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!

Pasta Salad w/ Hope Kale Pesto Hummus

Happy Monday! Anyone else confused by this weather? Seriously, is it only February? This past weekend we enjoyed sunny and temps in the mid-70s! Ben and I had a relaxing weekend. Friday night we went downtown to Gonza Tacos y Taquila– good salsa, fish tacos and a strawberry margarita hit the spot! On Saturday, I enjoyed a nice long run on the American Tobacco Trail with Samoa to tire her out… but I think I only managed to rile her up even more. This face– I can’t resist!

Saturday night Ben and I went to a work BBQ for his company. We had a blast chatting, eating, and sipping on some brews. I can’t believe I was able to wear shorts! We contributed some deviled eggs and chili-stuffed cornbread, adapted from RecipeRunner.

One of the vegetarian dishes someone brought to the party was a big, colorful bowtie salad. I had forgotten how good this tastes during picnic season! I decided that since it’s been so warm, I might as well whip up my own version to last through the week.

Let picnic season begin!

Pasta Salad w/ Hope Kale Pesto Hummus

For a creamy dressing to go on this salad, I decided to use this new-to-me hummus from Hope Foods. Hope Hummus has ten different hummus varieties including original, spicy avocado, thai coconut curry, and even dark chocolate! I love that Hope Foods values preservative-free and local ingredients, clean water, and agricultural job creation. None of which is at the expense of amazing flavor. I’ve tried the original, spicy avocado and kale pesto so far, and none of them have disappointed! Hope is based out of Colorado and can be found in all major grocery stores in the refrigerated section.

This salad is super easy to whip up, especially if you have some of these ingredients in cans in your pantry already. I semi-cheated and got a lot of them from the salad bar in Harris Teeter. That way I could get just what I needed in the right amounts.

Pasta Salad w/ Hope Kale Pesto Hummus
Recipe Type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Summer, Picnic
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Let picnic and BBQ season begin! Next time you make a salad like this, consider using a prepared hummus like this one from Hope Foods!
Ingredients
  • 1 package tri-color farfalle pasta, uncooked
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2-3 cups chopped baby spinach
  • chopped peppers, artichoke hearts, black and/or green olives, shredded carrots (about 1 1/2 cups total)
  • 1 package Hope brand Kale Pesto hummus
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, minus 1 minute (to al dente). Add the broccoli in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain, reserving ~1/4 cup pasta water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine garlic through chopped vegetables. Add pasta and toss.
  3. In a mason jar, whisk together hummus, lemon juice, and reserved pasta water (add more or less depending on how thick you want your dressing- but it will thicken once cooled and added to the pasta!).
  4. Toss salad with dressing and feta. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.
Pasta Salad w/ Hope Kale Pesto Hummus

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite way to eat hummus?

Warm Butternut & Farro Spinach Salad

Butternut Squash & Farro Spinach Salad

Happy New Year! What are your resolutions, goals, or intentions for the year ahead?

I hate the idea of resolutions, but I love the idea of having intentions. This year, I am intent to:

  1. Be a better listener. Sometimes I find I ask someone a question and then get distracted even before they finish telling me the answer! Hope to work on that this year. I also want to be better at resting.
  2. Rest better. It’s ok if the dishwasher hasn’t been unloaded and the laundry is still in the dryer 10 minutes after it’s finished running. These things will eventually get done, and I don’t need to feel like I have to check all 36 things off of my to-do list before I can sit down and breathe.

 

Many of you will probably have health goals as well, which is why I wanted to bring this recipe to you today! The new year is a great opportunity to start fresh in your eating and exercise goals, but remember to give yourself some grace and set yourself up for success by NOT expecting to be perfect. “Perfect” eating, in my book, means indulging sometimes, overeating sometimes, and cutting back when your body is telling you it’s had a few too many buckeyes.

I made this salad this past weekend when my parents and sister/bro-in-law were visiting for the holiday. We served it with steaks from Ben’s dad’s company, and black-eyed peas from my sister (because apparently they symbolize good luck?). All were delicious, and the smoke eventually cleared out of our house after pan-searing the steaks because our grill was out of gas…

This salad has all the flavorful reminders of the holidays while also being packed with protein, vitamins, and ruffage to reset your system! I love how the farro sticks to the squash and cauliflower to bulk it up a little bit. And the sunflower seeds provide a little extra crunch! I used a simple vinaigrette of citrus and balsamic vinegar, but you could really play around with it to your liking.

Happy eating!

