Homemade Peanut Butter and Friendships

Last night I had some new girlfriends over. We ate cheese and crackers and veggies and delicious banana bread. We also drank wine while complaining about the weather and how hard it is to make good girlfriends as you get older. Over the past couple years I’ve heard this complaint a lot, from both myself and the ladies I’ve met and it doesn’t seem to be specific to Boston either.

When we are no longer in school with ample time to “hang out” but instead work full-time or take care of children all day it leaves little time for friendship. Seems we’re all yearning for more friends and yet we can’t figure out how to connect. Add a move and a new city to the mix and it makes it all the more difficult.

Plain and simple, as an adult it can be hard to make new friends!

It requires time and effort to develop close friendships and I’ll admit, it can be also be somewhat uncomfortable. It’s almost like a first date, meeting a friend of a friend for coffee or a perfect stranger for a yoga class, where I’m not really sure if we have enough in common to hang out but decide to try anyway. It can leave me feeling a little insecure as I wistfully think of my friends back home. But, then I remember that at some point they too were new friends. They were the awkward meet up for a run or book club or cocktail that grew into these deep, lasting friendships. And that keeps me optimistic.

I can never tell how much is too much to share here. Whether I shouldn’t write about this kind of stuff because it might make me sound childish and whiny. But then I think if I’m having this problem and many of the other women I’ve met are feeling them same, then maybe I’ll just be open about it. I’ll risk seeming less than blog perfect (ha!) if it opens up a dialog and makes us all feel less like we’re the only ones. If you happen to have all the friends you need then I’m a little envious and please ignore the above.

I wish at the end of this ramble I could give a solution. Like a fool-proof app where you could punch in a couple of criteria and presto you’d have 5 new best friends. I don’t have that app. 😦

What I do have is peanut butter. The fool-proof kind where you dump it all into a processor  and presto, you have a new best friend!

See how that worked? The perfect segue from friends to peanut butter in less than 30 words.

This recipe is not ground breaking. There are plenty of homemade peanut butter recipes out there, I’d just never tried any myself. Our last jar of store-bought peanut butter looked like this today.

peanut butter

So, I figured now was as good a time as any to try it. The process couldn’t be simpler and calculating the cost, making my own was about a $1 cheaper. Not a huge sum but I like the idea of being able to adjust the salt and am looking forward to mixing a couple of different kinds of nuts and flavorings together for tailor-made nut butters.

Homemade Peanut Butter (vegan, gluten-free)

1 16 oz bag of unsalted peanuts

1/2 tsp salt

————

Add peanuts and salt to your food processor.

peanut butter 1 minute

Run the processor for about 4-5 minutes until peanut butter is smooth. Scrap down the sides if necessary.

Peanut butter 3 minutes

Makes one jar. Store in the fridge.

homemade peanut butter 1

Enjoy and Exhale!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Quinoa

Looks like winter is planning to stick around a bit longer. Everyone keeps saying March is the worst month in New England. It sounds like it should be a spring month and we’re all so ready, but Mother Nature keeps us waiting.

Oh well, at least there are cute pictures of puppy paw prints in the snow…

paw prints in the snow

and lattes…

coffee

and peanut butter and jelly quinoa…

peanut butter and jelly quinoa

but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Yesterday’s attempt at a quinoa casserole turned out to be a semi-flop. The flavors were good but overall it was way too dry. I ended up eating it with salsa on top but it still didn’t do it for me. I have some ideas on how to fix it and will keep tweaking until it’s sharable.

quinoa casserole

I also made a basil, pear, pineapple smoothie yesterday. I’d never made a smoothie with basil but I had some wilting in the fridge (like always) and thought I’d try. I don’t know what to make of it. At first sip it was not good, then I had another, the pear was making it gritty, still not good. Then I had another sip and another until the whole thing was gone. Hmm, couldn’t have been that bad. 🙂 It definitely wasn’t ready to share, but with the right fruit pairing I’m sure it can be a refreshing drink.

Okay, where was I? Ah, peanut butter and jelly quinoa, yes.

I love pb&j’s. I ate them almost everyday when I was growing up, except on the days I’d switch it up to have a delectable ketchup sandwich. Yup, I just said ketchup sandwich! I bet my mom is wondering why she ever let us make our own lunches.

