Tag Archives: Dips and spreads

Green Week

Classes, man.  They really cut into my time for making food and taking pictures of it.  But—it’s great to be back in Iowa City, once again learning the laws and hanging out with my wonderful friends/colleagues.

After making it through the first week of the new semester, we had a birthday party for a certain dear friend and faithful blog reader, and the decorating committee decided to replace all of the light bulbs in the party venue with green ones.

Ever since then, everything seems to have a bit of a greenish tinge.  So, I just ran with it and made some green food.

Trader Joe’s (which has recently opened a new location in Des Moines, making my life at least 5% more joyous than it already was) sells edamame hummus.  I thought this was a pretty ingenious idea when I saw it, and figured I should try to replicate it at home with my trusty food processor.  The result was very tasty, if I do say so myself, and the ingredient list is simple and short.  Here’s most of what you need:

Throw all of the ingredients except the olive oil in the food processor and turn it on.  While it runs, pour olive oil through the spout until it reaches a creamy consistency.  I’m guessing I used about 2 tablespoons.  Stop the processor and taste for seasoning (carrot optional).

I decided it needed a little heat, so a threw in a couple shakes of these…

…and that was it! A full week’s supply of hummus—always a good feeling.

Edamame Hummus

  • 1.5 cups cooked shelled edamame (I used a bag of frozen edamame, defrosted in the fridge.)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons (approximately) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

I immediately slathered some of this in a pita pocket with some chopped scallion and snap peas…it was a monochromatic luncheon masterpiece.

Kale is another green thing I’ve been loving lately.  I’m trying to branch out from spinach and try other greens, so I’ve been eating kale raw in salads and sautéed as a side dish.  Here’s the thing about the salads: kale is kind of a high-maintenance vegetable in that it doesn’t taste very good raw unless you massage it with some sort of dressing in order to take away the bitterness.  No, I’m not kidding—google “massaged kale salad” and you will see that I’m not just making this up.  There are plenty of recipes for dressing out there, but basically you just need some sort of acid and a little oil.  Try putting your desired amount of chopped kale in a salad bowl, squeezing some lemon juice over it, and drizzling on a half-teaspoon or so of tahini (olive oil would be another good candidate).  Then just get your hands in there and massage it around—it’ll be messy but worth it. *  Make sure all of the leaves are coated.

*If I may digress for a moment (if you are not familiar with The Office you can skip this part)—it is surprisingly difficult to write a blog about cooking and eating things without numerous “That’s what she said” sentences.  I think I’m just going to stop trying.

Anyhoo—if you’d rather not massage your kale, you can sautee it.  Tear the leaves of one bunch of kale off the tough stalks, chop them into 1-inch ribbons, wash and pat dry.

Then heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a frying pan and very briefly sautee 2 cloves of chopped garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Then add the kale and gently stir to incorporate the garlic and olive oil.  You may have to pile it on, like so…

…but it’ll wilt down as it cooks.  Sautee over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender.  I cooked this batch for about ten minutes.  Feel free to sprinkle a little water over the leaves if the pan gets dry, and season with salt and pepper as you cook.

This is a great side with my current favorite easy-cooking go-to dinner: a diced and roasted sweet potato with black beans, sprinkled with a little ground ginger when I’m feeling fancy (which is usually).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta get back to work.  No time for shenanigans when school is in session….


Leftovers and Plyometrics…

They don’t mix.  By that I mean that you should not eat leftovers of several sublime and butter-centric Thanksgiving dishes for lunch and then later attempt to complete a workout DVD entitled INSANITY: Pure Cardio.

That said, if you’re looking for a way to undo some Thanksgiving damage, or just happen to be interested in picking up some really good workout DVDs, I would definitely recommend the Insanity program, which I got used on Amazon for much less than they sell it for on the terrifying infomercial.  I don’t do the workouts 6 days a week, as suggested on the lovely motivational wall calendar that came with my DVDs, but I do try to do one of them once or twice each week.  It’s “high intensity interval training,” and it HURTS. SO. GOOD.  There are four workouts that are about 40 minutes each, and then four longer, more difficult workouts that I have never tried because I think they might kill me.  Something to aspire to, I guess.  Below, my lovely friend Christina and I prepare to “Insanitize” in my apartment.

In the background, you can just make out the face of Shaun T, Insanity instructor and world-class hottie.  In most of the videos he takes off his shirt about halfway through the workout, and I have to say…it really gives you the will to carry on.

