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sesame oil

Winter Soba Noodle Soup with Chili Sesame Oil

Winter Soba Noodle Soup with Chili Sesame Oil

When it rains, it pours.

There was a time a couple years ago when my car got towed while I was away, traveling for a month. An entire month in a Philly tow truck lot costs the equivalent to an entire month of a lot of people’s salaries. It was an unfortunate way to return home from a trip. To further this unfortunate nonsense, my wallet got stolen the week that followed. And in the days that followed that, I got hit by a car (luckily without much injury). To end out that week, I was laid off from a steady freelance gig, because times were apparently tough for everyone that year.

It was a month of rain – the kind where lighting seems to strike down without warning, and the power goes out, and you’re left in silence wondering what to learn from the entire situation as you wait for the lights to turn on again. (Part of what I learned is that tears don’t work on Philly tow truck guys, ever. Ever. Sometimes money situations aren’t fun, but they aren’t usually worth that whole breath-stealing mountain of your stress. And sometimes it just pours in life, and if you don’t learn to move on, you’ll become a miserable human being. Like I imagine the tow truck people are.)

Fast forward two years later, and again, it appears to be pouring. However, this time it’s that good kind of storm, where the sun’s somehow peaking out while the drops are still falling, and you’re looking at the sky in pure awe. Waves of rain. That is life, at least from my own experience.

Kale

It feels like everything I’ve been working at for awhile now is starting to all pick up steam. All at the exact same time, spearheading in one single month. I’ve had my soup spoon in a million different pots these past few years, so a lot is going on right now. Crazy.

It’s a weird, terrifying, exciting, overwhelming[ly satisfying] feeling that often leaves me in this bright-eyed, slightly wiped area. My time these days is running short, which is where food and cooking comes in.

I’m a firm believer in finding balance and space to connect with those you love – and what better way than through food? Ideally, that’s in the kitchen, over shared conversation and creativity, if you have any creative steam remaining.

Winter Soba Noodle Soup with Chili Sesame Oil

This was one of those Sunday soups, dreamed up on a rainy (speaking literally here) afternoon with one of my good friends. She brought some tiny thai chilies from her parents’ garden, which inspired the hot sesame chili oil that gets drizzled on top. Collaboration – it’s the start of all good things.

Full of hearty-healthiness, this soup is perfect for when you need brain power and stamina, and just something that tastes downright awesome in your bowl. It’s nourishing, packed with kale, butternut, and seaweed, and warming for the winter. Feel free to adjust how many chilies you use in the sesame oil, depending on your desire for spice and warmth!

P.S. FoodFitnessFreshAir is coming alive tomorrow night! For all my Philly friends, I’ll be running the food truck inside Garage bar, serving up socca with tons of fancy sauces, and simple, quality toppings. 6p.m. till sold out! Introduce yourself. Come say hello. Join me.

On tap:
-Beet Pesto with Arugula & Bulgarian Feta
-Curry Coconut Lentils with Roasted Carrots & Spicy Thai Chili
-Fire-Roasted Eggplant with Black Tahina, Honey Labane, Crispy Chickpeas, and Pomegranate Sauce

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Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

I’ve never been good at desk jobs.

My brain says yes. But my body says no. And then my brain gets confused. And then I get confused. And my mind says, “What am I supposed to do with my life?!”

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

We’ll see if that question ever gets answered. In the meantime, I’m juggling office life with photoshoot life, and keeping my workdays and work weekends busy. It’s been exciting on both fronts, and I am happy to say I’ve finally come across a company on the front end of that which is working to make my uncertainty at least a little easier. The very nice people at this company, at least mildly, know desk life gives me trouble.

And so they’ve granted me permission to spend one day per month cooking the office lunch. Um, can you say dream job perk?

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

After spending the 9 o’clock hour perusing the aisles of Whole Foods to gather the first lunch’s ingredients, I almost thought, “Could this be my dream job?” Shopping at Whole Foods, maybe. Cooking day-in-and-day-out in a hot, windowless kitchen, probably not.

The company lunch creation was super fun though, and definitely a success. On tap: a herb-laced spring garden salad with sungold tomatoes (my favorite cherry) and red onions, along with a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette. This Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers, Roasted Eggplant, and Crispy Tofu recipe. And a finale of fresh ginger juice shots to finish out the meal with some pep.

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

I decided to create this recipe based off of three primary factors. 1) Who doesn’t love noodles? 2) Though pasta is a pleaser, there’s no way I was showing up with a boring/non-creative recipe. 3) I’ve been entirely inspired by cucumbers lately. Don’t ask me why, but they’re the one summer veg. I’ve been consistently buying as of late.

So this was born, and it’s definitely going on the repeat list. SO MUCH FLAVOR. The sesame sauce adds that first depth, and then the cilantro and scallions make sure not one bite goes flavorless. You’ve also got the velvety, roasted eggplant adding to the creaminess of the sauce, with crunch cukes lightening the whole dish up, and crispy tofu adding in some protein. Oh, and ginger, too. Okay, I’ll stop listing off the ingredient list now. But you get the idea of how it all comes together.

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant

If you can’t get this on your workplace’s table, get it on your dinner plate. And enjoy ideally at room temp., but really whatever temp. your set on at the moment.

