Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

I’ve never been good at desk jobs.

My brain says yes. But my body says no. And then my brain gets confused. And then I get confused. And my mind says, “What am I supposed to do with my life?!”

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

We’ll see if that question ever gets answered. In the meantime, I’m juggling office life with photoshoot life, and keeping my workdays and work weekends busy. It’s been exciting on both fronts, and I am happy to say I’ve finally come across a company on the front end of that which is working to make my uncertainty at least a little easier. The very nice people at this company, at least mildly, know desk life gives me trouble.

And so they’ve granted me permission to spend one day per month cooking the office lunch. Um, can you say dream job perk?

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

After spending the 9 o’clock hour perusing the aisles of Whole Foods to gather the first lunch’s ingredients, I almost thought, “Could this be my dream job?” Shopping at Whole Foods, maybe. Cooking day-in-and-day-out in a hot, windowless kitchen, probably not.

The company lunch creation was super fun though, and definitely a success. On tap: a herb-laced spring garden salad with sungold tomatoes (my favorite cherry) and red onions, along with a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette. This Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers, Roasted Eggplant, and Crispy Tofu recipe. And a finale of fresh ginger juice shots to finish out the meal with some pep.

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

I decided to create this recipe based off of three primary factors. 1) Who doesn’t love noodles? 2) Though pasta is a pleaser, there’s no way I was showing up with a boring/non-creative recipe. 3) I’ve been entirely inspired by cucumbers lately. Don’t ask me why, but they’re the one summer veg. I’ve been consistently buying as of late.

So this was born, and it’s definitely going on the repeat list. SO MUCH FLAVOR. The sesame sauce adds that first depth, and then the cilantro and scallions make sure not one bite goes flavorless. You’ve also got the velvety, roasted eggplant adding to the creaminess of the sauce, with crunch cukes lightening the whole dish up, and crispy tofu adding in some protein. Oh, and ginger, too. Okay, I’ll stop listing off the ingredient list now. But you get the idea of how it all comes together.

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

If you can’t get this on your workplace’s table, get it on your dinner plate. And enjoy ideally at room temp., but really whatever temp. your set on at the moment.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

 

Watermelon, Basil and Feta Salad

I woke up on Saturday morning realizing August was just 2 weeks away. Woah, woah, woah, hold the phone! But by all means, don’t hold the melon.

It wasn’t until I then realized I had went this far into the summer without buying my first full watermelon that the panic set in. That’s like living in the city without a bike — practically a crime, at least in my world.

I love watermelon, and how I let this much of summer slip by without eating a full half to myself is beyond me. Summers are made for meals of watermelon, right?

So of course, Saturday morning, straight to the market I went. And breakfast become none other than a huge slice of sweet, juicy summer. My favorite.

Watermelon, Basil and Feta Salad

It’s a miracle that the other half of the melon ended up in this salad. Like a just-picked heirloom tomato, or a perfectly ripe avocado, there are some things in life that I often feel, “Why bother doing anything more than adding a fork.” Although it goes without saying, a little bit of salt can entirely enhance those first two items, and it appears a little bit of feta and basil can do the same for watermelon. Sliced watermelon is great, but so is this melon salad.

On Sunday, I also happened to be heading to a friend’s b-day brunch, so the opportunity to make something special couldn’t be passed up. If you’re a food blogger, sliced watermelon isn’t all that great when fun, food-related occasions arise. Although, the few slices you’re munching on while cooking — those speak of excellence.

Needless to say, this was a hit and a totally worthy use of an impressively ripe and ready melon. Salty feta plays off the sweetness of the melon, while a minty basil takes its natural refreshingness to a whole other level. If you want your watermelon to feel fancy, in an effortless sort of way, this is it. I’m already ready for brunch, round 2, and of course, watermelon round 2, too.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Simple Collards Wraps with Curried Lentils & Rice

My first step off the plane back into my home of Philadelphia welcomed me with a rush of balmy hot air. Hello East Coast. Hello 90-degree summer. Hello “please take me back west”.

In all reality, transitioning from a vacation is significantly easier when done in the summer. This is the time of year when I love my city the most. It’s the time of year where Philly offers free yoga classes, outdoors, every day of the week. (Sweat & smiles, all around). The time when I can ride my bike effortlessly, no jacket needed. And when beer gardens pop-up by the handful to meet my bike-induced, thirst-quenching needs. (Although, I am still waiting for that California/Portland kombucha-on-tap scene to take over Philly and fulfill those needs, too.)

As for the west coast – I feel we may meet again one day. Sunny California, you stole a piece of my heart. And did a good job streaking my hair blonde with your sunrays.

Grace Dickinson

My recent travels took me through L.A., some smaller towns of Cali, all around Portland by bike, and up and down numerous, breathtaking mountains. There was lots of vegan food to be had, some of which I will be recreating (in particular, the Coconut Lentil Quesadillas from Real Food Daily!). An abundance of inspiration. Park picnics with friends. Fantastic & jolting iced coffee (Intelligentsia, for the win). Corresponding coffeeshop interactions. Adventures, surfboard crashes, and even a reality TV show recruiting.