This quinoa has the same flavorings as a traditional pb&j but is made with healthy quinoa instead of white or wheat bread, plus, no crusts to cut off! Also, if your quinoa is already cooked it takes less than 3 minutes to put together. Perfect for a quick breakfast or kid’s lunch.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Quinoa (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

1 cup cooked quinoa

2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

pinch of salt

1/2 cup milk of choice, I’ve been loving rice milk instead of almond lately

1 tablespoon of your favorite jam

————

Cook quinoa according to these directions.

While quinoa is cooking mix peanut butter, milk and salt together. If the mixture is to thick add a little bit more milk.

peanut butter and milk

Place quinoa in a bowl.

quinoa

Top with peanut butter mixture.

peanut butter and jelly quinoa

Then some jelly.

peanut butter and jelly quinoa

Mix. Eat. Gobble the whole thing up like a kid.

peanut butter and jelly quinoa

Enjoy and Exhale!

Quinoa Vegetable Spring Rolls

I made these on Friday after coming back from a super hot and sweaty yoga class. I was in the mood for something light but still filling and frankly I was looking for an excuse to eat a bunch of dipping sauces. These spring rolls were just the thing.

quinoa vegetable spring rolls

I didn’t have any rice noodles so I substituted red quinoa; it added some heft and substance to these rolls. I love how versatile this recipe is. Swap in some tempeh, tofu, maybe even some lentils instead of the quinoa. If you try lentils let me know how it goes, I worry they might not hold together well. You can also mix and match the veggies, I wish I’d have had some bean sprouts, next time.

Quinoa Vegetable Spring Rolls (vegan, gluten-free)

5 brown rice paper wrappers

water for wetting the wrappers

1 cup cooked quinoa, any variety

1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

1 small carrot, cut into match sticks

cilantro

sriracha

spicy mustard

————

Cut your veggies in long match sticks. Still working on my knife skills. 🙂

spring roll vegetables

Grab your rice paper wrappers. I used brown rice wrappers. They were a little old and kept breaking on me. Buy a fresh package if you’re looking to wow with the presentation.

brown rice spring roll wrappers

Put some water on a large plate, place one wrapper on the plate at a time. If you have plates without the center rim I would use those. If not, make sure to move the wrappers around so the water evenly coats the wrapper.

place water on a plate

The wrappers should be soft but not falling apart. Let excess water drip off before placing on a second plate. Pile with quinoa, vegetables, cilantro and sauces.

veggie spring roll prep veggie spring roll prep

To roll, turn two sides in on the topping. Then roll the far side over the two sides you just turned in until the seams are covered. I’m sorry there aren’t step by step pictures. I’ll try to take some next time I make these.

veggie spring roll prep quinoa vegetable spring rolls quinoa vegetable spring rolls

Eat with additional mustard and sriracha if you’re like me and love sauces. These would also be tasty with my cilantro stem dressing.

quinoa vegetable spring rolls

Enjoy and Exhale!

Vegan Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Tartlets

A rainy Wednesday here in Boston. I’ve always loved the rain!

I apologize for constantly bringing up the weather. I know I talk about it a lot but I’ve always been fascinated by it. When I was in college I remember sitting in our house senior year (the house that we swore was haunted but that is another story entirely) and obsessively watching the weather each morning. I went to school way up in Northern California and during the summer months there is only one weather report, 100 and hot! I don’t know why I was so interested.

Maybe because the weather brings on moods and sets the tone for the day.

Take today for example, the rain makes it feel gloomy and quiet. The kind of day good for reading and introspection, a little self yoga practice, maybe a sweet treat.

And this is the perfect sweet treat.

peanut butter chocolate tartlettes

I’ve been craving peanut butter and chocolate and ran across a peanut butter pie the other day that seemed divine. However, Michael doesn’t eat dessert and making a whole pie for myself seemed absurd since I know full well that I’ll eat a slice, maybe two and then throw the rest away.

So instead I experimented with a recipe for tartlets that combines a bunch of different recipes I looked at for pies, tarts, mousses, etc. It’s super easy, quick and on the healthier side. The measurements make a manageable 2 tartlets instead of a full pie. But I have the measurements for a the full pie if you’re interested.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Tartlets (vegan, gluten-free, no bake)

For the vegan chocolate crust:

1/4 cup almond meal

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 heaping tbsp cocoa powder

1/2 tsp coconut oil, melted

1/8 tsp salt

For the vegan peanut butter mousse:

1/8 block tofu, drained and patted dry

3 tbsp natural peanut butter

2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup

1/4 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

1 tbsp rice milk (or whatever milk you prefer)

————-

Make the crust first. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until a paste forms, about a minute.

gluten free chocolate crust

Take sections of the dough and press into cupcake tins. Set cupcake tin aside.

tart crust

Clean food processor before making mousse.

