Lemony, garlicky hummus

 

This is my third food-related post in a row. This isn’t exclusively a food blog by the way. But I can’t help it. Lately, I’ve been reminiscing–thinking about old places we used to go. One of them was this little artisenal pasta place called, Stellina’s. It was weird because I wasn’t a huge fan of their pasta–they over cooked it a lot. Mushy. But I loved their hummus! Every time we went, we started our meal off with the hummus appetizer.

What set this hummus apart? It was simple, light, fresh, and just full of flavour. It wasn’t bogged down with heaps of cumin and spices–something I’ve noticed most places use. After our many visits, we finally asked Stellina’s what they put in their hummus. They kind of looked at us a bit boggled, like, “We just use regular stuff. Chickpeas, tahini….” and then it trailed off. Looking back, I don’t think they understood why we were obsessed with it.

Stellina’s closed a few years ago. I wasn’t going to miss their pasta, but I was sad the hummus was gone. I didn’t even get to say good-bye! How and where were we going to get our hummus? I realized I was going to have to learn how to make it. I had to count on my memory on how it tasted  and had to try to “recreate” it somehow.

I went on to do a web search and finally found Giada De Laurentiis’ and Ina Garten’s recipes came the closest. I made it a few times and tweaked it. In the end, instead of plopping raw garlic into the food processor, I added olive oil (with the garlic) to a small pan and let it sizzle a bit on low heat–until the oil became really fragrant. And I added lots of lemon juice to brighten it up.

The final recipe is far from perfect, but it’s close. Here it is (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and Ina Garten):

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Tahini (sesame paste)
2-3 large cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 dashes (or more) of hot sauce
1-2 lemons
1 – 15.25oz can (432g) of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained, save the liquid from the can and set aside
Salt to taste

On low-medium heat, add the olive oil to a small pan. When the oil is warm-hot, add the garlic.  Cook for about 1-1.5 minutes until it gently sizzles and the oil is fragrant. Watch closely and stir frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn. Turn heat off and set aside.

In a small food processor, add garbanzo beans, tahini, hot sauce, a pinch of salt, about 1 tablespoon of the reserved garbanzo bean liquid, and the juice of half of a lemon. If you’re living on the edge, add the juice of the entire lemon! Pulse the processor to blend the ingredients. If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more of the reserved liquid. Next, slowly add half of the smashed garlic cloves and half of the olive oil. Blend ingredients again. Add more reserved liquid until you reach your desired consistency. Add more lemon juice and/or salt to suit or your taste.

Place finished hummus into a storage container. Let it sit for a few minutes or up to an hour so the flavours can play and marry. Use the remaining garlic and oil as a garnish when serving.

I enjoy eating this with olives, peppers, and naan. Yum!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

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‘Tis the season…to bake! Each holiday season, I try to tackle a personal baking “challenge”, which really means trying out a new holiday cookie recipe. I try to pick something I’ve seen or heard of, something that sounds popular. A “nostalgic classic” like a thumb print or short bread. This year, in the midst all of grieving, mourning, and trying to heal from my beloved pet loss, I decided one of the best things to do is to get back into the kitchen again and “play.” Plus, I thought it would be a good way to “stay busy”, creative, and keep my mind awake and fresh during a time when I feel like I can barely articulate a thought or hold my attention for a long period of time. Also, I wanted to try something new. Something easy. Something chocolate.  🙂

I’ve heard about and seen many photos of these crinkle cookies and always wondered, “How to do they get those crinkles?” And, “Why are they white? How do they get that to stick?” And, “Are they crunchy all around or soft in the middle? They’re so pretty.”

I don’t claim to know anything about the science of the crinkles in these cookies, and I don’t presume, but turns out they’re white because of they’re coated in powdered sugar! Stuff coated in powdered sugar always makes it feel kind of ethereal. And oh my, these cookies are divine! They’re a little crunchy on the outside and fudgy in the middle, soft without being too soft and not too sweet. And boy oh, boy–chocolate flavour is bursting! After somewhat thorough internet search, I decided to go with Hershey’s recipe. Here it is along with some tips I learned along the way that might help you get a good batch:

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies | ADAPTED FROM, Hershey’S

Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa (or Dark Chocolate Hershey’s cocoa)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Combine granulated sugar and oil in large bowl. Add cocoa, then beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and stir them together. Gradually add flour mixture to cocoa mixture, beating well. Cover; refrigerate until dough is firm enough to handle, at least 6 hours.

