Category Archives: Appetizer

Simple Homemade Salad Dressings

Homemade dressings are surprisingly simple. They also have more flavor and are better for you than most store bought versions,  which are often loaded with added sugar, harmful fats, and a long list of nasty ingredients.


I ditched the pre-made salad dressings years ago and never looked back. In fact, I don’t even like the taste of store bought dressings anymore.  I was recently talking to my good friend Erin about the ease and benefit of making your own dressings and told her I would share some simple recipes to get her started.  So these easy recipes are for Erin and anyone else interested in making your own salad dressing from scratch.  They are easy to make and contain healthy fats, important for your body’s absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.


Balsamic Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings (serving size: 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk ingredients together.

Nutrition facts per serving (serving size: 1 tablespoon): 67.5 calories, 7 g total fat, 11 mg sodium, 1 g total carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein

Vegetarian Caesar Dressing

Makes 4 servings (serving size: 2 tablespoons)

1/3 cup 0% fat free Greek yogurt

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice (1/2 – 1 lemon, juiced)

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoons reduced sodium tamari or soy sauce

1 teaspoon dried dulse flakes (such as Sea Seasonings organic dulse granules)

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk ingredients together.

Nutrition facts per serving (serving size: 2 tablespoons): 89 calories, 8 g total fat, 128 mg sodium, 2 g total carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 3 g protein

Recipe Note: Substitute 1 teaspoon tamari + 1 teaspoon dulse flakes for 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (contains anchovies) for a non-vegetarian version.

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings (serving size: 1 tablespoon)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon, juiced)

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

3 teaspoons olive oil

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk ingredients together.

Nutrition facts per serving (serving size: 1 tablespoon): 38 calories, 4 g total fat, 20 mg sodium, 1 g total carbohydrate, 0 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein

For some more salad dressing recipes, check out my previous post:

Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Creamy Mint Dressing

Lemon-Soy Vinaigrette

Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

Cucumber Yogurt Dressing

Love,

Renee

Roasted Veggie & Feta Quinoa


I love quinoa for a lot of reasons but most importantly because it takes less than 15 minutes to cook and is filled with precious nutrients that most of us don’t seem to get enough of. For instance, research shows that nearly 70% of Americans eat less than the recommended daily allowance for magnesium. One cup of cooked quinoa provides about 1/3 of your recommended daily intake for this important mineral which is vital for bone health, a strong immune system, and helpful in the treatment of high blood pressure and prevention of headaches or migraines.


This dish also provides a healthy dose of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and phytonutrients.  Along with a favorable mix of heart-healthy fats, fiber, and protein to control your appetite and keep you satisfied.  The inclusion of healthy fats in a meal also enhances the body’s absorption of antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients.

Roasted Veggie & Feta Quinoa

Makes 4 servings

2 red bell peppers, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups water

4 cups chopped kale

1 lemon, juiced

1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup chopped olives (green or black)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the bell peppers, onion, and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, turning once, until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, rinse dry quinoa under water to remove any powdery residue. Add quinoa and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 12-15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and quinoa forms little white spiral “tails.”

Lightly steam kale for 3-5 minutes, either covered in a steamer or saute pan filled with a thin layer of water. Toss steamed kale with cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, lemon juice, chickpeas, feta, and olives. Season with additional lemon juice, salt, or pepper and serve.

Recipe Note: Substitute 1.5 cups chickpeas for 6 ounces cooked chicken or shrimp, if desired.

Nutrition facts per serving: 355 calories, 11 g total fat, 278 mg sodium, 54 g total carbohydrates, 7 g sugar, 10 g fiber, 15 g protein

BALANCE IT OUT: Serve as is or with a side of fruit for a complete, delicious meal. Reduce serving size to use as a side dish or snack as well.

Love,

Renee

Blue Cheese & Spinach Pizza

A few weeks ago we went on a trip to Munich, Germany.  For those of you who have never been to Munich, I will tell you it is a lovely city filled with friendly people, gigantic beer halls, and heavy food. I’m talking sausages, dumplings, and pretzels galore.

Weibwurst (white sausage) and wiener schnitzel aren’t exactly my cup of tea but I did find the most amazing vegetarian restaurant, Prinz Myshkin, which I loved so much that we ate there not once but twice. I happily indulged in one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten in my life and had the revelation that spinach and blue cheese, minus any sort of sauce, on pizza is divine.