Drain tofu and press between some paper towels. The tofu doesn’t have to be super dry.

peanut butter mousse

Add tofu and ingredients through salt to processor. While food processor is running add milk. If the mixture is too thick add a little bit more milk.

Once mousse is combined pour over individual crusts.

peanut butter chocolate tarts

Place tarts in freezer for 30 minutes to set.

To remove from pan, run a knife along side the edges. The tartlets should slide right out.

Top with shaved chocolate.

DSC_0033chocolate peanut butter tarts

Enjoy and Exhale!

Cilantro Stem Dressing…say what?

Sometimes my own nerdiness takes me by surprise. I’ve never claimed to be cool but I never thought myself to be someone who would dance around the kitchen after tasting a salad dressing. Eli cocked his head to one side perplexed as he watched the scene take place.

I just couldn’t help it. After years of project managing creatives and allowing myself to believe that I personally was not “creative” it still amazes me that I can concept and actualize ideas of my own. It’s a lovely feeling that the swirling and pondering of a thought can become a tangible recipe I get to share with others. Another benefit the world of blogging has allowed me.

Anyway, on to the recipe.

Being in New York last weekend and not having a chance to get to the grocery store this week we’ve been eating what we have. We, of course, have more than enough food to pick from but our veggie supply is getting low. Our vegetable drawer currently consists of brussels sprouts, a 5lb bag of carrots, spinach and the ends of a bunch of cilantro.Cilantro

I eat a lot of cilantro, usually a bunch a week. I will greedily eat up all the leaves, pushing the stems to the back of the crisper to wither and die until I buy the next bunch.

A few days ago I had what is now annoying referred to as an Aha moment. I ran across this Veggie Belly post that used the cilantro stems in a soup and it suddenly hit me that I was wasting a flavorful part of the cilantro.

I quickly dug out those stems and got to work on a what I hoped would be a delicious salad dressing. It was honestly better than I could have imagined and avoids wasted food and money. Win win.

Cilantro Stem Salad Dressing (vegan, gluten-free)

1 bunch of cilantro stems, chopped finely

2 tbsp hulled hemp seeds

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp garlic infused olive oil

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp maple syrup

1/4 tsp salt

————

Wash cilantro stems thoroughly, the stems tend to hold a lot of dirt, don’t skip this step.

Chop stems finely and place in a food processor with remaining ingredients.

Blend until well combined. I ran my processor for over a minute.

Adjust seasonings to taste.

cilantro salad dressing

Makes 1-2 serving depending on salad size.

I massaged the dressing into 3 cups of spinach and topped with slivered almonds. I think it would be wonderful with avocado and baby tomatoes as well.

spinach salad with cilantro dressingspinach salad with cilantro dressingspinach salad with cilantro dressing

Happy Friday.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Quinoa Smoothies?

Every so often someone searches quinoa smoothies and lands on my site. I had never thought to add this wonderful little food to my drinks before but curiosity got the best of me this morning. I was working to meet my day’s calcium quota with a breakfast smoothie when I spotted a Tupperware of quinoa leftover from yesterday’s lunch. Now seemed like as good a time as any to try it.

I’m sort of on the fence about the results but wanted to at least share the recipe with you so you can decide for yourself. I’ll be honest, the texture was a little funny. For lack of a better word the quinoa made the smoothie a little…chunky. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. I use chia seeds in my smoothies all the time so I’m used to a some crunch or bite in my morning beverage and prefer it to super smooth smoothies. This may just have been a little too much bite.

Again, to each their own. Maybe this will be your cup of tea smoothie.

Quinoa Colada Smoothie (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

1 frozen banana

1/2 cup frozen pineapple

2 tbsp chia seeds

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/2 cup almond milk

1/3 cup cooked quinoa, using these cooking directions

————

Thaw your banana slightly in the microwave. 20-30 seconds should do.

Place all ingredients in a blender or measuring cup if you’re using an immersion blender.

quinoa colada smoothie DSC_0069

Blend for a minute.

Add extra pineapple and quinoa to the top.

As I type this I am just now thinking a couple of tablespoons of shredded coconut would have been a nice addition to this as well.

