Fresh herbs are superfoods for kids – even just adding a sprinkle to their food goes a long way to giving them a nutritional boost and my activated herby pesto is such an easy way for kids to enjoy them. I’ve come to appreciate the need for reducing food waste on a whole new level since embarking on our #vanlife adventure nearly 15-months ago. Fresh food – let alone ethically or organically produced food – has been few and far between in the outback, so finding ways to prolong the shelf life of fresh produce, or add freshness and nutrients to our meals when we’re miles from anywhere, has been a constant challenge. Enter, my activated herby pesto. This is a great way to use up any leftover herbs in the fridge or harness the flavour of your favourite seasonal herbs, so you can enjoy it for months to come. This recipe makes enough for 2 small jars – one for now and one for the freezer. Simply serve as I have here, stirred through pasta, or, mix through scrambled eggs, quinoa, potatoes, soups and stews, savoury baking, frittata or as a sandwich spread.
Fresh herbs are full of beta carotene, vitamin C, E, K, and B vitamins, plus antioxidants, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and minerals like non-heme iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. They’re alkalizing and help support little bodies natural detoxification pathways to eliminate toxins – parsley is a particularly good one for removing heavy metals. They’re also one of the richest sources of folate – derived from the word “foliage” – a nutrient that’s plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells, DNA replication and repair and keeping the heart and blood vessels healthy.
Cashews provide a range of nutrients for kids, including healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Nuts also contain phytates, which are anti-nutrients that prevent the absorption of minerals, especially zinc, calcium and iron. Soaking your nuts overnight in filtered water (then draining) will essentially begin their germination process – or, activate them – and reduce the amount of phytates, making their nutrients more available and easier to digest.
I’ve used nutritional yeast in place of where a classic pesto would use Parmesan cheese. This keeps my activated herby pesto dairy free and also adds some additional growing nutrients that little bodies need. You can find it in the health food section of the supermarket now or at health food stores.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of yeast called saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii (SB). It’s not like the yeast you use to make bread, as the deactivation process means it can no longer ferment but SB has wonderful immune-boosting properties and is also great for combating any yeast (candida) overgrowth in the gut and any sugar cravings that can be a result of this. It has a nutty, cheesy umami flavour and Otis calls it ‘fish food’, because it’s yellow and flaky in appearance – I must have called it that once too?! It’s a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids that kids need to get from food. It’s also a good source of B vitamins, and it’s often fortified with vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is essential for supporting kids energy production, nervous system function, brain health, mood, as well as DNA and red blood cell production. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, so this makes nutritional yeast a great source of this important nutrient for vegans. It also contains important trace minerals such as zinc, selenium, manganese and molybdenum.
ACTIVATED HERBY PESTO
Makes: 2 small jars – Prep time: Overnight – Cook time: 5-mins
2 cups fresh herbs – basil, parsley, mint and coriander work best but I’ve also thrown rocket and spinach in the mix occasionally too.
2½ Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ cup cashews
Salt to taste
- Soak cashew overnight in filtered water with a pinch of sea salt and a splash of apple cider vinegar.
- Drain cashews and add to food processor with all remaining ingredients.
- Blitz to your desired consistency – I usually run it to quite smooth, more paste than pesto. Consistency is key I’ve recently discovered. Otis LOVES this pesto but of course I made the mistake of trying to serve a slightly chunkier version of it to him the other day – we’re going through a bit of food refusal as he asserts his little 3-year-old independence – and he flat-out refused to eat it. So, back to the food processor it went!