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Asian Cabbage Slaw with Basil and Ginger

Asian Cabbage Slaw with Ginger and Basil

My blog is going on a 2 week vacation, while its author heads to the West Coast. (Hello California and Portland!) Before it says a brief adieu, however, we are leaving you with this excellent summertime recipe.

Asian Cabbage Slaw with Ginger and Basil

Have no fear if cabbages are ransacking your garden, farmers’ market or CSA share, and you haven’t a clue what to do with them. I can relate. Hence why I’m hoping to help you out here with this recipe before I jet-set away for a few.

That blank state of mind seems to be a yearly occurrence for me when cabbages starting forming into bowling balls by the masses. I really do enjoy cabbage. But what do you make with it that will use it up fast enough? A few shreds on top of some fish tacos won’t begin to peel off those layers. Nor will most pasta sautes and other recipes where cabbage comes in handy.

Of course the simple answer is coleslaw.

Cabbage

While as I said I love cabbage, there’s only so much coleslaw I can tolerate. Cabbage by the masses paired with mayo by the masses ends in feelings of eventual repulsion for the leafy veg.

Not that I’m a mayo-hater or anything. I just can’t eat it with slaw on a regular basis until my family and friends’ gardens stop crying me cabbage.

This Asian slaw however? It’s something my fork could get down with daily. Especially in the summer when almost every lunch/dinner screams for a crunchy, cool salad.

Asian Cabbage Slaw with Ginger and Basil

I like this because it’s refreshing, yet each bite hits you with an immense amount of flavor. You get sesame paired with summer basil, and a slightly sweet and spicy kick from the rice vinegar paired with the ginger. Use a food processor to make its assembly easy, and feel free to top with roasted peanuts or any other garnish of your choice.

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Fresh Carrot Slaw

Fresh Carrot Slaw

I could eat carrots for breakfast (in the form of carrot cake – mandatorily topped with cream cheese icing), lunch, and dinner. Dessert too, if we’re circling back to breakfast here. It’s my veggie snack of choice. Straight up raw. No baby business. Colored in shades of red or purple, if I’m feeling extra fancy.

Fresh Carrot Slaw

As warm weather falls upon us, raw carrots become a pleasantly light and refreshing snack all on their own. If you’re like me, that goes for all year around, too.

However, if for some reason you’re not quite as enthused about acting under the constant facade of Bugs Bunny – or simply want a nicer side dish for your just grilled burger – other options abound. Take this carrot slaw, for example, filled with several depths of flavor, yet still every bit as fresh as a just picked and rinsed carrot from the ground. This slaw keeps it raw, but also keeps it chic.

Fresh Carrot Slaw

This time of year, I like to serve this alongside a meal straight from the grill. Think grilled tuna burgers with spicy mayo, or jalapeño black bean burgers with mango salsa, or a sesame crusted tofu. Grilled or not, think Aloha-inspired recipes or Asian-fusion cuisine. Whatever that happens to mean…

Spring bloom

Feel free to play with the herbs here, depending on what you have, or looks fresh. Also, make sure to toast the walnuts. To do so, simply heat up a cast iron pan (or saute pan, if you don’t own cast iron) over medium-high. Without greasing the pan, add the walnuts straight to the hot surface, and toast until fragrant and edges are browned, stirring regularly.

Fresh Carrot Slaw

Share your favorite light & healthy spring/summer veggie sides in the comments. Would love to hear what you’ve been cooking up lately!

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Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

2013 was a year of a lot of over-rated food trends. Cue bacon flavored ice cream in continuation of 2012, fancy-flavored doughnuts, meat-laden paleo philosophy, overly sweet cake pops, almond milk overload, yadda yadda yadda. Don’t hate me if you disagree. I am a healthy, mostly vegetarian food blogger, after all. And I’ve always disliked bacon.

There have been plenty of good 2013 trends, too, however. Like the proliferation of farmer’s markets and local food production, cauliflower everything, red quinoa, gourmet vegan food, and kale salads.

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

Perhaps kale salads were more of a 2012 phenomenon, but so be it. I still think they’re trendy, and they’ve graced my bowl this year more than any other. 2013 was the year that kale salad really stole my heart.

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

I’m going to say this is because it took me awhile, and I think restaurants too, to really get the hang of mastering them. Which is really not a hard thing to do. But if you miss the key step of massaging the leaves, your kale salad will never be trendy, no matter how pretty it is. Every raw kale leaf needs a trip to the spa  before heading to the fork.

Get your (clean) hands in there with a little oil though, and kale can become the perfect slate for a heartier, more long-living version of a salad. This is what I love about it. It stores well, and often becomes even better, after a day left in the fridge. I tend to eat a whole lot healthier during the workweek when I have snacks/dishes already waiting for me, and lately that’s meant a ton of huge bowls of kale salad. I must say, I often feel my best when this is included in my week.

The following recipe was inspired by this lovely picture I came across on the New York Times Well blog. I generally do a ton of tahini-based kale salads, but this purple and green combination caught my eye, and I wanted mine to look like the NYT’s one, with just an oil-based dressing. So I spun off that and went with toasted sesame oil. I liked this so much that after bringing it to a party, I made it again the following day. Sometimes you need a huge bowl of kale salad all to yourself. Following the holiday season is certainly the perfect time for that.

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