“How much sunlight do you get in this room? Is there any natural light in the kitchen? Does that tree make the living room super dark?”

Yep — pretty sure my new roommates thought I was a little crazy when checking out their place. Life of a photographer, and food blogger, and natural light obsessor.

Anyways, Food-Fitness-FreshAir (aka, Grace) is moving, onto a bigger and better kitchen. To be determined about the amount of awesome window light I’ll have, but this new kitchen I’ll be getting acquainted with has granite counters, and lot’s of space. That in itself I know will be awesome, so yes, I’m pretty psyched.

Until I get settled in, in the meantime, some photos of recent adventures. This summer is flying, as has my life been these past few weeks. Luckily some magical adventures were in the mix.

FoodFitnessFreshAir

FoodFitnessFreshAir

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Ratatouille with Herb Corn Topping

After last post’s summer-in-a-bowl, I was immediately ready for round two.

When the growing seasons’s at its prime, produce combinations fare to rarely ever bore me. As [insert singer of your choice here] says, “Gotta get it while the gettin’s good.”

In the August, the garden is good, and my fork is gettin’ it.

Ratatouille with Herb Corn Topping

Ratatouille remains a yearly favorite. It’s easy. It’s flexible. It’s quick, healthy, beautiful, and a million other adjectives.

To it, you can add chickpeas. You could add eggplant. You could add fresh thyme, pair it with bread, or top it with cheese. None of this I did. But you could, if you so please.

That’s the beauty of ratatouille.

Ratatouille with Herb Corn Topping

For my ratatouille, I generally do a combination of summer squash, tomatoes, onions and eggplant. I didn’t have eggplant available this time around, but I did have corn, so I whipped up this fancy-but-not-actually-fancy topping.

The corn adds an extra sweetness and crunch, which pairs well with the creamy grains placed beneath it. It’s also adds just one extra summery touch to a bowl full of already natural August goodness.

Ratatouille with Herb Corn Topping

Again, when veggies are fresh and local, you really needn’t do much to them but put them together and let their flavors swim free. Ready in 45 minutes or less (depending on your grain choice), this recipe lends itself well to a weeknight meal that’ll leave you feeling great. Pair with a side of protein, or sprinkle some toasted walnuts on top and call it a meal. Then most importantly, let your fork get in on that good.

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Zucchini Noodles with Summer Sauce and Avocado Cream

Pasta la vista wheat noodles. There’s a new, much lighter, more summery, awesome-sauce pasta in town. And it goes by the name of Zucchini Noodles.

Today, I’m sending a hello to the early August garden. With it is coming a hello to noodles in my bowl that allow me to go in for seconds, maybe even thirds, without feeling weighed or wheated down.

The zucchini noodle is one that’s taken the Internet world by a rage, and I’m coming with it –and for good reason, too.

Zucchini Noodles with Summer Sauce and Avocado Cream

Similar to my coconut flake mission I described for this recipe, my mission for finding a julienne peeler to make these noodles was not a short one. Many steps were taken, and many stores were visited for the making of this recipe. Fortunately, no humans were harmed, even after a slight hangryness set in.

Apparently in Philadelphia, kitchen stores like to take off the very same days that this girl likes to create a big, food-filled mess in the kitchen. So on Sunday, off I went by foot to three different places across the city until I finally came across the right peeler to craft this recipe. Well worth it, I assure you.

I also assure you it shouldn’t be that hard to find the tool you need for zucchini noodles, nor will it be expensive. Most kitchen stores have julienne peelers, which do the trick, and mine cost me just $8. You can also use a tool called a Spiralizer, but don’t ask me about the specifics. I chose to go for the cheaper and smaller option, i.e., the peeler.

Zucchini Noodles

You should find the julienne peeler rather easy to use. Simply place your zucchini on a flat surface, and slide its blade from one end to the other. Repeat until you get down to the end.

I placed my leftover zucchini scraps that didn’t make it through the peeler right into the blender to make my avocado cream. Just give them a quick chop, and they should easily meld into the cream.

