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Cheap and Good: Hankering for Hummus?

Recently, consumers were faced with another product recall, this time for all sorts of products manufactured with peanuts coming out of the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Georgia due to Salmonella contamination. A bit later, a facility this company owned in Texas was also tagged for the same conditions and contamination. As of early February, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta had identified 600 people in the United States and possible connection with eight deaths due to consumers eating this contaminated food.

salmonella testimony

For those of us who have some concerns, what are our options?

One of Aunt Toby’s concerns is that even if I wanted to make my own peanut or other nut butter, I’d had to deal with possible contamination issues because I don’t have any control over how the nuts were handled before they got to my kitchen counter. Considering the description of the conditions of the warehousing and processing facilities of PCA, I certainly wonder what conditions are elsewhere. At the same time, I have some concerns about what I’m getting in my peanut butter just to start with.

Here’s the nutritional info from the label of the ‘organic’ peanut butter that gets used Chez Siberia:
Serving size: 2 Tablespoons
Calories: 200
Fat Calories: 150
Total Fat: 16 g
Sat. Fat: 4 g.
Total Carb: 6 g.
Dietary Fiber: 2 g.
Sugars: 2g.
Protein: 8 g.
Sodium: 85 mg.

A spread that we’ve fallen in love with at our house, and which has been used as a dip, sandwich spread, and wrapper filling, is Hummus, that humble stuff from the Middle East made up of mashed up garbanzo beans and a couple of other ingredients. Here’s a recipe that comes from the “Flat Belly Diet Cookbook” (2008, Rodale Press): Rodale Cookbook

“1 can (15.5-19 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed.
½ c. Tahini (sesame seed paste – get the light colored one)
4 cloves of garlic
¼ freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼-1/2 c. of water
¼ tsp of salt

Place the beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, ¼ c. of water and salt into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until smooth. Add more water, if needed, until the hummus reaches the desired consistency.”

Now, we don’t use any added salt Chez Siberia, so we did not use salt. I did not have any lemons in the house, so I used the bottled lemon juice I had in the fridge. We don’t have a food processor, so I used our trusty blender, and other than having to stop it and stir everything around a couple of times to make sure nothing got jammed into the blades at the bottom, it worked fantastically. The whole process took all of about 10 minutes, tops – and that’s with all the additional stirring. If Aunt Toby had a food processor, I bet we’d be able to knock this off in half the time.

The one secret NOT told in the cookbook is this: RESIST THE URGE TO EAT THIS STUFF RIGHT AWAY. If you do, all you will taste is the garlic. Put it into some sort of sealable container and put it into your fridge for 24-36 hours, and THEN take it out. Fantastic.

Here’s the nutritional information on this recipe (one of the great aspects of this cookbook is that every recipe has nutrition per serving info):
Serving size: ¼ cup
Calories: 126
Total Fat: 9 g.
Sat. Fat: 2 g.
Total Carbs: 10 g.
Dietary Fiber: 2 g.
Sugars: -0-
Protein: 5 g.
Sodium: 121 mg. (I did not use the extra salt and I washed and drained the garbanzos several times, so I don’t think there is a whole lot of salt in there – that is from the addition of the salt in the recipe)

Now, I’m sure some of my faithful readers are saying, “But, Aunt Toby, I can get more protein out of a serving of peanut butter.”

Ah, but here’s the rub on that. Have you ever tried to make a peanut butter sandwich with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter? Think about it. To get enough ‘stuff’ between two slices of bread that you end up feeling as if you really ate something, you used more than 2 tablespoons, didn’t you? Check out that photo at the top — I measured out those servings very carefully onto that plate. That really IS 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and ¼ cup of the hummus.

Most people making a PB&J are using at least 3 tablespoons – and yes, you will get 12 grams of protein – WOOHOO. You are also ‘buying’ that protein with a tremendous amount of fat. Most of it is not terrible fat either – peanut oil is not truly ‘naughty’. But in terms of calories, there are only 50 calories in that serving of peanut butter that are NOT fat. You are ‘buying’ your protein a lot more cheaply in terms of calories and fat in the hummus. The other thing is that you get to eat a whole ¼ cup of hummus – that’s twice as much (1 cup = 16 tablespoons). You can put that into a tortilla with some salad greens, cucumber and pepper and feel as if you’ve really filled yourself up.

Can you get kids to eat this stuff for lunch? You bet. I like it as a sandwich with lots of greens but if your kids would rather, make it into a wrap, or take a tortilla, cut into quarters, toast it a little bit and have them use it like crackers to scoop it up. With a little freezer packet in their lunch kits, they could take a small container and eat it with crackers and some fruit.

Cost: Well, I had a lot of these ingredients in my fridge and freezer already. All I had to do was buy a can of garbanzos and some tahini, but here’s my estimate as to how much this cost me:
1 can of garbanzos: $.69
½ c. of tahini: $.1.33
Garlic: A bulb of garlic is in the $.50 range and has between 10-15 cloves, so we’ll throw in $. 20 for the garlic.
Lemon Juice: I am going to estimate $.50 for ¼ c. of bottled lemon juice here

Total cost to me: $2.63 and it made about a pound of hummus. Each serving cost 65 cents. Now, I’ve bought store-made hummus and it’s $4.99 a pound, so doing this is definitely worth the money.

Now, back to the original point about contaminated peanut butter: Can canned garbanzo beans (or any other bean for that matter) become contaminated? You bet. As a matter of fact, last year there was a huge recall of called beans of various kinds from a company in Michigan that were contaminated with Clostridium Botulinum – Botulism, another potentially deadly contaminant. The difference to me, though, is that when canned goods are contaminated, and the bacteria start to grow, they produce gas and the ends of the cans start to bulge – a sure sign of contamination. The average consumer can pick up a can and SEE the bulging, and can call the local health department; the CDC, their local grocery store and can dispose of the product safely. With those peanut products and peanut butter, there was no way to tell. It might just be more worth your while and peace of mind to…make a different and perhaps safer and cheaper spread.

Can you make hummus out of other beans than garbanzos? I’ve never tried it but I’d like to try the same thing with black beans, which are my absolute favorite bean. I think they have a lot of flavor – the color is bound to be a bit funky (ever eat black bean soup – the flavor is to die for but the color….eeeeeeew), but I’ll bet with some Mexican spices, it will be fantastic with tortillas.

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  1. […] The Unutterable Phrase added an interesting post on Cheap and Good: Hankering for Hummus?Here’s a small excerptHere’s the nutritional information on this recipe (one of the great aspects of this cookbook is that every recipe has nutrition per serving… […]

  2. mamafitz says:

    we love hummus here (roasted red pepper being my favorite). now i can do it myself! do you know if you can soak garbanzo beans like you do dry beans? (do garbanzo beans even come dry?) i’ve been using my crock pot to soak beans for soups or frijoles and it’s been working great.

  3. Aunt Toby says:

    Yes, you can buy garbanzo beans come dry – and like all dried beans, you are going to want to pick through them thoroughly to make sure you get out any rocks or other other debris, then wash them several times before you soak them. Using canned ones is just a big more convenient, but if you just use dried ones and soak them, then you get all the benefits and don’t have to deal with any of the salt issues at all!!

  4. mamafitz says:

    thanks! i will definitely try this — DH just loves hummus and yeah, $4.99 for a tub ($6.49 for the ‘party’ size) adds up quickly. (and yay! for no salt issues to deal with)

    btw — i can’t stand peanut butter, but the other nut butters are good (cashew, almond).

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