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!

Friday, March 12, 2010

SRK Tour Adventures: California Part I

Why does it feel like forever since I last talked to you guys? So many more amazing blessings have been coming our way in the last 9 days that I'm losing track of time.

OK, better get the ball rolling then...

On The Road Again
It seemed strange to get back on the road after being stationary for 3 weeks. (You can read all about our Arizona adventures here, here and here!) Although we felt so welcome and at home with Linda and Roger, there were more adventures awaiting us. And so we said 'goodbye' to our dear friends in Phoenix and headed toward California, where we had arranged to meet with one of our longest internet connections, Jozzie, in Los Angeles.

My original idea had been to camp in Joshua Tree National Park but since we ended up staying in Phoenix a couple of extra days in order to give a last minute class, we were too crunched for time. After driving a while on Interstate 10 we decided to get off in order to take the scenic route that goes along the northern side of the park. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day and once again were treated to gorgeous landscapes, with the rocky mountains of Joshua Tree National Park on one side and the sands of the Mohave Desert on the other.

After passing what looked like abandoned dwellings of an Indian reservation just outside Twentynine Palms, we continued on our way and finally arrived in Yucca Valley where we spent the night in a motel. I must confess that the reason I was drawn to the area is that I used to be a HUGE fan of U2 as a teenager. One of their albums back in the late 80s was actually called The Joshua Tree. In fact, I even went to the concert they gave in Montreal in 1986 and had bought tons of Joshua Tree paraphernalia. Anyhoo, although we didn't have enough time to explore the park itself I at least got to see a real Joshua tree! Yay! They look like a sort of cross between a cactus and a tree. Really neat!

LA Here We Come
The next morning we left early so as to make sure that we weren't gonna be arriving in LA anywhere near rush hour. I almost had to pinch myself that this was really happening, as the idea of us going into the largest city in the US seemed so surreal! I mean, we normally try to stay waaaaaaaay clear of densely populated areas as we no likey at all but, strangely, it felt like we had to go. Let me tell you a little about how LA came to be on our itinerary.

When the possibility of traveling to the States came to us last summer, the very first person to invite us to her home was Sarah who lived in the LA area. We quickly developed a friendship and kept in touch over the months. Although we were all looking forward to our spending time together, after much juggling and trying hard to make it work we had to recognize that it was simply not in the flow. In fact, this was the worst possible time for us to visit for various reasons, including the fact that she and her hubby were only a few days away from moving to a new house. There had also been talk of us doing a class in the area but that too was not meant to happen as we had not one but two venues fall through. "Alright, alright, we're getting the message!" we thought.

It took a while however for all of this to unfold and in the meantime our friend Jozzie, who lives in Oregon, started toying with the idea of flying into LA so that we could go and eat at Au Lac together. What started out as a joke slowly began to really come together. I know it sounds crazy but you could say that Jozzie's approach to Life is very much along the lines of Carpe Diem - "making the most of current opportunities because life is short and time is fleeting." She figured that if she wasn't gonna go to Au Lac then it was unlikely that another chance would ever pop up. After feeling it out, since there was already a momentum happening with Jozzie, we decided to go into the city, hook up with her and then leave the next day.

On the way to LA we encountered the first grass and trees we'd seen in a while, having spent the last couple of months in the desert. If you can believe it we started to notice the smog a good 90 miles out! It came to the point where we could hardly see the surrounding mountains at all! We could also smell the pollution sneaking in through the air vents. Yikes! All I can say is that we were mighty glad that we'd just be going in and out! The driving in the city went really smooth and the only major traffic we hit was in the last few miles before reaching the hotel. No biggie.

Meeting at Last
Jozzie and I go way back to Raw Food Talk. We actually first bumped into each other right around the same time as I met Heathy. When we launched our own forum, Raw Freedom Community, after some initial hesitation because she doesn't like to write (she told me her brain goes too fast for her fingers to keep up! lol), Jozzie took the leap and joined our fammunity. Two and a half years later she is the forum's top poster with close to 6500 posts under her belt! Eeek! That's even more than me! (And methought she didn't like writing! lol) Needless to say that we were excited to finally 'meet in the flesh' after all this time!

That first hug brought up some watery eyes. Jozzie was just as we expected: full of life, her mind going a hundred miles an hour (I nicknamed her 'mumble jumble dodo bird' on RFC! hehe) and with a great big and intrinsically good heart. We had lots of time on our hands before the much awaited dinner at Au Lac so we hung out in the yard and soaked up some of that lovely California sunshine.

