ITALIAN HUMMUS SPREAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CAPERS, AND OLIVES

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
–Joy Harjo

While it is only mid-October, I know many people are making plans for the Thanksgiving holiday. November reminds us that our kitchen tables are a sacred space. A hub where we can gather with loved ones and celebrate in our abundance. In our home, the kitchen table is a verb and not a noun. In our house the kitchen table is a place where our children learn responsibility, and manners, by engaging in conversation, helping prepare meals, set the table, and helping clean up after. It is also the place where homework is mulled over, canvases are covered with paint, Legos are stacked, manicures are glossed, and dinosaurs are sketched. It is a place where our cell phones and tablets are put away and we give each other our undivided attention.

Growing up my family embraced visitors at our kitchen table with bottomless cups of strong coffee, homemade baked goods, and as a child it is where I learned to value of the power of stories. At times I was excused, if the conversation was not fit for small ears, but the majority of the time I was a welcome participant in a glorious mix of laughter and a legacy of tales from the past. The kitchen table is where we mourned the loss of my grandparents, welcomed the hearty appetites of friends who helped my father raise the trusses on our new home, and where my mom fed my teenage friends after the Homecoming dance.

I believe that the best meals are made with simple ingredients. Therefore, you will find recipes on my blog that are not complicated to make. In addition, I want to share food ideas with you that are wholesome and nutritious for your family.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this hummus recipe makes a great dish to pass at a gathering,

While protein packed hummus is often my go-to choice – it can get a little bland and boring – so I try to give it a boost with a variety of ingredients. If your hummus needs a little interesting nudge, I think you will enjoy this recipe.

ITALIAN HUMMUS SPREAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CAPERS, AND OLIVES

*Hummus (you can use store-bought or find the recipe that I use is below)
*1 teaspoon of dried oregano
*1/2 cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
*1/2 cup of chopped Kalamata Greek olives
*1/2 cup of chopped Italian parsley

*1/2 cup of chopped artichoke hearts
*1/4 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper
*1/4 cup of chopped green olives
*3 Tablespoons of capers
*3 Tablespoons of olive oil
*3Tablespoons of pesto 
(store-bought or homemade. In place of pesto you could also use finely chopped fresh basil)
*Loaf of crusty bread (you can also use crackers, pita bread, tortilla chips, or raw vegetables for dipping)

HUMMUS
*30 ounces of

*1/4 cup tahini
*1/4 cup lemon juice and zest
*1 garlic clove
*1 teaspoon cumin
*salt to taste

Stir in oregano, sun-dried tomatoes, Greek olives, and parsley into hummus.

*Note – in place of raw garlic I added one head of roasted garlic to my hummus.

If you have never roasted garlic before, you have to try it. Roasting garlic makes it sweet, mellow, and creamy.

ROASTED GARLIC

Slice the end off of the garlic bulb (the wider end). Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and wrap in tinfoil. Pop into a preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees (depending on your oven).

After roasting the garlic flesh will become soft and will slide right out of the bulb. It’s marvelous spread on bread, in hummus, and works well in any recipe that requires garlic. I always use all of my roasted garlic immediately, but it would keep well for a week in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

 Spread hummus evenly on platter. Sprinkle on artichoke hearts and bell peppers. Drizzle with pesto and add the green olives and capers.

Slice bread, brush with olive oil, and toast in the oven or broiler until crisp. Serve and enjoy!

Hummus can be infused with endless herb combinations. Great additions are: avocado, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, feta, and goat cheese. Sometimes I like to add a little bit of nut butter and honey, and I love to whirl in pumpkin, roasted squash, or eggplant.

Other ideas for hummus are as a sandwich spread (or stuffing for a pita pocket), dollop on top of a green salad, or as a layer in a jar salad.

My wishes to you and your family as you necklace your kitchen and dining room tables to celebrate in your blessings. As we pass into winter and the season of hope, let us remember to be thankful all year round. We will make a space at our table for members of our community and break bread together.

