Walnut Pesto Pasta Salad

Walnut Pesto Pasta Salad

Happy Labor Day! Will you be relaxing at home, or potluck-hopping your way through the day? We have a few get-togethers planned, one of which is a potluck, so I thought I’d give summer one last hurrah and whip up this pasta salad to bring.

I’m always looking for recipes that make perfect leftovers to last us throughout the week. Salads seem to do the trick because they are so versatile and last a long time! Ben has also been asking for more pasta recently, since he has started eating pescatarian with me.

I was so pleased with the way this salad came out. Homemade walnut pesto is the perfect dressing! Just don’t make the mistake I did of adding the pasta when it’s still too hot, otherwise it will just absorb all the pesto! Allow your pasta to cool to room temp first so you don’t have to make more pesto later.

You could also add black olives, salami or pepperoni to this salad and it would be even better!

Walnut Pesto Pasta Salad
Recipe Type: Salad, picnic
Cuisine: vegetarian, healthy
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Perfect for your Labor Day potluck or to last for the short week ahead!
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 box whole wheat rotini
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 8 oz mini mozzarella balls (“perlines”)
  • 1 bag chopped kale
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients for pesto except for the olive oil and vinegar. Pulse on high until roughly chopped, then drizzle in oil and vinegar until smooth. Add more water or oil if you like!
  2. Prepare pasta to al dente and drain, reserving 1 cup of the liquid.
  3. Return 1 cup pasta water to the pot and add kale. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to low until kale is steamed. Remove from heat.
  4. Return pasta to pot and add tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella balls, and peas.
  5. When pasta has cooled, toss with pesto and serve!

Walnut Pesto Pasta Salad


Mediterranean Grain Bowl

Mediterranean Grain Bowl

Mediterranean Grain Bowl
Recipe Type: Vegetarian, Salad
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Roasted cauliflower with warm notes of schawarma spice and zoodles are perfect additions to this Middle Eastern inspired grain salad!
  • 1 cup quinoa or blend
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 green or red peppers, sliced
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 4 tbsp schawarma spice (2 tbsp ground coriander + 1 tsp each of cinnamon, cumin + 1/2 tsp each turmeric, ginger, black pepper)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, drained
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Add 1 cup quinoa blend to 2 cups boiling water. Lower to simmer for 15 minutes and remove from heat.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high and add garlic, peppers, tomato, onion, and 2 tbsp schawarma spice. Cook until tender.
  3. Add juice of lemon, parsley, vinegar, olives, and 1 tbsp olive oil to bowl of a food processor. Pulse on high until roughly chopped.
  4. Add white beans and remaining schawarma spice, and pulse a few more times until chopped (you don’t want a paste!)
  5. In a large bowl, toss together warm quinoa, white bean mixture, and pepper and onion mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with roasted cauliflower, feta, and sliced avocado.

Mediterranean Grain Bowl

Summer Corn Salad w/ Miso Vinaigrette


Summer Corn Salad w/ Miso Vinaigrette

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? This weekend was packed with a ton of fun for us. Saturday morning we chilled and I went to the gym, then Saturday evening we walked around downtown Durham (including the American Tobacco Center, which is one of my absolute favorite spots in Durham). The sky was so blue!

Then we went to Rue Cler for dinner- it’s Triangle Restaurant Week and the prix fixe menu was superb. I started with a chilled cucumber soup with crab timbale, then a “tower” of marinated veggies with sheep’s milk feta. My main course was an outstanding sautéed NC yellowfin tuna served with piperade (a pepper and tomato-based sauce- yes, I looked it up) and crispy potatoes. Plus a humungous perrier that made me have to pee for the next four hours…

Which is very unfortunate because then we went to see “The King & I” at DPAC, and let’s just say the ladies room line was the longest I have EVER seen it. These are the times I really wish I were a man. The line was seriously out the door and extended across the entire floor to the opposite set of stairs. Seriously! Good thing they move you in and out pretty quickly.

Sunday was church and then I got to work on a new recipe. I was craving something summery, light, and that could be served as a garnish for tuna burgers or a side salad on its own. I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light with a few additions and modifications, and I think it turned out really well!


Summer Corn Salad w/ Miso Vinaigrette

This would be perfect for using up any leftover corn on the cob. It would also make the perfect side for your next cookout. I served it with some homemade tuna burgers (recipe coming soon!) over spinach and some roasted sweet potatoes on the side. Looking forward to enjoying it all week long! Recipe below.