We had brought a durian with us and were all prepared to initiate Jozzie. She was so excited at the prospect of what she has nicknamed 'her appointment with durian' that she even started a thread on the forum about it. As she expressed to us, she would have most likely never taken the plunge by herself.

I was watching her very very closely as she took her first bite.

And guess what? She's now totally hooked! (You can read all about her experience here.) She has asked us to bring a couple when we visit her in Oregon and has been toying with all sorts of recipe possibilities to make with it: pie, cake, pudding... Oh-oh, what have we done!?! lol

Feasting at Au Lac
But no worries, we still had plenty of appetite left when we later showed up at Au Lac in Fountain Valley. We were one of the first to arrive, anxiously awaiting for the doors to open at precisely 5:33. I was a bit stressed out at the prospect of having to drive through LA but things really couldn't have gone better. The hotel was a short and pretty straight forward 15 minute drive from the restaurant. Yay!

Until Jozzie brought it up I had only vaguely heard about Au Lac but I quickly discovered that it is considered one of the best raw eats in LA. It's located in a quiet area and offers a wide selection of both raw and cooked vegan dishes. While we were there I kept noticing an Asian man with a quiet presence come out of the kitchen in order to greet and hug some of the customers. We were told that it was Chef Ito, the owner and head chef of Au Lac. He is in the middle of a 6 year vow of silence which is in and of itself quite an accomplishment, especially in his case. Makes you wonder how he manages to instruct his employees and run this very successful business. He must find a way to communicate as the place seemed to operate seamlessly. We could feel how his demeanor was affecting the entire place; from the attentive and polite servers to the simple yet unique dishes and cutlery.

But 'nuff said! Time to show you all the yummies we enjoyed!

When I had hopped over to their site to check out the menu I couldn't help but be intrigued by a photo of Garlic Bread that looked uncannily like the real thing. We of course ordered some as we just HAD to see (and taste!) it for ourselves.

We were all duly impressed (especially Don as he loves loves bread!) and soon got busy racking our brains, trying to figure out how in the world they can manage to create a raw bread that is hard on the outside yet springy on the inside. I mean, the texture was incredible! It was ultra smooth and even had what looked like air bubbles in it! The bread was even served warm as though it had come straight out of the oven! When we asked the server about what's in it, all he volunteered was that it contains flax seeds. Hum, that's not saying much. After some pondering it came to me that perhaps they sprout grains which they then fully dehydrate and grind into a fine flour. That would explain the smoothness but not the springiness. Any suggestions?

The flavor itself seemed rather bland but it came with a delicious Chimichurri Dip that took care of that. I learned that the latter was borrowed from Argentinian cuisine. Jozzie - ever the internet hound - found a recipe for Chimichurri which I slightly modified so that it would more closely resemble the one we enjoyed at Au Lac. Yummo!

Chimichurri Dipping Sauce
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients by hand until well incorporated.

Store refrigerated for up to one week.

The menu has a whole section on 'Living Rice'. It offers a number of dishes made with sprouted wild rice which they refer to as 'aquatic grass'. I have personally never had success with wild rice before so I was glad to have a chance to try some culinary creations using it.

Green Pyramid
Basil pesto, aquatic grass, bell pepper, dulse, flax chip, basil tree

Wow, what an explosion of flavors that dish was! The cracker was super crunchy... almost like a real cracker!

We also ordered one of their signature dishes, Curried Rice. It was actually served at Matt and Angela's wedding and the resulting ebook contains the recipe. Unfortunately the lighting was really bad in the restaurant and I had to use the flash so that you can get a better sense of what it contains. You can't really tell from the pics but the mixture was formed into a heart shape. Cute.

Curried Rice
Broccoli, avocado, cauliflower, corn, peas, “fried onion,” olive, mushroom

This was also excellent. It was served on a generous bed of zucchini pasta and avocado pieces. Mmmmm

Another one of their popular dishes...

Fryed Chicks
"Deep fried" cauliflower, ginger, onion, sauce,"steam rice"

Wow, that was totally different from anything I've ever tried; pieces of cauliflower coated in a flax and spice mixture dehydrated so thoroughly that there was hardly any cauli left. It was served on top of a fluffy jicama rice tossed with oil, green and white onion.

Full or not, we still had to have a little dessert! Their menu is probably one of the most non-descriptive and enigmatic ones we've come across. Even after carefully reading it we still had no idea what most of the dishes were! lol This next one is a good example of what I'm talking about.

Choconut X-tasy
Pecans, cacao powder

The presentation was really cool, especially considering that the piece was already sliced into several segments yet the thing still held proud and tall!

