Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Raw Food Finale...

Well, my 105 Degrees culinary course has come to an end. It's a bittersweet feeling because I finally get to be with my family for the holidays (Until my hubby gets back from his deployment on the 18th!), but I really miss everyone at 105 Degrees, my classmates (Elizabeth, Alyssa, and Brad), and all the experimenting with raw food that I've been able to do the last month...  

Here is Alyssa, Brad, and I at the end of our very loooong last day. Elizabeth had to take off a few days early before our final menu presentation, but she was very missed! 

For our final menu we were required to put together a 3 course menu that incorporated all the knowledge and techniques we acquired over the month as well as some personal touches of our own.  I wanted my menu to use local seasonal produce, draw from the spirit of the holiday season, and be chocked full of warming comfort food. It was as follows:

Thankfully... I PASSED, and everyone loved the raw stuffing! Here is the final product... Second Course, First Course, and Third Course (left to right).

I definitely struggled with plating my 1st and 2nd courses, and our instructor Ladan really helped me to pull it out at the last minute! She made the plates look AMAZING! 

This was some of the craziness before the FINAL HOUR... 

I've learned so much the past month and am still trying to digest everything! I have been making recipes for my family non-stop since I arrived for Thanksgiving.  Even my VERY carnivorous younger brothers have been impressed :)

If nothing else, my 105 Degrees experience has helped me more thoroughly understand the basics and nutrition of raw food and made me more comfortable taking on recipes in my own kitchen, but it has also encouraged me to start looking for ways to incorporate what I've learned into my career...  We'll see... 

Tomorrow I'll post all of the recipes I developed for my final! I think they went over fairly well... 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Final Week!

It is amazing to me how quickly the past month has gone. I feel like we just started class at 105 Degrees, but tomorrow we already have our written final and on Tuesday we present our final menus! So in an effort to begin studying, and stop procrastinating, I present you with a photo "montage" of the past week.

Shitake Pagoda...

Raw Chocolate Truffles! I rolled them in different toppings such as Maca, Mesquite Powder, Goji Berries, Cacao Nibs, Pistacios, and Cinnamon/Cayenne... This recipe is incredible and so basic. It's just cacao butter/coconut butter, raw cacao powder, and agave nectar... No artificial ingredients or refined sugar, just pure food!

My finished kombucha! I made grapefruit, blood orange, ginger pear, citrus ginger, and a citrus pear ginger combo... These taste AMAZING! I basically just juiced fresh, organic fruit and added it right to the kombucha - 1/4 juice to 3/4 kombucha. Can't wait to get two more batches started!

Mango Tres Leches Cake... This didn't turn out quite how I would have wished, but my partner Brad and I tried to cut down a bit on the coconut oil and agave to see what would happen. The cake was a bit on the dry side - surprise.

I'm so excited to present the final project on Tuesday! We were required to create a three-course menu - no limits - to be critiqued by our class and instructors. At first this felt incredibly daunting and overwhelming, but I quickly found my flow and came up with something that I feel both encompasses the season and tastes awesome.

I'll be working on the dehydrated elements of my menu tomorrow and then finish up the rest Tuesday afternoon so it will be all set for dinner Tuesday night... Pictures will, of course, follow!

Wish me luck!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Indian Winter

It has officially gotten very cold here in Oklahoma! And by cold I mean 45 degrees, but I'm freezing! I keep drinking tea by the gallons just to keep warm...

But enough about me. On to what is really important... food!

Friday we concluded our study of ethnic recipes with Indian food. We discussed composing an ayurvedic Indian meal which traditionally includes six different tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. It is believed that these tastes help to restore balance to the body, mind, spirit, senses and emotions.

We made another delicious 105 Degrees recipe: Green Curry Vegetable Dosa with Yellow Tomato Chutney and Cucumber Raita.

The dosa was made from flax meal, squash, coconut meat, and spices. It is spread thin and then dehydrated... This actually tasted almost exactly like a whole wheat wrap! We got to lunch on it with curried, dehydrated zucchini, carrots, red pepper, cauliflower, and snow peas. The whole thing was topped with a sweet and spicy tomato chutney and yogurt cucumber raita... Perfection!

Afterward we got to experiment with making our own raw ICE CREAM! I attempted a chai tea twist to compliment our Indian theme. The base of our ice cream included cashews, young coconut meat, coconut water, agave, vanilla, and salt. I subbed some water for brewed chai tea and then added a tsp of freshly ground spices (i.e. clove, cinnamon, cardamon, vanilla bean, black pepper, star anise). I also decreased the cashews and increased the coconut for a bit of a "lighter" ice cream. It turned our okay, but (obviously) it was not quite as creamy as the original.

We then had an ice cream partay and tested each of our recipes... This class has been really hard work so far :)

Some how I managed to roll home after class... Tomorrow we are finalizing our own 3 course menus for our final project! I'll be revealing mine soon. I'm so excited!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

La Vida Loca

The last couple of classes have focused on "rawification" of different types of ethnic foods. The first cuisine we visited was LATIN!

We embarked on preparing a raw version of tamales and a tostada. There was a ton of chopping, blending, and dehydrating that went into our finished products, but (as you can see) it was totally worth it!

