Homemade Hummus Made Fresh
Hummus is a quick and delicious snack or meal. It is easy to stop at the grocery store picking up a tub. While store-bought is good, hummus made fresh is the best. When you make it yourself, it just tastes so much better and you can adjust it to your tastes. Everyone has their own recipe for hummus.
Reader’s Digest Hummus
My hummus recipe came from an old Reader’s Digest magazine. The page is crumbled and covered in stains of olive oil and tahini it has been used so much. You’d think I’d have it memorized after all of those years, but I still need it. The hummus recipe was to be used for a healthy fried chicken recipe so it wasn’t as creamy. While I have that fried chicken recipe, I’ve never made it. I just use the hummus recipe. Maybe sometime soon I’ll make that chicken recipe since it does look rather tasty. I may try it in the Air Fryer.
The recipe wasn’t creamy, but more stick to the chicken kind and that’s what it is designed to do. It was tasty but creamy and smooth hummus is so nice. I had to modify it. Not a fan of the overpowering flavor of garlic, I keep the garlic under control only using one small clove since I’m pretty sure Newport does not have a vampire problem. I add spices like cumin into the mix. I’m generous with all the other ingredients. What I have found the key to the smooth hummus is ice cubes. You blend them in one at a time until you get the texture you want. Now there is a huge debate with the Middle East as to who invented it and who makes it the best.
Not Just for Pretzels
While it is a dip, it makes a delicious spread as the filling of a fresh simple roasted Vegetable Hummus Tart. Serviced with a salad, it makes for a simple yet stunning dinner. It can also be a side such as with Imam Bayildi or Turkish Eggplant Tomato Casserole, pita, and a salad. At BJ’s, the stock really pitas. There are big, soft, and chewy which brings the whole meal together. Simple, fresh, healthy foods.
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 Tablespoon Tahini
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Teaspoon cumin
- 1 Teaspoon paprika
- 3-5 ice cubes
- Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth adding an ice cube for desired creaminess.
Plant-Based Eating – Not Just for Hippies
I’ve been down this road before regarding cutting down on meat in our family’s diet. It is a struggle to come up with varied, filling, and tasty vegetarian meals to serve to my guys that they will eat willingly. It is especially given all that is going on in my life. I’m leading two lives being a history hero by day and a cyber warrior by night. It is all good. I’m using both sides of my brain and regaining awareness of the world around me again I have not had in ages.
Helping the Environment
Being an environmental stewart has been part of my life for decades, but moving to an island has brought it front and center. We recycle, use reusable containers, reusable bags, conserve water, and compost. It isn’t easy in a culture built on ease and convenience. It is tough to remember to bring my own reusable straw. And many places will not fill your reusable bottle if it isn’t their branded cup. As a PR person, I get it from a branding perspective, but as someone who wants to do the right thing, it is frustrating with ending up with a collection of plastic drink cups. Maybe that’s a sign I need to give up my unsweetened iced tea habit from fast-food places. Add in the fact that many grocery stores have everything wrapped plastic, it is hard to get away from plastics. In fact, it seems that everything we use on a daily basis is made with plastics.
Going Towards Plant-Based
Acknowledging the above, we still have a lot more to do. One way we are working towards a more Earth-friendly life is getting serious about plant-based eating. Plant-based eating is being either a vegetarian or a vegan. Now those two words are loaded for people. That is sad since most of the planet, plant-based eating is the norm, not the exception. Meat is a special treat. The terms have become socially and politically-charged in Europe and the US. But over history, there have been movements to encourage people to eat more fruit and veg. I’m a supporter of eating more of a plant-based diet. For me, it isn’t political or a social statement, my body just feels better the more fresh fruit, veg, beans, and legumes I eat. What you eat is your choice and I will never shame anyone into eating plant-based, but I’d suggest you try one recipe a week. Start a tradition of Meatless Monday. We are up about 4-5 days a week now.
