Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto

Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home

I survived the hardest semester of my life. Seriously, this time last week I was an angry sad person hating the decision I'd made two years ago to do this whole grad school thing. Things are a bit better now. I found my way back into the kitchen and even made it to yoga tonight. Also, I've become increasingly aware of a feeling of airiness around my shoulders! 

It wasn't until around this time last year that I first made a panzanella. I remember thinking whoever thought it was a good idea to take massive amounts of cubed bread, toss it into salad, and call it dinner was freaking genius. This panzanella is filled with spring vegetables and herbs. It's bright and green and somehow both hearty and light. I'm pretty obsessed. 

Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home
Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home
Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home
Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home
Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto
Serves 4-6
Adapted from: Food52

For the Vegetables:
1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bunch asparagus
juice of half a lemon
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 bunch sugar snap peas, ~ 12oz, trimmed
1/2 cup of peas
2-3 green onions, thinly diced

For the Croutons:
1 multigrain baguette
2 garlic cloves
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

For the Pesto:
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh mint
1/2 cup walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 medium avocado
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the cauliflower into bite size florets and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes (I used 1/2 teaspoon for medium spiciness, but feel free to use less). Lay the cauliflower onto a bake sheet lined with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, trim and discard the tough ends of the asparagus then cut into 1 inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt + pepper. Place the asparagus on a second sheet pan lined with parchment paper. 

Roast the cauliflower for 45-50 minutes until lightly browned on the edges. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, toss the cauliflower, then add the sheet pan of asparagus to the oven. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, toss the snap peas with the asparagus and along with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and pinch of salt. 

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the croutons. First, cut the baguette into one inch cubes. In a large saucepan over medium heat toss the croutons, olive oil,  garlic, and a generous sprinkle of salt. Cook until the croutons are lightly browned on the edges, tossing regularly, about 10 minutes. 

Lastly, prepare the pesto by combining the basil, mint, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, avocado and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Puree the mixture until smooth while drizzling in the olive oil. Adjust to taste. 

In a very large bowl (seriously, like the largest bowl you have), combine the roasted vegetables, croutons, peas, green onions, and the pesto (I start with about half of the pesto then add more accordingly) and toss. Let sit for 5 minutes or so then serve! 

Notes: Refrigerate any leftovers, then an hour or so before eating let it come to room temperature. It will not be good microwaved, but tastes surprisingly great eaten at room temperature on Day 2. 

Apple & Honey Sandwiches

Apple & Honey Sandwiches | Kneading Home

This year we're hosting Thanksgiving with a small group of friends. Pre-grad school I would have planned the meal by now with a detailed google doc of all the ingredients broken down by recipe and organized a pinterest board of tabletop holiday decor. Ain't nobody got time for that anymore. I'm lucky if I have enough time to make dinner each night and make it to the grocery store. But breaks will happen and the holidays will come and for that I'm thankful. I'm looking forward to taking Friday after turkey day off and to explore the city a bit with a friend whose visiting us from New York. I do know there will be an apple cheddar galette and autumn kale salad.

I've been making these sandwiches all season long this year. The apples make them crispy and juicy with just enough sweetness from the honey and a bit of tang from the brown mustard. The ingredients list is simple, so like Ina would say, use the best you can find. Splurge on some really good cheese, go for the $1.50 a pop honeycrisp apples, and layer on some really good seedy brown mustard. These sandwiches became a post-farmer's market Saturday afternoon tradition back in October for us. They make me want to pack them in a picnic lunch with a big flannel blanket and some chardonnay and go sit outside somewhere and watch the leave change colors. 

Apple & Honey Sandwiches | Kneading Home
Apple & Honey Sandwiches | Kneading Home
Apple & Honey Sandwiches | Kneading Home
Apple & Honey Sandwiches | Kneading Home
Apple & Honey Sandwiches
Makes 2 sandwiches

2 small demi baguettes
2 tablespoons seedy brown mustard
1/2 cup freshly grated gouda
1 large apple (I used honeycrisp)
1 teaspoon honey
flakey sea salt
1 handful arugula

Preheat the oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees. Slice the baguettes in half lengthwise and spread mustard on half of the pieces. Divide the cheese between the two sandwiches and sprinkle on top of the mustard. Heat the baguettes, open-face, in the oven for 2-4 minutes until cheese is melted and the baguettes are crispy and warm. Meanwhile core and thinly slice the apple.

Remove the baguettes from the oven and layer the apples over the cheese. Drizzle honey over the apples and sprinkle with sea salt. Top with arugula and serve. 

Quinoa Pluot Bowls {gf}

Quinoa Pluot Bowls | Kneading Home

I started grad school year two of five last week. It felt like I was going into battle with not enough time to prepare. 

In an effort to hold onto some semblance of control in my life I started running 2-3 days a week. I've had a love hate relationship with running since childhood. My family is runners, I'm a runner, and I've turned to running in an addictive way many times throughout my life. I've started again after a couple years of hiatus and it feels SO GOOD. Something about working at a hospital all day, sitting with people through their pain and suffering, holding it together to offer them some bit of understanding and support leaves me feeling cooped up and emotionally drained. And when I run I let it all out, I sweat, I race to Kelly Clarkson and all the other female-power artists in my spotify library and it feels so good. Yes, the idea of burning some calories and loosing some of the first-year-of-grad-school weight sounds appealing but even if I don't loose a pound I know that running makes me feel good on the inside. Mentally it feels so therapeutic. 

I always remember learning in teacher training years ago that after animals experience a stressful events they run and shake and move their bodies as a way of releasing that tension. Humans just hold it. For me running seems to release it all in a way nothing else does. This morning I listened to an episode of NPR's "On Being" called Running as a Spiritual Practice and it resonated so strongly with me. I've been listening to this song that repeats the lyrics "slow down" as I run, and even though my body is going fast I find that my mind is able to let go, slow down, and connect to all of the sensations of the present moment in a way that feels so healing. 

Quinoa Pluot Bowls | Kneading Home
Quinoa Pluot Bowls | Kneading Home
Quinoa Pluot Bowls | Kneading Home
Quinoa Pluot Bowls | Kneading Home

I made this quinoa salad a couple weeks ago. It's my nod to the end of summer. Hearty whole grain salads have always filled me up and made me feel nourished in a way lettuce never quite could. This quinoa salad is no exception. The juicy sweet pluots offer the perfect nod to summer while the warm toasted hazelnuts seem to welcome fall. The basil keeps it fresh and the balsamic vinaigrette adds a zingy bite. It's really so good. 

Feel free to skip on the goat cheese for a dairy free option, or substitute regular plums if you can't find pluots. This salad is intended to be simple and fuss-free. 

Quinoa Pluot Bowls | Kneading Home
Quinoa Pluot Bowls | Kneading Home
Quinoa Pluot Bowls {gf}
Serves 2 as a main, generously
Adapted from: The Year in Food

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 small shallot, diced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey (or agave/maply syrup if vegan)
pinch of salt & pepper
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas (about half a can)
small handful basil
1-2 small pluots (or plums)
salt + pepper to taste

Place the water in a small saucepan over high heat, rinse the quinoa then add it to the water. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat but keep covered for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork then toss with a generous amount of salt. Set aside to cool. 

Make the dressing. Combine shallot, olive oil, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper in a small jar (I use a mason) and shake to combine. 

In a small saucepan toast the hazelnuts over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes, tossing & watching regularly to ensure they don't burn. Once slightly browned and fragrant remove from heat. Thinly slice the pluots and the basil. 

In a medium bowl combine the quinoa, hazelnuts, goat cheese, chickpeas, basil and dressing and toss. Gently stir in the pluots and serve.