Monday, March 8, 2010

Homemade Peanut Butter

Here's an AB original.  I have to admit I was a little worried because as B was helping me shell the peanuts she mentioned to me that she had tried homemade peanut butter from Sunflower Farmers Market and it was horrible.  She said it was very blah and was not sweet at all.

Not to worry though, because mine turned out great (and just sweet enough).  The only problem I had was that I didn't monitor my oven temp very well and while roasting the peanuts, some of them were a little over-roasted (you know, burnt).  The burnt flavor carried over a little into the finished product.  It's still good, but next time it will be better, and sans- burnt flavor.  The only other downside I see is that storing in the refrigerator causes it to be a little harder to spread than normal PB.

Alton Brown's Homemade Peanut Butter
  • 15 Oz Shelled & Skinned AB's Roasted Peanuts (recipe below)
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Honey
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Peanut Oil
  1. Place the peanuts, salt and honey into the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Process for 1 minute.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and replace lid.
  4. Continue to process while slowly drizzling in the oil and process until smooth (1 1/2-2 minutes)
  5. Place peanut butter in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
Roasted Peanuts
  • 2 Lb In-Shell Raw Peanuts (Spanish work best for peanut butter, Virginia or Valencia are better for eating straight out of the shell)
  • 2 Tbs Peanut Oil
  • 1 to 2 Tbs Kosher Salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Rinse peanuts under cool water, pat dry and place in a large bown.
  3. Toss with peanut oil and salt until well coated.
  4. Place on 2 half sheet pans, spreading into single layer.
  5. Roast in oven for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
  6. Let them cool before eating because they will continue to "cook" and become crunchy as they cool.
  7. If using for peanut butter, remove shells and discard, then remove the skins by rubbing the peanuts together in your hands. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Alton Brown Changed My Life!

Alton Brown changed my life.  If you're not already familiar with Alton Brown's Food Network show Good Eats then you don't know what you're missing.  The show is described thusly:  "Pop culture, comedy, and plain good eating: Host Alton Brown explores the origins of ingredients, decodes culinary customs and presents food and equipment trends. Punctuated by unusual interludes, simple preparations and unconventional discussions, he'll bring you food in its finest and funniest form."

The great thing about Good Eats is that you will learn the basics.  Scrambled eggs?  Doesn't really sound complicated does it?  You probably didn't know you needed to watch a cooking show to make scrambled eggs, did you?  Well, you were wrong.  Alton Brown (AB) breaks down the basic science behind cooking and trust me, your scrambled eggs will be better.

 So anyway, I mentioned in my prior post Spain is the New France that my time in Spain was the first step in my culinary awakening (ok that sounded weird, but I don't know how else to say it).  I guess the second big influence would have to be Good Eats.

AB has done some other shows on Food Network, like Feasting on Asphalt, and Feasting on Waves, but truthfully they were only mildly entertaining in my humble opinion.

AB has also put out a number of books.  The only one I've read so far is Gear for your Kitchen.  It's a great guide to what you really need in your kitchen to make good food.  You'll clear out a bunch of unneeded junk that you have in there (especially all those uni-taskers) and you'll find out what you really need and where to get it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Poire Belle Helene

This is a Tyler Florence recipe for vanilla poached pears with chocolate sauce and ice cream.  It's fruit, and look... I only had 2 tiny scoops of ice cream with it.  Recipe follows.

Vanilla Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce and Ice Cream (a.k.a. "Poire Belle Helene")
Vanilla Poached Pears
  • 6 C Water
  • 3 C Sugar
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 6 Firm Bosc Pears
  1. Combine the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and lemon zest in a medium saucepan.  
  2. Split vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and add both the seeds and the pod to the pan.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  4. Peel the pears.  Reduce the poaching liquid to a simmer and add the pears.
  5. Cook until just tender (the tip of a paring knife will go through the flesh of a pear with just a little resistance), about 15 minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the pears in the poaching liquid, until completely cooled, about an hour.
  7. Serve the pears with a scoop of ice cream, a little pear-poaching syrup and warm chocolate sauce (recipe below) drizzled over the top.
Chocolate Sauce

  • 1 1/2 C Heavy Cream
  • 12 Oz Bittersweet Chocolate, Roughly Chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Quart Store-Bought Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream

  1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over low heat.
  2. Put the chocolate and butter into a medium-size bowl.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth and glossy.

