Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Review: Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal - Chocolate

Recently, due to my increasing difficulty in eating a lot of food, I decided to try out a meal replacement drink. Now previously I would have probably bought a dairy based meal replacement - like Complan (in the UK), but being more clued up to a healthy lifestyle, this time I decided to see if I could find a product that did not have allergens in it such as dairy and gluten. What I discovered was even better than that...

Garden of Life make a number of really nice looking products, and going by other reviews their products are high quality and fit in with my lifestyle choices. When looking for a meal replacement, I was ideally looking for something that would be highly nutritious and would act as an instant tonic to my body - similar if possible to the experience I get when I drink fresh juice. What's good about liquid based products is the tend to be easily and quickly absorbed/utilised by my body.

Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal - Chocolate
In the UK it's hard to get hold of the Garden of Life meal replacements, but I managed to find the 'chocolate' version on Amazon UK. If you are in the US then you will have a far wider variety available to you, including the interesting sounding: Vanilla Chai.

Here's the blurb about the one I bought:
Garden of Life Raw Meal was formulated to be a meal replacement that satisfies hunger, is naturally filling and provides energy, all while providing the protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals that you would find in a healthy meal of raw foods. Raw Meal provides the nutrition of a well-balanced, healthy raw meal in one delicious serving. Why choose raw meal. Raw meal goes beyond organic by providing live probiotics and enzymes, vitamin code raw food created vitamins and minerals, as well as nutrient Code Factors such as beta-glucans, SOD, glutathione and CoQ10, enabling natural recognition by your body. Containing 26 superfoods from Raw organic seeds, sprouts and greens, RAW Meal provides 34 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber and a healthy 2.5 grams of fat making it an excellent choice for weight conscious individuals. RAW Meal also offers 20 Vitamin Code vitamins and minerals providing at least 100% of the Daily Value of 16 key nutrients. Just as important is what's not included in RAW Meal. It is gluten-free, dairy-free and lactose-free. It has no fillers, no isolates, no synthetic nutrients, no artificial sweeteners and no preservatives.

  • Very filling!
  • Made from raw & good quality ingredients
  • Easy to prepare
  • No dairy, gluten or lactose and no preservatives or 'nasties'
  • Great if you are in a hurry or sick and don't have time to prepare a meal
  • As with many healthy, raw based products it is on the expensive side (especially for us Brits)
  • I hated the taste by itself (see below)
  • It is slightly gritty/powdery and very thick
How to deal with the taste/texture and make it drinkable:

The first time I tried it, I made it as directed on the tub, but I didn't use water (they say to use water). Instead I used almond milk and I also just mixed it (as directed). The result was awful: an unpleasant taste AND it was lumpy and thick. I found the portion size was double what I could manage (even though I forced it all down lol!).

They suggest: two scoops of powder & 16 ounces of water. - not good!

The second time I tried it, I thought about utilising the fact the drink is thick to make a thick shake/smoothie. I tipped 10 ounces of Koko milk (a coconut based milk alternative) into a massive jug, then I added one scoop of powder. I took some vanilla extract and measured about 1/4 a teaspoon and added that. Then I took a small banana and broke it into chunks and added that. I finished this off by using a hand stick blender to blend it up thoroughly so there were no lumps and the banana was mixed in. You could use a blender for this instead.

Once I served it up in a giant glass, I stirred in about 1 fluid ounce more of Koko milk to loosen it up a bit. The result is like you are drinking a different product. It tastes like a thick, chocolatey shake... there is still a very slight powdery/gritty texture to it, but it is totally bearable. Even my mum, who tasted some, agreed that it was fine and she expressed a wish to try a whole shake like that.

So to conclude, I really recommend this raw meal mix if you are someone who struggles to eat healthily or who is struggling with food allergies (and none of your allergens are in the mix), or who has chronic illness to deal with and wants a quick and easy meal replacement that is also healthy.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Raw Berry Cheesecake

In June I made a raw (no baking/cooking) cheesecake for Father's Day - I used raspberries from my garden; however, you can use any berries you like. This type of option is vegan, so it is perfect if you can't eat dairy! I find it tastes better the next day as the flavours have fully developed.

I have adapted this recipe from Fragrant Raw Vanilla's Raw Strawberries and Cream Dream Cake ( I actually made her Strawberries and Cream Dream Cake for my sister's birthday, boy was that cake massive... it was gigantic! I thought it would be nice to use the idea as a base for making something more everyday (i.e. smaller and cheaper!).

Raw Raspberry Cheesecake


Base -

1/2 cup of pine nuts or almonds or cashews
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup of shredded coconut (dessicated coconut in the UK - ensure no preservatives)
9 or 10 medjool dates (stones removed)

Cheese, Coulis and Topping - 

1 and 3/4 cup of cashew nuts (see note below)
1/4 cup coconut water
1/4 cup of coconut sugar (e.g. TIANA Premium Organic Crystalised Raw Coconut Nectar)
1/4 cup gently warmed coconut oil (I warm the jar over some hot water and then pour some out into my measuring cup)
2 to 3 cups of berries (e.g. raspberries, blueberries, strawberries)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 small piece (e.g. matchbox size) of peeled raw beet (beetroot in the UK)


