Wok This Way: Alton Brown’s Wok-Fried Peanut Butter

Just last week I wrote about how much I enjoy Alton Brown’s various online outlets for food information. One of his most recent YouTube videos really captured my imagination and it was about making your own thick, chunky peanut butter using a wok. I watched it from beginning to end, even though he spoke with a mouthful of his own product through the whole thing which is like nails on a chalk board for me and soon enough tracked down the written recipe over on Brown’s website.

This is a wildly simple recipe that can take a lot of time if you wind up getting peanuts in the shell like I did. No kidding, it probably took me about an hour to get a full pound of shelled peanuts. I would have gone with the non-bagged kind, but that’s all my grocery store had, so I just dove in and got them done in two different sessions. My hands were pretty beat up by the end, but not too bad.

With that done — or if you get shelled peanuts right off the bat — you’re good to go with the actual cooking process. Heat the wok, toss in the peanut oil and then get the peanuts in the pan. I wish I had stirred them more than I did because I wound up getting some pretty burnt nuts in the process. I did my best to pull the worst ones out, but the final product does have a hint of that burned flavor depending on the bite.

After the salting and cooling process, you toss 1/3 in the food processor and remove. The rest go in processor with some honey and salt and get, well, processed for much longer. The resulting butter was quite thick and got even more so when the first third was added back in.

When Brown says in the video that this is chunky PB, he’s not kidding. This stuff has an almost doughlike consistency. When I first saw that I was worried that it might not spread very well, but my wife and daughter, who eat most of the peanut butter in our house, don’t seem to mind and have enjoyed it pretty much every day since. I use it when I make my morning smoothies, and really enjoy the nutty, salty component it adds.

I also really enjoy being able to make something else that sits in our pantry or refrigerator. Peanut butter might actually be one of my favorites because you don’t need to acquire a lot of materials to make it (like stock, say, or tomato pulp) and it doesn’t go bad really quickly like mayo or vinaigrettes. Now I just gotta find a place that sells shelled peanuts that aren’t too expensive!

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Cooking Pumpkin Seeds

I know we’re well past Halloween at this point, but I wanted to get this great and simple recipe for making pumpkin seeds up before I completely forgot. I’ve been enjoying salty pumpkin seeds around Halloween as long as I can remember. My mom would make them for me as a kid and I took over once I moved out on my own. I used her recipe for a while and then one that a friend of hers gave her that works out really well.

We had two average sized pumpkins — check their size and our daughter’s designs here — which yielded a good amount of seeds. I soaked them over night and then dried them out using a strainer. When I was ready to cook them, I put the oven on to 325 degrees and spread them out on a baking sheet (I probably should have used two so they’d have more room to cook) and then covered them with melted butter. I then sprinkled salt on all of them and garlic powder on half before putting them in the oven for around 30 minutes total. I only did half with garlic powder because once they’re done, they all get mixed together and didn’t want the garlic to be overpowering.

The end result was a solid batch of crunchy, salty seeds that were a big hit around the house. In fact, our two year old liked them so much, she wound up eating the last of the bunch while I made dinner, the tricky little monkey.

Bonus Food Pic: 2 Alices’ Iced Coffee & Homemade Pop Tart

2 alices homemade pop tart

Anyone who knows me or reads Monkeying Around The Kitchen on a regular basis already knows that I’m not a big fan of dessert or sweets. I’d rather eat an appetizer or more of my entree than save room for dessert. That’s just how I’m built. But, there are a few sweet treats I just can’t resist. Pop Tarts are on that list. But, because I’m an adult who knows how bad they are for you, it’s been ages since I bought any for myself.

A month or two back, I stopped into my beloved 2 Alices in Cornwall. This is the place I used to go and work to get out of the house before we had our daughter. Their coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had, but they do have a variety of bakery treats on display as well. I was surprised and intrigued when I first saw the Homemade Pop Tarts. I wasn’t in the mood at the time, so passed it up. Another time, I saw they had the regular ones as well as cinnamon — my favorite take on the Pop Tart theme — but again, I didn’t partake.