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Bruschetta – The Multifaceted Topping

“…star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.”
~Pablo Neruda

Is it just me — or do ripe garden tomatoes feel like nature’s apology that summer is almost over? My response is hearty forgiveness! In February I have dreams about tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes. In September and October my pressure canner seems to run round the clock, my salad plates are deliriously joyful, and I try to be present in the moment – because nothing compares to a juicy tomato fresh off the vine.

If you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes this recipe will make your taste buds sing. While many traditionalists will say there is only one way to make bruschetta, I say be creative to your heart’s desire. While I love to top a crusty slice of Italian bread, if you are watching your starchy carbs – top a zucchini round, a portabella mushroom cap, spaghetti squash, or add a generous helping to your chicken or fish (either add before baking – or right before serving depending if you want the tomatoes raw or cooked). This recipe also makes a fine addition to a green salad (or layer in a Mason jar salad) or as an add-in to an omelet, crepe, pasta dish, or as a pizza topping. I use Parmesan and mozzarella in this recipe, but over the years have subbed goat cheese or feta as well.

BRUSCHETTA

  • 1 pint of cherry/grape tomatoes quartered (any ripe tomato will do. Grape/cherry tomatoes mean less cutting if you are in a time pinch.)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped Kalamata olives
  • ½ cup of chopped basil (fresh works best)
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup of mozzarella cheese (sliced or fresh mozzarella balls also work well)
  • 2 Tablespoons of chopped onion
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic (roasted garlic works well in this recipe)
  • Juice and zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Mix everything together (except for the mozzarella cheese), and if you have time, allow mixture to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours so the flavors marry (it will keep for several days). 

I like to toast the bread under the broiler for a few minutes (brush with a little olive oil and rub with roasted garlic if you desire). Top bread (or other ingredients) with the mixture (don’t forget to stir well and the drizzle with the flavorful juices), top with mozzarella cheese, and broil for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

If you are serving a large group, you can slice a loaf of bread in half and top each half with the mixture. I have used ready-made garlic bread (in the bakery or freezer section) and it made an indulgent side to a pasta dish!

As summer slips-through our fingers, do not forget to feast on what is fresh and ripe in the garden or farmer’s market. Share your abundance with a co-worker, friend, or neighbor and your heart will be double happy! Make sure you check out the tabs on the top of this page for more healthy and vibrant food ideas. 

 

 

PICKLES: ONE OF MY FAVORITE FOOD GROUPS

“In a world where news of inhumanity bombards our sensibilities, where grasping for things goes so far beyond our needs, where time is squandered in busyness, it is a pleasure and a privilege to pause for a look at handiwork, to see beauty amidst utility, and to know that craft traditions begun so long ago serve us today.”

–John Wilson

A handful of years ago, when my niece Kristine was in high school, she gave a demonstration speech on how to can dill pickles. After her presentation, when she told me that there were students in her class that did not know that pickles were once cucumbers, I was shocked. Really? How could this happen in a rural community in Upper Michigan where vegetable gardens commonly sprout in backyards? I guess that I took it for granted that others grew up in a household similar to the one in which I was raised. Pre-bread machines my mom always made homemade bread, cake and frosting were whipped up from scratch, macaroni-and-cheese did not come out of a box, and on a weekly basis stock pots of aromatic soup simmered on the stove.

Did we eat junk food and drink soda? Yes. Yet, my mom always made sure our diet was balanced out by home cooked meals and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Even when we spent long, summer days at the beach the slow-cooker was preparing some sort of wholesome, savory dish. Fast food did not exist in our hometown (aside from the seasonal drive-in restaurant) and take-out and dinners at restaurants were rare and special indulgences.

Granted, times have changed, but I think that in we need to go back to the way some things were in the past. My mom grew up in a large Finnish-American family with six other siblings, and because finances were lean, they had to learn how to be resourceful. I am thankful that Mom passed this resourcefulness on to me. I am equally thankful to have married a man who wants his children to be raised with these same values.

