Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

Hello from Costa Rica!

As many of you know, I am currently in Costa Rica, working as a chef for two 3 week Yoga Teachers’ Trainings with Vidya Heisel.

Hello from Costa Rica!

The Southern Caribbean side  of Costa Rica is amazingly tropical and full of wildlife and exotic fruits and vegetables so I have been having a great time learning about all those odd looking hairy tubers they have here, and trying to figure out what to do with the huge and almost vegetable-like jackfruit and breadfruit!

Interestingly, despite the fact that there seem to be fruits and vegetables dripping off the trees here, there does not seem to be a deep food culture in Costa Rica. Especially for vegetarians. Gallo Pinto – which is rice and beans – and fried plantains are what you get…so after doing quite a bit of research on “traditional” Costa Rican cuisine, I opted to get my hands on as many local and indigenous fruits and veggies as I could get, and incorporate them into a more international menu. I am working with Tracy Morrisette, the Goddess Garden’s excellent new chef, who is making fantastic inroads with the gardeners and local area farmers, so I never know what is going to get dropped off in the kitchen these days! Sometimes its some strange hairy tuber, sometime a bright red fruit with inner meat that looks like a little yellow brain…

Here is a list of some of those crazy wonderful fruits and veggies I am working with, in addition to the daily supply of young and mature coconuts and many varieties of bananas that come from the trees on the Goddess Garden property

  • Carambola or “Starfruit”: (from Goddess Garden trees) a tart succulent fruit which looks like a star when cut. We use in dressings, juices and marinades.
  • Wild Grapefruits, Wild Limes and Sour Mandarins (from Goddess Garden trees) – interesting varieties of citrus are everywhere.
  • Naranjilla:(from Goddess Garden trees) this looks like a cross between a tomato and a persimmon and grows in a tree. It’s tart and can be juiced.
  • Tiquisque: This is a small brown hairy root vegetable which when peeled, cook up like a sticky potato. There are both red and white varieties.
  • Chayote Squash: These are a pear shaped squash with a very firm, dense, zucchini like flesh
  • Passionfruit: These are large round very tart fruits filled with slippery seeds – great for juicing.
  • Platanos or Plantains: looks like a big green banana.  When green can be served like a potato, often fried. When ripe they taste like a sweet but starchy banana.
  • Jackfruit: These fruit grow high up in very large trees and have a meaty yellow flesh that can be used like chicken in curries and cooked dishes.
  • Ackee: The soft inner flesh of a bright red fruit that grows on the trees around the property also has a meaty texture and can be fried and used in savory
  • Nami (pronounced Nyaami): This is a very large starchy tuber or root that tastes similar to Tiquiscque.
  • Yuca: This is another large starchy tuber.
  • Water Apple: These are bright red pear shaped fruit that are lightly sweet and slightly pear flavored. They are commonly eaten as a salad.
  • Pejibayes (also called Palm Fruit): These are small orange and green fruits of a palm tree, which when boiled taste something like a cross between a chestnut and a sweet potato. The locals love them boiled in salt and dipped in mayonnaise.

Pejibayes, or "Palm Fruit"

Water Apple






Carambola, or Star Fruit

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Food Consciousness | 3 Comments

Raw Zucchini Lasagna

By popular request, here is the “Raw Zucchini Lasagna” recipe, which, while made with raw zucchini instead of pasta, was not a totally raw dish only because the spinach in Costa Rica is too bitter to serve raw. This recipe is based on Russell James’ raw lasagna recipe, the original which can be found on for free when you subscribe his raw food tips. I really respect Russell James – if you are new to raw food I HIGHLY recommend his Raw Chef Academy Homestudy Course – his videos are very professional and well presented, and the recipes are consistently reliable and good. I don’t think anyone out there is educating on raw food as professionally as he is.

Raw Zucchini Lasagna  – Serves 10

While this recipe has many different components, it is actually very easy to put together and extremely flexible. The nut layer can be made with soaked macadamia nuts or pine nuts instead of cashews, the spinach layer can be made all raw instead of cooked, or be replaced with any other vegetable layer, or eliminated completely. You can leave the mushroom part out of the mushroom nut layer, or do a raw version, or leave the nuts out, or eliminate that whole layer as well and just use the cashew ricotta, pasta and tomato sauce. Get creative with what you have on hand. The lasagna can be made several hours in advance and held, but serve it the same day you make it because it is best fresh.

