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!

Lentils and Rice

This box of spanish rice has been my nemesis forever. I bought it at least a year ago when we were still living in Noe Valley. I have no idea why I bought it. Maybe for burritos or taco salads? Whatever it was for, it wasn’t used. We gave away almost all our food before the move and yet, it somehow found its way into the moving boxes, all the way across the country and back into our new kitchen just to stare me down for another 6 months. Resilient little bugger.

spanish rice

Yesterday it finally met it’s fate!

lentils and rice

Work is crazy for Michael right now as he prepares for a big meeting at the end of the month. Knowing he would be working late again last night I thought I’d make him something that would only get better with a little time in the fridge. Plus, he’d asked for a veggie stew this weekend and I didn’t make it for him so I used this to make it up to him.

I love the combo of rice and lentils and it was also the easiest recipe I’ve made in a long time. Saute veggies with spices, add lentils and rice, add liquid, done. I actually made and photographed a smoothie for a WalkJogRun article while this was cooking.

Feel free to add whatever rice you have on hand you absolutely do not need this specific box of rice but if you’re like me and have one hanging around, it might be a great time to finally use it.

Lentils and Rice (vegan, gluten-free)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

1 broccoli stalk, diced

1/2 jalapeño with seeds, diced

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

1 box spanish rice and half flavor packet

1 can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cup green lentils

2 cups veggie broth

3 cups water

————

Heat olive oil over high heat and saute vegetables until soft. Add garlic, salt, turmeric, cumin and chili powder, saute another minute.

veggies and spices

sauteed veggies

Add rice, flavor packet, diced tomatoes, lentils, veggie broth and water to the vegetable mixture.

rice and lentils

Cook over medium high heat for 20-25 minutes or until all liquid has evaporated.

lentils and rice

I ate my plain. Michael told me this morning that he made sandwiches out of his and topped the mixture with cheese. He also brought it to my attention that I made A LOT of it, which is very true. If you’d like to make a smaller portion, cut the lentils and rice in half. You’ll also want to reduce the water to 1 cup.

lentils and rice

lentils and rice

Enjoy and Exhale!

Asparagus with Maple Tahini Dressing

Weekend post! So rare for me but I wanted to share.

Last week I created a veggie side dish featuring asparagus for WalkJogRun. I roasted the asparagus because it is still winter after all, then paired it with a lightly sweet, incredibly lovely maple tahini dressing that had me licking the bowl clean.

If you’re interested, you can find the recipe here or click on the first photo I’ve ever taken that I’m actually proud of! Progress is progress, no matter how small.

Vegetable Spotlight: Asparagus

Hope you’re having a relaxing St. Patty’s Day.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Two for the Price of One

I didn’t mean for a whole week to disappear without a recipe. This post was actually written yesterday but just as I was going to upload the pictures our wireless router crapped out.  After chatting with Comcast and buying a new router we weren’t back online until late last night. Oh well, today you get two recipes for the price of one!

Just kidding, everything’s free here. But you still get two recipes.

While out on a walk yesterday morning I stopped in at Starbucks. The line was really long so I turned back around after only a few seconds of waiting. However, as I was leaving the barista yelled “blueberry muffin” to someone and that got my empty stomach growling. I walked the rest of the way home mentally checking off the ingredients for my blueberry muffins, check, check, check, eh, wait, no gf flour or blueberries. Sort of key ingredients.

Plan B, improvise. I swapped the blueberries for strawberries which was easy enough as I have a huge bag of frozen ones in my freezer. But, finding a gf flour sub seemed unlikely, until I remembered a bag of Bob’s Red Mill GF Pancake mix that’s been hanging around for a while. Perfect! I think?

Turns out, yes, perfect, better than actually. I prefer these muffins to the original version although I would probably swap the blueberries back in or add them in addition to the strawberries. I also just noticed that I forgot the flaxseed to this version. To be honest, it doesn’t seem to have mattered in the least so we’ll keep it out.

strawberry gluten free muffins

Apologies for the lack of pictures. I was rather absent-minded about it until the batter was already mixed.

