Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hazelnut Butter!

Happy Halloween!


How great are these Halloween treats? One year I will have a big Halloween party and make all kinds of creepy foods. This year, all I made was hazelnut butter.

When Bethany and I went to DC earlier this month, we enjoyed a really incredible breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien in Georgetown. We ordered a massive bread basket for the sole purpose of consuming as much Brunette Belgian Praline as possible. That stuff was like crack.

I wanted to buy some, but it was a little pricey. I checked the nutritional info and realized it was just hazelnut butter. And then thought (as I do with many things), "I could probably make this myself."


In fact, I came home and bought several pounds of hazelnuts with the intention of making hazelnut butter right away, but then got busy and distracted.  As I cleaned out my pantry yesterday, I found the hazelnuts and was inspired anew.

But first, the shells.

I would probably cook with hazelnuts more often if shelling them wasn't such a pain in the you-know-what. But in researching hazelnut butter, I realized there is a better way!

Bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil and add 2T baking powder and 1/2 cup of nuts (I did 1 cup of nuts in two 1/2 cup batches because they foam like crazy). The water will turn purple (??) and the skins will turn black.


Let the nuts boil for 3 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water.

Use your fingers to remove the skins; they should slip right off.

For my first batch, I slipped the skin of each nut individually. This wasn't so bad, but I figured there must be a better way. For the second batch, I just grabbed a bunch in my hand and rubbed them all together under the running water. Then I just picked through each one and gave them a quick rinse.

A few might be a little stubborn and some might split in half. No biggie. The more skin you remove, the lighter in color your nut butter will be. A few errant skins won't ruin the whole batch!

After your nuts are skinned, dry them in some paper towels and spread them out on a baking sheet. Roast for about 25 minutes at 275. You could roast them at a higher temp for a shorter time, but they burn very quickly, so be watchful.

Toss them in your food processor with about 1/2t sugar and let them process past the point where the butter forms a ball.

You will think this is as butterized as your nuts will get. You are wrong! Keep processing until you get this:


Smooth and creamy! A little bit of graininess will remain, but I kind of like it this way. I probably could have gotten a smoother consistency had I used more nuts and my high-powered food processor (this was just my little Mini Prep).

I did not find that I needed to add any oil, but you might like your butter creamier. I also did not add any salt, although some recipes call for it. I like my hazelnut butter a little sweet, but it's also good with a bit of salt (~1/4t), especially if you like it to taste a little more like peanut butter.

I packaged this batch up in these cute little acrylic canisters that I found at Target (I've also seen them at Storables, but they were more expensive).

1 cup of hazelnuts made enough butter to fill two 3.5 oz canisters. Perfect for gifts!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kitchen Cure Update!

But first, a Confession:

I will be the first to admit that teachers make the worst students. We notoriously don't listen to directions, don't pay attention, put things off to the last minute, and skip crucial steps because we think we know best. I always feel horrible when I am sent to a teacher training because, damn, if I am not the most fidgety, off-task, unfocused, talking to my neighbor when I am not supposed to student in the whole world! If I were my own student, I would hate me!

Keep that in mind as I recap my progress so far on the 2010 Kitchen Cure. Even though I got my first assignment over 2 weeks ago, I didn't actually do anything until today. Consequently, I spent about 3 hours this morning working on my kitchen, picking and choosing the steps that I wanted to do and skipping the rest. I am so bad!

Here is my "before" picture of my kitchen with everything open, that I actually did take 2 weeks ago when I was instructed to:

I don't like this kitchen very much and am looking forward to moving, but I have logged a lot of hours in here so I feel some tenderness towards it!

Fridge & freezer before:

Pantry before:

This morning I started by emptying out the fridge and freezer, scrubbing them down, throwing out old and expired stuff, consolidating other things (why did I have 3 open jars of pesto?), and then reorganized.
Freezer after:

Fridge after:

Then I moved on to the pantry cupboard. This is my least favorite part of the kitchen. There are 6 shelves, all very narrow and deep. I can only reach the first 4 without a stool, and I have to sit on the floor to get into the bottom one.

