Saturday, February 27, 2010

Raw Patagonia Pasta Primavera (w/ zucchini hummus!)

Maybe an unlikely combination, but definitely a complimentary one in my opinion. My camera battery is dead and it seems as though the van has swallowed yet another one of our belongings (my camera battery charger) so we've resorted to Evan's iPhone to capture the raw dinner I made for us tonight:

Raw Patagonia Pasta Primavera
Chip and Laura (our bffs of Patagonia) left for the weekend and gave us permission to use their shower, bathroom, kitchen, house, internet, laundry facilities, etc. They've been so gracious to us. We feel so fortunate to have run into them while passing through this magical town, which by the way has THE best radio station in America - 100.5 KPUP. It's the only radio station we pick up in the van and it plays an eclectic mix of blues, country, folk, and reggae. No Top 40 spins of any kind. Beautiful.

So I've been craving marinara and zucchini pasta since yesterday. I went to the awesome local natural food store here: 

Red Mountain Food
376 Naugle Avenue
Patagonia, AZ 85624
I picked up some giant organic zucchinis (I've only seen little dinky zucs for the past few months. I was shocked to bring back a couple of 14"-ers!), a package of sundried tomatoes (salt and preservative-free), 3 large organic vine-ripened tomatoes on special for $1.69 (they were on the outs - cosmetically inferior - but I was unconcerned as they were about to get annihilated by the food-processor), the largest head of organic romaine lettuce I've ever seen (it was the length of my tibia - longer even! When I compared it to the length of my leg from my foot to my surpassed my knee cap. Amazing). What else did I get - a half pound of dates that I was going to add to the marinara, but ended up eating on the walk back to the house. Oh, some mushrooms, organic celery, an organic red onion, organic fresh basil, and organic dried oregano. 

They pack this little place to the brim with all your favorite organic fruits and veggies, sprouts, nut and seed milks, spices, dates, and much more. 
The Arizona oranges sold here are some of the best I've tasted. They outrank California and Florida oranges by a long shot. Needless to say, I was beyond impressed with this place. If it wasn't for Red Mountain Foods, I don't think we'd still be here in Patagonia.

I'll try to estimate to the best of my ability the amounts of each ingredient included in the recipe.

Raw Sundried Tomato Marinara Sauce
1 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked for 20 minutes in 1/2 cup water (you can use scissors to slice the tomatoes into smaller pieces before soaking if you'd like) - Don't throw out the soaking water because you will use it in the recipe
3 large organic vine-ripened tomatoes, loosely chopped (you can de-seed for a thicker sauce, but I hate to waste anything so I included the seeds in this recipe)
1/2 cup organic fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
2 tablespoons organic dried oregano
1/2 cup organic red onion, chopped 
1/4 cup organic celery, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/2 organic lemon, juiced
4 cloves organic garlic
Pinch of sea salt (or more to taste)
Optional: If needed - add 2 dates, pitted (or a few drops of Stevia)

Directions: Add all the ingredients except the celery, 1/4 cup red onion, and the mushrooms into a food processor or high-speed blender (or regular blender). I used a food processor and it got a little messy with all that red, gooey, liquidy mess wanting to explode, but I managed alright. 
Place the processed marinara into a bowl and add the celery, remaining red onion, and mushrooms and mix together by hand with a spoon (this gives it a chunkier texture, which I like)

Zucchini Pasta
2 large organic zucchinis, ends cut and sliced into 5" sections

I used a saladacco spiralizer called "The Garnishing Machine" to create angel hair zucchini pasta. I purchased it when I was at Living Light Culinary Institute back in February/March of 2009 (read more about my experience at Living Light here). I absolutely love it and don't use it nearly enough. 
Here I'm placing a 5-inch chunk of zucchini onto the spiralizer
Then I use light pressure on the top handle and slowly turn it while holding the base of the spiralizer as the zucchini comes out in thin, pasta-like strings.
Set marinara and pasta aside.

