good! Really unique with the subtle flavors of cardamom and rose water.

Cashew Cream Rapsberry Parfait with Brownie Crumble
Walnut, dates, cacao powder, cherries, cherry extract, cashews, agave, vanilla extract, raspberry, psyllium husk, lemon juice, lemon zest

Oh and one of the rare items we didn't order... Cherry Vanilla Cheesecake

Amidst all these sweet treats we did order something savory...

‘Not Tuna’ Sandwich on Onion Caraway Bread
With lettuce, tomato & Cashew dijonnaise

This was a really hearty sandwich. The bread was pliable and there was so much tuna salad that Joz was actually complaining about it oozing out when taking a bite! lol The tuna salad was pretty good although I remain partial to Ocean’s outstanding version using Bubbies pickles as the secret ingredient. (If you haven’t tried this one yet, you guys just ought to run to the kitchen and make it! I kid you not!)

Jozzie, ever the recipe hound, managed to find Living Light's tuna recipe posted on the net.

Not Tuna Salad
Posted on Nouveau Raw blog here

Recipe from the Living Light student handbook

Yield: 3/4 cup (3 servings)

1/2 cup almonds, soaked for 24 hours, rinsed, and drained
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, soaked 4-6 hours, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup water, if needed
1/4 cup celery, minced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon kelp powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried dill weed or 1/2 Tbsp fresh dill weed

Run the almonds and sunflower seeds through a Champion or Green juicer outfitted with the homogenizing plate. Use very small amounts of water, in an alternating fashion with the nuts and seeds, to facilitate the homogenizing. Put the mixture into a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well by hand. Serve with crudites, crackers, or as a filling in tortillas and wraps.

~ Not Salmon; add 1/2 cup carrot pulp for color and dill weed to taste.

~ Not Tuna Crackers; Put 3/4 cup of Not Tuna Salad on top of a nori sheet, and spread an even 1/8 " layer right to the edges. Place another nori sheet on top, press into place, and slice evenly into 12 squares. Dehydrate at 105 degrees until crisp.

Amie Sue's Notes: We don't own a champion or green star juicer, so I used our Vita-mix blender.

The yound lady behind the counter, Danielle, was so patient with us. (Bless her heart!) We must have come back like 3 times to get more goodies! lol In fact we were sitting in the car reading their menu while waiting for Wayne when we realized that they also had ice cream. Ohhhhhh! We just had to try these too! Jozzie actually went back in and returned with French Vanilla Ice Cream drizzled with Chocolate Sauce and Chocolate Ice Cream with Berry Sauce. (If you're gonna do something, might as well do it fully, right? ;-)) We enjoyed those for 'lunch' later on.

A Glimpse Inside Living Light's Culinary School
Mitzi, the woman who brought us the huge sammie, told us that she recognized me and the ‘older gentleman’ as she has been following my blog. He he. I know that in a way there’s nothing so surprising about that since I plaster so many pics of us on here, but I guess I’m still amazed at how the internet allows us to reach out to so many people all over the world. What an awesome thing it truly is and it can so easily be taken all for granted!

We discovered that a pastry course had started the day before so Mitzi arranged for us to meet the instructor, Pastry Chef and formal Living Light graduate Vinette Thompson. She kindly took the time to greet us and show us pictures of some of the scrumptious sweet creations that have come out of Living Light: Mudslide Pie, Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Cream Filling, Chocolate Dream Cake and the list goes on. Raw culinary artwork at its best!

The students were busy opening up young coconuts. I don't think I've ever seen so many coconuts in a single place!

I guess this would be a good time to address a question that I've been asked on a few occasions: Is it necessary to get a certification in order to be able to teach how to prepare raw food? I personally don't think so. In my opinion a diploma is little more than a piece of paper and does not testify to how well the material has truly been integrated and most importantly whether it has been extensively put into practice. The advantage to studying under someone else's guidance is that it can tremendously speed up the learning process, but that's not to say that it can't be done on your own if you have the time, energy and dedication. (That's what I did!) ;-)

Another element that also pops into my mind around the issue is the matter of renumeration. From having taught food prep classes myself I can certainly appreciate that some expenses are involved in terms of ingredients and dedicated preparation. However I feel that it can be too easy to miss the true spirit behind teaching; sharing what one knows in order to (hopefully) facilitate and bring inspiration to someone else's own process. I don't resonate at all with the idea of charging exuberant fees in exchange for one's knowledge and expertise, which unfortunately happens a great deal in the raw community and beyond. This is partly why we insist on working with donations for everything we have to contribute. That allows people of differing financial situations to pay according to what they can afford and what they feel it's worth to them.

Strolling Among Giants
After spending a little over 12 hours in Fort Bragg it was already time to head back. The sun had returned and we were able to appreciate the coast in all its majesty.

The funny thing is that we had plotted to leave via a different route so as to avoid the infamous twisty road of the day before (especially after all the yummy food we had just eaten!) but then we learned that the only two other alternatives out of town were either just as winding or considerably longer. In the end we decided to go back the way we came. (You should have seen Jozzie's face when I brought her the news! he he)

The sun was shining so it didn't seem so bad after all, beauty awaiting us at each curve of the road.

We hopped off the 101 at some point in order to take a scenic road known as the 'Avenue of Giants'. We stopped along the way and enjoyed a walk among them. So magical!

Further on we stopped again in order to admire a stunningly huge granddaddy tree.

Jozzie looking for wild mushrooms.

We paused at a rest stop around dinner time and had the most wonderful picnic ever! We had picked up some gluten free crackers, hummus and mixed greens at a grocery store which we enjoyed along with my hand picked avocados, sprouts, flax crackers, veggie sticks and some left over calzone and marinara sauce. Oh and let's not forget some of the yummy desserts from Living Light!

A Wave of Gratitude
As I mentioned earlier, for practical purposes we had to leave Puss behind at Jozzie’s. When we came back Puss started miaowing loudly from behind the closed door when she heard us lugging in the stuff from the car. The poor thing virtually didn’t leave our side for the next 12 hours, sleeping cuddled against me all night.

The next morning as I was lying in bed with Puss purring away sprawled on my chest , I was hit with a wave of gratitude... For having such wonderful gentle and loving furries in our lives hanging right in there with us on this trek across North America (I mean, that in itself is an awesome awesome feat!), for the fantastic trip to the coast we just had with Jozzie and Wayne, for the deeper sense of connection that that time together allowed us to experience, for the ancient towering old redwoods that we walked among, for the wonderful delicious food we were able to enjoy at Living Light… and that’s not even getting into all the amazing encounters and the stunning wild beauty that we have witnessed since the beginning of our US journey.

Blessings upon blessings upon blessings. I feel like my heart is just about ready to explode!!!

Ahhhhhhh Life! What a truly tremendous feeling it sometimes is to be alive!