Spinach Artichoke Hummus

FullSizeRenderA can of artichokes, and a few handfuls of fresh spinach make for a new twist on classic hummus. I found this recipe in the Fall 2016 edition of Lunds & Byerly’s Real Food magazine, and couldn’t wait to try it. My son Mitchell loooooves spinach in everything, so I wanted to see if this would be another way to give him his spinach fix next time he’s home from college. It was a nice dip for corn tortilla chips, and would actually be great with cukes, carrots, and jicama sticks as well. And if you’re a raw broccoli dipper, go for it. (I personally avoid broccoli in a raw veggie tray at gatherings. That, and raw cauliflower florets…those veggies are best eaten when roasted, if you ask me. But I digress!) If looking for some interesting appetizer ideas, this would be good to include in a hummus trio, with Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus (previously posted), and the classic hummus, for the true hummus aficionados. Serve with warm pita bread triangles, and your family and friends will gobble these up.

Serves 6-8

1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans*, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
3-4 cups fresh spinach
2 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini paste
½ teaspoon salt

Combine garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini paste, and salt in food processor, and pulse until smooth. Stop to scrape down side occasionally. Serve. Leftovers may be stored in a covered container in the frig for up to five days.

*NOTE: The original recipe called for soaking dry chickpeas overnight, and then boiling them for an hour, and letting them cool. That sounded like waaaaay too much work for me, so I used the canned chickpeas (aka: garbanzo beans). Also, I added more lemon (as noted above) then called for in the magazine recipe, as it seemed to need more zing.

Lime Bars

IMG_1078Feeling citrusy? Try these refreshingly zippy lime bars for a break from all the pumpkin-flavored offerings that take over the world in the fall. These are the same recipe as the lemon bars you’ve all tasted before (they often appear at potlucks or post-funeral lunches), just subbing in lime for the lemon in the same amounts. I won’t give credit to any one source, because it would be easier to tell you who doesn’t post this recipe on their blog or have it printed in their cookbook—that’s how popular it is. I did see one source that suggested the yield was 72 bars. Maybe if you’re feeding mice, you could cut them that small. But not on my watch, no sir! I like my sweets substantial. If your teeth don’t ache from the size of the bar and the concentration of sugar, I’ll hang up my apron for good.

Makes 18-24 bars

Rating: Easy

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 cup butter, cold
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
13  cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
Additional confectioners sugar for topping

Preheat oven to350° Fahrenheit. Combine flour and sugar; cut in butter. Press crust into 13″x9″ pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat eggs on high with whisk attachment until pale yellow. Gradually add sugar, salt, lime juice, and lime zest. Continue beating on high. Pour over hot crust.

Bake another 20-25 minutes until golden brown. May need to cover with foil to avoid over-browning towards end. Dust with confectioners sugar. Cool and cut into bars.


IMG_0959With my fresh mini herb garden pots going wild, I’ve been looking for ways to use the abundance of mint threatening to take over the deck. The Good Earth restaurant makes a fabulous tabbouleh, and after ordering it recently, I thought it looked easy enough to duplicate at home. I tried Ina Garten’s recipe found on foodnetwork.com, and I liked her process, but found the recipe had too little bulghur in ratio to the herbs and tomatoes, too much pepper, waaaaaaay too much salt (even with using only 2 1/2 teaspoons table salt instead of the kosher salt she recommended*), and far too many scallions. Then I looked at Ellie Krieger’s recipe, and ended up using my own amounts based on the two recipes. Ina puts the dressing into the bulghur wheat while it’s soaking, and Ellie pours in on after the fact. I tried it Ina’s way, and it seemed to have great flavor, with my adjustments to amounts below. I’m sure it would work fine to add the dressing after soaking the wheat, too.

I know this traditional Lebanese dish usually has more herbs and less bulghur than you see here, but we preferred a little more of the ancient grain to temper all the mint and parsley. And my son Justin said that 1 cup mint was over-the-top, and I needed to back off a bit. I liked it, but I love mint so much I want to marry it, so take that into consideration.

This is a versatile dish. It can be served as an appetizer along with toasted pita triangles and spicy hummus, and some sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. Or it can be a salad or side to a meal. Shred or cube some grilled chicken into the bowl, and it’s a meal. The ease of the dish, plus the fresh herbs, make it perfect for warm weather, no matter which part it plays in your meal.

*NOTE: I did some research on kosher salt/sea salt/table salt, and found that you need more kosher or sea salt than table salt if substituting one for the other in a recipe. See this handy conversion chart for your own reference.

Serves 6-8

1 1/2 cups bulghur wheat
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1/2–1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2–3 tablespoons mined red onion
2–3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and lemon zest. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour. (You can also just pour the boiling water over the bulghur, and add the dressing ingredients later.)

