One of My Favorite Processed Foods (Perfect for Your Labor Day BBQ)

I'm not a fan of processed foods, by which I typically mean factory-made packaged items that are loaded with industrial ingredients. I believe the more foods you eat from living plants than processing plants, the better.

Not all processed foods are unhealthy, however. At its core, processing simply means altering something from its natural state. Juicing, canning and dehydrating are all processing techniques. And of course, any dish prepared in a food processor is a processed food.

Fancy gadgets usually don't excite me, but you simply can't beat the sheer speed and convenience of a food processor. On a recent family visit, I gave my sister's processor a major workout churning out treats like this refreshing cucumber soup, these whole-wheat sesame crackers, and the super easy dip below. Give 'em a whirl!

(If you don't have a food processor, borrow a pal's or treat yourself to one--check out the holiday sales.)

Sundried Tomato Hummus
One of my favorite "processed" foods is hummus, a creamy protein-packed dip made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans).

Store-bought hummus is often lackluster and made with low-grade oils, excess salt, added sugars and artificial ingredients. Homemade hummus is a snap to whip up; you basically dump everything into the processor and hit the 'on' button. Plus, you can tweak the flavor to suit your taste buds.

As it stores well in the refrigerator, I often make extra to have on hand for a healthy snack or light meal.

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (plus more to taste)
  • 3-3 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 2 (15 ounce) cans (salt-free), drained and rinsed*
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I start with less and add more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika (optional)
  1. Place garlic, salt, tahini and lemon juice into a food processor and process until smooth.
     
  2. Add the garbanzo beans and olive oil; process until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
     
  3. Toss in the sun-dried tomatoes and pulse until they are chopped into very small pieces and incorporated into the hummus. Note: I prefer to top the finished dip with fresh chopped basil each time I serve it, however you can also mix it into the dip after blending the sundried tomatoes.  
     
  4. Taste and adjust the flavor or consistency as needed (I usually add a bit more lemon juice and salt, and sometimes oil, water or leftover bean cooking liquid to thin it slightly).
     
  5. Refrigerate at least one hour.
     
  6. Sprinkle with basil and paprika before serving.  

*I like to cook my own dried beans for maximum flavor and texture. If using canned beans, go for Eden Organic, a BPA-free brand.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Enjoy with whole-wheat crackers. Most store-bought brands aren't 100% whole grain and have added sugars. Use your trusty food processor to bake your own, using this insanely easy sesame cracker recipe.
     
  • Raw veggies, like cucumbers, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, are fun to dip into it.
     
  • Serve with toasted pita chips. Cut whole-grain pita pockets into four pieces, split the triangles apart, place in one layer on a baking sheet and cook at 350 degrees until crispy (about 10 minutes).
     
  • Spread on crusty, whole-grain bread and top with roasted veggies or cucumber, tomatoes and sprouts. Yum.

Note:
You may also want to try my crowd-pleasing Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus.

Leftover tahini? Stir up this zingy, creamy sauce in just a minute.
 
Hummus recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com.