appetizer

basil cauliflower hummus | whole30

basil hummus

Soooo I’m doing this Whole30 thing. It’s 30 days of no grains, no sugar, no legumes, and no dairy, plus some helpful rules for how to eat what you’re permitted to eat. Call it what you will – a diet, a cleanse, a fad, a phase, a crazy idea, whatever – but I call it a reminder. It’s a good way to forcibly haul myself back onto the path of sensible eating, to re-experience the marvelous flavors unadulterated, whole foods, and to at least partially break some of my pesky, food-related bad habits. Also, it’s a challenge and something of a benchmark, at least for me. And I like a good, attainable challenge, especially one that seems deceptively simple but turns out to be a mind game. It’s good to conquer my will and remind myself that I am actually capable of self-control.

I’ve done a Whole30 before – well, sort of. Early last summer – in May and June of 2013, that is – I did a Whole27. Yup, that’s right. I stopped three days before the end. Ridiculous, right? It didn’t seem like it at the time. I hadn’t experienced any sort of “aha!” or “I FEEL GREAT” moment that apparently most people have at some point midway through their Whole30. I felt normal. Perhaps maybe I didn’t crave sugar as much as usual, but then again, I’m a very good rule-follower, so knowing I can’t have something is strong enough motivation for me to stay away. Maybe I felt the same because I tend to eat rather “cleanly,” as they say, to begin with – I genuinely love vegetables and whole grains and am picky about the source of my animal proteins. Either way, on top of the lack of any changes – whether physical or mental – the last week and a half of my first Whole30 fell during our house-hunting trip in Houston. We were staying in a small apartment with frustratingly limited kitchen supplies, so I was essentially subsisting on eggs, avocados, lettuce, bananas, almonds, and squash – foods that need minimal flavoring to taste tolerable. But I was bored. The final straw was going over to eat at the house of some friends of our friends in Wilmington. I neither wanted to appear rude by not eating the food that was served, nor did I wish to explain my food philosophy experimentations to these people we had just met, as nice as they were (and now I know they would’ve probably been interested by Whole30 anyway, as they’re quite food-conscious, in a good way). So I ate the white potatoes, the chicken of unknown origin flavored with unnamed sauces, and the chocolate cake. I sacrificed my Whole30 for my principles of social conduct. And I was okay with that. In fact, I still am.

It didn’t matter so much that I gave up on that first Whole30 just before the end, because I had been cheating all along. I’d indulged in chocolate banana freeze, a marvelous ice cream replacement, numerous times. I practically lived off of fruit, since my Whole30 fell right at the end of strawberry season and the beginning of blueberry season. I even made paleo pancakes (that’s 1 mashed banana + 1 beaten egg = 1 tasty banana pancake, just so you know), despite it violating the “no pancakes” rule. Those delicious things became my breakfast staple. And, oh boy, did I ever snack. All the time. On everything, but mostly fruit.

So, while that first Whole30 was at the most perfect time – when I still had easy access to eggs from our own chickens and meat from our own goats and blueberries from our own bushes, et cetera – this one that I’m dong right now is the real deal, as much as I can make it so.

Most importantly, I’ve adjusted my goals and expectations. I know I’m unlikely to suddenly feel just “better,” like some people. My skin and hair won’t look any different (though I never expected that even with my first Whole30). I won’t lose weight (though, again, that was never a goal for either time). In fact, nothing palpable will change. However, I will learn to eat a more nutritious, less carbalicous breakfast. I will rediscover that carrots taste wonderfully sweet. I will enjoy getting back into the groove of eating lots and lots of vegetables, especially after the holidays. I will respect my body, God’s creation, by feeding it well. I will not snack constantly; I will actually adhere to the rules of the game, even the seemingly silly ones; I will not subsist on exclusively on fruit and meat. And I will attempt to experiment in the kitchen, despite a narrower repertoire of ingredients at my disposal.

Today brings me to day 19 of my Whole30. So far, it has been as I predicted and described above. Normal. But, as I explain way up there in the first paragraph, it has been a wonderful reminder. I’m certainly going to finish it, even though I’ll be getting my wisdom teeth removed during the final week. I’ll have to blog about that. I’m sure it’ll be amusing. 

Well, anyway, that was a long-winded introduction to some comparably short-order hummus.

cauliflower hummus

Obviously, chickpea hummus is out of the question during a Whole30. But sometimes I like to have something to dip my carrots in, and we needed tahini paste, and I needed to get some creativity out. So I bought the tahini paste and made some hummus out of cauliflower. The story always goes that way. My scattered plans to experiment turn into an impulse buy at the grocery store, which leads me to developing a recipe I had hoped to concoct but expected that I wouldn’t.

Are you having yourself a paleo Super Bowl party? Or just a plain old Super Bowl party? This could be a good food to add to the snacking menu. Unlike salsa, it’s thick enough that it won’t spill all over the floor when the bowl gets tipped over by your explosions of  exuberant motion. That is, of course, if you’re into football. Me? I’ll be watching Downton Abbey and Sherlock. And maybe a bit of the Super Bowl, if the commercials are any good.basil cauliflower hummus

Because I follow football as closely as I follow the sport of curling, I have a highly sophisticated method for choosing which team to root for: Peyton Manning is the Colorado team’s quarter back, I hear, and he used to play for the Indianapolis Colts, I believe, and I have relatives who love the Colts, and I have relatives who live in Colorado. So clearly, I must cheer for the Broncos. Or maybe I’ll just make hummus. And (the best) guacamole. Yeah, that’s a better use of my time.

