Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry (V, GF)

photo of kabocha squash-red lentil curry in white bowl on purple placemat on the dinner table

Community cookoffs are a delicious way to bring people together!

It’s almost time again for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance (AFBA) Annual Community Cookoff! This year’s theme is “Oodles of Noodles” and will be held on Sunday, September 23, 2018 from 2-4 pm at the Brew & Brew. It will be a celebration of carbs and the recipes of many chefs working hard to please your palate!

This year’s cookoff motivated me to post about last year’s AFBA 2017 Collossal Curry Cookoff. As a brand new member of the AFBA, I decided to enter my Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry in the cookoff. I was a bit scared, but I thought it would be a good way to meet my fellow AFBA members and showcase the type of food that I cook.

Curries don’t have to be hot to be flavorful, aromatic, and delicious!

I was excited for people to try my vegan curry which was not at all hot and spicy. I wanted to make the curry flavorful (with sweet kabocha squash, fennel, sweet potato, and curry leaves) and spicy rather than hot (with ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon). I also used red lentils to give the curry great body, flavor, and texture. Yum!

fresh ginger and bowl of spices for Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry

Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry (V, GF)
 
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Author:
Serves: 2 quarts
Ingredients
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup carrot, finely diced
  • ½ cup celery, finely diced
  • 2 fronds fresh curry leaves, chiffonade or 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 cup sweet potato, small dice
  • 1 cup fennel bulb, small dice
  • 2 cups kabocha or butternut squash, small dice
  • 1 cup zucchini, small dice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups filtered or spring water
  • 1 teaspoon tamari, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar, or to taste (optional)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chiffonade
  • lemon or lime wedges, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Rinse red lentils several times and soak in a bowl with water for about an hour.
  2. Heat heavy-bottomed soup pot on medium heat. When hot, add coconut oil, onion, and pinch of sea salt. Sauté on medium heat until soft.
  3. Add the carrot, celery, curry leaves or bay leaf, ginger, and garlic and sauté on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Stir in powdered spices.
  4. Add the chopped sweet potato, fennel, squash, zucchini, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 4 minutes.
  5. Drain red lentils and add them to the vegetable sauté. Add water, bring to a boil, then turn to low and simmer until lentils and vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in coconut milk. Season with tamari and ume vinegar (or sea salt). Heat until simmering.
  7. Add fresh herbs and turn off heat.
  8. Serve on top of rice with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

3rd place finish!

After a few hours of curry tasting and ballot casting, I was thrilled to get a 3rd place finish, and went home with various gift cards and goodies from local businesses. It ended up being such a fun day!

I hope you’ll try making this recipe when you are in the mood for something sweet, savory, and nourishing. It is delicious with basmati rice and a crisp green side salad. I also add baby spinach when warming up leftovers to give it some freshness.

Sign up for this year’s cookoff!

And by the way, get your tickets here for the 2018 AFBA Oodles of Noodles cookoff on September 23rd. It will be an experience to remember!

Please let me know if you’d like to chat about on-demand cooking lessons, corporate team building, dinner parties, or yoga retreat catering.

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. 

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!


Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Basil

creamy butternut squash soup

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup… this is what talked me into becoming a macrobiotic chef! It is sweet, savory, comforting, and delicious! As a child, the only way I saw butternut squash cooked was in a baked casserole with sour cream, onions, and a corn flake topping. I didn’t like it. But when I tried this soup, I was in heaven! I have recently revised this recipe to include a long, slow caramelization of onion, carrot, and celery (mirepoix) at the beginning, which gives the soup a very sweet, complex, and delicious flavor.

By Pigup – I made the mirepoix at home and took a picture of it on my cell phone., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18688674

Creamy vegetable soups help stabilize blood sugar levels, so help prevent sugar cravings when eaten regularly. When using organic squash, there is no need to remove the skin. This makes it much faster to make, and adds beneficial dietary fiber. These days, finding food that is naturally sweet and nutritious is so important, to nourish the body while curbing cravings for refined sugar. I recently listened to a news story on NPR’s “Here & Now” about how the food industry engineers processed and prepared food items (including pasta sauce, yogurt, and other processed foods not thought to be “sugary”) so that they reach a person’s “bliss point.” Children are especially susceptible to getting hooked on these foods since they are naturally attracted to the sweet taste (which is needed for growth in mild, natural forms). Try making this soup for your children, and try substituting other vegetables for the butternut squash, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, or sweet potato. It makes a great kids’ lunchbox item when carried in a thermos.

