Monday, July 14, 2014

My Christmas Dreams... in July

Ice covered tree stump.

It's strange but lately I've been thinking about Christmas. Not necessarily planning for it, though I did tell myself just this morning that I needed to start getting ideas for presents. I even sang Judy Garland's version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas just this morning. Mother gave me a where-did-that-come-from look and I told her I just wanted to sing it.

To those of you who like to "celebrate" Christmas all year round, this is nothing. But to those of you who think of Christmas and groan, I'm sure you are groaning now. If you knew us you'd know that we aren't in the first group and are more like the second. We love Christmas but we never manage to spend it right.

Crochet Christmas Star(s) on Etsy (from Pinterest)

Either way, despite the difficulties we have with Christmas, I can't help but love it and think fondly of what it means to me. If I haven't said already on my blog, I love a good old-fashioned Christmas. Years ago, when I was probably half my age now, my idea of a perfect Christmas was an old log cabin on a snowy mountain, far from anywhere, with candles and lamps for lighting, a tree fresh from the surrounding woods decorated with handmade ornaments and popcorn garland. The cabin would smell of apple spice and the wood beds would all be covered in warm handmade quilts. I longed for the Christmas we'd be able to spend like this. It was also when we used to travel a lot and I actually thought something like this would be possible. I don't suppose it's necessary for me to tell you that it never happened, but to be honest, I've never uncrossed my fingers.

Read my review for Christmas in Connecticut

It's times when the event isn't upon you that you are able to think of it with fonder thoughts. What are your fondest Christmas memories or dreams? I've love to hear them.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Culinary Chronicles - Homemade Tahini Sauce and Hummus


Years ago we found hummus when we were in search of something healthy to eat while travelling around. Since then we've had it as nearly a daily part of our diet because we love it so much. But pretty much anything you buy already prepared cost more than making it yourself. A main goal in our lifestyle is to be frugal. Our mindset is,"Let's make this ourselves."

For years I've prided our mindset for its practicality, and I would recommend most people give it a try. But I must admit, lately I've wondered just how practical we are when all of our time is spent preparing things and very little relaxing fits into our schedule. Making things instead of buying them is more cost affective, and sometimes more healthy, that is why it is really hard for us to justify any other mindset. But what about having time for other things, things that may not be detrimental to living but necessary for a healthy mental state? It's kind of a Catch-22 that only God can work out for us.

But all frustration aside, I've spent some hours in the kitchen trying to figure out how to make this Middle Eastern food for myself. After browsing recipes, and not finding just one in particular that I wanted to use, I made my first hummus using the info I had learned. Unfortunately, it turned out a little too dry.

Since then I've made some changes and this last time I was pretty pleased with the outcome. But first, the tahini sauce.

Tahini Sauce

 


Many hummus recipes call for tahini sauce but I've never had any to use. I wondered how it would change the flavor of the hummus so this time I made some myself.

I followed this recipe from A Table for Two and added some lemon juice and salt to give it more flavor. When toasting the sesame seeds I wanted to be really careful not to melt them. Once while making Bibimbap (click here for a good Bibimbap recipe) I put the marinated mushrooms and sesame seeds into the hot skillet and the result was disappointing. Needless to say, I'm more cautious with temperature now.

I started toasting the seeds at the lowest temperature on the stove but soon realized that I could bring it up more without endangering the seeds. When you see them browning lightly you'll know you're on the right track.

Hummus


Having pre-soaked a one pound bag of chickpeas and cooked them that morning, I decided to follow these two recipes from A Table for Two and Pinch of Yum, leaving the roasted red peppers out. (I've tried them in hummus before but haven't been pleased with the flavor.)


Using this helpful chart from Be It Ever So Humble to figure out quantities, I made one batch of garlic hummus with half of the cooked chickpeas. It amounted to 3 cups.

Some recipes require you to "peel" the chickpeas. Obviously, this will result in a  smoother hummus but my family and I have never had a problem with the texture of it so I stick to the easier version -- unpeeled.


I wasn't sure what to do with the last half of the chickpeas since I didn't want to use roasted red peppers but I had no idea where to go from there. Then Mum sent me the recipe for Green Monster Hummus via Pinterest and my mind was set. I think everyone agreed that this was the best hummus I had made yet; they even enjoyed the remainder of the tahini sauce by itself.

If you haven't ever had hummus you must try it. Granted, the brands you choose will differ in flavor. We used to buy Sabra, and absolutely loved it, but stopped buying it when we found out they couldn't assure us their product was made using non-GMO oils. From there we tried a handful of other brands until we finally settled on Athenos.

Then again, if you feel adventurous and want to make your own like I did, Pinterest is full of recipes to take your pick from.

Whatever you decide, be sure and tell me what you think!

Thanks for reading!