Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps (V, GF, soy-free)

Asian mushroom lettuce wraps are the perfect start to an Asian-themed meal or any plant-based gathering. I brought these to a potluck last week held in honor of a friend visiting from Asheville. By the end of dinner, all that was left was one lonely lettuce leaf!

I wanted to make these lettuce wraps healthier than the restaurant variety, so added more vegetables, and left out the soy, sugar, and gluten! Instead of soy sauce or tamari I used Coco Aminos (I like the Big Tree Farms brand) which is naturally sweet and savory. If you like your filling a little sweeter, you can always add a dash of maple syrup or agave, but you probably won’t need to.

 

Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps (V, GF)
 
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This recipes is a vegan, gluten-free version of Chicken Lettuce Wraps served at Asian restaurants.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Asian, Vegetarian
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons untoasted sesame oil
  • ½ cup leek, spring onion, or sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 3 cups mushrooms (crimini, shiitake, and/or oyster), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup carrots, small dice
  • 1 cup zucchini, small dice
  • ½ cup water chestnuts or celery, finely chopped or sliced
  • ½ cup bamboo shoots, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (Big Tree Farm brand recommended)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 head green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, or Romaine lettuce
Instructions
  1. Heat large skillet or wok on medium-high heat. Make sure all ingredients are prepped so they can be added to the pan quickly. Add sesame oil and swirl to coat pan.
  2. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Sauté for about a minute. Reduce heat a bit to prevent burning.
  3. Add carrots, zucchini, and another pinch of salt and sauté a few minutes more.
  4. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are cooked through.
  5. Add water chestnuts and bamboo shoots.
  6. Season with brown rice vinegar, coconut aminos, and sea salt (to taste).
  7. Put mushroom filling into a serving bowl in the middle of a large plate or platter. Garnish with cilantro and green onion. Place lettuce leaves around the bowl or on a separate plate. To serve, take a lettuce leaf, place a spoonful or two of mushroom filling onto the leaf, and eat like a taco.
Variations
  1. For a heartier appetizer or main dish, add ½ lb. cooked chicken thigh cut into bite-sized pieces. Adjust seasonings.

 

Chef Rachel Zierzow is available for group classes, private dinners, and corporate team building sessions. Contact her below to find out more.

Creamy Polenta Bowl with Kale and Roasted Chickpeas

photo of polenta bowl with chickpeas and kale

I invited my former student Naomi Silverman, to contribute a recipe for my blog so that I could feature her work and let people know how awesome she is! She gave me this lovely recipe for a Creamy Polenta Bowl with Kale and Roasted Chickpeas. It is simple enough as is to make for a weekday lunch or dinner, but can be jazzed up for a dinner party with just a few additions–such as colorful quick ume pickles, a delicious tahini dressing, or some steamed, tri-colored carrots! Feel free to vary the beans, vegetables, or grains if you don’t have the same ingredients on hand, but keep in mind that the cooking technique for polenta is very different from other grains such as brown rice or quinoa (which steam rather than simmer). This recipe is vegan and gluten-free.

Creamy Polenta Bowl with Kale and Roasted Chickpeas
 
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Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
Chickpeas
  • 15-oz can or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • dash black pepper
  • dash chili powder (chipotle or other)
  • 1 teaspoon untoasted sesame oil
Polenta
  • 1 cup dry polenta (coarse ground cornmeal)
  • 2 cups spring or filtered water
  • 2 cups soy milk or almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • dash black pepper
Kale
  • 1 bunch curly kale, tough part of stems removed and chopped into one-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons ume plum vinegar
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
Optional
  • 1 avocado, diced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large baking dish or sheet pan, toss chickpeas with oil, salt, pepper, and chile powder. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, stirring once after 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, bring polenta and water to a boil, whisking frequently. As the liquid gets absorbed, stir in milk, little by little, until the polenta is smooth, creamy, and free of lumps, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. While polenta cooks, heat a large skillet, add coconut oil and diced onions, and sauté until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add the kale and sprinkle on ume plum vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sauté for a few minutes until the kale is tender but still bright green.
  4. To serve, arrange all items in a bowl as desired and top with with diced avocado.

