Friday, April 15, 2011

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

This basic recipe comes from a blog that I absolutely love following, Macheesmo. I tweaked the recipe some, using homemade peanut butter rather than store bought. Wanna know something else cool? I got that recipe from Macheesmo too!! Since I am still tweaking my version I am going to just give you the links to the Macheesmo postings.

BUT, I did take photos!! So, here we go .... Peanuts in the food processor. Check it out, chopped up peanuts!!! Ice cream topping anyone?
Semi-sweet chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips along with some butter, melting in a double boiler.
While the chips melted, the peanuts kept blending, I added honey, some vanilla sugar, and some homebrewed Chocolate Stout beer. Keep blending and voila ... peanut butter!
And now, we have melted chocolate too!
Tin foil cups in the muffin pans.
The tin foil cups now "filled" with the melted chocolate, just on the sides and a little bit on the bottom though.
After being popped into the freezer for a few minutes here they are with the chocolate hardened.
Filling them with the peanut butter. Roughly a tablespoon worth.
Beginning to cover the peanut butter with more chocolate. You want to make sure to get the peanut butter covered without making the chocolate on top too thick.
After a few minutes back in the freezer, here is one of the cups, ready for eating.
Ok, well NOW it is ready for eating. The foil was really easy to peel off.
Cut open in half so you can see it a little better. Very yummy.

I still want to tweak this some. Maybe it's been a long day (we didn't start these till after 10pm) but the felt time consuming to make. I would like to make the chocolate easier to work with. However, they are good. And making your own peanut butter REALLY allows you to personalize it as much as you want. ... Cool ..

Sunday, April 10, 2011

White Bean Soup with Vegetables

Yesterday I attended the 2011 Bits & Pieces Luncheon held at First United Methodist Church in Salem. It was my first year attending the event, which has been held since 1977, and I was doing so on assignment for the paper. There were foods of all types there and the church is selling a cookbook, for $3, containing all the recipes for those foods. At first I had planned on buying a cookbook but then I acknowledged my cookbook addiction and reasoned that I really didn't need yet another cookbook. However, after attending this event I walked home, got $3, and walked right back down there to get one. This is a recipe from that cookbook.

A photo of the White Bean Soup with Vegetables in little cups, ready for sampling.

Spring in Southwestern Virginia is so fickle. One week it is blazing hot, the next it is (literally) freezing cold. A predicted day of 66 degrees can equal out to a bright sun and temperatures reaching 74 or it can mean, as it did yesterday, overcast skies, random showers, and temperatures that don't hit 50 degrees. Trying to plan a meal, much less a menu ahead of time, is very tricky given these circumstances. Something light and refreshing for dinner or something to warm those chilled bones?

So .. it turns out that soup is wonderful for Spring weather. Usually quick and easy to prepare. Light and yet hearty. Endlessly versatile. Dress it up with some rustic bread and artisan cheese if you'd like. Or perhaps just a salad. Or just let it stand alone and appreciate it's inherent beauty.

White Bean Soup with Vegetables
by Sue Williams, from the 2011 Bits & Pieces Recipes Cookbook
1 T. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, minced
2 medium carrots, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 medium zucchini, diced
3-4 sprigs parsley, minced
1/4 tsp. each fresh rosemary and thyme, or 1/8 tsp. each dried
6 cups warm chicken broth
2 1/2 cups white beans, soaked & cooked, or 2 cans white beans
1 T. unsalted butter Salt and Pepper to taste

*Heat a medium Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add onion, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Saute until the vegetables sweat. Stir in rosemary and thyme. Then add zucchini, chicken broth and beans. Cook 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree with an immersion blender to desired consistency. Stir in butter and season with salt & pepper. Cook an additional 3-5 minutes.
*Makes 6 servings
*Store in refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze

Here is our homemade pot of this, after dinner had already been served.

We used homemade chicken stock rather than store-bought broth. We also used 2 cups of grated zucchini in place of the one medium since that is what we had on hand. We forgot the parsley completely but you'll notice it isn't mentioned when to add it anyway in the recipe. We don't yet have an immersion blender (*hint hint to anyone out there*), so we used our blender for this. You could also use a food processor, but ours has been being a pain when it comes to soups lately (another hint hint?), so we tried the blender and it worked wonderfully. Just have an extra bowl handy for the transferring process.

Review: Honestly, we found this recipe a little bland as-is. That isn't necessarily a bad thing though, as it makes it a good recipe for people who can't tolerate a lot of spices such as the elderly, young children, or people whose bodies won't allow them many spices. It also allows a wonderful spring board to personalize it with your choice of herbs and spices. Roasted garlic always calls to me, so I will certainly be adding it, likely along with some garlic powder, to this the next time I make it. And I will be making it again. With all those vegetables in there, how could I possibly resist not doing so?