A Mediterranean Feast and Homemade Tahini Sauce

While I was in Israel, the BOY and I decided it would be fun to host our families for a Mediterranean themed day complete with food and photos.  Although the BOY has not been to Israel, some of our family members have (his parents were there over 30 years ago), so we encouraged everyone to bring their photos and stories.  It’s no secret that the BOY’s favorite food is Mediterranean food, but we’ve never made a middle eastern feast before today!




Today’s Menu

Olives and Cheese

Hummus and Pita

Chicken and Kofte Kabobs

Seasoned Potatoes

Mediterranean Salad

No Bake Strawberry Pie

Pistachio Salad


We picked up some olives and salad ingredients yesterday at the grocery store.  The BOY had researched the meat, so I left that to him. 



Beef and Lamb Kabobs


I whipped up a batch of Garlic Hummus and my first ever homemade tahini sauce.




I brought this sesame paste back from Israel.




It is a homemade sauce sold at the Shuk (market) in Jerusalem.


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When I bought it, I got a lesson in tahini making from the shop owner and memorized what he told me in hopes of making a tahini as tasty as I had in Israel.  I was told that when you combine the ingredients, it will look like they won’t work and then all of a sudden, you will have tahini.




Which is exactly what happened.  I didn’t get measurements with my recipe and was just told to add equal parts sesame and ice cold water and then salt, garlic powder, and lemon.




In my first batch, I used a little too much lemon, but was able to adjust it for my second batch (and then combine them together).




I have to admit that I didn’t measure out my ingredients and added extra water, salt, and garlic per taste, so take the measurements below with a grain of salt (or a dash of tahini).


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The BOY did fantastic seasoning the meat with some of the new spices that I brought back from Israel and he grilled everything perfectly!



Za ‘atar and I can’t remember!


Our feast was unbelievable!  Thanks to Naf Naf for the fluffy pita!




We all dug right into our meaty pita sandwiches, adding in the potatoes and smothering it all with tahini.




It was like being back in Israel!

The BOY and I can’t wait to have another Mediterranean night!  I may even try to make falafel again!



Do you like Mediterranean food?

What do you think the red spice is?



Tahini Sauce

Recipe from Israel



1/4 cup sesame paste

1/4 cup ice cold water (plus more as needed)

~1/4 tsp salt

~1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2-1 tbsp lemon juice



Add in 1/4 cup sesame paste with ice cold water*.

Sprinkle in salt, garlic powder, and lemon juice.

Whisk until well combined, adding in tablespoons of cold water until desired consistency is reached.

Serve with rice, couscous, meat, or veggie pita sandwiches.


*Note:  I placed water and a few ice cubes in a bowl for a few minutes and then took the water from there.

Tuesday Treats

So I didn’t mention this yet, but today was my TREAT DAY!

The timing couldn’t get any better with this weekend’s Bake-a-Thon.  I had plenty of cookies, but wanted a few other snacks to round out my spread.


I stared with a few old favorites…




Garlic Hummus




Roasted Red Pepper Hummus




Spinach Dip


And tried a new White Bean Dip



This recipe didn’t turn out as good as I had expected.  It was a little watery.  So I added in a few pinto beans, some garlic, and dill.  I’m not so sure about it, but we shall see. 




Upon further inspection, it seems that I thought the recipe called for 2 cups not 2 cans of white beans. Oops!  The recipe looks promising, so I am sharing it as written (although these pictures don’t do it any justice).  I will definitely give it another try, and see what my coworkers think of my mish mash version.



White Bean Dip

From EveryDay Food April 2010



    2 cans (15.5 ounces each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

    1 to 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

    1/4 cup water

    2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

    Coarse salt and ground pepper



      In a food processor, combine 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) rinsed and drained, 3 tablespoons 1 to 2 tablespoons and cup water. Process until smooth, adding more water if necessary. Add 2 teaspoons finely chopped and pulse until combined. Season with and Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with a little oil.


      But Wait…There’s More!

      The BOY and I loved this Pumpkin Dip when I made it this fall, so I was excited to make it again.  Except this time, I spiced it up with the seasonal pumpkin pudding…sooo good!




      I served it with graham and animal crackers.  Here is the recipe




      Along with this unbelievably sweet and rich Peanut Butter Cookie Dip.  I have been wanting to make Sugar Cookie Dip from Little Bitty BakesBut, the store was sold out of sugar cookie mix…twice!




