Today, Colleen, from Brunchner. I've known Colleen since highschool, when we both wore the same polo shirt and khaki uniform. She was also Nick's neighbor growing up. And now she writes about tasty, healthy food from her apartment in the Big Apple. She's still got some Pittsburgh in her though! Check out some of her tasty recipes (after you read her post below, of course).
The American culture has never before been so food-centric, and let’s not forget why: it is fun to cook! Fun to enjoy a meal with family and friends! Nothing else have I seen brings people together more quickly. It is this sentiment that drives my culinary fascination. An undeniable passion for sharing experiences is enforced by a healthy living mantra; one that celebrates nutritious food choices. This vibrancy provokes me to go beyond the norms of a young, novice home chef to satisfy a sheer curiosity of food; to simply enjoy the process of cooking; to steadily try to grow as an epicure while taking in nuances of the vast culinary world.
I like knowing the science and history behind food…it’s neat. And, chances are that I will share this unsolicited information while fully believing that everyone has the same burning questions. Did you know pectin in an apple can act as a natural thickener for fruit pie fillings? Or, that jerked beef can be easily made in your home oven, and then sent overseas without turning rancid? Or, that chocolate milk is the optimal workout recovery drink largely because whey protein is fast-acting, allowing amino acids to quickly reach muscle tissue? Snippets aside, I am lucky to have an eager cast of family and friends that are always willing to aide, initiate or reap the benefits of my culinary expeditions.
In a society where food has become a drug-like emotional aphrodisiac I am pleased to find day-to-day excitement from fresh foods that are prepared in ways to enhance, not masque the flavors of their unadulterated form. Sweet potatoes: sliced, seasoned and roasted. Tricolor heirloom tomatoes: halved and tossed in freshly whisked balsamic vinaigrette. Watermelon: sliced, that’s it. Think about these few examples of earth’s delicious bounty to which we benefit. And, what little more, if anything, they need to be enjoyed. Alas, natural peanut butter is one of these things.
What good is there not to say about the creamy goodness that is peanut butter? It is a favorite – and I stress favorite – food of mine. A rare day goes by when a generous dollop is not spread on a crisp gala apple, ripe banana or toasted whole wheat product. Further exploring pb is both fitting and a reflection of my philosophy of taking excitement in healthy eats.
Peanut butter is a virtue rather than a vice; the latter of which it is often pegged because of the high levels of fat. It’s monounsaturated fat, c’mon people! And, it is this fat – in the form of natural oils – that makes for the smooth creamy texture once released when ground. Same goes for any for any other nut. So, surprisingly or not, homemaking pb requires little more than pushing the “grind” button of a food processor.
As for the palm oil, sugar and other preservatives found in processed peanut butter – tah. No, thank you! Who needs it? On its own, peanut butter is an excellent source of fiber, protein and other micronutrients; a dream food for fitness enthusiasts and my staple during any rigorous training regimen. Now, go on, make it for yourself…it’s fun! Oh, and by the way, a peanut is actually not a nut at all; it is part of the legume or “bean” family.
Homemade Peanut Butter
15 oz roasted Spanish* peanuts, shelled and skinned
1 t kosher salt
1 1/2 t honey (optional)
*Spanish nuts higher oil content than other types of peanuts which some peanut butter producers find preferable. You’ll also commonly see Valencia Peanut Butter (like at Trader Joe’s). In short, they all have oils to create a creamy texture. Test out a few to find your favorite.
Place the peanuts, salt and honey (if using) into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Place the lid back on and continue to process until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.
To create a chunky peanut butter, simply follow the above instructions, and then mix in the desired amount of chopped peanuts.
*Peanut butter can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months