Things I’m looking forward to this spring: Hiking, hanging with my homeboy Kale, gardening, fresh produce, swimming, being a goof, dancing at other people’s weddings, WARM WEATHER.

Things I likely won’t be doing this week: Food blogging.

60s all week here in Philly y’all. Enjoy these photos instead — some similar scenes I’m hopeful are soon to come!

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Cauliflower, Kale, and Lentil Ragout

I’m convinced I live in the best neighborhood in Philadelphia.

My apartment is just blocks away from the Mecca for persimmons by the bucket, 2-for-$1 avocados, and unlimited other cheap produce deals. AKA, the Italian Market. It also happens to be a prime destination for people-watching, which my camera and I enjoy quite often.

Cauliflower

Within this special place is Fante’s, a kitchen storefront with every type of gadget, pot, pan, canning material, etc. that you could ever need. You want an “asparagus steamer”? They’ve got it — along with special asparagus tongs, several kinds of asparagus peelers, and a platter to serve it all on. I  try not to frequent Fante’s because I also try not to let my bank account go underwater.  There’s a Whole Foods up the street that I save for that job.

Yes, just a few blocks in the other direction from my apartment lay two grocery stores. Whole Foods is one of them, and here I’m caught far too often fulfilling all my bulk food needs and trying to keep myself away from the hot bar. Sometimes I’ll nerd out with the Whole Foods employees about black rice and kombucha.

Cauliflower, Kale, and Lentil Ragout

In my ‘hood, Bella Vista, (in Italian, meaning “beautiful sight”), there are two wonderful yoga studios within walking distance, several coffee shops — one of which I’m convinced is in the running for the best iced coffee in the city — and an awesome spot to play late night pool.

On top of it all, it’s within biking distance of nearly every other main neighborhood I frequent in the city.

For me, it’s the place to be in the city, and for some reason I feel the need to write about this as the rain keeps me tucked inside my small apartment on its streets.

If I just had all of my friends here, a garden, a mountain, and a lake out my back door, I’d be set for life. Ha. While Bella Vista is awesome, I think “beautiful sight” by my standards might be a bit of an overstretch.

Kale and lentils

What is undoubtedly a beautiful site, however, is this mighty head of cauliflower I snagged yesterday at the market. And also this piece of fabric I picked up in fabric row, just another couple blocks away. A $2 piece of fabric and a $1.50 cauliflower + a priceless meal = beauty.

I whipped up a huge batch of this so I could freeze some of it for later meals. Feel free to cut the recipe in half if that’s not a project you want to do, or you don’t plan to feed a crowd.

The ragout itself is light, yet hearty, which I love. All of the spices make it feel rich, while its staples — cauliflower, kale, and lentils — keep it light. Top it with Parm or nutritional yeast, and it becomes a meal you could eat all week. What you place underneath is up to you, so you choose the grain/pasta that strikes your mood.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE…

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…