Spaghetti with Tempeh Sausage Marinara and Artichokes

Spaghetti with Tempeh Sausage Marinara and Artichokes

This spaghetti with tempeh sausage marinara is a weeknight version of one of my favorite weekend dishes! It swaps crumbled tempeh seasoned with sage, fennel, basil and oregano for sausage to make it a vegetarian meal. Add artichokes for veggies and texture! This easy recipe takes less than 30 minutes hands on time!

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Citrus and Arugula Salad with Fennel and Marcona Almonds

Citrus and Arugula Salad with Fennel and Marcona Almonds

This citrus arugula salad with fennel and marcona almonds is a simple, seasonal salad for winter, perfect as a side dish or for topping with grilled shrimp or roasted fish as a main. It's packed with Mediterranean flavors from crunchy marcona almonds, fennel and kalamata olives. You'll love the simple sherry vinaigrette! 

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Simple White Bean Soup with Smoked Paprika Oil, Feta and Kalamata Olives

Simple White Bean Soup with Smoked Paprika Oil, Feta and Kalamata Olives

Have you heard of soup bling? It's my favorite way to fancy up easy soups, like this simple white bean soup with smoked paprika oil, feta, and kalamata olives. Even without the toppings, this soup is PACKED with flavor, despite it's simple ingredients list. Make extra and freeze for later! 

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Caesar Salad Pita Pizza with Olive Caesar Dressing

Caesar salad pita pizzas combine two Italian restaurant favorites by topping a whole grain pita pizza with Caesar salad and dressing made with California ripe olives. 

“I received free samples of California Ripe Olives mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Ripe Olives and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

As someone who is endlessly fascinated by other cultures cuisine, you know the Mediterranean diet is something I totally get behind. Delicious food? Check. Focus on plants? Check. All the healthy fats? Double check.

Not only that, but Mediterranean food is approachable and enjoyed by most people. I mean, what kind of sick person doesn’t like Italian food? Not someone I want to be associated with! So if that's you, go click that little red circle in the upper left corner of your screen.

The only problem with the Mediterranean diet is that our Americanized version of it is very different from the real Mediterranean diet. Yes, I’m sorry to say when we talk about a Mediterranean diet, we’re not referring to the menu at Olive Garden. Real Mediterranean food is spaghetti in clam sauce, polenta casseroles with local greens and feta, and stuffed vegetables with a creamy tahini sauce. Oh, and lots and lots of olives.

There’s always talk of what specific factor in the Mediterranean diet makes it so healthy. Some say it’s the red wine (I like these people). Others claim it’s the fresh, local greens. Still others think it's the emphasis on plants over meat. Most likely, it’s a combination of factors that makes the Mediterranean diet so healthy. But I suppose if you forced me to choose one thing, I’d say it's the olives.

  • California ripe olives are a rich source of monounsaturated fats, the kind that raises the good cholesterol and lowers the bad.
  • Black olives contain antioxidant vitamin E (.25 mg) which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
  • 1 cup of black olives contains 25% daily value iron, important for the prevention of anemia.
  • Olives contain a unique set of pytonutrients. One called oleuropein is found exclusively in olives. It's been shown to reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and act as an antioxidant.

This pita pizza salad combines two of the most familiar items on an Italian food menu and does it in a much healthier way. It's kind of a healthier take on the Macaroni Grill version of Italian food. I love to use whole grain pitas as an easy pizza base. No, it’s not the same thing as a freshly baked crust, but you know what? It works! To make a lightened Caesar dressing, I used plain yogurt and actual olives versus olive oil, which provide a similar creamy texture, flavor and nutrients with less calories. This recipe makes a little extra, so I saved the rest to make a big kale Caesar salad with hard boiled eggs and roasted potatoes to use up some food we had in the house before going on vacation.

Caesar Salad Pita Pizza with Olive Caesar Dressing


Olive Caesar Dressing: 

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plain organic yogurt
  • 1/4 cup California ripe olives
  • 1 anchovy (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped and washed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup whole California ripe olives
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Shaved parmesan (optional)


  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 ounces parmesan cheese


  1. First, make the dressing. Place garlic clove in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until well combined. Season with plenty of black pepper (it should have enough salt).
  2. Next, make the pizzas. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine olive oil and garlic in a small bowl. Brush mixture lightly over pita breads. Sprinkle pitas with parmesan cheese. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven 5-7 minutes until cheese is melted and bread is lightly toasted.
  3. While pizza is baking, toss salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup dressing and toss to coat.
  4. Top pita with salad and serve with more dressing.

