Lemon Leek Pesto Penne Recipe for Dole!

As you guys know, I am a huge fan of the Dole brand, so when they asked me to create a healthy recipe using leeks for their Nutrition Newsletter (sign up) I dove into my kitchen and created this Lemon Leek Pesto Penne Pasta with Peas.

This pasta is packed with flavor! Sassy bright tones from the citrus and sweet warm tones from the basil. Walnuts add depth and texture (and nutrition) to this rustic leek-basil pesto sauce. The sweet and alluring sliced leeks mesh perfectly with the rustic whole wheat pasta. Sweet, protein-rich peas complete this delightful, healthy green dish.

Leeks are low in calories and rich in fiber and manganese - they also contain detoxifying properties. Get my recipe and more nutrition info on leeks from Dole!..

lovely leeks..

Lemon Leek Pesto..

pre-garnish, penne..

dive in..

From the Dole Nutrition website - on leeks:

"One medium cooked leek (124g) contains 38 calories and provides a good source of manganese. As part of the allium (garlic and onion) family, leeks contain beneficial organosulfur compounds, including allyl sulfides, which studies show stimulate the body's natural detoxification systems. This may explain why National Cancer Institute researchers found that leeks and other allium-containing vegetables may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by as much as 50%. Leeks also contain inulin, a prebiotic fiber that selectively feeds good bacteria to protect against food-borne viruses, and may also help regulate appetite and increase calcium absorption."

Dole Nutrition. Want more Dole inspiration? Be sure to check out my past posts..

* David Murdock (of Dole) Wellness Lessons, my commentary on the New York Times article
* Dole Health and Wellness Blogger Summit

And if you love nutrition facts and quips like I do (I'm famous for reading nutrition books like Rebecca Woods Whole Foods Encyclopedia from cover to cover) - sign up for Dole's Nutrition News Newsletter (where this recipe will be featured). You'll receive a monthly email filled with healthy facts, nutrition findings and the latest nutrition news from top resources. I've been a newsletter subscriber for years now. Sign up at Dole's website.

And since many of you ask me what my fave healthy books are - I love Dole's Nutrition Handbook. It is filled with facts and photos. Fruits, veggies and more. I love to reference this book when doing blog posts - like for this juice post.

More Dole links:
* Dole on Twitter
* Dole's Salad Guide on Twitter
* Dole on Facebook
* Buy on Amazon: The Dole Nutrition Handbook..

Onto my recipe - which will also be featured in the next Dole Nutrition Newsletter..

Lemon-y Leek Pesto Penne with Peas
vegan, makes about 5 servings

12 oz. whole wheat penne pasta

Lemon-y Leek Pesto
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 garlic cloves
4 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed well - still damp (loosely packed)
1 3/4 cups sliced leeks, cleaned (about 2 small leeks)
1 cup raw walnuts
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 jalapeno, de-seeded (opt'l)

veggie garnish
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 leek, cleaned and sliced into rounds
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp fresh black pepper


1. Start making your pesto. Clean and prep all your leeks - make sure to rinse and grit inside the folds. Add all your ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. The excess water from the rinsed basil leaves should keep the pesto 'loose' enough - but add ore liquid if the consistency is too thick. The ideal consistency is like a wet, chunky hummus.


2. When your pesto is ready, you can start boiling your pasta. Boil. Drain.

3. Toss the warm pasta in the pesto sauce. Cover and set aside.

Toss the pasta.

4. Next up is a quick saute of the garnish - peas and leeks. Clean and slice your leeks. Turn heat to medium-high and add olive oil to your saute pan. When oil is hot add in the peas and leeks. Saute until the leeks become tender and frozen peas are heated through. Reduce heat to medium and add in the pepper and lemon juice. Toss for a few more minutes and remove from heat.

Veggie Garnish - leeks and peas.

5. Plate your pasta and add the peas and leeks around the pasta. Serve! You can also make this dish ahead of time - chill in the fridge and reheat in the oven.


ABC Kitchen NYC Vegan Dinner - Review!

Last night I enjoyed an amazing vegan dinner at ABC Kitchen. The occasion was a birthday dinner for my husband (G). He always seems to have the best of luck with bday dinners - example, Dirt Candy last year. And today, we both can't stop raving about the blissful yumminess of our ABC feast.

