Raw Food Chef Blog | Living Light Culinary Institute
The blog indicates information about preparing healthy raw food and starting a raw food career. Living Light offers a variety of practical yet fun and life-transforming training who plans to forge a career in the fast-growing arena of raw living foods.
Don’t spend too much time in the kitchen making this simple summer recipe, with only 5 main ingredients, fresh from the garden.
Yields: 6 cups (serves 6)
2 cups fresh corn kernels
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, quartered
1½ cups diced red bell peppers
¼ cup cilantro, rough chopped
1-2 fresh red chili peppers, minced or a pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onion
½ teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 clove)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 avocado, diced
In a large bowl, combine the corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro, and chili peppers. Add the lime juice, oil, green onion, garlic, and salt and mix well.
Gently fold the avocado. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Judita Wignall came to raw foods reluctantly. However, she was struggling with adult acne in her thirties and experiencing painful arthritis. A vegan friend suggested a change in her diet, so she decided to give raw plant-based foods a shot. Previously she had never enjoyed being in the kitchen, but when she realized how nourishing and healing raw food cuisine can be, everything changed.
Dropping fifteen pounds in just one month, Judita noticed she had lots of energy and mental clarity she hadn’t felt in ages. Her skin cleared, and she became “obsessed” with making raw food as delicious as possible, and bought every raw food book she could find. When she came to Living Light Culinary Institute in 2008, she had no idea of how the training would change her life.
Upon returning to Southern California from her education in Fort Bragg, she found herself a working Hollywood actress by day and a raw chef by night. Energized and inspired, she couldn’t wait to start teaching classes and coming up with her own repertoire of raw food recipes.
She began creating an online following by sharing her passion and what she was learning. Through a friend’s connection, she secured a book publishing deal with Quarto publishing, which led to three books over six years. From there, her career in health and wellness took off. She became an integrative nutrition health coach and taught classes across the country, catered retreats in beautiful, tropical locations, and personal cheffed for Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen.
A year after her daughter was born, Judita and her husband Matt began experimenting with creating their own CBD oils. For years, they created various tinctures, so they took their experience and infused plant-based superfoods into their CBD formulations with exciting results. Using her skills as a raw food chef, she knows how to balance flavors effectively and is creating unique products. They launched City and Sea Trading in 2016, and the company has taken off via online sales and boutique retailers. As acceptance of CBD oils grows, the company will expand into additional retailers and continue to help provide plant-based healing to customers from around the globe.
The full-time mother and entrepreneur is now dabbling in a food blog for “high-maintenance” diets and special dietary needs such as gluten-free, keto, whole food, plant-based, etc. to help make what may be complicated and make it simple. She and Matt are also exploring hosting more wellness retreats in Costa Rica.
“I’m so grateful that I followed my passion and attended Living Light,” says Judita. “I could never have done all I have so quickly without the expert training I received. I had no idea of the varied opportunities that exist in the world of raw food, and I’m forever grateful for what I learned and the people I’ve met at Living Light.”
By Vesanto Melina, MS, Registered Dietician, Living Light Instructor
The news regarding heart health used to be all about cholesterol. This made sense since the plaque that sticks to the inner lining of arteries leading to the heart is primarily cholesterol. These fatty deposits accumulate, causing blood vessels to narrow; eventually, these oxygen-delivering arteries can become entirely blocked. Without oxygen, the heart cannot carry on. The same process in the brain results in strokes.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death. Large studies, such as the EPIC Oxford Study, in which 44,561 adults were followed for a dozen years, showed that vegetarians were 32% less likely to develop heart disease. The Adventist Health Study, involving over 73,000 participants across North America, showed that, compared with meat eaters, vegan men had 55% less ischemic heart disease. IHD includes stable angina, unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death. Vegetarian men who included eggs and dairy had 24% less IHD than non-vegetarians. Differences were less marked among women choosing different dietary patterns, though those who included fish showed lower risk. A 2016 Systematic Review and Meta-analysis including 96 studies showed that vegetarians and vegans had a 25% risk reduction for developing IHD.
We can’t alter some factors (age and family history) that influence our heart disease risk. But our lifestyle choices (smoking, exercise, and stress) and lifestyle-related conditions (see below) can have a huge impact.
