Layered Mezze Platter and My Search for the Perfect Hummus

I’ve been on the HUNT for the best hummus in the Triangle. There’s nothing like a fluffy, creamy, not-too-oily hummus to make my mouth water. I’ve even thought about starting my own small-batch hummus-making business… but then someone suggested I could call it “Claire’s Humpy Hummus” and the idea immediately got tabled. Maybe one day you will see some “Humpy Hummus” in the store and you’ll know where credit is due.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Soom Soom Pita Pockets, a food truck in Durham that often parks at our favorite brewery, Ponysaurus. I tried their hummus, served with a giant pita pocket, and I was hooked. It was drippy without being watery, creamy without being weighed down by oil, and came with a little dollop of tahini sauce on top.

Y’all, I quickly ran out of pita. But gosh be darned, I finished that hummus with a spoon. 

I asked the servers what they do to make this hummus so perfect. They weren’t shy about telling me that they actually puree roasted vegetables into the mixture. Genius! I knew I’d have to try out the technique to see if I could whip up something similar.

I took their recommendation of adding roasted carrots and cauliflower, but I also threw in a few sweet potatoes to see what happened. The result was not quite as good as Soom Soom, but totally a triumph in my book. Including more veggies also meant I didn’t need to use as much tahini or oil. I’ve found that adding a few ice cubes also makes the hummus really fluffy.

My new hummus creation made the perfect base for this Mediterranean layered mezze platter! Instead of the classic Mexican 7-layer dip, I topped hummus with veggies and crispy chickpeas for something a little fancier.

Layered Mezze Platter

From bottom to top: homemade sweet potato hummus (so fluffy!), quinoa and lentil blend, sautéed swiss chard, garlic roasted tomatoes and carrots, crispy curried chickpeas and cauliflower, kalamata olives, feta + cilantro. Pita points on the side for dipping instead of chips!

This dip could also easily make a meal if you served it with extra greens. Or just let your guests dip their pita directly into the dish. Complete with protein, healthy fats, and hearty grains, make sure to add this one to your Memorial Day spread.

Layered Mezze Platter
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Entree
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Vegan
Author: Claire McCormick of Claire Tastes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Fancify your 7-layer dip with a Mediterranean spin on the old Mexican classic! Homemade hummus serves as a perfectly light and creamy base, topped with healthy grains, curried vegetables and wilted greens. Serve hot or cold!
Ingredients
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced garlic, divided
  • 6-7 plum tomatoes, halved
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup quinoa and lentil blend
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and stalks
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 cup nutritional yeast, divided
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • juice of one lemon
  • 6-8 cups fresh swiss chard, rinsed and chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • cilantro
  • pita points for serving
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 deg.
  2. Pat chickpeas dry.
  3. On a large baking sheet, spread carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower stalks, and tomatoes. Drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes until tender.
  4. Meanwhile, cook quinoa/lentil blend according to package directions (about 2:1 water to grains), minus 1-2 minutes until al dente. Drain if necessary.
  5. In a large bowl, toss half the chickpeas, cauliflower florets, 2 tbsp olive oil, curry powder, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, cumin, juice of 1/2 lemon, and salt and pepper. Spread on another baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Add tahini, remaining chickpeas, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and tahini to bowl of a food processor. When carrots and sweet potatoes are done, add them with the cauliflower stalks. (Leaving out the tomatoes and a few of the carrots). Process on high until blended, then drizzle in olive oil and 2-3 tbsp water until smooth and fluffy. (For extra fluffy hummus, throw in 1-2 ice cubes).
  7. Saute swiss chard in a large saute pan until wilted. Shock by rinsing under cold water, then squeeze firmly to get out all the water.
  8. In a large casserole dish, layer hummus, quinoa/lentils, swiss chard, roasted tomatoes and carrots, and crispy chickpeas/cauliflower. Top with kalamata olives, feta and cilantro.
  9. To serve warm: Heat (covered) at 350 for 10 minutes, then broil (uncovered) on high for 2-3 minutes until crisped.
  10. Serve with pita points, extra cilantro and yogurt sauce, if desired.

