spring vegetable minestrone + wild ramp pesto

spring vegetable minestrone + wild ramp pesto | what's cooking good looking
spring vegetable minestrone + wild ramp pesto | what's cooking good looking

If you asked me today what my favorite season for vegetables was, I would immediately answer, SPRING!

And … then if you asked me again in July, I would immediately say, SUMMER!

In October … FALL!

But if you made me choose one. I mean, really choose one, I would absolutely have to go with Spring. There is something about Spring vegetables that gets me more excited than any other season. Maybe it's because the Winter vegetable season seems so long and I am so excited for that change. Maybe it's also because some of my favorite vegetables come around in the Spring. Or maybe it's because it feels like Spring vegetables are around for a much shorter period of time than other seasons, making some of the vegetables feel like an anomaly. I get really excited about anomaly vegetables, because I love having something different to cook with, and they never seem to hang around long enough for me to overuse them (like my best buddy kale, for example). 


The other day, I was at the Union Square Greenmarket when I spotted ramps for the first time. By now I am sure you've heard of ramps, and maybe you're even lucky enough to have  cooked with some. They are easily one of the most excitable farmers market finds … but sometimes these vegetables fall victim to their popularity. They become "too cool".

As I was shoveling mass amounts of ramps into a bag to take home with me, I overheard some guy saying "I don't get why everyone gets so excited about ramps. They're just like an onion, but I like onions more."

I looked down at my overflowing bag and wondered the same. What is it about these ramps that are so exciting and alluring? Is it their taste, or is it that they grow in the wild and they are only around for such a short period of time?  I realized for me, it is a little of both, but it's back to that anomaly thing. And, that dude was totally wrong, they are not just like an onion … they are something ever so slightly different, and that smallest different totally matters to me. 

spring vegetable minestrone + wild ramp pesto | what's cooking good looking
spring vegetable minestrone + wild ramp pesto | what's cooking good looking
spring vegetable minestrone + wild ramp pesto | what's cooking good looking

You know that I love things in my soup. I love toppings, I love contrasts of textures, and I love love love sauces like pesto in soups. Particularly with a vegetable heavy soup like this. It adds another level of flavor swirling through the broth and veggies. This soup and pesto is so tasty, so comforting, so inviting, it is one of those things I could eat everyday of my life and be totally content.  

As with many of the soups that I like to make, this one is very flexible in terms of ingredients. You can go to the grocery store, or farmers market, and pick up all the greens that look good and throw them in here. The more the better, there really is no right or wrong. I was lucky the other day to have found some awesome anomaly ingredients like baby bok choy, young broccoli leaves, and baby russian kale. I realize that these are not always easy to find, but if you do, grab them and use them in this soup. 

And, if you still have yet to stumble upon a ramp, no worries, you can simply sub your favorite pesto recipe for this soup. 


spring vegetable minestrone + wild ramp pesto

2 for dinner or 4 as an app


1 smallish fennell bulb (white + green parts), diced
1 medium spring onion (or white onion), diced
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 white potato, peeled and diced
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of salt (depending on how much salt you like - I err on more for soup)
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional, for a kick)
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 cups of white (cannellini) beans (I found that a good quality -organic- canned bean worked well for this)
6 cups of water
3 handfuls of leafy greens (I used a somewhat exotic mix of baby kale, baby bok choy, and young broccoli, but you can use whatever leafy green you like and have available. Kale, spinach, swiss chad, regular bok choy would all work well)

for the wild ramp pesto:
about 10 ramps (white + green parts)  cleaned and diced
1/3 cup of almonds, lightly toasted
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
a small handful of arugula (optional, if you have some handy)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
a few cracks of black pepper + a pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3-1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil


Get the soup started:

  • In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the fennel and onion. Cook for several minutes until they have softened. 
  • Then add the garlic, potato, salt, thyme, and red pepper flakes, stir, and cook for about 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add the beans and the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce to a simmer. 
  • Simmer for 60-90 minutes. 

