Italian Roasted Eggplant Tabbouleh

Spring has arrived in Philadelphia. Finally.

As I sit writing this post, the window to my left sits open, allowing a cool, but not too cool, breeze to flow in.

I could end my post here.

Spring is here, and that’s really all that needs to be said, right?

Italian Roasted Eggplant Tabbouleh

With these first few 70-degree days, I’m already feeling revived. My impulses to cook are breaking out of their winter hibernation and are quickly kicking back in. And my excitement for my new community garden plot is building by the minute.

Italian Roasted Eggplant Tabbouleh

Hopefully, this garden will yield lots of fresh veggies this summer, which will then propel lots of seasonal, healthy recipes for you on this blog. A garden is my ideal summer project. If such a project could make any money, and didn’t attempt to kill me while doing so, I’d already have quit my day job by now. I could spend every waking second outdoors and not get bored.

In fact, I did that for a few summers. My body wasn’t entirely quite as thrilled with me as my mind. But both still long for those days.

Perhaps one day, my camera will reunite me with farm life. Dream.

Italian Roasted Eggplant TabboulehThis easy tabbouleh (pilaf? casserole? whatever you want to call it?) is also kind of dreamy. Filled with creamy roasted eggplant and topped with not-to-be-taken-for-granted pine nuts, this is my attempt to swap pasta for whole grains and create a dish that’s equally as delicious. It worked.

Add some cheese on top, and you’ll create an even richer lunch and/or dinner for yourself. And once summer tomatoes arrive, definitely throw a few slices of those on top, too.

Italian Roasted Eggplant Tabbouleh

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Roasted Carrot and Quinoa Pilaf with Feta

Guys. Gals.

Yesterday I received some incredible news.

I’m going to have a garden plot in one of my favorite community gardens in Philadelphia!! I have been dreaming of this day since I first laid eyes many years ago on the magical oasis currently plopped right in the center of what’s now my neighborhood. It’s dreamy. And green. And filled with dirt, and creatures, and veggies, and all the other outdoor components I miss often from my farmer days.

Roasted Carrot and Quinoa Pilaf with Feta

Spaces like these are in hot demand in the city, which of course is no surprise. Generally, they’re locked down with a waiting list so full of names that you could’ve moved to three other towns within the time that they call your name.

Luckily, my roommate and amigo has had her name on that list for three years. And yesterday, she got THE call. I moved into her house a few months ago, and am thrilled to have stumbled into this situation. I am more than excited to scheme up how we are going to takeover the world…I mean, this new 10×10 foot of land.

Roasted Carrots

This was obvious reason to celebrate, and what better way to celebrate a new garden than with roasted carrots? (I would also argue these veggie tats are an excellent source of celebration. But that’s aside the point.)

One of my favorite veggies to grow is carrots because they simply taste 10 times better from the ground than they do from the plastic bags you get at the supermarket.

That thought has me chowing down on this light and healthy pilaf, rich in flavor and salty, feta + sunflower seed goodness. That saltiness gets balanced with a touch of sweetness, derived from both caramelized onions and earthy carrots, to create a well-rounded side dish or lunch.

Sure, those carrots pictured above are from Trader Joe’s…but this recipe’s in honor of my carrot-filled dreams and optimism for spring, when I’ll be eating out of my own garden. Cheers to that!

Roasted Carrot and Quinoa Pilaf with Feta  CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Spring Salad with Hard Boiled Egg and Feta

We’re about to touchdown into my favorite half of the year –  that magical time of spring and summer! According to the calendar, we’ve already made landing there, but Philly seems to be dragging its feet a little. Today, I awoke to a balmy 39 degrees. Only a little short of paradise…

As the shining sun spreads its rays into my window, screaming, “patience grasshopper”, I’ve quickly begun moving my kitchen into spring mode. Late March has launched a revival that fills me with happy anticipation and my fork full of salad greens. Pretty soon, roasted asparagus spears will join us, and I’m ready for it all.

Colorful Eggs

As April nears, young lettuces and tender baby greens will be the first to fill the garden as well as local farmer’s markets. They’ll be paired with spring onions, and soon followed by radishes. All of these early ingredients are what inspired this simple recipe I unfold today. That, and those beautiful eggs you see pictured above, given to me by a new coworker who shares in my love of all things food.