Naomi interned with me this year after completing her classroom hours at The Natural Epicurean. In the 10 years I taught there, I had dozens of amazing and talented culinary students intern with me. They assisted me in different aspects of my work, such as being a teaching assistant for my macrobiotic course or Ayurvedic cooking classes, assisting me with personal chef and catering work, testing recipes, or helping me create photos and videos for promotional materials. Naomi and I worked together for a few months this spring and came up with some beautiful materials for my web site and cooking class promotional materials. I am so grateful for her help, which came at a great time, when the cooking school had just closed and I was building my business and independent cooking classes. I miss working with Naomi now that her internship hours have ended, but hope we will get a chance to cook together again soon! Below is a video of us hard at work (and very well fed)!

Naomi has started her own personal chef business in Austin, Texas specializing in healthy, beautiful, plant-based (vegan) meals made with organic, locally grown produce. You can read all about her background, which includes an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and Food Justice and a certificate in plant-based chef training from The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts. Let her know if you need her help with your next dinner party or weeknight meals!

photo of Chef Naomi SilvermanI’ll be teaching a class on Nourishing Buddha Bowls and Dressings on Jan 6th in Austin, TX. For class listings and to sign up for classes, please visit https://cookloveheal.com/book-a-class.

Macrobiotic Kinpira Root Vegetables

photo of kinpira root vegetable dish

With so much emphasis on knife skills lately, I’ve been thinking about sharing this recipe for Macrobiotic Kinpira Root Vegetables– one of my all-time favorite vegetable side dishes. It’s s a classic Japanese dish that I learned how to make years ago when studying macrobiotics in culinary school. Named for the legendary Japanese “superhero” Sakata Kinpira, kinpira root vegetables is high in minerals, supports internal alkalinity, and is strengthening to the body.

Why the emphasis on knife skills? Yesterday I taught a kids knife skills class with my friend Monica of Cook Like An Italian. We had 8 bright and enthusiastic children and 2 assistants (my daughter Isabel and my former student Maria), and the children learned about knife safety and how slice and dice a wide variety of vegetables that we used to make a delicious minestrone soup. We used some brand new 5-inch chef knives that seemed to be the perfect size for little hands. It was a great success! I could actually see a big improvement in the technique of each child from the start of class to the end of class. Everyone said they had fun, and seemed to LOVE the soup. And no one got hurt, which was my #1 goal!

Knife Skills Class Dream Team- Isabel, Rachel, Monica, and Maria

Now back to kinpira… the main idea is that you cut root vegetables into evenly sliced matchsticks, sauté in a heavy-bottomed skillet with a little oil and sea salt, then add a little water to steam, and cover to simmer until vegetables are al dente. The recipe is very versatile– any root vegetable can be used in various combinations, including parsnip, carrot, onion, rutabaga, turnip, burdock or salsify, lotus root, or sunchoke. Some classic combinations are: carrot, burdock, and lotus root; carrot and parsnip; carrot and rutabaga; carrot, turnip, and rutabaga; and carrot, parsnip, and sunchoke. You can even add some sea vegetable, like arame or hijiki, or little pieces of meat to make even heartier if you wish.