ABC Kitchen sits at the top of Union Square here in NYC. Their tagline: "a passionate commitment to offering the freshest organic and local ingredients possible." ABC opened about a year ago to rave reviews and was created by one of my favorite chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Truly the best part of my ABC experience (besides the brilliant food) was my server Daniel. The first words out of his mouth as he swooped up to our glossy white table were "You write a food blog right? I'm a fan! I love your blog!" A big smile spread across my face - so fun! Daniel helped me curate a dreamy ABC Kitchen vegan feast. Let me share my ABC experience!..

Inspired dining..

Ready to head out and eat!..

organic in a every way possible. food. design. logo.

When ABC Kitchen first opened, I was ecstatic to read about it on JGV's blog - and reviews were popping up online (like this NY Times Sam Sifton review) - all raving about ABC as a new trendy, modern, ECO-chic "farm-to-table" style restaurant. I had to check this one out for myself..

So lets get to my ABC Kitchen Review!..

Again, special thanks to my bright-eyed, vegan-tastic server Daniel who was incredibly helpful at curating my perfect vegan feast. Friendly and fantastic.

Night Out. Around seven o'clock I called ABC for a last-minute reservation. The earliest spot was 10:30pm - but I said "I'll take it!" since I was terribly eager to visit.

The special occasion was my G's birthday - and we cruised into the restaurant around 10pm. ABC Kitchen sits just above Union Square at 35 east 18th street. True, it was a Tuesday evening after 10pm - but ABC Kitchen was packed with energized diners. They sat cheery-faced under the glow of gold and silver lights - the dining room was a wide sprawl of glossy white tables. Up front was a crisp, sleek, sparkly-lit bar area.

ABC's decor
is rustic-modern. Garden-meets-urban. Outdoor-meets-indoor. To say it has an 'organic' feel is an understatement. White twinkly lights, crystal chandeliers, wooden-beamed ceilings, dainty golden-glowing industrial hanging light bulbs and tiny flowers in tiny vases at every table. Floral accents everywhere. The dishes and silverware are an eclectic mix of textures, colors and patterns - just as you would find at someones home - that is if they had a gorgeous little country farmhouse with modern spotless design flair!

The sparkling water we ordered came out in wide glass bottles, the bubbles shimmering next to the tiny white candles. The napkins were rustic white and blue striped dish cloths. The white tables and chairs a heavy smooth texture - perfectly blending into the pastel-artwork speckled walls.

Trust me guys, I was kinda dying to whip out my cell phone and start snapping away at the lights, decor, food - everything! But I restrained myself. :)

The Meal.

Drinks (we shared three):
Clementine Fizz - amazing! Tasted like biting into a perfect, juicy clementine.
Skyy Citrus Thyme Vodka Lemonade - sweet and sassy. fab.
Blood Orange Bellini - rich blood orange color and taste. My husband kept saying "now that's tiger blood!" yum.

Sides, Salads and Apps:
Roasted Kabocha Squash Toast with apple cider vinegar - there is a reason I am putting this dish first - it was my favorite thing of the night. Everything was fabulous, but this sweet-potato-like toast stole my heart and my taste buds. Creamy bright orange squash was slathered onto olive oil soaked toasts. Kinda like squash bruschetta. Accented with that tangy cider vinegar and a hint of spiciness - this simple dish was fabulous. And funny enough, it originally comes with ricotta cheese - but to all you non-vegans out there, try it without the cheese! It really doesn't even need it.

Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad with seeds - Daniel said I simply had to try the carrot salad. I love carrots, so I was in. I wasn't expecting the 'salad' to be so fabulous. I expected some perfect greens and a few roasted carrot bits. No way - this salad was huge and incredibly flavorful. Chili-infused roasted mini-sized carrots lay across the plate and a generous portion of perfect micro greens, seeds, avocado slices and EVOO soaked croutons on top. This salad was gorgeous. Lots of vitamin A for us so far!..

