Batch Cooking: Easy Pesto & Gnocchi
Easy Dairy-Free Pesto:
Why choose dairy free?
Milk derived from animal source is a common allergen for most demographics. Like all food, milk requires specific enzymes to digest its many counterparts: its sugars, proteins and fats. For most with an intolerance to milk, they lack either the lactase enzyme which digests milk sugar, lactose, or the protein enzyme which digests milk's largest protein, casein. In many regions of the world, 75% or more of the population lose the ability to produce lactose after infancy. For those who experience pain or digestive upset ingesting milk, it's important not to consume it without taking the necessary enzymes because consistently consuming food allergens creates inflammation in the lining of the intestines, and can contribute to IBS, leaky gut, and even decreased immunity.
But for those who aren't sensitive to dairy, is there a reason to avoid it?
Whole cow's milk is packed with nutrients to feed a growing baby calf. It's an excellent source of protein and fat, calcium as well as calcium's co-factors for absorption into bones: vitamin D3, vitamin K and magnesium. It's also high in zinc, an important nutrient for gut health, bone health and wound healing. From a nutrition perspective I see two main concerns when choosing which, if any, dairy products to consume:
I. Purchase full fat (or whole) milk. The fat percentage in whole milk is typically 3.5%. Several studies correlate a low fat diet (specifically the consumption of low fat dairy over full fat) to the rise in osteoporosis and low bone density. Let's consider the fact that vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, and is essentially lost when the fat content is taken out of milk. It is often replaced, recently, with a synthetic vitamin D2 which is not bio available to us.
II. Purchase antibiotic free, hormone free, and certified organic grass fed milk/cheese/butter. The nutritional value dramatically rises in dairy products when the animal was fed a diet of grasses throughout its life rather than grain and typical feed.
In any case, I decided to post this pesto recipe dairy free although I occasionally make it with Parmesan cheese instead of nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a high source or protein for those on a plant based diet, and a good source of B vitamins including B12.
Pesto Tossed Greens & Gnocchi
2-3 cups gnocchi (store bought or home made)
1/4 cup pesto (about half of the pesto recipe above)
1/2 white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup packed spinach
1/2 cup micro greens (for topping)
1 tbsp cold pressed coconut oil
In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil, adding garlic and stirring until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add diced onion and stir well until the onion begins to look soft. Add in the gnocchi (assuming the gnocchi is ready-to-serve. If not, follow package instructions prior to adding). Add in the pesto, allowing everything to cook for 5 minutes until the gnocchi begins to brown on all sides. With only a few minutes left, add in the spinach leaves and stir. They will wilt in only 2-4 minutes, at which point the meal is done cooking. Remove from heat and allow to sit. To serve, add micro greens, nuts/ seeds or another source of protein.
2-3 cups of fresh basil leaves, packed
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup nuts (walnuts or pine nuts)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
In a food processor, pulse all ingredients until relatively smooth.