Roasted Garlic White Bean Hummus: An Addict’s Tale

My name is Hope, and I am addicted to hummus. At a job a few years back, I became known around the office as the “hummus girl,” and at my job now, I was recently asked if I ever eat anything for lunch other than hummus spread on something. (The answer was no.)

When I got my first food processor about a year ago, it seemed absurd to not make some homemade hummus. Does that mean I got straight to the hummus-makin’? Ha! No!

I have no excuse. Well, I have several of them, but none that truly justify why I wasted a year of opportunities for homemade hummus. Long story short, two days ago I finally made my own hummus!

White bean hummus is probably my favorite. I’m especially fond of the Eat Well Embrace Life brand. If you like hummus and you haven’t tried this brand (they make several kinds—traditional, white bean, black bean, carrot, beet…the list goes on), you are truly missing out on one of the best things on the planet. Back to the point: I chose a roasted garlic white bean hummus recipe from Betty Crocker.

I’ve never roasted garlic before. I have roasted all kinds of veggies, so I knew the garlic would be simple enough. What I didn’t know was how strange a bulb of garlic looks when you slice off the very top. In fact, it seriously creeped me out. Somehow it reminds me of bugs—don’t ask me to explain this, it’s just my perception. And it creeped the shit out of me. I took a moment to collect myself and then I moved on and got the hideous thing into the oven.

IMG_0808

IMG_0811

IMG_0814

Once the garlic was roasted, the recipe instructed to “squeeze” the cloves out of the bulb. Holy hot oily mess, Batman! I struggled with this one a bit. When I wasn’t burning myself (despite giving the garlic time to cool down), I was wiping up the oil that was continuously trickling down my arm.

IMG_0820

IMG_0822

IMG_0825

Okay, at this point I’m just whining because everything else was a breeze, and I don’t want you to think this is becoming a cakewalk for me. Mmmmm, cake…

I’m sorry to have to break it to Eat Well Embrace Life, but there’s a chance I won’t be purchasing much store-bought hummus anymore. This homemade stuff is DELICIOUS!

IMG_0831

IMG_0832

Do you have any favorite hummus recipes? Please share them in the comments so I can feed my NEW addiction!

Chili Tweaks and Homemade Cornbread

IMG_0806

A few years ago, I found the easiest chili recipe and I’ve made it several times over, always using a different kind of salsa. I make it probably once a month, and I almost always serve cornbread on the side.

Cornbread from a box.

From a Jiffy box, to be exact. We’re not even talking fancy Marie Callender’s cornbread mix. We’re talking 48-cent Jiffy cornbread.

I’ve considered making homemade cornbread, but laziness (and shame) have always taken over and driven me to purchase the boxed mix. But since part of my cooking journey is to rid my kitchen of as much boxed stuff as possible, I finally went through with making cornbread from scratch!

But first, back to the chili. As I said, I’ve made this same chili recipe numerous times. I’ve got it down to perfection. I almost don’t even need the recipe anymore. I wrote this down in my recipe notebook a LONG time ago, and unfortunately I don’t have the teensiest clue where it originated from. If I ever find it, I promise I’ll edit this post and link to it.

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 16-ounce cans of kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2.5 cups salsa
1 4-ounce can of diced green chiles
2 teaspoons of chili powder

Steps

  1. Cook the ground beef, onion, and garlic in large skillet until beef is browned. Drain.
  2. Add the beans, salsa, chiles, and chili powder. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook, stirring frequently, for 20-25 minutes.

I repeat: it’s easy, and I’ve perfected it. No mistakes. No disappointments. It was a combination of bravery and confidence that influenced me to make some alterations this go-around.

First, I swapped out the ground beef for some stew meat chopped into half-inch pieces. Second, I used homemade salsa. And third, I eliminated the green chiles because I completely forgot about them at the grocery store.

IMG_0791IMG_0793

I wasn’t horribly impressed with the salsa I made for use in the chili. It was the same recipe I used in a recent post, but it didn’t really have that “chili” flavor I was going for. So, I cracked open a can of tomato sauce and poured half of it in, and I added about 2-3 extra teaspoons of chili powder for good measure.

IMG_0797

While the chili cooked, I started on the cornbread. I used a recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was almost as effortless as the boxed Jiffy mix. My only mistake was melting the butter, and then whisking in the milk and eggs and letting it sit for a few minutes while I tended to the chili. By the time I poured it all into the flour/cornmeal mixture, the butter had become wax-like. I frantically stirred the batter in an attempt to break it all up. It must have worked, because the cornbread was fabulous!

