Several weeks ago a good friend asked if I wanted to go with her to a cooking class - I agreed immediately! Fun! After writing down the time, date and place I asked what kind of class it was...
In retrospect, most people would have probably asked that first.
It was an evening demonstration on raw food preparation at the 118 Degrees restaurant in Costa Mesa.
Okay, sign me up. Healthy here we come.
On a rare rainy night in Southern California, I arrived at The Camp in Costa Mesa, a cool outpost of shops and restaurants with a hip, healthy vibe and made my way to 118 degrees.
Michelle and I were among the first to arrive, but the rows of chairs filled to capacity before the presentation began. For a bunch of Californians to gather in the rain, at night -this had to be something special. And it was.
Chef and raw food evangelist, Jenny Ross was charming, knowledgeable and had the kind of glowing, flawless skin that sells high priced creams and lotions. In her case, however, the big sell was nutrient rich healthful eating. I was interested.
Ross said she began her raw foods journey years ago when she struggled with her own health issues. "I was very sick," she said, and looking for solutions. Thanks to the advice of a friend she transformed her diet and as it turns out, her career path.
The raw food lifestyle is based on foods that have not been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Ross says, "This is the commonly agreed upon temperature after which plant-based ingredients begin to break down and lose essential vitamin and mineral content, as well as enzymes."
Ross shared when she first tried raw foods she was desperate to alleviate her health issues and find relief no matter what was required -but she realizes such a dramatic change in lifestyle might be difficult for many. Instead, she suggests simply adding in more of what she calls, "the good stuff" to your diet -instead of focusing on taking away. I love this. "Keep in mind," writes Ross in her book Raw Basics, "this is not an all or nothing proposition. Choosing to add even one more component of living nutrition to your daily eating plan will begin the process."
That evening, for our cooking demonstration Ross and her team prepared entrees and dessert -and everyone in attendance was given large portions to sample. Delish! Really!
The food was fresh, flavorful and yes -filling.
I was a believer.
Kitchen appliances for the raw food kitchen rely upon a high-powered blender, mandolin, food processor, juicer, chef's knife and cutting board. A dehydrator is not essential, but it does open up more menu options.
Throughout the evening, Ross sprinkled in tips and tricks for plating and presentation, preferred ingredients, shopping resources and even how to use the mandolin more easily -wear a work glove!
She also shared her recipes.
Since even Ross believes renovating eating habits is more fun when you start with dessert, I will do the same. The following is her recipe for Chocolate Go-Go Balls -which are healthy enough to eat for breakfast, and easy enough to tote in your bag as an afternoon snack:
From the Jenny Ross Raw Basics Cookbook:
Chocolate Go-Go Balls
"For eating on the run, these go-go balls are great, and the best part is that you'll feel like you're having dessert for breakfast. Raw cacao is high in magnesium and stimulates the creativity center of the brain, so these aid in concentration all day long."
2 cups raw pecans (pieces)
1/2 cup raw agave nectar or honey
1 1/2 cups raw cacao
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tblsp. raw coconut butter (optional)
2 Tbsp. maca-root powder
2 Tbsp. supergreens powder 1 tsp. sea salt
coconut shreds for topping
Place raw pecans in a food processor with S-blade attachment. Pulse until a coarse, flour-like mixture forms. Add the cacao, cinnamon, supergreens powder and salt. Continue pulsing until well combined. Switch to the processing setting and slowly pour in coconut butter and then sweetener. Aim for the center of the processor; and stop as soon as a dough ball begins to form. Over processing will result in an excess of oil in the mixture so this is to be avoided.
Scoop out onto parchment paper lined in coconut shreds, and roll mixture until ball forms. If needed freeze mixture for 15 minutes so that balls hold their shape well.
Makes twelve 2-inch balls, which will last indefinitely stored in your pantry in an airtight container.
As for me, I may not change the family lifestyle over night, but the seeds of raw inspiration have been planted -and will be coming soon to plates near me.
If you have favorite raw recipes or tips for healthy eating, please share in the comments below -I'd love to know!
2981 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Cooking classes and more info is available on the website: www.118degrees.com