Holy Pesto

I know that in almost every post I say “if I only had 1 message to get across…” and so far that has included kids’ involvement in cooking, bravery to try new foods, food label reading and the banning canned goods. But, I am back with another main theme: Cooking isn’t that hard – it can be accessible to anyone. Hey, I work with a tiny kitchen that has a small fridge (breaks my heart) and no dishwasher. So if I can do it, you can. A perfect example – home-made pesto.

People think to buy pesto, not make it. I had a bunch of basil on it’s way out, and I knew I had to do something. Plus I couldn’t miss the opportunity to use my fav kitchen gadget – the immersion blender. I didn’t follow any recipes, and through trial and error I got it right. My first batch was quite garlicy to the point of un-edible (but like mother like daughter my Mama just told me she did the same thing).

Little Bites Home Made Pesto:

1 bunch of fresh basil (always keep basil in the fridge wrapped in wet paper tower)

1/4 cup heat-healthy olive oil to start– I usually end up adding more

Salt + Pepper

1/2 clove garlic, chopped

Instructions:

1.Clean basil well and tear off leaves from stems — a great thing for the kids to do

2. Add basil leaves, garlic, dash of s+p and 1/4 cup olive oil to start

3. Use an immersion to puree until smooth

4. Add more olive oil to thin out as needed. Add more salt, pepper, garlic for flavoring

Many recipes call for pine nuts which adds texture, so feel free to add in 1/4 cup at a time. I didn’t have any in my cabinet, so I had to improvise using what I had, and it came out great without them. Many recipes also call for parmesan cheese, but that’s just adding fat and calories to something that already has a fair amount of oil.

Ways to eat pesto:

1. Add onto pasta, or in my case gnocchi

2. Mix into potatoes – taste great in mashed or roasted potatoes

3. Use as a spread on your next turkey or egg sandwich instead of high fat mayo and high sugar ketchup

4. Delicious as a salad dressing

5. Add onto orzo + cherry tomatoes for a quick, easy and inexpensive side dish

6. Flavor up your hummus

7. Add onto plain grilled or baked chicken breast or fish

Nutritionists Eat Cookies: Homemade Hummus(Chummous) Recipe

Is it a problem that 2 of my first 10 posts are about hummus? I told you I was an addict…

Being that it is a staple in my fridge, something I buy on a bi-weekly basis, it was starting to get boring and expensive.  To spice things up (literally) and to be budget friendly I decided to make it myself. For the same $ you get A LOT more hummus plus a whole lot more flavor and natural ingredients.  Plus, it’s really super easy to make. I ran it through the taste panel (ie my man friend Milos) and he approved.

Homemade Hummus/Chummous (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – 1 lb bag of dried beans or 3 cans ***

1/3 cup tahini sauce (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

1/4 cup lemon juice (I used 2.5 lemons)

5 cloves garlic halved (original recipe called for 2 but can never have too much garlic)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cayenne (if you like a kick)

Water as needed

Directions:

1. ***Strongly suggest using dried beans for optimum freshness and taste. Pour the dried beans into a bowl, cover with water, soak for at least 10 hours (overnight or during workday), strain the beans, pour into pot, cover with fresh water, bring to boil then simmer for 1 hour. If you don’t have that time canned beans will do, but it definitely won’t taste as good. This just reminded me of my abhorrence for canned goods, which trust me, I will blog about. Maybe even tomorrow.

2. Place chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice (watch out for seeds), garlic, spices, olive oil into bowl. Use an immersion blender (or regular blender)to blend until smooth.

3. Add some water to thin it out if needed. Add additional salt and paprika as needed.

                                                               Before

                                                                        After

                                                                      All dressed up… 

Warning: if you add in as many garlic cloves as suggested, do not make this on a cooking date. Once you have the basic ingredients, feel free to be creative and adapt this recipe to your own taste buds, just like I did. Some suggestions: fresh herbs (basil, parsley), hot sauce, curry spices, roasted red peppers or eggplant.

This recipe stayed good for 1 week in the fridge. The taste develops over time. You may  need to add teaspoon of water or olive oil to thin it out as the days go on.

You Say Hummus, I Say Chummous

Hummus is hands down one of my top five favorite foods both for its taste and its nutrition. It’s a delicious combo of chickpeas + tahini (crushed sesame seeds) + lemon and spices. However it causes an internal conflict on a weekly basis, if not more. I learned of the food in Israel where it is pronounced Chummous. But here it is pronounced Hummus.

This is going to be a total detour, but I cannot think of another way to explain the difference in pronunciation besides finding a random YouTube video of an Israeli saying the word:

And here is how us Americans pronounce it (and this video has a good recipe idea):

The few times I’ve attempted to pronounce it the correct Middle Eastern way I’ve gotten a blank face in return, so I retreated to the American version, which I am far less fond of but at least people will understand.

Ok, now back to what I really wanted to talk about. Hummus is relatively low in calories and fat and high in fiber and protein compared to other dips and spreads like guacamole, ranch dressing and any other cheese or mayo based concoction.

It’s got a reputation for being a dip, but it’s more versatile. I’m pretty creative with my food combos, which developed from a refusal to allow any of my groceries go to waste. Any food that is on its way to spoiling must be be used,  some way, somehow.

Here are some of the non-traditional and healthier ways to use hummus:
1. Base for salad dressing – thin it out with some water or apple cider vinegar.

2. Tuna, chicken, egg or potato salad – a flavorful and lower fat/calorie substitute to mayo (a “sneaky” way to incorporate some extra fiber into your kids’ tuna sandwiches).

3. Bagels and lox – who needs cream cheese when you got hummus. Skeptical? Try it.

4. Substitue for ordinary “empty calorie” non-nutritious condiments (mustard, ketchup) in burgers, wraps. I’ve even tried it with fries.

5. Binder for breading – instead of an egg, try hummus to keep your breadcrumbs on your fish or chicken.

Now, hummus isn’t just hummus. There are tons of brands and flavors with different ingredients and nutrition panels. I like the classic or garlic varieties. Choose more natural brands with an ingredient list you can recognize. I’m suspicious of the “…and other natural flavoring” line. If you can’t specify what these flavorings are, I don’t want it.

I compared 4 brands. A 2 tablespoon serving (c’mon who stops after 2 tbsp) weighs in from 40-70 calories, 1-3 gm protein, 1-3 gm fiber.

Abraham’s Roasted Garlic                                           Sabra Classic

                                             

Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Style                   Tribe Classic

             

My favorite is homemade (recipe to come), but Trader Joe’s and Abrahams are best in terms of taste and nutrition. Abraham’s is lowest in calories while TJ’s is highest in protein and fiber.

Stay tuned for hummus recipe.