This recipe is inspired by the delicious pizza I had in Munich. Spelt flour makes a nutty and delicious dough that contains more fiber, protein, and B vitamins than wheat.  However, using a healthy store bought dough can be a great way to make this nutritious dish a time-friendly fare. Slow-cooking the onion enhances it sweetness but you can save some more time by using some raw sweet red onion slices instead.

Blue Cheese & Spinach Pizza

Makes 1 large pizza or 6 small individual pizzas (serving size: 1/6 large pizza)

Spelt Pizza Dough:

1/2 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1.5 cups wholegrain spelt flour

1 teaspoon olive oil

Toppings:

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided into 1 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, & 1/2 teaspoon

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 cups chopped spinach

1 tablespoon pine nuts

4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

Whisk together warm water, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.  Gradually stir the flour into the bowl with a wooden spoon until dough as formed. Knead dough for a couple of minutes, adding more flour if dough is too sticky. Place dough back in the bowl and drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, making sure the dough is completely covered in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 1-2 hours.

Heat a skillet over low-medium heat with 1 teaspoon olive oil and add onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 45-60 minutes until onions start to caramelize and turn slightly golden.

Meanwhile, heat another skillet over medium heat with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and cook mushrooms for 6-8 minutes, until soft and tender. Remove mushrooms from skillet and set aside. Add 1/2 teaspoon olive oil to the same skillet and add garlic and spinach. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until spinach is wilted and set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface until you get desired thickness.  (Spelt flour doesn’t stretch as well as wheat so it is easier to use the palm of your hand to flatten out the dough.)  Lay rolled out dough on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or a pizza stone. Top with caramelized onions, mushrooms, spinach with garlic, pine nuts, and blue cheese. Bake for 5-7 minutes, until crust is cooked and cheese has melted.

Nutrition facts per serving (serving size: 1/6 of pizza): 197 calories, 6 g total fat, 408 mg sodium, 28 g total carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 4.5 g fiber, 8 g protein

BALANCE IT OUT: A big large green salad is the perfect partner for this dish.

Lots of Love,

Renee

Indian Red Lentil Soup

If you are anything like me, then cold weather means soup season. I practically live on soups during the winter months so last night I threw together this delicious soup. It is a simple but nourishing meal that will help keep your body warm and healthy during these chilly days.

Here are a few of the key immune-boosting ingredients:

Garlic – Garlic has been used for thousands of years for its magnificent health benefits. This potent ingredient has been shown to boost immunity, protect blood vessels from damage, and reduce inflammation which is linked to premature aging and disease. To get the most of garlic’s benefits, crush fresh garlic, then let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cooking.  This allows an enzymatic process to occur which boosts its health promoting compounds.

Ginger
– For many generations ginger has been used as a home remedy to treat gastrointestinal distress. Recent research is starting to catch up with these old wives’ tales and demonstrate that ginger, in fact, is effective at preventing motion sickness and relieving symptoms of nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy.  Ginger is also a rich source of powerful antioxidants such as gingerols, shogaols, and zingerones.

Turmeric
– A main ingredient in curry, turmeric, has long been used as a condiment and healing remedy.  Turmeric has beneficial antioxidant properties and contains valuable vitamins and minerals such as iron, manganese, potassium, and vitamin B6. Research is showing that curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, has promising anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties.


Indian Red Lentil Soup

Makes 2.5 cups; 2 servings (serving size: 1.25 cups)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon diced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

1 small carrot, diced

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 cup red lentils

2 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

To Garnish:

Cilantro

0% Greek Yogurt

Heat a saucepan with oil and add onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add carrot, tomato, lentils, broth, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Serve as is or topped with fresh cilantro and a dollop of yogurt.

Nutrition facts per serving (serving size: 1.25 cups): 249 calories, 6 g total fat, 290 mg sodium, 17 g total carbohydrates, 6 g sugar, 9 g fiber, 13 g protein

BALANCE IT OUT: Balance this meal out with some warm whole-grain bread and a side salad or veggies. You could also enjoy the entire recipe (2 servings) for a hearty, nutritious, one-pot meal.

Lots of Love,

Renee

 

Homemade Spelt Bread

There is nothing quite like the overpowering aroma or utterly perfect taste of warm, soft bread straight out of the oven. Freshly baked breads are the best and this simple recipe is one of my personal favorites. It produces a nutritious homemade loaf with very few ingredients and a tiny amount of prep work. (no kneading required!!!)

Spelt is a distant cousin to wheat which dates back over 7,000 years. Although closely related to its popular relative, spelt contains more protein, fiber, and B-complex vitamins than wheat.  This nutritious grain also provides a healthy amount of rioboflavin, niacin, thiamine, iron, manganese, and copper.

