Christina Ross is an Ambassador of Healthy Living, a dynamic conscious recipe and product creator, educator of vitality through the art of eating and living vibrantly, a freelance writer and blogger. Christina’s recipes and healthful lifestyle tips have been published in Natural Child World Magazine through her column “Love-Fed.” Christina also contributes recipes and articles to popular sites and works such as RawfoodRecipes.com, Clean Food Living, Vegan Food Share, Organic Soul, Sheknows.com, Just Eat Real Food, RawGuru.com, and Kris Carr’s MyCrazySexyLife.com. Christina keeps her many fans full of nutrient rich content through her blog Love-Fed.com and through television appearances, which have taken her to TODAY, Good Day Chicago, as well as San Diego Living. Learn more at love-fed.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, we’re back. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Did you get that snack I was talking about? I didn’t and I really wish I did because I’m hungry and now I’m just going to get a lot hungrier. That’s what happens when you talk about food. Yep, you get hungry. But we only talk about good food and talking about good food is not going to harm you…if you’re only talking. But eating good food is good for you too. Not just talking, but eating.
I wanted to remind you one more time…well maybe not one more time, I might do this a few more times…but spin over to ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com and view (when you get a chance) the REAL Good News In Review, The Chocolate Report, and our Transition Kitchen. And the Transition Kitchen food show is really a lot of fun. Gary makes a spicy marinara and a cashew creme bechamel that goes into a luscious lasagna. It’s a really wonderful treat. For people that are not plant-blased, this is something you can make that they would really really love. It’s so good.
Let’s go on and get into the love relation with our food and talk to Christina Ross who is an ambassador of healthy living, a dynamic conscious recipe and product creator, educator of vitality through the art of eating and living vibrantly, and a freelance writer and blogger. Her recipes and helpful lifestyle tips have been published in Natural Child World magazine through her column “Love Fed.” Christina also contributes recipes and articles to popular sites and works such as RawFoodRecipes.com, Clean Food Living, [2:03], Organic Soul, SheKnows.com, Just Eat Real Food, RawGuru.com, and Kris Carr’s MyCrazySexyLife.com. Christina keeps many of her fans full of nutrient rich content through her blog love-fed.com and through television appearances which have taken her to Today, Good Day Chicago, as well as San Diego Living. You can find more at love-fed.com.
Christina, how are you today?
Christina Ross: I’m great. How are you doing?
Caryn Hartglass: Good. I’m glad we were able to connect.
Christina Ross: Yes, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: So you have some lovely delicious treats in your book Love Fed. As it says, purely decadent, simply raw. One of the things I like to say when I’m talking about raw food is the raw food cuisine really is the most exciting when it comes to desserts.
Christina Ross: I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: They’re like sinful but they’re not. They’re just made with whole foods.
Christina Ross: It’s amazing. It’s amazing what you can do with fruits and vegetables and turn them into cakes, cupcakes, and ice cream.
Caryn Hartglass: It is pretty amazing. I was just talking about (in the last half hour) how the human culture continues to change when it comes to food. We’ve eaten just about anything and who knows what we’ll be eating in the future. It’s not even clear if there is an ideal collection of foods, although everyone agrees we should be eating more plant foods. We’ve gotten away from eating whole foods to eating more industrial foods and a lot of flower, baking based foods. I love getting back to, or actually jumping forward to the raw cuisine, making things that are somewhat familiar but new. Crusts and creams all from delicious whole plant foods.
Christina Ross: Absolutely. You can have a craving for something like a tiramisu and find new ways of recreating those recipes to really get where we are consciously, what our bodies are craving and needing for vitality and energetically. It’s pretty incredible that we’re at this place of going back to simple foods, such as whole foods, that provide us with all of this nourishment as opposed to the processed ingredients we’ve become accustomed to for so long.
Caryn Hartglass: Now someone who is familiar with kind of standard American cuisine, standard European cuisine, with baking, I think the foundation consists of white flower, white milk, eggs, and white sugar. What are the counterparts in your style of preparing desserts?
Christina Ross: I think nuts replace the flower by grinding them down into a flour consistency, coconut oil replaces the butter. Coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, any type of nut milk alternative replaces the dairy in the dessert. For binders you can use different ingredients like dates or maple syrup, agave nectar, different types of sweeteners hold and bind all of the crust ingredients together.
Caryn Hartglass: I think once we accept that little switch, it all becomes quite simple.
Christina Ross: Yeah. A lot of these ingredients we have on hand at home. We just don’t ever look at a banana and think ‘I’m gonna make a whole pie using that banana as the main, star ingredient.’ It’s really just reshaping the way we look at our fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and getting extra creative with them.
