A funny thing happened to me on the way home from a raw vegan restaurant the other day. I craved meat. BAD. Like the I’m-going-to-chew-this-gum-so-hard-in-hopes-that-it-will-taste-like-meat kind of bad. (it didn’t). I was stuck on the I-90 in the snow and all I could think about was a juicy piece of grass-fed steak.
My former vegan self (and possibly my Mom) is appalled right now. I grew up eating a mostly vegetarian diet with the exception of fish and the very occasional chicken. In college, I got intense and went vegan. For a good three years, I had a good thing going with tempeh, beans, and tofu. At the time, I believed it was the best possible thing I could do for my body. I had read the book Skinny Bitch and everything that the author said about our over-processed food made a lot of sense to me. And in some ways, it still does.
If you think about it, a paleo diet still follows a lot of the same principles of veganism – take the antibiotics and hormones out of your diet (commonly found in yogurt, milk, eggs, cheese and meat), and your body will look leaner and function better.
It’s just that I do that by being super cautious of the kinds of yogurt, milk, eggs, cheese and meat that I put in my body. And moreover, I don’t rely on packaged food. Even if it is labeled organic, gluten-free or vegan. Because at the end of the day, the best food is going to come from your own kitchen. Where you know exactly what you’re eating.
Now that I’ve introduced chicken, steak and bacon back into my life, my body is stronger and more resilient than it ever has been. I found that, on a vegan diet, I was always eating, never really satisfied. Part of me loved that. Because I could keep eating and not gain weight. But I realize now that there were parts of my body that was not being fed.
But my point is, I can still enjoy all of the health benefits of a raw vegan restaurant. Their juices are top notch, and they can do more things with vegetables, fruits and nuts than I ever imagined possible. I just have to recognize that, for me, it’s only part of what it means to eat a healthy diet.
Pure Juice Cafe in the northwest suburbs of Arlington Heights is definitely a diamond in the rough. Okay, maybe not the rough. But it’s hard to find vegan, raw or organic on any menu in the burbs. Never mind a whole restaurant based off of it.
Pure Juice Café has a large selection of freshly pressed juices and smoothies. Each based off of what it can do for you rather than how it tastes (i.e. Healing Digest, Skin Repair, the Flu Shot). In addition, they have raw vegan desserts, raw food meals and snack options (including quite a few kid-friendly menu items). Of course they carry one of the best organic coffees in town – Intelligentsia, as well as organic teas and some pretty tasty hot elixirs.
The food menu is definitely secondary to the juice bar (I know. You’re thinking Duh. It’s called “Pure Juice Café”). But the raw places I’ve been to in the past can get pretty creative with their food (I once had the most amazing pizza at Raw Chicago. It was filling and flavorful and AWESOME). This place only features a couple of dishes every few days because they prepare them days in advance (raw food is one time consuming process).
I had the Sampler Platter because there’s nothing I love more than trying everything. This included a healthy portion of their Pure Raw Spaghetti, a cup of cashew cheese sauce, a side of Black Bean Quinoa Protein Powerhouse Salad, and a fun dessert – Mini Carrot Cake.
My Raw Spaghetti was lacking in flavor a bit. But I loved the Cashew Cheese. So I asked the super sweet and informative café girl if I could have some salt and pepper and she gave me a whole other cup of cashew cheese, Himalayan salt shaker and a cup of fresh ground pepper. NICE. The rest of it was well-seasoned and tasty (especially the carrot cake thingy).
My favorite part was probably the treats that my friend surprised me with while I was in the bathroom. Chocolate and coconut macaroons, dark chocolate bark with fancy nuts, and the most delicious Hot Chocolate made with raw cacao and coconut milk (I know what you’re thinking – does Hot Chocolate count as raw?).
I hung out for quite awhile after eating because my friend and I had a lot to talk about. But I must admit. I literally think my stomach growled at one point. Given, I had only had a smoothie and a Lara Bar earlier in the day. But growling after I just ate a sizable lunch? Unacceptable.
Like I said before, on my very long drive home, in traffic, in the snow, all I could think about was the grass-fed beef in the back of my car. I had gone grocery shopping earlier and bought it with the intention of doing a fancy dish for my boyfriend and me later in the week. Instead, I knew as soon as I came to a full stop on the highway right up against a semi – that meat was mine, TONIGHT.
But what to do with it…?
As somebody who has sworn off fast food, I have really come to love Chipotle. Maybe it’s the result of a documentary I watched on them revealing how they truly do as much as they can to keep their food whole, unprocessed, local and GMO-free. Not an easy thing to do when you’re competing against Dollar Menus and Five Dollar Foot Longs (Five dollar. Five dollar. Five dollar foot lonnngs). But they do it. And for somebody like me who doesn’t even know the meaning of inexpensive fast food, picking up dinner to go – that I can trust – is like healthy heaven.
Thus, I was inspired by my healthy Mexican friend and decided the only thing that would satisfy my meaty craving was a heaping helping of well-seasoned grass-fed bites, spinach, chopped avocado, organic tomatoes and mushrooms, sautéed in garlic and butter and topped with Siracha. Ahhhh. I call it CLARKE-POTLE. And it was the perfect dessert to my very raw day.
*In case you don’t know me, my last name is Clarke. Yeah, I’m that big headed.
- Grass-fed beef (Jewel sells it already cut up into chunks)
- Steak seasoning (My favorite is this Rub I got from a Farmer’s Market. It includes Organic: sea salt, pepper, garlic allspice, cinnamon, cloves and ginger)
- Grass-fed Butter (Kerrygold is available in most stores)
- Cup of Spinach
- Handful of mushrooms, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic (or a teaspoon of already chopped garlic)
- 1 organic tomato, chopped
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 1 tsp. Coconut oil
- Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat.
- Add a tablespoon (or 2) of butter.
- Chop up all of your veggies while it’s heating up (you want it to get extra hot).
- Sprinkle some water on the pan. If the water jumps back, it’s ready. Your butter should be slightly browned.
- Place your beef bites on the hot skillet and let them lay as they land. You want to sear one side for 30-45 seconds (depending on how you like your meat), and then quickly flip them over and sear the other side for another 30-45 seconds (I burned my fingers multiple times doing this because I am stupid and forget that spatulas exist in the heat of the moment).
- Take the beef off the skillet otherwise they will continue to cook.
- Turn down the heat to medium and toss in your coconut oil.
- Once melted, add in your chopped garlic and mushrooms. Saute them for about 3-5 minutes until they shrink a bit.
- Toss in the rest of the veggies to lightly coat them with the coconut oil and the beef juices. Mix everything together by lightly tossing with a spatula. Turn the oven off after 30 seconds or so. You just want to heat it up a bit.
- Plate it up and eat it up!
Comments? Complaints? Very angry vegetarians? I would love to hear from you! Please comment on the post below.