Next use the leftover zucchini "wheels" from the spiralizer for the zucchini hummus (you'll know what I mean when you use this machine - sorry, no pic this time). I had an extra zucchini for the hummus, as well (totaling 2 cups zucchini, chopped).

Zucchini Hummus
2 cups zucchini, chopped
4 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons raw tahini
1 lemon, juiced
sea salt to taste
paprika to taste
pinch of cayenne

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend on "high" until it becomes a creamy consistency.
And then steam your veggies (or not)! I lightly chopped up 1/2 a large head of cauliflower (including the green leaves) and 1 stalk of broccoli (including the stem/stalk). Oh, and I threw in some sugar snap peas because they were on the counter. Obviously, you can choose not to steam veggies and just add them in raw. A good way to break down the tough cellular wall of raw cruciferous vegetables is to soak them in lemon juice for 20 minutes and massage them a bit. You can also include herbs and spices with the lemon juice to add flavor - garlic is the go-to flavor enhancer for me. I opted to steam the veggies this time because I was in the mood for something warm but also because Evan feels that steamed vegetables are more substantial and satiating than raw vegetables. 

*Note: When I steam vegetables, I very lightly steam them. They are still tough and crunchy, the steaming just warms them up and takes the edge off.
The recipe probably yields about 3 servings. Evan and I had a bunch of marinara leftover and some zucchini pasta, but we ate all of the steamed veggies and hummus.

I'm hungry again after writing this! Going back for thirds.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment and/or ask questions!
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Almost there Mexico, that is.

We are currently in Patagonia, Arizona. My last post left off at Zion National Park and from there we headed to Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Sadly, due to inclement weather, Evan thought it best to head straight to Sedona to avoid the forecasted snow storm. Probably a smart decision, but we were bummed we had to skip two highly anticipated destinations of the trip. On the plus side, Utah isn't going anywhere. We will definitely plan a return visit in the near future.

So we ended up driving straight to Sedona from Cedar City, Utah. It was roughly an eight or 9-hour drive that we made in seven. Evan managed to get slapped with a $60 speeding ticket near the Utah-Arizona border. Sixty dollars sounds steep when you're running on empty, but it could've been much worse. Within the scope of policeman demeanor, this particular one erred on the friendlier side. He wrote the ticket for 1 mph over the speed limit instead of the 10 mph that Evan was purportedly clocked at driving. He commented on our "Coexist" bumper sticker that we picked up in - where was it? Tahoe? One of these:
Anyway, he said something along the lines of "Yea, we all have to learn to live together" and then proceeded to ask Evan if he was Jewish. Followed by, "Yea, we get a lot of dope down here from Oregon. You guys don't have any dope, do ya?". To which Evan replied in all honesty, "No, sir."

That was our first experience in Arizona.
---Flagstaff, Arizona---
We drove through Flagstaff. It was snowing. Yea, it snows in Arizona. Who knew? We stopped at this market called Flagstaff Farmer's Market. It sounded promising. It wasn't.
We took one look inside and peaced out. Their organic section was this < > big, which is fine. At least they had one, but the produce was questionable and lacking variety and I'm starting to feel like a grocery store snob.
If Flagstaff Farmer's Market was our only option, this would suffice. Luckily, we saw there was another store with organic produce that we decided to check out. It was called New Frontiers Natural Marketplace.
It was comparable to a Whole Foods Market, but it's regional to Arizona and the prices were slightly less detrimental to your pocketbook.

