Guacamole with Pomegranate Seeds

Guacamole is one of my favorite dips of all time. There are so many versions of guacamole out there, but regardless of your recipe, the most important thing is that you use perfectly ripe avocados (not too hard, not too soft, and not bruised) so that your dip is creamy, bright green, and fresh tasting. The way I ensure perfect avocados is to buy large avocados when they are mostly green at least a week in advance. Ripen at room temperature until black on the outside and then refrigerate (so they don’t become too ripe) until ready to use.

Guacamole with Pomegranate Seeds is my favorite way to serve guacamole during the holiday season, because pomegranates are abundant, the flavors go well together, and the colors are perfect for the holiday table. Take this dip to your next holiday gathering to go with tortilla chips, tamales, or vegetable crudité.

Guacamole with Pomegranate Seeds
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 large avocados, ripe
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons umeboshi (ume plum) vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
  • ½ serrano pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
Instructions
  1. Cut avocados in half, remove pits and any bruises, and scoop flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork until it is a chunky consitency (do not overblend).
  2. Gently mix in other ingredients.
  3. Adjust sea salt to taste.
  4. Put guacamole into serving bowl.
  5. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Note
  1. Umeboshi vinegar goes really well with avocado owing to its salty and sour tastes. However, if you don't have any, you can use more lime juice and sea salt in place of the umeboshi vinegar.

We’ll be making this at my upcoming Holiday Tamales Workshop in Austin this weekend. More photos to come!

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7 Healthy Holiday Recipes from Chef Rachel Z

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photo of guacamole with pomegranate

7 Healthy Holiday Recipes (GF, dairy-free)

salad with fresh figs, avocado, marcona almonds

I wanted to share some of my favorite healthy holiday recipes with you. My definition of a great recipe is one that is simple (not too many ingredients), wholesome (fresh, whole foods), and hearty (nutrient dense, nourishing), and one that you feel good about feeding to your whole family.

In the fall, we are blessed with an abundance of wonderful ingredients– a true harvest time. Fresh rosemary and thyme, fragrant apples, juicy pomegranate seeds, sweet winter squashes, brussels sprouts, and dark leafy greens are just some of my fall favorites! With Halloween and the World Series behind us, it’s time to start planning some holiday get togethers and make some delicious, homemade food that nourishes the body and soul.

Here are 7 of my favorite holiday recipes that I gathered together for you to try. If something isn’t available in your part of the world, feel free to substitute another ingredient. Please share your cooking adventures in the comments section of each recipe or at the end of this post. I look forward to hearing from you!

Arugula and Fig Salad with Citrus Dressing is amazing to bring to a potluck or include in a festive holiday menu:

salad with fresh figs, avocado, marcona almonds

Creamy Corn Soup with Dulse is comforting, soothing, and super sweet. Pan-fried dulse is crispy and savory garnish to compliment the sweet soup. This soup satisfies the sweet tooth without eating any refined sugar!

photo of creamy corn soup

Wild-Caught Salmon with Fresh Rosemary is a great alternative to turkey, or can be prepared the day after Thanksgiving to go with all of the leftover side dishes!

photo of wild caught maple roasted salmon, green beans, and rice

Maple-Roasted Roasted Brussels Sprouts are a hit with adults and children alike!

Photo of Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Creamy Polenta with Sweet Corn is a great gluten-free side dish instead of stuffing! Leftovers can be heated up for breakfast (like old-fashioned grits) after your holiday meal.

photo of creamy corn polenta

This zesty Cranberry Sauce wth Orange and Ginger is so much better than canned varieties and you can use leftover sauce for a cranberry-apple pie or to add to turkey sandwiches!

photo of cranberry sauce with orange slice

For a sweet treat that is easy to make ahead, try these dairy-free Chocolate-Coco Truffles:

photo of chocolate coco truffles

Enjoy these recipes and others found in the recipes section of my blog. You can type in a search word (like salad, soup, or avocado) and recipes on my site containing those keywords will come up.

Interested in learning how to cook and meeting others that love healthy food? I teach group classes in Austin, Texas (see schedule) as well as private classes, workshops, and dinner parties (contact me below for more information). If you have a group of friends that you’d like to host at your home for a cooking class or dinner party, I’d love to help you with that.

images for healthy holiday recipes

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Here is one of my favorite salad dressings that I use on simple garden salads, buddha bowls, and even tacos! It goes especially well with any dish including avocados, such as my Southwestern Summer Salad! Cilantro lime dressing is best made in a blender to get a smooth texture and beautiful green color.

