5-ingredient vegan walnut pesto over zucchini noodles (vegan, gluten free, paleo)

vegan pesto pasta with zucchini noodles

Yep, it’s been waaay too long since I posted, but there’s a good reason for that.

If you saw my last post, you’ll know that I started on something new earlier this year. The name change of this online space was just the first hint of that! Since enrolling in my health coach training program, I’ve become even more excited by the possibilities for transformation that I can bring to my clients…and to you!

This online space will take a little catching up to what’s been happening “behind the scenes” since March. For now, I’m content not to rush it. In the end, it will mean better content for you and a space that feels authentically me.

Now about this recipe…

We’re in the thick of a heat wave and my enthusiasm for cooking over a hot stove in a house that lacks central air is way down. I’m not complaining though!

Instead, I’m using it as an opportunity to experiment with a summer meal plan and easy to prepare, refreshing recipes, like this vegan walnut pesto over zucchini noodles.

Here’s what I love about this dish:

  • It’s quick to prepare (the zucchini noodles take less time than cooked noodles!)
  • The vegan walnut pesto adds a boost of plant-based protein
  • You can serve the zucchini noodles warm or cold. Serve cold for a crunchier noodles. Pour warm water over them, then drain, for softer, warm noodles.
  • The zucchini noodles are an easy way to cut out carbs
  • It’s fun to make
  • You don’t need a stove

If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can use a cheese grate or slice the zucchini into long strips. This takes longer and isn’t as fun. However, it’s what I did the very first time I tried this since I didn’t want to buy a kitchen gadget without knowing if I’d like the results.

I found my first spiralizer at Whole Foods for only $5. More recently, I upgraded to a bigger spiralizer from Target (but you can find it a little cheaper here on Amazon *affiliate link)because it’s bigger and has three noodle shape/size options.

While I love this vegan walnut pesto for a cold supper option, my traditional pasta sauce also works well with these noodles, or even mix the two together!

*BONUS TIP: If you aren’t sure how you’ll feel about these zucchini noodles, and especially if you’re serving them to children for the first time, you can mix these in with spaghetti noodles. It’s what I do for my kids! Simply cook the noodles according to package directions and then add the zucchini noodles to the water just before you’re ready to drain the pasta. (BTW, I love the brown rice spaghetti noodles from Aldi)*

Five-ingredient vegan walnut pesto with zucchini noodles
Prep Time
15 mins
 

A quick and easy that's perfect for hot summer days...or when you want to shake things up for pasta night.

Course: Main Course
Keyword: vegan summer recipe, vegan walnut pesto, zucchini noodles
Servings: 2 adults
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups of basil
  • 1/2 cups of walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • dashes of freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 tsp nutritional yeast optional
  • 1-2 medium small zucchini
Instructions
For the zucchini noodles
  1. Thoroughly wash the zucchini and cut off the top (the end that attaches to the stalk). Place in spiralizer and turn to form noodles. For crunchier noodles, leave cold. For softer noodles that will feel closer to spaghetti, heat water in a kettle, pour over noodles and soak for 1-2 minutes. Drain, then portion into bowls or onto plates.

For the vegan walnut pesto
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix on high until everything is thoroughly combined. Spoon onto noodles of choice (I recommend zucchini!) and stir until noodles are coated. Personally, for my own bowl, I like to mix in the pasta by hand. Store any extras in an air-tight jar in the freezer.
Recipe Notes

*See post for additional tips and serving ideas

vegan seven layer dip

Stick around here long enough, and you’ll see that dips are one of my favorite recipes to make and eat. I think they need official status as their own food group.

This vegan seven layer is I’ve been making for several years and is a perennial crowd pleaser. It’s probably the first appetizer recipe that inspired me to include dips on a regular basis into our meal plan.

Here’s why.

I have four kids who all have very different ideas of what tastes good and have varying degrees of pickiness. They also love meat and cheese so I need to work hard to come up with all veggie recipes that taste good to them. Sooooo any time I can serve something that’s healthy, one hundred percent plant-based and fun (and what could be more fun than party food!), it feels like a huge victory.

There is one disclaimer.

