Middle Eastern

Spinach dip, meet hummus. What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than with green hummus?

This has been on my radar for a while, but I did not get around doing it until last night, when all of the stars aligned. I had some wilty looking spinach that I considered blending into a smoothie or pretty much any dish that would mutilate the wilty spinach leaves beyond recognition. As I sat down and polished off the rest of our hummus while trying to get up the motivation for my post-run shower, it occurred to me! We had spinach that had to go – like now, we were out of hummus, and this would make a perfect St. Patty’s Day treat in lieu of the standard corned beef and cabbage. That standard St. Patty’s Day fare just doesn’t appeal to me all that much.

I’m not sure if I did it “correctly” because I didn’t get to read any other recipes first (Chris had the computer), but it is pretty darn tasty! I simply blended huge amounts of spinach (I would estimate 6-8 cups)  into my normal hummus recipe. I also ended up adding an extra few splashes of lemon juice as the hummus seemed a bit thicker than normal. Voila! Green hummus!

It would be interesting to try sautéing the spinach before putting it in the food processor. Anything sautéed is automatically better, right? That will probably never happen at Duke’s House though because it takes extra time and gets an extra pan dirty. Nobody likes cleaning pots and pans.

Also of note, I bet canned or frozen spinach could be used instead if it was drained very well. I’m kind of canned and frozen spinach averse, so I will probably just stick with the fresh variety.

When we first decided that we wanted to go to Africa this year, we sat down and re-did our budget to accommodate our big trip. It immediately became apparent that we were spending enough money on groceries to feed a family of ten. It was a sad day at Duke’s House. After scanning old grocery receipts for high cost items (Everyone’s mother instills in them an almost compulsive need to save old grocery receipts, right?) I selected a few places from which we could cut a huge percentage of the grocery budget.

In came the Suave shampoo, out went the Laughing Cow Cheeses. I swapped my breakfast of laughing cow wedges and organic whole grain crackers for Quaker Oats, sometimes even Great Value Oats. Chris made a fair amount of trade-downs as well, although I remember mine more because they affected me more.

With this exercise came the realization that hummus is expensive. We stopped buying it altogether for a few weeks, but that wasn’t a sustainable solution. I was craving mashed chickpeas like no other. I considered making hummus from canned chickpeas, but calculated that it would be even more expensive than pre-made hummus.

Finally, in desperation, I decided to buy dried chickpeas. To many, that doesn’t seem like such a crazy plan, but I had never soaked or boiled a bean in my life. This was new territory.  Luckily, it worked and the hummus turned out great. Surprisingly, my grocery store that doesn’t sell fresh parsley does sell tahini. Who would have guessed?


  • 4 garlic cloves, minced and then mashed (or about 4 tbsp of minced garlic)
  • 245 g dry chickpeas (or 2 x 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained)
  • 2/3 cup of tahini (roasted, not raw)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Pine nuts (toasted) and parsley (chopped) for garnish – Optional – Not included in calorie count


  • If using dry beans, cook until tender following instructions on the package.
  • Drain beans (dry or canned).
  • Put all of the ingredients in a food processor.
  • Puree in food processor until smooth.

Servings ~ 33 (2 tbsp each)
Calories ~ 64, Fat ~ 4.5 g, Carbohydrates ~ 5 g, Protein ~ 2 g

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to branch out and try new grains. I’m not a huge fan of rice, especially the brown variety, but whole grains are good for me, so I’m determined to find one that I truly like.

A few weeks ago, I bought some new (to me) grains that I had been hearing about, bulgur and quinoa. I really like the look of quinoa because it ends up looking like a lot of little curly q’s in the pot, but I haven’t mastered a quinoa dish that strikes my fancy.

