Meatless Monday: Memorial Day

Well I’ll start this blog off with a theme I’ll try to keep up with: Meatless Monday. Hopefully if I’ve got a theme going, I can make myself post at least once a week.

The delicious meal I was able to enjoy for Meatless Memorial Day!

The delicious meal I was able to enjoy for Meatless Memorial Day! © Miyo Wratten 2013

Memorial Day for my family is always full of delicious food … well, pretty much every holiday is full of delicious food. My husband’s huge family (he’s the youngest of six, and each one of his siblings has at least two or three kids each, and many of them also now have kids of their own) all cook really well. We’ve always got a huge array of sausages, hamburgers, smoked roasts, macaroni salads, cakes, pies, cookies and much more. I’ve never met a family that has so many good cooks in it, it’s truly impressive!

This is one of the holidays that I was a little worried about going meatless for: So many of these family members take pride in what they bring. One of my nephews brought in sausage that he made using pork from pigs he raised himself. To turn that down … well, I didn’t want to insult him. Plus, I knew it would be DELICIOUS. I managed, however, to get myself all set up so that I could handle everything discreetly.

Because of my distaste soy-protein that tries to imitate hamburgers or hot dogs (see my ‘about’ page for more on that), I was definitely not into the idea of bringing anything like that. I wanted to be able to fill up on delicious foods on my own terms as a vegetarian, without looking like I was missing stuff like grilled burgers and hot dogs. Vegetarians have their own foods that rock!

Hummus, veggie and pita platter.

Hummus, veggie and pita platter. © Miyo Wratten 2013

So, ahead of time, I planned to make a large batch of hummus. I’m particularly proud of it because I got huge compliments on it once from a veteran of the wars in the Middle East — he said he’d searched all over for hummus that tasted like what he’d had there, and mine was it. We’ve made this before, and several of the family members also really like it. I’ve got a recipe for it that I enjoy — I really don’t remember its source any more, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter since I’ve put my own twist on it since then. I’ll write it up it at the end of the post in case someone would like to try it out.

My son's black bean and corn salsa ... you can tell from the inexpert cutting technique that it's his, but it's so popular and he is so proud of it!

My son’s black bean and corn salsa … you can tell from the inexpert cutting technique that it’s his, but it’s so popular and he is so proud of it! © Miyo Wratten 2013

The other dish we made was my son’s specialty: Black bean and corn salsa. It’s out of Paula Deen’s “Cook Book For The Lunch-Box Set” that we got for my son who fancies himself an aspiring chef. The black beans, corn, tomatoes, fresh cilantro are just such a delicious combination with the vinaigrette dressing she has us make for it. If you can pick up the book just for that recipe, I would definitely say it’s worth it. Everyone requests it, and my son is so proud.

Between those two dishes we prepared, the fresh veggies and pita I brought with the hummus, the macaroni salad (which just happened to turn out to be vegetarian), and desserts, I was a stuffed, happy camper! I took my pita wedges, slathered on the hummus, piled on the salsa, grabbed my fresh veggies and another dollop of hummus to dip them into and dug into the macaroni salad. So good, I didn’t miss the steaks at all — and that is unusual for me!

The best part is, I have a healthy few servings of hummus left over to see me through the work week for sandwiches, which will be a real help when we get back into the grind.

Well, here’s the hummus recipe. The only thing that is really different from other recipes I’ve seen is the little ‘cheat’ that I use: sesame seed oil. I use the Japanese kind. It enhances the nice smoky flavor of the tahini (sesame seed paste) which I find you can’t always taste in the store-bought hummus. I’m thinking that may have been what really made that Middle East vet crow about this hummus, but I’m not sure.

The lemon and chickpeas I used to make our hummus.

The lemon and chickpeas I used to make our hummus. © Miyo Wratten 2013

I doubled the following recipe for this party and had lots to bring back home for the week:

1 can of organic chickpeas
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup tahini
2 large cloves of garlic, minced or crushed (You can adjust this to your own taste. I love strong garlic flavors, but if you’re not a fan, feel free to reduce this amount)
1 teaspoon of salt (You can reduce this too, if you  need to watch your sodium intake)
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
approx. 1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil (optional)

1) Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Put it into a food processor. If you don’t have a processor, a blender may work as well, although this paste can get pretty thick, therefore making it tougher to handle for a blender.

2) Add all the ingredients except the olive oil. Turn on the food processor, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running. Keep adding the oil until the ingredients are well-blended and the chickpeas look pureed.

3) Stop the processor and scrape the sides of the bowl. Turn it back on and add the sesame seed oil. Process until the ‘grain’ in the hummus looks fairly fine. It most likely won’t turn out to be perfectly smooth, but that’s OK.

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