Quinoa Pizza Crust with Butternut Squash and Tahini Sauce

At the arrival of spring last week, sitting in a wooden basket in the corner of my kitchen, one lone butternut squash remained. A butternut from last year’s fall harvest and my days selling and slinging veggies at a weekly Saturday farmer’s market. Oh how time flies. And yet how sturdy and strong winter squash can stand through it all.

When I get all sorts of confused about life, which seems to happen a lot as a transient 20-something college grad, I remind myself to think like a butternut. Stay strong on the outside, but sweet and a little nutty on the inside, with the ability to open up and get all soft when the right times arrives. (That analogy is my nuttiness coming out…but I do quite adore and look up to the butternut.)

Red Quinoa

As time is flying, another growing season is upon us, and I am beyond psyched. Living in a city, I don’t yet have a garden of my own, but I do have some plans to get involved with some urban farms this summer, and of course, return home to help my parent’s kick butt in their own backyard plots. Heck yeah for spring. And please move a little faster! (It snowed here last night. I’m not the fighting kind of gal, but I sincerely wanted to punch the sky in the face.)

Until then, I feel fortunate to be savoring the last of the cold weathered season. With one golden squash remaining in my basket, I wanted to make sure it received some memorable treatment. As soon as I saw this pizza recipe from Dishing Up the Dirt, it was a no-brainer as to where that squash would be heading. The uniqueness of this dish had me hooked!

Quinoa Pizza Crust with Butternut Squash and Tahini Sauce

After making this pizza, I can 100% say that if you don’t already have a butternut laying around in your own home, it’s worth making the trip out to buy one. This was awesome! I honestly wish I could say I made up this recipe on my own because I just love how creative it is…I mean, quinoa-based crust made with a little love from the food processor?! How cool is that. (Props to you Andrea.)

Tahini Sauce

This obviously isn’t your traditional cheesy, red-sauced ‘za. But if you were craving that, you probably wouldn’t be eyeing this recipe anyway. The good news? It’s will make for an every-bit-as-satisfying pizza night, especially once you get that tahini sauce drizzling on top. This is the kind of healthy app I’d love to see at a restaurant. It feels light but rich all at the same time. If that makes any sense. Make this yourself, and you’ll get what I mean.

Quinoa Pizza Crust with Butternut Squash and Tahini Sauce

The pizza does take several steps to make, but all are incredibly easy to execute. A simple 3-ingredient quinoa crust presents a base for a naturally creamy sauce stemming from butternut squash – i.e., no dairy needed. It gives a very gentle sweetness that contrasts with the mildly tangy tahini dressing that goes on top. I’m always in favor of a saucy pizza. With this pizza, you get to have two. Their richness (though as I mentioned before, not in a heavy way) is cut by cilantro, and are then finished with a crunch via fresh chickpeas on top. A pizza that has everything going for it – health included. Heck yeah.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Edamame

I go through a lot of ingredient phases. Last month it was tahini. (Although, that phase never really ends). This month, it’s turmeric. Turmeric’s  going into my morning smoothies, my lunchtime collard wraps, my afternoon tea, my salad dressings, my dinnertime peanut sauces, etc. It’s a turmeric takeover, and my orange-stained cutting boards are hating me for it. Good thing the love from my body makes up for that, and that’s what really counts, right?

Peanut Turmeric Rice Bowls with Edamame

It took me awhile to get the turmeric bug. I grew up on the spice, but was never really fond of it. In fact, once I was old enough to recognize its flavor, there were multiple occasions where I’d beg my mom not to put it in the dishes she would make. I thought it was bitter, and ruined everything it touched. So, like the teenage version of a little kid pulling at their parent’s pant leg, my easily irritable self would sit at the dinner table, and go, “UGH, MOM, turmeric again? Did you have to? What were you thinking?” I was annoying. And I know it even more so now that I’ve fallen into a deep love with the spice, one I once held as my enemy. Sorry mom. You were right. Turmeric is awesome. And I know what you were thinking.

Compliment it with a little salt and a fat, such as olive oil, or in this recipe, peanut butter/sesame oil, and its bitterness turns into a toastiness so pungent and aromatic, it’s hard not to be won over. (Although, be prepared to employ some repetition in introducing little kid taste buds to it. It’ll never become an overly sweet spice, like cinnamon.)

Edamamae

Now, without even thinking, turmeric automatically gets thrown into everything. Although, rarely is it intentional, and naturally such is the case here. Just like with my morning smoothies and my blender, as the food processor was whizzing for this peanut sauce, the turmeric jar caught my eye. Then came the uncontrollable impulse to throw two teaspoons into its ingredient whirl. Within minutes, my originally calculated dinner took off with a whole new personality. Kitchen spontaneity, at its best. Again, turmeric is showing me it can do no wrong. I like a meal with a little attitude, and that’s exactly what it brought to this.

And now that I’ve gushed about turmeric for far too many WordPress lines…can we talk about the natural beauty of edamame?! In reality, they should’ve really been the primary focus of this blog post. After all, they were the inspiration for this meal. Crunchy, and packed with protein, the green pods make a nice addition to grains, and allow for a pleasant change of pace from beans, my typical sidekick to rice. After you add in the turmeric and pile on some kale, you’re left with an incredibly flavorful and nutrient-packed meal. As with turmeric, those kind of meals will never do you wrong.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Soaking dried pinto beans

A lot, a lot of taco nights go down in my house. Tacos are easy. Beans are cheap. And it’s hard to go wrong with a bunch of flavors wrapped up into one. Plus, any excuse to pull out a few avocados is a welcomed one.  The phrase “holy guacamole” didn’t come from nowhere. I mean, we all know guacamole is holy in every sense of its being.

