One of my favorite Lebanese restaurants churns out smooth, creamy hummus that’s unlike anything I’ve been able to make at home. Until now. The secret I’ve found is foregoing the canned chickpeas – you know, the ones that smell like cat food when you open them?
In playing around with making hummus from scratch I discovered that I was usually adding extra ingredients – more and more garlic, olive oil, and seasoning to cover up the tin taste of the canned chickpeas. When you make hummus from dried beans there’s no off taste to cover up, the beans are flavorful all by themselves. Making hummus with dried chickpeas doesn’t involve many more steps, just a little more planning. Plus, a bag of dried chickpeas costs a lot less than buying cans!
Tips for hummus success:
- Don’t use flavored olive oil – I tried with with garlic oil and the flavor overpowers the chickpeas
- Do blend in extra ingredients, like roasted red pepper, once you’ve made your hummus (although the plain variety is the best when you make it from dried beans)
- Hummus becomes fluffier in texture on day #2
- Chickpeas cook more evenly in a smaller crockpot but go ahead and use what you have on hand
- Do double or triple this recipe!
Yield: 1 1/4 cups
1 cup dried chickpeas (usually available at the grocers either by the canned beans or in the Mexican food section)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. tahini (in a pinch you can substitute 1 tbsp. peanut butter plus 1/2 tbsp. each more olive oil and more reserved liquid)
1/2 clove garlic or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1-4 tbsp. reserved liquid from the beans
1/2 juice from a fresh lemon
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1-2 tsp. salt (sea salt, preferred)
- Place the dried chickpeas in a crockpot and cover with water – about 1″ above the beans. Soak overnight.
- Rinse the chickpeas and empty the water from the crockpot. Place the rinsed chickpeas back into the crockpot and cover again with water – about 1″ above the beans. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the beans are tender (it’s okay to overcook the beans a bit). *Add in 1/2 tsp. salt halfway through cooking.
- Ready the food processor! Drain the cooked chickpeas, reserving the extra liquid.
- Put the lid onto the food processor and place the oil into the dispensing funnel (if you have one; alternatively place the olive oil in with the beans before processing) and pulse the beans until they become mushy.
- Remove the lid and add the tahini and seasonings; blend again. Add salt to taste.
- Adjust the consistency of the hummus with the reserved liquid. If you like a smoother consistency by all means add more – if chunky is your style, you’re done.
- To serve place the hummus, in a bowl and drizzle with extra olive oil and roasted pumpkin seeds or sprinkle with smoked paprika or cayenne pepper. Last night I just put a big pile of hummus on each kid’s plate.
Happy National Chocolate Chip Day! To commemorate the invention of chocolate chip cookies by a creative baker back in the 1930s, May 15th is the day to bake up a batch. But cookies are so 2013. Make muffins instead to pair chocolate chips with something a little healthier – oats.
Makes 12 regular-sized muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour (or go half whole-wheat, half all purpose or use just all-purpose)
1 cup oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (opt.)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk
1 cup mini-chocolate chips
2 tbsp. ground flax seed (opt.)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large bowl mix together the dried ingredients.
- In another bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
- Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones until just softened.
- Fill each of the muffin tins up 2/3 full. (You can use muffin papers or generously grease the pan with baking spray.)
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until just browned around the edges.
Optional: Add sugar crystals, chopped nuts, or extra mini-chocolate chips on top of the batter before baking.
*Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is.
Once a year my mother would make chocolate mousse. It was usually at Christmas time.
Well, it’s not Christmas but for Mother’s Day I thought making mom’s mousse recipe would be a fitting way to celebrate. Right now my mom and dad are living abroad at the moment as medical missionaries so communication is with sporadic emails. For Mother’s Day I’m remembering mom by making her mousse recipe. It’s simple – chocolate, heavy cream, eggs (they’re not cooked). My mom always ordered fresh heavy cream for the milk man. I was able to get mine through a special order from my CSA, Fresh Fork Market.
