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.

 

 

 

easy weeknight meal: sweet potatoes with cheesy pistachio dust (vegan, gluten free)

 

As a food blogger, it can be tempting for me to post oodles of complicated, fancy recipes that have a big wow factor. Because those are the things that get a lot of splash and attention.

But, that’s not reality.

As a mom of four and business owner two times over, I don’t have time most days for complicated and fancy. I’m guessing you don’t either.

Which is why I’m sharing more of a meal idea than a “recipe” with you today. It’s an easy weeknight meal that is uncomplicated, but tasty. Simple, but satisfying. Light on ingredients but packed with the nutrients your body needs to fuel itself for all the things you do.

That’s the beauty of an easy weeknight meal, isn’t it?

First we start with a sweet potato. Packed with vitamins, fiber, potassium, sweet potatoes are one of my favorite comfort foods. I like to prepare them either by baking them whole or cutting them in half and placing cut side down on a baking sheet to get a be-you-ti-ful carmelization, like you see with the sweet potatoes in the picture above.

Next comes a side of salad. Here’s where you can find the dressing and basic to a chop salad that frequently makes an appearance on our table. It’s one the kids like, especially since I let them customize their toppings. Just ignore the picture…clearly, I’ve been working on my photography skills.

To amp up the protein and keep this meal from being ho-hum, I whipped up and added some cheesy pistachio dust (dairy free, of course) to both the potato and the salad. You’ll find the recipe for that below.

 

 

If you’re pressed for time during the week, you can prep much of this meal ahead of time over the weekend by pre-baking the sweet potatoes and mixing up the pistachio dust and salad dressing. I don’t recommend prepping the veggies ahead (unless you’re having them the next day) since they start to lose some of their nutrients after being cut. Instead, chop them up while you’re warming the sweet potatoes (I always do this in the oven, as I ixnayed the microwave for food years ago).

So there you have it! An easy weeknight meal that can be partially prepped ahead of time or simple enough to come together even in a pinch.

 

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.

     

     

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

    • Click here for my favorite food processor for the cheesy pistachio dust

    blueberry banana bread bars (vegan, no added sugar)

     

    I love hard-working recipes – especially ones that can work as breakfast, dessert or a snack! And these blueberry banana bread bars are perfect for all three.

    I have a particular soft spot for these since it’s one of the first recipes I tried (thanks to the inspiration of Angela’s muffin tops recipe at Oh She Glows) that didn’t require any added sugar. And didn’t end up a yucky gummy mess which can happen when you remove the dairy and the added sugar.

    These blueberry banana bread bars are just one of the recipes featured in my 7-day plant-based refresh which you can sign up to receive for free here.

    Not only do these offer a delicious way to use overripe bananas, but they are easy to make and can be made gluten free by using certified gluten free oats. Since they’re crowd pleasers, I’ve often brought them to potlucks and brunches.

    Blueberry Banana Bread Bars
    Prep Time
    15 mins
    Total Time
    30 mins
     

    A versatile recipe that can be eaten as breakfast, dessert or a snack and is crowd-pleaser. Free of added sugar and can be made gluten free with the use of gluten-free oats.

    Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
    Author: Andrea Anderson
    Ingredients
    • 2 large bananas
    • 1/2 c. date paste
    • 1/4 c. coconut oil
    • 2 c. rolled oats gluten free if needed
    • 1/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2-1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

    2. Add bananas, date paste and coconut oil to a food processor and blend well.
    3. Add the oats, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon and baking powder and blend well.
    4. Press mixture into a greased 8×8 glass baking dish, then top with blueberries, gently pressing the berries into the batter.
    5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and the middle is firm, but yields slightly to the touch.

    6. Cool then cut.
    Recipe Notes

    If doubling the recipe, you will probably need to break up the steps further. Here’s what I do: First, coarsely blend all the oats and set aside in a large bowl. Then blend other ingredients per instructions above (without the oats). Next, stir the blended ingredients together with the oats in a large bowl. Continue with steps 4-6. I think this recipe works best with ripe to slightly overripe bananas.      *     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. 

     

     

     

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

    • 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.
    • Unsweetened shredded coconut: If you have a Whole Foods or natural foods store near by, check the bulk section! Or get it here.

    new year’s Q&A

     

    Since it’s the new year and I’ve had many new readers join me here, I thought it would be fun to share more about me and why I started eating a plant-based diet plus I’ll answer a few of the questions I get asked most often.

