By Kathy Mak
Audrey Wong is the force and founder behind Living Lotus, a Vancouver company focused on satisfying your sweet tooth with dreamy desserts that have better-for-you, rawsome ingredients. Without turning on an oven, Wong is crafting an array of luscious plant-based desserts made from minimally processed whole foods that are packed with nutrients but gluten-free, vegan and devoid of chemicals, additives and refined sugar.
Uniting delicious and nutritious – as sustainably as possible – has long been a priority for Wong who has been a vegetarian for over 26 years and a vegan for five. Her mindful-eating interest turned to raw foods in 2007, inspired by Matthew Kenny’s book, Raw Food/Real World. While gluten-free and vegan foods are becoming more commonplace, Wong found few options for dessert alternatives using only whole foods.
After studying raw nutrition culinary arts, Wong made the leap to start a dessert company with a healthy, plant-based approach. Opened since 2013, Living Lotus currently serves up ganache, macaroons, candied nuts, and brownies in her regular product line. Everything is hand-made without baking and are gluten-free, vegan and soy free.
Living Lotus’ small-batch artisan products are healthy in their simplicity, combining clean raw foods to yield complex and exquisite flavours. By not baking ingredients, the desserts are also more nutrient rich. Main ingredients often include cacao powder, coconut oil, coconut shreds, coconut nectar, sprouted nuts, spices, dates, and blueberries. Every ingredient used serves a nutritional purpose and everything is certified organic, and local when possible.
Instead of refined sugar, Wong uses coconut nectar and Medjool dates as the alt-sweeteners, both are diabetic-friendly. “Coconut nectar is extracted from the blossom of the coconut palm while it is still on the tree. It is a completely sustainable sweetener. I chose to use it because it is a low glycemic sweetener. The glycemic index is how fast a food will spike your blood sugar level. Coconut nectar is 35 on the glycemic index. In comparison, white sugar is 67. In order for a food to be considered low glycemic, it needs to be rated 55 or lower,” says Wong. “Dates are high in a fibre called beta-D-glucan. This fibre slows the rate the small intestine absorbs sugar, keeping blood glucose levels even.”
Wong explains that her treats do not have any added stabilizers, gums, food additives or preservatives. “They are very clean, so you can feel good about eating them. We source the highest quality ingredients, so you are getting the best nutrients possible while still being able to have a treat. When we make the desserts, we use methods to keep the nutrition and/or boost the nutrition of the ingredients used. An example of these methods would be dehydrating or sprouting,” says Wong.
The process of sprouting nuts is time intensive, but Wong tells me it’s worth it to make them healthier. “Sprouted nuts are better for you because they are easier to digest. Sprouting gets rid of the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. These two can block nutrient absorption,” she says. To sprout nuts, she soaks them in water for 6-8 hours (depending on the variety) then they are dehydrated for 2 days. Sprouting nuts helps to boost sweetness and can improve nutrition by up to 20%.
Using coconut is also a healthy choice. According to Wong, “Coconuts have a very long list of benefits. They are high in dietary fibre, iron and healthy fats. The oil in coconuts are a medium chain fat, which means that the fat does not get stored in your body, but it gets used right away. I think it is important to mention the quality of the coconut products that we use. The coconut oil is cold pressed quickly after the coconuts have been harvested. The oil is unrefined, and unprocessed. This is done to preserve all the nutrients.”
All the recipes are developed by Wong and her deliciously healthy treats include 8 flavours of Gganache (earl grey, dark, salted, orange, chili, lavender, mint and smoked), 3 flavours of macaroons (chocolate, vanilla and blueberry) which are dehydrated to make them perfectly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, 2 flavours of candied nuts (pecans and chili lime almonds), and chocolate chai brownies using a made-in-house chai spice mix with organic spices.
Living Lotus products can be found in 25 stores in British Columbia, including Radicle Juice, Eternal Abundance, Green’s Market and Donald’s Market (New Westminster, Commercial Drive and East Hastings). Made-to-order specialty items that are not available in stores can be ordered and picked up at Wong’s facility, such as cakes, truffles, tarts, and more new creations.
For the food-curious, Wong also offers a 3-hour hands-on All Things Chocolate Workshop at her professional kitchen in Strathcona (inside Makerlabs, East Vancouver) where participants learn how to temper chocolate and make three chocolate recipes. “We deep dive into the science of chocolate, where chocolate comes from, and the health benefits of chocolate. This is a vegan and refined sugar free workshop,” says Wong.
With Living Lotus’ indulgent treats, you don’t have to skip desserts because you think they’re bad for you. Go on, be treated and be healthy!
Photos by Leigh Righton, courtesy of Living Lotus Food & Nutrition