Kinki Kinako Choco (Roasted Soy Bean Chocolate)

I was more than a little surprised the first time I heard somebody talking about their favorite Japanese band “The Kinky Kids“. Or at least that’s what it sounded like to my foreign ears. In fact it is pronounced just like that, but the band is named after the Kinki/Kansai region in southern-central Japan. Nevertheless, I still snicker internally like a middle-schooler whenever the two man boy-band comes into the conversation.

Kinako "Roasted Soy Bean Powder"

Kinako “Roasted Soy Bean Powder”

Likewise, Kinako, or roasted soy bean powder, falls a little bit on the kinky side of the dessert world when it comes to its rich aromas and surprisingly light texture when mixed into other things. And in my opinion kinako mixed with white chocolate is about as good as it gets! That is, until you hit the inevitable processed sugar wall a few hours after consumption, which is why I created some original recipes in my kitchen for a healthier version of Valentine’s Day.

Kinki Kina-Choco Balls

Kinki Kina-Choco Balls

The ingredients for Kinako “Chocolate” are so simple:

Equipment: a bowl, a spoon, plastic gloves*, 2 rubber bands*, parchment/wax paper* (*optional- see below)

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until well blended. It should form a fairly solid dough. Adjust the liquids (coconut oil, maple syrup) and powder (kinako) accordingly to get a consistency that rolls easily into a solid ball.
  2. Separate into 12 to 21 (I got 21) pieces and roll into small balls.*
  3. Enjoy as is or use for the center of a truffle!

Since I used coconut oil in that recipe and my darling for whom I was making the chocolates absolutely gags at the scent, let alone taste of anything tropical, I also whipped up a lighter Banana Kinako “Chocolate” (OK, so maybe bananas are tropical as well, but he seems to be OK with them on occasion).

Kinako Banana "Chocolate" Truffles

Kinako Banana “Chocolate” Truffles

  •  50g kinako powder (aprox. 1/2 C. very loosely packed powder)
  • 45g (3TBSP) maple syrup
  • 90g (aprox. 1/2 C. or ONE large) mashed ripe banana

Equipment: Same story, new twist- a bowl, a fork (to mash the banana), plastic gloves*, 2 rubber bands*, parchment/wax paper* (*optional- see below)

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until well blended. It should form a fairly fluffy dough that is malleable and doesn’t stick to the fingers too much.
  2. Pinch off a small piece of the mixture and gently roll into bite sized balls or use as an outer coating for truffles!
  3. Consider wrapping or refrigerating/freezing these quickly as the banana in the recipe can cause the truffles to turn from the initial golden rod yellow to a darker almost chocolate brown, which could be confusing if nothing else. Alternatively, decorate with good quality melted chocolate, very dark naturally sweet cocoa choco, or go nuts and cover them with chopped pecans or walnuts!

*While the gloves, rubber bands and parchment/wax paper are optional, I highly, highly recommend wearing disposable plastic gloves for the dough rolling process. Not only is it sanitary (unless you lick things directly off the gloves…) but it greatly aids in the rolling out process. The rubber bands go around the wrists of loose fitting plastic gloves to keep them in place. The parchment/wax paper is for setting your beautiful handy work on until you find a cool plate or container to display it on.

Kinako "Chocolate" ball wrapped in Banana Kinako "Chocolate"

Kinako “Chocolate” ball wrapped in Banana Kinako “Chocolate” (Step 1)

Kinako "Chocolate" wrapped in Banana Kinako "Chocolate" (Step 2)

Kinako “Chocolate” wrapped in Banana Kinako “Chocolate” (Step 2)

Kinako "Chocolate" wrapped in Banana Kinako "Chocolate" (Step 3)

Kinako “Chocolate” wrapped in Banana Kinako “Chocolate” (Step 3)

Making a mess as always!

Besides this kinachoco, I’d have to say green tea matcha choco is another odd favorite of mine. What’s the most unusual flavor of chocolate you’ve ever had? Post about it below!

