Yes, that’s right. I like it raw, alive…uncooked. I’m talking about my food, and more specifically, that little date square. Since it’s a raw food, all the nutrients contained in the dates, oats, maple syrup, and orange, that would have otherwise been lost thought he cooking process, still remain. In fact, this dessert is so nutrient-dense, that you could wholeheartedly eat it for breakfast. I bet your triple-decker chocolate cake can’t claim that.
Raw foods are foods that are eaten in their whole, natural state and are have not been cooked (heated above 118F). There are groups of people who eat only raw foods or mostly raw foods, much like how vegetarians don’t eat meat. These “raw foodists” believe that eating mostly raw foods has immeasurable health benefits such as clear headedness, fewer illnesses, clear skin, more energy, and less need for medication. Many celebrities have popularized this way of eating, since it is an excellent method for controlling one’s weight.
The science and rationale behind raw foods is relatively simple: All natural, unprocessed and uncooked foods contain substances called enzymes. Enzymes play a vital role digesting your food since they carry out the breakdown of the food particles that can then be easily converted into the essential energy needed by all parts of our body. Enzymes are either present in the food you eat, or they are produced by your own digestive system as needed, when you eat foods lacking in enzymes. Digestion is a very energy-intense process. If you are not obtaining enzymes from your food, your body has to draw them out of your organs, creating that post-meal feeling of lethargy we’re all too familiar with. Just think about what happens at Thanksgiving. That meal hasn’t seen a raw carrot in years!
If you constantly eat cooked, enzyme-less food, it is also believed that your body will not be able to absorb and assimilate the nutrients, leading to malnourishment and inevitably, disease. Sounds a little dooms-day, doesn’t it?
What I do know for sure is that heating foods above any “naturally occurring” temperature changes the chemical structure of the food, in turn destroying many of the vital nutrients our bodies need for optimal health and healing. Especially if you are shelling out extra cash for organics, doesn’t it make sense to preserve just a few of those precious vitamins and minerals? I think so.
Many people ask me about raw foods, what it means to eat raw, and whether or not I’m into the lifestyle. Personally, I think that adopting an exclusively raw food diet is totally dependent on a few factors, such as your state of health, current habits, emotional state, your constitution, surrounding environment (hot, cold, wet, dry), and season of the year. Since I live in Canada and it is cold and damp for months on end, I tend to strive towards a diet that balances those elements, by eating warm, dry foods. In the summer, when the weather warms up and fresh, local foods abound, I feel that my body is able to handle the cooling affects of raw foods.
But that’s just me.
Adopting a raw lifestyle is just that – it is a lifestyle. There are few “impromptu” meals, since you can’t just run to the corner store and pick up a quick fix. In order to get protein, raw foodists rely on sprouted grains, nuts and seeds, which we know takes 3-4 days of germination. Dehydrating is also popular, as this process takes the moisture out of foods, without cooking it, so one can enjoy “bread” and “crackers”. But on the upside, you are doing the environment a real favour by not using any electricity to prepare your meals and by supporting organic agricultural practices, clean up is fast and easy, you can pretty much forego the vitamin supplements. Oh yeah, you also feel and look incredible.
I truly admire the growing number of individuals that make commitment to take on such a beautiful challenge.
This week was my mother’s birthday and her favorite dessert is squares. I have never been a fan of them myself, but had a feeling that this recipe from Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont, was worth the risk. Surprisingly, the date squares were super easy to make and incredibly delicious. The orange zest makes the dates sing and the nut crust is rich and satisfying. I can’t believe it’s raw, let alone healthy! This dessert is a great example of how easy it is to incorporate some raw foods into your diet without hassle or the feeling like you’re making some sort of sacrifice.
Raw Date Squares
2 cups chopped, pitted dates
2 Tbsp. water
Juice of 1 large, unwaxed orange (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
Zest of 1 large, unwaxed orange
Quick oats for sprinkling (optional)
Crust: 2 cups pecans or walnuts (I used 1 cup of each)
1 cup raw oats ground in a coffee grinder or oat flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1. Soak dates in water and orange juice for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on quickly they soften.
2. Coarsely grind nuts in a food processor. Add ground oats or oat flour and pulse to mix.
3. Add cinnamon first, then maple syrup one tablespoon at a time until the mixture holds together.
4. Lightly oil a 9-inch square pan or round cake pan with coconut or olive oil
5. Press a little over half of the nut mixture into the bottom of the pan, reserving the rest for later.
6. Puree the date and orange juice mixture until it reaches a desired consistency. I left a few larger pieces of dates for texture, but you can blend them to a perfectly smooth texture too.
7. Crumble the remaining half of the crust mixture over the dates; press lightly with your hands of a spoon. Sprinkle some quick oats on top for garnish (this is optional, but looks nice).
8. Refrigerate leftovers.