This has been a wonderful journey. Six years ago I started out looking for some vegetarian ideas to add some more plant based food to our diets. I took a five day intensive vegan culinary arts course with Chef Al Chase and started eating more and more vegan. It opened the door to endless choices. Now we're just about 100% vegan which includes a lot of raw food. I'm learning more and more about it all the time. I am amazed how quickly our lives and our kitchen have transformed. We grow lots of our own food now and what we don't grow, we buy from a local organic farm or the farmer's market. Having that all available makes it very convenient to eat raw. Heck, my favorite meal is in the garden: an ear of corn, a handful of green beans or peas, a couple tomatoes, and maybe a few chile peppers.
It may seem like more work at first just because change is work. But, I find that eating this way is no more work than the way we ate when we were omnivores. Here's three tips that make it easy for me to stay on track.
#1 Have the Good Stuff Available.
We have a very large wicker star on our kitchen table which we keep filled with fruit. It's always in front of us and very appealing when looking for something sweet. I fill the blender each morning with at least four or five servings of fruit and a handful of greens. When the big star is getting low, that means it's time to go shopping. About twice a week I make a huge salad with the seasonal vegetables. I use at least ten different vegetables to ensure we are getting a good variety of nutrients. It's also the first thing we see when we open the refrigerator. It's handy for making our lunches in the morning, and an easy dinner. I've been known to grab a couple handfuls and throw it in our smoothie each morning.
This one is made with: spinach, chard, collards, kale, golden beets, red bell pepper, carrots, jerusalem artichokes, cucumber, avocado, lemon juice, and raw sunflower seeds.
#2 Don't Put that Dehydrator Away
My cooking tools have changed. I use my Blendtec every day. I have two food processors, one regular size, and a very small one I picked up at a second hand store that I use for nuts, garlic, shallots, onions, and many veggies that I am using in small quantities. I have a coffee grinder just for herbs, and two dehydrators. One is the old round kind without a fan. I use it for the herbs I pick from the garden. The other is a nine tray Excalibur. It's on almost 24/7. I have an old cooks table that has two nice drawers, one for the Teflex sheets and one for the dehydrator grids. It's ready all the time and usually working.
When I trimmed the garlic scapes this summer, I immediately chopped them and dried them. I can throw them in raw soups either in pieces or grind in the coffee grinder. A large zucchini is no problem. I just slice up what I'm not using and put it on a tray. Of the many things I've dried this summer, were about 30 pounds of fresh organic tomatoes. We all know how much dried tomatoes can cost. In my cupboards I have handy: dried nuts of all kinds, cherries, strawberries, peaches, pineapple, eggplant, mushrooms, and even some watermelon. The watermelon is like candy. I make eggplant bacon and dried some beets that I can grind and put in our smoothies. I make flax crackers once a week and always do a batch of raw cookies on the weekend.
A friend of mine told me the other day she had a 25 pound watermelon and didn't know what to do with it. I told her to dry it and she said she had just put her dehydrator away after doing peaches. Don't do that! You won't use your tools if you have to lug them in and out of hiding. I told her about the sweet dried watermelon and she's getting it back out now.
I do most of my food preparation on the weekend. We both work full time during the week and it makes it very convenient to have some prepared goodies during the week. So, raw foods really frees up my time even though to some it may seem like a lot of work. On Thursday I start thinking about what fun I want to have in the kitchen this weekend and start perusing the raw foods recipes. I know I'll use some grains, nuts, seeds, dried vegetables and fruit. I know that most of the ingredients I use require some soak time. Many of them take two, sometimes three days to cook in the dehydrator. My favorite raw trail-mix cookies take a full 48 hours to completely dry. On Friday morning even if I don't know what I'm preparing I set some different nuts and seeds to soak. I make sure I soak enough for a batch of flax crackers of some kind and enough to make something sweet like a raw pie or cookies. When I'm ready to cook, I have what I need.
My cooking tools have changed. That nice flat stove top is now a soaking table.