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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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!

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

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photo of guacamole with pomegranate

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
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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.