Macrobiotic Kinpira Root Vegetables
 
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Hearty root vegetables are sauteed and steamed to make a savory, satisfying side dish that is a perfect accompaniment for sushi or other Japanese dishes.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable Side Dish
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon untoasted sesame oil
  • 1 cup organic burdock or salsify, cut in matchsticks
  • unrefined sea salt
  • 1 cup organic carrots, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon shoyu or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon mirin (optional)
  • 2 scallions, green parts, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat and add oil. When oil is shimmery, add burdock and a pinch of salt and sauté 5 minutes. Add another pinch of salt and sauté one minute more.
  2. Add carrots and another pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Add shoyu, mirin (if using), and ¼ to ½ cup water. Steam, covered, for an additional 3 minutes.
  4. Remove from skillet to prevent burning. Garnish with scallions and serve warm or at room temperature.
Variations
  1. Substitute other root vegetables for carrot and/or burdock such as turnip, rutabaga, lotus root, and/or parsnip. Carrot and parsnip, Carrot, rutabaga, and turnip, carrot, burdock, and lotus root, and carrot and turnip are good combinations. If not using burdock or lotus root, reduce cooking time so that vegetables do not get mushy.
  2. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds instead of scallions.

photo of burdock, carrot, and lotus root kinpira

Burdock, carrot, and lotus root kinpira with scallion garnish

photo of carrot and rutabaga kinpira vegetable dish

Carrot and rutabaga kinpira with black and white sesame seeds

 

Want to learn how to make delicious, healthy food while meeting new people? Come take a class with Chef Rachel or schedule a private lesson here. 

Homemade Black Beans

I love homemade beans! Making your own beans from scratch has so many advantages over the canned varieties– the taste is superior, the cost is lower, you avoid packaging waste, they are more digestible, and you can freeze leftovers to use for soups, tacos, chili, or your favorite bean recipe. You’ll have a tough time going back to the canned variety once you’ve made a batch of homemade black beans!

I recommend making one variety of beans per week. They take some time to soak and cook, so make sure to soak at least 2 cups of beans each time. You’ll be able to use beans cooked in a basic way in a variety of recipes throughout the week, and can freeze whatever you can’t use right away for future meals. We love to keep a variety of beans in the freezer (stored in quart sized freezer bags), such as black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, and white beans to use in making refried beans, bean soups, or hummus whenever we like. What a deal!

Make sure to sort your beans before cooking them. This ensures you will not get a stray stone in your soup! You could actually break a tooth or damage a filling by biting into a tiny little stone. I like to sort about 1/2 cup beans at time on a plate with a contrasting color so it is easy to pick out broken pieces, stones, or other debris.

image of dry black beans being sorted

Soaking beans and then draining them before cooking helps decrease phytic acid by 60% (phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that decreases absorption of minerals). Skimming the foam off of beans while cooking and adding kombu and/or epazote further enhances digestibility.

image of black beans being skimmed

You may use this recipe for any type of bean, but you may wish to leave out the garlic, cumin, or cilantro for some types of beans, or depending on what you are going to do with them. Enjoy your delicious homemade beans!

Homemade Black Beans
 
Author:
Recipe type: Beans
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dried black beans
  • spring or filtered water
  • 1” piece of kombu
  • 1½ teaspoons unrefined sea salt
  • 1 white or yellow onion, small dice
  • 2 tablespoona olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons organic ground cumin
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish
Instructions
  1. Sort and wash the beans. Soak the beans in enough water to cover beans by 2-3 inches of water for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Pour off soaking liquid. Place beans in heavy pot and add enough water to cover beans by 1-2 inches.
  3. Bring to a boil, uncovered, skimming off the foam as if forms for the first 10 minutes or so of cooking.
  4. Add kombu, and simmer for an hour (or more) or until beans are soft. You may also use a pressure cooker to save time and aid in digestibility. After skimming foam, add kombu, and place lid on pressure cooker. Bring up to pressure, then turn to low. Pressure cook for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and let come down from pressure naturally.
  5. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in separate pan with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
  6. Sauté until onions are soft and then add garlic cumin powder.
  7. When beans are soft, mix together the beans and sautéed onion mixture, and add sea salt. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
  8. Garnish with cilantro.
Variation
  1. Use 1 teaspoon dried epazote instead of or in addition to kombu to aid in digestibility.

