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Hummus; A Cholesterol Lowering Starter

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Three things really scream Lebanon to me.  1) The olive tree, 2)  hummus with warm flat bread, and 3) the national flag that features a cedar tree in the middle.

Hummus drizzled with olive oil, a side of olives, a bag of flat bread are featured at almost every traditional table in Lebanon.  These lovely foods are the starters to meals and what starters they are!

The hummus, made from chickpeas, also referred to as garbanzo beans, is loaded with fiber, protein, antioxidants, folate and complex carbohydrates. Chickpeas are pale little yellow legumes that are low in fat and are great for lowering levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), total cholesterol and triglycerides.

Hummus is made by blending chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice until it reaches your desired consistency. I love it when it’s creamy, then it has a silky smooth texture. I serve it with cut up vegetables– carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, red and yellow peppers are my favorites — and a few triangles of Pita bread. The kids love to dip the vegetables and roll the bread up for dipping, a fun healthy snack.

Like all things making your first batch of hummus, a seemingly simple dish, can be very frustrating. Over the years I’ve tried to make it from scratch many a time. Regrettably, each time my hummus tasted how do I call it – disgusting! and would end up in the garbage. You see, as a Canadian, I had no idea what tahini was never mind what to do with it nor how much to add to the hummus.

Once I moved to the Middle East and started eating the local food I learnt more about tahini (sesame seed paste) and had more opportunities to experiment with making hummus. I’m very proud to say, I have finally perfected my recipe and am happy to share it with you. I suggest you follow the recipe. After making it a few times you can experiment with more of this or less of that or try adding other things like sundried tomatoes. I’ve even made hummus with cannellini (white) beans instead of chick peas, it was also excellent.

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Hummus Recipe

In a blender or food processor add:

  • 1 can chickpeas,
  • 1/3 cup tahini,
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of one small lemon,
  • 2 cloves garlic,
  • 1/8 tsp salt,
  • 1 tsp cumin,
  • ¼ water – add to desired consistency

Blend, taste, season to taste.

Blend; taste; season to taste.

Pour into a bowl, and drizzle with a little olive oil.

There you have it– a healthy cholesterol lowering starter. If you want to increase the folate content use dry chickpeas, to do so you’ll have to soak them for up to four hours in water- I leave them soak overnight. Make sure you have lots of water in the pot as they expand. After soaking, pour the water off and give the beans a rinse. Add enough water to completely cover the chickpeas and then some bring to a boil then turn down to simmer for about 1.5-2 hours. Check periodically and adds more water if the water drops below the top of the chickpeas.

Hummus is a healthy food choice, one that’s loaded with fiber and protein that will fill you up leaving you less likely to find yourself back in the fridge or kitchen cupboard looking for more snacks that may not be as healthy.

Other ideas for these healthy chickpeas include tossing them in salads, stews, curries, or as they do here in the Middle East make Falafels out of them. Such versatility and so good for you, how can we not include them in our diet?

Be kind to your body, enjoy your hummus!

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