Lemony Pasta with Sweet Sausage

Inspired by how easy it was to make pesto using an avocado, I decided to hunt around for more ways to create creamy, guilt-free pasta sauces. This one really ramps up the taste of fresh lemons and can easily be customized for a household with vegetarians and meat eaters, like mine. I just sauteed some chicken sausage in a small skillet to the side and added it to Mark’s portion, and then ate mine plain (which was just delicious!) You could try whatever sausage is your favorite, too.

This dish comes together quickly and can easily be doubled by buying two packages of pasta and using the entire package of sausage links. There’s so much sauce that you could probably stretch it across a doubled portion!

I’ve made avocado pesto many times before, but this recipe and its creative ingredients come to us courtesy of the “Food to Run For” blog, which happens to be written by someone with whom I went to high school (small world!)

To start, set the pasta on to boil. You can make the sauce and saute the sausage while it cooks.

In a blender, combine two avocados, the juice and zest of two organic lemons, a touch of garlic, 3 tablespoons of hummus, a splash of olive oil, torn basil and between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.

Meanwhile, slice the sausage into quarter sized pieces and cook over medium heat with no oil until browned.

When the pasta is done, toss it into a big bowl, reserving at least a cup of the pasta water to mix with the sauce in the blender. After blending the sauce and the pasta water, pour into the bowl with the pappardelle and stir to mix.

Top with freshly grated parmesan and hand-torn basil. Add the sausage if you’re using it, or eat it as-is, with a glass of white wine.

Lemony Pasta with Sweet Sausage

Serves 4 Time: 30 minutes


  • 1/2 package sausage (I like Trader Joe’s Mango Chicken Sausage; use whole package if doubling recipe)
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s lemon pepper pappardelle (use 2 if doubling recipe)
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 bunch of basil (reserve some for garnish)
  • 3 TBSP edamame hummus (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • juice and zest of 2 organic lemons
  • olive oil
  • grated parmesan cheese (at least half a cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced


Blend avocados, basil, hummus, lemon juice & zest, olive oil, garlic and half the parmesan in a blender until smooth.

Cook pasta and drain into a large mixing bowl. While pasta is cooking, saute sausage (sliced into pieces) over medium heat in a non-stick pan and set aside.

Add a dash of the pasta cooking water to the blender and spin one more time; add sauce to hot pasta and mix. Top with sausage or serve it on the side to stay veggie friendly.

Serve garnished with freshly grated parmesan and torn basil leaves.



Five Foodie Things I’m Loving Right Now

1.  This refreshing Basil Lemonade I concocted (recipe at bottom) …

2.  … And the creative mason jar lid I just bought on Etsy with which to enjoy it!

I do a lot of canning, so these lids are a great way to make use of empty mason jars while supporting an Etsy crafter.

3.  This genius trick for making homemade mayonnaise hang together, courtesy of the New York Times:

4.  Two new meatless options at Trader Joe’s — tofu edamame bites and chickless nuggets. Saute either one of them with TJ’s new Japanese style fried rice and you’ve got a satisfying weeknight supper.

4. The fact that Anheuser-Busch just came out with a Light Cider version of Michelob Ultra beer. And it’s naturally gluten-free. Pour that puppy over ice!

5. Finally, the fact that my new city has finally started a farmer’s market. This is a very urban area with a high concentration of poverty, bereft of any organic grocery stores, natural food markets or nearby farms. Short of taking the subway 20 minutes downtown to Boston, there aren’t many farmers market alternatives in adjacent cities either, so this one stands to make a huge difference. I gave up my CSA this year because I started a vegetable and herb garden, and I’m thrilled that I can now supplement what I’m growing myself (well, really what Mark is growing FOR me) with the three farms that have agreed to sell produce in City Hall Plaza starting June 19. If you live in Massachusetts, find info on your local market options here.

Have a Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone!!


Basil Lemonade

This is a light version of my favorite summertime beverage. I was inspired to make it after the not-too-sweet and slightly savory lemonade options at the Clover food truck.

  • Fill a mason jar (or any other large glass) with water and half a dozen ice cubes, leaving a little space at the top.
  • Cut one organic lemon in half and squeeze by hand into the jar. Drop in the lemon halves.
  • Add in one teaspoon stevia (I keep truvia on hand) and stir until dissolved.
  • Tear half a dozen basil leaves in half and add to the jar.  Stir again, taste for sweetness, and add more stevia if needed.

Place the cap on and enjoy!

Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Cashew Cream

What is Cashew Cream? It’s a nut-based substitute for dairy cream, which is great for vegans, those who are lactose-intolerant, or anyone who just wants to cut out the saturated fat and calories of heavy cream. It’s a staple in the raw food world, where it originated. Where can you use it? Desserts, sauces, soups, you name it! It reduces very well over heat, and will keep in the freezer for several months (or a few days refrigerated).

I’ve been meaning to try making my own cashew cream for a really long time — ever since a vegan restaurant near my old apartment told me that’s how they made creamy, decadent sauces that I couldn’t believe were dairy free.  Turns out, it’s really easy to make, and a little bit goes a long way.

The first thing you need is about two cups of good quality whole cashews ~ the raw kind, not roasted or salted. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods both have good options, but I’m sure many supermarkets do, too. Why whole? Because cashew pieces can be dry, and you want the maximum creaminess.

Step one is to rinse the cashews very well under cold water.

Next, place the cashews in a bowl with enough cold water to cover them completely.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, rinse again under cold water and place in your blender with enough water to cover them by about an inch. Blend on high for a few minutes, until smooth.

If your blender leaves something to be desired, consider straining the cashew cream to eliminate lumps.

