Even though I'm no longer five, I still enjoy my classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or, even more nostalgic ants on a log as a snack. I'm sure you do it as well, but wouldn't it be nice to jazz it up a bit? After all, food is fun, meant to be enjoyed by you and more importantly, your taste buds.
(Some of you may remember my 2017 experiments with peanut sauce here: Peanut Sauce)
I've put together a list of my favorite recipes that use nut butter spreads made with atypical ingredients (i.e. not only peanuts). Feel free to mix and match: There are endless nut and seed spreads available for purchase now in local grocery stores, and my hope is that these recipes will expand the way you view the application of them. You can, and should, play around and swap out the 'vehicles' as well, i.e. instead of endive leaves as the base, try apple or cucumber slices.
Let's get nutty:
nut butter series
Peanut Butter Bites
½ cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon five spice powder
½ cup apple, small dice
4 celery stalks cut into 4” ‘logs’
1 tablespoon celery leaves minced
1. In a small bowl, mix peanut butter and five spice. If it’s too thick to stir, you can add water to thin it out, adding drop by drop.
2. Assembly: on each celery, spread peanut butter leaving enough room to top with apple and optional minced celery leaves.
Sunflower Butter Bites
½ cup sunflower butter
1 pear, cut thinly into matchsticks
4 radish, pickled or fresh, cut thinly into matchsticks
1 tsp black sesame
25 rice crackers
1. In a bowl, mix pear and radish with black sesame.
2. Assembly: on each rice cracker, apply sunflower butter, then the pear/radish mix.
Almond Butter Bites
½ cup almond butter
½ cup shredded carrot
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tablespoons raisins
20 endive leaves
1. Mix almond butter in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of water if too thick and add cinnamon.
2. Assembly: On each endive leaf, spread almond butter and top with shredded carrot and few raisins.
What do you make with nut butter? I'd love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment below with your favorite nut butter variations, and don't forget to share this with your friends so they can add their voice to the conversation as well.
for the love of crumpets
I woke up early this past Saturday morning craving crumpets. Crumpets, the Anglo-Saxon-invented griddle cake made of flour and yeast, are incredibly easy to make. As long as you have patience, anyone can prepare these "curled-up cakes".
A large French pressed coffee and book kept me busy as I waited for the batter to rest. I didn't have the standard shallow rings every recipe requires, so I used my cookie cutters and went crazy with MN state, skull, circle, and various other shapes. Not exactly ideal, but easy enough to handle, and, as it turns out, a lot more fun. In a pinch, one can also use thoroughly cleaned and rinsed tuna cans.
The best part about making these chewy, English-style cakes, is that when left slightly undercooked, they reheat nicely... like in my trumpet crumpet recipe (see below).
Side note: if you want my crumpet recipe, you'll have to subscribe to my newsletter and read about it this week (wink, wink). Otherwise, stick to the store-bought for now.
the king of mushrooms
King trumpet mushrooms, the largest of the oyster mushroom species, are one of many varieties of mushrooms that can be used in this recipe. It was certainly the key mushroom highlighted in this dish. I like to mix many varieties together, as each mushroom has a different texture and flavor that offers your taste buds something unique every time. Try a few different kinds for yourself.
-more on trumpet and other species of mushrooms in the this weeks newsletter as well-
trumpet crumpet recipe
2 crumpets, fresh* cut in half
8 oz mushrooms chopped (any will do: King trumpet, button, crimini, shaitake, mix and match)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp truffle salt (or Kosher)
1/4 onion, half-moon shaped
2 oz gruyere, grated
1 tablespoon butter
side of greens: pictured here is arugula and pear in a fennel vinaigrette
*substitute store bought English muffins if crumpets are not in the cards
1. Caramelize onions by heating a large sauté pan with butter on medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions into the pan and cook until translucent, 1-2 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to medium low and stir every few minutes. If the onions start to stick too much and brown around the edges, reduce your heat. Continue to stir for 30-40 minutes, depending on how soft you prefer your onions to be. If the pot starts to burn, add a bit of liquid (water will do).
