In as much as we enjoy Sri Lankan curry, and there are quite a number of good restaurants in the Galle area where we live, the offering of creative plant based, live food aka raw vegan, my preferred diet, is scant, virtually non existent.
I love food that is fresh, very fresh, as in eating it as soon as possible after it comes out of the ground. Food that is organic and has not been subjected to pesticides and toxins is definitely preferable. In Sri Lanka the vegetables at the regular market are not organic, but there are a few farmers who grow organic produce in the mountainous region of Nuwara Eliya. Luckily for us we have a friend (Sion) who is a permaculture expert and arranges to get organic produce to our region once a week. He meets the veggie boxes at the train station and then we pick up our box from his house a few minutes away. I am enormously grateful to him for providing a pipeline of organic vegetables every week.
Food in my opinion has to be vibrant. It must look vibrant and taste vibrant! “Alive” food. Living foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, roots, seeds, and some grains. Virtually nothing makes me as unhappy food wise as seeing a plate of food that is overcooked, mushy and brown or grey in color (dead, dead). I would rather not eat than eat something that is mediocre in taste and does not nourish. It has been proven by scientists that when you subject vegetables to heat greater than 120 degrees, its nourishing enzymes die, which means the majority of its essential nutrients are greatly diminished or dead when you eat them.
What we eat determines not only our health but our mood, and how our brain functions. You might have noticed that after you eat a very heavy meal or a big steak that you feel tired and sluggish. The body has to work hard and use significant energy to digest this kind of food.
My youngest son Adam, (who is an incredible chef and organic city farmer) tells me I am a food snob! And he is absolutely correct. I AM a food snob. I love food, but it has to be GOOD food. I will for example, occasionally eat a French croissant (my French husband Ben, says this is food that is good for the soul), but I will only eat it if it is fresh and crispy and be an example of a perfect croissant, otherwise, I am just not interested. Pass the kale salad please.
When preparing meals at home, my preference is to make food without cooking it, (with a few exceptions for things like chickpeas, for example) and to create as much variety and explosion of taste so as to have delicious looking and delicious tasting food. And to knock the socks of those who try it, too.
And so, I have stepped up my game here in my little Sri Lankan kitchen. I have always had a proclivity for home cooking, and given that one of our sons is a chef, and that Ben has well honed French tastebuds, well, the quality of cuisine in our household has always been on the high side.
My own diet and lifestyle has evolved since I had a bout with breast cancer some 10 years ago. It has been quite a journey. As a cancer survivor I got interested in researching food and the impact of different foods on overall health, I found the majority of doctors, even oncologists to have the very limited knowledge about mind and body connection and to have general disinterest in cutting edge nutrition.
Ben jokes that I am his Lamborghini. Because the majority of my diet is a “clean” diet when I do eat something that does not fall into this category I often feel the impact and “suffer” accordingly after eating. Like a fine tuned Lanborghini, I need pure fuel. (He refers himself more as a robust all terrain vehicle that run well enough on any fuel, and thus is more fitted to our sometimes rugged green global trek environment).
We have our diet regimen figured out now. At home we both eat plant based live food 95% of the time. When we eat out, we make a point of finding interesting local specialties.
To be clear, for me there is no space for degrading the taste level just because I make mostly raw mostly vegan meals at home. And so, I gradually started to discover the world of creative, high end raw vegan cuisine.
I do not define or call myself a vegan or a vegetarian or a raw foodie. At best if I had to categorize myself by using a label, I would say I am ” flexitarian.” Yes I eat fish if its very fresh and I do love sushi. Yes I eat meat on occasion (not often) but I have been to known to consume as many pork sticks wrapped in rice paper and dipped in peanut sauce on the sidewalks of Viet Nam, as Ben. And yes I love veggies cooked in creative ways which retain the crisp freshness yet add unusual flavor and taste profiles.
With this as backstory, “Green Global Bites”, is an effort not only to capture the best of delicious plant based local food we encounter in different countries, but also to start capturing my own plant based live food creations.
I have been doing research for years, but now that we have a home base again, I have been able to experiment with recipes, for an eventual Green Global Bites book that, I hope, will illustrate the space where nutritious meets yummy and creative.
We first encountered these “smoothie bowls” in Ubud, Bali ~ the mecca of raw vegan cuisine. Same concept as Acai bowls, which are a Brazilian specialty but have spread globally in popularity.
