I first tasted hummus at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Minneapolis called Jerusalem's several decades ago. It was delightful; all buttery and lemony. So I decided it would be a good thing to have at home. I tried several versions of store bought hummus including a local variety made by Holy Land in northeast Minneapolis. It is quite good, but none of them really seemed to be the right flavor for me. Perhaps it is the Scandinavian boy from the prairie who grew up on blandness? Not! I think it really is that I wanted something smooth with a little tang that could be spread on bread as a sandwich or used as a dip for chips or pita. Something versatile and yummy. So, for years I made batches of hummus. Unfortunately, my kids really don't like hummus, so I've had to eat a lot of it on my quest for perfection. Today, I got it and I'm going to share it with you: My Perfect Hummus!
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 large lemon juiced (little less than 1/4 cup)
  • 1 15 oz can drained garbanzo beans
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 T olive oil

Preparation
  1. Put the tahini and lemon juice in a food processor and turn on for at 1-2 minutes until very smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides of the work bowl at the half way point.
  2. Add the drained garbanzo beans and the finely diced or crushed garlic. Blend another 1-2 minutes until smooth.
  3. While the food processor is on, slowly drizzling the olive oil into the mixture.
  4. Spoon out and garnish with a bit of olive oil and paprika. (Cumin and other spices can be added at the end if you wish.)

Nutrition
1 Tablespoon = 25 calories.
Notes
The two secrets to this hummus are:
  • The initial tahini lemon juice mixture.
  • The blending order of the ingredients. We are treating it like we are making mayonnaise or a dressing by emulsifying the olive oil slowly at the end into the acidic mixture.

Try it on our Honey Wheat Bread toasted. You will love it!
 
 
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My friend Ann from Sumptuous Spoonfuls is coming to town this weekend. So in her honor a new recipe for some delightful rolls. (Psst....actually, this is just the dough from the flatbread recipe made into rolls. But don't tell her that I recycled a recipe into something new for her. It will be our little secret.)

Ingredients
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp quick yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup plus 2 T lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T olive oil
  • spray oil

Preparation
  1. Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk or fork in a large bowl.
  2. Add the water and olive oil and mix until incorporated. It should be lumpy and wet, but not glossy. Adjust water as needed.
  3. Spray oil the top of the dough and bowl sides, flip the dough and then spray again.
  4. Cover dough with plastic wrap and towel. 
  5. Place in warm area to rise about 5-6 hours. I put on my stove top and turn the oven on to 150 degress F and the vent keeps the top warm. It needs to be about 70-74 degrees F.
  6. Pour dough out onto greased counter top and fold over twice. Cover with wrap and let rise another hour.
  7. Uncover and divide dough evenly into six to twelve pieces. (Depends on size of rolls you want.)
  8. On a floured counter top, shape the dough pieces into quick balls. Set aside and rest for a few minutes.
  9. Heat a Dutch oven or other large covered heavy pan with a cover in a 450 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes depending on size of rolls.
  10. Cook uncovered 5-8 minutes depending on size of rolls until golden.
  11. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Tips
Dough can be refrigerated for up to a week. Just remove from refrigerator and place on an oiled counter covered until room temperature - about an hour. Then bake as usual.

Add your favorite Italian herbs into this dough for a wonderful herbed bread.

For small rolls, you could cook them in a roasting pan with a lid or heavy cookie sheeet on top.
 
 
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I find it quite amusing when a company titles their product: Epicurean. I think few of them really know what it means. The free online dictionary defines it as: Devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, especially to the enjoyment of good food and comfort.

Yet, Epicurus was more complicated and interesting than that. He shunned superstition and divine intervention for a philosophy that claimed pleasure was the only good. Some mistake his philosophy to be about Hedonism. But really he was about simple pleasure through modest living and knowledge. Pleasure was the good, knowledge was the key.

I think this is the perfect recipe to represent an Epicurean lifestyle. A simple recipe that tastes good with a little knowledge of what and how ingredients go together.  Nothing divine here.
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 to 3 jalapeno(s) finely diced (depending on desired heat)
  • 4 cups cooked assorted beans (Epicurean mix from Costco)
  • 3 medium potatoes diced 
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 4 cups chicken stock (substitute vegetable stock for vegetarian recipe)
  • small container of salsa
  • 1/2 cup chicken gravy or 1/4 cup cream (substitute soy based dairy product, a little cornstarch in water, or vegetable gravy for vegetarian recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small bag frozen corn
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt if needed

Preparation
  1. Cook the jalapeno(s) and onion in the olive oil for approximately 5 minutes over medium heat in Dutch oven or heavy pot to release the flavors.
  2. Add all the other ingredients and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 2-3 hours covered.
  4. You could substitute taco seasoning for the spice mix indicated herein.
  5. Top with a bit of finely shredded English cheddar cheese and some sour cream.


