Saturday, April 21, 2012

Homemade Hummus

I try to keep enough snacks on hand at work so that I'm not starving by the time I get home, but I still need to eat something as soon as I walk in the door. Hummus with crackers or carrots is a go-to snack for the hubs and me, and a few scoops are enough to tide us over till dinner. Food is pretty pricey here in Sydney, and hummus ain't cheap at $5-$7 for a small tub. Many brands have preservatives, which we have to avoid, and others really over-do it on the olive oil. So a couple of months ago I bought a jar of tahini and began making hummus.
Southern Spoon blog: homemade hummus
all you need for a batch of healthy hummus
It took a few batches to get the right consistency and flavour, but I've now got a basic recipe down and have begun experimenting with other ingredients (see the Variations below). Sometimes I'll make a double batch, using one can of chickpeas and one of canellini beans for a velvety smooth texture. To change up the flavour, I'll add a few roasted red piquillo or bell peppers with some cumin and paprika, or a spoonful of capers and chopped fresh rosemary.  The basic recipe below has a nice tang from the garlic and lemon.  If you want a more subtle garlic flavor, cover the garlic clove in foil and roast it in an oven at 400F/200C for 15-20 minutes.  Then peel and chop the roasted clove and add it to the mixture in the blender.

A food processor would work best for this, but I just use the blender I have.  I split the ingredients in half, blending one half of everything except the tahini, scraping that half out and setting it aside, then blending the other half.  I then incorporate everything in the blender and add the tahini last to thicken it up.  If you have a food processor (or a better quality blender than mine!), I imagine that throwing everything in at once and blending thoroughly would work fine.  
Southern Spoon blog: homemade hummus
the perfect snack: homemade hummus topped with extra virgin olive oil
and served with multigrain rice crackers.
Serve the hummus topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, accompanied by crackers and fresh veggies for dipping.  Experiment with your own add-ins and seasonings, and thank yourself for saving a little of your grocery budget! 

Homemade Hummus
makes about one and a half cups

1 can chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly and drained (I try to find one without added salt)
zest and juice of one lemon
1 clove garlic, peeled and coursely chopped (roast the whole clove in foil at 400F/200C for 15-20 minutes before peeling and chopping if you prefer a more subtle flavour)
2-4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus a little more for drizzling on top to serve
1-2 tablespoons tahini (I've been using tahini made from unhulled sesame seeds, which is darker and has a slightly stronger flavour.  Tahini from hulled sesame seeds will work fine, too)
freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste

Place the drained chickpeas, lemon zest and juice, garlic, 2 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a food processor or blender. If following any of the variations, add additional ingredients at this point. (If using a blender, you may find it easier to split the ingredients in half and blend in two separate batches, incorporating everything at the end when you add the tahini). Pulse blend for a few minutes until the chickpeas are almost completely processed, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula when necessary.  

If the mixture isn't blending well, add a little more water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture will blend more easily.  

Add the tahini and a bit of freshly ground sea salt and pepper, and give the mixture a final few pulse blends to fully incorporate everything. Add up to another whole tablespoon of tahini if you prefer a thicker texture. Taste test and add a little more salt and pepper as necessary.  

Serve right away, drizzling a little extra virgin olive oil on top, or cover and chill for up to 3 days. Serve with crackers (rice crackers are great), pita or turkish bread, and fresh vegetables for dipping.


Roasted Red Bell Pepper (Capsicum) Hummus: Add 1/4 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper (capsicum) to the chickpeas in the first step of blending. To spice it up, add a little pinch of cayenne pepper or dried chili flakes, and a 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and smoked paprika.
(You can use the roasted, marinated bell pepper strips that come in a jar, or you can also roast your own. De-seed a bell pepper and cut in half, place on a cookie sheet/ baking tray skin side up. Roast under the broiler (grill) in the oven, about 3-4 inches from the heat source, for 3-5 minutes, until softened and skin begins to bubble and slightly blacken.  Remove from oven and place in a sealed plastic bag for a few minutes to cool.  When cool enough to touch, remove peppers from plastic bag and peel off the skin, it should come off fairly easily after cooling in the bag.  Discard skins.)

