Sunday, May 31, 2009

Give Chick Peas a Chance!!!

I love ethnic food. The smells, exotic spice blends, pronounced flavors and the luxury of indulging in handmade, labor intensive food that I didn’t prepare. I call it “kitchen Art”.

One of my favorites is Hummus—that tangy yet bland spread served in Mediterranean restaurants along with warm pita bread. In the Middle East there are restaurants that serve nothing but a variety of hummus.

Packaged Hummus sells for between $7.00-$12.00 at the grocery store. I made a remarkable discovery. I can make this nutritious, low fat, complete protein vegan dish from start to finish in less than five minutes in my food processor for less than $2.00 per pound. No cooking required!

Hummus is a “loanword” --a transliteration from Arabic. The main ingredient in hummus is the chickpea or garbanzo bean in Spanish. Fresh lemon juice, garlic and salt, spices and tahini paste or yogurt gives hummus its tang.

Personally, I prefer hummus made with tahini rather than yogurt but it is delicious either way! Tahini is a loanword, too. Think peanut butter made out of toasted sesame seeds. Tahini can be purchased at a specialty grocer for about .40 an ounce. It comes in a can and is usually found on the shelf with the peanut butter. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and minced garlic rather than using bottled juice or jarred garlic intensifies and improves the quality of the flavor. Additional spices or mix-ins are optional.

Hummus with Tahini
Prep Time: 5 minutes

* 2 1/2 cups of canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
* 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
* 1/4 cup of tahini
* 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
* 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin (optional)
* 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)
* Pinch of freshly ground black pepper (optional)
* 1 teaspoon of salt
* 1/3 cup of water


Put everything except water into food processor or blender adjusting lemon juice, salt, garlic and spices to personal taste. Start with less than recommended and taste after blending and add more to suit your personal taste--experiment. Add water and blend on high until mixture reaches the consistency of sour cream. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Optional: Drizzle of olive oil over the top and add a garnish of parsley or black olives before serving. A small amount of olive oil can be added to the hummus along with the listed ingredients.

Serve hummus with pita wedges or slices of whole grain breads or fresh cut vegetables or in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich. (See wrap recipe below.)

A Great Wrap

Spread hummus liberally on a tortilla. Place apple slices down the center. In a small serving bowl mix a can of drained tuna with a small amount of yogurt along with a curry seasoning to taste. Mix well. Add some of the tuna mixture on top of the apples. Wrap up the tortilla and eat. Delicious!

Yogurt Hummus


* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/4-cup plain low-fat yogurt
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* 1/4-teaspoon salt
* 1/4-teaspoon paprika (optional)
* 1/8-teaspoon pepper (optional)
* 1 (19 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
* 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (optional)


Combine everything in blender or food processor and process until smooth. Increase lemon juice, salt, spices to taste.
If you need more liquid to make consistency similar to sour cream, add a bit more yogurt or water.

Serve with pitas or as a veggie dip.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Entertainment Book=Psychological Advance

“That was a great idea, Mom!”
You sit up and take notice when you young adult daughter says something like this. She had been reflecting on a day a several years or so ago when she popped into the car exhausted after track practice loaded down with 15 Entertainment books.
“Coach says the first one to sell all 15 gets $50.00.”
“Take him a check.” I said and pulled my checkbook out of my purse. I knew we would sell all the books. Why not capitalize and make the $50.00? We did it! ---And so began my love affair with the Entertainment book. I bet you have one in your city. In fact, I would wager that you have one somewhere but have never used it.
Adventure and exploration appeal to me—which for me lies outside my front door. Many ethnic foods and different quadrants of the city are represented in the book. I am a tourist in my own town. I love people and particularly enjoy catering to independent Mom and Pop operations. The Entertainment Book is loaded with start-up businesses many of which get first-rate reviews in the local paper as well as established fast food chains. Retail and entertainment coupons give the buyer a great return on their initial investment for the cost of the book. Here are half-dozen pointers I’ve picked up over the years.
1. Keep the Entertainment Book in the car otherwise it’s never there when you need it.
2. Keep the plastic card for the better restaurants in your wallet. Don’t let that little plastic strip slow you down, it’s not necessary to call and activate the card before using it. My husband and I have fun romantic dates at the better restaurants. We write a few short comments on that page taking in the ambience, the server and the food. We’ve built great memories together and multiplied them and our savings by using the little blue card.
3. Read the fine print in the back of the book as well as on the individual coupons. “Valid anytime” does not mean holidays –Valentines Day for instance. Although, if you arrive and realize that you aren’t complying with the coupon in some way, ask them if they would honor the coupon, anyway. Many of the establishments are small, start-ups or long time favorites and don’t want to turn away business.
4. Tip the server on the tab before any discount is taken. Even though my husband and I order water with lemon and rarely dessert we never short change the server.
5. Always check the Entertainment Book before you make a purchase. It’s difficult to keep track of all the retail discounts. After purchasing a large wedding cake for my parent’s 50th wedding party at a popular bakery in town I spied a 50% off coupon at that very bakery.
6. Be flexible. There will be surprises i.e. we found ourselves eating in a Mexican restaurant hosting a transvestite fashion show! The food was great and service was great. A situation like this we call “scramble therapy”. The most common disappointment is finding the place is closed after you arrive, call ahead and check.

Let me know if you have garnered any savings using the Entertainment Book on hotels or car rentals. We have always done better with our Costco card or other promotions than with the Entertainment Book. However, this year we tried something new and ordered an Entertainment Book for a vacation destination. We traveled to the Nashville area this spring and in five days saved over $60.00 after the cost of the book and shipping charges. Before leaving the Nashville area we passed the book and card onto a young couple living on a budget hoping that they would have as much fun as we do stretching their dollars.