Sunday, September 28, 2008

Spicy Mid-Afternoon Hummus

Imagine this: It's midday Sunday, and you are craving ... something. No, scratch that. You are craving something light but full of invigorating flavors. You want something that will keep your day just as awesome as it was before, but not weigh you down. Wow have I the recipe for you.


I know what you are thinking. "But, hummus is hard. And, doesn't it involve ingredients I can't pronounce? I don't even think I've seen those ingredients in a store."

Well slow down there! I have a couple of things to say about that.

First of all, hummus isn't hard. I wouldn't expect it to have the greatest of textures if you are without a blender/food processor, but you can still make it.

Second, while most hummus recipes call for the traditional tahini (which is sesame seed butter), you can really use any sort of nut butter in it's place. This recipe, for example, uses peanut butter. If you don't like peanuts (or are allergic) you could use almond butter instead. Almond butter doesn't have as much of a taste, and is also a little bit sweeter. This makes the hummus milder.

Other than tahini, ingredients are fairly straightforward. In fact, I would bet that most of you have the majority of ingredients in your pantry right now! One of the great things about hummus is the ease in which it can be modified. Don't like the specifics of my recipe? Substitute to get the flavors you want! Make it sweet instead of spicy, or with a hint of basil instead of cilantro. You get the idea ... and they are endless.

For those of you out there (and you are a very few) who don't like hummus, try this recipe anyway. It's a little different than most, and you might find you enjoy it.

Spicy Jalapeño Hummus (closely adapted here from Gluten-Free Goddess)
makes about four servings

You will need:
a food processor / blender
a small bowl

1 15oz can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), drained and well rinsed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons peanut butter (the stuff without sugar works best)
2 medium jalapeños, diced
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves
Juice from one lime
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt / Pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, garlic, peanut butter, jalapeños, red pepper flakes, cilantro, oil and lime juice. Use the 1/2 cup of water to smooth the processing and help create the right texture. When everything is chopped and mixed to your personal liking, taste and adjust. Salt and pepper as needed.

Serve in a bowl alongside freshly cut vegetables, toasted pita bread, olives, or tortilla chips. Hummus is also great spread on bread for sandwiches. Try it all kinds of ways!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pumpkin and Spice Pancakes

Wow does it feel like fall this morning. Last night we were able to sleep with our windows open and wake to the smells of turning leaves. Even my morning run was reminiscent of times much later in the autumn season. That's why I decided to pull together some lazy Saturday pancakes with a hefty taste of fall. Gee, I gotta tell you. These soft and delicious pumpkin pancakes just did the trick!

We used canned pumpkin, light brown sugar, whole wheat flour and low-fat vanilla yogurt to create these delights, but if you wanted to use fresh pumpkin puree, dark brown sugar, and buttermilk in place of yogurt, be my guest! Instead of whole wheat flour, you might use a white flour or a cake flour.

You will need:

2 large mixing bowls
1 hot and greased griddle

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup low-fat yogurt (We used Dannon's All Natural Vanilla, but you could use plain)
1 cup pumpkin puree (1/2 a 15 oz can)
2 eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp ground flaxseed (optional)
1 cup chopped almonds (optional)

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking power, salt, spices and flaxseed. Make sure to evenly mix, so that the baking soda and powder are well spread throughout the flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until well combined. Add in yogurt and beat until well mixed. Add in the pumpkin and once again mix well. Add in oil, vanilla, brown sugar and milk and mix well. Make sure the brown sugar is fully dissolved so there are no lumps.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Into this depression, pour the mixture of wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. If mixture is too heavy (it should be on the drippy side) add more milk to adjust. Fold in almonds.

Pour small amounts of batter onto hot, greased griddle. Fry on each side until cooked through (about 3-5 minutes).

Serve with powdered sugar or maple syrup.


Alcohol fuels bad choices.

I love to cook, really love it. Keeping this in mind, why did the boy and I find ourselves perusing the "baked goods" area of our local grocery store late Thursday evening? What were we thinking letting our fingers dance over packages of mystery-filled danishes and silkily glazed muffins?

I know what we were thinking. One word: Vodka. Two good drinks and we were ready to throw all of our devotion to our own kitchen aside and cheat on her good and hard with these lard-packed delights. And we profess such love. Shameless.

In any event, we headed home that night with a $4 package of a dozen glazed pumpkin doughnuts. They sounded harmless enough, and they certainly looked and tasted heavenly. However, a morning-after inspection led to a horrifying realization. Not only had we neglected our kitchen, but we had eaten food worthy of tempting Satan himself.

Look at these babies ....

... don't you just want to eat them? Well, don't. These innocent and delicious looking baked goods pack 300 calories into three itty bites. That's right.


Good god ... what do we do with the remnants of the package? Surely we can't eat them ...

Remember kids, friends don't let friends drink and purchase baked goods.