Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter

I bet you’d never imagine the words “best ever” in front of the words “vegetable platter,” but today I’m here to rock your world and prove to you that this is an incredibly appropriate statement.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platte |

That’s right, I’m going to show you not only a vibrant array of winter vegetables (that don’t need to be cooked before enjoying) but TWO life-changing dipping sauces that are not only incredibly tasty, but VEGAN to boot. Hummus and queso, step aside. My Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip and Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce are going to change your life.

But, before I get to these super-duper recipes, let’s talk a bit about a very important food event that’s coming up this weekend. Yes, I just referred to the Super Bowl as a food event as opposed to a sporting event, because when there isn’t really a specific team you’re rooting for, your focus turns directly to the snacks (and drinks!) that are being served. Am I right? It’s basically an excuse to make all of the delicious things (usually not so healthy) that you’ve been dreaming about since last year’s Super Bowl.

The good news is, this Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter is both healthy AND delicious, and will satisfy all of your guests, no matter their dietary restrictions or preferences. This dish is both vegan and gluten-free, but even those who don’t follow either of these diets will find it a welcome healthy munch among all of the other not-so-healthy foods you might be serving (and have no fear, I have a not-so-healthy Super Bowl-friendly recipe coming to you on Wednesday – because we’re all about that balance, baby!)

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platte |

So let’s talk about how I came up with the ideas for the Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip and Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce that grace this Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter. You might recall that back in November I took a little trip to Wine Country with my gal Hana-Lee from Wander & Wine. During that trip, we were lucky enough to grab dinner at Press Restaurant in St. Helena.

While we were waiting for the first of our many dishes to arrive at the table, we were surprised with a large galvanized metal tray, with little veggie tops popping out of a bed of crushed ice. (We later found out that these cute little veggies came straight from the farm that Press has partnered with to provide all of its produce…Amazing!) Surrounding the tray were five little bowls of dipping sauces, and we were told to try our hand at all of the different vegetable and dip combinations. It was basically a vegetarian version of shrimp cocktail, genius!

Among all of the combinations I tried, one really stood out to me: fresh fennel bulb dipped into Press’ version of Thai peanut sauce. It was so dang good it was all I could think of even as we ate all of the other delicious dishes we ordered. I have to admit, the fennel and Thai peanut is a flavor combination I would have NEVER thought of, but it was amazing. I immediately added it to my list of flavor combos to try on my own at home.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce |

I’m not quite so sure how I came up with the idea for my Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Sauce, but I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making a Creamy Cauliflower Sauce a la Pinch of Yum for quite some time. I guess I figured almond butter would be a natural, delicious addition, along with some other spices and of course loads of garlic.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Sauce |

Once I had my sauces down, I knew I had to get some hearty, beautiful vegetables to stand up to their deliciousness. Fennel was a shoe-in, and after perusing the seasonal produce section at Trader Joe’s I decided on some beautiful rainbow carrots, crunchy radishes and slightly bitter Belgian endive to round out the tray. Not only were all of these vegetables just perfect with BOTH of the sauces, they also make a beautiful display that whoever you’re entertaining will not be able to keep their hands off of.

The great thing about this Best EVER Vegetable Platter is you can prep both of the sauces well in advance (up to three days.) The Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Sauce makes a HUGE batch, so you’ll likely have a bunch leftover, but I highly recommend you take advantage of this by using it as a dairy-free creamy pasta sauce. Once you have the dipping sauces made, all that’s left if to find the freshest winter produce you can and use your food styling skills to really make your platter pop.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter |

Whether you whip this up for Super Bowl or not, it’s the perfect recipe to have in your arsenal for any time you’re entertaining a crowd with health concerns or varied dietary preferences. Make it now, make it later, doesn’t matter as long as you give it a shot as soon as you can!

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platte |
Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter
Prep Time
50 mins

A classic vegetable platter gets a winter makeover with seasonal produce and two creamy, vegan dipping sauces. 