Rainbow in the Sky
Blueberries, spirulina, jackfruit, raspberries, dates, pecans

Another visually appealing dish. The texture reminded me a lot of marzipan.

We've had the chance to eat at a few different raw restaurants - particularly since the beginning of our US journey - and we've discovered that each one seems to have its strenghs and weaknesses. Here's our take on Au Lac...

Although the savory dishes we tried were really super tasty and well developed in terms of flavors, they were also very rich and oily. Don't think I could handle eating there too often. To me the servings would have been more balanced if they included a small side of something fresh. (I could just feel my body screaming for greens!)

The overall presentation was nothing extraordinary - I guess I've become a little bias in that regard after eating at Matthew Kenney's Cafe 118. On the other hand the servings were so generous that we even had to ask for doggie bags!

I must say that I didn't swoon over their desserts, but then again I'm not easy to impress, what with all of the sweet creations I've enjoyed from Heathy's handiwork and Sweet Gratitude.

We were told that their Donut Holes were a must try. Since we couldn't fit any more food into our satiated bellies we ordered some to go. We had them for breakfast the next day. After having been thrown around in the plastic take out container they didn't make for very nice pics, so I borrowed a much more flattering one on this site.

The famous Donut Holes
Spirulina, Coconut and Macadamia Blend

Whoa, these were really good! A super silky ball with a soft syrupy center rolled in fine dried coconut.

Waiting for Au Lac to open for lunch the next day.

We still felt full from the night before so decided to stay on the lighter side of things (or at least try to!)

Au Lac Raw Soup
Nori, tomatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, bean sprouts, lime juice, celery leaf, dill, cilantro, red bell peppers, pine nuts, macadamia, avocado soaked in miso saffron broth

This was really delicious and had an incredibly subtle flavor, probably due to the saffron. Whole macadamias and big chunks of avocado floating in the broth made for a special treat.

Pasta di Amore
Kelp noodle, “fried onions”, basil, “parmesan”, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic bread

This was also very good. I'm not a big fan of onions but I loved the dehydrated 'fried onions'; something I'll definitely have to play with at some point.

Jozzie ordered a small serving of Asado Detira: soft shitake mushroom ribs with Chimichurri sauce, aquatic grass & garlic bread.

We don't usually like shitake but really enjoyed this dish. Guess it depends on how fresh they are, eh?

Although it wasn't in the flow for us to visit with Sarah, she managed to join us at Au Lac for lunch. This was a very pleasant surprise! She's such a sweetie! She even brought us flax crackers that she had made for us to munch on the road. Jozzie and Sarah hit it off right away, discovering that they shared a common admiration for Andreas Moritz. We were sad not to be able to connect more but we could also feel that our paths will cross again at some point when the timing will be more conducive.

Let's Blow This Joint!
After a very short but intense get together it was already time to part with Jozzie. We were comforted by the thought that we would soon be reunited as we were planning to visit her in Oregon in less 3 weeks.

On the way out of LA we were stuck in traffic for a bit but nothing major. Boy, was I ever glad though when we saw the first signs of wilderness on the other side of the city! I was so relieved that it was finally behind us as the thought of going to Los Angeles had been hovering in the back of my head for months. In hindsight it wasn't nearly as bad as we expected and couldn't have gone more smoothly.

Next Stop: Santa Barbara
On the day that we left Phoenix we received an email from a woman called Diane in Santa Barbara expressing that she'd like for us to connect. Everything came together so smoothly, particularly after experiencing all the blocks surrounding our LA stop. It was such a lesson in how things flow effortlessly when they're meant to happen!

Diane lives in a really teeny studio so her first thought was that she couldn't possibly accommodate us, but then it occurred to her that we could stay at her place while she slept at a friend's. How thoughtful! We immediately connected in a profound and inexplicable way. Diane has such a generous and gentle soul. She had prepared Cafe Gratidude's Pad Thai for us, which she had decorated with freshly picked edible flowers. It was absolutely fantastic!

Dessert was Lemon Coconut Bars.

Believe it or not, in record time (and that's a gross understatement!!!) Diane managed to bring a group of friends together for a class on Saturday. (Yep, that's like the very next day after we got there! lol) We went shopping at the farmer's market in the morning in order to pick up the ingredients that we needed. Santa Barbara has one of the largest and most awesome markets we've been to. Unlike in Canada where there's a handful of booths with fresh veggies and the rest is all kinds of artisan stuff - from soap to jewelry to hemp clothes and everything in between, the SB market was virtually all veggies. Yay! We picked up some wonderful fresh organic greens and herbs, a bag of the original navel oranges (heavenly!), and some fresh barhi dates grown in Indio that just melt in your mouth! Sooooooo good!

