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!

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!

Triple Ginger Smoothie

It’s been a while since I shared a recipe. Sorry about that. This one was worth the wait!

ginger smoothie

A few weeks ago my aunt and uncle requested a smoothie recipe made with the candied ginger I used in these.

My first thought was a cherry ginger combo but I only had dried cherries and that didn’t sound particularly appealing. I may revisit this when fresh cherries are in season or if I think to pick some frozen ones up.

Then I played around with the idea of a chocolate ginger smoothie but I just made this Chocolate Peanut Butter version and they seemed to similar.

Finally I spotted a bag of dates and figured, why not? I’ve never used dates in a smoothie before but I’d seen it done on other blogs. All I can say is, wow! You’ll be seeing a whole lot more dates around here. They added the perfect amount of sweetness and a creamy texture that blew me away.

I couldn’t take the pictures fast enough and quickly gobbled up the entire thing before the photos had even finished downloading to my computer.

I’m not one to toot my own horn but if you like ginger…Make. This. Smoothie. The fresh, powdered and candied ginger all add a different kind of kick. It was so delicious and refreshing. I’m seriously contemplating making a second one.

Triple Ginger Smoothie (vegan, gluten-free)

1 frozen banana

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 dates, pitted

1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely minced

2 tablespoons candied ginger, finely minced

4 ice cubes

————

Cut the skin from the fresh ginger. Chop fresh and candied ginger into small pieces.

Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth.

Top with more candied and powdered ginger if desired.

ginger smoothie ingredientsminced ginger DSC_0184triple ginger smoothie

Enjoy and Exhale!

Happiness Split Pea Soup

I saw this on my Facebook feed yesterday and it made me smile.

Choose happiness.

good day to be happy

The other thing that made me very happy was this recipe. I was coming off of the banana bread fails and we all know how gluten-free baking can squash my cooking self confidence. I needed my next recipe attempt to be rich, hearty and guaranteed not to fail me. Soups tend to be that thing.

I’ve said it before but soups are just so simple and easy to correct when something feels out of whack. This soup needed no correcting. I absolutely loved it. Michael felt it was lacking in lemon but it didn’t really bother me. I did, however, added a big squeeze of it to the recipe instructions right at the end for those who want that bright citrus flavor.

Also, I originally thought I was making a lentil soup but upon further examination realized that I did not use lentils but split peas. I think lentils could easily be substituted but the split peas were a nice change of pace albeit an unplanned one.

Happiness Split Pea Soup (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1 carrot

2 stalks celery

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp garlic, minced

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 tbsp tomato paste

6 cups vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

1.5 cups green and yellow spilt peas

3/4 cup frozen peas

1 can light coconut milk

Big squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)

————

Chop your vegetables into bite size pieces.

chopped vegetables

Heat olive oil on medium high. Add vegetables and salt, saute until veggies start to get tender. Add garlic, cook for another minute until garlic is golden brown.

Next add curry powder, turmeric and tomato paste. Stir to coat vegetables.

Add vegetable stock. Some veggie stocks contain soy and gluten so read the labels carefully when selecting your broth. Drop in one bay leaf.

soup with bay leaf

Rinse and drain your split peas in cold water. Add split peas to broth. I used a mix of green and yellow but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.

DSC_0012

Add frozen peas and coconut milk.

soup with coconut milk

Bring soup up to a boil then reduce to medium heat for 25 minutes or until split peas are soft. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

Remove bay leaf before serving. Top with a big squeeze of lemon.

split pea soup split pea soup

Enjoy and Exhale!

Fire Trucks and Blueberry, Orange Salad Dressing

I admit that yesterday’s post was a bit of a downer. So much so that Michael’s mom called me just to say hello. Too sweet.

We had a little bit of drama after I posted last night. Around 10 I was watching the 49ers/Pats game and started to smell a little bit of smoke. This isn’t unusual, it was very faint. We have a fireplace and sometimes the wind will blow back down the chimney and make it smell a little smokey. But, then I started to hear sirens at the front of the house. When I looked outside there were four fire trucks and a bunch of cop cars. Not wanting to be the stupid girl who stayed in a burning house I put on my parka, leashed up Eli and headed out in the rain.

Turns out it was next door. Not sure if it was a small fire or just a false alarm but after 15 minutes the firemen started to roll their hoses back up so I headed inside. I did take a few pics of what drama there was though.

fire ladder fire trucks

Also not wanting to let another rainy, gray day dampen my spirits I made something bright and full of citrus. I bookmarked this salad dressing before Thanksgiving. A fellow blogger (whom I cannot locate now to link to her blog) suggested using blueberries instead of cranberries like the original recipe suggests, which I did.

I also added some cornstarch to thicken this up as I’m not a huge fan of the runny-ness of vinaigrettes but feel free to adjust to your liking.

This was tangy and sweet with a bit of spice from the hot mustard. Family take note, you may be seeing this on the table next week.

Blueberry, Orange Salad Dressing (vegan, gluten-free)

Recipe originally from Oh She Glows

1 cup frozen blueberries

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon Chinese hot mustard

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt to taste

1 teaspoon corn starch

————

Bring blueberries, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup to a boil in a pot.

frozen blueberries blueberries and maple syrup

Reduce to medium heat for 10 minutes.

Let mixture cool then place in a blender or food processor with orange juice, mustard and olive oil. I made fresh juice from some mandarins I had but you can easily use store-bought juice.

The original recipe also calls for Dijon mustard but I didn’t have any. Chinese hot mustard worked well but feel free to experiment with whatever you have on hand.

IMG_2967

Blend or process mixture until smooth. Add salt.

I used my processor and it never got fully smooth. Although I decided not to strain the mixture, you can if you want silky smooth salad dressing. I personally felt like the original recipe was too thin even without straining so I added a little cornstarch.

Mix cornstarch with a tablespoon of the dressing.

blueberries dressing and a bit of cornstarch

Place remaining dressing in a pot. Bring to a boil and add cornstarch. Boil until thick, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Let salad dressing cool before using.

IMG_2975 IMG_2980

Looks a little like a jar of jam.

I served it over a spinach salad with dried cranberries, diced apples and pecans. The perfect holiday salad.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Dinner Party Puzzle

Last weekend we were invited to a dinner party at our new friend’s home. There were four couples in total and a lot of dietary restrictions. We were a difficult group to cook for and finding recipes that fulfilled all our needs was probably a bit like a frustrating crossword puzzle.

But, our hosts Inga and Jason did a fabulous job of creating a variety of dishes that catered to all sorts of diets: vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free. I obviously know a lot about most of the aforementioned, but soy-free is new to me. I didn’t realize it was in everything until my friend Amanda pointed it out. Soy in cooking spray? Who knew!

Despite the tricky puzzle, the food was divine. The meal started with assorted breads, cheeses and wine. Then we had a spicy and flavorful vegetarian carrot ginger soup. I’ll have to recreate it at some point, it was the perfect fall soup.

Next up, salad and a root vegetable hash that was so good I asked for the recipe so I could recreate here and attempt to make it vegan. There was also fish for those fish eaters in the group.

Dessert was brownies and ice cream for most.

It was a really fun night spent chatting around the table.

And later in front of a big fire.

Although four of the eight are co-workers, they did a really great job of leaving the shop talk behind. There were lots of how we met, where we’ve lived and pets we love stories; my favorite kinds of nights.

All in all it was such a fun night getting to know some new friends and eating tasty food. Thank you Inga and Jason.

Recipe to follow tomorrow, I have to pick up the ingredients first.

Have a great Thursday.