Although this vegan seven layer dip is a crowd-pleaser, I don’t guarantee that everyone will like it hands down, especially if that person is super picky. I’d be lying if I did.

Case in point. One of my sons has curious (okay, downright maddening) food tendencies. Like, he’ll love and eat something like crazy for weeks on end and then one day want nothing to do with it. So, it’s probably not surprising that while he started out loving this dip, currently, he’s not a fan. I can still get him to eat it, but it takes some work.

I wanted to share this in case you, as a mom or preparer of food for others, have this same frustration. It’s not you, it’s not the recipe, it just one of the challenges of trying to cook for many individuals.

It’s why I’ve also included a few optional dip layers. Because maybe you don’t have a cucumber fan, but an olive one. Or maybe cilantro tastes like soap to them (it’s a thing) but green onions get rave reviews.

Vegan Seven Layer Dip

Ingredients

  • 1-14.5 oz can fat free refried beans
  • 1-2 cups red pepper or plain hummus
  • 1-2 avocados, diced
  • 2-3 cups added sugar free salsa
  • 3-4 cups diced romaine lettuce
  • ½ – 1 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • optional: green onions, diced jalapeños, olives

Instructions

  1. Spread refried beans evenly on bottom of baking dish.
  1. Next spread the hummus evenly and evenly distributed the diced avocados over that.
  1. Pour on the salsa.
  1. If using jalapeños or olives add those next, then cover evenly with the lettuce.
  1. Finish by evenly distributing the cilantro and the cucumber.
  1. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

This dip will store well in the fridge for a couple of days. Make sure to cover!


Vegan Seven Layer Dip
Prep Time
15 mins
 

This vegan seven layer dip is easy to make for a crowd at your next party or for a fun meal option.

Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • 1-14.5 oz can fat free refried beans
  • 1-2 cups red pepper or plain hummus
  • 1-2 avocados diced
  • 2-3 cups salsa
  • 3-4 cups diced romaine lettuce
  • ½ – 1 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 cucumber diced
  • optional: green onions diced jalapeños, olives
Instructions
  1. Spread refried beans evenly on bottom of baking dish.
  2. Next spread the hummus evenly and evenly distributed the diced avocados over that.
  3. Pour on the salsa.
  4. If using jalapeños or olives add those next, then cover evenly with the lettuce.
  5. Finish by evenly distributing the cilantro and the cucumber.
  6. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipe Notes

This dip will store well in the fridge for a couple of days. Make sure to cover!

Looking for other party food ideas? Try these:

vegan scalloped potatoes (easy, dairy free, gluten free)

vegan scalloped potatoes

 

With Thanksgiving coming up fast, here’s one of my favorite side dishes that’s an alternative to the traditional mashed potatoes: vegan scalloped potatoes.

Even though there isn’t bit of dairy to be found, they taste very close to the original. In fact, when one of my young nephews tried it, he said he, “really liked these cheesy potatoes.” Total vegan recipe win!! Did I let him in on the dairy-free secret? Nope.

But I’m sharing it with you. Let me know what you think!

 

vegan scalloped potatoes

 

Vegan Scalloped Potatoes (printable version below)

6 medium potatoes, thinly sliced

1 small onion, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 3/4 cup unsweetened organic soy milk (see tips for more)

1 cup original hummus

1 T nutritional yeast

3/4-1 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

 

  1. Add garlic cloves, soy milk, hummus, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper to a medium saucepan. Stir gently over medium-high heat until well-combined.
  2. In a greased casserole or baking dish (see tips for what I use), add a single layer of potatoes, then onions and repeat until all the potatoes and onions are gone, making sure you end with the potatoes. For a more finished look, place the final layer of potatoes in a spiral pattern starting on the outside of the dish and working inward and slightly overlapping each potato.
  3. Pour the sauce over top, cover the dish with foil and bake, covered, in a 400 F oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil, return to oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. 

