nutbut

I don’t know if I have ever fully opened up to you all about my love for nut butter. Let me share my heart with you a little today.

I have a friend wo has been known to challenge people to a game called “I love peanut butter more than you love peanut butter”, which usually ends in him telling his opponent that if there was a puppy in the road and a jar of peanut butter next to it, and a car was hurtling towards the pair at top speed, he would save the jar of peanut butter before the puppy (he has even been know to push the hypothetical puppy into the path of the hypothetical car on his way to the hypothetical peanut butter jar in order to win the game).

I’m not going to challenge you all to any hypothetical duals. I do, however, happen to have a bit of hard evidence.

(not pictured: my jar of tahini)

When you get to 6 (uh..7) jars, you start wondering if you have a problem. Actually, at this point in time I’m down to 4; I polished off the scrapings of both the chocolate almond butter and the crunchy pb in the form of overnight oats (one of the best breakfasts there is).

But.. I also have a stash squirreled away…

I’ll leave the diagnosis up to you, while I focus on the nut butter.

It’s the component of most of the breakfasts I eat that I believe really makes the meal stick with me. The healthy fats and protein are a satisfying combo, and then on top of that you get the vitamin E, iron, calcium, and antioxidants that occur in nuts and seeds in various quantities. I think the fact that the nuts are ground until their oils release means that the nutrients are brought out from their cells, ready for absorption. And your tongue can tell! Isn’t a spoonful of peanut butter more satisfying than a handful of peanuts? (or is that just me?)

Oatmeal with figs, peanut butter, and maple syrup.

And the enrichment of your life via nut butters isn’t limited to breakfast. Last night I made a saute of sweet potatoes, turnips, red pepper, and onion in a easy sauce made from a mixture of tahini, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Just mix approximately equal amounts of those ingredients together, adjust until you like how it tastes, and thin it with water to add to your saute towards the end of cooking. You can also do salad dressings from similar mixtures.

Nut butter is an easy ingredient to play around with, and the results will seldom be unsatisfactory. Worth keeping a jar or two (or six…) in your pantry for some easily-accesible energy and flavor.

I’m always open to new ideas for things to do with nut butters, so if you have any to share, please feel free!

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A Load-a Oats: Cookie Recipes!

(Hooray, I recovered the post!  Today’s Tidbit #Two: Sometimes Perseverance Pays Off)

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for*… Here’s the missing cookie recipe from the last post.  Or, I guess, recipes, since I made the one recipe into two different cookies.

*I fully recognizes that none of you may have been waiting for this moment at all… but I hope you’re glad it’s here anyway : )

Like I said before, I started with a recipe from Oh She Glows (which was already a combination of two different recipes), and then did some experimental modification to create two different types of cookie with one dough base.

I’ll give you the base, and then the mix-ins for the two variations.  Or feel free the variate to your taste. They will satisfy any oaty and/or nutty need that resides within your being.  Plus most of the mixing takes place in a food processor, which minimizes the need for both extra hours in the day and high endurance arm strength.

Nuts and Oats Cookie Base

Ingredients:

1 cup toasted almonds*

3/4 cup oats, ground in a food processor until flour-like

1 cup old fashioned oats, not ground

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 tsp any type of milk (cow’s, soy, almond, etc)

1/4 cup (4 tbsp) unsalted butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

(*If your almonds aren’t already toasted, toast for 10-12 minutes in a 350 F oven until they smell lovely.)

Directions:

1- Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a baking sheet.

2- Put the almonds in a food processor and process until finely ground (before it starts to exude oils and turn to almond butter)

3- Add oat “flour”, all purpose flour, old fashioned oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar and process for about 30 seconds until all mixed up (it may seem redundant to have the floury oats and the old fashioned, but the floury ones help hold the cookies together, and the unground oats add some oat nub textures).

3- Melt the butter in a mixing bowl (or melt the butter on the stove top and then put it in the mixing bowl).  Stir in the maple syrup, milk of choice, and vanilla.  Pour these wet ingredients into the food processor and process until thoroughly combined.

4- At this point, if you are making a chocolate version of these cookies, you also need to process the cocoa powder and extra 2 tbsp milk (see below for specifications).  If you do this, expect this:

Transformation!

5- Remove dough to the mixing bowl and stir in your mix-ins.

6- Remove about 2 tbsp of dough, roll into a ball, and then flatten into a cookie shape.  Place on cookie sheet and repeat, spacing cookies about an inch apart.

7- Bake for 10 minutes, no longer!

8- Remove from oven and let sit on sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack until cool.

Possible Mix-In Ingredients:

for Double Dark Chocolate Oat Cookies..

2/3 cup cocoa powder

2 tbsp milk of choice

1/2 cup chocolate chips

(the cocoa powder and milk are processed in with the dough in the food processor and the chocolate chips are stirred in after)

for Extra Oaty Cherry Walnut…

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/4 cup walnut pieces

(stir all of these ingredients into the dough after removing from the food processor)

That was probably the last thing I baked just for fun… over a month ago!

School is always a difficult balance for me because if I decide to try and “relax” I often end up preoccupied about the work I should be doing.  But if I let my need to work take over, I seldom do certain things I enjoy, such as baking.  I am not as extreme as some — I always make time for running, eating, and sleeping — but there are many things in life I find pleasing and I do not want to exclude all of those things from my life.

Friday I stayed in College Park to do some grading in the hopes that Sunday could be a little more relaxing, but today is Sunday and I still feel the weight of the Things To Do that lie ahead… However, I did make a conscious decision to bake this cake, since it was something my mother expressed interest in and I am currently obsessed with fresh figs.