Important - the cashews must be soaked overnight:
  1. Place the cashew nuts in a glass bowl, cover with cold water, cover with a plate or cling film/saran wrap and leave to soak overnight. 
  2. Drain the soaked cashew nuts and set aside. 
To make the base:
  1. Brush the inside of a 6-7 inch loose bottomed pan with warmed coconut oil.
  2. Place the first 3 crust ingredients together in a food processor and blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  3. Add 9 of the medjool dates to the food processor mixture and process it. 
  4. Take a pinch of the mixture and see if it will stick together when pressed between your thumb and index/pointer finger. If it it is too crumbly, add the 10th medjool date to the food processor and process again. If it already sticks together well, remove the food processor blade and then tip the base mixture into the loose bottomed pan and use the back of a spoon to press the mixture down firmly until it resembles the base of a cheesecake. You may now put this to one side while you make the 'cheese'.
To make the cheese:

  1. Set aside some of the berries for the topping - (estimate how many you will want/need to put on top).
  2. Set aside another 1/2 a cup of berries for the coulis. 
  3. Take the soaked and drained cashews and place them in your clean food processor. Add the coconut water, coconut sugar and the vanilla. Process.
  4. Take a spatula and scrape any unprocessed mixture off the sides of the food processor bowl. Process again.
  5. Add the berries (not including the 2 amounts set aside for the top and the coulis) and beet, and process again.
  6. Take a spatula and scrape any unprocessed mixture off the sides of the food processor bowl. Process again. The mixture should be a uniform colour and look creamy/smooth.
  7. Pour the mixture into your pan on top of the base. Smooth it over with a spatula so the top is even. Set to once side while you make the coulis.
To make the coulis:
  1. Take the 1/2 cup of berries you set aside, and blend them in either a blender or clean food processor bowl with some sweetener of your choice (coconut nectar, or agave etc) to make a coulis. You shouldn't need much sweetner, I add a little and then taste the coulis, before adding more if necessary.
  2. Take the coulis and spoon it over the top of the cheesecake. It should just cover it - you may need to smooth it over a little.
  1. Now take the whole berries you set aside. If you have strawberries you may wish to halve/quarter or slice them - for raspberries and blueberries you can keep them whole. Neatly place the berries on top of the coulis so that you have a berry topping - see the picture at the top of this recipe.
  2. Carefully put the cheesecake pan on a plate, then cover the pan with another plate to protect the top of the cheescake. Place the whole thing in the freezer for at least 4 hours so it can set.
To Serve - 

Remove the cheesecake from the freezer and allow it to defrost for 10 to 20 minutes. Take a spatula or other thin knife, and run it around the edge to loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan. Have a serving plate ready and preferably someone else to help you: as you press upwards on the loose bottom, the pan will come loose so it helps to have someone else to grab that while you hold onto the bottom of the pan/cheescake. Once you have put the cheesecake on the plate, allow to soften (defrost) further before eating... everyone has their own preference at which stage of defrosting they prefer the cake. I find it tastes better the next day as the flavours have fully developed.


An Update: Elminitation Diet and More Allergies?

As I haven't had time to post for a while, I thought I would update what's happening with me and food...

It appears, I may have developed more than just an allergy to onions, so I am currently on an elimination diet. At the moment I have cut out:
  • Gluten
  • Wheat
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Oats
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Garlic (I was eating this occasionally in small amounts)
  • Dairy
  • Peanuts
  • Legumes and beans - lentils, chickpeas and canned/dried beans
  • Nightshade family - tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes and eggplant/aubergine
  • No premade sauces & no coated anything (e.g. coated fish)
I am continuing to eat eggs and yeast, though I may try elminating them at a later date.

I feel a lot better now I am eating very restrictively - something or some things in that list of foods was making me ill. What made me suspect it was food related is that I was only getting the symptoms after I ate certain meals, but I couldn't figure out what was in those meals that was causing me to be severely unwell.

The premise behind the elimination diet is that you come off all common allergens. In the case of someone who suspects a more unusual allergen, you just choose to also not eat that (e.g. I have stopped the garlic). From what I have read it seems most people do an elimination diet for 5 to 10 days, after which you start to 'challenge' foods. In the case of gluten, it is common to stay off it for longer - e.g. 1 month.

Challenging Foods -

After eliminating the common allergens for the elimination period, one then takes a food a day from the list of avoided foods, and eats some of it in it's purest form. For example, if one wants to challenge wheat, it is not a good idea to eat bread because bread contains other allergens (such as yeast). Instead, it is better to try eating something that is wehat only like wheat flakes cereal, or if one wants to challenge corn, then sweetcorn or cornflakes. Once you have eaten a small amount of it, you then observe whether any of your allergy symptoms arise. If not, then you can add that food back into your diet. If you do exhibit symptoms, then it is likely you are either allergic or intolerant and you should eliminiate that food permanently from your diet.

I am on day 3 of the elimination period, so I won't be challenging just yet. I need to challenge these:
  1. Corn
  2. Goat's milk
  3. Butter
  4. Cheese (hard) - cow, sheep and goat
  5. Wheat
  6. Cheese (blue) - cow
  7. Oats
  8. Peanuts
  9. Soy (I need to get soybeans)
  10. Cheese (cream/white) - goat and cow
  11. Yoghurt (plain) - cow
  12. Rye (I need to get ryebread - the pumpernickle type... and check if it is just rye, I think it is)
  13. Cow's milk
  14. Nightshade family
  15. Lentils
  16. Other legumes/beans
I will try spelt at a later date - as I don't eat it much anyway. Garlic - I am not sure what to do about.. I guess I need to try it, but I am scared!