 

Recipe tips:
  • Onions, garlic and hummus are the key to bringing the cheesy flavor out in these vegan scalloped potatoes. My go to brand of hummus is Sabra so if you use another brand, you may have to adjust for flavor.
  • While you can slice the potatoes and onions by hand, makes it much quicker and easier to use a food processor to slice them (here’s the one I use). Or you could use a mandolin. I usually pluck out the best pieces and save them for the top for a prettier look.
  • I prefer using avocado oil for greasing the casserole or baking dish because it’s better for high heat cooking. If you can’t find avocado oil in your local grocery store, try this one.
  • I use unsweetened organic soy milk in this recipe because I think it gives the best flavor. While soy is a controversial ingredient, I personally don’t have a problem with it, especially since I use it sparingly. If you try another non-dairy milk, you may need to adjust for taste.
  • Though I love these in a round or oval casserole dish for looks, any shallow baking dish will do.

 

And if you’re looking for other potato side dish ideas for a holiday dinner, you might like these: smashed potatoes & roasted broccoli  or jeweled sweet potatoes.

 

Vegan Scalloped Potatoes
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins
 

This easy side dish is a vegan take on a classic...cheesy but without the cheese!

Course: Side Dish
Keyword: gluten free, vegan scalloped potatoes, vegan side dish
Servings: 8
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • 6 medium potatoes thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 3/4 cup unsweetened organic soy milk see post for more info
  • 1 cup original hummus
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • 3/4-1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Add garlic cloves, soy milk, hummus, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper to a medium saucepan. Stir gently over medium-high heat until well-combined.
  2. In a greased casserole or baking dish (see post for what I use), add a single layer of potatoes, then onions and repeat until all the potatoes and onions are gone, making sure you end with the potatoes. For a more finished look, place the final layer of potatoes in a spiral pattern starting on the outside of the dish and working inward and slightly overlapping each potato.

  3. Pour the sauce over top, cover the dish with foil and bake, covered, in a 400 F oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil, return to oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

 

 

 

chocolate peanut butter mousse (vegan, dairy free, gluten free, no added sugar)

(this post contains affiliate links which help fund this blog but at no cost to you)

“We go together like birds of a feather…”

If chocolate and peanut butter ever had a theme song, that would be it. They were simply made for each other. #Godsagenius

And if you were playing Family Feud and had to name a food that went with peanut butter, I’m pretty sure “chocolate” would be a top answer. (“Jelly” might have the edge, numbers-wise, but taste-wise chocolate has “j” beat hands down IMO). You too?

So it was only a matter of time before I gave my go to chocolate mousse recipe a slight makeover to transform it into a chocolate peanut butter mousse.

 

 

There are three things I especially love about this chocolate peanut butter mousse recipe:

  1. It’s easy to make. With so many things on the go…four kids, two business, plus life and laundry, I want as many easy recipes in my life as possible.
  2. It’s a crowd pleaser. Whenever I hit on a recipe that satisfies many palettes, it quickly becomes a go-to and I love that this chocolate peanut butter mousse works as a snack or can be dressed up for company.
  3. It’s healthy but decadent. It’s my mission in life to prove that you can have a healthy dessert and eat it too without the sugar rush and crash and regretting that last bite, piece or helping. Dates and stevia stand in for added sugars but without fueling a sugar addiction and the fats from the avocado, peanut butter and coconut milk give a richness to the dessert that we often crave but with more substance and nutrients than we receive from butters and oils.

 

I’m giving you an option for a peanut butter mousse layer if you want to get all fancy pants and dress it up for guests. I’m perfectly content either way, but definitely run with the second option when I want to add a little wow factor. Mixing it up in food processor (this one’s my favorite), is my preferred way to make it because I find it easier to scrape than a blender. If you do go with the blender option, make sure it’s one with a motor powerful enough to handle blending the ingredients, especially the dates.

If you’re opting to add the peanut butter mousse layer, then you definitely want to serve this in a clear glass container. I used a Weck canning jar in this picture, which you can find here. For a slightly smaller size, these Weck tulip jars are my favorite. Yep, I totally crush over beautiful containers. And for parties, these jars make great portable, classy and environmentally friendly individual portion sizes. They’re my favorite party trick. For a party, though, you’ll want to double or triple the recipe depending on the number of guests.