Layered Mezze Platter

Dig in!

Happy long weekend!

Wonton Muffin Tin Quiche

Looking for an easy, make-ahead appetizer or on-the-go breakfast? These wonton muffin tin quiches could not be easier to make, and can be frozen and reheated on your way out the door!

Happy weekend! I don’t know about you, but this week seemed super long. And busy! It’s not unusual for me to get home at 7:30pm these days, and before I know it it’s 10pm and I’m just finishing up the dishes from dinner. Weekdays that end late and start early need some careful planning, as it’s easy to let nutrition go by the wayside when I’m constantly on the go. Enter pre-prepped meals.

When I was in my 3rd year PT school internships, I started making all my breakfast and lunches ahead. Usually a kefir smoothie or a few power cookies for breakfast, or something I could quickly chug between patients in the hospital. Then for lunch I’d make sandwiches on the famously dense Ezekiel bread  (it’s so dense that you can make tuna sandwiches the weekend before and they are still perfectly non-soggy when you eat them five days later!). For more on my lunchtime meal prep, click here.

Wonton Muffin Tin Quiche

I’ve been looking to mix things up a bit with my morning meals. I find myself getting RAVENOUS around 11am, probably because I mostly wait until I get super hungry in the morning to eat. I typically bring a container of trail mix (almonds, raisins, dry cereal, and peanut butter pretzels) in the morning and snack on it between patients. And a banana around 10 or 11. But I think I need something with a bit more protein and fat to keep me full! So I decided to make a huge batch of these muffin tin quiches, easy to make ahead, pop in the freezer, and nuke for 30 seconds or so before eating. I might even bring a few to work to have on hand in the freezer there! Easy protein poppers for some good, healthy staying power to get me through my 10-hour days!

On another note, I read an awesome blog post this morning from one of my favorite bloggers, The ReaL Life RD, on “The Healthiest Way to Eat”. Robyn is an RD and NP and has such a unique perspective on dieting and what it means to be “healthy.” This post made me think a lot about what I value in my eating and what makes me feel GOOD without becoming obsessive! Great read. Thanks, Robyn!

Anyway, recipe for these mini quiches below. Enjoy the sunshine this weekend!

Wonton Muffin Tin Quiche
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: Easy
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 24
Perfect for making ahead, freezing and popping in the microwave for a few seconds before you head out the door for work!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup chopped veggies of your choice (I used mushrooms, red onions, broccoli, fresh spinach and tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp each oregano and basil
  • 6 eggs, whisked lightly
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • dash of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 24-30 wonton wrappers (in the refrigerated section at the store, usually near the tofu!)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray 2 muffin tins with cooking spray. Line each cup with a wonton wrapper.
  3. In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil on medium high. Add garlic, veggies, basil and oregano. Cook on medium until tender. Remove from heat.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon a bit of veggie mixture into each wonton, followed by about 1 Tbsp egg mixture. Sprinkle on top with a few green onions and cheese.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes until wonton wrappers are lightly browned and egg is set. Cool and serve.
  7. (*To Make Ahead: Allow to cool completely, then remove wontons and store in an airtight container in freezer. When ready to eat, remove and microwave 30 seconds (or 1 min on low power) until heated through. The wonton wrappers may become slightly soggy when reheated in microwave, but still delicious!)

 

Three-Cheese Turkey Pizza Roll

Disclaimer: There is nothing healthy, wholesome, or vegetarian about these pizza rolls. They are the epitome of quick, easy, and processed, and they’re probably filled with more saturated fat than is recommended for your entire day.

But boyyyy are they delicious! And they’re not completely unwholesome, since I used greek yogurt cream cheese for the filling, which has 1/3 less fat and calories than the regular version. And there’s some spinach in there too. Because green things poking out of the nuances of crusty bread makes one think that it’s healthier. Or moldy. Either way you get more probiotics probably.

