Tuesday, August 3, 2010

hummus: not as gross as it looks or sounds.


let's traffic in a few alarmingly false stereotypes (but, possibly, some that you may still hold), shall we? 
  • hummus is the food of hippies, those people who won't eat meat and refuse to eat real bread, instead eating only things with sprouts and pita. 
  • hummus looks and tastes like spackle.
  • hummus can only be found in overpriced, strangely flavored portion sizes at crunchy health food stores and local restaurants whose main side dish is quinoa. 
(cue a whole host of stereotypes about quinoa, which i have never tasted. in fact, my husband just asked "what is that?" and i said "i don't know...it's a grain." so there you go.)

in short, many people believe that hummus is gross, overpriced, and not good for anything except a strangely exotic, somewhat out-of-the-box appetizer for a lame potluck.

i hate to tell you this, but if you think any of these things, you are 100% dead wrong.

(i'll give you a moment to let that sink in.)

hummus is, in fact, an exceptionally good and healthy ingredient to have in your refrigerator, as it makes an excellent snack, meal, or building block to a vegetarian feast. 

i have been a fan of hummus for a while now. when i eat sandwiches that require condiments, i will often use flavored hummus (one of my go-to favorites is roasted red pepper) as a substitute for mayonaise or mustard. it gives the lunch meat flavor and texture in lesser quantities than the fatty mayo would. also, because it is made with olive oil and ground chickpeas, it contains monounsaturated fat as well as protein and fiber.  it also makes for a tasty lunch with some pita bread, which is probably its most traditional incarnation.  i've been eating it regularly for about two years now.

but you may be wondering why i'm suddenly writing about hummus now.  why now, teachergirl...why now?

well, i've been...not a fan of meat lately. it just doesn't do anything for me, and in the course of trying to remember what i was doing when i was successfully losing weight, i realized that i was eating a lot less meat. but mainly? i just don't want to eat much meat anymore.  so i've been trying to find ways to incorporate more meatless dinners into the teachergirl/musicboy household.

let me just stop a minute and tell you that, when asked for a game for my bridal shower what his favorite snack food was, musicboy said meat.  the boy would be thrilled if he could eat meat and bread at every meal. in fact, i'm pretty sure he would think he had reached a level of nirvana.

however, knowing what i know and dearly hoping to have him healthy and happy and with me forever, i don't let that happen.  but his meatloving tendencies have made a dent in my dinner planning. 

until i stopped wanting meat. then i started to get a bit more aggressive with the meatless meal planning and, bless him, my dear musicboy tries anything i make with a willingness of heart that i hope all husbands, friends, children, and guests show.  he's a wonderful person to cook for.

in the course of doing this, i have found a few new wonderful ways to use hummus. 
  • quesadillas:  these are a HUGE hit in our household. spread a little bit of hummus on a small tortilla. add the cheese of your choice and then grill/brown as you normally would. i find roasted red pepper is especially good for this particular dish, as it adds just a kick of spice.  you probably only need about 1/2 a tablespoon (if that) for each quesadilla.  for your reference: 2 tablespoons of hummus has 60 calories.
  • black bean and rice tacos/burritos: i was dying for these about a week ago, and so i made black beans and rice (i use a tomato paste/cumin/chili powder/cayenne/garlic combination of spices in my black beans and then i add yellow rice to them to make the burrito/taco mixture).  having just picked up a carton of jalapeno and cilantro hummus that day, i decided that it might make an otherwise DEEPLY vegetarian meal seem more palatable to my dear musicboy.  he LOVED them, and so did i. the flavors were incredible, and the hummus only brought out the loveliness of the black beans. i didn't even notice a lack of meat, and neither did musicboy.
  • pizza: by far the most surprising of my discoveries, but hummus makes an excellent base for a white pizza. if you get a flavorful hummus (i used the jalapeno one again), and add italian cheeses like normal, you get an outstanding pizza that's just a little bit different. 
 (i am sad that i didn't get pictures of these triumphs--they really were discoveries made on the fly, and, as such, not planned blog fodder.)

these discoveries have made me even more of a hummus lover.  i was converted before, but now i might be close to a fanatic.

i encourage you, if you haven't already tried it, to give it a whirl.  choose a flavor that you think might work for your particular likes (if you're a garlic fan, choose a heavily garlic-infused flavor; if you're a fan of spice, might i suggest that you look for something with jalapeno?).  incorporate it slowly into your diet, and see if you find yourself appreciating the rich flavor that it offers.  before you know it, you'll be hooked--and you can feel good about choosing something good to eat and good for you!

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