 

 

Quick Ume Pickles (Naturally Fermented)

Have you wanted to make your own pickles but were intimidated by the process?

I wanted to let you in on a great tip for making quick, healthy pickles with many different kinds of vegetables. These are called Quick Ume Pickles– thinly sliced vegetables pickled in umeboshi or ume plum vinegar and water (that’s it!). Quick Ume Pickles are the perfect addition to sushi rolls, fresh spring rolls, grain salads, or Buddha bowls, and add vibrant color to any meal. Naturally fermented pickles such as these are a beneficial addition to a plant-based diet as they aid in digestion of complex carbohydrates. I prefer salt-fermented pickles such as these over vinegar-based pickles because of the beneficial lactobacillus fermentation that occurs, which aids in digestion and makes me feel good after a meal.

What is umeboshi or ume plum vinegar?

I use ume plum vinegar in a lot of things, like salad dressings, hummus, guacamole, and of course pickles! Ume plum vinegar is an alkalizing, raw, probiotic condiment with a distinctive sweet-sour-salty taste. It is not technically a vinegar, but rather the salty byproduct of making umeboshi plums, which are sought after for their healing properties. Simliar to sauerkraut “juice,” which you can now purchase by itself for its probiotic qualities, ume vinegar contains probiotics and is good for digestion, along with having a delicious taste. In Austin, you can get the Eden brand at Whole Foods and Central Market and the Ohsawa brand (higher quality, most beautiful color, and more expensive) at Wheatsville Coop.

 

How to make quick ume pickles

Step 1.

Wash, dry, and thinly slice or grate vegetables you’d like to pickle. Try using carrots, cucumbers, purple daikon, red radishes, watermelon radishes, beets, or red onions. Place in a large bowl.

Daikon and radish slices for ume pickles

Step 2.

Drizzle ume plum vinegar over sliced vegetables to coat. Gently massage vinegar into vegetables. Add herbs or seasonings, if desired, such as chopped garlic, fresh or dried dill, coriander seeds, or lemon zest. Or just leave plain to get the true flavor of the vegetable.

Step 3.

Pack veggies into clean jar and add enough water to just cover the vegetables. You should have roughly equal amounts of vinegar and water. Loosely cover and let sit on the counter for several hours. Pickles can be eaten in less than and hour but will get stronger in flavor and more pickled the longer they sit. Refrigerate after veggies have been pickling several hours. Colors will become more vibrant once they have pickled overnight in the refrigerate. Eat within 1 month of pickling. Enjoy!

How to Make Quick Ume Pickles!
 
Author:
Recipe type: Pickles
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 1 pint
Ingredients
  • 2 cups red radishes or purple daikon radishes, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 tablespoons ume plum vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons spring or filtered water
Instructions
  1. Place radishes in a bowl and drizzle with ume plum vinegar. Massage vinegar into vegetables for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add water and mix to combine. Let sit for about 15 minutes and you will see water coming out of the radishes. Make sure that radishes are pushed down to the bottom of the bowl so that they are completely covered by the pickling solution.
  3. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for at least one hour to start the pickling process.
  4. Transfer radishes and liquid to a pint canning jar. Store in the refrigerator. By the next day, each radish will uniformly colored bright pink throughout.
  5. Will keep for about a month in the refrigerator.
Variations:
  1. Try using other thinly sliced vegetables, such as cucumber, carrot, red onion, purple cabbage, purple daikon, or watermelon radish.
  2. Add fresh dill, garlic, ginger, or coriander seed to flavor the pickles.
Notes:
  1. For a large batch of pickles, use the following quantities: 4 pounds thinly sliced radishes, 1¼ cups or one 10-ounce bottle ume plum vinegar, and 1¼ cups spring or filtered water.

