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Hummus is another refrigerator staple in my household. It’s extremely healthy, guilt-free, gluten-free & vegan; what’s not to like?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always make it from scratch. All too often, it’s easy to just give in & buy a tub from Trader Joe’s or Jimbo’s – however when time permits; I love making it at home. This way, I can control the sodium level & make variations (like harissa, kalamata olive, pomegranate molasses or even basil). Simply put, as you can figure, I like knowing what ingredients are in there. Also, if you consume hummus extremely often, it’s definitely more cost-effective to make it from scratch.

If you’ve never made hummus before – it’s extremely simple. All you really require is a food processor & 5 basic ingredients: cooked garbanzo beans/chickpeas, tahini, garlic, olive oil & citrus juice (preferably lemon or lime). Salt/pepper/spices to taste.

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In the days of being less busy, I would soak garbanzo beans/chickpeas overnight & boil them for just over an hour, allow them to cool & then food-process them. The food cost of making hummus this way is incredibly low because you can buy garbanzo beans in bulk (& organic) for as little as $1.29/lb. Since garbanzo beans double in size after soaking & cooking, one pound yields a LOT of hummus (or chickpea patties, addition to salads, .etc, you get the idea!). Nowadays, I use canned organic garbanzos (which are already cooked) as a nice time saver.

The second crucial ingredient is tahini (sesame paste). This can be found in the ‘ethnic food’ aisle or even the refrigerated tofu/sauce/salad dressing section at your grocery store.

BASIC HUMMUS*

yield ~2 cups (more if you add other ingredients** to spice it up.)

½ cup of dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans OR 1 can of organic garbanzo beans (15 oz. net weight, depending on the brand)
¼ cup of tahini
2-3 medium-sized garlic cloves (if you or anyone you are serving are sensitive to raw garlic, feel free to use less)
2 T of olive oil (extra virgin, cold-pressed)
splash of lemon or lime juice
Ground cumin, red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper & salt (which can be omitted if you like/if the canned garbanzos are salted)

*requires a food processor
** Variations are endless! Harissa, kalamata olive, pomegranate molasses, basil, lemon zest, roasted garlic, etc! Just incrementally add the additional ingredients to suit your tastebuds.

Drain the garbanzo beans from the liquid; however reserve some for later. I like to call this liquid garbanzo liqueur. Food-process the garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, garlic & olive oil until smooth. If the food processor is having trouble processing it all, drizzle in the reserved garbanzo liqueur a couple tablespoons at a time to aid the process. What also aids the process is using a rubber spatula to push the unprocessed bits down the sides & also to cleanly take the finished hummus out of the processor..

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After a consistency is achieved –
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Winter Fuyu Persimmon

The other day, a co-worker told me that her mother went persimmon picking over the weekend & that she had an excess of persimmons – she asked me if I’d like one. I responded overzealously & this morning, while I was furiously editing recipes at work; she gave this sweet gem to me! Made my morning.

I adore persimmons. Not just the fruit but the hue as well. Persimmon & curry are key colours in my wedding palette. Memories of persimmons go far back to elementary school; my mother would peel & cut them into slices, put them in a plastic sandwich bag, tucked away in my lunchbox. My elementary school teachers would curiously ask what I was eating (though upon recent research; I found out that persimmons do grow in the Midwest & even sporadically in the American South).

I’ve always associated persimmons with autumn time; but leave it to Southern California… they are harvested in the mild winter here. I love how imperfect this particular one is.. Very wabi sabi.

As you have seen, November & December posts are obsolete! It was a whirlwind of events, but I loved every bit of the holidays. The best part about those times is being with family & of course, preparing delicious foods & getting to indulge in them.

A food contribution that I like to bring to Christmas at my future in-laws’ are my gluten-free & eggless gingerbread cookies. This way, everyone can enjoy them. This is my third year baking them at Christmastime – however I tried a new recipe and used a new gluten-free baking mix as well! They were well-received & all devoured before Christmas dinner was ready, much to my surprise (I made over three dozen 1 inch gingerbread men..and there were lots of delicious snacks including a cheeseboard & even salmon dip around!).

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When making spice cookies or cakes of any sort – I tend to use a variety of spices that pack a nice punch in flavour, but if you are catering to the less than adventurous crowd (i.e. children?), feel free to cut down or omit any of the spices that seem too intense. The recipe that I based these off of is actually a vegan gingerbread cookie dough recipe found here (thanks Google! & Gena Hamshaw); but to be honest, I (& everyone else who would be eating these) LOVE butter; so in addition, I used half & half in place of the dairy substitute. Why half & half? It’s what we had on hand, but I’m sure whole milk or heavy cream would do just as well (if you prefer using dairy). In addition to the differences in dairy, my recipe calls for a bit more of the GF flour, as I’ve found that the cookies won’t crack as much after baking, yielding a smooth, less craggy-looking cookie.