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Cilantro Lime Dressing
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dressing
Cuisine: Southwestern
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, packed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet white miso
  • 1 tablespoon umeboshi (ume plum) vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tamari, Eden brand recommended
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • spring or filtered water
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients except water in blender until smooth.
  2. Add water one tablespoon at a time if a thinner dressing is desired.

Want to learn how to make delicious, healthy food while meeting new people? Chef Rachel’s current class schedule is available here. 

Make Your Own Sushi Dinner Party!

One of my favorite meals to make with friends and family is make your own sushi. Everyone enjoys choosing their own fillings, being creative, and making their own custom rolls! Kids especially appreciate being able to build their own sushi roll because they know exactly what it is in it. So make your next gathering into a make your own sushi dinner party!

Step 1. Make your sushi rice.

I prefer white sushi rice, as it is lighter and goes with all fillings, although once in a while I make pressure-cooked brown rice for more hearty vegetarian rolls. Here is my fool-proof recipe for making sushi rice without sugar! Make sure the rice is not still hot when making a roll, so it doesn’t “melt” the nori sheet or making the fillings warm.

Step 2. Prepare your fillings.

I like to fold a nori sheet in half (with stripes going vertically) and cut filling ingredients to the length of the half sheet width. I usually slice ingredients fairly thinly so that I can put multiple fillings into each roll. Almost anything can go into a sushi roll, but you might try:

  • cucumber (deseeded)
  • spring mix (no need to slice)
  • carrots (raw, blanched, or sauteed)
  • sweet potato (sautéed)
  • avocado
  • edible flowers
  • red bell pepper (raw or roasted and peeled)
  • snap peas
  • fresh herbs- mint, cilantro, basil, shiso
  • mushrooms- shiitake, oyster, portobello (sautéed and seasoned)
  • tofu or tempeh (pan-fried and seasoned with shoyu or tamari)
  • pickles (red or green sauerkraut, red radish pickles, daikon pickles, etc.)
  • umeboshi paste
  • condiments- shiso powder, gomashio, ao nori flakes
  • toasted sesame seeds- tan and/or black
  • Dijon or whole grain mustard

Step 3. Prepare an awesome dipping sauce.

There are all kinds of sauces that go well with sushi, such as shoyu-ginger, wasabi mayo, and various spicy sauces. Try this simple and delicious recipe my husband created called insanely delicious miso dipping sauce or my sweet and savory almond butter dipping sauce.

Step 4. Make a 5-minute miso soup.

Use my basic vegetable miso soup recipe to make a delicious start to the meal. The soup can be warmed up at the last minute and garnished after serving in individual bowls.

Step 5. Prepare your sushi rolling station and roll your sushi!

If making hand rolls, you can all sit around a table and make one at a time from your seat. Watch my Facebook video for tips on making regular nori rolls and inside out rolls.

Each person will need:

  • A sushi mat and a little space to roll
  • A bowl of water to dip hands in and a hand towel
  • A plate to set their finished rolls

Have accessible for everyone to share:

  • A platter or two of fillings, pickles, condiments, and sauces
  • A stack of nori sheets (I usually use half sheets that I half myself) and/or soy wrappers
  • A cutting board and sharp knife for slicing sushi (link to Japanese veg knife)
  • Platters for displaying sliced sushi

For making a basic nori roll, lay the sheet of nori (i usually use a half sheet but you can also use a whole sheet) on a dry bamboo mat with lines on nori sheet going vertically. Wet hands in bowl of water and shake off excess. Take a handful of sushi rice (about 1/2-3/4 cup) and very gently spread out over the lower 2/3 of the nori sheet, all the way out to the edges. Do not put pressure on rice, as it can tear the nori sheet. The sushi rice will easily stick to the nori sheet without any pressing. Take several fillings and place horizontally over the rice on the lower 1/4 of the sheet (almost to the bottom). Start rolling the nori from the bottom, enclosing the fillings into the first turn. Keep rolling, using the bamboo mat for support, until you reach the part of the nori without rice. Dip your index finger into the water bowl and wet the edge of the nori to help seal the roll. Keep the roll intact until ready to serve. Slice just before serving.

Step 6. Set a beautiful table.

Place sushi platters on table and garnish with fresh herbs or edible flowers. Serve up miso soup into individual bowls and garnish with thinly sliced scallions or some fresh herbs. Have an assortment of drinks off to the side to sample such as green tea, iced green tea, warm or cold sake, or a crisp, dry white wine. Give everyone a plate, dipping sauce bowl, and chopsticks.

Enjoy your meal… Itadakimasu!  いただきます!


Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Ginger

cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is a beautiful accompaniment for holiday meals, and so much better than any of the canned varieties. Fresh cranberries are sweetened with raisins and apple juice and flavored with orange and ginger, to give it a fresh, zesty taste. There is minimal prep involved, and the recipe can be doubled if you are feeding a crowd!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1½ cups apple juice
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • pinch unrefined sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (or more to taste)
Instructions
  1. In medium saucepan, cook raisins in apple juice for about 10 minutes. Add cranberries and sea salt.
  2. Cover, turn down to low, and simmer until cranberries have popped.
  3. Remove lid and reduce sauce to desired consistency. Keep in mind that sauce will gel more when refrigerated.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in orange zest and ginger juice.

I like to use a microplane zester for both the orange zest and grated ginger. Be careful to very lightly zest the very outer portion of the orange peel, so that you don’t get the bitter white pith in your sauce. Sometimes I will squeeze the juice out of the grated ginger pulp and add that to the sauce rather than including the pulp.

Here is a meal using fresh cranberry sauce that I have been making for my students at The Natural Epicurean to demonstrate Fall Macrobiotic Cooking and Menu Planning. Clockwise from the top: millet-cauliflower mash with mushroom sauce, nishime style vegetables and pan-fried tempeh, fresh cranberry sauce, daikon pickle, and blanched greens with tahini-parsley dressing.

cranberry-sauce
Fall macrobiotic meal featuring fresh cranberry sauce with orange and ginger

Enjoy!

“The Great Stromboli” No-Tomato Sauce on No-Uh-Meat-Uh-Balls

A tomato-free sauce is served with vegan meatballs to create a delicious Italian feast! Serve over capellini or your favorite pasta. The secrets of this recipe are using fresh lemon juice to create the tangy tomato taste and fresh cooked beet puree for color. In studying macrobiotics, I have learned that nightshade vegetables (such as tomatoes) can cause inflammation in the body and aggravate conditions such as arthritis and IBS. This recipe is perfect for those trying to avoid nightshades that really miss eating Italian food!

My macrobiotic teacher and friend David Briscoe comes to Austin to teach at The Natural Epicurean for the macrobiotic unit I teach there four times a year. He treats us to this Macro-Vegan Italian Feast each time he comes, and it is always super delicious and packed with nourishment. These dishes are complex in flavor and nutrient-dense. I hope you’ll make the effort to try these recipes as they are truly special!

The sauce starts with a saute of onions, carrots, olive oil, herbs, spices, and garlic.

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After the vegetables are soft, they are pureed and returned to the pot for additional seasoning.

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Finally, a puree of steamed beets is added to create a beautiful tomato-like color.

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"The Great Stromboli" No-Tomato Sauce
 
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 1 cup beets, sliced into rounds
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 clove minced garlic (optional to add more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups carrots, cut into thin diagonal slices
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons dry basil
  • 1 teaspoon onion granules or powder
  • spring or filtered water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 - 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 -2 tablespoons kuzu, dissolved in ¼ cup water
Instructions
  1. Steam beets until tender. Puree until smooth and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Saute the onions and garlic together in olive oil for 3 minutes. Add carrots, basil, oregano, and onion granules/powder. Continue to saute a few minutes.
  3. Add enough water to almost cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat. Cook covered until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Do not allow the water to cook completely away.
  4. Put the cooked vegetables into a blender, and then add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT THE BEETS. Blend until smooth. Add more water to the ingredients in the blender so they will blend into a thick sauce.
  5. Place the blended ingredients in a pot. Slowly bring to a boil on a medium-low heat. Careful to avoid bubbling and splattering of the thick sauce. Reduce the heat. Slowly whisk in some of the pureed beets, until you create a reddish color like tomato sauce.
  6. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and/or lemon juice if needed.

These mushroom and brown rice meatballs are the perfect complement to the no-tomato sauce

IMG_3957IMG_2520

No-Uh-Meat-Uh-Balls
 
Pressure cooking the rice by far creates the best consistency for making these balls. Cook the rice with slightly more water to make it softer and stickier. Serve this on top of capellini or other pasta or solo, smothered in "The Great Stromboli" No-Tomato Sauce.
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 12 meatballs
Ingredients
  • 3 cups pressure-cooked brown rice
  • ½ cup walnuts or pecans, toasted
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (Italian) or puffed brown rice
  • 2 cups sauteed, chopped portabella mushrooms, measured after sautéing
  • ½ cup chopped scallion, roots, white and green parts
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons barley miso or red miso
  • ⅓ cup chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Break the walnuts into pieces. Warm the oil in a frying pan, and then add the walnuts. Saute briefly.
  3. Add the scallion. Saute briefly until the color turns a brighter green.
  4. Add the miso and saute it with the scallions until the miso is evenly distributed throughout the scallion. Remove from heat.
  5. Place the cooked rice, sauteed scallions, miso, walnuts, portabellas, parsely in a bowl. Mix well. Form the mixture into 1½ inch balls, cupping the mixture with your hands firmly like making a snowball.
  6. Test to make sure the balls hold their shape. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.
Note:
  1. This recipe can be made gluten-free by using a gluten-free red miso (instead of barley miso) and puffed brown rice (instead of bread crumbs).

