My kids love pesto more than they love me. No joke. I can throw that shit on an old sock, and they’ll happily eat it. You can always buy pesto pre-made, but making it is ridiculously easy, and doubling the amount so you can freeze or use for dinner takes ZERO extra work, and the price can’t be beat.
By the way, ever noticed how toddlers who love pesto have absolutely no complaints if you steam half a pound of spinach and blend it right into the pesto? (HINT HINT!) Not that I would ever have engaged in deceiving my kids in that way when they were toddlers … no, never …
For lunch menus, I play with the consistency and ingredients of the pesto. Using a food processor (like I have said before, my Cuisinart is a workhorse), I add more parmesan, tweak my amount of olive oil, and omit the traditional pine nuts. The kids don’t miss the nuts, it’s far less expensive, and there’s no danger of unwittingly cross-contaminating a nut-allergic friend at the lunch table (if the nuts are front and center on a granola bar and everyone can see them, it’s easier to avoid, but I get nervous when there’s no way for kids to tell). The extra parmesan makes the pesto heartier, and holds up well in the thawed wrap.
Of course, it takes the same amount of effort to double the batch and use leftovers for an easy pasta dinner when you’re done cooking on Round 1 Night (boil some pasta, throw in some cherry tomatoes and cheese cubes, and call it a day!), so feel free to add pine nuts to the extra bit you reserve for dinner.
- 3 large red bell peppers (or jar of whole roasted bell peppers)
- 4 lb boneless/skinless chicken breasts, if using (may use frozen, but allow for extra time to thaw/cook
- *If not using chicken breasts, use 3lb Mozzarella, cut into 1oz (approx ¼ inch x ¼ inch) sticks. I also like queso panela, a neutral white cheese that goes so well with pasta salad I mentioned previously)
- 25 whole wheat burrito-sized tortillas
- 8oz fresh basil *
- 4-6 cloves garlic*
- 8 oz grated parmesan cheese*
- Black pepper to taste
- ¾ cups olive oil
- Turn broiler on and start toasting red peppers - place whole peppers on parchment-lined cookie sheet (do NOT substitute wax paper here!) and broil for about 10 minutes, until skin is starting to blister, then flip and do the same for another 10 minutes. Large peppers may need an extra turn in the oven to get all the skin charred and blistered.
- Season chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper and cook – you can choose stovetop, grill, microwave, whatever floats your boat. I like to sear mine in a frying pan over med-high heat briefly, to trap as much moisture into the chicken as possible, as it will be frozen once prepared. Once it’s seared, I cover the pan and reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes per side.
- Slice peppers into thin strips.
- Let chicken cool, then cut into slices.
- Make pesto: Put basil, parmesan, garlic, and pepper in bowl of food processor (or strong blender) and pulse until coarsely chopped. Don’t add salt, the parmesan will give you enough salt as it is. Add ¾ cups of olive oil slowly, drizzling in in a stream. (HINT: at this point, if you want to freeze premade pesto, scoop into quart-sized freezer bags and top with another drizzle of olive oil to act as a barrier to air before sealing bag; freeze for up to 3 months)
- Warm tortillas, wrapped in a clean dish towel, in microwave – about 10 seconds on high power per tortilla. Make sure to keep them well covered in dish towel so that they remain pliable.
- Spread 1-1.5 Tb of pesto over one warmed tortilla, and add about two ounces of chicken breast (one thick slice of chicken, or a loosely-packed 1/3 cup) or two sticks of mozzarella to the center of the wrap. Add a couple of strips of red pepper.
- Fold the top and bottom of the wrap down to seal the ends, then proceed to roll the wrap and place seam-side down on a parchment-lined jelly roll pan.
Flash Freeze your wraps. Flash freezing ensures that your food items won’t stick to each other once you’re ready to pack them. Lay the uncovered pan of wraps directly in your freezer for 1-2 hours (I’ve been known to forget about my last pan overnight without it getting freezer burn, so there’s that). Once the wraps are flash frozen, you can proceed to pack them in your heavy duty freezer bags.
To serve, cut in half and place in chilled lunchbox – wrap will be thawed by lunch time. Otherwise, you may heat the wrap (we do 4 minutes for 2.5 wraps in the microwave) and place in food thermos for kids to eat hot at lunch time.
- RECIPE 1: Ridiculously-Easy Cinnamon Apple Chips
- RECIPE 2: Ridiculously-Easy-And-Totally-Worth-It Tomato Sauce
- RECIPE 3: Pesto Chicken Wraps (or Pesto-Mozzarella Wraps)
- RECIPE 4: Breakfast Burritos
- RECIPE 5: Broccoli Cheese Corndog Muffins