Those annoying stickers that are often difficult to peel off our fruit actually contain helpful information about how that fruit was grown. These stickers are PLU (price look up) labels, which many of us have thought had the sole purpose of telling the checker at the grocery store what to enter to charge us for the right produce. However, those codes actually can tell us much more than that.
In 2012, many Californians were upset when voters did not pass Proposition 37, which would make GMO labeling mandatory. GMO stands for “genetically modified organism,” which means that food’s genetic material was altered using genetic engineering techniques. That is far from natural. Understanding how to read PLU labels can detour consumers from purchasing GMO fruit without having to have a specific “GMO grown” label on it.
PLU labels have three categories: conventional, genetically modified, and organic.
Conventional: PLU codes for all conventional fruits are four digits. It is safe to assume that conventionally-raised fruit contains pesticides and petroleum-based , as well as being grown in depleted soils.
The other two types of PLU labels on fruits are five digits. It is important to distinguish between these two by their first numbers, because that first number makes all the difference.
Genetically modified: PLU codes for genetically modified fruits are five digits long and begin with the number 8. This fruit contains genes that were not put there by Mother Nature. Science made this fruit.
Organic: PLU codes for organic fruit (defined as organic by the National Organic Standards Board, or NOSB) are five digits and begin with a 9. Although the organic standard as defined by the NOSB are not as strict as many organic enthusiasts would like them to be, these fruits are still superior to conventional and GMO grown fruit.
Knowing to differentiate fruit-based on its PLU is a very helpful tool when shopping at your local grocery store, since the origins of such produce are not typically advertised. Since learning this trick is relatively easy to remember, the next time you are grocery shopping, browse through the produce section and try to apply your newfound knowledge. You might be surprised by what you find!
1 cup sunflower seeds (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed)
1 cup almonds (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed)
1 cup Brazil nuts (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (soaked overnight)
1/4 cup ground flax
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. onion powder
2 – 4 tsp. nutritional yeast (to taste)
I initially set out to make a raw version of “Cheez-Its” this weekend.
I used to love Cheez-Its. LOVE them. Especially the “white cheddar” variety.
Though, these days, eating all that processed flour, oil, and sugar does not sit so well with my body.
I soaked everything overnight, and immediately after returning from the farmer’s market Sunday morning, I got to work. The end result was extremely delicious, but actually tasted more like pizza.
So, voila! Raw Pizza Crackers!
Soak sunflower seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes overnight.
In the morning, drain everything, and rinse the seeds and nuts thoroughly under filtered water.
First, grind the flax into a fine powder. Then, add in the seeds and nuts. Process thoroughly, until you have a ball of “dough.” Add all the remaining spices, and the nutritional yeast, to taste. Start with 2 teaspoons, and add more if desired. This is what will give the crackers a “cheesy” taste, so add more until the mixture is as cheesy as you want.
Spread and flatten dough very thin onto a non-stick sheet.
Dehydrate until the top is dry and slightly crispy, then flip the dough, and use a pizza cutter or knife to score it, make individual crackers. Continue to dehydrate until nice and crispy.
As usual, if you don’t have a dehydrator, just use your oven on the lowest possible setting, with the door cracked open.
There you are—Raw Pizza Crackers! Dip them, top them, or enjoy them as is.
Raw? Vegan? Vegetarian? Lacto-Ovo? Pescatarian? Mediterranean? There have been so many diets promoted in natural health circles in America over the last decades. It seems they all have various benefits. And the one thing most have in common is the avoidance of consuming of cows and pigs.
Red meat and pork have no known health benefits. The animals are treated brutally and killed in a gruesome bloodbath that is easy to ignore because so few have witnessed our fellow mammals’ slaughter. Those who are employed to do the dirty work get very low wages and often incur injuries because of the size and weight of the animals and the speed of the work. It is very difficult to watch. Even when Cargill, one of the largest meat processing companies in the nation, allowed Oprah Winfrey into a couple of sanitized areas of a processing plant, they did not allow her cameras to film a cow being killed. Out of sight means out of mind.
