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Lunch with Karen-My Vegan, Gluten Free, Mostly Raw Food Class

Posted Jun 04 2012 2:24pm

Saturday was my Gluten Free, Vegan, and Mostly Raw food class. Three words: It. Was. Awesome! Dr. Karen Vizer planned and taught the class, which was hands on, as in, we got to play with the food, plus we got to eat the results for lunch.

By the way, I looked pretty snazzy for class, so I had Alan take a picture before I left home (once we got started, I kicked off those shoes):

I arrived at Jennifer’s Kitchen , where the class was held, and met a group of 15 students, plus Karen and her helper Sheri. Karen started the class by having us all introduce ourselves and talk about our reason for coming and what we hoped to get from the class. There were a lot of interesting answers. Mine was, as a vegan (surprisingly the only vegan in the class), I wanted to learn a little more about raw food.

After the introductions, we were treated to a demonstration of preparing “pasta.” Using fresh, organic zucchini, Karen and Shari showed us how to make three different kinds of vegetable pasta. We were given a small cookbook of the items we were going to prepare, then we broke up into three groups and we went off to play with food.

Start with this

Method #1, using a vegetable peeler to make thin strips, which were tossed with pesto.

Method #2, using the Spiralizer to make long, spaghetti-like spirals (still amazing to me that the zucchini in the left picture could come out looking like the “noodles” on the right). These eventually became part of the only cooked dish, mixed with colorful cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and basil.

Method #3, using a hand-held Mandoline-type slicer (or a real Mandoline slicer if you have one), to create lasagna noodles. Those noodles were eventually combined with raw Ricotta and Sun-Dried Marinara sauce to create this:

After the demo, we split up into our groups to finish up the “pasta” and make some sauces. My group, which included Bill, Mark, Gina, and Jill, was responsible for finishing the lasagna-style noodles, then making the Ricotta, while another group made the pesto, and the third made the Sun Dried Tomato Marinara.

One of the things about the recipes we prepared that surprised me was how few ingredients were needed, and how simple the recipes were. Of course, all the produce was organic and as local as possible, which definitely helped with the fresh, rich flavor of all the dishes. The recipe for the ricotta included raw cashews, lemon, Celtic sea salt, and an herb mixture of dried basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano and pepper. That’s it! Through the magic of the Vitamix , these few ingredients became a creamy, delicious ricotta cheese.

Dessert preparation was next. My group moved to a different station to prepare strawberry pie, while the other groups worked on freezer fudge and carrot cake. Karen explained that the organic strawberries were so naturally sweet, no sugar or glaze was needed for the pie. Instead, the sliced berries are mixed with a little Celtic sea salt, which brings out the moisture and natural sugars. The crust, made of walnuts, dates, cinnamon and nutmeg, is mixed in a food processor then pressed into a springform pan. The strawberries are added on top and the pie is allowed to set up for a while before removing the sides of the pan.

After preparing the desserts, Karen did a quick demonstration on how to open a Thai coconut. Then all three groups headed to their separate stations as we all prepared Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup with Lime.

Karen had already prepared the carrot juice for us (and used the pulp for the carrot cake!), so our group simply chopped and measured the other ingredients, which included lime, ginger, cayenne, and celtic sea salt. The recipe called for agave nectar, but Karen suggested we try it without using the extra sweetener because the fresh organic carrots were already so sweet. Oh, and we had a coconut of our own to open. I was given the job, I think because I had been doing a lot more photographing than food prep and my partners thought it was time I did some work.

After the soup was ready, we all took a well deserved break and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. The soup was delicious, cool and refreshing, with just a little bite from the cayenne.

After our break, we had some appetizers to make. While one group made hummus (using zucchini instead of chickpeas), the other two, including mine, made Eggless Egg Salad. If you just did a mental double take there, you are not alone. Incredibly, using simply cashews, lemon, garlic, and turmeric, which were blended in the Vitamix, then combined with celery, scallions, and red bell pepper, we made what many of us decided was the tastiest dish of the day.

Another break while we snacked on the egg salad and hummus. The onion bread, which Karen had prepared at home, was the only item all day that was not gluten free. It was delicious with the salad. We dipped sliced cucumber and celery in the hummus, which had a different taste than traditional, but was very good.

Finally, we all gathered in the kitchen to prepare the final dish of the day, which happened to be the only cooked item. While Karen heated up olive oil in two huge pans, the class chopped garlic and basil. Using the prettiest and most colorful grape tomatoes I’ve ever seen, Karen cooked all them briefly with the garlic and basil, adding wine to one batch, vegetable stock to the other. She then added the spaghetti-style zucchini to the mixture and heated it through. Simple, delicious and beautiful. (A photo of the completed dish is above.)

One of the groups also prepared this Fennel, Citrus, and Avocado Salad.

Now came the time we had all been waiting for. Time to eat!

What can I say. Just look at this food! It was fresh, delicious, and gorgeous to look at. I’m not a carrot cake fan, but I took a piece to Alan (who loves it) and he gave it the thumbs up. He also got some of the fudge because it was so rich I could only eat one piece.

I want to thank Dr. Karen Vizer for offering me this opportunity to learn a little something about raw food. Also, to Jennifer Johnson, owner of Jennifer’s Kitchen, I want to express my appreciation for letting us use her restaurant (we had free run!).

Finally, thanks to all my co-students, especially my group, for making an enjoyable event even better. I had so much fun and I enjoyed meeting you all so much! I look forward to future classes and I hope you will all be there too. If you have a different memory of something than I do, or would like to add something, please do so in the comments below.

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