Homemade Pita Bread & Hummmmmmus… easier than ya think! :)

Sorry about my imposed bit of quiet on the blog here as we dealt with Dear Hubby’s health scare, but I’m back with not one but TWO recipes that go (dare I say it?) hand in hand with each other… Hummus and Pitas!  🙂

After trying this recipe for homemade hummus, I may never buy hummus again. And after reading this, you may join me. Because once I (and therefore you) figure(d) out how easy, cheap, and ridiculously delicious homemade hummus is, I decided to turn my back on the prefabricated stuff and am never looking back. That’s it! I’m done. You soak a bunch of dried chickpeas overnight (I bought a bag of roasted, dried chickpeas at Trader Joes, just because they looked… well, nuttier than the regular ones, but who knows if that made a difference), then simmer them in salted water until they’re soft. In the meantime, you make a paste out of salt and garlic, then whizz that in a food processor along with sesame seed paste and what seems like an inordinate amount of lemon juice. Trust the recipe, though! The mixture should look “contracted”, which meant nothing to me, but I stopped when it starts to look like the consistency of hummus and that turned out to be fine.

Then you add the drained chickpeas and process the mixture until an improbably creamy mass starts to form kinda looking like this:

MMMM… Hummmmmus…

Depending on how loose you like your hummus, you can add cooking liquid and lemon juice. It keeps in the fridge for a few days, though you’ll have to add some more water and lemon juice to loosen it up a bit (and let it come to room temperature, because the flavors totally bloom then). I sprinkled mine with paprika, some minced garlic and drizzled it with some EVOO.

A more appetizing plate of hummus I never did see. And the taste! Fresh and creamy, with a nutty flavor and grassy notes from the oil. The hummus had heft, but was also airy from all the processing. I’m telling you – after you make it, you’ll never want storebought hummus again. I’m so glad I tried this recipe. It was like a birthday present!

Hummus
Makes 4 cups

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup sesame seed paste
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, and more to taste
Cayenne or hot Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Rinse the soaked chickpeas well and drain them before putting them in a saucepan and covering them with plenty of fresh water. Bring to a boil; skim, add one-half teaspoon salt, cover and cook over medium heat, about 1 1/2 hours, until the chickpeas are very soft (you might need to add more water).

2. Meanwhile, crush the garlic and one-half teaspoon salt in a mortar until pureed. Transfer the puree to the work bowl of a food processor, add the sesame seed paste and lemon juice and process until white and contracted. Add one-half cup water and process until completely smooth.

3. Drain the chickpeas, reserving their cooking liquid. Add the chickpeas to the sesame paste mixture and process until well-blended. For a smoother texture, press the mixture through the fine blade of a food mill. Thin to desired consistency with reserved chickpea liquid. Adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice. The hummus can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.) Serve, sprinkled with paprika and parsley and drizzled with oil.

How to Make Homemade Pita Bread

Makes 8 rounds

There is NOTHING like freash pitas for dipping in hummus…

What You Need

Ingredients

1 cup warm water (not hot or boiling)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast

2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1-2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)

Equipment

Mixing bowl

Rolling pin

Cast iron skillet (for stovetop baking)

Baking sheet or a baking stone (for oven baking)

Instructions

1. Form the Pita Dough: Mix the water and yeast together, and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour (saving the last half cup for kneading), salt, and olive oil (if using). Stir until a shaggy dough is formed.

2. Knead the Dough: Sprinkle a little of the extra flour onto your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, but try to be sparing. It’s better to use too little flour than too much. If you get tired, stop and let the dough rest for a few minutes before finishing kneading.

3. Let the Dough Rise: Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and film it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it’s coated with oil. Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

At this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week.

4. Divide the Pitas: Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and gently flatten each piece into a thick disk. Sprinkle the pieces with a little more flour and then cover them with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap wrap until you’re ready to bake them.

5. Shape the Pitas: Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle 8-9 inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. Lift and turn the dough frequently as your oll to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your counter. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if its starting to stick. If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. (Once you get into a rhythm, you can be cooking one pita while rolling the next one out.)

6. To Bake Pitas in the Oven: While shaping the pitas, heat the oven to 450°. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to heat. If you don’t have a baking stone, place a large baking sheet on the middle rack to heat.

Place the rolled-out pitas directly on the baking stone or baking sheets (as many as will fit), and bake for about 3 minutes. I’ve found it easiest to carry the pita flat on the palm of my hand and then flip it over onto the baking stone. The pita will start to puff up after a minute or two and is done when it has fully ballooned. Cover baked pitas with a clean dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas.

7. To Bake Pitas on the Stovetop: Warm a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until a few bead of water sizzle immediately on contact. Drizzle a little oil in the pan and wipe off the excess.