The only trick with making this soup is learning how to cut the squash without cutting yourself. You need a good, sharp chef knife and a large cutting board. I suggest trimming off the stem, cutting off the “neck” of the squash, then cutting the resulting pieces (neck and bulb) in half so that you have four pieces you can put down flat on the board. From there you can remove the seeds from the bulbous part of the squash and chop the squash into small pieces.

Enjoy this soup and try some of the variations suggested at the bottom of the recipe. They are all delicious!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Basil
 
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Serve this soup at lunchtime to curb sugar cravings later on in the day. Or start your dinner meal with a cup of this soup to warm digestion and stimulate appetite.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup carrot, finely diced
  • ½ cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch sea salt
  • 5 cups butternut squash, seeded and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 cups spring or filtered water or light vegetable stock
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly (chiffonade)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup organic pumpkin seeds, toasted, for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a 4-quart soup pot, sauté onion and pinch of sea salt in olive oil over medium-low heat until translucent.
  2. Add carrot and celery and another pinch of sea salt. Sauté another 15 minutes, until vegetables start to caramelize.
  3. Add butternut squash and rosemary and coat with onion mixture. Add enough water or vegetable stock to barely cover the squash (about 3 cups), cover, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cover. Simmer until squash is soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Puree with blender or immersion blender. If soup is too thick, add a little more water or vegetable stock. Season to taste with sea salt.
  5. Simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes.
  6. Serve in bowls and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Note
  1. If using vegetable stock, try to find one without tomatoes (such as Imagine brand Vegetarian No-Chicken Broth) or make your own, to avoid overpowering the flavor of the squash.
Variations
  1. Substitute kabocha squash for butternut squash. The color will be darker but it is very delicious.
  2. Substitute carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato, or sweet corn for the butternut squash.
  3. Use herbs and spices of choice instead of rosemary, such as thyme, basil, or fresh ginger.
  4. Roast butternut squash tossed in olive oil and sea salt in 425 degree F oven until soft. Add to sautéed onions and proceed with recipe.

Bon appétit!

 

Shaved Carrot, Radish, and Green Apple Salad with Lemon and Fresh Mint

Try this light and refreshing shaved salad as a side to almost any meal. Radishes are good at dissolving fat, while green apple and lemon have the sour taste that is cleansing for the liver and gall bladder. The mint garnish gives it a super fresh taste!

Shaved Carrot, Daikon, and Green Apple Salad with Lemon and Fresh Mint
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 daikon radish or 1 bunch red radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, trimmed and peeled into wide strips
  • a few pinches sea salt
  • 1 green apple, cored, cut into quarters, then thinly sliced
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar (optional)
  • ½ lemon, sliced into thin quarter moons
  • handful fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
Instructions
  1. Place daikon and carrot into a large bowl. Massage sea salt into vegetables for a minute or two, until vegetables are shiny.
  2. Add green apple, lemon juice, and umeboshi vinegar (if using). Toss to coat the entire salad.
  3. Plate salad with sliced lemon and fresh mint leaf slivers.
Note
  1. Umeboshi vinegar will add a salty, sour taste to the salad.
Variation
  1. Add ½ bulb fresh fennel, cored and thinly sliced.

 

 

Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup

Spring is the perfect time in Central Texas to get farm fresh fennel and carrots. I couldn’t resist making this simple soup today for a client when I saw the big bulbs of fennel at the market. The flavors are much sweeter and complex due to the roasting of the carrots and fennel prior to adding them to the soup. Reserve fennel stems and core for juicing, if you wish.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound organic carrots
  • 1 large organic fennel bulb
  • 3 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup diced organic yellow onion
  • 4-6 cups light vegetable stock (no-tomato)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wash carrots and trim off the ends. Slice carrots into ½-inch diagonals. Place in a large glass baking dish or roasting pan.
  3. Wash fennel and trim off stems and fronds, reserving a few fronds for garnishing. Slice fennel bulb into quarters, cut out the core, and discard the core. Slice remaining fennel bulb into ½-inch slices and add to carrots in baking dish.
  4. Toss carrots and fennel with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Cover baking dish with foil and roast for about 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and are beginning to brown slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, saute onion, a pinch of sea salt, and remaining tablespoon of olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
  6. Add roasted carrots and fennel to soup pot and saute a minute more.
  7. Add 4 cups vegetable stock, or enough stock to just cover the vegetables. Simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes.
  8. Blend the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth. Add more stock as needed to achieve the consistency you like. It is important not to add too much liquid initially as it will be difficult to achieve a smooth texture.
  9. Season with sea salt and simmer gently for 10 minutes more.
  10. Serve warm or chilled in individual bowls with a few fennel fronds for garnish.

 

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