We are very fortunate that there are so many other things to eat! This meat can feel energizing because of all the adrenaline in the animal when it is killed, and there is iron in blood and flesh, but there is also iron in spinach, dried fruit, and lentils. There is a tradition of the hunt and the roast, and this holds a special allure and place in our hearts. However, when you realize that is far from how the animals get to our plates nowadays, the romanticized vision vanishes.
One hamburger can contain up to 100 different cows. The US kills 35 million cows a year, and 13,200 pigs an hour. That is a lot of bloodshed, death, and killing. What would our country be like if that stopped? Our cardiovascular health would improve, as would our regularity. Less suffering for the animals coincides with less suffering for humanity.
If you would like to see what really goes on behind the closed doors of the slaughterhouse, it is a great motivator for change, although very sad to watch:
These videos have a louder volume, so you may wish to mute (this also makes them more bearable to watch):
This was filmed at Agriprocessors which was the largest (Glatt) Kosher meat producer in the United States, and the only one authorized by Israel’s Orthodox Rabbinate to export beef to Israel, before it was shut down in 2008 by inspectors (best to mute):
Thank you for being willing to read this, and watching some of the videos. I know it is very difficult to consider this topic because for so long we have been removed from the reality of it and since we were children we were taught to eat a certain way. Make sure to be gentle with yourself and go slowly when making changes in eating habits. Perhaps begin with a “meatless Monday.”
This film describes the positive environmental impacts that forgoing meat just one day a week can make:
For a well done documentary about one man’s journey with this issue, watch this clip:
Another inspiring story with regards to getting back to a plant-based diet is that of Dave the trucker. He was dying when he decided he had to tackle this problem head on:
Even the Mayo Clinic recommends “meatless meals”:
Recent articles in the LA Times and the Huffington Post lend weight to this conclusion:
Because of all the droughts we have been having in the US, the cattle are starving, and the herds are shrinking:
Cows are very gentle creatures. There is no skill or chase in hunting them. They are docile pacifists who give their milk and eat grass. They hurt no one, and do not deserve this torture. Pigs frolic and forage, are as sociable and intelligent as dogs, and genetically are surprisingly similar to humans (more so than any other domesticated animal):
The slaughter house is like hell on earth. It is time for the madness to end. It does not have to be this way. Humans have freedom of choice, and when we know better, we do better. And when we learn, we care.
These items can function in place of meats in traditional American recipes when needed, they’re pretty tasty, and the most popular ones are available at supermarkets:
I had a great experience when I asked my supermarket to carry a natural product they did not already have, and they now stock it in the store – thank you Vons!
If you are taking medications or have had surgery, please consult your doctor before making any changes in your diet and only undertake such changes under her/his supervision and monitoring. This is because dietary changes can lessen the need for certain medications. Also, listen to your body – if you need red meat, eat it. If you can avoid it when possible, and still feel good, please do. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as medical advice.
America has the finest high-tech medical care in the world. If a person is in an accident, the emergency care is exemplary. We also have dedicated, energetic scientists working hard to develop new treatments every day.
I think one area we have not fully accessed is nature and indigenous knowledge. There is still a place for science within this realm, working in harmony with the natural world and people who live in close communion with it to learn from them how we too can do so more gracefully. Preventative health care begins with focusing on sustainable agriculture. This will also help stabilize the climate and prevent war, as hungry people are more belligerent. If you think I am joking, try fasting and working at the same time, and see how long you last.
Traditional crossbreeding of plants is safer and wiser than genetic engineering. Researching and testing the most reliable healing plants and fruits in each region of the earth provides a fertile field for academic and commercial institutions. If we try to leave nature behind, we will not get far, as evidenced by our current state of crisis.
