Staying healthy sometimes can be a challenge. Aside from taking common sense precautions, there is a lot we can do to keep ourselves healthy with food–colorful foods, that is.
The darker and more colorful fruits and vegetables are healthier with more anti-oxidants and immune building micro-nutrients. For example: red and yellow beets, carrots, radishes and red peppers–which all happen to be in my Harvest Vegetable Salad recipe. Local farmers markets should have plenty of these vegetables in stock!
Harvest Vegetable Salad Recipe
1 ½ cups golden beets, peeled and grated
2 cups carrots, peeled and grated
2 cups parsnips, peeled and grated
½ cup red radishes, sliced into 1 inch long matchsticks
½ cup celery, finely diced
¼ cup sweet red pepper, finely diced
½ cup green onions, angle sliced thin
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup dried currants
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
In a medium bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients and fold into the vegetable mix at least 30 minutes before serving.
Tip: Use a food processor with a grating blade to grate beets, carrots and parsnips.
The last segment of our San Diego to Detroit veg restaurant tour took us to the town of Downers Grove, a southern suburb of Chicago, where our destination,The Borrowed Earth Cafe, awaited. This turned out to be a little gem–an oasis of delicious raw cuisine, with all the food prepared on-site and served with an efficiency that rivals fast food restaurants.
Owners Danny and Kathy Living’s passion for the raw cuisine they serve is evident through beautiful presentations, a magical environment and great humor–Danny had Sara in stitches the entire two hours we were there.
We began our meal with a wonderful creamy coconut and corn soup,
followed with a colorful sweet potato quesadilla exploding with vibrant flavors–each morsel felt like an indulgence.
Kathy recommended the special walnut-crusted green beans, her version of “fried” green beans–raw and unfried. She explained that she loves to experiment with comfort foods from her childhood to create raw, living versions which are then served at the cafe. The dish was very satisfying and provocative with a nutty flavor and delicate crunch.
The finale was Out of this World Cheesecake and has made it to the top of our raw dessert list–Sara and I were practically fighting over the crumbs!
At the Borrowed Earth Cafe, we discovered the passion, talent and presentation we had been yearning for in our veg restaurant tour. We left Downer’s Grove feeling great about the state of the veg union–not to mention, fully satiated and thoroughly entertained.
The last stop was our home turf of Detroit–a city in the budding stages of a veg renaissance with pockets of culinary passion and a surprisingly large collection of veg cafes and farmers markets.
As we stuck our forks into the incomparable Inn Season Cafe salad, piled high with fresh, organic produce, nuts seeds, avocados and marinated onions, we couldn’t help but feel that there’s no place like home!
Feeling rather full after stopping at two delightful veg restaurants in Scottsdale, we headed north toward ChocolaTree Cafe in Sedona, Arizona, a mostly raw cafe with an awesome reputation. The journey through the mountains was breathtaking.
The landscape slowly transitioned from a desert-scape dotted with saguaro cacti to a high mesa semi-desert grassland with clumps of riparian forests and a rocky balsatic plateau of dormant volcano rock. The road danced around the Agua Fria river creating dramatic landscapes and vistas.
We diverted off the main highway to the old mining town of Jerome, now an artist colony and tourist destination.
Around the corner from a popular biker gathering at the local saloon, we discovered an early 20th century diner which originally served the Chinese mine workers in an era of oppressive segregation. This unfortunate history explained why the diner was tucked away and out of sight from the main street. Today, the location is appreciated for its spectacular panoramic view and the new owners are committed to working with local farmers to supply fresh produce for the restaurant, which was probably done when it first opened over 100 years ago. A nice addition to a meat-centric tourist town like Jerome.
As the sun was reaching for the horizon, we meandered down the mountain and continued our journey into Sedona. Every time I come here, I am in awe of the incredible red rock formations which frame the town. This time, with the intense pre-dusk light, the town looked like it was surrounded by a large, gold picture frame. Sedona is known for connections to planetary energies–a place to commune with natural forces and to recharge. I often wondered why the much-touted spiritual connections bypass food as a vehicle of awareness–this culinary adventure turned that around.
We arrived at ChocolaTree just as the setting sun made the red rocks surrounding Sedona glow like burning embers. The outside of the restaurant building and patio was adorned with handcrafted art pieces and paintings. Walking in, we were greeted by a four foot tall Shiva Lingam from India, the centerpiece of this warm and cozy restaurant.
