Friday, February 12, 2010

Almond Butter

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well, whoever comprises the proverbial "they" might just be right. My obsessive consumption of peanut butter meant that it was quickly time for round 2. Turns out that raw, unsalted, ungreased peanuts are kind of difficult to find at my local non-pretentious market. What I found instead were raw almonds, a tasty alternative that might remove some of the monotony from my day to day. I smeared some on toast and topped it with apple butter. It was a combination so right that I might be a lifetime convert -- until the next "necessity" comes along, that is.

Makes 1 pound of almond butter

1 pound (approx. 3 cups) raw, unblanched almonds
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast nuts for 15 minutes. Cool completely.
2. In a food processor, combine toasted nuts and salt. Process for 90 seconds.
3. Stir in canola oil. Process for an additional 3 minutes, stopping and scraping often, until smooth. The almond butter will be looser and slightly runnier than peanut butter.
4. Pour into an air-tight container, cover, and store in the refrigerator.

We'll miss you, Grandpa Chuck

He wasn't known for his culinary prowess, but you might believe so after viewing this picture -- it's one of my favorites. What he did pass down, though, was a love for photography -- the same love that both my mom and I share. In fact, he probably developed this in his home dark room. It was the same spot where I spent countless hours building model ships at the butt crack of dawn and marveling at how someone could smoke a pipe without wearing any teeth. Well, dagnabit, he sure knew how to have a good time. Missing you, Grandpa.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Quigs!

Only an hour and a half till guests start arriving for the birthday bbq bash, and I'm so hungry! Here's what's on the menu -- braised collard greens, barbecue brisket, habanero-garlic wings and ranch, buttermilk biscuits, baked beans, cornbread, parsnip gratin, and low-fat chocolate cupcakes made sinfully indulgent with a giant rosette of vanilla buttercream. Thanks to Quigs for giving us a reason to do all of this cooking!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kale and White Bean Soup

At our place, busy lives mean the resurgence of the use of the slow-cooker. After a long day at work or a jam-packed day of errands, there is nothing better than coming home to fully cooked dinner -- that didn't happen to appear in a grease-stained paper bag.

This recipe is not perfect for work days, but instead better for the weekend when you will be popping in and out of the kitchen. The beans must cook for 3 hours before the addition of the kale and potatoes. Once you have added the second round of ingredients, set the timer. At that point, feel free to leave. When the soup is finished, it will hold on the warm setting for many hours.

For a meatier dish, add a hearty protien like chicken legs or smoked sausage at the onset of cooking.

Serves 6

3 tomatoes, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 pound (8 ounces) dried great northern beans
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock
4 red potatoes, chopped
3 small bunches kale, chopped
3 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large slow-cooker, combine tomatoes, garlic, onions, beans, and chicken stock. Put the lid on, and cook on high for 3 hours.
2. Stir in potatoes, kale, and water. Make sure that the kale and potatoes are well immersed in the liquid or they will not cook properly. Cook on high for 3-5 hours or until potatoes and beans are tender. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper.