Vegan Pumpkin Seed Pesto

I LOVE pasta, pesto, Italian food in general, and one of the hardest parts about being lactose intolerant is that a lot of my favorite Italian foods are off limits (RIP burrata).

I’ve recently realized that vegan recipes (although I have no problem eating meat, eggs, etc.) can be perfect for me. I have to admit that anything labelled as “vegan” (same as with anything gluten-free, etc.) puts up red flags for me. I do not like to cook with substitutes or have to buy special ingredients that you can’t use anywhere else. For example, a recipe for gluten-free bread (it’s bread, come on) or a vegan quiche (really?) sound really off-putting. I do appreciate and try to find recipes that might be naturally gluten-free, or dairy-free, etc. without having to add so many substitute ingredients. I’m sure some will disagree, but I would much rather use real, natural ingredients and make recipes that happen to not have meat, or not have dairy, flour, etc.

To that end, I’m realizing that just because something is “vegan” doesn’t mean that it has substitute ingredients at all, but perhaps just a lack of certain things or the use of one natural ingredient in place of another. It’s a learning process and I’m getting on board ๐Ÿ™‚

Case in point, this Vegan Pumpkin Seed Pesto. It’s delicious, uses just a handful of great ingredients, and long story short, does not have cheese in it and you wouldn’t even miss it! The pumpkin seeds – apart from being fun to buy – add a bit of a different flavor, and as with all pesto recipes, this one is perfect to freeze in small portions and use for future recipes!

Also, I get to use my current favorite kitchen item: the food processor ๐Ÿ™‚ I think this pesto will become a kitchen staple at our house!

This Jess ranking:

  • Making it: 10/10 so easy, you can’t beat it!
  • Eating it: 10/10 great flavor, you don’t even miss the cheese, and you could make this with any oily nut and get a slightly different variation
  • Looking at it: 10/10 gorgeous!

You can find the full recipe here.

FYI, the limes in the picture were used in the dish that I made with this pesto: Summer Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Pumpkin Pesto!

Sea Salted Brown Sugar Cookies

This past weekend was one of those weekends where I was just determined to cook everything. Way overly ambitious (you know that Saturday morning feeling), I had about 10 recipes in mind, but come Sunday night, I needed some ooey gooey cookies. Salty / sweet is my favorite dessert combination, and these Sea Salted Brown Sugar Cookiesย from the Cafe Sucre Farine delivered.

Full transparency, my cookies look much lighter than they are in the recipe as I used regular brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar (use what you have!). Other than that, I followed this recipe to the T. And let me tell you, when these come right out of the oven, and they’re still melty and you almost wonder if they’re a bit undercooked, they are the most amazing thing. Crisp on the outside, warm and melty on the inside; the perfect combination of sweet and salty. These really hit the mark!

I was recently asked what I do with all of the stuff that I cook / bake. 1) I eat it. 2) I give it away, and the easiest (and luckiest) bunch of people are my coworkers at the office! I brought some of these in earlier this week, and three days later I’m still getting shout outs (holla!) and requests for more. I do love eating what I bake, but as just the two of us, we don’t need to eat an entire batch of cookies / whole cake / full sheet of brownies, etc. (not to say that it doesn’t ever happen…. not judging!).

So my words of wisdom. Make these. And then get ready for everyone to ask you to make them again, and again and again ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m actually sad I don’t have any left over and am not eating one as we speak….

This Jess ranking:

  • Making it: 6/10 – very easy. I do admit to blowing up the butter in the microwave and making a colossal mess, but once we got past that point….
  • Eating it: 10/10 – so good. Truly sinful.
  • Looking at it: 9/10 – I think the cookies look better with the darker color (dark brown sugar), but that’s personal preference and these were still really beautiful.

You can find the full recipe here.

Sweet Potato Nachos

My favorite way to find recipes that I want to make is by scrolling through Instagram. I have an entire folder of photos that are screenshots of things I would like to make (I dare say that maybe 30% of those will actually be made. And sometimes I’ll look back and be like whatttt was I thinking?! haha).

But these Sweet Potato Nachos from Healthy Gluten Free Family were one that caught my eye. For one, the entire recipe was gluten free, which isn’t something that I necessarily seek out, but always appreciate when a recipe just happens to be that way (naturally gluten free, rather than using substitute ingredient – like a gluten free pasta – to make it so).

Gluten intolerance runs in my family, so always appreciative of a good recipe!

The hardest part about these nachos was making the sweet potato chips. I don’t have a mandolin, so I cut these by hand = they were uneven and some burned to a crisp. Also, I tried to fit three baking sheets in my oven, and while it “worked,” it threw off the air flow and one sheet cooked (and burned) faster than the other two.

Also, to oil the sweet potatoes, I’m not sure if I was just being a gluton for punishment or read the directions wrong, but I laid all the slices out on the baking sheets, and then proceeded to brush each and every one with oil individually. On both sides. It’s called a bowl. Honestly, put them in a bowl, add in oil and salt (and anything else you want), mix it up and then lay them out on the sheets. Not sure why I didn’t think of that at the time!

In the end, they’re worth it!


  • I omitted the cheese so that these were dairy for me (repping that lactose intolerance!)
  • I added sauteed beef to give this a bit more protein
  • Vegetable / bean wise, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but they’re nachos and you can put whatever you want on them ๐Ÿ™‚ My version included black beans, corn, onions, beef, red peppers, orange baby tomatoes, and avocadoes along with some spices. Whatever you’ve got will be just perfect!

