Friday, August 31, 2012

Orzo, Spinach, and White Bean Pesto Scramble

This Mediterranean-inspired dish is sure to please! The Mediterranean diet has been studied for decades due to the populations low occurrence of heart disease. This diet is full of heart healthy fats (olives, olive oil, nuts, and seeds), fish and seafood, whole grains, beans, fresh vegetables, and wine in moderation. It limits sweets, and red meats, and uses dairy products (cheese, yogurt, milk) in small quantities. This way of eating can be a great way to keep your heart healthy and in correct portions can help control your weight.

Tonight I was cooking for a crowd and made a wonderful white bean, spinach, and orzo salad to serve with baked chicken and a fresh salad. Of course it featured my homemade pesto as described below. It's super easy and was hit with everyone at the table! If you aren’t a fan of spinach, broccoli or any leafy green (kale, swiss chard) will do! 

Orzo, Spinach, and White Bean Pesto Scramble
Serves 8

½ pound orzo
2 cans Cannellini Beans
1 package chopped frozen spinach
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup prepared pesto
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup skim milk
2 Tbsp corn starch or flour

1. Cook orzo as directed. Thaw spinach in the microwave or in a bowl of cold water.
2. Drain and rinse the beans, set aside.
3. Meanwhile, bring chicken broth, pesto, and milk to a gentle simmer, stirring often. Sprinkle corn starch or flour into the mixture and stir well, until thickened.
4. Combine spinach, orzo, beans, and sun-dried tomatoes in a large saucepan and pour sauce over the top. Mix well and serve warm.

Nutrition Facts: 300 calories, 41 g carbohydrates, 15 g protein, 8 g fat (2 g saturated) 7 g fiber. 

Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of the freshest basil around. I grew some on my deck this summer, which was awesome because it was always there to spice up a pizza, pasta, or sandwich. It never yielded enough for pesto, but the local farms have kept me in good supply! Pick some up at your local Farmer’s Market for a large quantity for a great price (I only paid $3.00 for about 4 cups).

In fact, I plan on making a few extra batches this weekend so I can freeze it and enjoy it throughout the year! You can freeze it in an ice cube tray so you have individual portions (once frozen, place in a plastic bag) or you can freeze it in a Ziploc bag or reusable container for larger recipes.

I decided to use almonds because they are much cheaper. Even in the bulk section, pine nuts were almost $20.00 per pound. My container of unsalted almonds was much more economical and the pesto is just as tasty! Use pesto as a base for pizza, on potatoes, in brown rice, or your favorite pasta dish. You can also mix a bit into low-fat mayo for an awesome sandwich spread. The possibilities are endless!

Homemade Almond Basil Pesto
Makes 1 ½ cups

2 cups basil, packed
½ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/3 cup unsalted roasted almonds
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Pepper, to taste

Place basil and nuts in the food processor or blender and pulse several times. Add remaining ingredients and blend until combined (scraping the sides down as needed).

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