Homemade Peanut Butter

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Way back when I was a kid, the peanut butter in most households was Jif, Skippy or Peter Pan. That was pretty much it. Except if you were my family, then it was the natural kind that you had to stir to incorporate the oil. It wasn’t very common back then either, but once again, my parents were ahead of their time when it came to healthy eating. And I hated it!

I wanted nothing more than to have Jif or Peter Pan peanut butter like “normal” kids. Even Skippy, which wasn’t as good, was better than that natural stuff in my kid mind. I remember being over at a friend’s house and for a snack we had white bread (which we never had in my house either), toasted, with Jif peanut butter. I was in snack heaven!

My how our tastes changes as we grow up. I wouldn’t eat those name brand PBs filled with sugars, added oils (often hydrogenated) and preservatives now under any circumstances.

For years, I’ve purchased the “natural” peanut butters where the short list of ingredients was peanuts and salt. My adult taste buds loved the pure peanut taste that wasn’t masked by sweeteners and other oils. Trader Joe’s was my brand of choice. Just open the jar, pull out a butter knife and use your brute force to stir it up so the separated peanut butter and peanut oil were mixed together. Then keep it in the fridge. Only bad part was once you got down to about the last quarter of the jar, you had pretty hard peanut butter that was a pain to spread. I never thought much about it, but the stirring and bottom-of-the-jar hard PB kind of sucked. That’s just what you need to accept when you want “natural” peanut butter, right?

Then one day my co-worker Jill asked if I make my own peanut butter. Make my own peanut butter? Whhhaaatttt?!? I had never thought of it. Why had I never thought of it? A quick google made me laugh at how easy it is. Dump a bag of roasted peanuts in a food processor and turn it on. That’s it—after a few minutes you have your “natural” peanut butter with just peanuts and salt, or if you buy the no-salt-added, just peanuts. Put it in a jar, pop it in the refrigerator and you have silky smooth, no-oil-separated peanut butter whenever you have a hankering. Thank you, Jill!

I usually buy the 50% salt Trader Joe’s peanuts which gives the perfect level saltiness for my taste. And it never separates or becomes hard, even near the bottom of the jar. Who knew? And it’s cheaper than buying a jar of the same amount of peanut butter. I haven’t bought a jar of peanut butter since.
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A few people at work, besides Jill, have been as surprised as I was about this making-your-own-peanut-butter thing, so I thought it would be worth sharing in a blog post. I should note, this works equally well with cashews or almonds. But don’t thank me; thank Jill. Enjoy!
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Homemade Peanut Butter

  • Servings: 1 16 oz. jar
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I’ve used this in baking too–in cookies and bars–with good results

1 pound roasted peanuts (unsalted, lightly salted, or salted)

Salt, to taste (if peanuts are unsalted and you want salted peanut butter)

Put the peanuts and salt (if using) in the bowl of a food processor. Process for about a minute and stop it and scrape down the sides (be warned, it’s really noisy at first!). Process for a couple minutes more, until it is to your preferred consistency. You may need to scrape down the sides a couple times. The amount of processing time will vary on the power of your food processor—the right time will be when it looks right to you.

Scrape the peanut butter into a jar and refrigerate. Unless you rarely eat peanut butter, it will keep longer than it takes for you to use up the jar. Makes a 16-oz. jar.

Spicy Giardiniera

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In the seemingly endless world of condiments, I have found yet another to obsess about. Giardiniera (pronounced jar-deen-YAIR-uh, Italian for “from the garden”), is a spicy, pickled mélange of vegetables, marinated in a zesty cocktail of oil, vinegar, herbs & spices and it’s my new “must have” in the refrigerator.

What sparked my recent obsession is a pizza enjoyed at a little restaurant in the tiny burg of Willernie, Minnesota, which is surrounded on all sides by another small town, Mahtomedi. Willernie’s quaint main street is home to Roma Restaurant and Wine Bar,  a cozy Italian place with authentic food and atmosphere, plus there’s a quality craft beer list to please Pete and generous wine pours to please you-know-who.

Appropriately, the pizza I referred to is a wood-fired beauty called The Giardiniera, comprised of marinara, onions, mushrooms, peppers, olives, roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and the star of the show, spicy giardiniera.

