Mineral-Rich Energy Bars (V, GF)

Creating a nutrient-dense, delicious energy bar

This month I started a new yoga program and realized I needed to make some nutrient-dense snacks to take with me. I remembered Jessica Porter’s classic recipe for Crispy Brown Rice Bars (a healthy, macrobiotic version of Rice Crispy Treats), but wanted to add some extra goodies to make them more hearty, like: 

  -pumpkin seeds or pepitas (high in potassium, iron, magnesium, and zinc)

  -unhulled sesame seeds (high in copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, and more)

  –dulse flakes (high in iodine, protein, Vitamins B6 & B12, and more)- one of my favorite foods

  -almond butter (high in protein, fat, magnesium, calcium, and potassium)

These mineral-rich energy bars are good for boosting the thyroid, building bone density, or for anyone feeling depleted that needs more minerals.

Choosing the right brand of brown rice syrup makes a difference

Make an effort to find the special brown rice syrup I recommend in the recipe— Suzanne’s Specialties Genmai Rice Nectar. It is available online and in various natural foods stores. (I used to be able to buy it in Austin but now I have to order online.) It is much more clean tasting and delicious than other brown rice syrups (such as the Lundberg brand which is more bitter), as it is made through natural fermentation rather than a chemical process. You could try making this recipe with another sweetener, but you may need to adjust the other ingredients due to viscosity and sweetness (honey is much sweeter, maple syrup may be a little too thin to hold the bar together).

Mineral Rich Energy Bars (V, GF)
 
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These no-bake energy bars are the perfect post-workout or lunchbox snack. They are packed with nutrients including complex carbohydrates, protein, fat, and many trace minerals.
Author:
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12 bars
Ingredients
  • ½ cup organic brown rice syrup (Suzanne’s Specialties Genmai Rice Nectar recommmended)
  • ⅓ cup organic almond butter
  • a few grinds Himalayan sea salt or a large pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil (optional)
  • 1½ cups crispy brown rice cereal (One Degree or Erewhon brands recommended)
  • ½ cup organic green pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted
  • ¼ cup organic raisins
  • 1 tablespoon dulse flakes
  • 1 tablespoon unhulled sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 piece parchment paper
Instructions
  1. In heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat brown rice syrup, almond butter, and salt over low to medium heat until bubbly and well combined. Remove from heat and stir in coconut oil if the mixture is too thick (depends on the brand of syrup you use).
  2. Add cereal, pepeitas, raisins, and dulse flakes to the almond butter mixture and fold in until well combined using a heat-proof rubber spatula or wooden spoon coated with a little coconut oil.
  3. Lay piece of parchment paper on a flat surface (large cutting board or countertop).
  4. When mixture has cooled to the point you can handle it without getting burned, and turn mixture onto parchment paper. Moisten fingertips with a little water, and press down into an even layer, about ½-inch thick. Sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds and lightly press down.
  5. Using a sharp chef knife, cut into bars or squares.
  6. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days or refrigerate if storing more than a few days.

Be creative!

Be creative and try different combinations with what you have on hand. Some other ideas for add-ins to replace pepitas, raisins, dulse, and sesame seeds: sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, coconut flakes, slivered almonds, candied ginger, or chocolate chips (freeze ahead and make sure mixture is cool before pressing into the bars). You could also try tahini (sesame butter) in place of almond butter. 

Interested in learning more? I’m offering healthy cooking classes in Austin this fall/winter. For class descriptions and registration information, click here.

And please drop me a line to let me know how your bars came out!

 

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 cooking lessons, corporate team building, dinner parties, or yoga retreat catering. My public group cooking classes are listed here.

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
 
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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

Italian White Bean Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Basil

Italian white bean soup

Soup is hearty, nourishing, and satisfying

Hearty and nourishing, Italian white bean soup is what you need to sustain you through a long work day, when taking care of children or nursing a baby, to refuel after a workout, or frankly anytime you want a satisfying meal. This plant-based soup is chock full of vitamins and minerals that are easy for your body to assimilate because all of the vegetables, beans, and sea salt are cooked together in a broth. Bean soups generally reheat well, so make a double or triple batch so that you can store some in the freezer and thaw it out for last-minute weeknight meals. I always add some fresh greens like baby spinach or kale when reheating my soup on the stove. It adds freshness and color to what would otherwise be a boring leftover meal.


Homemade or canned beans?

You can sub 2 cans of white beans for the homemade beans in this recipe, but it will not be as delicious. Homemade beans are truly wonderful, more digestible (when soaked, drained, and cooked with kombu) and flavorful than canned, but you do have to plan ahead. I usually soak a big batch of beans every week or two, and cook them until soft and season with sea salt. If you use a pressure cooker, it cuts down on the cooking time. I freeze whatever I’m not going to use in the next few days in quart-sized freezer bags. When it comes time to make a soup I thaw out a bag of beans instead of having to start from scratch. More detailed instructions on how to make beans from scratch are in my posts Homemade Black Beans and Macrobiotic-style Giant Peruvian Lima Beans.