      So I decided to go with peanut butter instead!




      All I can say is…good decision!  This recipe takes just a few minutes, and only includes three four ingredients.




      I added in some chocolate chips!





      Peanut Butter Cookie Dip

      Adapted from Little Bitty Bakes



      3 cups (1 package) peanut butter cookie mix

      2 cups plain Greek yogurt

      1 cup Cool Whip

      1 cup chocolate chips



      In a large mixing bowl, stir the cookie mix, yogurt, and Cool Whip with a wire whisk until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.

      Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until serving.


      Warning: Add this to your addictingly good list!


      Yes….There’s More


      For a healthier option, I made a batch of my favorite Date and Fig Bars with extra coconut.




      They make the perfect 4:00pm afternoon snack, which I look forward to each day.




      The full recipe is HERE, but you can add up to a cup of coconut.





      And, Just When You Think You Can’t Eat Any More…






      You’ll just have to be patient for the rest of these recipes!

      I Never Thought I’d add Pumpkin To…

      Do you ever wake up to this?




      Like jump out of bed with that awful feeling that you shouldn’t be sleeping…see the sun streaming in through the windows which confirms that you should indeed be awake and at work and you just know that it’s going to be a long day!




      Apparently we lost power at some point which turned off our clock (even though my alarm was still set for 6am) causing me to sleep in unexpectedly.  I raced downstairs to call my first patient feeling awful that I wouldn’t make my first appointment of the morning.  Waking up after 7:00am when your work day starts at 7:30 and you live 30 miles from work means that first appointment is not going to happen.  Needless to say, I didn’t get in this morning’s timed plank as I was too busy getting myself out the door.  I showered quickly, grabbed a bite, and ran to my car.  Only to realize that my car needed a few minutes to defrost.  I headed back indoors to enjoy a few more sips of tea and let the BOY try to tempt me into staying home.  I got to the office with plenty of time for kiddo number 2 and the day progressed as usual except I ended up staying late to make up for arriving late this morning.


      After work, I swung by Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things.  Meal planning this week has gone really well, but I needed an avocado for leftover turkey tacos and some red meat for tacos for the BOY. 




      Almost $100 later, I had way more than a few things.




      Including one of my favorite seasonal teas!




      What can I say…That store is just dangerous!  Especially because I know the season stuff won’t last long.  I stocked up up precut sweet potatoes and squash with THIS RECIPE in mind.  Plus a pie crust for my Thanksgiving Day assignment.




      And…a Pumpkin Pie!




      Random…I know!  But apparently the BOY read an article today naming the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie the best store bought pie available, so he insisted that I pick one up during my next TJ’s visit.  Lucky for him, that was tonight!




      He heated up his pie for dessert and covered it with Reddi Whip.  I couldn’t resist a few bites myself, and man, that is a good pie!  It is super fresh and flavorful!  Which brings us to pumpkin and back to the title (and point) of this post.  It’s a bit of stretch but because it’s Friday, let’s just go with it…So what is the one thing that I would never think to add pumpkin to???






      But I’ve seen too many recipes combining chickpeas with my favorite fall squash to not give it a try!  The recipe calls for cayenne powder which I don’t have (but need to get) so I subbed in this Emeril’s Bayou Blast.




      Spicy pumpkin mixed into a hummus is a total fall appetizer winner!


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      And with this recipe…the spicier the better!




      So add tons of spice and then dive straight in to this dip!




      It’s pretty surprising that I made it through this day, but I am happy to be snuggled into my comfy couch under a blanket and catching up on TV shows (I am becoming a huge fan of Elementary and Scandal is…well…scandalous!) with a glass of wine sharing this versatile recipe with you.  What else can I say, but…

      Happy Friday!


      Spicy Pumpkin Hummus

      From Beanie Bumbles



      1 15 oz can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans

      1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

      2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

      2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

      2 tbsp tahini

      1-2 tsp cumin (the more the better!)

      1/2 tsp cayenne (I used Bayou seasoning instead…the more the better!)

      3/4 tsp salt



      Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth.  This may take a few minutes.  Adjust seasoning to taste.      Make it spicy!  Refrigerate to let the flavors blend.  Eat with pita chips, crackers, veggies, or smothered onto a sandwich!



      How Random was your Friday?

      What unexpected recipes to you add Pumpkin to?

