peanut butter

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS


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CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

Peanut butter cup and chocolate is a match made in heaven. Dark chocolate peanut butter cups could nearly be called a healthy snack. These little beauties are fabulous for today’s Valentine’s Day but they are perfect just about anytime. I will be bringing these to a relaunch of our local business networking group to sweeten up new members :)

Three ingredients is all you need. Nothing can be easier. Ten minutes prep, half an hour chilling in the freezer and the perfect treat is on the table. I prefer to use chocolate that is 70% cocoa content anything higher will be too bitter. But if you like higher cocoa content go ahead with 85%-90%….

I have used small size mini muffin cup cases that fit into a 24 mini muffin pan but we have also made larger size cups (think large Reeses size) in a 12 muffin pan, just use the smaller muffin paper cases. I prefer the smaller ones as I seem to get better ration of peanut butter to chocolate without making them too big to eat. Now a friend of mine pointed out my cups looked uneven… I am not very good at this fiddly stuff. Even or not they are delicious :) By the way my daughter was helping with making the peanut butter cups in these pictures so I can blame the unevenness on her ...

Enjoy. And Happy Valentines!


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CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

Makes 24 mini or 12 larger cups

350 g non dairy 70% dark chocolate
1/2 cup smooth, sugar free peanut butter
1-2 tbs maple syrup (depending on your taste buds)

Place the peanut butter in the middle she said :)
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  • Place a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Break the chocolate into pieces (there is something satisfying about hitting the wrapped bar of chocolate against the chopping board… ). Let the chocolate slowly melt.
  • While the chocolate is melting in a small bowl (cereal bowl will do) mix the peanut butter and maple syrup together till well combined.
  • Place the muffin cups into the muffin pans. If using mini muffins pour about half tablespoon of the melted chocolate. Place a half a teaspoon of the peanut butter mix in the middle of the chocolate puddle and cover with another half tablespoon of chocolate. Use more chocolate and peanut butter if making larger peanut butter cups.
  • Set in the freezer for half an hour.
  • Enjoy. (or wrap in a heart shaped box and gift to someone you love, preferably someone who will share…)

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COURGETTE NOODLES WITH PEANUT SAUCE

COURGETTE NOODLES WITH PEANUT SAUCE

After having visitors last week and making meals that were friendly for five children I really fancied something a bit more “out there”. Yes, making noodles out of vegetables is still very odd to so many people. There is however a shift towards healthier, more plant based diets. Small but sure steps. There are more and more people telling me about drinking green smoothies or buying juicers. I have also noticed that every time I show somebody the spiraliser there is a 50/50 chance they will be buying one.

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As you know I am addicted to peanut butter and use it in my cooking very often. You can also use almond or cashew nut butter in this recipe. It works well with either. You can make it as spicy or as mild as you like, you don’t have to use any chilli at all. I like quite a lot of lime juice, I added juice of 1 lime to the sauce but added another half a lime worth of juice to my portion. I didn’t have any fresh coriander, if you do, use plenty of it as a garnish. You can also use half courgettes half carrots for the noodles.

One important thing to remember about courgette noodles: if you let them sit (i.e. prepare in advance) mixed with sauce, they will release quite a lot of water. The lesson is, if you are planning to make this recipe and eat it later, use less water in the peanut sauce otherwise the flavours will be too diluted.

Enjoy!

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COURGETTE NOODLES WITH PEANUT SAUCE
Serves 2-3

3 courgettes
1/2 red pepper
3 spring onions
2 Tbs sesame seeds (I used black)
fresh coriander

Sauce
4 Tbs organic peanut butter
1 Tbs soya sauce (tamari or shoyu are best)
1/2 a mild chilli pepper
1-2 limes, juice
3-4 Tbs water

  • Using a spiraliser make the courgettes into noodles. I used the linguini setting. Place in a large bowl.
  • Slice the pepper into thin long strips, add to the bowl.
  • To make the sauce add all the sauce ingredients apart from water to a blender and blend adding water to achieve desirable consistency (see picture)
  • Pour the sauce onto the noodles mix well.
  • Serve the noodles garnished with slices of spring onion and black sesame seeds.

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SATAY KALE CHIPS

SATAY KALE CHIPS

Kale season is in full swing, I am putting it into smoothies, juices, stews and salad, but I will admit, kale chips are still my family’s firm favourite. I have turned many people onto kale chips, even some of my kids’ friends (talk about success!!).

