Homemade Peanut Butter


In an effort to save money, I’ve been trying to come up with things that I could make myself rather than buying pre-packaged items from the grocery store. So I came up with a couple of ideas and happened to walk by a discounted food processor in Target and thought it would be a good investment. So far, I’d say it definitely is. Yesterday I made homemade peanut butter and I plan to make a homemade pesto or homemade salsa this week.

The great thing about a food processor is that you can control the consistency of what you make. For my peanut butter, I generally like it somewhere in between totally smooth and really chunky, so I was able to get it exactly to where I wanted. So my recipe was done pretty much just by feel and taste, but this was what I started with.

HOMEMADE PEANUT BUTTER

Ingredients:

-2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
-2 Tbs. vegetable oil (or peanut oil)
-1 1/2 Tbs. brown sugar

Directions:

Put peanuts and brown sugar in the food processor and pulse a few times to break up. Then, while on low speed, slowly pour oil through the feed tube. Use a spatula to loosen the mixture from the sides of the bowl so it all gets combined together.

From here, continue to add more peanuts, more brown sugar, or more oil to create the consistency and flavor that you want.

When I first made it, the peanut butter was not quite as thick as I wanted, but I put it in a container to store it and left it in the fridge overnight. Now (as you can see below) it has come together and thickened very nicely.

I don’t generally refrigerate store-bought peanut butter, but since this is homemade and preservative-free, I’m going to keep this in the refrigerator and date it–I’m not sure, but I’d say it’s probably good for 1 1/2 to 2 months refrigerated.

With such a simple recipe, it is VERY important that you use good ingredients. Although I didn’t use them this time around, a lot of people recommend that you use shelled peanuts to get a more natural and full-flavored taste. Also, I had intended to use honey in this recipe, but I came home to find no honey in my pantry. Brown sugar was my substitute and I think it added a nice subtle sweetness.

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No Knead Bread


So I was trying to come up with a witty joke about “no-knead bread”…something about the need for no-knead bread…play on words…get it? Well, obviously I haven’t put it all together yet, but there is something there, I think…

Onto the bread! When I search online for recipes (usually on Tastespotting), the recipes that always catch my eye are the bread recipes. I LOVE bread. I LOVE carbs. So without further adieu, here is another bread recipe!

NO KNEAD BREAD

Ingredients
-3 1/4 cups flour
-3/4 Tbs yeast
-1 tsp. salt
-1/4 cup corn meal
-1 1/2 cup water

Directions
-Combine flour, salt, yeast and water in a large bowl. Stir until all of the dry flour has been mixed in. Let the dough sit, covered with a towel, on the counter for at least 2 hours.

-After dough has risen, flour your hands (the dough is pretty sticky)and portion the dough off into the desired rolls, loaves, etc. I chose to do a few small rolls and I saved the rest of the dough in the refrigerator. I think that the dough in the refrigerator will last about two weeks.

-Cover a baking sheet or wooden paddle with cornmeal and place the shaped rolls on it. Let rise for an hour. After an hour, use a sharp knife to make slits in the shape of an “X” on the top to allow the bread to expand as it bakes.

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes.

 

 

 

Mini Cinnamon Sugar Muffins


These aren’t quite donut holes–they didn’t come out of the center of a donut–but they sure taste like delicious cinnamon sugar donut holes. Best part is, they are not fried! And let me just give a word of warning: make sure there are others around to help you eat this. If there weren’t other people in the house when these came out of the oven, I’m pretty sure I could have eaten them all on my own! You have been warned…

And even though these might not be fried donut holes, do trust that they are pretty unhealthy…but oh so good! That’s probably why the blog I got this recipe from called them ‘Sin’amon Morning Muffins’!!

Mini Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

Ingredients (for the muffins):

1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter

Ingredients (for the cinnamon sugar coating):

1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a mini-muffin tin. Combine the egg, milk and melted butter. Add all the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Fill the muffin tin cups about 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Let the muffins cool on a rack.

Next, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Melt the 1/2 cup of butter in a separate bowl. Dip each muffin in the melted butter, making sure to coat all surfaces, then roll each muffin in the cinnamon sugar mixture until completely covered.

 

Oh and make sure you eat as you go! It adds to the fun of it…haha! I dare you to make these delicious bites of heaven and not take a bite as you go. But as Laurie @simplycratch warns, get your fat pants ready!

