How to Make Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Southwestern Salsa

Celebrate the season by making these delicious and dramatic gifts. Often we are inundated by sugar, chocolate, and more sugar in this season of parties. A nice deviation is a savory gift to create with sun-dried tomatoes and pesto sauce or salsa with a little punch. These great vegetarian dishes make superb gifts.

What to gather in anticipation of this baker’s gift? Air-tight containers, most easily found in the modern grocery store come in boxes of twelve or twenty-four. Make a quick trip to the craft store for Raffia ties and small cards which can be placed on the jars for added decorative flair with instructions for use. Ingredients can be listed on the cards for those concerned with sugar or cholesterol levels.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto


  • 1 Tblsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 1/8 lb Parmesan cheese
  • 1 jar (8 oz) of sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), undrained
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped and pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 crushed red pepper


  1. To toast pine nuts, heat oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add pine nuts; cook 30 to 45 seconds or until lightly browned, moving pan constantly.
  2. Remove nuts from the pan with a slotted spoon; drain on a paper towel.
  3. To peel garlic, trim the ends of garlic cloves, one at a time. With the flat side of a chef’s knife blade, peel away skins. Set aside.
  4. Strip parsley leaves from stems and pack leaves into a measuring cup to equal 1 full cup. Set aside.
  5. Grate Parmesan cheese (or buy already-grated cheese) into 1/2 cup. Set aside.
  6. Combine pine nuts and garlic in a food processor. Process (pulse) until mixture is finely chopped.
  7. Now add un-drained tomatoes and pulse till finely chopped. Add the parsley, cheese, olives, basil, and pepper; pulse until a thick paste is achieved.
  8. Spoon pesto into airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to one month. Makes 1-1/2 cups.
  9. Serve on toast points or french bread with fresh leaves of basil for decoration.

Southwestern Salsa


  • 1 bunch of cilantro leaves
  • 1 canned Chipotle chili pepper
  • 1Tblsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 oz each) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt


  1. Cut 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro. Set aside.
  2. Slice open the Chipotle chili pepper and gently pull out seeds and pulp; discard. Cut into slices.
  3. Finely chop slices of Chipotle chili pepper. Wash hands afterward (chili can affect skin and eyes).
  4. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over med-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for five minutes or until the onion are soft. Add cumin and chili powder; cook for about a minute and then add chili and tomatoes. Reduce heat to med-low.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes or until salsa is thickened, stirring now and again.
  6. Remove pan from heat; stir in cilantro, sugar, and salt. Cool.
  7. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Makes about 3 cups.

Variation: For a milder salsa, use only 1 tsp of Chipotle chili pepper.

These vibrant, delicious tomato-based recipes offer a healthy option for those who have had enough of sugary, sweet holiday foods. Enjoy the process and revel in your healthy, low cholesterol choice of homemade foods. A gift from the kitchen is sweet, no matter what the ingredients include!

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