Hypertension: The Adventist Health Study found that, compared to similar, health-conscious non-vegetarians, risk of hypertension was 55% lower among lacto-ovo vegetarians (LOVs) who included some eggs and/or dairy products and 75% lower among vegans. The EPIC-Oxford study found similar benefits with increasingly plant-based diets.
Type 2 diabetes: People with diabetes have a two to four times greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those without this condition. The Adventist Health Study found diabetes risk to be 32% lower among LOVs and 62% lower among vegans.
Here’s how dietary choices have proven to be effective:
Inflammation: Chronic inflammation can make arterial plaque vulnerable to rupture and thrombosis. LOVs appear to have significantly less inflammation, vegans even less.
Less heme iron: Decades ago, nutrition texts stated that the heme iron in blood (thus in meats) was “better absorbed” than the non-heme iron in plant foods. Perspectives have changed. We now know that non-heme iron has the advantage of being absorbed to a greater or lesser extent, depending upon whether or not we need it. In contrast, high intakes of dietary heme iron from meat and fish are associated with increased oxidative stress.
Antioxidants: Plant foods provide a wealth of protective antioxidants.
Carotid IMT (Intima Media Thickness) refers to the thickness and plaque lining arterial walls; it is strongly associated with heart disease risk. Plant-based diets can reduce carotid IMT.
High TMAO levels accelerate atherosclerosis and greatly increase the risk of death among heart failure patients. TMAO-producing bacteria are found in the intestines of meat eaters, but not in vegans.
For optimal heart health on a plant-based diet, be sure to include sources of omega-3 fatty acids and a vitamin B12 supplement (about 10-25 mcg/day). For tips on fine-tuning your diet, see the video on ABCs of Vegan Nutrition at www.becomingvegan.ca and www.nutrispeak.com/videos/
This article was reprinted with permission from Vesanto’s website.
Contact Living Light today for more information about upcoming classes and workshops.
1 cup sprouted quinoa (see Note)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup hemp hearts
1 cup minced parsley
1½ cups seeded and diced Roma tomatoes
1½ cups seeded and finely diced cucumber
½ cup cashews, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced green onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced mint
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon garam masala
Rinse the sprouted quinoa, in a fine-meshed colander, under running water. Drain well.
Combine the quinoa, water, and salt in a 2-quart pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set aside to cool.
Place the cooled quinoa in a large bowl and toss in the remaining ingredients.
The Quinoa Hemp Tabbouleh with Cashews will keep for 3 days, covered, and refrigerated.
Note: How to sprout quinoa:
Rinse the quinoa thoroughly. Place it into a 1-quart mason jar and fill the jar to the top with filtered water. Soak the quinoa for 8 hours.
After it has soaked pour off the water, cover the top of the jar with a fine mesh sprouting lid or cheesecloth and a rubber band.
Fill the jar with more water to rinse the quinoa, then pour it out and set the jar with sprouting lid on upside down on a bowl or container to catch excess dripping water.
It will take about 8 hours for the thread-like sprouts to form.
Store the sprouted quinoa in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
A month before her 22-year-old son died of celiac disease, Naomi Hendrix started a 30-day raw food challenge. She was to eat nothing but raw, plant-based meals for a month. As she mourned in the early days after her son’s death, her diet is what helped save her. She recognized her own symptoms of a digestive disorder and stayed on the path of a plant-based diet.
It’s been thirteen years and Chef Naomi never stopped that 30-day challenge. Her wife, Rio, joined her on the journey and in addition to both of them eliminating their health issues, Rio lost eighty-five pounds and Naomi lost forty in the first year of their new diet. In addition to eating nourishing food to help heal her stressed body, she would rhythmically soak, dehydrate, and roll nuts to create space for her healing.
Well over a decade later, Chef Naomi’s restaurant, Raw Fresno, is undoubtedly a local icon impacting lives. The restaurant recently passed a significant milestone of over 1000 sales for the month. There have been months in the 800’s and 900’s but cracking 1000 is yet another signifier that her popular, easygoing restaurant is thriving in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley in California.
Her journey has taken from her losing her son, to becoming a certified food healing specialist, to teaching immune nutrition and health classes at her local Whole Foods Market, to expanding her Raw Fresno food truck (named Minerva), to a thriving brick and mortar restaurant. She’s realizing her goal of feeding her community high quality, fresh living foods.
Turning tragedy into an inspired movement isn’t always easy. After finding what she describes as the “perfect” food truck on Craigslist for just $3000, the Living Light graduate invited customers to write on the walls of Minerva, a blessing, a prayer, or anything they wanted as a way to share their good “ju-ju.” She was going to need all the good “ju-ju” she could muster.
