Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

Raw Pad Thai with Young Coconut “Noodles”

The Farmer's Market in Limon

Like the Raw Lasagna, my Raw Pad Thai recipe is also an adaptation from Russell James’ original recipe. (If you haven’t already – sign up for his email list to get the original emailed to you). This recipe is extremely flexible so use what you have on hand. I made this one with tahini because for some reason that is available here but also have made it with almonds, almond butter, and peanuts and it’s great. I used raw bok choy which I was lucky to find in the farmer’s market in Limon and love the combination of that with the arugula, but napa cabbage is great too, and of course if you can get mung bean sprouts (I can’t) then that would add a more Pad Thai touch to the recipe.

Young coconuts and tamarind are easily available in this part of Costa Rica, but you may have to do a bit of sleuthing to find them in your home town. Look for Tamarind Paste in your local Hispanic market (ask for Tamarindo) and both tamarind paste and young coconuts, or “white coconuts” can often be found in the produce section of Chinese or Southeast Asian markets, and in some high-end markets like Whole Foods.  You can also ask your local health food store to order you a case of young coconuts – they come 9 to a box – and then cut them all open and freeze the meat and juice to have on hand all the time. I love young coconuts! This is just one of the many ways you can use them.

Raw Pad Thai “Noodles” and Vegetables – Serves 4

Young Coconuts

  • 2 – 3 young coconuts
  • 1 ½ cups arugula, torn into 3′ pieces
  • 2 carrots, ribboned with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 4 cups young bok choy, sliced thin on diagonal
  • 1 spring onions, sliced thin on diagonal
  • 8 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped

Pad Thai Sauce

  • 1 oz tamarind paste (or 2 dried apricots, one date, plus 1 T lemon juice)
  • 3 T palm sugar, or coconut crystals, or sucanat
  • 1 T red miso
  • 1 t sesame oil (leave out if using nuts instead of tahini)
  • 4 sundried tomato halves, soaked
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 t dulse flakes or kelp powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoons garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lime
  • 1/2 jalepeno, seeded and minced
  • 6 T tahini

Make Sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in a Vitamix or other high speed blender and blend until smooth.

Prepare Noodles: Cut open the top of the coconuts with a large sturdy cleaver over a large bowl, being careful to capture the juice. (Use juice for another purpose… like drinking!) With the back of a spoon, gently work out large pieces of the white flesh from the inner shell. (If you are new to this, Dr Ralph gives a thorough video intro to coconut whacking here). Slice the meat of the coconut in to long, fettuccine-like pieces.

Assemble Pad Thai: In a large bowl, toss together all vegetables, reserving a pinch of basil and cilantro for garnish. Pour 1/2 sauce over vegetables and massage gently with your hands to coat well and soften vegetables. Add coconut noodles and toss gently, adding some or all of the remaining sauce to taste. Allow to sit for 1/2 – 1 hour to allow flavors to combine and serve with a sprinkle of herbs and a slice of lime.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Pasta, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Salads, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Brazil Nut Chia Pudding

This pudding has quickly become a staple in our house – it’s a lot like tapioca pudding and makes a great breakfast, afternoon snack, or dessert. Chia seeds are ridiculously nutritious  – they are the richest vegetable source of omega 3 essential oils found on the planet, contain almost twice the protein of any other grain, are packed with vitamins and minerals, and are high in antioxidants.  They are also full of fiber and will absorb 8 -12 times their volume in water, making them a great slow burning carbohydrate source, which is great for diabetics. All that, and no need to cook! Who knew?

Chia Pudding

  • 4 c. fresh Brazil nut (or almond) milk
  • 3 medjool dates (pits removed)
  • 3/4 c. black or white chia seeds*
  • 2 packets stevia powder (optional)
  • 3-4 T. agave syrup, to taste
  • seeds from 2 inches of vanilla bean, or 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • pinch Himalayan or sea salt

Make nut milk, blending one cup of soaked nuts, to 4 c water, and adding dates before you blend and squeeze through the nut-milk bag. (Alternately, you can use a pre-fab nut milk or coconut milk of your choice, skip the dates, and add a bit more sweetener to taste when you whisk in the seeds).

