Monthly Archives: March 2014

Homemade (Honey) Peanut Butter

I have another secret … are you ready for this?

Up until VERY recently, I’ve hated peanut butter with a passion.  I don’t actually like peanuts, either, so I guess it’s not really surprising, but I was never able to make myself like it, even though my family loved it (and my sister used to carry a jar of peanut butter around in her purse — I’m not even kidding!)

However, I came across the following recipe for making my own peanut butter from scratch and decided to do so for my significant other.  As I was making it, I decided to taste test it.  And, whoa.

Seriously, whoa.

I ended up making this recipe every week for a while.  From there, I slowly developed a taste for peanut butter.  I still can’t stand the non-natural versions, but I can now just sit and happily eat a jar of natural peanut butter (with or without honey!)

This recipe converted someone who hated peanut butter.   It’s that good.

  • 2 1/2 cups of unsalted peanuts
  • 4 tbsp oil (peanut oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, or even vegetable oil — but NOT olive oil)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • salt to taste

Pour peanuts into food processor and grind until the mixture looks similar to wet sand.  Slowly add your oil and honey in small batches.  Between all of this, you will need to stop grinding, open the lid, and scrape the sides so that it all mixes well.  Once that is all mixed in, slowly add salt to taste.  (This is the best time to taste test!)

* For chunks of peanuts, chop up another 1/2 cup and mix in well (not with the food processor).

Store in the fridge in an airtight container.  Please note that this will harden a bit in the fridge, so when you want to eat some of your delicious homemade peanut butter, just let the container sit out for a few minutes before digging in.

This recipe originated from Simply Scratch.

Sweet and Spicy Sausage Over Rice

This recipe came from a friend and it is gooood.

  • 1 package of beef smoked sausage
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 – 1 package of taco seasoning
  • 1/2 jar of 18 oz apricot preserves
  • 1 cup uncooked rice / quinoa

Dice the sausage into thick circles, and then cut those circles in half.  Place in large pan on stovetop on medium high heat.  While the sausage browns, start the rice and get that simmering (2 cups water to 1 cup of uncooked rice / quinoa).

Once the sausage is browned to your liking, lower the heat and add the can of diced tomatoes.  Next, stir in the taco seasoning (start with 1/2 of package and add more to taste — the taco seasoning is what makes this dish spicy).  Add the apricot preserves in next, starting with a spoonful, and working your way up to 1/2 of the jar (again, add to taste).  Personally, I add in the full package of taco seasoning, and as close to half as I can get of the apricot preserves.

Stir well and let simmer until rice / quinoa is also done.  Serve the sausage mixture over rice / quinoa and enjoy!

This recipe can easily be doubled for lots of leftovers.

Monkey Bread

I LOVE making this recipe for friends.  It’s delicious, easy, fast, and gets devoured quickly.  Seriously, try it!  Last time I made this, it was gone within 10 minutes.

This recipe can be made in one bundt pan, 2 large bread pans, or one 9×13 pan.

  • 3 cans of buttermilk biscuit tubes (7.5 oz each) OR 2 cans of buttermilk biscuit tubes (16.3 oz each)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix 1 cup sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Open the cans and separate the biscuits.  Cut each biscuit into 4 pieces (using a pizza cutter makes this job very easy).  Drop and toss each piece into the cinnamon and sugar mix.  Drop the sugar coated pieces into the well greased pan, being careful not to squish any of the pieces together.

Once all of the pieces have been coated in the cinnamon and sugar mix and place in the pan, take 1/2 cup of the leftover cinnamon and sugar mix and put it in a saucepan.  Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup of butter.  Heat saucepan over medium heat and stir well.  Once the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and drizzle over the biscuit pieces.

Put pan into oven for 30 minutes.  The bread is done cooking when the top is brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

When done, remove pan from oven, let cool as long as you can, and serve.

Boozy Shrimp with Red Pepper Flakes and Garlic

Shrimp is fast and easy!  I usually make shrimp dishes if I’ve forgotten to take meat out to thaw and I don’t want to run to the store.  With that in mind, I also keep a very well stocked kitchen and I go shopping once a week for groceries … so if I don’t have an ingredient that can easily be replaced, I substitute said ingredient instead of running back to the store.  In the recipe below, onions can be substituted for shallots (as I did), but keep in mind that shallots tend to have a more mild and sweet flavor, and onions tend to have a stronger flavor.  If you don’t like onions THAT much, go out and get some shallots, and try this recipe.

  • 1/2 pound shrimp
  • 1 can or bottle of beer
  • 1 shallot or 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Pour beer into a saucepan and turn the heat to medium high.  Add shallot or onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves.  Bring the pot to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the beer has been reduced by half.