Use immediately, or save it in the fridge for up to three days. To keep cashew cream long term, store in a freezer-safe container for several months.

The first thing I made using cashew cream was a vegetarian pot pie (recipe coming soon). I also put it in a pasta dish I was making to mimic a creamy sauce that otherwise might have used cream cheese or bechamel. And since I had a little extra cashew cream in the blender when I first made it, I decided to piggyback on those leftovers to make a creamy fruit smoothie. Check back soon for that recipe, too!

To customize this recipe for your needs, simply reduce the amount of water you put into the blender with the cashews, and you’ll get a much thicker “cream.” Done normally, this recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups.

Recipes · Uncategorized

Tropical Smoothie

This is so SIMPLE, and so refreshing, I’m going to be making it a lot.  All you need is a can of light coconut milk, a bag of frozen pineapple chunks and a splash of orange juice, and you’re in summertime heaven any time of year!

I made this on Smoothie Saturday, and boy was it a lifesaver when I came down with a nasty cold and just wanted something cold to soothe my throat this past week. It tastes like a virgin pina colada and with only 50 calories in the light version of coconut milk, it’s diet-friendly and delicious. Coconut milk is good for those who are lactose-intolerant, like me, and pineapple is loaded with vitamin C and manganese. Like all fruits, it’s packed with sugar but is low in fat and protein, and is cholesterol-free. The orange juice adds a hint of complexity to the flavor; I had oranges on hand, so I squeezed a few fresh, but you could use bottled OJ if that’s all you have handy. It’ll just mean there’s added sugars which are nice to avoid if you can.

Tropical Smoothie

Makes two servings

Time: 5-10 minutes


  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 1 package frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh squeezed OJ, tasting as you go (if you use bottled instead, add bit by bit so the concentrated taste of the store-bought juice doesn’t overwhelm the smoothie).
  • water and/or ice depending on the texture you desire

Blend all ingredients until smooth and enjoy!

Photo May 05, 1 19 14 PM

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Two Green Smoothies

I have a new routine: “Smoothie Saturdays,” when I bust out the blender after I get home from grocery shopping to whip up some breakfast smoothies for the week. This week, I made three varieties: a tropical smoothie, which I’ll cover in another post; a spinach-banana smoothie, which is simple and refreshing; and an adaptation of Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie, which is super energizing and can help you kick your early-morning caffeine habit while sweeping toxins from your system.

I am in the process of trying to cut back on how much caffeine I drink — both for the benefit of my stomach, since coffee in particular is such an irritant, and because I don’t want to be so dependent on a stimulant to get alert in the morning. It starts to feel lame when you NEED coffee to function, or when you get a debilitating headache from lack of having it! In the past when I’ve needed to cut back, instead of going cold turkey I just reduce the number of cups per day and then eventually the size of my morning order. I’m down to one small coffee in the morning and no soda or tea for the rest of the day. Next, I’ll replace coffee with a green smoothie every other day until I can phase out caffeine as a kick-start altogether. Green Smoothies give you so much natural energy it’s actually amazing.

Spinach Banana Smoothie

Total time 5-7 minutes.

Makes enough for two large on-the-go beverages.


  • 1 bunch spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 chopped bananas, ideally frozen
  • a couple ice cubes (use more if your bananas aren’t frozen)

Blend all ingredients together, taking care to add liquids first so you don’t jam your blender. Keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. Or, freeze for up to one month and thaw overnight in the refrigerator the morning before you plan to drink it.

Glowing Green Smoothie

This is a simplified version of Kimberly Snyder’s classic green smoothie, because I didn’t have pears on hand. If you read her book, the Beauty Detox Solution, you’ll see that almost any greens will do — so feel free to throw in kale, romaine, or spinach like I did ~ you name it!

Total time: 5-7 minutes

Makes 3-4 cups


  • 1 bunch greens (I used spinach since I had it on hand)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 organic apple, chopped
  • 2-3 frozen chopped bananas
  • juice of 1 lemon

Blend all ingredients together until smooth, adding liquids first so the blender doesn’t jam. Enjoy!

All set to go for the week ~ just thaw and sip!


Artichoke Penne Pasta

What do you make when you’re just back from vacation, lazy, and totally not wanting to go to work? This.

You don’t want to eat from a can every night, but when you’ve got a suitcase full of dirty clothes and a backlog of 200 work emails in your inbox….it’ll do.

Set the pasta (penne or rigatoni, whatever chunky tubular thing you can find in the store) on to boil, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

In a medium bowl, empty the can or jar of artichoke hearts and break them up with your fingers or kitchen shears.

It’s really just personal preference as to how large you want the artichoke chunks to be.

When the pasta’s done, transfer via slotted spoon into the bowl with the artichokes. It’s fine to get a bunch of the pasta water in there too, since it’ll help bind everything together.

Pour almost the whole can of marinara sauce — I like Trader Joe’s Three Cheese Sauce to pair with the sharpness of the artichokes — and save a little bit aside. You want to do this so that, should you have leftovers, you can leave a healthy dollop of sauce on top of the pasta when it goes in the fridge. That way, when you reheat it, it doesn’t dry out and get that unappetizing day-old-pasta thing happening.



Artichoke Penne Pasta

SERVES: 4     TIME: 15 minutes


  • 1 lb. bag tubular pasta to grip sauce, such as penne or rigatoni
  • 1 can or jar of artichoke hearts
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce, preferably Trader Joe’s Three Cheese Sauce
  • Optional toppings: shaved parmesan cheese, fresh basil, fluffy ricotta
  • Optional mix ins: Kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, capers