 

 

Macrobiotic Nishime Style Vegetables with Crispy Tempeh

Most of us know we should eat more vegetables. Macrobiotic niishime style vegetables are slowly steamed or braised until the cooking liquid has evaporated, leaving the vegetables sweet, flavorful, and creamy, but not overcooked or mushy. Here, we take it up a notch by adding some crispy pan-fried tempeh. Traditionally, this dish is a Japanese dish served at New Year’s or to people healing from an illness.

There is an art to making this dish– you must use the minimum amount of water so that you don’t lose nutrients or flavor into the steaming liquid, you avoid burning the bottom of the pot. Ideally, you will steam the vegetables just long enough that no liquid remains. This can be achieved with patience– you must slowly bring the pot to a boil, covered, until you see steam coming out the sides of the pot. Do not lift the lid when you see the steam, simply turn the burner down as low as it will go, and let steam for about 20 minutes before checking for doneness.

I used Flying Tempeh Bros. tempeh available at Wheatsville Coop in their freezer section.

Tempeh should be a nice golden brown on at least 2 sides before seasoning with shoyu or tamari.

crispy pan-fried tempeh

Dried lotus root is a specialty ingredient in this recipe. You can substitute another vegetable such as green cabbage, but lotus root has a delicious and unique flavor (almost like a very flavorful, less starchy potato) that you’ll want to try sometime. In Austin, you can buy this at Central Market. For an extra special touch, try pan frying the lotus root (after it has rehydrated) before putting into the pot with the other vegetables.

Another specialty ingredient used in this recipe is kombu sea vegetable. It adds flavor and minerals to the vegetables and also helps prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pot. You can find Atlantic varieties of kombu at Wheatsville Coop such as the Ironbound Island or Maine Coast Sea Vegetables brands.

kombu

Macrobiotic Nishime Style Vegetables with Crispy Tempeh
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable Side Dish
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces tempeh, cubed
  • 2 teaspoon untoasted sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • shoyu or tamari, to taste
  • 2 small squares kombu
  • 1 cup kabocha, butternut, or delicata squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into ½-inch chunks or roll cut
  • 1 cup yellow onion, large dice
  • 1 cup daikon, cut into ½-inch rounds
  • ½ cup dried lotus root slices, rehydrated (soak in water overnight)
  • spring or filtered water
Instructions
  1. Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat and add oil. Pan fry tempeh for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and sprinkle generously with shoyu or tamari. Set aside.
  2. Place kombu in bottom of heavy pot with lid (such as a Le Creuset round oven) and cover the bottom with about ¼-inch water. Layer vegetables on top of kombu and sprinkle evenly with a few pinches sea salt. Add pan-fried tempeh.
  3. Cover pot and place on medium heat until it comes to a boil and a good steam is generated (you will see the steam coming out of the sides of the pot). Do not open lid at this point.
  4. Lower the flame and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables become soft. Check for doneness by piercing a carrot or daikon chunk with a fork to see if it is tender.
  5. Season lightly with shoyu or tamari, turn off flame, and cover for a few minutes (or simmer for a few more minutes if needed).
  6. Toss pot gently with the lid on (do not stir) to distribute juices and serve.

Mmmm… Now eat your veggies!

Nishime style vegetables with crispy tempeh

Winter Greens Salad with Golden Beets, Pomegranate, Pecans, and Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette

This special winter greens salad has been my go-to salad for holiday gatherings this year. It’s the perfect thing to make with winter greens that are plentiful this time of year. Bring this salad to a potluck, or serve it at your home with a nice soup and main dish on a cold winter’s evening. Below are a couple of meals I have served the salad with this holiday season.

Roasted salmon, asparagus, basmati rice, and winter greens salad (holiday meals with friends):

salmon-dinner

Beef tenderloin, roasted vegetables, and winter greens salad (Christmas Eve supper):

plate

Give yourself time to prepare this salad. It is a labor of love! You’ll be preparing the greens, various toppings and garnishes, and a warm dressing that gets tossed with the greens. Better to enlist some help to make it fun and less time consuming!

