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vegetarian

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Making Hummus at Home

October 13, 2013

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Being a vegetarian, I consume a lot of hummus. It’s a great source of protein and makes a super healthy dip to enjoy while watching football games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. It’s no secret that I slather hummus on everything from sandwiches to veggies to pizza.

I’ve known that making hummus at home is easy for a long time, and I’ve even made a couple batches of hummus in the past, but I never got into the habit of regularly making it at home from week to week. Instead, I would shell out a lot of money for hummus at the grocery store. I think what deterred me was the fact that most good hummus recipes called for the inclusion of tahini, or sesame seed paste, in order to get the taste and texture achieved by store brands. And since a jar of tahini can be a little pricier (on par with a nice jar of almond butter) I thought it seemed silly to buy a jar just to use a couple tablespoons in a recipe for hummus. I didn’t really take the time to think about the fact that a single jar of tahini could last me weeks of not months.

For the past couple months, I’ve been making it a weekly routine to whip up a batch of hummus for the week. It’s much less expensive than buying it at the store and the results are delicious. Plus, I love being able to customize the hummus I make and control what ingredients are put into the mix. This recipe has been in heavy rotation at our house, and I think the addition of buffalo wing sauce really punches up the flavor. It’s not so much that you’re overwhelmed with buffalo flavor, just enough to add a little heat. Of course, you could leave out the buffalo sauce and sub a little bit of extra olive oil and water instead.

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Buffalo Hummus
Ingredients
*2 cans (15 oz each) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
*1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
*1 to 2 tablespoons water to thin, if necessary/desired
*1/2 to 1 tsp. salt (taste at 1/2 teaspoon and add more salt if desired)
*1/2 teaspoon paprika
*1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

Directions
*Combine all the above ingredients together in a food processor and process 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary, until hummus is smooth and well blended. If desired, you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to thin the hummus a bit, or omit the water completely for a thicker hummus. Transfer to a plastic storage container to store. Store in refrigerator.

Happy Cooking!
Madison

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Tuscan Kale Salad with Feta

September 11, 2013

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Let’s take a little break from talking about all things travel and talk a bit about food. Since, you know, this is supposed to be a food blog. I think I mentioned that I was heavily influenced by the food we enjoyed while in Tuscany, right? Well in case you missed that tidbit, I was totally enamored with the food we ate in this amazing region of Italy. Actually, I was really surprised at how different the food was as we traveled throughout the country. I naively believed that the cuisine would be very similar everywhere we went. And while there are a lot of similarities from region to region, each place we visited was very distinct.

Joe and I both agreed that the hearty, earthy and complex flavors we tasted in Tuscany were our favorite. I fell head-over-heels for ribolita (a bread, bean and vegetable stew) and the heavy use of spices like rosemary and thyme. While we were at our wine class we learned that many times the types of cuisine present in an are were influenced by the types of wine native to that area. The rich, earthy flavors found in Tuscan cooking perfectly compliment the Chianti and Brunello wines grown in the region. Those Italians know what they’re doing!

Ever since I returned home, I’ve been pulled to earthier flavor profiles and simple, yet tasty dishes that are heavy on the crusty bread. I can’t get enough of that stuff! After returning from Italy, I also had a renewed commitment to cooking with high quality ingredients. Maybe that’s why I shopped entirely at Whole Foods for our groceries this week? Good thing I did because I was able to pick up two bunches of this beautiful Tuscan kale for only $4!

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Prior to my trip to Whole Foods I had been unable to find Tuscan kale (also known as lacinato kale) at the local grocery stores. The leaves of this type of kale are flat rather than ruffled. I really love that there are fewer ribs in this type of kale, meaning you only have to remove the center rib in the kale before cooking. If you can get your hands on this variety, I would highly recommend it.

As for this salad, it’s about as simple as you can get. The kale is seasoned and sauteed in a skillet, then tossed with toasted bread cubes drizzled in olive oil and topped with feta cheese. It’s not directly inspired by any dish we ate while on vacation, but the flavor profile is heavily influenced by our trip, and the dish is ultra satisfying. I’ve enjoyed it for dinner twice already this week!

Tuscan Kale Salad with Feta
Makes 1 meal-sized serving
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups Tuscan kale (aka lacinato kale, which I got at Whole Foods), ribs removed and chopped roughly
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of dried thyme and rosemary
1 thick slice whole grain crusty bread, toasted and cut into cubes
1 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Directions
In large skillet over medium heat, combine the kale and 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil, the salt and thyme and rosemary. Use your hands to work the oil into the kale to coat completely. Cook, stirring frequently, 4 to 6 minutes or until kale is softened and slightly crunchy around the edges. Remove from heat.

Drizzle remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over bread cubes. Add bread cubes to skillet and toss to combine. Transfer to bowl. Top with the cheese. Serve immediately.