 

 

 

 

A small notice: I’ve just started using Amazon affiliate links 1.) because I want to easily share my favorite things with friends near and far and I think Amazon rocks for on-line purchases. I promise I’m sharing the best deals I can find, the same ones I would order for myself. 2.) I’d love for this blog to be able to pay for a proper “.com” site soon! So if you’d like to help support these efforts at making a mess of things, a small percentage of products you purchase through these direct links can go towards that!

Berry Basil Aqua Infusion

I love water. I probably actually drink the daily recommended ounces to body weight ratio without having to try too hard. My Japanese darling is amazed at my “strange” talent of drinking water from a bottle while still lying flat in bed. What I found strange upon first arriving in this country is how little water most of my Japanese friends tend to drink. Any time a group of foreign friends go out to eat we have to continually barrage the waiting staff with requests to refill our tiny water glasses.  Or if we’re lucky they’ll just bring us a pitcher, that we end up asking to be refilled with in 10 to 2o minutes. Most of our Japanese friends will still be sipping on or ignoring their first glass of water even by the end of the meal. Beer or sake is another story altogether, but I still have to figure out this water mystery.

Perhaps like my grandmother these friends simply can’t stand the taste of plain old water? Thankfully I haven’t met many folks here who are completely addicted to diet soda (while living with brittle diabetes). Yeay for Japan. Sigh for dear departed Grandma.

While it’s not hard to think of a ton of lovely reasons to infuse plain old water with some fresh and bold flavors while only adding negligible calories, my main motivation for coming up with this creation is to make surviving a day of water only fasting a little more enjoyable. I got the idea from one of my favorite smoothie combinations that incorporates similar flavors.

IMG_4048To make this awesome flavored Berry Basil Infused Aqua all you need are a few simple ingredients and some time:

  • A pitcher full of water
    • (Fresh filtered water is best, but if you live in mountain country like I do where the water’s pretty stellar even out of the tap, use your best discretion)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen* berries
  • a few sprigs of fresh basil

Equipment: a water pitcher or an infusion pitcher

  1. Add all the ingredients (water, berries and basil) into the pitcher
  2. Let sit in the refrigerator for a few minutes to a few hours to infuse the flavors. The longer it sits, the stronger the taste.
    • If you like a stronger basil flavor tearing it by hand into smaller pieces will help release the flavor quicker
    • Crushing the berries may do the same but beware of making juice if you’re aim for a non calorie drink

*Frozen berries can make a faster infusion due to the faster release of their juices and flavors thanks to the process of freezing messing with the cellular structure in a helpful way. I learned this on a Japanese TV show some years ago and therefore was not surprised to see the best looking infusion pitcher I could find on Amazon is one that lets you freeze the fruit before hand in a special core. (I really want one of these, but they won’t ship it all the way here…and if probably is too big to fit in my Japanese refrigerator anyway…alas, a girl can dream!)

What’s your take on naturally flavored water vs. the kinds available in the stores? While most of them contain saccharin sweet artificial flavors, I love the Talking Rain sparkling water series with Lemon-Lime, Tangerine, Berry and the surprisingly good Natural flavors. I usually buy it by the case from our local Costco when it’s in stock. I hope they’ll import some of the Peach Nectarine flavor I just found on-line. Please share your thoughts and favorite brands/recipes with us below!

A small notice: I’ve just started using Amazon affiliate links 1.) because I want to easily share my favorite things with friends near and far and I think Amazon rocks for on-line purchases. I promise I’m sharing the best deals I can find, the same ones I would order for myself. 2.) I’d love for this blog to be able to pay for a proper “.com” site soon! So if you’d like to help support these efforts at making a mess of things, a small percentage of products you purchase through these direct links can go towards that!

 

 

 

10 Minute Naturally Glam Triple Berry Jam

Just the other day we had a couple of surprise guests at our door. I was still in my work out clothes and the house was covered in various and sundry toys and dirt, but I was in a hospitable mood and happy for the welcome distraction from cleaning. As we sat at the table sipping Vanilla Honey Chamomile tea and chatting about our mutual “American” hobbies (target practice and muscle cars) I decided to serve some of the Almost Gluten Free Bread that I had baked fresh that morning. Except, plain white bread didn’t seem like much of a treat so I excused myself from the table and continued the conversation from the kitchen while I whipped up a batch of 10 Minute Naturally Glam Triple Berry Jam.