Pantry is Key
Outside of how it makes me feel, it is also budget and time friendly. Meat is expensive especially if you are purchasing, for example, natural or organic beef. Beans, rice, and legumes are priced well and you can purchase them in bulk. The key to plant-based eating for me is having a well-stocked pantry. In my basement, I have shelves of canned goods like various types of tomatoes, beans, and coconut milk as well as containers of veggie broth, rice, lentils, and pasta. I keep onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes down there as well. My freezer has frozen veg such as corn, peas, and mixed veggies and naan bread. Types of fresh peppers, cauliflower, cilantro, minced garlic, crushed ginger, curry pastes, cheeses, and other sauces are always in my fridge. On my counter, I always have apples, lemons/lime, avocados, and tomatoes. I buy the spices in bulk I use a lot of at an Indian store or Asian grocery. If one isn’t near you, it is worth it doing one big stock-up making an adventure about it. Go with a list. Once you have the pantry stocked just purchase the fresh items you need. There are times my grocery bill is $20 in a week since all I need is the fresh stuff.
We aren’t 100 percent plant-based. We love dairy products a little too much. And my guys enjoy chicken and pork. (And so do I) Fish is on the menu at our house, too. We aren’t vegetarian or vegan. That would be very hard for us, but as I said earlier we are at 4-5 times a week eating plant-based with some added dairy depending on the recipe. That said we are moving slowly towards plant-based by cutting down on dairy and have cut out beef from our grocery list.
If you are interested in a plant-based diet then I have some easy recipes to start with in my vegetarian section such as Lentil Ragu over pasta pictured above.
Or this recipe for Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with Avocado-Lime Creme. Simple ingredients to pick up at your local grocery store. I used Indian store chili powder for the sweet potatoes causing it to be very spicy. So depending on where you got your spices, amounts will change. Grocery store chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon is enough, but for me having the Indian store spices which by the way are typically stronger than the grocery store spices, I will need to cut it in half. I forgot to get yogurt so I used sour cream. Also, I used a bagged kale salad with red cabbage. Recipes like this are flexible. Adapt it to what you have on hand.
Black Bean & Sweet Potato Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Creme
- 1-2 medium sweet potato, cubed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- Flour Tortillas
- 1 can black beans, drained, and rinsed
- Kosher and freshly ground black pepper
- Avocado-Lime Creme
- ½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 small avocado
- ½ garlic clove or a small one
- Juice of 1 lime
- Kosher salt & fresh black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper, and spread onto the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the yogurt, avocado, garlic, lime juice, and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Take the Turtle Approach
Take baby steps in moving to plant-based eating. Introduce it slowly into your lifestyle as you build up a pantry and an understanding of what foods you like. The food is colorful and flavorful with lots of different textures. It will be an adjustment in mindset over the meat, starch, and veg approach most of us grew up with as kids. A good documentary to watch is Forks over Knives. Find out what works for you and then go for it.
Creamy Parmesan Gnocchi with Kale
Creamy Parmesan Gnocchi is one of the only recipe where I can get my guys to eat kale without faces of pure disgust. The menfolk in my house are not fond of kale or any other bitter greens regardless of how it is prepared. You can simmer those greens with pork, butter, and salt for years and it still isn’t tasty enough. So this is a challenge since dark leafy greens are good for you.
While I like all sorts of greens, be it not often prepared in a healthy manner outside of spinach, I want to get more greens in my family’s diet outside of salads. In the summer, salads are wonderful, but in the winter something warm and hearty is needed.
Fits the Bill
This is where Creamy Parmesan Gnocchi fits the bill. It is a one-pot meal with simple ingredients. Outside of kale and maybe gnocchi – and I’ll come to that in a minute – are pantry items. All it is veg broth, minced garlic, milk, butter, white beans, and chunk Parmesan cheese. My pantry has an array of canned white beans such as Northern White, Cannellini, and butter beans. Use whatever you have in your cabinets. The final texture may change, but do what works best for you. Shock your pantry with bottled minced garlic and veg broth. I always have “real” butter on hand to cook and bake with in my kitchen. Don’t skimp on the Parmesan cheese. Buy a chunk and grate it yourself. One it is cheaper and two it is real cheese.
You can buy various types of gnocchi today. I admit there are three packages of potato gnocchi in my cabinets along with penne pasta. I decided last winter I was going to make homemade gnocchi. As I continue to evaluate my relationship with processed foods, I look to make my food from wholesome ingredients. I have to say that homemade gnocchi is amazing compared to the store-made. Just a level of fresh and taste. While it is simple, there is a process in making them well. If you want to make homemade gnocchi then go here.
This a family favorite even with the kale in it, but when kale isn’t available then I use spinach. It is a quick vegetarian meal for a busy weekday night.