Add the mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, chives, and the pepper; mix well. Season with salt, if necessary; cover and refrigerate. Flavor improves if the tabbouleh is made a few hours ahead of serving time.

Lemon Caesar Salad Dressing

IMG_0919Fresh summer salads need a fresh summer dressing, and what tastes fresher than the zing of real lemon? This dressing recipe make-over from a Pillsbury Classic Cookbook circa August 1991 (those little grocery store booklets sold in the check-out lanes next to the trashy tabloids) uses sour cream as a thickening agent instead of the traditional coddled egg, so there’s no raw egg issues in this mix. I’ve made it with just torn romaine lettuce, grated Parmesan cheese, and big, buttery croutons, but that’s too limiting for this zesty salad topper. It’s great on any torn greens and vegetable combination you can dream up.

IMG_0924Pictured in my salad are curly leaf lettuce, chopped sweet red peppers and cucumber, jicama chunks, fresh basil, and grated heritage carrots (they’re purple—so they kinda look like bacon bits), and finally a sprinkling of grated Parmesan, as a nod to it’s Caesar roots. Be warned that lemon is the predominant taste in this dressing, so pucker up. (Mom and Janine, this one’s for you!) I’ve never used the anchovy paste suggested in the original recipe, and we’ve found it’s just dandy without it. In fact, I think it would make it far too salty. 

Most people know how Caesar salad got it’s name…but here’s a refresher just for kicks. It was created by Chef Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who worked in kitchens in Mexico and the U.S. Legend has it that he came up with the concoction during a 4th of July rush when his kitchen supplies were running low, and these were the ingredients he had on hand. His original recipe didn’t use anchovies, either, so I guess I’m in good company there. Apparently, there are a variety of bottled dressings called “Cardini’s Caesar” to be found in grocery stores. But why buy it bottled when it’s so easy to make your own?

Makes about 3/4 cup dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (I typically use only one clove)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon course ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk—or combine in a jar and shake vigorously—until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use, or pour over salad greens and vegetables, and toss until greens are coated.

Mint Lemon Sweet Tea

IMG_0850Nothing is quite as refreshing in a summertime drink as mint. If your mint is growing like a weed (in your mini herb garden pots), here’s one way to tame it. I found the original recipe in a food magazine put out by Marshall Field’s (before it became Macy’s), and credit is given to “Sunkist Growers, Inc.” in a tagline. I’ve added more mint, less sugar, and never bothered with the suggested grapefruit, so I think this is kinda my recipe now. I’m giving you an amount of mint (because that’s what you do in a recipe), but I nip off fistfuls of the herb from my pot without measuring, rinse and chop leaves only (no stems), and we’ve never thought, “Oh that’s too much mint.” (Pinch mint stem off right where new leaves are growing, as pictured here. That way your plant will branch out as it grows.)

FullSizeRenderNormally I’m a tea snob, but this is one case where I say, go for the Lipton’s. I used to find gallon-sized Lipton’s tea bags at Sam’s Club, but they no longer stock them. (Costco doesn’t carry any Lipton’s products.) I’ve found the large tea bags through Walmart online—they are cheaper and so much easier than unwrapping 12 single-serving tea bags.

One of the secrets of this drink, is pouring the boiled and steeped tea into the sugar, and stirring to dissolve it before adding the cold water. That’s how the southerners make their sweet tea, and it really is so much better than adding sugar to cold tea, where it just sinks to the bottom in an undissolved, sweet sludge. This tea has become our summertime drink of choice, and my son’s call it “liquid gold” or “the nectar of the gods”—when they are waxing poetic, that is. Suffice it to say, they really, really like it. I think you’ll like it too!

Makes 1 gallon

12 Lipton’s tea bags, or 1 gallon-sized tea bag
1 cup fresh spearmint leaves, rinsed and chopped*
4 cups boiling water
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 cups cold water
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

If using individual Lipton’s tea bags, unwrap and gather all the strings together. Flip them over the side of medium mixing bowl. (Gallon-size tea bag just goes in the bowl—it has no wrapping or string.) Add chopped mint. Pour 4 cups boiling water over mint and tea; cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Put sugar into gallon-sized pitcher. Place a sieve over opening of container. Pour hot steeped tea through sieve into gallon container, pressing on tea and mint to get all liquid out of bags. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add 8 cups cold water and lemon juice. Stir again. Refrigerate for 3 hours or more before serving. Keeps in frig for a couple weeks—if it lasts that long.

*NOTE: Just a reminder that you should use spearmint, not peppermint. Hope you planted the right herb!