Friday, February 26, 2010

Hummus

Growing up in Israel I refused to eat Hummus.  I told my parents I hated it and that I would never eat it.  Well as I got older I ate my words.  I love Hummus! And my children have grown up eating and loving it also.

For those of you who don't know, Hummus is a Middle Eastern food  made of Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), sesame seed paste (Tahiti), garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.  It is most often eaten as a dip and scooped with pita (a flat bread). 

It is high in iron and vitamin C, and also has significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6. The Garbanzo beans make it a good source of protein and dietary fiber; the Tahiti consists mostly of sesame seeds, which are an excellent source of the amino acid methionine, complementing the proteins in the Garbanzo beans. Depending on the recipe, hummus carries varying amounts of monounsaturated fat. Hummus is useful in vegetarian and vegan diets and like other combinations of grains and legumes, when eaten with bread it serves as a complete protein.

Okay, enough of that.  Let's be honest, it doesn't matter what it is made of or how good it is for you, if it doesn't taste good we aren't going to eat it.  This is not the case with Hummus.  There is a basic recipe ,but it can be changed in many ways to suit your personal taste.  I love it to have a lemony-garlicky (are these words?) taste.  Feel free to use more or less garlic and lemon, add sun dried tomatoes or  roasted peppers.  Garnish with your choice of chopped tomato, cucumber, cilantro, parsley, caramelized onions, whole Garbanzo beans, pine nuts, olive oil, paprika and cumin.

Hummus

1 - 15.5 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained, reserve liquid
1/4 cup reserved liquid from garbanzo beans
3 Tablespoons lemon juice (adjust if needed to your liking)
1-1/2 tablespoons tahini
3 cloves garlic, crushed (I threw in whole cloves in the Cuisinart while it was empty and running)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Drain garbanzo beans and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in food processor (or blender).  Add 1/4 cup of liquid from garbanzo beans.  Process for 3-5 minutes (stop and scrape down sides after 2 minutes) until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

Place in a bowl and create a shallow well in the center of hummus or a shallow trench through the hummus.  Add 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  I usually sprinkle with paprika or cumin.

Cover and refrigerate.


Nathan and I made some quick sandwiches. Warm your pita bread, spread it with Hummus, add sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion and feta cheese (we wanted cucumber slices also but unfortunately we were out). Fold up and enjoy.

Note: Pita recipe can be found HERE

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pizza

My kids have found that using the Cuisinart makes things fun. Ryan wanted to make some pizza so I thought it was time for him to learn to do it on his own, he is 19 after all.


A few days before Valentine's day I told Ryan that if he made the dough (recipe from Cuisinart) we could have pizza for dinner that night. He did well and learned a few things along the way. For example, if you have the liquid in the food processor and are adding the flour mixture while the machine is running you will have flour in places you did not expect. All in all he did well, cleaned up his mess and the dough turned out perfect.


Nathan made a heart shaped pizza (he started eating before I got a picture) with pepperoni, salomi, chicken and olives. Ryan decided to make a buffalo chicken pizza with crumbled blue cheese and blue cheese dressing added after baking. They did discover that if you make a really thick crust it will be much more filling. Live and learn. =)

Ryan's Pizza
Nathan's Pizza

Making Pizza dough is quick, easy and taste so much better than delivery. The best part is that you can put what ever you like on it. Ground beef and cheddar for a cheese burger pizza (I have teenage boys can you tell), chicken and left over asparagus with Alfredo sauce, tomatoes with onions and feta cheese, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Ingredients

1 package active dry yeast (2-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup warm water (105 to 115°F.)
1-2/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil.

Instructions

In a 2-cup liquid measure, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Insert metal blade in work bowl and add flour and salt. With machine running, pour liquid through small feed tube as fast as flour absorbs it. Process until dough cleans sides of work bowl and forms a ball. Then process for 30 seconds to knead dough. Dough may be slightly sticky. Coat dough evenly with olive oil; transfer to a large greased bowl, turning dough to cover with oil, cover bowl with plastic wrap (or use a plastic food storage bag and seal the top). Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down. Roll into desired crust sizes and place on baking sheets lightly sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray. Top with your favorite toppings and bake at 500 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until baked through.

If you are making dough by hand sift flour and other dry ingredients together. Add the liquid yeast mixture and mix until combined. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead dough for about 5 minutes. Place dough into large greased bowl or plastic bag as described above. Let rise in warm place for about 45 minutes. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down. Roll into desired crust sizes and place on baking pans lightly sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray. Top with your favorite toppings and bake at 500 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until baked through.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Almond Milk (Soy Milk)

I have had to cut out a lot of dairy from my diet due to my asthma. It seems to be giving me more and more trouble lately so I do what I can to eliminate anything that may contribute to the problem. I have been buying almond and soy milk and find that it is about $3 for half a gallon. Add teens drinking it also and it really starts to add up. I decided to look into getting a soy milk maker and discovered it is much cheaper to make it. Commercial soy, almond and rice milks have additives to thicken, flavor and preserve the milk. By making my own I would be able to control what goes into it.

