13 March 2012

Basil and Spinach Pesto

I’m a fan of pesto which makes it no surprise that our kids thought it was a staple at very young ages. I stir it into their couscous, dollop it on potatoes, serve it alongside vegetables, top pizzas with it and add it to pasta. Trying to imagine a way for the kids to get Popeye proportions of spinach, I started making it with spinach, a while ago. I still serve regular spinach, too, but, when I whip up a batch of this pesto, I know that it’s both chock full of spinach and that they will devour it!

My food philosophy for kids is to expose them to a wide variety of foods and settings. Dining and the pleasures of food are important in our family and with this in mind, I want meals to be positive; an experience. When it comes to less than favorite foods or new foods, I quietly and confidentially, encourage them to “take just one bite, even if the bite is a lady bug sized bite.”(Yes, these have been my exact words.) I don’t believe in forcing anyone to eat against their will and through my experience, giving the children a safe environment for experimentation, has worked well for us. I’ve read somewhere that children need to taste new flavors 20 times before they can accept a new flavor. Patience. It’s worth the wait! This recipes is golden in our household.


PESTO with Basil and Spinach for the family
2 Cups Basil
3 Cups Baby Spinach
1-3 Garlic cloves, to taste
2T – 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 – 1 1/2 cups good olive oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 – 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cups nuts*

Chop the nuts and garlic, by hand or with a food processor. Add the basil leaves and spinach, salt, and pepper and process. Add the lemon juice and do the same. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl until it is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree until it is the right consistency. This is ready for immediately use. If storing, refrigerate or freeze with a thin film of olive oil on top. This keeps very well for one week, if you make sure that it is in an airtight container and that there is a thin layer of olive oil on top. If not, freeze this in a plastic bag, squeezing all air out.

(*Nuts are optional: If I do make it with nuts, I like to use 1/2 pine nuts and 1/2 walnuts, cashews or sunflower seeds. One of our children is allergic to nuts so it is very rare. This recipes is wonderful, even without nuts, just add a little extra Parmesan to compensate. If I am really craving a nuttier flavor, I substitute sunflower seeds, which work very well.)

This is a quick and easy family favorite!

4 – 5 Chicken breasts, cut into small, bite-sized, pieces. (Organic, free-range, preferable)
2T oil oil
1 clove garlic, if desired
2 Cups fresh Green Beans, braised or steamed
1 Cup finely shred Parmesan cheese
400 grams Pasta, Penne or Tortiglioni are our favorites with this
Approx: 1 cup Pesto but, do this to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste
A few basil leaves for garnish

Bring the pasta water to a boil. Meanwhile, in two separate pans, braise or steam your green beans and braise the chicken breast. (Chicken: First heat the olive oil, brown the garlic and then add the chicken. Saute until golden brown.) Once the pasta is ready, drain and place in large pasta bowl. Top the pasta with the green beans, chicken, pesto and toss well. Stir in the parmesan, leaving a little out to sprinkle on top. Garnish is desired and serve. I often serve a side dish of pesto for anyone who would like extra.

(This recipe was inspired was from a restaurant that my husband and I visited regularly back when we were dating. I am certain that there was a lot of cream and butter in the original recipe and if you would like a richer dish, use butter while preparing the chicken and add cream at the last minute. This is my simple, healthy, every day version. It’s a staple in our house and a favorite with everyone.)