Add chia and remaining ingredients, whisk well to combine and taste, adjusting for sweetness. I use a little bit of stevia in order to get a subtle base-level sweetness, and then top it with a touch of agave. Let sit for 10 minutes and whisk again. Let rest for at least 20 minutes at room temperature to allow seeds to soften and gel up. Serve at room temp or keep in refrigerator up to a week (it will firm up even more overnight).

Top each serving with with a little sprinkle of coconut sugar, agave or maple syrup and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. Or, try the chocolate version:

Chocolate Chia Pudding: Add 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder and 3-4 T of agave syrup to the pudding, after the seeds have gelled up. Whisk well and enjoy!

*Not all chia seeds absorb liquid the same, apparently and probably what liquid you use makes a difference too.  I use 3/4 cup chia to 6 cups fresh nut milk, but have friends in California who use up to 1 cup chia to 4 cups liquid. Play with it – you can always adjust by adding a couple tablespoons seeds to thicken or a splash more liquid to thin out.

For more information on chia seeds, you can start here:

Chia Seed – The Ancient Food of the Future

You can purchase chia seeds at the chia seeds page at NutsOnline. Or look for them in the bulk herb/spice section of your local health food store/community market.

Black & White Chia Seed Puddings

Squeezing the wild nut...

Adding Chia…


November 22, 2010 Posted by | Breakfast, Desserts, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes | 1 Comment

Brazil Nut Milk (Almond Milk, etc)

I recently spent 3 weeks working on a special diet with my dad, who is diabetic, and so have been exploring lots of new healthy breakfast recipes. The basis for so many great breakfasts is fresh nut milk, which is SO EASY to make – it literally takes only 5 minutes in the morning if you have soaked the nuts the night before.  It’s actually a great way to start the morning – don’t even bother to rinse the Vitamix afterwards – just use it to make a breakfast smoothie!

Easy Nut Milk

  • 1 c nuts (brazil nuts or almonds), soaked 7 hours to overnight in 3 – 4 cups water
  • 4 c water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 t agave
  • 1 t. vanilla

Blend soaked nuts with water in Vitamix on high until completely smooth – about 30 seconds. Pour through a nut bag into a large bowl, squeeze nut bag well to extract liquid. (Discard dry nut fiber, unless you can think of something creative to do with it. I tried…. Dehydrated, there is some potential to make homemade biodegradable packing peanuts, but other than that I could not find a use for it).

Add salt and flavorings to taste. Store refrigerated in a glass quart container for up to one week.

Note: you will need a good nut-milk bag for this. These can easily be ordered online, and probably also found at your neighborhood health food store or Whole Foods type market. In a pinch, I have also used a tea strainer, a fine mesh cloth vegetable bag, and even a (new) nylon stocking as my nut-milk strainer. Trust me… all of this is exactly what gives nut milk a bad name – a $12 nutbag at Amazon is a very worthwhile investment.

November 21, 2010 Posted by | Beverages, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Vegan Recipes | Leave a comment

Ariana Salad (Vegan Caesar Salad)

Named after a vegan friend of mine who doesn’t like cashews, which I normally use as a base for vegan Caesar salad dressing, this dressing was made with Brazil nuts.  Brazil nuts are incredibly high in selenium, a trace mineral and powerful antioxidant which has been shown to strengthen the immune system, help prevent cancer, be great for your heart, and also be a mood enhancer…! 1 – 2 nuts a day will do the trick.  Since this recipe was originally adapted from a  vegetarian Caesar dressing recipe using a base of feta cheese, obviously you can switch out the Brazil nuts with raw tofu, cashews, feta cheese, or any combination you have on hand. Don’t tell Ariana but I did hers with half cashews and half Brazil nuts, and she loved it! 😉

Vegan Cesar Salad

  • 3/4 c cashews, Brazil nuts, tofu (or feta if not Vegan)
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic
  • juice of one lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 c olive oil (light is best)
  • 1 T umeboshi vinegar
  • 1 T capers
  • Salt, black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in blender or vita-mix and blend. Adjust for salt (use less if doing the feta version).Toss over washed and dried romaine lettuce. Top with freshly toasted garlic croutons and serve immediately. Makes 2 cups.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Salads, Vegan Recipes | Leave a comment

Dragon Crackers

Dragon cracker image

This raw cracker recipe is an adaptation from the recipe in Roxanne Klein and Charlie Trotter’s gorgeous book Raw. In my not-so-humble opinion, Roxanne and Sarma have been the leading edge in making raw food stylish and sexy.