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The ingredients couldn’t be more simple or divine:

  • 1 cup frozen blackberries, raspberries and blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (because they are cheaper)
  • 2 or 3 TBSP maple syrup
  • **1 tsp or 1 TBSP plain gelatin

Equipment: a measuring cup, a sauce pan, a spatula or spoon, *a hand held blender, *a clean jam jar (*optional)

  1. Put two cups of frozen berries into the sauce pan
  2. Add the maple syrup to your desired sweetness
  3. Turn on the heat medium high and stir occasionally
  4. Once the berries have defrosted a bit mash them with a fork, or for smoother results, try out a hand held blender
  5. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes to get the desired consistency you want.
  6. **For a thicker jam add anywhere from 1 tsp to 1 TBSP of unflavored powdered gelatin and mix it in well towards the end. For an amazing berry sauce/runny jam, enjoy as is!

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My two cups of frozen berries more than filled this small jam jar. The recipe could be doubled or tripled if you’re in the mood to make a large batch, but for just 10 minutes of cooking time and the benefit of no nasty preservatives, why not make some up fresh the next time company comes around?

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While we enjoyed a second pot of tea (Cinnamon Apple) and the berry delicious bread, one of our guests mentioned his other hobby was playing the violin. After properly playfully chastising him for not saying so sooner, I pointed to the blue violin case in the corner and requested he play us his best piece.

IMG_3635 The classical music was so inspiring that I broke out my second violin, quite literally as I always played second fiddle in orchestra, and asked him to join me in a little Pachelbel’s Cannon in D. It was heavenly. Then we all went to the music room and enjoyed some improv with violin and vocals while the other visitor played some amazing anime and movie soundtrack tunes on the piano.

 

 

 

As our young guests prepared to leave, I handed them each a sample of herbal teas to take home and a prayer for the frozen road. If I’d had more clean jars, I might have even sent some jam along, but perhaps the allure of all that fruity goodness will bring our musical friends back again soon, so we can jam & jam.

If you were stranded on a bread bowl island, and only allowed one flavor of jam for the duration, what would you choose? Please post about it below!

A small notice: I’ve just started using Amazon affiliate links 1.) because I want to easily share my favorite things with friends near and far and I think Amazon rocks for on-line purchases. I promise I’m sharing the best deals I can find, the same ones I would order for myself. 2.) I’d love for this blog to be able to pay for a proper “.com” site soon! So if you’d like to help support these efforts at making a mess of things, a small percentage of products you purchase through these direct links can go towards that!

Candied “College-Yam” Fries (Daigakuimo)

I get giddy like a child on Christmas when I see this delectable dessert-like dish set out at a Japanese throw down. Any by throw down I mean a meal, not like, a gang fight. Naturally sweet sweet potatoes covered in gooey sugary goodness comprised mostly of mizuame or “liquid candy” and topped with salty sesame seeds. It is awesome, until you end up in a zombie like state from a sugar hangover later on.  Or maybe that only happens to me…but it doesn’t have to be that way any more. May I present my own version of sugar free Daigakuimo or Candied College-Yam Fries.

Healthy sweet potato fries are so simple you should go make some right now

Left: Beautiful Baked Sweet Potato Fries; Right: Candied “College-Yam” Fries

 

The necessities are deceivingly simple:

  • Sweet potatoes or Japanese yams (as many or few as you like)
  • 1 to 2 TBSP sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • Sesame salt

Equipment: a knife, an oven, a clean plastic bag*, parchment paper*, a frying pan, a spatula (*optional, see below)

  1. Wash and cut your sweet potatoes into your favorite size fries, or bite sized pieces if you want to go the more traditional Japanese route. Feel free to peel them if you prefer, but I personally like my spuds to keep some clothes on. If you do disrobe them, hang on to those skins for a hot minute and try fixing them up in this same style as a crunchier light snack version to the fries.
  2. Add the fries and oil to a clean plastic bag
  3. Shake and
  4. Bake at 425°F/210°C for 15 minutes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet
  5. Add the now cooked fries to a non-stick frying pan, add some maple syrup and cook on medium heat 2 to 5 minutes OR until the syrup is no longer visible anywhere but on the fries because it has caramelized into a naturally sweet candy-like coating.  (Yeay! The fries are fully clothed now! Well, maybe in like see-through lingerie, but they’re fries- so who cares!?)
  6. Top with sesame salt, which if your local store doesn’t carry it, just regular sesame seeds and regular salt ought to do the trick.