I’ve never been so active on a vacation. Daily swim-yoga-hiking combinations unfolded, and its climbing those West Coast mountains that I’ll miss the most. I tell you, that’s where I truly feel alive.

Beluga lentils

Now that I’m back though, I want to keep that feeling of “aliveness” alive. That calls for healthy, nourishing food, and with this killer East Coast heat wave, some cool eats, too.

Shall this be the summer of collard wraps? I’ve already deemed it the summer of socca, but it can be both, right?

Simple Collards Wraps with Curried Lentils & Rice

I love how light and refreshing collard wraps feel, while also being able to easily pack in a bunch of flavor into one portable package. It’s the kind of meal that won’t weigh you down on blazing sunny days, and also one that can generally be enjoyed hot or cold.

Keep the filling hot if you’re feeling a warm but light dinner. Or roll these up, place them in the fridge, and have a cool, ready-to-go lunch for the next day. I, of course, did both.

Simple Collards Wraps with Curried Lentils & Rice

This meal would fit right into the forward-thinking cities of Cali (and Portland, too!). So in a sense, I’m just bringing my trip home with me. Working or not, I like to view every day of summer as vacation, and these are so easy to make, they fit well into that mindset. A one-pot meal? Packaged into fresh summer greens? With tomatoes and avocado? Ready to join me for the Cali-inspired summer of collard wraps? Yeah, me too.

But don’t worry. More socca is on its way too. And for my East Coast friends, I’m not moving just yet.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Asian Cabbage Slaw with Ginger and Basil

My blog is going on a 2 week vacation, while its author heads to the West Coast. (Hello California and Portland!) Before it says a brief adieu, however, we are leaving you with this excellent summertime recipe.

Asian Cabbage Slaw with Ginger and Basil

Have no fear if cabbages are ransacking your garden, farmers’ market or CSA share, and you haven’t a clue what to do with them. I can relate. Hence why I’m hoping to help you out here with this recipe before I jet-set away for a few.

That blank state of mind seems to be a yearly occurrence for me when cabbages starting forming into bowling balls by the masses. I really do enjoy cabbage. But what do you make with it that will use it up fast enough? A few shreds on top of some fish tacos won’t begin to peel off those layers. Nor will most pasta sautes and other recipes where cabbage comes in handy.

Of course the simple answer is coleslaw.

Cabbage

While as I said I love cabbage, there’s only so much coleslaw I can tolerate. Cabbage by the masses paired with mayo by the masses ends in feelings of eventual repulsion for the leafy veg.

Not that I’m a mayo-hater or anything. I just can’t eat it with slaw on a regular basis until my family and friends’ gardens stop crying me cabbage.

This Asian slaw however? It’s something my fork could get down with daily. Especially in the summer when almost every lunch/dinner screams for a crunchy, cool salad.

Asian Cabbage Slaw with Ginger and Basil

I like this because it’s refreshing, yet each bite hits you with an immense amount of flavor. You get sesame paired with summer basil, and a slightly sweet and spicy kick from the rice vinegar paired with the ginger. Use a food processor to make its assembly easy, and feel free to top with roasted peanuts or any other garnish of your choice.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Sometimes, nothing is more beautiful than a simple bowl of pasta.

It’s when I’m really hungry that these words couldn’t feel more true, and this time of year, that means after a long, hot summer run. After one of those, first I want watermelon. And then I want pasta.

Summertime (er, late springtime). It feels so good.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

When the weather is nice, I spend a ton of time outside. More often than not, that means after work, I’m out strolling, cycling, running, or just hanging around until the sun just sets. I could be with my friends. I could be by myself. It doesn’t matter – when it’s warm out, I’m out. And I’m loving every minute of it.

However, this often leaves me locking up my bike at the end of the evening and heading inside with a sudden realization of hunger, and the urge to eat ASAP. Anyone else turn into a monster on occasion, too?

If so, you know that’s when simple recipes like this prove themselves to be rather handy.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Here, a quick saute of some onions, squash and spinach create a light and easy sauce for a meal you can make in under 30 minutes. It’s filling, yet not in the kind of way that will weigh you down on a balmy summer night, and is spruced up with parsley to make it feel extra fresh.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

I don’t cook with a butter a lot, but I find that adding a Tbsp. to this enhances the inherent butteriness of yellow summer squash. Feel free to use all olive oil if that’s your preference. However, a little browned butter goes a long way to enrich the sauce, and pairs well with the lemony tones of the parsley.

Also, be sure to stick with angel hair or spaghettini when choosing your whole wheat pasta. While this sauce is certainly flavorful, it’s delicate, so to truly experience all of its nuances, a thinner pasta works best.

Pasta_SummerSquash_blog

Pair this with a side salad, and a cold beverage of your choice, and you create a no-fuss summer meal for any night of the week.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…