School is out — or soon will be. Every summer, we have to rearrange the kitchen to accommodate hungry hordes of teenagers marching through.

With food prices inching up, we were brainstorming ways to rein in the cost of healthy snacks and immediately thought of today's Black Bean Hummus from our cookbook "Desperation Entertaining."

While this is indeed a nice appetizer spread to keep on hand for adult guests, the shot of peanut butter makes it a favorite for kids of any age. You just have to change the name to something simple, like "A Fun Dip." We like to encourage veggies for dipping, but it's pretty darn good with tortilla chips, bagel chips or pita triangles. Apple slices work, too.

The bonus for busy parents is that the ingredients are economical, easy to keep on hand and fast — just 12 minutes start to finish. The recipe is so easy that teens can fix it themselves. A Fun Dip makes the summer march much more manageable.

Menu suggestion: A Fun Dip (Black Bean Hummus)

Carrot sticks

Apple slices

Low-fat string cheese

A FUN DIP (BLACK BEAN HUMMUS)

Start to finish: 12 minutes

3 garlic cloves (see Cook's note)

1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves

1 can (15 ounces) black beans

1 tablespoon peanut oil or other vegetable oil

3 tablespoons low-sugar, smooth peanut butter (see Cook's note)

Juice from 1 to 2 limes, to taste

Fresh vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks or cucumber slices, optional for serving

Cook's note: We love the timesaving jars of peeled fresh garlic cloves available in the supermarket produce section.

For best results, use a natural-style peanut butter with no (or low) sugar, such as Simply Jif, Smart Balance or Smucker's Natural Style.

Peel the garlic and rinse the cilantro well, shaking the leaves to drain excess water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Remove any tough lower stems, but do not worry about the smaller, upper stems. Rinse and drain the black beans.

Drop the garlic cloves one at a time through the processor feed tube with the motor running. Chop finely. Drop in the cilantro and chop well. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl as needed. Add the beans, peanut butter and oil. Squeeze in the juice from 1 lime.

Process until the beans are pureed and the dip is mixed well, about 1 minute. Stop once midway to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl. Taste the hummus and add additional lime juice as desired. Serve at once or refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Approximate values per tablespoon: 34 calories (42 percent from fat), 2 g fat (trace amount saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, 29 mg sodium.


Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap.Fast.Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.desperationdinners.com. © United Feature Syndicate, Inc.