For example, blackberries are incredibly healthy. They grow wild all over the Pacific Northwest of the United States. There is a wonderful blackberry breeding program at Oregon State University that has developed a number of delicious (thornless even!) blackberry varieties. If everyone in this region had a blackberry bush or free blackberries available, many health concerns could be assuaged. Daily berries (in season) really do make a difference in health. Blueberries could be cultivated freely throughout the Northeast. Mangos, avocados, and peaches can be grown in the warmer regions of the country. People’s health is in part determined by the quality of their food and drink. Organic farming will restore the land.
Before you protest and say this will never happen—asserting that we have public space set aside for nature and parks, but only planted with ornamentals—get a load of what the city of Seattle is doing!
In the neighborhood of Beacon Hill a seven acre plot is being planted with grapes, apples, raspberries, blueberries, pears, plums, pineapple, guava, persimmons, and other fruit trees, as well as herbs, chestnuts, and walnuts! It is called the Beacon Food Forest, and was designed in 2009 by students in a permaculture class. beaconfoodforest.weebly.com
The trial plot of two acres is being planted this summer, with the remaining five acres to be completed at a later date. This will be a true, sustainable food bank! Here is a video showing the first plantings:
The founding members of the project hope to educate the community of the benefits of permaculture through the site. Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect, states, “This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park!”
Jenny Pell, permaculturist, explains, “People worried, ‘What if someone comes and takes all the blueberries?’ That could very well happen, but maybe someone needed those blueberries. We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season then it means we’re successful.”
Local residents have been enthusiastically pitching in and signing up with comments like, “Put me to work – I can’t wait to get my hands dirty,” and, “Let me know when I can show up with my wheelbarrow.” Help with propagating, mulching, and pruning is welcomed. “People will come in and for example help cut the raspberries back and then be able to take home five or ten raspberry plants to put in their own backyard!” proclaims Pell.
“When we met with all the different people from the community, what they wanted actually was fruits and berries and big nut trees- that was their biggest request. So, we’re looking at paths with berry bushes on both sides, and we’re going to have mixed fruit orchards, and big nut orchards. It will be the largest food forest on public lands in the United States.”
A couple of other folks worldwide have been at the forefront of this movement to get free produce to everyone while reforesting the earth. Kenya’s Queen of the Trees Professor Wangari Maathai inspired the planting of 47 million trees in Kenya and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Her vision of environmental stewardship rather than plunder of natural resources (which has been the accepted norm) has inspired many people. She especially encouraged women to plant trees, beginning the www.Greenbeltmovement.org in 1977.
When she started her work, Professor Maathai saw that “behind the everyday hardships of the poor—environmental degradation, deforestation, and food insecurity—were deeper issues of disempowerment, disenfranchisement, and a loss of the traditional values that had previously enabled communities to protect their environment, work together for mutual benefit, and to do both selflessly and honestly.”
Simply put, Professor Maathai said, “If you destroy the forest then the river will stop flowing, the rains will become irregular, the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation… We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk.”
Anthony Anderson of www.growparadise.com states, “When we realize that we can quite easily and quickly begin to grow paradise right where we live, our power returns to us! Growing paradise requires nothing but the spirit of love and growth within us. We invite you to become a part of this, whether directly or by spreading the ideas and growing paradise in your own backyard and local community. Grow paradise. It is ours if we really want it.” He has seeded food forests in Minnesota, California, Arizona, and Cape Town, South Africa.
David Wolfe started the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation www.ftpf.org, which is a nonprofit charity dedicated to planting 18 billion organic fruit trees to “benefit the environment and all its inhabitants!”
“We envision a place where one can have a summer picnic under the shade of a fruit tree, breathe the clean air it generates, and not have to bring anything other than an appetite for the healthy fruits growing overhead. A world where one can take a walk in the park during a lunch break, pick and eat a variety of delicious fruits, plant the seeds so others can eventually do the same and provide an alternative to buying environmentally-destructive, illness-causing, chemically-laden products.”