Caryn Hartglass: Most of the recipes have ingredients that most of us are familiar with but there are some that I haven’t heard of very much and maybe we could talk about some of them like lucuma.
Christina Ross: Lucuma is really amazing. In Peru it’s as common as chocolate and vanilla is here to us in the States. It’s a staple Peruvian fruit and it has a really sweet caramel-like taste. If it’s something that you’re not used to having in your diet, it’s really interesting to play around. If you’re really into plant foods and you’re looking for that caramel substitute or that butterscotch type of flavor that you want to impart into a dessert, then that’s a really excellent option that you can add in there.
Caryn Hartglass: And where do we find it?
Christina Ross: Easiest would be to find it online. I love using my super foods from Essential Living Foods, you can find ingredients from them that are harder to find super foods. You could also find it at a health foods store pretty easily. A lot of times you’ll see, if you’re shopping at a health foods store and you’re in the raw vegan aisle, you’ll see that lucuma. It’s usually mixed into different protein powders and chocolate bars, and things of this nature. Again, because it pairs so well with dessert.
Caryn Hartglass: So when you get it alone, is it already processed? Is it a powder? Is it a liquid? How do you get it?
Christina Ross: It comes in powder form. You can start tossing it into smoothies and shakes. I like to blend it in with the cashews on the base of my cake recipes. And again, it provides that extra sweet note in there. But not too sweet.
Caryn Hartglass: Well there are so many varieties of fruits on this planet. I love apples and pears and bananas. Those are my stables. Oranges, grapefruits…they’re the least expensive and they’re what’s available but when you travel the world and you discover all these other fruits that are out there, it’s the tip of the iceberg. You’ve got this one product that has a really lovely flavor and how many other products are out there that we’re missing?
Christina Ross: It’s just incredible how much is opened up to us in we travel, in terms of food.
Caryn Hartglass: So there are things to look forward to in the plant kingdom because most of us who have been eating plant-based for so long probably haven’t even experienced so many other flavors we’ve yet to taste. I’m excited about that.
Christina Ross: I still go to the grocery store and I wonder, ‘What is that new exotic fruit that they have?’
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it depends on where you live. For those of us who live in New York, California, or some other places, Chicago, big cities, our grocery stores tend to have a lot more variety. There are other places where the variety is not as abundant. Now let’s talk about Irish moss. In your book, you rehydrate it from dry to seaweed, right?
Christina Ross: Yes, you do. You want to hydrate it because that’s what is going to give your desserts that creamy fluffy texture. It’s not a necessity to have this ingredient. When I first started making raw desserts I never used it. I was able to get by without it but then I wanted to take my desserts to the next level. I think this is one of those “next-level” ingredients that if you come at it from a chef’s standpoint, you want to achieve that perfect smooth creamy texture that also has structure whenever you take it out of a cake mold, then that would be the ingredient to help you achieve that. It’s pretty neat because it’s a sea vegetable and it comes with all the sand and the smell of the sea right straight out of the bag. You’re like ‘How in the world does this go into and work in a dessert?’ Then when you hydrate it and blend it into the cake filling or pudding filling, it’s just miraculous how you don’t taste the sea vegetable. It just adds this magical creaminess to your recipe.
Caryn Hartglass: That is what I was going to ask you. It doesn’t have a fishy flavor?
Christina Ross: No. It originally does when you take it out of the pouch and it’s very light. It actually carries over no odor or flavor once you soak it.
Caryn Hartglass: I had Irish moss in powder form and I rarely used it because it gave a very nice texture but it also gave a fishy flavor. Have you ever used it as a powder?
Christina Ross: Yes, the flakes I believe you’re referring to.
Caryn Hartglass: No, it was a powder.
Christina Ross: Oh, no, I’ve never used the powder form.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, you’re now going to reconsider Irish moss because I had used this very fishy tasting powder. It was quite unpleasant. I’m kind of curious to use the kind that you’ve used.
Christina Ross: Yes, and that you can find at most Whole Foods and health food stores. You can definitely find it online. It’s just something that is so unique to play around with. Whenever I have it soaking on my counter and friends come over they’re like ‘What in the world are you going to do with that ingredient?’ They’re usually just so marveled at the fact that that went into their cake. It’s incredible, it’s really fun to play with. Texturally, too. If you’re one who is not scared of learning about new ingredients and how to incorporate new ingredients into your repertoire, then it’s a super fun one to have on hand.
Caryn Hartglass: And it works almost like a gel, or a foamy gel.
Christina Ross: It gives the recipe more of a gelatinous texture I would say.
Caryn Hartglass: Another thing that I really appreciated was your conversation about food coloring. I am horrified by artificial food coloring that so many people, especially parents of young children, use in all of the treats. It’s horrifying. But you gave some good recommendations about how to color some of your food naturally.