The gluten-free baking mix that I’ve been using for the past year & a half is called Pamela’s. I can’t exactly pinpoint when I first started using it, but the most probable scenario was having pancakes at my fiancé’s parents’ house with his grandmother. This pancake mix can easily become eggless by using flaxseed meal. They turned out delicious & henceforth, it’s been a day-off breakfast staple. You can find Pamela’s at most food co-ops, Sprouts or Whole Foods. Great stuff! I highly recommend it. Though if you are extremely lactose-intolerant, it does contain powdered buttermilk in the mix.. Be sure to read that ingredient list! The other widely available gluten-free baking flour alternative is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour, which I’ve used many-a-time. Or if you are able to utilise the gluten… by all means, do!

In the years past, I would normally make the dough at my apartment before making the trek over, but since we flew in days before Christmas from Southern California – the dough was made there, which was no problem at all. All you need are the ingredients, measuring utensils, a whisk, a mixing spoon & of course, mixing bowls.

GLUTEN-FREE & EGGLESS GINGERBREAD COOKIES
yield varies by cookie cutter size; 3+ dozen 1-inch cookies

2 ¾ cups Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix (plus extra for rolling)
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon coffee grounds or cocoa powder
1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt

½ cup melted butter
½ cup molasses
1⁄4 cup half & half, heavy cream or whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
½ cup sugar

In one mixing bowl, mise the dry: the gluten-free baking mix, leavening & spices. Whisk together. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, molasses, half & half, vanilla extract & bourbon until uniform then whisk in sugar. Add the wet into the dry & fold until the mixture is a cohesive mass. Continue stirring or if you’d like to use your hands, knead dough until fully mixed. Portion the dough in half & flatten into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap & refrigerate until the dough firms up for cutting (this takes about an 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how cold your refrigerator is).

Once the dough is ready for cutting, pre-heat your oven to 350ºF. Flour the surface & roll out the dough to about a 1⁄4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes & place them onto a greased & floured (or parchment-lined) sheet pan. Be sure to space the cookies at least 1 inch apart (more if your cookie shape is larger than 1 inch in diameter/height).  Chill the cookie-laden sheet pan for about 10 minutes before baking. The bake time on the cookies is approximately 8 minutes, if the cookie size is small. Bake until the edges set. Remember that the longer you bake them, the crispier the cookies will be. After the cookies cool, they can be iced! I use a simple orange icing, the recipe is below.

ORANGE ICING
yields ¾ cup icing

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of orange juice
zest of ½ an orange

Whisk together until smooth. To be honest, the above measurements are really done by eye..so if the consistency is too runny, add more powdered sugar; or if too thick, trickle in more orange juice. If you are not keen on orange, replace with dairy or water & add a ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Once your desired consistency is achieve, transfer to a piping bag with a small tip (but not so small that orange zest cannot pass through); or a plastic zip-lock bag with a corner snipped off. Ice away! Be creative (it seems to me that sugar fiends & children alike appreciate excessively iced gingerbread cookies)!

& for my Doctor Who fans out there, enjoy this snapshot! (also, see what I mean by craggy gingerbread  men cookies?, this was before I added more flour to the dough)

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Hope everyone was able to spend time with their loved ones this past holiday season!

Since I make sourdough loaves at home ~2x a week, he thoughtfully bought these, to upgrade from my tried & true loaf tin. I love these, I sort of squealed when I pulled them out of a very compact box that we lugged all the way from SD to PT.. Christmas morning, aglow by my future in-laws' live tree.. IMAG1021 So incredibly behind in posting - greatest apologies, you all. November & December literally flew past me! Between time at the bakeshop, to my seasonal gig at a certain stationary papershop..creating things in my humble kitchen, holiday shopping, trying to conquer a cold, & the sobering pause to travel for a family funeral.. Not to mention swell & heart-warming treks up to Washington for both Thanksgiving & Christmastime - I have been running amuck! But I just wanted to say, happy new year! I hope twenty-twelve was a good one; I sure know that mine was eventful (getting engaged, packing up out of Seattle & moving down the West Coast, lots of great excursions, interesting mishaps with my eczema, wedding venue hunting & planning, just loving & appreciating all the people I have in my life, leaving a great job & landing a couple new neat ones, namely being promoted to head baker at my new place). I hope your twenty-thirteen has begun beautifully! Here's to a year of health & happiness, cheers!  

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