A pioneer in community agriculture, Farmer John of www.angelicorganics.com states, “Agriculture is an underpinning of our culture. The irrepressibility of life on a farm continually manifests in myriad splendid expressions of life. This glorious unfolding provides us with the sustenance of food, while endlessly nourishing the creative spirit.”
I am very grateful for the amazing hospitals and health care workers we have in this country. They are overburdened, however, because of a lack of preventative and conservational care. With a focus on collective, populist, sustainable agriculture to grow healthy food and medicine for all, chronic disease will diminish, as much chronic degenerative disease is caused by diet and stress related to survival. Food is our first primary need. A plant-based diet is advocated as a foundation for health by leading physicians like Dr. Oz, Dr. Weil, Dr. Chopra, and Dr. Mcdougall.
Combining the skills of doctors, nurses, herbalists, midwives, doulas, shamans, gardeners, farmers, artists and other healers in the community, medicine can evolve beyond a solely symptoms-oriented approach to exploring the source, the roots of imbalance and disease. To do this we must look for help toward our origin and our sustenance – the earth.
For those interested in getting closer to the earth in the LA area and visiting the local farms, go to www.pickyourown.org/CAla.htm.
By Ashley H.
1. Blazing a Trail for a Better Bounty of Oregon Berries. (2011, July 26). Retrieved from www.oregonlive.com.
2. Seattle Food Forest. (2012, March 9). Retrieved from www.loe.org.
3. Husted, K. (2012, March 1). Seattle’s First Urban Food Forest will be Open to Foragers. Retrieved from www.npr.org.
4. Leschin-Hoar, B. C. (1, February 2012). It’s Not a Fairytale: Seattle to Build Nation’s First Food Forest . Retrieved from www.takepart.com.
(Adapted from rawdorable.blogspot.com)
1 cup almond meal (ground raw almonds)
¼ coconut flour (ground unsweetened, shredded coconut)
¼ raw cacao powder
2 Tbsp coconut nectar, raw agave, raw honey, or maple syrup
2 Medjool dates, pitted
1 tsp peppermint extract
Dash of pink Himalayan or sea salt
1/3 cup melted cacao butter
1.5 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup cacao powder
I always used to love Girl Scout cookies, especially Thin Mints. I could go through bunches of them. But now all that processed sugar, butter, and flour just makes me feel terrible. Here’s a healthier (but still decadent) approach—Raw, homemade Thin Mints.
Grind both almonds and coconut separately in food processor. Make sure not to over-process either—you don’t want almond or coconut butter.
Combine resulting almond meal and coconut flour with the cacao powder, and process. Add in the sweetener, dates, peppermint extract, and salt. Make sure the dates you use a very soft—if they’ve been in the fridge, let them sit out for a while to soften before adding them. Once everything is well mixed, you’ll have your big ball of mint-chocolate dough.
Flatten the dough evenly on some parchment paper. Use something round and small to cut out the cookie shapes (I used a ¼ cup measure). Dehydrate and flip, until crisp. Or alternately, if you don’t have a dehydrator, use your oven on the lowest setting with the door propped open.
Once your cookies are all nice and crispy, you’re ready to coat them in chocolate.
Using a double-bowl method, melt the cacao butter in a small bowl resting in a larger bowl that is filled with warm-hot water. Stir around the cacao butter until it is fully melted. Now work quickly and carefully. Remove the small bowl from the larger bowl, and whisk in the maple syrup, vanilla, and cacao powder. The chocolate won’t stay in liquid form for very long, so start dipping in your cookies right away. Place them on parchment paper to dry. And there you are—Raw Thin Mints. Store them in the fridge in an airtight container. The chocolate coating will only be stable at a fairly cool temperature, so don’t leave them sitting out for very long.