- - 1 tablespoon olive oil
- - 4 teaspoons minced garlic
- - 2 cups veggie broth
- - 1 cup milk
- - 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- - Salt and pepper, to taste
- - 16 ounces gnocchi
- - 3 cups chopped fresh kale
- - 1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained
- - ? cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- - Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
- - Add garlic; stir constantly for 1 minute until fragrant.
- - Add broth, milk, butter and a few dashes of salt and pepper.
- - Add gnocchi; stir to combine.
- - Cook, stirring often, 3 to 5 minutes until gnocchi is soft and cooked through.
- - Stir in kale, beans and Parmesan cheese.
- - Cook until kale is just wilted.
- - Serve with more grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Nothing Beats Homemade Gnocchi
Being Irish with the DNA test to show I have no southern European genes, pasta came out of a box and the sauce from a jar growing up. Fresh pasta was unknown. In the late 70s and early 80s, my mom learned how to make tomato sauce and meatballs from our Italian-American neighbors who wanted to share their love of food with us. That was the beginning of the love of Italian food.
Fast forward 30 or so years, I got the nerve to make pasta. I have been making my own sauces for years so it shouldn’t be too much of a leap for me to make my own pasta. Gnocchi is a versatile pasta working with many different sauces and soups. It is a potato dumpling.
The Gnocchi Process
Gnocchi is easy to make if you follow the recipe. There is a process to this humble food. Make it a family affair getting kids in involved in making their dinner.
Here is the low down on making them:
- The potatoes are key. Boil them with their skins on until fork tender about 20 minutes. This helps the potato not to absorb access water. Remember dry potatoes are good and water potatoes are bad. Over-boiling the potatoes causes them to become mushy.
- Invest in a potato ricer. I wish I did. I mashed my potatoes and they weren’t fine enough leaving the gnocchi lumpy.
- When you go knead the dough, be careful not to over-knead. Also be careful at this point of adding flour. By adding too much flour will give you hard gnocchi.
Maybe I will attempt to make another type of pasta.
Gnocchi Making in Photos
- - 2 1/2 lbs. of potato, approx. 4 lg. potatoes
- - 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup or more for working dough
- - 1/2 tsp. salt
- - 1 egg
- - Boil potatoes with their skins on a large pot with just enough water to cover them, boil potatoes with their skins on for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Don't over-boiling will cause potatoes to become mushy and too wet.
- - Drain the potatoes well allowing them to cool in a colander.
- - Peel the potatoes removing any brown spots that might be below the skin.
- - Using a potato ricer, rice the peeled potatoes.
- - Mound riced potato on the middle of a wooden board or a clean, dry countertop. Top with flour.
- - Sprinkle with salt.
- - Make a well using your hands, scoop out the center of your mound.
- - Add the egg into the center of the well the beat the egg with a fork.
- - Incorporate ingredients using the fork, slowly start to pull in flour and potato to mix ingredients.
- - Begin to form the dough using your.
- - Knead the dough by pulling together ingredients and knead to form dough. Be careful not to over-knead. Be weary of adding flour at this point. Too much flour will give you hard gnocchi.
- - Shape the dough into a long, wide rectangle for cutting.
- - Cut dough into 8-10 pieces, about 4 inches long.
- - Roll into ropes by gently pushing with fingers spread.
- - Cut dough ropes using a pastry cutter or non-serrated knife into 1-inch pieces then cut ends at an angle.
- - Ridges or indents using a fork to create ridges or indent gently with your thumb.
- - Cook the gnocchi until they float to the top in a pot of boiling water for about 2-4 minutes. Gently remove them with a slotted spoon, drain very well. Toss them in a saucepan with your favorite sauce and cook together for about 2 minutes.
Quick and Easy Black Bean Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Attempting to lead hardened meat-lovers towards a plant-based diet is difficult. Black Bean Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes goes a long way in getting them to stop saying, “some chicken would taste nice in this.” That’s a huge hurdle is jumped.
Moving folks closer to a plant-based diet is hard. The biggest issue is the mindset. When I was a vegetarian over twenty years ago, I have to admit, vegetarian food was boring and tasteless unless you ate Indian. There was salad, potatoes, pasta, and cooked veg — western European food without meat. I would go into the local co-op buying canned soups and chili, and honestly, they weren’t delicious. Add in fact, that people believed it isn’t going to be filling as meat and that it is expensive, it is a tough sell.
