A Fresh Approach: Raw Diets on an Upswing

Raw food diets are on an upswing, and it’s no surprise. Celebrities such as Demi Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Woody Harrelson have touted the positive results of incorporating more raw foods, causing people to pay attention to the trending phenomenon.

Natasha Kyssa (below) simply hopes that more people understand how a raw food diet can transform their lives. Kyssa, a former international model who travelled the world in the 1980s, adopted an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle marked by anorexia and bulimia. After about eight years of modelling, Kyssa left the industry desperate for change.

Clinically depressed, she went back to the basics. She eliminated processed foods and meat and eventually took grains out of her diet as well. It was a gradual evolution to becoming a raw foodist, but she arrived and noticed a marked difference.

Her energy levels went through the roof, her skin glowed and her overall physical, mental and emotional states were at all-time highs.

Now 53, Kyssa — who has studied at a number of renowned institutions such as the Gerson Institute and the Hippocrates Health Institute — owns the SimplyRaw Express, a raw food restaurant and boutique in Ottawa (www.simplyrawexpress.com). And she recently released The SimplyRaw Kitchen (Arsenal Pulp Press), a cookbook of mostly raw recipes Kyssa created with her mother.

The cookbook acts as a guide of sorts, giving readers the first steps toward this new way of living: the staples of a raw diet, the benefits and philosophy, and some handy kitchen utensils and appliances you may want to grab.

Kyssa takes a refreshingly inclusive approach with this book. Rather than preach, she gently provides advice knowing that not everyone will go completely raw. A simple first step? “Keep your mornings raw,” she says. “Eat only fresh whole plant foods each and every morning … try to keep it light, green and raw until lunch time.”

Kyssa includes a number of gently-cooked soups that act as a great entry point to anyone who’s a bit hesitant. And best of all, the recipes – aside from being incredibly tasty – are super simple and quick to put together.

Click through pages for recipes!

Yum Rum Balls

My father would sometimes surprise the family with a box of rum balls and, ever since, says Kyssa I get nostalgic for them at Christmas. One year, while watching my mother prepare her traditional Christmas rum balls with butter for the annual cookie exchange, I was inspired to make a raw vegan version: it’s tastier than the standard rum ball and is more nutritious, too.

3 cups     almonds
¾ cup     maple syrup
1 cup     raw cacao powder
1 tsp.     vanilla extract
Pinch     Himalayan salt
3 tbsp.     dark rum or
2 tsp. rum extract
¼ –½ cup cacao nibs, coarsely ground

In a food processor, process almonds until flour-like. Transfer to mixing bowl. Stir in maple syrup, cacao powder, vanilla, salt and rum; mix well. Form into bite-sized balls and roll in cacao nibs. This can get messy (especially if you dip into the rum!). Cacao nibs are partially ground cacao beans. You can coarsely grind them further in a coffee grinder. They have a rather bitter flavour and are a healthier alternative to chocolate chips but, like other chocolate products, are stimulating (some people eat them straight out of the bag!). They can be added to smoothies and desserts. If you have extra, store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Makes about 20 rum balls.

Aged Peppercorn Cheeze

This soft “cheese” will impress even dairy lovers. If you’re in a rush, skip the fermentation process. Serve with dehydrated crackers, grapes and olives. Yes, miracles do exist!

2 cups     (500 ml) cashews, soaked for 30 minutes or more
¼ cup     (60 ml) lemon juice
½-¾ cup     (125–185 ml) purified water, or as needed
½ tsp     probiotic powder (approximately 3 plant-based probiotic caps)
¾ tsp     Himalayan salt
2–3 tsp     coarsely ground peppercorns
1–2 tbsp     whole peppercorn, for garnish (optional)

In a blender, blend cashews with lemon juice, water and probiotics until smooth. Add salt and blend again. Add more water if needed to attain a smooth consistency.

Note If you don’t have a blender: in a food processor, process cashews, lemon juice and probiotics with about ½ cup (125 ml) water to make a creamy mixture. Stop processing occasionally and scrape down sides with a spatula. Texture should be thick and smooth.

Pour mixture into a nut milk bag or cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl. Wrap cloth to cover and place a 5-pound (2.25 kg) weight on top. (I use a large Mason jar filled with water.) Place in a warm location and allow to ferment for 24 hours. The longer it ferments, the stronger and tangier the cheeze will taste. (If you want to speed up the process, place in dehydrator or infra-red sauna.) Once fermented, remove cheese from cloth and transfer to a bowl; add coarsely ground peppercorns, mixing until well incorporated. Place cheese into a small ring mould, garnish with whole peppercorns and refrigerate; it will firm up as it chills. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

VARIATION To develop a rind on the cheese, place it in a mould lined with plastic wrap and dehydrate at 105 F (41 C) for an additional 12 to 24 hours.
Makes about 2 cups (500 ml).

Real Tomato Soup

4     large tomatoes, chopped
2     red bell peppers, chopped
½ cup     (125 ml) hemp seeds
2 tbsp.     lime juice
1 tbsp.     light miso
2 tbsp.     gluten-free tamari
Half an avocado, chopped
1 tbsp.     maple syrup or a
few drops
stevia  (optional)
Pinch     Himalayan salt
to taste
Pinch     freshly ground black
pepper, to taste
2 tbsp.     chopped chives for
garnish (optional)

In a blender, process tomatoes, peppers, hemp, lime juice, miso, tamari, avocado and maple syrup until smooth. Season to taste and garnish with chives.
Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Note Tamari is a “cooked” food, a naturally fermented soy sauce that contains no preservatives that adds a rich, salty flavour (use a reduced-sodium variety).