While the soup is simmering, prepare the pesto:

  • Add all of the ingredients for the pesto, except for the oil, to a food processor and pulse several times until the ingredients are finely chopped. 
  • Then, add in the olive oil in a slow stream until it is emulsified. 
  • Taste and adjust any seasoning as necessary. 

Finish the soup, and serve:

  • After the soup has been simmering for a while, taste and make sure they flavors are to your liking. If it is too watery, let it simmer a bit longer to develop more flavors, but I usually find it is good after an hour. 
  • Then, add the greens, and stir until they wilt. This should only take about 2-5 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat. 
  • Then serve by ladling the soup into bowls and adding a spoonful (or more if you like) of the pesto on top. 
  • This will keep well for several days in an air-tight container in the fridge. If you end up with extra pesto, you can store that as well for about 10 days. The pesto goes well on all sorts of things from bread, to eggs, or tossed with vegetables. 

salted dark chocolate bark with hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coconut, currants + cacao nibs

salted dark chocolate bark | what's cooking good looking
salted dark chocolate bark | what's cooking good looking

When Michael and I first started dating, whenever it came time to decide on dessert, he always would state that he was "not a chocolate person". Huh?  Not a chocolate person? Is there really such a thing? This was a problem…. 

I'm convinced that people who say they "are not chocolate people", really are, they just haven't had the right chocolate experience yet, and I am determined to convince them otherwise. 

Back then, Michael had a chocolate rule that he would only partake in desserts that had a 60% (or less) ratio of chocolate to other ingredients. Again … huh? In other words, chocolate cake, chocolate soufflé, not desirable. Olive oil cake, with a chocolate sauce, that's just fine. This rule was totally unacceptable and had to change if there was going to be any future for us. 

Well, I am guessing that you're guessing that all of this has changed, and that Michael now will eat chocolate with enthusiasm. I am also guessing that you're guessing that I had something to do with that. Well, you are correct. I did have something to do with that. 

You see, I am also convinced that people "who are not chocolate people" may actually be "good quality dark chocolate people", but they just haven't had that life changing piece of good quality dark chocolate to change their mind. 

If you know anyone like this, and you want to change them into a chocolate lover, make this salted dark chocolate bark with really good quality dark chocolate, and then top it with these crazy yummy toppings. I pinky swear, you will have them chowing on chocolate in no time. And if the non-chocoalte eating person happens to be someone you would like to have a future with, but you fear that the lack of chocolate in their life is a deal-breaker, then maybe this bark will help you overcome all of this and get married, just like we did. (I'm not pinky swearing that part though). 

Last night I caught Michael devouring this chocolate bark just before bedtime. I'm talking about him hovering over the freezer with a spoon shoveling the bark with some ice cream into his mouth.Yep, that's my man. 

salted dark chocolate bark | what's cooking good looking
salted dark chocolate bark | what's cooking good looking

I should probably let you know that this recipe actually did not come about from me wanting to change non-chocolate lovers into lovers. It actually came about because I have been longing for a quick, easy, delicious dessert to serve at a dinner party or when friends and family come over.

This bark can be thrown together in no time, and the only really necessary ingredient is that you have good quality dark chocolate to melt and some salt to sprinkle on top. The rest can be determined by what you have in your pantry ….. but if you happen to have hazelnuts, coconut, sesame seeds, currants (tiny raisin-type things), and cacao nibs hanging around, then you're in for a crazy good treat. 


salted dark chocolate bark 

several people for dessert, or one chocolate-hungry person for a few days


1/2 cup of hazelnuts

8oz (about 4 bars) of very good quality dark chocolate (look for 70% cacao or higher). The purer the better. I used a mix of 2 plain dark chocolate bars, one salted dark chocolate bar, and one espresso bean dark chocolate bar. 

a handful/sprinkling of each of the follow (toppings): toasted coconut, sesame seeds, currants, cacao nibs

about 1/2 a teaspoon of good quality sea salt, such as a pink or red salt, or maldon sea salt



Toast + peel + chop the hazelnuts:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350º
  • Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the hazelnuts are fragrant, browning, and the skins have started to release. 
  • Allow them to cool slightly before removing the skins. Once they are cool enough to touch, roll the hazelnuts around either between your palms, or rolled up in a paper towel until the skins release. 
  • Place the peeled hazelnuts into a food processor and pulse several times until they are roughly chopped. Set aside until you're ready to top the chocolate bark. 

