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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Valentine’s Day Red Velvet Cake

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, and not for the reasons you might think. Yes, if you have a significant other, it’s about celebrating your “relationship” (i.e. it’s actually about overdone Hallmark cards, overpriced roses, and last minute restaurant reservations made by frantic boyfriends and husbands… I know, because I take said reservations). For me, Valentine’s Day has always been about celebrating all forms of love in my life. Every year, my mom has given me and my sister a few small goodies on the morning of Valentine’s Day. Last V-Day I was living in California, and she sent me an awesome package: Dove chocolate, cherry/vanilla tootsie rolls, the movie “It’s Complicated”, themed socks, and decorations.

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^The package from my mom.^

Growing up, we also had an annual Valentine’s Day tea party for friends. We stopped doing it at some point, but, inspired by Leslie Knope’s Galentine’s Day festivities, I decided to revive it. Instead of doing a tea party, though, we’re going to be having dinner, cocktails, and cake. And thanks to my friend Lauren, buff chick and heart shaped mozzarella stick appetizers. HEYOOO. Buff chick for the win.

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At the afore mentioned Valentine’s Day tea parties, my mom always made a heart shaped cake. Usually vanilla, and usually with those little red heart gummies that you find at CVS perched on top. As an homage to that cake, I made a red velvet heart shaped cake with cream cheese frosting. I generally think that red velvet cake is slightly overrated, as compared to say, peanut butter and chocolate cake, but it was the most festive option. If you have a heart shaped tin (mine is from Wilton), you can use the following cake recipe and it will fit perfectly. I used Alton Brown’s cream cheese frosting recipe, but feel free to use your favorite. Whatever recipe you choose, I recommend sifting the powdered sugar before adding it to your wet ingredients, or you’ll have lumpy frosting.

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Original Cake Recipe: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016329-red-velvet-cake

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 ½ cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

pink/red food coloring

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 ½ flour, sifted

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon white vinegar

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DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare heart shaped cake pan by greasing heavily with butter or crisco, then coat with a thin layer of flour or cocoa powder, tapping out excess.

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.

Add food coloring and cocoa powder. If you’re using pink food dye, add more than you think you need in order to make a deeper red color.

Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Alternating in 2 batches each, add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture. In the last batch of buttermilk, mix in the vinegar before adding to the batter. Mix until blended.

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Pour batter into cake pan. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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Let cool, invert onto wire rack, then frost as desired.

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Enjoy!

Leslie