2 cups raw hazelnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours, drained and rinsed
½ cup raw cacao powder
2 Tbsp – ¼ cup coconut nectar/maple syrup/raw honey/raw agave (to taste)
¼ tsp (or more) pink Himalayan or sea salt (to taste)
¼ – ½ cup milk alternative (I used homemade unsweetened vanilla brazil/hazelnut milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract (omit if using vanilla almond milk)
Optional: 1 tsp coconut oil
Nutella hazelnut-chocolate spread is delicious. That is a fact.
Unfortunately, store-bought Nutella is highly processed, with unnecessary amounts of refined sugar and oil. This recipe is a way to enjoy the hazelnut-chocolatey goodness in a raw, more healthful way.
Soak hazelnuts for at least 2 hours. Drain them and rinse thoroughly.
Throw hazelnuts in the food processor. Add the cacao powder, optional coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Add the milk alternative until desired consistency is reached. Next, slowly add the sweetener, tasting as you go. Lastly, add the salt. Make sure to blend everything very thoroughly.
Spread on bread, crackers, or even on raw desserts! Throw in a blender with a frozen banana, almond milk, and ice for a Raw Nutella smoothie.
(Adapted from The Vegan Foodie)
1 block of extra-firm tofu (pressed and drained if in liquid)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. Bragg’s Aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
½ – 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, or raw agave, or raw honey
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2-3 cloves of garlic (plus a few additional cloves to bake with)
Healthy pinches of Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, and Basil (you can use any combination of these, but I like to include all of them)
I make a lot of Asian-influenced dishes at home, and I wanted to try something a little different. I was looking for some way to utilize the big jug of balsamic vinegar I had in my pantry… and I came across this. It’s a wonderful combination of sweet and savory—a balsamic reduction with Italian spices, over chewy, broiled tofu.
Combine all marinade ingredients in food processor and blend.
Slice tofu into even pieces or slabs, and set in a baking pan with marinade.
Marinate overnight (or at least an hour), turning tofu a couple of times partway.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pour marinade into a saucepan on medium-high, until it starts to boil. Then lower to medium-low, and lightly simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring well. You want to watch closely and make sure the glaze doesn’t burn. You want it to reduce to a syrupy glaze.
Keep tofu in baking pan, and season lightly with sea salt, pepper, and additional minced garlic.
Bake tofu for 20 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10. Brush with glaze, then broil for a few minutes each side.
Serve with greens or grains… or whatever you’d like. I served it with some steamed Swiss chard, drizzled with the leftover balsamic reduction.
Rating (out of 4 stars): **
I had wanted to try Better Life Cuisine for a while. It’s touted on Yelp as being one of the more affordable raw food restaurants in LA. This is somewhat true. It’s certainly more affordable than Juliano’s Planet Raw, and the portions are more plentiful than other raw restaurants I’ve been to. That being said, it’s still not cheap. My meal came out to around $15 with tax. I ordered one entrée, the Raw Lasagna, which also came with a side salad of my choice (I choose the Thai Noodle Salad). It was plenty of food—I came in hungry and left quite full.
The restaurant is on a peaceful, quiet strip of Broadway in Santa Monica, right down the street from Planet Raw. The building is almost unmarked, which can be confusing. I passed it and came back. It was late afternoon/early evening, and the place was completely empty. I instantly got a very serene, pretention-free vibe. There was only one women both manning the register and preparing the food. I got the sense that this was not a usual thing—I came in at a slow time. The menu is somewhat confusing. It’s not totally clear what some of the dishes are made from; I had to ask. The server/cook was very friendly, and seemed pleased to indulge my curiosities regarding the ingredients.
The service was very quick (albeit, I was the only customer). The salad was refreshing with a spicy bite, and the dressing had some unexpected notes of citrus. I felt extremely mixed about the lasagna. The portion size was very plentiful, the presentation was pleasing, and it was very flavorful (plenty of garlic). Though, I had an issue with the quality of the tomatoes used. They were okay, but pretty unripe and flavorless on their own. Raw food relies heavily on the quality and freshness of the ingredients, especially the produce. Tomatoes aside, the consistency of the cashew mozzarella was very rich, and the flavor of the herbed ricotta was exceptional, recalling bruschetta from a traditional Italian restaurant.
