Zucchini blossoms, also known as squash blossoms and pumpkin flowers, are simply the beautiful, edible and nutritious flowers of either Winter or Summer squashes. Their flavor profile is light and delicate, with a hint of the squash itself. These beauties are low in calories (5 per cup) and loaded with essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals which are needed for a healthy and happy body and mind. Zucchini flowers are a good source of vitamins A, C and some of the B kind, as well as minerals such as iron, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium. You can grow it in your garden or find them from late Spring to early Fall at your local farmer's market and select grocery stores. They are fragile and quite perishable and thus should be eaten as soon as possible. A typical way to prepare them is to stuff with fresh ricotta or mascarpone cheese and deep fry them, but you can enjoy them raw in a salad or sauté them for a lighter version. Squash blossoms might look fancy, but they are actually pretty easy to prepare. Here is a simple, quick (about 6 minutes from start to finish!) and delicious recipe to try:
SAUTEED ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS
To prepare, gently open the petals of each blossom and rinse them out, checking for any lingering bugs inside. Heat a sauté pan and add a little oil (ghee, olive, avocado or grass-fed butter.) Add garlic and allow it to caramelize for about 30 seconds. Arrange a single layer of the zucchini blossoms on your pan and cook for about 10 seconds before turning them over for 10 more seconds on the second side. Squeeze the juice of a 1/4 to 1/2 lemon and remove from heat. Gently place the blossoms on a serving platter and top with the zest of half a lemon and some more of the juice. Crumble some vegan almond ricotta (or goat cheese, mascarpone) and pistachios on top and eat as is or as a topping for whole grain or grain-free pizza or pasta. Enjoy and tell me what you think!
AQUAFABA VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
When I now look back at the countless times I tossed the cooking water of my chickpeas, I feel that I was wasting tasty and nutrient-dense treats such as this chocolate mousse... much gratitude for all of those who set on the quest for a perfect egg replacer and passed on this knowledge to us. Aquafaba is a merge of two Latin words, aqua (water) and faba (bean). Check Epicurious "Aquafaba: An Explanation and History" if you want to learn more.
In a stand mixer with a whip attachment, place ice-cold aquafaba and cream of tartar if using (it helps the aquafaba whip up faster and create firmer peaks.) Whip until foamy (about 3 minutes). Add extract, lemon juice and sugar and beat until well mixed and soft peaks form (approximately 10 minutes.) Turn off the mixer and put a third of the aquafaba in a large bowl. Slowly pour melted chocolate, mixing well with a wire whisk. Finish by gradually adding the remaining aquafaba gently incorporating it with a spatula. Fill individual serving cups with this mixture and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Decorate with your favotite toppings and enjoy!
*How to make Aquafaba
In a bowl, cover chickpeas with cold water and about a tablespoon of baking soda. Cover and allow to rest for a few hours or overnight. Rinse, wash and place beans in a saucepan, adding the 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat for 50 minutes or until the they are cooked. NOTE: You can leave the chickpeas in the cooked water for a day, it will increase the protein content of the water and whip better. Aquafaba can be used in place of egg whites in most recipes - as a binder, to make meringues, coconut macaroons and even vegan mayo!
CURRIED LENTIL SOUP
Prep & Cook Time: about 40 minutes
This exquisite vegan soup is packed with protein and antioxidants. So warming and nourishing, it feels like a loving hug in a cozy winter day! Please don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients, you probably already have most of them in your pantry anyway. Some of the items can also be omitted or easily swapped by something else you might have on hand (brown for red lentils, olive for coconut oil, water for broth, pita bread for the naan, etc.) You may need to adjust seasoning and cooking time depending on the type of lentils you use. Please feel free to share in the comments any substitutions you may do for this dish. I would love to try it as well!
In a large pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and sautée the onion, garlic and ginger for a couple of minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato paste, curry powder, pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add the vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, coconut milk and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the lentils are very tender, stirring occasionally so the lentils dont burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, stir in the greens and garnish with the toasted naan on the side. Leftovers are amazing heated with a touch of water. Enjoy it with a smile :-)
RAW VEGAN CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
I just made these for a friend's baby shower and they were such a hit!! Healthy AND delicious, a true guilty-free indulgence!
White Chocolate & Coconut Truffles
from Young and Raw
In a food processor, whirl coconut flakes until they are finely ground. Add almond and cashew flour, soft cacao butter, soft oil, vanilla, maple syrup and salt until they are equally blended. Roll into balls, roll balls in coconut flakes and store in fridge.
NOTES: Use any nut or seed combination you would like. If you have nut flour/meal handy, use the same amount of each (1 cup total) without grinding it first. Finally, if you can't find cacao butter, use more coconut oil or coconut butter instead. To make coconut butter, grind coconut flakes for 3-4 minutes in a food processor.
Cacao-Almond Butter Truffles
Soak your dates in hot water for about 20 minutes to make them soft and sticky. If you coconut oil is solid, put it in a jar and place the jar in hot water to melt your oil. Place all your ingredients, except the nut butter, in your food processor or high speed blender and mix until soft and well combined. Add the nut butter at the end to keep the crunch. Spread evenly in a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator until firm. Once it is hardened but soft enough to roll into balls, scoop little portions with your fingers, shape them and reserve. If you wish, roll them in cacao powder or crushed toasted maple almonds. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add all the ingredients and stir frequently. Once nuts are slightly toasted and the syrup is caramelized, remove from heat and let it cool down on a plate or sheet pan. Crush in a spice grinder, mortar or finely chop with a chef's knife.
I use this exact recipe for one of my best-selling tea blends and is a result of many years of savoring chai and playing with different spices. I hope you enjoy it!
ROOIBOS MASALA CHAI INFUSION (for 6)
Combine spices and rooibos tea in a mortar or bowl. Crush spices using a pestle or back of a wooden spoon to release fragrant and beneficial oils, as well as opening the cardamom pods. At this point, you can save this mixture in a tightly sealed container for later use.
Two options to infuse:
1. In a pinch, transfer spice mix to a cloth or metal mesh tea bag and place it inside a teacup. Also add the rooibos/black tea bag, if using. Boil water and pour over it, allowing it to infuse for about 5 minutes. Remove bag and add sweetner of choice and/or plant milk, if using;
2. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pan and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, strain and add sweetner of choice and/or plant milk, if using.
Note: If using tea bags, add them to the saucepan after you remove it from heat and steep for 5 minutes, discarding them afterwards.