My boys and I love hummus on almost anything.  In fact, last year when I asked what special treats they wanted to serve at their 2nd birthday party, my boys chose roasted garlic hummus and actually got upset when I suggested cake.  Okay, I admit they had never eaten cake before and actually loved the fire truck cake I made them, but we still served three types of hummus at their party complete with a veggie and cheese platter.

Hummus is a Middle Eastern bean dip that is traditionally made with garbanzo beans (chick peas).  It often, but not always, includes garlic, tahini, and a dusting of paprika at the end. I started to skip the tahini a few years ago for dietary reasons and found that I like hummus better without it.  It seems smoother to me, and much tastier, especially with fresh vegetables.  I’ve left tahini in my basic recipe, but try hummus without it some time and see what you think.

Here’s a basic hummus recipe to get you started and three of my boys’ favorite variations. If you want to experiment yourself, try adding herbs like parsley, cilantro, or dill; sundried tomatoes; lime in place of lemon juice; or other roasted vegetables like eggplant.  Have fun!

Hummus

1 ½ cup garbanzo beans, cooked (one 15 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
1 tablespoon tahini (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste (try ¼ teaspoon at first)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup water

Put about half of the garbanzo beans and the rest of the ingredients in your blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.  Slowly add the rest of the garbanzo beans, blending after each addition.  If you have trouble blending or the consistency seems too dry, add a little more of the magic hummus ingredient—water!  I use up to a cup of water to get a smooth, creamy hummus.

Yield: Makes about 1 cup hummus (this recipe can be doubled easily)

Get the Kids to Help:  Kids can measure and pour the ingredients into the blender.  My boys also love to take turns pushing the button to blend the hummus.

Roasted Garlic Hummus: For a mellower, richer garlic taste, substitute roasted garlic for the raw garlic.  The easiest way to roast garlic is to put two or three heads of garlic in a small ceramic or glass cooking dish with just enough water to submerge the heads about ¼ of the way. Cover the dish and cook the garlic in a 350-oven for for about an hour until the individual cloves are soft (I use the toaster oven).  Let the garlic cool for at least 30 minutes, then squeeze the individual cloves out of their papery skins (it should have a consistency like toothpaste—a fun job for the kids!).  Note: You can blend roasted garlic with olive oil and add it to mashed potatoes, meats, eggs, or vegetables in the last minute or two of cooking.  Roasted garlic and olive oil will keep for weeks, but be sure to keep it refrigerated!  Unrefrigerated roasted garlic with olive oil is a fabulous breeding ground for botulism.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus: For an amazing taste treat, add roasted red pepper to your hummus.  The easiest way to roast a red pepper is to place the pepper on a baking sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven (or toaster oven) for about 20 minutes until the outer skin turns black.  Let the pepper cool and remove the skin.  Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds and ribs.  I use about half of a medium pepper in one batch of hummus.

Lemon Hummus: For a lighter, more lemony taste, increase the lemon juice to 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon and use the lower amount of garlic.  You may also need to decrease the amount of water.  Start with ¼ cup water and add water as necessary as you are blending to achieve the desired consistency.

Meal Planner:  We eat hummus a lot for lunch in the summer and occasionally for a quick dinner.  I often serve it with cheese, crackers and veges for dipping, although sometimes I actually have whole wheat pita bread on hand.  Right now I’m getting cucumbers and sungold cherry tomatoes from the garden.  I spread hummus over cucumber slices then add a cherry tomato on top for a fabulous low-carb summer treat. Yum!  Even Cameron thinks this is pretty tasty.

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