 

P.S. Typically, I prefer using full fat coconut milk in my recipes, but because of the fat content in the peanut butter, I opted to use low fat coconut milk for this chocolate peanut butter mousse.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse
Prep Time
10 mins
Chilling
1 hr
 

Easy but decadent, this chocolate peanut butter mousse whips up in a jiffy and satisfies all the cravings.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Keyword: chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, easy vegan dessert recipe, no added sugar dessert recipe, vegan chocolate mousse
Servings: 6 people
Ingredients
  • 1 just ripe avocado
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup date paste
  • 1 15-oz can low fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened natural peanut butter
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. If making without the peanut butter swirl, add all ingredients to the food processor or blender and mix until smooth and creamy and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.


  2. If making the mousse with the peanut butter swirl, add all ingredients EXCEPT the avocado and cocoa powder to the food processor and blender. Blend thoroughly, then remove 1/4-1/2 cup and set aside. Then add the cocoa powder and avocado to the remaining mixture and blend until smooth and creamy.

  3. In clear glass containers, fill each 2/3 full of chocolate mousse, add enough peanut butter mousse to create a layered effect and then top with more chocolate mousse. Chill for at least one hour in the fridge.

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES:

If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using.

 

 

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  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers (see this post). I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping

vegan nut Parmesan (vegan, dairy free, gluten free)

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I think one of the hardest things about going “all in” with a plant-based diet is giving up the dairy…especially cheese. It’s one of the foods I thought I could never live without and believed it would be easier for me to be a vegetarian than a vegan.

Thankfully, we’ve entered an era where it’s easier than ever to give up our “could never live without” foods, especially when our health is at stake.

So today I’m sharing with you one of my favorite “cheese hacks” for salads, soups, stews or where ever you might like a sprinkle of savory cheesy flavor (but without the dairy): vegan nut Parmesan. Three kinds to be exact.

 

 

I was first introduced to the idea of a vegan nut Parmesan in Angela Liddon’s first cookbook…her recipes were a life-saver to this vegan newbie! Besides the cheezy flavor they add to a dish, I also love that they add a pop of plant-based protein, especially to leafy green salads which have a lower protein content than other dishes.

Since trying that first vegan nut Parmesan, I’ve experimented with other nuts and seeds and found the three that I’m sharing with you today to be my favorites…

Pecan Parmesan: This is the one directly inspired by The Oh She Glows Cookbook. I love it on salads and roasted vegetables or even snacking on it right from the jar when I’m craving something salty.

Cashew Parmesan: I love this best with almost everything…pasta, pizza, soups, salads and stews and believe it most closely resembles the real thing in both texture and flavor.

Pistachio Parmesan: Sprinkling it over sweet potatoes is my favorite way to enjoy it, but it’s lovely on salads too.

 

And here are the recipes for each:

vegan nut Parmesan

A trio of nut Parmesans to get your cheese fix even without the dairy.

Course: Topping
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
Pecan Parmesan
  • 1 c. pecans, toasted
  • 4 tsp. nutritional yeast
  • 3 tsp. avocado or olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
Cashew Parmesan
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 8 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp avocado or olive oil
Pistachio Parmesan
  • 1 c shelled pistachios
  • 9 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp avocado or olive oil
Instructions
  1. For each Parmesan (separately)...add the ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse or mix until the nuts are finely chopped. Do not over mix or the nuts will begin to release their oils and stick together.

Store in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

    buffalo cauliflower wings (vegan, gluten free, dairy free)

    I cannot tell you how excited I am by how these buffalo cauliflower wings turned out! I’ve made them before, but experimented with a slightly different technique and voila! Beautiful plant-based buffalo wings just in time for the “Big Game” coming up in a couple of weeks.

    While I’m not exactly a football fan, I do excited for the Super Bowl because it’s an excuse to make fun party foods to snack on. Kind of like how people look forward to Cinco de Mayo even though they aren’t Mexican. LOL

    Anyway…these wings and the sauce are incredibly easy to make and are kept low in fat and gluten free by baking instead of frying and using rice flour over wheat. The inspiration came from the Lean Clean Eating Machine. I’ll even make these occasionally as my “main” dish with sides of veggies. Interestingly, my daughter, who typically loathes cauliflower, will actually eat these because of the spice, but my husband and sons won’t because of it. Go figure, right?!