Prep time: 10 minutes or less
Servings: About 6
6 ozs. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 tbsp. water
2 whole eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
- In a glass measuring cup, melt the chocolate chips with water in the microwave. Whisk until smooth and allow to cool.
- In a blender, blend together the eggs, vanilla, and sugar for 2 minutes.
- Add the cream and blend again for 1 minute.
- Add the chocolate mixture into the blender and blend for another minute.
- Pour the mousse into 6 glass containers (4-oz. ramekins work well).
- Refrigerate overnight and serve with whipped cream and fresh berries.
Ramps are the first sign – and taste – of spring. In appearance ramps look like tulip leaves outfitted with green onion bulbs. And the flavor is a mild to robust garlicly zing with undercurrents of onion.
Now how to get your kids to try leeks … there’s no disguising ramps green color but you can meld the flavor in with other foods that are familiar to your kiddos. Here are a few ways we’ve used them so far, so good.
Mixed into shredded lettuce on tacos
Thin sliced ramps can be tossed into shredded iceberg lettuce and then used to top tacos.
Sauteed in scrambled eggs
In a skillet add 1 tablespoon of butter and bring it to medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of thin-sliced leeks to the butter and saute for 1 minute. Add in whisked eggs and scramble.
Stirred into cream cheese as a dip for chips
Purchase a container of whipped cream cheese and mix in chopped ramps along with salt and pepper to taste. Offer this as a dip for your kids with tortilla chips, baby carrots, and/or celery sticks.
Blended into sauces
Time to whip out the blender. Use it to mix ramps into spaghetti sauce or other colorful sauces that love garlic.
I used ramp leaves instead of lettuce on sandwiches.
Now it’s your turn: Have you tried ramps? How do you like to serve them?
Tres Leches translates into three milks cake. With nearly the consistency of a pudding cake, the dense cake batter is designed to soak up a sweetened milk glaze that you pour over it before after baking and before adding the frosting.
I first sampled the traditional vanilla tres leches not in Mexico, but La Crosse, Wisconsin of all places. In a tiny Mexican restaurant frequented by college students and foodies our server brightened when we ordered the tres leches. The owner of Iguana’s Mexican Street Cafe made it from scratch and took great pride in serving us a huge slice. I’ve been thinking about making it ever since. That was July.
I wanted to amp up the flavor of the cake so of course I thought it needed chocolate. I found a version of Chocolate Rum Cake from Chow that lead me through how to add chocolate to both the cake batter and the tres leches glaze. But I also wanted to temper some of the tres leches glaze, which can become too sweet for my taste, with another ingredient. I found it in coconut milk – a great stand-in for much of the heavy cream and some of the sweetened condensed milk. I just couldn’t stop there. I also added dark cocoa powder into the whipped frosting for a rich dessert that really is more like Cinco Leches – sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, coconut milk, heavy cream, and milk chocolate chips. I usually opt for semi-sweet but this creamy dessert works better with a milky chocolate.
Both of the recipes I combined made the tres leches cake as a layer cake. I like it better in a casserole dish – it’s easier to make that way and serves more people. If you want a layered cake go ahead but your cake may not soak up all the tres leches glaze, which was another reason I went with the dish – I didn’t want to lose any of the sauce!
For the cake
¾ cup water
2 tsp. dark cocoa powder (opt. I used black onyx)
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ cups sugar
5 large egg yolks
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)
8 large egg whites
¾ tsp. cream of tartar
For the tres leches
4 ounces chocolate (milk chocolate chips work well)
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup evaporated milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)
For the frosting
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp. dark cocoa powder
1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)
For the garnish
Shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
Mini chocolate chips
For the cake
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously coat the inside of a 9” x 13” casserole dish with cooking spray.
- Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, ½ tsp. salt, and ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar in a large mixing bowl.