For Crackers:

  • 1 1/2 c golden flax
  • 2 c white sesame
  • 1/4 c black sesame
  • 2 c water
  • 1/4 c agave (dark is best) or maple syrup
  • 2 T nama shoyu (raw soy sauce)
  • 2 dried chipotle chili peppers, stem and seeds removed
  • 1/2 t red chili flakes
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 c sesame oil (toasted is nice)

For topping:

  • 2 Tbs agave/maple syrup mixed with 1/4 c water
  • salt, or smoked salt
  • paprika, or smoked paprika for sprinkling (optional)

Mix all cracker ingredients together and soak overnight.

Blend 3 cups of the soaked mixture (make sure you get the chipotles in there) in a blender or food processor for a couple of minutes. Add 1/4 cu sesame oil and up to a cup of water as necessary to keep things moving. The idea is to break up some of the flax and sesame to make it more digestible and give a nice cracker base, but not to make it a homogenized pulp. Flecks are good.

Combine with the unblended mixture and adjust for taste. Should be slightly sweet and spicy- not too salty.

Split between 4 Teflex sheets and spread evenly. Add more water to batter if needed – it will just evaporate. Dilute agave in water and lightly spray or brush on tops of crackers. Sprinkle  lightly with salt and smoked paprika.

Dehydrate overnight or until dry enough to flip. Flip over and break into big jagged shapes and dehydrate for 1 -2 more days on screens until they are crunchy. Taste and adjust the salt/sweet hit along the way by spraying agave/sprinkling with salt.

These crackers take a long time to dry and if you use agave rather than maple syrup, they make always stay just a little bit chewy. Really nice though – everyone loves these crackers.

Flavor Trick: with crackers and snacks I always try to hit a nice sweet salt balance on the surface, so the flavor explodes on your tongue. That makes the brain happy and paves the way for all the other nuances to come out as you chew.

January 17, 2010 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Snacks/Crackers, Vegan Recipes | , | Leave a comment

Herbed Walnut Hemp Quackers

I call these raw crackers “Quackers” in tribute to Sarma Melngailis’ retail store One Lucky Duck. This recipe comes from a combination of two of her recipes in Raw Food Real World.

  • 5 c raw walnuts (soaked 5 hours or overnight)Soaking Nuts image
  • 5 c diced zucchini
  • 1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes, soaked 1 hour or more.
  • 1 shallot, peeled and chopped
  • big handful of fresh herbs
  • 1/4- 1/2 c water (or tomato soak water, if not too salty)
  • 1 c ground golden flax
  • 1/2 c hemp seeds
  • 2 t salt

In food processor or high-speed blender, grind walnuts to a rough powder one cup at a time. Transfer to a bowl. Blend zucchini, tomato, shallot, herbs and water and grind to a thick paste. Little flecks are good. Mix in bowl with walnuts, add remaining ingredients and adjust to taste. Add a little tomato soak water or more water to make a spreadable batter.

Spread mixture onto 4 Teflex sheets and sprinkle tops lightly with salt. Dehydrate at 115 6 – 8 hours or overnight. Flip over, cut into any cracker shape you like,  and continue drying on screens until completely crunchy and dry. Store these crackers in the refrigerator.

Flavor Trick: with crackers and snacks, I like to keep the batter lightly salted and add a little salt (and sometimes sweet) on the top so you get an immediate flavor hit when you bite in. Most whole foods release their flavor as you begin to chew, but our Western palates have been conditioned by Doritos and such to expect a flavor explosion at the first bite. So do it!

January 17, 2010 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Snacks/Crackers, Vegan Recipes | , | Leave a comment

Warm Winter Carrot Soup (raw)

Raw soups in winter never sound great to me, so I wanted to do something really rich and satisfying. If you have leftover parsnip pasta from the Creamy Parsnip Fettucine recipe, just use this in place of the wine-soaked parsnips below. Yum!

