For the first time, I decided to plant my own herb garden this past summer. With living in the Northeast, annual plants have a short window, so I started out small with only a few herbs, just to get my feet wet.
I have always been the person to use dried herbs as my go-to, but after using mostly fresh herbs the past 4 months, I don’t want to ever go back to the dried stuff! The flavor of fresh herbs is so intense and wonderful!
I found myself throwing my garden-fresh herbs into anything I could. By complete coincidence, I even came across a special edition “Cooking with Fresh Herbs” Better Homes and Garden Magazine in the line at the grocery store.
I tried so many wonderful recipes out of this magazine, but those recipes containing basil quickly become my favorite. As I starting doing my own exploring of recipes containing basil, I decided to give the home-made pesto a try.
For most of us, our first thought of using pesto usually entails grabbing a jar from the nearest grocery store. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and quick pesto is to make yourself!
With only a few minutes and a handful of common ingredients, you have a tasty and extremely versatile complement to your main course or side dish. And it’s something the whole family is sure to love!
Here Are Just A Few Ideas For Pesto, But The Possibilities Are Endless!
- Spread It! I have been making home-made veggie pizzas for some time now, but before now I would always use plain old pizza sauce. After making pesto for the first time, I was trying to think what I would use it for, and then it hit me! How about as a sauce for my veggie pizza! I haven’t looked back.
- Mash It! Butter and milk are no match for mashing pesto into those potatoes. With the colder weather coming up for a bunch of us, I’m sure mashed potatoes are as big as a staple in your dinner cycle as it is in our household. Why not mix things up, and let pesto add some pizazz to those potatoes!
- Roast It! If you haven’t tried roasting vegetables yet, then now is the time to start. Roasting brings out a beautiful, bold flavor in most vegetables, and even brings out some sweetness in some, such as brussels sprouts. Shake your veggies in some pesto prior to roasting, and you have the perfect marinade.
- Stir It! This is probably the more common way pesto is used; as a replacement for spaghetti sauce. Don’t get me wrong, tomato-based spaghetti sauce is great, but it’s always nice to change things up a bit in those comfort pasta dishes.
- Freeze It! It is always so nice to have things prepared ahead of time for dinner. With life now getting crazier by the minute, I am all for saving some time when preparing dinner. Pesto freezes so wonderfully and thaws out fairly quick as well. Double bonus!
Pesto is not only easy, quick, and versatile, but loaded with ingredients packed with health benefits. Check them out below!
- Basil – With over 35 varieties, fresh basil is an extremely versatile herb that adds a flavor-packed punch to any dish. The oils and other nutrients in basil have been found to be protective against illness, inflammation, and certain diseases such as cancer. There is even some evidence that it helps us to manage stress, and who can’t use that! A little basil and some yoga and say “Hello” to a stress-free day! Well, maybe it’s not that easy, but worth a shot.
- Garlic – Most of us are aware that garlic has the potential to improve health, but exactly what is it doing for us? Garlic contains compounds that may help protect us against heart disease, certain cancers, and even the common cold. It has also been shown to promote regulation of blood pressure and blood sugar. The only down-side to garlic seems to be that if you eat too much of it, you may be a victim of stinky garlic breath!
- Lemon – Citrus fruits, such as lemons, are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances in certain foods (mostly fruits and vegetables) that clean up toxins in our body, called free radicals. Antioxidants help keep our healthy cells healthy and protect us against inflammation and many diseases. Not only is lemon great in pesto, but don’t be shy about adding it to your water as well!
- Pine Nuts – Another food on the list loaded with antioxidants, is pine nuts. Pine nuts are actually not a nut, but the edible seed of certain pine trees. Pine nuts health benefits include supporting vision and heart health. Other substances in pine nuts have been shown to suppress appetite and boost energy levels.
- Olive Oil – Of all the oils, olive oil is by far my favorite, which is strange because I absolutely hate olives. Olive oil contains the healthy fat, called monounsaturated fat, which may help lower total cholesterol levels.
However, it is important to keep in mind that all fats are very calorie dense and should be used sparingly when trying to manage weight and health.
Here is a recipe for a basic pesto sauce:
2 cups basil, packed
½ cup pine nuts
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup olive oil.
In a large food processor, add the basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. Slowly add in olive oil and process until well incorporated.
Home-made pesto has become an absolute favorite in our household, and the fact that it’s so easy and versatile is a total win. Dinners do not have to be overly complicated or time-consuming; sometimes just putting a slight healthy spin on things is all you need.
Planning ahead also makes life so much easier when it comes to healthy meal preparation; that is why freezing pesto for future use is so handy. There are so may fun ways to mix up and use your pesto recipe.
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