- In another bowl whisk the egg yolks, oil, and extracts until combined. Whisk dark cocoa powder into the water right in the measuring cup and then whisk into the egg mixture.
- Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the flour until combined. (Lots of whisking!)
- In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites, ½ tsp. salt, and the cream of tartar in a bowl until the egg whites become frothy, about 2 minutes. (Yes, you’re essentially making a meringue.) Gradually add the rest of the sugar, ¾ cup, into the egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
- Working in three batches, add 1/3 of the egg whites to the flour-egg yolk mixture and fold together until there are no white streaks. Follow the same procedure with the rest of the egg whites.
- Pour the batter into the casserole dish and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Test to see if the cake is done by putting a toothpick into the center – if it comes out clean take the cake out of the oven. Cool the cake for 10 minutes.
For the tres leches glaze
- In a large, glass measuring bowl, melt together the chocolate and ¼ cup heavy cream in the microwave on medium-high heat for 90 seconds. Stir until smooth.
- Allow to cool slightly.
- Whisk in coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, extracts.
- Pour 1/3 of the tres leches glaze onto the cake. Wait 10 minutes and then pour the next 1/3. Follow the same process with the rest of the glaze.
- Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, if possible, overnight.
For the whipped topping
- With a hand-held mixer beat the whipping cream until frothy. Add the coconut milk and powdered sugar to the whipping cream until stiff, about 3 minutes.
- Add in the extracts and cocoa powder and whip 30 more seconds.
- Spread the whipped topping onto the cake using a spatula.
- Optional toppings – shredded coconut and mini chocolate chips.
- Refrigerate 1 more hour.
- On a large plate use chocolate sauce (such as Hershey’s syrup – it’s for the design not the flavor) and make a swirl shape on the plate.
- Use the extra tres leches sauce in the pan to do another swirl of sauce.
- Cut the cake into square pieces.
*Not a coconut fan? The coconut flavor in this recipe is subtle. Nix the coconut extract and the coconut milk in the whipped topping if you don’t like coconut. Keep it in the tres leches and you probably won’t notice it. Or, just go ahead and use all heavy cream instead of any coconut milk.
Ramps look like a cross between a green onion and a leek – but they have a pungent oniony-garlic flavor softened with a hint of sweetness. Also known as wild leeks, ramps are a sign it’s spring!
In my bag from my local CSA (community supported agriculture), Fresh Fork Market, I had a bunch of fresh ramps in need of a home. I paired them with a creamy au gratin recipe.
How do you cook with ramps? It’s easy. Wash them and then slice them thin as you would green onions. Remove any filmy parts that may be coming off the white ends already. For this recipe I used the entire ramp—white and green parts. Time to get cooking!
6 Medium potatoes (Red, Yukon, regular, or a combination)
3 tbsp. butter
¼ cup onion, diced small
1/4 -1/2 cup sliced ramps
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground pepper
¼ tsp. ground thyme (or 1 1/2 tsp. fresh)
1 can (12-oz.) evaporated milk
½ cup half and half
½ cup water
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, diced (opt.)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Peel potatoes and then slice thin. I used my food processor with the slicing attachment.
- Place the thin-sliced potatoes into a pot and fill with water and a generous helping of salt. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat on the stovetop. Cook until the potatoes are just barely fork tender (about 4 minutes) and drain.
- Coat a 8” x 8” or similarly sized casserole dish with cooking spray. Place the potatoes onto the greased dish. Top the potatoes with the cheese.
- In a saucepan melt the butter on medium-high heat and add in the onions. Saute until translucent (about 4 minutes). Add the ramps and the garlic and sauté for another minute.
- Turn the heat to low and add the evaporated milk and seasonings.
- In a measuring cup, whisk the flour into the half and half and water until fully combined. Slowly pour into the saucepan and gradually bring to a boil stirring constantly. Simmer until thickened (about 3 minutes).
