Easy oil-free pesto

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE olive oil and I am a big fan of fat – but sometimes it’s fun to change up a classic a little.  I wanted to lower the oil and keep the flavor so I leaned on my old friend, the versatile and delectable garbanzo bean!

Can you tell garbanzo beans were on super sale and I stocked UP??

Pesto is mostly the sweetness of basil, the nuttiness of pine nuts and the bite of garlic… traditionally, parmesan cheese is really a salt element and the oil is a vehicle for the rest so they leave a lot of room for veganizing.

(I REALLY needed to use this basil so it was a bit on the dark side.  Don’t be a slacker like me and use your basil right away – the color will be much more vibrant. HA!)

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (always – no one likes to taste can!)
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 3-4 cups basil – pick off leaves and discard stems
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts – toasted in a 350 degree oven
  • 1-1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • salt, pepper

Puree all ingredients in a blender on high until completely smooth – about 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste – but be sure you add at least a teaspoon of salt as it really perks up the flavor!

I never used any salt in my cooking as I did not like the flavor and my body was very sensitive to it (hello, water retention!)  Due to obscenely low blood pressure my doctor advised me to learn to like it and make a concerted effort to acquire a taste for it.  It’s still a bit of an effort, but I must admit that food tastes way better with a bit of salt!

This will make six generous servings – 106 calories, 3.4g fat, 4.2g protein, 13.3g carbs.

Traditional pesto is about 230 calories, 21g fat, 3g protein, 6g carbs.

First we tossed the pesto with some cappellini and diced wheat roast.

If you miss topping your pasta with Parmesan cheese you will be thrilled with this alternative:  toast a little Italian flavored Panko in a dry pan!  Keep it moving so it gets toasty but doesn’t burn.  It adds a perfect little flavorful crunch to the the softness of pasta.

A little red pepper flake really made this yummy!

The rest of the pesto was tossed with rigatoni and sauteed red, yellow and orange bell peppers and red onions.  A little pan roasted spicy veggie tempeh topped it off.

Tip:  if you want a HUGE dish of pasta without all the calories, toss it with an equal amount of veg – like these peppers – cut to a similar size. It will double the size of the serving without adding hardly any calories (and more veg is always a good idea!)

If you’re a fan of garlic this would also make an excellent dip for veggies or bread. Yummmm, bread.


Breakfast scramble

You officially have no excuse not to have fabulous breakfasts!  This is super easy, fast and reheats well!

  • 1 package of extra firm tofu, mostly drained (just cut a slit in the package and drain – no need to get all the water out. a little bit of water makes it easier to mash)
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (I am a garlic scorcher – feel free to use real garlic if you’re not like me)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • olive oil, salt, pepper

Mash tofu with a fork.  I do it while still in the package because I’m lazy and hate dishes.

Saute onions and bell pepper in 1 tbsp olive oil  for a few minutes – until just starting to soften.  Add garlic (powder or fresh), smoked paprika, salt and pepper – saute one more minute.  Add mashed tofu to pan, mix well, and spread out evenly over pan.  Let cook on medium-high heat until water cooks out and tofu starts to brown.  Stir well and let cook again until lightly browned.

I browned a whole wheat tortilla and sliced into strips, then piled on scrambled tofu, some black beans (from a can, again because I’m lazy), some reheated Cheezy Sauce, sliced avocado and some spicy salsa.

1/3 of the tofu scramble batch is less than 200 calories and this entire breakfast has 30g of protein. Vegans really have no problem getting protein.