Quick and Easy Hummus

Did you know that it’s incredibly easy to make your own hummus?  I never realized this until we received a Vitamix blender as a wedding present.  Now smooth and creamy home made hummus is just a few basic ingredients and a minute of blending away!

Quick and Easy Hummus Recipe

I like to think of this as a basic “building block” hummus recipe.  After you familiarize yourself with the standard ingredients you can play around with the flavors to come up with your own variation.  We haven’t tried tweaking the recipe yet but I have a feeling that next time we make a batch we’ll attempt to duplicate our favorite Trader Joe’s hummus flavors.  My favorite is Cilantro Jalapeño Hummus and Matt’s go-to is TJ’s smooth and creamy Mediterranean Hummus with pine nuts.  Of course, you could also try adding roasted red peppers, chipotle en adobo, pesto, sun dried tomatoes… the possibilities are endless!

Quick and Easy Hummus (from the Vitamix ‘Create’ Recipe Book)

You will need…
2 – 15 oz. cans Chickpeas – one can drained, the other with liquid
1/4 cup Sesame Seeds
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1 clove Garlic
1 teaspoon Cumin (plus more for garnish)
Salt, to taste

Directions:
Place the first six ingredients in the jar of a Vitamix* blender in the order shown above.  Set the Vitamix to variable 1 then increase speed to variable 10 and switch to high.  Use the tamper to push the mixture down into the blades and blend for 1 minute.  Stir in salt to taste and transfer to a bowl.  Garnish the hummus with cumin and serve with pita chips or your choice of veggie.  Enjoy!

Hummus and Pita Chips

* This recipe came from our Vitamix ‘Create’ Recipe Book, meaning that it’s designed to be made in a Vitamix.  When I used our Vitamix to blend the ingredients together the hummus turned out creamy, smooth, and perfectly blended in just one minute.  If you have a different type of blender the consistency might turn out a little less smooth (those sesame seeds could be hard to blend) so you may want to opt for a recipe that uses tahini (sesame seed paste) instead.

July Update: A new streak begins and the garden keeps on growing!

Matt and I are home after spending 10 days in beautiful St. Lucia and a few days in Western Maryland for the DockDogs Regional Championships.  I’ll post honeymoon photos and the dockdogs recap soon, but in the meantime I have some updates!

After 205 consecutive days my mile-a-day streak ended the day before our honeymoon began (June 13th).  I initially thought I would keep on streaking while in St. Lucia but for the first week we were staying in the rainforest on top of a mountain at the end of a precariously washed out dirt road so running a mile a day wasn’t really feasible.  Oh well!  🙂 As of July 1st I have started a new streak.  We’ll see if I can beat 205 days… I’ll reach that goal on January 21, 2014.

In other news, we had record rainfall in June and as a result my vegetable garden has been growing like crazy!  Check out this photo that I took today… a comparison shot from my May 10th gardening post is below.

Garden 7-3-13

Garden (5-10-13)

Quite a difference, right?  When we got home from St. Lucia I was shocked to see how much the parsley, thyme and tomatoes had grown and I was overwhelmed by the enormous zucchini plants!!  (I think my basil was overwhelmed too… it’s now living in the shadow of those large-leafed behemoths!)  Here are some other photos of my garden and back yard flowers from today.

While I was wandering around with my camera this afternoon I was surprised to spot a white-tailed deer in the front yard.  It is quite common for us to see deer in our area (usually in other peoples’ yards or dashing across the road!) but it is very, VERY rare to see a deer in our yard because Bailey has made it her life mission to stalk and chase any and all wildlife that comes within her invisible fence boundary.

I guess the neighborhood deer herd realized that Bailey was not at home for most of June and as a result they are now making themselves comfortable in the front yard.  Luckily Bailey was on her game this afternoon and as soon as this deer made a move Bailey (who must have been stalking it from a different angle as I snapped away with the camera) came blasting over, chased it away, and then proceeded to roll and rub in the deer’s scent for a good 30 seconds.  Good dog, Bailey (even if you do smell now…)

Well, that’s it for tonight’s update.  Happy 4th of July and have a great holiday weekend!!

Related Posts:
• Streaking, Reflections, and Other December Challenges (December 3, 2012)
• Streaking, Day 100 (March 1, 2013)
• Let the 2013 Gardening Season Begin! (May 12, 2013)
• Waiting for Red Tomatoes (July 4, 2012)

Volunteer Vegetables!