Strawberry Muffins (vegan, gluten-free)

1/2 cup gf oat flour

1/4 cup gf oats, whole

1/4 cup almond meal

1 cup gluten-free pancake mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 bananas, mashed

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup almond milk

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup strawberries, cut into bite size pieces

————

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oat flour, oats, almond meal, gluten-free pancake mix, baking powder and salt.

Next add brown sugar, melted coconut oil, mashed bananas, vanilla, milk and apple cider vinegar to the dry ingredients.

Stir until well incorporated.

gluten free strawberry muffin batter

Lastly, fold in chopped strawberries.

Grease a muffin tin. Fill each cupcake hole about 3/4 of the way up.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

strawberry muffins

Yields 8 muffins.

vegan strawberry muffins vegan strawberry muffins

Okay, that’s one but I promised you two. This recipe is for all you runners. With spring springing and longer runs on the horizon I put together an all-natural, preservative and dye-free energy gel over at WalkJogRun. I used chia seeds as the base and offer a couple of suggestions for mix-ins. Check it out if you’re looking for an alternative to those neon colored gums and goos.

chia seed energy gel

Alright, that’s it for me today. More articles to write, a house to clean and a gym to get to.

Have a wonderful weekend.

As always, Enjoy and Exhale!

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream with Vegan Hot Chocolate

This morning Michael and I were talking about what I should write about today. He was rather unhelpful, although very cute, with his only suggestion being that it wasn’t a Things I’m Loving kind of day. I agreed mostly because I currently have just three things on my newest list. One of which is this book that I really want to talk about. Have you read it? It’s crazy messed up.

Gone Girl

Without being any closer to deciding what to post today, Michael heads off the work and I watch him clean off the car…

cleaning off the car

…for a really long time. Then I start to feel cold just watching him and decide it’s time for some hot chocolate.

Now, in a normal world the recipe title would be the other way around. This would be a post about hot chocolate and the whipped cream would be the icing on the cake, haha. But the hot chocolate part is neither here nor there, to be honest I’m still perfecting the recipe. It’s really the whipped cream that steals this show. But I can’t do write a post all about whipped cream, can I?

Maybe I can, but you’ll get the hot chocolate recipe as a bonus. If you’re a lover of whipped cream, make this! It’s like a natural, tastier, more delicious version of cool whip. Put it on cake, on ice cream, eat it straight from the bowl she says, while taking a big spoonful between typing these words. Whatever which way, it’s worth trying soon.

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream with Vegan Hot Chocolate (vegan, gluten-free)

For the whipped cream:

1 can full fat coconut milk, make sure it’s full fat, no light stuff here

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

splash of vanilla extract

For the hot chocolate:

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, depending on your preferred sweetness level

splash of vanilla extract

pinch of salt

———–

First things first, place a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight upside. Don’t skip this step.

The next morning open the can (right side up). Drain liquid into a separate container for another time. You’ll be left with the coconut milk solids.

coconut milk solids

Spoon the solid coconut milk into a mixing bowl.

coconut milk solids

Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until it resembles whipped cream, about 1 minute.

coconut whipped cream coconut whipped cream

Once whipped cream is done, warm milk, cocoa, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Whisk, bring to a low boil and remove from heat.

vegan chocolate milk

Pour into a mug and top with whipped cream.

vegan hot chocolate coconut milk whipped cream and vegan hot chocolate

Enjoy while staring out at the snow or your boyfriend cleaning off the car.

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!

Weekend Happenings

I find my weekend update posts the hardest to title. I wish I could think of something more clever.

This weekend flew by, like they usually do. We made more of an effort to get out and about, mostly because the weather cooperated. It was nice to get outside and enjoy the city.

However, Friday night we did our typical thing and stayed in. We made pizzas and a huge garbage salad with miso dressing, drank some wine and watched Dateline. I have a crazy fascination with who-done-it shows and Dateline is my favorite. Michael always obliges me in watching an episode on Friday nights. Now that’s true love. 🙂

pizza night

Saturday I taught and did some work. I also took a luxurious afternoon nap before we headed to Kristy and Erik’s for game night. They live in Somerville and it was our first time venturing out there.