In food-related news, it was a wildly successful Thanksgiving back in DSM!  I chopped, I stirred, I sauteed, I ate SO MANY SWEET POTATOES, and I did not study for upcoming exams.  (There will be pleeeeenty of time for that later, after I come out of my sweet-potato coma.)  The company was great as always, and the food was excellent.  It is a true honor to sous-chef for Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Kathy Lane.

Then, I slept for a very, very long time.  I don’t understand this whole “Black Friday” thing, and would really only get myself out of bed at 3 a.m. if someone was selling deeply-discounted completed law school finals.  Although I did buy this plate at an antique stand in the afternoon (because it was cheap and it speaks the truth)…

….I generally think Black Friday should be for laziness and creativity in the realm of leftovers.  Here are a couple of ideas for your cranberries and leftover dressing:

Cranberry Salsa

My Aunt Rhena brought this to the Thanksgiving dinner and we promptly made her copy down the recipe.  It’s really unique and fresh-tasting–serve with crackers and cream cheese.  Note: it’s definitely spicy, and will get even spicier the longer it sits, so you may want to start small on the jalepenos and add more later if you want.

  • 1 12 oz. package fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3/4 c. green onions, chopped
  • 2-3 jalepenos, with seeds (or without, if you want less heat), chopped


  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

I had some of the salsa on Friday night on top of salad greens, and it was a welcome departure from all the mushy comfort food I housed the day before.  Next up, stuffing remix!

This was the hastily-improvised vegetarian dressing my mom and I made: wheat bread cubes, walnuts, dried cranberries, sauteed onion and celery, and vegetable stock:

The very next day, it made another appearance in the form of what we’ll call “Thanksgiving Frittata.”  This will serve 2.  First, preheat your oven to 400 and throw the leftover dressing (this was about a cup, I would say) into a frying pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Using an electric mixer or a whisk, mix up 2 eggs, 2 egg whites, about 1/4 cup cottage cheese, and about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.  Season with a little bit of salt and pepper.  Then, after the dressing has been in the pan for just a couple of minutes, pour the egg mixture over it.

Leave it on the stovetop just until the edges start to set up, and then put the pan into the oven for about 7 minutes.  When the eggs are set, sprinkle with something green (because everything looks better with a sprinkle of green), slice, and serve.

That’s it–I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Maple Pecan Monday

One of my favorite food blogs, Hangry Pants, is having a little event tomorrow called “Macaroon Monday.”  The idea is to make something you’ve never made before or something that you find somewhat intimidating, and then post about it.  I love Heather’s blog because 1) her recipes are easy/healthy/delicious and 2) she went to law school and refuses to let go of her love for the Baby-sitters Club series, so we’re clearly kindred spirits.

In the spirit of this little blogger initiative, I decided to make pecan butter.  This was sort of cheating on my part, in terms of the “something you’ve never made before” angle, because I once tried to make peanut butter as a finals-studying-avoidance tactic.  But it was pretty much a disaster and I had to throw it all away and return, pouting, to my books and outlines.  Not this time, faithful readers!  This time I rose to the nut butter challenge and the results were pretty stellar.  First, I tossed the pecans with maple syrup, cinnamon, and some salt.

Then, I toasted the pecans at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, opening the oven once to stir.

The smell in my kitchen at this point was something the folks at Yankee Candle should really try to recreate.  After the toasted pecans had cooled for about 10 minutes, I scraped them all into my beloved food processor.

The processing took about five minutes, I would say.  You’ll need to stop several times throughout and scrape down the sides…and eventually you’ll have this!

Store it in the fridge…

…and prepare for weeks of delicious toast!  Here’s the recipe:

Maple Pecan Butter

  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Toss the pecan halves with the syrup, cinnamon, and salt, pour onto a sheet pan, and toast them for 10 minutes at 300 degrees, stirring once.  When the pecans are mostly cooled, scrape them into a food processor and process until smooth (about five minutes), stopping frequently to scrape the sides of the food processor bowl.

Update on last week’s curse: I think we’re out of the woods.  Although this happened a few days ago…

…I still feel pretty lucky.  I got to have a wonderful Halloween weekend with some fantastic friends…


…there was a wine tasting with my P.E.O. sisters…

…and my adorable little nephew turned 1!

