April in the Raw: Shaved Asparagus Salad and Lemon Poppyseed Bars

[Raw Frosted Lemon-Poppyseed Bars–heavenly!]

Whew–where has the last week gone? Between end-of-term marking and a long holiday weekend, it’s been pretty busy here in the DDD household.  I hope you all enjoyed a stellar Passover and/or Easter holiday! This year, the HH and I celebrated both holidays, first with friends (we were invited to two seders this year) and then on our own (a holiday Easter dinner for just the two of us).

As in other areas, when it comes to celebrating holidays, the HH is, shall we say, rather laissez-faire.  In other words, if not for me, we would probably have eaten cereal for dinner on Sunday instead of the fantastic repast we did have (nutroast and céléri remoulade, about which I’ll post in a day or two).  To top off our weekend, we went to see Water for Elephants with my friend Nutritionista and her hubby last night.  Since I had no preconceived notions about Robert Pattinson (having never seen any of the Twilight films) and since I love Reese Witherspoon, I really enjoyed the movie (though, is it just me, or is there something vaguely simian about his looks?).

Well, after all the heavy, rich foods of the past long weekend, I am so ready for something fresh, light, crisp–and raw!

I was delighted a while back when Brittany of Real Sustenance asked if I’d like to participate in her month-long tribute to raw foods, April in the Raw.  You see, raw foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and a few others), consumed in the same state as we’d find them in nature (technically, nothing heated above 115F46 C), are considered to provide optimum nutritional value while  retaining the natural enzymes that may help us to digest those same foods (when foods are cooked, your pancreas must take on this monumental task on its own–not too much fun for the l’il pancreas).

With spring in the air (okay, maybe not literally–what is it with the never ending winter this year?–but it’s coming, I just know it), this is as good a time as any to try out some raw recipes.  Besides, raw foods are ideal for those of us who plan to detox around this time of year–and I’ve decided that I really need to detox. How much do I need a cleanse right now?  In a show of hands, I’d have to throw in not just my hand, but probably the whole deck.  Yep, a cleanse is definitely in order for this gal.

(“Mum, you don’t think we need a cleanse, do you?  Because, you know, we go swimming at least once a week in the pond, so that keeps us cleansed, doesn’t it?.  On the other hand, if you want to throw a little raw food our way, we’re all for it!’)

[Raw Asparagus, Romaine and Grapefruit Salad–who knew?]

Most days, I aim for something raw at each meal, but that wasn’t always the case.  In fact, I didn’t discover the joy of raw foods until I was in nutrition school, during the “Alternative Diets” course.  The entire class was inspired by our prof, Miss Serenity (in opposition to my friends and me, collectively Misses Anxiety, Dissatisfaction, Self-Doubt, Insecurity, Impatience, Grumpy and Sleepy).  Miss Serenity was, herself, a raw foodist, and we all wanted to be like her.

Miss Serenity was the image of radiant health, with a strong, toned physicque, luxurious hair the color of milk chocolate and the whitest smile I’ve ever seen; she was also the polar opposite of the stereotypical “vegan.”  Her skin shone with the pink glow of iron and oxygen-rich blood, she guffawed with great glee and was the last person one would consider “stuffy” or “preachy.” Yet she also taught yoga and meditated every day, she grew her own wheat grass and she owned a house painted in bold colors of the seven chakras. As soon as she announced that she was teaching a “Raw Foods Fundamentals” course in her home, I signed up.

Because of Miss Serenity, I decided to “go raw” for a month.  As a full-time student, I had the luxury to prepare all my food from scratch and could spend hours chopping, grating, puréeing, blending, processing, soaking, and juicing as I made recipe after recipe from Miss Serenity’s cookbook.  The food was delicious, but ultimately I abandoned the idea–I just didn’t have 2-3 extra hours a day to devote to food prep.

Since then, I’ve discovered that “uncooking” need not take exorbitant amounts of time.  The “original” raw foods–fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds–can be eaten out of hand, exactly as they are the instant you pick them or shell them.  Somewhere between fresh-picked and three-hour prep is a happy medium: a bit of chopping, perhaps some peeling or prepping, along with fewer ingredients or foods eaten fresh and whole. (Even Miss Serenity occasionally brought a “mono-meal” for her lunch:  we’d watch, mesmerized, as she peeled and ate 4-5 mangoes at a sitting–and nothing else for that meal).

Today’s offering is meant to show you that raw food can be both simple and delicious.  First up, I’m including the quintessential raw dish: salad (but with a new twist).  Then, once you’ve eaten your greens, I think you deserve a fantastic dessert: these raw Frosted Lemon-Poppyseed Bars!  Even the HH loved them.

