White Bean Hummus

White Bean Hummus

We need to talk about beans. If I’ve never mentioned it before, allow me to say right now, standing tall with my hand over my heart, that I believe beans may be the perfect food. I say this not only because it will earn me points with other nutrition professionals (though they are pretty unanimously also in love with beans, as far as I’ve seen), but because beans are…

– High in fiber

– Low in fat

– Plant-based protein

– High in iron

– Super versatile

And, if you ask me, they taste pretty darn good, too. So I generally try to include them in my diet on a frequent basis. Casseroles, soups, tacos, salads, and even certain pasta dishes are great food items to drop some beans into. And I do mean that literally, not euphemistically.

White Bean Hummus

Lately I’ve been on a homemade hummus kick, but since I balk at buying any actual tahini (have you ever bought tahini? You have to buy like gallon at a time and it’s hella expensive!) I’ve been experimenting with recipes that don’t call for it, like this garlicky version with plenty of my dear wonderfood, beans! With two full cans of cannellini or Great Northern beans, this recipe makes a big batch, perfect for sneaking off into a closet with the bowl clutched to your bosom so no one else can eat it. I mean, for parties. PARTIES is what I meant to say.

White Bean Hummus

Seriously, though, this white bean hummus is my new favorite snack/appetizer/side. Even though I’ve scoffed in the past about how hummus and pita chips is everyone’s go-to, last-minute, classier-than-chips potluck contribution, the deliciousness of this version kicks it up into “bring this any time” territory. Mild white beans mixed with punchy garlic, lemon juice, cumin, pepper, and parsley creates the perfect edible yin and yang.

And finally, because beans didn’t have their own theme song, here is Brak from the ’90s Cartoon Network show Space Ghost to sing you a very special tune about them:

 

 

Print Recipe
White Bean Hummus
Mild white beans mixed with punchy garlic, lemon juice, cumin, pepper, and parsley make for a uniquely delicious hummus!
Course Appetizer, snack
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Course Appetizer, snack
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, cook garlic in olive oil over medium heat until garlic begins to brown. Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, scoop garlic into the bowl of a food processor.
  2. To the food processor bowl, add drained beans, lemon juice, cumin, parsley, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Process until smooth.
  3. Carefully pour in reserved olive oil while the machine is running and process until well incorporated.
  4. Serve immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container. Enjoy with pita chips or fresh veggies!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Bush's Beans.

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Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip

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Awhile back, I read a Buzzfeed article called 24 Things You Know If You’re Always Hosting Dinner Parties. (Be warned, if you read it, there’s quite a bit of unnecessarily foul language in the article.) Some of the items on the list were so true that I wondered if the Buzzfeed author had been spying on my house recently as I prepared to host events. As is probably obvious from the fact that this blog has an Entertaining section, we throw a lot of parties at our house–not just dinner parties, any parties! White Elephant Christmas parties, Nacho Libre parties, Butterfly Tea Parties, Beatles Singalong Parties! With dreams for the future to host a Murder Mystery Dinner, Talent Show, and Grown-Up Prom, just to name a few. Anyway, as a frequent party hostess, I can tell you, like the Buzzfeed article, that certain truths are universal to hosting large number of people in your home. Like the fact that you always buy a ton of alcohol, thinking there’s no way people will drink it all, and they always do, or that you shouldn’t bother to vacuum your carpet before a party, only after.

BUT…the one truth that prevails above all else when you host any event that serves food–yes, the one tried and true guarantee is this:

Someone will ALWAYS bring hummus and pita chips.

When did this happen? I feel like the general American public was only introduced to hummus, like, ten years ago. How did this rookie food item rocket up the ranks of party appetizers to become El Capitan of potluck takealongs? My theory is this: it’s classier than a bag of chips but just as easy and only slightly more expensive. But psssst…I have a secret up my sleeve. If you really want to impress with your contribution to a party spread (and you just gotta have that hummus), there’s a better way than the Trader Joe’s grab-and-go standard. This richly flavored 7-layer Mediterranean dip starts with a hummus base, but builds on it with cucumber, tomatoes, red pepper, feta, artichokes, and Greek yogurt for a truly unique party dip. Layering with fresh ingredients adds vitamins, flavor, fiber, and crunch, along with bright colors that make for a visually interesting and much more substantial side than hummus alone. I served it at a recent house concert we hosted and it went over beautifully.