 

Add some fresh cooked pasta and a crisp salad and voila! An Italian Feast is born!

italian feast

Authentic Italian Pesto

Round out your summer Italian feast with some pasta and homemade basil pesto (recipe from Monica Pesoli of Cook Like An Italian)! For a dairy-free version, omit Parmesan cheese and add 2 teaspoons sweet white miso or 1 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar and sea salt to taste.

Authentic Italian Pesto
 
An authentic Italian pesto, versatile and delicious. This would traditionally be used as a pasta sauce, but would also be good on bruschetta, meats, fish, or vegetables. Recipe courtesy of Monica Pesoli of "Like an Italian" cooking classes, language instruction, and Italy tours.
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups of basil leaves (no stems), tightly packed
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, Montebello brand recommended
Instructions
  1. Use all organic ingredients to the greatest extent possible. Wash basil and parsley nonetheless; de-vein basil leaves w/ largest veins.
  2. Add to a blender parsley, half the oil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and some salt if desired. Puree with lid on.
  3. Turn off blender, and add all basil, drizzling remaining oil over leaves. With blender off and using a rubber spatula, help to direct leaves under the blades by forcing them down along the sides of the blender. With the lid on, pulse the blender switch a number of times, catching leaves in the blades to puree. Continue to alternate forcing leaves down the sides of the blender towards the blades (with blender off and lid removed), and pulsing blender switch with lid on to puree leaves.
  4. Pesto is ready when leaves are evenly pureed, but mixture still has some texture (with no leafy bits). Use as pasta topping/sauce or on a multitude of other foods!

 

Almond Butter Dipping Sauce

I created this recipe to use at “foodie week” at my daughter’s summer camp last year.

The children learned how to make Healthy and Delicious Spring Rolls, Almond Butter Dipping Sauce, and homemade smoothies, which they served out of hand-made “food trucks” to the parents at the end of the week.

Below is the recipe for the dipping sauce, which is creamy, tangy, and a little salty. Enjoy!

Almond Butter Dipping Sauce
 
Author:
Serves: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup almond butter, Once And Again brand recommended
  • 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons spring or filtered water
  • 2 teaspoons tamari, Eden brand recommended
  • 2 teaspoons ume plum vinegar
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
Instructions
  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl until smooth and sugar is dissolved

Rainbow Veggie Platter with Parsley-Tahini Sauce

blanched salad, rainbow veggie platter

This time of summer can be the hardest time to get inspired to cook. Here’s an idea for a highly nutritious veggie platter in rainbow colors that is fresh and light. It is simple enough to serve for a casual lunch with children, but could also serve as a beautiful appetizer for a party.

Kids love to dip the veggies into a sauce or hummus that you can put in a bowl in the middle of the vegetables. Here we used red cabbage, carrots, cauliflower florets, collard greens and stems, and a parsley-tahini sauce. In macrobiotic cooking, this is called a “blanched salad,” which is comprised of a root vegetable (carrots), round vegetable (cabbage, cauliflower), and a leafy green vegetable (collard greens). The vegetables should be fresh, vibrant, and crisp– very different from steamed or boiled vegetables.

Rainbow Veggie Platter with Parsley-Tahini Sauce
 
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Delicious, colorful, and healthy summer appetizer.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
Vegetables
  • 2 large carrots, cut into sticks
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems in rounds, leaves in strips
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • ½ head red cabbage, cut into strips
Parsley Tahini Sauce
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ½ cup spring or filtered water
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoons organic umeboshi vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon shoyu or tamari
  • 2 tablepoons parsley leaves, chopped finely
Instructions
Vegetable Platter
  1. Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. The bigger the pot, the more boiling water to cook your veggies very quickly (in seconds).
  2. Dip vegetables into boiling water, starting with carrots, then collards, then cauliflower, then red cabbage. Blanch a handful at a time, and remove after a few seconds with a metal skimmer onto a big plate or platter to cool. Keep vegetables separate so that you can arrange them after they have cooled. Make sure pot comes back up to a boil before adding the next handful.
  3. Arrange the cooled vegetables on a platter with a dipping sauce.
Parsley-tahini sauce
  1. Whisk ingredients together in medium-sized bowl. Add more water if you’d like the sauce to be a little thinner.