Thursday, August 30, 2012

Refreshing Jicama Salad

Jicama Salad in Baby Romaine Nest
Some of you may be asking - "what is jicama?"

Jicama is a root vegetable, known as the yam bean root, (yes jicama is related to the sweet potato) that looks very much like a large brown turnip.

When you peel and slice jicama it is crispy, juicy and mildly sweet.  I like to eat jicama slices with dips such as hummus or baba ghanouch.

This week I have been experimenting with jicama. Some of the jicama experiments have turned out surprisingly well and others not so well.  One of the jicama experiments that turned out well is jicama salad.  Light and refreshing, and requiring no cooking on a hot summer day, jicama salad was a great compliment to our pan braised salmon last night.  My husband, who is not adventuresome when it comes to food, actually had two helping of jicama salad.  Now that is pretty amazing!



2 c. jicama, cut into small 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 c. red bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
1/4 c. red onion, diced
1 avocado, cubed

Toss the jicama, red bell pepper, celery, and red onion together.  Pour the dressing over it and stir well. Top with cubes of avocado.  Serve in a nest of baby romaine lettuce.


2 T. sesame tahini
2 T. water
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
1 T. prepared mustard
1 T. minced parsley
1/4 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. tamari
1/4 t. agave nectar
dash sea salt

Pour all ingredients into a glass jar and shake until well mixed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Health Secrets Of Dragon Fruit

Just when you think you have a few things figured out about food along comes something to really shake things up.  So, here is a new one for me folks, the little known, (at least to me), dragon fruit.

As you can see from the photo I took dragon fruit is a beautifully and brilliantly packaged, (you could give one as a present) fruit.  And, as you can see from the photo, when cut, dragon fruit bleeds all over the cutting board!  There are several varieties of dragon fruit.  The most delicious is said to be the red-skinned and red-fleshed variety.   I LOVE the pizzaz and eye-appeal of the deep red-violet flesh specked with tiny black seeds.  When I cut it open, not knowing what I would find inside, it was quite a pleasant shock to my uninitiated eye!   The pure wildness of the color was just amazing!

Though I think dragon fruit would be spectacular in a smoothie, (imagine the color!), for my very first experience of dragon fruit I chose to eat it as is, simply scooped out with a spoon.  Dragon fruit is said to have a taste and texture similar to kiwi fruit and I tend to agree.  Though initially mesmerized by the vivid and unforgettable color I found the flavor, though tame by comparison, quite mild and agreeable.  Most important, I liked it!   Even the tiny crunchy seeds, which are said to be a good source of essential fatty acids, were not a big deal.

After I ate it, I googled dragon fruit and I found out all sorts of interesting factoids about it.

Dragon fruit is also called pitaya because it has many scales.  The dazzling and fragrant flowers of the pitaya cactus, (yes!, dragon fruit is a vining, flowering and fruiting cactus), bloom only at night.  How exotic!  Dragon fruit is sometimes called "moonflower,""queen of the night" or "lady of the night."


  • Antioxidants in dragon fruit helps protect the body from free radicals.

  • The fruit helps to neutralize toxic substances, such as heavy metals, in the body.

  • Regular consumption of dragon fruit is said to help asthma.

  • High amounts of vitamin C enhance wound healing and immunity.

  • The vitamin B2 present in dragon fruit helps one recover from loss of appetite.

  • The vitamin B1 enhances energy production and the metabolism of carbohydrates.

  • The presence of vitamin B3 helps lower bad cholesterol.

  • Dragon fruit moistens and improves the appearance of the skin.

  • Dragon fruit helps prevent hypertension.

  • It is such a good source of phosphorus and calcium that it strengthens bones and teeth.

  • Dragon fruit is reputed to help reduce blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes.

Though all of the reasons to eat dragon fruit are appealing and compelling, most of all I enjoyed the levity of eating, for the first time, this completely wild, wacky, and fun-filled fruit!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Raw Food Lunch - Mexican Fajitas

Vegetables Fajitas
Today we started the third raw food adventure off with a light and refreshing bowl of tomato basil soup, reminiscent of gazpacho, which was actually made with a coconut water base.