      Meatless Monday-Lunch Edition

      We have plenty of leftovers from this weekend’s festivities, so it was easy to find something for lunch.  I toasted up some Great Harvest Dakota Bread, smeared it with roasted red pepper hummus, and stuffed in as many veggies as I could find.




      Isn’t this sandwich beautiful???




      It tasted just as good as it looks, and I have already packed up the ingredients to make another one for lunch tomorrow!




      I enjoyed my sandwich with what was left of the Ramen Coleslaw.  Seriously…this is SOO GOOD!


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      After lunch, I literally dragged the BOY out the door for a walk in the sunshine. It is a cool, sunny 60 degrees here and I was craving some fresh air.  It took some convincing and some physical input to get him out the door, but once he got going, he was happy.  When we arrived home, there was a package waiting at our front door.  I was so crazy excited to see that my new shoes had arrived from Brooks!




      They made it just in time for this upcoming active weekend.  I have been running in Brooks trail shoes since the winter, but since it was a rather quiet winter (by Chicago standards), they didn’t get too much wear and tear.  I wore them for my half marathon because I had been training in them, but then planned to put them away for next winter.  I have an older pair of Brooks Adrenaline that I love, but they are past their prime (I think they were my marathon shoes).  Enter the need for new shoes…


      I have been eyeing the new Brooks Pure Cadence shoes and got to try them on in St. Charles before the half marathon.  They didn’t have the color that I wanted, plus the last time that I ordered shoes from Brooks, I got a free tech shirt.




      The shoe salesman recommended breaking into these lightweight shoes easily.  A short run here and there until I am used to them.




      The problem was that I didn’t have another pair to rotate in for my runs.  A few weeks ago, the salesman mentioned these newer Ravenna shoes.  He explained that as the offspring of the Adrenaline (which I have been loyally wearing for about 8 years) and the Cadence.




      So when I saw a pair on sale for $60, I just had to get them.  And I got a FREE towel!  I heart Brooks!


      I plan on taking these guys for a test run tomorrow morning, and I am hoping to run in them this weekend.  Saturday is the Solider Field 10 Miler (who wouldn’t want to finish a race on the 50 yard line?) and Sunday is my favorite way to welcome spring with Bike the Drive which involves riding along a 15 mile stretch of Lake Shore Drive.  I heard on the radio today that Chicago is expecting a warm weekend, which will be so much better than last year, when I nearly froze.


      My game plan for the weekend is to run the 10 miler with no pace in mind and enjoy the view and gorgeous spring weather.




      And the day hanging out with my adorable chauffer.



      Soldier Field 10 miler 5/23/09


      And on Sunday, I am looking forward to a leisurely ride with my brother and mom to work out some lactic acid and soak up some sunshine.  I’m counting down the days until the weekend!

      The Story of the Hummus


      When you visit Florida (or at least the area where all of my relatives live), you tend to stay in a ‘community’.  This area looks nothing like your typical neighborhood with houses, parks and schools.  This is a gated development complete with housing (mostly townhouses and condos), recreation (tennis, pools, golf, and card rooms), and a large social gathering area that tends to have a restaurant, a bar and a banquet or social hall.  The landscaping is always pretty impressive!




      In my aunt’s community near Boca, each mini development even has their own mini clubhouse, which have FREE soda and coffee.  For this reason, breakfast is considered B.Y.O.C. and you should pick up your coffee on your way to my aunt’s place for bagels.  If you’ve grown up visiting Florida like my brother and I have, you are used to these golf and retirement communities.  In fact, I even joked in January when I was down that at night the streets look like Las Vegas with bright spot-lit buildings, fountains, fences, and pillars.  However, if you are new to the area, you might get a little stir crazy hanging out in what we kindly nicknamed the ‘compound’ this weekend.  Especially when you really are stuck there without a car and the skies are poring buckets of rain, so your planned day at the pool happens to be cancelled. 




      I share this with you just to paint the picture of why this hummus not only warranted a picture, but also got its very own post.  After a lazy morning indoors spent watching the rain from the lanai, my brother, his gf, and I were over tired, slightly hung over, and beginning to get VERY hungry.  When my dad, mentioned lunch at the deli, we perked right up and waited excitedly for someone to return to the compound to retrieve us for lunch.  Interestingly, there are not many delis in Chicago (I know…I find this weird and the BOY suggests opening one after every trip to NY and FL), so deli food is always a fun east coast treat.


