Raw Week Recap + Tamales

Hello wonderful people! I hope you're all staying warm in this weather! Just a disclaimer that this post is going to be very long, so if you're only interested in the recipe you can go ahed and scroll to the bottom. Here we go!

So for anyone who doesn't know, I decided to try eating fully raw for a week, and I just finished yesterday, so I'm just going to share my experience and opinions in case anyone was curious. The reason I decided to try this was because I've read so many articles and blog posts about the benefits of eating raw. People go on and on about how they're bursting with energy and feel better than ever before, and who doesn't want that? So I tried it for myself.

A flaw I saw right off the bat in this lifestyle is that there's so many healthy foods that are excluded because they simply cannot be eaten raw. Sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, hummus, apple sauce, squash, yogurt, grains, eggs, turmeric, beans, and tofu to name a few.

Let me start by saying that the raw diet is extremely restrictive, as the statement above clearly shows. Going in, I knew it would be challenging, but I really had no idea what I was getting into. Tons of foods that I ate pretty often (granola, dark chocolate, grains, popcorn, peanut butter, etc.) were off limits and I was left scrambling for replacements and ideas for meals. Still, I thought that raw fruit, vegetables, and nuts would be fine. I mean, it's only a week, right?

Ouch.

This is what I ate on day one:

Breakfast -  smoothie with fruit, homemade almond milk, and coconut oil

Snack - apple

Lunch - kale salad with carrots, peppers, and tahini lemon dressing + a banana

Snack - dates + almonds

Dinner - Apple, orange, carrot, romaine juice + zucchini noodles w/ avocado dressing.

Snack - Banana nice cream 

My run that day was pretty unpleasant, as my stomach was working really hard to digest all of the raw vegetables I had for lunch. Not the greatest planning on my part. 

Throughout the week, I ate pretty similar to that and managed to snap a few photos of my better meals: 

A week without nut butter was out of the question for me, so I made this raw almond, sunflower, pecan, walnut butter. I actually didn't end up liking it that much though, and stuck to tahini for the week.

A week without nut butter was out of the question for me, so I made this raw almond, sunflower, pecan, walnut butter. I actually didn't end up liking it that much though, and stuck to tahini for the week.

This was my lunch one day,  and ended up being my favorite one that I had all week.

This was my lunch one day,  and ended up being my favorite one that I had all week.

Raw pad thai was a success! #smallvictory

Raw pad thai was a success! #smallvictory

Again: delicious, but just not what I was craving. 

Again: delicious, but just not what I was craving. 

Love my smoothie bowls, but was seriously sick of them at this point. Also, weird color considering it wasn't chocolate flavored...

Love my smoothie bowls, but was seriously sick of them at this point. Also, weird color considering it wasn't chocolate flavored...

I tried to be creative with my meals, but I didn't have the time or the patience. I think if I had planned a little better, the week would've been more manageable. I'm also totally new to the raw thing, so I could've used a little guidance on how to do everything.

Since I'm in the middle of pretty hard training and workouts right now, it was a struggle to eat enough to maintain my strength. I LOVE vegetables, (so much) but I needed more than just that for the mileage that I'm doing. If I were going any longer than a week, I think it would become a  problem. In addition, I just didn't have enough time to eat as much as I was supposed to. Many raw foodists eat mono meals (one food for the entire meal) like 8 oranges or something, and that's impossible to do when I only have 15 minutes to eat lunch at school. 

When I consider ALL of this and the fact that it was below 30 degrees the entire week and my body was craving hot, nourishing food, I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe I'll try again during the summer when fresh fruit and vegetables are abundant and a smoothie doesn't turn me into a living popsicle. 

All in all, I had a pretty difficult time, and the cons of the experience heftily outweigh the pros. I spent my week feeling hungry, tired, and a little crabby (sorry).  If one good thing came out of this, I totally appreciate warm food 1000X more than before.  

That's not to say that people can't have success eating fully raw. It just doesn't work out for me. I also realize that it would take more than a week to see real results, but it just wasn't realistic for me to keep going. Especially with a big race coming up. 

With that being said, it was interesting to experiment and see for myself how I was affected. I think I'll continue to eat lots of raw foods (as I did before) but listen to my body and give it what it needs to grow and be happy, not to mention run fast! (that IS what this blog is about, geez!)

There's lots of delicious raw options and fun recipes, but this week also kept me from doing my favorite thing: playing in the kitchen. In my opinion, you can live a perfectly healthy and delicious lifestyle without any restriction, categorization, or drastic changes. Balance is key, and there's tons of healthy and delicious cooked food that needs to be eaten! And the most important thing is, there's no tamales in a raw diet. And you just can't miss these.

The idea for this recipe has been knocking around in my brain for a few weeks, but I was a little nervous to try it. I don't know why, but tamales kind of intimidate me. 

Not anymore! These are super simple and only require a few ingredients. They only take a little while to make and they are SO worth it.

These are hearty, comforting, customizable, freezer-friendly, and oh so healthy. 

I think we should petition to make tamales Wisconsin's new official state food. It just makes so much sense. Yes it does. 

Butternut Squash + Kale Tamales

Makes about 15 tamales

You will need: 

  • about 15 corn husks (these can be found at any Mexican grocery store, or probably a fancy-pants grocery store)
  • 2 cups masa harina 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil

Filling:

  • 1 small butternut squash; peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • big handful of stemmed kale leaves (swiss chard would be nice too)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder or any spices you feel like.
  • salt and pepper to taste

Fill a large bowl with hot water and soak the husks while you assemble the rest of the recipe. You may need to weigh them down with a can so that they're completely submerged .

In a bowl, combine the masa, baking powder, and salt, then drizzle in the water and coconut oil. Mix until it forms a sticky dough, then cover with a towel and set aside. 

Drizzle enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a skillet, then set over medium-high heat. Add the squash once the oil is hot and sautee for about 15 minutes, until soft. Add the kale and cook until it wilts, then toss in spices and remove from heat. Let the filling cool slightly before stuffing the tamales.

To fill the tamales: lay out a corn husk and use your hands to spread a small handful of dough over the husk, leaving a 1 inch border between the dough and the edge. spoon a little bit of filling in the center of the dough. Fold the left side (husk and all) over to cover the filling, then fold the right side and fold up the bottom. (It takes a little practice to get it right, but even ugly tamales are delicious.) Repeat until all of the filling and dough is gone.

To cook the tamales, set up a large saucepan with a steamer in the bottom and fill with water up to just below the steamer. Arrange the tamales in the pan and cook over medium heat (the water should be at a high simmer) for 45 minutes, adding more water to the pan as needed.

When they're done, the tamales will still seem a little doughy, but will firm up as they cool.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did, and remember to be thankful for the little things this week, like a hot meal made with love. (emphasis on the hot)