Sausage Meatballs


I spent most of my Saturday afternoon watching the Food Network, which had an ongoing theme of great comfort foods. Now I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that when someone mentions ‘comfort food’ you immediately think of meatballs, but I definitely think that these qualify as a great comfort food! I found this recipe for Italian Meatballs and adapted my own version using spicy sausage instead of ground beef.

I have never made my own meatballs before. It’s kind of a mix between disgusting and fun. You mix all the ingredients together with your hands and roll out each of the meatballs, so please, please, PLEASE wash your hands! Here is my recipe!

SAUSAGE MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

12 oz spicy sausage
1/2 medium sized onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup bread crumbs1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 egg white
1/3 cup all purpose flour
4 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. worcestershire
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Directions:

Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Heat 2 Tbs. vegetable oil in a small skillet on medium heat and add onions and garlic, allowing them to sweat out and get soft, but not caramelize.

Prepare the meatball mix in a large bowl. Remove sausage from casing, add bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley, egg white, worcestershire and red pepper flakes. Once onions and garlics are done, add them to the mix as well.

Use your hands to mix together all the ingredients. Make sure you wait a few minutes for the onions and garlic to cool before you stick your hands in there though. Once a homogenous mixture is created, roll the meat mixture into small balls (about 1 Tbs.) and line up on a baking sheet.

Put flour in a shallow bowl and start to heat remaining vegetable oil in pan. For this, I used the same pan that I used for the garlic and onions to keep that flavor going. Coat each meatball in flour, shaking off the excess, then move to pan over medium heat. Continue to cook meatballs until they are cooked all the way through and crispy brown on the outside.

Once done, transfer the meatballs to a plate covered in paper towels to soak up excess grease.

This made about 40-50 meatballs for me and I used them to make spaghetti and meatballs. I have A LOT left over and I just cooked the ones that I was going to use for dinner that night. For the rest, I kept them on the cookie sheet that I lined them up on and put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes to ‘flash-freeze’ them. After 10 minutes, I was able to throw them into a plastic bag without worrying about them sticking together. So now when I’m ready to use them again, I can just take out as many as I need and return the rest to the freezer!

 

frozen meatballs

 

 

 

delicious meatballs ready for their pasta marriage 🙂

 

 

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


I think I may have already posted a recipe for this type of cookie, but I’ve found a different recipe and this version is better than any other cookie I’ve made. It’s Betty Crocker’s Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and it’s DELICIOUS! I think I’ve figured out why I love it so much, and that’s because of the amount of brown sugar that it uses. Normally, the recipe on the back of a Nestle chocolate chip bag will tell you to add 3/4 cup (white) sugar and 3/4 cup packed brown sugar. Betty Crocker on the other hand calls for no regular sugar but 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar. From just the way that the butter and brown sugar combines, you can tell that the consistency will be different better. The other thing about these cookies is that they will always come out perfectly chewy–I think it’s because the oats soak up all the goodness of the rest of the batter and end up cooking just enough to make the cookies have the desired crunchy-to-chewy-ratio.

This major difference in the recipe made me wonder…what is brown sugar? Maybe you know already, but I had no idea. Apparently, the sugar is brown because of the presence of molasses. So the amount of molasses in the sugar is how it is identified as normal granulated sugar, light brown sugar, or dark brown sugar. Light brown sugar contains 3.5% molasses and dark brown sugar contains 6.5%. You would think that brown sugar would be the most natural form, being the least refined option. However, brown sugar is often manufactured by adding molasses to completely refined white sugar crystals. This is done because it is easier to control the molasses to refined sugar ratio and ends up saving money in production. Oh! Fun fact! In the 1800’s, the refined white sugar industry (who did not have full control over brown sugar production at the time) started a smear campaign against brown sugar. They reproduced microscopic pictures that showed impurities in brown sugar. Apparently they were successful in their campaign–by the 1900s, cookbooks were warning that brown sugar was susceptible to  ‘minute insect’ infestations. Thanks Wikipedia! Alright, that’s enough learning for the day! On to the tastiness!

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Makes about 36-40 cookies

Ingredients:
-1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
-1 cup butter, softened
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 egg
-2 cups quick-cooking oats
-1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp. salt
-2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (12 oz bag)

Directions:
-Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir brown sugar and butter until well blended. Stir in vanilla extract and egg until light and fluffy. Stir in oats, flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in half of the chocolate chips (6 oz.)

