Baked Falafel with a Spicy Feta Dip.

Quick update: #1) School is out and summer is here, so expect more weekly posts! #2) For my birthday, my husband bought me a DSLR camera, so hopefully the quality of my pictures will be improving (considering I was using my phone camera before!)

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Ok, let’s talk about falafel. Such a funny word, isn’t it? Good thing it is incredibly delicious! We love Mediterranean food and falafel is high on the list. If you’re not familiar with falafel, it is made up of mashed chickpeas and spices, and usually deep-fried. My version is baked, but don’t worry, no flavor or texture is compromised, and it’s so much better for you! Falafel is gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan friendly. I think it’s pretty kid-friendly, too. You can eat them plain, inside a pita, on a salad, or dipped in this spicy feta dip I’m sharing with you today. Falafel is so versatile that everyone in your family will find a way to enjoy it!

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Because falafel is awesome (and overpriced in restaurants), I wanted to make my own at home. My first attempt at making falafel was almost 3 years ago. Let’s just say that batch did not turn out right, but I learned from my mistakes. Really just one mistake, in particular: over-processing the chickpeas. I was new to using my food processor and went a little crazy with the pulse button until my chickpeas were well blended and, sadly, mushy! The horror! It has taken 3 years for me to forget how unsuccessful that trial run was, and this week I decided to go for it again. I am SO glad I did; they turned out perfectly.

Here’s what they look like before baking:
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And after:
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Other than the tasty end result, there are so many things I love about this recipe/falafel in general. First of all, it is cheap to make. You can easily make an entire batch for less than $5. Secondly, it’s good for you! In 3 falafel there’s 10g of protein and 10g of fiber, and virtually no fat. And lastly, the food processor does all the work for you! Chickpeas, garlic, green onion, spices/herbs, lemon juice, flour, baking powder…they all go in to the food processor, which makes for no chopping and easy clean-up.

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I used the pulse button on my food processor instead of just turning it on and letting it go because it gave me better control of the texture of the falafel. I made sure to stop when the mixture was beginning to come together, but there were still visible chunks of chickpeas, as you can see above. This gave the falafel awesome texture!

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I always make tzatziki sauce to go with our Mediterranean meals, but this time I wanted to switch it up a bit. Instead, I made a spicy feta yogurt dip from plain non-fat yogurt, reduced-fat feta cheese, olive oil, and cayenne pepper. Since I had my food processor out for the falafel, I used it to make this dip while the falafel baked. Another easy recipe: place all the ingredients in the food processor and turn it on! Done.

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This dip has awesome texture AND flavor. It is thick and the feta is definitely noticeable. The salty and savory feta compliments the cool, creamy yogurt and the cayenne pepper adds a nice little punch of heat. The dairy in the dip cuts down the heat a lot, so feel free to taste and add more if you want more spice. You can use this feta dip with your falafel pita, in a salad or just plain! Bonus: it is a great dip for cold vegetables, too!

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Baked Falafel

Ingredients for the falafel:

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 green onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp lemon (about half a lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cooking spray

1). Preheat the oven to 400F. In a food processor, pulse the garlic a few times to get it smaller. Add the chickpeas, green onions, parsley, cilantro, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, red pepper, and lemon juice. Pulse until the chickpeas appear mashed, but not pureed. Add flour and baking powder and pulse a few more times. (See picture above in post for texture).

2). With clean hands, form 1 1/2 inch rounds using 2 tbsp of falafel mixture.  Flatten them slightly, place on a lined baking sheet, and repeat. Before baking, lightly spray with cooking spray.

3). Bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and gently flip the falafel over. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until golden-brown. Serve with spicy feta dip.

Yield: 9 falafel patties. Servings: 3. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 156 Carbs: 29g Fat: 1g Protein: 10g Fiber: 10g Points+: 4

Recipe adapted from an awesome vegetarian friend!

Spicy Feta Dip

Ingredients for the spicy feta dip:

  • 8 oz reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2-2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more)

1) Place all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasoning or add more olive oil for a smoother texture.

Servings: about 6. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 152 Fat: 9g Carbs: 2g Protein: 6g Fiber: 0g Points+: 3

Recipe adapted from: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2014/02/baked-falafel-with-spicy-feta-yogurt-dip/

Chickpea and Tomato Basil Salad

I love going out to my little herb garden to pick fresh basil for recipes. There is something so satisfying about growing what you eat. As summer comes to a close, I imagine many of you probably have an abundance of basil to be used in the next few weeks. This recipe is perfect for taking advantage of summer’s bounty, specifically fresh basil and tomatoes.

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This salad has bright flavors, making for a light side dish, or it could be a main dish if you are vegetarian/vegan.  Did I mention it is dairy free, gluten free, and incredibly healthy? It is very quick to prepare and gets better the longer it sits because the flavors meddle together. You can easily add more fresh vegetables to if you’d like. I think cucumber would be a lovely addition!

Chickpea and Tomato Basil Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 25 basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp honey ( or agave to make it vegan)
  • pinch of salt

1). Toss all ingredients together. Allow the salad to sit about 20 minutes (or longer) for the flavors to mingle. Refrigerate or eat! Told you it was easy. : )

Servings: 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish. 

Nutritional information per serving as a side dish: Calories: 123 Carbs: 20g Fat: 3g Protein: 4g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 4g 

Recipe adapted from: http://greenlitebites.com/2011/06/20/chickpea-and-tomato-salad-with-fresh-basil/