Tools for a Healthy Kitchen: Part 3

We have covered a couple of essential tools for a healthy kitchen on our last blog – namely juicers and dehydrators.    There are still a couple of other pieces of equipment that are essential tools for making healthy quick recipes.   The one we use the most is our high powered blender and lastly our spiral slicer.

A high powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec is crucial for making smoothies, nut milks, sauces, dressings, grinding seeds such as flax or chia, making pudding and even hot soups.    When we first started off on our raw vegan adventure we initially bought a cheap low wattage, low horsepower model from a local department store for under $80.  We soon found out that it could not stand up to the test of making almonds milks or blending anything thick for long periods of time.   The motor would start to smell and overheat.  After only  a few weeks we would be buying another one to replace the burnt out unit.   We went through three blenders and a magic wand hand blender in less than 6 months before finally spending the money on a Vitamix high end blender.    The difference was like night and day.  Everything we blended was so much smoother and less gritty.   The yields from the almond milk were higher since the machine could pulverize the almonds finer than the original blender we had.   The smoothies were smoother and the machine could handle thicker recipes and could also make hot soups in just a few minutes.   We do have to say that this blender certainly changed the way we prepare food.   Don’t get me wrong, both the Vitamix and Blendtec can do the same job since they are both high powered blenders.  You can’t go wrong with either one.   So why is this essential for your kitchen?  Because you are able to make fresh homemade recipes and you can now control the ingredients you use.  Instead of buying preservative filled sauces, nut milks full of sugar and additives, soups filled with ingredients you can’t pronounce, you can now make all these in seconds using fresh ingredients.   You can even use it to make nut butters and ice slushies using fresh fruit for your kids or the kid inside you!


Moving along,  we get to the one tool that all our guests want – our spiral slicer.   This cool tool can help replace the starch filled pasta we typically find in stores by making home made noodles from veggies – like zucchini noodles.    Simply position the veggie in the machine turn the handle while applying a bit of pressure and voila… instant zucchini spaghetti noodles.  Our Spirooli model also comes with 2 other blades.  The thicker blade makes curly sweet potato fries or thick curly garnishes and the flat blade makes “slinky” like garnishes.   Add your favourite homemade Thai, Curry, Tomatoe or Alfredo sauce and some of your favourite veggies to the noodles and you have a quick entree or meal that is both nutritious ad delicious.

Vegetable Spiral Slicer

Whats your favourite kitchen tool?   What kitchen appliance that we mentioned changed your life?   We would love to read your comments so please post them below.



Tools for a Healthy Kitchen: Part 2

What are we trying to accomplish in a healthy raw vegan kitchen?  What tools can be used to accomplish this and what can they replace?  What we are trying to accomplish is to prepare healthier meals with no preservatives while keeping minerals, vitamins and enzymes from degrading.    How do we keep enzymes and minerals from the degrading? We don’t use high heat and do use the proper kitchen equipment and best organic produce we can find.


Let’s start off with juicing. Juicing is a great way to get lots of veggies into your system without having to eat a whole bushel full. Juicing removes the fiber from the juice which allows faster absorption of the juice.   Basically you can juice a bushel of veggies down into a few cups of juice.   Keep in mind though that if you’re juicing fruits with high sugar, it also means that the sugar is going to get into your bloodstream a lot faster since you are removing the fiber.  That’s why we don’t recommend juicing fruits or veggies that are high in sugar.  We recommend using mostly greens with either celery or cucumber as a base or both as the base for your green juice.   By making your own fresh juices you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals from the juice almost straight into your bloodstream.  This is an excellent way to start off your morning and get a good energy boost instead of drinking, for example, acidic coffee or preservative filled, sugary, pasteurized juices in a bottle.  Unlike coffee,  green juices are alkalizing and help balance your bodies pH.


We sell a variety of juicers on our website –   Certain juicers can also be used to extrude your own pasta.  You can also use some juicers to put frozen berries or bananas through them to make your own fresh sorbets or frozen treats.   Some juicers can also be used to make nut butters or even nut milks. Making juices is a great way to get instant vitamins and minerals and can help replace some of your multivitamins, morning coffee and bottled juices. Keep in mind that you want to consume the juice as soon as possible to avoid oxidation. The longer you wait to drink it, the less nutrient dense it will be. The longer you wait the more it will oxidize –  just like when I an apple turns brown and oxidizes after you cut it.  We have many juicers to choose from and recommend a single auger or twin gear juicer for juicing mostly greens.  Contact us for more info on choosing a juicer.