    You may be tempted to skip making the sauce and buying it instead but don’t!! It’s extremely easy to make and spares the icky preservatives and strange ingredients typically found in most hot wing sauces.

    I prefer to pull the cauliflower florets apart to form the “wings” in roughly bite-sized bites and then chop up any stalk that’s left over.

    To help your buffalo cauliflower wings crisp up faster, you’ll want to move them around on the parchment paper each time you go to turn them…that way they don’t stay in the same soggy spot. While I like them best fresh, they hold up quite well overnight so you can make them ahead of time…just crisp them up in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes before eating.

     

    Buffalo Cauliflower Wings
    Prep Time
    15 mins
    Cook Time
    40 mins
    Total Time
    55 mins
     

    Easy to make, these buffalo cauliflower wings are low in fat and gluten free since they are baked, not fried and use rice flour instead of wheat.

    Course: Appetizer
    Ingredients
    For the sauce
    • 1 cup red pepper sauce
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 2 T vegan butter
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 2 tsp tapicoa starch or 1/4 tsp xantham gum
    For the cauliflower wings
    • 1 head medium cauliflower
    • 1 cup brown rice flour
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 tspsalt garlic powder
    Instructions
    For the sauce
    1. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and whisk constantly over high heat until it thickens up. Turn off heat. Extra can be frozen.

    For the wings
    1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Rinse the cauliflower and then pull of the florets in bite-sized pieces. Chop up the stalk into bite-sized pieces.

    2. In a medium bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients for the coating until thoroughly combined. Add the cauliflower florets and mix by hand until the cauliflower is coated with the brown rice mixture.

    3. Place cauliflower on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle any remaining rice mixture over the larger cauli pieces. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and rotate the florets, then return for another 10 minutes or until the coating on the wings is dried and crispy. It's best to slightly shift the wings on the parchment to a drier spot to help with the crisping.

    4. Pour some wing sauce in a clean bowl and begin dipping the baked cauliflower florets in it one by one, coating thoroughly and returning the coated cauli wings to the baking sheet. Repeat with all the cauli wings added more sauce as needed. Reserve any spare sauce for extra spicy dipping.

    5. When all the wings are coated in the sauce, return the baking sheet to the oven and cook 10 minutes. Remove from oven, turn the wings as before and bake another 10 minutes or until the wings start to crisp up.

    6. Serve immediately or let cool on the baking sheet before storing in the fridge so they don't sog up. Extra sauce can be frozen.

     

     

    warming indian mulligatawny soup (vegan, dairy free, oil free, no added sugar, gluten free)

    As someone who prefers to use medication as an absolute last resort, I’m always on the lookout for food and recipes that give the body a fighting chance against infection before medication is needed.

    And this warming Indian mulligatawny soup is just what the homeopathic doctor ordered.

    Chock full of spices, vegetables and a kick of plant-based protein from red lentils, this soup comes together easily even if the ingredient list looks intimidating. Actually, it’s exactly because of all these ingredients (which are mostly spices) that makes this soup an excellent meal especially during cold and flu season.

    For example:

    • Ginger strengthens the immune system, helps with digestion and helps with respiratory health
    • Turmeric and cinnamon are antioxidants and anti inflammatory
    • Cardamon helps with digestion problems
    • Thyme soothes sore throats and coughs and also helps with digestion

     

     

    One of the reasons I also love this soup is that it’s one of the few soup recipes my husband also enjoys.  Without meats and cheese, he jokingly refers to most soups as “tea with vegetables” i.e. they don’t feel filling enough. The kids, on the other hand give it a mixed review. LOL

    This warming Indian mulligatawny soup is a plant-based and oil-free version of a recipe from The Wanderlust Kitchen and I’m grateful for the friend who passed it along. While the rice isn’t strictly necessary, it rounds out the recipe as a hearty meal. Quinoa would also work well as substitute.