More Mediterranean recipes featuring black olives:

Spaghetti with Tempeh Sausage Marinara, Artichokes and Olives
Spaghetti with Tempeh Sausage Marinara, Artichokes and Olives
Greek Microgreen Salad
Greek Microgreen Salad
Zucchini Fritters in Tomato Olive Sauce
Zucchini Fritters in Tomato Olive Sauce

Gazpacho Pasta Salad

This whole grain gazpacho pasta salad is packed with cucumbers, tomatoes and is the perfect make ahead lunch for back to school time. 

I was asked to participate in the #PastaFits campaign as part of my work with Healthy Aperture Blogger Network. I was compensated for my time. Thanks for supporting the brands that help make Avocado A Day Nutrition possible! 

Hey guys! Excited to bring you the first of a 3-post collaboration with Pasta Fits! If you glance at my archives (or in my cabinet for that matter), you'd quickly see that I'm a big fan of pasta. Like, huge.

The theme for the first month of #PastaFits is back to school. Whether you have kids or not, September seems to be that time of the year when many start to settle down from a summer full of indulgence with healthier goals in mind. Of course, the holidays are right around the corner, making this month critical for establishing and solidifying healthier habits to take you through the smorgasbord coming straight at ya in November.

A great goal to start with is planning and preparing a healthy lunch on the weekend. Spend just 30 minutes prepping a big batch of whole grain based salad and you've got a third of your meals covered. BAM.

If you're looking for a family friendly salad to last all week, look no further than pasta salad. I mean, who doesn't like pasta? No really, who? I'm curious to know if there is one single person. My hypothesis is that every single human being who has ever experienced pasta loves it, but I could be wrong. Probably not though.

Sadly, there's a much larger number of people who absolutely love pasta who don't eat it because they think it's unhealthy. Ain't that a shame. First of all, there's always room for foods that bring you joy. But also, pasta is perfectly nutritious. My top choice is 100% whole grain, which is made with all whole grain flour. Whole grains are great for all sorts of things - cholesterol, weight management, keeping you full, and keeping your blood sugar steady.

Guess what else is good for blood sugar control? Pasta salad! Really! Studies have shown that cooking and cooling pasta helps lower the glycemic index even further. Once the starches in pasta are cooled, they turn into something called resistant starch. Similar to fiber, resistant starch doesn't break down into glucose, or sugar. This also means you absorb less calories and it feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut.

Another thing to love about pasta salad: it's an easy way to use up leftovers. As I learned this weekend hanging out with mostly parents, not wasting leftovers is a constant battle parents go through. Simply add leftover vegetables or proteins to this salad which bulks it up throughout the week. Garbanzo beans, other cheeses, broccoli, carrots, peppers, and zucchini would all be tasty tossed in here.

Gazpacho Pasta Salad

Serves 4


  • 8 ounces 100% whole grain penne
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • pine of red chili flakes
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and diced small
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped small
  • 1/4 cup black olives, chopped
  • 1 8 ounce ball of mozzarella cheese


  1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. While pasta is cooking, add canned tomatoes, basil, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and sugar to a food processor. Blend until pureed. Season with salt and black pepper.
  3. Place diced vegetables, olives and cheese in a large bowl. Add dressing. When cooled a bit, add pasta and toss to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Will last 5 days in the fridge.

More delicious pasta dinners that show how #PastaFits:

Spaghetti with Tempeh Sausage Marinara and Artichokes
Spaghetti with Tempeh Sausage Marinara and Artichokes
Pasta with Creamy Sage Pumpkin Sauce, Cremini Mushrooms and Peas
Pasta with Creamy Sage Pumpkin Sauce, Cremini Mushrooms and Peas
Spaghetti with Clam and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Braised Kale
Spaghetti with Clam and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Braised Kale

Vegan Tempeh Taco Salad with Cashew Sour Cream

A vegan take on taco salad made with tempeh and cashew sour cream. The whole family will love this plant based meal! 

Just a quickie post for you today, sharing a tasty little vegan salad I whipped up a few months ago. My kitchen creativity has been waning the past couple weeks, so I had to dig through the archives for an awesome recipe with pictures to match.