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette - I'll let G's post-sprout reaction explain this dish. G hates Brussel Sprouts. But I knew these would change his mind so I shoved about 5 giant sliced sprouts onto his plate. He gasped in delight. "Wow, these are amazing." He even spooned a second helping of sprouts onto his plate. Case closed! Somehow, the chefs managed to remove all the 'bitterness' associated with brussel sprouts. Veggie candy indeed. Tasty gems. These tender little bites drizzled in a bright spicy-sweet mustard sauce are a must-try (even if you think you hate brussel sprouts).

For our entrees, G and I ordered half-sizes of the pasta. (They come in two sizes small and large.) But really, since I had already chowed down on so many delicious things, this was the perfect size of pasta. They made me a vegan dish with tons of roasted mushrooms and some tender broccoli rabe tossed in as well. All tossed in a flavorful olive oil. My pasta was fabulous. G ordered a non-veg pasta and also raved. He also ordered the scallops as a starter and said they were the best scallops he ever tasted. But the funny side note is that he actually said he probably should've just ordered vegan pasta like mine because it meshed so well with the rest of this veggie-infused meal!

We were stuffed so all G and I could manage was sorbet. But I love a good sorbet.. We split three scoops of sorbet: Apple Cider and Banana flavors. My husband ordered a soy cappuccino as well, which I sipped - it was very good. So rad that they have soymilk for their after-dinner coffee bevies.

So overall you can see that I'm gushing, raving like a lunatic really, over ABC Kitchen.

During dinner, G and I started listing our top ten fave restaurant experiences ever. Among them, Pure Food and Wine, my vegan feast at Le Bernadin, our wedding feast at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami, Dirt Candy, Blossom, Kitchen Club, our fave spot in Paris - and more, all made the list. And now I have to squeeze one more spot onto our top ten list: ABC Kitchen.

Will I be back? No doubt, yes!

Bravo Jean Georges!
And thanks Daniel and all the talented employees of ABC. Keep the organic, local deliciousness coming!

More ABC tibdits..

Luxe Smoothie Bar? Yes, they have that too! They have a stellar juice and smoothie bar with some exquisite concoctions. Serious Eats asked if $12 for a smoothie was extreme - but after dining and drinking at ABC - I say no way! The quality is off-the-charts fantastic. This is no corner store smoothie bar. This is the gold standard.

Why ABC? It doesn't look vegan. I've been curious about it ever since it opened. And I'll admit that when I first glanced over the menu I wasn't sure if "vegan" would be easy. Would I just end up ordering an all-veggies meal? No way. It was glamorously vegan. Grains, seeds, veggies - divinely satisfying. My meal was easily made vegan. Thanks JGV!

Vegans Love JGV! You may recall I have done several posts about JGV - including his love of vegan Almond Butter Toast and his vegan-friendly attitude. Seriously, I think I could go to any JGV restaurant and always get a stunning vegan meal (even if the menu doesn't appear vegan). And that's why I adore JGV. Read JGV's blog here.

See the menu and restaurant details at ABC Kitchen's Website.


Vanilla Cherry Coconut Breakfast Risotto

I've always been a risotto fan. Butternut Squash Sage Almond Risotto is a favorite savory entree - and mushroom risotto closely follows. But what about using creamy-sweet arborio rice as the base for a breakfast risotto? I got the idea from a Joe Bastianich recipe - I tried it and was hooked. Breakfast risotto was added to my AM eats rotation.

I love a cozy warm bowl of cereal for breakfast, but I think we can all agree that oatmeal fatigue is no fun. So I started experimenting with breakfast risotto recipes - and this Vanilla Cherry Coconut Breakfast Risotto is a flavor combination that's a keeper. Get my recipe and more hot cereal breakfast ideas...

Hot Cereal Breakfast. My favorite vegan recipes include:

Fig Citrus Almond Breakfast Risotto
Pumpkin Spice Cream of Wheat
Fuyu Spice Oatmeal
Kiwi Cherry Oatmeal
Blueberry Oatmeal - includes reasons to eat breakfast!
Farro Porridge (I don't have a recipe for this - though it's a fave of mine from Le Pain Q - when they have it on the menu)

Today's Recipe..