Smoked Paprika Hummus: add 2-3 teaspoons smoked paprika (to taste) along with the chickpeas in the first step of blending.

Rosemary Basil Hummus (with or without olives): add 2 teaspoons chopped, fresh rosemary, 2 teaspoons chopped, fresh basil, and 2 teaspoons capers (rinsed) to the chickpeas in the first step of blending. If desired, add also a handful of chopped, pitted black olives in the first step of blending.

Curried Hummus: add 2 teaspoons curry powder to the chickpeas in the first step of blending.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Date Spice Cake with Bourbon Glaze

Happy Easter from the southern hemisphere! We are enjoying our luxurious four-day weekend here in Sydney, a much-needed, relaxing break. I've been scoping out deviled egg recipes for days, and it paid off as we feasted on a brunch of three types of deviled eggs, hot cross buns, toast and jam, a big fruit salad, and some chocolate for good measure. I should have made hot cross buns from scratch, but just couldn't summon enough effort during vacation to deal with yeast, rising times, kneading, etc.  Instead we got storebought ones from the local bakery which, after asking them about the ingredients, we discovered contained preservatives : (  one of a few allergies we have to be careful about in the house.  So our houseguest and I went ahead and ate the bakery buns, but I made a special hot cross bun-inspired cake that the hubs could also enjoy.  It's adapted from the lovely one here at Whole Family Fare.

Southern Spoon Blog: Date Spice Cake with Bourbon Glaze
date cake spiced with cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg, topped with a bourbon glaze
I was low on cinnamon, so below is double the amount I actually used, but to capture the Aussie hot cross bun taste you'll need it.  I used a mixture of spelt, quinoa, potato flour, and all-purpose organic flour.  Since we'd already indulged on so many deviled eggs, this bundt cake uses a mixture of ground flaxseed and water rather than eggs to help the mixture bind together. Dates and a drizzle of honey through the middle of the batter make wholesome sweeteners, which are enhanced by a sinful glaze of bourbon and powdered sugar : )  I made the cake last night and let it sit overnight at room temperature so the glaze could seep in. We ate it for 'tea' today around 4pm, and it was delicious.  You could taste a touch of bourbon in every bite, and it was perfectly moist and tender. The batter will look and feel airy when you spoon it into the pan, and it bakes up nice and light.

I threw in a plum because I needed to use it up, but a small apple would also work well.  Hot cross buns typically have raisins dotted through them, but I found that chunks of dates remained even after I 'pureed' them in the blender, so I didn't add any additional dried fruit.  Feel free to add a half cup of raisins or currants if you'd like, or replace the lemon zest and juice with orange.  I've used yogurt in this recipe, but if you're going for dairy-free, just sub that with the same amount of (unsweetened) applesauce. If you skip the bourbon in the glaze, replace most of it with water, but add a teaspoon of vanilla for flavor.

This cake is perfect on its own, but would also be tasty with a dollop of plain greek yogurt, sweetened whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. Bake and enjoy!

Date Spice Cake with Bourbon Glaze
adapted from Whole Family Fare
makes 1 bundt cake

6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1 1/2 cups flour (I used about 1/2 cup plain, all-purpose flour; 1/2 cup spelt flour; 1/4 cup quinoa flour; 1 tablespoon potato flour; and 1 tablespoon almond meal)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used about 1/3 cup rice bran oil and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil)
2 cups dates, soaked in warm water for 10-20 minutes, then drained, retaining 1/2 cup of the water
1 large plum or 1 small apple, finely chopped
1/4 cup plain, low-fat greek yogurt (or 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce for a dairy-free recipe)
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about half a lemon)
1/4 cup honey, divided
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons bourbon (or replace this amount with water plus one teaspoon vanilla extract)
1-2 teaspoons water

Grease and flour a bundt pan, and preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the 6 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds.  Set this aside for at least 10 minutes to firm up into an egg-like consistency while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the flour(s), baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In a blender or food processor, pour the vegetable oil, the reserved 1/2 cup of date water, dates, chopped plum (or apple), yogurt, lemon zest and juice, and 1 tablespoon of the honey.  Blend together until fairly smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides when necessary.  (If you're doing this in a blender rather than a food processor, you might find it easier to first blend just half of the dates with all of the other ingredients, then add the other half to the blended mixture and blend until smooth).  Stir in the flaxseed and water mixture.