Just before the onions finish cooking, about 5-8 minutes, toss in the mushrooms with truffle salt and garlic. Preheat oven to a broil
3. Allow to cook until mushrooms are tender. At this time, arrange crumpets on a baking sheet. Place onion/mushroom mix on top, then with cheese. Put in the oven and toast until browned, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, prepare your eggs: sunny side up, poached, fried... the choice is yours
5. Arrange the crumpets on a plate, place an egg on top, and serve with side salad.
There you have it, a complete meal: great source of protein from the eggs, vitamins/minerals from the veggies, and fiber from the whole-grains
know the difference
Yes, there are differences between soy sauce and tamari: While both are derived from soy through fermentation, they surprisingly have different taste profiles largely due to the presence of wheat. Soy sauce always contains wheat (beware, you gluten-free folks) and tamari has little-to-no wheat. Yes, you may actually find brands of tamari out there that do contain wheat (ahem, gluten), but the label will indicate if it is gluten-free or wheat-free.
The next key distinction is the country of origin.
Soy Sauce: A Chinese byproduct of soy products now made throughout Asia
Tamari: A Japanese byproduct of miso paste, typically less salty (read your labels), and thicker
production of soy sauce vs. tamari
Soy sauce is made through fermentation or by hydrolysis (chemically engineered), with different methods and durations of fermentation and water, salt content, soy, and other non-specific added ingredients. Therefore, there are remarkable differences in flavor between soy sauce brands. You'll have to test them all, or whatever you can find, and choose the one that makes your personal taste buds scream for more.
Traditionally speaking, soy sauces take months to make. For simplicity's sake, the sauce is made by mixing roasted/cracked grains with cooked soy beans, mold cultures, and yeasts in brine. Here are the steps in case you want more deets:
tamari, the "original" Japanese soy sauce
Tamari, on the other hand, is the liquid run-off from miso paste, fermented soybeans with salt, and koji [a more specific fungus, Aspergillus oryzae], rice barley, or other ingredients. Typically, the ratio of wheat and other grains to soy is much smaller than soy sauce, and often contains NO wheat. Homemade tamari can provide people with celiac disease, wheat sensitivities or an intolerance with an tasty alternative to soy sauce. Be sure to read the label on commercial tamari to be sure it specifically says "gluten-free".
Now, the steps of producing tamari:
battle of the sauces
Time to experiment! Divide this recipe by 2, then make the recipe using soy sauce and make the recipe again using tamari. Compare each recipe after your taste test with friends, family, or just yourself. Do you notice anything different between the two? Which has more depth? Is one noticeably saltier than the other? Leave your comments below to share your opinion.
Asian Grain Bowl (vegan)
8 oz tofu, cubed
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
5 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1” piece grated ginger
1 cup short grain brown rice, rinsed and drained
8 baby bok choy, sliced in half
1/2 cup lotus, bite sized pieces
1/2 cup assorted vegetables (carrot and red cabbage shown)
1 cup assorted pickled vegetables*(optional)
1. In a pot, add 1 ¾ cup water with rice and 1 tablespoon tamari. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, about 40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, toss the tofu and lotus in the following marinade ingredients: sesame, rice wine vinegar, and grated ginger. Allow to sit until you begin assembling the bowls.
3. Ten minutes before the rice is finished, assemble your steamer and begin heating the water, about ½ “ high in the pan holding the steamer. When ready to steam, place bok choy in steamer and cook for 3-5 minutes.
4. Assemble each bowl, dividing each of the ingredients equally: rice, bok choy, tofu, lotus, carrot, red cabbage, pickled vegetables, and drizzle some of the leftover tofu marinade on top (green onions and sesame seeds make for great garnishes if you want to be showy).
You can choose any kind of pickled vegetables, including: carrot, asparagus, beets, green beans, watermelon, cucumbers (quick pickles), or radish variety.
I recommend keeping both sauces stocked in your kitchen to experiment in your recipes. Swapping out one for another will certainly change the flavour, but it won't affect the overall dish in terms of 'turning out'.
