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Garden Overflow of Basil? Make Paleo Pesto!

Posted Aug 01 2013 8:34pm

I know a recipe is good when at least one of my kids will eat it…without ketchup. I have a love hate relationship with ketchup. I don’t personally like it and I don’t really like when my kids eat it. What’s the point of ketchup? In my opinion, the point is to cover up the flavor (or lack thereof) in food, or to cover up the fact that the food is over cooked and dry as you-know-what,  and if you don’t put something on it the Heimlich maneuver is in your future. I take it as a cooking flop when the kids ask for ketchup. If they won’t eat the meal at all, it’s a failure. If they ask for ketchup I guess I should be happy that the meal will be eaten, even if it has to be smeared with the red stuff….

Is there any nutrition in ketchup? Well unless you are reading your labels it’s a great way to get a hearty dose of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS.) Heinz ketchup is probably one of the most popular brands. The regular Heinz recipe that you would find in any restaurant not only contains HFCS but also contains 4 grams of sugar in 1 tablespoon.   If you are sitting there trying to wrap your mind around what 4 grams of sugar looks like, well it looks like 1 teaspoon or 1 individual sugar packet. So for every 1 tablespoon of Heinz ketchup your kid is eating visualize them eating a sugar packet. Now can you see why I am not a big fan of ketchup? Yes I’ll let the kids eat it when they put up a fuss about dinner, but I’m not thrilled. I am pretty sure that Dani is working on a homemade ketchup recipe and I’ll be making that as soon as my BJ’s size bottle of organic ketchup is gone.  At least if it’s homemade I can control the ingredients and the amount of sugar used, which will make me feel better about them eating it.

What I love about pesto is that it serves multiple purposes. It can be the focus of the meal, as in pesto meatballs or pesto chicken salad (think pesto instead of mayo.) Or it can be used as a dipping sauce in place of ketchup. Whether it’s meat like chicken, steak, or pork; or veggies like green beans, carrots, or peas, my kids will dip just about anything into pesto. Unlike ketchup, pesto is actually a nutritious choice. It contains a healthy dose of fat from the olive oil, pine nuts and walnuts, and the basil contains beta-carotene, vitamins A & K, and iron. Now because the fat comes from nuts and oil, we know that pesto is something that should be used in smaller amounts. If you’re not sure why this type of fat needs to be limited, then I encourage you to read my post here where I talk about nut consumption and the “paleoification” of Standard American Diet foods. (It also includes a yummy recipe for almond meal pancakes which I like better than regular ones. I usually give my kids about 3 tablespoons of pesto with their meals.


My kids getting their hands dirty in our yard.

The fun part about making pesto (aside from how easy it is) is that your kids can help! I send the kids out to the garden with a large bowl and have them pick the basil for me. The main reason why we have a garden is to teach the kids where their food comes from and to get them excited about trying new vegetables. I personally love seeing the look in their eyes and the excitement in their voice when they pick vegetables from their garden. Dani wrote a great post last year about this very topic called “Getting the Kids Involved: Farm to Fork.”

If you are stumped as to what to do with all the lovely pesto that you will have on hand, check out a few of these links:

50 Things to Make with Pesto- Food Network

10 Great Ways to use Pesto- Start Cooking


Paleo Pesto

Dairy-free pesto

Dairy-free pesto

1 cup walnuts

1 cup pine nuts

4 tbsp chopped garlic

2 cups EVOO

1 ¼ tsp sea salt

¾ tsp pepper

¼ cup lemon juice

4 cups basil, tightly packed

  • Combine walnuts, pine nuts, garlic, & lemon juice in a food processor for 15 seconds.
  • Add basil, salt and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the EVOO into the drip spout until fully blended.
  • Taste and add more garlic, pepper or salt to taste, if needed.
  • Use immediately or freeze for up to a year in a deep freezer.



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