We were encouraged to peruse the offerings of both packaged and fresh menu items. While ChocolaTree puts most of their energy into raw living food, they offer some cooked vegan dishes. The Curried Spring Roll and the Raw Falafels were recommended as appetizers. We also ordered the All Raw Wrap and the cooked Ethiopian Collard Greens on Quinoa for entrees.
We walked to the open-air garden courtyard, past the retail displays of crystals, essential oils, talismans and artwork. Tables surrounded a beautiful old tree strung with delicate lights. Adjacent to the seating area was a kitchen garden full of borage, amaranth, basil, oregano and many other scented herbs in various states of growth and harvest. The patio held magical appeal and gave us something to ponder and discuss.
The food arrived in a timely manner and we applauded the suggested Curried Spring Rolls–we consumed them in a flash. The Falafels were a good attempt, but had not been dehydrated quite enough. The All Raw Wrap was more like a salad–leafy greens and vegetables in a seasoned wrap with a light dressing.
The Ethiopian Collard Greens on Quinoa didn’t look appealing on the plate, but once I tasted it, I was hooked. The collard greens, cooked to a buttery perfection, had a touch of fresh ginger and were topped with crumbled kale chips, giving it a slight crunch. The bed of quinoa was the perfect match, making the dish a delicious and sensuous home run. After dinner, we met owner Jen Moore and discussed mutual acquaintances and what a cafe like hers can do for a community. We polished off the meal with a piece of Pecan Pie–raw and creamy with a fantastic maple-like flavor. It left us practically speechless. Wow! We left with a few packaged food items and, finding all rooms booked in Sedona, proceeded toward Flagstaff.
The meal was not only fulfilling, but, energizing. We stopped on top of the mountain and gazed at stars so profuse the sky seemed white. We discussed the power of food, how it can create change in society, the quality of life and spiritual pursuits. Perfect meal, perfect night…
Please check out our next travels through dust storms and dessert to reach Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.
The celebrated markets of the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County often overshadow the incredible, yet unsung, farmers markets of San Diego. There are fifty markets in San Diego supported by more certified organic farmers than any other county in America, over 320.
At least one market is open every day of the week, supporting most of the communities in the area. This type of shopping enables us to follow in the footsteps of the great food cultures where purchasing the freshest ingredients is a daily ritual. The choices are remarkable–a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in micro-climates ranging from sub-tropical to temperate.
A few years ago, shortly after I created www.thevegetarianguy.com, I began filming my culinary finds, the farmers and community members. Over time, my blog has expanded into sharing new discoveries, tastes and recipes while applauding the efforts of local food heroes wherever I go.
My short videos provide introductions to the farmers, products and the unique atmosphere of the markets. This portal into the San Diego markets gives a taste of what is possible and shows the path to connecting the dots between food, farms and life. The following is a sampling of my recent videos.
In 1981, I visited a 300 acre organic farm in Southern Michigan which housed the Creative Health Institute. It was there that I was exposed to the early years of Live Foods as directed by the late matriarch of the movement, Ann Wigmore. The farm grew the grains which became the sprouts in the food; full of life-enhancing enzymes, it was both energizing and healing. The Creative Health Institute was, and continues to be, a remarkable healing center where life-giving practices are embraced.
Raw or live foods are rooted in traditions which date back to our human origins. Before refrigeration, fermentation and enzymatic growth in food was widespread in the cuisines of world, including Roman garum sauce, Chinese soy products, Japanese pickles, Korean kimtchie, Indian dosas, Thai fish sauces and Indonesian tempeh. Sometimes cooked, sometimes raw, these foods contributed significantly to the diets of the cultures they came from. The modern raw food diet originally drew inspiration from the proto-Christian Essenes most commonly known as the sect of John the Baptist, a desert-dwelling Judaic group who used the sun to dry their sprouted manna bread.
Raw living foods help stimulate the immune system and facilitate the flow of chi energy throughout the body. There are countless people who claim it clears the mind, balances the body and heals many illnesses.
The most common endorsement I hear is that the raw foods increases energy in daily living. Whether one embraces the diet entirely or includes a percentage of raw food, the benefits are real.
There are probably more raw-foodies per capita in Southern California than any other part of the country. No doubt the weather and year round availability of local fresh foods plays a significant roll. The sensual pleasures of the palate are plentiful with thoughtfully prepared raw cuisine. I have seen many raw food chefs to be very good with presentation and flavor.
The farmer’s markets in San Diego feature a number of live food vendors.