Shortly after I had this pizza for the first time, I saw a recipe for giardiniera on New York Times Cooking, one of my go-to sources for recipes that always work. And of course, me being me, I had already thought, “I must make some!” Great timing, dontcha think?

The recipe is easy, adaptable, and delicious! The only hard part is waiting a few days for the flavors to meld and mellow a tad. You can vary the veggies and level of spiciness (next time I think I’ll add onions) and it keeps for weeks in the fridge. Serve as an addition to sandwiches, on top a vegan Caesar salad, as part of an antipasto platter, or on pizza (yes, please!). Enjoy!
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Giardiniera

Slightly adapted from this New York Times recipe by Cathy Barrow
If, like me, you end up with extra veggies, make a little extra dressing in a pint jar and add the vegetables

4 serrano peppers, thinly sliced, with seeds removed

2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 celery ribs, sliced or julienned

3 carrots, sliced or julienned

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets

½ cup kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, slivered

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon celery seeds

1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns

1 cup white vinegar

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup grapeseed or canola oil

In a large bowl, using your hands, mix the vegetables and salt until well combined. Cover the vegetables with water. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to sit, unrefrigerated, for 8 to 12 hours.

Drain the vegetables in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Sterilize 2 quart-size glass jars, with lids, in the dishwasher or by submerging them in boiling water for 10 minutes.

In one sterilized jar, combine the garlic and all the herbs and spices; add the vinegar and oil and shake well to emulsify the dressing. Pour half the dressing into the other jar.

Pack the vegetables into the jars. If vegetables are not completely coated, make and add more dressing. Screw lids onto jars and refrigerate. Allow the mixture to mellow for a couple of days before serving. Fills two quart jars (I ended up with extra veggies, so I made a little extra dressing in a pint jar and add the vegetables).

Smokey Blueberry Ketchup

Smokey Blueberry Ketchup

Smokey Blueberry Ketchup

Pete and I had blueberry ketchup for the first time a few months ago when we were checking out a new restaurant. The place had been getting mostly lousy reviews on Yelp, but I figured they just needed some time to work out the kinks. And they had 72 beers on tap. Seventy-two!!

The deep fried-cheese curds with blueberry ketchup were the one menu item that was consistently mentioned as good, if not great, on Yelp. Both Pete and I usually stay away from anything breaded and deep-fried, but we arrived at a busy time, had to wait at the bar for a table, and, unfortunately, were starving. Okay, let’s get an appetizer.

For a vegetarian, the sucky thing about appetizers at this type of restaurant is pretty much all of the options either contain meat or they’re deep-fried. Being as hungry as I was, in a weak moment, I suggested we order the deep-fried cheese curds with blueberry ketchup to go with our drinks. Maybe Pete, with his strong commitment to healthy eating, would say no, it’s deep fried—don’t want that. But he didn’t. And we ordered them. And they were good. Really, really good. Especially the blueberry ketchup!

We couldn’t finish the cheese curds, and when the bartender took away our by then cold basket with a puddle of grease on the bottom, I secretly wanted to grab the little cup that still had some delicious, once-foreign-to-me blueberry ketchup in it to take home. But I didn’t. And we haven’t been back because once we were seated and got our food, it was lackluster at best. The Yelp reviews are still lousy and we’ve pretty much forgotten about the place.

The blueberry ketchup wasn’t forgotten though. Now that local blueberries are available at the farmers market, I decided to look for a recipe. I settled on this one from Serious Eats, which sounded pretty close to that amazing flavor I remembered, but it needed some smokiness, so I added a little chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Bingo!

Now that I have this wonderful new condiment, how am I going to use it? We certainly aren’t going to make deep-fried cheese curds. But a couple days before I made the ketchup, it came to me in my sleep (seriously, does that happen to anyone else??), Smokey Blueberry Ketchup Pizza with Fresh Cheese Curds! I couldn’t get it out of my mind and stopped at the store that day after work to pick up a bag of Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery cheese curds, made in the city of Ellsworth, the Wisconsin Cheese Curd Capital. And we all know the state of Wisconsin is the Cheese Capitol of the United States, so I knew they would be the best of the best.

Plated Pizza

Plated Pizza

Wisconsin Cheese Curds!

Wisconsin Cheese Curds!