Fold the date mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring just until incorporated.  Drop about half of the batter in spoonfuls into the bottom of the bundt pan. Drizzle the remaining honey over this mixture, then top with the remaining batter.  

Bake at 350F/175C for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.  Let the cake cool for at least another 15 minutes before glazing.  For the glaze, mix together the powdered sugar and bourbon in a small bowl until you have a thick syrup-like consistency, adding a teaspoon or two of water if necessary.  Drizzle the glaze with a spoon over the mostly-cooled cake.  Store at room temperature for up to three days.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Raw Chocolate Coconut Truffles

Our oven stopped working a while back, and while we were waiting a few weeks for the repair I began experimenting with some raw food recipes.  I like the idea of packing your 'food pyramid' with veggies and whole grains, while replacing meat with nuts and other vegan protein sources.  I don't think I could ever switch to a majority raw diet, but I am certainly inspired to consume more raw sources of nutrients.  We have already transitioned to a much different food pattern here in Australia in comparison to our diet in England, especially with so much delicious, seasonal produce available.

However, we both still crave dessert during the week. Rather than bake up cookies like I used to (however reduced-fat and reduced-sugar they were), I've started making smoothies or, if we want to splurge, raw brownies.  Nuts, dates, cocoa.  That's all you need for raw brownies, and they cure a chocolate craving perfectly.

Southern Spoon Blog: raw chocolate coconut truffles
raw chocolate truffles dusted with lightly-sweetened coconut

I play around with the combination-- sometimes using walnuts, sometimes pecans, adding coconut, cinnamon, hot chili powder, etc.  Tonight my mixture wasn't coming together very well, so I dumped it out of the blender, into a bowl, added a tablespoon of brown rice syrup and a teaspoon of water, and rolled them into truffles.  I then dusted them in unsweetened, shredded coconut mixed with a touch of brown sugar.  Awesome.

Ok, so processed cocoa (I haven't sourced cacao nibs yet), brown rice syrup, and the tiny bit of brown sugar make these only un-officially 'raw'.  But they're pretty close, and they're much healthier treats than the ones from Godiva.

I just use a blender (plain old blender, nothing fancy) for these, but a food processor would work best.  Make sure your dates are a bit moist-- if they're dry, just soak them in water for 15-20 minutes, then drain. (Or, as all the raw food sites say, reserve the date water to sweeten your next smoothie).  Enjoy!

Raw Chocolate Coconut Truffles
makes about a dozen 1-inch truffles

3/4 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons almond meal (if you don't have any, just use a full cup of walnuts)
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup moist dates (if they're pretty dry, soak them in water 15-20 mins, then drain to use)
2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut (divided use)
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup (or agave syrup or honey)
1 teaspoon water (if necessary)
1 teaspoon brown sugar (or coconut sugar for paleo-friendly) (optional)

Mix the walnuts, almond meal (if you're using it), cocoa, dates, and 1 tablespoon of the coconut in a blender or food processor.  Mix until everything is very finely chopped/ground and the mixture is sticking together.  (If using a blender, blend the nuts first, then add the cocoa, blend till incorporated, then add the dates and coconut-- scraping down the sides when necessary).

Scrape the mixture into a bowl.  Add the brown rice syrup and stir together.  If the mixture is not coming together easily, add one teaspoon of water and stir together until it all comes together to form one big lump of dough.  Pinch off chunks of dough and roll into one-inch balls.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the remaining tablespoon of coconut and, if desired, the teaspoon of brown sugar (or coconut sugar).  Roll the truffles one by one in the coconut-sugar mixture until evenly coated.  Set the coconut-covered truffles in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before eating, or for up to four days. (Chilling really allows the flavors to meld and creates a denser, richer-tasting truffle).

Update: adding a couple of teaspoons of coffee liqueur (Baileys, Kahlua, Tia Maria, etc.) to the dough as you're blending it is a fabulous idea...