Macadamia-Sunflower Hummus is a versatile recipe suitable to serve with any cuisine. Serve it as a dip or use it as a spread in a sandwich or on a cracker. The Basil Leaf Rolls are just one of many dishes I have used the hummus with.
1 cup raw macadamia nuts
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 cups water for soaking
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup water
Place the nuts, seeds and soaking water in a container for 2 to 8 hours. Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serve cold or room temperature.
Basil Leaf Rolls
10 large lettuce-leaf basil leaves
5 tablespoons Macadamia-Sunflower Hummus
1 San Marzano Roma tomato sliced into thin 1/4 inch wide strips
Rinse basil leaves and spin-dry in a salad spinner or pat dry with a clean cloth. Spread 1/2 tablespoon hummus evenly on each leaf. Place a tomato slice on one end of the leaf and roll it “roulade-style.” Repeat with each leaf. Slice into 1/2 inch wide rolls. Serve right away.
My home is in Mission Hills, a gorgeous area of San Diego founded by early 20th Century visionaries in the Arts and Crafts tradition with charming historic homes, parks full of spectacular foliage and a strong community presence. I was thrilled when a farmers market sprang up in the middle of the tiny downtown several Fridays ago. There are a number of good vendors in the one city block which comprises the market. This Friday market kicks off my weekends with fresh, organic ingredients.
I have been buying sweet and plump blueberries at Smit Orchards stall for the last few weeks. Their radiant blues and purples have been a colorful addition to morning oatmeal, smoothies, cobblers and pies.
Pepper season heated up in the last month. The Padron Peppers from Suzie’s Farm have been an exciting side dish when I saute them a skillet with a little olive oil and coarse sea salt. Robin, the owner, described how the peppers start off mild and become hotter as the vines get older. He plants them at intervals to make sure he’s able to harvest the sweet young peppers at their prime.
When Suzies Farm has the historic Italian Jimmy Nardello peppers, buy them! I prepared them the same way as the Padrones. They have a sweet flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Tender baby-beet greens from Maggie’s Farm went into my summer squash with coconut curry dish. They also had a variety of heirloom potatoes which I used for a roasted potato chole and baby romaine heads which I cut in half, browned in a skillet and served as an antipasti plate garnish.
Saturday at the Little Italy Mercato
Saturday mornings are in full swing at the Mercato in the heart of Little Italy. Each market is defined by the neighborhood it is in and this three block market has an Old World Italian flavor with modern urban chic.
Justin Noble of Sage Mountain Farm grows starship zucchini, a type of patti pan squash which I steamed and served with a lemon-dijon sauce. He also grows Armenian cucumbers which are not really cucumbers, but a member of the melon family. They are a refreshing and crunchy addition to salads along with heirloom tomatoes, which are starting to flood the markets.
The founder of La Milpa Organica, Oasis Benson, moved north and entered the organic olive business. Good Faith Farm sells two kinds of raw, organic olives– Sevillanos and Kalamata–along with their delicious olive oil, which is so fresh it must be refrigerated. These delicious olives are cured with first quality ingredients (brown rice vinegar) and are probably the healthiest olives one will ever encounter.
There are several musicians throughout the market. Santiago Orozco and his band Todo Mundo often play in the amphitheater at the top, east end of the market. The upbeat Latin rhythms and positive message of his music enhance the festive atmosphere.
Sunday at Hillcrest Farmers Market
Mariella Balbi of Guanni Chocolates is located in the center of the Hillcrest Market and always greets me with her beautiful smile. Her vegan Wari Bars made from 100% Peruvian Criollo cacao are a chocolate lover’s delight.
La Milpa Organica is the gold standard of market stalls in San Diego. This week I purchased amaranth, Swiss chard and magenta spreen lamb’s quarters to make tarts, pies, tortes and simple seared greens with garlic, hot red pepper and coarse sea salt.
Karen at Archis Acres picked out a giant head of red leaf lettuce for me. I made lettuce wraps filled with Haas avocados, Cherokee red tomatoes and pepita, cilantro and lime pesto.
Phil of Sage Mountain Farm had Italian torpedo onions, cherry tomatoes, hard-neck garlic and fresh basil with the root–the perfect ingredients for a fresh heirloom tomato, basil, red onion and rubbed garlic crostini.
Matt of Lone Oak Ranch supplied me with some of his very best white and yellow nectarines, white and yellow peaches and candy-like pluots which I am using for grilled fruit salsas this week.