Butternut Squash & Farro Spinach Salad
Warm Butternut & Farro Spinach Salad
Recipe Type: Salad
Cuisine: Healthy, Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Starting a new year doesn’t need to be painful when it comes to eating better. Ring in your year of good intentions and health goals with this delicious, vegetarian and protein-packed salad!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup farro
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 16 oz spring mix or spinach
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup feta
  • For dressing:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • red pepper flakes, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 deg.
  2. Prepare farro according to package directions, until al dente. Remove from pot and cool for at least 10 minutes. (I used my rice cooker for this- comes out perfect every time!)
  3. While farro is cooking, shake all vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar.
  4. Combine 3 tbsp oil, squash, cauliflower, cranberries, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on prepared cookie sheet and roast 30 minutes, or until squash is tender.
  5. In a large bowl, drizzle about half of vinaigrette onto spring mix and toss.
  6. Add farro, roasted vegetables, feta, and remaining vinaigrette. Toss gently.
  7. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and additional feta or if desired.

 

Cranberry Barley Risotto Stuffed Squash

Happy Turkey Week! How was your weekend?

This weekend we celebrated Turkey Day a few days early with our Durham friends. Friendsgivings are the BEST! So many different dishes to try, people to meet, toddlers to chase… but I had the hardest time deciding what to make!

Last year I made these sweet potato empanadas, but for some reason I just didn’t feel like putting them together this year! I was inspired a few weeks ago by this post from fANNEtastic Food, a creative alternative to traditional stuffing. I made a few tweaks and also stuffed some butternut squash since I tend to like the sweetness of butternut a little more than acorn. But if you serve these on their own, the acorn halves make a perfectly portioned serving!

Stuffed Squash w/ Cranberry Barley Risotto and Pepitas
Stuffed Squash w/ Cranberry Barley Risotto and Pepitas

Ben caught me in action, slaving away in the kitchen. Post workout, no makeup, sweaty mess I am… #reallife

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These are actually pretty simple to make… and depending on how many mouths you want to feed, you could easily do it all on just one big cookie sheet and one big saucepan.

Stuffed Squash w/ Cranberry Barley Risotto and Pepitas
Recipe Type: Main Dish, Side
Cuisine: Thanksgiving, Fall
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10
Looking for a fun way to lighten up your usual Thanksgiving stuffing? These little stuffed squashes taste as pretty as they look!
Ingredients
  • 2-3 acorn squash, halved (I sliced off the bottom of each half so they would lie flat in the pan!)
  • 2 medium butternut squash, halved
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp each fresh sage and parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • crumbled bacon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles
  • extra pepitas (optional)
  • honey for drizzling (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 deg.
  2. Scoop out seeds from squash.
  3. Place squash halves skin side down on a large baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake 30 min or until tender. Remove from oven.
  4. In a large saucepan, heat about 2 tbsp olive oil on medium-high. Add celery, onion, mushrooms, garlic, sage, and parsley. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender- 5 or 6 minutes or so!
  5. Add barley and cranberries and give it all a stir. Add cider, water/stock, and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 15-20 min until all liquid is absorbed. Stir in pepitas.
  6. Scoop filling into center of squash (I had to scoop a little extra out of the long part of the butternut squash to make room).
  7. Top with goat cheese, bacon crumbles, extra pepitas (if desired), and a drizzle of honey. Return to oven and bake 10 more minutes until heated through.
Prepping ingredients.
Prepping ingredients.
Saute veggies, herbs and cranberries until tender.
Saute veggies, herbs and cranberries until tender.
Add barley and cook until liquid is absorbed.
Add barley and cook until liquid is absorbed.
Allow roasted squash to cool to the touch
Allow roasted squash to cool to the touch
Scoop filling into squash halves and return to oven to cook until heated through
Scoop filling into squash halves and return to oven to cook until heated through
Enjoy!
Enjoy!

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salad w/ Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Why hello! Did you have a good weekend?

We did here! Friday night Ben and I headed downtown for happy hour to watch the live music at Brightleaf Square. It wasn’t as packed as it usually is, but that’s likely because we were there on the early side, PLUS it was about 398 degrees out so really, all the smart people were inside. We were exhausted, so it was nice to just chill out melt and put our feet up for a while as we sipped brews and munched on chips.

Saturday was a major errands/chores day. I made a big grocery run and did some cooking for the week (prepped crock pot chicken to use in enchiladas for Ben, plus the salad in this post), tried out my AMAZING new cordless vacuum (I think the neighbors are starting to get concerned that I have a cleaning problem… good thing it has a short battery life!), went for a run, and took Samoa for a long walk on the trail. Today it was a 20 mi. bike ride on the ATC (before the humidity set in!), church, a cat-nap, and the 2nd Rock Steady Boxing Class in Cary with a few of my PD patients. Then this afternoon we met up with a few small group folks (missed you, Tawny and Healys!) to play board games at Ponysaurus. Fun day!

Part of what I like to do on the weekends is prep one nice big salad and casserole to last us through the week. We still have leftovers from last week’s Baba Ghannouj Pesto Lasagna, but it’s nice to have another option while this dwindles (or goes bad, whichever happens first). I usually eat the salad as my entree with some roasted veggies and some type of meatless protein (my go-to is tofu, but I’m also a big fan of the fried egg or some kind of fish), and Ben will have the casserole with the salad as a side. It’s been working great for us since both of us work full-time, and it avoids the whole staring-at-the-open-fridge and shouting “honey, what do we have to eat?” problem, OR the temptation to get take-out!

Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salad w/ Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salad w/ Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

This week an oldie but a goodie is on the salad menu. Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salad w/ Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette. I’ve definitely made this before, since it’s super easy and feeds a crowd, but I’m not sure I ever used this much lime juice. I’ve definitely never used fresh roasted corn on the cob, either. It made a HUGE difference! The roasted corn is much sweeter than frozen, and it absorbs much more of the vinaigrette.

This salad is salsa-like in texture, and I’ve also started adding a grain blend (lentils and farro are the best) to help absorb some of the extra liquid and bulk up the salad a bit. Bigger salad = fewer weeknights that I have to cook. I’m pretty OK with that. I would rather spend my time recipe-creating when I’m relaxed and have a whole afternoon to do it than when I get home at 7pm and have about 20 other things to do to get ready ready for the next day.

Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salad w/ Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
Recipe Type: Salad
Cuisine: Healthy, Vegetarian, Mexican
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Love salsa as much as I do? I could eat it by the gallon! Instead of stocking your pantry with Tostitos, though, why not try out a fresh take on your own? Better for you AND cheaper! Perfect for dunking chips, stuffing tacos, or eating right out of the bowl 🙂
Ingredients
  • 1 cup lentils or farro (I used a mixture, so about 1/2 cup of each)
  • 5 medium ears of corn
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or less if you don’t like your salad as acidic as I do!)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, for spice-lovers)
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion (about 1/2 onion)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • fresh chopped avocado, for serving
  • additional cilantro, for serving
  • greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Husk corn and bake at 350, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes until kernels are tender. When cool to touch, slice kernels lengthwise to remove from the cob. Set aside.
  2. Combine 1 cup lentils/farro with 2 1/2 cups water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 13 minutes until al dente. Drain immediately.
  3. Meanwhile, make vinaigrette by whisking together olive oil through garlic powder in a large bowl.
  4. Stir in red onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, beans, and corn.
  5. Stir in lentils/farro (this is best when the grains are still warm, so they soak up the juice of the tomatoes and vinaigrette).
  6. Serve immediately or store for up to 6 days in the fridge. Just before serving, top with sliced avocado, additional cilantro, salt and pepper, and a dollop of greek yogurt or sour cream.

This goes without saying, but you have complete freedom to experiment with different varieties of grains, beans, and veggies in this salad. Get creative! I forgot to do it this time, but a drizzle of honey would be amazing in the vinaigrette for a touch of sweetness. Although I do insist on using corn on the cob vs. canned or frozen. Makes a world of difference!

Like I said in the beginning of this post, this salad is totally versatile and can be enjoyed as a main dish, side, or garnish. I currently love dipping hearty crackers or crispbread and letting them get the slightest bit soggy before I top with a little dollop of Greek and stuff it in my mouth. Let me know how you like it. Happy week!

Fiesta Monday

Life is one big fiesta… why not eat like it?

Fiesta Salad
Fiesta Salad

Hello! How was your weekend? Ours was HOT and BUSY! Ben and I were teaching at a weekend seminar for our church’s Preparing for Marriage ministry. We met so many cool couples and had lots to talk about! In other news, I just wanted to say that my thoughts are with the victims and families of the shooting in Orlando… what a terribly hideous side of human nature. Praying that the Lord redeems every ounce of evil in this tragedy and uses it to bring this country closer to Himself.

Today I was craving Mexican.

I don’t know why, because I’ve had Mexican literally the last three days in a row. And all.the.chips. But who doesn’t love a good healthy Mexican salad?

Always down for that.

This fiesta bowl is a perfect meatless meal for Monday. I used a blend of quinoa, farro, and lentils cooked al dente and tossed with zucchini, bell pepper, red onion, and lots of canned things. Plus some fresh lemon and Mexican spices and cilantro. (I swear if any of you ever use that taco seasoning that comes in a packet I will hunt you down.)

You could serve this on its own (I like mine topped with a poached egg or some tofu, over spinach), or as a side dish with a non-vegetarian protein. Ben had it with a few slices of turkey meatloaf pizza I made earlier.

Enjoy!

Fiesta Salad
Recipe Type: Salad
Cuisine: Healthy, Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12-15
Life is one big fiesta! Why not eat like it?
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup each quinoa, farro, and lentils
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 can each pinto and black beans, rinsed/drained
  • 1 can corn, rinsed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp each cumin, coriander, garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp each chili powder and paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, combine grains and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain.
  2. In a large bowl, combine remaining vegetables and spices.
  3. Drizzle in lemon juice and vinegar.
  4. Add the quinoa, farro, and lentil blend and toss to combine.
  5. Top with cilantro and additional salt and pepper to taste!
  6. Serve over greens or crusty bread, with protein of your choice!

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Happy fiesta week!