The salad does a bit of double-duty, as it also contains this month’s SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient, asparagus.  I had no idea one could eat raw asparagus until I came across a recipe for “Shaved Asparagus Salad with Orange-Tarragon Vinaigrette” in the May/June 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. Well, that was all the incentive I needed to start playing with the recipe and come up with my own adaptation.  The ACD doesn’t allow oranges but does allow grapefruit for some bizarre reason, so that was the substitution I used.

The resulting salad was crisp, fresh, and juicy, the slightly sweet shards of asparagus lending a decidedly springlike air (something we sorely need these rainy days!).  Fragrant with tarragon and grapefruit zest, the salad was a lively start to our meal.  I didn’t tell the HH it contained raw asparagus until he’d already dug in and proclaimed the dish “fantastic.”  I’d suggest you do the same when you serve this. ;)

Asparagus, rickiheller.com

To cap off your meal, how about these dazzling Lemon-Poppyseed Bars with Lemon Frosting?  All raw, of course!  Lemon and Poppyseed is one of the HH’s favorite combinations, so I decided to create a raw dessert that he’d love even more than the salad.  These little confections are firm and chewy with a sparkling crunch of poppyseeds in every bite.  The frosting firms up in the fridge, but left at room temperature softens to a creamy, smooth, entirely alluring topping.  Because they’re so rich, you can cut these into small cubes of one or two bites a piece, and you’ll still be satisfied.

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Thanks again to Brittany for allowing me to play along with April in the Raw this year!  It’s been so much fun focusing more on the raw foods in my diet.  In fact, I plan to keep up with more raw over the next few months.

To see the lineup of all the April in the Raw posts as well as links to readers’ recipes (or to link up your own), check out the April in the Raw main page!

I’m also submitting these bars to Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays , Diane’s Real Food Weekly, Gluten-Free Homemaker’s Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Brittany’s Seasonal Sundays and the Simple Lives Thursday  events.(whew!)  :)

Last Year at this Time: SOS Kitchen Roundup: Beets! (24 recipes using the Ruby Root)

Two Years Ago: Flash in the Pan: Almond Crusted Root Vegetable “Fries” (one of the all-time most popular recipes on the blog)

Three Years Ago: Peanut Butter Biscuits (not gluten free; not ACD friendly)

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Comments

  1. You are my hero! Did you know that?? I feel SO lucky #1 to know you.. and furthermore CRAZY lucky to have you part of this event. This is a delightful post. Just this morning I was dreaming of Shaved Asparagus – but I wasn’t sure how I would go about enjoying it. Now I do!
    Thank you so much wonderful friend for creating these beautiful recipes! xoxoxox

    • Aw, Brittany, thanks so much! My heart is swelling. :D I was honored that you invited me to be part of this wonderful event. . . and I am totally inspired to go back to more raw foods in my daily diet, now!

  2. i LOVE the lemon poppyseed bar idea! i grew up eating this in cake form and i loved it!!! thanks for the recipe :)

    i love to drink fresh green juices for my detox! :) btw, where did you take your class with Miss Serenity? I assume Canada? Do you know of any good ones in the NYC area? :)

    • Hi Junia, thanks so much! And thanks for reading my blog. :)
      I took the course at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition here in the Toronto area. From what I understand, Anne Marie Colbin’s school (I think it’s called the Natural Gourmet?) is in the NYC area. And there’s the school of integrative nutrition–I believe they have a campus around there? Not sure, but Mr. Google will definitely have the details :) Anyone out there know of good nutrition schools in the New York City area? Please share in the comments!

  3. I’ve been trying to decide whether or not I should see Water for Elephants. I really liked the book when I read it a few years ago, but I’m always hesitant to see movie tie-ins. Usually they’re kind of disappointing. (Knowing me, I’ll probably go see it anyway)

    Your salad sounds fantastic!

    • I hadn’t read the book, so there was none of that kind of disappointment, but I do know what you mean. For me, the story was lovely, there was great acting, and I’m interested in Depression-era stuff. On the other hand, some real violence, both against people and animals, which I found I couldn’t watch.

      Glad you like the salad–it really was delish. :)

  4. See…you know what to do with raw asparagus! You’re amazing Ricki. Thank you for sharing how your perspective and approach to raw foods has evolved over the years – and two fabulous recipes.

    xo

  5. Courtney says:

    Ricki

    I am so happy to hear you got a chance to celebrate both holidays and had a nice time with the HH :-)

    Detox or not, the asparagus recipe looks fantastic! I love asparagus…hopefully the farmers market will have fresh asparagus this weekend!

    Courtney

  6. You know I was chopping asparagus the other day and ate a piece raw – not sure I ever did that before but it was lovely!

