Interview | Claire Ragozzino
Pure Green has an unabashed love for food. (See: The Organic Kitchen) which is why we are so pleased to share blogger Claire Ragozzino, holistic nutrition educator and blogger of Vidya Cleanse on our very own blog! Enjoy this q&a with Claire and keep in touch for future posts for some truly unique and yummy recipes.
Hey Claire! Vidya Cleanse is as you describe it, a place "[to] share plant-based recipes, advice and stories that inspire holistic wellness". Lovely. How has bringing your own personal lifestyle onto a much larger and global scale and sharing it with others online impacted your life now?
I grew up always feeling like “the odd (wo)man out” with my homemade salads and strange green juices I’d pack for my high school lunches. People looked at me like I was crazy carrying around tea in a mason jar and smelling like coconut oil all the time. But it made me happy, so I persisted in my practices. Starting a blog and a business around sharing these passions that have brought health and balance to my life has been a really special experience for me. Not only do I get to share what I love, but I get to inspire others to live holistically. And in the process I’ve been able to find my global tribe of modern hippies, too!
What are the most challenging aspects, if any, of using only plant-based ingredients for your recipes?
Okay, I’m not going to lie here, sometimes there’s just no identical replacement for eggs in baked goods. I grew up experimenting with how to make plant-based substitutes for everything, it was almost a fun little game for me to see how I could turn any recipe into a vegan, gluten-free or raw version of the original. Flax and chia have always been my go-to binders for raw desserts or vegan baked goods, but last year I decided to use some local eggs I received in my weekly co-op basket to make this Fall Harvest Cake. And man, what an experience! I made the same recipe with ground flax instead the next go around, and it worked well, but there’s something about the quality of an egg that just makes a baked good recipe go that extra mile. So I wouldn’t call this necessarily a challenge using plant-based ingredients because I think flax is just fine, but more so an appreciation for flexibility and balance when it comes to cooking.
On the other hand, what have been your most surprising discoveries along the way?
Simple foods are best. It’s so much fun to experiment with challenging recipes and get creative in the kitchen, but along the way I’ve discovered that enjoying simple, whole foods can be the most nurturing and satisfying experience.
If you had to choose any one ingredient that you could not live without, what would it be? (Or what is the most versatile ingredient you use?)
Cinnamon. I use it in everything! It’s a wonderful, warming spice that I think brings richness and depth to any dish, both sweet and savory. Cinnamon also helps the body metabolize sugar, so when I’m making a dessert recipe or a big morning green smoothie I add a teaspoon to balance out the fruit and keep stable blood sugar levels. At the same time it works to mellow out the earthy flavors of certain greens, like kale and spinach. You really can’t go wrong adding cinnamon to your dishes!
On Vidya, you say that "health isn't static" and that "no single food, diet, or belief system is meant for everyone", with which we wholeheartedly agree. As a publication that focuses on the connection between green living and innovation, we certainly understand what it's like to incorporate many different ideas into forming one singular solution. How do you create your own beliefs from the different holistic perspectives from which you've studied?
I really relate to some of the classic holistic health models and tend to pull a lot from Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Since I’ve also worked in the gourmet raw food world, I like to incorporate raw foods into my diet practices as well. I’ve spent times in my life delving deep into labels, being fully “vegan”, “raw vegan”, “pescetarian”, “flexitarian”, and the like…but what I’ve realized over my years of studies and personal trials, is that health isn’t static. What may work for you one month, may not the next. And that no single food, diet, or belief system is meant for everyone. So I’ve ditched the dietary dogma and strict beliefs, and have made the vow to honor what my body and soul needs in each moment. I believe the energetics of food and how you bless each experience is just as important as the type of food you eat.
Nowadays, my food philosophy tends to blend Ayurvedic nutrition, macrobiotic principles, and raw foods, though there are some days you might find me eating fish. I focus on using organic, sustainably sourced ingredients that help support local agriculture efforts. I eat this way because these are the practices I’ve learned make me feel the best – eating simple, eating seasonally, and eating with intention.
Your ingredients come from local and organic sources, is living green present in other areas of your life outside of the kitchen?
Most definitely, from homecare to body care, I look for the most simple, chemical-free products available. I often work with food-based products and essential oils for cleaning and caring for my body and my house. I even do a little “Natural Beauty” series on my blog where I share homemade beauty recipes, from face masks to detoxifying scrubs and ritual bath soaks, all made from ingredients in you find in your kitchen.
Enjoy this short film from Vidya Cleanse's "Seasonal Kitchen" on the makings of a delicious Apricot Basil Tart.
APRICOT BASIL TART
- 2 cups almonds, soaked
- 2 cups almond flour
- 12 pitted dates
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until well combined and forms a loose ball. Pour crust mixture into a 9” tart pan lined with parchment paper. Use your hands to press evenly into the pan. Place into the freezer to set while preparing the filling.
- 2 cups macadamia nuts, soaked 2 hours
- 4 apricots, pitted & chopped
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp pink salt
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup basil, chopped
Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender, blend until smooth. Pour over top tart crust and spread evenly. Place in freezer for 4-5 hours before serving to allow filling to become firm. When ready to serve, layer with the sliced apricot topping.
- 10 apricots, sliced thin lengthwise
- 1⁄4 cup raw honey
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- chopped basil
In a large bowl, whisk together the orange juice and honey. Slices the apricots thinly lengthwise then place into the bowl. Toss lightly to cover and allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes. When ready, carefully arrange the slices in a circular pattern over top the tart, with the skin edges facing up. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chopped basil before serving.