Whole Wheat Noodles with Tomatoes, Basil and Goat Cheese

Ok, I'll admit that whole wheat noodles don't taste as good as regular.  There, I said it, but don't worry, with a little love they can still be delicious (and healthy).  Serve them with steamed asparagus (I like to use a vegetable peeler on the lower end so I don't have to cut off as much), and broiled tri-tip steak (dredged in Cugino's Garlic Butter Bud Buster).
Whole wheat pasta recipe follows:

Whole Wheat Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Goat Cheese

  • 1 Lb Whole Wheat Thin Spaghetti Noodles
  • 10 Oz Cherry Tomatoes
  • 6 Oz Goat Cheese, Cut into Small Pieces
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbs Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bunch of Basil, Chiffonaded (I think that's a word)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  1. Cook noodles as per directions on package, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the tomatoes and let sautee for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn the tomatoes over and add the garlic and continue sauteing for 5 more minutes, or until tomatoes begin to burst.
  5. Put the cooked, drained noodles into the skillet, turn off the heat, then toss the noodles with the olive oil, tomatoes and garlic. 
  6. Add the goat cheese and basil, and salt and pepper to taste, toss and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Whitefish with Lemon Vinaigrette

Last night's dinner.  The picture makes this look like breaded, deep-fried fish.  It wasn't...really.  Ok, it sort of was, but in a much healthier way than you would think.  It was dusted very lightly with flour, then fried in a little bit of olive oil  I served it with brown rice and zucchini and yellow squash.  Worked out right nice.  Recipe follows:

White Fish
  • 3 Tbs Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 (5 to 6-oz) Whitefish Fillets (I used Tilapia)
  • All-Purpose Flour, for Dredging
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a 14-inch (or 2 smaller) nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat.  
  2. Sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper, then dredge the fillets in flour to coat completely, shaking off the excess flour.
  3. Fry 3 fillets in each pan until they are golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
Lemon Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 C Fresh Lemon Juice (I substituted lime this time)
  • 1/4 C Lightly Packed Fresh Italian Parsley Leaves (I substituted 3 green onions)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (There's no substitute for garlic)
  • 2 Tsp Finely Grated Lemon Zest (Or lime zest)
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/3 C Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  1. Blend the lemon juice, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a blender.  With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil.  Season to taste with more salt and pepper.  (I'm not a big fan of having too many kitchen gadgets, but I have to admit that I have a Magic Bullet and for small jobs like a vinaigrette or marinade, I love using it).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Nellie's Tacos (Salmon and Shrimp)

Ok, I could just refer you to Noelle's blog (Salmon Tacos, Shrimp Tacos), but I ate at her house Sunday and these tacos were yummy, so I'm going to share the recipes her too:

Salmon Tacos:
Tortillas (small taco-size)
Salmon (recipe follows)
Creamy Tomatillo Dressing (recipe follows)
Pico De Gallo
Fresh Cilantro

  • 1 1/2 lb Salmon Fillets
  • Lemon Pepper to Taste
  • Garlic Powder to Tast
  • Salt to Taste
  • 1/3 C Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 C Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 C Water
  • 1/4 C Vegetable Oil
  1. Season salmon fillets with lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
  2. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, water and vegetable oil until sugar is dissolved.  Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag with soy sauce mixture, seal and turn to coat.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat grill on medium heat.
  4. Lightly oil grill grate.  Place salmon on grill and discard leftover marinade.  Cook salmon for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Creamy Tomatillo Dressing
  • 3 Fresh Tomatillos, peeled, cored, and cut into quarters
  • 1 Pkg Ranch Buttermilk Dressing
  • 3/4 C Mayo
  • 3/4 C Buttermilk
  • 1 C Fresh Cilantro
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
  1. Put all of the ingredients in blender or food processor.  Blend.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour.  Will last in refrigerator for at least 10 days.
Shrimp Tacos
Grilled Garlic & Herb Shrimp
  • 2 Tsp Ground Paprika
  • 2 Tbs Fresh Minced Garlic
  • 2 Tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 2 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 C Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Tsp Dried Basil
  • 2 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 2 Lb Medium Shrimp, Peeled & Deveined
  1. Whisk paprika, garlic, italian seasoning, lemon juice, olive oil, pepper, basil, and brown sugar together in a bowl until thoroughly blended.  Stir in the shrimp and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, turning once.
  2. Preheat grill on medium-high heat.  Lightly oil grill grate.
  3. Remove shrimp from marinade, drain excess, and discard leftover marinade.
  4. Place shrimp on preheated grill and cook, turning once, until opaque in the center, 5 to 6 minutes.  Serve immediately.
Creamy Chipotle Chile Sauce
  • 1/4 C Mayonaise
  • 1/4 C Sour Cream
  • 2 Tsp Canned Chipotle in Adobo
  • 1 Garlic Clove, Minced
  • 2 Tsp Minced Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 Tsp Lime Juice
  1. Mis all ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate.
Citrus Habanero Salsa
  • 1/2 Habanero Chile 
  • 1/2 Small Red Onion
  • 2-3 Mini Sweet Peppers
  • 1 1/2 C Grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 Can Mandarin Oranges, Drained
  • Handful of Cilantro
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Salt to Taste
  1. Pulse chile, onion, and sweet peppers a few times in food processor.
  2. Add tomatoes.  Pulse 1-2 times.
  3. Add cilantro and oranges.  pulse until salsa reaches desired consistency.
  4. Transfer to serving bowl and stir in lime juice.  Salt to taste.

Sweet Life in the Valley Food Processor Give Away

Sweet Life in the Valley is still around.  Find them @  You can enter to win a  Cuisinart Custom Prep 11 food processor if you visit.