The next time you are in line at the supermarket, reflect on the choices in your cart (and even other shoppers around you). It is common to hear (and participate) in conversations about how expensive groceries are these days. Yet, when you take a look at what is tossed into grocery carts there often are cheaper alternatives. Think of how many raw potatoes can be purchased for the price of a bag of potato chips. How many bags of dried beans can be purchased for the cost of canned? Compare the cost of individually packaged instant oatmeal versus a tub of old-fashioned oats. While they may be expensive, how many cherries or grapes could a twelve pack of soda purchase?

While I try to keep my grocery cart limited to whole foods, I do confess to convenience food purchases. Though, I try to be more mindful of making our favorite meals by scratch, because not only is it more economical, but more nutritional as well. Plus, I like to believe that when I stretch my grocery dollar I can afford to put more organic offerings on our table – or an extra evening out at a local restaurant.

Not only are some convenience foods easy to make, but cooking from scratch helps us avoid putting chemicals into our bodies. The next time you pick up a can of soup carefully scan the ingredients. How about salad dressing? Can you pronounce the long list of additives and preservatives? If not, you might want to think about making your own.

In addition to dressings, I find that a great way to perk up salads and other meals are pickles. Growing up, pickles were an important food group in our house – as were straight up cucumbers. My grandpa Puskala often served us sliced cucumbers from his garden and vinegar for breakfast (probably because that is all that we wanted to eat). My Grandma Hilda’s canned dill pickles and crock pickles were a family favorite and my mom followed her canning tradition. In fact, my mom is known to can over one hundred quarts of pickles in the fall because she gifts them to people throughout the year. The smell of pickle brine is one of my fondest memories from childhood.

Today I am going to share with you my Grandma’s dill pickle recipe. By August most gardeners are up to their ears in cucumbers and if you do not garden yourself you can find them readily available from a neighbor or the farmer’s market. Pickles are one of the easiest items to can because you only need to use a hot water bath (use a large stock pot that will allow water over the lids) and you do not have to pressure can the jars. My canner/stock pot will prepare 7 quarts at a time.

I like to use one quart wide mouth jars and you will also need lids with bands. Sanitize the jars in the sanitize cycle of your dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water. If you are boiling the jars, boil them for 30-45 minutes and make sure you boil the lids and bands and well (I boil the lids for 5-10 minutes). 

BRINE (bring to a boil when you are ready to can)
2 Quarts of Water
1 Quart of Apple Cider Vinegar
½ Cup of Canning Salt (Make sure that you buy canning salt and not regular table salt)

You will also need:

Dill (fresh and/or dill seed. I recommend fresh dill – but seed will work in a pinch).
Alum Powder (Can be found in the spice and pickling sections and it helps make pickles crunchy)

*Optional for spicy peppers
Garlic cloves
Crushed red peppers (could also use jalapenos or other fresh peppers)

Choose the shape of the pickles that you desire (chips, spears, whole, or thin sandwich slices). I like to can a variety of shapes.

While you are packing your jars, make sure that you bring the water in your canner (large stock pot) to boiling. The water should be over the jars when you place them in the canner.

In the bottom of the jar place ¾ teaspoon of alum powder, a generous helping of dill (stem and all), crushed garlic cloves (I put three per jar), and peppers if you desire a spicy pickle. Then pack the rest of the jar with cucumbers. I recommend placing them in carefully and packing them thoroughly (or else you will have lots of room in the jar).

Once the cucumbers are firmly packed, fill the jar with the boiling brine, leaving about ¾ inch of head room at the top. Put on the lid and tighten the band (firmly – but you do not have to overly tighten).

Place the jars in the canner and TURN OFF the heat and let sit for 25 minutes. My mom taught me that this is the secret to crunchy pickles. If you continue to heat the water, the pickles may end up mushy.

After 25 minutes remove the jars and let sit until they seal (this may take up to 24 hours). While it is frustrating if you have a jar, or two, that does not seal. You can refrigerate these pickles and give them a couple of weeks to “pickle” and eat them within the month. In the same way, if you do not want to can the pickles you can make crock pickles using this brine and let them sit in the refrigerator in a large jar(s) or a bowl or crock.

