Celeste Gustafson is on a mission to cook sustainably for Austin.

By Allie Justis, Photos courtesy of Celeste Gustafson

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Chef Celeste Gustafson, owner and executive chef of Celeste’s Natural Kitchen, is leading by example in her industry by venturing off the beaten path of culinary tradition, leaning into innovation with something old and something new. Having gotten her start in herbal studies, Gustafson brings more than 25 years of experience to the table, combining her herbal knowledge with culinary technique to create health-centered, sustainable meals that heal the body while supporting the larger farming community behind it all.

“With the food planning aspect of the business, we’re taking that effort away from [people]and giving them these foods that are just incredibly nutrient dense,” says Gustafson. “You know, sometimes people think that’s a dry chicken breast and some broccoli, but it’s so much deeper than that. I had gone to herbal medicine school and worked in the herbal industry for years, putting things like tumeric and ginger into the food, lots of fresh herbs that are just filled with antioxidants. Basil is an antidepressant! People just don’t know these things. But the more you can bring those things in, the more you’re bringing in flavor and giving all of those micronutrients to your body that are lacking in our society’s current ‘diet.’”

Gustafson takes her ingredient sourcing very seriously since her business caters largely to people with food allergies or health restrictions such as celiac disease. She is adamant that healing the body starts with what you eat, so she has built her business model around the concept of providing thoughtfully sourced, organic and sustainable ingredients that clients can enjoy with a clear conscience.

“If you look at these eggs we’re using, the yolks are deep orange. It’s incredible,” she says. “It’s because they’re so full of vitamin D and all these fat-soluble vitamins that you don’t get from regular eggs, and that’s because [the chickens are]eating seeds and bugs in a free-range environment. Ethically and sustainably sourcing our ingredients ends up benefiting the end user as well. It benefits the soil, the animals are happy, the farmers are happy and the consumer is happy.”

Gustafson chose this chocolate cake recipe in particular because it’s so decadent. She is of the mind that eating “healthily” doesn’t mean that your food can’t be decadent or delicious. In fact, Gustafson thinks eating the food you love sustainably is actually a great first step in living and eating in a more globally conscious way.

“Part of what I like about it is that it tastes like what you would think of as a regular chocolate cake. It’s your quintessential chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, but when we break down the ingredients, you’ll see it’s completely different,” she says. “First of all, everything in it is organic. My passion is to help people heal themselves through food and cooking, while also healing the planet through organic and regenerative agriculture. In starting this business I was learning to heal my body with food, and more importantly, I was trying to empower myself as a woman to be financially independent and control my own destiny. So hopefully in sharing this, I can start others on their own track to the same place.”

Decadent Paleo Chocolate Mini Cupcakes:

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Grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free. Contains eggs and almond-based ingredients.

Cupcakes

Dry Ingredients

3 cups blanched almond flour
1 cup tapioca flour
¼ cup coconut flour
2 cups coconut sugar
1 ½ cups fair trade cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients

1 ½ cups full-fat canned coconut milk
(any brand is fine, I like Native Forest Simple with no guar gum)
4 large eggs (pasture-raised is preferred)
1 cup water
½ cup refined coconut oil, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Paleo and Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

¾ cup organic Spectrum palm shortening
¾ cup fair trade cocoa powder
6 tablespoons dark maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut milk (Any brand is fine, I like Native Forest Simple with no guar gum)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Instructions

Cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two 24-count mini muffin tins with paper or parchment cups.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Warm coconut milk slightly, to melt the fat.
  4. Whisk together the coconut milk with the rest of the wet ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk for 1 to 2 min.
  5. Using a 1-oz ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups with 1 scoop batter each. Bake for 12 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Once completely cooled, decorate using frosting from the recipe below.

Buttercream Frosting

  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl if you are using a handheld mixer).
  2. Start on low speed to prevent flying cocoa powder.
  3. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip until light and fluffy.

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