A Fresh Look at Hummus

There are several foods in my refrigerator on a regular basis that weren’t there five years ago. One of these is hummus.

HummusI’ve been buying hummus as an alternative to sour cream or mayo-based dips, and it has now become my favorite appetizer. I try to “walk the talk” as a health educator, and so I put out healthful snacks when we have people over. Hummus goes very well with fresh vegetables, whole grain crackers, or baked pieces of pita bread.

Recently I wondered if I could make my own hummus. Some of this is just my curiosity, but I was also looking for a way to save some money/calories. The commercial versions of hummus are at least $2 for just 12 ounces and declare that 50 calories are in just 2 tablespoons. (This is still better than the typical French onion dip that averages 60 calories per 2 tablespoons, with 75% of the calories from fat). But I was looking for something even more healthful.

ChickpeasThe basic ingredient in hummus is the humble chickpea (a.k.a. garbanzo beans or cece beans). Chickpeas themselves are powerhouses of nutrients. They are high in protein and dietary fiber while staying low in fat and sodium. What a great base for this dish!

In addition to chickpeas, another traditional ingredient in hummus is tahini. Tahini is a paste that is made by grinding up sesame seeds. Not only is it expensive, but it’s really high in fat. According to the Nutrition Facts label on the jar, just 2 tablespoons of tahini contain 260 calories, and 200 of them are from fat! Wow! That adds up fast, especially when recipes call for 1/3 to 1/2 cup of tahini for each 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of chickpeas.

Now, when it comes to the ingredients, I prefer to take things a bit farther. Most of the hummus recipes I found start with a can of chickpeas. But I wanted to be even more in control of the ingredients in my hummus, so I got dried chickpeas. If you’ve never purchased them, dried chickpeas are with the other dried beans and peas in the grocery store. I soaked them overnight in water, brought everything to a boil on top of the stove, and finished cooking them for 5 hours on low in the slow cooker. Made this way, they were perfect. Chickpeas can be cooked for a shorter period of time on top of the stove, but the slow cooker was easy for me to start and then do something else while the chickpeas cooked.

Mixing It TogetherOnce I had finished preparing my chickpeas, I found that I got 8 cups of cooked beans out of a single pound of dried chickpeas. That’s about four times the amount of beans you’d get in one can. Plus, that larger amount costs the same as a small can of beans, and this version has no added sodium.

I was also impressed with the flavor — I found it to be so much better than the canned version.

Now that the chickpeas were ready to roll, I started to experiment with actual hummus recipes. I found one particularly intriguing recipe from the free recipe database at Food and Health Communications — this recipe used plain yogurt instead of tahini. I tried it that way and loved it, and what a savings in terms of calories and fat!

Hummus!From there, making hummus is a snap! I slowly processed all the ingredients in my food processor, adding more yogurt until I got the consistency I liked. After a few experiments, I found that I prefer Greek yogurt in my hummus because it offers a little more body than more traditional yogurts.

Once it was well blended, I seasoned my hummus with lots of garlic, lemon juice, and parsley. Drizzling it with a little sesame oil and sprinkling with toasted sesame seeds gives it a hint of tahini flavor and makes the presentation super appealing.

I guess I’m not a “hummus purist,” but I like this lower-cost and lower-fat version.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Want to offer your clients a guide to healthful, tasty hummus? Get a free PDF recipe right here! This page is an excerpt from The Home Run Cooking Book, which is a fantastic introduction to healthful cooking. It goes over kitchen tips and techniques, discusses cooking equipment, and offers the most popular healthful recipes, all of which have been rigorously tested and audience approved. It’s the perfect educational resource. Try this hummus and see for yourself!

Hummus Recipe

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Chickpeas, Garbanzo Beans, and Cece… Oh My!

I have to admit, chickpeas were one of those foods I could take or leave.

Yum! ChickpeasThe only time I ever really ate chickpeas was when they were in three bean salad or hummus. That all changed recently, when I started looking for a way to pep up our meals at home. Now these flavor and nutrient powerhouses have become a regular feature in our meal rotation.

So, what are chickpeas?

It turns out that these hearty little legumes go by many different names. Some folks call them chickpeas, while others insist on garbanzo beans as their moniker. The Italians call them cece. Don’t worry — no matter what you call them, these beans are delicious.

Hummus!The most common form of chickpeas are pale yellow in color, but they can also be black, brown, green, or red. Their flavor and texture have been described as somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. When cooked, they have a creamy consistency with a mildly nutty flavor profile. This makes them the perfect base for spiced dishes and stronger flavors.

Originally from the Middle East, chickpeas are the most widely-consumed legume in the world. Did you know that? I was surprised!

More Chickpeas!The largest producers of chickpeas are India, Australia, Pakistan, and Turkey, but these beans can also be grown the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Chickpeas are legumes, which means that they have seed pods in the plants, and are similar to beans or peas. Each chickpea seedpod usually contains two to three edible peas.

So, why should you make chickpeas a part of your diet?

Well, for one thing, they are full of nutrients! A cup of cooked chickpeas contains 15 grams of protein, with only about 269 calories and 4 grams of fat. There is no cholesterol in chickpeas, and they are very low in sodium. They are also sources of folate, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. Like other beans, they are a great source of dietary fiber (12 grams per serving). For a closer look at the nutrient profile of chickpeas, check out the post MyPlate Flavor Exploration: Beans and Peas.

