protein-packed pesto bento

15 07 2012

i know my last bento also had cherry tomatoes and a sprig of fresh basil, but don’t those flavors just scream SUMMER to you?  i can’t get enough of them.  tuesday’s lunch (packed in advance today with leftovers) contains my healthier take on pesto… i wanted a dish that would be TIU nutrition plan-approved for M3, which means limiting/eliminating dairy and keeping the carbs in balance with protein, vegetables, and fat.  my solution (and pesto recipe) below…

to start, i used carba-nada lemon pepper fettucine… these noodles are egg-based, so they are pretty high in protein/fiber and low in refined starch.  next, instead of using parmesan in my pasta, i used silken tofu!  the “good fat” (and protein) from the pine nuts combined with the binding/emulsifying action of the tofu in the food processor gave this pesto a great, creamy consistency… i didn’t even need to use olive oil!  and i bulked up the nutrients by adding swiss chard to the expected basil.  the swiss chard flavor is overpowered by the basil, and the ground leaves are both brilliant green, so you don’t even notice it’s there, but it packs an extra vitamin punch!  finally, i added tons of veggies to the pasta before tossing with the pesto… fresh raw summer squash from my CSA share, fresh quartered cherry tomatoes, and my weekly roasted eggplant.

rounding out the meal is a classic TIU three-bean salad (1/4 cup portion), and a beautiful miniature golden plum (also from my CSA share) for a sweet last bite.

here’s the quick-and-easy pesto recipe:

megan’s light pesto (makes approx. 4 half-cup servings)

  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • juice from 1 1/2 fresh lemons
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 oz. soft silken tofu (i used mori nu brand)
  • 4 garlic scapes (i had these from my CSA share but you could substitute 2 regular garlic cloves and a green onion)
  • 60 g. swiss chard
  • 1/4 cup raw pine nuts
  1. in a food processor, grind the pine nuts and garlic scapes.
  2. once they have reached a coarse grind, add the tofu, basil and swiss chard, and blend until smooth.
  3. add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  couldn’t be easier!!

the nutritional stats, though again i focus on these far less now… it’s more important to me to know the meal is well-balanced and of course delicious!

nutritional info:

  • lemon pepper fettucine, 140 calories (1 g. fat, 15 mg. cholesterol, 20 mg. sodium, 24 g. carbs [6 g. fiber!], 12 g. protein [!], 4% calcium, 12% iron)
  • light pesto, 80 calories (5.6 g. fat [0.4 g. sat, 2.5 g. poly, 1.5 g. mono], 275 mg. sodium, 98 mg. potassium, 4.8 g. carbs [0.8 g. fiber, 0.6 g. sugar], 2.5 g. protein, 21% vitamin A, 19% vitamin C, 6.5% iron)
  • 1/2 cup roasted eggplant, 10 calories (2.5 g. carbs [1.5 g. fiber, 1 g. sugar], 0.5 g. protein)
  • 5 cherry tomatoes, 17 calories (0.2 g. fat, 4.2 mg. sodium, 3.3 g. carbs [0.8 g. fiber, 2.5 g. sugar], 0.8 g. protein, 12.5% vitamin A, 17% vitamin C)
  • 1/4 cup chickpea salad, 80 calories (4 g. fat, 220 mg. sodium, 10 g. carbs [4 g. fiber, 4 g. sugar], 2 g. protein, 8% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C)
  • mini golden plum, 40 g., 16 calories (3.5 g. carbs [3.5 g. sugar])

TOTAL:  361 calories, almost 18 g. protein, 18% of my hard-to-get daily iron, and lots of vitamins!!



5 responses

15 07 2012

Looks awesome Megan; and I’m a big fan of adding extra greens or subbing different ones. I just picked up some rainbow chard this weekend too. Pesto sounds like a great idea. I’m also starting to throw some arugula into things around here. It’s a bitter, intense flavored leaf that I really like. I wholeheartedly agree about the basil and tomatoes and the delicious warm summery feelings…!

16 07 2012

thanks sheri! rainbow chard in pesto sounds intriguing… wonder if the red and yellow would change the overall color? maybe it would look closer to a sun-dried tomato pesto? either way, bet it’ll be delish! we are big fans of arugula over here too… it’s pretty much the only salad green i can get my husband to eat 😉

16 07 2012

For me, basil, tomato and the last of the triplets, mozarella, are the indeed quintessential summer food. The gorgeous colours of this bento just invite you to dive in and enjoy their undoubtedly rich flavours. Lovely bento as usual, Megan.

16 07 2012

thanks so much ingrid! mmmmm…. mozzarella is soooo good. trying to stay away from too much cheese in my lunches, but i did add the boconcini (the little fresh mozz balls) to my husband’s bowl when i served this dish — the ultimate summer trifecta, i agree!

16 06 2014
Fly Spear | 34 Healthy and Eye-Catching Bento Box Lunch Ideas

[…] the vegetables and grain into colorful rows. We’re also a big fan of the side of Goldfish.30. Lightened-Up Pesto FettuccineWhile pesto — albeit delicious — is generally a calorie bomb, this version gets a healthier […]

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