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So give it a whirl when your next “heyyyyy, we said we’d bring something to that party this weekend” moment hits. Your friends will thank you.

(The other option, of course, besides taking it as an impressive dish to a party, is to use it as a head-’em-off-at-the-pass menu item when hosting potlucks.

“Hey, we’re coming on Saturday! How about I bring pita chips and hummus?”

“Actually, I’ve already got that covered. How about something else?”)

P.S. No hard feelings if you’re reading this and you’ve ever brought hummus to one of our parties…I still love you. 😉

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Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip
(Adapted from Cookin’ Canuck)

Ingredients:

8-10 oz. container regular hummus
1/2 c. cucumber, diced
1/2 c. tomato, diced
1/2 c. roasted red pepper, diced
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. salt
2-3 canned artichoke hearts, chopped
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, minced

Directions:

  1. In the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch pan, spread hummus in a smooth layer. Sprinkle with cucumber and tomato.
  2. Drop yogurt by tablespoonfuls over the vegetables. Smooth with a spatula or the back of a spoon and sprinkle with paprika and salt.
  3. Top with artichoke hearts, feta, and parsley. Refrigerate or serve immediately. Goes great with pita chips, crackers, or raw vegetables!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon with Mint Vinaigrette

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon

Being married to a New York Italian, I have slowly become familiar with the unique vocabulary this special culture uses to describe its food. When we first met, I had no idea that when Anthony’s mom said “mutzadel,” she was referring to what I would call “mozzarella,” or that “gabagool” meant “capicola.” (Not that I knew what capicola was, anyway. It wasn’t exactly a staple in my German-Swiss upbringing.) For years I thought my husband’s family simply had their own strange ways of pronouncing these Italian foods, but apparently, it transcends just his family. I eventually found out that ALL New York Italians use these words. This satirical video of a Brooklyn spelling bee pretty well sums it up:

I can only assume it’s one of those linguistic phenomena where words from a mother language get altered in trickling down the generations and become almost unrecognizable, like a game of Telephone.

Now that we’ve been married almost 12 years and I’ve figured out the lingo, every time I make the appetizer pictured here, I can’t help but think of it as calling for “brahjzoot,” the New York Italian pronunciation of “prosciutto.” This must be some kind of rite of passage–if we ever go to Brooklyn, I’ll fit right in! (Ha.)

Even if it’s pretty unlikely I’ll ever pass for a New York Italian, at least I have this delightful recipe for a variation on a classic Italian appetizer: prosciutto-wrapped melon. I especially love this version for its tangy vinaigrette that combines fresh mint and golden balsamic vinegar. (Another food I never knew about until recently! The “golden” aspect of this balsamic allows the melon to keep its own attractive color.) With warmer weather upon us, this 5-ingredient, light and refreshing starter would work well for an outdoor gathering, paired with a Chardonnay….

…and perhaps (why not?) some “mutzadel” to go with it.

Melon

Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon with Mint Vinaigrette
(Adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients:

1 ripe cantaloupe
2 Tbsp. thinly-sliced fresh mint leaves
1/4 c. Tbsp. golden balsamic vinegar, depending on sweetness of melon (the sweeter the melon, the more vinegar you can use)
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
6 oz. thinly-sliced prosciutto

Directions:

  1. Slice the cantaloupe into chunks or thin wedges, removing the rind.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together golden balsamic vinegar, mint leaves, and black pepper. Toss cantaloupe slices in this mixture until coated.
  3. Slice or tear the prosciutto into 1 to 2-inch wide strips and wrap around each melon slice. Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.

Serves about 6-8 as an appetizer.

Mango Lime Crab Wontons

Mango Lime Crab Wontons

When it comes to throwing parties, I have learned the following important lesson about food prep: if you try to make eight hot appetizers in the thirty minutes before a party, you are going to cry. Even if you’re fancy enough to have a dual oven, the scene will not be pretty. You may find yourself with teeth gnashed down to itty bitty nubs and clumps of your own hair clutched in your fists from all the teeth-gnashing and hair-tearing. It is, in a word, A-Big-Angry-Stress-Machine-That-Will-Not-Put-You-in-a-Party-Mood. And when throwing a party, this is not ideal. Trust me, I know from experience. Eleven years of throwing a large Christmas party for 30 people has taught me a few things, one being that trying to make several hot dishes immediately beforehand turns me into a raging maniac. Another being, make sure everyone takes their tacky White Elephant gifts home with them instead of leaving them at your house. (I am, of course, referring to the Toilet Tattoo Incident of 2012.)