But how can you make chickpeas a part of your diet?

Chickpeas can be purchased canned and ready-to-eat. This is convenient, but unless they are canned without salt, they are generally pretty high in sodium.

Chickpeas can also be purchased as dried beans. Like other dried beans, they need to be soaked before cooking and generally have a long cooking time. To cook dried chickpeas, drain them and rinse well to remove any foam. Set them in a big saucepan and add water in a 3:1 ratio (3 parts water for every 1 part dried chickpeas). Bring the whole shebang to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. When I made chickpeas, I soaked them overnight and then cooked them on low in the slow cooker for five hours. I ended up with perfectly cooked beans!

Once cooked, chickpeas can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to a week. Since one pound of chickpeas makes about 8 cups, I had lots of beans to use. Once you are open to experimenting, chickpeas can be used as you would other beans. I put them in salads, stews, soups, casseroles or ground as hummus.  Extra cooked beans can be frozen.

Some of my favorite chickpea recipes come from the Food and Health Free Recipe Database. Take a look…

No matter what they’re called, I’m glad I gave these little nutrition powerhouses a try. I’ll do it again!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

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Cool Beans

Yes, we all know that beans are the musical fruit. But did you also know that they’re magical?

I mean, not magic magical, but beans are an inexpensive, tasty, and nutritious powerhouse! Today I want to introduce you to the joys of beans. And we’ll even talk strategies for making them less musical too.

14% of the U.S. population is eating beans on any given day. Pinto beans are the most popular bean, closely followed by navy, black, Great Northern, and garbanzo beans. These versatile legumes even fit into two distinct MyPlate groups — vegetables and protein. Did you know that beans can be considered a healthful protein food or a fantastic vegetable option? Fit them on your plate wherever they can do the most good.

BEANSSo, why eat beans? In a word: nutrients. They’re full of them! Beans are great sources of…

  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Plant protein
  • Polyphenols
  • Potassium
  • Resistant starch
  • Soluble fiber
  • Total fiber
  • Zinc

According to MyPlate, many Americans don’t get nearly enough folate or potassium in their diets. Beans are a great way to correct this issue. Plus, a recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has revealed that beans “are among the only plant foods that provide significant amounts of the indispensable amino acid lysine.”

What does this mean for your health? Well, a diet rich in beans can…

  • Reduce your LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Decrease your risk of diabetes.
  • Help you manage your weight.
  • Improve the health of your colon.
  • Be rich in vital nutrients.

But wait, there’s more! Beans are wonderfully inexpensive and deliciously versatile. Did you know that canned beans cost only 4 cents per ounce, while dried beans average 11 cents per ounce? Just to compare, Angus Beef costs 31 cents per ounce!

Let’s take that bean and beef comparison one step further. What do you notice about the chart below?

Bean and Beef Comparison

A single serving of kidney beans has 20.5 fewer grams of fat, 6.5 more grams of fiber, and 48% fewer calories than lean ground beef! This means that beans are as great a bet for your health as they are for your wallet.

So, how can you make beans a part of your life?

Well, when it comes to canned beans, it’s as easy as draining and rinsing them, then tossing them into your next salad or batch of chili.

Dried beans require a little bit more effort. There are a few tried-and-true approaches, which I’ve outlined below…

  • Overnight: Cover your beans with several inches of water and let them soak in a large pot overnight. Then, when you want to cook them, drain and rinse the beans, cover with a few inches of fresh water and bring the whole shebang to a boil. Let everything boil for a few minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cook for a few hours, until beans are tender.
  • Quick: For a quicker method that skips the overnight soak, bring beans to a boil in a large pot. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them soak for an hour. Bring everything to a boil once more and then simmer for a few hours, until beans are tender.

A good soaking ratio for dried beans is 5 to 1 — 5 parts water to 1 part dried beans. Let’s look at an example. If you have 2 cups of dried beans, soak them in 10 cups of water. The cooking ratio for soaked beans is 1 part broth or water to 1 part beans.

Now the exact cooking time for dried beans varies based on…

  • Age of the beans
  • Altitude
  • Bean variety
  • Water hardness

Chicken Tostada SaladPhew! That was a lot of information about beans. It’s time to get practical. Here are some great (and free!) recipes for canned and cooked beans alike.

Oh and yes, sometimes eating too many beans at once will give you gas. Start introducing beans to your diet gradually in order to reduce your risk of musical side effects. Drink plenty of water while you eat beans and be sure to rinse canned beans well. These steps will further reduce your risk of any digestive discomfort so that you can eat beans without fear.

So what are you waiting for? Get our there and enjoy beans!

Here’s a free handout with a great bean recipe to help you get started…

Bean Recipe Handout

For More Information:

  1. Dry Beans. http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/vegetables-pulses/dry-beans.aspx#.VDxOWudN3U4
  2. Nutritional and Health Benefits of Dried Beans. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24871476
  3. Beans and Peas are Unique Foods. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-beans-peas.html
  4. The World’s Healthiest Foods: Black Beans. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=2
  5. Cost of groceries. Peapod.com

Even More Bean Resources:

Protein Bulletin Board Kit

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