If you love pickles as much as I do, you have to try my grandmother’s recipe. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment here, send me an email, or stop by my Facebook page.

Imagine this winter, when you pop open a jar of pickles and remember a steamy summer day when your kitchen was filled with the fragrance of dill. These pickles may remind you of your childhood and like me, you may appreciate the old-fashioned. I would wear a dress over jeans any day, I love the word ice-box, and I believe in setting a beautiful table. I believe that food made with love, and attention to detail, tastes better. Give these pickles a try and let me know what you think!

My husband created a canning station for me on our front porch for those sultry summer days when our house doesn’t need the extra warmth.

Here is a video that my stepdaughter Avalon made last summer when I taught her how to make pickles! Isn’t she the cutest?

 

 

Italian Hummus Spread with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Capers, and Olives

Italian Hummus Spread with Sundried Tomatoes, Capers, and Olives by Produce with Amy

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
― Neil Gaiman

Happy New Year and I hope that today finds you full of hope and commitment for a productive 2015. I always love the positive energy that ushers in a new year and this year is no exception. A fresh calendar provides us with the opportunity to dream and live our days with intention.

Today holds a very special place in my heart (and not just because it is the first of the year). Today marks the two-year anniversary of Produce with Amy and I am thrilled to celebrate it with a brand new recipe. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my passion for healthy food with my on-line community and I could not do it without the inspiration, feedback, and comments from my readers.  I cannot begin to explain how much your support means to me. Thank you!

One of the things that I love about blogging is the connections that I make with people across the globe. Living in the rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan it is easy to feel isolated and I love that when I click publish on a post all distance is erased. Instantly I can unite with other health enthusiasts and share ideas as we inspire each other to make positive choices in our lives.

HummusDuring the holiday season I received many inquiries about plant-based dishes to pass at a party. Since I try to follow a plant-based diet, social gatherings can be tricky. I have found that it is important to go beyond the standard fruit or vegetable tray and bring something that is filling.

While protein packed hummus is often my go-to choice – it can get a little bland and boring – so I try to give it a boost with a variety of ingredients. If your hummus needs a little interesting nudge, I think you will enjoy this recipe.

Hummus dip with olives and capers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITALIAN HUMMUS SPREAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CAPERS, AND OLIVES

*Hummus (you can use store-bought or find the recipe that I use here)
*1 teaspoon of dried oregano
*1/2 cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
*1/2 cup of chopped Kalamata Greek olives
*1/2 cup of chopped Italian parsley

*1/2 cup of chopped artichoke hearts
*1/4 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper
*1/4 cup of chopped green olives
*3 Tablespoons of capers
*3 Tablespoons of olive oil
*3Tablespoons of pesto
(store-bought or homemade. In place of pesto you could also use finely chopped fresh basil)
*Loaf of crusty bread (you can also use crackers, pita bread, tortilla chips, or raw vegetables for dipping)

Artichoke Hearts and PestoStir in oregano, sun-dried tomatoes,Greek olives, and parsley to hummus.

*Note – in place of raw garlic I added one head of roasted garlic to my hummus.

Spread hummus evenly on platter. Sprinkle on artichoke hearts and bell peppers. Drizzle with pesto and add the green olives and capers.

Slice bread, brush with olive oil, and toast in the oven or broiler until crisp. Serve and enjoy!

 

Pin this recipe HERE.

Toast

Hummus Spread

If you are looking for other ideas to bring to a gathering you may be interested in my recipes for Layered Greek Dip with Hummus & Tzatziki Sauce and Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip.

I hope that you join me in celebrating Produce with Amy’s two-year anniversary with a burst of productivity and healthy choices. Make sure you stay up to date with my recipes by following my posts by email, by liking my Facebook page, and connecting with my other social media links on the right of this page.

I wish you health, peace, and plenty of laughter. Let’s thrive together in 2015!

Hummus and BreadHomemade Bread