Next on our list of equipment is the dehydrator.   A dehydrator, unlike an oven or microwave, does not cook food.    It uses low temperature heat and a fan to evaporate water in the food.  By doing this you are not killing your food with high heat, like in an oven, or with radiation, like in a microwave.   Dehydrating below 118 deg F will keep the nutrients and enzymes from degrading and keep your food still “alive”.


Dehydrators are excellent for making foods like kale chips, veggie chips from zucchini or other vegetables, crackers, raw pizza, raw lasagna, stuffed peppers, cookies, trail mixes, granola, cereals, yogurts and more.   The dehydrator can eventually replace a stove or even a microwave.   In our house, we don’t have a stove, oven or microwave anymore.   Keep in mind that it took us a while to transition and be able to make healthy foods using our new tools.  Many people can’t fathom living without a stove or microwave.


When looking for a dehydrator, make sure it has a temperature controller that can go as low as 118 deg F or lower.   We recommend the Excalibur brand which we sell on our website.   These dehydrators come with either a 5 or 10 year warranty and start from about $140 and can go up to over a thousand dollars for a complete stainless steel model.    Give us a call after you’ve done some research so that we can help you choose the appropriate model that fits your needs.

Next week we will talk about a couple more appliances that will help you transition into a healthier lifestyle.  Stay tuned.

Tools for a Healthy Kitchen: Part 1

We have many people ask us about how to transition into a healthier diet or raw vegan lifestyle from a traditional over processed, hormone filled, GMO laced, pesticide and herbicide filled traditional North American diet.   People want to know as much info as possible in as little time as possible on how to make the change and want to do everything  overnight.



Although it is possible to change your lifestyle and eating habits overnight and stay on track, it is much easier to transition into a healthier lifestyle by taking smaller steps at the beginning so that you can adapt easier to the changes and not get overwhelmed and give up from the get go.   There is a lot to learn and there is also tons of information on the internet, in books and through many courses that are offered by institutions such as The Tree Of Life ( or Hippocrates Health Health Institute ( just to name a couple.

stuffed tomatto

The idea here is to slowly wean people off nutrient deficient, vitamin deficient, mineral deficient highly processed overcooked foods and back to fresh home-made foods – using the most nutrient dense chemical free ingredients possible.    We at Upaya Naturals like doing this by breaking things down into smaller steps by first making sure people have the right tools in their kitchen to make the transition easier.   These tools will help create awesome recipes – from desserts, smoothies, crackers, pastas,  juices, chips and pizzas to full gourmet meals.



After we finish this 3 part blog,  hopefully people will realize that some conveniences such as a microwave oven may not actually be doing anything good to the food that is being used to feed the body.   Others may realize that it’s not a good idea to cook their food to death using an oven or stove top.    In fact, if you come into our kitchen you won’t find a microwave or stove.   You will find lots of fresh fruits, veggies, sprouts and some cool tools that we use to make our raw vegan recipes that we have been using for the past 15+ years since we transitioned over to a vegan then raw vegan lifestyle.

eating death

Looking back over the last 15+ years we have learned a lot from various gurus such as Dr Gabriel Cousens.  Dr Cousens is a true raw food guru in our eyes and is an inspiration to us on a daily basis as we continue our journey into a healthy lifestyle and into our spiritual evolution.    We have gone from eating death and ingesting the fear of animals (just before they are slaughtered) to eating more compassionately by removing death from our system and eating a plant based diet.    Hence, this is where the word UPAYA in Upaya Naturals comes from.  Upaya means “compassion” and/or  a “means to enlightenment”.  Compassion for animals, humans and all living beings and eating a plant based diet as a means to enlightenment.   We suggest reading “Spiritual Nutrition” by Dr Cousens to further expand on the topic of spirituality and the link to food.

spitual nutrition

So now that we have touched on a few ideas,  what kitchen tools can we use to transition into a healthier lifestyle.   What can these tools replace in the kitchen?  What would you need to get your greens on.    Stay tuned for next week’s blog for more info.

Does Organic Mean It’s Non-GMO?

Non-GMO is a term that has been getting a lot of media coverage the last year or so but what does it mean?   Are all products that are Certified Organic automatically GMO free?  What is so special about the Non-GMO project label you see on products and is it really necessary for all products?


GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.



Buying 100% Organic, Certified Organic, and USDA Organic-labeled products is usually the easiest way to identify and avoid genetically modified ingredients.  The US and Canadian governments do NOT allow companies to label products “100% Certified Organic” if they contain genetically modified ingredients.

Currently there are only a few high risk crops that contain GMO’s.  The list below is from the NON-GMO PROJECT website.


