Sunday, February 17, 2013

Chocolate Chip-Prune Cookies

Please don't automatically give this the stinky-face look because of the prunes.  Forget about all those years ago when your grandparents were trying to force prunes or prune juice on you when you were a little "backed up". Since my 2.5 year old has had constipation issues, I have been searching out healthy alternatives to the pharmaceutical-manufactured fiber that the doctors like to push. Which, ironically, lead me to prunes. I guess my grandparents were right...

Prunes have a delicious deeply sweet flavor, and pare amazingly well with chocolate. I also threw in some cooked quinoa for added protein, and the quinoa just melts into the cookie with no hint of it being there.

Chocolate Chip-Prune Cookies
1/2 c. quinoa, uncooked
2 1/4c. flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. white sugar
4 tbsp butter, softened
2 eggs, room temp.
1 c. apple sauce
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 bag chocolate chips
1/2 c. diced prunes (about 5) (kitchen scissors work great for this job)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

To cook quinoa: Bring 1 cup of water to boil in small saucepan. Add quinoa. Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.

In a small bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Place diced prunes in another small bowl. Sprinkle a little of the flour mixture into the prunes, and mix to coat. Make sure each piece of diced prune is coated in flour. (The prunes are sticky, and this ensures the prunes won't clump together in the batter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream sugars, molasses and butter. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add applesauce and vanilla. Slowly add in flour mixture, a little at a time. Once the flour is fully incorporated, pour in bag of chocolate chips, prunes, and quinoa. Mix on slow speed in mixer to incorporate, or remove from mixer and use large spoon to fold items into batter.

Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. (There is not much fat in this recipe, so the parchment will ensure the cookies dont stick to your pan.) Place scoops of cookie batter on sheets.  Bake 20 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown and cooked through.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kalamata Hummus

As I was researching recipes to satisfy my cravings for homemade hummus, I was struck by the fact that hummus is a comfort food for many from Middle Eastern nations. Through the Internet wires I could feel the passion in the blog posts about the use of garlic, cumin, or none at all in traditional hummus. It reminds me of heated arguments I've had with my husband over the merits of good southern BBQ (my favorite comfort food).  He judges a BBQ place by the meat (think 3-meat plate with ribs, brisket, and sausage) and I love a BBQ joint with great sides (homemade Mac and Cheese!).

Here is my version of homemade kalamata olive hummus and pita chips. I highly recommend using roasted red peppers instead of the olives if you have a jar handy. Just throw in a few pepper slices in place of the olives in this recipe. This makes a rather large batch of hummus, so if you are like me and never eat much at one sitting, it freezes really well. I divy the batch up into 3 portions. One to eat over the next few days, and two smaller portions in bags to freeze for later.

This time I really tried to find pita chips in the grocery store instead of making them at home because I figured the price was a wash. A bag of pita bread was $2.50 and I assume a bag of pita chips would be about the same. But, alas, I couldn't find them in the store, so I've also included a recipe for how to make them at home.

Kalamata Olive Hummus and Homemade Pita Chips

1 cup dry chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup tahini
Juice from 3 lemons
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup cooking water from beans
Olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
Salt to taste (1/4 tsp - 1/2 tsp)
Crushed black pepper

Pita Chips
3 pita rounds
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Garnish for making Mediterranean Pita Chip Nachos (as pictured)
Sliced cucumbers
Slices of grana padano or parmesian reggiano - a nutty salty hard cheese really complements the flavor of the
Small spinach leaves or large leaves, torn
In a large stockpot cover chickpeas with 2" water. Soak overnight. Drain beans in colander and rinse with fresh water. Return beans to pot.  Cover with at least 4" water. Add bay leaves and garlic.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until beans are tender, 2-3 hours. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup liquid and garlic.

In the bowl of a food processor, add beans, cooked garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olives, cumin, salt and reserved cooking water. Process mixture, and slowly drizzle in olive oil until desired consistency. The cooked chickpeas make for a beautifully creamy textured hummus. Make sure the olives do not have pits. I didn't check my olives and one pit made it into the mix. It almost broke my food processor! The texture of the hummus in the picture is a little coarser than I like, but after I scooped out the hummus into a bowl to search for the seed that was causing so much mayhem to my equipment, I wasn't interested in scooping the dip back into the processor to finish. I like to add fresh cracked pepper to my hummus before I eat it, and I leave this part to your discretion.

Pita chips
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut pita rounds into large squares. Place squares on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Using hands or a spatula, turn pita squares so they are evenly coated with olive oil. Place in oven. Turn pita chips over every 5 minutes with spatula for even cooking. Chips are ready when they are deep golden brown and crispy, about 20 minutes.  Once out of the oven, sprinkle with salt to your taste.