Spelt does contain gluten and is therefore not a suitable grain for individuals with celiac disease. However, many individuals who have minor sensitivities to wheat can enjoy spelt without discomfort or reactions.

Spelt has a slightly nutty flavor and produces a soft, chewy bread.

Homemade Spelt Bread

Makes 16 servings (1 serving: 1 slice of bread)

2.75 cups (425 g) whole grain spelt flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoons hulled sunflower seeds

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups water

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 355 degrees F.

Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Add sunflower seeds and salt and combine thoroughly. Form a well in the center of the dry mix. Pour water into the well and lightly mix ingredients together with a spoon, until evenly mixed.  Try to use as little mixing as possible to achieve an even mix.

Pour the bread mixture into a bread pan misted with cooking spray. Bake in the center of the oven for about 60 minutes, until well risen and evenly browned.

Recipe Note: Homemade breads have a shorter shelf life since they contain none of the preservatives and stabilisers used by a lot of commercial bakeries. Therefore this bread is most delicious if eaten fresh within 24 to 48 hours of baking. Any bread that won’t be eaten immediately can be frozen and enjoyed later. Freeze individual slices wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 6 months in the freezer. To defrost just pop an individual slice in a toaster or warmed oven for 5 minutes.

Nutrition facts per serving (serving size: 1 slice of bread): 107 calories, 120 mg sodium, 18 g total carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 4 g protein

BALANCE IT OUT: This bread works wonderfully anywhere you would normally use the store-bought version.  Enjoy it for morning toast, healthy sandwiches, or alongside soups or stews.

Lots of Love,

Renee

Lemon & Sea Salt Kale Chips

If you’ve never had kale chips then you are missing out.  These crispy, delicious, easy to make chips are one of my favorite snacks and an all time perfect travel food.  They fill you up but not out as they are low in calories, high in protein, and contain a good source of fiber.  Plus, kale chips are a great replacement for highly processed, nutrient-void potato chips.  Furthermore, the nutrient density of kale makes it one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet.

I have talked about my minor obsession with kale and its health benefits in my previous post.  No need to repeat myself, so check out my Kale & Olive Salad post to learn why everyone, including you, could benefit from eating more kale.

Lemon & Sea Salt Kale Chips

Makes 2 snack-size servings or 4 tapas-size servings

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 tablespoon olive oil

dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 teaspoon each: sea salt and pepper

6 cups torn 3 to 4 inch pieces of kale, stem removed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, use hands to lightly message lemon juice, olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper into kale pieces.  Lay flat on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until crisp and slightly browned around edges.  Sprinkle baked kale chips with lemon zest.

Nutrition facts per serving (snack-size serving: 1/2 batch): 188 calories, 8 g total fat, 320 mg sodium, 22 g total carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 7 g protein

Nutrition facts per serving (tapas-size serving: 1/4 batch): 83 calories, 4 g total fat, 160 mg sodium, 11 g total carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 3.5 g protein

BALANCE IT OUT: These tasty, crispy chips make an excellent snack that will leave you satisfied and energized.  Generally snacks should be between 100 – 250 calories, so if you are eating just the kale chips as a snack than a serving size of 1/2 the batch is a healthful amount. If eating the kale chips along with other foods, such as a piece of fruit, than a serving size of 1/4 batch is an appropriate amount.

Lots of Love,

Renee

Creamy Broccoli & Lemon Risotto

I love the flavors in my last post for oven roasted chili & garlic broccoli so much that I wanted to make it into an actual meal.  Risotto, being so versatile and delicious, seemed like the perfect fit!

Brown rice is naturally gluten-free and an excellent source of valuable nutrients. A grain of rice has several layers and brown rice, unlike white rice, still has most of its nutrient dense outer layers intact. These outer layers cause brown rice to be darker, slightly firmer, and way more beneficial for our bodies compared to white rice.  Fiber, essentials fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, iron, and B vitamins are just some of the important nutrients naturally present in the precious outer layers of brown rice.

Consuming brown rice is beneficial to our waistline along with our health. Studies show that women who regularly eat whole grains, such as brown rice, consistently weight less than women who regularly eat refined grains, such as white rice.  Furthermore, women who regularly consume fiber from whole grains are less likely to gain weight compared to women who consume refined grains.