IMG_0802

The chili I was worried about? Also fabulous! I was a little saddened that I used a salsa recipe with no chunkiness to it, as that’s one of the things I love about chili. Next time, I’ll still make my own salsa, but I’ll try a different recipe that doesn’t puree it down to that sauce-like consistency. The taste was still wonderful and I’m proud of myself for taking a bit of a chance and seeing it pay off!

Do you prefer chunks of beef, or ground beef in your chili? I think it’s a tie for me, but it was a nice change from the typical chili I make. 🙂

Let’s Salsa

Does anyone else always have at least one jar of salsa in the house at all times?  We do, although my husband is really particular (aka “picky”) about his salsa.  It can’t be too hot and it needs to have a sauce-like consistency–not too runny and not too chunky.

It seems lately we’ve tried a few too many salsas that just don’t make the cut.  When I planned to try out a recipe for Texas Cowboy Pie that called for a cup of salsa, I took matters into my own hands.

Now, I’ve made salsa before and I wasn’t exactly pleased with it.  But that was in the days before my Ninja.  Hell, that was in the days when I still made Hamburger Helper and had to ask my husband to cube my chicken breasts for me.  I’ve come a long way; it was time to try homemade salsa again.

The recipe I used was for a blender salsa on the Family Fresh Meals website.  I tossed the ingredients together…

IMG_0737 And turned on the blender.

IMG_0738Of course, before I trusted the salsa in my dinner, I HAD to taste test.  Using one of my husband’s beloved tortilla chips, I scooped up a glob of salsa and couldn’t believe how delicious it tasted!  And lucky for the hubby, it had a perfect sauce-like consistency.  I think the only thing I’ll do a little differently next time is add another half teaspoon of sugar.  This recipe does call for a tiny bit of sugar, but I like my salsa to be a little sweeter.

Now that I’d found the holy grail of salsa recipes, I finished building my Texas Cowboy Pie.  It was fabulous, by the way.

IMG_0739IMG_0740So good!What is your favorite homemade salsa recipe?  Are you picky about your salsa?

Cashew Butter Blues

My all-time favorite food is peanut butter. You could probably put peanut butter on a pickle and I’d still eat it. I imagine the first sign of the apocalypse will have something to do with the extinction of peanut butter.

Strong as my feelings are for peanut butter, my curiosity has been growing. Lately in the organic section at the grocery store I’ve seen hazelnut butter and sunflower seed butter. I’ve read about cashew butter and macadamia nut butter. Considering that I always dig the cashews out of my husband’s trail mix, I decided to try some cashew butter.

I also decided to make it myself.

I have a decent food processor that is capable of making nut butter, so I purchased some cashews in bulk at the grocery store and did my research online. First step: dump the cashews into the food processor.

IMG_0557

I used unsalted cashews, so I added a smidge of salt. I turned the food processor on, suffered through a minute or so of what sounded like screws inside of a wood chipper, and watched as the cashews slowly morphed into a thick, Play-Doh-ish substance.

IMG_0561

I stopped the food processor a few times to give it a rest. Each time I stopped it I got a whiff of the butter. I’m not going to lie, it smelled eerily similar to wet cat food. I was not feeling optimistic.

After about 20 minutes, my cashews had finally reached “butter” status. I excitedly scraped the butter into a plastic container. At this point it was lunch time, the point in my day when I usually make a peanut butter sandwich. It was perfect timing to try out my new cashew butter.

IMG_0565

I spread the cashew butter on a slice of nutty bread and topped it with a second slice. I typically eat peanut butter sandwiches without jelly; this might have been my downfall with the cashew butter. Not only could I not get past the cat food smell, but I just wasn’t enjoying the taste or the texture of the butter. It was sweet in a way I didn’t expect, but had lost that familiar cashew taste I was hoping for.

IMG_0567

I suppose there’s an epiphany to be had here. Not failing at something does not mean I’m not going to be disappointed by it. Pulling something off does not mean I’m going to enjoy it.

On the bright side, peanut butter is cheaper than cashews anyhow!

Have you tried cashew butter?  Do you like it?  How do you eat it?  I still have some leftover butter I need to use somehow, so I’m open to trying something new!

Handmade pasta, take three: ravioli

After my last batch of homemade pasta turned out gray and smelly, I was doubting my decision to make homemade ravioli.  If there’s anything I’m good at, it’s learning from my mistakes–so, I figured out what went wrong and I fixed it and tried again.  In this case, my method of storing my fresh fettuccine in the refrigerator was to blame.  I proceeded with the ravioli, but this time I planned to freeze them until it was time to cook them.

