Raw Cherry Cheesecake

We don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I’ll use any excuse to make a dessert.  I have a weakness for cherries.  If a recipe mentions cherries it will get my attention, as did this fully raw cherry "cheesecake," which is really not a cheesecake at all.  It is vegan, dairy-free, grain-free, no-bake, easy, delicious and dare I say...a healthy dessert!  This recipe is adopted from Fully Raw Kristina.

Crust:
½ cup raw nuts (almonds, pecans or walnuts)
½ cup soft Medjool dates
¼ tsp sea salt

Filling:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
3 bananas, frozen
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup cherries, fresh or frozen and defrosted

Place nuts, dates and sea salt in a food processor.  Chop until the mixture holds together slightly, yet is still crumbly.  Evenly press the crust mixture into a 7” cake pan lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap.
In a clean food processor or a high speed blender, combine the cashews, bananas, and lemon juice.  Blend on high until completely smooth.  Pour the filling mixture over the crust and smooth top with a spatula.  
For the glaze layer, blend cherries until smooth. Pour over the top and even out with a spatula.  Garnish with additional cherries. Freeze over night or until solid.  
To serve, remove from freezer 30 minute prior to serving.  Run a sharp knife under hot water before using to cut the cake.  

Green Smoothies

The idea of smoothies is not a new one.  The whole point with green smoothies is adding healthy greens to your diet, which perhaps many of us rarely eat.

Blended smoothies provide live enzymes, vitamins and minerals.  These nutrients are easily assimilated and quickly digested.  They help with cleansing and healing the body.  They are extremely alkaline, which makes them idea for balancing acidic foods (meat, daily, grains).  If you're not convinced yet, green smoothies are also delicious and very easy to prepare.

Greens provide protein, insoluble fiber, omega-3 and chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is what gives greens their color and sometimes is referred to as liquefied sun energy.  The molecule of chlorophyll is similar to the heme molecule in human blood.  It supplies the body with oxygen, builds red blood cell count, helps prevent against cancer, provides iron, makes the body more alkaline, counteracts toxins, helps cleanse the liver, eliminates body odor, eliminates bad breath, and so much more.

According to raw food diet experts, greens contain all the essential minerals, vitamins and even amino acids (the building blocks of protein molecule) that humans need for optimal health.  The only nutrient not found in greens is vitamin B12, which is most abundant in animal products (meat, eggs, dairy).

Greens are naturally high in cellulose, which makes them difficult to digest and absorb. One would have to thoroughly chew and greens and have sufficient stomach acid for complete digestion and absorption to take place.  In general people don’t chew their food well and tend to have low stomach acid due to mineral deficiencies, particularly zinc. Liquefying the greens in a smoothie takes care of these shortcomings.

Green leaves contain different kinds of alkaloids, compounds which are poisonous in large amounts, however, in small quantities can actually strengthen the immune system.  It’s really important to rotate the type of greens you use to avoid accumulating the same type of alkaloids. Try to get as much variety as possible.  It is not necessary to rotate the fruits however doing so will enhance the variety of flavor and nutrition provided.

On the question regarding juicing vs. blending: juice requires little digesting and is absorbed immediately into the bloodstream.  There’s a place and time for juicing but it’s missing an important nutrient – fiber.  Fiber helps to clean out built-up toxins in your body by improving elimination.

Vegetables divide into several different groups of plant food for example, roots (carrots, beets, radish, etc.), flowers (broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, etc.), and non-sweet fruit (avocado, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.).  Greens are not vegetables; they are in a category all by themselves.  

Green smoothies should be made with a combination of greens and fruits (sweet or non-sweet). Do not combine greens with vegetables as most contain too much starch. Vegetables such as carrots, beets, broccoli, zucchini, daikon radish, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, pumpkin, squash, peas, corn, and green beans are not suitable for smoothies due to their high starch content, which will cause fermentation and gas formation to occur.

Non-starchy vegetable (or non-sweet fruits) such as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, avocados, and celery are okay.  Low-glycemic sweet fruits are also great and include berries, cherries, apples, plums, and grapefruit.

It is not recommend to add anything else (nuts, seeds, protein supplements) to a green smoothie.  All you need are greens, fruit, water and a small amount of oil, to aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals found in the greens.  Other additives will slow down digestion and may cause irritation and gas.