High-Risk Crops (in commercial production; ingredients derived from these must be tested every time prior to use in Non-GMO Project Verified products (as of December 2011):

  • Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
  • Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
  • Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
  • Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
  • Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)

Listed in Appendix B of the Non-GMO Project Standard are a number of high-risk inputs, including those derived from GMO microorganisms, the above crops or animals fed these crops or their derivatives.

Common Ingredients Derived from GMO Risk Crops
Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products.

Monitored Crops (those for which suspected or known incidents of contamination have occurred, and those crops which have genetically modified relatives in commercial production with which cross-pollination is possible; we test regularly to assess risk, and move to “High-Risk” category for ongoing testing if we see contamination):

  • Beta vulgaris (e.g., chard, table beets)
  • Brassica napa (e.g., rutabaga, Siberian kale)
  • Brassica rapa (e.g., bok choy, mizuna, Chinese cabbage, turnip, rapini, tatsoi)
  • Cucurbita (acorn squash, delicata squash, patty pan)
  • Flax
  • Rice
  • Wheat

You may also be wondering about…

  • Tomatoes: In 1994, genetically modified Flavr Savr tomatoes became the first commercially produced GMOs. They were brought out of production just a few years later, in 1997, due to problems with flavor and ability to hold up in shipping. There are no genetically engineered tomatoes in commercial production, and tomatoes are considered “low-risk” by the Non-GMO Project Standard.
  • Potatoes: Genetically modified NewLeaf potatoes were introduced by Monsanto in 1996. Due to consumer rejection by several fast-food chains and chip makers, the product was never successful and was discontinued in the spring of 2001. There are no genetically engineered potatoes in commercial production, and potatoes are considered “low-risk” by the Non-GMO Project Standard.
  • Salmon: A company called AquaBounty is currently petitioning the FDA to approve its genetically engineered variety of salmon, which has met with fierce consumer resistance.
  • Pigs: A genetically engineered variety of pig, called Enviropig was developed by scientists at the University of Guelph, with research starting in 1995 and government approval sought beginning in 2009. In 2012 the University announced an end to the Enviropig program, and the pigs themselves were euthanized in June 2012.


As you can see there are only a few high risk crops that are GMO.    These crops are obviously not organic.   You can also see that there are no GMO potatoes, or tomatoes.   Superfoods such as maca or goji berries are also not at risk.   We don’t think Monsanto’s or other GMO producers are targeting superfoods.  Superfoods are such a tiny little player compared to the massive GMO crops listed above.


The NON-GMO Project label has been appearing on many products on the market in the last few years.   Sometimes this label is really not necessary since foods such as avocados, tomatoes, olive oil, parsley, basil, millet, barley, coconut milk, shiitake mushrooms, sunflower seeds, arugula, quinoa, Himalayan pink salt , chia seeds, goji berries, cacao, incan berries, acai, and a ton of other products including superfoods are already non-GMO.   Where this label is important is when consumers are not buying organic foods and want to know if the product is non-GMO.   For example, if you are looking to purchase cereals made from corn or buying dried fruit that has canola oil on it to preserve it, or if consumers are looking for tempeh, tofu or soy milk.

The non-GMO symbol is great for consumers that are purchasing products from high risk crops like the ones mentioned above.  Some low risk non-organic products may have a small amount of GMO ingredients in them as preservatives or flow agents when manufacturing the product so the non-GMO label is important for this reason too.

In conclusion,  buying organic is the best way to protect yourself from GMO’s.    If you buy conventional, make sure the product is labelled non-GMO to keep yourself and your family from consuming GMO’s.   Ultimately it is up to you, the consumer, to make an informed choice of what you are putting into your body.   For us it’s always 100% organic and GMO free.



Recipe Week: Raw Vegan Pecan Cookies

Have guests coming over and need a quick recipe for some cookies?   Try this quick and simple recipe.  You can even alter it to make almond cookies and add your own spices or chocolate nibs.



In a food processor add the 2 cups of pecans and coconut shreds and process until they are ground.  Then mix in the dates and coconut oil until smooth.  If needed, add just enough water so that it is the consistency of thick cookie dough.  Remove the dough from the food processor and shape with a cookie cutter of your choice.   Press a whole pecan halve in the center of each cookie and dehydrate at 115 deg F for 24 hours or until they are dry and crispy.

Try adding cinnamon or other spices to make it into your own unique recipe or dip then into melted chocolate for a special treat.

You can also alter the recipe by substituting almonds for pecans and add 1 tsp of cardamom, 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp of all spice.

Enjoy 🙂