The 6 shelves were organized like this:

  • Top shelf: extra baking supplies and spices
  • 5th shelf: Baking supplies, nuts, syrups, honey, chocolate, etc
  • 4th shelf: Canned vegetables, beans, oils and vinegars, etc
  • 3rd shelf: Nut butters, dried fruit, hot cereal
  • 2nd shelf: pasta, rice, beans, potatoes, bulk items, etc
  • Bottom shelf: tea, hot chocolate, etc 

First, I took everything out and got rid of old stuff. Then I decided that the order of the shelves did not making cooking efficient for me. I rarely use the items on the "pasta" shelf but it is one of the easier for me to reach, while I am always dragging out the stool to reach things on my baking shelf or asking B to get something for me. I reorganized the shelves as follows:

Top shelf: extra baking supplies and spices

5th shelf: pasta, rice, beans, potatoes, bulk items, etc
4th shelf: Canned vegetables, beans, oils and vinegars, etc

3rd shelf: Baking supplies, nuts, syrups, honey, chocolate, etc

2nd shelf: Nut butters, dried fruit, hot cereal
Bottom shelf: tea, hot chocolate, etc

So much better!

My assignment for this week is to restock ingredients and tools, but (aside from my empty fridge) I'm pretty well-stocked when it comes to kitchen staples. I sort of skipped the "clean our equipment and tools" part of last week's assignment, so I might focus on that during the week. I haven't been in this kitchen very long (and almost everything is new - hooray for wedding gifts!) so it probably won't take too much time.

Have you been doing the Cure? Do you need to? :)

Make this Now: Pumpkin Chili and Cheddar-Corn Spoon Bread

Happy Saturday! I'm sitting in my PJs drinking coffee and getting ready to tackle my massive kitchen reorganization project (only massive because I am two weeks behind)!

Last night I decided to try (never home)maker's Smoked Pumpkin Chili.

Holy moly. We loved this and will be adding it in heavy rotation to our winter meal plan. The addition of the pumpkin puree made it so thick and creamy! I didn't have smoked paprika, so I used regular and added a few drops of liquid smoke. Awesome!

I also decided to try my hand at spoon bread using this recipe from Martha Stewart's Fresh Flavor Fast cookbook (I love this cookbook!).

It was weird, but delicious. It is very similar in consistency to a souffle.  I guess technically it is a souffle since you whip the egg whites, mix them with the base, and bake!

Hey, check me out, I made a souffle on a Friday night!

Martha's recipe included sharp cheddar cheese and corn, so it was a really nice complement to the chili. It was a cold and rainy evening, so all in all, this was the perfect meal!

 I'll be hard at work this weekend on a few projects and some grading. Tonight we have tickets to the Quakes' first MLS playoff game against the New York Red Bulls. I hope it doesn't rain!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Things are Looking Better

I promised myself I would grade non-stop during my prep, but I'm taking a quick break because I miss you all!

Last weekend was sort of a buzzkill. Here's what's coming up this final weekend of October (can you believe it??)

What are you up to this weekend?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Theta Breakers Race Recap

This past Sunday I ran the Theta Breakers Run for the Children at Stanford University. I didn't have to specify when I registered whether I would be running the 5K or the 10K, but just assumed I would do the 10.

Then, I started thinking about how little I have run lately and how much my knee has bothered me on runs longer than 4 miles.

And then I saw that it was supposed to rain all day Sunday.

So I decided to do the 5K instead because I am a wimp. :)

Sure enough, it was wet and gloomy on Sunday. The race was scheduled to begin at 9 and it drizzled the entire drive there.

It was a super-small race (less than 300 runners total between the 5K and 10K) put on by the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority at Stanford. I lined up in the rain with about 150 other 5K runners and took off at 9am.

