Tag Archives: Homemade

Homemade Maple Coconut Almond Butter – New Year, New Beginnings

Maple Coconut Almond Butter 2Well now, how has everyone’s 2015 so far? I hope it’s been fantastic, because I have never been more excited for a new year in my life.  Why, you might ask? Well, because for the first time ever I am allowing myself to be exited about it. Rather than dread another year and what it could possibly throw at me this time, I am going to be open and receptive to all the new beginnings it might hold for me.  Want to ride along?

Now I can’t share every new beginning with you.  After all, Cork and Spoon is a food and drink blog.  Soooo, you may not see my latest jewelry pieces, hear my current running play-list, or see my newborn niece’s photo-shoot, but you will see any tummy yummy goodies inspired by those experiences. Just to warn you, though, all experiences are fair game: good or bad.  After all, they both teach us something.  My own bad experiences over the past two years have taught me that creativity has healing powers, that it can be the spark that ignites the flame which lights the way out of the darkest pit.

In conjunction with honoring my creative side, another spark for me has been myMaple Coconut Almond Butter 3 running.  As you may recall, I completed my first race (a half-marathon!) last spring.  Well, I’m training for my next one, which is just over a month away.  Besides the various runs and exercises loaded up in a runner’s training plan, another important piece is the “fuel plan” as I call it: how you plan to fuel your training and your run.  For example, once you start getting into Long Runs, meaning a run that lasts longer than an hour, you not only need to make sure the tank’s full when you start, but you’re going to have to re-fuel mid run.  It’s better to learn what works with your body during training rather than find out on race day that coffee gives your the runs or a certain gel gives you heartburn. Needless to say, it’s a pretty good idea to incorporate your race day breakfast and any pre-race snacks and hydration into your training plan.  For me, my race day and Long Run day breakfast has become a bagel (preferably the latest Thomas’ Bagel limited edition flavor) and creamy almond butter.

Maple Coconut Almond Butter 4Mmmmmm, almond butter.  I mean, I love peanut butter, too, but after making the switch I don’t think I’ll go back except as  a treat (Reeses anyone?).  Mostly, I do prefer the flavor, but nutritionally almond butter has just a little bit of a leg up over peanut butter, especially for runners, athletes, and other highly active people.  In addition to having significantly greater levels of the anti-oxidant Vitamin E, almond butter also provides magnesium (supports muscle functions and energy production…and is said to help migraines!) as well as iron (necessary for producing hemoglobin and myoglobin, which are essential for the carrying of oxygen the body). Not to mention almonds are going to be easier on your body on race day. Almonds are actual nuts, while peanuts are legumes…you know…like beans…yeah, chili will not be anywhere on my plate until after the race.  Did I mention my next half marathon is in Texas??

Now what really  bites is that almond butter is typically, at it’s cheapest, twice Maple Coconut Almond Butter 5the cost of peanut butter.  That’s why when my beautiful chartreuse Blendtec (a birthday present to myself) arrived a couple of weeks ago, I already had homemade almond butter on my “to-make” list. Since my favorite almond butter is Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, I decided I wanted to make something similar and it would be a great way to use my maple sugar, which I don’t get to use very often (It’s pricey, so I use it for special recipes).  I also decided to use coconut oil instead of grapeseed oil for two reasons. First, it added a little sweetness without more sugar. Second, it’s winter.

Who in the northern hemisphere isn’t craving a warm beach right now? Lol!

Happy New Year, friends!

Homemade Maple Coconut Almond Butter

Makes appx. 7 ounces (0.875 cups)

IngredientsAlmond Butter Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups raw almonds
  • 4 tablespoons maple sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt (fine not coarse)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted for better results, but room temperature is fine).
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)

Tip: To adjust for increased creaminess, add mild flavored oil, such as canola or grapeseed, beginning with 1 teaspoon and increasing until blended almond butter reaches desired creaminess.

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170°F.
  2. Spread almonds evenly on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, tossing almonds halfway through for even roasting. If needed, allow almonds to cool enough for handling, but make sure they are still warm.
  3. Pour warm almonds into your mixer jar or food processor bowl.
  4. Pulse almonds until pulverized into almond meal. Almond Butter PulseNote: Professional grade blenders such as Vitamixes and Blendtecs don’t really need this step, but for less powerful appliances, better safe than blowing out your motor. 
  5. Starting on a low speed and blend almond meal for 15 seconds.
  6. Increase to a high speed for 30-60 seconds, or until you hear the blade moving freely,i.e. your almond butter is stuck to the sides of the jar/bowl and no longer getting pulverized by the blade.
  7. Stop blender or food processor and use a rubber spatula to scrape the almond butter back into center of jar/bowl.
  8. Add coconut oil once the almond meals begins to form a paste.
  9. Repeat the blend then scrape cycle until almond butter begins to flow freely over the blades.  Note: Your appliance’s motor should sound low, as if it’s working to churn that sticky butter. Remember to keep a watch on your appliance’s motor. If the machine gets too warm, stop the process and allow the motor to cool down.
  10. Add maple sugar and salt to the almond butter,  as well as maple syrup  and any additional oil for creaminess if using these options.
  11. Blend 30-60 seconds on high.  Repeat as necessary to reach desired creaminess.
  12. Refrigerate almond butter in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Almond Butter Almond Meal   Almond Butter PasteAlmond Butter Almost Ready  Almond Butter Ready

