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bulgur

Kale and Strawberry Salad over Bulgur Wheat

Kale and Strawberry Salad

Strawberry picking in the city is a funny thing. Or I guess I should technically say just outside the city – the ‘burbs.

You see, where I grew up, when you wanted to pick fruit, you drove to the local farm. You’d stop and say hello with one of the old-timers, who was of course part of the family farm. Usually, he be missing a few teeth. Always, he’d be armed with directions to the sweetest patch of fruit. He’d give you a basket or box to go pick, and then you’d be on your way.

It was always a swell time.

Kale and Strawberry Salad

In (or just outside) the city, it’s certainly a swell time, too. But the scene looks a little (and by that I mean a lot) different.

When you roll up to the ‘burbs farm, or at least the one I recently visited, you find not old geezers hanging around in their holey shirts and overalls. Nope. Instead, you find a parking lot packed with 200+ cars. I kid you not.

You also find kids. And cameras. And hot dog stands. And maybe even a carnival ride. Not sure if that last part actually existed where I went, but there was definitely some kind of train riding and face painting action going on, and I felt as though I might as well have been at a carnival. Although again, the only thing that was missing was the guys with no teeth.

What really set the experience apart, however, was the part where I had to pay $5 before even going to pick the strawberries I dreamt about all morning. Pay-before-you-pick? City picking isn’t cheap, I tell you. In fact, you might be better off just buying a few pints at the store. But that’s obviously no fun, right? It’s okay. I ate my weight in strawberries while out in the field to make up for it.

Kale and Strawberry Salad

I left my gorging-on-strawberries, red-stained, kid-like self in the strawberry field, and decided to become an adult again once I returned home. The results are this salad.

After this, I can tell you for once, I feel okay about getting older. Strawberries in my kale salad? Heck, I’ll call myself an adult any day if that’s what comes from it. Just don’t quote me on that when I’m eating a large bowl of strawberries and ice cream for dessert. And the strawberry juice is running all down my face. Because I’m licking the bowl. Because I’m a kid. At heart.

A little salty (thank you feta), a little sweet (cheers to local strawberry season), and a little earthy (thank you almighty kale), this salad hits every note in all the right ways. Plate it up over cooked bulgur to make it a meal, or send it off to a picnic and become the star of the party.  It won’t let you down – even if your strawberry experience is a bit more dubious.

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Vegan Eggplant Rollatini

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini

I’ve happily walked into the life of someone who owns a grill. And a pool. Seeing as though I live in a small, city apartment with not even an inch of backyard space, this new addition to my life overcomes me with joy. I’m not talking about the new friend. Just the swimming and the grilling. (Kidding, of course).

While as a kid I had more than enough yard for forts and capture the flag, I didn’t grow up with a grill. Or a pool. But I begged my parents for both. I can see why they didn’t want to take on the latter, but the absence of a grill is still something I’ve never quite figured out. When veggies are in season, I find it to be one of the easiest ways to create a healthy plate full of flavor.

As of lately, I’ve been using my friend’s grill to feast on a ton of portobello mushrooms. It’s as simple as whisking up a 3-ingredient marinade of garlic, olive oil and splash of balsamic. From there, just throw those saucy rounds to the flame. Easy. Add some melted cheese, toast up a bun, and you’ve got summer’s easiest vegetarian burger.

Eggplant

Before I discovered my new friend had grill access, I invited him over for post-yoga dinner of Eggplant Rollatini. If I would’ve known about his backyard status, I would’ve saved this one for a later date. There are only so many eggplant slices you can fit on a countertop George Foreman. Chilling outside while waiting for food to char is one thing. Chilling inside, impatiently counting the minutes till the next batch, is another. Times that by four batches, and you get the true 2-br Philly apartment grilling experience.

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini

If you have a backyard grill, by all means, use it for this recipe. If you don’t, but have a grill pan or other smaller device, I assure you, the slight impatience you may suffer through will be worth the results. Take the time to slice and cook through several batches. Grilling the eggplant first ensures you won’t end up with a chewy, undercooked rollatini. If there’s anything that can easily ruin an eggplant parm or rollatini, it’s an undercooked base. Don’t let that happen.

Here, I’ve created a vegan version of the Italian classic by using a ricotta-like crumbled tofu and then adding bulgur wheat for a little extra texture. Herbs and nutritional yeast make sure this is by no means a flavorless vegan dish, and marinara seals the deal to compliment all the flavors. If you’re lucky, eat this pool-side or deck-side. If you’re not, don’t sweat it. Literally. Grab a beer, open the window and enjoy.

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Vegan Bean and Sausage Chili

Whew. Just got back from a 9-hour photoshoot with a great crew of people. The only downside to the day was an icy bike ride over and a finger-numbing ride home.  I’ve gotten so used to the light jacket-friendly days of January that this below-freezing weather nonsense in February feels preposterous.

