I recently celebrated my birthday, and that can only mean one thing: I’m in desperate need of lots and lots of vegetables to counteract the chocolate cake and ice cream I’ve had every day for the past week.  Eek!  Luckily I came across this recipe from Rachael Ray, which has tomatoes, peas, and asparagus to make me feel healthy, but still loads of pasta and three kinds of cheese to make it edible.  The flavors are subtle but the whole dish is very light and spring-like, which I am in such need of after eating heavy meals all winter.  This would be a great dish to entertain with since it makes a whole 9×13 casserole, or if you live by yourself like me you can have leftovers for a week and still freeze some!

I made garlic bread to go along with this meal.  This is one of my favorite tricks: buy a regular baguette from the store and slather it up with your own garlic butter.  For mine, I use half a stick of softened butter, 3-4 cloves garlic, and a few tablespoons of fresh basil.  Mix the ingredients together, spread it on the baguette sliced in half lengthwise, cover in foil, and put in the oven for the last 5-6 minutes that the casserole is baking.  Delectable! (more…)

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In keeping with my bread-making ambitions, this week I made whole wheat pita bread along with some hummus.  I haven’t really baked too much with whole wheat flour before, but I bought a bag a few weeks ago to try out some new bread recipes.  I must say, I absolutely love the texture and bite that it gives to these pita breads!  They are much more flavorful and fresher than store-bought whole wheat pita breads.  Granted, it took me almost three hours to make them- but the recipe made a lot (8 large pitas) which will mean I get to freeze some.

The hummus recipe is pretty basic, but it is the best I have ever made.  Ever.  I attribute it to using tahini, instead of just olive oil as I have previously done.  I think this is definitely a case where the cost of a bottle of tahini is worth it, especially considering it still cost me less to make this recipe than buying a container of hummus at the store.

Hummus (Epicurious)

Ingredients Cost
3 garlic cloves, minced and mashed with 1/2 tsp. salt $0.10
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained $0.76
1/3 c. tahini, well-stirred $1.89
2 T. fresh lemon juice $0.79
2 T. olive oil pantry
1 tsp. cumin pantry
3 T. water
Total cost (4 servings) $3.54
Cost per serving $0.89

In a food processor blend together garlic paste, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, oil, and cumin, scraping down side, until smooth. Add water, salt and pepper to taste and pulse until just combined.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread (Epicurious)

Ingredients Cost
2 1/2 tsp. yeast $0.30
1 tsp. honey pantry
1 1/4 c. warm water pantry
2 c. flour pantry
1 c. whole wheat flour pantry
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil pantry
1 tsp. salt pantry
Total cost (8 servings) $0.30
Cost per serving $0.04

Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. While yeast mixture stands, stir together flours in another bowl. Whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture until a dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough additional flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and put in an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten 1 ball, then roll out into a 6 1/2- to 7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Make 7 more rounds in same manner, arranging them on baking sheets. Loosely cover pitas with 2 clean kitchen towels (not terry cloth) and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Set oven rack in lower third of oven and remove other racks. Preheat oven to 500°F.

Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, directly onto oven rack. Bake until just puffed and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs and bake 1 minute more. Cool pitas on a cooling rack.