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!

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!

Winter Running and Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothies

I haven’t talked much about running in the last few weeks but I’m still at it. I try to get out 2-3 times a week regardless of the snow, wind and extreme cold; although I do pay a lot of attention to the weather and try my best to run on warmer days when there won’t be ice on the ground. I’ve found the trick to surviving the cold has been to get a good running hat and layering up on top. Personally, too many layers on my legs is more annoying than helpful.

I can’t say my times have been particularly good but my main goal these days is just to get out there and not worry too much about the pace. Here are some of my latest stats. For some reason I can only get the time on my latest workout to show but I’ve put the pace below the other two.

This was the first run I’ve done without Eli in a long time. I thought I would be faster without him but it seems his excitement fuels us along.

IMG_3747

Run 2. Pace 8.28.

IMG_3748

Run 3. Pace 8.09.

IMG_3750

As you can see, I’m holding steady, not really improving my pace right now. But my hope is that all this winter running will make my summer running faster when the weather improves. We’ll see.

From my love of running to my love of smoothies.

Even with the cold weather I’ve been making a ton of smoothies. They make meeting my daily calcium quota so much easier and the flavors are endless.

The smoothie below has quickly become my new favorite. I’ve made it two days in a row and it was just as good today as it was yesterday.

It tastes a lot like a chocolate milkshake with much healthier ingredients. I’m sure you could add a handful of kale to it as well without affecting the flavor too much if you’re looking for some added nutrients.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Smoothie (vegan, gluten-free)

1 banana

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

2 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp natural peanut butter

1 cup unsweetened or vanilla flavored almond milk

3-4 ice cubes, depending on how icy you want it (see note)

————

smoothie ingredients

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until combined.

Note: I often have almond milk that is about to expire. When I have extra I freeze the milk in ice-cube trays then store in Ziplocs. I often use a couple of almond milk cubes in place of the ice cubes. If I use almond milk cubes, I cut back the fresh almond milk to half a cup.

Also,the glasses pictured below are teeny tiny, this recipe yields enough for one smoothie.

Chocolate Peanut Butter SmoothieChocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie DSC_0127

 

Dessert for breakfast.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Oil Free Peanut Butter Granola

This was almost another baking flop. I followed a recipe online for peanut butter bars. I made a few adjustments, like mixing and matching the types of nuts and seeds I added, but for the most part I stayed fairly close to the recipe. I’d had enough fails and creativity hasn’t been serving me this week.

But sometimes creativity is what saves a recipe. What we were suppose to get were no bake peanut butter bars, what we got was peanut butter granola. Instead of scraping the whole recipe when the bars refused to set, I tried baking them. When that still didn’t work, I simply crumbled them up (which wasn’t hard as they were crumbly already) and created a peanut buttery granola that would be perfect over yogurt or eaten with almond milk. Honestly, regardless of how we got here, I’m glad we did.  If you’re a peanut butter fan, this granola is for you.

Oil Free Peanut Butter Granola (vegan, gluten-free)

1 1/2 cups oats, I used certified gluten-free oats

1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup cashews

1/4 cup almonds

1/4 cup maple syrup and then a tablespoon more

1 cup peanut butter

————

Preheat oven to 350.

Add all nuts and seeds to a big bowl. Feel free to use whatever nuts or seeds you prefer.

Next add maple syrup and mix into nut mixture (I’m not sure why the granola is so yellow in this picture).

Add in peanut butter and mix. I warmed my peanut butter up in the microwave for 20 seconds to soften it a bit so it would be easier to mix in but I only think this is an issue with natural peanut butter.

Press mixture into a pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let cool and then crumble granola with your hands.

One note, to streamline the whole process I would just spread the mix on a baking sheet and bake in the oven. The wax paper wasn’t needed at all.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy!

 

Getting saucy

Yesterday I alluded to two of my favorite sauces to accompany my dinner bowls. I’ve mentioned my love for sauces before. I think salad dressings and sauces make a meal so I am constantly creating and experimenting with new flavor combinations.

This peanut sauce is unbelievably delicious. I’ve been making it forever and we eat it over vegetables, quinoa, beans, sweet potatoes, just about anything. I’ve never found a bottled peanut dressing or satay sauce that’s this tasty…and I’ve tried them all!