    Before we dive into that, if you missed it last week and are looking to refresh your diet this year, you won’t want to miss what I shared in this post.

     

    All right, now for the Q&A…

    How long have you been eating a plant-based diet? Since May 2012

    What caused you to make the switch? My dad was diagnosed with extensive heart disease. We were all shocked, although we shouldn’t have been given his family history. He was hoping to avoid surgery by going to an extremely low fat, plant-based diet and I wanted to support him. Also, my own cholesterol numbers weren’t the greatest – a fact I’d chosen to ignore since my 20’s. Although my dad ultimately needed surgery because of the severity of his blockages, I found that I loved eating this way and never looked back!

    Why do you love it? I feel so much healthier – less fatigued, lighter (I literally lost weight), natural color came back to my skin and I find I appreciate the taste of food more now that I don’t have animal fats coating my taste buds.

    Does your family eat this way? Sort of. They definitely eat a larger percentage of plant-based foods and meals, but also have meat and dairy several times a week. As much as I’d love them to go “all in,” I’ve learned that I can’t force it and try to do my best to make plant-based recipes they enjoy.

    Does that mean you’re cooking two meals for every meal? Not at all! That would be exhausting. LOL I may do this occasionally, but most of the time I can cook meals that are easily customized to our tastes (like pizza) or I just “beef up” on the veggies while they have meat.

    Why the term plant-based? This can be tricky. While “vegan” is the simpler and more common term, it often implies a lifestyle, not just a diet choice. I made this choice for my health and not as an animal rights activist, although I feel strongly that our food system is incredibly broken, especially in how it treats animals designated for food.

    So do you only eat plants 100% of the time? No. I’d be lying if I said 100%. It’s more like 98-99%. Occasionally, I will have a bit of meat, especially if I’m on a mission trip, or can’t resist the goldfish crackers my children love. LOL Since I do this for my health, I’m not opposed to the rare bite of non-vegan foods.

     

    What’s the hardest thing about sticking to a plant-based diet? Social situations. I believe eating is as much a social thing as it is about staying alive, so for anyone who switches to a diet that is largely different than what others are eating, it can feel awkward and frustrating. Thankfully, there are several ways to navigate these social situations (e.g. restaurants, potlucks, friend/family dinners etc.) and it’s even opened up opportunities to share about the benefits of plant-based eating with others.

    What’s your number one tip for going plant-based? Stick with it. Making a change in diet is tough and it can take awhile for your taste buds to adjust and to find recipes you genuinely love to eat. For the first three months of going plant-based, I had to re-learn how to cook and was brought to tears many times out of frustration. But I found that because I felt so much better, I was motivated to keep going and finally got my groove back in the kitchen.

     

     

    ready for a refresh? you’ll want this 7-day plant-based meal plan!

     

    Can you believe it’s almost the new year?!!

    It’s funny, but I almost wish this time between Christmas and New Year’s was a little bit longer. I love reflecting on the past year and thinking about the one ahead. Do you?

    If kicking off 2018 with a renewed commitment to eat healthier is something that’s been in your mind (or if you just want your meals planned out for an entire week #wink), then I have just the thing for you…a seven day plant-based meal plan!

    I’ve gathered some of my favorite recipes into a downloadable recipe book that will give you breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for seven days. The apple cabbage slaw is one of the recipes featured in the recipe book and is from my Perk Up Your Pantry – Fall edition recipe ebook. I’ve also included a suggested meal plan chart so you can see how I recommend pulling these together along with several of my meal planning and prepping tips.

    You can start this seven day refresh on any day of the week, but, personally, I recommend starting on a Monday.

    Why?

    • As the start of the typical work week we’re already in the “fresh start” mindset, similar to what happens at the beginning of every new year and we can harness that anticipation to fuel our motivation.
    • Having a set routine (which our work weeks are better at providing than our weekends), is helpful when starting something new. That way you’re not having to use up as much mental energy to figure out how a new(ish) eating plan will fit with your day.
    • It gives you an entire week to build up success before the weekend hits where there may be more temptations to go off-plan.
    • You have the weekend before you start to do your prepping which is essential to staying on track, especially if you work.

    Ready to start? Click this link to sign up to receive your free seven day plant-based meal plan and recipe book delivered straight to your inbox.