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Nutrition
About 290 calories per serving.

Tips
  • This recipe can also be prepared in a crock pot.
  • This makes a large pot and extra can be frozen for up to 3 months.
 
 
Many flat breads don't have yeast, but I like this one because of the wonderful flavor. It is easy to whip together in the morning and ready to bake that evening. Also, you can refrigerate the dough for a week and have flatbreads whenever you like. 

The added bonus is that this dough makes great rolls too! So if you get tired of flatbread, just make a roll or two for your favorite sandwich or eat warm with butter. Yum!

Ingredients
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp quick yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup plus 2 T lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T olive oil
  • spray oil
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Preparation
  1. Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk or fork in a large bowl.
  2. Add the water and olive oil and mix until incorporated. It should be lumpy and wet, but not glossy. Adjust water as needed.
  3. Spray oil the top of the dough and bowl sides, flip the dough and then spray again.
  4. Cover dough with plastic wrap and towel. 
  5. Place in warm area to rise about 5-6 hours. I put on my stove top and turn the oven on to 150 degress F and the vent keeps the top warm. It needs to be about 70-74 degrees F.
  6. Pour dough out onto greased counter top and fold over twice. Cover with wrap and let rise another hour.
  7. Uncover and divide dough evenly into six pieces.
  8. On a floured counter top, shape the dough pieces into quick balls. Set aside and rest for a few minutes.
  9. You can roll out the dough very thin after about 10 minutes or you can refrigerate the extra balls wrapped in plastic for about a week.
  10. Brush top of dough with a little olive oil and salt and bake at 450 degrees F on a preheated pizza stone or heavy cookie sheet for 3 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven, top with toppings, and return to bake for an additional 15 minutes or so depending on wetness of toppings.

Topping Ideas
  • Mozzarella, caramelized onions, and pancetta.
  • Tomato sauce, Mozzarella, pepperoni and green pepper.
  • Mozzarella, tomato sauce, pineapple and green pepper.
  • Mozzarella, blue cheese, and pancetta.
  • Ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheddar cheese.
  • Mozzarella, nicoise olives, castelvetrano olives, and red onion.
  • Mozzarella, bacon, parmesan, and tomato.
  • Tomato, mozzarella, and basil.

Rolls
You can cook the six pieces individually or together as large or small rolls as well.
  1. Bring the dough to room temperature and let proof a little on an oiled counter under plastic wrap for about an hour.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven or other large covered heavy pan with a cover in a 450 degree F oven for at least a half an hour.
  3. Shape dough quickly into rounds and placed into Dutch oven. Cook covered for 15-20 minutes depending on size of your rolls.
  4. Cook uncovered 5-8 minutes depending on size of rolls until golden.
  5. Remove to wire rack to cool.


Nutrition
Depends on toppings and portion size.

Tips
I usually cook 1-3 of the flatbreads and then store the rest wrapped in plastic wrap in a recloseable plastic bag. Bring dough back up to nearly room temperature before cooking.
 
 
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Sochi! Olympics! Putin shirtless! O.k., well at least two out of three ain't bad. I cringe after every skater as NBC pans to a stoic Putin in the crowd. Honestly, NBC should just rename themselves the Putin Television Network. There has to be more about Russian than just Putin sitting in a crowd or hanging half naked in a hotel room - his portrait, I mean. That and the stories of uniquely unfinished hotel rooms and bathrooms drove me to think about how I could share more about the culture of Russian to my family instead of the mismanaged hype. 

The Russian people are known for many great things including unique food due in part to their climates and topography. In particular, they are known for pickling certain foods including cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbage. Their pickling brine is almost as holy as soy sauce to some Asian cultures. Almost as holy as vodka! So, I decided we'd celebrate a bit of the culture of Russian outside of the NBC/PTN mockumentary experience by having a bit of pickled foods and a few shots of vodka for the adults with a proper Russian toast of course.

Here are two great quick pickle recipes I developed for the occasion. One recipe is for tomatoes with pepperoncini and the other is for cooked Brussels sprouts. Vashe zrodovye! - To your health! Half naked or not.

Ingredients
TOMATOES
  • 10 medium small vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 small jarred pepperoncini
  • 1 clove garlic sliced thin
  • 4 small bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill

BRUSSELS SPROUTS
  • 18-20 Brussels sprouts halved
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic sliced thin

BRINE
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (you could use red wine vinegar for a different flavor)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Preparation
  1. Bring the brine ingredients of water, vinegar, salt and sugar to boil until dissolved.
  2. Steam the halved Brussels sprouts in a bit of water in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Fill a quart jar with the tomato ingredients.
  4. Fill a pint jar with the Brussels sprouts ingredients.
  5. Pour the brine into each jar. You will probably have a tiny bit of brine left.
  6. Seal jars, cool, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition
Calories are pretty small, probably about 10 or so for each tomato and 10 for about a quarter of the Brussels sprouts.