I have to stand up and admit that I am a peanut butter addict, I have it on oat cakes or toast, in a quesadilla (with mashed banana), I add it into stews (and soups) and I can eat satay sauce by spoonfuls. Satay sauce with stir fries, as a dip for veggies, as a dressing for noodle salad… In my world anything tastes better with peanut butter. Why not satay sauce on kale chips right?

There is a good reason to serve kale and peanut butter together. I have found a study that shows the increase of beta carotene (from kale) conversion to vitamin A in the presence of peanut butter (yes it is the fat in the peanut butter that it the magic ingredient). Isn’t this the best excuse to make more kale/peanut butter recipes??? Not that I need an excuse to make this crunchy pea nutty treat…

Check out the study here:
http://www.fasebj.org/content/28/1_Supplement/LB417.short

the chips
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SATAY KALE CHIPS
ingredients
1 bunch of kale
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (organic, no sugar added)
cayenne pepper to taste (1/4 tsp)
2 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs soya sauce
warm water

method
  • Strip the kale leaves off the stalks, wash and dry thoroughly. I used a salad spinner to do this job.
  • In a bowl mix the peanut butter, cayenne pepper, lime juice, soya sauce and enough warm water to achieve a smooth, runny sauce that will easily coat the leaves.
  • Coat the kale leaves in the peanut sauce.
  • Spread the kale on dehydrator sheets and dehydrate for 14 hrs at 115F (46C).

the sauce
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ASIAN NOODLE SALAD WITH PEANUT DRESSING

ASIAN NOODLE SALAD WITH PEANUT DRESSING

We have been experiencing an incredible heatwave. I don’t think I have ever managed to wear all my summer clothes in one season in the UK. Don’t get me wrong we do get lovely weather here it but it just never seems to last very long.

Last week the intense heat made it very hard to revise for my college exam, I felt like falling asleep every time I picked up my study materials. I must say it is a relief that this college year is now behind me. At the same time I can’t wait to start my final one in September.

This week it has been lovely to have some study free time, my last three days have been spent catching up with housework (like the massive pile of ironing - I think my son has a t-shirt disorder!!!), friends (my lush 4 hour breakfast yesterday morning) and my son"s activities to mark his last year of junior school.

Two nights in a row my son’s year put on a production of The Pirated of Curry Bean so I had to make sure he had some food ready for a quick after school meal before I had to take him back to school to perform the role of a naughty monkey from the island of Lumbago (in the sea of Sciatica...). I am not quite sure how he survived wearing his monkey costume (a thick fleece hoody) in this heat!

Chatting with my friend over our rather long breakfast yesterday, she suggested making pasta salad for last nights dinner. Of course I had to put a bit of a spin on the theme and came up with the recipe below. It’s filling but light, and provides plenty of energy for any performer. My monkey had two bowls before his show and another when we got back home. Success! I think this could become a staple as it is perfect for lunch boxes, picnics or as a part of a cold buffet.

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ASIAN NOODLE SALAD WITH PEANUT DRESSING


Serves 4-6

ingredients
200g Asian noodles (rice, buckwheat, wheat...just not udon)
1 and 1/2 cups (or a punnet) sugar snap peas
2 medium carrots
1/2 cucumber
6 larger radishes
4-6 spring onions (depends on their size)
2 tsp sesame oil (optional)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 inch of ginger, chopped
3/4 cup organic smooth peanut butter
2-3 tsp vegan red curry paste
1/2 cup drinking coconut (or another dairy free) milk
2 tsp Bragg liquid aminos, tamari or shoyu
2 tbs black sesame seeds
fresh coriander to taste

method
  1. First cook your noodles according to packet instructions. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
  2. Steam the sugar snap peas for about 2 min until crisp tender, cool them down in a bowl of iced water or under a cold running tap.
  3. Coarsely grate the carrots and put them into a large (very large) bowl.
  4. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, using a teaspoon scoop out the seeds and slice into lovely half moons.
  5. Halve the radishes (if large) and slice.
  6. Slice the spring onions on the diagonal.
  7. Add the cucumber, radishes, sugar snap peas and spring onions to the carrots.
  8. Add in the noodles and 2 tsp of sesame oil if using.
  9. Put the lime juice, chopped ginger, red curry paste, peanut butter, coconut milk and Bragg Liquid Aminos into a blender and process till smooth.
  10. Pour over the noodles, add the sesame seeds and mix well. Your hands are the best tool for this.
  11. Add the coriander just before serving.