Perfectly seasoned vegetable fajitas, simply warmed in the dehydrator for one hour, were served in paper-thin slices of jicama, along side fresh corn salad.

For dessert we tried to decide which dairy-free mousse, (the mousse also featured coconut water as one of the secret ingredients), we liked best - chocolate or carob?

 Fresh Corn Salad With Cherry Tomatoes


4 ears of organic corn, cut off the kernals (2 cups)
1 c. organic cherry tomato, sliced in quarters
1/4 c. chopped fresh organic cilantro
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t. celtic salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Serve at room temperature.  Delicious served in baby romaine lettuce leaf cups.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Raw Food Adventures

Making A Raw Asian Style Salad


Just enjoyed two fabulous high energy raw food classes with an awesome group of ladies today.  I am including photos of SOME of the delicious food that we sampled.  In the Wrap, Stack, and Roll class we made a variety of easy to make meals, collard green wraps, onion bread stacks, and baby romaine lettuce rolls, with a variety of pates, and farmer's market condiments.  Trina, our college student told us she was getting tired of packing the ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.  She said she is going to try these easy to make wraps, stacks and rolls for a change.  We topped the meal off with a raw chocolate dessert - a chocolate cinnamon roll sprinkled with chocolate nibs.  I am sorry that I don't have a photo of the raw chocolate dessert.  It vanished too quickly.

Getting Creative - Wrap, Stack, or Roll

Sunflower Seed Pate in Collard Leaf and all the Fixings


Some of us took a hike while others went shopping to work up an appetite for Part II of our raw food adventure.  This afternoon we enjoyed a refreshing Thai Coconut Soup made with Thai green coconut water, Raw Asian Salad (pictured below), and Fresh Raw Spring Rolls with Orange Dipping Sauce.  We finished the meal with Banana Chocolate Ice-Cream sprinkled with chocolate nibs, chopped walnuts, and, thanks to Pam, mint leaf.  Sorry there are no photos of the dessert.  It was melting so quickly that we ate it up pronto!

Raw Asian Salad Marinated For One Hour

Fresh Spring Rolls With Dipping Sauce

Thursday, August 23, 2012

TCM - Health In Late Summer

Round Vegetables Such As Cabbage Harmonize The Digestion
As promised in two previous posts on Traditional Chinese Medicine, Health In The Spring and Tips for Summer Health, I am re-visiting the subject of Traditional Chinese Medicine in each of the five seasons of the year.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  In TCM there are five seasons of the year.  Right now we are in a relatively little known season, which begins August 1st and ends September 19th, and is called Late Summer.

I love Paul Pitchford's description of this little known season in his magnificent tome "Healing With Whole Foods - Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition."

"Late Summer, a short and relatively unrecognized "season," is approximately the last month of summer and the middle of the Chinese year.  It is the point of transition from yang to yin, between the expansive growth phases of spring and summer and the inward, cooler, more mysterious fall and winter seasons.  A pleasant, tranquil, and flourishing season, it is as if time stops here and activity becomes effortless, dreamlike.  Unity, harmony, and the middle way are summoned between the extremes."

The season of Late Summer is governed by the earth element and the related organs are the spleen-pancreas and stomach.  These are the organs that in TCM are most responsible for digestion and the distribution of nutrients throughout the body.  In order to attune to this seasons it is important to choose foods that strengthen and promote digestion and that represent the center.  Mild, golden, round, and sweet foods most harmonize with Late Summer. These are foods such as millet, corn, onions, carrots, cabbage, garbanzo beans, squash, string beans, yams, sweet potatoes, sweet rice, rice and peas.  A small amount of the pungent flavor, such as onion, leek, ginger, cinnamon, and fennel help strengthen digestion and are beneficial at this time of year.  Beneficial animal foods are small amounts of tuna, halibut, anchovy, humanely-raised beef, chicken, turkey, lamb and grass-fed butter. 

If one's digestion is weak it is important to chew food very well and to take food in small and easily digestible portions.  In fact, even though I am a huge fan of whole, raw foods, this is the time of year when one may want to begin to add more moderately well-cooked foods into the diet. 