Course: Appetizer
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
For the Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip:
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 7 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 medium head of cauliflower)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash of cayenne
For the Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce:
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or agave nectar)
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons sambal oelek
For the platter:
  • 6-8 rainbow carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 6-8 radishes, tops removed and cut into halves or quarters
  • 2 bunches Belgian endive (bonus if you can find one purple and one green bunch)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cut into sticks
To make the Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip:
  1. Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Once water is boiling, add cauliflower and garlic cloves and cook until cauliflower is fork tender, about 6 minutes. 

  2. Using a slotted spoon or small sieve, scoop out the cauliflower florets and garlic cloves and place in a blender. Reserve cooking water.

  3. Add almond butter, almond milk, white balsamic, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and salt and pepper to blender. Turn blender on low and slowly add ¾ - 1 cup of the reserved cooking water, until the mixture has reached a creamy consistency. Transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to three days.

To make the Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce:
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, rice vinegar, honey, hot water and sambal oelek. Transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to three days.

To assemble the platter:
  1. Place dipping sauces in two small bowls and place in center of platter. Surround with all of the vegetables and serve immediately.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter |

Spicy Beet Poke

Reinventing the wheel right here ↓

Spicy Beet Poke |

Okay, I have to admit that this wasn’t my own inventive idea, but I do have to say I’m pretty darn excited that I’ve created my own version to enjoy WHENEVER I want. Spicy Beet Poke is going to be my jam for the foreseeable future.

I first tasted Beet Poke at Mud Hen Water on my trip to Honolulu in November. As soon as I took a bite, I kicked myself for not having thought of this idea myself. Basically, we’re talking all of the delicious flavors that go into making the classic ahi poke, but subbing in this hearty, sweet root vegetable instead of the fish. The version I had at Mud Hen Water was dressed as classic ahi poke is, but me being the heat-lover that I am, I had to go ahead and spice it up a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I love good old Spicy Poke with fresh ahi just as much (or more) than the next gal, but I love it soooo much that sometimes I think I should cool it on my raw ahi intake (or drink a ton of green tea to counteract the mercury!) I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, balance is the key.

Spicy Beet Poke |

P.S. Did you know my Spicy Poke Bowls are the number one pinned recipe on Pinterest??

This is also a great alternative for those who either (a) do not like or (b) cannot eat raw fish. I’m all about finding alternative versions of dishes that everyone can enjoy!

Plus, did I mention how healthy this Spicy Beet Poke is? Beets are chock full of Vitamin C, potassium and folate, and the dressing is incredibly light yet super flavorful. We use sesame oil and soy sauce, and feel free to use low-sodium soy if you’re watching your sodium intake. For the spice, we throw in some sambal oelek (aka Korean chili paste), and of course we need to add in the classic sliced green onions and white sesame seeds, for both great color AND flavor.

Spicy Beet Poke |

In other words, this is the PERFECT dish for kicking off your New Year’s healthy eating resolutions on the right foot. And, if you roast the beets ahead of time, it comes together in less than 10 minutes flat. Healthy AND quick, how about that?

We’re heading back from Lake Tahoe today and, although it was so fun spending such quality time with our parents, I’m excited to get back home and get back into my routine again. I’m also working on my goals and content for 2017, so please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see more of here at CaliGirl Cooking for the New Year.

Have a great rest of the week and I’ll see you on Friday with a “healthy” cocktail recipe!

Spicy Beet Poke |

Spicy Beet Poke |
Spicy Beet Poke
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
50 mins

A vegan take on the classic Hawaiian ahi poke, with beets taking place of the fish and a spicy kick that will keep you coming back for more!

Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Servings: 4 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
  • 4 medium beets, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sambal oelek (or sriracha)
  • Seaweed salad, to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place beets on a jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil and drizzle on olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss a bit to combine. Roast in oven for about 40 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the beets with a fork. Remove and place in refrigerator until cold to the touch, at least 30 minutes.