Raw Zucchini Lasagna “Pasta”

  • 10 medium zucchini or goldbar squash, peeled
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 1/2 t salt

Using a mandolin or Chinese slicer or very sharp knife, carefully slice each peeled zucchini lengthwise into even 1/8 -1/4 inch slices. Only use the fleshy outside of each squash discarding or reserving the seedy core for another recipe. Gently rub salt and oil into all the slices, reserving the nicest, most lasagna-like “noodles” for the top. Let sit while you prepare the remaining fillings, tossing gently with your hands occasionally and letting excess liquid drain off.

Texture Tip: texture is everything here. The reason you peel these and the thickness of the slices all add up to a smooth, lasagna-noodle “mouthfeel”, which I think is the whole trick. You may have to adjust the thickness as you go to get it perfect – I find that thinner slices are nicer, but go too thin and you will lose the body after the squash marinates in the salt a bit. Play with it – you can always bury the ugly ones in the middle!

Cashew “Ricotta” for Lasagna

  • 2T lemon juice
  • 2T nutritional yeast
  • 2 yellow peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2T fresh parsley
  • 1T fresh thyme
  • 2t salt
  • 3 cups cashews, soaked 2 – 4 hours and drained.
  • 1⁄2 c water if needed
  • ½ c (optional) fresh chopped herbs (rosemary, parsley, thyme, basil)

Blend all in vitamix until smooth and creamy, starting with peppers and adding nuts at the end, and water only if needed. Fresh herbs can be added at the end if using. Set aside, use the (unrinsed) vitamix to make tomato sauce:

Sundried Tomato Sauce


  • 11⁄2c sundried tomatoes, soaked for 1 hour or more
  • ¼ small onion
  • 2c tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 4 t agave/honey or 2 soaked dates
  • 11⁄2 T dried oregano
  • 1t salt or to taste
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • 2T lemon juice

Process all in a food processor or vitamix until smooth, adjust for salt/sweet depending on how salty your sundried tomatoes are. Set aside while you make your mushroom filling:

Mushroom Nut Filling

  • 2 pounds fresh mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1t salt
  • 1t black pepper,
  • 1T dried sage
  • 11⁄2c sunflower seeds soaked 1 hour or more and drained
  • 1c sun-dried tomatoes, soaked for 1 hour or more
  • 2T dark/brown miso
  • 2t dried oregano
  • 2t dried sage
  • 1T nama shoyu/soy sauce
  • 1⁄2t cayenne pepper
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T honey/agave nectar
  • 1t sea salt

In food processor, chop mushrooms coarsely. Sauté with garlic in 2 T olive oil, salt, pepper and sage, for 5 – 10 minutes until liquid is absorbed and mushrooms are very flavorful. Alternatively, for a truly raw version, spread evenly on dehydrator sheet and dehydrate for 2 – 3 hours until lightly “cooked”.

In food processor, blend nuts and remaining ingredients until combined but slightly chunky still. Combine with mushrooms. Set aside in dehydrator or warm place while you make your spinach filling:

Spinach and Onion Filling

  • 2 large onions
  • 1 pounds fresh spinach leaves, washed and chopped
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T olive oil

Sauté onions in olive oil, salt and pepper until translucent, add spinach and sauté 5 – 10 more minutes until gently cooked. Cool slightly in colander, squeezing lightly  to drain excess liquid.  Alternatively, to make raw, toss raw spinach with other ingredients and massage gently to soften.

Assembling the Lasagna….

Spread one cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a large casserole dish, preferably glass. Top with one even layer of zucchini pasta, overlapping each slice slightly. Top with one thick even layer of mushroom filling.

Add a second layer of zucchini (use the ugly ones here and make sure you have enough for one more layer of nice ones for the top. You can skip this layer if you don’t have enough for both.

Top second layer of zucchini with the cashew ricotta, dot with spinach. Top with final top layer of zucchini. Smooth remaining tomato sauce over the top.  Cut carefully into 10 -12 pieces with a serrated bread knife and keep warm in dehydrator or low oven until ready to serve.

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Main Courses, Pasta, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Vegan Recipes | 2 Comments