Even though I passed over this recipe the first time around doesn’t make it any less worthy of being shared. However, because I did have a full weekend of work, plans to celebrate one of my best friends 30th birthdays Sunday night, and an early morning class I'm teaching on Monday, it isn’t worthy of me chatting about it more than this! 


Vegan Tempeh Taco Salad with Cashew Sour Cream

Serves 4


Tempeh Taco Meat: 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt free taco seasoning


  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 4 radishes, sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives
  • 2 ounces tortilla chips, roughly broken
  • Salsa

Cashew Sour Cream:

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water at least 2 hours
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute 5-7 minutes until tender. Add tempeh, taco seasoning, and saute 5 minutes until lightly browned.
  2. While tempeh is sauteing, blend soaked cashews, water, apple cider vinegar and salt in a food processor until smooth, about 5 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.
  3. In a large salad bowl, toss together lettuce, radishes, black olives and tortilla chips. Top with tempeh meat, cashew sour cream, and salsa and serve.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Couscous Kale Salad

 A whole roasted head of cauliflower makes a gorgeous presentation, especially when served over a whole grain couscous and kale salad with sun dried tomato pesto. 

You heard it here first - cauliflower is the new kale.  Yup, that mushy white vegetable you pushed off your plate as a child is poised to make a comeback.  Just like kale can move seamlessly from chip, to smoothie, to sturdy salad green, cauliflower can go from a low calorie stand in for mashed potatoes, to spicy pureed soup, to a creamy yet crispy fritter.  You can even make them taste as good as French fries.  

Not only does cauliflower rival kale on versatility, but it rocks in the nutrition department too. It's hard to compete with kale’s perfect score on the ANDI scale, but cauliflower is no iceberg lettuce.  If you've been avoiding cauliflower, following the flawed "if it's white, don't bite" rule (which is a kinda dumb rule imo), you'll be pleased to know cauliflower is a nutrition powerhouse, right up there with it's cousins broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and (hey!) kale!

Vitamin C

Citrus fruits may be known for vitamin C, but one cup of cauliflower actually contains 85% daily value for the powerful antioxidant nutrient.As most of you already know, vitamin C also plays a role in immune function.Vitamin C is also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, joint disease and cataracts.


Cauliflower contains a wide range of antioxidant nutrients other than vitamin C. Other nutrients with an antioxidant effect include beta-carotene, caffenic acid, cinnamic acid, quercetin and kaempferol.

Cancer Protection

Cruciferious vegetables, like cauliflower, seem to play a special role in cancer prevention, especially for cancers of the stomach and lung. These vegetables are rich sources of glucosinolates, a sulfur containing compound that is transformed into indoles and isothiocyanates. These compounds reduce the risk of cancer by helping our body detox dietary and environmental carcinogens after turning them into a less toxic and more easily excreted compound.

Vitamin K

Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin K, a group of vitamins usually associated with green leafy vegetables.  Vitamin K is an important nutrient for blood coagulation.  It helps our body get the balance between too sticky (heart attack) and too thin (bleed out from a paper cut).  Adequate vitamin K intake is also associated with a lower risk of fractures, as it helps stop the activity of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone, and promote the activity of osteocalcin, which is associated with bone density. Studies have also indicated a link between serum levels of vitamin K and a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

The glucosinolates in cauliflower also seem to play a role in modulating our inflammatory response, which decreases the risk of many chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. One specific type of glucosinolate, called glucoraphanin, seems to specifically trigger anti-inflammatory activity in the cardiovascular system, which can help prevent and possibly reverse blood vessel damage.

Over the past couple years, I've racked up quite a few recipes for whole roasted cauliflower.  Now that I've made it, I'm not sure what took me so long to finally make it. It makes for such a stunning presentation! And if you're still not convinced cauliflower is the new kale, it's served over a kale and couscous salad.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Couscous Kale Salad

Serves 4



  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed of leaves and core removed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water if needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 10 ounces kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, mincedSalt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Drizzle the head of cauliflower with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking dish and roast for about an hour to an hour fifteen until well browned on the outside and tender on the inside.
  3. Meanwhile, blend all pesto ingredients together in a food processor and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat 1 cup of water (or broth) in a small pot. Add couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes then fluff with a fork.
  5. Place kale in a large serving bowl. Top with warm couscous to wilt slightly. If you like it more wilty, just pop it in the microwave for a minute or two. Add olives and walnuts, toss to combine. Whisk together oil, lemon juice and garlic, season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
  6. Make a layer of salad on a large serving dish. Top with cauliflower and drizzle pesto over the top of the cauliflower. Slice into chunks and serve with salad and extra pesto.