Melt the chocolate + top it + let it set in the fridge:

  • Prepare a parchment-lined baking sheet, and have your toppings ready to go. 
  • Using a double boiler, melt 6 ounces of the chocolate over medium heat. In other words, bring the water in the double boiler to boil over medium heat so that it does not get too hot and steamy. This will prevent the chocolate from melting too quickly and burning. Once all of the chocolate has melted, turn off the heat and add the the other 2 oz and stir until it has melted. 
  • Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the chocolate out so that it is about 1/4" thick.
  • Sprinkle the topping evenly across the top. 
  • Place it in the fridge for a minimum for 30 minutes, until the chocolate has hardened. Keep it in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
  • This is best served with a scoop of your favorite ice cream. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, if stored properly.  

roasted artichokes + smashed pesto-y peas + quinoa "bread"crumbs

roasted artichokes + sashed pesto-y peas + quinoa "bread" crumbs | what's cooking good looking

Did you guys hear the news?! This little food blog of mine has become one of SIX finalists in Saveur's best food blog awards, for best cooking blog. Whattt! I can hardly contain myself, there has been a pit of excitement in my stomach all week. 

I'm so humbled to be a finalist amongst so many blogs that I have been reading and admiring for so long. So long. Bloggers who've inspired me to start blogging about food. Wow. I really have no words - just stomach pits and butterflies. 

Thank you to those who nominated me for such an honor, and if you enjoy reading, looking, and cooking from my corner of the internet … I would love your vote.  You can only vote once, and it just takes a few seconds to fill out a registration form, but I will be forever grateful, and I promise to share a sweet recipe as a thank you. 

CLICK HERE TO VOTE! You can find me in the best cooking blog category :)


After I received this news, my week took an even more "humbling" turn as I had one kitchen disaster after the next. My oven had to be shut down for a couple of days, and several recipes I tested ended up inedible. I was a hot mess, and so was my kitchen. I think I let all the excitement of the week get the best of me.

So I signed myself up for (my first ever) ariel yoga class, so I could zen myself out, hang upside-down, and maybe shake out all the crazy, excitable energy that was causing me to be a disaster in the kitchen. 

It may have been exactly that I needed, because when I got back from class that night, I decided that instead of posting the most delicious, celebratory, fancy, kimchi-topped concoction that I could come up with …. why don't I just share some everyday food that I love. Food that I would eat on a normal day. Food that makes me happy. 

Artichokes makes me happy, garlic makes me happy, quinoa makes me happy, pesto-y things make me happy. And here we are, with roasted artichokes, pesto-y peas, and quinoa "bread crumbs". 

I love sharing this because it is like three recipes in one. Each one of these parts can stand on it's own. And these quinoa "bread" crumbs …. don't even get me started ….. there are about a thousand uses for these awesome (gluten-free) subs for real bread crumbs. 

roasted artichokes + smashed pesto-y peas + quinoa "bread" crumbs
roasted artichokes + sashed pesto-y peas + quinoa "bread" crumbs | what's cooking good looking
roasted artichokes + sashed pesto-y peas + quinoa "bread" crumbs | what's cooking good looking
roasted artichokes + sashed pesto-y peas + quinoa "bread" crumbs | what's cooking good looking

roasted artichokes + smashed pesto-y peas + quinoa "bread" crumbs

enough for 2-4ish as a side or a salad


for the artichokes:
a mix of artichokes (I used several purple baby artichokes, and three medium regular artichokes)
olive oil
the juice of 1 lemon

for the quinoa "bread" crumbs:
1/2 cup of quinoa, rinsed well
a pinch of salt
a pinch of dried parsley
a pinch of red pepper flakes
a pinch of garlic powder
a few cracks of black pepper

for the smashed pesto-y peas:
1 cup of english peas, fresh or frozen (if fresh, removed from pods)
about 5 leaves of basil, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
a pinch of salt and pepper
about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
red pepper flakes (optional)


