Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Little Blender That Could

Who needs a Cuisinart food processor when you have a $5 yard sale blender? I'll admit I had my doubts. This little blender had made many the standard smoothie and even pesto, but could it possibly grind hard peanuts?

To add to my list of obsessions...PEANUT BUTTER. Anything and everything peanut butter. It is no exaggeration when I say I have peanut butter at least once a day. This evening I was dismayed to find our cabinets devoid of peanut butter, and my mom, unwilling to make a special trip to the grocery story (it is times like this I wish I already had my license), suggested instead I try making my own with the bag of shelled peanuts that had been sitting on top of our refrigerator since June. With no school tomorrow because of Hurricane Sandy warnings, I figured I would give it a shot. 

There were a LOT of peanuts to shell...

We got the recipe off of this website: 

12 ounces roasted, unsalted peanuts, plus ½ cup if you want a crunchy consistency
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon peanut oil, or more if needed
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Of course I didn't follow the recipe, but it was a good base. Foods like peanut butter you really just have to experiment with. It's all a matter of taste and texture preference. First of all, we didn't have peanut oil in the house, so I had to substitute it for extra virgin olive oil with a splash of sesame oil. (I figured the sesame oil would give it a "nuttier" taste, but the sesame oil was strong so I recommend  being conservative with it.) Unsure of how olive oil would taste with it and if the little blender would stand the test, I started with a small batch. And it worked! 

I found the best way to make the peanut butter was to gradually add more olive oil, honey, and sesame oil, stirring frequently. As I added more peanuts, it became harder for the blade to spin, so making the peanut butter in small batches is best. The peanuts I used were stale, so the honey helped sweeten it (I can tell you I used a LOT more than a tablespoon of honey), and the salt made it more flavorful. I also added flaxseed to the peanut butter, and tomorrow morning I'm thinking of stirring in chia seeds too!
I can't say the peanut butter tasted like what you buy in the store, but it still had an impressive flavor. Next time I make it, I'll be sure to use peanut oil and fresh peanuts; my guess is the stale peanuts are the major reason the peanut butter lacked a bit of the, well, standard "peanut-buttery" taste. 

I never should have doubted my little $5 yard sale blender. It might've been noisy and taken a little longer, and perhaps my peanut butter is not as smooth as Teddy's, but it still sticks to a spoon and I can spread it on toast and pour it into an old Tostitos salsa jar and tie it with a cute ribbon. The blender believed it could blend it and it did. 

For those of you on Hurricane Sandy patrol, stay safe!

P.S. "Did you notice?" is updated.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Notes and Cookies
"Hey, Mom," my little cousin says, his voice barely a whisper. He leans over her shoulder where she sits at the kitchen table, going over the week's to-do list and researching a new apple crisp recipe to make with the boys later that week. "I have a girlfriend." He smiles, lets the words resonate in the air. He's in 6th grade.

"Really, now?" she says, trying not to act too interested for fear of scaring him away. "What's her name?"

"Tanner," he says, suddenly shy. His mom nods; she knows who she is. A skinny little string bean with a Red Sox cap and dark hair down to her waist, which she tucks behind her ears. She looks like a tomboy, but doesn't play any sports. She's brainy, though. A real scholar. We always knew my cousin would find someone smart. Smart girls don't overlook his irresistible charm and manners, his big goofy grin and excited brown eyes.

He takes out a carefully folded piece of looseleaf paper from his pocket. The worn creases are evidence of how many times it's been opened." She likes me," he says, sliding the note across the table so it covers the grocery list for the week. In swirly cursive letters it reads, "I think you're cute" with hearts in place of every apostrophe and quotation mark and on top of the 'i'.

His mom stifles the "Aw" in her throat. "Well, why don't you have her and few other friends over for pumpkin carving? That way it doesn't feel awkward with just the two of you."

My cousin shuffles his feet. "Well, I don't know, Mom. I think we were just going to volunteer at the Fall Festival together at school." He suddenly looks up, afraid he hurt her feelings. "Is that alright?"

"Of course, I don't care," his mom says. He sighs relief and climbs the stairs to finish his math homework.

His little brother, who had been sitting quietly playing with his Power Rangers at the other end of the table, pipes up. "Hey, Mommy," he says.


"I have a girlfriend, too," he says nonchalantly, while continuing to duel his Power Rangers. He's six.

"You do, do you?" she says, eyebrows raised.


"What's her name?"

"Katie," he says, his tone now with a hint of superiority. "We share snack together."

Oh the days when relationships were as simple as folded up notes and sharing cookies at snack time.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

San Diego #4: Hieroglyphics

Mom says they're hieroglyphics. My first thought is, "how can 'Russ+Mari' and 'Ashley M' and 'Sue' and all the other signatures and lover's initials tattooed into the rock possibly be hieroglyphics?" But she's right. 100, 200 years from now, people will visit this spot––archeologists, historians, maybe––and puzzle over these carvings. Study them, wnder who carved them and why. What was going on in their life at that moment? What do all these strange letters mean? Who knows if we will even speak the same language 200 years from now; perhaps these letters will be recognized as no more than symbols. So people will come and and try to put meaning, some significance behind these carvings. Make them out to be more than they are; perhaps a map, or a story, or some sort of code. We will not be around to tell them these symbols and characters they are studying are nothing more than names of the everyday people and lovers, trying to make heir mark. But that's okay, because who are we to ruin their fun?

What will people think, 500 years from now? What will go in their history books? What will children learn in school? What will they think of us, and our styles? Will they think our clothes laughable, appalling, #1 on the DO NOT WEAR list? Will our styles become part of their School Spirit week? At what point will our clothes become vintage? When will our furniture become retro? I laugh to think of the day when I will tell my kids, "I remember back in my day..." My children will be embarrassed looking through my old yearbooks; I'll be embarrassed. But of course at the time I feel "hip" and "in" and "with it."

Looking at the hieroglyphics is like watching a history film. I wish I could be like the book "Gosammer" by Lois Lowry, and flash back to every person who ever entered this cave. Touch the initials and be brought back to that moment. How far back would it bring me? One year marks '78, but there must be ones dating farther back. I would love to see who Russ and Mari were. Were they a young couple on their honeymoon? Or were they two summer lovers, and perhaps this carving is the only proof of their summer fling. But they were here, and they were in love. Looking around, there were lots of people in love. And that is a comforting thing.