According to TCM it is particularly important to restrict the amount of raw and cooling food one eats, such as raw vegetables and fruit, (especially citrus), sprouts, cereal grasses, tomato, spinach Swiss chard, millet, amaranth, sea vegetables, blue-green algae, very sweet food, dairy products, and vinegar, if one has weak digestion.  When the digestion is weak it is important to "stoke the digestive fire" by eating mild, golden, round foods such as those mentioned above and to eat those foods with a little bit of the spicy pungent flavor, such as onion, leek, ginger, cinnamon, and fennel, to aid digestion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Skin Hydration And Green Thai Coconuts

The aging process is essentially the process of becoming thinner and drier over time.  We begin to notice the first sign of aging in our skin as it begins to thin and dry out.  Eventually we begin to experience tissue dryness, in general, such as dry nose, lips, eyes, throat, and for women, vaginal dryness and itching.  At all times in life, but especially as we age, it is important to pay close attention to fluid metabolism and to do all that we can to preserve our bodies precious moisture.

In a previous post I discuss the importance of raw vegetables and fruits in our diet and their role in helping our bodies maintain optimum hydration.  In yesterday's post I recommend the inclusion of raw and freshly made juice, smoothies, and salad as an important part of internal skin care.

If you are ALREADY noticing that your skin is becoming dry and thin then you may want to take a more aggressive approach and avoid eating dry foods such as dry cereals, crackers, dry toast, breads in general, for that matter, pretzels, and chips.  Try eliminating dry foods and see if you don't notice a difference in your skin right away.  If you do eat a dry food ALWAYS make sure you have a cup of herbal tea to go with it.

Besides avoiding foods that dry out the skin it is equally important to include plenty of fresh organic vegetables and fruits in your diet.  Fresh organic vegetables and fruits contain "structured water" that helps keep the skin moist and hydrated while counteracting the aging process!  Another anti-aging food that I cannot say enough about is the green Thai coconut.  Green Thai coconut water and meat, which is called "spoon meat" or "pudding," are what I recommend to counteract skin and tissue dryness of all sorts.

I know what you are thinking.  Coconuts are NOT LOCAL foods and, yes, they do have to travel long distances in order to reach us here in the U.S.  But coconuts are so special that I am willing to make an exception to my local food rule.  Besides being delicious and one of my favorite summer foods, coconuts are super hydrating, contain all five electrolytes - potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium and calcium, and help our skin stay young and moist!

Monday, August 20, 2012

How To Stay Young and Juicy

As we age we begin to dry out.  Our cells literally do not hydrate as readily or as easily as they once did.  Instead, our cells, which were once plump and moist, begin to loose moisture and accumulate extracellular fluid or fluid that is outside the cell wall.  Women, especially, as they begin to enter the menopause years will notice subtle changes in the quality and texture of their skin.  One of the most important things that a woman can do in order to retain her youthful looks and to age "gracefully," as the saying goes, is to find ways to retain, protect, and preserve her precious moisture.

My advise to women of all ages is to begin to eat REAL FOOD.  Real foods are whole, unprocessed foods that are preferably local and organically raised.  I also advise women of all ages to begin to introduce raw juices, smoothies, and salads into their REAL FOOD diet.


Our bodies are over seventy percent water!  That is amazing!  Most of us have heard that we should drink eight, 8-oz. glasses of water a day in order to maintain optimal hydration.  I suggest that, in addition to the water we consume, that we will benefit when we eat foods that are hydrating too.

In fact, I believe that if we replace at least one glass of water a day with a serving of raw vegetables or fruit that we will optimize hydration and stay hydrated longer than if we drink water alone.

I am not suggesting that it is not important to drink water.  Water is, in fact, essential for hydration and health.  What I suggest is that we strategically hydrate the body so that water is more readily assimilated and made available to the cells of our body throughout the day.  By eating raw vegetables and fruits that are rich in "structured water," a fascinating topic for a future blog post, we help our body hold onto water longer, as well as add a good boost of antioxidants, fiber and other important nutrients.

