Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

FullSizeRenderMaking your own fresh, creamy hummus is a snap, and once you do it you’ll never want store bought again. We’ve been making a basic Spicy Hummus for years now (found a fave on Rachel Ray’s site) and I can’t remember the last time we bothered buying. Tahini paste—a paste made from ground sesame seeds—is the secret ingredient that makes hummus so, well, hummalicious. But I wanted to mix things up a bit, so I added a jar of Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Peppers to our basic Spicy Hummus recipe.

How was it? My handy taste testers Mitchell and Justin (sons) and Emily (boarder) said they loved it! (Too bad it looks so fleshy in the picture here. Rest assured, it tastes better than it looks!) The only thing that might improve it, would be an added teaspoon of my favorite seasoning, smoked Spanish paprika. I think the smokiness with the roasted peppers would take this dip up a notch. But that’s just my humble opinion.

Makes 6-8 servings

1 (14.5-ounce can) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (also called chickpeas)
1 jar (8 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained
2 rounded tablespoons tahini paste
¼ cup olive oil
½ of a lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Course salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)

Combine all ingredients in food processor bowl or blender and pulse until mixture is smooth and creamy. Transfer to small bowl and serve with corn tortilla chips or veggies. Or store in airtight container in frig for 2-3 weeks.

NOTE: Be sure to drain and pat the red peppers dry, or they add a lot of extra moisture to the dip.

Hot Mexican-style Spinach Dip

FullSizeRenderWith the Big Game coming up, thought I’d share this recipe for a creamy, hot spinach appetizer that’s a step above the Knorr’s soup and mayo dip we’ve all feasted on. (Remember when it was all the rage to serve that dip in a hollowed out round loaf of bread? That was looooong before Pinterest, so only the hostesses with the mostest were aware of that little trick.) I got this recipe from a friend many moons ago, and dug up the recipe to serve at a recent book club. The ladies loved it, and I promised I’d post it.

Chopped spinach used to only be sold in a solid 10-ounce brick, which takes forever and a day to thaw out. Now you can buy a bag of loose chopped spinach, and that’s usually about 16 ounces. It thaws much quicker, so I made this with the 16-ounce bag for my friends. It was extra spinachy, but no one turned into Popeye. So use whichever package you prefer. (I’ve always thought the spinach squished into a block was kind of strange. What’s the point? Storage issues? So you can teach kids geometry while you cook? Not sure on that one…)

Sometimes I divide this into smaller ramekins, and give each guest their own dish of this delicious dip. Avoids that whole double-dipping faux pas, and no one gets an elbow in the face from an over-eager dipper. It only needs about 20 minutes in the oven if you’re doing smaller individual-size portions.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 fresh tomatoes (about 1½ cups), chopped, and excess liquid drained
2 tablespoons canned chopped jalapeño, or 1 fresh jalapeño, seeds and membranes removed, minced
1 (10-ounce or 16-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, and excess moisture squeezed out
2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
8-ounce cream cheese, cut into ½-inch pieces, room temperature
1 cup Half and Half cream
2 (2.2 ounce) cans sliced black olives*
1 tablespoon red wine or apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in medium skillet; saute onions until translucent. Add tomatoes and jalapeño, and cook 2 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl, and stir in spinach, Monty Jack cheese, cream cheese, Half and Half, olives, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into shallow 9″x9″ baking dish and bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top. Serve with tortilla chips.

NOTE: This dip can be prepared ahead, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days prior to baking. You will want to let it sit at room temp for an hour or so before baking.

*Also note that the cheap sliced black olives work best in this dish. I made this again for a gathering after initially posting it, and I used Kalamata olives, thinking that would take it over the top into a new realm of tasty goodness. It did not. They made it taste funky. Morale of the story, don’t waste your Kalamata olives in this dip!

Nette’s Cranberry Salsa

FullSizeRender-2Tomato salsa is so last year! This cranberry salsa has some kick and some sass, just like my neighbor Nette—which is fitting, since I got this recipe from her. You’ll need a food processor or blender to make it, but if you’ve got the tools, it’s a snap to whip up. If you serve it with corn tortilla chips, it’s both gluten free AND dairy free—how many appetizers can make that claim? Not many! At least not the appetizers found on most midwestern buffets in the cold winter months. And if you need more incentive to try this recipe, take note that cranberries are higher in antioxidants than the highly-acclaimed blueberry, and offer 24% of your daily allowance of vitamin C. So stick THAT on your chip and eat it. (Smiley face…)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup chopped red onion
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and membranes removed, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño (like Mrs. Renfro’s brand)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

Combine apple, sugar, onion, lime zest and juice, fresh and pickled jalapeño, and cilantro in a food processor or blender and pulse several times. Add cranberries and pulse until grainy. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving for flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus

FullSizeRenderWith the holidays in full swing, you can’t leave your house without a plate of something to share at a gathering, and most often it’s an appetizer involving a brick or two of cream cheese. Here’s a recipe that strays from that formula, yet tastes rich and creamy sans the cheese. This sweet potato hummus was posted on Yummly, sent in by (a food blogger who gives top billing to her dog…go figure!). I made several adjustments to her spice amounts, most notably to the cayenne pepper. The 1½ teaspoon suggested seemed excessive. I preferred to up the smoked paprika and cumin, so there were other flavors and less heat. 

Now let’s talk about the blessed sweet potato we’re all so obsessed with, and give credit where credit is due! Admit it. We’re all guilty of it. Lumping yams in with sweet potatoes, that is. Truth be told, most of us have never even tasted a yam, but since our grocery stores use the names interchangeably, we think yams are darker orange versions of the sweet potato. But true yams have black or dark brown skin, white flesh, and are drier and starchier. You have to go to a specialty grocery store to find them, if they can be found at all in the USA. Sweet potatoes come in two categories: firm sweet potatoes (with golden skin and paler flesh, sometimes even close to white), and soft sweet potatoes (with red or copper skin and orange flesh). We tend to prefer the soft sweet potato, which cooks up moist and creamy. The soft sweet potato that’s prevalent in our stores closely resembles the true yam, so that’s why they are often labeled as such in the bins. 

Enough with the food source education! Let’s get back to this delicious dip! It’s awesome with Simply Naked pita chips, corn chips, or the gluten-free “Food Should be Good” brand cracker-chips (sold at Costco and other stores). I made this for a couple parties over the weekend, and was told it was quite tasty. I myself have yet to verify that, as I’ve got a nasty cold and can’t taste a dang thing. But I trust my taste-testers. They wouldn’t lie to me. Although one of my taste-testers (and son) Justin said there was zero heat in the dip. The guy who practically puts Sriracha sauce on his Cheerios thinks I’d say mayonnaise has “kick.” So consider the source.

Serves 8-12

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can garbanzo beans (aka: chickpeas), rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons tahini paste
2 cloves garlic, peeled, and quartered
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼–½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used ½ teaspoon. Add ¼ first and taste!)

Preheat oven to 375° or 400°. Place 2 potatoes on a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until tender when pressed. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Scoop sweet potatoes out of the skins, and place in bowl of food processor or blender. Add garbanzo beans, olive oil, tahini paste, garlic, lemon juice, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, and cayenne. Process until smooth. Serve with chips or cucumber slices and carrot sticks. Store in airtight container and refrigerate any leftovers.