Kombucha Holiday Punch

The San Francisco Chronicle ran this story a couple of weeks back, focused on how I set a holiday table. You can check out the story if you like, but, I also wanted to share something that didn’t make it into the piece. I threw a number of things together for that shoot, and one of the things I was excited to share was a quick, kombucha holiday punch. I made it with cranberry kombucha, prosecco, gin, and big ice molds shaped in vintage cake pans. It was delicious! But the color was all wrong – a very pale pink. More Easter brunch, or spring garden party than holiday. So I scrapped it, with the promise of a revisit. My plan was to take another swing using a ginger kombucha instead of the cranberry. So here it is. Spritzy and bright, it dances on your tongue. And, I’d argue, the tangy bite of the kombucha is a welcome alternative to sweet, fruit juice driven punch recipes. It goes down easy, and can sneak up on you fast. 😉 Happy holidays all – hope you enjoy this one.

Kombucha Holiday Punch RecipeKombucha Holiday Punch Recipe

Russel Yip shot the photos for the article, and did a whole gallery on the Chronicle site. I made a favorite stew, simple baby arugula salad, and the Rye Buttermilk Cakes from Near & Far. Also, I made a wreath – which, I promise, you could also make.

Kombucha Holiday Punch RecipeKombucha Holiday Punch Recipe

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Plant-Based Monday: Parsnips

This week we’re featuring an under-rated, but totally delicious staple for us at Food Heaven. This Plant-Based Monday, we’re talking parsnips. Parsnips have a surprising sweetness, and are often described as a marriage between a carrot and a banana (weird combo, right?) Many times, they’re mistaken for white carrots, but they actually have their own […]

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Mushroom Scallion Tartine with Poblano Yogurt

I think of this as a sheet pan sandwich recipe. You roast a bunch of mushrooms and scallions in a hot oven as your main components. And you whip up a simple poblano yogurt while those are roasting. Pile everything high on top of hearty slices of well-toasted bread, and you’re set.

Mushroom Scallion Tartine with Poblano Yogurt

The poblano yogurt is a key component here, but I totally understand if you want to skip out on it because of time, lack of poblanos, or you’re anti-chile. No problem, just about any flavor-forward yogurt slather will do in its place. You could simply crush a clove of garlic into some paste with a pinch of salt, and stir that in your favorite plain yogurt – also delicious. Or, whisk a tablespoon of harissa paste into your yogurt.

Mushroom Scallion Tartine with Poblano Yogurt

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Instant Pot Minestrone Soup

Making really good minestrone in the Instant Pot with dried, un-soaked beans is possible. I wasn’t sure at first, and it required a few attempts to get the recipe right, but check it out! Deliciousness. Let’s start at the beginning. Like many of you, I love minestrone soup. It’s hearty and filling. It’s healthy, made with a diverse mix of ingredients your body wants more of. And, if you have an Instant Pot, a good minestrone is going to be one of your standbys. That said, most of the IP minestrone recipes I see rely on canned beans, which I was hoping to avoid. Instead, I wanted to develop a minestrone version from dried beans – un-soaked(!) dried beans. Because, that way, you don’t have to plan ahead. Second, I want to avoid that murky, overcooked, canned soup flavor (and texture) we’re all familiar with – it shows up when you use canned beans and then cook them again under pressure. The size you cut your ingredients ended up being important as well, and so was when you add them to the pot. I landed on a specific order here that maintains brightness, acidity, flavor definition, and general deliciousness. More on that below!

Instant Pot Minestrone Soup

A few notes & techniques:

Potatoes: I found any potatoes cut too small turn to mush after cooking under pressure for 35+ minutes. Not great. So, I started using big chunks of potato, really big – and they’re incredible! Creamy, perfectly cooked, and nicely structured. Carrots are more dense, and handle the pressure just fine.

Instant Pot Minestrone Soup

Tomatoes & Kale: I think the inclination is to add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot, seal it up, and go for it. The minestrones I attempted to cook this way lost a lot of vibrancy. But not this version! This version has you stir in crushed tomatoes, and kale immediately after releasing pressure. The acidity of the tomatoes brightens the soup immediately, and holding the kale back until the last minute keeps a bit of structure, color, and flavor definition.

Pasta: A lot of people love to add pasta to their minestrone. You can certainly add a handful of dried, short pasta before pressurizing, but, quite honestly, it’s much better if you cook the pasta on its own. You can also stir dried pasta into the soup directly after it has pressure cooked, adding a bit more water if things get too thick. In short, on the pasta front, you can be pretty flexible. It’s open to personal preference (and how convenient you’d like the process to be).

Serving Ideas:
I like this minestrone straight and simple, and I also like it flaired out with toppings. A few ideas: a dollop of pesto, a drizzle of lemon olive oil, or a big squeeze of bright lemon, some chopped olives. Stir in a couple of handfuls of day old bread for something more like a ribollita.