Guess what?  All of these veggies came from “volunteer plants” in my garden.  Volunteers are plants that grow on their own, either from the wind or a bird dropping a seed or, in my case, from compost.  Seeds aren’t normally supposed to sprout out of your compost so, judging by the huge quantity of volunteers that are growing around my house, I think I must be doing something wrong!  (Or very right, depending on how you feel about volunteer mystery plants!)

The squash and pumpkin plants sprouted by our front door and quickly took over our pink cosmo/dahlia flower bed.  By mid-August the crooked-neck gourd vines were completely out of control and could be clearly seen from the street so we picked the mature squash and ripped out the vines.  The pumpkin vines were growing across our front walk so today I finally decided that the pumpkin looked ripe enough to pick it and pull out the plant.

The tomatoes are the most exciting volunteers because we’re actually getting to eat those.  We have about a dozen volunteer tomato plants and the campari-sized tomatoes are just starting to ripen on their vines.  This is perfect timing because my “planned” tomatoes are pretty much done producing.  Can’t wait to each some of them for dinner tonight!

Our First Garlic Harvest!

After 9 months of waiting our garlic is finally ready to harvest! I’m pleased to announce the successful unearthing of eight beautiful, nicely formed garlic bulbs.

I patiently waited for the bottom of the garlic plants to start turning brown before harvesting them. Since these plants are a “hard neck” garlic variety I was able to pull them out of the ground with my hands fairly easily. One of the bulbs was slightly damaged (a clove had over-ripened out of its papery skin) so I peeled the whole bulb and used it to make a large batch of pesto. I froze the pesto in an ice cube tray so we’ll be able to enjoy our garden’s garlic and basil several months from now.

Based on Mike McGrath’s advice, I am now “curing” our garlic in a single file row on our dining room table. The spot is air conditioned and out of direct sunlight so hopefully the garlic should be ready to store in a week or so. We use garlic pretty quickly in our household so those remaining seven bulbs should be long gone by October!

This garlic was amazingly simple to grow (just plant the cloves in October, cut the scapes in June, and unearth the bulbs in July) and we are excited to finally be enjoying our own garlic!!

Please remember to leave a comment in my Tomato Salad post to be eligible to win a digital kitchen scale!

Bucatini with Sausage, Asparagus and Tomato in a White Wine Sauce

Last week we paid a visit to our local farmer’s market and we were pleasantly surprised to discover a man selling fresh sausage!  He seemed unfazed by the 95° temps and was happily browning up pieces of sausage on a tiny griddle and offering samples to potential customers.  We are not ones to pass up free sausage so we eagerly tasted some and it was amazing!  We promptly purchased a package of chicken provolone sausage and started brainstorming for potential summer meal ideas to highlight the local fare.

The recipe that Matt came up with definitely did the sausage justice.  The white wine sauce was flavorful without being overpowering (it actually smelled like “real” Italian cooking!) and the firm asparagus and super-tasty tomatoes (from our garden, of course!) complemented the sausage nicely.  This recipe made enough food for the two of us to eat dinner and then enjoy hearty portions for lunch the next day.

Oh, and before I get to the recipe, please remember to comment on my Tomato Salad post to win a free kitchen scale!

Bucatini with Sausage, Asparagus and Tomato in a White Wine Sauce

You will need…
1 bunch Asparagus, chopped into 2 inch pieces
Olive Oil
12 oz. Sausage (we used Maiale’s Chicken Sausage with Spinach and Sharp Provolone*)
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, minced
1 cup Dry White Wine
1/2 cup Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
2 tablespoons minced Chives
2 tablespoons Butter or Olive Oil Spread
Bucatini Pasta
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes

Directions:
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the chopped asparagus.  Blanch the asparagus for 2 minutes (or more if using thicker spears) and then use a slotted spoon to transfer the asparagus to an ice bath.  Allow asparagus to cool completely before straining and setting aside in a bowl.

The sauteing garlic and shallots smell wonderful!

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Remove the sausage from its casing and brown it in the oil, breaking it up as it cooks.  Remove the browned sausage from the wok and set aside.  Lower the heat to medium, add another tablespoon of olive oil and the minced garlic and shallots.  Saute until shallots are translucent.  Add the white wine and chicken broth, stir, and allow to simmer over low heat until mixture is reduced to approximately 1/3 the original volume.  As the sauce reduces cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Toss all of the ingredients together in the wok.

Add the sausage to the reduced white wine mixture, stir to combine, and bring the heat back up to medium.  Stir in the blanched asparagus, chives, and butter and add salt and pepper to taste.  Finally, add in the cooked and drained pasta and the cherry tomatoes and toss well.  Serve with a garnish of finely chopped chives.