I’ll gladly admit I’m a winter-hater, but it does provide a pretty good excuse to cook up some chili. Nothing feels better than coming home on a frigid evening to a hot bowl of chili, accompanied by a side of corn bread if I’m lucky.

The following recipe creates a hearty dish showcasing several meat-free, protein-packed ingredients. Here, kidney beans team up with vegan sausage to provide around 13 grams of protein per serving.  Served atop a 1/4 cup of bulgur (one serving), and you tack another 5 grams on to the meal.  Who says protein has to mean meat?

This dish is also brimming with flavor.  The beans and sausage simmer their juices with those of tomatoes, while being infused with the flavors of chili powder and smoked paprika.  Portobellos add that “meatiness” you’d expect from a protein-filled meal, and cilantro tops it off with a vivacious bang of freshness.  This is  F-F-F chili, vegan style.

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Black Bean Chili Atop Bulgur Wheat

Beans and grains. Always a go-to combo. in my kitchen. I almost always have a can of beans in the pantry, ready to be paired with some onions, peppers, and/or mushrooms hanging out in the fridge. And on any given day, you’re bound to find enough grains stashed in my place to feed an army. Who knows when the next round of hungry troopers are going to show up at my front door. Thank god for the bulk section in the grocery store, right?

When I first began dabbling with cooking, I’d make black beans and rice at least once a week. It’s a sturdy meal, filled with all the right nutrients and heartiness that an active girl like me needs. While not on my weekly menu anymore, I still cook up black beans quite a bit. In the following recipe, I created a saucy, spicy dish packed with flavor and perfect for topping a no-fuss, lightly seasoned portion of bulgur wheat.

Black Bean Chili Atop Bulgur Wheat

-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-1 green pepper, diced
-1 1/2 jalapeno, minced
-8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
-1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, diced
-2-15 oz. cans of black beans, one drained, one undrained
-1 Tbsp. chili powder
-2 tsp. coriander
-1 tsp. smoked paprika
-1 tsp. sugar
-1/4 cup tomato paste
-1/4 cup parsley, loosely packed, chopped (Feel free to go with the traditional cilantro, but I wanted to switch it up a bit and use some parsley I saved from the garden..added a nice hint of freshness)
-3 cups bulgur wheat
-Sour cream, optional
-Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic, and pepper for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and jalepeno, sauteing until mushrooms are tender, 6-8 minutes. Stir in chili powder, coriander, paprika, tomato paste, sugar, and salt, to taste. Add black beans plus cooking liquid of one can and parsley. Cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve atop bulgur wheat drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Top with sour cream, if desired.

Bulgur Stuffed Peppers

With a few last bell peppers still camping out in the summer garden, I snagged them all up this past weekend before they went to the ground. Initially planning on throwing them in with some other veggies and doing a veggie roast, I decided instead to do something more creative:  Stuffed peppers.

I packed the peppers with iron-rich bulgur wheat, threw in a few herbs and a fresh chili for a kick of heat, and then ended up adding some soy crumbles at the last minute for a boost of protein.  If you’re not a fan of soy protein, try tossing in beans, chopped nuts, or a combination of the two instead.

Carrying with it both a lightness of summer and a heartiness suited for fall, this was the perfect meal to end a slightly cool, late October day.  Feel free to top the peppers with cheese (such as parmesan or feta) for an extra element of flavor, or keep it vegan like I often prefer to do.

Vegan Bulgur Stuffed Peppers

  • -3 large bell peppers, or 4 small/medium-sized peppers
  • -1 small onion, chopped
  • -3 cloves garlic, minced
  • -1 chili pepper, minced
  • -1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • -1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
  • -1 cup Morning Star Soy Crumbles (or an equivalent soy-based crumble)
  • -1 Tbsp. dried basil
  • -1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for topping
  • -1 cup reserved pepper water
  • -1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • -Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:  Bring large pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, slice top off of peppers, and discard seeds and membranes.  Chop excess pepper remaining around tops, and set aside.  Submerge peppers in boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove and set aside, saving 1 cup of water used for boiling peppers.

Preheat oven 350F.  Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Saute onion, garlic, bell pepper, and chili pepper 6-8 minutes, until tender.  Add basil and bulgur, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook an additional minute.  Stir in tomatoes and one cup of pepper water.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Add soy crumbles, and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Stir in parsley and remove from heat.  Adjust salt and pepper, to taste.

Place peppers in a lightly greased baking dish.  Use a spoon to stuff peppers with bulgur mixture.  Lightly drizzle olive oil over top.  Cover with aluminum foil, and place in oven.  Bake 30 minutes, or until fork tender.  Remove cover and bake an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve.