Sunday, December 23, 2007

Raw premiere garners rave reviews

Well the premiere of my raw Christmas feast was a blockbuster hit at my family gathering yesterday. I took Rawbin's advice and brought a spread to share with willing participants, some who actually gave it a thumbs up.

When I arrived at my mom's house with raw versions of our usual holiday fare, there were a lot of double takes. It took a moment for some to realize that what I put out was raw; I even heard someone ask why I had meatballs on my plate (they must have been pretty convincing).

I was greeted with a slue of questions: What's in it? How did you make that? What does it taste like?

I answered the ingredient and process inquiries, and then I offered them a taste. After a little hesitation, a few of the more adventurous family members dished up samples on their plates. Reactions were mixed, but mostly positive.

My cousin Holly and my sister Lori didn't notice much of a difference in my broccoli salad versus the original. All of the deviled "eggs" disappeared rather quickly (my grandmother was lucky to get the last one ... except for the one I saved for the plate of leftovers pictured above).

But, my cousin's wife Samantha (the most enthusiastic taste-tester of them all), was not a fan of the raw version of my mom's macaroni and cheese (she puts Italian spices and tomatoes in hers), although she did like the other offerings. She just didn't like the miso in it, which was far from noticeable in the Swedish Neatballs.

Everyone was impressed by the faux meatballs. There were dares to try them, which surprisingly resulted in satisfied customers, some who came back for more.

Now, I didn't have time to make a raw dessert (my son was ill this week, and I caught a touch of it on Friday; it's amazing that I was able to complete this raw production at all). But, as usual, my mom had plenty of raw fruit on hand and my grandmother made a cranberry relish that wasn't cooked.

Today, I hope to make some cookies, mostly raw, for Santa (he likes it raw, too). But, before I get started, here's a quick rundown of how I created this raw feast.

Deviled "Eggs": If you haven't figured it out already, I used ordinary white mushroom caps as the "egg white." Then, I filled them with some eggless salad, minus the chopped celery, onion and pickles. It had a cashew base with tumeric for color, dry mustard, garlic and sea salt for a familiar flavor, and lemon juice and apple cider vinegar (ACV) for a egg-like taste.

Actually, that was my plan until I found myself with extra "cheese" from the rawcaroni and "cheese," which I added the ACV to, put into the mushroom caps and topped with a little paprika.

Swedish Neatballs: This was yet another recipe from "The Raw Food Gourmet." It's made out of raw almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds, processed together with carrots, onion, ACV, EVOO, ground flax and seasonings (I used poultry seasoning, pepper, cayenne, salt and extra sage). This mixture is rolled into balls and dehydrated until crispy on the inside and soft and warm on the inside.

In the meantime, I made the sweet and sour sauce out of more ACV, Bragg's liquid aminos, EVOO, agave, garlic, dried tomatoes and apple. I also added some miso, a little bit of blackstrap molasses (I know, not raw, but it was just a little), and adjusted the seasonings until it tasted like how I remember the original.

When the sauce was the way I wanted it, I dipped the nutballs (my family had fun with this one) into it and warmed them and the sauce slightly in the dehydrator. I later packed them up together for transport.

Mom's Rawcaroni & "Cheese": My first task to tackle was cutting the zucchini into elbow pasta shapes. Rather than showing you, I'll link you to Vegannosaurus Rex and his step-by-step photo instructions.

Then, I made a "cheesy" sauce out of soaked cashews, water, lemon juice, garlic, agave, sea salt, miso, nutritional yeast, tumeric, oregano, basil ... I think that is everything; I just started tossing things into the blender and hoping for the best.

I poured the finished sauce over the "pasta," added some sliced cherry tomatoes and herbs, and topped it off with some raw Parmesan. I popped it into the dehydrator to warm through and get that melted or "broiled" top similar to the one my mom makes.

The rest of the sauce went into the creation of the deviled "eggs," which saved me some time (I was still fashionably late for the event, drawing more attention to my raw offerings) and kept it from going to waste (although I did consider dehydrating it into "cheese" slices for Christmas Eve sandwich night - I'll explain later).

Broccoli Salad: I could have used this recipe, but I was in too much of a hurry (I was making a whole spread). Now it is mostly raw to begin with, so I started with the usual broccoli florets (and some chopped stems; you know me, never wasteful when it comes to food), diced red onion, raisins and sunflower seeds.

For the mayo, I put some raw almond butter (good in a fix; also works great to make a quick nutmilk), lemon juice, EVOO, agave, ACV, dry mustard, lemon pepper and sea salt in a small bowl and whisked it together. I also added a couple drops of liquid smoke to mimic the traditional bacon flavor. I tossed my "rawified" mayo with the already raw salad, and voila! A salad fit for any gathering.

I had also hoped to make some mock baked beans out of soaked seeds and a raw BBQ sauce, but I ran out of time and the menu was already very nut and seed heavy. So, instead I came up with the following dish at the last minute.

Corn Pudding: Another family celebration staple (just like everything else I made, there was a cooked counterpart for comparisons there), I found a fast way to whip one up. My first instinct would be to use yet another cashew base, but instead, opted for a sweet banana concoction.

I processed a banana and corn kernels together with some agave, sea salt, lemon pepper and cayenne. Then, I added some lecithin to thicken it and some more chunks of corn for texture. It sounds weird but it worked.

I hope I've inspired anyone reading this to create their own raw holiday memories and share them with their families. Yes, Kathy and everyone else who ever wondered, there is a raw Christmas.

P.S. Congrats to Kristen for getting her website in VegNews (I finally got my copy in the mail; there are some awesome raw features in this one. Kudos to the mag, too) and for celebrating 2 years with her boyfriend; so cute :-)

Also, congrats to Jess Michael's a.k.a. The Raw Lifestyle Coach on her engagement. Best wishes!

And last, but not least (I saved the best for last; good things happen in threes), my cousin's wife, Lara, just announced that she is pregnant and due in July. I am so excited :-)


~~ Melissa said...

Hello, I was marveling at all the wonderful raw food but also slightly puzzled/amused by the words 'my husband's wife Samantha'.... ;-)

shannonmarie said...

Ha ha, that's so funny. Thanks for pointing that out. I guess you could tell I've been too busy to proofread lately, much less post. It is amazing I found time for this one.

I meant to say "my cousin's wife," but I was thinking of my cousin being her husband. All the girls in the family have become so close with her that sometimes we refer to my cousin Troy as Samantha's husband. I was thinking that and somehow ran the two together. Good catch :-)

shannonmarie said...

I totally need to tell Samantha about this one. She would definitely get a kick out of it. It will be the new family joke.