Three-Cheese Turkey Pizza Rolls

Three-Cheese Turkey Pizza Rolls

These can be rolled up and sliced into four or five pieces for a calzone-like entree, or you can slice them much more thinly to be served as appetizers.

I streamlined the process by using a pre-made pizza dough sheet (already rolled out on a big rectangle of parchment paper) which I then topped with my ingredients (cream cheese spread mixed with Ranch seasoning mix- which Ben lovingly refers to as “drugs”- and two types of shredded cheese, turkey, and spinach). Stick it in the oven for 15 or so minutes, then cool and slice.

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One of the best parts about these is that you can choose whichever ingredients or toppings you want to add to customize them. They’d be great with the traditional “pizza” ingredients like tomato sauce, black olives, and pepperoni, or a Greek version with kalamata olives and chickpeas. Have fun with these!

Three-Cheese Turkey Pizza Roll
Recipe Type: Entree, Appetizer
Cuisine: Easy
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-8
Serve as appetizers or slice a bigger piece for a handheld calzone-like entree! Have fun customizing these with whatever floats your boat!
Ingredients
  • 1 prepared pizza crust (I used one that was already rolled out on a big rectangular parchment paper)
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt cream cheese spread
  • 1 packet ranch salad dressing or seasoning mix
  • 5-6 slices turkey (or other thin-sliced meat)
  • 1/4 cup each mozzarella and cheddar cheese
  • handful of spinach
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Mix together greek yogurt cream cheese and ranch mix.
  3. Unroll pizza dough and spread the cream cheese mixture over entire surface in a thin layer.
  4. Top with turkey, cheese, and spinach.
  5. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper if you want.
  6. Tightly roll the dough from one of the long ends, until you get to the other side. Seal edges by pinching between fingers.
  7. Transfer to baking sheet, seam side down, and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Cool before slicing.

 

Sweet Potato Empanadas

Happy Sunday! As you may have already seen on Instagram, I made these sweet potato empanadas last night to bring over to a friend’s house for their annual Friendsgiving (which, by the way, is an awesome tradition… two Thanksgiving feasts in one week? Umm, yes please.) and I think they were a hit! A little bit different, but still with those Thanksgiving flavors that everyone expects.

Sweet Potato Empanadas

Sweet Potato Empanadas

I searched high and low on every Harris Teeter shelf to find empanada dough, to no avail. I guess Harris Teeter just doesn’t give off that Mexican vibe. I settled on Pillsbury pie crust- 2 for $4! I think it still turned out ok- the crust was flaky and crispy- I just had to punch out my own circles. NBD.

For the filling, I used canned sweet potato, cream cheese, and a corn and black bean mixture that I sautéed with cilantro, onion and garlic. Crumbled goat cheese and walnut pieces on top! Then roll, crimp, and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and flaky.

Sweet Potato Empanadas
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Main Dish, Side
Cuisine: Mexican, Thanksgiving
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12-15
A fun and different addition for Thanksgiving this year! Use as an appetizer, side, or pair with a nice big salad for post-Turkey day leftovers!
Ingredients
  • 1 package refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts), at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 can sweet potato puree
  • 4 oz. plain cream cheese spread
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup crumbled walnut pieces (optional)
  • 1 egg
Instructions
  1. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add onion, garlic, and corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened- about 4 minutes. Add black beans, cilantro, and spinach and stir until wilted. Remove from heat and immediately stir in vinegar and lemon juice. Mash beans slightly with the back of your spoon.
  2. In a saucepan, heat butter over low heat. Add sweet potato, cream cheese, spices, and honey and stir to combine, until cheese is melted through.
  3. Add corn and bean mixture to sweet potatoes and mix.
  4. Unwrap pie crust and roll out with a rolling pin. Use the top of a large glass or a biscuit cutter to cut out circles 3″ in diameter. Fill each with about 1 tbsp filling, then fold over edges and crimp with fingers or a fork.
  5. Place on a cookie sheet and brush with egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tbsp water).
  6. Bake at 400 deg for 20 minutes, until golden brown and flaky.
  7. Makes about 12-15 medium sized empanadas (depending on size)
Heat sweet potato mixture with cream cheese and spices.