Kale, swiss chard, moringa powder, topped with shredded coconut, papaya, dates, banana, hemp seeds and dried blueberries. Nutritional highlight of Moringa: Moringa has a delicious spinach flavor and is rich in anti-oxidant and all 9 essential amino acids. It has massive benefits for the skin (rich in vitamin A and E), energy levels (rich in calcium, iron and magnesium) and vision (vitamin A), teeth (magnesium) and bones (vitamin K).
Coconut water, banana, pineapple, mango, topped with pomegranate and sunflower seeds. Nutritional highlight of pomegranate: Pomegranates have impressive anti-inflammatory effect with benefits in terms of fighting or preventing breast cancer and colon cancer cells. A diet that includes Pomegranate helps fight high blood pressure and arthritis.
Banana, orange, almond butter and fresh coconut, topped with dried blueberries, hemp seeds, chia seeds, crunchy granola and banana. Nutritional highlight of Chia seeds: Chia seeds have become one of the most popular superfoods in the health community. Originally from grown in Mexico, Chia seeds were recognized by Aztek warriors for their unique source of energy. Chia seeds support the heart and digestive system, have been linked to healing diabetes. HIgh on vitamins and minerals, chia seeds are also densely packed with anti-oxidants.
Cold, fresh coconut, curry soup, topped with hemp seeds, truffle oil, chopped red peppers and diced cucumber. Nutritional highlight of coconut: the young coconut meat is beneficial because it is low in cholesterol and sodium, and is a very good source of Manganese, which directly impacts the body’s metabolism, contributes to a healthy immune and nervous systems. It is also valuable due to its high content of potassium and copper, which is needed for red cell production.
Tom Kha soup with lemongrass, jalapeno and fresh coconut milk, topped with pumpkin seeds, shredded purple cabbage and diced tomatoes. Highlight of pumpkin seeds: With a wide variety of nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein and zinc, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses wrapped up in a very small package. Rich in Magnesium, which has been shown to benefit your blood pressure and help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke. Pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of zinc, Zinc is important to your body in many ways, including immunity, cell growth and division, sleep, mood, your senses of taste and smell, eye and skin health, insulin regulation, and male sexual function.
Raw butternut squash, turmeric, mango and orange soup, topped with shredded gotu kola (pennywort), and sunflower seeds. Nutritional highlight of Gotu kola: an herb endemic to South Asia, also known as Centella, has been recognized for centuries as a medicinal herb due to its concentration of saponins, which among other benefits, activates the skin healing process. By stimulating blood flows to the cells, and protecting against infections, gotu kola can speed the wound healing process. Surprisingly, the very same process has an entirely different impact re the brain and cognitive abilities. The main explanation for this is the positive impact gotu kola extract can have on the circulatory system, thereby oxygenating more of the brain and allowing cognition to improve. The antioxidant effects of gotu kola are also somewhat responsible, as they can stimulate neural pathways by eliminating plaque and free radicals in the brain. This has also made it a popular supplement for aging populations, as there is some evidence to suggest that it can slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Vegan crackers with ground almonds, ground flax seeds, sunflower seeds, dates and fresh dill, (also makes a great raw vegan gluten free “pizza” crust). Nutritional highlight of flax seeds: Flax seeds have been consumed as food for around 6,000 years and may have very well been the world’s first cultivated superfood! This is principally because flaxseeds rank as the #1 source of lignans in human diets. Flaxseeds contain about 7 times as many lignans as the closest runner-up, sesame seeds. Lignans are known for their anti-viral and antibacterial properties, therefore consuming flax regularly may help reduce the number or severity of colds and flus. The three lignans found in flaxseeds can be converted by intestinal bacteria into enterolactone and enterodiol which naturally balance hormones which may be the reason flax seeds reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Kale salad with pomegranates, blueberries, walnuts, cucumber, and avocados, with Tahini dressing. Nutritional Highlight of kale: Most people by now have adopted Kale in their diet as it is widely available, and remains one of the most potent super foods. Of particular note is Kale’s combination of fibre and sulfur, which makes it a powerful in detoxifying the body and keeping the liver healthy. That would be reason enough to add kale to one’s diet- but kale’s high calcium content is valuable to those eager to address the risk of osteoporosis. Kale also has been demonstrated to lower cholesterol levels and to have great anti-inflammatory benefits.