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5-Ingredient Vegan Caramel Sauce

5-Ingredient Vegan Caramel Sauce

Friends, what we have here is some seriously creamy, dreamy vegan caramel sauce, and I cannot WAIT to share this recipe with you. Let’s do it!

The base for this 5-ingredient caramel is coconut cream, dates, and arrowroot starch, which are blended until creamy and smooth. This makes up the liquid ingredients, which are added to a bit of coconut sugar and cooked until glossy and just bubbly.

5-Ingredient Vegan Caramel Sauce from Minimalist Baker →

Dietitian Spotlight: Alissa Rumsey

1. Tell us a bit about yourself? I’m a registered dietitian and the founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. I’m a non-diet dietitian who practices intuitive eating, teaching people how to ditch the diet behavior, make peace with food, and get back in touch with their internal feelings of hunger and fullness. I’m based in […]

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Black Bean Brownie Bites

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The moment I placed these brownies in the oven, I started whining like a disgruntled teenager because Luise had convinced me to bake a brownie that only was sweetened with dates and had a whole can of black beans in them. “They are going to taste like sh*t” might have been the well-formulated phrase I used. Baking brownies was my idea to start with and I usually don’t complain about health desserts, but I was tired that day and my mind was set on the caramel-tasting brownie from the bakery across the street. More than the flavor, it was their texture I wanted to recreate. The crusty top and caramel fudge center that you only can achieve with sugar, butter and flour. I knew these would be far from that. And in my mind that was all Luise’s fault.

The whining escalated into a discussion (aka argument) and by the time the timer on my phone rang, things were, well, kind of tense between us. I cut off a corner piece of the brownie right away, just to get my suspicion confirmed. But I realized that they weren’t as awful as I had expected. Of course when Luise asked me, I did what any 36-year old teenager would do and grunted: “They were okay I guess”. In reality, they were actually pretty damn good. They didn’t have that crusty texture or typical sugar taste but in return they were gooey, chocolatey, energy packed and rich. I added frosting to make them a little more sassy – using dates as sweetener and avocado and coconut oil to make it ultra lush and creamy. They turned out really beautiful and packed with good stuff. Rather than a dessert, this is more like an energy bar-style brownie, and I found myself sneaking back to the fridge several times that day for another bite.

We’ll share the recipe and some notes below, but first here is a little video we’re we demonstrate how to make them.

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Since that first batch of brownies, there have been at least six more batches. A few vegan attempts and various flavor and texture variations. I have gathered a few notes that might come useful in case you want to give them a try.

  • We add coffee to the frosting to disguise the avocado flavor. If you don’t like coffee, you can use almond butter or peanut butter instead to give it a flavor twist.
  • Sea salt flakes are great on top and we love the salt + chocolate combo, but desiccated coconut would also look good.
  • We use very soft fresh dates that we buy in card board boxes and they are pretty affordable compared to loose weight or medjool dates. Sizes differ so use a scale if you want to be exact.
  • If you can’t find fresh dates you can use dried dates that you soak in water for a couple of hours. Drain the water before mixing. However, I wouldn’t use dried dates for the frosting as they need the dates to be super soft to achieve a smooth consistency. Try maple syrup instead.
  • If you aren’t used to sugar free desserts, you can add a couple of tablespoons maple syrup, honey or sugar to the batter. We have tried this recipe both with and without additional sweetening and they taste good both ways. It all depends on what you are used to and your expectations are.
  • We have also tried a vegan, egg-free version using aquafaba (chickpea water) that we are sharing at the bottom of the recipe. We also tried making aquafaba using black bean water (because it’s a rest product of the beans in the recipe). It didn’t firm up as much when whisked but it did work as a binder. However, it looked kinda gross and added more bean flavor so we decided to stick with chickpea water instead.
  • If you are allergic to nuts, you can mix toasted sunflower seeds into a flour and use instead of almond flour. And use pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts.

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Black Bean Brownie Bites with Chocolate Avocado Frosting
Makes 24 bites

These taste sweet but not overly so, see notes above if you prefer to make them sweeter. Vegan version below.

20 soft dates (approx 230 g / 8 oz)
1 1/2 cup / 185 g cooked black beans (rinsed)
1/2 cup / 125 ml olive oil or other neutral oil
1/2 cup / 125 ml plant milk or regular milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup / 50 g oat flour (or same amount rolled oats, mixed into a flour)
1/2 cup / 50 g almond flour
6 tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 handful crushed walnuts (optional)

Chocolate Avocado Frosting
6-8 soft dates

3 tbsp coconut oil
2-3 tbsp strong coffee
3 tbsp cacao powder
1 avocado

Sprinkle with
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Pit the dates and add them to a food processor along with the rinsed black beans. Mix on high speed. Add oil, milk and eggs (leave out if you are vegan) and mix until smooth. Add almond flour and oat flour (you can make oat flour from rolled oats by simply blending them in a food processor or grinding them in a mortle and pester), cacao powder, baking powder and salt and pulse until everything is mixed. Stir in walnuts (and whipped aquafaba if you are making the vegan version). Place a baking paper in a 20 cm x 12 cm / 10 x 6 inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the brownies from the oven once they are firm to touch and leave until completely cool.

