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Dip

Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Hummus

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Hummus

Like fireworks on the 4th of July, when hummus meets basil, you get an explosion. Replace the fire with flavor, and I think you’ll get what I mean.

Pesto is my summer jam, and hummus is my year-round lunch buddy. Combining the two spreads seemed natural, and as I’ve discovered, works to create one of my favorite matches. It’s also a quick go-to of mine for picnics and potlucks, and may just make it onto tomorrow’s tableclothed agenda.

Honestly, I feel like you can rarely go wrong when adding pesto to a savory dish. It’s a highly flavorful spread, yet its intensity is rarely offensive to anyone. Pesto is no puttanesca. It’s not made from any sort of divisive ingredient like stinky anchovies or soapy cilantro. (Although, I quite like both of those myself). Rather, pesto is a garlic and basil beast, and if you don’t like those two ingredients, then you might as well leave my blog. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, I’m not sure I’ve met anyone yet who doesn’t like pesto. If this were the case, my jaw would likely be waiting for me on the floor. (Side note: I have met a few folks who have a hatred for guacamole. I consider myself lucky to still have that lower jaw of mine attached.)

In short, pesto is a people-pleaser. Combine it with hummus, and toss in a few sun-dried tomatoes, and your picnic dish is sure to get eaten up. Just make sure to whip up a little extra and leave it at home for yourself. This makes for a great, portable lunchtime meal that will store well all week.

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Kale Dip

Kale Dip

Yes, that’s me. The one who brings kale dip to the party.

Although, I brought summer rolls to the party this past weekend, too. And I would’ve brought dessert if my sister didn’t already claim that category. I’m not sure I could’ve topped a strawberry pie and s’mores.

I love dessert, but I also love kale. In my dream world, it’d show its leaves at every party, alongside the burgers, brownies and brews. A shot of green brightens up every picnic table – especially this time of year, when the leaves are young and tender.

Kale modeling

This is the season for garden-harvesting. The season where I begin to sneak out of the city to steal a few days at my parents’ countryside home, and then return with a garden’s worth of groceries. And hopefully a nice tan. And some dirt on my sneakers. And maybe some coconut milk from the kitchen cabinets (sorry mom).

This past weekend, we had a bonfire/food-fest at my parents’ house, where I took advantage of the backyard grocery store to whip up this dip. Inspired by a recipe seen on Whole Foods, it added a light addition to the table in comparison to all the cheeses and hummus, and was deemed a success. This includes a thumbs up even among those friends who could care less about partying with kale.

Serve warm for best results and with a thicker cracker or pita chip.

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Healthy Spiced Butternut Squash Crostini

Spiced Butternut Squash Crostini

“You must really like sauces,” said my sister as I aimed the ketchup onto my plate next to the Ranch, hot sauce and salsa. She was serving bean burgers that night, and while I’m sure only one condiment was really needed to moisten the buns, I just couldn’t help myself. I am known to be indecisive with the little things in life, especially when it comes to food.

Of course after the burger topping episode came a salad dressing decision. With a husband and three kids, my sister had FAR more dressing options than I ever keep in my fridge. I settled for balsamic on one half and a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette on the other. The looks I would’ve gotten for that one…luckily my sister already seated herself at the dinner table in the next room over.

I like options. And taste-testing. And creamy dips and sauces. Guacamole? Yes please. Hummus? I could easily eat it by the spoon. And peanut butter, too.

As I think about all of the different options, I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in holding this affinity. Which is why this past New Year’s Eve, it wasn’t hard for me to decide what I wanted to bring to my friends’ dinner party. I was going to bring some kind of dip – even if my boyfriend wasn’t all too sold on the idea. Fast forward to the taste-testing, and he didn’t question me again.

Spiced Butternut Squash Crostini

I chose to use up some roasted butternut squash and immediately thought to make this on the sweet and spiced side.  Given the occasion, NYE, I wanted to send a healthy option to dinner, hence where the beans and low-fat cream cheese came in. Combined with the butternut, they delivered a classic creamy dip with some surprising nutritional power behind it. Placed on lightly buttered, toasted baguette slices, this was a HUGE hit at the party.

Make sure to include the toasted pecans and drizzle of honey. It really completes the crostini. This recipe wouldn’t be the same without its toppings, so no indecision here

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Sage Pumpkin Hummus

One more pumpkin recipe, then I promise I’ll chill on the pumpkin. With all these recipes, I’m quickly running out of the stockpile I bought – although, I am waiting on my first order of green coffee beans, and I’m totally dreaming of homemade pumpkin lattes after they’re roasted.

Regardless of whether more pumpkin recipes go up anytime soon, I’m sure I’ll be buying more. And you probably should, too.

One cup’s got 7 g’s of fiber and a percentage that’s over 100 times that in terms of your daily needs of vitamin A (760%). Plus, 17% vitamin C and nearly 20% of iron, all for under 85 calories. All that health in one cup feels virtually unheard of during the cold-weathered holidays, the ones that generally mean calories upon calories upon fat upon eggnog upon other canned food you probably don’t want to be eating.

What you do want to be eating is this. Hummus and pumpkin and sage, oh my. I made a spiced pumpkin hummus last year and brought it to some friends who ended up raving about the recipe…Not a surprise given it’s one bowl containing both creamy hummus AND pumpkin.

This version’s a little different, instead inspired by how well the combination of butternut squash and sage turned out in my soup last week. You’ll find the Sage Pumpkin Hummus to be more savory. It tastes exceptionally well on pita with spinach and maybe some crunchy sprouts.

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White Beans with Eggplant and Roasted Pepper Pesto

Potato salad? Check. Deviled eggs? Check. Salad? Check.Veggie dogs/hot dogs? Check. Hummus? Check. Brownies? Check. Every other item of food needed for a picnic? Check.

In a family full of cooks, the basics are nearly always covered when it comes to throwing a party with the Dickinson crew. “Why don’t you just relax and not make anything this time,” my mom tells me. It’s the same thing she told me on Labor Day. And on Memorial Day. And probably the past five holidays before that.

“Because I WANT to make something.” Of all people, I’d think she’d understand this. But maybe not.

Regardless, I always end up making the experimental dish on the table that I typically give some long, made-up name no one could ever guess. More often than not, it’s also always the talk of the party. Not to be cocky, but generally the adventurous eaters are the people who enjoy talking about food, and when an innovative dish shows up on their plate, they come running with an eager bunch of questions. That leaves me to sweep in and run through the rhyme and reasoning of the ingredients. Rinse and repeat, and I end up sending a majority of the party home with a new recipe to make.

Luckily, it’s a process I can happily handle. Being told not to cook for a party on the other hand, well, that not so much.

This one came from the idea and desire of combining two of my favorite summer eats, pesto and roasted eggplant. With a lot of bell peppers on hand, I threw them into the mix too, bulking up the pesto with their flavor. If you have red bell peppers available—which sadly I did not—I presume this dish might turn out a tad prettier. Either way, top this dish off with a splash of tomatoes for a fresh finish. And be prepared to explain what other ingredients went in it.

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