  2. Remove the cold beets from the refrigerator and cut into cubes. Place in a medium mixing bowl. Add green onions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil and sambal oelek and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with seaweed salad. This dish is best served cold.

Spicy Beet Poke |


It’s so healthy you can eat the whole thing!!

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole

I never thought that string of words would come out of my mouth.

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole |

But you know, sometimes when you’re trying to find that balance, the inevitable happens. You set out to make a healthier version of the classic green bean casserole, and as you dip your little toe into testing those healthier waters you realize that, with just a couple of minor swaps, this dish could easily be transformed into a Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole.

So let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. Green bean casserole has always been a favorite of my dad’s, and I’d always eat it when it was set in front of me, but to be honest, it didn’t light up my life quite like a juicy roast turkey or a Sweet with Heat Yam Casserole.

Pair that blasé feeling with the fact that the classic green bean casserole recipe isn’t all that healthy, and you have your reason for why I had never 100% committed to the dish. But something happened to me this past year, and that thing happened to be my discovery of the amazing wonder-condiment called cashew cream.

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole |

I’ve already used cashew cream in sooo many recipes, like this Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream, these Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce and this Curry Gnocchi with White Lamb Bolognese. It is just such a versatile ingredient, and I can’t help thinking of more and more ways to incorporate it into my balanced way of eating.

When I was brainstorming some new Thanksgiving recipe ideas for the blog this year, I figured I should finally try to tackle the typically lackluster (and very unhealthy) green bean casserole and make it into a recipe that I could really stand behind. Because when you’re a food blogger for a living, you want to make allllll the foods taste even better, you feel me?

We all know that one of the star ingredients in green bean casserole is cream of mushroom soup (Campbell’s has probably made a killing off of their recipe with those crispy French’s onions) but if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m not the biggest fan of heavily processed foods and try to avoid them whenever possible. Enter my new favorite condiment – cashew cream! I knew I could make a creamy, mushroom-y sauce just as delicious using this easy, healthy, three-ingredient sauce.

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole |

I also decided I wanted to make my own crispy onions in lieu of the classic French’s your grandma probably has stacked up in her pantry (see above mention of my aversion to heavily processed foods.) A quick search through the interwebs led me to Alton Brown’s from-scratch Best Ever Green Bean Casserole, and if anyone knows how to do a crispy onion like a boss, you can bet it’s Alton Brown. I kept his recipe by my side for guidance as I improv’d my way through creating a Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole.

So here’s the lowdown:

You’re going to want to start by making your crispy onions. Our onion rings are baked in the oven with a light coating of flour, salt and Panko breadcrumbs, so no need to worry about frying here. (Hallelujah!)

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole |

While the onions are baking, you’re going to want to blanch your green beans and blend up your cashew cream (you can also make the cashew cream up to a day in advance if you can get your act together in time.)

Next, it’s time to saute your mushrooms. Some garlic, some nutmeg, a light dusting of flour to thicken, and a healthy glug of white wine are all we need to make these mushrooms ones to remember. Then we simply stir in our cashew cream, some of the crispy onions, and our blanched green beans.

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole |

Transfer everything to your favorite baking dish, top with the rest of your onions, and pop back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so. Your Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole is complete!

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole |

You may already have your Thanksgiving menu locked down, but you can bet those vegan or health-minded individuals in your life would love you even more if you added this to the menu. What do you have to lose (besides a few extra calories to allow for a bigger slice of pumpkin pie?)

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole |

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole |
Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hrs

A healthy, dairy- and meat-free take on the classic holiday green bean casserole.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
  • 2 medium onions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt divided
  • 1 pound fresh green beans trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 16 ounces cremini or button mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups cashew cream See Recipe in notes
  1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the onion slices, ½ cup flour, ¼ cup panko and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray generously with cooking spray. Pour coated onions onto baking sheet and bake in oven for 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times during this process to make sure they roast evenly.

