The other day I wanted to make a batch of creamy pesto and searched the kitchen for ingredients. Pesto is an easy way to get some good stuff into your body and tastes absolutely delicious. I was preparing dinner and wanted my youngest daughter to eat some greens, so I used what moms do best– nutrition in disguise! She loves pesto pasta and gosh so do I, especially creamy pesto with naughty amounts of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Classic pesto is super simple: basil, olive oil, pine nuts, lemon juice, Parmesan, sea salt and pepper. There are many ways to adapt this classic recipe— like using different nuts such as pistachios, almonds, etcetera. Also, arugula or spinach in place of the traditional basil. I love cheese but I’m attempting to eat less of it these days. I discovered hemp hearts in my local Trader Joe’s market. It comes in a green packet labeled “Raw Shelled Hemp Seed” and I am putting them in and on everything. In my smoothies, on top of vegan yogurt with berries, on kale & avocado salads (yes, I’m so Californian!) and now (how exciting!) in my creamy vegan pesto as “Parmesan” cheese. Believe me, I’m super happy with the hemp seeds.
Raw Shelled Hemp Seed is lower in fiber than either flax or chia. That’s because we’ve removed the shells, which is where most of the dietary fiber can be found. Though removing the shells reduces the fiber content, it also makes these seeds easier to digest, aiding your body in processing the nutritional content. (Trader Joe’s website excerpt)
I discovered that in three tablespoons of hemp seed there are 10 grams of protein—twice as much as flax and chia seeds. Hemp seed is high in Omega-3, Omega-6 fatty acids, and other essential fatty acids (EFAs). What does this mean? It’s good for you, of course.
And for vegans and vegetarians, hemp seeds are a source of plant-based protein. I’m in love with them! Hemp is rich in Vitamin E, which is an immune booster and helps maintain youthful skin. (Psst. No wonder I’ve been hit on by so many 20-somethings these days.) Seriously friends, hemp seeds are tasty and I wanted to share what I quickly whipped up in my kitchen with you to share the hemp heart love. It is almost Valentine’s Day, you know.
This creamy dreamy version of pesto is super delicious! It’s great with noodles of all kinds— spaghetti, penne, farfalla— or other recipes asking for pesto. I keep extra on hand in the fridge for spreading on my avocado toasts, spooning a dollop into my soba noodles (pictured) or tossing in as a creamy salad dressing. I made a delicious pasta primavera with basil, spinach, cilantro, baby heirloom tomatoes, brown rice and quinoa noodles and this creamy pesto recipe (all ingredients found at Trader Joe’s).
Try this vegan heart-healthy pesto recipe:
CREAMY HEMP SEED PESTO
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cups fresh spinach
3 raw garlic cloves
1/2 cup shelled pistachios (unsalted)
1/4 cup raw cashews (unsalted)
1/4 cup raw shelled hemp seed hearts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Combine the basil, spinach, garlic, hemp seeds and nuts in a food processor or blender. Process to mix coarsely and while machine is running, slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper. Add more of lemon juice, olive oil, basil, spinach and other ingredients as desired to get the flavor and consistency that you prefer.
The cashews will make this pesto creamy. Garnish with hemp seed hearts as “Parmesan” cheese and enjoy to your heart’s content!