Heat sweet potato mixture with cream cheese and spices. Drizzle in honey.

Cook onion with corn, beans, and cilantro.

Cook onion with corn, beans, and cilantro.

Cut out pie dough into circles about 3" in diameter.

Cut out pie dough into circles about 3″ in diameter.

Spoon about 1 tbsp filling onto each disc.

Spoon about 1 tbsp filling onto each disc.

Seal with fingers or a fork and brush with egg.

Seal with fingers or a fork and brush with egg.

Cook at 400 deg for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cook at 400 deg for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Sweet Potato Empanadas

Sweet Potato Empanadas

Enjoy your Mexican Thanksgiving!

Quick Caprese Tuna Melts w/ Fontina Cheese

Need a quick lunch or snack idea to use up all of those farmers’ market tomatoes? Seriously, my kitchen is bursting with them! I need to make a big batch of marinara or something one of these days…

For anyone who likes caprese salad, this is a slight variation using leftover canned tuna and fontina cheese. Add a few sprigs of fresh basil and lunch is served!

Happy hump day!

Caprese Tuna Melts with Fontina Cheese

Caprese Tuna Melts with Fontina Cheese

Quick Caprese Tuna Melts w/ Fontina Cheese
Recipe Type: Salad, Lunch
Cuisine: Fresh, Healthy
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
Looking for a way to use up some of those fresh and juicy tomatoes? Look no further!
Ingredients
  • 1 beefsteak or large tomato, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup canned tuna (prepared with some parsley, mustard, and garlic powder)
  • 5 basil sprigs
  • 4 thin slices fontina cheese
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Prepare tomatoes by placing on a single layer on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with cooking spray or oil.
  3. Top each tomato slice with a sprig of basil, 1 tbsp tuna, and a slice of cheese.
  4. Broil on high for 2-3 minutes until cheese begins to bubble.

What’s your favorite tomato recipe?

Three-Cheese Ham & Pepperoni Rolls

Whenever I have something casual to cook for- like a picnic or one of Ben’s game nights- I have all these spectacular ideas for new recipes to try. Bruschetta with crudites, pimiento-stuffed olives, bacon-wrapped dates… you name it. There are so many good ones out there to try! But I always run out of time, and I always come back to some of the same ones. For example, any version of pinwheels work like a charm, and I think I tend towards things that I can make in bulk and then cut into smaller pieces for bite-sized snacks.

Pepperoni rolls are another example. And they are ALWAYS gobbled up in a flash! I can’t remember the last time we had these hanging around our house for more than a day.

Three-Cheese Ham & Pepperoni Rolls

Three-Cheese Ham & Pepperoni Rolls

These are so incredibly simple. Just roll out the dough, layer the ingredients and bake in a preheated oven until golden brown. This time I used french bread dough with cream cheese, ham and pepperoni. But you can also experiment with the spreads and spices- I’ve done crescent rolls in the past (though it’s a little flakier), as well as pimiento and hummus with greek seasoning. These can’t really go wrong.

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Three-Cheese Pepperoni Rolls
Recipe Type: Snack
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 24
These are my go-to “guy pleaser” snacks when I need something simple and quick! They are always gobbled right up!
Ingredients
  • 2 rolls refrigerator French Bread dough (e.g. Pillsbury)
  • 1 container spreadable cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning (I used Penzey’s Creamy Peppercorn Dressing
  • baby spinach
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • sliced pepperoni
  • sliced ham
  • blue cheese crumbles or cheddar slices
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Roll out dough onto a nonstick surface into two long rectangles. Use fingers to spread outwards if needed.
  3. Spread cream cheese, sprinkle seasoning, and layer remaining ingredients (in order listed) on dough. Roll the dough tightly, starting from one of the long sides. Pinch together edges with fingers.
  4. Bake at 350 for 18-20 min, or until golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool before slicing.
Layer cream cheese, seasonings and olives on dough.

