My Raw Food Birthday

Food Philosophy, Personal, Restaurant Review

Over this weekend, I celebrated my twenty-third birthday. Repeatedly. And it was splendid. There were many inspiring conversations, tasty eats, and whopping love hugs. I got to spend the day with two of my best buds: Saar – one of my favourite Europeans and fellow nutritionists – and Erik, the beloved boyfriend. We spent some time in the sunshine and had lunch at Raw Aura in Port Credit. Raw Aura’s menu is gluten-free, vegan, and completely raw with nothing being heated above 43C, although there are a few menu items that are served hot. I’ve always admired raw vegans for their inventiveness in the kitchen, especially in the dessert department!

Raw Aura's menus for smoothies, wines and spirits, desserts, and main courses.

What Makes Raw Food So Great?

The majority of people can definitely use more raw veggies and fruit in their diet. Here’s why:

  • Greater nutrient density: Many vitamins such as vitamin C, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and folate are heat-sensitive and are damaged by cooking. Including more raw food in your diet means eating food with a greater nutrient density.
  • Enzymes: Raw fruits and vegetables are rich in enzymes that aid in digestion by helping to break down nutrients. Like the vitamins mentioned above, enzymes are also easily damaged by heat and as a result, are easily destroyed in the cooking process.
  • You can fill up without feeling bloated: Feel free to fill up on as much non-starchy raw vegetables as you want. You’ll be doing your body a solid! The majority of my salads take place in a mixing bowl bigger than my head, and I never feel bloated, icky, or guilty afterwards.
  • Increased regularity: Another reason why you’ll be feeling less bloated? By filling up on fruit and veg, you’ll be getting an awful lot of fibre in your diet. This is a good thing! We should be aiming for at least 30 grams per day of insoluble fibre which will help keep your digestive system chugging along nicely. Which means a lot less poop hanging out in your intestines and contributing to that distended tummy look. Is it okay for me to say ‘poop’ here? Duh, I’m a nutritionist. I can comfortably talk about poop whenever the heck I want. 
  • Less packaging: Replacing the packaged foods in your diet with more produce will dramatically decrease your contribution to the world’s landfills, which we can all do a little more of!

I’ve been to this restaurant a handful of times in the past, but I always end up getting the same thing: the Cinnamon Toast Crunch smoothie (which actually tastes just like the cereal of it’s namesake), and the Burstin’ Burrito.

My meal: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Smoothie (almond butter, dates, banana, cinnamon, and maca), and the Burstin' Burrito (raw soft sun-dried tomato and carrot tortilla stuffed with lettuce, tomato, red onion, guacamole, and refried pumpkin seed beans, garnished with cashew sour cream and side salsa)

The smoothie was a blend of almond butter, dates, banana, cinnamon, and maca. While I normally love this smoothie, it is very decadent and was probably not an optimal choice after a few days of indulgence! I think that I usually get it without the dates, and I forgot to make that request on this particular occasion…

Another shot of my smoothie with my friend, Saar, sipping on green juice (kale, celery, cucumber, romaine lettuce, parsley, lemon and ginger) in the background

Saar also ordered the burrito which was it’s usual scrumptious self. Check out the drool-worthy description they had on their menu: “A soft sun-dried tomato and carrot tortilla stuffed with lettuce, tomato, red onion, guacamole, and refried pumpkin seed beans, garnished with cashew sour cream and side salsa.”

Another shot of my raw vegan burrito, slathered in cashew cream and garnished with a side salad

Erik had the felafel wrap which contained some sprouted chickpea felafels in a collard green wrap with tzatziki and other vegetable goodies.

Erik's sprouted chickpea felafel wrap in collard greens

I finished lunch off with a bright and energizing green juice (kale, celery, cucumber, romaine lettuce, parsley, lemon and ginger – could have used some cilantro!) before Saar handed me an incredibly sweet birthday letter that she had written me. My eyes were burning and I was trying not to cry at the table. We headed outside where she handed me a large and mysterious cardboard box.

The giant mystery cardboard box containing my birthday present from Saar

My birthday present from Saar: vanilla whey protein powder from Genuine Health, and homemade gluten-free vegan pepernoten (a Dutch Christmas treat!)

