Fulfilling a food craving

I’ve been a bit ambitious in the kitchen the past two days, mostly because I’ve been craving for some culinary comforts of home— but also because ever since I got my new sous chef iPad, I am constantly using it to look up recipes for our dinners, then using it as a cookbook come meal prep time.

Last night, I found a recipe for vegetarian red beans and rice (it was Monday and not just any Monday but Lundi Gras so I decided we should “celebrate” in cuisine form. PS- Happy Mardi Gras!) and to go along with it, I made (what turned out to be) polenta cakes. I started with the intention of making cornbread but apparently cornmeal isn’t readily available in France and I wasn’t in a mood to go trekking across Montpellier looking for it (read: my American store is closed on Mondays.) So, I substituted instant polenta for cornmeal and while it tasted all right, the “cornbread” was a helluva lot denser than I had intended. This did not stop us from eating it, however.

For the red beans and rice, I was really puzzled at how I would find ingredients to obtain the flavors I so desperately wanted, but I was also in one of those moods where French language barrier be damned, I wanted my red beans and rice. Most of the “good” spices (i.e. anything with heat that isn’t cayenne) are found at the Arab markets and since we haven’t yet determined whether or not that is a place I should be going alone, I figured yesterday wasn’t the time to find out. Anyway, I was pretty proud of myself, because I found some spices in the grocery store that brought a little bit of smokey flavor to the beans (smoked paprika isn’t readily available here) and finagled the remaining ingredient list such that Dave gave my red beans and rice 4 stars. No really, he did.

The recipe app on the iPad has a star rating system so I make him rate the (new) meals every night so I can tell if he would want me to make it again down the road. See, we’re still in that stage where he tells he likes everything I make, even burned crepes, which happens from time to time (sad face). But Dave still eats them…and tells me he “likes them a little crispier.” Anyway, I can’t just outright ask if he likes something, because he will inevitably say yes. So I’ve adopted the app’s star system; it works, since the closest thing I get to a ‘no’ is when he says it’s a “working 3 stars” which I know means that we should tweak a recipe here or there to make it better. Not that I’m complaining about his amiable appetite. It makes it very easy to cook when you have someone who will eat whatever you put in front of them.

So right. Back to the menu from this week. I was practically a prairie woman last night, mixing my polenta cakes by hand and not using modern conveniences, like I would have in a previous life…making up a red beans and rice recipe as I go along. I mean, I was on such a roll that I should have attempted to churn my own butter. Sidebar: French butter is really good. I don’t know why it’s different, but it’s dangerously delightful. Especially since baguettes are at every corner and you can’t really fully enjoy a baguette without some sweet French butter. But I digress.

Today, since we’re having leftover red beans and rice for dinner, I attempted to make something else that isn’t readily available in France: peanut butter. Ok, it is available at the supermarket. They stock the Skippy brand here, but it’s in one of those little convenience store size jars that you might find at a 7-11 and it costs 4.36€ which (today) equals almost $6.00 and part of me just can’t justify that tiny bit of peanut butter for that price. It’s probably the same part of me that was introduced to Dr. Skipper and Sam’s Cola as a child, but either way, I haven’t had peanut butter since we got here.

Fast-forward to this weekend, when I was under the weather with a head cold and spent most of my time reading on my iPad. I was catching up on A Beautiful Mess, a blog full of fun things by a fellow scrapbooker around my age, whose style I’ve liked since I saw her first layout almost a decade ago (!). She had a post about making your own peanut butter and it seemed easy, but I was still fearful this was one of those posts that you might see on Pinterest where it looks easy and amazing and then you try it and it does not turn out like the picture. Yet, I figured I would give it a whirl and what’s the worst that could happen? I searched the grocery store for peanuts (they still have some leftover “seasonal” items like pecans and cranberries…and apparently peanuts) so I threw them in my basket and off I went.

And cue peanut butter success. It was so easy. I literally just blended peanuts and made peanut butter that actually tastes good. I didn’t even have to add oil or salt. It was amazing and I don’t know why I haven’t been making peanut butter all my life. I feel like I’ve had an epiphany…like in Cast Away when Tom Hanks makes fire…that kinda excited. (What can I say? I heart peanut butter.) And I made almost the same amount for half the price {blows on nails and buffs them on sweater}.

Since I don’t have my good camera and my cute scrapbook stuff for packaging said peanut butter is in storage, I’m borrowing a photo from Elsie and Emma to give you an idea of the success:

photo courtesy of A Beautiful Mess

PB&Js all around!

2 thoughts on “Fulfilling a food craving

  1. please provide me your exact peanut butter recipe. PB is my vice and this sounds too good to be true.

    • L-Boogie, it’s LITERALLY just peanuts blended up in a food processor (or immersion blender if that’s all you happen to have 😉 ). I did, however, buy roasted and salted peanuts (think Planter’s party tin) because that was all that was available here. Otherwise, that’s it. Nothing but peanuts. If you have non-roasted/salted peanuts at your disposal, maybe add a bit of vegetable/canola/peanut oil and some salt, but we’ll call it “Chef’s Selection” on that 🙂

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