We met this gal, Lena, doing a demo. She is a raw foodist from Cottonwood, Arizona that sells packaged raw food goods on the shelves of local grocers like New Frontiers
We bought some of her kale-almond paté. It was muy delicioso. 
We made tentative arrangements to meet up with her in Cottonwood to tour the facilities (her house) and ask her some questions. Unfortunately, Evan lost her phone number and I've since forgotten the name of her company. It'd be nice to interview her about her business and how she got started. Maybe I'll come across her info over the internet someday or maybe she'll happen upon this blog? Anyway, Hi Lena. Sorry we missed you. We'll meet up with you next time.
New Frontiers was fully-stocked with packaged raw foods. They have a local raw food restaurant in Sedona called ChocolaTree that distributes a few things. Specifically, "Nori Nachos". 
Nori Nachos come in several flavors. I tried four of them including, Original, Curry, Rosemary, and Chipotle. The Original and Chipotle flavors were my favorite. They are made (I presume) by mixing a nacho paté of macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, sea salt, and spices in a food processor or high-speed blender. You could add some fresh red pepper and nutritional yeast for an even nacho cheesier taste. Spread the paté over raw nori sheets and dehydrate for several hours (or several days) at 105ºF. This is how I would do it if I were to make these at home. They were pretty darn good. A little too salty for my taste. The type of taste that stays with you long after you're through chomping. The kind that follows you to bed after you brush your teeth and then wakes you up in the morning with cottonmouth. Evan really enjoyed them and didn't seem to mind the salt. I think I am just hyper-sensitive to NaCl.

If any of you want a more detailed recipe for these "chips", let me know and I will gladly post.
---Sedona, Arizona---
On our first day out in Sedona, we went to the Red Rock vortex. A vortex, I've come to find out, is a kind of a convergence of energy created by the abundant mineral and crystal formations below and above the earth's surface. There are different types of vortexes - electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic and they affect people in different ways. For example, one person can approach a vortex and feel extremely heavy and tired, like they're lugging around a pair of lead feet. While another person at the same vortex can feel happy and energetic - like they could run a marathon. The Native Americans would use these energy centers to perform prayers and spiritual seances. Today, people come to the Sedona vortexes from all over the world to get in touch with their spiritual side as well as the spirits around them for cleansing, internal healing, and guidance. Here is a photo of us at the Red Rock vortex.
Afterwards, we stopped at a veggie restaurant called D'Lish 
D'Lish had an all-vegetarian/vegan menu with a small raw food section including juices, smoothies, a raw soup (when in season) and a "rawsome platter". Check out their menu here. I ended up getting a smoothie and sampled some of Evan's vegan vegetable-lentil soup:
From there, we went on a hike to the "Birthing Caves". Unfortunately, my camera failed me before I could snap a good photo of the outside. I did capture a couple from inside the cave. Crystals were bubbling up all over the inside walls. It was really amazing to see.
The birthing cave was a place the Native Americans would send pregnant women to (oddly enough) give birth. The women would hike up to this cave right before they go into labor and sit and wait and pray until their child was born. 

Below: Evan leaves his offering for allowing him into the cave as a visitor while Maya burns some sage. 
A couple days later, we went on a hike to the Bell Rock vortex. I took the opportunity to do some yoga and, I must say, it was the best yoga experience of my life. There is something about doing yoga outdoors that makes it 100 times more invigorating. You breathe a little deeper, stand a little taller, and just feel everything more intensely. Maybe it was the fact that I was at the Bell Rock vortex and this was the effect it had on me. I did notice while hiking up to Bell Rock that I felt extremely light on my feet as if I weighed a mere ten pounds, like there was a bubble of energy repelling the force of gravity that put an extra spring in my step. It was strange and delightful and I cannot wait to go back. When I asked Evan if he felt any different hiking around Bell Rock, he said "Yea, I felt stoned." Go figure.
Sedona was so beautiful. Here is another photo at Bell Rock:
One of the natural food stores we checked out in Sedona was called Rinzai's Market

It was small, as most natural food stores are, and had both a refrigerated and dry goods raw food section:
The best thing about Rinzai's Market was the prices on their bulk food, namely, their maca powder. We were talking to Mr. Rinzai himself and he said he gets a really great price through a distributor and opts not to markup the price too much. He sells the bottled maca, as well, like HealthForce Nutritionals MacaForce, but we splurged on two 1-lb bags of the bulk maca for $20 each. That should be enough to get us through Mexico and beyond.
Pictured below: Evan holding up a 1-lb bag of maca.
Before we left Sedona, we decided to take Wes and Maya (Evan's brother and sister-in-law) out to dinner at ChocolaTree Live Organic Vegetarian Eatery.
ChocolaTree is a primarily raw food (or "live food", as they call it) restaurant with some cooked items on the menu. It had a really amazing vibe with a unique interior. They placed crystals on all the dining tables and built the restaurant around this tree.