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      I knew immediately that I wanted some matzah ball soup which is perfect for a rainy day, but continued to look through the 9 page menu which is common at the deli.  While deciding on a sandwich, my brother’s gf and I decided we wanted a hummus appetizer, but because we were already ordering soup AND a sandwich, we told my brother to order the hummus.  He placed his order adding in the ‘hummus plate’.  After the waitress finished taking everyone’s orders, she came back and asked us, ‘So you just want a bowl of hummus?’  My brother looked at us like we were planning a joke when in fact, the hummus was listed on the menu.  When she left we all started to laugh.  I figured there would be bread on the table (a good bialy or roll) and that the hummus would come with something.  The table started to joke and laugh about what someone would do with just an order of hummus…in a bowl…as their appetizer, when the waitress came back and delivered…




      Just a bowl of hummus!!!  She said that she brought us some saltines too at which point, we all broke out in hysterical laughter.  Somewhat because the thought of saltines and hummus was funny, but mostly because we were seriously stir crazy with a major case of the giggles.




      We decided that the hummus bowl deserved its own picture before digging our saltines right into the hummus.  We HAD to try this combination, pausing only for a staged photo op.




      ‘How’s the hummus?’ my mom asked to which my brother’s gf replied, ‘it’s hard to tell when all I taste is salt’.  When the waitress returned, we asked if we could have some bread or pita to eat with our hummus.  Again, she looked confused…was this an odd question?  ‘It will be a charge,’ she said and we chuckled a bit as my brother told her that we’ll take it!  In the end, she brought out a few plates of warmed pita bread, which was perfect and paired so much better with our bowl of hummus. 




      Needless to say, we were still laughing about our adventure outside the compound all through lunch and even when we made it back to my aunt’s house.




      As we conveyed the story of the hilarious hummus to my dad, who most of the humor was lost on, he told us that this is why it is safer to stay ON the compound.  Plus, once we were back, there were plenty of treats (black and white cookies, leftover birthday cake and my personal favorite…the pudding pie) to stick our forks into.


      Tell me…do you know what I am talking about?

      Who has stayed in a Florida community? Any funny restaurant stories to share?

      Have a Treat!

      Every Tuesday in my office is Treat Day.  We all take turns throughout the year which means biannually, it is your job to bring snacks for everyone.  We have a table set up in the back (that is usually used for paperwork), but is transformed into a picnic on Tuesdays.  Everyone has a different way of doing things…some people buy their snacks while others (like me) like to make and bake things.  Some days are themed depending on the time of year.  This week for treat day, I made some different dips and summertime sweets.  Check them out…


      Edamame Hummus

      I found this recipe in Shape Magazine back in 2010.  Whenever I make it, someone always asks me for the recipe. It is super easy…the food processor does all the work.  I bought shelled edamame and steamed them briefly before adding them to the chickpeas.  I used the fresh garlic from the CSA.  The cloves are huge and so flavorful.


      I served the hummus and black bean dip with two of my Trader Joe’s favorites!



      Black Bean Dip

      I doubled the black beans and added some fresh corn from my CSA to increase the size of this recipe (it was a big hit last time).  I also added some extra lime juice and cumin.




      Fruit Salsa

      Adapted From Annie’s Fruit Salsa

      This recipe is always a hit!  When I have time, I like to make the cinnamon tortilla chips, but if not, then I buy the Trader Joe’s with Cinnamon and Sugar pita chips.  I use my salsa maker to slice up all of the fruit and then stir it together.  You can add any fresh seasonal fruits (I used blueberries, peaches and plums) but always keep the apple for some crunch.  AND, the recipe is sweet enough…no sugar or fruit preserves needed!




      Cake Batter Blondies

      I found this recipe on the Girl Meets Life blog.  I love anything cake batter so I made them right away.  I had a Rainbow Chip cake mix, so I used that and added extra sprinkles and of course white chocolate chips.





      Chocolate Chip Cheese Cake Dip

      Adapted From How Sweet It Is Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip 

      I was looking for a sweet dip to make and found this Cookie Dough Recipe.  I followed the instructions, but my dip tasted just like cream cheese.  I added in some extra chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and Hershey’s chocolate syrup and the result was pure cheesecake perfection!  This dip was a HUGE hit with my coworkers!  I served it with graham cracker sticks.




      Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

      From Iowa Girl Eats

      I have been looking for a reason to make this recipe.  Although my pictures are not as pretty, the PB cups turned out delish! Next time, I will use more chocolate chips on the bottom and leave them in the oven a few extra minutes to fully melt.