We’ve enjoyed a couple of very busy weeks lately, visiting Kansas City, MO, for a long weekend (where the Midwestern Gentleman ran his fourth ultra-marathon of the season), indulging in a delicious — if non-traditional — Thanksgiving dinner with my boss and her partner (roasted lamb stood in for turkey), celebrating a friend’s birthday with a sushi extravaganza, and testing recipes for some homemade Christmas presents. The holidays really do fill me with the proverbial good cheer, as long as I remember to check in every once in a while with my mental state and my physical being. It’s easy to get run down by the hustle and bustle this time of year, so I remind myself frequently to slow down, sip a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of dairy-free nog, and stay stress-free. Eating right continues to be just as important amid all the festivities, so I try to make sure I have the fixings for lots of easy meals on hand. That way, I don’t give in to temptations that will derail my anti-inflammatory eating plan.
We almost always have a jar of chunky, homemade, dairy-free pesto in the refrigerator. Pesto is a great improvisational tool for adding anti-inflammatory oomph and strong flavor to a dish. I created these tasty little pesto bean patties while trying to come up with a quick, satisfying entree for a weeknight dinner. They can be served as a side dish, a burger-like entree (we like them best topped with sauteed greens), or a gluten-free, nutritious base for Eggs Benedict. They keep well in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop.
2 cups white beans, cooked or canned, rinsed
2/3 cup winter squash, cooked and mashed
2/3 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs, plus more for coating
1 cup chunky pesto (recipe below)
Coarsely mash the white beans (or puree for a smoother texture). Stir in the remaining ingredients. Scoop the mixture into baseball-sized balls, then dip in breadcrumbs. Form the mixture into patties about 1/2″ thick and 3 to 4″ in diameter.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat and cook patties, flipping once, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Makes 6 patties.
Chunky Mixed Herb Pesto (Dairy-Free)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup whole almonds, pistachios, or walnuts
1/3 cup or more olive oil
1 cup mixed fresh herbs*
salt and black pepper to taste
*Sweet basil is the traditional pesto herb, but we like homemade pesto even better with a mixture of fresh herbs, and sometimes even some baby spinach mixed in. Consider a mixture of any of the following: any basil variety, Italian parsley, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, baby spinach, arugula. Adding in a bit of the following herbs will add interest, but use them sparingly so their aggressive flavors don’t take over the pesto: mint, rosemary, sage. Infused olive oils can also change up the flavor of homemade pesto; tangerine olive oil is one of our favorites.
Coarsely grind the nuts and garlic together in a food processor. Add the herbs and the olive oil and process until a chunky sauce forms. Add more olive oil until the pesto reaches the desired consistency. For a smoother pesto, just continue pureeing. Pour into a jar, add just enough olive oil to cover. Seal jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Makes about 1 cup pesto.