Today I'd like to tell you a story.
Once upon a time, I ate quite differently than I do now.
Don't get me wrong, I've always been a "healthy" eater. Growing up, we ate dinner as a family of five at a set time and those dinners usually included an entree, salad, some kind of bread and a fruit salad. I looked forward to eating dinner with my family at night and to this day I think that family meal time is immensely important.
I remember begging my mom to ditch the healthy, seedy all-natural blah blah blah wheat bread she packed my sandwiches on for those soft super-market breads with dough conditioners and high fructose corn syrup. I asked her to get me the "normal" peanut butter, ya know, the super smooth kind made with partially hydrogenated oil to keep the natural oils from settling at the top. I didn't want the kind that was freshly ground at the store and contained only peanuts. Waaaay too healthy for my 12-year-old taste buds.
I remember telling my mom I wanted a bagel for breakfast and her telling me that there was no nutrition in a bagel. I sighed, told her I didn't care, and ate half a bagel with cream cheese. But she was right. I really didn't need to fuel my body with 350 calories of fiber-less white flour.
I always thought my mom raised us with the perfect ideals of "healthiness." She bought real food. Now keep in mind, we ate plenty of cookies, but these cookies didn't have artificial colors and trans fat. They had less than 10 ingredients and I could pronounce every one. It was a cookie made with flour, butter, sugar and baking soda. It was what a cookie should be.
I remember my mom calling Sweet-N-Low "chemicals" because that's what it was. I didn't understand it at the time, but she was just trying to teach me to eat real food. Looking back on it now, I couldn't be more thankful. She didn't deprive us. We came home from school greeted at the door with the scent of homemade brownies and chicken paprikash. We happily ate her delicious food as a family, discussed how our days went, and indulged in a brownie. She rarely made us anything from a box. There was never anything fake. It wasn't always organic whole wheat and it wasn't always low-fat, but it was home-cooked with love and real ingredients. Nothing tastes better than that.
As I grew older, my interest in food and nutrition grew exponentially. I decided I wanted to study dietetics in school and spend the rest of my life counseling people on embracing a healthy lifestyle. I still had never tried almond milk, chia seeds, coconut flour and almond butter. I ate well, but I didn't go out of my comfort zone. I put splenda and cream in my coffee. I had a completely different definition of "healthy."
Then I went to Israel and met a girl who was vegan. I was fascinated by her diet and her ridiculous consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. I was in the holy land surrounded my amazing produce, fresh juice stands at every corner and vegetarian restaurants galore. I always ate meat growing up and I never considered for a second being a vegetarian. In fact the thought was completely foreign to me. As a fun little healthy challenge for myself, I decided to try being vegetarian. I remember reading Skinny Bitch when I was in Hilton Head with my friends and looking up from my book saying confidently, "I mean I understand the point, but I'd still never be a vegetarian." Little did I know, that couldn't have been farther from the truth.
And then something dramatic happened my sophomore year of college. I discovered food blogs that literally changed my life.
Peas and Thank You. Oh She Glows. Happy Herbivore. I discovered not only these amazingly inspiring plant-based cooking blogs, but a giant network of people united by a genuine passion for healthy and delicious cuisine. I had never been so inspired by anything in my entire life. I woke up every morning looking forward to reading five different blogs. I know for a fact that I would have never been able to learn about the incredible versatility of food if I hadn't discovered these blogs. I had never cooked tofu in my entire life. It was a mushy, weird white thing that my dad ordered at Chinese restaurants. Then before I even knew it, I was eating tofu twice a week and it was beyond delicious. Months later, my roommates were doing the same. It was a magnificent chain reaction of inspiration. Infectious inspiration.
I fell in love with my new plant-based lifestyle. Forks Over Knives and In Defense of Food were my anthem. I was exploring new foods that I never even knew existed. I figured out how to cook tofu and tempeh in ways that made me come home from class craving them. I discovered how much I loved reading about recipes and found myself staring at my phone during class just to find a recipe for that night's dinner. I couldn't wait to get off work so I could go home and experiment in the kitchen.
I started drinking green smoothies with frozen bananas, chia seeds, spinach, almond butter and almond milk regularly. I learned to make pizza crust out of chickpea flour. I used flaxseed and water instead of eggs in baking. I was slowly learning about these incredible alternatives that I couldn't believe I had lived my whole life without. Farmer's markets, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's became my second home.
Then, after the realization that nearly every one of the 1,000 + pictures on my phone were of food, I started my own blog. I needed to channel my passion and enthusiasm. To this day, Hummusapien is by far my biggest accomplishment. I have finally found an effective way to personify my love of writing, humor, food, nutrition and delicious recipes. As silly as it sounds, I felt as if I were destined to inspire everyone around me to embrace whole foods, cooking, and a healthy lifestyle.
It was never about eating or not eating meat or dairy or eating exclusively organic or any other controversial ethical issue. It was, and has always been about showcasing my passion for the versatility of food and exploring a world of once foreign ingredients that come together to create culinary magic.
Now I'm the one pointing out to my mom that though her bread is organic, the first ingredient is unbleached wheat flour (ahem, white flour). I'm the one buying Ezekiel bread that has to be frozen because it has no preservatives and topping it with the most natural of natural peanut butters. Ohhhhh the irony.
In honor of foreign ingredients that kick butt, let's talk about chickpea flour.
It's just dried, ground chickpeas that we conveinely call flour because it looks like flour. There's no wheat; in fact it's gluten-free just like almond flour and coconut flour.
To answer the question I know will be asked, no, it really isn't a fancy expensive flour. I got mine at Whole Foods for under three dollars. You can't use it as a direct substitute for regular flour because it does have a but of a beany (though delicious) taste. Playing with the ratios is a challenge, but a fun one. The best part is that you're really just eating chickpeas, which means tons of healthy protein and fiber. It's a win win situation.
I love using chickpea flour as a base for pizza. It doesn't taste like pizza crust but it has a wonderful texture and is also a fabulous way to eat pizza that's not void of fiber. It's just so darn versatile!
Pesto Sweet Potato Chickpeatza
- 1 batch of chickpea flour crust (see recipe below)
- 1-2 tbsp pesto
- Large handful of roasted sweet potato chunks
- ¼-1/2 cup grated cheddar
- 1 green onion, chopped
- Preheat broiler to high.
- Spread pesto onto crust followed by the cheese.
- Broil, watching closely to avoid burning, until the cheese is slightly browned.
- Remove from oven and top with sweet potatoes and green onions.
- ½ cup chickpea flour
- 1 tbsp cornmeal (optional)
- ½ cup water
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well to combine.
- Pour batter into a medium-sized pan sprayed liberally with cooking spray over medium heat.
- Cook for about five minutes and then carefully flip and cook for a couple minutes more. It should be lightly browned on both sides!
Check out these recipes for more chickpea flour inspiration:
- Gluten-free banana bread
- Chickpea fries
- Zucchini socca with caramelized onions
- Spinach and mushroom chickpeatza
- Cinnamon Toast Cereal
Real food tastes so.darn.good.