Baby Arugula Salad with Berries and Lemongrass Mint Vinaigrette

baby arugula salad


I’m in love!

In mid-June, I started teaching kids’ cooking classes at Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars in Austin, TX and was transported into the world of amazing, high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Europe. A few weeks before my classes started I got a tour of the store and sampled a variety of their products. I fell head over heals with everything I tasted, and was especially taken with the white balsamics which are lighter in color and flavor than the dark varieties (which I also love). It was the Lemongrass Mint White Balsamic that I ended up using in this recipe.

Summer is a great time for salads

In summer, I do a lot less cooking, but still like to eat at home. The simple solution is making more salads and using the grill to avoid heating up the kitchen. This Baby Arugula Salad is great for either lunch or dinner with something like a creamy vegetable soup (try Creamy Broccoli Soup or Creamy Butternut Squash Soup) and some fresh bread with olive oil. Make the soup early one morning before it gets hot, and quickly heat it up for meals later in the day or serve chilled.

How to make arugula taste great

This salad took me by surprise. I made during the first week of kids’ cooking camp at Con’ Olio and EVERYONE liked it– even those children that swore up and down they didn’t like vegetables. The key to this salad is finding a dressing that balances the peppery flavor of the baby arugula and the tartness of the berries. On the recommendation of the manager at Con’ Olio (who is also a chef), I used a combination of a mild olive oil and their lemongrass-mint white balsamic vinegar for the dressing. It is just equal parts of each with a little sea salt and black pepper. It was unbelievably delicious! I look forward to trying some of their dark balsamics (like strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, or fig), maybe when the weather cools down a bit.

Baby Arugula Salad with Berries and Lemongrass-Mint Vinaigrette
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
Salad
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese (optional), shaved
  • ¼ cup raspberries
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup strawberries, sliced
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
Dressing
Instructions
  1. In a medium prep bowl, mix together arugula and spinach.
  2. Prepare dressing by whisking together olive oil and white balsamic vinegar with a few pinches sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a small mixing bowl or glass measuring cup.
  3. Using a pair of tongs, toss salad greens and Pecorino Romano (if using) with dressing until evenly coated.
  4. Divide greens onto 4 salad plates. Top each salad with a variety of berries and sliced almonds.

baby arugula salad
Baby Arugula Salad from Kids’ Cooking Camp at Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars- June 2018

Women’s Health Tips: 7 Steps to Finding Balance

Rachel & Isabel Yoga on Beach

I wanted to share these women’s health tips for improving your health naturally. As a macrobiotic chef and counselor, I work with individuals that are seeking balance in their lives— to improve physical, mental, and emotional health naturally. A macrobiotic lifestyle emphasizes a whole foods diet that emphasizes whole grains, beans, fish, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, sea vegetables, natural seasonings and fermented foods such as miso, shoyu, sea salt, umeboshi, and fresh sauerkraut. In addition, macrobiotics recommends limiting exposure to harmful chemicals in our environment, especially those we would come into contact with every day at home in soaps, shampoos, detergents, cleaners, clothing, bedding, and unfiltered municipal water. Although it’s a challenge in our busy lives to seek out natural and healthy alternatives, the benefits to health are worth it. Below is a partial list of Women’s Health Tips, in no particular order. Many of these tips apply to men, women, and children, so please read on even if you’re not a woman!

Your body is constantly finding balance for you. By pumping your heart, exhaling toxic gases, and keeping your blood at a proper pH, it maintains a delicate balance called homeostasis… And balance isn’t happening just inside of you; you are a product of a vast network of organic systems all striking their natural balances; they include the soil, the oceans, the atmosphere, and space itself. So naturally your inner world seeks to balance with the outer world; you relax into sunlight and shiver when it’s cold. You experience teenage join the spring and mature melancholy in the fall. You give love to your family and receive it back from them in kind. That’s healthy. You are many to harmonize with the bigger systems of nature. You are meant to feel connected to all of life.

Jessica Porter, macrobiotic teacher and author

1. Create a more balanced diet. “Eat a balanced diet” is such a cliché… what does it even mean? My favorite book that describes how to create balance in the diet is The Complete Macrobiotic Diet: 7 Steps to Feel Fabulous, Look Vibrant, and Think Clearly by Denny and Susan Waxman.

