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walnuts

Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

I craft a lot, a lot of recipes. And I’m always dreaming up more in my mind. Yet, every year, Thanksgiving comes around, and rarely do I have a clue of what I’m going to make.

Usually, the winning idea arrives last minute (fashionably late). Often, it’s after a few Google searches, and several emails from my sister inquiring about what I’ll be bringing to the family feast. Usually she gives up. And often I show up with a surprise. Which means, it needs to be good. Great. Worthy of all turkey-eaters to save some vegetarian room on their plate.

Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

This year, I was given some time in advance to think. Well, actually, required to set aside some time to choose a Thanksgiving dish to share recipe.

I hosted a Friendsgiving this past weekend, which was perfect for practicing my holiday cooking skills before the real deal rolls around.

This heaping bowl of thyme-infused rice and squash goodness got gobbled up in no time. If I had to give it an alternate name, I’d call it Healthful Holiday Party-in-a-Bowl. It’s a true celebration of fall’s best festive flavors.

Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

Here, nutty rice pairs with creamy squash and a sweet-meets-tart punch of flavor from the cranberries. Buttery, pan-roasted pecans add a crunch, while thyme drives that classic Thanksgiving feel that we all know and love. I sautéed the onion in butter to richen things up, and finished it off with parsley to add a complimentary freshness. The result, as previously mentioned, is a T-day party-in-a-bowl. Are you ready to celebrate?

Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

If you’re not sure what you’re bringing to the Thanksgiving table yet, I’m throwing this into the recommendation hat. It serves as a great vegetarian main dish that leaves you satisfied with all of its festive goodness.

If you do have a recipe already picked out, this needn’t be reserved solely for the holidays. Healthy and wholesome, I’ll certainly be bringing this to the table again this season. Cheers.

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Pesto Rice with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Walnuts

Pesto Rice with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Walnuts

When you’re having a tomato party on your kitchen counters, turn up the heat and bring the celebration to your oven.

Slow. Roasted. Tomatoes.

Three words that equal magnificence. And a guaranteed party for your plated pasta, toast, or pesto.

Pesto Rice with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Walnuts

Giving tomatoes a good roast enriches their sweetness and draws out an intensity of flavor that makes them almost feel rich. I love them with a drizzle of olive oil on a piece of crusty bread. I also love them with pesto, again for that sweetness I mentioned, which they’ll bring to the dish.

Roasted Tomatoes

August is a beautiful time, given that you can reap bounties of both tomatoes and basil. Feel free to throw some sauteed zucchini on top of this dish too, or any other harvest you might find from your garden or in your farmer’s market basket. Really though, this dish doesn’t need much else, except maybe a cool glass of white wine and a table al fresco. Enjoy!

Pesto Rice with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Walnuts

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Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Field

If the thought of pesto, tossed with shaved asparagus and roasted tomatoes, seems far off from camping, I’m with you. But if that thought, along with the image of mint mojitos by the fire, sounds amazing, I’m undoubtedly with you, too. 

This year I learned you need to book a campsite well in advance if you want to tent it out over Memorial Day weekend. Because apparently everyone else wants to do that, too.

So much for spontaneity these days. Oh, and having the planning part covered by mom. Big kid problems.

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

I was determined to go camping this Memorial Day, and a bunch of booked campsites wasn’t going to get me down.

Plan B – Camp out at my madre’s house, a haven 2 hours outside the city that might as well be taken from the pages of Henry Thoreau. See field photo above. Not a bad alternative. (Just don’t compare my writing to Thoreau. I prefer a caveman-like brevity to never-ending sentences.)

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Plan B turned into a bunch of Philly and hometown friends joining me for mojitos by the fire made from just picked mint via mom’s herb garden. It turned into watching hot air balloons sail, and then the sun fall, from the comfort of our front deck. It turned into setting up tents in a free backyard. And it turned into a conclusion of sleeping soundly inside.

Ah, yes. A mint-mojito-shaved-asparagus campout was never destined for sleeping outside, was it? To be fair, I will blame my friends for coercing me indoors. And also to be fair, we had one lone camper who roughed it out in his tent.

Asparagus

Now onto the food. While pesto might not seem like standard camping fare, for my vegetarian family, it was always a go-to. It keeps well in a cooler, and tastes fine both hot or cold. Plus, we always make it in large batches during the summer, when the garden basil’s at its peak, so it becomes an easy meal to pop out from the freezer.

It’s still too early to see basil thriving. But both my mom and I still have several pesto batches holding out from last season in our freezer.

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

When you’ve got the pesto part already made, sprucing it up to make it a little richer and fancier becomes easy and fathomable. Although, the pesto itself is not hard to make — so even if you don’t get a chance to make it ahead of time, I still recommend taking the time to include the tomatoes and asparagus seen here, too.

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Asparagus has always been a springtime favorite, but it’s only been recently that I’ve discovered its utility in raw form. Slightly grassy and crisp, here it adds a refreshing and light crunch to what can feel like a full-bodied pasta dish. It pairs well with the tomatoes, whose flavor is drawn out and intensified via a little time in the oven. I love roasted tomatoes, so when I’m making this recipe, I’m roasting extra for me, and me only.

Grape Tomatoes

Maybe this isn’t your ideal grab-and-go camping dish, but it’s definitely an all-star bowl to include at your picnic or BBQ outing. It’s best hot, but still tastes great at room temp., and since it’s vegan, it’ll survive outside, too. Plate it up alongside a hotdog, and I challenge you to determine the winner. My bet’s on the pesto.

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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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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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