Life is all about finding balance. A balance between work and play. A balance between being active and being lazy. A balance between giving and taking. When it comes to food, your mentality should focus on balance too. This could mean something different for every person. But for me, it’s a balance between pleasing my taste buds and taking care of my body. I’m lucky in that my taste buds want nothing to do with artificial anything. I don’t have to worry about feeding cravings for McDonald’s or Oreo’s or Domino’s Pizza. I have zero interest in those over-processed foods. However, I do love french fries and cookies and pizza. While my kind of indulgent foods (natural, whole, fresh) are better than their artificial counterparts, they still need to be eaten in moderation, and balanced with lighter meals that keep calories in check while filling up on nutrient-rich and nourishing ingredients.
I’m not one to eat simply for the sake of eating. Even the healthiest and lightest of meals must be flavorful and satisfying. And that’s where a healthy meal like this one comes in. Homemade roasted red pepper hummus along with a selection of dippers, including perfectly roasted cauliflower and toasted whole wheat pita wedges, is not only a delicious and nutritious meal, but also a fun one. I’ll make the whole recipe and eat it for a few convenient and healthy dinners throughout the week, but it’s also a packable meal perfect for bringing to work, on a road trip or on a picnic. You can dip, stack and mix to your taste. You can add, subtract and customize as you see fit.
The general rule for this kind of meal is to have a whole grain carb, a raw veggie, a roasted veggie and a dip of some kind. The carb keeps you full, the raw veggie adds freshness, nutrients and vitamins, and the roasted veggie and the dip add satisfying flavor and complexity. The combination of all four creates a balanced, light and energizing meal. For healthy, portion controlled, detox meals like this, I steer clear of dairy and meat and stick to cleaner and simpler foods. This is because it’s beneficial both for your body and for the environment to remove animal products from your diet as often as possible. Because this meal is designed to satisfy and nourish without needing animal products, I’ll save eating cheese and dairy for times when it’s essential (cheesy pizza, bagels and cream cheese, nachos, mac and cheese). See? Balance.
So indulge in a big bowl of cheesy pasta, eat a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie (or three) without guilt, chow down on onion rings. But get in the habit of balancing those meals out with plenty of meals that give your body everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t. If you focus on finding this balance (not counting calories, tracking points, eliminating whole food groups), once you’ve got it down, you’ll be able to enjoy food, feel good and look good all at the same time. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Finding this balance isn’t easy. It took me years and years. But now that I’ve found it, I never feel deprived, I never feel like I’m on a diet, and I’ve never felt better.
Red Pepper Hummus & Roasted Cauliflower Dipper Bowls
Serves: 4 Start to Finish: 1 hour
For Roasted Cauliflower
1 large head Cauliflower, trimmed and cut into uniform, large bite-size florets
2.5 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt, fine grain
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
For Pita Crisps
4 all-natural, whole wheat Pitas (I use Damascus Bakery pitas from Whole Foods)
For Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
1 large Red Bell Pepper
1 can organic Chickpeas (liquid reserved), about 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas (cooking liquid reserved)
2 cloves Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped or crushed
2 tablespoons Tahini
2 tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
Sea Salt to taste
2-3 large Carrots, peeled and cut into sticks (or 1 bag baby carrots)
2 Scallions, trimmed and chopped
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cut cauliflower into florets. In a large bowl, toss florets with oil, salt and pepper. Spread into an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Toss and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until the edges are golden and crispy.
Meanwhile, roast the pepper until skin is blackened. You can do this in the oven, under the broiler, or over the open flame of your gas burner. When the skin is completely black, place pepper in a paper bag or a covered bowl. The point is to let the pepper steam, making the skin easy to remove. Leave pepper to steam for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep the pitas by cutting each pita into triangles. Lay out onto a sheet pan. Brush each with a little oil (2 tablespoons should be more than enough for all 4 pitas). Sprinkle with salt (a small pinch for every 2-3 triangles). Set aside. When cauliflower has about 5 minutes left, add pita triangles to over and cook until golden and crispy.
Now make hummus. Add chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a food processor. Peel charred skin off pepper. Remove stem and seeds. Add pepper to food processor. Blend until desired consistency is reached. Add chickpea liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, if more moisture is needed. Add more salt to taste. I used 1 teaspoon salt, total.
When cauliflower and pitas are finished baking, allow to cool slightly. Divide hummus, cauliflower, pita and carrots between 4 portions. Garnish with scallions. Proceed to dip, dunk and nosh.