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*For more detailed instructions and why certain things are optional, please check out the basic Beautiful Baked Sweet Potato Fries recipe.  Alternatively, if you are in more of a “don’t dirty any more dishes than necessary” mode, you could simply cook the fries in the frying pan in one, but honestly, I think most of us are going to be in a “I’d rather spend 15 minutes on YouTube watching funny videos of babies eating lemons than standing over the stove” mode.

Bon appetit!

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Do you like your sweet potatoes super sweet or simply savory? Share below!

 

A small notice: I’ve just started using Amazon affiliate links 1.) because I want to easily share my favorite things with friends near and far and I think Amazon rocks for on-line purchases. I promise I’m sharing the best deals I can find, the same ones I would order for myself. 2.) I’d love for this blog to be able to pay for a proper “.com” site soon! So if you’d like to help support these efforts at making a mess of things, a small percentage of products you purchase through these direct links can go towards that!

Very Dark Valentine Variety Chocolate Box

I love chocolate. I mean what girl doesn’t? In fact what guy doesn’t?And in Japan it’s all about the boys on Valentine’s Day. Girls spend hours in the days leading up to Feb. 14th making chocolates for the men in their lives and expect nothing in return until the mysterious candy-company created “White Day” that takes place exactly one month later on March the 14th. Well, which ever way the romance happens I’m happy to participate so here is my contribution to the day.

Valentine's Day Naturally Sweet Kinako and Chocolate Truffles

Valentine’s Day Naturally Sweet Kinako and Chocolate Truffles

 

I asked my sweetheart what kind of chocolate was his favorite and he replied “kinako choco“. If you’re unfamiliar with this particular flavor, it comes from a very traditional ingredient for Japanese sweets and is loosely translated as “roasted soy bean powder“. You either love it or hate it. But if you love it, you’ll especially love it when combined with rich white chocolate, or as in the case of this most popular CHIRORU kinakomochi chocolate, also with a chewy rice dumpling center.

Chiroru Kinakomochi Chocolate チロル きなこもちチョコ

Chiroru Kinakomochi Chocolate チロル きなこもちチョコ

In keeping with the spirit of showing love with a homemade box of (naturally sweet) chocolates and the absolute truth of “you never know what you’re gonna get” when something comes out of my kitchen, I tossed aside the little CHIRORU chocolate and went to work.

I started with a bag of kinako (which comes from the words “yellow” and “powder”) and racked my brain for something else to add to it besides sugar or straight up chocolate to make it sweet and something besides coconut oil, which my darling hates with a thousand fires of ugly death, that might give it a relatively chocolaty consistency.

Eventually I made two versions of kina-choco and a couple other varieties of very dark chocolate with and without the controversial coconut oil and other sundry despised ingredients. The only issue is… I’ve mostly forgotten which is which!

Bitter and naturally sweet chocolate and kinako truffles

Bitter and naturally sweet chocolate and kinako truffles

Frozen Hearts Assorted Chocolates in Kinako, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Bitter Dark Chocolate

Frozen Hearts Chocolates (Kinako, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Bitter Dark Chocolate)

 

Life really is a box of chocolates!

Especially on Valentine’s day!

What’s your favorite flavor of chocolate? Mine is mint-choco! Share your favorite Valentine chocolate memories below!

 

A small notice: I’ve just started using Amazon affiliate links 1.) because I want to easily share my favorite things with friends near and far and I think Amazon rocks for on-line purchases. I promise I’m sharing the best deals I can find, the same ones I would order for myself. 2.) I’d love for this blog to be able to pay for a proper “.com” site soon! So if you’d like to help support these efforts at making a mess of things, a small percentage of products you purchase through these direct links can go towards that!

