Spicy Arugula & Lemon Pesto

Ready to spice up your pesto routine? This is a great pesto sauce to make when you have that bumper crop of arugula in your garden, like I did 2 weeks ago. This way you can use it all before it bolts.

Plus you can freeze the extra to preserve the taste of summer well into fall and early winter. 🙂

Arugula Pesto Ingredients

Spicy Arugula & Lemon Pesto

Yields 1 cup



  • 3 cups arugula leaves
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons juice)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste



Peel garlic cloves and juice the lemon into a blender or food processor. Start with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add all ingredients to the blender or food processor and combine until smooth. Adjust salt, pepper and other ingredients to taste. 

You can always add more lemon or olive oil if you would like it to be more lemony or thinner. 

This pesto goes great on pasta, pizza, paninis, with eggs or in a wrap with turkey and vegetables. 


This is a spicy pesto that is stronger than a classic basil pesto. You can tone down the spiciness by using 1 garlic clove instead of 2. You can also substitute 1 cup of basil leaves for 1 of the cups of arugula leaves. 

Pine nuts or cashews can be substituted for the walnuts. 

The Empowered Kitchen Tips

Pesto freezes really well. If you want to save some of this for fall or early winter cooking you can freeze it in ice cube trays and put those frozen cubes of pesto in a well-sealed container with the label of the pesto and date in the freezer. They keep well for about 5-6 months, so make another batch near the end of summer if you want some for fall or early winter to have a taste of your summer garden again.  

When you want pesto pasta or pesto on a meat or veggie dish, just pop out a frozen cube and let it thaw or melt in the pan and you have a ready made sauce. 🙂 Now that’s meal prep months in advance! 


Here’s a fun way to bring an international flare to Memorial Day weekend. This tzatziki (yogurt cucumber sauce) is great to have on hand for a BBQ because it goes perfectly with a beef or lamb burger, with chicken and as a topping for veggie burgers. Yum!

To use the leftover cucumber juice, you can drink it straight or add it to a smoothie. It’s super hydrating and delicious! My favorite way is to use it in a refreshing summer cocktail recipe. Check that out here. 🙂 Enjoy the weekend!

Finished Tzatziki 


Yields: 3 cups sauce



  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups whole or 2% plain or Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons Greek Seasoning (or oregano)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper (white or black)
  • 5 sprigs fresh parsley for serving (optional)
  • Warm pita bread for serving (optional)
  • Sliced vegetables for serving (optional)



Prep the cucumber. Peel cucumber into stripes. This means leaving some of the green in long stripes along the cucumber, so it has alternating peeled and unpeeled stripes. Discard the peels.

Using a box grater, grate the cucumbers. Coat with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Transfer cucumber to a fine mesh strainer over a deep bowl to drain. Optionally Spoon the grated cucumber into a cheesecloth or a double thickness napkin or paper towel and squeeze dry. Set aside.

Make the garlic paste. Peel the garlic cloves. Place the garlic cloves in a food processor or mortar and pestle. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and the vinegar. Blend or mash and add olive oil until you make a thick paste.

Combine and chill. Add the cucumber and garlic paste to a large bowl. Add the yogurt, oregano or Greek Seasoning and white or black pepper. Combine thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, stir the tzatziki sauce and transfer to serving bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil if desired. Can top with chopped parsley as well.

Great with Chicken Shawarma, falafel, lamb meatballs or your favorite sliced vegetables. Keeps well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Enjoy!

Vegan Kale Caesar Salad

This was my first try at a vegan caesar dressing, and it was delish! Loved it. Great option for the vegans in your life, or if you just want to mix up your dressing routine. The cashews have healthy fats, so this salad has lots of great nutritional value with the protein and fats from the garbanzo beans, avocado and cashews.

Yum! A hearty lunch to get you through the afternoon feeling great!

For meal prep you can get your boxes ready for 3 days with torn salad greens, roasted garbanzo beans and nuts in the containers. Make the dressing for the week and store in the fridge. Then take half an avocado and your dressing with you to work. Slice the avocado with a butter knife at work and toss on your dressing. 🙂 Great with a piece of bread or a side of soup.

Vegan Kale Caesar Salad

Yields: 6 salads

Serves: 6



  • 1 bunch curly leaf kale (about 8 cups kale leaves)
  • 4 cups romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup Chili Powder Roasted Garbanzo Beans* (see recipe below)
  • 2 avocados
  • ½ cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup Cashew Caesar Dressing* (see recipe below)



Separate the kale stems from the leaves and tear the leaves into bite sized pieces. Place in a serving bowl and pour a tablespoon or two into the bowl and massage the leaves with the oil. This makes them taste better and easier to chew.

