“Cheesy” Pasta with Roasted Broccoli (V)

IMG_5737My friend came over for dinner yesterday (you can take a wild guess at what we ate 😀 ), and at some point during the evening I mentioned an event that I was thinking about attending this Fall. When I continued to ramble on about it and explained that I’d already put the date in my calendar just in case, she chuckled and said “You really like to have a plan, don’t you?”

Rewind back to four days ago, as I sat with my sister, Katie, on the porch of my apartment with all the doors nicely locked–and my keys still inside. It was already almost 11 a.m., and I nervously tapped my foot to the beat of the seconds that I could feel speeding by, all of them wasted: we should have been at the shore of the Allegheny, zipping up our life jackets and boarding a kayak, and instead we were stuck waiting for my property manager to let us back into the building, thanks to my brilliant attention to detail. I watched clouds build across the sky, casting a symbolic shadow over my perfectly manicured itinerary for the day. IMG_5553

The point is, YES. I love plans. Plans are wonderful. My relationships with written to-do lists, mental preparation, and neatly organized schedules are undoubtedly stronger than any romantic experience I’ve had in my life. That’s why I waited until I decided exactly how I wanted to decorate my new room before hanging even one thing on the walls; it’s why I never start a new bake without first writing down a rough draft version of the recipe. And it’s also why–despite the fact that we could kayak on literally any of the six days that Katie was here–I was ready to let that morning’s incident deem the day a failure.IMG_5560

Thankfully, my sister does not share my excessive interest in carefully plotting the hours of each day. Rather, she was probably ready to give me a solid slap if I asked her again “So, what time do you want to get dinner later?” or “What time should I set the alarm for tomorrow?” or “Okay, so you still want to do the park on Thursday? In the morning? Before or after breakfast?.” To me, it was necessary to keep tight watch on each hour of our time together, as if they could sneak away unused if we weren’t careful. For her, spending the week with a figure-it-out-as-we-go mentality was the best strategy. I don’t think I need to identify the more realistic–and often more rewarding–approach.

If you need a hint, consider the fact that the very day when I’d unintentionally thwarted our intentions for going downtown and then out to lunch, we ended up having the most fun of any day that week. We explored Highland Park, a park just down the road that’s laden with hidden forest trails, streams, flowers, and foliage. The number of pictures we took, laughs we shared, and new things we encountered that afternoon far surpassed that of the rest of her visit. And I was ready to declare it a ruined day after 20 minutes of waiting on the porch. IMG_4760 (2)

In other news of things for which we can’t plan, Katie has developed an intolerance to dairy. After suffering from stomach problems for months, she reluctantly cut dairy from her diet to see whether it would have an affect. Given the fact that Alfredo and mac and cheese are her two favorite things in this life, it was safe to say she was praying that the switch would make no difference, that it was something else causing the issues. Sadly, that was not the case. Her relief after going dairy-free was quick and obvious, and  occasional flare ups paralleled exactly the occasional cheese or milk she tried with hope.IMG_5574

Just as she had that morning on the porch, though, Katie didn’t freak out. She saw the situation in front of her and matter-of-factly accepted it as her new reality. I admire so much her ability to remain unphased by things that would thoroughly shake a chronic strategist like myself. So, beyond the periodic sigh when she remembers she can’t have her usual ice cream or grilled cheese again, she doesn’t bat an eye at the restrictions. Meanwhile, I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about what this means for her now, and I’ve met her new diet with, you guessed it: a plan. I want to make it as hard as possible for her to miss dairy, and this pasta is my first go at the challenge. Based on the way her eyes popped out of her head when she tasted it last Sunday, I’d say it was a success. I’m so grateful for ALL of the time we shared this week, even those moments I was sure I’d messed up for her. Luckily for me, it takes a lot more than getting locked out to rattle Katie. Luckily for Katie, I may not always be the best at staying calm when my schedule goes awry, but I sure can make a mean bowl of pasta.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Matthew 8:23-26


“Cheesy” Pasta with Roasted Broccoli (V)

This creamy, savory pasta is not only the ultimate comfort food, but the ultimate crowd-pleaser. With no meat, dairy, or eggs (and no chance you’ll miss them either), everyone can have a bowl of these cheesy noodles. 


  • 1 package (about 6 cups dry) cooked whole wheat fusilli pasta
  • 1 cup onions chopped into large chunks (I used two small Vidalias)
  • 6 cups chopped broccoli
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed but not peeled
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • cooking spray
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 2/3 cups cashews, soaked overnight or boiled for 20 minutes
  • 2 TBSP plus 2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup plus 5 TBSP almond milk, separated
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt (decrease this amount if using table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • about 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spread onions, garlic, and broccoli on baking sheet. Drizzle Dijon mustard over all of them, and stir each vegetable to coat it.
  3. Spray the entire tray lightly with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring twice as they cook to ensure an even roast.
  5. Remove tray from oven, set broccoli aside, and place onions/garlic in freezer to cool quickly. (You could also roast the vegetables the day before if desired).
  6. In the cup of a Nutribullet or food processor, combine soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, salt, nutmeg, pepper, turmeric, and 5 TBSP almond milk.
  7. Add the cooled onions (should be about 1/2 cup once cooked) and garlic (peel garlic first). Pulse until very smooth, and set aside.
  8. Make a roux: place butter in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Once melted, stir in flour.
  9. When mixture is bubbling throughout, gradually stir in remaining 1 cup of almond milk.
  10. Reduce heat to low, and begin stirring in the cashew mixture until completely incorporated. For a creamier pasta, add slightly more almond milk as desired.
  11. Stir sauce into the cooked pasta. Mix in roasted broccoli, and serve immediately.
  12. Keep leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge, and add a little almond milk as needed when reheating.