Fresh ingredients are the key to a delicious soup

Choose ingredients that are fresh and full of life. If celery or carrots have gone limp, you can perk them up by cutting a little slice off the bottom of each vegetable and stand up in a quart-sized mason jar filled halfway with water. Within 30-60 minutes your vegetables should be rehydrated and ready to use. The last few years I’ve been growing fresh herbs in pots on my back porch. You can even put a little planter in a sunny windowsill if you don’t have a yard or porch to garden in. It’s amazing how much more delicious herbs are when picked right before you use them.


Learn how to prep veggies with skill and ease with my knife skills cooking video

Once you have a few knife skills under your belt it is so easy to whip together a big pot of soup. Check out my latest cooking video on how to slice and dice veggies for this soup here. In the video I show how to dice an onion into perfectly even pieces, how to slice a zucchini into half or quarter moons, how to dice carrots, and how to slice celery on the bias.

 

Italian White Bean Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Basil
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian, Macrobiotic, Vegan, Gluten-Free
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • Beans
  • 1 cup dried organic white beans (cannellini, navy, or giant white lima)
  • kombu, 1” square
  • spring or filtered water
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Soup
  • 1 small yellow onion or sweet onion, diced
  • pinch unrefined sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced in diagonals
  • 1 zucchini, sliced in quarter moons
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock (Imagine brand no-chicken vegetable stock
  • recommended)
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • sea salt, to taste
Instructions
Beans
  1. Sort, rinse, and soak the beans in spring or filtered water overnight. When beans are rehydrated, discard the bean soaking water.
  2. In medium pot, add beans and enough water to cover beans by about 2 inches and bring to a boil. Skim foam and add kombu. Cover, turn to low, and simmer until beans are tender. Season with sea salt and set aside. Alternatively, pressure cook white beans instead of boiling after skimming foam and adding kombu. Once beans are up to pressure with lid locked, turn to low and cook for about 15 minutes. Then turn off heat and let come down from pressure naturally before opening up pot.
Soup
  1. In medium-sized soup pot, sauté onion with a pinch of sea salt in olive oil until soft.
  2. Add carrots, celery, zucchini, garlic, and rosemary, and cook a few minutes more.
  3. Add cooked beans and water or stock. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until flavors are blended.
  4. Add basil and season with more sea salt, if needed.
  5. Garnish with fresh parsley or other seasonal herbs and serve warm.
Variations
  1. Garnish with pieces of pan-fried dulse instead of parsley.
  2. When reheating, add a handful of baby spinach or kale.
  3. Make a large batch and freeze half to warm up later.
  4. Use chicken stock or chicken bone broth in place of the vegetable stock.
  5. Add 1 cup cooked shredded chicken for a heartier soup.

 

Watch these videos I made with Dr. Jonathan Schultz of Family First Chiropractic (Austin, TX) on making Italian White Bean Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Basil:

Italian White Bean Soup video:

 

Knife skills and veggie prep for Italian White Bean Soup video:

 

Related recipes on my blog:

Italian Chickpea Soup with Fusilli Pasta

Giant Peruvian Lima Beans

Homemade Black Bean

 

Upcoming Classes and Workshops:

I’m teaching the kids’ cooking classes at Con’ Olio Oils and Vinegars shop in the Arboretum (NW Austin) this summer! Please check out the schedule here.

For the schedule of classes at my home in SW Austin, click here.

For private and group classes, click here.

Corporate team building workshops centered around cooking and wellness:

Check out my web site for corporate team building and contact me if you have a group interested in doing a workshop with me!

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!

Homemade Chickpeas

Homemade chickpeas are a must for making hummus, chickpea soup, or anything else you love to make with chickpeas. I like to make chickpeas in a pressure cooker because they get softer than when boiled, and they cook much faster than boiling. But I included instructions for either method.

Make sure to keep plenty of dry chickpeas on hand so that you can soak some the night before you are going to cook them. When chickpeas are rehydrated, you can cook them right away or hold in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

Homemade Chickpeas
 
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Although this recipe calls for 1 cup dry chickpeas, I recommend making at least a triple batch so that you have enough chickpeas to make a big batch of soup to share with friends, or so that you can freeze some away to use for recipes later on.
Author:
Serves: 3 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry chickpeas
  • spring or filtered water
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1-inch piece kombu
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Rinse chickpeas and place in glass bowl. Cover with water about 1-2 inches above the chickpeas and soak overnight.
  2. Drain the chickpeas and place in a pressure cooker with enough fresh water to cover 2 inches above the beans.
  3. Boil for 5 minutes uncovered. Skim off foam that collects on the surface with fine mesh simmer.
  4. Add garlic and kombu. Place lid on the pressure cooker and allow to come up to pressure. If there is more than one setting on the pressure cooker, use the lower pressure setting to avoid having chickpeas break apart. Turn heat down to low, and cook chickpeas for 18 minutes.
  5. Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally. Once the lid has unlocked, add sea salt and simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes.
Notes:
  1. If you do not have a pressure cooker, simmer beans for 90 minutes, or until beans are soft but not falling part. Then add sea salt and simmer a few minutes more.
  2. If you cannot find kombu sea vegetable, you can use a bay leaf instead. I like to use Atlantic kombu from Ironbound Island Seaweed which is locally available at Wheatsville Coop.

 

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

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:

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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.

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