Heat oven to 350°F. Prep oven so you can place the cookie sheet on the 2nd top rack. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease. Shape dough into 1-inch balls–I used a melon baller lightly sprayed non-stick cooking spray to minimize the dough from sticking. Then roll the dough balls in powdered sugar to coat. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until almost no indentation remains and tops are crackled. Cool slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes about 48 cookies.

They’re so perfect and simple to make! I shared about half of the batch and stored the rest in a tupperware container in a cool, dry place (pantry).

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Chocolate Poke Cake with Kahlua

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Every Thanksgiving, it’s important for me and husband to carve out (no pun intended) some time for just us (and our pups, or now, pup) to celebrate the holiday. Usually, it’s a quiet dinner. We cook a little something for ourselves and enjoy a small, quiet feast and a movie. Well, this year, forget the movie…we’re going to watch the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix! The past few months, especially the last month has been rough so it’s something to look forward to!

Turkey for two. Potatoes for two. Veggies for two. Turkey burger patty for Sophie. Pots de Creme for dessert. Our menu is set. But I couldn’t think of something easy to bring to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving lunch. Pie, pie, pie. Pie? I’m not and have never been a traditional pie person. I know, it’s my dirty little secret. It’s a texture thing with me–I don’t like the “gloopy” fillings nor the taste and texture of pie crust. I mean, there are a few exceptions! I’ll never turn down a french silk, chocolate, or key lime pie (note the silky fillings) or a graham cracker or cookie crust.

This late in the game, I realized there’s no time to order a pie and I don’t have the energy or the will to bake one. So I started looking at poke cakes. Turns out poke cakes are pretty straight forward! You poke holes in a cake and pour over some liquid goodness usually consisting of something like a sweetened condensed milk variety (from what I’ve read). Anyway, the holes in the cake absorb the liquids making the cake moist and full of flavor! I came across a bunch of them on Pinterest. Heaps of varieties that look so easy to make! An image for a Chocolate Mudslide Poke Cake caught my eye! It’s from one of my go-to baking blogs, Brown Eyed Baker. So I decided to try it out!

After reading through the recipe, I decided to tweak it a bit. We don’t really drink that much alcohol anymore so I omitted the vodka. But I kept the Kahlua and bought Bailey’s Irish Cream non-alcoholic coffee creamer instead.  Here it is:

Chocolate POKE CAKE with kahlua, ADAPTED FROM BROWN EYED BAKER

INGREDIENTS

 

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1 box Devil’s food cake mix
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 ounce) jar hot fudge – I used homemade fudge I already had in the fridge. I didn’t have enough and ended up adding 10 heaping tablespoons.

3 tablespoons (plus an extra splash if you’re feeling naughty) Kahlua
3 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream non-alcoholic creamer
8 ounces Cool Whip
Shaved chocolate for garnish

Bake the cake according to the instructions listed on the box.

Remove the cake from the oven. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake. You can go crazy and create a “random” pattern of holes. Or do what I did and poked holes in rows across the cake.

In a separate bowl, mix together the condensed milk, Kahlua, non-alcoholic Bailey’s Irish Cream creamer, and hot fudge. Drizzle the mixture over the cake. Watch mesmerized, as the cake soaks up the mixture! It’s a beautiful sight!

Allow the cake to cool. Then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

After 1 hour, spread the Cool Whip topping on top. Add some shaved chocolate for garnish and enjoy!

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This cake is a winner! I’m so glad I tried it! The devil’s food cake isn’t that sweet, adding the condensed milk mixture makes it extra moist adds a nice “ping” of sweetness. It’s definitely coming along for Thanksgiving lunch at my parents house and likely other potlucks too! What I love most about this is that there are a lot of options to jazz up the flavours! This poke cake method is really adaptable. Next time, I think I’m going to add some strong coffee to and make it more of a mocha poke cake! Stay tuned!