  2. While the onions are cooking, prepare the green beans. Bring a large pot of water seasoned with 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Add green beans and boil for 3-5 minutes, until they feel crisp-tender. Immediately strain through a colander and then add green beans to an ice bath to keep them from continuing to cook and getting mushy.

  3. Once the onions are done in the oven, remove and set aside. Turn oven down to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

  4. Next, prepare the mushrooms. Heat olive oil in a large, deep saute pan. Add minced garlic and saute in olive oil for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add mushrooms, pepper and nutmeg. Stir to combine and let mushrooms cook until they have begun to release some of their water. Sprinkle mushrooms with 2 tablespoons of flour and stir to coat. 

  5. After a couple of minutes, add white wine and cashew cream. Stir everything until combined, then stir in ¼ of the onion rings and the green beans. Transfer this mixture to a casserole dish and top with remaining onion rings. Place in 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until bubbly. Be sure to keep an eye on the onion rings on top so they don’t burn. Serve warm.

Recipe Notes

To make the cashew cream: Soak 2 cups of raw, unsalted cashews in a bowl of water for at least 4 hours (or overnight.) Drain cashews and place in a high-powered blender with 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 cups filtered water. Blend on high until a smooth cream forms. 

Healthy (Vegan) Green Bean Casserole |


You can’t even tell it’s vegan!

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream

I just had to jump on the sweet potato toast bandwagon.

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

According to various online articles and news sources, sweet potato toast is the new up-and-coming “Instagram phenomenon.” I have to admit, though, that I had not actually seen this new trend showing up on my Insta news feed. You’d think that as a food blogger who follows mostly food-based Instagram accounts I’d have been more clued in, but I guess I’m just not following the right people!

Anywho, after some further research on this supposed sweet potato toast trend, I must say I was intrigued, and I’m pretty darn excited to share this Sweet Potato Toast with Roasted Broccol Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream recipe with you today. (I hope you’re not tired of cashew cream yet…Can you tell it’s my new favorite thing?)

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

But before I get into that, how was everyone’s weekend? What did you do? Where did you go? What did you EAT? Our trip to Napa was amazing (as always) and filled with lots of delicious wine and food (as always.) Head on over to Instagram to see more photos from our adventures. And now the final countdown is on!

Which brings me to some big news I’ve been wanting to share with you. You see, the final countdown is not just on for Chris and my Big Day, but I also have exactly FIVE. DAYS. LEFT at my 9-to-5, Monday through Friday job I’ve been holding down for the last three years.  That’s right! I’m taking the leap and following my dream of being able to start my own business and work for myself. This blog is a HUGE part of that, and I couldn’t have done it with all of my family and friends’ (both virtual and IRL) support . So thank you!

It’s a scary thing leaving a cushy, 40 hour a week job to strike out on your own, but I am a firm believer in the fact that one can never realize a dream unless they put themselves out there and give it a shot. I’m at a great point in my life to take this risk and make it a reality, so that’s what I’m going to do! This means I’ll have so much more time to devote to creating great content for you guys, and giving you stuff you want to hear. So please, get in touch! Tell me what you want to see more or less of, how I can improve, what you love, etc. It would mean so much!

Okay, so let’s get back to this Sweet Potato Toast with Roasted Broccoli Rabe and Cashew Cream. It turns out that this sweet potato toast thing is actually pretty darn easy, you just need a teeeeny bit of patience and a reliable toaster (and blender for the cashew cream of course.)

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

I don’t know about you, but I get pretty darn impatient once I smell something cooking in the toaster, so we’re going to be prepared for that and prep all of our toppings in advance. The Cashew Cream (as you already know from this Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Pepper recipe) takes a little bit of prep time, but you can make it up to a few days in advance and keep it in your refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. Basically, you should be keeping a container of Cashew Cream in your refrigerator at all times to use in anything and everything because it is absolutely delicious and makes your tummy feel all happy and healthy whenever you eat it.

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

We’ll also need to roast our broccoli rabe before we make our toast. A quick toss in coconut oil, salt and pepper, into the oven, and out in about 20 minutes.