Figs, resting in a bed of butter and brown sugar, scattered over with rosemary, waiting to become a lemony Fresh Fig, Walnut,  and Rosemary Upside Down Cake.  I can’t vouch for the taste yet, but the smell is definitely tantalizing.  According to Food Blogga, who posted the original, it’s a cake of balance and contrast, which are the qualities that make desserts like these interesting.  I was convinced, and maybe you will be too : )

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A Tidbit for Today: Blogging May Introduce Some Frustrations Into Your Life

Like when you spend an hour — that you maybe should have been using to do school work — on writing a blog post, because you decided you should do something more relaxing than school work for a little bit, and then said post disappears into the internet, leaving only an error message in its wake.

Well, I guess you’re not getting the cookie recipe today, but here’s another treat for the delightful edge-of-season season we’re in right now.

An aromatic cake I made this afternoon, taking advantage of the beautiful fresh figs that seem to be everywhere…

Go check out the recipe, it’s a Fresh Fig, Walnut and Rosemary Upside Down Cake.

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These Cookies are Highly Evolved

When I make cookies for the public, I usually stick to the recipe. But when I make them just to have around the house, I have a hard time leaving the recipe alone. I can’t resist trying to find some way to reduce the amount of refined (and/or total) sugar or incorporate oats and/or nuts. It’s almost compulsory, actually. But I’m usually pleased with the results.

I love the chewy texture ground oats provide, and the rich flavors from nuts. Plus, we have to give credit where credit is due: both ingredients make your cookies healthier. Better-tasting and healthier = win-win.

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Recipes have always evolved as they have been passed through generations and amongst friends, but the internet has intensified and complicated this evolution. The recipe I most recently modified was actually an already-modified recipe. Angela from Oh She Glows has a recipe for vegan oatmeal raisin cookies, which is already a combination of two different recipes. I modified her recipe, then divided the batch in half and modified each further to get two different cookies out of the batch (you follow?). One chocolate, one cherry walnut. It’s like combining the genes of two species and then genetically altering the offspring before they’re even born. But don’t worry, the analogy stops there…no need to protest these cookies; save your activism energy for actual GMOs : )

What you actually might want to protest is that this is a teaser. I am back at College Park, just starting my first semester of graduate school in nutrition, and I left the recipe at home (along with my computer cord…). But it had been so long since my last post, I just had to update. So this teaser stands as a taste of what’s to come, as well as motivation to continue!

Speaking of grad school, I taught my first discussion as a TA today. It went as well as I could have hoped for, and now that I know what to expect for the next two sections I am more excited than nervous about the job (before this afternoon’s discussion I was perhaps equally nervous and excited). Teaching is such an important experience- for confidence, communication and public speaking, and then just the pure delight of witnessing young people learning.

Before I go, just a recommendation: my astoundingly talented friend, Meredith, just started a food blog herself. It will with no doubt be more organized and consistent than mine is.. : ) Go see for yourself!

And so this isn’t a one-picture post, here is a snack; purchased from and consumed at a farm stand when Bonnie and I drove back from visiting Meredith (see above) and Tyler up in Boston. I offer it as a symbol of balance as I begin my education in nutrition and make you wait for cookies…

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Summer Winner Dinner

This is one of those dishes that pops into my brain every once in a while, and then I can’t stop thinking about it until we make it for dinner. If you ignore the fact that it requires the oven, it’s the perfect summer recipe. It’s very simple, and does a great job featuring the flavors of fresh garden tomatoes, basil, and zucchini.

All you do is roast sliced tomatoes and zucchini…

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And layer them with a mixture of ricotta, egg, basil, garlic, and Parmesan.

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Then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Easy as crustless ricotta summer vegetable pie.
Actually it’s more like a lasagna without the noods.
(That’s noodles, for those of you who didn’t go to college with me… As featured in the self-explanatory dorm-friendly meals of buttery noods and saucy noods.)

Here’s the recipe.
It’s a Washington Post recipe from 2 summers ago. The recipe says to sprinkle the garlic on top, but we mix it in with the cheese mixture. I’m sure both are good. Or double the garlic and do both. That’s probably good too. It’s one of those recipes that’s hard to ruin. If you do manage to
ruin it you can always call on the backup dinner of buttery noods… : )

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Flecked with Brownie

If you give an Anna a Banana Brownie, she’s going to want some ice cream to go with it.

And then since you don’t have ice cream you’re going to have to blend a frozen banana into banana soft serve.

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Whole wheat banana brownies topped with pure banana goodness? It almost sounds healthy. But I still felt decadent eating it… Must be a good recipe : )

You can find said recipe here. You will also find better pictures of the results. If I made these again (which I probably will) I would cut the sugar; my bananas were very ripe and the brownies were almost too sweet. I might also try maple syrup as the sweetener– I think that mellow sweetness would suit the recipe well.

For best results in all of the above, flecked with brown all the way.

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Fillings

Life has been full.

School is busy, but I’m loving the class. I’m still having fun waiting tables. I’ve been running a little more this week, after a total of only 9 miles for the entirety of last week (it was probably my busiest week yet). I’m tired but happy.

Expeditions…

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O’s game! (they lost :()

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But I won because the weather and company were great and I ate grilled corn :)

Experiments…

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It’s called a waterfall braid… Looks cool when it’s down, too!

and Eats!

Quesadillas are easy, quick, and can be really healthy. Oh yeah and they taste good.

I have here two variations I made this week:

Sweet potato, goat cheese, bellavitano (nutty, a little sharp, delicious) and chard…

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(chard not pictured…you’ll just have to take my word for it)

Spinach, goat cheese, and a fried egg…

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Both are so good! Last year I made my own tortillas– that would definitely take these up another notch.

May your life and your quesadillas be full of good things!!

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