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.

Indian-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

Wow your friends with these spicy little nibbles!

Super healthy, this addictive snack is easy to make and will fill your home with the most enticing aroma. Feel free to play around with the spices and seasonings. I like to double the recipe and fill glass Mason jars to give as gifts or take to parties.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are high in fiber, protein and antioxidants. They can help lower cholesterol, reduce heart disease risk, combat cancer and regulate blood sugar levels.

Indian-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups canned chickpeas (organic, no-salt added preferable)
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
     
  2. Rinse and drain chickpeas then pat dry with a towel
     
  3. Combine everything, toss well
     
  4. Spread in a single layer on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet
     
  5. Roast, tossing a few times, for 40-50 minutes, or until the chickpeas are golden and crisp
     
  6. Cool


Happy, Healthy Snacking!

    Crowd Pleaser: Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus

    With many gardens soon to be overflowing with cilantro and backyard barbecues in full swing, this zippy recipe is a delicious change from the usual ho-hum hummus or chips and dip

    While store-bought hummus can be great in a pinch, homemade hummus is much more flavorful and satisfying, and often more healthy thanks to no added sugar and preservatives or excess salt and oil.

    Most of us know beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber. Cilantro is also a good source of dietary fiber as well as iron and magnesium. Plus, it aids in digestion; settles the stomach; relieves gas; prevents nausea; decreases inflammation, blood sugar and bad cholesterol (LDL); and raises good HDL cholesterol (HDL). I'm sold.

    This hummus whips up quickly, and because it doesn’t include tahini, the ingredients can be easily found if you don’t already have them on hand.

    As with most recipes I make, I’ve reduced the oil in this one from 1/2 to 1/4 cup, and add more as needed.  And, because I love cilantro, I use a bit more than 3/4 cup (ok, a lot more, but I really like this herb). Once you’ve blitzed everything together, you may find you want to add more lime, a dash more salt, or a bit more oil or water if it’s too thick. I like to add a dollop of chipotle sauce for a little smoky heat. 

    Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus
    Makes: 2 cups

    Ingredients:

    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 2 (15 oz.) cans organic garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (about 3-3 1/2 cups home-cooked beans)
    • 3 tablespoons lime juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro
    • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

    Instructions: 

    1. Place garlic in a food processor and process until minced, about 5 seconds.
       
    2. Add beans, lime juice and salt. Process into a puree.
       
    3. With the processor running, slowly add olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube.
       
    4. Process until the mixture thickens, about 1-2 minutes.
       
    5. Add cilantro and jalapeno and pulse throughout, about 30-60 seconds.
       
    6. If needed, adjust seasoning and/or consistency according to taste.
       
    7. Bring to room temperature before serving.

    Enjoy with toasted whole-wheat pita bread, raw veggies, baked pita or corn chips, or whatever else sounds yummy to you.