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pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seed Butter

Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seed Butter

I prefer pumpkin spice in my nut butter, not my coffee.

I’ve been using this batch of the creamy spread to slather on bread, spoon into oatmeal, and drizzle on breakfast sweet potatoes.

Breakfast Sweet Potato with Pumpkin Seed Butter

The recipe is simple, but you’ll need a solid food processor. And a little patience. As you watch the butter swirl round and round, achieving a creamy butter may at first seem impossible. But eventually, the seeds begin to slowly release their oils. This turns the consistency of the butter from chalky to velvety smooth.

Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking. You can also play around with toasting the seeds. Sometimes I’ll also add a few walnuts to the food processor, too.

Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seed Butter

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Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

The best Saturdays are ones where you wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and immediately start scheming lunch creations with your friend. (Foraging figs, going on a photo adventure, and scheming up breakfast, all follow close behind.)

This was the first full weekend I’ve been completely free in awhile. Two Philly mornings in a row with no set agenda. No photo gigs. No work engagements. No client meetings, camping trips, or out-of-town excursions.

While I love all of the above, it felt great. And it felt even greater once this socca landed on my Saturday plate.

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

On Friday night, I saw Aziz Ansari do stand-up. His act was hilariously relatable, to say the least, ranging from riffs on the factory meat industry to creepy boys to relationship vs. single life status. He hit all the right topics, and made my abs hurt from laughing so much.

Although, there was one joke with which I just couldn’t agree. And it had to do with carrots.

Carrots

You see, Aziz claims, you walk into a house and someone’s cooking bacon, and often you’ll say, “Plate me up a few pieces!” Aziz is convinced bacon exudes a pheromone-like lust that veggies just don’t have. He says, walk into a house where someone’s steaming carrots, and you won’t find anyone screaming, “Pull me up a plate of those.”

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

But Aziz, I must tell you, you’re wrong. This carrot-loving [weirdo?] individual would far prefer carrots to bacon. And no, not for health reasons. For taste.

Carrots are hands-down my favorite, and since the mention on Friday night, my Saturday morning mind inserted them straight into that afternoon’s lunch plans.

Roasted carrots? One of fall’s best assets, if I have to say so myself. Perhaps steaming wouldn’t do the trick, but throw carrots on a baking sheet and into the oven, and I bet at least a few would be enticed by the caramelized smell they give off. Plate me up, please.

Black lentils

With the orange beauties in mind, my friend and I got to work on this fall-inspired socca pizza.

Here, carrots are roasted up, and then pureed into a slightly sweet, slightly spicy curry sauce that lends itself perfectly to a flavorful flatbread destination. Topped with salty feta, fresh cilantro and some crispy baked onions, this is a better-than-restaurant-quality meal, fit into a single cast iron pan.

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

You’ll find multiple steps below in making this recipe. Don’t get intimidated. Each is simple, and you can get going on many of the layers simultaneously. For instance, as the carrots roast, prep everything else.

Roasted carrots

Far better than bacon? A definite. Stemming from carrots? Heck yeah.

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

You tell me – what healthy fall ingredients are on your mind? Any featuring veggies that you know could out-do bacon in a heartbeat? Please share!

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Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Sometimes, nothing is more beautiful than a simple bowl of pasta.

It’s when I’m really hungry that these words couldn’t feel more true, and this time of year, that means after a long, hot summer run. After one of those, first I want watermelon. And then I want pasta.

Summertime (er, late springtime). It feels so good.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

When the weather is nice, I spend a ton of time outside. More often than not, that means after work, I’m out strolling, cycling, running, or just hanging around until the sun just sets. I could be with my friends. I could be by myself. It doesn’t matter – when it’s warm out, I’m out. And I’m loving every minute of it.

However, this often leaves me locking up my bike at the end of the evening and heading inside with a sudden realization of hunger, and the urge to eat ASAP. Anyone else turn into a monster on occasion, too?