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BALANCING LIFE WITH P&B QUESADILLA

BALANCING LIFE WITH P&B QUESADILLA

Yesterday I managed to drop my Kitchen Aid food processor on my fingers. As I was putting it away in its rather tight space I dropped it on one finger on my right hand, that made me pull my hand away which shifted the weight of the appliance and it landed on another finger of my left hand. Only 5 minutes later I tried to stop a falling porcelain dish from breaking by offering my foot to soften the blow. The dish is fine but it was indeed heavier than I anticipated. To top it all off, this morning I managed to drop a serving spoon on a glass. The glass cracked. I put it into a plastic bag to take it to the bin outside. But alas, the bag had a hole in the bottom, the glass fell out, first it hit my foot and than shattered into many pieces! Bits of glass in a puddle, bits of glass in the gravel, bits of glass embedded in the wooden step that was made soft by the heavy rainfall. To prevent kids feet and dogs’ paws from an injury I had to remove the shards one by one....

Good things, I believe, do balance the bad things. Here are few of the good, balance shifting things. Having a breakfast with my lovely friend this morning was good for the soul. We enjoyed our food whilst watching the gorgeous song birds outside the farm shop cafe windows. Later my kids were praised by their dentist for their excellent dental hygiene, which made me puff up with pride. And finally, we exchanged contracts on our new house, making our big move very final. My husband and I have opened a nice bottle of Verdicchio to celebrate.

Sometimes, when things go bad, something gooey may just shift the balance. No, I am not promoting comfort eating but I can’t seem to find enough excuses to make my gooey sticky filling P&B quesadilla. So if things are falling on your feet, you are getting fingers stuck in the door and you managed to process a piece of plastic wrapping with your courgette dip (yes that is another story...) just grab a tortilla, peanut butter, banana and just smile :) Remember to let it cool down a little bit before eating or you may just burn your lips :)

P&B-quesadillas

(BREAKFAST) PB AND B QUESADILLA
These are fabulous for breakfast, they really fill you up. They will also hit the spot anytime you fancy something sweet and gooey.

Serves 1

ingredients
1 large tortilla
1-2Tbs organic peanut butter
1 small banana
pinch of cinnamon (optional)

method
  1. Spread the peanut butter over the tortilla.
  2. Mash the banana over half of the tortilla.
  3. Sprinkle with cinnamon if using. Fold the tortilla over.
  4. Preheat a large frying pan.
  5. Place the tortilla into the frying pan and dry fry for about 1 min on each side or till the tortilla crisps up and is golden brown.

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COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

This week I was catching up on my post Christmas ironing, two back breaking sessions each lasting two hours! To make my job easier I watched some cookery shows on TV. Watching Nigella made me realised how much we have in common. No I do not indulge in pigs ears, deep fry bounty bars or have an obsession for alliteration.

Like Nigella, however, I am obsessed with food. I am obsessed with eating it, cooking it, writing about it, talking about it. I love discovering new flavours and ingredients (like the yellow carrots I bought today). Most of all, like Nigella, I love cooking for myself.

You won’t see me grabbing a quick sandwich or couple of Ryvitas for lunch. I believe it is not a waste of time to cook or prepare something delicious just for one. This is my me time, I love it. Of course not everybody has the time, that’s where batch cooking comes to its force, freezer full of stews and soups can ensure you have a nutritious meal when pressed for time. Even salads can be made ahead. Some keep really well even for a few days. Just don’t try to store tender leaves that have a dressing on.

Lunch for one can be a brilliant way to use up odds and ends from your fridge or pantry. Got some leftover rice, one lonely noodle nest or half a pepper in the fridge? Bits and bobs get my cooking mind going! Yesterday I found that lonely nest of noodles, some Brussel sprouts and a recipe idea was born. Delicious it was too! If you want, double it, triple it.... just maybe go easy on multiplying the curry paste, you don’t want it to blow your head off. I did fancy some edamame beans or just regular green beans, but my freezer was bare.... hence the peas. Can’t complain, they did taste great.

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BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL
Beware that Thai red curry paste very often contains dried shrimp or fish sauce, if like me you want to avoid those, read the ingredients!