Vanilla Cherry Coconut Breakfast Risotto
vegan, makes 6 cups - freeze or fridge leftovers

1 1/2 cups dry arborio rice
3 cups water
1 cup almond or soy milk
3/4 cup light coconut milk (set extra coconut milk aside for drizzling over top hot cereal)
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 cup cherries
* I used Trader Joe's Morello Cherries, drained - but you can also use fresh or frozen
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
dash cinnamon
2 Tbsp coconut flakes (plus extra for garnish)
dash salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Add the water, salt, vanilla extract and rice to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

3. After the rice has absorbed most of the water you can add in the soy or almond milk and coconut milk. Continue stirring over medium heat and allow risotto to thicken.

4. Fold in half of your cherries, the cashews, coconut flakes, sweetener and cinnamon. Do a taste test of your risotto. If it is tender and creamy - you may be ready to serve. You can always add in more liquid if you want an even more tender textured risotto. This cereal will be much softer than a dinner risotto.

5. To serve, add the risotto to a bowl and top with coconut flakes, a few more cherries and a drizzle of coconut milk - or soy milk. Serve warm. Store the leftovers in the freezer or fridge and reheat in microwave or stove top.


Vegan Smores Hot Fudge Sundae!

Happy (vegan) Hot Fudge Sundae Friday! OK, so I just made that holiday up. It's actually Waffle Day today if you want a real food holiday. Or you can just make up your own food holidays like me. It's a great excuse to treat yourself.

I made this snazzy Smores Hot Fudge Vegan Sundae for a few reasons. Find out and see what ingredients I used...

First a lil eye candy of this sundae..because it's just so pretty!..

Happy 5th! Why the celebratory sundae Friday?? Well, five years ago today my husband proposed. Four months later we had our wedding. It goes by so fast and I simply can't imagine my life without him! I can't wait to see where the next five years takes us. Hopefully we will be going to Italy this summer to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. Any vegan-in-Italy tips? Travel tips? Helpful hints welcome! I've never been!

The other reason why I made this sundae (besides the fact that it's fun to make and photograph sundaes) is for my husband - he has gone dairy-free (for lent) and I wanted to make him a creamy treat for staying off dairy. He really only misses his weekend croissants and cheesy frittatas from Le Pain Quotidien - since he really is quite veganish. I like to call him 99% vegan. 1% confused. :)

So here's how I made this fabulously blissful sundae..

Smores Hot Fudge Sundae
vegan, makes one sundae (2 spoons!)

2 scoops Vanilla Island Coconut Bliss ice cream
2 Tbsp dark chocolate hot fudge (I found an amazing brand called Wax Orchards - it's fat free, fruit juice sweetened and so good!)
2 Tbsp vegan marshmallow creme
1 Tbsp crushed grahams
1 Tbsp mini vegan chocolate chips
swirl of soy whipped cream
(cherry optional)

Scoop the ice cream.
Sprinkle on the grahams.
Spoon on the hot fudge
Sprinkle the chips.
Dollop of marshmallow.
Swirl of soy cream.


Chocolate-Covered Animal Cookies.

These Easy Awesome Chocolate-Covered Animal Cookies are just that. Easy and awesome. This is a fun kitchen project filled with sprinkles, cute animal shapes, melted silky chocolate and parchment paper fun. No oven required. No ingredients to measure. Three ingredients! Try these cuties today!..

Vegan Animal Crackers/Cookies. I spotted a giant tub of *vegan* animal cookies at Trader Joe's - so I had to grab them. These cute little cookies were what inspired me to make this recipe.

I loved those pink and white creamy bite frosted animal cookies as a kid. I liked the white ones better than the pink ones. But alas, these frosted animal crackers are not vegan. And since I knew my husband would go gaga for dark chocolate animal cookies - that's what I did.

Chocolate. I wanted a super bold, not too sweet coating for my cookies. So I grabbed some easy melt baking circles from TJ's as well. They are pretty much 100% cocoa mass. However, after taste-testing the cookies I thought they were a tad too bold. So I did another round with basic vegan chocolate chips. I liked these better, but the chocolate was a bit thicker to work with. Funny enough, my dark chocolate loving husband loved the straight up baking chocolate cookies. The darker the better I guess. The cookies do have a subtle sweetness which enhances the bold chocolate.