If so, you know that’s when simple recipes like this prove themselves to be rather handy.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Here, a quick saute of some onions, squash and spinach create a light and easy sauce for a meal you can make in under 30 minutes. It’s filling, yet not in the kind of way that will weigh you down on a balmy summer night, and is spruced up with parsley to make it feel extra fresh.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

I don’t cook with a butter a lot, but I find that adding a Tbsp. to this enhances the inherent butteriness of yellow summer squash. Feel free to use all olive oil if that’s your preference. However, a little browned butter goes a long way to enrich the sauce, and pairs well with the lemony tones of the parsley.

Also, be sure to stick with angel hair or spaghettini when choosing your whole wheat pasta. While this sauce is certainly flavorful, it’s delicate, so to truly experience all of its nuances, a thinner pasta works best.

Pasta_SummerSquash_blog

Pair this with a side salad, and a cold beverage of your choice, and you create a no-fuss summer meal for any night of the week.

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Grace’s Coconut Oat and Nut Granola

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Granola’s great in the summer. However, there’s something about heating up the oven, stirring up a large bowl of oats.  And then letting the warm, toasty smells fill the room while baking away the morning of a cold winter day. Call it winter solace. Granola solace. Call it whatever you want to describe a moment that sometimes just can’t be summed up in words.

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Coconut flakes are my new obsession, and I find them now to almost be a mandatory component of granola. I tracked through Philadelphia for nearly 2 hours – across 5 different stores – just to find them a few months ago, determined to make this Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Coconut Bacon. At the time, I was questioning my sanity. But after finally finding the flakes, and later obsessing over them during multiple cooking encounters, I am now questioning the sanity of the stores that are not carrying them.  Coconut flakes are worth every last step of an adventure to go find them.

For my Philly followers, check out Essene Market in Queen’s Village. For everyone else, I got tipped off along my travels that Vitacost.com is a good place to order coconut flakes.

Whatever you do, don’t succumb to buying the shreds. Unfortunately, they’re simply not the same as their larger, flakier counterpart.

Coconut Flake and Nut GranolaFeel free to play around with the nuts you use in your granola. I personally love a little variety. Pecans, walnuts & almonds are always a must for me, and various other seeds are generally just an added, crunchy health bonus.

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Spoon over hot or cold cereal in the morning, enjoy as is with milk, or simply pack a handful in a bag to eat on the run. Granola is a versatile, energy-packed snack, and when you make it yourself, you can ensure you’re fueling up on the good stuff. Forget chowing down on a bag of sugar and unnecessary processed ingredients. That’s no good. Plus, when you skip out on making it yourself, you miss that toasty smell from your oven like I mentioned before. Nothing beats that.

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Arugula Salad with Pomegranate and Blue Cheese

Pomegranate season is back in action.  With a huge box intersecting the first few steps of my most recent grocery store trip, I threw one into my basket without hesitation.  A rarity in my diet, I always look forward to using pomegranate seeds.  The antioxidant-rich fruit is significantly unique with its citrusy, cranberry-resembling flavor and crunchy, seed-like texture, and adds a nice touch to a variety of dishes.

In the following recipe, faintly sweet pomegranate seeds pair perfectly with peppery arugula and creamy blue cheese.  I toss the salad with a simple dressing and add a few pumpkin seeds for an extra element of crunch.  These are the kinds of easy to make, restaurant-esque salads that make me adore greens.

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate and Blue Cheese

(Per salad)

For the dressing:

-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
-1/2 tsp. agave
-Rounded 1/4 tsp. thyme
-Rounded 1/4 tsp. salt
-Rounded 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Whisk oil with vinegar until combined.  Add remaining ingredients, whisking until dressing is creamy and light.

For the salad:

-2 cups arugula
-1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
-1 wedge of Laughing Cow Light Blue Cheese (You can substitute any variation of your favorite blue cheese, but Laughing Cow Light adds a lighter, extra creamy touch)
-2 Tbsp. roasted pumpkin seeds
-1 1/2 Tbsp. vinaigrette (see above)

Toss arugula with vinaigrette.  Top with pomegranate, blue cheese, and pumpkin seeds. Serve.