As the business started to grow, she decided to take Minerva to the next level by utilizing the services of a metal fabricator. A surprise $35,000 bill left Chef Naomi in tears with no clear path to paying and her dreams in doubt. She persevered and attended every farmers’ market and event in Fresno that she could. One of her customers even loaned her $15,000 and eventually, she was able to pay off her truck.
Her business now includes Minerva, a restaurant, vending machines, subscription-based meal deliveries, regular attendance at local farmers’ markets and events, and a contract with a Fresno call center providing grab and go meals to over 300 employees. When out-of-towners visit her restaurant they’re so blown away by her food they regularly ask when she will be opening a franchise in their town.
Part of her inspiration was the realization that her son didn’t have a place to eat fresh, healthy food. She feels if he did have access that maybe, just maybe, he would still be alive. She’s taken adversity and used it to power her mission of feeding and inspiring wellness in the community where she was born and raised. Through her classes and preparing high-quality meals she’s taught moms how to prepare food for their children, she’s fed friends and family and has become a beacon of health and wellness in Fresno.
After signing up for an online program from Living Light and attending a roadshow hosted by the Institute in Las Vegas she was finally able to attend live classes in Fort Bragg. During this time, Naomi realized she found “her people.” In addition to surrounding herself with those at Living Light and learning valuable skills, she connected with the founders of Cafe Gratitude, read books such as I Am Grateful, and made a conscious effort to align herself with others that were of like-mind and who were just as passionate as she was about creating healthy, delicious food.
She explains, “What was really hard, in the beginning, was that family and friends shamed me because I didn’t want to eat the food they were eating. They shamed me and thought I was weird. The irony is those same people that thought I was a kook are the same ones that eat one of my meals and say, ‘Wow this is really delicious!” They’re the ones encouraging me to expand beyond a food truck to a restaurant and beyond. Now some of them are sick and their doctor says they need to change their diets – so they come to me asking for help.”
“Stay true to what is real,” she says. “Stay true to nature. Stay connected to those that feed your dreams and persevere. So many people give up but the time is now to take action and help grow this wellness movement across the globe. I was living a vegan lifestyle when it wasn’t popular. I had to wait for the curve and now people see the big picture and they love what I’m doing. Society’s awareness has reached a tipping point. Plant-based lifestyles are being recognized as a pathway to optimal health and prosperity.”
We’re proud to support Chef Naomi and are inspired by her story and message of staying connected and serving others. If Chef Naomi’s story resonates with you, please contact us. Learn how you can join our family of chefs. You can gain the skills and connect with people that will help you make a genuine difference in the lives of your family, community, and the world.
By Brenda Davis, RD, Living Light Nutrition Instructor
Whole grains (also called cereals) are small, hard, dry seeds that grow on grass-like plants. They are staples for most populations around the world. The most widely consumed grains are wheat, rice, and corn (botanically, corn is a grain, but from a culinary sense, it tends to be used as a starchy vegetable). Other popular grains are barley, rye, oats, kamut, spelt and millet. Pseudograins such as amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and wild rice, are similar to grains in both their nutrition and culinary uses, but they are not in the same botanical family.
Are Whole Grains Healthy Foods? Absolutely! Whole grains provide about half of the world’s protein and fiber. They are rich sources of B-vitamins (especially thiamin and niacin) and vitamin E. They are also good sources of minerals, including manganese, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper. Whole grains contain a variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Are Some Whole Grains Healthier than Others? Yes, there are several considerations when trying to select the healthiest whole grains:
Type of grain. Like all foods, there are variations in the nutritional value of different grains. Pseudograins tend to be slightly higher in protein and minerals than true grains. Of the true grains, oats, wheat, kamut, and spelt are the richest in protein. Whole grain rice is higher in vitamin E than most other grains; kamut is higher in selenium; oats are higher in manganese and copper; spelt is higher in zinc, rye is higher in potassium; wheat is higher in magnesium and wheat and oats are higher in iron. Eat a variety of whole grains to ensure maximum benefits.
Color of grain. The more colorful whole grains generally contain more antioxidants and phytochemicals. For example, red or black quinoa or rice would contain more phytochemicals than beige quinoa or brown rice.
Processing of grain. We use whole grains to make many popular food products such as bread, pasta, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, and snack foods. Generally, the more heavily processed the grain, the lower the nutritional value, and the higher the glycemic index (a measure of how much a food affects your blood sugar after eating). The most nutritious whole grains are called “intact whole grains” (e.g. barley, kamut, spelt and wheat berries, quinoa, wild rice, brown, red or black rice, buckwheat, etc.). Sprouting these grains further increases nutrients and phytochemicals, reduces antinutrients and releases stored forms of nutrients. Cut grains (e.g. steel cut oats, 12-grain cereals, bulgur, etc.) are also healthful choices as they are minimally processed and generally contain no additives such as sugar, fat, and salt. Rolled grains (rolled oats, rolled barley, etc.) are also nutritious but are more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream than intact or cut grains. Shredded grains are also acceptable choices. Ground grains (e.g. whole wheat flour, oat flour, etc.) should be used less often, and in moderate amounts as foods made with flours tend to contain more additives and are much more quickly absorbed. Flaked and puffed whole grains are more heavily processed and are best minimized.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are refined grains less healthful? When grains are refined, most of the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals are lost. For example, when we turn wheat into white flour, we lose about 80-90% of the fiber, 70-80% of the vitamins and minerals and 90% of the phytochemicals. No one sits down to a bowl of white flour. Before eating white flour, fat, sugar, salt, colors, preservatives and/or flavor enhancers are added, then white flour is transformed into bread, crackers, baked goods, etc. For optimal health, we want to avoid or minimize the use of refined grains (e.g. white flour, white rice, couscous, white pasta, etc.).
How many servings of grains are recommended per day? Many food guides suggest about 5-8 servings of grains per day, at least half of which should be whole grains. Of course, for people needing less calories than most, intakes would be lower, and for those needing more calories than most (e.g. athletes), intakes would be higher. For optimal health, most, if not all grains should be whole, preferably intact, broken or rolled.
Should gluten be avoided? Not necessarily. An estimated 6% of the population is sensitive to gluten. Affected individuals need to minimize their intake, and people with the most serious form of gluten sensitivity (those with celiac disease) must avoid gluten completely. Others can generally include gluten-containing grains without adverse effects. If there is a question, testing can be done.
Aren’t grains “high-carb” foods? Yes, whole grains are high in carbohydrates. Most of the calories (~65-80%) from grains are carbohydrates. This is not a bad thing. In fact, most of the calories from plant foods (with the exception of nuts and seeds) are from carbohydrates. These foods are the foods most strongly linked with disease risk reduction.
Is bran a good choice? Although bran is extremely high in fiber, it can interfere with nutrient absorption. So, for most people eating plant-based diets, it is best to minimize use (except when it is present as part of a whole grain!).
What type of bread is most healthful? Bread is a very popular food around the world. Unfortunately, it is generally flour based and is light and fluffy, hence has a big impact on blood sugar. The good news is that not all breads are equal, and some can be quite healthy. Sprouted breads (bread made from sprouted grains and dehydrated or cooked at a low temperature) such as manna breads are an excellent choice. Breads made from sprouted grain flours are preferable to regular flour breads but still can be quite light and fluffy. Generally, the denser the bread, the more slowly it is absorbed, and the more healthful it is. Breads containing intact grains, nuts and seeds are better choices. Very heavy breads (e.g. breads you can practically stand on) are best. Sourdough bread is less likely to cause food intolerance and is more slowly absorbed than reduced.
This article originally appeared on Brenda Davis’ website and is reprinted with permission. For more information about our nutrition classes, please contact us.
We will celebrate Earth Day by continuing to focus on creating delicious, healthy plant-based meals. We will also have a presence at three events. If you’re in the area please stop by and join in on the celebration.
Living Light graduate and former instructor Chad Sarno’s culinary journey has taken him from the redwood forests of the Mendocino Coast to rural communities of the Philippines and places in-between. He’s experienced the richness of our planet and its cultures, and he’s learned that you don’t need to sacrifice exceptional taste for personal or planetary health.
This perspective informs the ethical, environmental, and recipe choices for his exciting new venture, Good Catch. Self-labeled “culinary rebels with a cause” the company has created a plant-based tuna with the intent of preserving the ocean’s natural resources while providing protein options that have the rich flavors and flaky textures of fine seafood. This labor of love is their way of staying in tune with the planet while creating a delicious fishless alternative.