Layer cream cheese, seasonings and olives on dough.

Add spinach and pepperoni on top.

Add spinach and pepperoni on top.

Top with remaining ingredients.

Top with remaining ingredients.

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Into ze oven!

Into ze oven!

Cool before slicing.

Cool before slicing.

Slice, serve and arrange!

Slice, serve and arrange!

When Deviled Eggs Go Wrong…

I had the best of intentions on Monday afternoon. I was going to make pinwheel sandwiches, sliced watermelon, and deviled eggs for the Memorial Day picnic we were going to. So I bought some eggs (even though we already had an entire carton in our fridge- but those were the organic eggs from Whole Foods. So totally not deviled egg-worthy). These were ordinary brown eggs from Kroger. And I hard boiled them, relishing the pot bubbling away on the stove for a good three minutes before I removed them to sit in the hot water for twelve more. (Side note- I have read a million different ways to make the “perfect hard boiled egg,” but to be honest- I’ve had much better luck when I just boil them until I’ve almost forgotten about them and there’s hardly any water left in the pot).

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Curried Egg Salad with Raisins

I took them out and let them sit in cold water for a while, like all good deviled egg-makers do, because this makes the shell much easier to peel away. Not this time! For some reason, when I went to peel the eggs, the shell came off with about a fourth of the egg white, leaving my eggs with large craters and little pieces of broken shell all over their surface. Deviled eggs are supposed to be a delicacy, supposed to gently whisper “eat me!” to guests surveying the buffet table, supposed to be garnished with a dainty parsley leaf or sprinkle of paprika. These were definitely not deviled egg worthy.

I ended up bringing pinwheel sandwiches and sliced watermelon.

But what to do with all these extra hard boiled eggs? Well, my friends, this recent grad and indebted girl knows how to remedy this egg conundrum. Why not just crush all the eggs up and make some egg salad?

The secret to healthier (and tastier, in my opinion) egg salad is to use only half of the yolks from the eggs you’re using. In this case, I made a small batch with 4 eggs and tossed away 2 of the yolks to make these a bit lighter and to allow me space to add more of what really makes this salad good: mustard and curry powder.

Mash the eggs, add about a teaspoon of curry powder and a tablespoon of dijon mustard, some juicy raisins, and anything else you think would go well (I tried some chopped fresh dill and pickle juice too, but I don’t think I’d include this next time around), stir, and spread on your favorite wrap, bread, or crackers!

No one will ever need to know that you completely messed up the eggs. Except if you decide to write a blog post about it.

Have an egg-cellent day! 🙂

Curried Egg Salad with Raisins
Recipe Type: Egg, Salad, Picnic
Cuisine: Side, Main Dish
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
This is a great way to remedy a failed deviled egg experiment! Why not chop up those massacred hard boiled eggs and add some delicious mustard, curry powder, and raisins to make curried egg salad? I love the slightly sweet and spicy taste that the curry and raisins add to this salad. Serve on bread, a wrap, or crackers.
Ingredients
  • hard boiled egg whites (number depends on how many servings you want- approx. 4 yields 2 servings)
  • yolks from 1/2 of eggs
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard (again, for 2 servings)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • handful of raisins (more or less to taste)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Mash up egg whites and yolks in a medium bowl until well incorporated.
  2. Add mustard, curry powder, and salt/pepper. Stir to combine. (Add more or less mustard depending on how “wet” you want your salad!)
  3. Stir in raisins.
  4. Serve on bread, a wrap, crackers, or (my new favorite) lettuce cups!