We ate in this side room (pictured below) with one table in the corner.
We ordered and shared the following items from the menu:
raw kelp noodles with a creamy peanut sauce and nori nachos
raw thai coconut soup with dehydrated seed crackers
raw falafel with raw tzatziki and creamy herb sauce

and not pictured: cooked kale salad with quinoa and three cups of hot cacao with almond milk (so good).

Overall, ChocolaTree was a pleasant experience. The food was good, but not outstanding. I would go back just for the ambiance alone and the hot cacao (and maybe the nori nachos :) 

I did leave with four pieces of raw chocolate, as well ($16). ChocolaTree claims they have the world's largest selection of raw desserts. Pictured below is one of their dessert cases. 
I've come to realize that chocolate just doesn't agree with me anymore. The hot cacao was fine, but chocolate bars and candy (raw or not) upset my sensitive digestive tract. I suppose I shouldn't be eating it too often, anyway. Always listen to your body.

That night I made a wicked batch of zucchini hummus. I've been trying to remake that batch ever since, but I can't quite seem to match the flavors of that particular combination of ingredients. I plan to include my recipe for zucchini hummus in a future post (but for now you can check out this simple recipe). The kelp noodle dish from ChocolaTree got me on a kelp noodle kick that still has me hooked.
---Cottonwood, Arizona---
On our way down to Phoenix, we stopped in Cottonwood, Arizona at a grocery store called Mount Hope Foods. We were hoping to run into Lena, but no such luck. She was probably in her kitchen whipping up some more kale-almond paté.
Mount Hope Foods was great. I was pleased to find they had Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles in stock and therein began my kelp noodle obsession. I mixed the batch of zucchini hummus with a bag of freshly rinsed kelp noodles, sprinkled it with nutritional yeast, chili powder, and some extra sea salt and had myself a tasty (and nutrient-packed) lunch in Phoenix. (Not the most appetizing photo)
 I ate two bags of this stuff in one day and I'm still jonesing for more. I'm lucky they carry kelp noodles at the local natural food store in Patagonia. I can stock up before we head down to Mexico :)
---Phoenix, Arizona---
Once in Phoenix, we had the pleasure of visiting this yogi-inspired restaurant Chakra 4 Herb & Tea House.
Here is Evan zen-ing out in the corner while he works.
I ordered a cooked quinoa salad with veggies and avocado. They had raw options on the menu, but this is what sounded appealing to me at the time so I went with it. And yes, it was as good as it looks. 

Chakra 4 had some exotic tea combinations that sounded wonderful. I went with the Jasmine Chai tea with house-made almond milk. And later I bought another pot of chai called "Slow Chai" with Kava root.
I've gotten in the habit of bringing extra heads of greens with me to restaurants. I'm used to making myself gargantuan salads with two heads of lettuce or more that I'll eat over the course of the day. Restaurant portions are generally one-fourth the size of a standard Jasmine salad. This quinoa salad, as you can see in the photo above, has very little leafy greens. So I brought my own. I went in the bathroom, rinsed off the lettuce leaves, and then tore it up right at the table. Some people may think I'm ridiculous or that it's inconsiderate to bring outside food into a restaurant, but it's my life and my health and I do it all with the utmost respect.
Do check out Chakra 4 Herb & Teahouse if you're in the Phoenix area. It was excellent. They also have raw desserts. I bought another piece of chocolate (white chocolate this time) because I hadn't learned my lesson in Sedona. It was good and it was my last indulgence before Mexico and it gave me a stomachache.

We stopped at Market Cafe and Wine Bar near Arizona State University in downtown Phoenix. Cute place. It reminded us of Portland because it was semi-conjoined with this modern art gallery-cafe (not pictured).
Had some good local produce like citrus fruits, locally made salsas, and the employees were friendly and informative. 
They mentioned a Saturday Farmer's Market that sets up right outside in the parking lot. We didn't make it back on Saturday. Evan's family (whose house we were parking in front of) lived out in the suburbs and the drive was decidedly too long to make it worth our while. However, the gal in the cafe suggested we head to the top of this ridge to watch the sunset and we took her advice.

