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.
Here is one of my favorite salad dressings that I use on simple garden salads, buddha bowls, and even tacos! It goes especially well with any dish including avocados, such as my Southwestern Summer Salad! Cilantro lime dressing is best made in a blender to get a smooth texture and beautiful green color.
Have you wanted to make your own pickles but were intimidated by the process?
I wanted to let you in on a great tip for making quick, healthy pickles with many different kinds of vegetables. These are called Quick Ume Pickles – thinly sliced vegetables pickled in umeboshi or ume plum vinegar and water (that’s it!).
Naturally fermented pickles such as these are a beneficial addition to a plant-based diet as they aid in digestion of complex carbohydrates and have the sour taste that is tonifying to the liver. I prefer salt-fermented pickles such as these over vinegar-based pickles because of the beneficial lactobacillus fermentation that occurs, which aids in digestion and makes me feel good after a meal.
What is umeboshi or ume plum vinegar?
I use ume plum vinegar in a lot of things, like salad dressings, hummus, guacamole, and of course pickles! Ume plum vinegar is an alkalizing, raw, probiotic condiment with a distinctive sweet-sour-salty taste. It is technically not a vinegar, but rather the salty byproduct of making umeboshi plums, which are sought after for their healing properties.
Simliar to sauerkraut “juice,” which you can now purchase by itself for its probiotic qualities, ume vinegar contains probiotics and is good for digestion, along with having a delicious taste. In Austin, you can get various brands of ume plum vinegar at Whole Foods, Central Market, and Wheatsville Coop.
How to make quick ume pickles
Wash, dry, and thinly slice or grate vegetables you’d like to pickle. Try using carrots, cucumbers, purple daikon, red radishes, watermelon radishes, beets, or red onions. Place in a large bowl.
Drizzle ume plum vinegar over sliced vegetables to coat. Gently massage vinegar into vegetables. Add herbs or seasonings, if desired, such as chopped garlic, fresh or dried dill, coriander seeds, or lemon zest. Or just leave plain to get the true flavor of the vegetable.
Pack veggies into clean jar and add enough water to just cover the vegetables. You should have roughly equal amounts of vinegar and water. Loosely cover and let sit on the counter for several hours. Pickles can be eaten in less than and hour but will get stronger in flavor and more pickled the longer they sit. Refrigerate after veggies have been pickling several hours. Colors will become more vibrant once they have pickled overnight in the refrigerate. Eat within 1 month of pickling. Enjoy!
4 cups red radishes or purple daikon radishes, sliced thinly into rounds or half moons
¼ cup ume plum vinegar or umeboshi vinegar
¼ cup spring or filtered water
Place radishes in a bowl and drizzle with ume plum vinegar. Massage vinegar into vegetables for about 30 seconds.
Add water and mix to combine. Let sit for about 15 minutes and you will see water coming out of the radishes. Make sure that radishes are pushed down to the bottom of the bowl so that they are completely covered by the pickling solution.
Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for at least one hour to start the pickling process.
Transfer radishes and liquid to a pint canning jar. Store in the refrigerator. By the next day, each radish will uniformly colored bright pink throughout.
Will keep for about a month in the refrigerator.
Try using other thinly sliced vegetables, such as cucumber, carrot, red onion, purple cabbage, purple daikon, or watermelon radish.
Add fresh dill, garlic, ginger, or coriander seed to flavor the pickles.
For a large batch of pickles, use the following quantities: 4 pounds thinly sliced radishes, 1¼ cups or one 10-ounce bottle ume plum vinegar, and 1¼ cups spring or filtered water.
Making sushi rice is an art. I am still learning how to perfect it. This recipe works really well for making nori rolls, sushi, and rice balls. It lacks the sugar and preservatives that fast-food sushi contains, but is perfectly sticky (not mushy) and flavorful. Good luck making your first sushi rice! Soon I will post a recipe for a simple nori roll.
The first step to making delicious nori rolls is making a perfectly seasoned and pefectly sticky sushi rice!
Author: Chef Rachel Z
Serves: 8 servings
2 cups organic white sushi rice
spring or filtered water for rinsing rice
2¼ cups spring or filtered water
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoons umeboshi (ume plum) vinegar
1 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
Start by rinsing the rice to remove some of the starch. Place rice in small to medium saucepan with a lid. Add enough water to cover rice by about an inch. Swirl water around until water becomes cloudy. Drain out water using fine meshed strainer.
Add 2¼ cups spring or filtered water and sea salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When bubbles first appear, stir the rice with a wooden spoon and place lid on pot.
When at a full boil, turn heat to low and let simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
Turn off heat and keep pot covered for 20 minutes. This gives the rice a chance to steam and absorb all of the cooking liquid.