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Tips
You can serve the Brussels Sprouts within an hour or so, but I'd wait a day at least for the tomatoes.

This is a refrigerator recipe. Please do not use for long term storage canning.
 
 
I hate fruit roll ups. There I've said it. I prefer my fruit to at least somewhat resemble it's origins. These are so easy to make and they keep well refrigerated. They are great cold or hot. Just make a bunch and see how long they last.

Oven
375 degrees F

Ingredients
  • 1 point blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • a little salt shake
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter
  • a couple of salt shakes
  • spray oil

Preparation
  1. Spray four oven safe ramekins with oil.
  2. Mix first four ingredients in a bowl and then evenly divide into ramekins.
  3. Mix next five ingredients with a fork until crumbly.
  4. Top the blueberry mixture with the crumble and bake for 20 minutes.

Nutrition
4 servings
340 calories per serving

Tips
  • Recipe can be easily doubled.
  • You could eliminate the sugar and flour in the blueberries for step 2 and just rely on the topping sweetness for a lower calorie crumble.
 
 
Being from the south (if you can call southern Illinois south), my mother loved southern food. One of her favorites was cornbread. She just followed the instructions on the round cornmeal box and baked it in a cast iron skillet. It was always served hot with butter and honey. Yum! 

I loved the way my mom's cornbread tasted. Since I have very few of her successful recipes, I wanted to pass the cornbread tradition on to my kids. However, when I made it for my young children they complained about the "grainy" texture of that method. (One of the things I've learned as a parent is that texture is nearly everything!) 

So, in order to develop something a bit "smoother" but still full of flavor and taste, I came up with these great corn bread muffins sweetened with a bit of honey. Many people would classify them as northern and not southern because they are sweeter than savory, but I don't care what you call them because they are delicious, easy to make and the kids gobble them up. Just spread on the butter because the honey is already built right in! I think my mother would be proud.
Oven
400 Degress F

Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup corn meal
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup one percent milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey

Preparation
  1. Stir the dry ingredients together until well mixed.
  2. Whisk wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.  
  3. Combined the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed. 
  4. Spoon batter into 12 papered muffin cups. 
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Nutrition

12 Servings
170 calories per serving
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Tips
I have successfully reduced salt to about 3/4 tsp. You could try less if you are on a lower salt diet and use unsalted butter as well.

This is a great first recipe for kids to try. It easy to mix together and relatively fast to prepare and cook.
 
 
One of the most important things I have learned as an at home dad is that children are hungry. Always. You need to be prepared. No, seriously I mean prepared. Like you are preparing for war or you get melt down city and cranky tantrums that threaten to expose your parenting deficiencies post haste. You do not want those stern looks from the mothers at the swim practice because you weren't prepared. Failing all of "man"kind once again!

Nor do you want to drive into another fast food joint and unload your wallet on food that will only last about 20 minutes until the next emotional outburst. I have come to believe that these hungry, emotional responses from kids are what has driven the explosion in fast food, prepackaged sugar snacks and "nutrition bars". None of which is really good for our kids. 

What I do is overcook and carry. Make more food than your family can eat in one meal and carry extra with you whenever possible.  (Get a good portable cooler...sort of a food security blanket.)


The first step is to have extra basic ingredients. One of my favorite quick foods is fried rice, but the important part is that you need cold precooked rice. So, always make extra rice and store it covered in the refrigerator. And I am not talking about keeping extra Chinese take out rice in those nasty card board boxes. You only end up with rock hard, flavorless construction material if you do that. Put that rice in a different sealed container.

Once the kids are hungry, you can have a pretty nutritious meal within a few minutes. Here's my basic recipe.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups cooked and refrigerated rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp soy sauce
2-3 drops fish sauce

Optional Ingredients
1/8 cup precooked diced chicken
1/8 cup precooked vegetables (scallions, carrots, broccoli, celery, onion, peppers are all good options)
1/4 cup finely diced lettuce

Preparation
  1. Heat a cast iron or non stick pan until it is very hot. You could use a wok too.
  2. Add the oil and let it heat a bit.
  3. Add the rice and start to heat. 
  4. Add optional precooked chicken or vegetables finely diced.
  5. While the rice is heating combine the egg, soy sauce and fish sauce and whisk quickly.
  6. Add the egg mixture to the rice and stir quickly until set.
  7. Add optional lettuce and wilt.
  8. Serve.

