I am Dawn Anderson...

And this is what I have to say.

Category: Recipes

Pasta with Broccoli Pesto

Being short on time or energy doesn’t have to be a reason to not eat a home cooked meal. Today was one of those days for me. They made me earn every cent of my paycheck today at work plus I’m working on kicking a bit of a sugar habit. So needless to say I was tired, grumpy and hungry when I got home. Luckily I had written out a loose meal plan for the week and my friend Janet was nice enough to do a quick Whole Foods run last night, so I had a super quick and easy dinner idea in the hole (thank.goodness.). I’ve started setting a timer to get a more accurate account of how much time cooking takes (I’m working against the “I’m too busy to eat healthy/cook for myself” argument with a co-worker, but that’s another post) and will be posting that with recipes. This was 32 minutes from walking in the kitchen to plates on the table. AND this included real-life kitchen work (I had to wash the strainer, herbs & lemon since I didn’t do my normal food prep for the week) so this is real time. The recipe that inspired this uses fresh broccoli so feel free if you have time. I’ve made it with fresh and frozen and can’t tell any difference.

Pasta with Broccoli Pesto 20130326-193744.jpg
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This is a quick, easy dish that uses ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • ¼ cup raw sesame seeds
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves (loosely packed)
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves
  • ½ - 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 4 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ tsp capers (drained)
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 12 oz pasta
  • Additional broccoli florets (optional)
  • Fresh tomatoes (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Nutritional yeast (optional)
  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water when draining pasta.
  2. While pasta is cooking, place broccoli in a microwave safe dish and cook according to package directions for microwave cooking (3-5 minutes). Once finished, drain broccoli and set aside.
  3. Combine seeds, parsley, mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, capers and garlic cloves in a food processor. Process for 3 to 4 quick pulses to break down ingredients.
  4. Add broccoli and olive oil to the food processor. Process until all ingredients are well incorporated and the pesto mixture is a smooth consistency.
  5. Taste. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
  6. Combine pesto and drained pasta in a large bowl. Stir to combine adding reserved pasta water to mix, small amounts at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
  7. Serve as is or add in additional broccoli florets, chopped tomatoes or garnish with nutritional yeast or parmesan. Enjoy!



It takes all kinds of vegetables …

If you know it, sing along!

I used to LOVE that show! Now that we’ve taken a walk down memory lane, let’s talk soup. About 2 weeks ago the weather started to change here in Richmond. Chilly nights, and now even some chilly days, put me in the mood for soup. If you do any type of meal planning or want to start, adding a soup to your weekly rotation during the Fall and Winter can be a life saver. Soups usually aren’t very time or labor intensive (I know some would say chopping is laborious, but I disagree – I find it therapeutic), can be a good reducer of food waste (no need to waste those veggies – throw ’em in a pot with some liquid!), and can be stretched across many meals or even frozen for those weeks when you really don’t have time.

In the past my soup making as been sporadic. Last year one of my favorite magazines, Mary Jane’s Farm, ran a great article on soup recipes and included 13 hearty soups. My thought was that’s a soup for each week of Fall, and if I freeze some of each recipe, that could easily get me through most of the Winter. Unfortunately I don’t still have that article, but I can easily come up with a different plant-based soup each week for the next 3 months. Plus I hope soup-making will help me waste less food.

My new vegan-ish diet has me attacking my meal planning like its my job and I’m going to start posting the weekly plan again on Sundays. It will include 1 soup and I’ll share the recipe later in the week. If you are a soup maker or want to get started with meal planning, will you join me? I’m always up for sharing tips and on the lookout for new recipes!

Fall soup week 1 – Vegetable soup
This basic tomato-based soup can use fresh or frozen vegetables and the spice can be adjusted to your liking.


Vegetable soup

Yield 6 serving, approximately 1 1/2 cups each

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 cup green beans
1 cup diced potato (1-2 medium potatoes)
1 cup corn
3/4 cup peas
11.5 oz original V8 juice
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 cup water
14 oz broth (I’m working through a case of Pacific Low-Sodium Chicken broth)
salt & pepper to taste*
Creole seasoning to taste*

*Note: I season soups as I layer in ingredients. I measured out 1/2 teaspoon of salt to start, used 1/2 of it to season my vegetables as they cooked then used the remainder to taste at the end. We are watching our sodium intake. Additionally, I found out the hard way that creole seasoning is VERY SPICY once it cooks. I used way too much (1 tablespoon) and had to actually pour off some of the soup liquor and replace it with plain water and broth. Lesson learned: go lightly with the creole seasoning while cooking. You can always add more at the end.

