A healthy and inexpensive lunch

capability mom
delicious, easy lunch

This is a great lunch staple in our house and I recently started making it instead of buying it.  While there a good store brands (Sabra, Good Neighbor, Cedars and even Trader Joe’s house brand),  homemade always wins.  I started with Barefoot Contessa’s hummus but my family’s collective particular palate almost always requires changes.

Two cans of chickpeas, drained – reserve the liquid (original recipe called for two cups)

1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt

4 minced cloves of garlic (I have  used minced garlic – gasp, from a jar – and it is fine)

1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)

3 tablespoons of lemon juice ( one lemon – The original recipe uses two lemons and it is glorious, light and bright but my family said “Too lemony” so I adjusted this).

6 tablespoons of water or liquid from chickpeas (I use the chickpea liquid and if you like it more lemony – reduce this to two tablespoons and up the lemon)

Place all in a blender or food processor and purée.  After you have put this in a bowl, you can add Tabasco (8 dashes – guess if I do this) and drizzle with olive oil and toasted pine nuts (yes, this is so pretty). Sprinkle with paprika if desired.  We like it in lunches in a wrap with lettuce or as a dip with almost any bread or cracker on hand.  Nice to send with carrot sticks in a lunch. I have served this along side a roasted eggplant spread and sliced chicken with a great green salad for a lunch.

Spring tease

In New England we get a few nice days and you are deluded into thinking it is Spring.  Not yet. We will get our share of  more gray rainy days with a chance of snowy ones…so please do not put away those snowpants  yet (it is a well-known fact that it causes weather pattern changes). Yesterday was sunny, warm and glorious and we spent much of the day outside, taking walks, riding bikes and playing soccer. Here are some fun things to do for those other, maybe less uncooperative days…

Take a walk at Gore Place (http://www.goreplace.org/education/take-a-walk.htm) – Great year-round family activity.

Get creative  at Art Beat in Arlington – great art studio http://www.artbeatonline.com/ or try this art studio for young ones in Cambridge http://www.muckykids.com/.

Sugar muffins, apologies to Ina – Cranberry Harvest Muffins minus the harvest

Sugar Muffins
Capability Mom's Sugar Muffins

Most days, finding food that everyone likes is beyond my capabilities (snort-laugh here – understatement). Some days, magic happens and I am thanked and complimented and people actually eat the food I prepare. Seriously.  These muffins are from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and if I take out the harvest, my kids will eat them. I make 3/4 of  a batch plain and add the nuts and berries for the husband. These are a very basic, plain muffin.

Cranberry Harvest Muffins…or not


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger (if ginger is “too spicy” for your family, use 1 teaspoon or omit)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk (I have used 1% and 2% – both great)
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled (this is the step I always forget to do first- microwave for 30-40 seconds – put in fridge for 5 minutes)
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries (this begins the “harvest” – use any dried fruit and nuts you have on hand but hold until you have made 12 muffins without anything else)
  • 1/2 cup medium-diced Calimyrna figs
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed (this is a lot of sugar which you can cut in half  because you are not sweetening the cranberries – of course kids like it full on. experiment)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (same – try taking out 1/4 cup)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the milk, eggs, and melted butter. Stir quickly just to combine. Add the cranberries, figs, hazelnuts, and both sugars and stir just to distribute the fruits, nuts, and sugar evenly throughout the batter.

Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top. Fill 12 – then add your harvest of choice to remaining batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned on the top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.

Printed from FoodNetwork.com on Sat Mar 6 2010

© 2010 Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Recipe courtesy Open House Cookbook by Sarah Chase, and as reprinted in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Copyright 1999, All Rights Reserved

cursing, coffee and laughs

Perfect Coffee at L'Aroma
L'Aroma hot chocolate

Picture a large room with huge windows, a small couch and two comfortable chairs.  Beautifully prepared  lattes and steaming teas in over-sized mugs sit on a low table where baked goods and notebooks fight for space.  It started not so long ago with four women who stumbled upon a common interest and started meeting every Thursday morning in this sweet tea and coffee shop.  As our numbers grew, we moved upstairs to this sun-filled room where ideas and laughter bounce off the walls and folding chairs were added to the circle.   The staff is sweet and accommodating and the food is nourishing and delightful.  When we started meeting we would each order a scone or muffin and cut it into quarters and placed it in the center of the table to share.  While we still do that, we have progressed into sandwiches and salads – we know we are here for a while.  The owner almost always bring us a sample of some delicious new treat and we are still thrilled each time.  The Coffee Shop Bloggers began here and our number has increased.  We are all bloggers who are in various stages of preparedness (some new, some established) but all funny, nice, smart,  supportive and collectively competent as we navigate the sometimes frustrating medium we have chosen.  We talk, laugh, interrupt each other, creatively swear, laugh, give helpful advice or insight, talk over each other and laugh and swear some more.  It is one of the most amazingly honest and supportive group of women ever. Did I mention bright, funny and capable?  Our strengths are different but complimentary and our voices get louder and more excited as the meeting stretches past noon. It is an energetic oasis in the middle of a week that is primarily dedicated to the care of others. We are wives and mothers, working outside of the house and not, all seeking to find a means of expression, creativity and business plans in the midst of the usual hub-bub of our days.

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