Transfer rice into a large bowl. Mix together umeboshi vinegar and brown rice vinegar in a small bowl. Pour the vinegar mixture evenly over the rice, cutting it into the rice with a rice paddle or wide wooden spoon, fanning as you go with a plastic lid or fan. Rice will cool quickly when using this method. Do not stir the rice, as it will become mushy.
Set aside and cover with a damp towel until ready to use.
Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food! When the weather starts to turn cold, give this hearty vegan version a try. It is packed with nutrients from winter squash, carrots, and miso, and contains no cheese substitutes like nutritional yeast or soy-based cheeses.It can easily be made gluten-free by using a gluten-free variety of pasta. Although this recipe does not fall into the “quick and easy” category, it is worth the effort as it is so nourishing and delicious!
There are some ingredients that need explaining in this recipe.
Be sure to use raw cashews. When soaked, raw cashews will become soft and can be blended to create a very creamy texture. For savory dishes, discard the sweet soaking water.
Kombu is used in preparing the squash and carrots for the cheese sauce. It is a sea vegetable high in iodine and other beneficial minerals and enhances the flavor of whatever you are cooking.
Ume plum vinegar (a.k.a. umeboshi vinegar) is a healthful sour and salty condiment that adds amazing flavor to sauces and dressings, and is actually not technically a vinegar (it is the salt brine used to pickle the ume plum). You can find it in the Asian aisle of most health food stores, or you can purchase it online. The Eden brand is most easy to find.
Red or sweet white miso is called for in this recipe to create the cheesy taste of the sauce. Red miso will give more depth of flavor, more like an aged cheddar cheese, and sweet white miso will give a lighter flavor, more like an American cheese. Be sure to use miso that is unpasteurized and made with sea salt like Miso Master or South River Miso. In Austin, you can get both varieties of miso at Wheatsville Coop.
Natto is made from fermented soybeans and has many health benefits. It gives a depth of flavor to the dish that cannot be achieved otherwise. My favorite natto can be ordered online from Mugumi Natto. It is the only organic brand I have been able to find. It freezes well if you would like to order several packages. You can also make your own by purchasing powdered natto starter.
Unsweetened, whole grain mochi is made of steamed sweet brown rice that is pounded until smooth and formed into squares to dehydrate and store. It is 100% whole grain, naturally gluten-free, high in protein, and can be grated and seasoned to use as a topping for casseroles and pizzas. Granaissance, Mitoku, and Eden all make mochi. In Austin, we can find the Eden brand of mochi at Central Market. Grainaissance mochi is more crumbly when grated whereas the Eden and Mitoku brands can be grated into longer shreds, but either one will work in this recipe.
3 cups kabocha or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 cups carrots, cut into1/2-inch rounds
1-inch piece of kombu
pinch of sea salt
2 teaspoons ume plum vinegar
1 tablespoon unpasteurized red or sweet white miso
1 tablespoon natto (Megumi brand recommended)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
spring or filtered water
12 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked until al dente and drained
Mochi "Cheese" Topping
2 cups plain mochi, grated coarsely
2 teaspoons red or sweet white miso
1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
spring or filtered water
Macaroni and "Cheese" Sauce
Soak cashews in water for several hours. Drain and set aside.
In heavy pot with lid, place ½ cup water, kombu, squash, carrots, and a pinch of sea salt. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn to low and cook about 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Remove kombu from cooked vegetables.
To make the “cheese” sauce, place the squash, carrots, and their cooking liquid into a food processor along with the soaked and drained cashews, umeboshi vinegar, miso, natto (if using), garlic, and olive oil. Blend until smooth, adding water if needed to get the consistency of a thick soup. Taste for seasonings. If carrots and squash are super sweet, you may need to add a little more miso, sea salt, umeboshi vinegar, and/or olive oil to achieve a more savory flavor.
Place cooked and drained macaroni elbows back into cooking pot. Add “cheese” sauce to coat macaroni. Pour macaroni and “cheese” into an oiled baking dish.
Mochi "Cheese" Topping
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix together grated mochi, miso, ume plum vinegar, olive oil, and enough water to thoroughly moisten the mochi (about ½-3/4 cup). Spread mochi mixture on top of the macaroni and “cheese” and bake, covered, for 20-30 minutes (it should be starting to bubble around the edges). Remove foil and melt mochi under the broiler for 2 minutes or until it turns golden brown. Watch closely to avoid burning!
Chef Rachel Zierzow helps people create healthy lives through her down to earth approach to cooking, eating, and enjoying life. Check out her delicious recipes and useful healthy living tips at cookloveheal.com.
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