Vegetarian tacos

Generally I make my own guac, but on very rare occasions I’ll just pick some up at the store. However, I always make my beans from scratch, if that is what’s to be at the center of the night’s tacos. (Sometimes I opt for ingredients like butternut and goat cheese instead.) Refried beans are incredibly simple to whip up and are truly better than any pre-made versions at the store. There’s something about the freshness you get from doing it yourself…kind of like most things you do yourself. But with refried beans, it’s particularly noticeable.

If you want to really take the homemade superiority to the next level, start with dried beans.

Soaking dried pintos

As opposed to pre-cooked ones in a can, dried beans let you go through a simmering process that really cooks them down and makes them all creamy inside. Then, you get their juices to pull back into your saute process, which makes the whole refried bean mixture that much creamier. The two steps required for this are painless and are totally worth the bit of waiting time required. (Don’t tell anyone, i.e. my landlord, but I let my beans slowly simmer on the stove while I jetted out for a run. My apartment survived.)

Last weekend I hosted a taco night, which is where this was born. This year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations looked more like Cinco De Mayo, and I’m 100% okay with that. The sentiment of cooking up a huge pot of beans for a night with friends is always a warm one. And I mean really, what’s better than a taco night with your pals or your family, especially when everyone’s put in charge with crafting their favorite ingredient? Add fresh mint mojitos (not the Tecate that we were surviving off of) and a few board games to the table, and it’s hard to think of a place I’d rather be. I’m already ready for the next one.

Given this was for taco night, the following recipe is designed to serve a crowd. However, it could easily be cut in half for taco nights with less people. Just whatever you do, don’t cut the guacamole from your topping list!

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Tahini Goddess Dressing

It’s not all that infrequent that I’m caught engaging in a long, passionate conversation about tahini.  Me and tahini are good friends. And me and tahini make new friends together.

Somehow in recent months, it’s been showing up a lot. At random parties. At bars. At food events. There I am, talking about tahini. You could say it’s kind of like the weather, although a much more dynamic discourse.

Soom tahini

As such, bonding sessions over its magnificence aren’t uncommon in my life, nor are shared meals with tahini at the center. I go through a lot of jars, and there’s an instant connection with others I meet who do too.

So, of course, I was thrilled to come across Soom Foods Tehina, a new company started by three sisters in my very own city. Girlpower + tahini (aka, tehina) + Philadelphia…boom.

Without much effort, these ladies convinced Zahav — undeniably not just one of the best Israeli spots but also one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia — to switch completely over to their tahini. When I got word of that, the rest was history. I needed to try Soom’s Tehina. And before Zahav took it all. (They go through 100 lbs each week! The owner/chef also has a hummus restaurant in the works…)

As written on the jar, “Soom Foods was founded by three sisters, Shelby, Jackie and Amy Z (SheJAmz for short). Shelby had a business degree. Jackie married a Tehina expert. And Amy needed a job.” What’s come of it? A paste made from white Humera sesame seeds that’s starting to gain some buzz. It’s the high quality Humera seeds that distinguish Soom Foods. They provide a rich, smooth, oiliness that’s just not quite there in standard tahini you’d get. Like a good peanutty version, this is the kind of butter you could eat by the spoon.

Clearly though, it’s best in recipes like this. Tahini dressings are my jam – for roasted broccoli (Dishing Up The Dirt knows what I’m talking about!), for grain + veggie bowls (see suggestion to follow), for salads, veggie sticks, and more. It’s a great go-to to have stored in the fridge for when you want to whip up a quick, simple dinner and have an addicting sauce to pour over it. Steam up some veggies and/or cook up some grains/lentils/beans, add this, and you’ve got a memorable meal after very little effort.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

Beet Pesto Pasta with Goat Cheese Over Arugula

Pink is not my color. And it really never has been.

As a kid, I preferred blue, which fared quite nicely for my parents who stuffed me in hand-me-downs from my brother. That’s okay. I wasn’t ever really a dress girl either. I was a tree-climbing wannabe tomboy. Scraped knees were better for keeping up that persona than pink dresses, as probably were oversized clothes.

The only time I did wear pink was when my parents dressed my 3-year-old self up in a puffy pink princess gown for a Halloween event. I took home first place at the event’s costume contest. That I’ll attribute to the itchy goldilocks wig they also placed atop my head. I haven’t worn pink since.

arugula

Today, I love dresses. And nail polish. And climbing trees too. Naturally, I’m a hodgepodge of my younger self and older years. Part lover of fashion, hater of shopping, adventurer of trees and urban landscape.

I still don’t love pink when it comes to clothes, but when it comes to the kitchen, I can’t get enough of it. There’s nothing uglier than a bright pink shirt (in most cases), but there’s little else more beautiful than a bowl of pink pasta. The beet-dyed strands like the ones pictured above make my heart melt for magenta.

Beet Pesto Pasta with Goat Cheese Over Arugula

This has been my year of the beet, which has infused a love, almost a need, for its color in any situation possible. A little goes a long way, like in this rice and quinoa tabbouleh, and the pesto recipe that follows.

Beet Pesto Pasta with Goat Cheese Over Arugula

Here, it keeps basil pesto from turning a putrid green, sweeping in with its dye to prevent any pitfalls of oxidization. The beet will add a slight earthiness to the pesto, but is far from prominent in flavor. Rather, it shines in its color, which pairs so naturally well with vibrant arugula and the amenable tones of pasta.

Arugula

The goat cheese is optional, so feel free to skip it all together if you’re vegan or dabbling in dairy-free. It adds a slight tang to play off the mild sweetness of the beets, but a few sliced tomatoes could work just as well.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…