Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Truffles (vegan, gluten-free)

chocolate almond butter truffles

Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Truffles are one of my favorite desserts for dinner parties and holiday get togethers, as they are vegan and gluten-free, paleo friendly (if you use a very dark chocolate), and they are super cute arranged in little cupcake tins on a colorful platter. You can also box them up in little gift boxes to give for gifts. Just make sure to refrigerate the truffles until it’s time to gift them.

Get creative with coatings for your truffles– I use toasted almonds and cocoa here, but you can try any of the following:

  • chopped toasted pistachios
  • dried lavender flowers (see image below)
  • dried rose petals (make sure they are the edible variety found with bulk teas)
  • shredded unsweetened coconut
  • chopped roasted peanuts
  • carob powder (the combination of cocoa truffles and carob coating is great!)

truffles with lavender budsIn the recipe instructions, you’ll see that you need to work quickly when forming the truffle balls, using your fingertips, at least until coated with cocoa/almonds. Do not try rolling truffles in the palm of your hand, or they will melt! Otherwise they are really simple to make.

You’ll need to set aside some time for the truffle mixture to set in the refrigerator before forming them into balls, perhaps an hour or so. If you need to leave them longer than that and the mixture gets hard, no worries, just set out at room temperature for 30-45 minutes and they should be ready to roll.

Chocolate Almond Butter Truffles (vegan, gluten-free)
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (fair trade recommended)
  • 6 tablespoons smooth, roasted almond butter
  • 4 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • generous pinch unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • ½ cup blanched almonds, toasted and chopped finely
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder, sifted (fair trade recommended)
  • 24 mini baking cups
Instructions
  1. In a double boiler or saucepan with heavy bottom, gently melt chocolate being careful not to burn or introduce any water into the chocolate. Stir with wooden spoon, heat-proof spatula, or whisk until almost melted, then turn off heat and let sit until completely melted.
  2. In pot or separate bowl, add almond butter, coconut oil, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Mix until smooth and transfer to a glass or metal bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and firm to the touch.
  3. Meanwhile, set out two bowls— one with almonds and one with cocoa.
  4. Using a melon baller or small rounded metal teaspoon, scoop out balls of the chocolate mixture. Working quickly (without rolling between warm hands), roll 2-3 chocolate balls at a time in either cocoa or almond mixture. You may want to coat half of the balls in each for variety. Once chocolate balls are coated, you can form into neater balls with clean, dry hands if needed.
  5. Place each truffle in a mini baking cup and place on a plate or platter, alternating almond-coated and cocoa-coated truffles around the platter.

Chocolate almond truffles recipe card
Print recipe card for your friends for the holidays!

Check out my upcoming Austin cooking classes here.

Happy holidays!

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.

Italian Chickpea Soup with Fusilli Pasta

Over the years, this Italian Chickpea Soup has been a family favorite and has always gone over well with children visiting our home.The addition of pasta makes the soup heartier, like a minestrone, and can definitely be considered a one-pot meal.

I recently had the opportunity to teach a cooking class at my daughter’s elementary classroom where I decided to serve the soup with pasta and bread, which was a real hit! An added bonus is how economical this recipe is. We made this recipe X4, which fed about 35 people, using all organic ingredients, for under $2 per person including soup, pasta, bread, and butter.

Day 1 of our cooking class involved walking to the grocery store, selecting our groceries, and carrying our groceries back in a wagon! When we got back to the classroom, we soaked the chickpeas so they would be ready to cook the following day.

Day 2 of our cooking class involved cooking the chickpeas in the pressure cooker, and slicing, dicing, and sautéing vegetables for the soup.

The secret to making this soup delicious is to make your chickpeas from scratch. Make your chickpeas in advance, as it takes a good 8-10 hours to rehydrate the dried chickpeas (I usually do this step overnight), and some more time to cook them. I use a pressure-cooker to make my chickpeas, but they can be made in a regular pot (it just takes longer). I recommend making a big batch of chickpeas and freezing some away in quart-sized freezer bags that you can use later on to make hummus or another batch of soup. Here is my recipe for Homemade Chickpeas.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Italian Chickpea Soup with Pasta
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 recipe Homemade Chickpeas or 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced into rounds or half moons
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into half or quarter moons
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 organic bay leaf
  • ½ cup fresh parsley or basil leaves, chopped, divided
  • 2 cups cooked pasta (such as farfalle, fusilli, twists, wheels, or shells)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (optional)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Follow instructions for making Homemade Chickpeas. Set chickpeas aside. Do not drain, as the chickpea cooking liquid will be used in the soup. If using canned chickpeas you will need to drain the liquid from the can.
  2. In 3- to 5-quart soup pot, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of sea salt for about 10 minutes over medium or medium-low heat. Add rosemary and stir to coat onions. Add another tablespoon olive oil, celery, carrot, and another pinch sea salt and sauté about 10 minutes more. Adjust heat if necessary to prevent burning. Add zucchini and sauté a minute more.
  3. Place chickpeas and chickpea cooking liquid into soup pot and add stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low, cover, and simmer until zucchini is soft, about 8 minutes. Add half of fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve pasta in soup bowls and pour chickpea soup over the pasta.
  5. Garnish each bowl with remaining fresh herbs and/or grated cheese (if using).
Notes:
  1. Make this recipe gluten-free by using a gluten-free variety of pasta.
  2. If using canned chickpeas, add 3 cloves minced garlic along with carrots and celery.

By noon our cooking crew was ready to serve their homemade soup, pasta, and bread to the class.

Enjoy making soup on a cold winter day and share with some friends!

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!

Upcoming cooking classes with Chef Rachel Z in Austin, TX

7 Healthy Holiday Recipes from Chef Rachel Z

All recipes on chefrachelz.com

Please keep in touch!

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

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.

Southwestern Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

Southwestern Salad is one of my favorite salads to bring to parties and potluck gatherings. This salad is vegan and gluten-free so everyone can enjoy, but also rich in flavors, colors, and textures.

Southwestern Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Southwestern
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups sweet corn (fresh cut off the cob or frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground New Mexico chile pepper (or other mild ground chile)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • a few grinds freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 large avocado, sliced or cubed
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ½ cup pepitas, toasted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line sheet pan with parchment paper (if desired).
  2. Toss together corn, olive oil, ground chile, salt, and pepper in mixing bowl. Spread evenly onto sheet pan. Roast corn for about 15 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking to prevent burning. Corn should be just starting to brown a little. Remove to a plate or bowl and allow to cool while prepping other salad ingredients.
  3. On a large platter or salad bowl, layer lettuce, roasted corn, cucumber, bell pepper, avocado, tomatoes, and pepitas.
  4. Serve with Cilantro Lime Dressing.
Variation
  1. Slice 3 or 4 fresh corn tortillas into ½ " x 1" strips and pan fry in a little olive oil until crispy. When cool, use as an additional salad topping.

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

 

 

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!