IMG_8289

Add shrimp, salt, and pepper, and cook about 3-4 minutes, or until pink.  Top with parley.

Serve shrimp over rice or quinoa.

IMG_8293

This recipe originated from Wishful Chef.

Pan-Seared, Oven-Roasted Chicken Breast (skinless, boneless)

I cook chicken often.  It’s easy to cook and easy to get creative with so that eating chicken often doesn’t get boring or old.  With that being said, I usually pan fry my chicken for a fast and quick meal when I’m being lazy.  I was inspired to try pan-searing, followed by oven-roasting, and realized that this particular method of cooking is, hands down, my favorite way to cook chicken when I’m feeling lazy.  It’s flavorful, very juicy, and easy!

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • seasoning to taste (I would recommend  garlic powder, salt, and pepper)

Pre-heat oven to 375.

Take an oven-safe pan and put it on the stove top on medium high heat.  Add olive oil.  If needed, trim the fat off of your chicken and then season.

IMG_8269

(I went slightly off-recipe when I was taking these pictures.  I cut my chicken up into large chunks, used hot pepper olive oil, my chili and garlic smoked sea salt grinder, and lemon pepper seasoning.  Remember what I said about creative?)

Add chicken carefully to hot pan and let it sit for 3-4 minutes before turning it to the other side.  The side that was previously facing down should be browned and looking delicious.  Let the chicken sit for another 3-4 minutes so that the other side browns and (using oven gloves, in my case) transfer the pan to the oven.

IMG_8270

Depending on the thickness of the chicken, it should take anywhere from 15-20 minutes.  The important part is that the chicken is 165 F on the inside.  (If you get the chicken to 160 F and let it rest for 10 minutes, it will get up to 165 and be even juicier — so it’s your choice!)

IMG_8274

The inspiration for this post came from 101 Cooking for Two.

 

Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Balsamic Vinegar

Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that I never liked — until I started cooking them myself.  To be fair, I’ve only ever cooked them the single way a friend once recommended, but my point still stands.  This recipe takes that cooking style (oven roasting) and adds extra delicious flavors to the mix.  While my significant other doesn’t actually like Brussels sprouts, he’ll happily eat them when there is bacon involved.

  • 8 oz bacon, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3 tbsp bacon grease from cooked bacon (or 3 tbsp of good olive oil)
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar *

Foil a roasting pan and put it in the oven.  With the pan in the oven, preheat the oven to 400 F.

On the stove top, heat a pan and add the bacon.  Keep an eye on the bacon so that it doesn’t burn.  When it is cooked to your liking, remove the bacon from the pan and put the pieces on a paper towel covered plate.

While the bacon is cooking, chop off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and any outer leaves that are yellow.  Slice the Brussels sprouts in half and put them in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Once the bacon is done cooking, pour the bacon grease (or olive oil) on top of the Brussels sprouts and toss / mix until well covered.

Carefully pull the preheated roasting pan out of the oven and pour the Brussels sprouts onto the pan before replacing it in the oven.  Roast the Brussels sprouts for 20-30 minutes, or until tender and brown.

Near the end of the roasting process, take 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and pour it into a small skillet on medium high heat.  Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 2-4 minutes, or until it’s slightly thinner than you want it (since it will keep reducing after you take it off the stove). *

* If your balsamic vinegar is aged and already thick, skip the reduction!  All you need to do is drizzle balsamic vinegar (to taste) over the Brussels sprouts in the following step.

Once done, remove the Brussels spouts and mix with the bacon pieces.  Drizzle your reduced (or aged and already thick) balsamic vinegar on top, toss to mix, and serve.

Stuffed Peppers

Back when I didn’t like eating green anything, I had to be creative in order to get my daily servings of vegetables.  This recipe helped!  The peppers are delicious when stuffed with such flavorful insides.

  • 4 large green bell peppers (or 6 smaller green bell peppers) with tops, seeds, and membranes removed
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 pound sausage
  • 2 cups cooked rice or quinoa
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 packet of Lipton’s onion dip mix
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling water, add peppers and blanch until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and dry on paper towels.

In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, stirring often, about 3 minutes.  Add the sausage and rest of seasonings (salt, pepper, oregano, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes, onion dip mix).  Cook until the meat is browned, stirring with a heavy spoon to break up the lumps.  Add the rice and tomato sauce and stir well.  Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning to taste as necessary.

