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pesto

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Eating Seasonally: Pea and Basil Pesto Cucumber Canapes with Sun Dried Tomatoes

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I'll admit it. I am not an appetizer person. It's not that I don't like the idea of them but, I have a big appetite and honestly, I'd rather just get to the full-plate of food which is why I never really feature them here on the blog. That said, the first time I made this app I pretty much ate a dinner sized portion so I guess, if you're like me, you could do that too.

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My pea pesto is somewhere in between a thick pesto and garbanzo-free hummus - rich, creamy, fresh and packed with flavor. It is loaded with the good stuff - brain boosting walnuts, 'cheesy' nutritional yeast, refreshing citrus, sweet basil and even some very sneaky good-for-you greens. It starts with a lowly bag of frozen peas and transforms into something wonderful in the food processor. I spread it thick over bias-cut cucumber slices (would be just as good over crostini) and top it with fresh or smoked sun-dried tomatoes for a truly special app that tastes like a sinful slice of pizza but with an ingredient list that is as clean as can be. 

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Makes: 30 Canapes • Prep + Asembly Time: 30 min


PEA AND BASIL PESTO

  • 20 oz. bag of frozen petite peas, thawed to room temperature 
  • 8-10 basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup dandelion or spinach greens, de-stemmed *optional
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, pine nuts OR pumpkin seeds
  • the juice of 1 small lemon
  • salt to taste

To make the pesto, add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse til a thick, smooth consistency has formed. You may have to scrape the sides down a few times to ensure all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

PRO-TIP: I recommend making this pesto day-of. Even with the addition of lemon juice, basil can tend to brown as it is exposed to air for a longer period of time.

TO ASSEMBLE

  • 2-3 english cucumbers, cut on the bias into 30 rounds
  • Sliced fresh tomato to garnish OR julienne diced sun-dried tomatoes (find the smoked variety if you can)

Use a rounded table spoon of pesto on each canape. Arrange them on a large tray and top with fresh or sun dried tomatoes. Serve room temp or chilled. 

 

LOVE THROUGH FOOD, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

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Tangy. Savory. Spicy. Sweet. Man. Oh. Man. 

This pesto is insane - all you need is a blender and a few minutes and you're on your way to a super impressive plant-based pesto pasta dinner. Actually, I don't know if you can call this a pesto, I'm not going to google what constitutes one so, please, don't call the pesto police on me. Anyway, this, ahem, SAUCE  is one for the books...and by books I mean blog. 

I've heard a lot of talk about bean-based creamy sauces lately which are a lower-fat alternative to the overtly rich and oh-so-popular nut based vegan sauces. Using beans as a base means your sauce is inherently high in protein aka really filling which is always great and I could totally see how a soft, white bean would create a really nice base for many different flavors.

After some disappointing experimentation, I decided to pair the beans with sweet sun-dried tomatoes, red chili flake and fire-roasted red pepper for a multi-layered flavor parade - sweet, acidic, smokey, spicy and slightly 'cheezy' thanks to the holy-grail combination of nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar and cashews. 

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This sauce is super well rounded and it tastes good on everything - not just pasta but is magic when enrobing linguine and the like. The recipe makes enough sauce for two meals so be sure to save the extra for tomorrow's dinner - just see my tip about thinning it out below!

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Take a stab at this one and let me know what you think!

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Serves: 2-4 • Prep Time: 10 minutes • Cook Time: 10 minutes


  • 1 can low sodium white/canilleni beans
  • 1/2 cup packed oil free sun-dried tomatoes (I used Trader Joe's dry-packed variety)
  • 1/4 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 whole red pepper, roasted on a gas stovetop OR 1/2 jar of roasted red peppers in water, drained
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 low sodium veggie boullion
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes, salt and pepper
  • 2-2 1/2 cups water, plus more if you like a thinner sauce

1. Add all of the ingredients to a high speed blender but hold back half the water. Use a tamper to ensure an even blend and stop a few times to scrape down the sides. 

2. Once fully blended, add in the other half of the water. Check for desired consistency and flavor profile - adjust as needed.  Blend again until fully smooth.

NOTE: The sauce will thicken up a bit as it sits, I used some of the cooking liquid from the pasta to thin it out when preparing the dish but I did notice upon reheating the leftover sauce the next day that I had to add a significant amount of water just to get it back to the right consistency. If re-heating, Just play it on the safe side, adding a little water at a time - that way you won't risk over-thinning the sauce. If the sauce does come out too thin, simply bring to a low simmer on the stove for 5-10 minutes to allow it to reduce slightly. 


1. Cook the pasta according to packaged directions. Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water (skip the rinse if using regular pasta), carefully reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid in a small cup or dish.

2. In a large shallow pot, steam the spinach and tomatoes in a small amount of water until the tomatoes begin to release their juices and the spinach is fully wilted.

NOTE: I added the tomatoes in first, cooking for about 3 minutes before adding the spinach as it wilts so quickly.

3. Once the vegetables are cooked, turn the heat to low and add in your pasta, cooking liquid and half the sauce - stirring gently to pull the sauce and veggies through the noodles. 

