Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Best Lab Tested Hummus Recipe Ever

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Ever since the puppy melted the food processor on our glass-top stove, I have been forced to consume store bought hummus, which is loaded with salt, oil and (often) sugar, most likely added to distract you from the distinctly chemical taste, which sets up residence on the roof of your mouth.

However, the chemical hummus can now be evicted, as my husband recently purchased a new food processor. While I still have to wait until my sell-out-chick-lit manuscript becomes a best-seller before I can afford a Vita-Mix, I am extremely happy with the Siemens FQ1, which, being a German brand, should last for years, barring any further occurences of the labrador trying to cook.

charlie hummus wait

Charlie Learns How to Make Hummus

As much as I would LOVE to turn this into a blog about my Chocolate Labrador and how cute he is while staring at the food processor, I will show some control over my lab-session (as my son calls it) and leave you instead with the BEST HUMMUS RECIPE EVER.

Obviously, being a white girl from MidWestern America currently living in Germany, where ‘spicy’ means adding extra black pepper, this recipe is not my own. It comes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottoleenghi & Sami Tamimi. If you don’t own this book, you should. While there isn’t much ‘healthy’ food in here, and it certainly is NOT vegan, the recipes DO inspire you, and many of them CAN be altered for your particular needs. So, without further ado….

The World's BEST Hummus with Tongue Tingling Harissa

THE HUMMUS

The Raw Materials

1 1/4 cup (250g) dried chickpeas

1tsp baking soda

6 1/2 cups (1/5 liters) water

1 cup Tahini

4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

6 1/2 tbsp (100ml) iced water

The Method

BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING: The night before, cover the chickpeas with cold water (twice their volume) and soak overnight. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. Don’t use canned! *Note: I usually double this recipe so I can have enough for an entire week. Of course, I eat it every single day.

COOKING DAY: Drain the chickpeas. In a medium saucepan (I use my cast iron, enamel pot–but that’s just me) turn up the heat to HIGH and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Stir constantly for about 3 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Cook between 20-40 minutes, until chickpeas are very tender, but not mushy, and break easily when pressed between your fingers.

Drain the chickpeas. I let mine cool a little, then add to the food processor. You should now have about 3 1/2 cups. Process the chickpeas in the food processor until you have a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. (You can also add 1 1/2 tsp salt, though we choose not to).

Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and watch the magic, letting it mix for about 5 minutes or until you get a very smooth, creamy paste.

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 30 minutes. If you need to, you can refrigerate until needed, but pull it out of the kuhlshrank 30 minutes prior to serving.

THE HARISSA

In Israel, even gas station hummus was good, and there were a multitude of varieties. My personal favorite came with a spicy red sauce on top. While I’m not sure if Harissa is the same stuff, it is pretty close. I omit the caraway (as it makes my stomach feel weird); and I omit the oil & salt for dietary reasons; and I add extra chilies for a little more spiciness. A little dollop of this is perfect on top of hummus.  *Note, I make a bigger batch than normal because I have a bigger family than ‘normal.’

The Raw Materials

3-4 red peppers (blackened)

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 red onion, coarsely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

5-6 hot red chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped (or use only 1, depending on how hot you like it)

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

The Method

Slice peppers in half, seeding them and place face down under a very hot broiler, until blackened on the outside and completely soft (10-15 mins). Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to cool completely then peel, discarding the skins.

Meanwhile, in a deep frying pan, over low heat, lightly toast the coriander and cumin for about 2 minutes. Remove to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a powder.

Fry the onion, garlic, and chilies on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until nearly caramelized.

Now, add everything (including the peeled peppers) to the food processor, mixing until smooth. (I prefer mine just a little bit chunky).

FINALLY

Place a scoop of hummus on a plate, make a little divot in the top, and add a dollop of Harissa. Serve with cucumbers, raw red peppers, flat bread (if applicable) or your favorite gluten-free crackers and enjoy a little taste of the Middle East in your Western kitchen!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo--I couldn't help it! He's smiling in this one!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo–I couldn’t help it!                   He’s smiling in this one!

Guten appetit!

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A Spontaneous Marathon

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On Friday, we decided as a family I could run a second marathon this year.

Sunday at 08:00 I signed up.

By 09:00 I was running through a shower of confetti.

After the Gletscher Marathon in June, I had thought I would run the Seenland Marathon in September. But then an injury (which had me inactive for 2 weeks); a visit from my mother (3 weeks of board games & cookie baking); and an onslaught of large farm machinery chopping up and spraying the countryside, sidetracked my usual training plan. Thus, out of 12 weeks between marathons, I had only 3 long runs, the longest of which was a mere 14 miles (nothing like the 18-20 I would have normally done).

