Vilcabamba, better known as The Valley of Longevity, is located at the bottom of Ecuador, South America. It is simply the most magical place with spectacular views, mountains that speak right to you, home to my parents and where the annual Raw Food Conference takes place every May.
The organisers are Matt Monarch and Angela Stokes Monarch of The Raw Food World, who also happen to live in Vilcabamba. This year I was blessed to be part of this powerful gathering and even though I enjoyed each and every moment, I [somehow] managed to sum up my experiences into TOP TEN. Here it goes... (in no particular order)...
1) Family and sushi. I'd be lying if I told you that visiting mum and dad was not my Top Best. It's been 18 months since I last saw them! And then there is mum's insane sushi! I can think of many raw foods that I crave, but only a select few I am sure I can live off. THIS is something I can live off easily. Lucky for you my super amazing mum is sharing her recipe right here as a special guest. Find it at the end...
2) Yoga with a view. Every morning for two weeks straight we were treated to a breathing moving heaven of a yoga. Irlianna Samsara shared her knowledge, tips and techniques that were totally exciting, rejuvenating and always spontaneous. I love my yoga, but I get too easily bored after 3 classes normally when I get the hang of it and can predict what's to come next, ending up just counting down time instead. Terrible I know, but this time I've not only lasted two weeks with Irlianna, I cycled full speed every morning with dad to get to her!
3) Visit to Montesuenos. Montesuenos is a centre for peace, sustainability, the arts and new science. Actually, that is not even my description, I copied it right off the flyer, because I have NO WORDS! Everywhere you look (even the laundry floor) contains the most intricate design and creativity, every wall hangs the most unbelievable painting, every room is entirely unique and each step outdoors brings another 'wow'. And all this developed from the genius minds of Meredith Miller (renowned visionary artist and interior designer) and Brian O'Leary (author of many books on the Project Camelot and ex-Apollo Astronaut, who was hand-picked to lead the first manned mission to Mars). If you do plan a visit, this is the retreat to stay at, as all rooms are for rent!
4) Getting a puppy. I am sooo happy that mum and dad happened to find their new baby while I was visiting. I got to spend the best time with her, as she is at her cutest, funniest and most irresistible stage. Cuter still is her name- curly Kiwi. :)
5) Potluck at the Monarch's. So many parties, dinners and gatherings to choose from for my top ten, I had a difficult time deciding. Accept Matt and Angela's potluck was a no-brainer, a definite highlight. In fact so good, I will have a separate post just for it coming up next..
6) Wild edible herbs walk. Man, this walk was right up my alley, I was deing to find out what sort of local herbs and greens I could pick for juicing and to my surprise- pretty much ALL we passed were medicinal on some level. And I am telling you- there were alot! My fave was the Prickly Pear Cactus aka Nopal Opuntia, which lowers blood pressure, regulates blood sugars, supports immune system, has masses of Vitamin C and 17 amino acids. You just peel it and chop into your salad. It has the texture of a smooth cucumber and OMG so tasty.
7) Chocolate Club Dance Parties from Amsterdam. DJ Crystal DNA is Bastiaan Swager who is also the co-owner of a European based Raw Food business Mastercare. I was over the moon to meet my 'neighbour' all the way in Ecuador and the outdoor parties he put on were just awesome! It was especially hilarious when a whole crowd of locals gathered to watch the drug and alcohol free raw food 'zoo animals' get wild. Love!!
8) Raw Thai Dinner Experience. If you've seen my post on Eating New York, you'll know how much raw goodness I try everywhere and I would easily say this dinner was one of the best. Kirsten Gum, the leading chef of this incredible experience and founder of Raw Trips came for a few short days, just to tease us it seems, but she sure made it memorable. Specialty fruit and chia smoothie, spicy spinach soup, thai nori rolls and dip, pad thai kelp noodles and mango icecream with coconut bites. I went to Raw Food Heaven.
9) The hike to Sacred Suenos. This is a challenging hike up 2118m in altitude, where a very inspirational character Yves began to work the ever barren land 7 years ago and built structures with his bare hands and only from what nature provided (including human poop!). I could listen to him all day- the lessons he went through, the permiculture techniques he mastered are jaw dropping, and the view- oh this is a totally different story. Simply said- I've never seen anything like it. Check out Yves' site and volunteer programs, I am sure this would be an unforgettable experience for anyone.
10) Last but no way least- the presentations. This year's Raw Food Conference brought the most diverse group of bright individuals, who presented on various topics from inspirational stories to educational nutrition advice to practical hands on learning and tasting. I was beyond grateful to listen to and get to know personally David Rainoshek, Tresa Yung, Dave the Raw Food Trucker, Matt Monarch, Angela Stokes Monarch and so many others. Is it a crime to say I enjoyed my own presentation too? :) Well I enjoyed giving the talk anyway- ALOT. It was on one of my favourite topics 'Sprouting' and I'll be posting a video with a summary and recipe shortly xx
Nooow then, onto that amazing Sushi recipe that I promised you at the beginning...
ELENA'S INSANE RAW FOOD SUSHI
For the wraps
1,5 cups sunflower seeds, soaked overnight, drained and processed in food processer to a paste
Carrots, thinly diced
Apple, chopped into strips
Sprouts (we used Snow pea shoots)
For the pickled ginger
4cm ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp raw honey
juice of 1 lemon
For the Soy Sauce
1/3 Cup Braggs Aminos (or Tamari)
1/2 tsp wasabi paste
2 Tbsp hot water
- Mix all the Pickled Ginger ingredients and leave to infuse 8-24 hours. Serve with sushi in the marinade or pour it aside if too much liquid
- Mix wasabi paste in hot water to dilute and mix in well with Braggs for a dipping sauce
- Place nori sheets shiny side down on a chopping board and spoon the sunflower seed paste in a long thin layer strip in the middle of each sheet
- Load either the mentioned ingredients or any of your favourites
-Wet 1 cm of the shiny side of each sheet with water and carefully roll up
- Cut into quarters and serve immediately with ginger and soy sauce on the side