- Pour the sauce over the potatoes and bake for 25 minutes. Broil the potatoes on high for 3 minutes to crisp the top. Allow the potatoes to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Make it a meal—add in cubed ham, steamed broccoli or whatever else you might have leftover in the fridge.
*Tweaked from a recipe for Scalloped Potatoes from Very Best Baking.
For dinner, we’ll often do a big salad–especially now that spring is finally here.
But salads can be boring. And kids know it.
So I like to play with the lettuce, toppings, and dressing to keep my kids asking, Can we have salad for dinner?
Berries–dried or fresh–are a great way to enliven a salad and add a burst of sweetness. I also like to add them into the dressing.
You can make your own vinaigrette from scratch by using equal parts vinegar (or fresh lemon juice) and olive oil along with seasonings such as dried herbs but I usually don’t have time on a weeknight meal to do all that. Instead, I start with a good quality store-bought vinaigrette as a base and then pump up the flavor.
Here’s how to make your own blackberry vinaigrette–this is the perfect starter salad dressing recipe for kids who like to help in the kitchen and are old enough to be trusted with the blender.
Yield: About 1 1/3 cups dressing
1/3 cup blackberries (or any other kind of berry, fresh or frozen)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (opt.)
1/2 tbsp. fresh parsley or other fresh herb you have on hand–basil would be fabulous (opt.)
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
- Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Drizzle on your salad.
Romaine lettuce or green leaf, topped with grated carrots, pumpkin seeds, cubed cheese like Gouda, thin sliced onion, rotisserie or grilled chicken
When I first approached my kids about having lettuce wraps for dinner I was greeted to a collective yawn. Not so when I mentioned we’d be having lettuce tacos. Sometimes, getting your kids to eat more greens is all in the phrasing.
You can fill your lettuce tacos with whatever fillings you usually use on taco night – or go for something different. We decided on a Thai-themed version.
Thai Taco Recipe
! head Boston or Romaine lettuce*
1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, chopped into small pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper (opt.)
Salt to taste (I prefer sea salt on this one)
Thai slaw (opt.)
1 1/2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 1/2 tbsps. Greek or Italian vinaigrette salad dressing (I use Matsos)
2 tbsps. mayo
Salt and pepper to taste
- Sriracha sauce
- Chopped bell red pepper
- Golden raisins
- Wash and clean the lettuce pieces – try to keep them as large as possible.
- Meanwhile, add the oil to a large saute pan and bring to medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the hot pan and saute until no longer pink. Stir in the garlic and seasonings. Finish cooking through (about 5-7 minutes total, depending on how small you diced the chicken pieces). Remove from pan; squeeze the chicken with the juice from the fresh lime.
- Lay out your DIY tacos with filling ingredients – lettuce pieces, chicken, red peppers, golden raisins, slaw, Sriracha and let your kiddos serve themselves.
*Use Boston lettuce leaves (for softer tacos) or Romaine lettuce (for a stiffer taco)
Last week I bought what was deemed an energy salad from Trader Joe’s — I needed it. I had about 10 minutes to eat something that had to fit as both lunch and dinner during a crazy day. The salad was so good I’ve been making it all week for lunch. Aptly named. The mix of spinach with crunchies like beans, dried fruit, and seeds fill you up and taste so good.
Serving: One, big, yummy salad
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
1/8 cup pumpkin seeds
1/8 cup chickpeas (canned, drained)
1/8 cup edamame
1/8 cup dried cranberries
1/8 cup shredded carrots
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger miso dressing
- Place baby spinach in the bottom of your salad bowl.
- Add remaining ingredients.
A few notes:
- I used shelled edamame seeds that came in a microwave steam bag.
- I bought miso ginger dressing, but you can make your own simple dressing by mixing equal parts olive oil and vinegar and add a little fresh lemon juice, then dried or fresh herbs.
- The leftover ingredients I stashed in the fridge and then added them to other meals for my kiddos – so far the edamame has been a hit.