We were greeted by their new rescue dog Tucker. He’s so loving and wonderful, the perfect addition to their family.

tucker tucker

We ate sushi and then set out to play some games. First up was a game called Dirty Minds, which turned out to be incredibly complicated. Kristy’s face pretty much sums up how all of us were feeling (what?!).

game night

Next we moved on to ImaginIff which was way easier and way more fun.

game night

Lastly we plated Uno. I used to play this all the time when I was a camp counselor in high school but it had definitely been a while. I still managed to call a few Uno’s on Michael though.

game night-Uno

After a later than usual night, yesterday morning we slept in and then made our way to the Friendly Toast in Cambridge for brunch. This might be my favorite restaurant in Boston. They have a ton of veggie friendly options and amazing gluten-free pancakes. Win-win for both of us.

Friendly Toast Menu

I had the BLT with faux bacon. I’m not much of a faux meats person but there’s something about Morning Star’s bacon. The sweet potato fries were also delicious. Michael had the chocolate chip pancake seen right and an unpictured scramble of some sort.

veggie blt and sweet potato fries

We left full and happy to hit up Whole Foods, spend way too much money at Target on nothing and take Eli for a bath.

Here he is in a brief moment of happiness, he does not like baths. You’d think he’s being tortured. I try to tell him how lucky he is to have two people basically massage him for 20 minutes. This doesn’t seem to matter to him.

Eli in the bath

We also went on a 5 mile run yesterday afternoon. We stopped and started a lot but our average pace was 8.29. Michael doesn’t usually run longer routes with me but he killed it and beat me handily on the sprints.

We rounded out the weekend with burrito bowls and some lounging and napping on the couch.

burrito bowls

Perfect end to our Sunday.

Back tomorrow with quinoa filled spring rolls.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Kale, Potato and White Bean Soup

Last night I had a dream that I looked out the window to see the trees blooming with a million pink buds. Then I woke up and all the branches were still bare and surrounded by piles of gray snow.

I’m pretty sure I’m making it up but I feel an almost imperceivable shift toward spring. It’s coming, oh please oh please let it be coming.

I was telling my sister yesterday that I’m feeling uninspired in the kitchen lately. This is likely because I’m sick of winter vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweet potatoes and carrots and parsnips but what I’d really like to eat are some lovely green asparagus stalks that don’t cost $5.99 a bunch! Or some sweet, red tomatoes that haven’t been imported from Brazil.

Guess we’ll have to make do with what we have right now. And what we have are white beans and kale! The pairing of white beans and kale seems almost as natural as peanut butter and jelly.

Actually it doesn’t at all but it does sound good together. So we’ll make another soup with hopes that it’s one of the last of the season and that soon we’ll be turning our attention to fresh salads and fruit.

Until then…

kale and white bean soup

Kale, Potato and White Bean End of Winter Soup (vegan, gluten-free)

2 tbsp garlic infused olive oil (or regular olive oil)

1 onion, diced

1 carrot, sliced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 tbsp minced garlic

1/2 cup of loosely packed basil, cut into ribbons (optional)

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2-1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf

8 cups of water and two no salt bouillon cubes (or 8 cups of no salt veggie stock)

6 red potatoes, diced

2 cans of white beans with juices (I used a combo of great northern and white kidney beans)

3 cups chopped kale (I used curly but lacinato would work well here too)

————

White Bean and Kale Soup Ingredients

Slice onion, carrot, celery and potatoes.

vegetable assembly line

Heat olive oil and saute onion, carrot and celery until lightly soft. Add garlic and basil. Saute for another minute.

sauteed veggies

Add thyme, salt, cayenne pepper and bay leaf. Mix with veggies.

Next add water and bouillon cubes. I always use no salt bouillon cubes but it’s especially important here because I’m not draining the beans and the juice of the beans adds extra salt.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

Add beans and potatoes cook for 25 minutes.

Lastly, add kale. Cook until wilted.

Adjust salt to taste and remove bay leaf before serving.

I turned the burner off and left the soup covered on the stove while I taught my noon class and went to the gym. When I ate it a couple of hours later it reminded me very much of the soups my dad used to make, which made it taste that much better.

kale and white bean soup kale and white bean soup

If we have to eat more soup, might as well be good soup right?

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!