Last weekend I attempted a Kale and Quinoa Gratin, which was less than stellar. Not only did it make for lousy photographs, but it ended up tasting pretty bland. It wasn’t inedible bad, but it was bad enough that I wouldn’t recommend it to someone else. As Chris put it “This stuff is pretty good if you cover it up with Sweet Baby Ray’s.” Ok, I get it. Needs more flavor. Kale and Quinoa Gratin will not be making an appearance on here until I figure out how to doctor it up adequately (for Chris’s palate and my diet). I still think the Kale and Quinoa Gratin has potential, so I will be buying kale for the second time in my life this weekend and I will attempt a do-over.

Since the Kale and Quinoa Gratin disaster, I have shelved the quinoa experiments for a few days to try my hand at making bulgur. After a cursory Google search, I decided that Taboulli was a safe bet. It turns out that I was right! The Taboulli was awesome and may go into my weekly dinner rotation. I can’t comment on whether it tastes authentic or not as it has been a long time since I have eaten Taboulli and I have certainly never eaten it paying attention to the flavors and textures with the intent to recreate it. Chris has been wanting to try a Turkish restaurant in a town nearby, maybe I will be able to sample theirs for a point of reference if and when we go.


  • 1 cup bulgur (if you don’t feel like getting or can’t find bulgur, you could probably make it with brown rice, but I like bulgur better)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced (or 1.75 cups canned tomatoes, if you are out of fresh ones)
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 3-4 scallions
  • 1 cup parsley, chopped (or 2 tbsp dried parsley if your grocery store doesn’t sell parsley – like mine)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper (this was double what the original recipe called for, so proceed with caution)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (this was half what the original recipe called for and I might even reduce it by 1 tbsp next time)
  • plain nonfat yogurt (optional)


  • Cook bulgur according to the instructions on the packaging. (Mine was a 2:1 ratio of water:bulgur, dump everything into a pot and simmer until the water has been absorbed and the bulgur is tender.)
  • While the bulgur is cooking, dice tomatoes, cucumbers, and scallions and drain off excess water.
  • Combine the “dressing” of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  • When the bulgur has finished cooking, combine all ingredients and refrigerate, covered until cool.
  • Serve cold.
  • I served mine with some plain nonfat yogurt on the side.

Servings ~ 4
Calories (not including yogurt) ~ 297, Fat ~ 14 g, Carbohydrates ~ 39 g, Protein ~ 7 g

By mid-week, I usually realize that we have already eaten one of the key ingredients that I had bought with a recipe in mind. This week I had been hoping to make Yetakelt W’et, the tastier of the two Ethiopian dishes that I made a few weeks ago. Alas, it requires making a spiced clarified butter first and I used up two of the spices while making soup on Sunday. After a short search, I turned up a few recipes for M’judra with rave reviews and very few ingredients, all of which we happened to own. With that, my desire to try M’judra was born.

M’judra (served with steamed broccoli drizzled in BBQ sauce because it tastes good that way)

  • Lentils, dry, 245 gram(s)
  • Brown Rice, uncooked, 376 gram(s)
  • Onions, raw, 2 large
  • Olive Oil, 2 tbsp
  • Salt, 1 tbsp
  • Water, about 6 cups more as needed
  • Plain Non-fat Yogurt (optional)
  • Boil lentils in the water until nearly tender, about 25 minutes.
  • While lentils are boiling, slice onions finely into half circles and cook over low heat in olive oil until caramelized.
  • When onions are finished cooking, set them aside on a paper towel to absorb excess fluids.
  • Add rice to the pot of lentils after they are tender and add a few cups of water if necessary, return to a simmer.
  • Add salt and simmer slowly until the rice is tender and all the fluid is absorbed – approx 20 minutes.
  • Continue adding water as necessary until rice is tender.
  • Serve hot or cold, garnished with the crisp brown onion slices and few spoonfuls plain yogurt (not shown in picture).
Serves 8
Calories (w/o yogurt) ~ 322, Carbs ~ 57 g, Fat ~ 5 g, Protein ~ 13 g
This one seemed to be a big hit with Chris. He appreciated the price point, about $2 for 8-servings and he is a big fan of rice in any form. I liked it a lot as well. I was pretty excited to have leftovers for lunch for a few days!