Monica Dewart, CN, Certified Nutritionist

Raw Foods Chef

The garden diet consists of anything which comes from a seed: Roots, shoots, twigs, leaves, stems, seeds, sprouts, nuts, fruits, flowers, basically any form of (non-toxic) vegetation; the oils and juices of these may also be used in moderation. Eat them raw, and organically grown. In this state, the food is alive, rich with enzymes, recognizable and usable by the body. Eating raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, sprouts and juices is highly alkalizing to the cells, reversing the acidic toxicity which creates disease. Anything which cannot be thoroughly enjoyed in its raw and organic state, whether because the food is too tough to chew, or is toxic when not cooked, or is unpalatably bitter, is not meant to be eaten.

Preparation of natural foods can be as varied and creative as your little heart can take you, so enjoy! Try juicing, sprouting, and dehydrating as preparation methods, but many creative raw foods chefs combine techniques to produce incredible variety, flavor, and texture in their creations: Sprouting, then dehydrating, followed by re-hydrating in a liquid other than water - such as freshly squeezed orange juice, then blending with other ingredients, then low temperature fermenting - another technique! Well, you see what I mean. Following a garden diet isn't boring, in fact, it may even bring out the culinary artist in you!

Of course, nature does not juice fruits for us, nor does it blend soups, so certain food preparation techniques may have to be used in moderation. Remember to mix juiced and blended foods with the saliva in your mouth thoroughly, before swallowing. Some food preparation methods closely mimic nature, as when you dehydrate. Grapes become raisins, plums become prunes, and so on. The idea is to have fun, experiment, try new things, but stick as close to nature as you can. You'll come out way ahead of those still eating a fast-food/convenience food diet.

Simple is good when it comes to food preparation, and thinking of certain foods as interchangeable helps, as well. For example, if almonds are listed in a recipe, consider trying another nut instead, or a combination of nuts. Fruits are interchangeable as well, and so are spices. Only your imagination and creativity limit you; open your mind to infinite possibilities. Limiting recipes to just a few ingredients assists digestion and assimilation of what you do eat. It's also easier on the chef! Just exercise variety at the next meal, and avoid repeating the meal you just ate, to prevent nutrient deficiency. My strongest word of advice, though, is not to get stuck in any kind of a rut. You need variety to prevent nutritional deficiency.

Tools for the raw foods chef include a juicer, blender, dehydrator, and some method of sprouting, (I like wide mouth canning jars, with the ring portion of the lid securing a cheesecloth square.) You will also need a good set of chef's knives, and a cutting board. If you enjoy using a food processor, it will cut the workload for the chef, but is not absolutely necessary. Stocking the pantry and refrigerator are simpler yet, as just about any item found in the produce section of an organic market qualifies: fruits, vegetables, herbs, roots, shoots, you get the point. Check out the bulk section for sprout-able seeds, tiny beans or grains, and raw nuts. Now you're all set, but what to do with it all?!

Try a simple juice first, such as carrot and apple, half and half, or celery/apple. The hardest part about this is learning how to set up your juicer! Once you feel comfortable with that, add a few more items. A personal favorite is the juice of a few carrots, with a beet, a small handful of parsley, and an apple for sweetness. I drink this diluted in half with water, then in half again with ice, and sip very, very slowly, mixing with saliva in my mouth. Extraordinarily refreshing!

Blending should be quite simple, as well. Try a simple nut milk first, by soaking any nut desired overnight, then adding to the blender bowl. A simple rule of thumb is 1 cup of nuts makes 1 quart of nut milk. So use a quart size canning jar, add 1 cup of nuts, fill, and set in the fridge overnight. The next morning, pour all the contents into the blender and process to desired consistency. Add soaked dates for a sweet treat, or any fruit desired to make a nut milk smoothie. Again, the sky is the limit, here.

Salad making is familiar technique which becomes best friend in the Garden diet. The variety of greens, herbs, roots, sprouts, and so forth available now is astounding. Every day, try something new! The only rule is to have fun! Next, try your hand at sprouting. Tiny seeds, beans, and grains work well for this. Using a wide-mouth canning jar, add just enough seeds to cover the bottom of the jar about 1/4 of an inch. Fill the jar with water, cover with the lid, and set aside overnight. In the morning, remove the lid, replace the cover with a small cheesecloth square, reapply the ring portion of the lid, and drain your seeds. Twice daily rinse your seeds with running water through the cheesecloth. In just a few days, you'll have delicious, nutrient packed sprouts to add to your favorite salads.

Now that you've learned a few basics, try combining methods. First, soak one cup each almonds and walnuts for several hours, or overnight. The next day, drain your nuts and set up your juicer, but using the homogenizer "blank," or just use your blender. Combine the nuts with 1 cup Portobelo mushroom cap, gills removed, 1 carrot (grate it first if you're planning on using the blender,) 1/2 onion, 3 peeled oranges, and any spices you like. You may use fresh spices, like parsley, basil, thyme, or dill, or you may use spices from your cabinet like curry powder, cumin, paprika, etc. Once you have this ready to go, "feed" it into the juicer or blender until thoroughly mashed and mixed. Now, you can simply eat this as is, or you can go on to the dehydrator. Line the trays with the teflex sheets which should have come with it, and spoon mounds of the mixture onto the trays. Flatten a bit, into a patty shape, and allow to dehydrate until the texture is firm, but still pliable, not crisp. You now have a very tasty patty to embellish as you wish. Dehydrator crackers, cookies, crisps, etc. can be made in the same fashion.

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