Little bundles of Dutch pepernoten (wrapped in brightly coloured foil)

Inside was a container of Genuine Health Proteins+ vanilla whey protein powder which I can’t wait to try! I always buy chocolate protein powders, so it will be fun to get some variety into my green smoothies. She had also baked me three different kinds of vegan pepernoten, this spicy Dutch cookie which they normally have at Christmas. Don’t worry Saar, I promise I’ve been sharing a little bit!

A close-up of spicy Dutch pepernoten. Great with tea!

Saar and I in a giant whopping love hug

When I got home from lunch, I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and hanging out with my family. My mom and younger sister, Abbey, made a beautiful dinner of curried salmon steaks, a giant salad, and roasted asparagus.

My birthday feast (roasted asparagus, salad with tons of cucumber, curried salmon steaks)

After dinner my youngest sister, Allaina, presented me with this naughty chocolate caramel apple! I cut it up into slices and shared it with everyone for dessert. I will never tire of the fresh fruit and chocolate combination. If you’re going to indulge, make sure you do it in style!

Birthday dessert from my baby sister, Allaina: an enormous chocolate caramel apple with rainbow sprinkles. Don't worry, I  shared.

Anyway, that’s all for now. If you’re Canadian, like me, I hope you had a lovely long weekend. Happy Canada Day! Anne xxoo

An assortment of vegetables from my CSA box: bundle of orange carrots, a bunch of celery and a handful of mushrooms

How to Eat Organic on the Cheap with CSA

Food Philosophy, Personal

I’ve been M.I.A. for a little bit. Oops, sorry about that.

I started a new job about a month ago, and the extra responsibility has hit me like a ton of bricks. Work starts at an utterly ungodly hour which, on the bright side, has helped to regulate my sleep cycle, but when I get home, I am definitely not in the mood to do anything remotely productive. Mostly I spend my afternoons and evenings curled up with a book or hitting a yoga class, often while drinking way too many matcha lattes. But now that I’ve returned, I have something exciting I want to share with you lovely folks.

Introducing My CSA

Today is Wednesday, one of my favourite days of the week because it means that a CSA box arrives on my front porch somewhere between the hours of noon and 9pm. What is a CSA, you ask?

CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”.

At the beginning of the growing season, you pay the farm a set fee and in return, you receive a share of the farm’s produce every week in the form of a CSA box. However, you also share the risks the farm faces, whether that is weather or pests – things out of the farmer’s control.

If you have never experienced the joys of the CSA, now is a great time of year to start. Each growing season brings its own unique produce. Over the winter, our CSA boxes tended to contain plenty of root vegetables and greenhouse lettuces and sprouts. I am currently drooling over the prospect of the warm-weather produce to come: juicy sun sugar tomatoes, plump berries, and an assortment of unrecognizable melons that prove to be scrumptious.

Advantages of Joining a CSA

Each box is a welcome surprise, and one that forces me to get creative in the kitchen. I often receive produce I would never have thought to purchase at the grocery store – garlic scapes, anyone? Tomatillos? Watermelon radishes?

There are costs to shopping at the grocery store.

Not only is shopping organic at the grocery store super expensive, but you are also losing out on the awesome nutritional potential of fresh and local produce.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve always found that the signs over the produce bins at my local grocery store always read “Product of U.S.A.” or “Product of Israel” or some other far off place, meaning that your food has been transported a pretty long way to get to where you are. This can take a while, and in order to ensure this produce is not spoiled by the time it reaches the grocery store, it is often picked from the plant before it is anywhere close to ripe let alone brimming with nutritious goodness. The longer your produce remains growing and the closer it is to ripe when it’s picked, the more time it has had to suck all those awesome vitamins and minerals from the soil and the better it will be for your sweet bod.

Eating local is better for the environment and for your community.

Since locally grown produce does not have to travel very far to reach you, less energy is used up on transport. You might also notice that local food requires less packaging, which means that there is less to throw in the garbage afterwards. By supporting your local farms, you ensure that the future generations of your community have access to an abundance of nutritious food.

More vegetables from my CSA box: a beautiful head of green lettuce, a bunch of celery, and some carrot greens

Click here to find an Ontario CSA close to you (This link will be helpful to Ontario residents, but if you live outside of Ontario, I’m sure a quick Google search of local CSAs will be equally beneficial).

If you want to learn more about the benefits of eating local my favourite books on these subjects are In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I have also started putting together a library of my favourite nutrition and food resources for you! I’ll keep updating it as I come up with more. But for now, that’s my piece. I’ll see you next time!