Anyone who knows me personally or who follows me on Instagram knows that cooking is one of my favorite hobbies. I’m at my happiest when I’m cooking and one of the ways I express love for others is by cooking for them. I think two of the main reasons why I enjoy cooking are the creativity you can exercise in the kitchen in your choices of seasoning, technique and ingredients, as well as the fact that it offers some instant gratification. You follow the steps as presented and (usually) the end result is something you can enjoy with others.
In the Food Focus features on my blog, I plan on highlighting some of the recipes we have found and loved making at home with a common theme. For this week, that theme is chickpeas! We’re featuring two entree recipes using chickpeas and one dessert recipe.
I have really pushed myself to new reaches in my cooking in the last year as we’ve made major shifts to our diet for heart health and weight loss reasons. I don’t like to label our diet, but I would describe it as most closely aligning with the Mediterranean diet (high in fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, beans, seafood and low in dairy and red meat). My husband still eats most meat, but I tend to cook primarily vegetarian meals at home.
While not a new food group, for us, we have drastically increased the number of recipes in which we use beans. Beans are such an underrated, low cost, protein and fiber-packed food group. They also (when prepared correctly) can serve as a great substitute for meat in recipes from a texture standpoint.
Because we eat a diet that is as low as possible in sodium (to lower blood pressure and ensure heart health), we tend to buy our beans dry. Canned beans are a great shortcut for cooking, are still cost-effective and can be purchased in a low sodium version. That being said, the easiest way to reduce sodium (and a way that can be 75% less expensive) is to buy dry beans in bulk and cook them yourself without any added salt. Cooking dry beans adds some major (hands-off) prep time as it is recommended that you soak them overnight. I like cooking my beans in a pressure cooker without soaking, but some studies have shown that soaking your beans and cooking in fresh water reduces the amount of gas that beans can cause.
Let’s zero in on chickpeas though. Chickpeas have a number of health benefits:
- They are high in manganese – which helps with the absorption of other nutrients and is an anti-inflammatory, among other benefits.
- They are a plant-based protein source – foods that are high in protein keep you fuller longer and can help you reduce the urge to snack between meals.
- They are an excellent soluble fiber source. You’ll get to know as you continue reading that I’m a huge advocate of dietary fiber intake. It has worked tremendously well for me from a weight loss and digestive health approach. Soluble fiber can also help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
- They are heart healthy! They boost the health of your heart with minerals like magnesium and potassium and have been linked to helping lower blood pressure.
Now, a few recipes that our family loves where chickpeas are the shining star ingredients.
Vegan Chickpea “Meatballs” from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen: One of my favorite New York hometown comfort foods is a meatball sub. There’s something so carb-dense, filling and flavorful about juicy meatballs smothered in marinara sauce on crusty Italian bread. I have subbed these vegan meatballs in for the meat version for homemade meatball subs and it quickly became a family favorite. These take about 40 minutes to make including prep + cook time, but you can prepare them in advance and freeze them. We’ve also served these over pasta and greatly enjoyed the result. The only ingredient you might not regularly have on-hand for preparing this recipe is ground flax seed. Ground flax seed is commonly used in vegan recipes as a “flax egg” – a mix of flax seeds and water that mimics the texture and binding qualities of an egg in recipes. If you eat eggs, you can certainly use that instead of flax seed in this recipe.
Avocado Hummus Tostadas from Eat This Much: This recipe is such a light and refreshing recipe for a warm evening, comes together quite quickly and is vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free. I absolutely loved the smooth texture of this hummus from the use of avocado and the green color was so pleasant, as well! My only downside of this recipe was that it made a large quantity (probably enough for about 4-5 servings) and the hummus quickly browned after an evening overnight in the refrigerator. This is something great to serve immediately and to feed 4-5 people (2-3 tostadas/person) without generating leftovers. You can always reduce prep time even further by purchasing pre-made pico de gallo in the produce or deli section of your supermarket. This recipe takes approximately 15 minutes to prepare and the only ingredients you may not have in your pantry or refrigerator include fresh cilantro and corn tostadas.
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dessert Hummus from Cook Nourish Bliss: I have only made this once, but now that I’m revisiting it, I have no idea why I haven’t made it more frequently! Hummus is one of my go-to appetizers to bring to gatherings, I often will prepare a fruit & dessert hummus plate or a vegetable & savory hummus plate as my dish to pass. It’s vegetarian-friendly, easily gluten-free and is affordable. This cookie dough hummus is creamier than cookie dough, but the taste profile is spot-on. You’d never know this was made with beans! Traditionally hummus utilizes tahini, which is a nut butter made from sesame seeds. This recipe instead uses peanut butter, which makes it significantly more friendly to the ingredients you probably already have at home. This recipe only takes about 15 minutes in prep time, but you do need to let the hummus chill (preferably overnight) before serving. I served this hummus with strawberries, mango slices, banana and chocolate animal crackers.
I hope you get a chance to try these and other recipes utilizing chickpeas. Let me know what you think if you try any good chickpea recipes and care to share. Also, please show love for the recipes featured by following them on social media and letting them know you enjoyed the recipe.