Saturday, September 8, 2012

Healthy Protein Lunch: Chickpea Sandwich Spread (Vegetarian/Vegan)

I have been sending my better half to work with sandwiches lately. He left the land of scrubs, a fully stocked doctor's lounge, and the comfort of driving a truck to the world of 'Midwestern Ivy' academia--wear crisp shirts and khakis, pay $1.79 for a bad cup of coffee, and take the bus to work. And though he insists he's totally happy with peanut butter and jelly, I'm not happy with that idea.

So....the trick has been finding protein-filled sandwiches that would be safe at room temperature for a few hours (since he hadn't found the department fridge yet). Which usually means, something vegetarian--and to be exact, something vegan for a while. Can't risk anything spoiling and then having him get sick at work.

I read the helpful reviews for this chickpea sandwich spread online and was motivated to try it. After a few adjustments to the recipe (based mainly on what I had), we absolutely love it! It's right up there with this tofu sandwich spread. Both these sandwich spreads are just delicious! And would make creative pita pocket fillings.

This chickpea sandwich spread is also another great replacement for tuna fish. One reviewer said that a member of their family didn't know they weren't eating a tuna fish sandwich while enjoying this sandwich--it was just that good. A couple people used it as dip or stuffed tomatoes with it. I made a double recipe of this sandwich spread and was very glad because it was good as a thick dip with crackers dipped into it (ha). Even my in-laws enjoyed these sandwiches after a long travel day.

Give this spread a try. It's really very, VERY good! Imagine the possibilities you could do with the base of chickpea, vegan mayo and lemon juice!

Adapted from

Below is almost a double recipe--it makes about 6-8 sandwiches.

  • 2 (15 oz.) cans chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 3 stalks celery, diced (mine were on the smaller side)
  • 4 green onions, chopped (you can use 1 small onion instead as the original recipe calls for)
  • 1/4 cup, or less, vegan mayonnaise (such as Vegenaise--grapeseed variety is the best)
  • Juice of about one lemon
  • 2 tsp. dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1) Put the rinsed and drained beans in the bowl of a food processor and process a few times until the texture of the beans is a chunky paste. Because there is very little liquid, the beans won't process to a paste. In fact, you can add a little lemon juice or water to help the processing go smoother. Place the mixture in a medium-large sized bowl.


In a medium to large sized bowl, just mash the (garbanzo) beans with the back of a fork until you get the texture you wish--a chunky paste.

2) Then, mix in the celery, onions, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and spices. Add a little water if more liquid is needed.

Store the filling in refrigerator. DELICIOUS!!!! And almost better the next day.

If anyone has any other great vegan/vegetarian sandwich filling ideas, please let me know!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

RIDICULOUSLY EASY Rustic Tomato Basil Parmesan Bread

A couple weekends ago I met my girlfriends for a weekend trip in Nashville. I'd like to take a moment and say that the only thing more wonderful than homemade bread is sharing it with women who can laugh at themselves. And you. And then make even you laugh at you.

We went to the spa in honor of one of our friend's new baby--instead of a baby shower. And as if that weren't smart enough (wish I could take credit for that genius plan)...two of the significant others of the girls...well, they made us food. Like real food. Not microwave popcorn food, but like BAKED bread, NYT recipe egg strata, oven roasted potatoes and onions, and buckwheat pancakes on the griddle. We need more of these men in our lives, no? I mean, it's been a while since a man made me French press coffee like this...

Well, we took the bread to the spa. Because that's what one does when olive oil is the spa theme. Here's a picture of girlfriend, Harmony, enjoying the fruits of a man's labor before the spa. (And check out her absolutely hilarious blog HERE.)

Now, tell me you wouldn't want to eat, drink, and be merry and then rubbed down with women who are probably going to cause problems in a nursing home with you one day...instead of making small talk with people you may not know over tissue paper and diapers (sorry Jolene).

Anyway, when I got back from Nashville, I started craving homemade bread again. Just like that. Even if the temperature has been in the 80s. Years ago, my good friend, Erinn, would make tomato basil bread in her breadmaker. It was delicious. And now years later, I miss it (and her, since we're discussing friends) and wonder what a rustic tomato-bread loaf would taste like. So, after playing around, the conclusion is that it is delicious and almost as easy if you don't mind waiting overnight (so worth it). I urge you to try my little experiment because I think it's going to turn out beautifully for you. And again, if you know me by now, you know...NO KNEADING!

This bread is the perfect transition between summer and fall. If you have basil growing on your porch like myself, give it a go. Read this slowly: This bread is idiot proof. I mean, it is RIDICULOUSLY EASY. 

All you need that's considered special equipment is a cast iron pot (a dutch oven if you will) like the ones Le Creuset or Staub makes. Even Aldi sells knock offs these days. You can find these pots on Amazon, at Target, TJMaxx, Marshalls, even Walmart. It is THE ultimate 'tool' in making rustic breads. You definitely need one. LOVE LOVE LOVE these pots.


  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large handful of fresh basil, rinsed and patted dry
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes, preferably NOT oil-packed
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • *A DUTCH OVEN (I used a 3.5 qt size--which is about 3.3 L)

Using a food processor or large knife, process or chop finely the dried tomatoes and basil.

Using a stand mixer OR a medium to large sized bowl and spatula, mix all the ingredients, except the water. Then pour in the water and mix until the dough is shaggy and comes together easily. This should only take a minute or two.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours. Overnight is really ideal.

When you are ready to bake the bread, place some flour on a clean kitchen towel. Dump your dough onto this floured towel and flip it over once or twice until it is a round shape and evenly covered with flour. Flip the towel to cover the round shape. Next, place a lidded dutch oven pot in the oven and turn the oven on to 450 degrees. When the oven has preheated, continue to let the pot heat or 'bake' on its own for another 10-15 minutes.

When the pot is good and hot, carefully take the pot out. Then, carefully lift up dough with edges of the damp cloth/towel and dump your dough into the hot dutch oven pot. Shake the pot gently side to side to let the dough even out in the pot. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking the bread for another 15 minutes until it is baked throughout and golden in color.

Check out the green and red flecks of color...

I made two loaves. So glad I did. And that's how you meet your neighbors in a big city.

Before I forget....some major things to keep in mind with the breads I post on this blog:
  1. If you want a crispy crust, store the bread in a paper bag.
  2. If you want a chewy crust, store the bread in a plastic bag after it has cooled. 
  3. I suggest refrigerating it after a couple of days and warming it up either in the oven (which can restore some crispi-ness, the microwave--which can restore some chewiness, or just toast it). Due to the fact that it doesn't have preservatives, the bread can spoil faster than store-bought breads.

And boys? Thanks again. You done good. Sorry I didn't take your picture as you smiled when you served us food. Your mommas would be proud. 

*You can use a bigger size pot, but the bread will be a bit thinner and spread out more. The 3.5 quart size is probably my favorite for rustic breads. I use the Le Creuset brands (mainly round shape) and if you have these brand of pots and don't know what size they are, check the number on the bottom of the pot. I found this little chart on a message board and it is helpful in understanding what size I'm dealing with--so if your Le Creuset pot has a 16 on the bottom of it, it's a 1.5 quart pot, etc. See below:

For Round Dutch Ovens:

16: 1.3 liters (L) = 1.5 quarts (qt) 
18: 1.8 L = 2 qt
20: 2.4 L = 2.5 qt
22: 3.3 L = 3.5 qt
24: 4.2 L = 4.5 qt
26: 5.3 L = 5.5 qt
28: 6.7 L = 7.25 qt
30: 8.4 L = 9 qt
34: 12.4 L = 13.25 qt