Italian Inspired Faux Hummus

or a figure friendly snack for hot Summer days

Trying to make more health conscious decisions isn't always easy, and the attempt in itself can cause a great deal of undue stress to anyone. So where do you find the balance for mental and physical health? I'm not quite sure... but the wisdom I have gained over the past couple months has made this very clear to me, and it is this - if it is easy, it will be eaten. Meaning, if veggies and fruits and the like are prepped in advance they have a far greater chance of ending up in my lunch or on my dinner plate than if I am trying to pull something together in "crunch time" either before work or when I get home after a rough day. So lately cucumbers have been sliced, tomatoes and mozzarella have been marinated, watermelon has been cubed, and salad has been chopped in the evening for multiple days' worth of servings at a time. That solves the side dish issue, one fruit and one veggie for lunch isn't a bad deal. But you still need some type of "protein" and, of course, some of my beloved carbs. So far this has resulted in cold pasta salad (a light mixture of veggies, fat free dressing, and feta cheese was quite good last week), a tuna fish sandwich (made with olive oil based mayo), or in a pinch - a reduced fat peanut butter sandwich. Since some days you just aren't in the mood for any of those things, I decided I needed to find a few more ideas to rotate in.

As I was searching my recipes for other options, I came across one that I made originally for my mom that would be a great asset to my pre-made daily lunches - a faux hummus. My mom is systematically opposed to chickpeas, she doesn't like the way they look or taste or even the idea of them being somehow snuck into her meal, so I had decided to make a hummus-alternative for her to have at one of my parties. Since I substituted cannelloni beans for the chickpeas, it seemed natural to make the seasoning more of an Italian style. I had to adjust some of the liquids since the beans were inherently more moist then the chickpeas, but I was quite pleased with the results. A couple more attempts, and another tweak or two later, and I am happy to say I have a dip/spread/mixture that I love!  The best part for these hot Summer days is that it requires absolutely no cooking on the stove or in the oven, definitely a plus when it feels like August in June during a heatwave - and that alone helps bring me peace of mind, and body.  Check it out:

1 can cannelloni beans (or chickpeas for the traditionalists)
3 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup low-fat ricotta
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
4 large leaves fresh basil
¼ cup olive oil (less or more as needed)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
¼ Parmesan Romano cheese, reduced fat

1. Drain liquid from cannelloni beans. (If substituting chickpeas, reserve 1/4 of liquid from can to add more moisture)

2. Toss all of the ingredients in the food processor and turn on low for 3-5 minutes or until smooth. Add olive oil or water, small amounts at a time, if it appears too thick. Add more ricotta (or chickpeas, if using) to thicken.

3. Adjust spices to taste, blending after to mix thoroughly.

Serve with pitas, sliced Paesano bread, or whole wheat white sandwich thins cut into quarters.

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