Nancy Broderick wasn't always a raw foods enthusiast. For years, she lived on bologna and Big Macs. "The closest I got to being raw was eating raw chocolate chip cookie dough," she said.

In the last few years, though, the change to a raw foods diet has improved her energy and overall health, and she also found a new calling — showing others how to go "raw" themselves.

The Carmel chef, known as "The Raw Food Chick," will teach a class this Saturday at the Happy Landing Inn in Carmel that will focus on raw food recipes for holiday menus. She'll demonstrate how to make festive favorites such as Waldorf salad and pumpkin pie that adhere to the principles of the raw food way of eating.

"There are many things you can make that are easy to do, and don't scare your friends away," said Broderick, who teaches classes in Santa Cruz and Salinas as well as Carmel.

The raw food diet, which has been gaining momentum in recent years, is based on the idea that uncooked foods are more nutritious.

Raw food enthusiasts believe that cooking foods leaches out vitamins, enzymes and nutrients. However, heating foods up to about 115 degrees is allowed, because up to that temperature "doesn't change the structure of the food or destroy its nutritional value," said Broderick.

Because foods can't be cooked, the diet is vegetable based and excludes meat, dairy and wheat.

There are some techniques and gadgets that add variety to the raw food diet. One is a dehydrator, which can be used to heat certain items up to that 115-degree mark. Another is a juicer, one of the signature kitchen aids of raw foodism. Broderick demonstrates these tools in her workshops as well as giving other useful tips and techniques.

A graduate of Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, in Fort Bragg, Broderick is a certified raw food chef and instructor, and also has a bachelor's degree in foods and nutrition from the University of Illinois.

Ironically, when she received that bachelor's degree and went to work in hospital kitchens, the menu didn't contain many healthful foods.

"The menus we were taught to prepare were all based on the USDA and the standard American diet," she said. "They were packed with dairy, wheat, sugar and overcooked and overprocessed foods."

Those kinds of meals were taking their toll on Broderick, and she realized that this diet couldn't be benefiting her patients. She decided to go back to school for another degree. And working at fast-food restaurants while in college renewed her resolve to find a healthier way to live, which started her down the path of vegetarianism.

After graduating, she moved to Carmel to be near her sister, Jennifer Hill, who co-owned New Masters Gallery in Carmel with her husband Bill.

Then Hill was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and Broderick became her sister's full-time caretaker.

In an effort to boost her sister's immune system, Broderick researched alternative medicine and nutrition. She became intrigued with the raw foods diet, and began making Hill healthy juices and smoothies as well as preparing other organic raw foods.

Hill died in 2006, but Broderick is convinced that raw foods helped improve her sister's quality of life, and notes that the smoothies were sometimes the only thing Hill could tolerate after chemotherapy.

The experience also cemented her commitment to raw foods, and her desire to share the diet with others and to show them how to make it simple and fun.

Broderick now lives on raw foods only, which she says has increased her energy, improved digestion and eliminated her eczema.

"It was an awful way to live," she said of the itchy skin condition, which plagued her most of her life. "I had to take Allegra two to three times a day. Once I went 100 percent raw, it alleviated the symptoms very quickly."

In addition to the workshops, Broderick also advises people one-on-one on how to adopt a raw foods diet and to set up their kitchen to accommodate this change in lifestyle.

Not everyone can go completely raw. Broderick said, especially in the beginning, to ease into it with one meal a day, and then to work up to whatever level is comfortable.

During the holidays, it may be more difficult to stick with a completely raw diet. But Broderick says it helps if you can bring a raw dish to share at a party.

Raw food hors d'oeuvres will be served by Broderick at New Masters Gallery during the annual Jennifer Hill holiday show, this year set for Dec. 6 from 4-7 p.m. The show is a tribute to her late sister, and the public is invited to the gallery for a reception and toy drive.

Broderick is planning more workshops for 2009, and hopes to incorporate ideas for families and for eating on the run.

Here are two of her recipes that can be prepared for the holidays or any time. Some of the more unusual ingredients, like raw cacao powder and agave nectar can be found at health food stores and specialty food stores such as Whole Foods. Coconut butter, also called coconut oil, can be found at Whole Foods and Cornucopia in Carmel.

Pumpkin pie

Crust

2 cups almonds

10 medjool dates, pitted

¼ cup almond flour

Filling

2 cups fresh raw pumpkin, puréed

1 cups medjool dates, pitted

½ cup soaked almonds (soak in water for 8 hours and then drain)

1½ T. pumpkin pie spice

¼ cup water

¼ cup coconut butter

For crust:

Add all ingredients into a food processor and blend until well mixed. Press down into a pie plate. Can be used like this or dehydrate at 105 degrees for 5 hours for an extra crunchy crust.

For filling

Peel fresh raw pumpkin and cut into chunks. Put pumpkin in food processor and purée. Add dates and mix until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend until creamy. Pour into pie crust. Best served chilled.

 

Yummy chocolate smoothie shake

(Serves 2)

2 cups almond milk (can use any nut milk; see recipe below)

3 ripe frozen bananas

1 tsp organic vanilla extract

2 T. raw cacao powder (can be found at most health food stores)

2 T. agave nectar

½ cup crushed ice (optional)

Steps: Blend until smooth and creamy. To make a green shake, substitute 1 T. green powder instead of the raw cacao powder.

 

Walnut milk/almond milk

(Makes 5 cups)

5 cups filtered water

1 cup soaked raw walnuts or almonds, drained (see note)

1½ T. vanilla flavor

2 T. agave nectar

Pinch of sea salt

Steps: Combine the water and nuts in a blender and process until smooth. Strain the liquid through a nut bag or cheesecloth. A nut bag is a mesh bag similar to cheesecloth. Rinse out the blender and pour the milk back in. Add the vanilla flavor, agave nectar and salt, and process until very smooth and creamy.

Note: Soak 1 cup nuts for 6-8 hours in filtered water; cover with water before you go to bed and they will be ready to use in the morning.

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If you go ·What: Holiday Favorites: Gourmet Raw Food Cuisine ·When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday ·Where: Happy Landing Inn, Monte Verde between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel ·Cost: $35; includes lunch, recipes and informational handouts ·Information: www.rawfoodchick.com or 277-8358