Thursday, August 22, 2013

Almond Butter Cups

Hey! mums, are you running out of ideas to keep your kids entertained for this seemingly endless summer? Hang in there, only few more days and it's back to school! In the meantime, here's a yummy treat to serve on playdates... a better, healthier version of that addicting Reese's peanut butter cups! These are made with homemade almond butter sweetened with organic agave nectar and dark chocolate. It's a breeze to make which means the little ones can help make these too, no baking required!

You can prepare the almond butter ahead of time and it will keep in the fridge for 6 months or longer. It's basically the same as my Dark Hazelnut Butter with the sub of blanched almonds (duh!) and no cocoa added. Try the recipe, I'm sure you'll love it!

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Time: 35 to 65 minutes

Ingredients for the Almond Butter Cups:
2 cups Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips or any chocolate chips/bars you like
1 cup almond butter

You will need:
16 cupcake liners
cupcake pans
microwavable dish


1. Place the chocolate chips in a microwavable dish. With the temperature set high, heat the chips at 30 minutes interval until most of the chocolates are melted. Careful not to burn it! Temper the chocolate to retain its gloss and shine when it hardens. For tips on tempering chocolate, check out this video from Alton Brown. Once melted and tempered, scoop 1 tsp of chocolate liquid in the cupcake liner and coat the bottom and the side of the liner halfway to the top. Do the same for the rest of the liners. Reserve the rest of the chocolate liquid for later.

3. Freeze the chocolates in cups for 5 minutes.

4. Once set, fill each chocolate cups with 1 tsp almond butter, press on the side for even cups. Then cover the almond butter with 1 tsp liquid chocolate. Make sure the almond butter is fully covered. Touch-up and make it pretty by swirling the top with a spoon. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Take it out and leave it in the countertop for a few hours before putting in a jar or container. Be sure to pop one in your mouth for quality check ;-)

Makes 16 cups

And here's how to make Almond Butter:

Roasting Time: 10 minutes
Butter-making Time: 30-60 minutes (depending on your equipment and the level of smoothness of the butter)
Total Time: 40-75 minutes

Baking sheet
food processor

500 g  raw blanched almonds
4-5 tbsp agave nectar or organic, pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
beans of 2-inch vanilla pods

1. Preheat oven to 160*C. Place the raw almonds on the baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, turning halfway through the roasting time. Keep a close eye on it; you only want a light to medium roast.

2. Transfer the almonds into the food processor. You may process the whole batch if you have a big food processor or you can grind half of it first. Grind the nuts until it forms a paste. This is where you'll need a lot of patience; the length of time will depend on how powerful your machine is and how smooth you want your butter to be*. Do not be tempted to add oil, you don't need it; the nuts will release its natural oil. I found that grinding the nuts while it is still warm makes it easier to release its oil. Once you get the desired consistency, add the agave nectar, salt and vanilla beans. Give it a whir for another 5 minutes until well combined. Transfer to jars and leave to cool completely before putting on the lid.
Note: For the batch I used for almond butter cups, I left it a little grainy so it will hold it's form.

Homemade Treats
30 March 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pesto Cream Macaroni

2 months ago, I started a new project. I had this crazy idea that I can grow organic herbs and veggies in wine crates set on the terrace of my 4th-floor flat. And guess what? In 6 weeks I was harvesting pakchoys and basil I planted from seed up! How cool is that!

I planned to start with just 4 herbs. I bought 1 small pot each of basil, thyme, rosemary and chives, (the ones sold in the fresh produce section of the groceries). I separated the bunch of thyme and basil and replanted them in crates and they have increased more than 10-fold ever since.
organic thyme -

I thought I'd push the envelope and plant from seed. My lack of experience coupled with the gulf's summer heat didn't give me much hope. So imagine my surprise when I found seeds sprouting in less than a week! 'Guess I have a green thumb huh? The pakchoy and basil were a success. Like I said, they were ready in just 6 weeks. Not sure if the lettuce will survive though... next time, I have to remember not to plant them close to each other. I still have to wait and see if they'll reach their full potential. Now the casualties are the spinach and female cat took an interest to make the planters her bed. So it's "death by paw" for those 2. But the rest of the plants are healthy, thriving and free from fertilizer. I never thought growing your food can be this easy. I love foraging in my mini urban garden before I cook a meal. Home-grown, fresh, organic and best of! Yay!
crate garden - organic basil -
Now the great thing about the herbs I planted is the more I harvest, the more they grow. So now I have this "good problem" of having more than we can consume. I'm trying my hands on drying thyme. But for the basil, I find the best way is to turn it into a pesto, put them in ice cube tray and freeze for later use.
home-grown organic basil -
Here's the recipe for Make-Ahead Pesto:

Prep Time: 10 minutes

3 cups packed basil leaves, washed clean and dried
1 clove garlic, smashed or roughly chopped
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup raw pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olove oil
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
salt and pepper to taste


1. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a small pan over low heat for 4-6 minutes. Set aside.
2. Sprinkle 1/8 tsp salt over the garlic and smoosh into a rough paste. Throw into the food processor. Add basil, pine nuts and about 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Process for 1 minute. Continue to add oil through the spout while processing. When almost ready, add the cheese, salt and pepper. Add the rest of the oil and process until smooth.
3. Transfer the pesto into ice tray. Freeze. You can store it in the tray, covered, until later use or transfer into a zip lock or separate container once frozen. Will keep for up to 3 months.

Makes 8 frozen cubes.

To use you can just thaw or pop in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, 30 sec interval, and add to your favorite pasta or chicken dish. Or you can fancy up and make this Pesto Cream Macaroni.

Pesto Cream Macaroni -

Here's the recipe:

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

3 cups macaroni pasta
water for boiling pasta ( with salt)
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 stick unsalted butter
4 cubes frozen pesto
1 cup pasta water
2 cups cooking cream of heavy cream
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
salt and pepper to taste
roasted pine nuts and fresh basil leaves for garnish


1. Cook the macaroni as per package instructions. Reserve some of the pasta water for later use.
2. Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the onions and saute until translucent; about 3 minutes.
3. Add the pesto cube and occasionally stir until melted.
4. Gradually add the cream, 1 cup pasta water and half of the cheese. Add pasta. Taste for salt and pepper.
5. To serve, sprinkle the rest of the parmiggiano reggiano on top and garnish with pine nuts and fresh basil leaves.

Makes 4 servings.
Pesto Cream Macaroni -

Haidee's Kitchen
08 Aug 2013