A Healthier Version of Blender Bread and Kalamata- Olive-and-Sundried-Tomato Hummus…and a Tribute

When Bob and Susan were visiting last week, I was delighted to feed Susan, who avoids gluten, my brown-rice-based blender bread, and she liked it so much that I made her a loaf to take home! As it turned out, however, Bob also liked the bread, but Bob avoids all processed sugar.

Thus, I decided to try a loaf with medjool dates in place of the two tablespoons of sugar in the original recipe. If you recall, dates, date syrup, and date sugar are the healthiest sweetener because the sugar is not extracted from the fruit, so it includes the fibre. The result is that dates apparently do not affect blood sugar.

According to Dr. Greger, “Dates are fantastic. No adverse effects on blood sugar or weight, and beneficial improvements in triglycerides and antioxidant stress levels...dates may be considered as an almost ideal food.”

Here’s his very short video on the topic.

I have also started making the bread with brown, rather than white, rice and the result is almost identical. A word of caution, however: do not skimp on the soaking time if you use brown rice. I soaked for only an hour for one loaf (which you can do with white rice, but not brown), and look at the difference in rise. The longer soak creates a fluffier result:

The other thing that makes this bread healthy is that it contains resistant starch. If you recall, if you cook and cool certain starchy foods–like rice and potatoes–the starch is converted to resistant starch, which is good for us in several ways:

  1. Resistant starch increases insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar levels. And this effect is not diminished if the food is reheated, so bake your bread, cool it, and toast it (which is the best way to eat it anyway!).
  2. The conversion to resistant starch reduces the calories in the cooked-and-cooled food by as much as fifty percent.
  3. Resistant starch is a powerful prebiotic for your microbiome.

So here is my updated, healthy version of gluten-free blender bread!

Blender Bread

First, rinse and soak 2 cups of raw brown basmati rice for at least twelve hours (as I mentioned, don’t skimp on the longer soaking time if you’re using brown rice):

Next, add the following to a high-speed blender like a Vitamix (you can use only a high-speed blender for this recipe) and blend until smooth:

  • 1 cup cool water
  • 3 TBS sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 pitted medjool dates

Once the mixture is smooth, add:

  • 7 grams yeast
  • 2 cups soaked and drained raw brown basmati rice

And blend until smooth. Check the temperature of the blended ingredients after a minute: you want to ensure that the batter is smooth AND achieves a temperature of about 105 degrees and no warmer. This means after the one-minute mark, you’ll need to check every 10 seconds or so.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Pour the batter into a lightly-greased loaf pan–I used my 9 x 4 x 4 Pullman pan. Smack the pan on the counter a couple of times to release air bubbles and spread evenly.

Spray the top of the loaf with water, cover, and proof at 100f for 20 minutes (loaf should have doubled in size after 20 minutes).

Pour a cup of water into a roasting pan on the lowest rack of the oven; spray the loaf with water again and slide the loaf pan onto middle rack.

Bake uncovered for 40 mins at 375 degrees–until the loaf achieves an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees.

Remove from pan and let cool on a cooling rack.

The bread is best sliced thinly and toasted. It’s delicious topped with peanut butter, mashed avocado, or hummus!

And speaking of hummus, I’ve been making a delicious kalamata-olive-and-sundried-tomato hummus lately and thought I’d share the recipe.

I am always appalled at what people pay for hummus because it’s so cheap to make from scratch. A pound of Sabra hummus is $7.29; four pounds of dry chickpeas is $5.99 or $1.50/lb. So you can make three-and-a-half pounds of hummus from one pound of dry chickpeas at $1.50. If you add 50 cents (a gross over-estimation!) for the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, etc., my delicious homemade hummus is at most $2 for 3.5 lbs. or about 60 cents a pound. And once you have cooked the chickpeas, it takes only minutes to make!

Now this recipe makes a LOT–3.5 lbs. of hummus! I divide the batch in half and end up with one half plain hummus and one half flavoured hummus.

Two Kinds of Instant Pot Hummus: Plain and Kalamata-Sundried-Tomato

  • 1 lb. dried chickpeas
  • 6(ish) cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 12 capfuls of lemon juice (I make it so often that I’m too lazy to get out the tablespoon)
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base (if you don’t have this, just add some salt)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional, but gives it a nice smokey flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional, but gives it a bit of heat)
  • 6 or so ice cubes

Add the dried chickpeas to the Instant Pot with four or five cups of water and a little salt. Set for forty minutes. Once the chickpeas are done, do a quick release of the Instant Pot, drain them, and run them under cool water until they are cool. Add them to the food processor with the rest of the ingredients (except ice cubes) and blend. Once the ingredients are blended together, add the ice cubes one at a time until the hummus is the consistency you prefer.

Remember: the trick to good hummus is that you have to blend the hell out of it. Basically, turn the blender on and go do your shopping.

Check it for saltiness and add more salt if you need to!

Next, remove half the hummus to a container and refrigerate and add the following to the remaining hummus:

  • 16 pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes (use the ones packed in oil, but squeeze out the oil and run under warm water to remove as much oil as possible)

Pulse the hummus until the olives and tomatoes are just in bits. Do not blend or the hummus will turn grey–it will still taste great, but will not be very appealing looking.

And today, after a lovely hike on a beautiful sunny day, we arrived home to the news that James’ father, John, had died in his 95th year.

I have to say, it was such a privilege to know this man–and, in fact, to know both of his parents. They were among the kindest, most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. As I said in my small tribute to Janet, I once mentioned how proud they must be of their children, and they both shrugged and said they were no different from anyone. Indeed, they are not–I’ve never met a more conscientious, thoughtful group of siblings in my life.

As for John, I am glad I met him when I was fifty years old because I’d likely have been terrified if I’d met him earlier. The man was a force to be reckoned with and a person of astonishing accomplishments. I am proud to have known him and spent time with him. I especially enjoyed our discussions on higher education–John had amazing ideas for revamping the whole system (and I wholeheartedly agreed with his ideas!).

Here’s a picture from his 90th birthday with the quilt we all had made for him from his various academic hoods and a pillow from his corporate ties.

Over the years, James and I joined John and Janet on a number of excursions to the Stratford Festival and The Shaw Festival–it was such fun to attend a play and then dine afterwards at a great restaurant to discuss our various impressions.

I’ve been trying to think of a song that would be a tribute to John. Among all the plays we saw together, we did see a few musicals, including My Fair Lady, Cabaret, and Jesus Christ Superstar, but none of the songs from those seem quite appropriate.

I also remember seeing La Boheme with them when they visited us in Vancouver. We weren’t able to get tickets together–James and I were up in the balcony, and his parents were down in the orchestra–quite close to the front. I remember looking down at them during the intermission (before we joined them) and thinking how sweet and gracious they were to each other. When we eventually joined them during the intermission, Janet said, “These operas…these stories…they’re always a bit corny, aren’t they?” And she was, of course, so right. But the music…the music was lovely.

And so, in honour of John and Janet, our song for the day is “Si Mi Chiamano Mimi” from La Boheme.