This Jess rankings:

  • Making it: 7/10 – very easy with a small exception for the chips
  • Eating it: 9/10 – super good. I will have to find a way to make the chips a bit crispier, but this was great. Really you can’t go wrong with any ingredients that you want to put on here.
  • Looking at it: 9/10 – stunnerrrrr, am I right? A little messy / organic / natural is totally my style and that’s exactly what you get here, plus the great colors of all the gresh ingredients.

You can find the full recipe linked here.

Fresh Peach & Blueberry Yogurt Cake

I found myself sitting on the couch on a Sunday with four ripe peaches in my kitchen, wondering what I could do with them (other than eat them plain, they’re one of my absolute favs). So I went about tracking down a recipe that used a good bit of peaches but not a ton (didn’t have enough to make a galette, tart or crisp).

I came across this Peach & Blueberry Yogurt Cake from Julia’s Album and wow, oh wow. This cake may be my absolute favorite at the moment. One of my friends immediately asked for the recipe, also made the cake and said it was phenomenal. This is truly a go-to. If you’re ever coming over to dinner at our house, watch out, because I very well may be serving this cake! ๐Ÿ™‚

The recipe is simple, you could put anything in it (dairy free? different fruits? want to add cornmeal?). It’s just one of those recipes that you feel like you could make 100 different versions of and they would all be amazing. On top of that, it’s completely delicous and the finished product is so beautiful (and looks like you worked a lot harder on it than you did!).

Somewhat side note, in the past year I’ve realized that I am lactose intolerant. I did use regular yogurt in this recipe and it didn’t bother me too much, but if I were to make it again I would try it with one of the non-dairy yogurt alternatives.

Modifications to consider:

  • The recipe calls for Greek Yogurt. I feel like you could really make this with anything – greek yogurt, regular yogurt, non-dairy yogurt, sour creme (I’m dying to try this actually).
  • Change up the fruit – whatever you’ve got or are in the mood for would work here
  • Cornmeal? For some reason I’m on a cornmeal-in-desserts kick and think this could really support it. Might be a challenge / change the overal format of the cake a bit, but something I will likely try.

This Jess rankings:

  • Making it: 7/10 – not challenging, but enough to be fun!
  • Eating it: 10/10 – so good, so moist, and full of fresh fruit. The best!
  • Looking at it: 10/10 – beautiful and really painless

You can find the full recipe linked here. Make it! Yes, now!

August Loves

A quickie brain dump of things I’m loving right now. No rhyme or reason, and not necessarliy food-related, just love! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • One my my absolute fav Instagram follows is @georgeats and she just announced that she is releasing a FODMAP Friendly cookbook “for the digestively challenged” (me!). It will be available on Amazon in October and I can’t waittttt to get my hands on one! if you’re at all digestively challenged (and even if you’re not), I would recommend picking this up as her recipes are amazing!
  • I just finished reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and it was fantastic. As soon as it was done I went to buy four more Kristin Hannah books becuase I love her style. Higly recommend if you’re looking for a fun / inspiring / moving summer read!
  • Currently using Artifact Uprising to create wedding photo albums and so far (still editing!) I love it. The platform is super easy to use and I would totally recommend it for anyone wanting to make any kind of printed photo album!

All for now ๐Ÿ™‚ Until next time!

xx Jess


Summer Gazpacho

I will fully admit that my husband is easy to please when it comes to cooking. If I make it, he likes it; there isn’t much that he doesn’t like (love you for that!). But I’ve recently discovered that gazpacho is one of those things that he really has a soft spot for.

My reaction: of all things, really?!?

But I’ll take it! Gazpacho is super easy to make, is actually better the longer you let it sit, and is perfect for summer veggies and those hot, hot days when the last thing you want to do is cook.

So when the tomatoes were super ripe, I made the Easy Summer Gazpacho from Local Haven. A sidebar, but I’m also realizing that 1) I am very gullible in the kitchen and will follow a recipe to the T 2) I have a good gut instinct in the kitchen and should really listen to myself a little more often! Don’t get me wrong, this recipe turned out really well, but as I was making it, I found myself thinking that hmmmm, none of these ingredients are yellow…. I wonder how this final gazpacho is going to turn out yellow! Yep, my gazpacho was red (red tomatoes tends to do that!….). You could completely make this with different colors of any of the vegetables involved, but I was naively thinking this would be yellow when I followed the recipe!

Again, this recipe was incredibly simple and gazpacho is so forgiving. Once you’ve got the tomato base, throw in a little bit of whatever you’ve got! Also, the gazpacho became even tastier the next day after it had sat for a while. Talk about good leftovers ๐Ÿ™‚

The This Jess ranking:

  • Making it: 6/10 – super easy and really no “cooking” required
  • Eating it: 9/10 – really fresh, and summery
  • Looking at it: 9/10 – only becuase I thought it would be yellow!

You can find the full recipe linked here.

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

The deeper we get into summer, the more and more I am convinced that I could just live off of summer fruits (and the delicious desserts they make!). I had been itching to get my hands on some rhubarb, and when it popped up at the store this past week, I jumped at the chance to make this gorgeous Strawberry Rhubarb Galette I had seen.

I used the Strawberry Rhubarb Tart recipe from Laylita’s Recipes and went with the galette / rustic option rather than the tart option (you could also make this a little more refined in a tart pan, but where is the fun in that!). For whatever reason, I must have looked through 100 recipes before settling on this one and I’m glad I waited.

The galette was GORGEOUS and honestly pretty easy to make. It was also DELICIOUS. This is exactly what you want a rhubarb galette to taste like, and could not have packed more “summertime” into a single bite. Happy to share this one as I will definitely be making again!

This Jess rankings:

  • Making it: 7/10 – not terribly hard and the galette format is very forgiving
  • Eating it: 10/10 – love, love, love
  • Looking at it: 10/10 – gorgeous; this is my kind of style

You can find the full recipeย linked here.