As women we want to look our very best.  When it comes to hydration and the youthful appearance of our skin it looks like a diet rich in raw vegetables and fruits is the best internal skin care.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Raw Food For Health And Beauty

Making whole, unprocessed food or what I like to call REAL FOOD the center of our daily diet is an important step in maintaining and creating health and beauty.  When the REAL FOOD that we eat is raw food such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, live fermented foods such as sauerkraut, raw milk, raw milk cheese, and pickled salmon or sushi-grade sashimi so much the better.  When you include an abundance of raw foods in your daily diet you immediately begin to look and feel better.  In fact, you begin to glow.  Try it and see for yourself!


Raw food is so delicious and satisfying that when we include an abundance of fresh raw food in our daily diet it becomes easier and easier to make healthy food choices!  The vibrant flavor, and color I might add, of deliciously prepared raw food is inherent in the food itself, especially if you buy local organic vegetables and fruits, in favor of foods that have traveled long distances to reach you, and vegetables and fruits that are in season and at the peak of their ripeness and perfection.  Raw food tastes so vibrant, in fact, that raw food requires the use of less salt, spices, oils, and sweeteners.

Most of you know that I am a big advocate of local seasonal food and though I digress - humor me for a moment.  Remember the pale styrofoam flavor of what is passed off as a tomato in winter?  Who could possibly be tempted?

Raw food has more nutrients than cooked and packaged food.  No processed or pre-packaged food will ever compare to the vitality and life-force of fresh, raw, organic food.

Raw food is rich in enzymes that are ordinarily destroyed by the application of heat.  These raw enzymes actually aid in the digestion of the food making the nutrients in raw food more bio-available, as well as easier to digest and assimilate.

Finally, raw foods are so juicy that they help us stay hydrated.  Think of a slice of watermelon as opposed to a piece of dry toast and you get the picture.  Look for more information on the importance of eating juicy, hydrating foods in my next post.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Is A Vegetarian Diet Really Healthy?

As those of you who have attended my cooking and raw food classes over the years will attest I take the greatest pleasure and delight in the sheer amazing deliciousness and wonderful complexity and variety of plant-based meals.  I have literally spend a life-time promoting and celebrating plant-based meals - both in my own home and in my personal chef business, which is aptly called "Serene Cuisine" and whose genesis and specialty has been largely based on those very celebrated plant-based meals. The sheer extravagance of the plant kingdom with its plethora of flavor, color and complexity still awes me.  Life would, indeed, be dull and my appetite truly diminished were it not for my friends in the plant kingdom.

However, all of that being said, today's blog post ultimately becomes a cautionary tale, as it explores how my allegiance to a strictly plant-based diet may have affected my health over a period of time.  Even though I appeared to tolerate a plant-based diet over the course of many years, I wonder if the diet did, in fact, create subtle stressors and nutritional deficiencies, that went largely unnoticed, but that ultimately undermined the fullest expression of my health potential?  Was the expression of my life force less than what it would have otherwise been?  I will never know for certain as all of this falls under the category of conjecture and speculation.

What I do know is that, though I appeared to tolerate a vegetarian diet, I did, in fact, reach a point when, no matter how well I complied with all the positive aspects of plant-based eating, my health unexpectedly began to unravel in a dramatic and alarming way and that no matter what I did I could not get well again until I began to include some animal products in my diet.

So, what does my diet currently look like?

Some of you would say that my diet does not appear to have changed all that much.  I still eat an inordinate amount of plant-based dishes.  I love them.  In fact, I thrive on them.  But, I find that I thrive even better when I include a nice dash of animal protein on the side.  And you can be certain that the animal products that I choose to eat are always the highest quality, humanely raised animal products that I can possibly procure.

My own personal experience with a vegetarian diet has led me to wonder if animal products are actually essential to health?

There are a few folks out there that would say they are.

I consider the Weston A. Price Foundation among the most compelling.  The WAPF, despite the popularity of the high carb, low fat diet that is characterized by the current U.S government dietary guidelines, continues to promote the importance of humanely and traditionally raised foods and, in particular, animal products in human diet.  You can find a selection of articles on their website.  The information that I obtained through the foundation certainly helped shepherd me through some of the struggles I experienced during the process of my own dietary change.  In fact, I refer you to what I consider a thorough treatment by Chris Masterjohn on the subject of the vegetarian diet and its more typical nutritional deficiencies.  Chris raises an excellent point, by the way, about the inclusion of shellfish in a largely vegetarian diet as shellfish consumption helps mitigate much of the need for animal products in the diet.  So, any vegans out there might want to consider the option of becoming a bivalvevegan, as shellfish, naturally devoid of a central nervous system, might be considered a less sentient life form.