Vegan Gluten-Free Peanut Sauce

2 tablespoon unsalted peanut butter, I use the freshly ground peanut butter from Whole Foods

1 teaspoon sriracha

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, in most my recipes you can sub this out for any type of vinegar, in this recipe I would definitely use rice wine

1/2 tablespoon peanut or olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1-2 tablespoons warm water

pinch of salt

pinch of sugar

————

Place peanut butter, sriracha and garlic in a bowl.

Using a fork, mix in vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and tamari.

Add water to thin out.

Mix in salt and sugar.

If the sauce is still too thick, taste and then decide what liquid to add more of. Sometimes it needs more lemon juice, sometimes more vinegar, sometimes just a little water.

The second sauce we eat a lot of is more of a salad dressing. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be obsessed with ranch dressing but began to eat less of it after taking a closer look at the mile long ingredients list.

One evening I was lamenting the loss of my beloved condiment when Michael suggested we just make our own. His mom used to make a version for him and his siblings when they were growing up as an alternative to processed, store-bought salad dressings. So he pulled out the ingredients and got to work. Imagine my surprise when all of 4 ingredients were mixed together to create the loveliest ranch dressing I’d ever had. I’m not sure why he kept it a secret for so long.

Vegan Gluten-Free Ranch Dressing

2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise, we use the veganaise brand

1 tablespoon unflavored almond milk

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

————

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix until smooth.

Every once in a while I’ll add a little fresh minced garlic but usually I keep it really simple.

I’m pretty sure that adding some sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle powder or hot sauce would create a great spicy ranch but I just thought of it and unfortunately I’m sitting at a Starbucks and can’t recreate right now to confirm for you. I’ll report back.

I love this simple salad dressing; it tastes amazing with dinner bowls, roasted potatoes or taco salads. A little goes a long way.

Both these recipes yield enough for two servings. They will keep in the fridge for a day or two in a tightly covered container but are best eaten the same day, especially the ranch.

Now, go get saucy.

Enjoy!

Vegan Gluten-Free Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I love peanut butter cups. I mean, love, love, love. When my brother, sister and I were little we would come home from trick or treating and collectively dump all of our candy on the kitchen table. I’m not sure if the sharing thing was something our parents made us do or if we were just nice kids.  I think it’s the former. Anyway, my sister and brother always went for the fruity candies first: skittles, sour patch kids, gummies of all kinds. I always went straight for the Reese’s.

To this day I still love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. And as anyone who’s ever lived with me can attest to, I must have dessert after dinner every. single. night. Lately, that dessert has been Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

They are heavenly. On our last trip to Whole Foods I bought an entire case! Michael just shook his head knowing full well that not one would be wasted. But, it got me to thinking…surely I could make these for cheaper on my own. If I could make them vegan and gluten-free, all the better.

So off I went this morning to Whole Foods. Yes, I’m that crazy lady on her orange scooter that must get to the grocery store before 11am so I can pick up gluten-free graham crackers before it starts raining. If you’ve ever scooted in the rain you’ll understand the urgency. No fun.

I adapted this recipe from Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet. It’s a good starter book for those beginning their vegetarian/vegan journey and gives a lot of substitutes for everyday items like butter, milk, even cookies.

To make these gluten-free I used S’moreables graham crackers in place of regular crackers. I eat them on their own or with chocolate chips (another dessert favorite) sometimes.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

1/2 cup earth balance (or butter if you don’t wish to make them vegan)

3/4 cup peanut butter (if you can get your hands on natural peanut butter I would recommend it)

3/4 cup of graham crackers (this came out to about 8 crushed crackers, but S’moreables are really small, I’d say 5 normal graham crackers)

1/8 cup maple syrup

1/8 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup unflavored almond milk (rice, soy, regular cow’s milk works just as well)

1 cup vegan dark chocolate chips (milk or semi sweet if that’s what you prefer)

1/4 chopped peanuts (optional)

cayenne (optional)

Sea salt

Melt butter over low heat in a sauce pan. Once melted add graham cracker crumbs, peanut butter, maple syrup and sugar. Stir until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat.

Place 2 tablespoons of mixture per cupcake wrapper. I used a regular size cupcake tin but it would work just as well with the mini tins.

Melt chocolate and milk over low heat. Stir until smooth.

Place chocolate over peanut butter mixture.

Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Add cayenne and crushed peanuts if desired.

Chill in the freezer for 2-3 hours.

Makes 12 cups.

And just because I like the juxtaposition of the healthy cilantro laying against the recipe for peanut butter cups…

Enjoy. I already have!