Hummus

Hummus is a divisive subject in my family. Some of us like it creamy, some like it a little chunky (I’m with you; I think the chunky hummus lovers are crazy too). Some adore store brand hummus such as Sabra, while others scoff at its pasty texture (yeah, this is the chunky hummus lover).

Personally, I’m fine with store bought or homemade, but I recently had a hummus awakening that drove me to make some myself and to try a couple new seasonings. “What could this revelation have been?”, you wonder. Answer: I went to a restaurant on the west side a few months ago called Hummus Kitchen. And. Their. Hummus. Was. Phenomenal. Like, can’t stop talking about it phenomenal. Like, told my coworkers that they have no option but to go there phenomenal. It was warm, covered in chicken shwarma, and drizzled with olive oil. The addition of olive oil to the top of hummus is probably completely normal but my family has never made it that way, so it was a lightbulb moment for me.

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The restaurant itself was frigid because of its petite size and my table’s proximity to the street, but the food and friendly waitstaff completely made up for it. Oh, and did I mention their freshly made lemon-mint lemonade? I’m a sucker for flavored lemonades. Lavender, mint, whatever… I’m there.

This recipe is ever so slightly adapted from Bon Appetit.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 15½-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained

½ cup tahini, well mixed — this will take a couple minutes but don’t despair, it will become smooth!

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, finely grated (I used a garlic press)

¾ teaspoon (or more) kosher salt

10 cranks freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1 pinch dried oregano

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DIRECTIONS:

Combine the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, black pepper, cumin, and water in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil as you continue to process the mixture for about a minute more.

Put the hummus in a shallow bowl or a plate with raised edges. Drizzle a tad more olive oil over the hummus and sprinkle on the sesame seeds and oregano.

Enjoy with veggies, pita, or on a spoon!

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Toasty Tuna Tartlets

It’s snowing. It’s blizzarding. I’m almost out of Oreos. Consequently, I’m hungry and bored. So I decided to make these warm and toasty tuna tartlets, which is really a boujis way of saying “tuna melts”. The biggest difference between these and traditional tuna melts is the use of puff pastry as the bread component in this recipe. I didn’t have quite enough tuna to go around, so I also made a few ham and cheese tartlets, using most of the same ingredients.

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As good as these are for munching on a cold winter day in front of your computer while Netflix reloads (or after shoveling your driveway, as the case may be) they’re also great as a casual hors d’oeuvre since they’re simple but delicious. I highly recommend pairing them with a glass of lemonade or iced tea. I know that doesn’t totally make sense since it’s snowing, but it’s a great combo.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed and cut into 12 squares

Gruyere cheese, grated

Few slices low salt ham cold cuts

Honey mustard

1 scallion, green part only thinly sliced

Fresh lemon juice, plus a few pinches of zest

1 can tuna

1-2 tbsp mayonaise

Black pepper

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp heavy cream

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place puff pastry squares on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.

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Tuna Tartlets:

Combine tuna and mayo; mash together with a fork. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice, being careful not to drop in any seeds. (Hold the lemon with the cut part facing upwards). Grate in some zest, and stir into tuna mixture. Spoon tuna evenly onto puff pastry squares. Keep the edges of the pastry clear so that it can rise around the filling. Grind some black pepper over the tuna. Cover with cheese. Set aside.

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Ham and Cheese Tartlets:

Spread a dollop of honey mustard on the remaining puff pastry squares. Rip up a few cold cuts, and place them on top of the mustard, leaving the edges of the pastry clear as you did with the tuna. Grind black pepper over the ham, and cover with remaining gruyere.

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Scramble the egg yolk in a small bowl, and add the heavy cream. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the mixture onto the bare edges of the pastry squares.

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Put baking sheet in oven and let bake for 14-16 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. The puff pastry should be golden brown and risen when you take them out.

Put 2-3 scallions on each square.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Mouthwatering Macaroni and Cheese

If you are lactose intolerant, stay away from this post at all costs.

I love macaroni and cheese. When made with quality dairy it’s tangy, buttery, and can be eaten in a wide variety of circumstances (i.e. at weddings, in bathrooms on paper plates during dreadful dinner parties, water parks, you name it). I make this particular recipe, which comes from marthastewart.com, once a year. Do I want to make it more frequently? Yes. Should I? No. Why? Because I value my arteries.

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This recipe uses three types of cheese: gruyere, fontina, and cheddar, and you can taste each one individually. This is part of what makes it so good; who wants a homogeneous bowl of cheesy pasta? (ME! I DO! But this way is even more delectable).