To get the most nutritional benefit, drink your green smoothie by itself and not as part of a meal. I normally drink mine in the morning, following a glass of water with lemon juice, before breakfast.  It’s also important to “chew” your smoothie.  Sip it slowly, allowing it to mix with saliva for better absorption.

Choose organic, locally grown and/or homegrown produce whenever possible.  This way you will avoid loading your body with pesticides and other toxic chemicals.  When using organic produce, don’t peel fruits and blend apples and pears with seeds.

I highly recommend using the most powerful blender you can find, to ensure smooth consistency and better absorption.  Otherwise, cut up your ingredients into smaller pieces and increase blending time.

I don’t like following green smoothie recipes as I always end up with a lot more than I can drink. Also many of the recipes are overly sweet for my taste.  You can definitely look up recipes for inspirations, but the best way to find out what combinations you like best is by experimenting!

My smoothie always consists of purified water (just enough to blend well and create a smooth consistency), handful of 1 – 2 type of greens, 1 – 2 types of herbs, 1 – 2 fruit varieties (mostly berries), 1 tablespoon of oil (olive or coconut), slice of avocado, and lemon juice.  You can also try a savory smoothie with greens, cucumber, celery, tomato, small garlic clove and pinch of sea salt.

Here is a basic road map to preparing a delicious green smoothie!

START WITH A BASE:
Plain purified water.  

NEXT CHOOSE YOUR GREENS/HERBS:
Arugula, beet greens (tops), carrot tops, celery, chard, collard greens, dandelion, endive, escarole, kale, mustard greens, radicchio, radish tops, lettuce (green, red, romaine), turnip greens spinach, sorrel, watercress, etc.
Herbs:  dill, basil, cilantro, fennel tops, mint, parsley

THEN CHOOSE YOUR FRUIT:
Apricots, apples, banana, berries, cucumbers, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, limes, mango, oranges, papaya, pears, peaches, pineapple, plums, tomatoes, etc.

CHOOSE YOUR FAT:
Avocado, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, flax seed oil

SUPERCHARGE IT:
Ginger, sprouts, wheatgrass juice (fresh or powdered), kefir.

If you need to, start with more fruit at first but work your way up to the maximum green content – that’s the point (2 parts greens to 1 part fruit are good proportions).  Also use spinach and/or romaine lettuce when starting out, since these are mild greens and will be less noticeable.  Green smoothies are best consumed fresh, but some can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. If separation occurs, simply stir before drinking.  For maximum nutritional benefit and flavor, I prefer to drink mine right away.

BLEND AWAY AND ENJOY!

Raw Beet Salad

Prior to trying this recipe I've never consumed raw beets.  I didn't even know they could be eaten raw.  Beets are a powerhouse of nutrients.  According to Dr. Mercola, beets are high in immune-boosting vitamins (B, C, beta-carotene, and folic acid) and essential minerals (potassium, manganese, phosphorus and iron).  Eating beets can help lower your blood pressure, boost stamina, fight inflammation, prevent various forms of cancer and support liver detoxification.  Surprisingly the green leafy tops are the healthiest part of the plant, so don’t throw them away.  They can be added to green smoothies, vegetable juice or sautéed with other greens like spinach and chard.  My friend Julia shared this recipe with me years ago and it has become one of my favorites.

Ingredients

2 medium organic raw beets, julienned
1 medium organic apple (Gala), julienned
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
6 pickles, julienned or diced
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt, to taste
¼ cup favorite oil (extra virgin olive, unrefined sesame, and/or unrefined cold pressed sunflower)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover and marinate for 1 – 2 hours prior to serving.

Raw Moroccan Carrot Salad

I especially like this sweet and crunchy salad because of the aromatic spices which lend it an exotic flavor.  This salad is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Carrot is a root vegetable that is an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene.  It also contains vitamins C, D, E, K, B1, B6 and minerals such as potassium, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc.  The antioxidants and phytonutrients in carrots can help improve vision, delay the effects of aging, improve immune function, cleanse the liver, and prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke. This recipe is from Epicurious.

1 lb. raw carrots, coarsely grated
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (I also add some unrefined sesame oil)
3 – 4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cups cilantro and/or parsley, chopped

2 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp cumin and ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika
Sea salt to taste
2 Tbsp raisins (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days, allowing the flavors to meld and permeate the carrots.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.