Last Friday, however, Lu was in day care so I could do an interview with comic book legend Stan Lee. I decided to finish my work for the day at the coffee shop and indulged myself in a few of their iced coffees and one Homemade Pop Tart. Man, it was great! They nailed the icing the filling was even better than the overly processed thing that lives inside the brand name counterpart. Also, not for nothing, it was about two-to-three times bigger than your average Pop Tart. It wound up being the perfect combination of sugar from the treat and caffeine from the coffee to get me through my work, pick the kid up, get home and make a dinner of Giada De Laurentiis’ Chicken Saltimbocca and Couscous-Stuffed Peppers With Basil Sauce for my parents who had driven in from Michigan.

Bonus Food Pic: Deep Fried Oreos

fried oreo

Last week the Cornwall firefighters held their annual fair. It’s been going on for decades, but this is the first year we went. It was a nice little fair with plenty of rides, over-priced games (I remember when you got three darts for $1 instead of one for $2) and, of course, the kinds of food you can only buy from people who travel from town to town under cover of darkness. While thoughts of corn dogs danced in my head (they turned out to come from a box), I was actually won over by the six deep fried Oreos my wife requested. I actually saw the woman in the cart/thing dipping the cookies into the batter and tossing them into the frier, so I know they were fresh (or, you know, as fresh as fresh can be). The results were a super sweet combination of dough and softened cookie that was delightful.

Bonus Food Pic: The Cool Ranch Dorito Taco From Taco Bell

cool ranch dorito taco For all the writing I do about grinding my own meat, trying to find more local sources for produce and protein and keeping an eye on my caloric intake with the Lose It! app, I’m still the kind of guy who dreams about heading to Taco Bell, throwing down a few bucks and scarfing down a small mountain of faux Mexican food. I like to think I come by it honestly. You see, Toledo, the town that I’m from actually has three T-Bells on one of the city’s major thoroughfares with the two furthest ones only about 20 minutes from each other. As a kid and young adult, we’d head there and get food and I kept that tradition alive into my adulthood our here in New York. Heck, I even stopped there the day I heard about a rash of Bell-based food poisoning outbreaks about five years back. After hearing the news on the radio I thought, “Mmm, Taco Bell. I’m sure I won’t get food poisoning (and I didn’t, at least that time).

There was even a part of me that was ashamed that it took me so long to actually taste a Dorito-flavored taco shell at the restaurant. It’s the same part of my brain that misses seeing big-time superhero movies in the theater on opening night. It’s just something the old me would have done in a heartbeat that older me can’t without lots of scheduling and worries of health and whatnot.

Anyway, last weekend my wife and I both checked our points and decided to get some dinner at T-Bell while we were out running some errands. Of course, we both had to try the Cool Ranch version of the taco, something we were both excited about. Heck, much like the above commercial, I was one of the people who immediately said, “They should do Cool Ranch” as soon as I heard about the regular Dorito taco shell. As it happens, Cool Ranch is my favorite Dorito flavor, though much like Taco Bell, they’re not really a regular part of my life anymore because I will eat a ton of them in a single sitting and that’s not good for someone who counts going to the grocery store as exercise.

So, I should get to the main event. I tried the taco and it was pretty good, but definitely salty. My wife read some account that said the flavor of the heavily spiced meat tends to wash out the Cool Ranch flavor, so I went in making the conscious decision to put my tongue directly on the shell every time I bit. That way, I definitely got the flavor every single time. And it definitely worked. I’m still not one hundred perfect sure if this fits in with the “two great tastes that taste great together” category as one definitely seems to outdo the other, but I’d say it’s a fun experiment with pretty good results.

Snack Attack: Original Beer Nuts Peanuts

 

While driving to New Hampshire a few weeks back, we stopped at a rest stop to get gas and I went in to get a drink and a snack. I wound up discovering Beer Nuts, which I know have been around forever, but I don’t remember ever having them. They reminded me of honey roasted peanuts with their sweet and salty combination, but that’s pretty much the idea, right? Get people drinking and eating these cheap snacks that make them want to drink more. Brilliant! It also happens that they’re quite tasty and while not the healthiest snack in the world, seemed like a better choice than a candy bar or something.

Snack Attack: Cadbury Screme Eggs

Hi gang, sorry for the intense lack of posts lately. In addition to various personal and professional things going on the past month, I also just got back from a vacation with my wife, daughter and in-laws. So, while posts were mostly non-existent, I did eat a lot of New England food and took plenty of pictures. Plus, I’ve got a big backlog of recipes to talk about, so hopefully I can keep up a little better in the coming days and weeks.