Maple Coconut Almond Butter 1

Roasted Garlic Jelly for Foodie Fun

Garlic Jelly Jar 1It’s the holidays and we are down to less than one week until Christmas Day. Yikes! If you are anything like me, you probably either a) have not started on your gift list (not me this year, yay!) or b) are stressing over those last few gifts…you know, for the folks that have all they [think] they want sans the winning multi-million dollar lottery ticket.  My office buddy and I are kind of in that last boat together  this year.  What to get for those last few names still on our lists while simultaneously trying to overcome the dread of having to brave the frantic shopping town centers.  Enter the realm of Do It Yourself (DIY)! Now don’t panic if you are thinking about how empty the craft store shelves are by now, because you likely won’t need anything too seasonal for this idea…because you’ll be doing most of your shopping at the grocery store!

A fun, food themed gift basket or goodie bag is always a hit with my circle of friends. You may recall the Vanilla Salt I shared with you two years ago. That yearGarlic Jelly Cheese Bread 2 I also made Thai-Chili Sugar, and Mulling Spice packets. Last year I made the delicious Roasted Garlic Jelly I am sharing with you today. This year…well I can’t quite tell you the exact details since some of the receivers are reading this…but it involves some fun baskets. For example one friend, who recently moved her family in with her new honey’s family, is going to get a package of family friendly fun things they can make with the kiddos. Another is getting complimentary recipes and pre-made mixes to go with items I bought her off of her Christmas wish list. My dad is getting a basket of NCIS DVDs tucked alongside jars of homemade pop-corn seasoning, cute popcorn themed bowls, and popcorn kernels.

Feeling less panicked now?

So back to this Roasted Garlic Jelly.

Garlic Jelly Cheese Tray 2Almost everyone makes this face when I say “garlic jelly”.  I think Emilie is the only one that didn’t raise an eyebrow.  Yes, yes, it sounds weird, but trust me this stuff is quite delicious. Have you ever had a clove of roasted garlic? Don’t you remember how it’s pungent flavor mellowed out and took on some caramelized sweetness?  I think you see where I am going with this now. Roasted garlic jelly is different, but it’s still a sweet jelly with just the faintest bit of tang (that would be the vinegar) and aroma of delicious, roasted garlic. This juxtaposition is precisely what will make this such a fun gift for your friends and family.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Roasted Garlic Jelly

Fills 6-8, 4 ounce jelly jars. Recipe from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Ingredients:

  • 3  heads garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces pouches liquid pectin (typically two packages)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Slice off the tops of  the garlic heads to expose the cloves. Place each head on a small square of aluminum foil.Garlic Jelly Expose Cloves
  3. Over each head, pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar, approximately a tablespoon each per garlic head.Garlic Jelly balsamic
  4. Wrap the foil squares loosely around the garlic heads and roast in oven for 45 minutes.
  5. Let garlic heads sit until  cool enough to handle. Unwrap from foil and  squeeze each head to push out the softened cloves  into a medium saucepan. Discard skins.
    Garlic Jelly roasted garlic heads     Garlic Jelly roasted garlic cloves
  6. In a the same pan, add the wine, water, white balsamic vinegar and peppercorns to the roasted garlic.  Over medium heat (gentle now!) bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to boil gently for 5 minutes.Garlic Jelly Making Garlic Juice
  7. Cover sauce pan and remove from heat. Let the mixture steep for 15 minutes.
  8. Line a mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or a large,  dampened coffee filter.  Place strainer over a deep bowl.
    Garlic Jelly Strain Garlic Juice 1            Garlic Jelly Strain Garlic Juice 2
  9. Pour garlic mixture through the lined strainer into the bowl.  Let drip, undisturbed, for about 30 minutes.  You should end up with about 1 2/3 cups garlic juice. If you end up with less, add up to 1/4 cup dry wine or water.
  10. As garlic “juice” is draining,  prepare canner, jars, and lids by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and boiling your jars and lids for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, but keep jars in hot water until ready to jar for up to an hour. Any longer and you will need to re-sterilize.Green Tomato Preserves Sanitzing Jars
  11. Transfer garlic juice to a large saucepan and stir in lemon juice and sugar.Garlic Jelly adding sugar
  12. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil.
  13. Stir in pectin and return to a boil. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute then remove from heat and quickly skim off foam.
    Garlic Jelly adding liquid pectin    Garlic Jelly skimming
  14. Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. (This jelly sets quickly!)
  15. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.
  16. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.Garlic Jelly hot water bath
  17. Once processed, remove from  canner.  As they cool, you’ll hear the lids “pop” as the jars seal.  To test whether the jar has sealed, press your finger against the middle of the lid.  If it springs up, it has not sealed.
  18.  Allow the jars to cool before storing.