Below are raw corn tamales garnished with a jicama mango salsa and mango guacamole served upon a raw mole sauce...

The salsa was possibly the best I've ever had! It is a combination of fresh mango, jicama, red onion, cilantro, thai chiles. and lime juice. It was crisp and refreshing, and I managed to consume almost the entire bowl with just a spoon... Who needs chips???

The guac was a pretty similar. It consisted of avocado, mango, red chili, lime juice and salt... As my hubby knows, I will eat avocado with just about anything so this was definitely another favorite recipe!

The tamales and mole were a bit more complex... And when I say complex I mean 17 ingredients, but they were also very yummy. Although, I would have to say that the tostada we made next was probably my favorite of the two latin dishes.

Here is my finished tostada! It is a compilation of yellow pepper cream, blue corn tortillas, marinated portabella mushrooms, avocado, heirloom tomatoes, sour cream, and cilantro...

We took pictures of our plated dishes and then sat down to an enormous lunch! Unfortunately, by this point, I had already eaten my weight in salsa and wasn't too hungry, but I had lots of delicious leftovers for dinner!

After lunch we settled in to prepare our finale for the day. While it was in no way related to our latin theme, I was nevertheless excited to undertake the challenge! Behold, the deliciousness that is RAW PUMPKIN PIE! (The recipe is in Matthew Kenney's Entertaining in the Raw)

These were incredibly easy to make and tasted unbelievable. They would be even better topped with a little raw whipped cream (i.e. soaked cashews, vanilla, and maple syrup or agave).

You better believe that I will be making this recipe again for the holidays. I think they give traditional pumpkin pie a run for their money.

Tomorrow... Indian!

Hope everyone had a wonderful and restful Sunday :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ferments and Probiotics

Monday our class concentrated primarily on good bacteria in the form of fermented foods and probiotics.

Some positives for introducing more ferments into the diet are:
  • they contain acidophilus
  • they promote good intestinal bacteria
  • they are high in enzymes
  • ferments such as kimchi and pickling help to make vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage more "bioavailable" (rate at which the nutrients are absorbed)
We started by making one of my absolute favorite beverages... Kombucha!

This is probably the part of the course that I was most excited about. As my husband can attest, I am a kombucha fanatic! Unfortunately, it is not the most fiscally responsible habit. With each bottle being around $3.50, the $$$ really start to add up. So now I can support my habit (and keep my bod filled with good bacteria) without breaking the bank.

Kombucha is incredibly easy to make! It is basically a fermented beverage made with caffeinated tea, some type of sugar, and a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast).

Contrary to popular belief, the SCOBY is not a mushroom or a fungus. It is a white rubbery pancake-like substance that feeds off of the sugar in the kombucha in order to emit its good bacteria into the drink.

The original SCOBY is actually considered the "mother" and during the fermentation process actually produces a "daughter" SCOBY on its back. Once the kombucha is fermented you can basically pull the "daughter" from the "mother" and use it to make another batch... These two SCOBYs will then produced two more "daughters" and so on and so forth. You could definitely get a little kombucha farm going on.

Okay... Now for the recipe!!!

KOMBUCHA (1 Gallon)
  • Brew Caffeinated Tea - Green or Black is preferred (use 1/4 cup of loose tea or 4 tea bags to about a quart of hot water - I chose a tropical green tea...)
  • Add 1 Cup of Sweeter to Tea ** this is important because the SCOBY cannot survive without sugar, but I am told you can play a little bit with the amount you used (I chose organic honey, but white sugar and agave may also be used.)
  • Fill the remainder of the gallon jar with filtered water
  • Add your SCOBY (be careful not to touch the SCOBY to any type of metal - take off your rings!)
  • Add a bit (1/4 - 1/2 cup) of kombucha from the mother brew in order to get your ferment going
  • Seal the jar up with a bit of cheese cloth and twine to allow it to breath
  • Let the jar ferment for 2 weeks in a warm area but away from direct sunlight
  • Add 1 part fruit juice of your choice to 3 part kombucha
After you bottle the kombucha, you may want to leave it at room temperature for a week or so to increase the carbonation.

And there you have it! Super easy...

Here is what mine looked like today. You can already see the good bacteria forming from the mother!

I will leave you with photos of our raw cheese plates... My plate contained a pumpkin seed cheese with raw candied walnuts, a macadamian nut cheese with fig compote, a cashew cheese with black pepper and olive, and a crumbled almond cheese drizzled with lavender honey.

After class we had a little wine and cheese tasting party... I'm getting pretty spoiled :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Creations of the Sea

The last couple of days of class have focused mainly on seaweed and the macrobiotic diet.

Some of the main nutritional points of seaweed include:
  • Japanese having used seaweed for centuries to treat obesity, diabetes, alzheimers, and degenerative diseases
  • Seaweed contains "lignan" which inhibits angiogenesis (i.e. blood cell growth) - this is what cancer feeds on
  • It is high in B vitamins, folic acid, and magnesium
  • Seaweed is beneficial for regulation of the thyroid due to it's richness in iodine
  • Seaweed also helps regulate metabolism, adrenal glands, and prevents heart disease
  • Finally, it contains "sodium alginate" which is a compound that binds toxic metals in the body and flushes them from the system
So, needless to say, I think we could all use a bit more seaweed in our diets!

