Carrot Tzatziki

On my recent trip to Greece, I tasted some of the most refreshing and rich dishes I’ve ever had. While I indulged in decadent dishes like saganaki, made of fried cheese, some of my favorite meals consisted of salads and dips.

One tzatziki that I had while on the island of Naxos, was memorable for its salty flavor and creamy texture. None of the others lived up to the same standards — that is, until I arrived in Santorini and had a carrot tzatziki. The carrots don’t add much in the way of flavor, but bring a crunchy element to an otherwise smooth dip.

After my first couple of bites of the dip, I decided I needed to try to replicate this dip at home. While my version doesn’t compare to the one in Santorini, it’s easy and quick, requires minimal ingredients and makes a great appetizer or dip for roasted vegetables.

Carrot Tzatziki

Ingredients:

> 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
> 1 Persian cucumber, finely sliced
> 1/4 cup shredded carrots, broken into small pieces
> juice and zest from 1/4 lemon
> salt and pepper

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 appetizer servings.

Original recipe.

Pea-Walnut Puree

Once a month, I help out with the culinary demos as a volunteer with CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture). Renowned chefs and cookbook authors come to share a recipe — and samples — with the public, and as a volunteer, I work alongside them to prepare the recipe.

A couple weeks ago Sascha Weiss, the executive chef at The Plant Cafe in San Francisco, prepared a delicious chickpea panisse with roasted asparagus, maitake mushrooms and pea-pistachio puree. The entire dish was flavorful, but the puree in particular inspired me to start making more purees and spreads at home. They’re quite simple yet add a refreshing new element to my go-to meals. This pea-walnut puree is my rendition of Weiss’ pea-pistachio puree and tastes delicious atop roasted vegetables, salads, you name it.

Pea-Walnut Puree Pea-Walnut Puree

Ingredients:

> 1 cup peas, steamed
> 1/2 cup walnuts
> 2 tablespoons lemon juice
> lemon zest from 1 lemon
> salt and pepper

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined. Add water until the puree reaches a consistency that is spoonable.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Sascha Weiss of The Plant Cafe Organic.

Broccoli Hummus Spread

Eating healthy meals is easy as long as you make sure a majority of your plate is covered in veggies, whether that takes the form of a salad, roasted vegetable dish or soup — but snacks are often the culprit for bad eating habits. While candy bars, cookies and the deceiving granola bars come packaged to grab and go, your body will likely be fighting back later. Apples and nuts are often a good solution for people always on-the-go, but the reality is that many of us are enjoying snacks sitting at our desks or at home.

Whipping together a quick spread or dip to enjoy with crackers or raw veggies is the simplest way to have a delicious (and wallet-friendly) savory snack. I’ve made hummuses with a twist — garlic and sun-dried tomato hummus and seasonal pumpkin hummus — but this hummus spread called out to me because it’s filled with veggies and is high in protein.

Broccoli Hummus

Ingredients:

> 1/4 of vegetable bouillon cube
> 1 1/2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
> 1 can chickpeas
> 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
> 1 tablespoon olive oil
> 1 garlic clove, chopped
> salt and pepper

Instructions:

Dissolve bouillon cube in 1/2 cup boiling water and set aside. Steam broccoli until cooked.

Place chickpeas, nutritional yeast, olive oil and garlic in a blender and add bouillon mixture once cube is dissolved. Blend until smooth. Add broccoli and blend until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy with crackers or slices of raw vegetables such as carrots and cucumber.

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from PopSugar.

Broccoli Hummus

Vegan Chickpea Spread

No matter what form chickpeas are in, I’m a die-hard fan. Typically I roast them or use them raw on salads, so when I found this recipe for a chickpea spread, I had to give it a try since it’s a deviation from the normal way I enjoy chickpeas. The key to making the spread stick together and have a distinct flavor lies in the mustard. Don’t be discouraged if the mix doesn’t stick together as, say, a hummus would — it’s not meant to. Enjoy!

Vegan Chickpea Spread

Ingredients:

> 1 can chickpeas, drained
> 1 carrot, diced
> 4 green onions, diced
> 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
> 1 teaspoon coconut water

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork until the majority of the chickpeas are no longer whole. Add the carrot, onions, yellow mustard and coconut water. Stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve on crackers, toast or vegetable rounds (zucchini seen here).

Makes 4 snack-size servings.

Adapted from MindBodyGreen.

Skillet Beans and Greens

Making a flavorful dinner can seem like a challenge when you have limited ingredients in your fridge and cupboard, but the right seasoning can make all the difference. The recipe below requires few main ingredients and several spices. It was originally created as an appetizer to top toasted bread, but it works just as well without the bread and as a main course or side dish.

Skillet Beans and Greens

Ingredients:

> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
> 1 teaspoon chili powder
> 1 can black beans, drained
> 4 cups kale, bite-size pieces
> 1/2 cup water

Instructions:

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add garlic and chili powder. Cook for 30 seconds.

Add beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to blister, about 3 minutes. Using a spoon, lightly mash the beans until about half are mashed.

Add kale and water, and cook until kale is wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 3 servings.

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Apricot Walnut Spread

Typically appetizers are known for their dairy or meat component — baked brie, mozzarella sticks, meatballs, pigs in a blanket. But bite-size treats come in all shapes and sizes, including vegan varieties. This sweet spread is rich and almost dessert-like. It’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Apricot Raisin Spread

Ingredients:

– 2 handfuls of walnuts
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 teaspoon maple syrup
– 2 tablespoons dried apricots, chopped
– 2 tablespoons raisins

Instructions:

Soak nuts overnight, or for 8 hours. Place soaked nuts and water in a food processor, and process until nuts form a cream. Add maple syrup, apricots and raisins, and process until incorporated.

Line a small bowl with aluminum foil, and place nut cream in bowl. Freeze until cream hardens and holds its shape. Enjoy with crackers.

Adapted from Naturally Wholesome.

Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

Hummus is a great snack to bring to work or appetizer to serve at a dinner party — yet often people opt for the store-bought kind when homemade hummus is simple to make and just as flavorful. Different variations can be made by adding subtle flavors to the common chickpea blend. Then the spread can be used on sandwiches or served with raw veggies and toasted pita.

Garlic and Sun-dried Tomato Hummus

Ingredients:

1 can chickpeas, drained
> 2 garlic cloves, chopped
> 2 tablespoons oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
> 1/4 cup water
> salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions: 

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, garlic, tomatoes and water. Process until smooth, and season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from MyRecipes.com.