Monday, July 25, 2011

Meatless Monday: Homemade Hummus

About a week ago, I was out shopping with my boys at the local health food store and at the cash register was a container of hummus and some chips for customers to sample.  My four-year-old (who, I'm proud to say, is usually pretty willing to try anything new) dug in. He loved it! I eventually had to tell him to stop, as he kept stuffing his mouth with the hummus-laden chips (I also had to keep him from doing a double dip).   I almost added a container of the pre-made hummus to my grocery bill, but I realized that I already had almost all the ingredients to make a batch of it at home. All I needed was some tahini and we'd have homemade hummus in no time.

Although hummus alone doesn't exactly constitute a meatless meal, it's great in a meatless diet/meal because it serves as a complete protein, as well as a good source of iron.  Granted, it is high in fat (as in, the good kind of fats) and calories, so eat it in moderation. We love to snack on it with tortilla or pita chips. It's also a great dip for vegetables. It also serves well as a spread on sandwiches -- you can bypass the meat and use hummus instead. Or just eat it plain with some pita bread. Yum!

Here's the recipe I use for hummus -- I think I may have gotten it from an issue of Everyday Food or Martha Stewart Living. I like it because it's a good, basic recipe -- you can take it as it is or adapt it to your tastes with various spices and mix-ins (peppers, different beans, extra garlic, etc.).

Homemade Hummus -- makes about 3 cups

2 cans (15.5 oz.) of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)  {Note: when I was buying the tahini, the lady at the register suggested using Great Northern beans. She also said that she's used black beans in the past. Feel free to experiment!}
1/3 cup lemon juice (it took two fairly large lemons for me to get that much)
1/4 cup tahini (stirred well)
2 cloves of garlic
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

When you open one of the cans of chickpeas, save 1/4 cup of the liquid. Then, empty both cans into a colander; rinse and drain, shaking off excess water.

Some thoughts on tahini: For those not familiar with tahini, it's similar to peanut butter except that it's made from sesame seeds. A jar or can of tahini can run anywhere from $5-10, depending on what brand and size you buy and where you get it. I got mine at Whole Foods for about $6. That may seem kind of pricey, but a container of this stuff goes a long way, especially if you're only using 1/4 cup of it at a time. An opened container of tahini stores really well -- either on the shelf or in the refrigerator. The general consensus on storage is, if you're going to use it up fairly soon (like in a few months), store it at room temperature; otherwise, keep it in the fridge (where it can last a year -- some say even longer!).  Before you use the tahini in your hummus, be sure to stir it really well since the oil and paste separate.

Put the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, reserved liquid, cayenne, and salt into a food processor. Pulse and process until the consistency is nice and smooth.

And that's it -- fresh, homemade hummus in mere minutes. If you like, you can garnish it with some extra virgin olive oil and a dash of paprika. Store in an airtight container (mine's in a glass canning jar) in the refrigerator for about a week or so.

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lovely Links: Middle of Summer Edition

One of my favorite things in the summertime is harvesting fresh berries from our raspberry bushes. This year we're getting a ton of them. It's my sort of gardening consolation because the rest of my garden is stressing me out. More on that in another post...that is, if I can write about it without having a meltdown. Why must my plants be so stubborn?

Anyway, my Internet was out for a good portion of the week (which ended in me having to spend way more time than I needed to with some technician in the Philippines who kept making sure that I knew what an ethernet cable was. Grr.), so I haven't had a chance to post. Plus, summer is a busy time and things seem to take longer when it's hot.  So, I decided this would be a great time to post a few summery links I've come across in the last few weeks.  Enjoy!

Creamy Lemon Popsicles -- Nest
Last summer I wrote all about making your own popsicles, asserting that homemade ones are just as good, if not better, than the storebought variety. This recipe for creamy lemon popsicles serves as proof of this fact. Make these popsicles. Lemons, milk, cream, sugar -- how can you go wrong with that combination?

Peas! -- Tend
My first crop of peas were kind of productive (I'll be planting the second crop soon) and we've enjoyed them. This post from Tend (one of my new favorite blogs) features a recipe for homemade stock using pea pods. Pea pods! Why have I never thought of using the leftover, empty pea pods in stock before?  It was a sort of lightbulb moment for me when I read about that.