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This year, when planning our Christmas party menu, I decided I wanted to minimize the stress and keep all the teeth in my mouth and the hair on my head. (After all, I just had a root canal and crown that cost about as much as a swanky Alaskan cruise, so yeah, I’m keeping that baby.) The search was on: what tasty cold appetizers could I make ahead and simply pop out of the fridge come party time? I settled on these mango-lime crab wonton cups as one choice, since they were well reviewed on Food Network. And wow, am I glad I did. Not only were they easy and fun to make, but they’re pretty healthy, too! The filling of lime-laced mango, celery, and cilantro in a baked-not-fried wonton made for a whole-food combination my conscience gave me no trouble about serving (unlike my soon-to-be-blogged pumpkin cheesecake). Plus, our guests DEVOURED them! The entire group of guests had barely arrived before these things were 100% GONE. FINI. OVER AND OUT. So I think they were a winner on all fronts.

White Elephant Group Pic

2015 White Elephant party guests with their tacky gifts

Now, even though holiday party season is over, I’d be happy to make these again for any gathering or potluck…especially since it’s the New Year and like everyone else, my thoughts are trained a little more on healthy eating. Happy New Year!

Mango Lime Crab Wontons

Mango Lime Crab Wontons
Adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

For the wonton cups:

18 wonton wrappers
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt

For the dressing:

1 tsp. lime zest
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. olive oil

For the crab filling:

1/2 lb. lump crab meat (I even got away with a 6 oz. can of crab)
1 stalk celery, finely diced
heaping 1/2 c. mango, diced
1/4 c. green onions, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat bottom and sides of 18 mini muffin tin cups (1.5 12-cup tins or 2 9-cup tins) with cooking spray. Press one wonton wrapper in the bottom of each mini muffin well to make a cup shape–you will probably have to make it overlap on itself a bit. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake 8-10 minutes or until crisp. Remove from tins and let cool.
  2. Make the dressing: in a medium bowl, combine lime juice, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Whisk in olive oil.
  3. Make the filling: to the dressing, add crab meat, celery, mango, green onions, and cilantro. Toss the whole thing until well combined.
  4. Fill wonton cups with crab mixture. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving.

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer.

Cranberry-Orange White Cheddar Cheese Ball

Cranberry Cheese Ball

December is the month of appetizer recipes in our house. Between the rush of Christmas shopping, party hopping, and school performances, it’s a blur of a month when meals tend to happen catch-as-catch-can (or eat-as-eat-can). The real dinners can be few and far between. Also, as I prepare for our annual White Elephant Christmas party (11 years and running!), I tend to spend the days leading up to it testing out appetizer recipes I might want to serve. So it ends up being a month of foraging, nibbling, and hors d’oeuvre-ing.

Last week as I was attempting to finalize the Christmas party menu, I tried out a cheese ball recipe on my family. (That sounds a little vague. I mean, like, I had them eat it. Not like I threw it at them like a softball or slathered them in it like sunscreen.) This is NOT that cheese ball recipe. I think the best word to describe that one would be “meh.” It had good bones–ingredients you would think would have made it a winner of an appetizer: cream cheese, white cheddar, pecans, cranberries. But something was lacking. I decided to take matters into my own hands and concoct my own cheese ball recipe. (I know, I like to live dangerously.) In the end, I came up with something I could hardly keep myself from eating in its entirety before the party. The secret? Turning it into something more sweet than savory. With honey, goat cheese, and orange zest, this cheese ball has just the right amount of sweetness to parallel the cranberries studding its exterior. I can’t wait to serve it!

Cranberry Cheese Ball

Cranberry-Orange White Cheddar Cheese Ball
A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe

Ingredients:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
5 oz. chèvre (creamy goat cheese)
4 oz. shredded white cheddar
1/4 c. honey
Zest of 1 medium orange
1/2 c. chopped pecans
12 oz. dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, chèvre, honey, and orange zest until smooth. Add pecans and gently stir to incorporate. Form into a ball with your hands.
  2. Pour about half of the dried cranberries into a shallow dish. Set cheese ball on top and carefully press cranberries up the sides. Pour remaining cranberries over the top, pressing in to cover the entire surface of the ball.
  3. Refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers and/or apple slices.

Serves about 12 as an appetizer.