So, this hummus. It’s much lighter than hummus made from chickpeas, and I appreciate that about it. The flavor is unique – a near perfect mix of bright basil and tangy tahini. It’s not nearly so unassuming as regular hummus. So, if you don’t like your dips to make a statement, maybe you should stay away. Of course, I think you could expand out from basil. In fact, you could leave out the basil, up the tahini, and have a more traditional hummus flavor. Or you could swap basil for cilantro. I suppose you could take out the tahini and have a basil dip. But, that wouldn’t be hummus, at least in my mind. To qualify for the name hummus in my book, the dip must have either chickpeas or sesame seed paste. Anyway, clearly there’s a lot of options here.

And, yes, I am aware that according to the Whole30 shopping guidelines, consumption of sesame seeds – and other seeds – should be limited. What I am doing making hummus with sesame seed paste? I figure that 2 tablespoons of tahini diluted by a couple cups of cauliflower, eaten once or twice in the entirety of my Whole30 certainly qualifies as “limited.” So please excuse my while I plow my way through some baby carrots with this marvelous spread.carrots and hummus

Basil Cauliflower Hummus

  • 1 + 1/2 cups cauliflower rice (recipe to follow)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 + 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cauliflower Rice

  • 1 head cauliflower

Separate a head of cauliflower into florets. Toss the florets into a food processor (do not try this in a blender like a Vitamix; the pieces will be too small), and pulse until the cauliflower is pulverized into pieces just a bit smaller than grains of rice. Put as much cauliflower rice as you’re going to use into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes – stirring every minute – until the cauliflower has softened, cooked, and become less white and more translucent. Cooking time will vary, depending on your microwave. [Makes 4-6 cups, depending on the size of the cauliflower head.]

For the hummus:

Put the garlic and olive oil in a small bowl and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and starting to brown. Toss all of the ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. Add more salt if you think it needs it. Enjoy with carrots or celery or broccoli (or chips of some kind if you’re not Whole30ing it).

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the best guacamole

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I’m a guacamole snob.

Too many avocados. Recipe calls for two.

Too many avocados. Recipe calls for two.

And maybe it’s a bit pretentious to claim that I am in possession of the recipe for the best guacamole, but I really think it’s true. It’s actually a recipe I learned from my mother, unlike most on here. Unlike a lot of people who cook, I don’t have many recipes I can say were handed down to me by my mother. I can’t pretend that I learned to cook from a tender young age, attending my homemaking mother in the kitchen and soaking in her culinary wisdom. Nope. I hated cooking until just a few years ago. And Mom is very much a follow-the-recipe-and-use-measuring-cups kind of cook. She’s not all that into improvisation, I’d say. So, other than basic life skill type cooking – eggs, pancakes, french toast, et cetera – and her blessed tendency to cook with whole foods, I haven’t inherited many actual recipes from her.smashing avocados

But this one I did. I learned to make guacamole from my mother. And before I went about measuring the ingredients and writing it down, I only knew how to make it by taste. No recipe.chopped onion

So why is it the best? Well, mainly because it has the right ingredients. Other guacamoles tend to leave out crucial ingredients or add in distracting ones. For example, my dear but sadly misinformed best friend and her family make the guacamole without tomatoes. That’s the usual offense. Guacamole absolutely must include tomatoes. They also make theirs with cumin. No. Just don’t. It distracts from the avocado flavor. Same with peppers and leafy herbs of any kinds. Those are for salsa; keep those far away from guacamole, too. Do, on the other hand, be sure to include garlic. That’s tantamount. Guacamole tastes unexciting and blah without it.smashed avocado

Also, texture is important. Finely chopping the onions and garlic allows the flavors to blend together better in the guacamole. That way, you don’t get an overwhelming taste of onion in one bit and none at all in the next. The tomatoes can be whatever size, since their flavor is more mild. But they need to be small enough to fit in one bite with everything else and large enough to not disappear or turn to mush. The avocado itself should not be too smooth or creamy, unlike the final product of this batch, which I stirred too much as I tried to get the ingredient measurements right. Mash the avocado with a fork. Don’t blend it. Don’t use a potato masher. Just a fork, so there is still little chunks of avocado rather than total creaminess. It should look like it does after I first mashed it [above].

guacamole ingredients

And salt. Don’t forget the salt.

guacamole and steak

The Best Guacamole

  • 2 perfectly ripe avocados
  • 2 cloves garlic (~ 2 teaspoons when minced)
  • 2 tablespoons onion
  • 1 small roma tomato ( ~ 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon (or lime) juice

Smash the avocados roughly with a fork. Mince the garlic and finely chop the onion. Cut the tomato into small chunks. Gently fold all the ingredients in with the avocado, using 3/4 of the salt or so. Taste it. Adjust the salt as necessary. Add a bit more of any of the other ingredients if you think  you should, but salt (and sometimes garlic) is the only ingredient that ever really needs addition. Enjoy with chips or crackers or with steak for breakfast!

pineapple salsa with cilantro

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I’m back! I’m back, I’m back, I’m baaack! I didn’t go anywhere. I just didn’t blog for forever. Life has been busy and lots has happened, but of course I’ve still managed to squeeze some cooking in along the edges – like pineapple salsa with cilantro from the wildly overgrown space in our yard where the garden should be.

