West African Peanut Soup

Holy moly!  Sometimes the things you learn about people surprise you – in a totally impressed & suddenly feel like an unaccomplished slob sort of way.  I have found myself recently so impressed by what one young individual has been able to accomplish that I wonder what the heck kind of stagnant, lazy brain I must have comparatively.  Now I do not wonder this out of envy but out of sheer amazement!   This individual is humble beyond reason and superbly polite.  They have two ivy league degrees and a professional resume that would impress even the most accomplished professional.

This is a classic case of “don’t judge a book by its cover.”  This young man should give past and future generations hope that 20-somethings aren’t just a group of entitled, lazy brats.  Although compared to this guy, most of us might as well be.  For someone to be that accomplished and have such a humble spirit is truly a rarity!

Now this “don’t judge a book” rule, doesn’t just apply to people and well, books.  It applies to other unassuming but secretly wonderful things…. like this warm West African curry-like Peanut Soup.

My skeptical nature was on all kinds of high alert with this one.  I admit, peanut soup sounds rather unappealing, but after one hearty bite, I was in peanut soup heaven.

Not convinced?  Here are a few more reasons to love peanut soup:

  1. You probably have all the ingredients already
  2. It can be made in 30 minutes or less!
  3. Great way to get picky eaters to eat dark leafy greens
  4. Great source of protein
  5. Can be made vegetarian or not
  6. Did you read reason #1?

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One thing to note is that this isn’t really a soup, its more of a curry and is designed to be served over brown rice or a grain of your choosing.  I made it for a last minute dinner crowd not long ago and now, this “soup” is one of the most requested dishes from our kitchen.  Call it comfort food.  Call it soul food.  Call it what you will, but please, promise that you will try it before casting it off into the weird recipe abyss.  You will be very pleasantly surprised!

West African Peanut Soup

  • 4-5 cups of low sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I use chicken)
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 tbl. fresh grated peeled ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 tsp. salt (+ more to taste)
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard or collard greens, stems and ribs removed
  • 3/4 cup smooth unsalted natural peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup tomato paste (approx. 1 small 5.5-6 oz. can)
  • Optional: up to 1 lb. chicken, cooked and cut into 1″ pieces
  • Sriracha (I let everyone season their own bowl as much as they want)
  • Approx. 1/2 cup peanuts for garnish

In a large pot with a lid, bring 4 cups of the stock to a boil, add onion, ginger, garlic and 1.5 tsp. salt.

In a separate heat safe bowl and tomato paste, peanut butter, and 2 cups of the heated broth.  Stir until thoroughly combined and then transfer to the remaining boiled broth.

Simmer for about 10 more minutes on med-low heat until thickens slightly.  Add more broth as needed.

Add greens and simmer for 5 more minutes.  If you are adding chicken, add that now as well.  Taste to see if more salt is needed.  I add a very small amount of Sriracha at this point and allow guests to add more as desired.

Serve individually a-top cooked brown rice and garnish with generous sprinkle of chopped peanuts!

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Try not to smile too widely while you are eating this deliciousness and thinking how silly you were for doubting the wonders of peanut soup.  I say this to save you from any dribbles down your shirt… And, this deliciousness is not something that any amount of stain remover can resolve. 😉

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Amaretti Crust and Cranberry-Maple Compote

Its Christmas time, which also means its time for my favorite cheesecake EVER!

Yes, it has a really long name.  But this is a really stupendous cheesecake!  Every part of the name is important!  We can’t leave out mascarpone because of the complexity and creaminess.  We can’t leave out amaretti because it’s flavor magic, and we have to list the Cranberry-Maple compote because its cranberries and pure maple syrup simmered together into the best holiday topping your tastebuds can imagine!

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I should probably add that this cheesecake recipe (without the festive compote) is what I make most often on my birthday.  This is my all time favorite dessert.  Period.  Cheesecake in general is great, but this one is truly the best ever!

Thats really all I have to say about it.  I prefer to let the tastiness speak for itself.  Hope you all make it and enjoy!!

Merry Christmas!

