Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Heavenly Homemade Hummus

run food processor and drop garlic cloves in

One lemon is usually enough...also use a very high quality olive oil (you do get what you pay for)

Fine tune as you process

Add fresh lemon juice 
(DO NOT USE 'realemon' bottled lemon juice)

The whipped/creamy consistency that we like

My 11 year old recipe from Bon Appetit magazine that I've fine tuned

drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle
with some authentic paprika

serve (again, drizzle with EVOO and paprika sprinkle)
with some hot pita bread
(don't serve with cold pita bread)

Hummus is one of the healthiest (and even cheap) foods – yet it’s so good and there is nothing to feel guilty about. 

I don’t like store bought ones-they taste dry and not very flavorful.  Fresh (no more than two days old) homemade hummus is the best.  Many Middle Eastern restaurants make their own hummus and the fresh taste is just like homemade.  I prefer a fairly whipped/creamy consistency for hummus-this allows the subtle flavors to be showcased and not be overcome by a dry texture.

Many people like to make variations of this.  I like the old fashioned, traditional hummus.  Some cultures make it with fava beans  also.

Hummus Recipe

2 15 ½ ounce cans of garbanzo beans drained (save a little water for part of the water for mixing (or one 29 ounce can)
½ cup water (mixed with garbanzo bean can liquid)-will add more later (to taste)
½ cup tahini  (it helps to bring tahini to room temperature so you add a consistent mix of this as it tends to separate when refrigerated)
½ cup (but will add more) Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you really get what you pay for with olive oil-the cheap extra virgin olive oils aren’t even real-caveat emptor)
1 heaping teaspoon of ground cumin
3 cloves of garlic
1 lemon

Run garlic through food processor (have the food processor running and throw in garlic cloves-turn off when all crushed).

Put garbanzo beans along with all other ingredients, pulse first and then run food processor for a few minutes.  At this point you will need to fine tune this recipe. As I mentioned,  I like hummus that has a slightly whipped consistency (many restaurants and store bought ones are too dense and the flavor beyond the garbanzo beans doesn’t come through).  I add extra virgin olive oil as the food processor runs and a little more water.  Then I add the lemon juice (roll the lemons before squeezing – this makes it easier to squeeze the juice out).  If after adding the lemon juice it’s still too dense, add a little more extra virgin olive oil and a bit water (again the consistency is a matter of preference).

Transfer to serving plates/bowl-drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a bit of real Hungarian paprika on it (this is how most middle eastern restaurants serve it).  Serve with some warmed up pita bread (the fresher the better).

Hummus is an extremely healthy dish. Another side benefit of homemade hummus for us is that Jordan can eat it! It's not cross contaminated with dairy, nuts, etc.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Don’t feel like cooking – make some convenient homemade food

Lo Mein Noodles with pan fried tofu and vegetables

The quality of the ingredients does make a difference

It was an “I don’t feel like cooking night.”  A long week (still not done) combined with some other things led me to not really wanting to cook. I don’t have the option to carry out because of Jordan’s food allergies, but even without food allergies we all know the carry out food is processed food with bad ingredients and we should refrain as much as we can from breaking down and giving into it.

Initially, I was going to try to make a really fast dinner but had no idea what to cook (because nothing made from scratch is that fast).  Half the battle was walking into the kitchen.  Once in the kitchen I thought maybe some sort of Chinese style noodle for Jordan would work (I’m not even that hungry and there were leftovers).   So I created this fairly quick, on the fly, dinner.  I wasn’t in the mood for meat (plus nothing was thawed out). 

Get the bland out

I don’t like mushy and bland tofu.  There are two ways to eliminate the bland mushiness.  First, after squeezing the liquid out (there are many techniques for this-I put a plate with some weight over it), marinate the tofu.  Second, pan-fry the tofu on high heat.  During the last 5 minutes of the pan-frying, drizzle cornstarch on the different sides and this will give a little brown crust.

Another ingredient that is useful for this style of cooking is 365 Organic Expeller Pressed Canola Oil.  This oil has a much higher frying temperature than extra virgin olive oil and it doesn’t have a strong domineering taste either.  Instead, this oil will let the flavors of the ingredients dominate.  Expeller pressed oils retain most of their nutrients including valuable Omega 3 (alpha linolenic acid) and 6 (linoleic acid) essential fatty acids. Canola oil is a rich source of vitamin E, an important dietary antioxidant. Canola oil also contains the lowest amount of total saturated fat of commonly consumed vegetable oils.  You can do more research on this, but regular vegetable oil is highly processed.  The Kadoya sesame oil is not a cooking oil and is used for flavoring the dish.