     

    warming indian mulligatawny soup
    Prep Time
    25 mins
    Cook Time
    30 mins
    Total Time
    55 mins
     
    Course: Entree, Soup
    Cuisine: Indian
    Servings: 6
    Author: Andrea Anderson
    Ingredients
    • 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
    • 1 carrot
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 small apples, diced
    • 1 14.5 can diced tomatoes
    • 1 lime, juiced
    • 1 tsp powdered ginger
    • 1.5 T curry powder
    • 1.5 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 3/4 tsp turmeric
    • 1/4 tsp cardamom
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • 1 tsp salt
    • freshly ground pepper
    • 3 cups water
    • 1/2 cup red lentils, uncooked
    • 1 14 oz can full fat coconut milk
    • 1/4 cup fresh cilatro, chopped
    Instructions
    1. Add a little water to cover the bottom of a large soup or stock pot and saute the onions, garlic and carrots over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except the fresh cilantro and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are cooked thoroughly.

    2. Add fresh cilantro and serve over rice or quinoa if desired.

     

    loaded sweet potatoes with spicy guacamole and black bean sofrito (vegan, dairy free, soy free, gluten free)

     

    It always amazes me how hard it is to find a recipe that my entire family likes. I often get close with a 5 out of 6 thumbs up, but hitting a perfect score of 6 for 6 is maddeningly elusive. So imagine my surprise when this loaded sweet potato with spicy guacamole and black bean sofrito was a clear winner.

    Even with my daughter who doesn’t usually like bean dishes. Or my boys who prefer mild to spicy. Let’s pause while I celebrate with a hearty “ole.”

     

     

    I love the contrasting flavors, textures and color of this dish…the sweetness with the spicy, the creaminess punctuated with a light crunchiness, the deep orange flesh of the sweet potato with the brilliant green of the avocado.

    This recipe is extremely easy to pull together and is simply packed plant-powdered nutrition. Let me break it down:

    • The sweet potatoes are high in fiber and vitamins like A, B6 and C and carry a low glycemic index. And did you know you can eat their skins? You can! Just scrub them well before baking. I thought it would be weird to eat sweet potato skin at first, but I really like it!
    • The black bean sofrito boosts the protein along with the fiber in this dish. I learned the secret of yummy black bean sofrito when I was on a mission trip to Panama earlier this year…at each lunch and dinner while we were in the mountains, beans would be served (along with rice and some meat). I couldn’t get over how good the beans tasted and had to know what made them so flavorful. When I tried it after I got back home, I was extremely pleased with the results.
    • For the spicy gucamole, I wanted to do more than simply give it some heat – I wanted to sneak in some extra nutrients too which I accomplished by adding spinach. Were my kids any wiser? Nope!

     

     

    If you want to make this for a weeknight but anticipate being tight on time, bake your sweet potatoes ahead of time. Although the sofrito cooks up quickly, to make things speedier, you also could make it ahead of time. You’ll want to make the spicy guacamole fresh, though, but it will take less than 10 minutes. While you’re making the guac, you can be re-heating the potatoes and sofrito.

     

    loaded sweet potatoes with spicy guac and black bean sofrito
    Prep Time
    20 mins
    Cook Time
    1 hr
    Total Time
    1 hr 20 mins
     

    A nutrient-dense meal that's easy to pull together and a beautiful contrast in flavors, texture and color.

    Course: Appetizer, Entree, Main Course
    Cuisine: Mexican
    Servings: 6 people
    Author: Andrea Anderson
    Ingredients
    • 1 per person sweet potato, scrubbed
    For the black bean sofrito
    • 3 cups black beans, cooked
    • 1/2 onion, diced
    • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 large tomato
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • dashes pepper
    • 1/2 cup water
    For the spicy guacamole
    • 3 avocadoes, peeled and pitted
    • 4.5-6 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
    • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced
    • 1 large garlic clove
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp, scant salt
    • 1/2 cup spinach, chopped fine
    • 1/3-1/2 cup jalapeno peppers, minced
    • dashes freshly ground pepper, to taste
    • dashes dried chili flakes, to taste (optional)
    Instructions
    1. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a knife then in a 375 degree F oven for about 45 minutes or until the flesh is very tender.

    For the black bean sofrito:
    1. Add the onion, garlic and tomato to a pot with a little water and cook over high heat until the onion is translucent. Add more water if needed to prevent the vegetables from sticking.