Serves 4

  • Macerate 2 c shredded parsnips with 1/4 c white wine and 1/2 t salt.  Let stand overnight.
  • 1 c raw cashews or macadamia nuts, soaked 2-4 hours and drained
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cups carrot juice
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend parsnips, soaked nuts, ginger and one cup of the carrot juice in a high-speed blender until its a super-smooth creamy base. Slow machine and add in remaining carrot juice until you get a rich creamy soup consistency. Whiz in coconut oil and adjust for salt and seasonings.

Warm this soup very carefully on a pot on the stove just before serving. Make sure it does not get too hot (hover over it and keep sticking your finger in the pot). Soup should not go over 115°F which is just slightly over lukewarm.

Serve in pre-warmed bowls with a few cilantro leaves as garnish.

Play with the flavors!

  • Make a Curried Carrot Soup by adding a pinch of ground cumin, coriander and turmeric!
  • Add meat and juice of one fresh young coconut, and lime for a more tropical taste

January 17, 2010 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Soups, Vegan Recipes | , , | Leave a comment

Rosemary “Cream” Sauce (Raw)

This recipe is a slight modification from the one in Sarma Melngalis’ new cookbook Living Raw Food. Get this book – its awesome.

Blend everything up in a high-speed blender until completely smooth and creamy. Use to make Parsnip Pasta with Marinated Mushrooms.

January 17, 2010 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Vegan Recipes | , , , | Leave a comment

Creamy Parsnip “Fettucine” with Marinated Mushrooms (Raw)

This is blow your mind delicious alternative-to-pasta dish. Its easy to make but you have to get into the “Zen of Parsnip Peeling”…or have a couple of kitchen helpers around – it’s fun to do with friends!

Parsnip Pasta (Serves 4)

I love parsnips! They seem to be a very under-rated vegetable since no one seems to know much about them. They are wonderfully sweet and have a mellow wintery satisfying flavor and if you peel them into Fettuccine-like noodles with a simple vegetable peeler, they develop a delicious silky mouthfeel that is completely satisfying with a rich creamy nut sauce.

Texture Trick: the trick to the vegetable pastas is in how you cut it. You much slice or peel with the grain of the parsnip (or zucchini, or goldbar squash). DO NOT use one of those cool spiral slicer gizmos to make a vegetable pasta. Cool as it may look,  those slicers will cut through your vegetables against the grain, resulting in a rough and mealy mouthfeel which is not good for a pasta dish.

  • 8 medium sized parsnips,  thoroughly peeled to take off all the tough skin.
  • 1 zuchinni or goldbar squash, very lightly peeled, just to take off the smooth outer skin
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 T olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper

Peel the parsnips into fettucine shaped “pasta” the same way you would peel a carrot, rotating the parsnip by small turns until you run into the core. Keep peeling away as long as the parsnip is sweet and tender. Depending on the parsnip this might be the whole thing, or you might have to stop at the core which is sometime woody. (yes – you will have to keep munching on the raw parsnip as you prep… watch out, it’s habit forming).

Peel the zucchini into fettucine the same way, stopping short of the seedy core. We are just going for texture here.

Add salt and gently massage into the tangled mass of shredded veggies until they begin to soften and get slippery. This helps to break down the viberous nature of the vegetables and to give it that nice, smooth “cooked” feel in your mouth.

Now add the wine and the olive oil and massage in for a minute or two. Taste for salt, add pepper.  It should be completely delicious even at this stage.

Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour for vegetables to soften and marinate in the wine. You can do this up to  24 hours ahead.

Marinated Mushrooms

  • 1/2 lb brown crimini, king oyster, or mix of other fresh wild mushrooms, cleaned.
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/2 t finely crushed garlic
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh parsely
  • course salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut mushrooms into thick slices or bit sized chunks and toss with remaining ingredients- massage marninade into mushrooms gently with your hands for one minute. Adjust for taste (it should already be delicious at this stage).

Warm in dehydrator for 1 – 3 hours until mushrooms are soft and sauteed tasting. (Dehydrating is optional – you can simply leave out at room temperature and it will taste great).

In a large serving platter, top pasta with  Raw Rosemary Cream Sauce, and finish with a heap of mushrooms in the center. Enjoy!

Note: any leftover parsnip pasta can be made in the base for the Warm Winter Carrot Soup.

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Main Courses, Pasta, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , , , | Leave a comment