Summer Corn Salad w/ Miso Vinaigrette
Recipe Type: Summer, Vegetarian, Salad
Cuisine: Summer, Low-Calorie, Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
This salad would be a perfect way to use up your leftover corn on the cob! The miso paste adds a little extra umami and the tomatoes soak up the delicious vinaigrette. Summer is officially started!
  • 4-6 fresh corn on the cob, roasted or grilled
  • 4 medium plum tomatoes (or 8 small campari tomatoes), quartered
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa (or other grain)
  • 1/2 cup edamame
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fresh pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • feta for topping
  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle tomatoes with salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Shave off corn kernels from fresh corn and combine with edamame. Add to tomatoes and gently toss.
  3. While still warm, add quinoa to tomato mixture.
  4. Prepare vinaigrette by combining remaining ingredients (through lemon) in a mason jar. Whisk to combine. Thin out with hot water if needed.
  5. Pour vinaigrette over salad according to taste (I usually save a bit in the jar for later- don’t want to overdress!).
  6. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.
  7. Serve over spinach and sprinkle with feta.

Summer Corn Salad w/ Miso Vinaigrette

Happy Summer!

Layered Mezze Platter and My Search for the Perfect Hummus

I’ve been on the HUNT for the best hummus in the Triangle. There’s nothing like a fluffy, creamy, not-too-oily hummus to make my mouth water. I’ve even thought about starting my own small-batch hummus-making business… but then someone suggested I could call it “Claire’s Humpy Hummus” and the idea immediately got tabled. Maybe one day you will see some “Humpy Hummus” in the store and you’ll know where credit is due.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Soom Soom Pita Pockets, a food truck in Durham that often parks at our favorite brewery, Ponysaurus. I tried their hummus, served with a giant pita pocket, and I was hooked. It was drippy without being watery, creamy without being weighed down by oil, and came with a little dollop of tahini sauce on top.

Y’all, I quickly ran out of pita. But gosh be darned, I finished that hummus with a spoon. 

I asked the servers what they do to make this hummus so perfect. They weren’t shy about telling me that they actually puree roasted vegetables into the mixture. Genius! I knew I’d have to try out the technique to see if I could whip up something similar.

I took their recommendation of adding roasted carrots and cauliflower, but I also threw in a few sweet potatoes to see what happened. The result was not quite as good as Soom Soom, but totally a triumph in my book. Including more veggies also meant I didn’t need to use as much tahini or oil. I’ve found that adding a few ice cubes also makes the hummus really fluffy.

My new hummus creation made the perfect base for this Mediterranean layered mezze platter! Instead of the classic Mexican 7-layer dip, I topped hummus with veggies and crispy chickpeas for something a little fancier.

Layered Mezze Platter

From bottom to top: homemade sweet potato hummus (so fluffy!), quinoa and lentil blend, sautéed swiss chard, garlic roasted tomatoes and carrots, crispy curried chickpeas and cauliflower, kalamata olives, feta + cilantro. Pita points on the side for dipping instead of chips!

This dip could also easily make a meal if you served it with extra greens. Or just let your guests dip their pita directly into the dish. Complete with protein, healthy fats, and hearty grains, make sure to add this one to your Memorial Day spread.

Layered Mezze Platter
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Entree
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Vegan
Author: Claire McCormick of Claire Tastes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Fancify your 7-layer dip with a Mediterranean spin on the old Mexican classic! Homemade hummus serves as a perfectly light and creamy base, topped with healthy grains, curried vegetables and wilted greens. Serve hot or cold!
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced garlic, divided
  • 6-7 plum tomatoes, halved
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup quinoa and lentil blend
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and stalks
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 cup nutritional yeast, divided
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • juice of one lemon
  • 6-8 cups fresh swiss chard, rinsed and chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • cilantro
  • pita points for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 425 deg.
  2. Pat chickpeas dry.
  3. On a large baking sheet, spread carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower stalks, and tomatoes. Drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes until tender.
  4. Meanwhile, cook quinoa/lentil blend according to package directions (about 2:1 water to grains), minus 1-2 minutes until al dente. Drain if necessary.
  5. In a large bowl, toss half the chickpeas, cauliflower florets, 2 tbsp olive oil, curry powder, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, cumin, juice of 1/2 lemon, and salt and pepper. Spread on another baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Add tahini, remaining chickpeas, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and tahini to bowl of a food processor. When carrots and sweet potatoes are done, add them with the cauliflower stalks. (Leaving out the tomatoes and a few of the carrots). Process on high until blended, then drizzle in olive oil and 2-3 tbsp water until smooth and fluffy. (For extra fluffy hummus, throw in 1-2 ice cubes).
  7. Saute swiss chard in a large saute pan until wilted. Shock by rinsing under cold water, then squeeze firmly to get out all the water.
  8. In a large casserole dish, layer hummus, quinoa/lentils, swiss chard, roasted tomatoes and carrots, and crispy chickpeas/cauliflower. Top with kalamata olives, feta and cilantro.
  9. To serve warm: Heat (covered) at 350 for 10 minutes, then broil (uncovered) on high for 2-3 minutes until crisped.
  10. Serve with pita points, extra cilantro and yogurt sauce, if desired.