In class we made two different types of seaweed salad. One with wakame and cucumbers and the other with kelp noodles. (Kelp noodles are an awesome way to get great nutrition in with a minimal amount of calories. ) Kelp noodles can be ordered online from a company called Sea Tangle... I haven't been able to find them any where else.

Here is a preview of the Sesame Kelp Noodles. It is a favorite at 105 Degrees! The sauce is made with almond butter, cashews, thai chiles, nama shoyu (raw soy sauce), lime juice, ginger, agave, and tahini. It is a very rich and creamy dish with just a hint of spice... This is definitely something to make for someone who is just being introduced to raw food!

The second dish we made was a Wakame Cucumber Salad. It is made with cucumbers, wakame, cilantro, and blood oranges. The sweetness of the oranges contrasts nicely with the saltiness of the seaweed. This was definitely my favorite dish of the day! I thought I did a pretty nice job plating it as well...

Today we focused more on creating a raw sushi. It was ...

First we made our "rice". The "rice" was a combination of jicama, pine nuts, brown rice vinegar, and a little agave. The saltiness of the vinegar contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the jicama and agave... It was really yummy!

Here is my rice before being popped into the dehydrator:

The rice is then dehydrated for a few hours to give it a better (more crumbly) consistency, and then it is ready for the rolls.

We started by getting our mis en place (literally meaning "everything in place"). Here is mine:

Then we got to rolling! Mine contained the jicama rice, red and yellow pepper, cucumber, scallions, sprouts, black sesame seeds, and avocado. They were unbelievable! We pretty much just put our food together and then sat down and inhaled it all.

Here is a picture of my traditional roll...

And my Caterpillar Roll... This was my favorite!

We also made our own pickled ginger! It was a "quick pickle". I basically sliced the ginger very thin on a mandoline and then put it into a mixture of apple cider vinegar and agave (2 parts to 1) for a few hours. I dyed it with a little bit of beet juice to give it the familiar pink tint that people are used to seeing on their sushi plates. I think the ginger was far superior (and obviously fresher) than what they serve in the sushi restaurants!

There was so much more that happened today, but I'm going to have to regurgitate it slowly otherwise I'll be typing all night... I'm off to get a little workout in and then to dinner with a friend!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My First Week at 105 Degrees!

This past week has been chalked full of "firsts", excitement, and extensive learning. For those who aren't aware, I am currently undergoing a month-long raw food course at famed raw author and restauranteur Matthew Kenney's 105 Degrees Academy. I've been so fortunate to be given the opportunity to immerse myself in learning/experiencing a variety of new raw recipes, techniques, and overall nutritional value of this lifestyle. I'm hoping this blog will be a good avenue to not only journal these experiences for myself, but also for those who are interested in the raw lifestyle!

I'm already a week behind, but hopefully I can remember half of what we have learned so far...

Almost every time I mention that I am attending a "raw food culinary class", I am asked what raw food is. Most people identify the phrase "raw" first with "sushi"... The raw food diet is one that is based primarily on raw vegetables, fruit, and sprouted nuts and grains. Nothing is heated over the optimal temperature of 105-108 degrees in order to preserve the naturally occurring enzymes contained in the food. This then allows our bodies/intestines to more readily absorb the nutrients from these foods since our livers no longer need to work over-time to provided the bile and enzymes necessary to break them down.

The primary presupposition that I have encountered when discussing raw food with people is that it is "boring"... What can you really do with raw fruits and vegetables? Well, here is a bit of "food porn" to whet your appetite (these photos were kindly forwarded to me by one of the other students in class...)

Above is a raw zuchinni hummus with eggplant "chips", raw walnut toast crostini and aged cashew cheese w/ an arugula fig salad, and a raw spicy sushi roll...
All of which are absolutely incredible and dripping with flavor!

Above we have a Sicilian Pistachio Nougatine, Orange Marmalade, Dark Chocolate as well as the Cinnamon Trio: containing the Chocolate Covered Cinnamon Creamsicle, Spiced Brigadeiro, Panna Cotta with Green Fig Compote!

This is the raw sushi roll again as well as the raw lasagna (my grandmother's favorite entree at the restaurant!).

Today we learned how to prepare our own Kombucha! I'm so excited to begin making it for myself instead of spending 3-4 dollars/bottle at the health food store. I will definitely go in to more detail on that tomorrow. It's so much easier than I thought and totally worth doing it yourself!

Other things we covered this past week have been using spices and herbs not only to flavor but for their healing properties, seaweed (recipes and nutritional value), knife skills, fermentation (raw cheeses and yogurts and kombucha), raw shortbread cookies, and beautiful salads, dressings, and marinated/dehydrated veggies! I'm sure there's more, but I'd need to go back over my notes.

I'm hoping to start reflecting more on a day-by-day basis... I'll post more photographs and recipes tomorrow!