The cinnamon roll was calling out to me, but unfortunately, I was too full. I decided to save it for next time.
Food: Pretty good—but not a stand-out. Limited entrée selection, and limited creativity.
Value: Too pricey in relation to the quality of the food. More reasonable than places like Planet Raw, but I would rather pay a little more for better overall quality.
Ambience: Quiet and calming. Informal.
Verdict: I would like to go back and try a couple of other items on the menu (namely the cinnamon roll), but this is not a place I would be a friend for dinner. It is definitely worth trying once, but this won’t be a standby for me—I would much rather dine at Café Gratitude or Euphoria Loves RAWvolution.
1 cup raw nuts (soaked overnight, then drained and rinsed)
(Try mixing it up. One of my favorite combinations is equal parts almonds, cashews, and pecans. Hazelnuts and Brazil nuts also make fantastic milk. Mix and match and find your favorite combination.)
4 cups filtered or bottled water
(This makes a rich, creamy, “2% milk” variation. For lighter milk, use more water. For even creamier milk, use less. 2 ½ – 3 cups water makes a great non-dairy creamer.)
Optional: Pinch of Himalayan pink salt or sea salt, to taste
Optional: 1 tsp vanilla extract (alcohol-free)
Optional (to sweeten): 1-3 large Medjool dates or 1- 2 Tbsp raw agave
Nut milk is a delicious raw staple that has become very popular in the mainstream. It’s easy to get ahold of; you can find many different brands in big-chain grocery stores. Though, the flavor of store-bought nut milk does not compare to the rich, complex flavor you get from homemade nut milk. It’s fairly simple to make, and I think it’s definitely worth it.
Soak the nuts you will be using overnight. This will make them blend easier (as well as aids in digestion). The next day, drain the soaking water from the nuts, and rinse them well.
Blend nuts with water, going gradually from low to high. Once thoroughly blended, strain through nut-milk bag (you can buy them on Amazon, or some health food stores), or cheesecloth. Gently press out all the milk and set aside the nut pulp to use in other recipes. You might want to repeat this process a few times, to make sure you catch all the pulp.
Once the milk is strained, pour it back into the blender, and combine with salt and dates/agave/vanilla if desired.
Store in the fridge, in an airtight container. It will keep this way for a few days. If you want it to last longer, freeze the extra. It will last much longer. Also, separation is natural—just give it a shake before you drink it.
(Image borrowed from mynewroots.blogspot.com)
4-6 large Medjool dates (depending on desired portion size)
4 Tbsp coconut butter
2-3 Tbsp raw cacao powder
½ an extremely ripe banana
1 Tbsp coconut nectar or raw agave nectar
Pinch of Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
Optional: ¼ tsp cinnamon
Optional: raw cacao nibs, sesame seeds, shredded coconut
This little treat was thoroughly inspired by “Chocolate Covered Katie.”
I bought some beautiful Medjool dates from the farmer’s market this weekend (shout out to Oasis Date Gardens). Their dates are super soft and caramel-sweet—I think I’m going to order more from them online. I bought them with the intention of using them for any number of different raw desserts on my to-do list… but this idea came to me this morning, and I just couldn’t resist.
Blend together filling ingredients, either with a food processor, blender, or mashing very well with a fork. You may have to slightly melt the coconut butter. If so, place it in a bowl, and put that bowl in another bowl filled with hot water. Only allow it to melt slightly. You can also add the optional cinnamon for a bit of spice, and the cacao nibs, sesame seeds, or shredded coconut as mix-ins.
Pit dates: Rather than splitting in half, take a sharp knife and poke a hole in the top of each date. Use a pair of tweezers (or something similar) to gently pull out the pits, and fill dates with fudge. Place them in the fridge to set.
Take a bite, and indulge in the fudgy goodness.