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Nutrition
2 Servings
Approximately 250 calories per 3/4 cup.
Reduce calorie count if vegetables are added.

Tips
The trophy wife hates the lettuce added at the end. I learned that trick from an old Chinese home style cook book. I love the flavor and the texture. So I only add it to mine!
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This is one of my all time favorite breads. It is soft with a great crumb, crunchy crust, and a bit of sweetness. Perfect for toasting, with soup, or just for sandwiches.

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (I've used Dakota Maid, King Arthur, and Ultra Grain)
  • 2 cups whole wheat white (I used King Arthur)
  • 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast
  • 1 3/4 tsp table salt
  • 2 cups and 2 tablespoons tepid water
  • 4 Tablespoons honey
Preparation
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Dissolve honey in water, add to dry ingredients and mix with rubber spatula until well combined and lumpy. It should be wet in appearance, but not glossy. Adjust water as needed depending on type of flour. 
  2. Spray oil the dough and inside of bowl. Turn over in the bowl and spray the opposite side too. Cover in plastic wrap and towels. Place in warm (about 72-76 degrees F) to rise about 8-9 hours. I put my oven on 180 and place the bowl on top of the stove.
  3. After rising, turn out onto a lightly oiled counter. Fold over twice. cover in plastic and a towel. Let rise an additional 1 hour. Turn oven on to 450 degrees F with Dutch oven and lid inside to heat it up.
  4. After second rise, turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter top and quickly shape into a boule or round tight ball shape by gently pulling the dough under. You will need to flour your hands a bit. Just use enough flour to make the dough less sticky. Do not over flour as you need the dough to remain wet. 
  5. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. Plop the dough in the hot dutch oven seam side down. Cover and return to oven and bake for 30 minutes covered. This is the steam heat that creates the crunchy outer crust. Then remove the cover and bake an additional 15 minutes uncovered.
  6. Remove loaf from Dutch oven and let cool lightly covered with a flour sack towel.
  7. Consume with loads of butter!
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Servings
About 12-15 servings.

Nutrition
About 120 calories per slice before the butter and depending on slice size.

Tips
  • I start my bread in the morning and by dinner time I have a wonderful loaf.
  • Once sliced, face it down on a piece of parchment or lightly waxed paper and wrap the loaf in a flour sack towel.
 
 
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Ingredients
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (I've used Dakota Maid, King Arthur, and Ultra Grain)
  • 2 cups whole wheat white (I used King Arthur)
  • 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast
  • 1 3/4 tsp table salt
  • 2 cups and 2 tablespoons tepid water
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon white sugar
Preparation
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Dissolve honey and sugar in water, add to dry ingredients and mix with rubber spatula until well combined and lumpy. It should be wet in appearance, but not glossy. Adjust water as needed depending on type of flour. 
  2. Spray oil the dough and inside of bowl. Turn over in the bowl and spray the opposite side too. Cover in plastic wrap and towels. Place in warm (about 72-76 degrees F) to rise about 8-9 hours. I put my oven on 180 and place the bowl on top of the stove.
  3. After rising, turn out onto a lightly oiled counter. Fold over twice. cover in plastic and a towel. Let rise an additional 1-2 hours. Turn oven on to 450 degrees F with Dutch oven and lid inside to heat it up.
  4. After second rise, turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter top and quickly shape into a boule or round tight slightly flattened ball shape by gently pulling the dough under. You will need to flour your hands a bit. Just use enough flour to make the dough less sticky. Do not over flour as you need the dough to remain wet. 
  5. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. Plop the dough in the hot dutch oven seam side down. Cover and return to oven and bake for 30 minutes covered. This is the steam heat that creates the crunchy outer crust. Then remove the cover and bake an additional 15 minutes uncovered.
  6. Remove loaf from Dutch oven and let cool lightly covered with a flour sack towel.
  7. Consume with loads of butter!


Servings
About 12-15 servings.

Nutrition
About 120 calories per slice before the butter and depending on slice size.
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This is what the dough looks like after it has been folded on the counter.
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The crust is incredible on this bread and the flavor is absolutely yummy! It doesn't taste like a heavy or sugary bread. It is smooth with a light texture and a crunchy crust.
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Tips
  • You don't need a fancy Dutch oven for this. I happened to have an inexpensive dutch oven from Costco. It is an 8 quart oval, but I noticed it is no longer available. I think it tends to be a seasonal item. They do also have a round 6 qt which I think could work as well. Or like many people just use a stock pot with a lid or a roasting pan with a high enough cover. Anything that will take the heat!
  • Click here to see how to shape a boule or round ball loaf.