Looking for more recipes to experiment with using soy sauce/tamari? No worries, I've got you covered:
lotus root, carrot, & daikon slaw
-or- make your own fried rice: toss soy sauce/tamari in leftover rice sautéed with scrambled egg and veggies (bok choy, mushrooms, carrot, onion).
split pea soup
Split pea soup is amazing. Full stop. And if you think otherwise, then try this recipe: It's loaded with fiber, phosphorous, B6, Vitamin C, and all the naturally-green fun one could hope for in a bowl of warm and delicious soup. Another bonus? This recipe is easy and doesn't take up too much of your time; I'd hate to take away from your reading Michael Wolff's latest, Fire and Fury or Naomi Alderman's fantastic The Power, or from binge-watching new episodes of Netflix's Black Mirror. You can let this recipe stew on your stovetop at low-heat for added complexity and depth while watching, reading, or doing anything else your free time desires. These cold winter nights have us feeling stuck indoors, so we might as well enjoy it, right?
I've made many different varieties of split pea soup over the years, but each-and-every time I favor the addition of fresh or frozen peas to the mix: It brightens up the palate with natural sweetness. You can also take a few handfuls of fresh spinach greens with some of the hot puree and blend with a pinch of citric acid (optional) to make the soup glow green even more. Simply add it to the soup at the end, just before serving, to maintain the bright color and help cool down the soup.
Double the recipe and freeze in small portions to last you through the winter ~ you'll be happy you did when your stomach starts rumbling and it's too cold to go to the grocery store.
Chinese hot pot, the original
With beginnings traced as far back as the Jin dynasty, hot pot remains a culinary favorite throughout Eastern Asia, Japan, and the South Pacific. While it varies drastically from region to region, each variation has the basics: raw ingredients including meats, starch, and vegetables, a hot, flavored broth, and plenty of sauces for dipping. The idea is to cook your raw foodstuffs in the hot broth, and then use the dipping sauces for extra flavor.
Common ingredients & traditions for hot pot based on region:
ordering hot pot
Now that I've got your palates wet for hot pot, we can discuss where should you go to find it, and how it works.
The best place in St. Paul for Chinese hot pot is Little Szechuan in the Little Mekong neighborhood, but I'm sure you could do a search to find what's closest to your own area. Bring your friends and make it a fun social gathering - this meal is always best shared with a group. Although it could be a fun first date, be warned: it does get messy.
First, you select your broth. Sometimes you'll have the option for two at once (a ying yang pot, pictured) which is best for variety; one side spicy, one side mild, for example.
Next, you'll want to choose your meats, starches, and vegetables. While you wait for the pot to arrive at your table with the foodstuffs, get your sauces ready and let the socializing begin. Discuss your plan of attack - there's no wrong way to do it, but you'll find that some things cook differently, longer, or shorter, than others.
When the broth comes to temperature (it will typically come to a rolling boil), add your ingredients one-by-one and wait. Cook times vary for each ingredient, but do be careful: "hot" pot is no misnomer - it does get scalding hot. Let the cooked items cool slightly before dipping and consuming.
DIY hot pot
First things first, you'll need equipment. Before you gather your ingredients, make sure you have the necessary tools:
Broth: Keep it simple and use a chicken, beef, fish or vegetable broth, or purchase a package of ready-to-use hot pot broth. Add other aromatics like jujube, ginger, bamboo, chili, or mushrooms.
Dipping Sauces: just like your broth, this can be as easy or complex as you want. Purchase pre-made sauces -if you like- or decorate your table with chili oil, chili flakes, herbs, onion puree, sesame oil/paste, scallions, soy sauce, sweet & sour sauce, and oyster sauce.
Assembly: gather your tools around the table and heat the broth in the pot using the portable burner. Each person can make their own concoctions of sauces in the small bowls while the broth comes to temperature. Arrange your ingredients on platters combining raw meats on one and raw veggies and starches on another, keeping like ingredients together. When the hot pot is ready, submerge your foodstuffs using your chopsticks and wait until cooked. Use the spoon/strainer to fish out the food that falls from your chopsticks. Dip in your sauce, as needed, and eat.
And there you have it: DIY hot pot.