Beautiful Baked Sweet Potato Fries

I love sweet potatoes. Baked with butter and brown sugar, or whipped into a sweet potato pie or, for the love of every diet I have ever been on or will ever be on, Nana’s candied yams at Thanksgiving…

And yet, I have to ever see a bright orange fleshy sweet potato with the crispy brown skin available anywhere in the fair land of the rising sun. We do however have a lovely variety of sweet potato called “Satsuimo” that sports a bright yellow denser drier flesh and lovely purple-maroon…puce? colored skin. They even come in purple sometimes!

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One of my new favorite ways to enjoy these sweet yams requires very little:

  • Sweet potatoes
    • (a large ONE produced all the fries in the picture below even after I cut off a good 1/3 of it due to letting it sit in the refrigerator too long. I’m also happy to use a few smaller ones though they usually end up with a larger skin to flesh ratio)
  • 1 to 2 TBSP Coconut oil or Sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper or sesame salt to taste

Equipment: a knife, an oven, a plastic bag*, parchment paper*

  1. If you’re handy with a knife and fast to attack those sweet spuds, go ahead and turn your oven on to 425°F/210°C. If you’re not, do this whenever you feel ready.
  2. Wash the sweet potatoes well because you’re going to eat those skins! But if you prefer skinless fries, add a vegetable peeler to the equipment list and go to town. Don’t toss those skins too quickly though or you’ll miss out on a special snack I know.
  3. Cut them into your favorite french fry shape. Mine were thicker today because that potato was a beast that didn’t want to be tamed! I think super thin and more crispy fries would be fun to try someday too.
  4.  Throw your potato sticks into a clean plastic bag (they’re called “kitchen packs” in Japan but they’re about the same as the thin sacks you get at the grocery for putting fresh produce in), add your oil of choice and spice of choice and SHAKE!
  5. Toss the contents of the bag onto a parchment/wax paper lined cooking sheet, spread out a bit and pop it in the oven for 15 minutes. (Less time for thinner fries and a perhaps another minute or two more would have done these big boys well.)

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*The wax paper/parchment and plastic bag are of course optional if you don’t mind washing an extra bowl and have a good non-stick baking sheet.

These also make a great starter for a favorite Japanese dish of mine called Daigakuimo, which loosely translates to “college potatoes” and in reality should be classified in the sweet dessert section. My version however uses natural sweeteners to achieve the candy like coating on this delicacy.

What’s your take on sweet potato fries? Best thing since sliced bread? Or, meh, I’ve seen it done one too many times on MasterChef? Please share your thoughts with us below!

A small notice: I’ve just started using Amazon affiliate links 1.) because I want to easily share my favorite things with friends near and far and I think Amazon rocks for on-line purchases. I promise I’m sharing the best deals I can find, the same ones I would order for myself. 2.) I’d love for this blog to be able to pay for a proper “.com” site soon! So if you’d like to help support these efforts at making a mess of things, a small percentage of products you purchase through these direct links can go towards that!

 

Holy Moly Guacamole

I love me some Mexican food, which is maybe easier to get in Tokyo, but in smaller towns like mine finding any, let alone good Mexican food is a real challenge. So we make it.

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My go to recipe is simple:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 to 2 TBSP of sushi vinegar *
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp Magic salt**
  • 1 to 2 TBSP dried onion***

Equipment: a knife, a fork, a blender or a bowl and a fork

  1. Cut the avocado in half, score it and spoon out the flesh into a blender or bowl (see useful tips on Avocado Envy)
  2. Add everything else (sushi vinegar, salt, dried onion) and blend or mash REALLY well with a fork. The blender will give a smoother consistency and get all the acidic ingredients spread out in the avocado.

*Sushi vinegar contains sugar which makes it taste awesome but if you’re avoiding the processed stuff like I usually am, try regular vinegar and if you think it needs it add some natural sweetener (maple syrup?) or Stevia. Alternatively Alton Brown recommends lime juice, but I can’t as I’ve yet to ever try it.