For 1

ingredients
1/2 cup of light vegetable stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
80g of flat Asian noodles (rice, wheat or buckwheat, whatever you have)
1-2 tsp vegan red curry paste (they very in heat)
1 cup of Kara coconut or other non dairy milk (not coconut milk from a can)
12 Brussel sprouts
couple handfuls of frozen peas, green beans or edamame
1 Tbs smooth peanut butter
juice of half a lime
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan heat the veg stock, add the onions and simmer till soften.
  2. In another medium sauce pan cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse with cold water.
  3. While the onions are sauteing prepare your Brussels sprouts. Peel off any unappealing leaves of the sprouts, cut of the stalk end bit and halve them lengthways.
  4. Add the curry paste and coconut milk to the onions together with the Brussels sprouts.
  5. If using green beans or edamame add them now too.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook about 5 min or until the Brussels sprouts are tender.
  7. Now add the peas and peanut butter. Heat up together, the peanut butter should melt into the sauce.
  8. Add the cooked noodles, just heat them up.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice.
  10. Serve generously garnished with chopped coriander and an extra lime wedge.



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BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND EDAMAME PEANUT STEW

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND EDAMAME PEANUT STEW

Every day I look at the latest health news and what particularly caught my eye in the last few days were several articles on the causes of obesity. It is a rather mixed bunch of possible causes. Here is the list:

  1. The less you sleep the more weight you gain
  2. The environment in mothers womb (due to lifestyle) might be linked to obesity
  3. CO2 concentrations in the air increases weight gain
  4. Gene mutation so called “greedy gene” causes weight gain
  5. Obesity is fuelled by gender-bending chemicals
  6. Obesity is contagious (microbe imbalance)

Wouldn’t it be nice if things were so simple? On the other hand if these studies are right we are all destined to become the chubby mobility scooter bound people from Wall-E. Of course things are not so simple, none of these studies seem to be conclusive. NHS behind the headlines had debunked the womb environment argument, the study only found a link to height not weight (but weight makes a better headline). The greedy gene mutation was studied in mice, but is extremely rare in humans. CO2 and gender-bending chemicals? Hm I am going to wait what NHS behind headlines comes back with but it seems extremely far fetched.

There has been an explosion of TV programs about obese people trying to loose weight and changing there lives. I particularly like
Obese a year to save my life (preferring the UK version) especially because the program explores the reasons behind the overeating habits of the person. Another great one is Supersized v Superskinny, how fantastic to be shown both sides of an eating problem. What is the common denominator of these programs? The people who are obese are eating 2-3 times their daily recommended calorie intake and lead sedentary lifestyles. They don’t seem to be particularly overdosing on CO2, or toxins from cans or having a gene mutation.Their sleep problems are stemming from their weight not vice versa. Most of them, under the right guidance and support ,strong will and determination, loose weight and regain health and energy.

It is human nature to blame something else, gene, toxin, our mothers, but in most cases it is us who are responsible for our health. Even if scientists come up with a pill that allows us to eat tons of doughnuts without putting weight on this would not equal health. Education is one of the most important ways to bring on a healthier future.


BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND EDAMAME PEANUT STEW
This stew is rich creamy and spicy. I have not used any added oil in cooking it, especially because I am adding peanut butter in the end which is high in fat. This dish serves 4 very satisfyingly therefore the amount of fat from the peanut butter is just about 10g per person (about what one average pork sausage would have).

Serves 4

peanutstew

ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (use a peeler to remove the stringy parts)
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 small to medium, bell peppers (2 different colours), cut into 1cm (about 1/3 inch dice)
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, slit in the side
3 sprigs of thyme
450g (1lb) butternut squash (cleaned weight), cut into bite size pieces
1 orange sweet potato, peeled cut into bite size pieces
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
375 ml (1 and 1/2cup) of vegetable stock
130g (1 cup) shelled edamame beans (I used frozen)
80g (1/3 cup) smooth organic no sugar added peanut butter
fresh coriander for garnish

method
  1. In a large casserole pan heat 60ml (1/4 cup) water. Add the onion, celery, garlic, peppers, Scotch Bonnet and thyme. Saute till vegetables soften about 10min, add more water if they start to stick.
  2. Add the tin of tomatoes, the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
  3. Next add the butternut squash and the sweet potato. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 min.
  4. Add the edamame beans and simmer for further 20min.
  5. To finish the dish add the peanut butter, let it heat through and melt thus creating sumptuous creamy sauce. Don’t forget to fish out and discard the Scotch Bonnet!
  6. Serve with quinoa or rice, garnish with fresh chopped coriander. Some steamed green veggies on the side will finish this dish perfectly.


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