  

This book describes how to wisely choose what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat for optimal health, which also involves living according to our natural rhythms. Also, check out the recipes on my blog to get you started on cooking healthy meals, and my article on eating for blood sugar stability.

2. Get the sugar out! 

Sugar not only provides major highs and lows in mood and energy, it can also disrupt one of the most powerful hormones in the body: insulin. And insulin is closely connected to all of the other hormones in your body, including estrogen and testosterone. –Dr. Mark Hyman

Sugar is linked to weight gain, diabetes, candida infections, yeast infections, and the growth and spread of cancer. Most of us can really feel the mental and emotional effects of sugar as well. If you’re ready to get off the roller coaster, try Dr. Mark Hyman’s sugar detox plan or read the Always Hungry Diet: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently by Dr. David Ludwig and Chef Dawn Ludwig (my macrobiotic cooking teacher!). The Ludwigs have a great facebook group for support as you are transitioning away from sugar.

3. Adjust your eating according to where you are in your menstrual cycle. The week prior to the onset of menstruation (week 4 of the monthly cycle), a woman’s body becomes more contractive or yang as estrogen and progesterone levels plummet. Therefore, it is best to avoid very yang foods during this time to avoid cramps, heavy blood flow, PMS, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Do this by reducing concentrated animal foods and salt the week before your menstrual cycle starts, or anytime you are feeling tight (tight muscles, stiff neck, headaches in the back/base of the head). Foods such as eggs, chicken, hard cheeses, cured meats, deli meats, pork, beef, and salty, dry foods such as chips, crackers, and fast food are considered to be energetically contractive or yang. Instead, reach for nourishing soups like:

[soliloquy id=”2225″]

Creamy Butternut Squash SoupCreamy Broccoli SoupCreamy Carrot-Fennel Soup;  whole grain salads with lots of fresh vegetables; and beans, lentils, or fish for protein. The week after the menstrual cycle (week 1-2) is a good time to have more protein and mineral-rich meals, so you may want to season your food while cooking with sea salt or shoyu, try some sea vegetable dishes like arame, carrot, and onion sauté, add some pan-fried dulse to your soups and salads, and have some wild-caught fish with vegetables.

 

photo of red lentil soup

4. Reduce or eliminate dairy products. Cow’s milk and milk products contain naturally occurring growth hormones meant to grow a baby calf into a big cow (440-600 lbs by 8 months of age). Even if the milk does not have “added hormones” the natural cow hormones are still there and affect/disrupt our own hormones levels.  Milk is also considered to be acid-forming can can lead to inflammation and bone loss. Even vegan dairy products such as almond milk, soy milk, and non-dairy ice cream are acid-forming and should be used sparingly rather than drinking big glassfuls.

5. What else are you drinking? We should be careful with caffeine, red wine, and carbonated beverages. We all know about caffeine- it’s a very addictive stimulant that drains our adrenal glands and gives us the false sense of being “wide awake” or “wired” even if we haven’t gotten adequate sleep. Daily use can lead to headaches, anxiety, and adrenal fatigue. Wine is a very concentrated beverage—it takes 600-800 individual grapes to make a 750 mL bottle of wine! So with 5 glasses of wine per bottle, each glass of wine is made from 120-160 grapes! In other words, that is a lot of fruit! It’s no wonder that our liver feels the effects of wine. Women in their 40s-50s are especially susceptible to getting hot flashes at night after drinking wine (some feel the effects of red wine more than white varieties)– even as little as a half a glass. How about those trendy, calorie-free fizzy waters? They are marketed as a “health food” but carbonation turns to acid in the body (carbonic acid) and can lead to stiffness in the joints (especially when we first wake in the morning), stomach upset, and erosion of tooth enamel. Reach for the “still” spring water rather than the fizzy varieties to hydrate without the negative effects of acidity.

6. Stop taking birth control pills. I know this is a controversial topic. But oral contraceptives have been linked to depression, a decrease in circulating testosterone and thyroid hormones, inflammation, disruption of gut flora, oxidative stress, and depletion of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. According to Dr. Kelly Brogan, MD, there are so many women suffering from hypothyroid, leaky gut issues, bone loss, and inflammation today that could benefit from stopping oral contraception.