**Magic salt is a brand I buy in Japan that has awesome herbs mixed in, but on closer inspection also lists sugar as an ingredient. Bummer. Natural salt, pepper or season salt will also do the job.

***I use Costco’s Kirkland brand dried onion. If your stomach can handle it, feel free to use fresh diced raw onion, garlic. I also like adding diced tomatoes to mine sometimes. Cilantro is also a popular ingredient but it’s one of the very few foods that I actively dislike. Must be a chemical thing?

What is your favorite way to use guacamole and how does your best recipe differ? Please post below!

 

Avocado Envy

If you’re not a pro at cutting up and de-seeding avocados, may I offer some tips based on lots of experience and quite a few mishaps.

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  1. When I buy a big bag of avocados at Costco, there are usually one or two (or ten) that are not quite ripe yet. I put them in a paper bag and close it up at room temperature and check on them day by day. I’ve heard adding a banana or apple in the bag will speed things up.
  2. Cutting around the avocado with a fairly large knife means less wobbling and helps me to keep the cut line clean.
  3. You can use the tip of the knife to stick into the avocado seed and then pop it out BUT you also risk slicing open your hand (*cough* experience). I prefer to stick the prongs of a fork, any fork into the seed and twist it out that way.
  4. A recent “life hack” video showed a cool way to take the halved avocado and slide the flesh out of the skin with a drinking glass. I tried it and it works, but so does a spoon and there’s less clean up afterwards.
  5. When I save half of the avocado for later, I keep the seed IN because science has proven that it helps keep it fresher longer. The reason is simple, it effectively blocks the air from touching and therefore browning that part. A good seal of plastic wrap around the rest of the flesh will help it last longer.
  6. My favorite non-browning tricks are to add salt, lemon juice or vinegar. Yes, vinegar. I thought my friend was a little loco when he said that’s how he likes to eat them, but I always have to try new things, and now it’s my favorite way too. Sushi vinegar is the best, but of course it does contain sugar so beware.
  7. When making and storing guacamole, pressing the plastic wrap down into the container so it contacts as much of the surface as possible helps keep it green and fresh longer.
  8. You can freeze avocado puree. However I have never tried this as I never have any left over.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for the amazing avocado? Please share below!

 

Happy Healthy Sun Dried Tomato Hummus

Hummus is not a popular food in Japan. A pity too because it’s just so good and if done right, also rather healthy.

Sun-dried Tomato Hummus

My favorite concoction includes:

  • 1 can of chickpeas (240g chickpeas/400g total)
  • 3 to 4 TBSP sesame seeds
  • 1 to 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt (or your favorite S&P combination)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cumin
  • 4 or 5 sun-dried tomatoes (or 1/2 a large red bell pepper)

Equipment: A blender (I use a Magic Bullet) **

  1. The first step is to put the sesame seeds into a mill type blender and process until they are a fine powder or even more of a sesame butter if you like. This takes the place of Tahini in more traditional recipes.
  2. Second, open your can of cooked chickpeas and drain off about 1/2 to 1/3rd of the liquid into another container and set the liquid aside. Pour the chickpeas and the remaining liquid into the blender with the ground sesame seeds.
  3. Add everything else (lemon juice, olive oil, salt, cumin and sun dried tomatoes***) in moderation to match your personal taste preferences and blend on high until it makes a smooth paste. If it is too thick add more of the reserved liquid from the canned chickpeas or more lemon juice/oil if you prefer. If it’s too thin, I think it makes a nice salad dressing.

***A note on the sun-dried tomatoes, if they are rock hard like the ones I recently bought, I like to soak them before hand or toss them in a microwave safe bowl with a little water and heat until they soften up a bit. Just don’t add the extra water to your mix or the hummus will turn out runny.

*I like using the Magic Bullet for this because I can do it all in one container while just changing the blades from step 1 to step 2.

**I like a mill blade for grinding the sesame seeds and a regular blade for blending the rest, but it can all be done with one or the other if that’s all you’ve got.

So there you go. A healthy, low oil, relatively easy version of hummus! What other combinations do you enjoy? Please post below.