-Drop dough by the tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
-Bake for 5 minutes and add 3-4 chocolate chips (remaining chocolate chips) to each half-baked cookie. Continue baking for 4-5 more minutes, or until golden brown.
-Cool slightly and move from cookie sheet to wire rack.

The half-and-half trick with the chocolate chip cookies is just something I’ve learned recently. Not only does it make the cookies look better for blog pictures, but I honestly think it makes it taste better–you have some chocolate embedded in the cookies and some yumminess on the top too! YUM!

Broccoli Cheddar Casserole with Chicken


So I usually find my recipes from various blogs on the internet, but this one is a spontaneous creation of my own. My plan, when I set out for the grocery store, was to make a yummy broccoli cheese soup and serve it in a bread bowl. It was this delicious-looking recipe that I found online earlier today. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any bread bowls and had to just substitute some french bread on the side. And yes, I know, I could have made my own bread, but I didn’t have time for all the kneading and rising and all that jazz–french bread it was. So I got the rest of my ingredients and headed home. Just as I set out all my ingredients on the counter, I realized that I forgot the most important one–chicken broth! Chicken broth is the whole foundation of the soup! After spending about 10 minutes debating whether or not I should go back out to get it or not, I decided to try and make something else with the ingredients that I had. Thus, my broccoli cheddar casserole with chicken was born.

In the process of naming this dish, I had to look up what the word ‘casserole’ actually meant. Turns out that anything that has been cooked and served in a casserole dish is considered a casserole. Simple enough.So my recipe is basically broccoli cheddar soup (sans chicken broth), with baked chicken pieces, poured over pasta, sprinkled with Swiss cheese and baked in a casserole dish.

Broccoli Cheddar Casserole with Chicken

Ingredients:
1/3 c. flour
1/4 c. butter
1 tsp. Pepper
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
3 cups chopped broccoli
2 chicken breasts
1 package of pasta (any kind of small pasta would work–I used macaroni, but you could also use something like rotini or fusilli)

Directions:
Boil water and cooks pasta. Drain and rinse.

Season 2 chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

In another pot, melt butter and add flour and milk. Mix until smooth. Next, add in 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese. Keep this mixture on very low heat and once it is all combined, turn off heat and put a top on the pot. Steam chopped broccoli and add to cheese mixture. Remove chicken from oven and cut into small pieces (about 3/4 inch long). Add chicken pieces into cheese mixture as well.

Return drained pasta to its pot and pour cheddar mixture over top. Mix together and then transfer to a well-greased casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a brown crust forms.

Pretzel Bites


Any attempt that I ever make to start eating better is promptly dashed against the rocks when I’m faced with bread. And finding this recipe was no exception. I’ve adapted this recipe for pretzel bites from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. She says the recipe makes about two dozen, but I’m not quite sure how many I actually made because I had eaten too many by the time the second batch came out of the oven…oops!

Pretzel Bites

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbs. baking soda
3 Tbs. butter, melted

Directions:
Mix 1 cup water with yeast and sugar in a cup or small prep dish. In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Add water mixture and mix until dough comes together. You may need to add more water or flour to get the right consistency. The dough should be smooth and not sticky. Knead dough for about five minutes. Lightly flour the dough and place back in large bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and prepare two baking sheets by lightly greasing them.

Once the dough has risen, move back to a floured surface and divide into 4 equal strips. Then cut strips into bite-sized pieces (about 1 inch wide). Combine 1/2 cup warm water and baking soda in a small bowl or cup. Stir the mixture well so that the baking soda dissolves well. Dip each piece of dough in mixture and transfer to baking sheets. This mixture helps to make the pretzels golden brown in the oven.

Bake pretzels (one baking sheet at a time) for 7 minutes, or until golden brown. Melt 3 Tbs. butter. Remove the pretzels from the oven and brush pretzel bites with butter.

