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The restaurant I used to work for created a Tunisian-inspired savory oatmeal. I completely fell in love, and have been making my own version ever since (first blogged here). This one is a perfect springtime recipe that takes advantage of asparagus and sweet green peas, and pairs them with a spicy harissa oil.

1 1/2 c steel-cut oats (use certified gluten-free oats if gluten is an issue)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 c fresh or frozen green peas
2 Tbsp harissa paste
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 stalks medium asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a bias
5 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
4 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Lemon juice, for garnish
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional–omit for a vegan and dairy-free recipe)

1. Prepare oats according to package directions; season with salt and pepper.
2. If using fresh peas, blanch for 2 minutes and place under cold running water to cool. If using frozen, thaw.
3. Combine harissa and oil and set aside.
4. Spoon oatmeal into bowls and top each with asparagus, peas, scallions, pine nuts, lemon juice, harissa oil, and cheese (optional).

Serves 4.

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I like to think of romesco sauce as Spain’s answer to pesto. The tomato and roasted bell peppers lend sweetness, almonds give it a nutty richness, bread provides texture, and smoked paprika and cumin round it all out with a subtle smokiness. This version was adapted from this recipe, featured in Bon Appetit. This vegan sauce can be served alongside non-meat mains, like tempeh, seared tofu, or grilled cauliflower steaks; drizzled over charred spring or green onions for a vibrant side dish; or combined with pasta cooking water for a luxurious pasta sauce. I decided to entertain the carnivore inside of me and serve it with breaded chicken cutlets.

1 medium tomato, rough chop (I used a grilled, peeled tomato leftover from a recent “grill night”)
1 1/2 roasted red bell peppers, rough chop
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, or torn stale bread
2/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
Pinch cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients, except for olive oil, in a food processor and whirl until mostly smooth.
2. Drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running. Add water to thin, if desired.

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Notes: absolutely lovely, but I admit that I didn’t do a good job of recording exact ratios. The above was recorded from memory, and I will need to retest to recreate results.

High in fiber, low in fat, and completely adaptable to your taste, this soup is great for all seasons. Serve as an entree for a healthy, satisfying meal that comes together quickly for an easy weeknight meal.

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, medium dice
3 medium carrots, medium dice
3 stalks celery, medium dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup white wine
1 28-oz can peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make it vegan)
3 15-oz cans black beans, drained
1 bay leaf
10 sprigs fresh thyme
Fresh cilantro (or parsley), rough chop, for garnish
Avocado, diced, for garnish
Lime juice, for garnish
Greek yogurt, for garnish (omit to make it vegan and dairy-free)

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
2. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook for another minute.
3. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, and smoked paprika and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any stuck-on bits; reduce by half.
5. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, 1 cup water, beans, bay leaf, and thyme; bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Remove bay leaf and thyme and roughly puree with an immersion blender or regular blender (it should still be very chunky; alternately, you could eliminate this step completely and leave it as is).
7. Adjust seasoning and serve with cilantro (or parsley), avocado, lime juice, and yogurt (all optional).

Initially posted without a photo on account of a stolen phone, photo below was retrieved from the magical cloud!
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While traditionally pesto is made with basil, this recipe switches it up with vibrant, peppery arugula that goes perfectly over whole wheat pasta. I made arugula pesto in the past, but neglected to understand the value of recording the recipe. Here is my official first attempt at a delicious and deceptively healthy pesto.

5 cups packed arugula
3/4 cup pecorino, broken up into chunks
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 clove garlic
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
Juice 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and whirl until smooth (alternately, if you like pesto with a bit more texture, pulse until desired consistency is reached).

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Use as a dip for vegetables or crusty baguette, sauce for pasta (makes enough for 1 pound), garnish for soups, condiment for sandwiches, etc. (I served it with whole wheat pasta, garnished with grated pecorino and freshly ground black pepper.)

Adapted from a Bob’s Red Mill recipe for Raspberry Oatmeal Bars, I made it vegan by swapping coconut oil for the butter. I didn’t have oat flour on hand and instead used whole wheat pastry flour, so it is not gluten-free. The reviews stated that the recipe was on the sweet side, so I used a bit less sugar than called for in the recipe.

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
Scant 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup superfruit jam or preserves (or any flavor you prefer)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously grease an 8×8-inch pan with coconut oil.
2. In medium bowl, combine melted coconut oil and vanilla. Stir in flour, oats, sunflower seeds, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt until thoroughly blended.
3. Press 1 cup of oat mixture firmly into bottom of the prepared pan. Spread jam evenly on top.
4. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over jam, then gently press.
5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is lightly browned and firm. Cool bars in pan for 30 minutes on wire rack. Cut into 16 squares and serve at room temperature.

Makes 16 bars.

Notes: for some strange reason, these bars tasted better as they sat. The coconut flavor mellowed and it somehow tasted sweeter a few days later.

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Featuring spring carrots, these muffins are a healthy alternative to sweet morning confections. I started with a Carrot Apple Muffin recipe from Whole Foods, and tweaked it a good bit to make them vegan. The whole wheat pastry flour makes the muffins tender, applesauce keeps them moist, and coconut oil gently perfumes the end result.

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup grated carrots (from about 3 medium carrots)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp flax meal, soaked in 6 Tbsp water
1/4 cup almond milk (or any other milk alternative)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. “Butter” (with coconut oil) and flour a 12-cup standard muffin tin or use muffin papers. Set aside. (I used a non-stick muffin tin and omitted this step with great results.)
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. In a separate bowl, combine carrots, applesauce, soaked flax meal mixture, almond milk, coconut oil and vanilla.
5. Add half the carrot mixture to the flour mixture, stir until blended then add the rest of the carrot mixture.
6. Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake about 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Serve warm.

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Notes from attempt #1: (Baking time: 20 minutes) Delicious, tender, moist, lovely! The only problem is the muffins are tiny tiny tiny–they barely rose in the oven. Definitely worth re-doing again (and again and again) to figure out what went wrong, because they are that delicious!

Notes from attempt #2: (Baking time 16 minutes) The muffins are still very small, but a tad bit larger than the previous attempt–but I’m okay with that! It’s a great guilt-free treat that compliments breakfast or completes a mid-afternoon snack.

Estimated nutrition facts: 130 calories, 6 g fat, 16 g carbohydrates (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 2 g protein, vitamin A 30%

I’ve been wanting to make this chilled soup for a while, but wasn’t expecting anything earth-shattering. This recipe, however, is pretty spectacular. Rich, luscious, and creamy, it is a meal in itself. A garnish of the soup’s main ingredients gives texture to the final dish, which looks like it came straight from a restaurant kitchen.

1 3/4 cups diced cucumber (1/2 large hothouse), plus more for garnish
1 cup green grapes, plus more for garnish
1 cup slivered or sliced almonds, plus more for garnish
1 clove garlic
1 cups cubed baguette (1/2 a demi-baguette)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
2. Add 2 cups water to the blender and whirl until smooth.
3. Divide evenly among bowls and garnish with diced cucumber, green grapes (halved), almonds, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Serves 2-4

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