When you get home from the market, you can refresh your greens by trimming about 1-2 inches off the ends and putting them into cold water for about an hour before you start the recipe. This will make them perk up and the stems will be extra crisp and crunchy.

Getting ready to put the beets in the oven…

winter-salad-1

The greens become slightly wilted, but should still be bright and fresh. Beets, greens stems, pecans, and pomegranates are layered on top of the dressed greens. So beautiful!

winter-salad-3

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Winter Greens Salad with Golden Beets, Pomegranate, Pecans, and Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
Roasted beets
  • 1 golden beet
  • 1 red beet
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
Toasted pecans
  • ½ cup raw whole pecans
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • a few pinches sea salt
Salad greens
  • 1 bunch red or rainbow swiss chard
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
Warm dressing
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons fresh orange juice (about ½ orange)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon unpasteurized tamari or shoyu
Garnishes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds (or dried cranberries)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line sheet pan with parchment paper (or grease pan with thin coating of oil).
  2. Peel beets and slice into ⅛-inch rounds. Place into medium bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt.Place beet rounds onto lined sheet pan in a single layer. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Beets can be turned over once to cook more evenly. Remove beets from oven and allow to cool.
  3. Turn oven down to 350°F. Toast pecans on small sheet pan for about 8 minutes. Toss halfway through to prevent burning. Place toasted pecans in a small bowl and drizzle with maple syrup and sea salt.
  4. Destem swiss chard, reserving stems. Tear leaves into bite sized pieces and place into bowl.
  5. Destem kale and slice leaves into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Gently massage kale leaves with a few pinches of salt for about one minute. Slice chard stems into ½-inch lengths and kale stems into ¼-inch lengths and set a aside.
  6. Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil and immediately add chard and kale stems with a pinch of salt. Sauté briefly, just until brightly colored. Remove to a small bowl.
  7. Add ¼ cup olive oil to pan and heat on medium until shimmery (this will probably only take a few seconds). Add red onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté until onion is soft and slightly browning. Turn heat to low and add balsamic vinegar, orange juice, maple syrup, and tamari or shoyu.
  8. Turn heat off and add kale and chard greens to the pan, tossing constantly to coat with the warm dressing. When all leaves are evenly coated, remove greens to a platter. Top with roasted beets, chard and kale stems, toasted pecans, orange zest, and pomegranate seeds.

This version was made with toasted pepitas and rainbow chard (no beets).

winter-salad

 

 

Creamy Polenta with Sweet Corn

This is the first recipe in a series of Healthy Comfort Foods for the Holidays! Corn polenta is full of complex carbohydrates, which will help stave off sugar cravings during the holiday season.

This is a soft-cooked polenta recipe that calls for more liquid than the typical polenta recipe. The result is a very soft, sweet, and creamy dish (with no milk or cream added!) that is easy to digest and popular with children and adults. I use 5 cups water to 1 cup polenta. Many recipes only use 2-3 cups water, leaving the polenta undercooked and gritty.

I recommend using a flame tamer or heat diffuser to prevent burning. If you don’t have one, just be sure to use a heavy-bottomed pot (like an enamel-coated cast iron pot) on a very low flame.

serving-polenta

At home we often eat polenta for breakfast with a sprinkle of iron-rich shiso powder and a side of greens or miso soup. But we also have it for lunch and dinner, perhaps topped with pesto, or eaten with a side of beans and avocado. It is an easy, nutritious item for child’s lunchbox that you can keep warm in a thermos, and leftovers are great heated up the next day.

polenta
Polenta with sweet corn and broccoli sprinkled with shiso powder

To warm up leftover polenta, heat up enough water to cover a small saucepan until simmering. Add the amount you’d like to heat up, turn to low, cover, and steam for 2 or 3 minutes. Turn heat off and let sit until ready to eat. Stir to mix any remaining water in the bottom of the pan. For a greener variation, add some chopped broccoli or kale greens to the simmering water before adding the polenta.

polenta-broccoli
Isabel making polenta with chopped broccoli

corn polenta

I recently made this dish for a friend who is undergoing cancer treatment and needs foods that are nourishing and easy to digest. She loved it!