Smokey Blueberry Ketchup and Cheese Curd Pizza

Smokey Blueberry Ketchup and Cheese Curd Pizza

Of course there are endless other uses for my now favorite condiment. On grilled vegetables or burgers, with fries, grilled cheese dipping, even on ice-cream for a sweet-savory treat–the list goes on. But the pizza was one I’ll definitely make again and can’t wait to share with others. Use a homemade or store-bought whole-wheat dough, the blueberry ketchup as pizza sauce, some sautéed spinach, chopped onion, veggie sausage (totally optional, and regular Italian sausage would be tasty for non-vegetarians), and the best fresh cheese curds you can find. On to the ketchup recipe—enjoy!

Smokey Blueberry Ketchup

Makes about 2 cups
Adapted from this recipe on Serious Eats

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium shallot, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root

1 medium garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced, and include both sauce and peppers

1 pound fresh blueberries

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oil over medium heat in a medium sauce. Add in shallot and cook until softened, but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add in ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and stir to combine.

Add in blueberries, vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 30-45 minutes. At this point, if you like it chunky, you’re done, but if you want a smooth, more ketchup-like texture, blend with an immersion blender or in a food processor, until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, pour into a jar and store in refrigerator. Keeps for 2-3 weeks.

Sweet Potato Chickpea Patties with Tangy Coleslaw

Sweet Potato Chickpea Patties with Tangy ColeslawTwo new-to-me recipes came together last night in a flavor combination that was a total winner. All they needed was a little spicy barbeque sauce and we had a dinner to rave about. By the way, I’m currently obsessed with Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce—smoky and seriously spicy, and extraordinarily delicious! I may just have to work on a homemade version.

I’ve wanted to share the coleslaw recipe since Father’s Day when I made it for the first time. It’s adapted from Minnesota’s Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook by Beth Dooley, which is getting a lot of use in my kitchen now that the farmers markets around here are in full swing (and soon so will our garden!).

I love this cookbook and if you garden or frequent farmers markets you will too. It’s divided into sections for fruit, vegetables, cheeses, grains and meat & fish, along with recipes for some essentials like mayonnaise, vinaigrettes, pastry crust and a spiked whipped cream. There are wonderful recipes for all the amazing goods found at the markets in the upper Midwest and if you enjoy seasonal cooking, you need this book! It’s a resource and guide that will give you new ideas for beautiful, healthy dishes with the freshest foods possible.

The coleslaw is great by itself, as the crowning touch on the Barbequed Pulled “Pork” I shared recently, or on these hearty and filling Sweet Potato Chickpea Patties—it’s pretty and extra tangy with the addition of Greek yogurt.
ColeslawDoing some mindless food Googling the other day, I came across the Sweet Potato Chickpea Patties. Included with the original recipe was a simple guacamole of chopped avocado, red onion, lime juice and salt, and I topped the patties with that the first time I made them. DeeeeLish! But after my Sunday farmers market trip, I had red & green cabbage and carrots on hand. Sadly, we don’t have avocados at the Minnesota farmers markets and we have to rely on the supermarket variety, which can’t possibly be as good as fresh off the tree.

Bonus—any patty & coleslaw leftovers make a great lunch for work tomorrow—as I can attest. Pack little barbeque sauce too. Enjoy!
Sweet Potato Chickpea Patties

Sweet Potato Chickpea Patties with Tangy Coleslaw

Coleslaw:
Adapted from Minnesota’s Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook by Beth Dooley

4 cups shredded (or thinly sliced) green cabbage

4 cups shredded (or thinly sliced) red cabbage

1 ½ cups shredded carrot

1 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons organic sugar

¼ cup white wine vinegar

½ cup mayonnaise (I used Vegan Earth Balance Mindful Mayo—soooo good!)

¼ cup 2% Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon celery seed, or more if you’d like

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, toss cabbages and carrot until combined. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, sugar, vinegar, mayo, yogurt and celery seed. Pour over cabbage/carrot mixture and toss until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve cold; best made a day or two ahead of serving. Serves 6.