Lay a rolled-out pita on the skillet and bake for 30 seconds, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes to toast the other side. The pita should start to puff up during this time; if it doesn’t or if only small pockets form, try pressing the surface of the pita gently with a clean towel. Keep cooked pitas covered with a clean dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas.

8. Storing the Pitas: Pitas are best when eaten immediately after cooking. Leftover pitas will keep in an airtight bag for several days and can be eaten as they are or warmed in a toaster oven. Baked pitas can also be frozen with wax paper between the layers for up to three months.

Additional Notes:

• Storing the Dough: Once it has risen, the pita dough can be kept refrigerated until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week.

• Pitas That Won’t Puff: Sometimes you get pitas that won’t puff. The problem is usually that the oven or the skillet aren’t hot enough. Make sure both are thoroughly pre-heated before cooking. Even pitas that don’t puff are still delicious and can be used wraps or torn into pieces for dipping in hummus.

 

Enjoy! 🙂

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Fresh Pico de Gallo… I use this a lot. A LOT, a lot.

Fresh Pico de Gallo… I use this a lot when cooking. A LOT, a lot. I use it in dinner dishes, appetizer dishes, by itself for an appetizer, in guacamole… I am telling you: I use this stuff like it’s going out of style (which it’s NOT).

The best pico de gallo I have ever had was on our honeymoon in Mazatlan. I survived on pico de gallo, fresh guacamole with chips, fresh shrimp and daquiris because I was scared I would get sick from anything else and I had learned the year before to avoid Tequila at all costs. That was almost 18 years ago & I still avoid the tequila, but I LOVE me some Pico de Gallo! Now I would probably eat anything there without any trepidation. Maturity or stupidity… it’s a tough call. 🙂

Pico de Gallo is such an amazing salsa because you don’t daintily dip your chip. No, you scoop that salsa and enjoy a delicious mouthful of tantalizing fresh flavors that makes you dive right back into the bowl. It takes all of 5 minutes to pull together and you can serve immediately or let is sit in the fridge for a couple hours – very flexible. The recipe calls for Roma tomatoes but use what you have on hand.

Last but not least, think of Pico de Gallo as a symphony… sorry, but I think in musical terms a lot, so bear with me and hear me out. Some people tend to put more tomatoes than anything else (for whatever reason). Now, on their own, I’m not particularly fond of onions, or jalapenos, etc… but they really are all doing their own part to balance this dish, so don’t skimp on the onion, garlic or cilantro, etc… You are just going to have to either trust me on this or end up unhappy with your Pico, because they really do all blend beautifully into this gorgeous explosion of taste that makes your tastebuds sing. (Aren’t you glad I finally circled to the point and landed that plane?) *wink*  Anyhow, enjoy the Pico. Throw it in a chicken casserole, over your omelette, eat it with chips, the uses are simply as limited as your mind and creativity. 🙂

Ingredients:

5 plum tomatoes (I use Romas and you want them firm, not soft)

1/2 large or small onion

1 jalapeno

1/2 cup cilantro

1/2 lime

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

salt, pepper to taste

*Quantities are approximate

Instructions:

Chop jalapenos, onion, and tomatoes in a very small dice. I typically cut the seeds and the “jelly” part out of the tomatoes, leaving just the meat of the tomatoes for my pico. If you leave them in, your pico will be juicier and runnier. Some people like that consistency when it’s more like salsa, I happen to like the fresco version that you chomp & scoop. LOL! I use my food basher-chopper thingie-ma-bobber from Pampered Chef I got years ago to do all this dicing, but the Cuisinart works well too if you’re feeling lazy.

Leave the seeds in your jalapenos for a hotter pico. Adjust the amount of jalapenos for your preferred temperature. Next, chop up a nice-sized bunch of cilantro, about a half cup or so. Throw away the long stems before chopping. Stir together. Add the juice of a half a lime and add salt to taste.

Enjoy!

Mediterranean Chicken

This is a crockpot meal… I don’t know about you but I *LOVE* cooking with my crockpot on busy nights. I’ve been cooking a lot of mediterranean food lately… must be a phase I’m in, but it’s expanding my cooking “daring” quite a bit. I started with a basic recipe, and in my usual manner I did the “this looks and smells good but I think I know how to really kick it into overdrive for the tastebuds”… and sure enough, we ended up with a dish that just rocked the socks off my oldest daughter who was visiting & the rest of the family. What follows is how I cooked it; try this one, it was a yummy change and surprised even my picky kidlets and hubby! 🙂

We’re cooking MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN today.