Creamy Polenta with Sweet Corn
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Grain
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry corn polenta
  • 5 cups spring or filtered water, divided
  • ½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt, or more to taste
  • kernels from 1 ear sweet corn or 1 cup frozen sweet corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or grass-fed butter (optional)
  • a few pinches shiso powder
Instructions
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, whisk together polenta, 3 cups water, and sea salt.
  2. Turn heat to medium. Stir constantly while polenta comes to a boil to prevent sticking or clumping.
  3. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups of water and sweet corn, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to prevent polenta from splattering.
  4. Lower heat, cover, and simmer with a flame tamer beneath pot for 20-30 minutes, or until polenta is thick, soft, and creamy.
  5. Stir in olive oil or butter, if desired. Season with additional sea salt if needed.
  6. Serve with a sprinkle of shiso powder.
Variations
  1. Add finely chopped broccoli to the polenta during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  2. Serve with sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, or kale.
  3. Make in a pressure cooker by adding polenta, 5 cups water, sea salt, and corn all at once. Put pressure cooker lid on and bring up to pressure on medium heat. Turn to low and cook for 5 minutes more. Turn off heat and let come down from pressure naturally. Remove lid and stir in olive oil or butter, if desired.

 

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!

Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans and Pomegranate

Yesterday, I was part of a “Friendsgiving” photo shoot for Austin Food Magazine with amazingly talented Austin caterer Suzanne Court. “Friendsgiving” is the term for getting together with all of your friends for a potluck Thanksgiving meal. In this case, many local chefs, restauranteurs, food bloggers, and wine folks gathered at our friends’ beautiful house in Rollingwood. It was one of most delicious meals I’ve ever had, and I met so many friendly people in the local food scene. The article will come out in Austin Food Magazine on Monday, November 23rd.

Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans and Pomegranate
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable Side Dish
Cuisine: Holiday
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
Toasted Pecans
  • ⅓ cup pecans, broken into pieces
  • ¾ teaspoon tamari
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar reduction
  • ⅓ cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pecans on sheet pan and toast in the oven for 6-8 minutes. When fully toasted, remove from the oven into a mixing bowl. Drizzle with tamari and let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Trim brussels sprouts and cut in half (or in quarters if very large). Place in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper.
  4. Spread brussels sprouts out onto large sheet pan (or two smaller sheet pans) and roast in the oven for 12 minutes.
  5. While roasting the brussels sprouts, combine maple syrup and garlic. After 12 minutes, give the brussels sprouts a stir and add maple syrup and garlic mixture. Continue to roast until golden brown, about 15 minutes more.
  6. Remove brussels sprouts to a platter. Sprinkle with toasted pecans and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.
Note:
  1. For this large platter mounded with brussels sprouts, I used 5 pounds of brussels sprouts.

This recipe is fairly simple, but does require knowing how to get the seeds out of a pomegranate. I use the method presented in this video (cut the pomegranate in half and tap one half at a time with a wooden spoon or hammer until all seeds pop out).

roasted brussels sprouts

Here are some of the dishes from our Friendsgiving feast:

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This salad from Suzanne Court Catering was so wild and fresh!

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Beautiful pork dish with roasted squash, toasted pecans, and arugula by Chef David Garrido of Dine Raddison Austin.

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I highly recommend putting a dinner like this together with your friends. Just set up a shared google spreadsheet so everyone can sign up for a dish, or just take your chances that you will have a varied meal! I made maple-roasted brussels sprouts for the event. Try them this holiday season, as they are simple to make and have the perfect colors for a festive side dish!

Roasted Brussels Sproutsphoto of maple roasted brussels sprouts