4. Plate up the pasta and top with nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan. 

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Pesto Polenta Stuffed Portobellos

This is one main dish for the books! Meaty roasted mushrooms topped with creamy polenta, tangy sauce and savory pesto is the hearty, easy, vegan dinner of your dreams! It satisfied a BIG pizza craving of mine but delivered it in a whole-foods, plant based package... I might so as far as to say this was more satisfying than a pizza because of how filling it was. 

I often hear people say they struggle with what to serve as a main dish when eating less meat and would highly recommend this dish to anyone struggling with that question (in addition to this stuffed portobello dish, which features rice and lentils). Serve this up with mashed potatoes and some veggies on the side and you #meatlessmonday is in the bag!

Theres something about the texture of these large mushrooms that makes it feel like you're almost eating meat and when you pair that with a few delicious flavorings - you are bound to be totally satisfied. Thats the thing - it isn't really the meat that we crave its what is used to flavor meat that we love and those flavors (think herbs, spices, seasonings) are usually vegan..but here I go preaching again. 

Anyway, this meal comes together so quickly, especially when you employ the use of instant polenta (my favorite brand linked below). You can use any vegan pesto you like but I included a link to my cashew, basil & pea pesto that may sound weird but is better than any conventional mixture - it is heartier, creamier and oh-so fragrant - when it hits the hot polenta, forget out it! 

In leu of pesto, you could also top this dish with a vegan cheese product or some sautéed greens. It's a very flexible, simple dish  - I could even imagine serving it for breakfast with home fries to kick those savory brunch-y cravings. 

Give this one a try and let me know how you like it!


Serves: 4 • Prep Time: 15 min • Cook Time: 20 min


Roasted Mushrooms

  • 4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
  • 4 tsp. balsamic vinegar (optional but DELICIOUS)
  • 2 tsp. chopped rosemary

Creamy 'Cheesy' Vegan Polenta

  • 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 2 cups low sodium veggie broth
  • 3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Toppings

1. To start this dish, preheat your oven to 400*F. 

2. Place your mushroom caps, top side down on a parchment lined backing sheet. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar (apx. 1 tbsp. vinegar per cap). 

3. Roast the mushrooms in the oven for 20 minutes or until tender and slighly browned. Turn the caps over to allow any excess liquid that collected the gills to drain out. 

NOTE: I do not remove the gills of my mushrooms - some people do - it's your preference.

    4. While the mushrooms are roasting, prepare your polenta according to the packaged instructions. Replace water/milk with veggie broth and throw the nooch in at the end along with a generous amount of black pepper. Herbs might also be nice folded in here.

    NOTE: You want a thick yet still scoop-able texture here so add a bit more broth if the polenta begins to cool and firm up too much before you get it in the caps.

      5. I like to pre-prepare my pesto as I feel the flavor only develops better over time but it comes together quickly so feel free to make it as the mushrooms are roasting. The recipe link above makes a little more than we need here so feel free to cut it in half.

      6. Once the mushrooms cooked are drained, scoop a 1/4 of the polenta into each cap. Then top with your favorite warmed tomato sauce (or make your own) and a generous drizzle of the pesto. 

      NOTE: You could partially make this meal ahead. Roast the mushrooms, scoop in the polenta and then chill in the fridge until youre ready to serve- heat them in the oven for 10 minutes and add your toppings!

       

      LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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      Green Goddess Basil & Pea Pesto Dip

      This stuff is GOOD! Now, of course, it is a less traditional take on classic italian pesto which contains cheese and oil - two things anyone on a whole foods diet tries to avoid but I promise you it is just as good as the OG. This raw, plant-based version is take on an earlier recipe shared in my 'Bowl Builder' e-book but this one is thicker making it the perfect thing to dip into with veggies and crackers, stir into rice or use as a delicious sandwich spread. 

      The benefits of the ingredients list is impressive, cashews, which serve as our healthy fat here, boost your mood and add a creamy consistency. Basil adds fragrance while peas add sweetness and the two balance each other so well. A squeeze of lemon, nutritional yeast and some garlic are the trifecta in creating a cheese like taste that will keep you wanting more!


      Serves: 8-10 • Prep Time: 15 min


      • 1.5 cup raw cashews, soaked
      • 1.5 cups packed fresh basil leaves
      • 1.5 cup thawed frozen peas
      • 1 lemon, juiced
      • 1 garlic clove, peeled
      • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
      • Salt & pepper to taste

      1. To start, soak your cashews overnight in cold water or for at least an hour in warm water.

      2. Clean the basil leaves and remove any stems, add them to a food processor with the garlic clove and pulse till finely chopped

      3. Then add in the soaked cashews, thawed frozen peas, nutritional yeast and lemon juice. Pulse to combine, scraping down the sides of the processor a few times to ensure an even consistency. 

      4. Once combined to desired consistency (I like mine smooth but you can leave it a little chunky), add salt and pepper to taste. 

      5. Chill for a least an hour before serving. Keeps in the fridge for a few days. 

       

      LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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