The funfetti cake in his hair indicates a level of commitment to dessert that I can really respect, you know?

Have a lovely week!


Things have been a bit off lately in my little piece of the Hawkeye State.  Calling what has been going on this week a “curse” is perhaps (OK, definitely) being melodramtic.  I mean, everyone is still alive, in one piece, not in jail, etc.  But–my friendship family has just been having a small streak of bad luck.  We’ve had some minor medical, veterinary, and technological issues.  I dropped several eggs onto the floor instead of into a mixing bowl while attempting a routine muffin recipe.  And THEN–this happened back at my parents’ homestead:

Yikes.  It was a little windy.

Now, as Michael G. Scott once said, “I’m not superstitious…but I’m a little stitious.”  I decided it couldn’t hurt, in terms of putting the universe right again, to make some comfort food and lay low for awhile.  First offering to the forces of evil that have been conspiring against my loved ones: pumpkin butter.  Here’s what you need (plus some brown sugar and nutmeg):

This week definitely called for no-fail recipes, and that’s what this is.  Here’s the link–I followed all of the measurements except I only used 2/3 c. sugar.  Just put everything except the lemon juice into a sauce pan and cook and stir occasionally until it thickens up to suit your preference.  You can just hang out near the stove reading a good book and occasionally remarking on how good this stuff smells.  Or I suppose you could multitask, if you’re into that.  When it’s done, take it off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

I cooked this batch for about 20 minutes.  The link above has instructions for preserving the pumpkin butter, but I just let it cool slightly and put it in jars to keep in the refrigerator and give away to some folks so it’ll get used up soon.  I love Ball jars…and I can’t resist putting ribbon around them, either.

What can you do with this stuff?  Well, I’ll tell you: mix it with yogurt and sprinkle some granola on top.  Spread it on toast and top with banana slices.  Try it in a more savory application like this.  Or maybe just eat it with a spoon–who am I to judge?

Cozy/comforting/cursebusting recipe #2: vegetarian Snobby Joes.  These are like Sloppy Joes, but they look down their noses at meat-based sandwiches and probably lecture them at parties about animal suffering and global warming.    I generally don’t crave meat or miss eating it regularly, but I do have fond memories of my mom making what we always called “Maid-rites” with ground beef and Cookies brand barbecue sauce on cold nights.  These have that same feel, and they’re made with lentils, which are dirt cheap and therefore ideal for students like me.  Ingredient round-up:

There are quite a few versions of this recipe around the world wide web.  This was just sort of an improvisation based on several of them.

Snobby Joes (originally–I think–from the Veganomicon cookbook)

  • 1 c. lentils
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 c. grated carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar (the more standard choice here would be maple syrup, or you could try honey)
  • 1 tbsp. yellow mustard

Boil the lentils in about 4 cups of water for approximately 20 minutes.  While they’re boiling, grate the carrots, chop the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and saute in a tablespoon or so of olive oil.

When the lentils are aaaaalmost tender enough (they’ll cook a little more in the sauce), add them to the veggies.  Then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer everything together for about 10 minutes.

This is a meal to eat while watching the World Series and hiding out for awhile.

Then, theoretically, you could cap off the night with a little vanilla ice cream topped with pumpkin butter and declare the curse broken.  Not bad for a day’s “work,” I’d say.

Shake it, don’t break it

So, I started law school again and I have some new, interesting classes.  That’s all been lovely so far, but let’s talk about the really fun stuff: Zumba and hummus.  The University of Iowa has recently opened up a brand new fitness center that is so nice and shiny and glass-plated you feel kind of like you’re working out in an airport in the future.  After a day of lawyer-learning this past week, my friend Christina and I set off for this fab new facility to attend our very first Zumba class.  Click here if you’ve never heard of Zumba–it’s basically a Latin/hip-hop dance class.  I was pretty excited about this, but also a tiny bit concerned for two reasons:

1. The last time I attended a fitness class (Step and Kick, I believe it was called), I kiiiiind of missed the step at a critical point, tripped over my own feet, and broke my wrist.  I spent 7 hours in the emergency room with Christina (bless her soul) eating frozen edamame that I used to ice my arm, and walked out with a giant plaster cast that I’m pretty sure was some well-meaning resident’s first project.  For the final four weeks or so of healing, I got this more aerodynamic cast that I’m trying to hide in the photo below, but it was still not a whole lot of fun.