With a bowl full of the whole summer garden – sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, fresh herbs – this is a good place to start the zucchini noodle marathon that’s bound to follow. Here, you get a whole bunch of fresh ingredients to keep things light, but also a richness from the avocado that pulls it all together. For presentation purposes, keep it all separate like pictured below. But you’ll definitely want to give everything a good mixing with your fork before diving in. Let me know what you think!

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Summer Herb Wheat Berry Salad

What’s a wheat berry?

Remember that time back in 5th grade, when you entered that gum-chewing marathon, and you tried to fit a whole roll of Bubble Tape in your mouth? And remember how your jaw felt afterwards? Essentially, a wheat berry is a grain that’ll bring that same sensation, likely after one large bowl or 20 minutes of chewing.

It’s a jaw workout-and-a-half.  But one that’s oh so worth it, with the right flavors piled in, and in the summertime, that’s easy.

Summer Herb Wheat Berry Salad

In reality, a wheat berry is a whole wheat kernel, dressed to the nines in its bran, germ, and endosperm. I.e., whole wheat flour, before it is milled.

All these extra layers give the wheat a style best defined as “chewy”, which is one that compliments a good salad quite well. It’ll bring your lettuce leaves quite the stylish, texture-filled flair, and a bunch of protein and fiber, too. Oh, and a whole host of energizing B vitamins as well. I’ll happily chew on that.

Summer Herb Wheat Berry Salad

Rather than throw a handful on top of some not fully in season lettuce leaves, I decided to create a wheat berry centered salad that celebrate some of my favorite flavors of summer — tomatoes, cukes, and herbs. There is no easier way to add robust flavor than with fresh herbs, and this recipe really packs that in.

Summer Herb Wheat Berry Salad

Oregano, basil, and parsley? Move over cheese – you’re not needed in this salad. (Although, if your heart desires, I’d suggest a goat or Greek feta. Both would compliment what’s already a plentifully flavored salad.)

Feel free to play around with the combination of herbs you use, just make sure you don’t hold back on how much you throw into the bowl. Wheat berries are hardy, and can use all the loving they can get from the light flavors with which you surround them. Plus, all of the taste you add is what will make their inherent chewiness an asset. Who wouldn’t want to chew on something tasty for a few extra minutes? CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Herb and Black Soybean Hummus

Slowly. Day by day. I’m getting one step closer to turning into a cucumber. A cucumber who’s getting married to a bottle of vinegar. Sometimes the onions walk in, and the tears of joy cry down on this union. I’m just waiting for the tomato to make it official.

Unfortunately, tomato season rarely coincides with cucumber season, except for a few dangling days at the latter one’s end. But that’s okay. I don’t want to be officially wedded to vinegar. And I don’t I very much like the sound of calling myself a cucumber either. Nor do I really like where this paragraph is going. So let’s cut it at that.

However, I have been eating a ton and ton of cucumbers. Averaging 1-2 per day. And still waiting on the perfect tomato to join them in my bowl of vinegar.

Basil

Though I’m longing for tomatoes to come join my cukes, it’s hard to say eating gets much better than now, in the late months of summer. Fortunately I live in a city submerged with farmers’ markets, and can also retreat to my mom’s house, currently flooded with cucumbers.

With all of the summer produce coming in, this calls on the need for protein-packed dishes to pair with it.

Nearly as easy as slicing a cuke, hummus forever remains one of my go-to’s.

Summer basil

This particular hummus differs from your classic chickpea version by using black soybeans, a high protein legume that tastes kind of like black beans. For that reason, this to me naturally went very well with guacamole and salsa, too. Feel free to swap the basil for cilantro to stick to a full-blown Mexican theme.

Herb and Black Soybean Hummus I went with basil because that’s what was in the garden, and I was initially envisioning this spread on a sandwich with thinly sliced cucumbers. Also snapped a few photos of my lovely friend Laura while picking it. You choose what to put it on. Just don’t forget the scallions on top.

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