Monday, May 27, 2013

Spinach Hummus

The school cafeteria.

For many of us, it conjures up images of tater tots and nacho "cheese" at best and unidentifiable "mystery casserole" slop at worst. In high school, my friends and I avoided the cafeteria as much as possible, preferring to eat our brought-from-home lunches outside even when there was snow on the ground.

Most of us would probably not look to a school cafeteria for recipe inspiration, but that's exactly where this Spinach Hummus recipe came from. After eating this hummus one day at my school/work cafeteria, I liked it so much that I went back the next day to ask what was in it! Because I'm like that.

At first when I asked, "What was in the spinach hummus yesterday?" the cafeteria lady got a little politely defensive: "Was there something wrong with it?" When I assured her that I had loved it and wanted to recreate it at home, her face lit up, and she offered, "Well, I've got the recipe right back here. Do you want to take a picture of it?" So I did. And I made it. And it was delicious.

Let me tell you some awesome things about this recipe:

  1. It's full of healthy, tasty things--spinach, chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice . . . it's a snack you can feel good about eating.
  2. It doesn't call for tahini. So if you don't have any, no worries! 
  3. It's so very easy and quick to make. Open a can, peel some garlic, and throw everything in a food processor. Bam. 
  4. I'm not sure why Blogger is putting so much space before and after this numbered list. It's legitimately bothering me. My sincerest apologies to anyone else OCD enough to be bothered by this.

So here's to you, cafeteria lady. Thanks for introducing me to this hummus and being willing to share the recipe!

Spinach Hummus

1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1-1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup packed fresh spinach
Ground coriander, to taste (optional)

Put all ingredients in a food processor; pulse to combine. Process until mixture is smooth and creamy, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides. If it's too thick, add more olive oil or lemon juice, or a bit of water. Serve with pita chips, sliced vegetables, or spread on a sandwich or wrap.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chopped Thai Chicken Salad

Well, friends. My obsession with Asian food continues. This salad was light and summery, with a pleasant blend of flavors and textures. I didn't like it quite as well as the Asian Chicken Salad with Homemade Peanut Dressing, but I really liked the peanut dressing one. This Thai salad has fewer ingredients, which makes for a faster prep, but also less complex layers of flavor. To make this meal into a side dish, omit the chicken.

For those of us who don't live in the tropics with access to green papayas, Lindsay at Pinch of Yum recommends green mango for a similar flavor profile, or any crunchy veggie for a similar texture. I intended to use cucumber but forgot to buy one, so I ended up just using a little more cabbage and carrots.

While we're on the topic of cabbage and carrots, I absolutely cheated and bought pre-shredded slaw and pre-shredded carrots. Some day I will buy a grating/shredding blade for my food processor, but until that day comes I will sometimes do things like buy pre-shredded vegetables.

Chopped Thai Chicken Salad
Slightly adapted from Pinch of Yum
Yield: 2-3 servings

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 small head green or white cabbage (1 cup shredded)
1/2 large carrot (3/4 cup shredded)
1/2 green papaya (3/4 cup shredded)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup green onions
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 bird’s eye chili peppers, minced (optional)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 Tbsp. oil
1/4 teaspoon fish sauce
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. water

Cook chicken using your desired method. Let cool, and shred with two forks or chop. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, carrot, papaya (or substitute), and chicken.

To make the dressing, put all dressing ingredients into a mini food processor and give it a whir. If you don't have a mini food processor, mince the garlic and chili peppers, and whisk them together with the soy saucevinegarsugarlime juiceoil, and fish sauce until smooth. Then whisk in the peanut butter and water until smooth.

Pour the dressing over the salad; toss to combine. Add the cilantro, green onions, and chopped peanuts. Serve chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to one day. For best results, keep the leftover salad and dressing separate until ready to serve.

Nutrition Information (per serving, from Pinch of Yum)
284 calories; 15 g fat; 25 g carbs; 17 g protein

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cooking Tip: Fruit and Veggie Prep

When peeling, trimming, and chopping fresh fruits or vegetables, keep a plastic bag (such as a produce bag or a plastic grocery bag) on the counter by your cutting board. Peel vegetables over the bag rather than over the trash can (haven't we all dropped a half-peeled carrot into the garbage at least once?), and toss pits or other trimmings into the bag rather than walking back and forth to the trash can.