Layered Mezze Platter

Dig in!

Happy long weekend!

Creamy Dreamy Quinoa Salad w/ Roasted Cauliflower & Lemon-Tahini Drizzle (Vegan, GF)

Happy Monday! It’s felt like a while since I’ve had a spare few minutes to put up a post on here… life has been crazy these days! But, I was finally able to steal a few hours in the kitchen today on my day off to whip up the salad of all salads.

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and that means party-season! Cheers to dining al fresco, cooking out, and spending times with friends. This year we’re hosting a few friends at our house potluck-style. As some of them follow vegan and/or gluten-free diets, I thought a big salad would be the perfect side to share. (There will also be “the meats”… but Ben is in charge of that area :P)

Creamy Dreamy Quinoa Salad w/ Roasted Cauliflower & Lemon-Tahini Drizzle

Vegan, gluten-free, and packed with protein for staying-power, I will definitely be tucking this one away in my recipe files! I used nutritional yeast (my first time using!) to give the roasted cauliflower and chickpeas a “cheesy” vibe, and of course a lemon-tahini dressing always takes the creamy factor up a notch.

Pair this with meat, tofu, or a poached egg to make it a meal. A few slices of avocado would be perfect here too. Oh my goodness. Get in my belly NOW.

Recipe below. Enjoy!

Creamy Dreamy Quinoa Salad w/ Roasted Cauliflower & Lemon-Tahini Drizzle (Vegan, GF)
Recipe Type: Vegan, Gluten-Free
Cuisine: Summer, Healthy
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
The perfect potluck dish for Memorial Day! Vegan, gluten-free, and deliciously satisfying. Drizzle with some of the lemon-tahini vinaigrette to take the creamy-dreamy factor to the next level!
  • 1 cup rinsed quinoa
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp greek seasoning (or just use garlic powder)
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 large tomato (or 1 cup cherry tomatoes), chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • handful baby carrots, chopped roughly
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • For drizzle:
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • juice of other half of lemon
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp honey
  • hot water, to thin
  1. Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower, garbanzo beans, mushrooms, olive oil, garlic, and seasoning. Spread in an even layer on a prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Cook for 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove and cool.
  2. Meanwhile, mix quinoa and lentils in a saucepan and add 2 cups water or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 18-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed and lentils are al dente.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the tomato, parsley, carrots, lemon juice 3-4 times or until roughly chopped. Don’t overdo it here- you don’t want gazpacho!
  4. Add the chopped veggie mixture to a large bowl and toss with spinach and the cooked grains. Top with roasted cauliflower mixture and sprinkle on additional nutritional yeast if desired.
  5. To prepare the lemon tahini drizzle, whisk together all ingredients in a jar. Add enough hot water to thin out, then drizzle on top of salad.

Creamy Dreamy Quinoa Salad w/ Roasted Cauliflower & Lemon-Tahini Drizzle (Vegan, GF)

Wonton Muffin Tin Quiche

Looking for an easy, make-ahead appetizer or on-the-go breakfast? These wonton muffin tin quiches could not be easier to make, and can be frozen and reheated on your way out the door!

Happy weekend! I don’t know about you, but this week seemed super long. And busy! It’s not unusual for me to get home at 7:30pm these days, and before I know it it’s 10pm and I’m just finishing up the dishes from dinner. Weekdays that end late and start early need some careful planning, as it’s easy to let nutrition go by the wayside when I’m constantly on the go. Enter pre-prepped meals.

When I was in my 3rd year PT school internships, I started making all my breakfast and lunches ahead. Usually a kefir smoothie or a few power cookies for breakfast, or something I could quickly chug between patients in the hospital. Then for lunch I’d make sandwiches on the famously dense Ezekiel bread  (it’s so dense that you can make tuna sandwiches the weekend before and they are still perfectly non-soggy when you eat them five days later!). For more on my lunchtime meal prep, click here.

Wonton Muffin Tin Quiche

I’ve been looking to mix things up a bit with my morning meals. I find myself getting RAVENOUS around 11am, probably because I mostly wait until I get super hungry in the morning to eat. I typically bring a container of trail mix (almonds, raisins, dry cereal, and peanut butter pretzels) in the morning and snack on it between patients. And a banana around 10 or 11. But I think I need something with a bit more protein and fat to keep me full! So I decided to make a huge batch of these muffin tin quiches, easy to make ahead, pop in the freezer, and nuke for 30 seconds or so before eating. I might even bring a few to work to have on hand in the freezer there! Easy protein poppers for some good, healthy staying power to get me through my 10-hour days!