7. Limit exposure to plastics. Different types of plastics are in almost everything these days, including clothes and shoes, food containers, water bottles, cookware, cosmetics, flooring and carpets, cushions, mattresses, pillows, baby pacifiers and toys, and on and on… The manufacturing of and exposure to different kinds of plastics have been linked to all kinds of health problems including endocrine disruption, cancer, skin rashes, birth defects, infertility, endometriosis, birth defects, immune system impairment, obesity, diabetes, hyperactivity, respiratory issues, liver issues, and more! I definitely notice a positive difference with 100% cotton clothing and bedding. See this article for more information. If plastic is everywhere, how can we limit our exposure?

  • Try replacing synthetic clothing and bed sheets as they wear out with 100% cotton. Wearing organic cotton underwear is supposed to be especially helpful because it is non-toxic, breathable, and super soft.
  • Carry reusable canvas bags in the car for any kind of shopping to avoid bringing more plastic into your home.
  • Buy a nice set of reusable glass containers (most have plastic lids but there are some out there without any plastic).

  • Make a commitment to use refillable, non-plastic water bottles. There are all kinds of glass water bottles as well as stainless steel varieties you can choose from:

Bonus tip #8: Exercise more moderately or gently. Gentle forms of yoga, tai chi, qi gong, walking in nature, swimming, or whatever movement is rejuvenating (without overexertion) are actually better for you than strenuous exercise. Certain stretches are particularly beneficial to stimulating flow of energy through the liver and gall bladder meridians (these organs are closely related according to TCM) which eases menstruation, evens out moods, and improves digestion. Try these yoga stretches  and qi gong exercises for liver and gall bladder health.

As a macrobiotic health counselor, Chef Rachel Zierzow is a teacher, mentor, and guide. Her aim is to educate you about your condition from a macrobiotic perspective, and give you the tools to incorporate a macrobiotic diet and lifestyle as a way of improving your physical, mental, and spiritual conditions. Chef Rachel Zierzow does not replace your doctor, nor will she prescribe things for you to do or take. Recommendations and tools will be given to empower you to improve your own health. The doing of macrobiotics will be up to you.

To view Chef Rachel Z’s upcoming cooking classes click here.

For more information about personal health consultations or pantry makeovers with Chef Rachel Z, click here

Chef Rachel Z is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Natural Foods Approach to Maintaining Normal Blood Sugar

photo of red lentil curry

The natural foods approach to maintaining normal blood sugar is about learning how to nourish ourselves in a way that creates balance and harmony, so that we can go through the day feeling calm and steady. This differs from weight loss diets that restrict calories or create nutrient deficiencies. Keep in mind that each person is unique, has individual needs, and should consult with their doctor when making any changes to their diet or lifestyle. Some people may have advanced stages of disease that require medication and monitoring while undergoing diet changes.

A balanced plate should be about 1⁄2 non-starchy vegetables, 1⁄4 starchy vegetables and/or grain, and 1⁄4 plant-based or animal protein

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar condition) and diabetes (high blood sugar condition) are different examples of blood sugar instability. Experiencing unstable blood sugar is kind of like being on a giant roller coaster. Refined carbs (like flour products, fruit juice, and sugars) create a spike our blood sugar, which often is followed by a sharp decrease in blood sugar (below the original normal level), which forces us to eat another blood-sugar-spiking food or chemical that will bring it back up. And so it goes, like a roller coaster, all day long, for days on end, until we find a better way. Some of the symptoms that may arise from unstable blood sugar may include: dizziness or shaking an hour or two after eating, mood swings, hunger in between meals, food cravings, being over-scheduled and overly busy, being too tired to exercise, and/or having low insulin levels.

Read on for tips on what to eat, how to eat, and when to eat in order to maintain normal blood sugar.