Start my making the quinoa "bread" crumbs:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350º.
  • Cook the quinoa by adding the quinoa to a small saucepan with one cup of water. Bring to a boil, then cover, and reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. 
  • When the quinoa is done, transfer it to a baking sheet. Speread it in a thin layer across the baking sheet. This is important, because you want it to toast evenly. If it is too thick, the quinoa on top will not toast properly. 
  • Place the quinoa in the fridge for about 20 minutes to cool. 
  • Once it has cooled down, place it in the oven for 30-35 minutes until it  turns golden brown. 

While your quinoa is cooking, prepare + cook the artichokes:

  • Prepare a bowl filled with water and 1/2 a lemon squeezed. Also prepare a pot of water to blanch the artichokes by bringing a medium saucepan with water to a boil. Lastly, prepare a bowl to toss and marinate the blanched artichokes by combining a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, some salt + pepper, and 1/2 a lemon, juiced. 
  • Then, pull off and discard the dark green outer leaves of your artichokes until you get to the tender, inner yellow ones.  Cut off the top 1/4 inch (where the prickly bits are). Then cut off any brown parts on the bottom of the stem. Using a paring knife, shave off the rough edges around the base. Slice the artichoke in half and place it in the bowl of lemon water. Repeat until all of the artichokes are done. If you have larger artichokes, you also want to remove the prickly insides that surround the heart using a spoon. 
  • Transfer the artichokes from the lemon water into the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes for the baby ones, and several minutes for the larger ones. 
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the artichokes from the boiling water and transfer them to the olive oil / lemon marinade bowl. Toss then to coat with the mixture. 
  • In a cast iron pan over medium heat, cook the artichokes for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until they have lightly browned. Set aside until you're ready to assemble. 

Make the smashed pesto-y peas:

  • If you like, you can using the same blanching water as the artichokes. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and cook the peas for a few minutes until they are tender but still have a bite to them. 
  • Remove them from the water and place in a bowl and add the basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice and smash them with a fork or a potato masher until they are roughly mashed and all the ingredients are combined. 

Finish making the quinoa "bread" crumbs and assemble the dish:

  • Place the toasted quinoa into a food processor and add all the seasoning. Run the food processor until you have a fine textured crumb. Taste and adjust any seasoning as necessary. 
  • Assemble the dish by layering the smashed peas on the bottom and laying the artichokes on top and finishing with a sprinkle of the quinoa bread crumbs.


delicious no-bake granola bars … with dried cherries, brazil nuts + coconut

no-bake granola bars with cherries, brazil nuts + coconut | what's cooking good looking

Let me start this off by saying I have never really been a granola bar lover, and the hippy in me has never had a desire to make my own at home. I've always thought of granola bars as a food that you keep in your glove box for "emergencies". A yum-less snack that you force yourself to eat when you have hunger pains and there is nothing else in site for you to munch on.  

Well … not anymore, my friends. This homemade version I have for you has completely changed my feelings about granola bars. I will even go as far to say that this is one of the better healthy snack foods I have ever popped in my mouth. Truth bombs. 

A couple of weeks ago, I got two requests in one day to come up with a granola bar recipe for this site. I thought to myself … really? Granola bars? Do people really want to see a granola bar recipe? Apparently, so. With that I thought, there has to be a way to make a granola bar tasty, and something that you look forward to eating instead of just eating for the sake of convenience. 

In searching for recipes, I became most fascinated with ones that you didn't have to bake. That sounded easy, and I like easy. Also, the no-bake recipes require a nut butter to hold everything together, and you know how obsessed I am with nut butter. 