Chewy Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies -- The Girl Who Ate Everything
A few weeks ago, I mentioned a recipe for lemon sugar cookies (yum!). Since then, I've realized that my favorite homemade cookies are citrus-infused sugar cookies. I'm addicted to them. They're dangerous to have around the house. I found this recipe for coconut lime sugar cookies (GASP!) and I'm going to report that they're just as delicious and dangerous as the lemon sugar cookies.  There's something so fresh and summery about them, too. 

Bubble Refill Container -- Come Together Kids
This is genius, really. A container with a dispenser, filled with bubble solution. Why didn't I think of this? Plus, this post is great because it has recipes for homemade bubble solution (Buying bottles of bubble solution at the store is a rip-off. Don't do it.).  I've never used glycerin or corn syrup in my homemade bubbles (just dish soap and water for us), but I'm going to give it a try and see if it makes it any better.

Sidenote: the recipes in this post call for Dawn dishwashing soap. I've also seen recipes recommending Joy dishwashing soap. Although I buy the eco-friendly stuff for our dishes, I buy whatever's cheapest for bubble solution. Anyone out there have an opinion on what soap works best for bubbles? Just thought I'd ask.

Perfection: The Thief of Good Enough -- Simple Mom
This post arrived in my mailbox today. Oh boy, did I need it. I've always struggled with the paralysis that comes with perfectionism (see the aforementioned garden angst).  Perfectionism can affect all aspects of our lives -- including attempts to live frugally and simply.  A good read for just about anyone -- but especially me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Meatless Monday: Nachos!

Really, when you read the title of this post, read it like, "Naaaaaachoooos!"  When I decided to post a recipe for nachos for this Meatless Monday post, in my head I kept hearing Jack Black say that (hence the picture on the left).

Believe it or not, nachos can be great dinner and the recipe I'm going to share makes them -- dare I say it? -- even somewhat healthy. They're also easy to make, inexpensive, and definitely a crowd pleaser. Who doesn't like nachos?

In fact, these nachos are one of my go-to recipes when I don't feel like cooking or if I've run out of dinner ideas. I almost always have the ingredients on hand in my pantry and fridge, so I can whip them up if I'm feeling tired/lazy/too hot to work in the kitchen on a summer evening.

The recipe I'm going to share is adapted from the one in the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook, Simple Suppers (a cookbook I highly recommend for anyone who wants ideas for meatless meals).

Dinner Nachos 
4 cups corn tortilla chips (or you can measure them like I do and use four big handfuls of chips)
1 15-oz. can of refried beans
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (Fresh tomatoes are great for this -- I'm counting the days until I can start using my garden tomatoes in everything -- but I've used canned diced tomatoes many times before, especially in the wintertime when the storebought tomatoes are just, well,  not so tasty. If you're going this route, use a 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained.)
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (I've used all kinds -- fresh, jarred, red, green -- and they all work well in this recipe. Use whatever you like or have on hand!)
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded cheese (I use mostly colby jack and a little pepper jack.)
2 tablespoons of chopped green onions (or chives, if you've got them)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Choose a baking dish that's 9 x 13 inches, with sides that are two inches high.

Layer all the ingredients in the order given above. It doesn't have to be pretty. If the refried beans are too stiff to spoon over the chips, thin them with a little bit of water).  As you can see above, my little guy helped me put the whole thing together, so it's a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen (btw, wash and save at least a couple of the cans -- I'm going to be posting some fun, crafty reuses for them).  If you end up making these nachos fairly regularly like I do, feel free to add other ingredients to mix things up (I'm planning on adding some corn kernels next time I make them -- the sweet corn roadside stands are back!).

Bake for 15 minutes or so, until the beans in the center are steaming hot and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Once they've cooled a bit, you can either cut into them and dish them out with a spatula onto individual plates or you can just set the pan of them in the middle of the table (or outside on a picnic blanket in the backyard) and have everyone dig in with their hands. It's the perfect sort of summertime dish (though not exclusive to summer, of course) -- casual, easy, and a little messy. Gotta love finger food!

But watch out -- they go fast!

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 
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