If you have been keeping up with my blog, you will have noticed me waxing poetic about red walnuts from Terra Bella Ranch. The season is over, but Jeff and Nicolina’s excellent Chandler walnuts are still available, as well as their beautiful dried apricots, raw almonds and sun-dried tomatoes, all of which I use regularly. I toast the walnuts and almonds for approximately 12 minutes at 325 F degrees and keep them available for snacks, salads and garnish. Because of the healthy volatile oils in nuts, they can become rancid. I store untoasted nuts in the freezer.
The small Poblano chiles from Sage Mountain Farm are delightful. I cut off the tops, scoop out the seeds and fill them with a corn tamal-style filling or a thick and creamy walnut filling, reminiscent of an Oaxacan walnut sauce which Frida Kahlo used to make at her Blue House. Next I put them onto a chili roasting rack which goes directly on the grill. I can never make enough of these!
I found Palestinian sweet limes, sweet cocktail grapefruit and Reed avocados at the Rancho Mexico Lindo Farm booth. She also had red, pink and green prickley pear fruit, which are considered a health tonic.
San Diego farmer’s markets are a treasure trove of exciting, fresh and organic ingredients. Markets like this can be found across the country in every community.
Barry Koral, one of the farmers at the Hillcrest Farmers Market in San Diego, and I wax poetically every Sunday as shoppers clamor for his avocados, chermoyas, guavas, sapotes, passion fruit, Persian limes, kumquats, blood oranges, Meyer lemons and local macadamia nuts. Although he is not “certified” organic, he describes everything he does at the farm as “beyond organic.” He is a “fixture” at the market, proclaiming to all who pass by the value of his avocados, the life-giving properties of his figs or the “passion” in his passion fruits.
A few weeks ago, he invited my wife and me to an event at his home and orchard in Vista, a community within San Diego County. It was a live-food celebration with about fifty people in attendance. When we arrived, I immediately sensed that this was a “connected” domicile, reminding me of similar homes where the energy of the residents seem to be “one” with the living cycles of the planet. Barry seemed to take enormous pleasure entertaining his guests with his wit, creative spirit and love of life. It was a marvel to see him work the room and share quality moments with each person in attendance. After he delivered a spirited talk and shared poetry with all of us, the crowd took to the raw food buffet like wheat-grass to a juicer. The food was fresh and vitalizing, and everyone seemed re-energized by the association and community spirit.
Raw Ginger-Beet Salad
6 cups raw beets, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh ginger juice
1/4 cup sweet onions, minced
Mix all ingredients in a bowl fifteen minutes before serving.
It was a quiet Sunday morning two days after Christmas and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. For the first time this year, I pulled into the Hillcrest Farmers Market parking lot and found a space immediately. Even though many of the regular vendors take this week off, days like this at the market can provide opportunity for new discoveries. What happens is, the market master offers the farmers on his waiting list, who often have a regular presence at other markets, the opportunity to sell their wares on this day at the coveted Hillcrest Market. This brings in a variety of new and unusual products.
Terra Bella Ranch was one of the “new” vendors this day. Jeff and Nicolina Alves are second generation farmers with agricultural degrees and are dedicated to organic and sustainable farming. Their booth was full of information, including a “daily feed-your-brain” product sheet and descriptions of their wares. The written information was bolstered by their enthusiasm and knowledgeable chit-chat.
As I surveyed their table, I felt as though I had discovered gold. Right before me were packages of ruby-red walnuts. Jeff explained that these treasures, developed through natural hybrid methods, take seven to eight years to produce fruit compared to the normal three years. Jeff told me there are groves scattered around California, the biggest being no larger than five acres, thus making these delectable jewels very rare.
The sign proclaimed:
“The Red Walnut is also known as the Livermore variety. The Red Walnut is an English Walnut with a mild flavor similar to the Chandler Walnut. It is naturally grown with a beautiful burgundy/red wine colored skin making them a perfect addition for salads, cheese plates or baking. Walnuts are the HEALTHIEST of all nuts”
After my initial “wow” over the red walnuts, I began to notice the other items on their table–Chandler walnuts, apricots and almonds, all fresh and relatively local (some are grown further north in California). I felt like I hit the jackpot and bought a bag of everything. Because the oils in nuts are delicate, creating a relatively short shelf life, most of us have become used to nut meats that are not at the peak of freshness and often a little rancid. I usually refrigerate or freeze them to avoid this. Using freshly-harvested nuts when cooking makes a world of difference, providing subtle flavors that are usually not present when using store-bought varieties.