Chad and his brother Derek are the masterminds behind Wicked Healthy, the wildly popular culinary blog and cookbook that guides readers to a healthy, plant-based lifestyle. Along with their respected partners, they founded Good Catch with these core principals:
A belief that plant-based foods can feed and help save the world.
Reverence the Earth, its oceans, its creatures, and its precious resources.
Strive to treat all beings with kindness and respect.
Value the joy of eating well and delight in sharing delicious plant-based meals with others.
Take our work seriously but don’t take ourselves seriously.
Make plant-based foods for everyone, from vegan to omnivore and everything in between.
Good Catch formed out of a recognition that oceanic tuna highways have turned into what seems like endless nets and lines of fishing boats. Many of the world’s tuna species face common threats to their existence. We see significant population declines, poor conservation management, and high levels of illegal and unregulated fishing.
In response, Good Catch’s proprietary six-legume blend: peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans, and navy beans along with algae oil for seafood flavor and omega-3 DHA creates a fish-free brand that truly rivals seafood without contributing to the degradation of the ocean or the animals in it.
As we all begin to discover eating clean, our forks are our greatest tool for activism, and there’s no better way to take a stance than to learn how to triumph in the kitchen, one bite at a time.
We’re proud to support Chad, and all our graduates in their efforts to help each of us re-realize the importance of our connection to the planet and the food we eat. It’s from this place that we can create a vibrant, healthy planet and joyful people. Thank you, Chad and your partners for your example and leadership.
Learn more about Chad and Derek by visiting Wicked Healthy. Be on the lookout at for Good Catch at Whole Foods, Thrive, and other retailers and taste for yourself.
Whether you’re looking to create a business focusing on plant-based wellness, or if you want a career as a professional chef, or if you’re looking for a personal health transformation, we can help. Contact us today and join our family of chefs, educators, and entrepreneurs making a difference around the world.
Some people are saying, “Take extinction off your plate.” What? I already take shorter showers. Every week, I deposit my recycling into the right bins. I walk whenever I can. I ride my bike a lot, when it’s not so icy I’ll kill myself. I car-share. Isn’t that enough? It seems not. Agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions – greater than all transport put together – and our current dietary choices are propelling us toward extinction.
Rearing livestock for animal products requires far more land, water, and energy than producing plant foods. Producing a kilo of beef generates 27 kilos of CO2, compared to 0.9 kg per kilo of lentils. That’s 30 times as much! While new technologies for animal farming are available, a recent study found they only reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 9%.
One kilo of beef delivers 194 grams protein; one kilo of lentils: 246 grams protein. According to a 2016 Oxford study, adopting vegan diets globally would cut food-related emissions by 70%. That’s an excellent reason to order falafels or curried chickpeas rather than a burger or fried chicken. But how can you make lentils taste even remotely as good? One can start by picking up a vegetarian cookbook or doing a web search for “vegan lentil recipe.” You’ll find 825,000 tasty results within 0.51 seconds.
The Scientific Committee of the Dietary Guidelines – a conservative group – now provides evidence that diets with more plant foods and fewer animal products are linked with less environmental damage. Many scientists are calling for a great reduction in livestock production to reverse climate change and to use less water, fossil fuels, pesticides, and fertilizers.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics makes the point that, compared with producing 1 kilo of beef protein, 1 kg protein from kidney beans requires 18 times less land, 10 times less water, 9 times less fuel, 12 times less fertilizer, and 10 times fewer pesticides. Beef production generates considerably more manure waste than other animal or fish farming, but they are all strong polluters. Pig farming creates immense toxic manure ponds. The Environmental Protection Agency states that about 70% of all water pollution in rivers and lakes in the US results from animal farm waste.
The use of antibiotics as growth promoters and to prevent and treat farm animal diseases generates antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance passes to humans, causing difficult-to-treat illnesses, resulting in greater morbidity, mortality and health care costs.
Does this situation strike you as crazy? By relying on meat and other animal products, we make ourselves obese; raise our risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancers; and then destroy our planet. Want to really make a change?
Remember, you don’t need to dive too deep, too fast. Start where you’re at by slowly integrating plant-based meals into your diet. Not only will you probably feel better you will contribute to the health of the planet.
Learn more about our nutrition and culinary courses and how you can learn the tools to achieve both personal and planetary wellness, here.
Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver-based dietitian and a nutrition instructor at Living Light.