Tofu Mushroom Lo Mein Noodles

 Grab about  2" around Lo mein noodles (this is approximate)
1.5 cups thinly sliced  shitake mushrooms
1 large can of straw mushroom (optional)
5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
small can of sliced water chestnuts
¼ cup. organic soy sauce (I used 365 brand – I don’t use genetically modified soy)
2-3 tspb. cornstarch
3+ tbs.  vegan oyster sauce (vegetarian stir fry sauce)
     (if not allergic to shellfish or not vegan you can use oyster sauce-oyster sauce is very salty)
about 1 cup of chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 tsp. unprocessed cane sugar
extra firm Nasoya tofu with water pressed out
1/3 cup (approximate) 365 Expeller pressed canola oil
drizzle of Kadoaya Sesame Oil

Dice tofu and marinate in about ¼ cup of soy sauce in a zip lock bag for about ½ hour.

make a small slurry of 1.5 tbs. corn starch and water

boil lo mein noodles in salted water for about 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

chop all vegetables

Pan fry tofu in oil on high heat; be careful not to break the tofu.  As the tofu browns (after about 5 minutes) sprinkle cornstarch on it and turn over so that the corn starch roasts.  Drizzle more cornstarch on the tofu and turn.  This will make the outside of the tofu a little crispy.   Take tofu out and put on a plate.

Stir fry vegetables (can add other vegetables like water chestnuts or baby corn etc.) for about 5 minutes over medium high heat.
Add chopped garlic and fry for one minute
Add stir soy sauce and stir, add stir fry sauce and add chicken stock until it gets to the right flavor (about 1 cup-without stock it will be too salty).
Pour cornstarch slurry into the liquid part (in a wok you can move the vegetables to the side) as the liquid burns.  The corn starch will thicken the boiling liquid.    Once thickened, add the noodles and toss thoroughly.    Mix thoroughly on high heat and noodles will steam. 
Add tofu back
add sesame oil (this is at the end for flavor and heat on high heat).
Drizzle chopped green onion on top


(note:  This can also be made with chicken or other meat also.  I prefer to marinate the meat Asian style)

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bodylicious Bacon Brunch

365 Organic uncured bacon from whole foods

This is how it looks when you take it out
of the oven
-looks 'not done,' but it is
Pat dry and let it sit for a few minutes, now it is done

 ....bacon that won't kill you

I don’t like bacon, I never did.  But my 12 year old son LOVES bacon.  So I have to make bacon for him.  He’s not alone, a lot of people seem to love bacon…they love bacon flavor. 

I can’t make the typical bacon for him for two reasons:  1.  I know bacon is not healthy between the fat and nitrites; I can’t feed this to my child with a clear conscience.  2.  Most bacon has lactic acid derived from dairy.  So that’s out for us.

So here is another situation where the EE and food allergies led me to a healthier option.  Get the flavor without carcinogens.

I found organic bacon at Whole Foods (365 brand) that is uncured with no nitrites that tastes as good as any bacon, or even better (I do taste tests and the bacon lovers at home tell me that this is the best bacon they’ve had).  Yes, from a monetary standpoint it is more expensive than your run of the mill bacon, but you will not be paying for this bacon with your body (cancer, etc.). 

This is a very simple recipe, smells great and tastes great.  There is no dairy derivate in it and I don’t have to feel bad about knowingly feeding my child garbage.  So even if he didn’t have dairy allergies, I would continue with this version of bacon.

The recipe is fairly simple, and smells great too.    You could vary the recipe by brushing a little maple (real) syrup on top for the last 5 minutes.  I’ve read and tried a lot of bacon recipes.  Some put the bacon on a rack….this is a mess and also  results in a really long dishwashing project.  I find parchment paper works the best.


1 12 oz. pack 365 Organic brand Uncured Smokehouse bacon (see photo)
Wilton parchment paper
Roasting pan (I love the Food Network one-great for roasting potatoes)

Preheat oven to 400
Line out roasting pan with parchment paper
Line up bacon-don’t overlap

Bake for about 20-25 minutes (keep checking, ovens vary)

Take out of oven, use tongs to place bacon on a paper towel lined plate and pat dry with paper towels.

