Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hazelnut Hummus

I have been remiss in posting. Which is because I haven't spent much time in the kitchen for the last few weeks. We've been BUSY. And gone. A lot. I'm guessing you guys have been busy too! Now that we have officially reached the first couple days of fall, I am craving fall foods. And happy times in the kitchen with the doors wide open (with no fear of flies), the smell of cinnamon, the new Bon Iver album playing, and the sound of little girl chatter in the background...

While going through my fall decorating box in the attic (one of the few that the squirrels living in my attic have not gotten to yet), I found a bag of hazelnuts I used as filler. And it got me thinking....the poor hazelnut is like the stepchild of the peanut or the pecan--but its taste magnificent. Besides coffee creamer, I don't see too many foods including the hazelnut--maybe because the hazelnut is an expensive nut. But it is my favorite nut. I ADORE it. If you like Frangelico, you understand.

So, when I ran across a picture of hazelnut hummus online here, I decided to try my hand at it with the shelled, roasted hazelnuts waiting in my freezer. I can't believe how good it turned out. It's not like traditional hummus--no garlic. It's a spicy, sweet and salty dip/spread and it is amazing and definitely sings 'Fall is Here!' The only thing that would have put this over the top would be to use hazelnut oil instead of olive oil. Hazelnut oil has amazing flavor and depth. However, it is pricey, needs to be stored in the fridge, and might be harder to find (Whole Foods sells it). If you like a more subtle nut flavor, use olive oil--I loved it!

Serve this hazelnut hummus with pita chips or on crostini with blue cheese alongside crisp apples and pears and spiced cider. I can't wait to make this again--think it would be an amazing appetizer to a girls get-together.

 Inspired by

  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, UN-drained
  • 1 cup shelled and roasted hazelnuts
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame 'tahini' paste
  • 2-3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, PLUS more for drizzling on top of finished hummus
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice (or freshly squeezed lemon juice--but orange works so well with the nutty and maple flavors)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (use less if you don't care for much heat)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. smoked paprika (optional-but good)

Using a heavy duty blender, process all ingredients until smooth (a Vitamix works awesome for this!). Spoon out into a serving dish and drizzle with more olive oil or hazelnut oil. Garnish with hazelnuts, if desired.

Makes enough to serve a small group (4-6 people) as an appetizer.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Balsamic Chicken with 3 Grain Risotto & Summer Squash Medley

I'm almost hesitant to say this in case someone has problems with this recipe, but my husband told me this was one of my best chicken dishes so far. And I had to agree that it was good. While digging for some olive oil in my pantry, I spotted the balsamic vinegar and threw it over the simmering chicken, while crossing my fingers. It ended up being delicious. You can have dinner ready in about 30 minutes with frozen chicken--you can make the sides simultaneously. I think the chicken may take a little less time if you use defrosted chicken instead of frozen.

We had the chicken with a summer squash saute and a Trader Joe's 3-Grain Blend Risotto (about $2.29) that I doctored up. If you are near a TJ's--try this! My aunt introduced me to it and I'm sold! You can cook this risotto in a separate pot on another burner next to the chicken.

Why I love this Trader Joe's 3 Grains Blend risotto:

1) It's healthier than white rice
2) It is creamy like risotto
3) It takes about half the time to cook
4) No continual stirring over the stove as with traditional risotto.

If you don't have a TJ's near you, try a multigrain pilaf from any grocery store. Or any starch you prefer.


Serves 4-6 (depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts)

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4-6 chicken breasts (I use 5 big frozen chicken breasts)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Scant 1/4 (or less) cup balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper, to taste (I tried a chardonnay scented coarse salt once & was bowled over)

Place all ingredients in a large (non-stick) skillet or frying/saute pan. Bring to a low boil and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Flip the chicken and reduce heat to medium low. Continue to cook until most of the liquid evaporates and the chicken is cooked through (skim off any fat). This took about another 20 minutes for me with frozen chicken breasts. The chicken will be caramelized and brown when ready.

Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

3-Grain Blend Risotto with Olives & Tomato

Serves 4-6 (with leftovers)

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ~1/3 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1/4 tsp. dried parsley
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Trader Joe's 3-Grain Blend (rice, barley, spelt)
  • 2.5 cups of water or chicken broth (I used water)

Saute onion for a minute or two in olive oil. Add water and bring to a boil. Then add all the remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Cook according to package directions--about 16 minutes or until liquid has evaporated.

Serve the risotto with the chicken. (We had leftovers of the risotto.)

Summer Squash Medley

Serves 4 as a side dish (may have leftovers)

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion or a couple shallots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced in ~1/3 inch rounds
  • 1 yellow summer squash,  sliced in ~1/3 inch rounds
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Salt & pepper, to taste.

Saute onion in olive oil until it is almost translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to saute until the zucchini is cooked through (only takes a few minutes--we like ours fork-tender).
To serve: Plate the chicken with the risotto and summer squash medley. Top with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and/or chopped fresh basil.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Whole Grain Cottage Cheese Blender Waffles with Peach Melba Conserve Topping

I love waffles. So much. Baked goods for breakfast are another weakness. However, we always seem to need additional protein with such breakfasts because we get hungry again within a couple hours of eating waffles or pancakes. So, I wondered about trying cottage cheese in my waffles and tried researching online to see if anyone had tried making waffles with cottage cheese. I stumbled upon this great blog:  and also read about trying the batter in the blender. This was my first attempt at making the batter in the blender--now I'm hooked. It's easier to pour them into the waffle maker this way.

You absolutely cannot even tell these are whole grain either (well, I couldn't). And, you will not be able to 'taste' the cottage cheese; so if anyone in your family is averse to it, you can still try it. The waffle recipe below is Heather's recipe with my changes in the italics.

In addition, I love fresh fruit on top of my waffles but the peaches I picked at the orchard a few weeks ago seemed a little spotted. My mom always makes conserves or compote with excess fruit--but I wanted to try making something similar but with maple syrup instead of processed sugar. I LOOOOVED the result of these conserves. If you liked my Quick Blackberry Jam with Agave Nectar, you will probably like this too. Now, I wish I would have made double the peach melba topping, because it was that good!

Adapted from

These waffles are a bit more cake-like, but they crisp up pretty good in the toaster when reheated.

Serves ~4-5
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat PASTRY flour (purchase at Whole Foods or other natural food store)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. flax meal, ground (optional--my addition)
  • 2 Tbsp. wheat germ (optional--my addition)
  • 1 cup reduced fat cottage cheese
  • 4 eggs (I used 3 eggs + 1 egg white)
  • 1 cup milk (I used low-fat buttermilk)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (I skipped this because I was out of extract)
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup (optional)

Turn your waffle iron on and begin to heat it up while you make the batter.

Whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder in large bowl (add flax meal and wheat germ, if using).

In a blender combine the cottage cheese, eggs, milk, and vanilla (plus optional maple syrup). Blend until smooth. Gently add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients into the blender. Process JUST until well combined.
Once the waffle iron is ready, coat it generously with olive oil spray. Pour the batter (from the blender) into the hot waffle iron (about 1 cup batter) and cook until your waffle iron lights up as done (or screeches as mine tends to do). Repeat with remaining batter until batter is all used up.

Serve the waffles warm. (Heather suggests almond butter and applesauce and I can't wait to try that next time!)


Makes ~2 jars of conserve (about 26-30 ounces)
  • 4 cups fresh peaches, diced and peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • Juice of 1/2 a small lemon

In a medium pot, bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and let the fruit simmer for about 25-30 minutes or until the juices have thickened and evaporated some (mix the fruit once in a while). Turn off the flame and keep covered until ready to serve over the waffles.
Store covered in the refrigerator. Keeps for several weeks. Extra conserves can be frozen as well. But ours never last that long because this mixture is so delicious over toast or eaten straight out of the jar. YUM!

To serve: Plate 2 waffles for each person with some peach melba conserves and sprinkle with 1-2 tsp. sliced almonds.