Creamy Pesto and Roasted Vegetables

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I love pesto.  It is one of those sides that is so versatile and can enhance the flavor and bring richness to almost any dish!  This pesto is just so delicious and satisfying that it tastes great as a dip, used as a creamy sauce for zucchini pasta or mixed with roasted vegetables.  I chose to enjoy this pesto with a delicious mix of roasted sweet potatoes, red cabbage, bell peppers and eggplants.  Having the vegetables on top of a bed of quinoa smothered in delicious pesto makes for an incredible dinner!  

The combination of basil and spinach, blended with garlic and olive oil creates such a satisfying aroma and tastes as delicious as traditional pesto!  Although pesto generally calls for Parmesan cheese, I haven’t added any and it is still rich and creamy!  The richness and cheesy flavor comes from the nutritional yeast.  I know this sounds a little bizzare and a bit unappealing but nutritional yeast is a wonderful cheese replacement.  It has a slew of health benefits and tastes exactly like cheese!  If you prefer to eat dairy-free, nutritional yeast will make life so much easier in that you will never miss the cheesy flavor in any dish again.

Nutritional yeast is a complete protein, containing all 18 amino acids and the nine essential ones that your body cannot synthesize and can only get from food.  Amino acids are proteins that are essential for muscle development and immune strength.  Just two tablespoons has 9g of protein, which is more than 1 cup of whole milk! It also supports gut health and the digestive system, as it is high in fiber. 

Nutritional yeast tastes just as good as cheese while providing ample amounts of nutrition keeping your body strong and energized!

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Serves: 3+

Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients for the Pesto:

- 2 cups spinach

- 2 cups basil

- ½ cup walnuts

- 1/4 cup pine nuts

- 2 ½ tablespoons of nutritional yeast

- 3 tablespoons olive oil

- 2-3 garlic cloves (I like 3)

- sea salt to taste (I use 1 tsp)

- squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Ingredients for the Vegetables and Quinoa:

- 1 cup quinoa

- 2 cups water

- 1 teaspoon coconut oil

- 4 carrots

- 2 red bell peppers

- ½ small red cabbage

- 1 small red onion

- 1 eggplant

-1 sweet potato

- 3 tablespoons olive oil

- sea salt

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Start by preheating the oven to 420F and thinly cut all the vegetables for roasting into bite size pieces.  Add all the veggies to a large bowl and mix with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Now line a baking pan with parchment paper and evenly pour all vegetables on to the pan.  Cook for 30-35 minutes until the skin is crispy and carmalized.  Turn and mix half way through and add a drizzle of olive oil and salt if needed.

In the meantime, boil 2 cups of water and add 1 cup of rinsed quinoa, coconut oil, and a teaspoon of salt to the water.  Let the quinoa cook for 15-20 minutes until all the water has absorbed.

For the pesto, simply add all ingredients into a food processor and blend until creamy.  Taste the pesto to see if you would like to add more salt, garlic or pepper.  I like to finish my pesto with a small squeeze of lemon juice.  Finally remove the roasted vegetables from the over, place on top of a bed of quinoa and finish off with a large dollop of creamy pesto.  Enjoy!