Christina Ross: Yes, absolutely. A lot of times when we just blend raspberries into our coconut cream base, it’s going to turn purple. Or blueberries, blue. Yes, we can just use our natural fruits and veggies for most of the coloring. If not, we can get extra creative and use something like a macha green tea powder, which is pretty easy to find, that you can just use to color dishes green. And carrot juice for orange. Beets just work magic on almost anything that you would want to add their juice to. I have a son and I wouldn’t think to feed him any of these artificial colorings, not knowing what they are, but definitely knowing that they are harmful to his health. It’s just amazing to see him actually eat real food that’s colored so vibrantly just from nature itself. I don’t think he would ever ask me for that bright orange thing that wasn’t straight from nature, I’m hoping.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m always so surprised where we’ve gone with all these industrial foods when we have this Garden of Eden to go to. So many fruits and roots and things that have such strong beautiful colors. And they’re good for us. Now, are you all raw? Do you eat an all raw diet?
Christina Ross: No. I like to eat cooked foots a lot of times too. I eat a lot of raw foods. I think they make me feel my most optimal best. When the weather cools down I definitely love to bake on occasion. I love a variety of foods.
Caryn Hartglass: I think if we’re going to eat desserts they should be these raw desserts.
Christina Ross: I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: I do. They satisfy the sweet craving and they’re just food. They’re just whole foods. I have two or three recipes I wanted to mention. One is the ‘Mini Cini Rolls.’
Christina Ross: Mmmm. Those are decadent. The beauty of something like a mini cini roll is they’re mini because that’s all you need. They’re so dense with nutrition that you really don’t need to eat a big jumbo cinnamon roll when you have these type of raw desserts. Every bite is so full of nutrition that you get full actually quite fast. Even if you’re not somebody who eats a whole lot of raw foods, I think you’ll find the nutrient density tends to…something builds in the body that says ‘Hey, I’m actually satisfied.’
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you can’t eat a lot of these desserts. And that’s good. What I like about this recipe is how you created an actual roll. It really worked well with your dough, which is that nut base, which you can mold.
Christina Ross: You can actually take a rolling pin, too. That’s what I did for that recipe. You can really shape this dough just as you would be able to shape other dough. I was actually, for this book, able to create pretzels even. I kind of shocked myself with that one. I had the idea and I was like ‘I wonder can I get this so workable I can make a pretzel out of the dough?’
Caryn Hartglass: And doughnuts! You made doughnuts!
Christina Ross: And doughnuts! Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: You have a business and you sell some of these raw pastries?
Christina Ross: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just curious, and maybe other people are curious, how do you go about starting a business for food? There are so many challenges and I know in the different states the laws aren’t the same. You’re in California, right?
Christina Ross: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: How did you get started?
Christina Ross: I basically just didn’t take no for an answer. The director of the health department lives right across the street from me. I went to him for questions and advice on starting it up and it sounded like I was never going to be able to get started based on information on the laws in California and not having a big budget to start. I just kept persevering. Just finding out about other options that were available. I found myself a shared commercial kitchen that, at the time, was legal to be able to sell to certain retailers, but not necessarily bigger retailers like Costco. It was good enough to get me into Whole Foods and farmer’s markets. That kind of gave me my start. I think the biggest thing was just believing that I could do it, and just knowing I had to get these products out there because there were people like myself who wanted alternatives in the market and there just weren’t any products that were going to satisfy those needs. I had a strong will to ‘have to get these out’ and didn’t take no for an answer.
Caryn Hartglass: What are the most popular, of your creations, that people ask for?
Christina Ross: I would say it’s most favored Raspberry Macadamia Cake. I actually just served that at the launch party and again, time after time, everybody tells me that that’s their favorite. The Carrot Collective Cupcakes are another favorite. Those go really really well. The kids love the blueberry dreamsicle. There’s one year-olds that just gobble down the blueberry dreamsicle. I think those are really special. I’m a fan of the really creamy Boston Cream Cups because they remind me of my childhood. I think those are really fun. The banana toffee pie is another favorite because people are like “You can make that beautiful of a pie just using those few ingredients?” And yes, you can!
Caryn Hartglass: Yes! I know, we’re just so dumb most of us. We don’t know what we’re eating, we don’t know what’s in our food, and we have no imagination. But, we’re learning right?
Christina Ross: Yeah, the imagination part. That’s what this book shows, all throughout the book, it encourages others to get inspired and channel their intuition when they’re in the kitchen. Listen to what their bodies asking of them and incorporate that into the treat they’re making.
Caryn Hartglass: One of the things I like are the pies. I like making all kinds of pies. I make traditional pies with flour foods as well as raw pies. They’re almost fool-proof. A flour dough sometimes can be so finicky to roll and handle. You said you rolled your nut based dough for the mini cini rolls, but most of them you just blend up in the food processor and just press it in. It’s the easiest thing.