In spite of it being on really short notice I gave a custom made class at Diane's friend Aliki's home. (Don't ask me how I did it! lol) On the menu was Sweet Pea Soup, Jozzie's Fajitas and Sour Cream, my Spinach & Cream Pasta Casserole, Pizza and my Fruit & Nut Choccie. I had such a blast! The class went just as smoothly as the rest of our Santa Barbara stop.

Since it was such a small group it came to me that it would be fun to eat all together at the end, instead of passing along the food samples during the class as we normally do.

Diane had whipped up a batch of my Chia House Dressing which she served with salad; the perfect complement to the entrees I had demoed earlier.

Birthday on the Beach
Sunday was Aliki's birthday (talk about good timing, eh?) Since it was gorgeous and sunny we arranged to meet up at Ellwood Beach for a nice walk with the doggies. (Aliki has two of her own.) A short trail led to the bluffs. It was so lovely and lush!

We had to wait for a few minutes for Aliki and her furry crew to join us. It gave us a chance to take some more pichies.

On the way down to the beach...

With the Birthday Girl and one of her poochs.

As we were walking we saw Kylo ahead looking like he was stalking something. That's when we noticed a huge black creature in the distance. Kylo must have thought it was a bear at first but then realized it was just an oversized doggie after all (a Newfoundland).

See how tiny Kyky looks in comparison. And we thought he was a big guy! lol

There were beautiful red and pink wild flowers.

Come on guys, hurry up!

On the way back we went to Ellwood Monarch Butterfly Preserve; a Eucalyptus grove where thousands upon thousands of monarch butterflies return to mate between November and February. Unfortunately we had just missed the event but you can take a peek at what it would have looked like here.

It was still a beautiful and magical place. Even though I played the didgeridoo for years - a sacred Australian aboriginal instrument which consists of a branch of eucalyptus naturally hollowed by termites - I had never seen an actual eucalyptus tree before.

The merry gang!

One last shot before reaching the parking lot.

We then gathered at Aliki's for a birthday feast; Kelp Noodles in Cheddar Sauce, left over Pad Thai and salad.

Although Diane and I would have loved to make a special Cafe Gratitude dessert for Aliki, the latter told us she'd much rather we go to the beach together. (She knew we'd probably have to forego the walk if we were playing in the kitchen.) Still, we just HAD to come up with some kind of sweet treat for the birthday girl! I decided to take a risk and made the yummy durian pudding we discovered in Texas. Amazingly everyone loved it except for Aliki's daughter who seemed to think it was a bit too suspicious tasting. ;-)

Making a wish...

The Citrus Caper

The next morning we woke up with a mission in mind. After seeing heaps of unpicked citrus trees around we were determined to go on a caper. Diane actually sent me a really cute definition of 'Citrus Liberation': "the conscientious act of freeing fruits from meaningless lives of slow rotting, allowing them to achieve their full potential to nurture, and to give pleasure to others." ;-)

Well it certainly gave us lots of pleasure! See my face glowing with glee!

Meeting Over Salad

But the surprises weren't over just yet! While we were staying at Diane's, Heather, one of the organizers of a local raw meet up, sent me an email saying she'd like to throw together a last minute potluck so that we could meet members of her group. In spite of our giving her a single possible slot - the following evening - it magically came together. She had the brilliant idea to make it a salad potluck since people wouldn't have much time to prep food for it.

You should have seen the spread; great big bowls of lettuce with various dressings and toppings galore. So yummy and oh-so-fresh!

We had taken along a jar of kimchi that Diane had made and that was conveniently ready earlier that day. She found the recipe on The Giant Cabbage here where there are several other kimchi recipes.

Kim Chee
By Cheri Stihler
Posted here

Yields 1 quart

1 lb Chinese (celery or Nappa) cabbage
1 large carrot
1/4 LB white Oriental (Daikon) radishes
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2 Tbs honey
3 Tbs cider vinegar
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic
2 to 4 hot red peppers, dried, 2 inches long, split

1. Slice the cabbage lengthwise into quarters. Remove the tough core and then slice the quarters into 1 to 2 inch-long pieces.

2. Slice the carrot and radishes lengthwise and then into 2 inch-long sections. Slice the sections into very thin strips.

3. Toss cabbage, carrot and radishes with the scallions, soy sauce and water. Cover loosely and let stand overnight.

4.Drain liquid from the vegetables into a bowl. Add honey and vinegar to the liquid and stir well until honey is dissolved.