Creamy Broccoli & Lemon Risotto

Makes 4 servings

4 cups low sodium vegetable broth or water *see recipe note below**

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 red chili, diced (de-seed or use less chili for a milder flavor)

1 cup medium or short grain brown rice (such as Biona Brown Risotto Rice)

1/4 teaspoon each: sea salt and pepper

1 small bunch broccoli, chopped into bit-size pieces (about 1.75 cups broccoli pieces)

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Pour broth or water in a saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly translucent.  Add garlic and chili and cook for an additional 3 minutes.  Stir in rice and let it toast, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes.  Add 1 cup of warmed broth, sea salt, and pepper; simmer over medium-low heat until liquid has mostly absorbed, stirring often.  Continue to add the warmed broth, 2 ladles at a time, stirring frequently.  Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed before adding more broth.  Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, about 30-40 minutes. Stir in broccoli pieces, lemon zest and juice.  Top with Parmesan cheese (optional) and serve.

Nutrition facts per serving (without Parmesan cheese): 290 calories, 10 g total fat, 270 mg sodium, 46 g total carbohydrates, 3.5 g fiber, 6 g protein

Nutrition facts per serving (with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese per serving): 344 calories, 13 g total fat, 461 mg sodium, 47 g total carbohydrates, 3.5 g fiber, 11 g protein

Recipe Note: The amount of liquid needed and cooking time in this recipe largely depend on the rice you are using.  To be fair it also depends on the consistency of risotto you prefer.  Some types of rice take more liquid and a larger cooking time, while others might require the exact opposite.  I have found the best way to deal with this variance in rice is to always have enough liquid on hand, just in case, and taste the risotto throughout the cooking process to get the perfect consistency for you.

BALANCE IT OUT: This creamy risotto can make an excellent light meal on its own.  Pair it will grilled fish, chicken, or a large green salad for a more substantial well-balanced meal.

Lots of Love,

Renee

Catalan Cuisine: Romesco Sauce

A couple weekends ago my husband and I traveled to Barcelona.  Our goal was to pack in as much culture and good food as we could in during our brief stay.  We spent our time ducking into tapas bars, strolling down the famous Las Ramblas, reveling in the splendid Gaudi architecture, exploring la boqueria food market, and escaping into yet more tapas bars.

Having tapas and drinks with a great group of people we met in Barcelona

One of my favorite things about the whole trip was my discovery of romesco sauce.  An exquisite sauce, originating in the Catalonia region of Spain, typically made from almonds, hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil, and nyora peppers.  There are, of course, several variations to this recipe.  My version keeps the same delicious taste of traditional romesco while using common kitchen ingredients I had lying around my kitchen.


Red bell peppers provide flavor, color, and an impressive nutritional profile to this recipe.  Red bell peppers provide an excellent source of immune boosting vitamin C.  In fact, one red bell peppers provides about two times the amount of vitamin C as an orange.  Red bell peppers are also high in vitamin E, vitamin A, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, and an array of health-promoting phytonutrients.

Romesco Sauce

Makes 1.75 cups, 14 servings (serving size: 2 tablespoons)

2 cups baby roma tomatoes, halved

2 teaspoons olive oil

sea salt and pepper, to taste

3 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded or 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers

3 cloves garlic

6 tablespoons blanched whole almonds

1 red chili

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Spanish smoked paprika (use regular if you can’t find Spanish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Scatter tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with a little salt and place in oven to roast for 20 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, puree roasted tomatoes with remaining ingredients until you get a smooth, thick consistency.  Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve immediately or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for at least a week.  Romesco sauce taste best when flavors are allowed to marinate together overnight, so make a day ahead if time permits.  This sauce also freezes well for up to 6 months in the freezer.

Recipe Note: Traditional romesco sauce calls for sherry vinegar.  I didn’t have any on hand so I used a combination of balsamic and red wine vinegar.  However, I would suggest using 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar if you have it on hand.  Also, note that this sauce definitely on the spicy side.  De-seed the red chili or use less chili for a milder taste.

Nutrition facts per serving (serving size: 2 tablespoons): 46 calories, 3 g total fat, 38 mg sodium, 4 g total carbohydrates, 1.6 g fiber, 1.5 g protein

My husband and I in front of the Sagrada Familia

BALANCE IT OUT: Romesco sauce is as versatile as pesto and makes a wonderful accomplishment to vegetables, grilled fish, chicken, or beef.  It almost reminds me of a much tastier and healthier barbecue sauce.  Use it as a spread on sandwiches, a dipping sauce for grilled kebabs, a sauce for lightly steamed veggies, or alongside roasted potatoes.  We have been enjoying it with steamed asparagus and as a dipping sauce for roasted leeks!