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, thinly chopped
  • 14 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can olives, drained and chopped
  • 6 Tblspn. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tspn minced garlic
  • 1/2 tspn. black pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 tspn. garlic & herb Mrs. Dash
  • 1 tspn. herbs de provence
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 packet Knorr Parma Rosa Sauce mix (dry)
  • 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese (divided in half)
  • 1/4 c. grated 3 cheese blend (pecorino romano, parmesan, asiago) You can get this at Albertson’s or Kroger stores.

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the chicken, 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese, and packet of Knorr Parma Rosa. Mix all the ingredients together with a fork.
  2. Place chicken in cooker, pushing down into vegetables and sauce until it’s about half buried. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with the Parma Rosa packet & finish pressing down into the vegetables until it’s as covered as possible.
  3. Cover, and cook on low 4-6 hours in the crockpot.
  4. Serve over toasted baguette bread OR serve over noodles of your choice boiled & strained separately.

Destiny said to tell you it’s not just good, it’s “O”h my gosh good… LOL! I don’t know that I’d go quite that far but it is pretty spectacular & beats trying to figure out what to make for dinner at the last minute on a night we have parent meetings, scout night, cheerleading practice or any other number of things. 🙂

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday to who? Shrimp Tortellini w/ Newburg Sauce

August 25th may be my birthday, but I’ve decided to share with you all my family’s ALL TIME FAVORITE recipe. It is disgustingly easy and quick, which makes it one of my favorite recipes, and is OMG yummy which makes it a recipe that family I haven’t seen in months comes out of the woodwork for… (that last bit is true btw LOL)  The recipe is SHRIMP TORTELLINI in newburg cream sauce.  Now, down to business!

First, I am going to give you the way I personally make it, and then I’m going to tell you a perfectly good “cheater” way to make it…  Try both… tell me which you like better, I’d love to know!

Shrimp Tortellini

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons shallots, minced, or finely minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons brandy or dry sherry
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 packet Knorr Parma Rosa Sauce mix (dry)
  • 1 c. milk

Other Ingredients:

  • 2 family size package cheese tortellini (we like cheese & garlic)
  • 1 lb frozen, peeled shrimp  (not the tiny shrimp cocktail shrimp, use standard size shrimp or a little larger)

Instructions:

In a large pot filled about 2/3 rds full of water, start the water to boil. While the water is heating up, in a normal/large frying or saute pan, you’re going to start the sauce.

Melt butter in saute pan. Add the shallots or onion and saute over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the paprika and sherry, and saute for 2 minutes longer. Stir in the tomato paste.

The water should be boiling in the pot by now, add the tortellini to the water and cook per the instructions. When the tortellini looks ALMOST done, add the peeled shrimp to the pot. You only want the shrimp to cook for 2-3 minutes, do not overcook it!  ***If you want to add a vegetable, I love adding a bag of frozen broccoli crowns at the same time I add the shrimp, it’s a really nice addition to the dish.***

Add the brandy or sherry to the saute pan, the Knorr Parma Rosa dry mix, the milk and cook a few minutes longer. Add the thyme, and cayenne. Cook for 2 minutes more.

The pasta & shrimp should finish a minute or so before the sauce, strain the tortellini and shrimp, then place BACK IN THE WARM POT. Take the finished sauce & pour over the tortellini and shrimp.
Salt & pepper to taste.  Mix & Serve warm.

If you’ve done this right, the whole process with both pans only takes about 8-10 minutes from start to finish and both pans finish just about the same time, making this a REALLY fast dish as there is NO PREP TIME REQUIRED. This makes a large pot that feeds my family of 6 and allows my boys to get seconds because they are just pigs when it comes to this dish. LOL  🙂 It’s really great to save any leftovers if you can scoop them aside without the family knowing, because this makes a fantastic lunch for work also.

Now… the cheater version:

This makes more of a basic cream sauce, not the Newburg sauce like the recipe above. Both versions take about 10 minutes, cook w/what you have on hand.  🙂

Ingredients:

2 family size package cheese tortellini (we like cheese & garlic)

1 can cream of asparagus soup

1 can cream of celery soup

½ c.milk

1 lb frozen, peeled shrimp  (not the tiny shrimp cocktail shrimp, use standard size shrimp or a little larger)

1 bag frozen broccoli bits

Instructions:

Boil the tortellini per the instructions, usually around 8 minutes I think.  The last two minutes, place the frozen shrimp and the broccoli bits in the boiling water with the noodles.  The hot water not only defrosts but cooks the shrimp in the two to three remaining minutes.  Strain the noodles and shrimp.  Put the noodles and shrimp back in the warm pan and place it back on the burner but turn the burner off.  The residual heat of the burner as it cools is perfect for this next step.  Empty the soup and milk over the noodles.  Mix everything together, and make sure the noodles and shrimp are coated nicely with the sauce.  Salt & pepper to taste.