Monday, December 19, 2011

Quinoa with Hemp Pesto & Sun-dried Tomatoes!

Today the Western World learned of the death of Kim Jong-Il’s death and BYOL is posting its first recipe. Truly, a historic day!

After my Nutrition Manifesto two weeks ago, thousands of my adoring fans have been flooding my inbox every day asking for recipes. Okay… Fine… maybe it wasn’t thousands, but I definitely got at least one text!

 A few months ago while procrastinating  studying procrastinating in the library I received the VEGA newsletter. Among other things, there was a mouth-watering picture and recipe for a “Secret Pesto.” I closed my books, packed my things and headed straight for Whole Foods to try it out. This evening I decided to celebrate the end of a LONG semester by recreating the deliciousness.

The Goods

This pesto sauce packs a serious one-two punch: taste and nutrition!
Served on top of Quinoa, an ancient seed that resembles a grain. Quinoa originated in the Andes and held a sacred place among the Incas who referred to it as the ‘mother of grains’ (silly Incans, Quinoa is a seed!) and had special planting and harvesting rituals to ensure a bountiful crop. It is actually more closely related to beets and spinach than to modern day wheat. As such, it is naturally gluten-free.

Okay, so a bunch of dead Indians, excuse me, Native Americans ate the stuff, so what? So What! Well for your information, Quinoa is an endurance-athletes dream come true! High in iron, B vitamins, and calcium it’s also a source of complete protein! Dishing up 6 grams of protein for each dry quarter cup, this is one seed that should not be dismissed. Not only is it super healthy, but it has a light, fluffy texture, mild earthy taste and is super easy to prepare. Before cooking, soak quinoa  in warm water for a few hours whenever possible. At the least, rise it well. Quinoa contains an outer-inhibitor that prevents complete digestion. Soaking and rising removes this and increases nutritional absorption. I used a rice cooker, however you can easily prepare Quinoa without one. To cook to perfection, simply boil it at a 2-parts-water-for-1-part-quinoa in a large pot, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until all of the water is evaporated. You can also bake at 350 for about 40 minutes (thanks for the super useful tip Sharona!).

Meet my vitamix Louise. You will be seeing a lot of her.

Simply add the ingredients to your high-powered emulsifying blender such as a vitamix and blend until you have a beautiful, vibrant-green smooth pesto. If your blender isn’t up to the challenge, fear not. Any food processor should be able to handle the job. Whatever you do, do not use one of these!!! 

The sauce also packs a one-two punch! However there are a few ingredients you may not be as aware of, so I will indulge.

The base consists of Hemp Seeds. These little guys can be expensive but are seriously worth the investment. As I mentioned in my other post, Hemp seeds are often called the “most perfect protein.” Containing all the needed essential amino acids, this is one of the most digestible forms of protein on the planet! Three little tablespoons is 9 grams of protein! Hemp seeds are also an excellent source of essential fatty acids and Omega 3 and 6. Hemp seeds can be found at any natural or organic grocery. If you cannot find hemp seeds, they can be substituted with pine nuts in this recipe.

Behold the Power! More torque than your Grandma!

The other surprise ingredients are Hemp and Flax Oil. The recipe calls for these two oils to be split evenly to the amount of 1/3 cup. These oils cost some serious skin, so if you can’t afford them, don’t sweat it; simply substitute with cold-pressed, unrefined olive oil. I recently used a groupon to get mine!

I don’t really like consuming oils as they are heavy and difficult to digest. Some studies even link oils to serious health issues, including DEATH! However, high quality and in low quantities, oils become safe and tasty. Flax and Hemp might be the best two oils commercially available so if you have either of these oils use them. Both boast high ratios of omega 3 and 6 as well as antioxidants.
(Warning: low quality oil can be one of the most damaging foods consumed).

Feel free to comment on how sexy this photo is, I'll assume you're referencing the pesto!

 Chiffonade Spinach!

Now that your sauce is made and your Quinoa is cooked, put the quinoa in a bowl. Before adding the pesto simply chiffonade (basically chop finely) a large handful of leftover spinach and thinly slice a half-cup of sun-dried tomatoes. Mix these with the Quinoa. Now add the desired amount of pesto and toss the ingredients well before serving!

Feel free to throw in sunflower seeds, chia seeds or even red pepper to increase both the nutrition and flavor of this already phenomenal dish! The red pepper really adds some pop to the color of this stunning meal.

Quinoa with Secret Pesto & Sun Dried Tomatoes
Makes 4-6 servings

·      ½ cup (packed) sun dried tomatoes
·      2 cups or 10 oz fresh basil
·      ½ cup hemp seeds
·      1/3 Flaxseed and Hempseed oil- divided evenly
·      1/3 cup cold-press extra-virgin organic olive oil
·      ¾ teaspoon sea salt
·      2 cloves garlic (note, if you have a vitamix there is no need to peel, just toss it in there!)
·      2 1/2 cups baby spinach

(this recipe can easily be made without oil. Simply sup the all of the oil with 1/2 cup veggie broth. It is just as delicious!)

1. Soak, rinse and cook quinoa.
2. Using a high-powered vitamix blender, blend garlic, basil, hemp seeds, both oils, sea salt and 2 cups of spinach. Blend until smooth.
3. Chop remaining spinach and sun dried tomatoes. Add on top of quinoa.
4. Add sauce, mix and enjoy!


  1. The original recipe from Vega calls for nutritional yeast to be added to the pesto; however I chose to exclude it for nutritional reasons. The jury is still out on how "nutritious" nutritional yeast really is.

  2. Thank goodness this is pesto! I originally thought it was a green drink. Didn't you say you were having a dinner party and making this for us? Lots of red pepper for me; kthanx.

  3. Great post!

    I have a question, so do you always wear that apron when you cook/use the vitamix?

  4. BYOL, you are such a Magic Bullet hater! My MB makes perfect pesto everytime. Not bad for a $30 investment that's been going strong for 15 years:

    And I second My Vegan Gut's question!

  5. I like the apron. It keeps me

    And Abby, you can try and justify your purchase however you want, but you just don't know the power of a vitamix!