    2. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer until the water is absorbed, using a potato masher to break up the beans slightly. For a creamier sofrito, add a little more water and adjust seasonings to taste.

    For the spicy guac:
    1. Cut the avocado into a bowl and mash. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Make sure you save the avocado pit which can be added to any leftovers to prevent browning.

     

     

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    • My daughter and I have a mild obsession with Jeff’s Natural’s jalapeno peppers which you can find here. Jeff uses purer ingredients than the canned kind and I love them in this spicy guacamole.

     

    weeknight spinach tikka masala (vegan, dairy free, gluten free, soy free)

    My love for Indian food – especially south Indian – has grown over the years and my favorite go-to curry sauce is this one. It’s one of the often-requested dishes from my boys (although they like chicken to go along with it…sigh). But, my girl…she’s a tough one! So far I haven’t won her over to that recipe, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when she actually liked this one. Praise the Lord.

    If you’re looking for a quick-ish fresh meal to make and one that rocks leftovers – this one is it!

     

     

    The sauce is the epitome of comfort food, Indian-style, with its warming spices and rich creaminess of the coconut milk. It gets an added nutrition boost from quick-cooking red lentils, which makes them ideally suited for weeknights, and freshly chopped spinach. It can be spooned over chickpeas or quinoa for added plant-protein or served traditionally with rice (brown is best). For our meal, I served it with oven roasted broccoli and green beans since those are two family favorites, but you can easily adapt your veggie add-ons to suit your tastes. Weeknight tip: use frozen veggies to save on chopping time!!

     

     

    For a quick weeknight meal, I recommend following the preparation steps outlined in the recipe. Alternatively, you could prep the sauce ahead of time and simply re-heat when ready to serve.

     

    weeknight spinach tikka masala
    Cook Time
    25 mins
     

    Warm comfort food designed for weeknights and made for leftovers.

    Course: Entree, Main Course
    Cuisine: Indian
    Servings: 6 people
    Author: Andrea Anderson
    Ingredients
    For the tikka masala sauce
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
    • 1 15-oz can full fat coconut milk
    • 1 T tomato paste
    • 1 tsp freshly minced ginger or 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
    • 1/2 tsp turmeric
    • 2 tsp coriander
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 2 tsp paprika
    • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2/3 cup red lentils
    • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
    • 1/2 cup chopped spinach
    For the rest of the dish:
    • chickpeas, quinoa or rice
    • veggies of choice
    Instructions
    1. If you are serving with brown rice and don't have a rice- or pressure cooker, put a pot of water on to boil (like you would for pasta) and turn on the oven to 350 degrees F. If you are serving with quinoa, rinse thoroughly and add to pot with water. For less mushy quinoa use a scant 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa. For example, if you're cooking one cup of dried quinoa, add only 1 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Cooks in about 10 minutes.

    2. Spread your veggies on a cookie sheet and pop in the oven. Rinse lentils thoroughly and set aside.

    3. Begin to chop the veggies for the tikka masala sauce. If cooking rice, at whatever point in this process your water starts to boil, add in the rice and cook uncovered as you would pasta. Set the time for 23 minutes.

    4. Finish preparing the tikka masala sauce and add in the lentils. Bring the sauce to a boil, cover the pot, then reduce to a simmer.

    5. Chop spinach and take a peek at your veggies in the oven. When they start to brown slightly, turn the oven off. Keep them in the oven until ready to serve so they stay warm.

    6. When the timer beeps, test your rice for doneness, then either allow to cook for another minute or two or drain immediately and return to the pot.

    7. When the lentils are fully cooked (about 10-15 minutes), add in the spinach and cilantro and stir to combine.

    8. To serve, add quinoa/chickpeas/rice to a bowl along with the veggies and spoon the sauce over top.

    9. 9) Store leftovers in the fridge for up to several days or freeze for later.
    Recipe Notes

    Recipe Notes

    • I prefer buying my broccoli and green beans frozen to save me a step.
    • If you want leftovers, I recommend doubling the sauce recipe.