NOURISH YOURSELF! GENERAL GUIDELINES ABOUT WHAT TO EAT:

  • For each meal, include high fiber, plant-based foods including whole grains or polished grains (not bread and other flour products), beans or lentils, and vegetables as your principal foods. Try one new whole food per week to slowly incorporate a larger variety of whole, natural foods into your diet.
  • Visually speaking, a balanced plate should be about 1⁄2 non-starchy vegetables, 1⁄4 starchy vegetables and/or grain, and 1⁄4 plant-based or animal protein. Most people don’t get enough vegetables.
  • Be sure to include a variety of vegetables throughout the day, including leafy greens, root vegetables, winter and summer squashes, and cruciferous vegetables. Keep the skins on vegetables whenever possible.
  • Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers) are contraindicated and should be avoided, as they are acid-forming and inflammatory.
  • Soups and stews are the best kind of meal, because they are easy to digest, contain lots of minerals, are nourishing to the spleen, pancreas, and stomach, and are very satifsying. When reheating leftover soup, be sure to add some leafy greens and/or fresh herbs for added nutrition. Puréed sweet vegetable soups like carrot, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, or butternut squash soup are great for stabilizing blood sugar and curbing sugar cravings when eaten regularly. Hearty bean and vegetable soups keep you feeling full in between meals because they are packed with protein and fiber.
  • Stir fry dishes that include lots of vegetables, ginger, garlic, and small strips of protein, served over rice, make great meals.

Practice eating while sitting down in a calm, unhurried environment, not distracted by technology

 

  • Use only high quality, unrefined cooking oils such as extra virgin olive oil, unrefined virgin coconut oil, or unrefined, untoasted sesame oil. Avoid processed oils and those high in polyunsaturated fats such as canola, safflower, soybean, and sunflower.
  • Small servings of lean animal protein can be included in meals as a compliment to vegetables, but avoid greasy, fried, and barbecued meats which are very acid-forming, often contain sugar, and can contain carcinogens (from frying or blackening).
  • Avoid processed junk food (laden with added sugars, salt, flour, oils), milk, ice cream, and other dairy products, oily foods, fruit juices, and sweetened beverages like soft drinks which create inflammation and acid in the body.
  • Choose cooking methods that are more strengthening, such as pressure- cooking, steaming, stewing, stir-frying, sautéing, and braising, rather than eating foods raw (like salads and smoothies).
  • Check out Dr. Josh Axe’s web site for great tips for maintaining normal blood sugar.

IT’S NOT JUST WHAT YOU EAT, BUT HOW YOU EAT!

  • Practice eating while sitting down in a calm, unhurried environment, not distracted by technology, loud noises, or anything stressful.
  • Express gratitude to everyone and everything that made it possible for you to have your meal, and be thankful that you are healing.
  • Chew each bite well (30-50 times minimum) in order to take the burden off of your digestive tract, alkalinize your food, and prevent overeating.
  • After eating, take a short walk to aid digestion and allow for energy to flow through the body.

WHEN YOU EAT IS ALSO IMPORTANT!

  • Be consistent with your meal times, such as breakfast 7-8 am, lunch 12-1 pm, and dinner 5-6 pm. Varying slightly from these times is fine, but routinely skipping meals or eating at different times every day can destabilize blood sugar.
  • Eating too early in the morning or too late at night will throw off your digestion and sleep patterns, causing you to consume unhealthful food and drinks in an attempt to boost your energy (such as caffeine, sugar, chocolate, and bread products).
  • Eating in between meals may be necessary at first to maintain a steady blood sugar, but the goal is to go longer and longer between meals without eating in order to give your digestion a rest. So choose healthy snacks that will not spike your blood sugar, such as smaller portions of leftover meals with vegetables, grains, and beans rather than processed snack bars and other sweets.

SOME WHOLE, NATURAL FOOD RECIPES TO HELP STABILIZE BLOOD SUGAR:

photo of nishime style vegetables with tempeh
Nishime style vegetables with pan-fried tempeh


TO LEARN MORE ABOUT PLANT-BASED COOKING FOR RADIANT HEALTH, CHECK OUT MORE RECIPES HERE OR TAKE A CLASS WITH CHEF RACHEL. HER CURRENT SCHEDULE IS LISTED AT chefrachelz.com/book-a-class AND SHE IS AVAILABLE FOR PRIVATE COOKING LESSONS AS WELL (EMAIL: rachel@chefrachelz.com). 

photo of Chef Rachel teaching an in-home cooking class

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!


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
 
Prep time
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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

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!

 

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.