Fast & Easy Hummus

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Do you love hummus? If you do, and only have had the crummy pre-made stuff from the store, you don’t know what you are missing! If you don’t like hummus and have only tried store-bought, I implore you to give it another try with homemade.  I honestly didn’t really like hummus until I my sister-in-law made some from scratch and I fell madly in love. My toddler loves it so much she eats it plain.

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Hummus is a delicious creamy blend of chickpeas (garbanzo beans for you northerners!), oil, lemon juice, salt, sesame seeds (tahini), & garlic.  When left to these simple ingredients it is sooo delicious, but can easily be dressed up with other ingredients. It is mainly used as a dip for fresh vegetables, crackers, or as a spread on sandwiches or pitas.  It is very healthy, packed with protein and the good-for-you kind of fat.

Fast & Easy Hummus

Ingredients:

– 1 can of garbanzo beans, or about 2 cups of our own pre-cooked beans

– 2-3 tbsp. olive oil

– 2 peeled cloves of garlic

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– 1 tsp. lemon juice (red wine vinegar can also be substituted)

– 3 tbsp. sesame seeds (or tahini, which is just pre-blended sesame seeds. I find it cheaper to buy the seeds themselves in bulk and add them whole.)

Put all ingredients into a food processor.  Process on high for 2-3 minutes AT LEAST. Do not be tempted to stop your food processor before this, even if the mixture is creamy-looking.  Allowing it to whip up and blend well is the secret to making it so delicious.

Serve with fresh finger veggies like carrots, celery, cucumber, or bell peppers.  Also works great with crackers (my favorite!) or as a replacement for mayo on sandwiches. When I serve it for friends, I like to sprinkle a little paprika on top and garnish with a couple of mint leaves to make it look pretty.

Other things to try to add:  Roasted red peppers, 3-4 fresh basil leaves (one of my family’s favorite),  and green onion.

*One important note about sesame seeds/tahini.  It is not recommended to serve tahini to infants, even though hummus looks a lot like baby food.  Introducing tahini too early into a child’s diet can put the child at risk for a food allergy (or so I’m told).  I can’t remember when I first gave it to my daughter, but I think it was around age 2.  You can easily make this great hummus without the sesame seeds if you want your food-eating infant to enjoy it as well.

For the Love of Beans

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Beans, as you may have heard, are magical.  They are magical not because they give you gas (which can be avoided, FYI!), but because they are a low-fat, protein & iron-rich food that comes completely unprocessed from plants! Yay!  They are also delicious.

I didn’t always like beans. In fact, when I was younger I pretty much avoided them as much as possible. I’m not sure what changed, but after preparing them myself for several years, they have become a staple in my diet. I even crave them.

If you only buy beans in a can, you are missing out.  Not only is it WAY more expensive to buy them in a can, but they are also more processed and contain a lot more salt than is necessary.  Most people avoid cooking their own beans from dry because it is so time consuming. Well guess what? It’s time to get over that.  With a little thinking ahead, you can have your own beans that are ready to use at a moments notice WITHOUT using canned. The secret? Cooking & freezing beans in bulk.

Every 6-8 weeks I take about a day to soak, cook, & freeze enough beans in a few varieties to last us for the next 6-8 weeks. I usually freeze them in quart bags, which I lay flat in my freezer and they stack up quite nicely.  When I want to use them, I just pop them out of the freezer, into the microwave on defrost, or right into a pot already cooking full of goodness on the stove. Ta da!

The method I use is simple. It is a little time consuming, but definitely NOT labor intensive. You just have to plan ahead a little bit.  This method is the soak-rinse-cook-rinse method, and when followed, will DRASTICALLY REDUCE if not ELIMINATE the dreaded gaseous side affects from eating beans.

Soak-Rinse-Cook-Rinse Method:

Place your dry beans in a bowl. Choose a bowl that is large enough that you only fill it about half-way, because when beans soak, they expand a lot.  Cover the beans in cool water with about 1-2 inches of water above the level of the beans.  Cover with a dish towel and allow to sit overnight, or for at least 10-12 hours.

When you come back to your beans, you will notice they have expanded nicely! Good job, beans!  Rinse them thoroughly under cold water in a colander.

Put the rinsed beans into either a pot on the stove or a crockpot.  Cover again with water, about 1-2 inches above the level of the beans.  Season as desired. I usually add a little salt, garlic & onion powder. Cook until soft.

The amount of time needed to cook depends on the variety of the beans. Black beans are a pretty hard bean, and will take longer, whereas great northern beans or navy beans are much softer and will take less time.  Be careful not to overcook them because they will become mushy in any dish you add them to.  Unless you are making refried beans, then it doesn’t matter as much.  It is usually about 1 hour. This is a great list of recommended cooking times for beans.

If cooking in a crockpot, you can put it on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 5-6 hours.  I usually have one variety cooking in my crockpot and another two boiling on my stove.

After cooking is complete, rinse the beans again in a colander under cool water. Rinsing the beans twice is very important for washing away the chemicals that give you gas. Rinse rinse rinse!!

Fill your quart bags 1/2 full and lay flat in the freezer. One of these bags is usually the perfect portion of beans for my small family of 3. The three staple varieties in my household are black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans.

Give beans a chance! They are a wonderful food!

Couscous & Beans

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I regularly cook with couscous, and people are always asking me about this strange little food.  It originates in northern Africa, and is actually a close relative to pasta and not a grain like quinoa as is a common misconception. It is quick and easy to make, and can be dressed up in lots of different ways.  This recipe highlights one of my favorite ways to eat it.

Couscous & Beans

Ingredients:

– 2 cups couscous

– 3 cups water (or vegetable stock)

– 1 cube vegetable bouillon (omit if using stock)

– 1/2 tbsp. butter

– 1 can pinto or black beans (or 16 oz. soaked, cooked & frozen beans)

– 1-2 cups sautéed veggies (onion, green pepper, carrot, celery, get creative!)

– Salt & pepper to taste

Bring water & bouillon or stock to a boil in a medium sauce pan.  If your vegetables are not already sautéed, then do that on the side in a frying pan with a little olive oil. I frequently make this when I have leftovers from stir fry or fajitas, so I often have them pre-cooked.

When the water comes to a boil, stir in the couscous & beans.  If your beans are frozen, add them to the water while still boiling, let the water return to a boil and THEN add the couscous.  Remove from heat, cover, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, fluff with a fork & toss with butter & vegetables. Salt and pepper to taste.

I usually serve this well-rounded dish as a stand-alone meal, but it could also work well as a side dish to a larger meal.

Couscous can be expensive when purchased in most mainstream grocery stores.  If you are lucky enough to live near a WINCO, they sell it very inexpensively in bulk (meaning the scoop-it-yourself kind, not the COSTCO kind of bulk) in a couple of varieties! You can also find it in bulk at stores like Whole Foods. Buying in scoop-it-yourself bulk is the secret to eating well on a budget.