Anyway, this is by no means a normal post for me, but I just had to share my recent experience with something I saw at the grocery store recently: Cadbury Screme Eggs. I’m not much of a sweets guy, but I’ve long been a fan of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs and always wondered why they didn’t sell them year round, it just seems like they’re missing out on a lot of potential money there. Well, I guess someone at Cadbury thought the same thing and decided to bring the Easter-themed candy into fall with Halloween-themed treats.

My wife and I weren’t quite sure how they would taste, but I’m here to tell you that, even with a green streak inside, the candy tastes exactly the same. So, if that’s your thing, give them a whirl, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Bonus Food Pics: Geeky Chocolate At Krause’s

I am not a chocolate fan. I do like the occasional truffle, but it’s not the kind of thing I normally jones for. When we were walking around New Paltz this past Saturday, we stopped in a place I never noticed before called Krause’s Chocolates. We walked around a little bit, but didn’t want to get anything, but I did see a few things I just had to snap pictures of and write about. Above you can see chocolate pops based on Spider-Man (come on with the hyphen guys) and Batman. But the most impressive geek treats I saw were…

Star Wars chocolate! The picture isn’t great, but you’ve got C-3PO on the far left, then Chewbacca, R2-D2 and Darth Vader! They were about 6-8 inches tall and probably look tasty if you’re into chocolate. Anyone every been there and sampled these geeky delicacies? How do they compare to norm candy?

Bonus Food Pic: Zora Dora Popsicles

Sorry about the crappy picture, but I really wanted to talk about Zora Dora’s Paletaria in Beacon, NY. As anyone who knows me or has read this blog for any amount of time knows, I’m not a big fan of desserts or sweets. Instead of eating a dessert at the end of a meal, I’d much rather just eat more mashed potatoes or a piece of meat. I’ve just never had much of a sweet tooth and I rarely search out such things.

My wife digs sweets though and the last time we were in Beacon — a town across the river that we’re just now discovering — she wanted to hit up a place she’d heard of that does microbatch, homemade popsicles. We walked into the tiny shop on the main street and there was a huge list of flavors on a chalkboard. From left to right in the grainy picture above you can see the mojito one which my wife had, the baby’s strawberry/banana one and my chocolate dulce de leche pretzel delight. My wife’s really nailed the lime and mint found in one of my favorite cocktails. Lucy’s was actually a smaller banana pop surrounded by a strawberry one and she devoured it. Mine was pretty intense. The chocolate bit was very sweet and rich, but also had salt sprinkled on top. At first I was a little worried because the first lick was very salty, but that was pretty much it. Until I took a bite towards the center and there was an actual pretzel rod inside! Then, at the bottom you’ve got the creamy dulce de leche. It was a rad combination even for someone who doesn’t really dig sweets.

If you’re in the area and don’t mind dropping $3 on a frozen treat — something that didn’t seem so bad considering how hot it was and how good they turned out to be — do yourself a favor and hit up Zora Dora.

Sweet Spot: Malley’s Chocolate Covered Fritos

Our Easter was relatively candy free. The baby can’t have any of that yet and my in-laws kept it pretty simple with just a few things. However, when we got home, a package was waiting for us from my parents filled with chocolaty treats from Cleveland area chocolatiers Malley’s. I’m not the biggest chocolate fan in the word, I’d rather eat more dinner than desert 99 times out of a hundred, but every now and then I see something interesting I want to try. This box was packed with interesting things that I’ll cover over the week.

But, the foremost thing that caught my attention was a box marked Chocolate Covered Fritos. Now, this was something new. Junk food and chips are right up my alley, so this was curious and interesting. And it’s a great idea because, if you like chocolate covered pretzels with that excellent mixture of salty crunch and milk chocolatey sweetness, then these treats will also be in your wheelhouse. It doesn’t look like they have an online store, but if you’re in the northeast Ohio area, you should do yourself a favor and stop in. If you go to the one near where my Grandma lives, you can even eat chocolate or ice cream on a (slow moving) carousel of sorts. That’s a fond memory from childhood.