The machine arrived quickly and I got started. We decided to make almond milk first. Soak one cup of almonds in water for 12 hours. Rinse the almonds before using. Add water and almonds to the machine and turn it on. In 20 minutes it was ready. I strained the milk through a fine sieve twice and then once through a gold coffee filter, if you don't already have one of these use cheese cloth, it works great. I then added 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and just under 1/4 cup agave syrup. My taste testers (Nathan and Tara)gave it a thumbs up. The next batch I made with sugar instead of the syrup because Ryan said he preferred not to taste the syrup. A sugar substitute can also be used, I need to go to Costco to stock up.

I have since make several batches of almond milk and some soy milk. For the the soy milk I used 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and scant 1/4 cup sugar to flavor the milk.

These milks are good both hot or cold and if you cook with them don't add flavor or sweetener. I think I may eventually make yogurt (hopefully Greek strained) with the soy milk.

These milks can all be done at home without the machine but I decided that due to time constraints and my wonderful arthritis this was the best path for me.

Making almond milk without machine.
Making soy milk without machine

Note:  I used the SoyaPower Plus which can be purchased HERE.  I recieved the machine in less than a week!  We LOVE this machine.  It is fast and easy to make all kinds of milk and best of all clean up is very easy.

Valentine's Day

I have always gotten the kids something for Valentine's day. This year I got the boys gourmet caramel apples and a shirt and for Tara a box of chocolate covered strawberries and a gift card.

Nathan Gave me a hug and kiss, which for my 14 year old is a huge gift because he doesn't give those away so freely these days.....go figure. Tara got up and made breakfast for her brothers. She made hash browns, over easy eggs and toast. As she was sitting down to eat she said 'Happy Valentine's this is my gift because I am a broke witch', my daughter the comedian.

Ryan ordered flowers for a girl he has been dating the last few months and had them delivered. After she got off work they met and spent some time together walking around the mall and eating.

Tara went to her boyfriend, Leroy's, house (yes new bf) and delivered the card and cupcakes she made. He gave her a cute necklace which she loved.

We had a pleasant day and watched a movie together in the evening.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's day!

French Toast

On Saturday, I got up and decided to make french toast with the last half loaf of the Challah bread.

French toast my not seem exciting but it sure can make me happy. I usually use only one egg (I have an egg sensitivity so I don't make it very eggy) to about one cup of milk, add a few dashes of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and about a teaspoon of brown sugar. Most of the time instead of using milk I will use half and half or mix milk with flavored non-dairy coffee creamer. It may not seem like much but it adds a little something special.

I got a little carried away with the syrup but I dealt with it. :) Berries and nuts are great on top also but I didn't think ahead and dove right in.

The kids decided I didn't make enough so next time I will have to keep that in mind.

Hot out of the pan with butter melted on top.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Cuisinart and Challah Bread

I have to say, I love my Cuisinart! I love to have fresh bread, and although I have a bread maker it is just not the same as doing it by hand, OK.......mostly by hand.

I decided to make a Challah bread. Challah is a Jewish egg bread that is braided and is usually eaten on the Sabbath or holidays. My version is slightly sweet and flavored with vanilla paste.

The Cuisinart does the mixing and initial kneading which means it takes about 7 minutes to put this together. Nathan found he likes to punch the dough down after it rises and 'punch and fold' it (his 14 year old boy version of kneading). With a Cuisinart and a helper it just as easy as using a bread machine, although kneading is a great way to work of some aggression.

This can be made completely by hand and really is not hard at all. Just be patient, it is worth the wait.

Vanilla Challah Bread

2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 C. & 1 tsp. sugar, divided
3/4 C. warm water
1 T vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1/2 C. butter, cut into 1 inch pieces


Vanilla egg wash


1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla paste or extract
1/2 tsp. sugar
Mix all to combine well.

Dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp. sugar in warm water in a large measuring cup. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add beaten eggs and 1 tablespoon of vanilla paste, stir gently to combine.

Insert dough blade into the large work bowl of Cuisinart. Add flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt and butter and process on the dough speed about 15 seconds(or pulse until butter is incorporated - 5 or 6 times). With the machine running on dough speed, add liquid through the feed tube as fast as the flour absorbs it. Once the dough cleans the sides of the work bowl and forms a ball, process for 45 seconds to knead dough. Dough should be smooth and elastic, if needed add a little flour (if sticky) or water (if too dry) and process until combined. (If you are doing this in a mixer or by hand combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until combined. Knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.)

Place dough in a large greased glass bowl, turning dough to grease the entire surface, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough has doubled, about 2 hours. If you would like you can allow dough to rise overnight (or all day) in the refrigerator (cold rise) and continue the next day (this works well in hot weather, allowing you to bake when it is coolest). For a lighter loaf punch down dough and knead for a few minutes and allow to rise again until double in a greased bowl.

Once risen, punch dough down and divide into two equal parts. Divide each half into three equal parts. Allow to rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into a long rope. Braid the three strands loosely into two separate loaves, tuck the very ends under each end of the loaf. Place on two separate lightly greased baking sheets or line each with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap until doubled in size, about one hour.

Preheat over to 400.

Brush loaves with vanilla egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped. Cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 one pound loaves.
(Recipe adapted from Cuisinart Elite Edition booklet)

*Note: Vanilla bean paste is a convenient, easy-to-use replacement for whole vanilla beans. Since you can see the vanilla bean seeds, it adds a gourmet appearance, in addition to delicious flavor. It can be found in gourmet food stores, Trader Joe's (holiday season only) and can be purchased online.