  7. Wow. That’s all I can say. I don’t know which one I think is more delicious! If I had poppy seeds on hand, I would totally make the bars right now.

  8. Oh my my, the lemon poppy seed bars are killing me! I think it would actually be feasible for me to makes these, and you have no idea how excited that makes me! I’m wondering if you think that I could sub hazelnuts or more cashews for the almonds without compromising the taste too much? I’m really happy that you mention vegetable glycerin as a sub for agave or yacon, as I didn’t know you could use it in a recipe like this. I’m definitely going to pick some up now so that I’m that much closer to eating these dreamboats! Thanks Ricki!

    • I really wanted something that could be eaten by pretty much anyone on any stage of an anti-candida diet, so I’m so glad these are good for your diet! I think both hazelnuts and cashews would be fine as they are both pretty “mild” flavors–you want something that’s not too strong to overpower the lemon. But I’d use at least two different types of nut for a more interesting taste and texture. Although I don’t use the veg glycerin too much these days, I liked it here since it doesn’t confer a flavor of its own and allows the lemon and poppyseed to shine through. :)

  9. Awesome, thanks for the tips! Such torture thinking about this during my typical midnight snack attack…

  10. Both these recipes sounds fantastic! I love asparagus but never thought of eating them raw…I’ll definitely make the salad as soon as I find some local asparagus.
    My husband doesn’t eat desserts with citrus fruits, but I LOVE them…I guess it’s better if I wait for when we have guests ;)

    • I hadn’t thought of raw asparagus, either, but very happy to have tried it now! Too bad about your hubby not wanting to share. . . then again, more for you (and the guests). :)

  11. oh dear I am out of touch with films – though I did see twilight some years ago but never was a huge fan – but I am quite au fait with chopping up asparagus finely for a salad – in fact I have given it to sylvia raw at times – though never thought of shaving it. Glad you had a good easter (we would also have beans on toast if I didn’t organise anything as E seems like HH when it comes to these sort of dinners – can’t wait to hear about the nut roast)

    • Can’t say Twilight particularly appeals to me, either. Sounds like E and the HH are two peas in a pod (or two beans on toast?). Loved how the nut roast turned out–can’t wait to write about it!

  12. The Raw Frosted Lemon Poppyseed Bars look amazing Ricki. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  13. I’m trying again, Ricki, hoping WP will now cooperate! :)

    I love fresh asparagus – have been known to take some right from the garden when it’s young & tender and nosh away!

    And the lemon bars look divine (darn nut allergy!)…I’m passing this link on to a friend who can have nuts – I’ll live vicariously through her!

    xo,
    Gigi

    • Thanks for trying again, Gigi! :) You are so lucky you can grow asparagus–I can’t imagine how delicious it would be straight from the ground. Hope your friend likes the bars!

  14. I made the lemon bars last night… AWESOME! I used agave and left out the icing though. Anything lemon poppyseed is good in my books.

    • I don’t think they absolutely need the icing. . . it’s just nice to ramp up the “special” factor. ;) So glad you liked them!!

  15. Wow, yumm, to both recipes. My intro to asparagus (as a child) was out-of-a-can topped with mayonnaise, one of my Dad’s favorite salads. How times have changed. I need to try both of these recipes. Those lemon bars look and sound wonderful. You never cease to amaze with your creativity and inspiration!

    • Well, at least you HAD an introduction to asparagus–it wasn’t even heard of in my childhood home! ;) Glad you like the recipes, too. :)

  16. Linda Hart says:

    fyi-the “print this” link for the poppyseed bars brings up the shaved asparagus recipe instead.

  17. Both recipes sound great. I’ve been wanting to make a lemon poppyseed raw treat, I even have the poppyseeds for it!

  18. You are really making adopting you for Adopt a GF Blogger sooooo hard for me! With recipes like these I don’t know where to start!

    • Heather, you are too funny! I am SO THRILLED to be adopted by you!! Of course, if I had my way, every recipe you made would be a chocolate one. . . ! ;)

  19. Oh Ricki! Bliss! Lemon is one of my favourite flavours for dessert, my mum makes a poppyseed cake that fills me with nostalgia, and I love raw sweets. WIN!

    • Yay! I found this very reminiscent of lemon poppyseed cake, but then again, I’ve been eating this way a long time. . . ;) In any case, a lovely raw treat! :D

  20. I’m loving the new trend in shaved asparagus salads, especially with citrus! I need to get on it, soon. The bars sound wonderful too!

  21. Hey Ricki, apologies if this has already been asked, but do you think that chia gel would work as a substitute for the glycerin? Thanks for the help!

  22. Wow Miss Serenity sounds like a very inspiring person! I love lemon poppyseed muffins so those bars definitely appeal to me!

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