Beet-Greens Pesto and Carrot-Banana Bread

Today was an epic success in my book of Sundays. I spent the morning tending to my garden, pruning marigolds and picking the herb flowers from my dill, basil, catmint, and peppermint. My Oma (Grandmother in German) has been in town for the last few weeks and I’ve been trying to soak up as much of her thrifty post-depression foodstuff knowledge as possible. She saw my overgrown garden and told me how I could use the flowering herbs to make teas and dried spices. I have plenty of flowering dill which I plan to use for pickling cucumbers, and heaps of catmint and peppermint for loose tea.

I love cooking with fresh herbs. They add so much depth, flavor, and color to veggies, grains, and even beverages. Basil (a.k.a. the king of herbs) is a member of the mint family. Basil is easy to grow, and in the summer months it will grow like a weed with a slow, constant water supply to its roots.  Our sub-irrigated planter box is a perfect growing vessel for basil and other herbs. Along with being a good source of vitamin K and manganese, basil contains flavanoids and volatile oils which have numerous health properties. Flavanoids like orientin and vicenin are thought to protect cell structures and chromosomes from radiation and damage from reactive oxygen species (free radicals). The volatile oils in basil as well as the essential oil in basil leaves have bacteriostatic properties, and even to some antibiotic resistant bacteria strains. Basil blended with parsley, mint, lemon, and olive oil makes a wonderful mediterranean-inspired seasoning for couscous or chickpeas (recipe to come!). For today’s pesto, we’ll stick to the king of herbs.

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After a long bike to two farmers markets and a trip to Whole Foods, my foodbrain was overflowing with ideas. I decided to use up some leftovers and came up with two new recipes – Beet-Green Pesto using basil from the garden and greens from some farm fresh beets, and Carrot-Banana Bread using some leftover carrots from last week’s salad. Sometimes things happen in my kitchen that I really don’t expect to happen – creating two new recipes on a whim in one day is one of those things! I attribute my cooking abilities to my mom and dad. My mom learned to cook by watching my Oma, the greatest creator of home-style German food you’ll ever meet! I’m grateful that both of my parents took pleasure in meal-preparing, and involved me in the kitchen from an early age. Unlike my mother (and more like my father) I tend to experiment A LOT and have a VERY difficult time following any recipes with exactness. Sometimes this works against me and sometimes its magical.  Today was magical, and I was so “in the moment,” I failed to photograph the process. Preparing food is a very meditative process. It’s hard to do much else while performing the multiple tasks required by the average recipe. The creativity and presence that come with preparing a meal is infectious and a bit addictive – once you create something great and enjoy the fruits of your labor its hard to stop! As for visuals, you’ll just have to use your imagination with these recipes.

Beet-Green Pesto ( 15 minutes from start to finish)
– 1 cup fresh basil, packed
– Beet greens from 1 bunch of whole beets (about 3 cups)
– 1/3 cup raw cashews
– 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
– juice of 1 small lemon
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
– salt, to taste
– water, to thin

Remove thick stems and blanch beet greens in salted water. Combine all other ingredients (except water) in a VitaMix or food processor and blend on low. Add water to desired thinness. Serve over pasta.

Carrot-Banana Bread (1 hour, 15 minutes)
– 2 cups shredded carrots
– 1 ripe banana
– 1/4 cup olive oil or applesauce
– 2/3 cup sugar
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 to 1-1/2 cups almond milk
– 2 cups whole wheat flour
– 1/2 cup oats
– 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
– 1/3 cup raisins
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp baking powder
– pinch of salt
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground ginger
– 1 flax egg (or 1 real egg if you eat them)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix wet ingredients and sugar in a food processor. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry mixture. Add nuts, raisins, and spices. Grease a loaf pan with olive oil. Pour mixture into pan and sprinkle top with granulated sugar (this makes a delicious crust). Bake for 1 hour, cool for 30 minutes before attempting to serve.

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Enjoy!

❤ Christina

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