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Food Photography


Photography has always been an art that I’ve respected but have never been able to master…well, I honestly haven’t really tried, so who knows what I’m capable of? But for now, let’s just assume that photography is not my forte. As I try to blog more–especially about cooking and baking–I’m realizing how much a great picture can draw in readers. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that I can do now with the equipment that I have. So in the meantime, I just look at other peoples’ food photography. I thought I’d share some of my favorite websites and blogs here:

 

Tastespotting

 

Smitten Kitchen

 

 

Sugar Plum

 

 

Andrew Scrivani

 

 

Lara Ferroni

Tiramisu Cupcakes


Well I’ve tried to make Tiramisu before and ruined it completely. But take a look at this cupcake recipe from TheGrubDaily. Now this is something that I think I could handle. No mess of soaking cookies in coffee and all that other stuff. But I really enjoy this recipe because it ties everything together in a unique (and yummy) little package. She uses real vanilla bean in the cupcake batter, brushes the cupcake tops with marsala-coffee syrup and allows it to soak into the cupcakes, then dollops mascarpone frosting on top with a dusting of cocoa powder. All the elements are there!

Now this is not my picture–I haven’t made it yet–but isn’t that wonderful-looking?! I want to get a nice camera just to take pictures of food! 🙂 I’m going to plan to try to make these cupcakes this weekend, but there are a lot of ingredients I don’t have…like a vanilla bean. Wish me luck!

Ingredients (Cupcakes)
Makes about 18 cupcakes

  • 1 ÂĽ cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
  • Âľ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon course salt (Kosher salt)
  • ÂĽ cup milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
  • 4 tablespoons (half stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cu into pieces
  • 3 whole large eggs, and 3 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions Cupcake Batter:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Heat milk and vanilla-bean pod and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat just until bubbles apprea around the edge (not a boil!). Remove from the heat. Whisk in the butter until melted, and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain the milk mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, and discard the vanilla-bean pod.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk together whole eggs, yolks, and sugar. The set the mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, and continuously whisk by hand until sugar is dissolved (rub between fingers to check) and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from heat. With an electric mixer on high speed, whisk until mixture is fluffy, pale yellow, and thick enough to hold a ribbon on the surface for several seconds when whisk is lifted.

Gently but thoroughly fold flour mixture into the egg mixture in three batches; stir 1/2 cup batter into the strained milk mixture to thicken, then fold milk mixture into the remaining batter until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups (using ice cream scooper!), filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until centers are completely set (test with toothpick) and edges are light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

To finish, brush tops of cupcakes evenly with coffee-marsala syrup; repeat until all or most of syrup has been used. Allow cupcakes to absorb liquid 30 minutes. Dollop frosting onto cupcakes; refrigerate up to overnight in airtight containers. Dust generously with cocoa powder just before serving.

Ingredient Marsala-Coffee Syrup:

  • 1 ounce (shot) marsala wine
  • ÂĽ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon freshly brewed strong coffee

Directions Marsala-Coffee Syrup:

Combine the ingredients in bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Ingredients Mascarpone Frosting:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions Mascarpone Frosting:

Beat the heavy cream with whisk attachment of electric mixer on medium speed, until stiff peaks form. Do not over beat or the cream will be grainy! In a separate bowl whisk together the mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture, until just combined. Use immediately.

Homemade Sandwich Bread


How cool would it be if you NEVER had to buy bread from the store again. Think of how much money you could save and how good your house could smell all the time! Well I don’t know if I’m ready to completely give up store-bought bread, but I’ve finally found a recipe that gives you the white squishy sandwich bread straight from your own oven.

I used a bread machine to mix the dough and let it rise, then  baked it in the oven.

SANDWICH BREAD

Ingredients:

4 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
1 cup warm milk
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs sugar

Preparation:

Add all of your ingredients to the bread machine mixer and set for a 2lb loaf size. Now you need to keep in mind that the texture is very important with this bread. When the dough is done, you want a drier dough than you usually would–you don’t want air pockets when it bakes, like you would get with a more crusty, rustic bread. The dough should be dry to the touch (the dough shouldn’t stick to your fingers). This may require you to add a little additional water or more flour to get the right consistency. This combination can also depend on your altitude, so don’t necessarily follow my measurements too strictly.

When the mixing cycle is done and it has risen in the bread machine, move the dough to a well-greased loaf pan. Cover the pan and let rise for another hour or so–the dough should rise above the top of the pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes–but watch it closely! It could be more, could be less.

Just a warning–the crust may seem hard at first, but it will soften into a fluffy white bread.

So GOOD! I just need more practice at cutting thin-sandwich-bread-slices of bread. Guess I’ll have to bake more to practice!