When I arrived back at the house, I set the ruby-red walnuts out for everyone to see and taste. At first, they were intimidated by their vibrant color, but decided to take a chance and try them. The nuts were sweet and velvety with a pleasing walnut-flavor and did not have the slightly bitter aftertaste characteristic of many walnut varieties. This made it necessary to refill the bowl within a matter of minutes…..
For more information about Terra Bella Ranch, mail-order info and a list of all the markets they sell at, contact Jeff and Nicolina at email@example.com.
It was another beautiful day in San Diego and we decided to go to Nature’s Express for lunch. Just a block away from Balboa Park it is a perfect location for a light meal after a stroll through the beautiful park. In spite of a variety of past experiences restaurants here, we had a good feeling about it.
The location has had many incarnations in the last 20 years. First, there was the iconic Kung Food, next, The Vegetarian Zone, then an empty building. After a number of years,
seemingly as an answer to the whispered cocktail wishes of San Diegan vegetarians, Eatopia in OB moved into the space to resurrect the name Kung Food and proselytize their brand of veganism. Heavy in soy based meat substitutes they served in an egalitarian format that removed service and placed all the food equally in hot and cold steam table bins. We tried to forgo our culinary and societal egos each time, but it was difficult. The hot food was not color-coded and, instead of presenting the food at the table, they had someone dish it out mess-hall style with the not so enthusiastic line of “what do ya want?” often difficult to hear through the blaring reggae music. We would then trudge with tray in hand to the counter, place our plate on a scale and get financially judged for the amount of food we were about to eat. They even opened a fast food drive-up window on the side of the building to serve a burger-and-fries style fast food. This was an exciting alternative to try out. Time and time again, we drove up to the window and had to park for 20 minutes before receiving our “fast food” order. At that point, our undercooked fries and sit-in-your stomach burgers were anti-climatic. We tried–really tried, but to no avail. I do give them credit for giving it a go. From my own experience I understand how much effort it takes to pull off a good restaurant. Apparently there was some managerial disagreement with the owner and they left the location in a huff. The next incarnation was a non-descript lacto-veg restaurant with table service. It was just ok, with mediocre food and a heavy dose of dairy products. Not our cup of tea.
A number of months ago, it was a pleasant surprise to discover Natures Express entered the picture and was entirely vegan. I was particularly interested and managed to drag others to try it. We started with the fast food window. It was dressed up Boca burgers, wraps and fries that were passable. Our 13 year old companion tea-bird (with her discerning palate) particularly enjoyed the fries.
The other day, we worked up the courage to enter the main restaurant. It was nice inside, with a good aroma and enthusiastic people. They still had the steam tables, but it was self serve and the food looked pretty good. First was a simple, but very fresh looking salad bar, next was the cold raw food bar with eight or nine different preparations and the final bar was hot food with another eight or nine dishes. All the food was colorful, identifiable (very important!) and well labeled. I could also tell they use good ingredients on par with some of the best vegetarian restaurants. The pricing was set up by the plate, which allowed light and heavy eaters to pay the same price and not feel embarrassment for copious helpings. In addition to the food bars, a cooler with prepared sandwiches was nearby as well as the full menu from the drive through. They also serve pizzas in the evenings. The servers were enthusiastic, helpful and available. “Mundo” especially went out of his way. Our expectations were low, but the food was well prepared, nicely spiced and good to eat. It was still egalitarian vegetarian, but they have done it right.
As a final note, noticed the Nature’s Express sign was painted over and the San Diego location has been removed from the Natures Express website. Are we about to experience another incarnation? A call to the restaurant confirmed they are indeed changing the name to Vegolution. If the food stays this good, they could name it whatever they want and it would still be all right with me.
July 2010 Update:
The restaurant has evolved into the fittingly titled Evolution Fast Food. They help to fill a void in San Diego, which trails behind many other cites in dedicated vegan restaurants.
Many years of exploring traditional cooking techniques and preparing countless meals have influenced the choices I make when purchasing ingredients. As a service, I have created a marketplace to make it easy for our readers to find and purchase unique products which are fundamental to preparing fantastic healthy food.
Everything one needs to set up a kitchen and produce my recipes, with the exception of fresh produce, are available through the store. Here you will find items chosen from experience such as: Kitchen appliances; Pots and pans; knives and utensils; organic grains and flours; organic spices and herbs.
In addition, there are cookbooks, videos, yoga materials , gardening tools and supplies selected to enhance a harmonic lifestyle.