***Funny story about Phoenix or the 'burbs of Phoenix, rather. Evan's cousin, Courtney, lives out in Surprise, Arizona - a small suburban town outside of the city (way outside of the city). So her husband who's a teacher, goes to work on Tuesday (Monday was a holiday) and gets this email from Neighborhood Watch. In the email, there is a warning about a mysterious looking white van with a woman painted on the side. The driver is reported to have long hair and a mustache. We thought it was hysterical, but I guess you had to be there, or at least be involved, to really find it humorous.***

Oh, by the way, it was in Phoenix that I got my laptop back! It was a long two weeks without her, but we survived.

----Tucson, Arizona----
From Phoenix, we made our way down to Tucson. We thought we'd be in a Tucson for a few days and that it'd pretty much be another Phoenix - a mass of urban sprawl with excessive smog. We were wrong. We stayed for a good week in the back of Elea Crockett's yard.

Tucson was quite impressive (I say that with only minimal sarcasm). It boasted places like Rincon Market with their $6.99/lb salad bar and over-priced groceries (all non-organic as far as I could tell). No but, seriously, I dug the salad bar even though it wasn't organic. We drank a lot of tea at Rincon (they, surprisingly, had organic Numi Tea - one of my faves) and used their internet to get our work done. Tucson's "4th Street" was always hopping. Elea describes it as "the cultural center of Tucson". I'd agree. It's full of cafes, clothing shops, and hip bars like Sky Bar. Sky Bar is a cafe by day, bar by night, and they show photos from their telescope on a big screen while airing the NASA channel. It was pretty rad. We spent a good amount of time there.

On that same street is a co-op called Food Conspiracy Co-op.
We stopped here once to load up on groceries for a dinner party. Evan parked the van in their gravel parking lot behind the store and was approached by one of the employees:

Employee: "What are you doing?"
Evan: "Is this the parking lot for the co-op?"
Employee: "Yea, but you did a pretty lousy parking job."
Evan: "Oh, sorry."
Employee: "So,'re just going to shop here and leave?"
Evan: "well...yea." (thinking: Yea, I'm a fucking paying customer, asshole)

That got the whole experience off to a rocky start.

Inside, things were a little more serene. The produce section was gorgeous and full of local lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and kumquats(!).
They also had organic RED bananas!
And a giant bulk herb and spice section. Take this photo and multiply it by three and that will give you an idea of the variety of herbs and spices this little co-op contained. I stocked up on chamomile, kava kava root, and chili powder.
They only had this one brand of raw tahini called "Vivapura", which is more expensive than the more commonly found Artisana brand. I bought some. It was good, not necessarily any better than Artisana in terms of taste and texture, but still very good (at $9 for 6 oz, it better be good).
Later, I found out Vivapura is a small business based out of Patagonia. It actually shares a wall with Gathering Grounds cafe that I am working at right this second. I happened upon Vivapura by accident while I was walking to the restroom yesterday and saw a sign on the door that says "Vivapura: Please come in! Business hours Monday - Friday 9AM - 4PM". It's a cool space - more of an office space than a store. I'll try to take some photos today.

Back to Food Conspiracy...