I prepared the dough as usual (I’m getting to be a pro at this!) and used my pizza cutter to cut the dough into 2-inch squares–and yes, I measured them with a measuring tape!  Earlier in the night, I’d browned some ground beef and stirred in about 3/4 cup of ricotta.  In the middle of my first dough square, I plopped a small amount of beef mixture I’d measured using a melon baller (this was PERFECT).  I blanketed the mixture with another square of dough and squeezed the two squares together around the meat and cheese.  Then I trimmed the edges of the ravioli with the pizza cutter and I had my first, and damn near flawless, handmade ravioli!

It took me an hour to complete the rest of the ravioli–although, my stepson and even my husband contributed to the cause and made their own!  When the last of the dough had been used up, I was so proud of my ravioli I almost teared up a bit.  Never had I imagined I could pull off something like this:

I slipped these babies into a freezer storage bag and popped them in the freezer, crossing my fingers they’d be edible the next night.  When the next night (i.e., last night) rolled around, they cooked up fabulously!  I was slightly afraid they would come open in the boiling water and leak out beef and ricotta, but every single one stayed perfectly intact.  And–holy smokes–I couldn’t believe how good they tasted.  I will NEVER purchase pre-packaged ravioli again!

I had my doubts after the fettuccine incident, but I can say with certainty that this Two Week Technique has been my most successful yet.  Next up will be steaming, since my grandmother gifted me with an amazing steam pan set when I got married!

Handmade pasta, take two: herbed fettuccine

I’m going to mentally return to my first batch of homemade pasta–the bowties that turned out to be such a success.  You see, revisiting the successful moments in my mind is what keeps a girl like me sane.  Otherwise, I’m left to dwell on my second (and failed) attempt at homemade pasta.

The goal of round two was to make basil-and-thyme fettuccine noodles.  In the beginning, all seemed perfect.

I did struggle a little cutting the dough; who has the patience to cut perfect, even fettuccine noodles by hand?  (Hint:  not me.)  Cutting the noodles so they were the same length and width was a challenge.  They still looked pretty good when I was finished, considering!

And that’s the last hopeful photo you’ll ever see of my basil-and-thyme fettuccine.  Since it would be a couple of days before I’d need the pasta, I followed the recipe’s instructions to store the noodles in an airtight container in the fridge.  My guess is that my container wasn’t quite airtight enough, because when I opened it, this is what I saw:

Gray.  Gray.  Gray.

They smelled funky, too.  Not “bad,” just not “good.”  Not like fresh pasta.  My fettuccine joined my Cream-Filled Cake Roll in food heaven.

Tonight I’m going to make some ravioli.  Somehow crossed fingers just don’t seem like enough.

Oh, before you move on from reading this:  does anyone else see the resemblance between this egg, soy sauce, and garlic mixture, and a big ol’ puddle of vomit?

Happy eating!

Pressure cooker, take one: “refried” beans

Today marked the end of the dough chapter of my Two Week Technique saga.  A week ago, I prepared a dish using the last of my three chosen dough recipes and I should have–were I to be following my own rules–completed my education by making something with dough without a recipe.  However, my mom gave me some advice:  even the most experienced bakers usually follow some sort of a recipe because with dough, the ratios of the main ingredients are beyond crucial.  So, I made an exception.  I succeeded three times with dough and I’m good with that.  So tonight, we move on.  For the next two weeks, I’m on a mission to learn how to use my pressure cooker!

In February, I visited my grandma in Montana.  In her garage was a counter piled high with all kinds of kitchen goodies:  pots, pans, bowls, cups, ice cream makers (yes, plural)…..you name it, it was probably there.  She was getting rid of it all and encouraged me to take home whatever I wanted.  I grabbed some bowls and some mini pocket pie molds, but what really had me drooling was the pressure cooker.  My mom had recently purchased one and repeatedly gushed about it.  I snatched that sucker up and went on my merry way.

Fast forward five months.  The poor thing sat in a dark cabinet in my kitchen collecting dust.  You see, when I first took it, I was still a shitty cook.  When you’re incapable of crushing cookies into crumbs or frying bacon, you’re definitely not qualified to use a pressure cooker.  But I’ve come a long way since then, so I feel it’s time I can pursue a relationship with my pressure cooker.