Directions: Add oil to soup/stock pot and head over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and cook until onion is translucent. Add celery and cook until vegetables are tender. Add in green beans, potato, corn, peas, V8 juice, diced tomatoes, water and broth. Stir well to combine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring soup to a boil. Add salt, pepper and creole seasoning to taste. Cover, reduce heat to whatever temperature keeps soup at a simmer (mine was medium-low). Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Spice mixes DIY style: Taco Seasoning

Now that I’m cooking more again I’m finding myself in need of some spice combinations on a pretty regular basis. Way back when I was first stocking my newlywed kitchen I had the good sense to heed the advice of several older women in my life and invest in some Tupperware. The real deal stuff. The stuff that lasts for GENERATIONS (I know I’m not the only one who has at least one piece of their mother’s Tupperware). It was an investment, but after 12 years I still have every piece and they all are in great condition. One thing I purchased that I never used that much were a set of small spice holders. They hold about 1 ounce’ish and are coming in very handy as I rock my own spice mixes. So far I have a garlic powder blend and Pumpkin Pie spice. I’m made salt-free Taco Seasoning tonight and planning on doing a Creole Seasoning mix later this week. No need for those seasoning packets from the store anymore!

Salt-free Taco Seasoning (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Yields approximately 3 Tablespoons

3/4 Tablespoon chili powder
1/4 Tablespoon ground ancho chili pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (can use 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
NOTE: if you want a more “authentic” seasoning packet replacement feel free to add 1 teaspoon salt to this mix.

Add all ingredients to a small mixing bowl. Mix well. Store in an air tight container for up to 1 year.

Do you keep a well stocked spice cabinet? Are you a user of pre-made spice mixes or do you make your own?

Who says simple doesn’t taste good?

I left work early today to get somethings done around the house. Unfortunately my energy level over the past week has been low so not everything that needs to be done as been getting done 🙁

Anyway, I was starving heading home today and almost stopped to get something already prepared. I’m really trying to stick to a tighter budget and since I did get grocery shopping done this weekend, I headed home to the kitchen. I needed quick, filling, and somewhat balanced.

Enter a simple can of dark red kidney beans. It was the first thing I saw when I opened the pull-out pantry. Right underneath them – tortilla chips. Lunch became 10 minute nachos: a layer of chips, topped with 1 cup of beans (1/2 mashed, the other left whole), a serious sprinkling of Daiya shreds and a couple of dashes of Frank’s Hot sauce (no jalapeños in the house). Baked in a 350 degree oven for a little over 5 minutes then topped with shredded lettuce and salsa. Warm, gooey and delicious!


Now the trick will be not to lay down for a nap!

Salad-a-day: Spinach with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Well my salad-a-day challenge is off to a slow start but I’m on it today! Starting with a simple spinach salad. Two words people: homemade croutons!


Pictured 2 cups of spinach, 1 1/2 Tbs. vinaigrette


Spinach Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette (Vegetarian Times, April/May 2012)
Serves 6

1/2 baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (3 cups)
2 Tbs. oil from jarred sun-dried tomatoes
2 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
4 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. honey
5 oz baby spinach (4 cups)

To make Croutons: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray (I skipped this step due to the amount of oil in the croutons already). Toss together bread cubes, oil from tomatoes, and olive oil until bread is well coated; place on baking sheet in single layer. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until croutons are crisp and golden-brown.

To make Salad: Blend garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, vinegars, oil, and honey in food processor until mostly smooth (I used my food processor which was too big; using the blender next time). Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Toss spinach with vinaigrette in bowl. Top with croutons.

Per 1-cup serving: 249 cal; 4 g protein; 18 g total fat (3 g saturated fat); 19 g carbohydrate; 0 mg cholesterol; 211 mg sodium; 2 g fiber; <1 g sugars