Spinach Pesto

20140317-093552.jpgHappy St. Patrick’s Day! I wore a green headband to work, just in case anyone is in the pinching mood. 🙂 Does it also count that I’ll be eating a lot of green things today? Yes? Okay, then we’re good.

When you’re a kid, green foods can go one of two ways. Either it’s super gross (I mean, cooked spinach is kind of slimy and weird looking), or it’s really cool (remember when they made green ketchup??). When I was young, my mom would get super into all themed holidays, and St. Patrick’s Day was a really fun one. She used to put green food coloring in everything. Our cereal milk was green, and our lunches would have sandwiches in green bread, and we would eat green cookies after school. My mom loved anything with a theme, and any reason to celebrate, so if she had an excuse to dye everything green for one day, she took it.

That kind of stuff is fun for kids, but as an adult, it would probably be weird to put green food coloring in my lunch bag and bring it to work. Instead, I had an early St. Patrick’s celebration this weekend with green pasta and pizza!

Guys, I’m a pesto junkie. It’s so nutty and robust in flavor. I just can’t even right now. But, homemade pesto requires a ton of fresh basil, and it isn’t all that healthy — traditional pesto recipes sneak in a lot of fat in the form of oil, cheese and pine nuts. By reducing the amount of cheese and oil; substituting the rich pine nuts with almonds and the basil with spinach; and adding in broth and lemon juice, this recipe has a ton of flavor without ruining your diet. Not to mention, this sauce takes minutes to make. It’s so delicious that it didn’t even last a full day when I made it this weekend! After tossing it with some whole wheat penne at lunch time, the boys and I made mini flatbread pizzas for dinner, and the pesto pizza was a huge hit!

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The pesto flatbread pizza is the slice on the right — it is topped with spinach, onions, mushrooms and Weight Watchers Italian blend cheese. Also pictured is a veggie flatbread pizza with red sauce, and a mango salad.

You can  also put this pesto on your favorite sandwich, or drizzle it over a fresh caprese salad.

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Spinach Pesto
Preparation Time: <5 minutes
Cooking Time: <5 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients
2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 Tbsp plain almonds, sliced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp basil
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Place spinach in a large microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until wilted.
  2. Add spinach, almonds, garlic, basil, Italian seasoning, red pepper, salt, and pepper to a blender or food processor, and chop until very fine and combined.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the vessel and pour in vegetable broth and lemon juice. Blend on low until well combined and uniform.
  4. Slowly blend olive oil into the spinach mixture until fully incorporated.
  5. Transfer pesto to a bowl, and stir in cheese. Adjust for salt and pepper, and serve.

Note: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Tip: make a big batch and store leftovers, 1 tablespoon at a time, in ice cube trays. Pop them out and defrost as many as needed for future recipes.

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