Make the frosting by mixing all the ingredients in a food processor. Taste and adjust the flavors, adding more dates (or maple syrup if you want it sweeter) and more cacao powder if you want it richer. Spread the frosting over the brownies, sprinkle with sea salt flakes and cut into bite-size pieces. Store in the fridge.

To make this vegan: Use 2 tbsp more oat flour. Leave out the eggs and whisk 1/3 cup aquafaba (chickpea water) into soft peaks that you stir into the mixed batter together with the walnuts. The vegan version needs approx 45-50 minutes in the oven and will come out slightly stickier but firms up once it cools.

Chocolate Almond Drop Cookies

Chocolate Almond Drop Cookies | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill. See below for more details.

I used to be a big cookie baker during the holidays. Sugar cookies, thumbprints, and melt-in-your-mouth cookies were always on hand. And yet, over the years, my passion for baking has faded a bit. Now that I have a son, I’ll teach him a few of my favorite cookie recipes but for now, I’ll stick to the simple cookies that take no time at all.

These almond drop cookies stem from The Homemade Flour Cookbook. I was trying to figure out if I could make baked goods with 100% nut flour. It turns out, if you like light, cloud-like cookies, you can. Best of all, with help from Bob’s Red Mill, you can easily make these cookies with their wonderful almond flour!

Read more and see the recipe.

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The Ultimate Vegan Nachos

Let’s do nachos today. I know the title says vegan nachos, but whether you’re vegan or not, when you need a nacho fix, this is how you should roll. At least once. To see if you like them. I mean, nachos are always a crowd pleaser, and this is no exception, I promise. Chances are, you won’t even miss the classic cheese bomb version. On the flip side, your body will thank you because the “cheese” in this version is non-dairy, vegan, packed with beneficial spices, cashews, garlic, and grated sweet potatoes, and lasts up to a week refrigerated.

The Ultimate Vegan Nachos - version #1

Sweet potato nacho cheese is a thing for good reason, it behaves a lot like a classic nacho cheese, it’s the right color even, but(!) its arguably more delicious, and made from natural ingredients. I incorporate a bunch of short-cuts in my version to speed things along, like grating the sweet potato. Also, if you make the sauce a day or two ahead of time, you can have a pan of nachos ready to go in a flash. Ready? Let’s do this.

Nacho topping suggestions: I’m including two different versions here. Option one is your typical pile-it-on semi-classic approach (pictured above): baked tortilla chips, black beans, sweet potato nacho cheese, olives, salsa, guacamole, chiles, etc. The other? Option two (pictured below) is what I like to think of as my hippie version: baked tortilla chips, sweet potato nacho cheese, chickpeas, roasted broccoli, guacamole, hemp seeds, pickled serrano chiles. The only things that would make it more hippie-ish would be to sprinkle it with nutritional yeast, and perhaps do a green version of the cheese (which I’ve considered ;)…If you’re trying to make a meal out of the nachos, a good approach is to pile them high with an added sheet pan of simple, roasted vegetables. Broccoli and cheese is a classic combo (that even a lot of kids like), so I tend to go that route, but experiment! Roast a pan of vegetables while you’re making the cheese. Easy.

The Ultimate Vegan Nachos - version #2

Choosing chips. Is it me, or are baked tortilla chips increasingly hard to find? I look for baked chips (and sometimes fail). And/or ones with added heirloom corn, added quinoa, maca, etc. I also look for lightly-salted (some are SO salty!).

The cheese: Any extra cheese is also tops as a sandwich spread, crudité dip, or keep it on hand anytime you’re grilling or roasting.

Oven to table: Bake and serve on the same plate (or pan). I use an oven-proof platter here. A baking sheet or sheet pan also works. It makes it simple to go from oven to table. Pile as many chips as you like on your platter/pan, top with beans, top with cheesy dollops, and bake for a few minutes. Don’t worry that they don’t look particularly nice, everything changes when you add your finishing toppings! No need to dirty another plate.

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Butternut Squash Immune Boosting Smoothie

Just because winter is rolling in, doesn’t mean you have to drop those refreshing smoothies. Winterize your smoothie arsenal with this Butternut Squash Immune Boosting Smoothie!  This powerhouse uses seasonal ingredients like the butternut squash and immune boosting spices like ginger and turmeric. Ginger adds a great heat to the smoothie, which is perfect in the […]

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