Serving suggestions:

  • Serve as a cheese and fruit tray condiment
  • Use as a savory/sweet glaze on pork or chicken
  • Stir a tablespoon or two into risotto
  • Spread on toast (with bacon!)

Garlic Jelly Cheese Tray

Vanilla Salt – Homemade Gifts for the Holidays

Vanilla Salt 4I am trying to take my own advice about remembering to breath. Is that working for anyone, by the way? Lol! Oh yes, Christmas is racing towards us.  This year, I decided to make as many Christmas presents as I possibly could. Partly to cut down on costs, but mostly to make myself stop and think about something besides work, bills, chores, and even the blog…to stop and think about my loved ones. Today, I am sharing with you one of these homemade gifts: Vanilla Salt.

During the holiday’s last year I was spending a lot of time in Charleston, South Carolina for work. My last trip was just before Christmas. I remember scouring King, Market, and East Bay Streets for presents. One Homemade Giftsof the shops I popped into just off Market is the Spice & Tea Exchange. If you have one of these franchises near year, I definitely recommend a visit if just to experience the fabulous smell of the shop. You’ll find one of the largest gathering of spice blends I have ever seen along with amazing infused salts and sugars, tea blends and more.  While I was wandering and opening jars to smell and taste, I saw one of the store employees measuring out truffle salt for a customer and I got a glimpse at the process as a number of tools and supplies were in the same area. “I can do something like this,” I thought to myself.  I also asked the lady if I could get a couple of bags of the truffle salt, too!  (Yum!)

Fast forward a year later and I’m thinking about what I can make Vanilla Salt 1everyone for Christmas.  Out of my back pocket came the infused salt and sugar ideas. My sister and almost all of my friends love food and (mostly) enjoy cooking. Making them “gourmet” blends would be perfect and bring some fun into their kitchens and dishes. Liking interesting flavor combinations, I thought vanilla salt (over vanilla sugar) would be a delicious, yet practical, treat.  It’s still salt, after all, and who doesn’t love vanilla?

Now please do remember that this is salt! The beautiful vanilla aroma will fool you into thinking you’re about to place a few sweet crystals on your tongue when you are not. Use it as a nice finishing salt. I’m still experimenting with the portion I set aside for myself. So far it goes great on seared scallops and savory butternut squash dishes.  Recently, I  used it on freshly grated hashed browns I threw in a skillet with butter. That little bit of vanilla in the salt enhanced the creaminess of the butter to the point of “wow!” My next project is to use the Vanilla Salt in my Christmas cookies in place of the regular salt. Needless to say I am pretty confident my friends will enjoy this gift!

Vanilla Salt 2

Vanilla Salt

IngredientsVanilla Salt Ingredients
  • 1 vanilla bean (seeds and pod)
  • 1 cup coarse sea salt

Other

  • Food processor
  • Empty clean jar

Directions

  1. Pour salt into the bowl of a food processor. I have a mini processor, so I worked in 1 cup batches of salt. If you have a larger processor, follow the ratio of 1 vanilla bean per cup of salt. For a faster and more intense vanilla flavor, increase the amount of vanilla bean.
  2. With a sharp paring knife, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise in Vanilla Salt Vanilla Caviarhalf so that you have two sections.
  3. Take a vanilla bean half, hold down one end, and use the back of your paring knife to scrape out as much of the vanilla “caviar” (the seeds) as possible. Add the vanilla caviar to the salt.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the other half of the vanilla bean. Set empty pod(s) to the side.
  5. Pulse salt and vanilla caviar together in the processor until Vanilla Salt Blending Salt and Vanillawell blended. You may want to use a flat spatula to push salt back down the sides of the processor bowl once or twice if you have a moister sea salt like I did.
  6. Place the scraped vanilla bean pod(s) into your jar.Vanilla Salt Adding Pods
  7. Pour the salt and vanilla caviar mixture into the jar, ensuring that the pod is burried in as much salt as possible.
  8. Close jar and set aside somewhere cool and dry for at least a week to allow the salt to be infused with the vanilla. If you are patient enough, I would recommend at least two weeks if not more. The longer you let the salt “steep” with the vanilla, the more vanilla flavor you’ll get (vice just the fragrance).
  9. When your desired “infusion” time is over, add the salt back Vanilla Salt Blending Pods Into Saltinto the food processor along with the vanilla pods. Pulse until well blended.
  10. For gifts, dispense evenly into spice jars or containers and decorate with labels, ribbons…anything you like!

Vanilla Salt Final Processing

Tip – If you have a moist salt like I did and want to dry it out a bit, bake the plain salt at 250°F for about 10-15 minutes. Wait until COMPLETELY COOL before adding the vanilla. Trust me on this one. I did two batches: one where I baked the salt after infusing it for two weeks…and then a batch where I baked the salt first then added the vanilla while the salt was still warm (In my defense I thought it had cooled!)…Doing either of these two will cause the vanilla salt to take on a baked fragrance, think Christmas cookies, rather than the fresh vanilla you’re aiming for.

Vanilla Salt 3

Happy Holidays! ~Ruth