Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cheap Family Meals: Spectacular Hummus

The Food Revolution started by Jamie Oliver is absolutely remarkable. I watched the British version and the child who had not eaten a single homemade meal in her entire young life saddened me beyond belief. It is terrifying to think that there are children in our midst who do not eat well and have no concept of fresh food.

I understand the rhetoric of "eat healthy! organic! whole grains!" is disheartening to a family with a limited income and poor access to fresh food. I know it seems inconceivable that in your town or city people are unable to actually find decent food (and once they do, do they know what to do with it?) but it is absolutely true. In Halifax, near one of the universities there is a large convenience store with "Food Store" emblazoned across its side. As you can imagine, lining the shelves are tins of over-processed pastas in "meat sauce" or sodium-laden soup, boxed crackers and potato chips and just maybe a few green bananas. This store is much like any other "convenience" store but there are a few considerations: It is owned by a large, chain grocer. This gives the impression there will be extra options such as the bananas so this convenience store is in some small way filling the needs of the local community; however, there is not a grocery store nearby that can adequately provide fresh fruits and vegetables instead of the usual unhealthy and expensive food alternatives. What is to happen to the families (and university students - they need good food, too!) that live in this area?

Proper food is not always available in some areas and while it is fine to encourage parents to feed their children with wholesome food it is problematic at a higher level. The healthy lives of our children depends on so many factors, so the next time that you see a child eating from a bag of potato chips and feel like condemning the parent, stop and think for a moment. That parent could really be trying to provide their child with healthy food and hitting any number of roadblocks such as transportation, income, or even something as simple as ignorance of nutrition. When so-called convenience food became the motto of the day, a fair amount of food knowledge flew out the window.

Take a look at this article from Canadian Living about school food programs and why they are vital. This is another article about a school for at-risk boys in Washinton, D.C. (thanks to Marisa from Food in Jars for tweeting this a bit ago!).

All of this being said, it is possible to have inexpensive and very healthy meals for a family. The other day at lunch we had creamed dandelion greens (I like it but everyone else found the dandelion greens a bit bitter - use spinach for a gentle flavour) with a poached egg and hummus with a bunch of dip-able veggies and baked tortillas. A fantastic, healthy and super cheap meal for the family.

The Hummus*

one can of chickpeas (garbanzo), drained
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. white miso paste
60 ml soy milk
30 ml lemon juice
15 ml olive oil
1 tsp. Proven├žale mustard
salt, to taste
1. Put everything in a blender. Don't forget to peel and smash your garlic with the side of your chef's knife to release the oils. Mix until smooth.

2. Once in the serving bowl, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a dash of Hungarian paprika. Start dipping.

* I am well aware this is not the usual recipe for hummus. It is nearing that time when we need to go grocery shopping. The basic ingredients for hummus are:

one can chickpeas, drained
3-4 cloves garlic
lemon juice
olive oil

I use soy milk instead of olive oil because of the fat content and olive oil, while delicious it is fairly expensive. The mustard adds a beautiful sweet tanginess and that miso paste is instead of the usual smooth tahini. Be careful about the salt if you use miso as it tends to be fairly salty. The point of the tahini (or miso, I've even used peanut butter) is that it makes the hummus smoother and creamier.


  1. My husband and I both love hummus (a recent discovery) but I'd usually buy hummus instead of making them on my own. After reading your post, I think I'll start making them from now onwards!
    We started paying close attention to what we eat, the nutritional contents (esp. saturated fats), etc just last year - it's a shame, but I'm thankful that it's better late than never. Jamie Oliver is moving mountains - one single city at a time! I fully support his cause; he's great!!

  2. Jen: Oh, you should make your own! That way, you can play around with the flavours and the fat content. Plus, you can use hummus as a spread on sandwiches instead of mayo. My hubby made pizza with hummus, thinly sliced onions and mozzarella (with a healthy sprinkle of thyme) and it was delicious.

    It's never too late to eat healthy and sometimes the extra support is really needed. I'm very happy about what Jamie Oliver is doing, it's vital. There are so many issues surrounding food and I think it is fantastic that he is inspiring people to really start thinking about how they eat. Also, he is reaching ordinary people, not just the upper echelons of society.