Serve in a pretty glass for no reason other than that you can. (Excuse the windows reflection in the glass 🙂 )

quinoa colada smoothie quinoa colada smoothieQuinoa smoothie

Enjoy and Exhale!

Potato Leek Soup

I made this soup when it was 50 degrees out two days ago, it was really good then but would probably have been better today with the snow coming down, making Boston a winter wonderland. Because we’ve only had snow a few times this winter it’s still really fun for me to experience. I love those first couple hours when it’s all white fluff that coats the trees and lightly swirls around you making it seem like you’re in a movie. Tomorrow I’ll be annoyed by the remnants of salt and gray slushy piles of old snow on the sidewalk. But I’m practicing staying in the present so today, hooray for snow!

Columbus Street in the snow

Snow covered trees outside Crossfit after this morning’s yoga class. I’m teaching another one tomorrow morning at 6:45am, you should get up with me. 🙂

Boston winter

Downtown Boston in the snow.

Anyway, back to soup.

When we went shopping last weekend I bought two leeks. We also bought a ton of other veggies at the time and the leeks were pushed to the bottom of the crisper. As we made our way through the kale and carrots I spotted the leeks and knew just what to use them for. Soup of course. Potato leek soup to be exact.

I love soup for its ease and simplicity. You just dump a bunch of vegetables in a pot for an hour and call it dinner. Who wouldn’t want to cook like that?

Potato Leek Soup (vegan, gluten-free)

2 tablespoons earth balance or whichever butter you prefer

1 tbsp canola oil

1/4 onion, diced

3 stalks celery with leaves, diced

2 leaks, white and pale green parts only, chopped

2 tbsp garlic, minced

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

8 new potatoes, cut into dice sized cubes

1 russet potato, cut into dice sized cubes

8 cups vegetable broth

2 broccoli stalks, whole (optional)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 bay leaf

1.5 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

————

Cut white and light green part of leeks into 1/2 inch pieces.

chopped leeks

Discard the green tops. Put leek pieces into a bowl of cold water.

soaking leeks

Leeks can be very sandy. Make sure to let them soak for a few minutes. The sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl and you can then drain the clean leeks.

Chop onion and celery.

veggie prep

Heat oil and butter. Add leeks, onion and celery. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.

sauteed veggies

Add garlic and red chili flakes. Cook another minute.

While veggies are sauteing, chop potatoes. Add potatoes to leek/onion mixture.

Next add veggie broth. One note on veggie broth. I strongly suggested buying vegetarian bouillon cubes. They are much cheaper than veggie stock. I use one cube per 4 cups of water (the package says 1 cube per 2 cups but it always works out well for me with the extra water).

Add broccoli stalks to broth. I happen to have stalks lying around waiting to be juiced and I thought they’d add a nice flavor to the broth, which they did. Feel free to omit. If you do use them, remove before serving, but feel free to snack on them while getting the rest of dinner together.

Add nutmeg, bay leaf, salt and rosemary. Bring soup up to a boil then reduce to a simmer. I didn’t chop my rosemary as fine as I wish I did, as seen below. Make sure it’s finely minced, I found the bigger pieces to be a little annoying.

potato leek soup

I let the soup simmer for about an hour then turned off the heat and covered the pot. I reheated the soup a couple of hours later when we were ready for dinner.

potato leek soup potato leek soup

Served with toast and earth balance.

I thought about blending this but according to Michael there is something heartier and more filling about the chunks of potato and leek.

Perfect for today’s snow-filled day.

Enjoy and Exhale!

New Recipes Page

Holy…it’s cold out this morning. I took Eli out for a quick walk an hour ago and I’m still trying to warm back up. January in the northeast, burrrrr. Lucky for me the studios are heated to 90!

Today’s post will be short, I just wanted to stop in to let you know that I put together a recipes page. I realize that the search tab and the tags can be a little cumbersome for navigating specific recipes. Hopefully this will streamline things.

Now all my recipes are on the recipe page at the top of the site sorted by category. You can also click to it here. Please let me know if any of the links don’t work or take you to the wrong recipe as you click-through. I double checked them but you never know.

I’m trying to decide whether to use a more sophisticated app (RECIpage in particular) moving forward. If any fellow food bloggers have opinions on what works best for you, I’ll gladly take them.

In the meantime, check out the page and if you haven’t yet tried the Chickpea, Curry, Coconut, Quinoa Soup you really should. I made it again last night and it was extra special on a cold, dark winter evening.

Have a wonderful day.

Enjoy and Exhale!