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Broccoli

Asian Broccoli and Eggplant with Tempeh

Asian Broccoli and Eggplant with Tempeh

As I relayed in my last post, I made a big move last weekend.

In reality I guess it could’ve been bigger. Me, and all my stuff, simply switched neighborhoods in my current city of Philadelphia. But, it was a big upgrade from my last residence — especially in terms of the kitchen.

Without many tears, I said goodbye to slanted linoleum floors. A goodbye to minimal counter space. And a huge audios to my old ’70s-styled kitchen.

Ah. That felt good.

Eggplant and broccoli

I will miss being steps away from the cheap, bustling, food-filled Italian Market of my former ‘hood. I will miss the park on my old corner. I will miss the 2-block walking distance of my favorite restaurant. I will miss a lot of things.

However, I am happy to report this recent life change feels better than expected. I’m realizing I lived in an entirely too small apartment for two years too many. No regrets though, right? It just means more things to look forward to, and more appreciation for this next change in life.

Asian Broccoli and Eggplant with Tempeh

Anyway, to celebrate the move, I christened my new kitchen not more than a day after putting all the plates I brought with me into its cabinets. It happened to be a Sunday, and in my book, a Sunday not spent adventuring in a new place is then automatically destined to be spent with wooden spoon in hand. After the whole moving process, no trips were in store. So instead, a Sunday afternoon of cooking was planned. I was more than ready to put that new counter space to use.

Broccoli and Eggplant

The first culinary creation of my new house? This one, of course, filled with summer eggplant and a simple pairing of Asian flavors. A little salty – thanks to some soy sauce. Mildly sweet – thank you Hoisin. And of course, needed hints of freshness with the help of my friend, cilantro.

All of these favorite characteristics pair well with eggplant that gets cooked till its creamy, and broccoli that throws back a bit of crispness to this dish. Add some tempeh for a little nutty protein, and place it all over rice, and you’ve got one heck of a meal.

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Tahini Goddess Dressing

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.

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Winter Nourish Bowl with Green Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Winter Nourish Bowl with Green Pumpkin Seed Sauce

I should’ve planned out the beginning of this year better.

I worked pretty hard at the end of last year. At one point, I was juggling 5 jobs. Literally. (The woahs of freelance life are, well, filled with woah.)

If I were smart, I would’ve planned a getaway for the first few months of 2014 to the land of warmth and the free. What land that might be, I don’t really care. This past week in Philadelphia was brutal, and I would’ve killed to be working remotely in a far away town. You feel me? Add some waves and fresh fruit, and we could’ve really rung in the New Year right. Forget all this cold January nonsense.

Cilantro

Looks like I’ll be hustling extra hard to make that happen next winter. Another New Years resolution to add to the list? Maybe. For all you other northeasterns (and everywhere else it’s cold), I say we do it together.

In the meantime, you can find me snuggling up with warm bowls of comfort like this. Think lots of hearty winter squash and sweet potatoes, and nourishing whole grains and legumes. This will be a year of health, an on-going resolution I strive to keep because I know when I’m eating my best, I’m feeling my best. I’m sure you can agree.

Winter Veggies

This particular wholesome meal was triggered by a recipe I saw on My New Roots. Sarah, the author, runs the kind of blog I could stare at for hours, filled with tons of inspiring photos and lots of inventive healthy recipes. Check her out if you don’t know her already.

Winter Nourish Bowl with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Feel free to add your own winter ingredients to this. I could envision steamed turnips thrown on top, or kohlrabi sliced into matchsticks and included with the raw component. Toasted sesame seeds make a great addition too. I tossed a few on top the next day.

Winter Nourish Bowl with Green Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Stay warm my friends, and enjoy!

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Pumpkin Coconut Veggie Curry over Black Rice

Pumpkin Coconut Veggie Curry over Black Rice

I’ve been doing a ton of cooking with friends lately, which I love. There’s something special about gathering around cutting boards and cookbooks, and creating something from scratch. Especially when it means spending time with people who make you laugh and forget all your worries. Nights of food and laughter will always be my favorite.

This month has been filled with lots of those, making it feel as if Christmas came early. Minus all the Christmas cookies. I have yet to bake one holiday treat this year! Gasp. Throw me some ideas, friends. This weekend, I  shall bake. And get down with some DIY gifting.

Because all that free time spent cooking lately means I have lots and lots of gifting to catch up on this weekend. Cue morning yoga and evening wine to keep my sanity. And some of this leftover pumpkin coconut curry from an earlier silliness-filled cooking sesh with the help of Louie, my new sous chef. (Every food blogger needs a sous chef, right? My mom likes to think I need a dishwasher, too…but that’s another story.)

Pumpkin Coconut Veggie Curry over Black Rice

Coconut curry holds a sweet spot in my life. As of lately, black rice does too. Combine the two, and you’re in for a treat. Not only does the orange pumpkin in this recipe look beautifully with the rice, but it compliments its nuttiness as well.

Creamy and slightly rich, but packed full of so many healthy ingredients, this is the kind of meal to bring out when dining with company. Want to show the world vegan food can taste great? Make coconut curry. And add pumpkin, cashews, veggies and cilantro.

This is not faint on flavor. Add it to your dinner rotation and it too will feel like Christmas came early, all times of the year.

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Black Rice + Photo Fun

I have not been creating recipes these past few days because, well, I’ve been creating photos. Of course many of these are food-related because what do I love more than experimenting with my camera, and food, and the friendly faces in my life? Little else.

Carrot fashionBroccoli FashionGarlicBrussels SproutsField Still LifeCool sky.

Black rice

On a side note, I have been very much enjoying black rice as of lately. One, its color is  beautiful. And two, it has a flavor all in its own that begs to be saved with delicate seasoning. Here, I sautéed mustard greens in a bit of olive oil and garlic, then gave them a chop before adding to a big bowl of cooked black rice. I seasoned this with toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, and red chili pepper flakes, and cracked a fried egg on top. If you plan to recreate, salt and pepper, to your taste, and throw some cilantro in too, as I did, if you please. Hot sauce would really seal the deal.