Sweet Potato Chickpea Patties:
Adapted from this Cooking Light recipe

2 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

½ cup chopped yellow or sweet onion

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeño, minced, seeds removed if you don’t want the heat

1 ¾ cup grated, uncooked sweet potato (about 8 ounces)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup panko bread crumbs (or rolled oats for a gluten-free version)

1 ½ tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 large egg

Bottled or homemade barbeque sauce, for serving.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño and sauté for several minutes. Stir in the sweet potato, salt and pepper and cook for several more minutes.

Place the sweet potato mixture, panko, lime juice, smoked paprika, chickpeas and egg in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the chickpeas are coarsely ground.

Form the mixture into 4 patties. Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the patties (you may have to do this in two batches to avoid over-crowding) to the pan and cook 3 minutes. Flip and cook 3 minutes more.

Transfer cooked patties to prepared baking pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. Serve with barbeque sauce and top with coleslaw. Makes four patties.

Green Sauce

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Green Sauce

Today there was a meeting at work where lunch was served. It was from a place called Brasa, and while the bulk of the meal wasn’t vegetarian, even I could tell this was quality food. It looked like spiced roasted pork and pulled chicken, along with a killer slaw and several varieties of pickled veggies, all for people to pile on fresh buns with a couple sauces, one barbeque and the other just called “green sauce.”

That green sauce looked mighty intriguing and I thought it might be a good match for the pasty (or pastie) I had brought for lunch (I’ll save the pasty story/recipe for another blog post, but it’s my healthier and vegetarian version of the tradition Cornish savory hand pie filled with meat & vegetables). Whoa, was I right! Green sauce made a delicious lunch mega-delicious!

Could I buy it? Could I make it? I must have more! I Googled “Brasa Signature Green Sauce” (the official name of this elixir). I found references to the restaurant only, no recipe, but I did find out that green sauce is really a thing, and there were a number of recipes out there. Based on an attempt to copy the taste, and a desire to make my version a little less caloric, I settled on the following recipe. It’s pretty darn close and every bit as good. It will take anything you sauce or dip or dress with it to mega-delicious status. And don’t be put off by the quantity of cilantro—I’m normally not a big cilantro lover, but it MAKES this sauce. Enjoy!

Pasty and Green Sauce

Pasty with Green Sauce

By the way, in my Googling, I found out Brasa Premium Rotisserie (the full name of the restaurant/caterer) gets outstanding reviews and actually has a separate vegetarian menu. I see a date night with Pete at Brasa very soon!

Green Sauce

Adapted from the green sauce in this recipe from Once Upon a Chef

1 medium jalapeño pepper, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

½ cup mayonnaise (I used the amazing vegan Mindful Mayo made by Earth Balance)

¼ cup Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

A scant ½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. With machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until it is fully incorporated. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use. It tastes best if given some time for the flavors to mingle.

Serve on everything and anything!

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Jar of Kimchi
With its signature fish or anchovy sauce, the traditional fermented Korean side dish kimchi (also spelled kimchee or gimchi) was an elusive concept to me, as a vegetarian, until a little over a year ago when I spotted a vegan version at Trader Joe’s. Packed in a handy re-sealable pouch and only $1.99, it was convenient and a bargain! I began eating it with everything—eggs, salads, sandwiches, in this, and this; you name it—everything was better with kimchi!

And then one day, horror of horrors, they no longer carried it, and I couldn’t get my fix. I asked the cheerful Trader Joe’s clerk, “Why oh why did you do this to me?” She told me they were getting complaints because pouches were bursting as the product fermented. Until they found packaging that could contain it, no more Trader Joe’s kimchi. The versions I’d find at other stores all contained the dreaded fish sauce. So sadly, I went without my spicy, funky Korean essential for many months.

I continued to search kimchi labels for the rare vegan version and lo and behold, I finally found it! A brand carried both at my co-op and a local grocery store. Happy once again, I resumed my kimchi love affair. The downside, though, was this wasn’t $1.99 like the TJ’s brand; it ranged between $9 and $11 depending on the store, making it a pricy habit.

It had never occurred to me to make my own until I saw The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi one day on Food 52. Who knew there were so many ways to make kimchi!?! I ordered it immediately and found a recipe that was similar to what I had been buying, but it included fish sauce. The book suggests a vegetarian modification of either mushroom broth (which they provide a recipe for) or adding some apple and salt to the paste, neither of which seemed to me like good substitutions. I ended up using capers and a little caper brine, an idea taken from a vegan Caesar salad dressing I love.

