Health

Nutritious no-cook meal ideas by chef Francesco Comito

When I hear the term "raw food," my mind automatically draws up images of seeds, berries, nuts and other rabbit-like food. As a meat eater, that has little appeal to me — I have always equated raw food with boring, not-so-flavourful dishes.

chef cheesecake lasagna

When I hear the term “raw food,” my mind automatically draws up images of seeds, berries, nuts and other rabbit-like food. As a meat eater, that has little appeal to me — I have always equated raw food with boring, not-so-flavourful dishes.

As it turns out, there are a variety of raw food products and recipes that go beyond the nuts and berries. Did you know that you can make soups, pizza, burgers, wraps, spreads, pastas, desserts and so much more without having to a cook anything? All you need is the inside scoop on how to do it.

Enter the Raw Sensation bars by Make It Raw chef Francesco Comito (available at select health food stores), which tasted better than “normal” treats I’ve had before. They are Nanaimo-looking bars with coconut flavouring, chocolate topping, and a creamy consistency, and they’re altogether divine. Also, they are made with all natural raw ingredients, so I didn’t feel guilty about eating them!

Comito is a leading raw-food chef set to host a TV show that’s being shot in Italy this month and airing in the fall. He explained to me that enzymes get destroyed in the cooking process, so when food is heated (anything above 40C or 115F), it loses nutritional value. A diet rich in raw foods has many health benefits, including lower cholesterol, more radiant skin, removing toxins from the liver and other organs, and increasing energy.

Also, it’s not an all or nothing diet regime. Just making a conscious effort to introduce more raw food choices into your diet will help improve health, he said. A good place to start is by replacing your after-meal sweets with raw-food desserts, which are packed with all-natural ingredients and free of refined sugars, hydrogenated fats, preservatives or additives. Plus, raw-food meals are easy to prepare and require little effort. Bonus: no need to wash any extra pots or pans after your meal!

Comito suggested adding raw foods to your diet with salads — the more colourful, the better. Mix your favourite salad ingredients — such as avocado, carrots, tomatoes, onion, flax seeds, cucumbers, bell peppers, fresh sprouts, and broccoli — for a nutritious and satisfying meal. For dressing, use flaxseed oil and lemon or this citrus dressing:

Wild oregano grapefruit vinaigrette

Ingredients:
1 grapefruit juiced
1/4 teaspoon wild oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
2 tablespoons flax seed oil
pinch of sea salt

Directions:
1. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients together and toss with salad.

Here’s another salad you can try as a replacement for a pasta dish.

Raw lasagna

Ingredients:
Pasta:

5 medium zucchini (thinly sliced using a mandoline or by hand with a sharp knife)
1 tsp (5 ml) olive oil
1/2 tsp (3 ml) salt

Sauce:
1 cup (250 ml) sun-dried tomatoes
1 Roma tomato
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp (15 ml) chopped onions
4 or 5 leafs fresh basil
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
1/2 tsp (3 ml) sea salt

No-dairy cheese:
1 cup (250 ml) cashews soaked overnight
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
1/4 tsp (1 ml) sea salt
1 tbsp(15 ml) olive oil

Directions:
1. Place the pasta ingredients in a bowl and allow to sit for 20 mins.

2. Lay the thinly sliced zucchini pasta so they overlapping each slice slightly making a square shape. Top with sauce and cheese.

3. Add a second layer of zucchini pasta and continue to add the cheese and sauce. Repeat until you have 4 layers.

4. Garnish with fresh basil.

And finish up your healthy raw meal with this no-bake dessert.

Raw “cheese” cake

Ingredients:
Crust:

2 cups (500ml) raw almonds (organic)
5 dates
2 tbsp (30 ml) coconut oil
2 tbsp (30 ml) agave nectar or any raw honey
pinch of sea salt (can be Himalayan or any unprocessed/unrefined sea salt)

Filling:
3½ cups (875 ml) organic cashews, soaked in water overnight
1/2 cup agave nectar (125 ml) (you can find this in the organic section of your superstore or at any health food store — it is the nectar of a cactus plant and very sweet)
1/3 cup (85 ml) coconut oil
1 tsp. (5ml) organic vanilla bean powder or simply organic vanilla extract (look in the organic section of your superstore or at any health food store)

Topping:
1/2 cup (125 ml) raspberries (or any berry of your choice)
2 tsp (30 ml) agave nectar

Directions:
1. To make the crust, place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth (about one min), then press the crust into a 9” spring-form pan.

2. Pour mixed filling over the crust.

3. Using a blender, blend for 30 seconds until well mixed. Add topping to the pan and chill for five hours.

4. Remove cheesecake from the spring-form pan. Garnish with about 10-15 berries.

Want the benefits of raw food without stepping into the kitchen? Make It Raw food products are available at select health food stores. For a location nearest you, visit Make It Raw.