5. Add ginger, garlic and peppers to the vegetables and pack them into sterilized jars. Pour liquid into the jars. If more liquid is needed to cover vegetables, add water.

6. Cover loosely with a lid and let sit at room temperature for 3 to 5 days to ferment. The liquid will bubble and the flavor will become sour.

7. Refrigerate the Kim Chee for 3 to 4 days. The cabbage will become translucent and will then be ready to serve.

Diane's Note: I used way more veggies than called for (hence the need for more salt) and substituted the crushed red pepper of recipe #2 for the whole peppers which I did not have.

But we weren't the only special guests that evening! Two friends of Heather also joined us in order to share a little about their own raw journeys. Frecia and Wonder had just finished a three week detox in Santa Monica with Dan MacDonald that very day. They met at Living Light Institute last summer and felt that doing this detox was the next step on their health path. They were both so vibrant!

After everyone else left we had a chance to connect more deeply with them. Frecia and I were like long time friends finally meeting again. While we were busy 'catching up', Don and Wonder got aquainted. We all experienced such an intense connection that we were thrown into a time warp. In fact poor Heather had to remind us that it was getting very late. Our coming together was so perfect! We learned that, like us, they try to make very few plans and do their best to respond to Life's flow, which explains how our timing was so impeccable. ;-)

Wonder & Frecia

We were leaving the next morning to continue making our way north. Such beautiful connections and so little time, but again it felt like we were going to be meeting again at some point in the future. I can't remember whether I've already shared this with you but shortly before the beginning of our US travels I had an insight that it wasn't really going to be about food. While the raw diet would serve as the vehicle for this trip the true underlying purpose would be to connect with other members of our fammunity. (What can I say? I just love the term. ;-) )

Hanging out one last time with Diane.

Wow, what a condensed and event-full few days we had in Santa Barbara! It certainly confirmed our feeling that the last leg of our US journey was to be an intense and amazing one!

Coming up next, the gorgeous Pacific coast and a private tour of Cafe Gratitude's Central Kitchen in San Francisco! (Like I said, 'blessings by the bucketful'! ;-) )


  1. Yes! I LOVE Au Lac! I spent the summer getting my grandmother acquainted with raw food, so we ate there a handful of times. Their salads are extra fantastic, too. :) About 10 minutes away is another restaurant called 118 degrees (http://www.shop118degrees.com/), which is also tasty but can be a bit oily.

  2. I love getting these travelogues about the fammunity!! Hope to meet all of you someday soon...

    Faith in Minneapolis MN

  3. Phew! Lots happening! Great post with fantastic pictures. I hear so much about Au Lac that I can't wait to try it sometime. And Chef Ito is impressive! A vow of silence (and 6 years no less) while running a restaurant is incredible.

  4. I really enjoyed your post. The dishes from Au Lac look amazing. Thank you for the kimchee links! Travis and I have just gotten on a kimchee kick :)

  5. Eeeee girlie!!!! Amazing adventures! Amazing food! Amazing friends! I want to try those donut holes and bread!


  6. Eeeee girlie!!!! Amazing adventures! Amazing food! Amazing friends! I want to try those donut holes and bread!


  7. Wow, that all does look fabulous. The bread is impressive! I love how the food at the Raw Pot Luck looks so vibrant and healthy and you can tell prepared with love. You DON'T have to spend a lot of money at fancy places to eat great! It IS all about the famunity and just enjoying being together...good food is just the cherry on top:)

  8. I haven't eaten at AuLac but keep hearing about that bread. Omid just posted a "bread" recipe on gliving that uses what he called 'live active nutritional yeast'. I know of live active yeast, and of nutri yst, but both in the same product? I would email him about that ... it could be the secret to this kind of thing.

  9. Hi! I've been following this blog for a while now, and now that I finally have my own blog I thought I could comment!! :)

    I think you are beautiful, and an inspiration to anyone who is interested in health and cooking (or un-cooking hehe)! I am not a complete raw foodist, but I admire your dedication and I can definitely see the results! I also love all the recipes you've provided. They all look delicious and I've actually tried a few of them! YUM! is all I can say!

    Okay, just wanted to put my two cents in, and I hope you keep posting!! - Bee =)

  10. Um, you blog is what I have been dreaming of for months! I am sooo excited to follow it!! Esp the cheez recipes!!

  11. Carmi! Don! It was such a treat to visit with you and Roz at Au Lac - a short but sweet visit indeed:) Looking forward to connecting again hopefully soon!