It was cold and my lungs struggled for a bit. There was some confusion amongst sorority girls regarding the actual course, so when my Nike+ told me there were only 400 yards to go, I turned on the juice, only to realize that I had another 1/2 mile to run! My knee didn't bother me, but I took it easy anyway. Here are the results:

  • Total Mileage: 3.3mi (we got an apology email on Monday!)
  • Total Time: 30:30
  • Average Pace: 9:49 min/mi
  • Overall Place: 75/151
  • Female 20-35 Place: 10/23

I don't usually run 5Ks, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I felt a little pressure to run faster than normal because the course was so short and really only felt like I was just getting warmed up by the time I crossed the finish line. I still prefer the 10K distance for racing, but this was a nice change. I need to get back on the trail though because I have a 10K on November 13!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bits and Pieces (& Husband's Stew!)

#1 - Are you getting dizzy yet from all the different layouts I've experimented with this week? I think I'm going to stick with this one... I think.

#2 - I have a new favorite blog (this happens like every other day, BTW): Today's Letters.

Today's Letters

I originally found Tim and Em through The Kitchn, who linked to their freaking brilliant Campfire Orange Cakes recipe. I was immediately sucked in - they write letters to each other and are super sassy and adorable. That's a bad description, but I trust you know me well enough now to know what I like and probably have a good idea about what I mean.

#3 - For those of you who enjoyed my post on menu planning and grocery list making, you might find these sweet Meal Planning/Grocery List free downloads from avie designs fun and helpful. I especially like the "here's what I have/here's what I need" aspect.

#4 - I went to the doctor on Monday and was there for about 2 hours being poked and prodded and getting shots and giving blood and blah blah blah. Turns out I'm still anemic! And I have runner's knee! I'm going to save my thoughts on these diagnoses for later though.

#5 While I was getting all medical on Monday, B made dinner - a rare but awesome event.

This picture totally sucks - sorry!
For Christmas last year I bought Jamie's Food Revolution for B.

This is a really great cookbook for folks who are just learning how to cook/put together meals. The recipes are easy but delicious and Jamie offers lots of variations.

Take this stew recipe, for example:

Jamie provides a basic stew base and then 4 different stew options (beef & ale, chicken & white wine, pork & cider, lamb & red wine).

 On the following pages, he also offers 4 different ways to finish the stew, if you're so inclined.

So basically, over a total of about 5 pages, you have 16 different stew recipes (or permutations according to my nerdy husband) to mix and match! Brilliant.

B made the Beef & Ale stew, and it was killer (if you know me in person, you totally heard me singing the word killer!).

Here's the recipe he used:

Beef & Ale Stew
from Jamie's Food Revolution

  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 carrots
  • olive oil
  • 1 heaped T all-purpose flour
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1 lb diced stewing beef (we cut it down to 3/4lb with no problems)
  • 2 cups brown ale, Guinness or stout

  1. Trim the ends of celery and roughly chop the stalks. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Slice carrots lengthwise and chop.
  2. Put a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  3. Put all veggies and bay leaves into the pan with 2 glugs of olive oil and saute for 10 minutes.
  4. Add meat and flour.
  5. Pour in the beer and canned tomatoes.
  6. Stir well and season with S & P.
  7. Bring to boil, put the lid on, and simmer for 3 hours (we got impatient and only cooked for 2 - you just want the meat and veggies to be tender). Remove the lid for the final half hour of cooking and add water if it looks dry. 
  8. Remove bay laves before serving.

The flavors in this stew were really complex and developed - I was very impressed! We also had a crusty loaf of bread for soaking up the juices. Yum.

I imagine if you don't relish the idea of letting your stew simmer for 3 hours before dinner (like, if you get home at 5pm), you could probably saute your veggies and then throw everything into the crockpot on low for the day. You know how much I love my crockpot!

#6 - I am still slowly emerging from the avalanche of grading that buried me last week. I have lots and lots of things I want to write about though, so rest assured I'll be flooding your Google Readers soon enough!

Until then, Happy Birthday Maria!