The first pressure cooker recipe I chose was for “refried” beans.  The plan for dinner was tacos, which meant that even if my first pressure cooker attempt were to fail, dinner wouldn’t be ruined–it would just be beanless.

I’ve never been more nervous to try out a new cooking technique!  Not only did it take several cooking websites and multiple Youtube videos before I understood how the thing even operated, but I still didn’t have a clue what I was doing after I’d prepared my mise en place.  To top it all off, my mind was swarming with everything I’d read and seen regarding EXPLOSIONS caused by pressure cooking.  My cooker has the “safety” feature that’s meant to prevent such an event, but nothing is foolproof (and I’m no fool!).  I was a nervous wreck.

Once I added the ingredients, I locked the lid (and fumbled, despite all my practice earlier in the day).  I stood by the stove as I waited for the pressure regulator to start steaming, but not without flinching every few seconds for fear of my dear new friend exploding on me.  Eventually the pressure regulator began to hiss and I left the beans to simmer while I transported myself to the safety of another room in the house.

The recipe’s instructions were to cook the beans at high pressure for 7-10 minutes and then let them sit while the pressure released.  After I did as instructed, I removed the lid to discover that the beans were only about halfway cooked and the pot was still filled with water.  Trying not to panic, I returned the cooker to the burner and cooked them on high pressure for another few minutes.  It was such a beautiful sight to open the lid and see tender, puffy beans and almost no water!  Armed with a potato masher, I mashed the CRAP out of those beans.

These “refried” beans, though not fried at all, were really good and just what I was expecting!  It was a lot of work for something I could have easily purchased in a can, but it’s the sense of accomplishment that I love.  Plus, I’ve now been officially acquainted with my pressure cooker and I’m hoping this is a sign we’ll get along well!

Dough, take three: pizza crust

I made a mess of every utensil, bowl, appliance, and counter in my kitchen, but I did it.  I made homemade whole wheat pizza dough.  The result was an unbelievably tasty pizza:

Every homemade pizza I’ve ever made has been the product of a box of Jiffy pizza crust mix.  Even then, pizza crust inevitably sends me into fits of cuss words and a series of vows to never again make a homemade pizza.  But just like swearing to give up alcohol following a night of heavy drinking, as soon as my frustration hangover wears off I’m back to purchasing another box of Jiffy and trying again.

My battle with pizza dough has always been a case of the stupid stuff not spreading.  No matter how meticulously I slowwwwwwly pad at the dough to spread it far enough to deem it pizza-worthy, it always tears, retracts, and fights like hell to remain a ball of useless dough.  I had hoped that making my own pizza dough would resolve this issue.

The recipe for the dough was almost identical to that of the dinner rolls I made last week–the only difference being that the pizza dough didn’t call for butter and sugar like the rolls did.  I also chose to swap half the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour.  I’m not sure if this is the reason that the pizza dough was a bitch to knead, but no matter how floured the board was, the dough kept sticking to it!  This hadn’t been a problem at all with the roll dough.  I think cussing and homemade pizza go hand in hand–there’s just no getting around it.  Eventually, the dough reached the elasticity I was aiming for and I began sculpting the crust.  Guess what?  It was at least fifty-seven times easier to spread than the boxed dough!

In addition to the homemade crust, I also made some homemade pizza sauce.  I mixed six ounces of tomato paste with six ounces of water.  Our darling little old Mexican neighbor has kindly provided us with a stash of homegrown garlic, so I minced up a couple of cloves for the sauce.  [Fact:  this was the first time I’ve ever used fresh garlic, as opposed to bottled.)  After adding some basil and oregano, the pizza sauce was perfect!

Next, I smothered the crust with sauce, sprinkled it with a mix of grated Gruyere and mozzarella, and topped it with some roma tomato slices.

But I didn’t stop there.  On top of the tomatoes, I added pepperoni, fresh spinach, and a couple pinches of grated Romano and Parmesan.

When it came out of the oven, it was hard to believe I’d made it.  My homemade pizza never looks this good!  And it tasted good, too.  The texture of the crust was splendid.

I have to admit, I was slightly annoyed that so much effort was required for a simple pizza crust.  If you take the prep work and the cleanup time into consideration, I probably spent an hour on the crust alone.  But my annoyance faded when I remembered that this recipe was for multiple batches of dough, so the next time I want a homemade pizza, all I have to do is remove the dough from the freezer and thaw it out!  😀

So now I’m off to empty my dishwasher.  That’s right, I filled that sucker up making a 7-inch pizza!