Happy Cooking!
Madison

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End of Summer Salad

August 26, 2013

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We have been swimming in produce over here! This weekend my mom brought us a basket full of peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and other veggies that were absolutely beautiful! And then there is the abundance of produce we have at our house: cherry tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, basil. Oh, and did I mention we’re also members of a CSA, so we get a box of produce every week? Yeah, like I said, we have a lot of produce at our house.

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This week I bought a ton of lettuce (one of the few produce item we don’t have) and decided that this week is all about eating down the veggies in our house in the form of salads. Already this past weekend I consumed four large salads and I don’t see my salad consumption slowing down. But in order to keep things interesting, I’ve been playing around with flavor combinations and cooking methods, like adding roasted corn on the cob to a crisp Romaine salad.

I also picked up a bottle of light spicy Thai peanut salad dressing at Target this week that I’ve fallen in love with. When left to my own devices, I tend to gravitate toward creamy salad dressings like Caesar or blue cheese. But it was nice to mix things up with something a little fresh that brings out the flavor of the veggies rather than mask them. This salad is ultra simple and hardly counts as a real recipe, but when my mom said it was one of the best salads she had eaten in a long time, I figured it was worth sharing, if nothing else than for the fact that it might serve as salad inspiration.

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End of Summer Salad
Makes 3 servings
Ingredients
*2 hearts of Romaine lettuce, chopped
*1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
*1/2 to 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
*3 heads sweet corn, grilled or boiled, salted and removed from cob
*1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
*Mild Thai Peanut salad dressing (I like this brand I bought from Target)

Directions
*Divide the lettuce among three bowls, Top with the avocado, tomatoes and sweet corn. Sprinkle with the fresh basil. Lightly dress with the thai peanut salad dressing. Serve immediately.

Happy cooking!
Madison

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Asiago Basil Pesto

July 23, 2013

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Hello, friends! I’ve really been behind on the blogging front, haven’t I? Truth be told, I’ve been in a bit of a rut when it comes to matters of blogging and sharing on the internet. Since I create recipes for a living and spend a lot of time in the kitchen during my work day, I tend to gravitate to simple cooking at home. When work gets busy (aka I’m doing a lot of cooking) I don’t really care to spend a long time in the kitchen cooking yet another meal. Instead, I throw together easy dishes that aren’t exactly blog-worthy. Unless you want to see endless yogurt bowls and large salads made up of whatever is found in my fridge.

Our garden has been growing like crazy! Well, our tomatoes, zucchini and basil have been growing like crazy. In fact, our zucchini is taking over our garden at an alarmingly rapid pace.

Since we have so much basil, I figured it was high time to make pesto. During the winter months I crave pesto like crazy, but since basil is pricey in the winter, I try to take advantage of pesto during the warmer months when its incredibly cheap to make. Especially when you grow your own herbs.

Joe is semi-allergic to walnuts so I kept this pesto super simple with just basil, Asiago cheese, plenty of lemon juice and a little salt. It made an amazing addition to a bowl of whole wheat pasta and would be a great dressing for grilled veggies or a grain salad.

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Asiago Basil Pesto
Ingredients
*3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
*1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
*1/3 cup olive oil
*Juice from 1/2 a lemon
*Pinch of salt (optional)

Directions
*Place all the above ingredients together in a food processor and blend until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Happy Cooking!
Madison

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Barley and Bean Pesto Salad

May 30, 2013

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Summer seems to be taking its sweet time arriving in Minnesota this year. And to say that the weather has been crazy this month would be an understatement. We had snow, rain, hail, 100 degree temps and 30 degree temps. And right now? Well it’s as muggy as Florida with treats of severe weather and tornados. Crazy, I tell you!

And while summer may not be here in full force, Joe and I have certainly been eating meals that feel like summer. So take that, Minnesota. Grain salads packed with veggies are one of my summer favorites. They are fresh and hearty and store well for a couple days in the refrigerator, meaning I can take leftovers to work the next day. Major bonus.

I ate more than my fair share of this salad last night. Probably a little more than I should have, since I was absolutely stuffed after dinner. Considering that this salad is packed with good-for-you ingredients like barley, black beans and green beans, I guess there are worse things to overdose on.

If you’re looking for a dish to take to a picnic or barbecue, I would highly recommend taking along this salad. It’s incredibly versatile and easy to customize. If you leave off the feta cheese this dish can also be made vegan, just be sure the purchased pesto you use is vegan, too. Or make your own if you’re feeling like an overachiever! 

Barley and Bean Pesto Salad
Makes 2 to 3 dinner-sized servings or 4 to 6 smaller side dish servings
Ingredients
Dressing
3/4 cup baby spinach
2 tablespoons purchased pesto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salad
1 1/2 cups cooked barley (I love the quick cooking barley from Trader Joe’s)
8 oz steamed and chopped green beans
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 to 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions
1. In a food processor, combine all the dressing ingredients. Process until blended and well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
2. Combine the barley, green beans and black beans in a large bowl. Toss with dressing until well combined. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Top with crumbled feta cheese. This salad can be served warm, at room temp or chilled. I prefer it chilled.

Happy Cooking!
Madison

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