Last year, I started participating in the Whole Life Challenge, mostly to support a friend build a team, but also thinking it would help up my fitness game. I ended up getting so much more out of it—I learned a lot about food (and sugar addiction, which I’ll write about another day), exercise and simple life habits that make a huge impact.
The biggest thing that I learned was how to get creative in the kitchen. When you participate at the Lifestyle level, as I did, two of the major food restrictions are sugar (the only form that’s accepted is stevia and I have a major aversion to sugar replacements) and dairy. This means no cheese, people. At first, I thought that I would die without cheese, but I quickly learned to work around it. And the more I read labels, the more I realized that food manufacturers put sugar in everything. And when I say everything, I mean every.thing. Why is there sugar in my chicken broth? Seriously?
During that 8 weeks, I learned how to adapt a lot of my favorites by substituting or omitting non-compliant ingredients. I’ve always loved to cook, but let me tell you how challenging it was to come up with some of the substitutes.
One of my coworkers is in the process of doing a dietary cleanse to identify a food allergy and she brought in a homemade pesto that was to die for. When I asked her how she was able to make it compliant with her current diet, she said all she did was leave out the cheese. And I was inspired.
I love pesto. Love. Love. Love. It’s one of the main reasons that I grow basil in my garden every summer. I also love arugula, on abnormal levels. I think it’s one of my favorite greens because of its peppery flavor. I put it on sandwiches, mix it into quiche, and substitute it in lieu of spinach on the reg.
So with the nifty tip from my colleague and some WLC innovation, I adapted this recipe and made a tasty basil-arugula pesto to accompany my salmon and roasted veggies last night.
First, instead of pine nuts, I substituted walnuts. Walnuts have a similar consistency, and not only are they much cheaper than pine nuts (this one lb bag from Trader Joe’s was $1 less than the 8 oz bag of pine nuts), they are so much better for you.
Second, while I have a food processor that I love and use regularly, I was feeling incredibly lazy, so I packed all the ingredients into my Nutribullet to get the job done in one shot. While the consistency was a little smoother than I personally care for, it still tasted delish.
- 1 cup packed arugula leaves
- 1 cup packed basil leaves
- ⅓ cup walnut pieces
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- ½ cup olive oil
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Combine the basil, arugula, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add ½ cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
One of the awesome ladies in my Break Changer – Femmepreneur group mentioned that she loves to make a one-packet meal with salmon, pesto and roasted veggies. I figured since this mention happened the same week as I learned about the cheese-less pesto recipe, the universe was trying to tell me something. So I dropped some of my freshly-made pesto on top of a salmon fillet, tossed in some green beans and mushrooms, wrapped it up in a foil packet and baked at 400º for 20 minutes. (Actually, if I’m going to be totally honest, I didn’t thaw the salmon fillets completely and ended up cooking my dish for almost 45 minutes, but again with the lazy thing.)
On one final note, I’m going to be putting together a team for the May edition of WLC. If you’re interested in joining my team, please leave a comment below and I’ll let you know when I have the team set up. Registration is open now.