So it was a successful trip to the food co-op in Tucson. We took our treasures back to Elea's and made veggie skewers (I stole some raw skewers before Evan grilled them up).
I made a giant salad and some zucchini hummus for the guests.
Yea, we had a fire going. It was "cold" by Tucson standards (mid-50s warrants a fire). Below: The party sitting down in front of the television to watch the winter olympics while feasting on salad, zucchini hummus, veggie skewers, and CHICKEN. We were calling it a BBQ after all, but four of the six attendees were vegetarians.
Before leaving Tucson we went to a store called Aqua Vita Natural Foods Market. It was interesting the first time we walked in, there were about eight people filling up their water jugs to take home. I had never seen so many people pumping their own water. It was like a gas station, but for H20. We are in the desert now, you see, and water is hard to come by. I forget these things coming from Portland.
I liked Aqua Vita a lot. There was this adorable (I'm not sure what ethnicity) man with a turban who worked the cash register. I kind of wish I had a photo of him. We spent a buttload of money here because we replenished our Vitamineral Green and Vitamineral Earth reserves (over 50 bucks a pop). I also bought some food grade hydrogen peroxide for $20 so we can start growing sprouts in the van. And against my better judgement, I bought a $20-bottle of tahini, but it was all they had and I was planning on making zucchini hummus for lunch. I forget what the brand name was (it wasn't Vivapura), but I should have just bought sesame seeds and put it through the food processor to make my own tahini. It's not that hard. I don't know why I haven't done it, yet.

They had plenty of raw packaged foods (including kelp noodles in the refrigerated section) and Vivapura products:
Oh, and I almost forgot. There was a Whole Foods Market right down the street from Elea's house. While perusing the raw foods section, I decided something sweet and crunchy would satisfy my pallet at the moment. I tried out Gone Raw's coconut crispies and cacao crispies.
I actually just made that brand and product name up because I tried googling "gone raw products" and I can't find it. Also, I know for a fact they're not called "Coconut Crispies" or "Cacao Crispies", but I do know they are made of sesame seeds, dried coconut, and dates. And I do know that they are full of fat and that they are delicious and crunchy and sweet and that I ate the entire bag. Actually, I ate both bags in one day (Oy). The good news is it didn't leave me with an awful stomachache. Gas, yes. But my stomach wasn't cramping like it does after raw chocolate bars. Phewf.

Back in the van, I hunkered down to make some raw zucchini hummus. Here are the step-by-step instructions on how I do it on a daily basis:

Step 1: Fill tupperware with filtered water and 1 tablespoon of vegetable wash.
Step 2: Wash and rinse veggies.
Step 3: Slice zucchini (1 large, or 2 small) and other veggies to be included in the hummus (carrots, red pepper, or whatever you want) I like to add 1/2 an onion, and 4 cloves of garlic.
Step 4: I decided garlic should be it's own step (add 1 - 4 cloves or as much as you'd like). You can dice it up, grate it up, or add in whole cloves. Don't matta!
Step 5: Juice 1 to 2 lemons or limes or oranges (with a fork), but first massage it by rolling it against the cutting board or between your palms.
Step 6: Add 1/4 - 1/2 cup raw tahini
Step 7: Optional - Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Step 8: Optional - Add 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds or other nuts/seeds of your choice to thicken up the consistency (soak them for 4 - 8 hours and rinse for easier digestion).
Step 9: Add Cumin, Paprika, Cayenne, Sea Salt, and Pepper to taste.
Step 10: You can experiment with herbs and spices. I love adding fresh basil and I'd imagine sundried tomato powder would make a nice addition.
Step 11: Add all the ingredients into a food processor and process on high until it becomes a creamy consistency.
Grab some lettuce leaves, spread some hummus on the lettuce, add sprouts and sliced carrots.
Wrap it up:
And enjoy!
---Patagonia, Arizona---
Now we're in Patagonia, an insanely small town probably 20 miles from the Mexican border. We've already made friends with some of the locals. Evan saw a flyer outside the coffeeshop for free yoga at this house around the corner from the main strip. The couple that live there have a massage business and yoga studio. They offered to let us use their shower and said we could park outside their house. They pretty much opened their home to us. Very sweet couple - Chip and Laura. Thank you Chip and Laura! I will get a photo of them before we leave.

Patagonia is home to the Tree of Life retreat center. Evan and I are going to hit up the cafe as soon as some payments come through. Lunch at the Tree of Life (a 100% raw food cafe and rejuvenation center) is $30 a person and Dinner is $20 a person. It will be a spendy outing, but well worth it I'm sure. Stay posted for photos of Patagonia and the Tree of Life.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. It's Evan's birthday week. Be sure to wish him a Happy 27th Birthday on March 2nd!
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