I recently attended a raw food cooking class. A raw food diet is just what it says – food that is eaten raw or heated to no more than 115 degrees. According to raw food experts, the advantages are that raw food contains beneficial live enzymes that make it more digestible and that it has a higher vitamin and nutrient content. Heating or cooking chemically alters food causing it to lose its ability to provide energy. Cooking also destroys certain vitamins. A raw food diet can cleanse and heal. The raw food diet as a health treatment was first developed in Switzerland in 1897 by Dr. Maximillian Bircher-Benner, the inventor of muesli, after he recovered from jaundice by eating raw apples. His health center is still in operation today.
In summer when fruits and vegetables are abundant, preparing seasonal, local, raw food is easy. A strict raw food diet year round however, is more involved and does not include any processed foods. To make crackers, breads and other “baked” goods can be time consuming and requires advance planning. Blenders, food processors, juicers and dehydrators are all needed equipment. Sprouting and soaking are necessary to eat grains, legumes and nuts. Nuts are a large part of the raw food diet and are used to make cheeses, crackers, breads and soups.
What appealed to me about the class was its emphasis on creating warming uncooked meals. We learned simple tips like bringing all food to room temperature for a couple of hours before preparation and using lots of warming spices like cumin, curry and nutmeg. Our meal started with a delicious raw butternut and green apple soup, followed by zucchini chive canapés, a zucchini slice smeared with chive cream cheese made from cashews – even better than “real” cream cheese! For dinner we made a Brussels sprout and pumpkin seed slaw, a wild rice and chickpea salad, kale and shallot pizzettes with 3 kinds of cheese (again, cashew based; the crust was made from flax seeds and vegetables “baked” in a dehydrator) and a fresh fig and lemon tart for dessert. The dinner was fabulous and you never would have known it was uncooked!
I could never be an extreme “raw foodie”, but I do love experimenting with new and healthy cuisine. I read somewhere to make 50% of your diet raw, so challenge yourself and give it a try. Below is a simple recipe for Cashew Parmesan cheese that rivals the real thing! Email me for more recipes…
½ cup dry cashews
1 clove garlic (chopped)
¼ teaspoon sea salt (coarse)
Grind cashews and sea salt in food processor (with ‘s’ blade) until fine, almost powdery. Add garlic and pulse food processor until texture resembles Parmesan. Use on everything!