Tear the romaine lettuce leaves and add to the kale. You can alternatively use buttercrunch lettuce or arugula.

Slice the avocado. Coat the salad with the amount of caesar salad dressing that you like. Top with walnuts and optionally the toasted garbanzo beans. Enjoy!

Chili Powder Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Yields: About 3 cups roasted garbanzo beans


  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste) 



  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Rinse and drain the garbanzo beans. Pat them dry with a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel.

Combine the oil, spices and salt in a large bowl. Add lemon juice and zest if using. Mix well.

Add garbanzo beans and toss to coat well. Spread them out evenly on a well-greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown and crispy. This will take 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want them to be. You can shake the tray to toss after about 15 minutes, or stir with a heat-proof spatula.

Remove the garbanzo beans. from the oven and when cooled transfer them to a serving bowl or storage container.  

The Empowered Kitchen Tips:

These are a great snack to keep on hand and go well with tahini sauce, baba ganoush or on a salad. They’ll keep well in the fridge for a week. Label and date before putting in fridge.

Cashew Caesar Dressing (Vegan)

Yields: 2 cups



  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil or olive oil 
  • 5-6 tablespoons lemon juice 
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons capers (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon or other brown mustard 
  • ½ teaspoon honey (optional)
  • Salt & black pepper to taste 
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes 



Boil water in a kettle. Place the cashews in a glass or metal bowl. Pour enough water over the cashews to cover them with about ¼ inch of water. Let soak for 10-20 minutes.

Combine all of the ingredients (including the water used to soak the cashews) in a blender until smooth.

Adjust salt, pepper, lemon, garlic powder and other ingredients to your taste. More cracked pepper is always great on a caesar salad. If you aren’t vegan, you can also add 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese when you blend the ingredients together.

This dressing will keep for about 1 week in the fridge.

Tahini Sauce

This is seriously my new favorite sauce. It’s SO simple and everyone who tastes it is really surprised by how easy and delicious it is. Smooth and exquisite.  

Tahini Sauce With Aleppo Pepper

Yields: 2 cups tahini sauce



  • ⅔ cup tahini paste
  • ⅔ cup water
  • 1 ½ small lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt




  • 4-6 sprigs parsley (blended with other ingredients)
  • Sprinkle of Aleppo pepper



Peel garlic and slice lemons in half. Juice lemons into blender.

Combine all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth. If you blend parsley into the sauce, it will be green and have an added boost of antioxidants. 

Enjoy with sliced carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli, snow peas, or as a sauce for lamb meatballs, roasted eggplant, falafel, in a pita or shawarma. They’re very filling as a snack with roasted garbanzo beans. Mmm…

Keeps well in a sealed container in the fridge for about 5-6 days.

Inspired by Ottolenghi’s Tahini Sauce

Super Nutty Pesto

Super Nutty Pesto ingredients. You can add grated parmesan cheese too.

Get ready for summer with this twist on a traditional Italian pesto with 3 different nuts. Add some more healthy fats to your diet with a couple kinds of nuts in the creamy pesto. So great to have this on hand to use in a variety of dishes over a few days. I put it on a cauliflower crust pizza, used as a salad dressing on arugula and as a dip for veggies! Kept it interesting and none of it went to waste. You can be sure of that. 🙂  Try it on eggs, pasta, smeared on salmon, or on a panini. Ideal for meal prep for about 2-3 days.

Pesto is a great use for that bumper crop of basil from your garden this summer. If you have more than you can use at once, then put finished pesto in ice cube trays. Once they’re frozen place the cubes of frozen pesto in plastic bags or a sealed container to keep in the fridge.

You’ll have pesto for a couple of months and you can just take out and thaw what you need when you want a little taste of summer!

Let me know what other creative uses you come up for it in the comments below.

It turned out really green with such fresh basil. I added the parmesan after this picture was taken.

Super Nutty Pesto

Yields 2 Cups


  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 6 cups basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese



  • Crush and peel the garlic. Juice the lemon into a blender and grate the cheese if needed. 
  • Measure all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. 
  • Adjust ingredients according to your taste. You can add more oil if you would like a thinner, more pourable pesto. This recipe is fairly thick and good for spreading.


Keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days. Otherwise freeze in ice cube trays and then store in sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Tuna & Sun Dried Tomato Pizza on a Cauliflower Crust.

I used it as a salad dressing on arugula with cherry tomatoes and crumbled feta. Simple & delicious!

Asparagus & Pea Cream Soup

Put away those winter vegetables! Spring is here and peas and asparagus are in season NOW! 🙂

Take advantage of the cheaper prices of these vegetables and switch up your meal prep menu with this wonderful, velvety-smooth soup that’s a major crowd pleaser.  It can easily be made vegan with a plain, non-dairy milk. 

Meal Prep Tip: As long as you’re roasting asparagus for this soup, roast an extra bunch to snack on (they’re so tasty and sweet when hot, right out of the oven). Or serve them over rice or quinoa with fish, chicken, lamb or tofu.

Yields: 8-9 cups soup (great for freezing!)

Serves: 5-6 large servings

Cooking time: 1 hour, but you can freeze some and even double the recipe to maximize the use of your time.



  • 1 large bunch asparagus
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • ½ lemon (optional)
  • 10 ounces peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 cups broth (mushroom, vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 cup milk
  • Optional for Serving
  • 1 spoonful of plain yogurt
  • Sprinkle with pea shoots



Preheat oven to 375°F.  If using frozen peas, take them out to thaw and pour into a bowl.

Wash asparagus and remove the hard end of each stem by breaking them close to the bottom. There is usually a white, more fibrous part near the bottom of the stem, where the asparagus will naturally break. Discard the tough ends. 

Place tender stems on a baking sheet or two. Spread out evenly so they’re not touching. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and coat with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Use your hands to coat asparagus well with oil and salt.

Roast for about 20 minutes, or until they are soft to the touch and very slightly brown on the top ends.

While asparagus are roasting, thinly slice the onion and cut the lemon in half if using.

If using fresh sugar snap peas, you will also need to remove the peas from the pods. You can snack on the sweet pods. They’re great dipped in hummus, yogurt dip or tahini sauce.

Heat a medium saucepan to medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter. Sauté the onions for about 10 minutes, or until soft, translucent and beginning to caramelize. You may need to reduce heat to medium-low to prevent burning.

When asparagus comes out of the oven, carefully transfer to a cutting board to let it cool before you slice them in halves or thirds.

Add peas to the onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add the chopped, roasted asparagus, along with the salt, pepper, tarragon and thyme. Then add the broth. Cover and let simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and carefully transfer to blender to puree the soup well. Or you can use an immersion blender, but a regular blender will work better for this soup. At this time add the milk and blend again or stir in with a spoon. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. If you want, you can add a squeeze of lemon at this time as well, but it’s delicious with or without it.

You can top this with a spoonful of yogurt or a few pea shoots for a beautiful presentation.

The Empowered Kitchen Tips:

This soup freezes really well and tastes great as leftovers for up to 5 days in the fridge.

If freezing, place in mason jar with 1 inch of empty space left at the top and the lid slightly off.

Once frozen you can tighten the lid well to prevent freezer burn. Label with kind of soup and the date. Best used within 2-3 months.

Sweet Potato Soup with Garam Masala & Lime

This recipe is demonstrated with sweet potato, but you can riff on the same soup with parsnips, potatoes, carrots, butternut squash and so much more. Once you’ve made this soup, you can start to experiment with different vegetables and spices to make fabulous soups without a recipe for the rest of your days! 

Have fun with it. 🙂

Yields 14 (1 cup) servings


  • 8 sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 10 cups water or veggie/chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lime
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream or full fat coconut milk
  • Optional Garnishes
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Pomegranate molasses
  • Whole plain yogurt
  • Cilantro



Preheat oven to 400° F. Place sweet potatoes on a sheet pan and lightly coat with olive oil. Roast sweet potatoes in oven for 45 – 55 minutes. They are finished when a knife easily slides through the entire sweet potato.  Let them cool and peel off the skins.

Once cool, cut into large diced pieces. (No need to dice them perfectly.)

Heat a large saucepan to medium heat. Add coconut oil to the hot saucepan.

Dice the shallot and add to the heated oil. Sauté shallot until translucent.  Add the garam masala to the shallot and sauté for 1 more minute.

Add the roasted sweet potato pieces, water or broth and salt.  Bring to a low boil and then lower to a simmer for 20-30 minutes.  