2. As documented in the home video of my first and only dance recital (I was 3), I have never been much for “choreography.”  I’m not saying I can’t learn “dance routines,” okay?  I’m just saying that sometimes, when you’ve got moves like the ones I bring to the table, you don’t like to be boxed in.

Well, folks, I did not break or sprain anything during my return to group exercise, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN.  The routines were fairly easy, and when I couldn’t quite figure something out it was easy enough to at least look like I knew what I was doing.  I was also unsure as to whether an hour of dancing would actually feel like a good workout.  Here’s how I know I got my money’s worth: I sweat like crazy, I slept like the dead that night, and at one point during the class I realized my hairband had flown off and landed several feet away.  Only downside: I don’t know if this is standard Zumba procedure, but at the very end the instructor made us get down on the floor and do a song’s worth of ab work.  I couldn’t hear her instructions at all over the music, and although ab work certainly has its place, I was there to SALSA, you know?

So, in conclusion, go to Zumba!  There’s nothing to trip over and you’ll have a great time.  When you come home, exhausted from a lengthy bout of shakin’ it, you’ll want to replenish with some wholesome chickpea spread, won’t you? Of course you will.  Therefore, I present to you my standard hummus recipe, complete with roasted garlic and red pepper.

First, you need to do some roasting.  Preheat the oven to 400.  Slice the red pepper like so, cut the tops off two heads of garlic to expose the cloves, and drizzle everything with a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, wrap the garlic in foil, and put everybody into the oven.  The peppers go for 20 minutes, and the garlic goes for 40.

When you take the peppers out and the garlic is still roasting away, cover the peppers with a towel for about ten minutes.  This steams them and makes it easier to peel off the skin, which I like to do because I’m finicky like that.

Get your other major players ready to go while the roasting is going on.

When the garlic is done, it will look like this and your house will smell wonderful.  Note: don’t plan on making out with anybody after eating this stuff.

Squeeze out the garlic cloves, and put them in your food processor with all the other ingredients except the olive oil (I’ll list ’em below, no worries).  Turn on the processor and slowly stream in enough olive oil to make the hummus creamy.  (I would estimate I usually use about 2-3 tablespoons.)

Let the processor run until the hummus is smooth, and there you go!  Dip some veggies in it, spread it on a wrap with some feta, and maybe light a scented candle….because that garlic smell will take awhile to dissipate.  Here’s the run-down:

Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Hummus

  • 1 roasted red pepper (400 degrees for 20 minutes)
  • 2 heads of roasted garlic (400 degrees for 40 minutes)
  • 1 14.5 oz. can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • zest from 2 lemons, juice from 1
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 1/4 c. fresh parsley
  • olive oil (about 2-3 tablespoons)

Roast the garlic and red pepper.  Add all ingredients except the olive oil to a food processor.  Turn the processor on and stream in enough olive oil to reach the consistency you want.  Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, starring watermelon

Although I am not very carnivorously-inclined myself, I do happen to be the daughter of a certified barbecue contest judge who, in order to receive his certification, had to swear a solemn oath to “spread the gospel of ‘cue.”  Because he takes this oath seriously, my dear old dad fired up his backyard smoker before I left for school and sent me back with enough “low and slow” goodness to feed several friends.

So I whipped up some black bean burgers and a few other things, fed some folks, and then scooted off for a night of fun and frivolity with my very dangerous friend Christina.

The crowd did a pretty excellent job of cleaning up the food.  However, I was left with an over-abundance of watermelon, so I decided to pull out my favorite knife this morning and see what I could do with it.  Here’s what happened with what I could find in my kitchen…

Watermelon and Peach Salsa

  • 2 cups diced watermelon
  • 1 diced peach
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • juice from half of a lime
  • salt and pepper

I thought I was headed for failure as I mixed these ingredients together, but lo and behold–it’s pretty good!  Try it with some chips, or, if you want to get fancy, on top of some grilled fish.  I had it with a leftover black bean burger for lunch and it was totally two-thumbs-up.  Cilantro and/or a jalepeno might be nice additions.

Emboldened by my successful salsa, I then dumped another cup or so of watermelon into my blender.  I added maybe 4 ounces of riesling (the nice thing about hosting barbecues is that people sometimes leave wine in your fridge) and a couple splashes of lime-flavored club soda.  It blended up all pink and frothy and DELISH, but I don’t have a picture because, um, I drank it.  Sorry.