Lots of Love,

Renee

Roasted Sweet Potato & Corn Salad

Lucky for me, one of my all time favorite restaurants in London, Ottolenghi, is right down the street from where we live.  The restaurant is super casual and offers a wide range of over the top side dishes which you piece together to form the most fabulous meal.  To me, this concept is perfect and the food matches.  I always leave feeling satisfied and inspired. This recipe is my take on a particular side dish I ate at Ottolenghi a few weekends back.

This vibrant dish is full of color, so its high in nutrients.  It offers a good dose of  immune-boosting vitamin C along with B vitamins, potassium, and beneficial fiber.

Roasted Sweet Potato & Corn Salad

Makes 6 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup salad)

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 2.5 cups cubed sweet potato) *See recipe note below*

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tablespoon butter or ghee

1 cup corn kernals

dash of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

sea salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Lay on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until tender.

Heat butter or ghee in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add corn and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes, until corn is tender and slightly golden in color.  Be careful not to burn the corn as it cooks fast.

Toss cooked sweet potatoes with cooked corn, cilantro, and feta.  Season with sea salt and pepper and serve warm or cool.

Recipe Note: Can easily substitute sweet potatoes for any type of squash, especially butternut squash.

Nutrition facts per serving (serving size: 1/2 cup): 115 calories, 4.5 g total fat, 82 mg sodium, 18 g total carbohydrates, 2.5 g fiber, 2.5 g protein

BALANCE IT OUT: This tasty side is a great way to brighten up your meals.  Swapping your traditional sides for this vibrant dish will easily and effortlessly add color, taste, and a slue of health benefits.

“Inspiration gives no warnings.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Lots of Love,

Renee

Arugula & White Bean Pesto

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our first trip to the spectacular country of Italy.  It was an unforgettable trip filled with exploring old villages, hiking the breathtaking Cinque Terre and, of course, eating. The Northern region of Italy where we stayed is known as the Liguria region, with a cuisine rich in seafood, seasonal vegetables, risottos, and homemade pastas.  Pesto, a worldwide favorite, also proudly originates from this Italian region.

My husband and I about to hike Cinque Terre

It should go without saying that the pesto I ate during this trip was amazing.  This trip also got me thinking not only about pesto but all the variations and ways to incorporate pesto in the kitchen.  I already have a pretty basic pesto recipe that I use quite often but  I wanted to come up with something different.  So I decided to include some of my favorite foods, such as arugula and white beans, into a creamy delicious vegan version of pesto.  This pesto is vegan, low calorie, and also provides a good source of protein due to the beans.

Generally, Americans eat way too much protein but including a little bit of protein at every meal and snack can be beneficial.  Protein helps to fill you up and keep you full.  Incorporating healthy sources of protein every time you eat can make a big difference in keeping your energy levels up and weight off.  Unprocessed fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and low fat dairy all contain protein.  White beans, for example, provide a great source of protein which is why I added them to this version of low calorie, vegan pesto.

Arugula & White Bean Pesto

Makes 1.75 cups, 14 servings (serving size: 2 tablespoons)

3 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 lemon, juiced

4 cups arugula

8 basil leaves

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans or 1.5 cups cooked white beans

1/4 – 1/3 cup water (depending on desired consistency)

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a dry skillet over medium low heat.  Add the pine nuts and toast, shaking the pan frequently, for a couple minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove toasted pine nuts and set aside.  In the same skillet add oil and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes until garlic is slightly browned. Set garlic and oil it was cooked in aside. Garlic cooks quickly so be careful not to burn.

In a food processor or blender, blend toasted pine nuts, garlic along with its cooking oil, lemon juice, arugula, beans, and water until smooth and creamy.  Season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition facts per serving (serving size: 2 tablespoons): 50 calories, 2 g total fat, 28 mg sodium, 5.5 g total carbohydrates, 2.3 g fiber, 2.2 g protein

Enjoying my first big plate of pasta with pesto in Italy!

BALANCE IT OUT:  This pesto works great tossed with pasta but also has many other uses.  Try it as a spread on a sandwich, such as a pesto chicken or pesto veggie panini. It works great as a dip for cut up veggies, bread, or chips.  My friend Lindsay says radishes are particularly amazing with this dip. Also, check out my previous blog on pesto where I list additional creative uses for pesto!

Gorgeous seaside town in Northern Italy!

“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” – Henry Miller

Love,

Renee