Dairy Free Pesto.

Fortunately or not, basil is the run-of-the-mill, go-to herb for this emerald concoction. But, like most things in life, especially in the kitchen, you need to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and add a little more zest to your life. Am I right?

Not only as a chef, but also being someone in the wonderful world of wellness and nutrition, I am consistently questioned about what it is I eat on a daily basis. Sometimes my witty side emerges when the vibe is right, but most of the time you'd be surprised at the simplicity of my answer...and my everyday meals. Three of my typical go-to's: A big ol' green smoothie in the morning of course. Avocado and toast with a good squeeze of lemon and pinch of sea salt - one of my all-time favorite fixins. Then there is homemade pesto - mixed with/as a garnish/slathered on...anything. So of course I quickly tired of the Italian lovers basil base, and decided to get a little more adventurous with my herb selection.

Pesto connoisseurs, I’d like to introduce you to an even more divine herb + nut marriage: cilantro and cashews.

 

Cilantro. An herb that I have fallen madly in love with. If you are still here reading this, you quite obviously are right there with me because from my experience, you either love it or leave it alone. These vibrant, leafy stems are a powerhouse in the anti-inflammatory AND anti-oxidant department. Not only does cilantro help relieve intestinal gas and nausea, it’s been known to nurse menstrual cramps and hormonal mood swings. Hot flashing, mood swinging babes rejoice! (hallelujah!).

Cashews. The nut you can't buy in a shell. Never really thought about that, right? Well, brace yourself for some fun facts to entertain with...

Turns out, the cashew shell is toxic...(scout's honor!).

They are not TRUE nuts in the botanical sense - they are actually the boxing glove shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the 'cashew apple.' They are in the same family as mangoes, pistachios, and...poison-ivy. Yep, the interiors of the shells contains caustic resin, known as cashew balm, that can cause a nasty, painful rash (much like it's poison ivy cousin). Mind blown?

A bit more nerd talk...

A Nurses' Health Study shows that women who eat at least 1 ounce of nuts in general lower their risk of developing gallstones (I'll take the gamble and say that I'm sure this would do the same for men). One measly little ounce! That's just a handful of cashews!

Another study shows that people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much LESS likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts. Oh, and guess what? Cashews are lower in fat content than most other nuts. Double whammy.

Lastly. Ever wonder why they're shaped like a smile? (You're welcome for that new perspective). They actually can help with your mood. Just a handful a day provides you with 25% of your daily magnesium requirement - higher levels of magnesium equals a lower likelihood of having depression.

 

ingredients.

2 cups cilantro

1/3 cup cashews (raw, organic, and soaked overnight would be the cream of the crop, but I’m not looking if you opt for something else)

1-2 garlic cloves (two for me, but maybe not for you)

1/3-1/2 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil

juice of one lemon

sea salt and black pepper to taste

proceed.

In your high-powered blender (or food processor) add the cilantro, cashews, garlic, lemon juice, a hefty pinch of sea salt, black pepper and half of the olive oil. Start to blend while slowly adding the remainder of the olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

 

eat.

Mix it in quinoa, toss it with gluten free pasta, use it as a spread on sandwiches instead of mayo, or even thin it out a bit with oil and use it for a salad dressing. I mean, the pesto possibilities are pretty limitless. 

 

love note: Though seldom do I have this problem, you just may find yourself with a bit more pesto than you can stomach. Handy solution: freeze them in your ice cube tray. They’ll be a great go-to for up to three months.

 

 

love + cashew smiles,

M.