Raw Lasagna

Monday we discussed how we could take the premise of “raw food” and apply it to an existing framework such as ethnically-based food, specifically Italian food. We talked about some of the key flavors in Italian food and how we could use raw methods to create those flavors. As it turns out, you can use raw food to make just about anything.

Below: Zucchini noodles being softened for a raw lasagna recipe. The recipes for all of our classes are provided to the Natural Epicurean students in advance so we can review them.

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Below: All of the ingredients for the raw lasagna. Creating the lasagna was a simple process of layering the noodles, marinara, mushrooms, cream sauce, etc. All vegan, all delicious.

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Below: Chef Alicia rolls a raw manicotti with a zucchini noodle and raw nut-based “ricotta.”

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Below: A raw pizza using a dehydrated crust, nut-based cheeses and sauces, olives, and mushrooms. Yum!

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Below: A raw lasagna I made. It was phenomenal!

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We spent the afternoon on Monday making raw desserts. More delicious recipes. We also tasted more of the fermented drinks we started last week like the coconut kefir. Mmm.

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Below: A superfood cacao cluster with coconut, goji berries, and other good stuff. :) So tasty!

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Raw Food Introduction

On Tuesday, we started our Raw Food course work. So, I celebrated by juicing up a nice glass of carrot juice…

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Before we could get to our first raw lecture, we had a review of our nutrition notes in preparation for a Thursday test. Thiamin, glucose, and fibrinogen anyone?

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Raw Lecture I

The Natural Epicurean students are being treated to raw food instruction by Alicia Ojeda, a raw food expert who was a key menu developer for local Beets Cafe and the person behind EZRawFood101.com. She attended the Living Light institute, a raw food school, and has tons of culinary experience. Alicia has a passion for raw food and even better, she exudes energy and vitality. Plus she’s super nice. She’s a walking advertisement for the raw food lifestyle.

I am particularly interested in raw food because of how much sugar and bread we’ve been eating lately. Raw food is a great way to detoxify the body of processed food, get nutrient-dense foods into your body, improve your acid-alkaline balance, and improve your energy levels. Raw food is defined as any food that is eaten without ever having been raised to a temperature above 118 degrees, which protects the food’s intrinsic nutrients and enzymes. Sign me up!

Below: Alicia Ojeda, during our first raw food lecture.

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Below: Some of the seed and bean sprouts we’ll be exploring in a future lecture.

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What Do I Want? Absolutely Everything

I’ve decided that when someone asks what I plan to do when I finish cooking school my answer will be “everything.” I want to do it all. Catering, restaurants, cafes, personal chef, wellness coach – I want to do all of it. With so many cool people around me, it all feels possible.

Friday Lecture

Friday we heard from three instructors who scratched the surfaces of Macrobiotic, Raw, and Ayurvedic cooking and philosophies. Chef Rachel Zierzow, Chef Alicia Ojeda, and Ellen Stansell gave us just a taste of these food and health modalities and I found each talk equally stimulating.

Macrobiotics

Macrobiotics is amazing because, as I first wrote about in one of my earliest blog posts, it takes a broad view of life beyond food. As Chef Rachel put it, one goal of macrobiotics is to “make your dreams come true.” How about that? And one of the chief ways you accomplish this is through good food choices, because macrobiotics believes that your food really does influence your life and your way of thinking.

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Raw Food

Chef Alicia Ojeda, one of the key people behind the development of the menu at Beets Cafe and former head chef there, is a true leader in raw food and her energy in speaking was a great sales pitch for raw foodism. Raw food is food that’s never brought above 118 degrees, which means that it is living food. Food that sits on the shelf with an expiration date two years in the future is inert and dead. Raw food – fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. – is alive and it provides clean nourishment to the body. And to make things even more interesting, Chef Alicia looks at least 10 years younger than her actual age. Hmmm.

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Ayurveda

Lastly, we heard from The Natural Epicurean’s curriculum director Ellen Stansell. Ellen has a PhD in Indian philosophy from UT Austin and she gave us a primer on Ayurvedic wellness theory. This theory is the one that was most unfamiliar to me upon entering the program. To sum up, Ayurveda calls upon each person to keep their body in balance by being mindful of the environment and food one eats. Your personal characteristics and environment will help dictate what food will lead to optimal health at any given moment.

My favorite part of Ellen’s talk was where she compared the Western worldview to the Ayurvedic worldview. In the West, matter is merely physical and life is simply a collection of molecules that behaves in a “lifelike” way. The Ayurvedic view is that the physical world, living and non-living objects, and food are all imbued with spirit; they are joyous and blessed. An especially cool moment was when it began to rain very heavily and many students stopped their assigned activity and went to the back to watch the downpour. Ellen actually encouraged us to watch, noting that it is inherently human to be fascinated by such weather (especially in typically arid Austin, TX). How cool is that?