Particularly in warmer months, and particularly with fruit, I find it helpful to tie up the bag before dropping in the garbage. That way, it takes longer to stink up the trash can and makes the trimmings less alluring and accessible to pesky fruit flies.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Avocado, Mozzarella, and Jalapeño Chimichurri Grilled Cheese

Chimichurri recipes seem to be popping up all over the place. So much so, that I feel kinda like chimichurri is the new pesto. So, lest I be a failure of a food blogger, I'm officially on the chimichurri bandwagon . . . though the variation I made is apparently not even remotely traditional.

What is chimichurri? Well, it's an Argentinian sauce, traditionally made with parsley, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and red or white wine vinegar. It's traditionally used as a condiment with meat or fish, but can also be used on vegetables, eggs, or tacos.

And on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Like I said, this chimichurri is not exactly traditional, as it uses cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, green onions, and a bit of honey. But it was tasty and delightfully easy to prepare. Just rough chop the ingredients and give 'em a whir in a small food processor. That's it.

I thought the flavor was great and went well with the avocado and mozzarella. I wimped out and used only one jalapeño instead of two, which I think was a good decision for me. The chimichurri by itself had a tiny kick (perhaps more like a gentle nudge) to it, but wasn't hot at all when combined with the rest of the sandwich.

Note to self: when photographing mozzarella, don't use a white plate.

One word of caution: this is not the sandwich to eat with someone if you're trying to look well-mannered and capable of eating a sandwich without getting food all over your face. Mozzarella is stringy, and it'll want to take the chimichurri and avocado pieces with it.

Or maybe you're a tidier eater than I am.

Avocado, Mozzarella, and Jalapeno Chimichurri Grilled Cheese
slightly adapted from Naturally Ella
Yield: 2 servings

Olive oil spray
1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2-4 oz. fresh mozzarella (I used 4 oz.)
4 slices whole wheat bread (I used sandwich rounds)

Chimichurri Ingredients
1 or 2 jalapeños, seeded and roughly chopped
4 green onions, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
1 clove garlic, roughly diced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice from 1 lime
2 tsp. honey

Place all chimichurri ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until broken down and well combined, adding more olive oil or lime juice as needed.

Preheat skillet or grill pan over medium-low heat. Spray (or brush) outsides of bread with olive oil. Spread about 1 Tbsp. chimichurri on the insides of each slice of bread. Layer one slice with slices of avocado and mozzarella, and top with the second slice.

Cook on each side until bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

  • For more (or actually existent) heat, leave the seeds in the jalapeños.
  • This made about twice as much chimichurri as needed for the sandwiches. Here are two ideas for what to do with leftover chimichurri (the first of which uses this chimichurri).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Thai Quinoa Chili

This is my 100th post!

The photos from this recipe have been sitting patiently in my "need to blog" folder for months now, and I realized I need to get on it before the weather becomes too warm to enjoy chili. Since it randomly got cold again this week, though, it seemed like a good time to share the recipe.

This chili is good! I never ever would have thought to marry curry flavors to chili, but it actually works. I didn't find the curry flavor to be super pronounced, but when my Malaysian friends walked into the house with this on the stove, one of them said, "It smells like curry in here." Win!

This recipe has been house church tested and approved, and several of us enjoyed stirring crumbled cornbread muffin into our bowls of chili. I hope you'll like it, especially if the weather is unseasonably cool where you are, too. 

Thai Quinoa Chili

Yield: 8 servings (1-1/2 cups each)

1 Tbsp. chili powder
1-1/2 tsp. red curry paste
1 Tbsp. cumin
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
1 small onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup dry quinoa, rinsed 
1 cup light coconut milk
1 (28-oz.) can no salt added crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 green onions, sliced, for serving
8 Tbsp. plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, for serving

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, whisk together the chili powder, curry paste, cumin, and a few tablespoons of broth over medium-low heat until smooth.

Add in onion, green pepper, garlic, sweet potato, and olive oil, and saute for 5-7 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Add in remaining broth, beans, quinoa, coconut milk, tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, or until flavors are melded and quinoa is cooked.

Serve topped with sliced green onions and plain Greek yogurt

Nutrition Information (per serving, from Prevention RD)
322 calories; 5.9 g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 573 mg. sodium; 47.4 g. carbohydrate; 11.9 g. fiber; 18.5 g. protein