Even though I LOVED running the Seenland Marathon last year, I debated about it this year, because I didn’t know if only doing Crossfit (3 times a week), plus one to two runs a week was sufficient preparation.

But then, as my oldest child said, “It’s only running.”

Right! It WAS only running; and I quickly buried the fact that it would be 42 kilometers of running.

The results: 4 hours 26 minutes–the EXACT same time as the Gletscher Marathon.

HOWEVER: I would have done much better with more training. Normally, the marathon ‘starts’ for me around km 30. This year, I was feeling it at km 20. My legs became chunks of concrete, and I sincerely felt like quitting.

HOWEVER (again): That’s when Kristina came flitting along the path with her two bouncy braids, striped tights and cheerful smile. She was SO happy to see me and said that she was talking about me the night before at the noodle party. She is the best pacemaker in the world, and she helped me get through the tough parts of last year’s marathon.

This year, she came along, asked how I was doing, and then said, “Stay with me” in a manner worthy of a Crossfit coach.

So, I stayed with her the rest of the way–and we crossed the finish line together, smiling.

Kristina and I approaching the finish line

Kristina and I approaching the finish line

There are so many things rushing through my mind:

*How easy the marathon was at first, and how incredibly difficult it was in the middle.

*A guy running the marathon in an elephant suit

*The hoards of half-marathoners, breezing by, making me feel sadly inferior

*The t-shirts promoting a wide variety of causes (some of them nearly dueling it out on the trail)

*The fabulous aid stations with plenty of watermelon

*Hearing American Rock music booming along the trail

*The handicapped runners (some blind) leaving me in the dust

*A welcome shower of rain

*The Bible verses on my left arm, written in pen, vanishing one by one

*‘Stolz Sein’ (our Crossfit Coach’s mantra) fading from my right arm (translation=be proud: to help my posture)

*Hearing Kristina tell someone in German, “I need to get her to her kids at the finish line!”

* Seeing from 1/4 mile Libby’s striped pink dress, her arm waving frantically at me.

I love the moment I see my family, waiting by the finish with such excitement and anticipation. It is THE single best part of any marathon! 

Crossing with the kids

Crossing with the kids

If you are going to run a marathon in Germany, I highly recommend the Seenland Marathon. The catering stations are fantastic; the people (both the staff AND the other runners) are extremely friendly; and the scenery, with the tall pines, wild boars and the sailboat-filled lake, is simply gorgeous.

If I can, I will run it every year that I live here–hopefully with a little bit more preparation next time. 

Push Up

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Lazy

I was in the box, the rubber floor leaving little black flecks on my sweaty skin every time I fell to the floor lowered myself from push-up position, and wondered how many reps Rob said we had to do. I couldn’t see the white board because 1) I was face down on the ground and 2) I wasn’t wearing my glasses anyway (and the board gets fuzzier the further away I am).

Push-ups are never easy for me, but they don’t seem quite easy for anybody.

Have you ever seen anyone smile while doing push-ups?

I didn’t think so. The only people who smile while doing push-ups are either selling something OR they are actually grimacing.

The first three reps were okay, meaning no innocent-bystanders would think I was having a seizure; but then reps four and five became significantly harder. By rep six I felt as if I had a lead weight on my back, and by rep seven I wondered how many more I had to do before I could justifiably lay on the floor panting.

That’s when I heard the alarm on my phone, its soothing chime resounding over the scuffling shoes and raspy hyperventilation.

I wondered why on earth I was SO tired, when I can usually do ten wobbly push-ups before collapsing.

Somewhere before push-up number eight, I woke up.

…and it all had been but a dream…

…and I was SO THANKFUL that I didn’t have to do another rep!

This is the first time I’ve actually dreamt of Crossfit, and I feel it’s a threshold of sorts.  My son and I joined eight months ago, and while I’m still not as strong or agile as I’d like to be, I can see improvement. For example, I CAN do a real push-up now, whereas in the beginning, I could only quiver in plank position. I can also do Turkish Getups, which literally made me trip on my own feet back in January. I also recently did one ‘sort-of’ pull-up, which if nothing else, gave me hope.

Crossfit is more than a way to relive stress: it is a venue for practicing self-discipline and dedication, two of my weak areas. When I train at home, I can get distracted by things, like wild bunnies or manure trucks; or because nobody’s looking, I don’t push myself; so being in proximity to other people helps me focus.

God made us social beings, and though I can’t exactly explain it, there’s just something about working through a difficult task with other people that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and inspires you to come back. It doesn’t matter if you’re the weakest, slowest person with the wobbliest push-ups–you are still part of the team.

It is an idea I want to apply to other areas of my life.

If you see Crossfit as a temple where you can worship yourself, then you are missing something.

I see Crossfit as a place where I can strengthen the things God has given me, both the tangible and the intangible–and it has very little to do with push-ups.