Now we’re ready to rock’n’roll!

Despite what you may think, we are not making toast out of bread and spreading sweet potato all over it (that’s definitely what I thought at first!) No, we are actually going to slice the sweet potatoes nice and thin and put the potato slices themselves in the toaster. Who would have thought?

Because sweet potatoes are a bit harder to “toast” than a piece of bread, you’re going to have to turn the toaster as high as it will go and you may need to run the sweet potato slice through two to three times at this high setting. Just keep an eye on it the first time you make it as all toasters are different. My cheap-o toaster from Target took three cycles at the highest level before the sweet potato slices were nicely browned.

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

Once the sweet potato is toasted, this dish comes together in a snap. We first take a dollop of Cashew Cream and smooth it over the top of the potato, top that with the roasted broccoli rabe and then add some fresh sliced tomatoes as a final touch. If you’re feeling really ambitious, drizzle some balsamic glaze over top….bomb! And that’s it!

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

This dish is an incredibly tasty, healthy alternative if you’ve gotten a little tired of avocado toast (although can we ever tire of avocado toast?) or simply want to squeeze more veggies into your breakfast, lunch or snack (because I’m pretty sure this dish can qualify for all three of those.) It also just so happens to be vegan AND gluten-free, so there are no excuses for any of you to pass up Sweet Potato Toast with Roasted Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream!

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

Finally, if you like what you’ve been seeing here on CaliGirl Cooking and would like to help support me in my new entrepreneurial adventure, it would mean the world to me if you could give me a shout-out for the 2016 Saveur Blog Awards. Nominations are only open until end of day TODAY, so please hop on over! Feel free to nominate me in the Best New Voice, Best Food Instagram or Best Drinks Coverage categories. It takes less than 5 minutes and you can vote as many times as you want. Thank you, lovely bloggy friends, for all of your support. This dream could never come true without you! XO

Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Two slices of sweet potato toast with toppings

This sweet potato toast is the perfect breakfast, lunch or snack. It's vegan, gluten-free and topped with velvety cashew cream, roasted broccoli rabe and fresh tomato.


    For the cashew cream:
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • ½ teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
    For the roasted broccoli rabe:
  • 8 ounces broccoli rabe, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
    For the rest of the sweet potato toast:
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into 4 slices each (slices should be about ¼ inch thick)
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • Balsamic glaze for topping (optional)


  1. Make the cashew cream in advance. Soak the cashews in water for at least 4 hours or overnight. Strain cashews and transfer to a blender. Add nutritional yeast and salt. Begin running blender and slowly stream in water until cream has reached the desired consistency. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator if not using right away.
  2. Next, make the broccoli rabe. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the broccoli rabe in the coconut oil, salt and pepper. Lay broccoli rabe out on jelly roll pan and roast in preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Turn your toaster to the highest heat setting and toast the sweet potato slices. You may need to run the slices through a few times, until the center of the sweet potato slices are soft and the edges are golden and crispy.
  4. Remove slices from toaster and spread cashew cream over top. Top with roasted broccolini and then tomato slices. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, if desired. Eat immediately.
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Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream | CaliGirl Cooking

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Spring Green Minestrone with Basil-Cilantro Pistou

I consider minestrone to be the soup version of the “everything but the kitchen sink” salad.

Spring Green Minestrone with Basil-Cilantro Pistou | CaliGirl Cooking

It is really so versatile. Have some random veggies taking up space in the refrigerator? Have some chicken stock in the pantry? Then you’re all set for making your very own version of minestrone. But I know not everyone likes having that kind of freedom, that some of you out there really want that little nudge in the right direction just to make sure you don’t mess anything up. Luckily for you, I consider myself a minestrone pro.