Giant Beans with Spinach, Tomatoes and Olives

By now, you hopefully know the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. But what does the real Mediterranean diet look like? Learn all about it in today's post, as well as a recipe for giant beans stewed with tomatoes, spinach and olives. 

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Diets just ain’t my thang.

As the saying goes, rules are meant to be broken.If you decide to follow a diet with strict guidelines, more than likely, you’ll do a better job finding the loopholes than following the actual diet. On  your fat free diet, you pass on French fries, only to binge on fat free cookies and jelly beans. You decide to take the Atkins approach, until your portions of meat start to look like Fred Flintstones. Okay, so it wasn’t the carbs, but rather the gluten. Pretty soon, you're spending your life savings to fuel your addiction to gluten-free pretzels and gluten-free cookies, all made with refined gluten-free flour of course. 

Instead, I like to think about patterns of eating vs diets. One of the patterns of eating that has a lot of science to back it is the Mediterranean diet. It received quite a bit of press recently when a large study reinforced its heart healthy benefits over other mainstream diets.  Earlier studies on the traditional Mediterranean diet have shown benefits for heart diseasecancerdiabete prevention and longevity.

Most importantly, the food is delicious!

Please know the real Mediterranean diet is not the same thing as our Americanized, or the Olive Garden version, as I like to call it. The Mediterranean diet encompasses the traditional diets of countries located on the Mediterranean coast. Not just Italy and Greece but Spain, France, North Africa, Turkey, and Israel among others. Their native dishes vary, but the one thing they have in common is a minimally processed diet with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, fish, olive oil, nuts & seeds. Herbs and spices are frequently used for flavoring. Dairy is typically consumed from cheese and yogurt, and in smaller amounts. Sweets, red meats, and processed foods are rarely eaten, at the most a couple times a week.

The Mediterranean diet isn’t just about food – there is also an emphasis on the pleasure of eating and savoring meals with family and friends. Can you see why I’m such a fan?

Giant Beans with Spinach, Tomatoes and Olives

Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side dish

I found giant lima beans at Whole Foods in the bulk section. In the past, I've had a difficult time finding them. You could substitute regular lima beans or even cannelini beans, but the cooking times will change. Adapted from The New York Times. 


  • 1/2 lb (a rounded cup) dried giant lima beans or gigantes beans

  • 1 onion, peeled and halved

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 16-ounce bag frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess water

  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1 leek, white and light green part only, halved lengthwise and sliced

  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree

  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives


  1. Optional: Soak beans in enough water to cover overnight. If you do not soak the beans, add 30-60 minutes cooking time to the beans.

  2. Combine the beans, onion, garlic, and bay leaf in a pot and cover with salted water by about two inches. Bring beans to a simmer and cook until al dente, about 2 hours for gigante beans or giant limas, 1 1/2 hours for cannellini beans. Using tongs, remove the onion, garlic and bay leaf. Drain the beans, collecting the bean broth in a bowl.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add the leek, scallions, and a pinch of salt, and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in spinach, parsley, dill, half the tomato puree, 1 cup bean broth, 1 tablespoon olive oil and half of the olives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  5. Pour the tomato-spinach mixture in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spread the remaining tomato puree over the top, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle on the remaining olives. Cover with a lid or aluminum oil and place in the oven. Bake for an hour, uncover, then bake for about an hour more until beans are creamy, but intact, casserole is bubbly but not soupy. If it looks dried out, you can add more bean broth.

  6. Let casserole sit for 15 minutes to cool before serving.

Heirloom Chopped Caprese Salad

Heirloom Chopped Caprese Salad

Make the most of summer's best tomatoes with this heirloom chopped caprese salad. Feel free to use this recipe as a template. Add toasted bread cubes to make a panzanella salad. Add white beans or tofu cubes to increase the protein content. Serve over arugula or mixed greens or chopped cucumber to add more veggies. It's a perfect make ahead for picnics! 

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