Stuff peppers with mixture and slice bottoms of peppers as necessary so they sit well.  Cover the pan with foil and bake peppers for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, remove the foil.  Add cheese (and extra tomato / spaghetti sauce if desired) on top and bake until cheese is melted.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

This soup is a great alternative to the tedious prep work that comes with stuffed peppers.  It’s also especially great for the cold weather outside.  Filling, delicious, and warm.

  • 3 cups cooked rice or quinoa (start with 1 1/5 cups uncooked)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 3/4 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste

Put a large pot on the stovetop and turn the heat to high.  Add ground beef and a little bit of salt and cook until browned.  Once the meat is brown, drain out the remaining fat and reduce the heat to medium low.  Add your chopped peppers, garlic, and onion, and cook for another 5 minutes.

At this point, add full cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, and seasonings.  Stir, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes so the flavors mix well.

When ready to eat, serve the soup on top of your cooked rice / quinoa and enjoy!

This recipe originated from Skinnytaste.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

We all have our little secrets — and here’s mine: I’ve never liked mashed potatoes.  That is, until started making them myself.  This recipe is my favorite for mashed potatoes and I will happily eat them without gravy.  They are smooth and delicious, and you can taste the garlic, but it’s not overpowering.  Perfect mashed potatoes!

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 (whole) garlic cloves
  • 1 1/8 cup milk (I add anywhere from 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups of milk)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start with a pot of cold, salted water, and add potatoes and peeled (whole) garlic gloves.  Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender but still firm, about 15 minutes.

When they are tender, drain them in a colander and let them STEAM (5 minutes minimum, 10 minutes if you can wait). The more steam is gone, the more the potatoes will absorb the milk.

While the potatoes are steaming, heat the butter and milk in the same pot you cooked the potatoes in.  Avoid bringing the milk to a boil; you just want to make sure the milk and butter are warm.  Add the steamed potatoes and mash and season.  (Note that if you haven’t let the potatoes steam, they will not absorb nearly as much milk and you will need to adjust as appropriate to compensate.)

Homemade Salsa Verde

This salsa is so, so good.  I actually eat it with a spoon once I’ve run of out chips.  I’ve put it on a burger (recipe to follow) and it’s amazing.  It’s extremely easy!  Go ahead and try it!

  • 3/4 lb fresh tomatillos (or one 11 oz can of tomatillos)
  • 1 poblano chili
  • 1 serrano chili
  • 1 clove of garlic (1 tsp)
  • 2 tablespoons onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt (1/2 tsp if using canned tomatillos)
  • 5 tbsp water

Preheat your oven to the broiler setting for 5 minutes.

Remove the husks from 3 quarters of a pound of fresh tomatillos, then rinse the tomatillos and pat them dry. If you can’t find fresh tomatillos,  it’s fine to use canned tomatillos. For this recipe,  you would need one 11-ounce can.

Next,   line a broiler pan with foil. Arrange the tomatillos on the broiler pan. If you’re using canned tomatillos,  you won’t need to roast them; just drain them and set them aside. Place 1 poblano chilli and 1 serrano chilli on the broiler pan along with the tomatillos. Poblano chillies are mild in terms of heat,  but serrano chillies can be  hot.  (If you’re really adventurous, toss a jalapeno in there.  It adds an excellent kick.)

Broil the tomatillos and the chillies until they are charred. This will take anywhere from 3-6 minutes. Use tongs to turn them and broil the other sides until they’re charred, another 3-6 minutes (might be more or less in your oven). This process intensifies the tomatillo and pepper flavor,  which adds another dimension of flavor to the salsa.

Once charred on both sides, pull out the pan and cover the pan carefully in foil and let rest for 10 minutes. This step is very important to make skinning and de-seeding the poblano chili much easier.

In the meantime,  mince 1 clove of garlic. You’ll need 1 teaspoon. Chop 2 tablespoons of onion and chop 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro.

At 10 minutes, unwrap the tomatillos and chillies.  Peel the skin off the poblano chilli and remove the seeds. The tomatillos and the serrano chilli don’t need to be peeled or seeded.

Place the tomatillos and chillies into the bowl of a food processor. If you’re using canned tomatillos,  add them now. Add the garlic,  a quarter teaspoon of sugar,  and 1 teaspoon of salt . (If you’ve substituted canned tomatillos,  reduce the salt to half a teaspoon.) Pulse the mixture until the ingredients are coarsely chopped. Add 5 tablespoons of water,  the onion,  and the cilantro. Pulse again briefly until a coarse puree forms then transfer the salsa to a serving dish.

Use salsa verde just as you would a red salsa in Mexican dishes such as nachos,  enchiladas, and tacos. Also try salsa verde on grilled meats such as steak,  pork,  chicken, or burgers to give them a burst of fresh spicy flavor.