One of my favorite parts about this recipe, besides the fact that it is addictingly delicious, is that it is pretty much fool-proof. You mix a bunch of ingredients together, stick it into a pan and stick it in the fridge. Your measurements do not have to be exact, and you can interchange almost every ingredient for what you have available. 

If you're in the mood for dried blueberries and almonds, go for it. If you don't have any hemp seeds hanging around, leave them out. 

When I made my first batch of these, I had my people/ harshest critics try them out. Not only did they like them, I had to hide the rest so that I was able to have one for breakfast the next day. I then proceeded to make another batch the following day so that I could snack on them throughout the week. One taster even said that if these were sold at her local coffee shop she would eat them everyday, and I would agree, but you and I both know that homemade versions are always better than something that is packaged and store bought. Case in point right here. 

no-bake granola bars with cherries, brazil nuts + coconut | what's cooking good looking
no-bake granola bars with cherries, brazil nuts + coconut | what's cooking good looking
no-bake granola bars with cherries, brazil nuts + coconut | what's cooking good looking

no-bake granola bars

This recipe is adapted and inspired by this awesome recipe by Minimalist Baker

As mentioned, this recipe is very flexible and forgiving. You can interchange the nuts, dried, fruit, and seeds for what you like or have available. Same for the nut butter. Feel free to add in additional things not mentioned such as cacao bits or pumpkin seeds. 

6-8 granola bars


1 1/2 cups of rolled oats
1/2 cup of dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup of dates, pitted and diced
1/2 cup of of almond butter (or any kind of nut butter you like)
1 cup of brazil nuts (or any kind of nut you like), roughly chopped
1/2 cup of dried cherries (or any kind of dried fruit you like), roughly chopped
3/4 cup of toasted coconut, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of hemp seeds (optional)
2 tablespoons of chia seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla (I used this fancy ground vanilla that I have which worked so well, but you can also use 2 vanilla beans - scraped, or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract)
3 tablespoons of maple syrup


First, toast the oats:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350º
  • Spread the oats out on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before incorporating. 

Soak and puree the dates + apricots, and heat up the nut butter:

  • Place the chopped dates and apricots in a bowl and cover with warm water. Allow them to sit for about 10 minutes and drain completely. 
  • Transfer them to a high-powered blender or food processor and puree until they become a smooth paste.
  • Unless your nut butter is at room temperature, you will want to warm it up slightly so that it is easier to incorporate. To do so, heat it up in a small saucepan until it starts to melt.  

Then, combine all of the ingredients and form it in a pan:

  • In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients including the toasted oats, the pureed apricots and dates, as well as the melted nut butter. Stir until everything is evenly distributed. 
  • Transfer the mixture to a baking dish. You can use any size and shape you like. The bigger the dish, the thinner the bars will be. I went for a smaller sized pan because I like them in bigger chunks. Push the mixture down so that it fill the dish, and is uniform and flat at the top. 
  • Cover, place it in the refrigerator, and chill for a couple of hours until the mixture is sticking together well. You can also freeze these if you prefer. If stored well, they should last for about two weeks in the fridge, or longer in the freezer. 

loaded sweet potato ( + root vegetable) fries with shiitake "bacon" + garlic tahini

loaded sweet potato fries | what's cooking good looking
loaded sweet potato fries | what's cooking good looking

I am skiing this week in Colorado. I have never been a huge fan of skiing, for many reasons, and every year I say it is my last year skiing and the following year I always find myself back up on that mountain again.

I don't like being cold, and I don't like feeling fear or being out of my comfort zone. This is a problem, big problem, because skiing is (cold) and skiing is 80% confidence 10% not giving a shit if you fall on your face, and 10% skill. When you doubt yourself, you get nervous, when you get nervous you make mistakes, when you make mistakes, you fall. Unless you're going to walk down that mountain when you're at the top, there is no other way but to go down and go down like you mean it. 