Times have changed.
With an influx of spices, veggies, and cooking techniques from around the globe, vegetarian food has become more robust with flavors and textures. One of my goals in writing Well Worn Apron is to share with folks that plant-based meals are just as tasty, filling, and affordable as meals incorporating meat. Don’t be afraid to use spices, onions, and garlic in your cooking. In my kitchen, I use a lot of chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, thyme, dill, rosemary, gram masala, and curry powder. Pack your fridge with bottled minced garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. I keep spice mixes such as Montreal and Lemon Pepper seasonings. And eating more plant-based meals doesn’t have to be expensive if you stock your pantry. Buy lentils, beans, coconut milk, and veggie broth in bulk then add in the fresh veg or frozen veg. Slow cookers are great for vegetarian meals.
Black Bean Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes is an excellent recipe to sample as a yummy vegetarian meal. Even though my photo doesn’t do the meal justice. It tastes pretty darn good.
Black Bean Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- - 6 small sweet potatoes
- - 1 cup cooked quinoa
- - 1 tablespoon olive oil
- - 1 yellow onion — diced
- - 1 red or yellow bell pepper — diced
- - 1 jalapeño — cored, seeded, and finely chopped
- - 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- - 2 teaspoons minced cloves garlic
- - 2 teaspoons chili powder
- - 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- - 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- - 1 (15-ounce) can black beans — rinsed and drained
- - 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
- - Juice from 1 lime
- - 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- - Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- - Line rimmed baking sheet with foil.
- - Scrub sweet potatoes, pat dry, and prick sweet potatoes with fork.
- - Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake until fork tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size.
- - Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. Leave the oven turned on.
- - Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package instructions. You should have about 1 cup cooked total. Set aside.
- While the sweet potatoes bake and the quinoa cooks, prepare the filling.
- - Heat the olive oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium.
- - Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and salt.
- - Cook until the vegetables soften and the onion begins to brown.
- - Add the garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin.
- - Stir to coat the vegetables in the spices, then cook until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- - Stir in the black beans and quinoa. Remove from the heat.
- - Stir in the sour cream/yogurt, lime juice, and 1/2 cup cheese.
- - Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.
- Assemble the meal.
- - With a fork, make a split then open the split and lightly fluff the insides to make space for the toppings.
- - Place the sweet potatoes back on the baking sheet, then stuff with the quinoa–black bean mixture - Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, then return the sweet potatoes to the oven.
- - Cook until the filling is heated through and the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.
Cranberry Chutney – A Multipurpose Condiment
Most American holiday tables from Thanksgiving to Christmas have some sort of cranberry dish. I grew up the jellied kind that came out of a can. Just slice it up and serve it. Sometimes my Mom would make a cranberry mold. All of it was good. It felt like I was eating dessert with my main course.
I never got my Mom’s cranberry mold recipe before she passed and she never wrote her recipes down so I had to make my own way. And maybe why it is important to me to write this blog for my son’s sake. I want to preserve and share family favorite recipes. I want my son to be able to have access to them to make for his friends and family when I am gone hopefully passing them on family traditions.
In our first year in Newport, we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. And what is a Thanksgiving dinner without a cranberry product? Not Thanksgiving that’s what.
As I wandered through BJ’s, I came across a huge bag of cranberries from New England. On the back of this bag of Cape Cod Select cranberries was a recipe for a cranberry chutney. Why not I thought. Let’s just go for it. The huge bag of cranberry was in my cart.
This is a super easy recipe. A tart apple like a Granny Smith is best, I use Gala or whatever apples I have on hand. I recently made a batch and added overly ripe pear with the apple to the mixture. And very versatile. While you can serve this with turkey, you can serve it with other food. Warm some brie up and top it with this cranberry chutney. You can serve it with roasted pork. Top plain yogurt for an added punch to breakfast
- 4 cups cranberries
- 1 large apple
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1. Chop up an apple. A tart apple is recommended, but use whatever you have on hand.
- 2. Combine all ingredients in saucepan.
- 3. Bring to a boil stirring along the way.
- 4. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes. Apple should be tender and the mixture thickens.
- 5. Serve warm or chilled.