Sprinkles. Vegan sprinkles are out there. True, most mainstream baking sprinkles are made from vegan ingredients (sugar, chemicals, artificial stuff etc) - the only thing you may be skeptical of is the food dye sources - which you can't really confirm from a package sometimes. To be safe, go with the vegan-certified sprinkles available at Whole Foods or online. I had some basic sprinkles in my pantry - so I used those. But I made half my batch "non-sprinkled" for me since I'm not a fan of non-vegan food coloring. I use my India Tree and plant-based sources every chance I get.

OK, enough of the technical stuff. Here's the fun part..

Easy Awesome Chocolate-Covered Animal Cookies
vegan, makes 2 cups of cookies

1 3/4 cups vegan animal cookies
medium bowl of melted chocolate - about 2/3 cup - (baking, dark, semisweet all optional)
round sprinkles - or your fave variety

parchment paper-lined baking sheets (so the sprinkles don't roll onto the floor!)


1. In a double broiler, start melting your chocolate via steam. Do not burn it.

2. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. About 3 cookies at a time - drop them into the melted chocolate and remove with a fork. Place the coated cookies directly on the parchment paper. Then grab your sprinkles and dash a few on top of the still-soft chocolate coating.

4. Repeat with all your cookies.

5. Place your cookies in the fridge or freezer to harden. I like to store mine in the freezer - they keep longer that way - and it's easy to grab a few for a treat.



Vegan White Bean Burgers with "cheese & bacon"

You might think homemade veggie burgers take a lot of time and effort - but creating these White Bean "Cheese" and "Bacon" Burgers was so easy! I am thrilled to put 'bean burger night' in my mealtime rotation.

The best part about bean burgers is that they are naturally rich in protein, fiber - and flavor. Plus you don't even need to lug out your food processor. These babies were fork-mashed and hand-shaped. Easy! Get my recipe...

My First Veggie Burger. I fondly remember my very first (non packaged) bean veggie burger. I loved it. And this was before I was vegetarian! My family and I would go to a spot called Carpo's in Santa Cruz, Cali. They were known for their burgers. But I started ordering the soy veggie burger and couldn't stop! It was juicy and tender and the beans were sweet and savory all at the same time. Plus the burger was huge! I'm talking Donal Trump "uge" .. did anyone get that reference?

So I wanted to create a bean burger at-home that reminded me of that burger - but that wasn't from black beans. Something sweeter. So I chose white cannellini beans.

Vegan "Bacon" is something I don't always buy. I usually make my own tempeh facon, but this time I decided to give the packaged vegan bacon a whirl.

For "Cheese" I usually use Daiya, but since I wanted a flat slice, I decided to use Follow Your heart brand.

White Bean "Cheese" & "Bacon" Burgers
vegan, makes about 4 burgers

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup bread crumbs, fine
1 can white cannellini beans, drained
dash salt
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
dash chipotle powder
dash garlic powder
dash black pepper
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (opt'l)

Burger Stuff:
4 buns
4 slices vegan cheddar "cheese"
8 slices vegan "bacon" (fried in 1 1/2 Tbsp oil)
1 1/2 cups watercress (or another crunchy leafy green)
4 tomato slices
4 Tbsp Vegenaise
4 Tbsp spicy Dijon mustard

foil or parchment paper for baking burgers


1. Start off by turning your oven to 400.

2. For your burgers, place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and grab a big fork to start mashing. And mashing. And mashing until the mixture becomes a sticky paste of mashed beans.

3. Next you can line a baking sheet with parchment paper and start hand-shaping your burgers. You should get about 4 thick burgers - depending how big you make them.

4. Lay your burgers on the parchment paper and bake in oven for 20-30 minutes - or until brown crust starts to for on the outside. Longer baking times will dry out your burger more. For the last 5 minutes of baking you can add your slice of cheese to the burgers to get it to melt. You can also place your buns in the oven a few minutes to toast.

5. While your burgers are baking - you can fry your vegan bacon. Set aside along with the the other ingredients.

6. Start assembling your burgers!

..Vegenaise, Dijon, Tomato, burger, watercress. Slice and serve! Yes the burgers may crumble a bit into large chunks as you eat it - but really, that's the whole fun of eating a homemade bean burger!