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Though it takes significantly longer to make this recipe than it does to crack open a box of Kraft mac and cheese, it’s definitely worth it. I refuse to say anything bad about Kraft macaroni since it has played such a large role in my life, for better or for worse. However, Martha knows what she’s doing… I’ll leave it at that.

Original Recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/853632/three-cheese-macaroni

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INGREDIENTS:

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

5 cups whole milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (10 ounces)

1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)

1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese (4 ounces) << fontina always reminds me of the character Fantine from Les Miserables… 

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound shell pasta

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Liberally butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Warm milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the milk has started to warm, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a large (no really, the largest one you have) high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter is bubbling (but not burning!). Add flour. Cook, stirring gently with a whisk, for 1 minute.

Gradually pour warm milk into butter mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 3 cups cheddar, 1 cup Gruyere, 1 cup fontina, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the nutmeg, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente according to box instructions. Drain, and transfer pasta to cheese sauce. Stir to coat.

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Divide mixture among mini pie plates or transfer to baking dish. Scatter remaining cup cheddar, 1/2 cup Gruyere, and 1/2 cup fontina over top, and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs.

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Bake until cheese is melted and pasta is warmed through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving- don’t want to burn your mouth on that tangy cheese!

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Chicken Pot Pie

It’s hard to find shockingly good recipes, but this is one of them. I have never been a huge fan of chicken pot pie, probably because up until now I’ve only eaten the frozen ones. It might seem strange to try a recipe for something that I don’t like, but I had a feeling this one would change my mind, and I was right! This recipe, though not complicated, is a bit time consuming, so I’ve been waiting for a day where I had a few spare hours to make it. Finally, a nippy fall day rolled along on which I didn’t have work, so I thawed those peas and grilled that chicken and geared up to make chicken pot pie.

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The wonderful blogger behind this recipe, Joy the Baker, warns against using pre-made pie crusts with this recipe. Normally I would have heeded her advice, but I was in no mood to patch together pate brisee, so I went for it: I used Pillsbury. Consequently, I had to cook my pie for about 10 minutes past the instructed baking time, and it didn’t appear to be as crispy as Joy’s. But, truth be told I’m kind of into semi-moist pie crusts (if you use Pillsbury and notice that your crust appears to be a bit translucent, it’s probably not undercooked, it’s just absorbed some of the creamy filling!). Additionally, I switched out her preferred fresh string beans for canned corn, which I had on hand. The corn also added a nice pop of color to the pie.

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One of the most convenient things about this recipe is that it calls for grilled chicken breasts, not leftovers from a rotisserie chicken, which many chicken pot pies use. However, because you’re using grilled chicken, make sure you season it well with salt and pepper so that it has as much flavor as a rotisserie chicken would.

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Original Recipe: http://joythebaker.com/2014/04/double-crust-chicken-pot-pie/

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INGREDIENTS:

2 pre-made Pillsbury pie crusts, thawed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups chicken stock

3/4  cup whole milk>> I often use skim when recipes call for whole milk, but in this case, USE WHOLE MILK! It adds to the creamy luxuriousness of the sauce.

2 oz cream cheese

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups cubed chicken meat (2-3 chicken breasts, seasoned and grilled)

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted or salted is fine

1 small onion, diced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup canned corn, drained

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

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DIRECTIONS:

In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour.  The mixture, which is a roux, will look almost too thick- but don’t worry, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.  Heat for 1 minute.  Reduce heat to low and slowly add the chicken stock.  Whisk until no flour globs remain.  Whisk in the milk and add the cream cheese.  Heat over medium low heat, stirring often, until cream cheese has melted and the mixture is thick but not stiff.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from heat and carefully pour or spoon into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In the same skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add minced garlic and saute for one minute more.  Add carrots, corn, and peas.  Cook for  about 5 minutes. Remove from heat even if the veggies still look crisp, and stir in cooked, cubed chicken.  Pour the mixture into the sauce, and stir to combine. Set aside and let cool for a hot sec.

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Unroll one pie crust and place in a 9 inch pie dish. Make sure there are no cracks, or the filling may seep through. If the crusts are fully thawed, they generally won’t crack.

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Spoon or carefully pour the filling into the bottom pie crust.

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Drape the second pie crust over the filling in the pie dish. With your fingers press the top and bottom crusts together and fold under. Crimp the edges of the dough. Cut five small slits in the top of the crust so the steam can vent.  Brush lightly with beaten egg and place in the fridge to chill while the oven preheats.

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Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Place pie in the oven bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 375 and bake for 20-25 (increased time based on Pillsbury crusts) more minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour before serving.

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Enjoy!

Leslie