There’s nothing too complicated about making kimchi, but it is time-consuming. Lots of chopping (which I don’t mind), brining, packing, plus the fermenting time, results in at least a week before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor, but believe me, it’s worth it! I was a bit concerned that the tops would blow off my canning jars—if the fermentation can burst pouches, I wasn’t sure. But no need to worry—just leave a good inch of space at the top of your container. Having never made anything fermented before, I was absolutely giddy to see the stuff bubbling and realizing the process was actually working! The finished product tasted even better than store-bought. Enjoy!
IngredientsSeasoning PasteMixed

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Adapted from The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi by Lauryn Chun

Note: Korean chile flakes (gochugaru) are not the same as crushed red pepper flakes. They are slightly sweet and smoky and have less heat that crushed red pepper or cayenne. If you can’t find them near you, they are easily available through Amazon.

Brine:
2 medium heads (about 4-6 pounds total) napa cabbage

2 cups julienned daikon radish

2 cups julienned carrot

1/3 cup kosher salt

Seasoning Paste:
½ cup thinly sliced yellow onion

4 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons peeled, finely grated ginger

1 tablespoon capers

1 tablespoon caper brine

2 teaspoons sugar

½ cup Korean chile pepper flakes (gochugaru)

4 green onions, green parts only, cut into 2-inch pieces

¼ cup water

Half each head cabbage vertically, then cut each half in half to make quarters. Cut the core from each quarter, then cut each into 2-inch squares that are as uniform as possible.

In large bowl, combine the cabbage, daikon, carrot and salt and set aside for about an hour, stirring every once in a while. Drain the liquid and rinse the vegetables to remove any traces of salt. Let the veggies drain in a colander for 20 minutes or use a salad spinner to remove most of the water.

Meanwhile, make the seasoning paste. In the smaller bowl of a food processor (if you have more than one bowl size), pulse together the onion, garlic, ginger, capers, caper brine, and sugar until a paste forms. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the Korean chile pepper flakes. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors combine.

In a large bowl, mix together the green onions, seasoning paste and drained vegetables until thoroughly combined, making sure the seasoning paste is distributed evenly among the vegetables (I used my hands for the final mixing).

Pack mixture tightly into a two-quart container or 2 one-quart jars, pressing down as you pack it to ensure there are no pockets of air, leaving at least an inch at the top to allow for expansion.

Add the ¼ cup water to the mixing bowl and swirl the water around to collect the remaining seasoning paste. Add the water to the container(s), cover tightly, and set aside for 3 days at room temperature. The cabbage will expand and bubble as it ferments. After 3 days, refrigerate and consume within 6 months. The flavor will evolve and change over time with a steady, cold temperature. Keeping the kimchi tightly packed in the jar will ensure an even, slow fermentation. Makes about 2 quarts.


Empty jar

Carrot Top Pesto

Big bowl o' pasat
On Sunday while stocking up on produce for my first foray into kimchee making (more on that in a future blog post), I saw the freshest looking bunch of carrots, complete with lovely green tops still intact. I’m always drawn to carrots displayed that way rather than the trimmed and packaged ones, even though each time I end up cutting off those pretty tops and throwing them away, and feeling terrible about it.

This time was different. A little voice out of nowhere said, “Make carrot top pesto and stop being so wasteful!” And so I did. And I’m happy I did. And Pete is happy I did.

I made it pretty much the same way I’ve made pesto with other green stuff, not expecting to be wowed by it, but surprisingly, carrot top pesto is a wonderful thing! Last night we had it over whole wheat spaghetti with some red onion, grated carrot and red and gold cherry tomatoes. The flavor of the carrot greens is subtle and I think that allowed the other ingredients to not be overshadowed like they tend to be with the bolder flavor of basil or arugula.

In addition to serving with pasta, this pesto would be great on roasted veggies, taters, as a spread for a hearty sandwich, in scrambled eggs, drizzled in a hot bowl of soup, as a pizza sauce—there are unlimited ways! Have fun with it!
Spoon full of pestoPlated Pasta

Carrot Top Pesto

1 tightly packed cup carrot top leaves (stems removed)

½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place carrot top leaves, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. With food processor running, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream and process until smooth. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Keeps for a day or two tightly covered in the fridge. Enjoy!