Use an immersion blender to blend the shallot and sweet potato together. Squeeze the lime and add to the soup, along with the heavy whipping cream or coconut milk. Taste and adjust salt, lime and cream to your preferences if needed.

You can optionally top this with a dollop of yogurt, a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds, a swirl of pomegranate molasses, and/or chopped cilantro.

Citrus Beet Green Salad & Roasted Vegetable Skillet with Sofrito

Beautiful late summer evening at the Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farm in Littleton. What a dream to cook outside in this gorgeous setting with such a great audience.

Members of the farm’s CSA program were enjoying their cocktails for the start to their Farm to Fork Dinner. Before heading off to dinner they gathered around this outdoor kitchen to watch a cooking demonstration and get a sampling of the farm’s fabulous fresh produce, which is so stunning and bountiful this time of year.

Raw beet stems and greens ready to go into the skillet. 

Here are the recipes!

Citrus Sautéed Beet Greens

Serves 4 to 6


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch beets with stems and leaves

1 shallot

1 garlic clove

1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

2 oranges

salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375º F. Cut the stems from the roots of the beets. Cut the beets in half and place in a loaf pan with ½ inch of water. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Steam for 30-45 minutes, or until a sharp knife goes easily through the beet. Remove the foil, let cool and then use your hands to remove the skins of the beets and discard. Be careful, as this can stain anything the beet juice comes in contact with. Dice beets into ½ inch pieces.
  2. Cut leaves off of stems. Chop the stems into ¼ inch pieces. Rough chop or tear beet leaves. Set aside on cutting board.
  3. Dice the shallot and garlic clove. Set the shallot aside. Zest the oranges and keep the zest in a small bowl.
  4. Juice the oranges into a small bowl and add the minced garlic, vinegar and honey. Mix well. Set aside.
  5. Place oil in a medium skillet, over medium high heat. Add stems and shallot and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add beet leaves and continue to sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the bowl with the orange juice mixture to the skillet and simmer until all juice has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Depending on the size of the oranges, you may just add half the orange juice mixture and taste.  You can save the rest for a salad later in the week. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to taste.
  7. Top with steamed beets, orange zest and enjoy!

Inspired by: http://www.spoonforkbacon.com/2013/06/citrus-sauteed-beet-stems/

Cherry Tomato Skillet With Potatoes, Bok Choy And Garlic Sofrito

Serves 4


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes

6 fingerling or small new potatoes

2 cups baby bok choy leaves

Salt and pepper to taste 


9 garlic cloves

½ cup olive oil

2 onions

2 large tomatoes

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon dried thyme (optional)

½ teaspoon dried rosemary

½ dried bay leaf


  1. Roast the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 375º F. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place on a baking sheet. Dice potatoes into ¼ inch pieces and place on a separate baking sheet. Coat all vegetables with a coating of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. You can optionally season them with herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme. Use your hands to coat them well.
  2. Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Then remove the potatoes and tomatoes from the oven. If the tomatoes look fully cooked and kind of caramelized, you can stop roasting them now.  If they are not finished, put them back in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
  3. For the potatoes, turn them with a spatula. Test them with a sharp knife for doneness. Coat again with a light coating of oil if they are very dry. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and a sharp knife goes right through the potatoes. Watch these closely, as they are cut in small pieces and have a risk of burning.
  4. Remove from the oven when fully cooked and remove from the pan. Place tomatoes and potatoes in a cast iron skillet.

Make Sofrito

  1. Finely mince the onion and garlic. Dice the tomatoes to a medium dice.
  2.   Heat the skillet to medium heat and then add the oil. Add the onion and garlic first, and saute for a minute. Crush the bay leaf. Then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and herbs.
  3.   Stir occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook for at least 10 minutes and up to 30, but stir to make sure it doesn’t burn or stick to the pan.
  4.   Enjoy on a variety of dishes. In this case it will be added to the skillet with the potatoes and tomatoes.

Make the Skillet

  1. Rough chop the baby bok choy.
  2. Heat cast iron skillet to medium heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the already roasted tomatoes and potatoes. 
  3. After 1-2 minutes of warming the roasted vegetables, add the bok choy.
  4. The bok choy will wilt quickly. Stir to combine. Once the greens are wilted, remove the skillet from the heat, top with a fried or poached egg and top with a bit of the sofrito. 
  5. This dish is great topped with a fried or poached egg.