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Conveniently, I happened upon a perfectly ripe pineapple in the grocery store while shopping for food for Mom’s birthday breakfast and supper. I served half of it for breakfast the day before her birthday and used the other half for the salsa.
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The scraggly cilantro I found bolting up between the pink clover cover crop in the garden tasted delicious despite its nonstandard appearance. Actually, no. Delicious is too strong of a word for my opinion on cilantro. I read once that most everyone has a strong feelings about cilantro – they either love it or hate it. Those who hate it say it tastes like soap. The other people like that, apparently. In any case, I guess I’m an anomaly, because I can take or leave the stuff. But in the case of this salsa, I think it added nicely to the flavor of the whole thing.
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Of course to eat salsa with or without cilantro – one needs a vehicle. Normally, I would make some of my flax and corn cracker-chips, but I’m doing the Whole30, which means no corn or soy. So, I whipped out a crumpled bag of pricey Bob’s Red Mill almond flour from the depths of the fridge and made the easiest, most delicious rosemary almond crackers ever. I didn’t have quite enough almond flour, so I added a bit of flax meal to make up the difference and left the rosemary out of some of them so it wouldn’t interfere with the salsa flavor.
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I’d been doing this Whole30 thing for about a week – since May 2nd – at this point, and I had really been craving crunchy things like popcorn, crackers, and granola. The rosemary crackers were just the thing, and man, were they good. They’re a repeat favorite for me. I served them at a party once when some of my Celiac friends were around, and the cracker were positively devoured. Numerous people asked for the recipe. Anywho, this grain-starved girl thought they went great with the sweet and spicy salsa, though her mother didn’t agree. I was just happy to eat something crunchy.

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Pineapple Salsa with Cilantro

  • 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple (~1/2  of a very ripe pineapple)
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion (~1/2 an onion)
  • 1/4 cup jalapeño, minced (~1 large jalapeño)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 + 1/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (~1 bunch)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions for the jalapeño: if you just want the flavor of the jalapeño itself, remove all of the inner white stuff and seeds. If you want the perfect amount of heat, leave 1/4 of the white stuff and seeds; chop it up and mix it in with everything else. If you’re crazy about spicy food, don’t even bother cleaning any seeds out.

Combine all the ingredients and adjust to taste. Enjoy with crackers or chips or by the spoonful!

our spartan kitchen: flax and corn cracker-chips

Suppers on Sunday nights in our house have consisted of the same satisfying fare for years: popcorn, apples, and cheese. The only possible variations are, in my mind, in the same broad group of salty, snackish food: guacamole and chapati chips or hummus and pita chips, both still with popcorn, which is never of the microwave or buttered variety.

Tradition-keeping person that I am, I considered it an absolute necessity that I bake some sort of salty, crunchy vehicle for the hummus I discovered in our fridge the other Sunday; I most certainly could not ignore the hummus, nor could I set it out without chips of some sort. So, inspired by some flax seed chips from Costco that I have munched on at various gatherings recently, by the newly purchased bag of cornmeal in our cupboard, and, most importantly, by our severe and serious lack of chips to accompany the hummus, I threw together some chip-like crackers. Or were they cracker-like chips? Cracker-chips, I guess. Tasty, crunchy, easy pieces of salty goodness, regardless.

The required ingredients and measuring and slicing accouterments: corn meal, flax seed meal, olive oil, water, salt, teaspoon, tablespoon, half cup, pizza cutter.

A  cup of corn meal and half a teaspoon salt,

plus six tablespoons flax seed meal,

seven tablespoons water, and three tablespoons olive oil

equals one batch of moist but not sticky dough.

A sheet of parchment paper, a rolling pin, and cracker-chip dough,

plus a pizza cutter,

some erratic slicing,

and a teaspoon of salt,

with a 400° oven and ten minutes of toasting time

equals cracker-chips!

And cracker-chips plus some hummus equals the proper Sunday supper.

Flax and Corn Cracker-Chips

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 6 tablespoons flax seed meal
  • 7 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-½ teaspoons salt, divided

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Combine all of the ingredients — except for 1 teaspoon of the salt — to make a moist dough. On a piece of parchment paper that will fit on a baking sheet, roll out the dough as thin as you can. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into cracker-chips of whatever size you like. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon of salt. Lift the parchment paper onto the baking sheet.

Bake cracker-chips for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place crackers-chips that have lightly browned onto a cooling rack. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until all cracker-chips are done. Let them cool before eating; they increase in crispiness the cooler the become. Enjoy!

Submitted to the Gluten Free Fridays link roundup.