     

     

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    • I’m able to buy my broccoli organically and in bulk from BJ’s (a wholesale club). If you don’t have a wholesale club membership and want to check BJ’s out, click here to get details on a membership (if you sign up we both get $25!!). Or, if you’re not sure if a wholesale club membership is worth it, you can download an article here where I share my experience and steps in evaluating whether a membership made sense for us.
    • You should be able to find canned full-fat coconut milk in most grocery stores. I buy either the Thai Kitchen brand or Whole Foods 365 coconut milk (which is better since their cans are BPA free!). However, if you can’t find it, try here.
    • I get my red lentils in bulk from Whole Foods, but you also can find them here.
    • I love Trader Joe’s frozen french-style green beans which is what I used here.

     

     

     

    cheesy kale chips (vegan, oil free, gluten free, soy free, paleo)

     

    Aren’t snack foods made from good-for-you ingredients the best? Like kale chips!

    The first time I tried kale chips, it was love at first bite. Savory, salty, crunchy…yum! But the thing I wasn’t in love with was the price tag, especially for frequent snacking (keep in mind we have four hungry children to feed, three of which are boys).

    So I turned to my own kitchen to try and re-create the ideal snacking experience.

     

     

    Here are few things I’ve learned along the way:

    • The key to a good kale chip is the seasoning. Since kale is strongly flavored itself, if you’re too light with the seasonings, you have a chip that tastes just like dried kale. Not to exciting.
    • It’s also essential to get the moisture balance right. Too little and it’s hard to coat the kale, too much and they’re on the soggy side and take forever to dry out.
    • Ideally, kale chips are best made with a food dehydrator. But if you lack one of those, as I do, setting your oven at it’s lowest setting – usually about 200 degrees F – is an excellent runner up.
    • Unless you plan on eating your kale chips on the spot, you’ll want to be sure all the kale is completely dried out before storing them in an airtight container. Just a little bit of moisture and the chips loose their crispiness and become chewy. If this happens to you – and it has to me many times – trying popping them back in a 200 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes to dry them out again.

     

    Pack these in ziplock bags if you’re traveling. Not only do they add zero weight to your luggage, but it can help you get your superfood fix if you’re not sure what snacking options you’ll have access to on the road. I brought these on a road trip with me this summer and will probably plan to do the same when I head to the Dominican Republic in February on a mission trip.

     

    Last thing…if you’re new to vegan “cheese,” be prepared that it will not taste like the cheese you’ve been used to…if you go in expecting that, you’ll be disappointed every time. Or you’ll need to buy manufactured vegan cheeses. I’ve learned that the idea is try an approximate the flavors and textures of familiar foods and appreciate the plant-based version for what it is…healthier, lighter and fuel your body can use.

     

    cheesy kale chips
    Prep Time
    15 mins
    Total Time
    1 hr
     

    Savory, salty, crunchy, snack-y, yummy! That about sums up these cheesy kale chips that can be made in your oven or with a food dehydrator.

    Course: Snack
    Author: Andrea Anderson
    Ingredients
    • 1/2 large bunch kale
    • 1/2 cup raw cashews
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp onion powder
    • 1/4 tsp paprika
    • 2 tsp nutritional yeast
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • dashes freshly ground pepper
    • water
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F

    2. Prepare kale by rinsing, patting completely dry then removing the stems. Chop into large pieces that are approximately 2" square. Add to a large mixing bowl.

    3. In a food processor or blender, add remaining ingredients except the water and blend until the cashews are very finely chopped - almost powdery. Add just enough water to create a thick paste (too much water = soggy chips). Massage the mixture into the kale until all the leaves are completely covered.

    4. Spread the kale in a single layer on a large baking sheet. For best results, make sure each kale leaf is spread out. Sprinkle on additional seasonings to taste.

    5. Put into the oven for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake for another 15 minutes and remove any completely dried chips. Place remaining chips back in the over for another 10 minutes or until all the chips are completely dried.

    Recipe Notes

    While the chips are best enjoyed immediately for ultimate crispiness, they can be stored in an airtight jar after cooling completely. If they're too soft and you have to have them crispy, pop them in a 200 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes.

     

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    • Click here for my favorite food processor
    • I found Trader Joe’s has the best price for cashews.
    • Nutritional yeast can be found in most health food stores or here. I get mine from the bulk section at Whole Foods.