Ultimately, life is about personal choice and for those of you who would like to continue to eat a vegan diet, the most extreme plant-based approach, I refer you to another article by Denise Minger, in which she lists some guidelines that she believes may optimize the vegan diet.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Raw Food Classes

Come and discover what the raw food trend is all about.  Raw restaurants are popping up all over the place and celebrities, models, and other fans are raving about the benefits of eating raw.  But, what if you are just curious about raw foods and don't want to go 100%?  The good news is you don't have to be a devotee to reap the benefits!

Join Raw Food Chef Lisa Valantine August 24th and 25th for more fun-filled classes.  Come prepared to fall in love with raw food creations that you can easily make at home.

Sign up for one, two, or sign up for all three classes and receive a discount.

Summer, with its colorful and abundant array of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs is the perfect time to experiment with beautiful new food preparations and styles.

Learn to use brightly colored vegetables, fruits, berries, and edible flowers to create dazzling, eye-appealing meals.

Friday Aug. 24th 10 AM to 12 noon
Wrap, Stack, and Roll

In this hands-on class you will learn to make a variety of eye-appealing presentations that you won't believe.  You will finish class with a very special raw chocolate dessert!

Cost - $40.00

Friday Aug. 24th 2 PM to 4 PM
Raw Asian

Don't miss this one!  Learn to make the MOST delicious, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese food imaginable!  We will top off the meal with a beautiful raw dessert!

Saturday Aug. 25th 10 AM - 12 noon
Raw Fajitas

Learn to make the most amazing Mexican raw fajitas.  They are a meal in themselves.  You will finish this memorable class with a delicious raw chocolate dessert!

Cost - $40.00

Sign up for the Pure-Indulgence Package and receive all three classes for $100.00.

Space is limited.  Reserve you place by contacting Lisa at

All meals are 100% gluten-free and made with love.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Organic Mediterranean Summer Salad

Mediterranean Salad

Summer, with its beautiful and abundant array of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs, is premier salad season.  Summer is the best time, when fresh fruits and vegetables are at the peak of perfection, to experiment and create new food preparations and styles.  Use brightly colored summer fruits, berries, vegetables and edible flowers to prepare beautiful, dazzling, eye-appealing meals.  Be an artist in the kitchen.  When the temperature rises and you are not particularly in the mood to cook nothing perks and pleases the palate like a freshly prepared salad.  Mediterranean Salad, a longstanding favorite of mine, features a unique and refreshing medley of summer produce and fresh seasonal herbs.  A basic olive oil dressing, like the one I have included, is all the salad really needs.   For those that are cheese enthusiasts knock yourself out and throw in some feta.

Mediterranean Summer Salad can be eaten just as it is or dressed up with meats and cheeses.  It can be served as an excellent accompaniment to grilled fish, grilled meat, pasta, baked red potatoes, or quinoa.  For those of you who are fans of salad, as I am, make sure to give Mediterranean Salad a try. 

Mediterranean Summer Salad

1 head of crisp organic romaine lettuce, washed and torn or cut into bite-size pieces
1 organic red bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
2 organic Persian cucumbers, washed and sliced into bite-size pieces
2 stalks organic celery, chopped
1 small organic red onion, sliced
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 t. fresh mint, chopped
sprinkling of fresh oregano, chopped
Greek olives

In a large salad bowl assemble the salad.   Drizzle with olive oil dressing and garnish with Greek olives.

Variation:  If you tolerate dairy products - feta cheese is a lovely addition.

Mediterranean Summer Salad With Olive Oil Dressing
Olive Oil Dressing

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. honey

Place all ingredients in an amber glass jar (dark jars help prevent oxidation of oils) and shake.  Store in fridge.

Organic, Fresh and Raw