Corn + Avocado Panzanella

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A thing I excel at is karaoke.

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And just generally being the life of the party.

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This last statement is false except when I am surrounded by all of my friends in a foreign land like I was this weekend.

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If you consider Boston a foreign land, that is. A dear friend got married this weekend and like 15 of our closest pals descended on MA for the affair. It’s a rare occasion that we all get together considering jobs, families, spouses, babies, life, bills, etc. I cannot even put into the words the fun that was had, but I will try by summarizing our first night: We end up at a hole in the wall pub that all of the girls are like umm is this going to be OK, not sure about this aesthetic. We walk in and this place is BUMPING, man. It is THE place for young professionals on a Thursday after work. They have a jukebox playing Who Let The Dogs Out and other similar classics. Since we’re grooving so hard, we get the brilliant idea to karaoke…….at 7:30pm. Lucky us there’s a karaoke bar around the corner. We sang probably 16 of the 20 songs that were performed while we were there – everything ranging from Tina Turner to Dashboard Confessional, really impressing the crowd with our range. Of course, I concluded the evening with an Adele solo, as I do.

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I left my voice in Boston and now sound like an 80-year-old chain smoker.

 

 

Time: 45 minutes (prep + cooking) | Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of whole wheat sourdough, cut in cubes
  • 4 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup of basil, chiffonaded
  • 4 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. of dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 tbsp. of garlic, minced
  • S+P, to taste
  • Lime, for serving

How to:

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Toss bread with 1 tbsp. of olive oil + some S+P
  • Arrange in an even layer on a lined baking sheet, bake about 10 minutes or until toasted to your desire
  • Meanwhile, combine remaining olive oil + vinegar + mustard + shallot + garlic + S+P
  • In a big bowl, combine corn + avocado + tomatoes + jalapeno + red pepper + basil + S+P, toss to coat
  • Add bread + dressing, toss to coat + serve with lime
  • Find a comfy chaise lounge to retire on and hire some cabana boys to spoon feed you this while simultaneously fanning you

 

Dressing from here!

Open-Faced Pitas with Roasted Eggplant + Red Pepper Spread

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I think it’s time I get a little real with y’all.

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And that’s not even a sarcastic opening this time!!! I realized I’ve never really shared why I started cooking.

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Let us venture back to pre-teen Rachel. Or as I like to refer to her, she who must not be named. Growing up, I was ALWAYS the smallest kid in class. Like, got the kids menu and looked like an 8-year-old boy until I was 17. I don’t recommend this if you’re interested in having self esteem. Puberty rolled around my junior year and I became an average height, but was still skinny and could eat WHATEVER I wanted. I’ve told y’all about how I used to leave school, eat 12 nuggets, fries and a milkshake and THEN eat dinner. Those were the TIMES, man.

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Sophomore year of college came around and I gained the weight we all do at that pivotal time. Nothing crazy, but it looked odd on my small frame. I honestly would have been blissfully ignorant except this was during the rise of social media when it became the vortex of self-pity and comparison we now know and love. I saw pictures of myself and just hated what I saw. I had never felt pretty (have you seen this schnoz?!), but I had always counted on being small. My first world, middle class, not enough problem-having world was rocked! Chicken nugget girl had no idea how to eat healthy, so I started restricting myself. I lost 20 pounds eating a bagel for breakfast, a granola bar for lunch and a little something for dinner. Or as I like to call it, the diet of an idiotic college girl who cared far too much what peeps thought of her. While I eventually began eating more, I continued the unhealthy restrictive habits. It wasn’t until I called my mom crying one afternoon after treating myself to Zaxby’s (wow, what a treat!) and feeling SO guilty, that I realized it was time to make a change. She took me to the grocery store, bought me food and taught me how to bake some chicken breasts. From there, I turned on Food Network and haven’t turned it off in over six years. I watched every single show and tried to learn as much as I could. I would spend my free time searching for recipes and reading about food. I started this blog to document some of the recipes I liked, and here we are. Almost 5 years later and this little space of the Internet is still one of my favorites.

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Thank you for reading along and allowing me to be a lunatic and share some food and look at your food and I promise I eat quadruple the calories I used to – for example, I ate both of these pitas immediately after taking these photos.

 

Time: 1 hour (prep + cooking) | Serves: 4 pitas

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant, peeled + sliced into 1/2 inch discs
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained .+ rinsed
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 a small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 zucchini, zoodled
  • 2 tbsp. of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. of crushed red pepper
  • S+P, to taste
  • Pitas, toasted
  • Cilantro, for serving

How to:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Arrange eggplant discs on a lined baking sheet, using 1 tbsp. of olive oil, brush each side + sprinkle with S+P
  • Arrange red peppers on another lined baking sheet
  • Arrange chickpeas on a third lined baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tbsp. of olive oil + some S+P
  • Place all in the oven (peppers + eggplant on the same rack if possible), bake chickpeas for 25 minutes, turning once, eggplant for 30 minutes, turning once, red peppers for 45 minutes, turning once
  • Once cooled, remove the charred skins from the peppers + cut the tops off + remove any seeds
  • In a food processor combine eggplant + red peppers + garlic + remaining olive oil + tomato paste + crushed red pepper + S+P, process until smooth
  • To serve, spread your eggplant + pepper goodness on a pita + top with zoodles + tomatoes + chickpeas + onion + cilantro
  • Fold pita up like a boat + swim it right into the giant hole in your face

 

Spread adapted from my girl, Ina!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

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Favorite places on Earth in order: 1) Airports 2) Trader Joe’s

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That’s it. That’s the whole list.

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Those are the places I am the most at home, the best version of myself, really.

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Because my local TJ’s is legit over an hour away, I adopt the PPPPP motto. Prior planning prevents poor performance. There is no room for error on these trips. A list is non-negotiable. It’s impossible to walk into that heavenly establishment without impulse buying, but you have to set some ground rules. Only one unnecessary purchase from each aisle – two from the frozen food aisle that’s lined with the cookies and sweet treats. Because it’s so far, I can only make it on weekends, meaning the joint is jumping. Peeps are packed in their like sardines! Comfortable shoes are a must. Keep your head down and your elbows slightly bowed – you might have to throw a couple if you and some gal are both reaching for the last cauliflower gnocchi. When shopping with pals, consider sharing a cart – this cuts down on the space you and your posse take up. It also makes you all look like a couple of radical broads on a mission cause you’re carrying a lot of stuff in your arms trying to catch up with your rogue cart as your friend beelines to the cheese.

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Do consider tipping your checkout guy if you share a cart because you will inevitably aggravate the stew out of him as you all divvy up your goodies.

 

 

Time: 1 1/2 hours (prep + cooking) | Seves: 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of pure cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tsp. of baking powder
  • 2 zucchini, washed + shredded
  • 1 cup of vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup of favie non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. of flax seed
  • 1 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg
  • Pinch of S

How to:

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Prepare a flax egg by combining flax seed + 3 tbsp. of hot water, stir + set aside
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine flour + sugars + baking powder + cinnamon + nutmeg + S, mix well
  • Add zucchini + banana + milk + olive oil + vanilla + flax egg, mix well
  • Fold in chocolate chips
  • Line a loaf pan with parchment paper + spray with some nonstick spray
  • Pour batter into pan + spread in an even layer
  • Bake one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean
  • Let cool for a bit
  • Serve warm, cold, room temp, for breakfast, lunch dinner, snack, I don’t care just eat it and if you don’t feel instantly happier, I’ll give you your money back, no I won’t

 

Adapted from here!