Zucchini/beet/carrot rainbow noodles, with red cabbage, mango salad with dried blueberries. Nutritional highlight of zucchini: Zucchini contributes to weight loss as it is low in calories yet gives a feeling of being full. Zucchini is rich in B-complex vitamins, folate, B6, B1, B2, B3, and choline, as well as minerals like zinc and magnesium, which are all valuable in ensuring healthy blood sugar regulation – a definite advantage for diabetics. It also contains essential minerals such as iron, manganese, and phosphorus. The most significant deficiency symptoms of phosphorus include weak bones and discomfort in various body joints. Phosphorus acts in a similar way as calcium does in providing strength to bones, so a deficiency of phosphorus may lead to weakness, tooth decay, rickets and other related bone problems.
Stacked raw beet crunchy squares layered with cashew “cream” and orange peppers puree, topped with chopped hazelnuts and fresh dill. Nutritional highlight of beet: Beets are rich in nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide—a compound that relaxes and dilates blood vessels, turning them into superhighways for your nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood. That means better circulation, and possibly lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide relaxes and dilates your blood vessels, which in turn increases blood flow to more blood flow to the frontal lobe of their brains—a region known to be involved with executive functioning skills like focus, organization, and attention to detail. Your liver does the heavy work of cleaning your blood and “detoxing” your body. You can lighten its load with a daily serving of beets. Research shows that betaine, an amino acid found in beets (as well as spinach and quinoa) can help prevent and reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver.
Chocolate fudge raw, vegan, gluten free brownies with dates and walnuts, topped with raw cacao “frosting” and pomegranate. Nutritional highlight of raw cacao: The Incas considered it the drink of gods, an association that gave rise to the scientific name of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words theo (god) and broma (drink). It may surprise you to discover that raw cacao contains nearly four times the antioxidant content of regular processed dark chocolate, 20 times more than blueberries, and 119 times more than bananas. Cacao can improve your memory, increase your bliss, reduce heart disease, shed fat, boost immunity, and create loads of energy.
Lemon, coconut and almond balls. Let’s not kid ourselves, we would gobble these up whether or not they had nutritional benefits! Nutritional highlight of lemon: Lemons are alkalizing for the body – Lemons are acidic to begin with but they are alkaline-forming on body fluids helping to restore balance to the body’s pH. Your liver loves lemons: lemon is a wonderful stimulant to the liver and is a dissolvent of uric acid and other poisons. In this particular format, which makes use of lemon peel (zest), it should be noted that the lemon peel contains the potent phytonutrient tangeretin, which has been proven to be effective for brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
Raw vegan chocolate bites ~ no sugar, no butter: Cacao, coconut oil, banana, dates, himalayan salt and walnuts. Nutritional highlight of walnuts: Walnuts contain the amino acid l-arginine, which offers multiple vascular benefits to people with heart disease, or those who have increased risk for heart disease due to multiple cardiac risk factors. Walnuts also contain the plant-based omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is anti-inflammatory and may prevent the formation of pathological blood clots. Research shows that people who eat a diet high in ALA are less likely to have a fatal heart attack and have a nearly 50 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death.
Cinnamon roll up mini “buns”. Raw, vegan, gluten free. Dates, walnuts, coconut butter and cinnamon. Nutritional highlight of cinnamon: Cinnamon is a powerful spice that has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years. Cinnamon is packed with a variety of protective antioxidants that reduce free radical damage and slow the aging process; in fact researchers have identified forty-one different protective compounds of cinnamon to date. The health benefits of cinnamon are attributed to the type of antioxidants called polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids. These are similar antioxidants to those that can be found in other “superfoods” including berries, red wine, and dark chocolate. These compounds work to fight oxidative stress in the body, which can lead to disease formation when uncontrolled, especially as someone ages. Cinnamon is known to have an anti-diabetic effect. It helps lower blood sugar levels and also can improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which is the vital hormone needed for keeping blood sugar levels balanced. Importantly, Cinnamon is a natural anti-microbial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral agent.
And what do we do with all the yummy, healthy food coming out of my kitchen? Well, we share of course… here our friends Mike and Wally, coming to pick up a box of delectables for a lunch with friends at their boutique hotel “9provinces”.
Nice to see it all come together in the form of a healthy, energizing and delicious lunch, here at “9 provinces Retreat”.
These are just a few of the delicious dishes that are plant-based, raw, vegan, sourced locally and nutritious! Featured in this dishes presented above are primarily local ingredients, whenever possible. In Sri Lanka, kale, fresh coconuts, mangoes and a wide range of bananas are always readily available, as is gotu kola, and many other green leaves specific to Sri Lanka that we are incorporating into our food.
Take a look below at the “roadmap” of dishes that I am considering for inclusion in an upcoming cook book.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Hippocrates, father of medicine, 431 B.C.