On another note, I read an awesome blog post this morning from one of my favorite bloggers, The ReaL Life RD, on “The Healthiest Way to Eat”. Robyn is an RD and NP and has such a unique perspective on dieting and what it means to be “healthy.” This post made me think a lot about what I value in my eating and what makes me feel GOOD without becoming obsessive! Great read. Thanks, Robyn!

Anyway, recipe for these mini quiches below. Enjoy the sunshine this weekend!

Wonton Muffin Tin Quiche
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: Easy
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 24
Perfect for making ahead, freezing and popping in the microwave for a few seconds before you head out the door for work!
  • 1 cup chopped veggies of your choice (I used mushrooms, red onions, broccoli, fresh spinach and tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp each oregano and basil
  • 6 eggs, whisked lightly
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • dash of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 24-30 wonton wrappers (in the refrigerated section at the store, usually near the tofu!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray 2 muffin tins with cooking spray. Line each cup with a wonton wrapper.
  3. In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil on medium high. Add garlic, veggies, basil and oregano. Cook on medium until tender. Remove from heat.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon a bit of veggie mixture into each wonton, followed by about 1 Tbsp egg mixture. Sprinkle on top with a few green onions and cheese.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes until wonton wrappers are lightly browned and egg is set. Cool and serve.
  7. (*To Make Ahead: Allow to cool completely, then remove wontons and store in an airtight container in freezer. When ready to eat, remove and microwave 30 seconds (or 1 min on low power) until heated through. The wonton wrappers may become slightly soggy when reheated in microwave, but still delicious!)


Pasta Salad w/ Hope Kale Pesto Hummus

Happy Monday! Anyone else confused by this weather? Seriously, is it only February? This past weekend we enjoyed sunny and temps in the mid-70s! Ben and I had a relaxing weekend. Friday night we went downtown to Gonza Tacos y Taquila– good salsa, fish tacos and a strawberry margarita hit the spot! On Saturday, I enjoyed a nice long run on the American Tobacco Trail with Samoa to tire her out… but I think I only managed to rile her up even more. This face– I can’t resist!

Saturday night Ben and I went to a work BBQ for his company. We had a blast chatting, eating, and sipping on some brews. I can’t believe I was able to wear shorts! We contributed some deviled eggs and chili-stuffed cornbread, adapted from RecipeRunner.

One of the vegetarian dishes someone brought to the party was a big, colorful bowtie salad. I had forgotten how good this tastes during picnic season! I decided that since it’s been so warm, I might as well whip up my own version to last through the week.

Let picnic season begin!

Pasta Salad w/ Hope Kale Pesto Hummus

For a creamy dressing to go on this salad, I decided to use this new-to-me hummus from Hope Foods. Hope Hummus has ten different hummus varieties including original, spicy avocado, thai coconut curry, and even dark chocolate! I love that Hope Foods values preservative-free and local ingredients, clean water, and agricultural job creation. None of which is at the expense of amazing flavor. I’ve tried the original, spicy avocado and kale pesto so far, and none of them have disappointed! Hope is based out of Colorado and can be found in all major grocery stores in the refrigerated section.

This salad is super easy to whip up, especially if you have some of these ingredients in cans in your pantry already. I semi-cheated and got a lot of them from the salad bar in Harris Teeter. That way I could get just what I needed in the right amounts.

Pasta Salad w/ Hope Kale Pesto Hummus
Recipe Type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Summer, Picnic
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Let picnic and BBQ season begin! Next time you make a salad like this, consider using a prepared hummus like this one from Hope Foods!
  • 1 package tri-color farfalle pasta, uncooked
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2-3 cups chopped baby spinach
  • chopped peppers, artichoke hearts, black and/or green olives, shredded carrots (about 1 1/2 cups total)
  • 1 package Hope brand Kale Pesto hummus
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, minus 1 minute (to al dente). Add the broccoli in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain, reserving ~1/4 cup pasta water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine garlic through chopped vegetables. Add pasta and toss.
  3. In a mason jar, whisk together hummus, lemon juice, and reserved pasta water (add more or less depending on how thick you want your dressing- but it will thicken once cooled and added to the pasta!).
  4. Toss salad with dressing and feta. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.

Pasta Salad w/ Hope Kale Pesto Hummus


What’s your favorite way to eat hummus?