There is a life lesson in there somewhere, I am sure of it.

shiitake bacon | what's cooking good looking
loaded sweet potato fries | what's cooking good looking

I am proud to say that this week was my breaking point. These past few days I not only conquered my fears, but I did things I never thought were possible (for me). I'll spare you any cheesy fear overcoming talk, and don't worry, I am not slapping one of those 90's "No Fear" stickers on my ski helmet, and I am not dropping cooking to become a ski instructor. I do have to say though, that getting over my fear of steep slopes and bumpy trails was such an crazy awesome feeling. 

This was good for me, since I am one of those people who stay wayyy in the comfort zone. My comfort zone is in my kitchen, coming up with recipes, feeding people. I am cautious about how I spend my time, and I will politely back out of things that make me feel uncomfortable. It was good for me to have that rush that you get when you overcome a fear … maybe it is something I should try and do more often. 

loaded sweet potato fries | what's cooking good looking

As you can imagine, my favorite part about skiing is long, leisurely lunching and the hunger you feel at the end of the day. It's a deserving hunger, a hunger I also get when I run long distances or take a really brutal workout class. I reward myself with a big, delicious lunch and dinner because my body needs it and my soul wants a little pat on the back. 

When I have that kind of hunger, I like things that are hearty and filling like these loaded sweet potato and root veggie fries. I am so happy to be seeing things like kale and quinoa salads on almost every menu out here this week, and healthy options at many of the restaurants. I would love for places to take it one step further and add things like shiitake bacon an option over real bacon … baked sweet potato fries as an option for regular french fries. Things are definitely moving the the right direction, maybe that won't be such a stretch someday. 


loaded sweet potato ( + root vegetable) fries with shiitake "bacon" + garlic tahini

For these loaded, baked fries, I used a variety of root vegetables in addition to sweet potatoes. Celery root, turnip, rutabaga, all make delicious additions to this, but if you want to play it simple you can use all sweet potatoes. Shiitake bacon is one of the coolest tricks you can do with a vegetable, and this dish screams for them. If you've never tried it before, this is a great way to get into it and start making them. 

a few people as an appetizer or snack


for the skiitake bacon:
2 cups of shiitakes, sliced lengthwise 
1-2 teaspoons of braggs amino acid (or tamari, or a low sodium soy sauce)

for the fries:
1 large sweet potato, sliced into wedges that resemble thick-cut french fries
1 celery root, sliced into wedges
1 turnip, sliced into wedges
a drizzle of olive oil
salt + pepper
a sprinkling mix of dried herbs such as parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme
some red pepper flakes or cayenne if you like spice
a sprinkling of cornmeal 

for the tahini:
1/3 cup of tahini 
1/3 cup of water
1 garlic clove, minced
the squeeze of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
a tablespoon of nutritional yeast (if you want a slight cheese flavor)
a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

for some additional toppings:
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 mild, red chili, seeded and diced
some micro greens


Make the shiitake bacon:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 300º. 
  • On a parchment lined baking sheet, toss the shiitake slices with the braggs amino acid (or tamari/soy). 
  • Bake for 50 mins to 1 hour, tossing the shrooms every 15 minutes or so. You want them to become very very crispy and dry (think bacon bits). Set aside to cool, while your making the fries. 

While the shiitake bacon is cooking, make the tahini and prep the sweet potatoes and root veggies:

  • Place all of the ingredients for the tahini into a blender, and blend until it is smooth. Taste, and adjust any seasoning as necessary. 
  • On a large parchment lined baking sheet, very lightly drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Then sprinkle the salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice over the fries and toss again. Lastly, sprinkle a dusting of cornmeal over the veggies and toss to coat. You want a thin layer of cornmeal over the fries, this will make them nice and crispy, but be careful not to overdo the cornmeal. 

Bake the veggie fries, and assemble:

  • Once the shiitakes are done, raise the over temperature to 450º. 
  • Bake the fries for about 45 minutes, until the are golden brown and crispy. 
  • Allow them to cool slightly before dressing. Then, once they have cooled, add the toppings. I like to drizzle the tahini over top, and then crumble the shiitake bacon all over, and finish with the other toppings like green onion and red chili. 
  • Enjoy immediately, while warm.