Christina Ross: Absolutely. No baking. Your crust is done in just a matter of a couple minutes. It’s genius in a way. I don’t have to worry if I’m going to burn my crust or if it’s not going to turn out as crispy as I like it.
Caryn Hartglass: You don’t have to burn it or it doesn’t fall, it’s just perfect every time. Gosh, I love that.
Christina Ross: Stress-free!
Caryn Hartglass: Stress-free, yeah. I think that’s what it is.
Christina Ross: It makes it taste even better that way.
Caryn Hartglass: Does your husband eat the way you do?
Christina Ross: Oh, yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: And he’s of French origin?
Christina Ross: Yes, he’s from Paris, so he’s got a love of pastry.
Caryn Hartglass: And he eats plant based…and did he do that before he met you?
Christina Ross: No, when we met we both gravitated towards it at the same time and motivated and experimented together. It just became our lifestyle. Very early on in our relationship we adopted this way of eating and it was pretty incredible to go through this transition with somebody so new to my life. I think it had us grow an even stronger bond together to experiment and explore the mind-body food connection. It was pretty incredible. I recommend it to all couples.
Caryn Hartglass: I love hearing this because I lived in the south of France from 1992 to 1996 as a vegan, and I never met another vegetarian. People were very good to me, my friends. They would make me some wonderful foods but it was like vegetarians didn’t exist there. It’s so intense with the culture, the animal-related foods in France, the cuisine capital of the world, that it’s really hard. So I’m always delighted when I hear French people that are moving towards plant foods. I think it was around 2005 or so that I went to the Veggie Pride parade in Paris, it was like two or three years old at the time. It was such a delight to come back and see all of these veggie activists that had come out of the closet to march. We have our own Veggie Pride parade now in Manhattan, that’s taking place this weekend.
Christina Ross: Oh, fantastic. It’s incredible when I travel back to France, we like to go back about every other year, just to see the growth and development of even the raw vegan foods that are now available. Fully vegan cupcake shops, fully vegan patisseries. It’s remarkable just how much the plant awareness has grown there as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Now what about cheese? Is he managing without cheese or are you making some nut based cheeses?
Christina Ross: Yeah, we make nut based cheeses but he’s a rare exception. He’s never really been big into wine and cheese. We always say he’s the most non-French French person we know.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, that’s what’s going on here.
Christina Ross: But he loves the nut cheeses and all of those things a million times over than anything he grew up having.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m looking for the day when all of these great cheese makers in Camembert and Bree and all these locations in France start to make cheese not just from animal milks but from nut milks. It’s going to happen and it’s going to be so exciting. Like I was talking about with fruit, there is all these flavors we have yet to experience that are out there, that are not only good for us, but delicious.
Christina Ross: Absolutely. I’m going to be dreaming of these future cheeses.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to thank you for joining me. I love the title Love Fed, that’s what it really should all be about. Love. So thank you for that. And thanks for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Christina Ross: Well thank you so much for having me. Have a beautiful day.
Caryn Hartglass: You too.
Christina Ross: Bye bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye bye. That was Christina Ross, author of Love Fed. If you have a sweet tooth, and you can’t get over it, this is a really great book to make wonderful desserts that are plant based from whole plant foods. Really creative and they don’t look too complicated, believe me, delicious. Just a minute or so left. I mentioned the Veggie Pride parade, we will be there on Sunday. I’ll be speaking and exhibiting. If you’re going to the Veggie Pride parade go to veggieprideparade.org. It’s in Manhattan. You can get all the details there and say Hi. Then get your tickets to the Happy B’Earthday Revue, my birthday party and fundraiser for Responsible Eating and Living. Go to responsibleeatingandliving.com and please let me know what you think of the Real Good News in Review, all the parts. We’ve got some promos and food shows, and it’s just a lot of fun, and I’d love to know what you think about it.
Meanwhile, I’m also continuing with the What Vegans Eat ….oh, you know what I just realized? Oh, my goodness, just a minute left to go….today is my 6th year anniversary on It’s All About Food. I was thinking about it a little while ago and today is the day. It’s been six years I’ve been talking about my favorite subject, food, on this show. Let’s celebrate, shall we? Thanks for joining me on this special anniversary show…I didn’t even realize it until just now. It’s been fun. But I was telling you I’m continuing with my ‘What Vegans Eat’ blog and we’re on day 41, and that’s how somehow I thought about my anniversary here. And that’s it. Thanks for joining me. Thanks for celebrating with me and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you sometime soon. And remember, have a delicious week.
Transcribed by AC, 4/5/2015