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Amaretti Crust 

and Cranberry-Maple Compote

For the Crust:

  • ~ 3.5 oz. amaretti cookies
  • 4 full sized graham crackers
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 tbl. melted butter

For the Filling:

  • 20 oz. cream cheese, room temp.
  • 8 oz. mascarpone, room temp.
  • zest from 1 small orange
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbl. fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

For the topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. fresh orange juice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

For the Compote:

  • 8oz. of fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar

CRUST: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush the cookies and graham crackers in a food processor or with a rolling pint.  Add pinch of salt and mix.  Then add melted butter and mix.  Press into bottom of spring form pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool.

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FILLING: In the bowl of a stand mixer combine cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar, salt, and orange zest until combined.  Mix in eggs one at a time and add vanilla and orange juice.  Pour filling on top of cooled crust.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes until top trembles when lightly shaken.  Cool for approximately 20 minutes.

TOPPING: In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Gently pour on top of cheesecake and bake for additional 10 minutes until topping has just set.

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Once cheesecake has cooled completely to room temperature, refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days!  (Yay, for a make-ahead desert!)

COMPOTE:  Also, can be made up to 3 days ahead!!  Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce temperature to simmer and allow mixture to thicken slightly for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly.  Allow to cool and then transfer to a glass jar.  (Can be re-warmed slightly prior to serving.)

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Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Gingerbread and I aren’t pals… Well, actually, true Gingerbread (the cake kind!) and I get along famously, but the tedious little Gingerbread man cookies are the ones I find obnoxious: a ton of work for something not all that tasty.  As such, I prefer to take in my gingery-molassesy yumminess in the form of these chewy EASY roll and bake cookies.

Chewy on the inside, crunchy sugar crystals on the outside, and gingery warmth make all kinds of sugar plums dance in my head – without the headache and mess of rolling, cutting, & decorating on a seemingly infinite loop!  In general I am not a lazy person, except when it comes to things that have a higher “yum” to “effort” ratio.  I am down for whatever will yield the most deliciousness and require the least amount of work.  In the land of all things holiday and gingery molasses, these have successfully mastered that magic ratio to super-cookie status.  Yes, even without the decorations and festive holiday shapes. 

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Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookie

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground  cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • scant 1/2 cup mild flavored molasses (I used Grandma’s brand)
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup turbinado (or other coarse granule sugar) for rolling
  • 1/8 cup crystalized ginger

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor pulse crystalized ginger with 1/2 of turbinado.  Transfer to a bowl and mix in remaining turbinado with a spoon. Set aside for rolling cookies.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.

In the bowl of stand mixer, combine molasses, sugars, melted butter, and egg just until combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture 1/3 at a time.  Mix until just combined (may need to scrape bottom of stand mixer’s bowl a few times to incorporate the sticky molasses).  Place mixture in fridge for a few minutes to make dough less soft and sticky (Approx 30 minutes, but not more, or else cookies will not bake evenly).

Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.  Roll dough into 1″ balls and roll in turbinado mixture.  Place balls 2″ apart on cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes for soft chewy results!!

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No Room for the Broken

If you take the time to see it, – amidst that carols, twinkle lights, shopping bags, ornaments, and cheer – there are people hurting.  How easy it is to busy ourselves with parties, cookie exchanges, pageants, concerts, and gingerbread house that we forget to see those around us who aren’t able to participate in the festivities.  Chances are, they weren’t even invited.

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If Christ is who this season is about, He certainly wasn’t blind to those in need. So why are we?  I’m not talking about giving $20 to some cause halfway around the world to appease your conscious.  I am talking about really seeing the need and hurt around us.  The kind of seeing that is relational and stops you in your tracks.  The kind that causes interruptions.  Yes, maybe doing so sacrifices the time that you would have spent baking cookies for the neighbors on your middle class block who have plenty of cookies of their own.  We slap “in jesus name” and “community” on everything we do, just so long as it fits within our comfort zone or schedule.  But this isn’t the Christianity Christ modeled.  If I only see my community as those who look like me, dress like me, and have a similar economic situation, then I’m missing the point entirely.

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This post by Shannan Martin of FlowerPatchFarmGirl.com should be read by all.  Her words hit me hard today and inspired this post.  Please read what she has to say.

I am guilty – more guilty than many probably – of packing my schedule so full that there isn’t room for much else, especially during the holidays.  So I am challenging myself to slow down, see, and make room.  Please join me.