When warm weather hits, I like to lighten up a bit on my plate. Salads like these frequently grace my diet, and leave me feeling every bit as fresh and lively as the produce that fills them. Quick and simple, they also leave me time to go wander around outside. Feel free to add nuts or toasted seeds to this for a little extra crunch, and perhaps pair it with a side of buttered toast, which will compliment both the eggs and greens.

Note, for hard boiling the egg, I use the Martha Stewart method. It works perfectly everytime. You may wish to also hard boil some additional eggs while you’re going through the process for the one in this salad. Keep them on hand for a quick, protein-packed snack. CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Vegetarian Pad Thai with Zucchini Noodles

Hey there. It’s been awhile.

Since my last post, the sunset has shifted. The weather began following suit. And the official mark of spring stands just a handful of days away. (!!!)

I am feeling good about what’s to come.

Vegetarian Pad Thai with Zucchini Noodles

In these last weeks of winter that have been rolling on by, I’ve been working on my first photo assignment for a cookbook. The experience has been fun. Full of learning. And food. And photos and taste-testing and excitement…all of which have pushed my own blog a little to the wayside.

However, last week wrapped the final day of shooting, and so now I return. To my own cooking, and my own blog, and my own urges for warm-weathered recipes, even if they’ve arrived just a tad too early.

It’s still winter jacket weather here in Philly…hence why these zucchini noodles got a quick saute on the stove. I may be ready for spring, but I’m not quite ready for raw zucchini noodles. You can go that route if you choose. Although, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

Peanuts

Here, zucchini and/or summer squash replace the noodles in traditional Pad Thai for a lighter version full of bright, spring vibes. The quick cook-time they get in the skillet draws out their flavor, and softens them up just a bit before they get paired with crunchy red cabbage, and an array of other flavorful accompaniments.

That’s one thing in which this Pad Thai does not fall short – flavor. Feel free to add a little Sriracha to play up its spice, and use a combination of nuts, like peanuts and cashews, if you so choose. Tofu could be a nice addition as well.

Cheers to ringing in the new season with a bowl full of color – you with me?!

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Savory Japanese Oats

“It’s a little too sweet. I’d like it better if it wasn’t so sweet.” “…Classic Grace.”

It’s a common dialogue between my friends and I. It’s also why I rarely order cocktails off a pre-made menu. Why I always opt to add my own sweetener to my yogurt. Order my coffee black. And prefer to make my own granola and salad dressings and desserts.

I don’t trust others to sweeten my food because it always turns out just “a little too sweet”! My friends would disagree with me on this. And I will agree to disagree, on most occasions.

Scallions

I’m not one of those puzzling non-dessert people. In fact, my sweet tooth can get a little out of hand sometimes. (Cue the disappearance of 1/2 of a dark chocolate bar  after intentions of only eating one square). But I do prefer everything on the bitter side. That means dark chocolate vs. milk. Froyo vs. gelato (a frequent trigger of that quoted dialogue above). Espresso vs. lattes. Beer vs. cocktails. Etc.

I love sugar. Just not in dominating amounts. Which means you’ll rarely find me ordering oatmeal at a restaurant because you’ll rarely find a restaurant serving oatmeal without sugar being the commander of its seasoning. (A spoonful of sugar’s needed to make the oatmeal go down? Some friends would agree with that too.)

Savory Japanese Oats

Often, I don’t want my oatmeal sweetened at all. My new obsession is savory oats, and if you haven’t tested this out yet, I recommend giving it a try.

Going the savory route creates a breakfast that feels so fresh and energizing, it’s hard to turn back. I know soy sauce on oats, and scallions too, might sound strange, but trust me on this one. It’s unique in all the right ways.

Purple Sweet Potato

Unique, kind of like purple sweet potatoes. Are these not gorgeous?! They’re totally worth the splurge at the grocery store if you can afford it, and also find them. To me, that smile that will come after piercing their just-baked skin and seeing their vibrancy is worth it alone.

Purple Sweet Potato

Yes, I play with my food sometimes.

Japanese Savory Oats

Here, the sweet potato adds a little sweetness that pairs well with the heat of the Sriracha and bite of the onion. Sesame and toasted nori continues to infuse the delicate oats so that each bite has a profusion of complimenting flavors. You could easily fry up an egg (or soft boil) and throw it on top for another dimension. Regardless, you’ll end up with an incredible, no-sugar-need bowl of oats that no one will say is “too sweet” and that everyone will say is pretty fantastic. And energizing, too.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…