I posted my classic version of minestrone a while back, but I’ve been itching to make a “green” minestrone ever since I’ve seen peas and asparagus popping up at the Farmer’s Markets this past month or so. Does anyone else get their cooking inspiration from what you see at the Farmer’s Market (or even the grocery store, for that matter?) I feel like I always get a plethora of new recipe ideas as soon as the seasons start changing and there’s new produce on hand for me to get creative with.

This Spring Green Minestrone is no exception. It’s chock full of fresh veggies like zucchini, kale, English peas and asparagus. It’s even easily made vegan! (You’ll see the special adjustments needed noted in the recipe.) And the Basil-Cilantro Pistou…my goodness, let me tell you about this Basil-Cilantro Pistou. It REALLY makes the dish. What is pistou, you ask? Well, the classic definition is it’s basically pesto without pine nuts. For this version, I did not include pine nuts, but I did add in some toasted almonds. I also omitted the cheese, and the good news is, you really don’t miss it! We just drizzle the pistou over the top of the soup before serving, top it with some grilled shrimp (if we’re not trying to make this vegan, that is) and enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal!

Spring Green Minestrone with Basil-Cilantro Pistou | CaliGirl Cooking

I’m planning on eating all of this Spring Green Minestrone these next few days…This weekend is my Bachelorette Party in Palm Springs and this is the perfect meal for me to prep for lounging by the pool in my bikini with my gals! I love vegetable-based soups because they’re nice and filling with very few calories. Add the lean protein from the shrimp and the almonds in the pistou and we have quite the healthy meal on our hands, folks!

Spring Green Minestrone with Basil-Cilantro Pistou | CaliGirl Cooking

Spring Green Minestrone with Basil-Cilantro Pistou | CaliGirl Cooking

I’m going to keep this short today. It’s opening weekend at the Santa Barbara Polo Club and my man and I are going to go check it out and enjoy the day in the sun with some friends. I’ll be sure to post some Instagram pics, and maybe I’ll even throw in a Snap? (I’m finally starting to figure it out guys! Follow me on Snapchat @caligirlcooking J )

Have a great Monday, friends. This Spring Green Minestrone is going to help us take the week by the horns!!

Spring Green Minestrone with Basil-Cilantro Pistou | CaliGirl Cooking

Spring Green Minestrone with Basil-Cilantro Pistou

Yield: Serves 4

A refreshing, spring version of the classic minestrone.


    For the soup:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ white onion, minced
  • 1 leek, white part sliced
  • ½ bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • Cheese rind (optional, omit if making vegan version)
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 cup English peas
  • 2 cups Tuscan kale, destemmed and shredded
  • 1 15-ounce can Great Northern beans
    For the pistou:
  • 1 ½ cups fresh basil
  • ¾ cup fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup almonds, toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Juice of ½ large lemon
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
    For the shrimp (optional):
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 10 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Place olive oil in a Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Once olive oil is warm, add garlic, onion and leek. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until mixture has become fragrant and started to turn translucent.
  2. Next, add asparagus and zucchini. Saute for a few more minutes, then add bay leaf and thyme and stir to combine.
  3. Add cheese rind, then cover mixture with chicken broth. Let this mixture come to a simmer, then add peas, kale and beans. Bring to a boil, then let simmer while you make the pistou (and shrimp, if making.)
  4. To make the pistou, combine all pistou ingredients except for olive oil in a food processor. Start processor and then slowly drizzle in olive oil. Continue pureeing until all ingredients are combined and pistou forms.
  5. To make the shrimp, heat coconut oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with salt and pepper, then add to sauté pan. Cook shrimp for a couple of minutes on each side, until shrimp is pink and opaque. Remove from heat.
  6. To serve, first ladle soup into soup bowls, then drizzle pistou over top. Finally, top with cooked shrimp.


Wine Pairing Note: This soup is just screaming to be paired with a Sauvignon Blanc. The herbaceous quality of most Sauvignon Blancs (especially those from New Zealand) will pair perfectly with the “green-ness” of this dish.

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Spring Green Minestrone with Basil-Cilantro Pistou | CaliGirl Cooking

Oh lovely bowl of nutritiousness..