Let it rest for a few minutes so it can harden.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Coffee Shop Creativity

Why am I more creative, calm and productive at a coffee shop than elsewhere?

As I’m waiting for some service on my car, I decided to work from the Starbucks across the street from the dealer.  I brought plenty of work to do.  I have lots of emails to read through and some projects to plan. 

Working seems totally effortless here.  I always enjoy working at Starbucks; whether it’s my job related work or even just personal computer type activity. It doesn’t feel like work.

So I started thinking (I actually think here) why is this.  Is it the music?  Is it seeing people come and go?  Is it the sound of the coffee grinding or the smell of freshly brewed coffee?  It’s probably a combination of all these things to a point.  But I think the main reason I’m more focused, calm and productive here is that there are no reminders of my daily stressors-or at least they are minimal.  It’s just a world of my computer, my work, my extra hot soy latte and me.  No reminders that I have to rush to a meeting, or that I don’t have enough daylight in my work area or drifting into a conversation I’m overhearing.  Even from home, no reminders that I better get my roof inspected, or that that some of the carpeting should be replaced, or that the house needs cleaning and painting, or that my property taxes are going through the roof, or the endless list of things that are in the back of my mind all the time. I did handle realities about life here also by taking calls during my 'coffee shop work session,' but I was able to calmly focus and not get lost in my world of stress.  It’s almost time for the phone call stating that the car is ready.  I’m not looking forward to it. 

No wonder J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter in a coffee shop...and look at her life now.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 A Canine Odyssey

Sylar on  the 2011 Canine Odyssey

We have the first scene from 2001 Space Odyssey happening at home.  I recently bought a new type of kong toy.  It looks like the usual kong toy-but it’s huge and not for chewing.  You put treats in it and there is a small opening on the side.  The point is to roll it around and at the right angle the treats fall out. 

The monolith

So I added the favorite dog treats inside.  Once unrolled, I felt like I was watching the monolith scene (with the apes) from the movie.  After wondering what it was (yet they could smell treats)-they treated it like it was a totally alien object.  The largest dog (Athena) tried to dominate it by sitting by it.  She didn’t quite get it, but had to dominate it.  I showed them that treats fall out of it.  They still  kept looking at it, as if it was the monolith in 2001 Space Odyssey.  After I did some ‘refereeing,’ Sylar (smallest dog) is the most curious and is constantly trying to figure out what to do with this.  I wonder if Sylar will invent a tool now…..

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

That's all he left (Chocolate Chip Meringues)

This is all that is left of 3 dozen meringues

We made 3 dozen of these yesterday and this is all that’s left. 

This is a very easy recipe for chocolate chip meringues.  No baking is needed.  I modified an Emeril Lagasse recipe that I saw on the Food Network a long time ago while waiting for Jordan to return from kindergarten.  He had walnuts in it also.  We are dealing with nut allergies, so that is not an option.  Additionally, I think the nuts would wash out the great flavor combination of chocolate and meringue.

Last night Jordan was craving these, so we made them at 10 PM. By 7 PM, not much left.  I even had a few.  These meringues are not baked and they retain a very moist flavor.  I've found the baked versions to be more dry.

Chocolate Chip Meringue Recipe

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4-teaspoon cream of tartar   
1-cup superfine granulated sugar  
1.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 cup semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped semisweet chocolate  1 cup finely

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy (use the whisk type attachement, not the paddle one)
Add the cream of tartar and beat until fluffy but not at all dry. (Be careful not to over beat.) Add the sugar gradually, about 3 tablespoons at a time.
When 1/2 of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla extract. Continue beating and adding remaining sugar gradually until all of the sugar is dissolved and the meringue is very shiny and tight. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. 
Working one teaspoon at a time, push a teaspoonful of meringue from the tip of 1 teaspoon with the back of another teaspoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving 1-inch of space between cookies.  You can make swirly tops.  You can also pipe this…but the simplest way is to use a spoon.

Place baking sheets in the preheated oven and turn the oven off. Leave the cookies (undisturbed) in the oven for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, or until cookies are crisp and dry.  No baking is needed.

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