*If you’re local to the southeastern PA / DE region, the delicious sausage was made by Maiale (“may.all.ay”) in Wilmington, Delaware.  We’ll definitely be going back to the farmer’s market next week to get more sausage!!  🙂

Victory! Vine-Ripened Red Tomatoes

Last week I wrote about how I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Red Tomatoes in my garden.  Well, the waiting has come to an end and I am proud to say that my hanging and containerized tomato plants now have a few dozen perfect little red tomatoes on their vines.  Here are some photos… enjoy!  🙂

Tomatoes after the rain this morning (the first rain we’ve had in weeks!)

Tomatoes ripening from the top down.

OK… not a tomato, of course, but also red! Our green jalapeño peppers are ripening to this beautiful red color.

These green tomatoes will be red soon!

Future tomatoes

Perfect!

These tomatoes will be making an appearance in our dinner on Monday.  We’re having Spicy Steak and Potatoes with Roasted Chile Salsa and Tomato Salad with Guajillo Chile Dressing.  Look for a post sometime later in the week!

June Is Bustin’ Out All Over – Garden Update!

My vegetables and herbs are growing like crazy!  We’ve had streaks of unusually hot weather (80-90°) punctuated by periods of relatively cooler weather (60-70°) here in Southeastern PA and it appears that my plants enjoy this every-changing variety of temperatures.  All of them have at least doubled in size in the last few weeks and several are already flowering or growing vegetables.

As of today the following plants are growing in my garden:

  • Jalapeño Pepper (planted in Spring 2011 and moved to a container for winter; several peppers ripening)
  • Garlic (planted last fall; scapes appearing)
  • Spinach (March; harvested)
  • Beans (March; transplanted and currently growing “real” green beans!)
  • Chives (April; in mixed container)
  • Marjoram (April; in mixed container)
  • Mint (April; 2 varieties in container)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (May; 2 staked in containers and flowering)
  • Tomatoes (May; 2 varieties in upside-down hanging containers and flowering)
  • Parsley (May; planted in one hanging tomato container)
  • Thyme (May; planted in the other hanging tomato container)
  • Strawberries (May; currently growing multiple unripe strawberries)
  • Serrano Pepper (May; in container and flowering)
  • Bush Belle Peppers (May; 2 varieties – one is already growing multiple green peppers)
  • Jalapeño Pepper (May)
  • Basil (9 plants) (May)
  • Pumpkins (“spontaneous” pumpkin patch from last Halloween’s pumpkins!)

With the exception of our whitefly infestation, we’ve had a pleasant, easy time with our garden so far.  We mulched all of our plants with either shredded leaves or mostly-composted leaves from our spin bin and we have lots of little fences in place that have successfully kept Bailey away from the plants.  I’m just starting to be able to use my thyme, parsley, and basil for cooking and soon we will have strawberries, jalapeño peppers, and green beans to eat!

Here are a few pictures of my garden:

Last year’s jalapeño plant that I saved over the winter has a handful of peppers growing on it.

What a difference 3 weeks makes! Hanging tomato plants with thyme and parsley from 5/13 and 6/4.

Green beans are finally growing on my “St. Patrick’s Day” bean plants!

This spider guards my garlic plants – I think he probably set up shop here to catch a few whiteflies.

This is my latest discovery in the garden and one of my most exciting so far… a tiny pumpkin patch!! We left a few pumpkins here after Halloween last fall because they were too heavy for the spin bin composter and Voila! We have pumpkin plants! I contemplated moving the rocks back but then realized that the plants were actually rooted in/around the rocks so I just put a little compost over top and we’ll see what happens…

This day lily is potted in the same container with my chives, marjoram, and marigolds. True it its name, we’ve had at least one new bloom every day for several weeks now.

Yup, that’s a strawberry!! Looks like I’ll be eating it soon…

Matt’s mom gave us several garlic cloves last Fall and we had our first “scape sighting” this morning.  Woohoo! We’ll cut them off soon and think of something yummy to make with them.

We grew this zinnia plant from seed! I jumped the gun back in February and started lots of seeds indoors (waaaay too early in the season but hey, I’m learning!) and after a few weeks of struggling outdoors in April nearly all of the zinnia, cosmos, gallardia, and painted daisy plants that we grew are starting to bud. This plant was the first to flower.

Last but not least, our potted Oleander plant is flowering again! We bought it last year in late June when it was in full flower so it’s nice to see that it made it through the winter and is flowering once again. I love the big, white flowers.

How is your garden doing at the start of June?  Please share!  🙂

Related posts:
Vegetable Gardening Season has Arrived! 5.7.12
Gardening Update – One Month Later 4.17.12
Gardening… On St. Patrick’s Day! 3.17.12