Your Very Own Home Roasted Peanuts

When I was young, my mother roasted her own peanuts. My grandmother, who lived in the country, would periodically drop a bag of raw peanuts as a gift at our house. She bought from someone in her hometown. And whenever those peanuts showed up, my mother immediately got to cooking them. Which is saying something, because she didn’t cook hardly anything.

I always stood in our green 1980′s kitchen and loved watching her in action. They way she coated the peanuts in oil so thoroughly. They was she turned them and tended to them in the oven. All of the slow time and effort she took paid off, because the peanuts always turned out great.

I remembered that recently and decided it was high time I learned how to roast my own peanuts. The store bought ones are fine, and I eat those all the time, but there is nothing quite like popping a hot, salty, just out of the oven peanut in your mouth. I am salivating just thinking about it.

To get started, I ordered a 3lb bag of raw peanuts from a company though Amazon. They arrived in a nice bag, completely fresh and well-preserved. Then I talked to aunt Mimi a lot about how to make them, because my mother did not leave me a recipe.

I preheated the oven 500 degrees and let it get nice and hot for awhile. When the oven was ready, I poured the peanuts into two large jelly roll type pans, so there was enough room for all the peanuts to lay flat in the pan. I then poured about 1/4 cup of vegetable oil into the pan. Not enough for the oil to puddle up anywhere, but enough to thoroughly coat all the peanuts. Lilla was call over the mixing and coating. I then generously salted them. And I mean, generously.

I put the pans into the ovens, and immediately turned the ovens completely off, which allowed the peanuts roast while the ovens cooled down. While they cooked, I periodically moved them around with a wooden spatula and did a taste test, about every 15 minutes, to make sure they were being evenly and thoroughly cooked.

After about an hour, they were completely done. I removed the pans from the oven and let them cool, because they were extremely hot. That didn’t really stop me from doing more taste tests though. You know, just to make sure they were really done.

When the peanuts had cooled enough, I poured them into a large bowl, where they cooled some more. When they were completely cool, I put them into mason jars to help keep them fresh as we worked our way through eating them.

After calculating all the costs, it cost me about $5 per jar of peanuts to make them. That includes the cost of the peanuts, ingredients, jars, and ribbon. Not to mention, they tasted so good. We enjoyed them for days and days. So, there is a pretty good chance home roasted peanuts is going to fall into my Christmas gift-giving. Instead of the usual cookies for friends and teachers, the Wises will be giving peanuts this year!



Recipe: Light and Fluffy Divinity

I will be the first to admit that the pictures in this post are not the best. But don’t let the pictures fool you. This is a really yummy recipe for Divinity.

What is Divinity you say? Divinity is a delicious heart healthy treat that is made essentially of sugar and egg whites. It is also fat-free.

Because Divinity is heart healthy, I made a batch for Jack Mike’s birthday. He can only eat heart healthy stuff because of his ticker. It has been that way for about ten years. Doctor’s orders.

But back to the Divinity. This is what you will need: 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 egg whites, and 1 tsp. vanilla.

Cook the first 4 ingredients in a 2-quart pot over low heat until the sugar dissolves and a candy thermometer registers at 248 degrees. Remove the syrup from heat.

Beat the egg whites at a high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. The pour half of the hot syrup gently into the egg whites and beat together for 5 minutes.

Cook the remaining portion of the syrup again until the thermometer reads 272 degrees. Then gently pour the hot syrup and vanilla into egg white mixture beating constantly at high speed.

I added red food coloring at this point to make pink Divinity. Not that Jack Mike wanted pink treats for his birthday. But I thought it was cute. You could any color to make the treats more fun.

Beat until the mixture holds its shape. Quickly drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto lightly greased wax paper. The wait for them to harden a bit and enjoy!

But be warned: divinity is a sugary, sweet treat. Don’t let your kids indulge too much before bed or they will never go to sleep!


Royal Velvet Chocolate Cake

Growing up, the only time I ever ate homemade cake was when my grandmother made it. No one else I knew, least of all my mother whose idea of cooking was Chef Boyardee and slice and bake cookies, made cakes from scratch.

When my grandmother did make one of her special cakes, which was usually for party or gathering, it was the equivalent in my family of a national event. Word spread like lightning that she had arrived and with a cake. Grandmother brought a cake. What!? Grandmother brought a cake! O my God, what kind? WHAT KIND OF CAKE? 

Once at a party, my uncle and mother hid my grandmother’s beautiful lemon chiffon cake so we could have it all to ourselves. Later, after the last guest had left, my uncle pulled the cake out of it’s hiding place and we ate fat slices, thrilled that there was still plenty leftover for us to enjoy later.

No matter what we were doing, everyone was much more excited about the cake than whatever reason we were together to celebrate – a wedding, a bride, a birthday, even a new baby. The cake always reigned.

Which then made homemade cake, in my mind at least, a big mystery. How does one make a cake? What are the special techniques needed? Were does one buy the ingredients to make something as special and complicated as a cake?

I had no answers to those questions for years and years. But then one day, I saw an actual cake recipe in a cookbook. And I realized that the level of difficulty in making a cake might not be the same as say, parting the Red Sea, which is always how I imagined it to be. I mean, a cake only consists of mixing together flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. It does not involve parting tons and tons of water, sustaining sea life, and rescuing a group of slaves pursued by a terrifying army.

Maybe I could actually make a cake?

I have been experimenting with cake making ever since, trying new recipes here and there. And I have a new one that I love. Partly because it does not involve sifting the dry ingredients half a dozen times, which is such a pain.

This is what you will need: 1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, 1/2 cup of softened butter, 16 oz light brown sugar, 3 large eggs, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 8oz sour cream, 1 cup hot water, 2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup powdered sugar.

To start, melt the semi-sweet chocolate morsels in the microwave at 30 second intervals until melted. Then stir until the chocolate is all smooth.

Beat the butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until well-blended. Then add the eggs, 1 at a time. And the melted chocolate.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add it to the chocolate mixture alternating with the sour cream. Start and end with the flour mixture and mix at low speed. Gradually add 1 cup of hot water in a slow stream and mix together. Stir in vanilla.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10′ tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until a long toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then remove it from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Sift powdered sugar on top.

And if you want to make it even more decadent, add a chocolate ganache. Microwave 12 oz of semi-sweet chocolate morsels and 1/2 cup of whipping cream for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in 3 Tbsp. of butter until smooth. Let the sauce sit for 20 minutes then serve it with the cake. And as always, strawberries make everything better.

A Taste of Heaven: An Angel Food Cake Recipe

Angel Food Cake. It was a staple in our house for many years, because JackMike has a bad ticker.

It is the kind of ticker that can’t handle fat of any kind, including the fat found in most sweets and baked goods. But one day JakcMike discovered the fat-free wonder known as Angel Food Cake and from then on it was always on hand at our house for dessert or a late night snack smothered in fat-free chocolate syrup.

The only problem was that our angel food cake was store bought, which at the time was preferable since the woman of the house didn’t cook. But I always wondered what real, homemade angel food cake was like and if it was better than the store bought version.

Lately, Lilla and I have been making our own angel food cakes and we have been quite pleased with the results.

This is what you will need: 1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour, 12 egg whites, 1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 1/3 cups sugar.

The first step is to sift the cake flour three times, which I know is a pain but it does make a difference. My sous chef did the sifting, and she did a fine job.

Then beat the egg whites and the next four ingredients at high speed with an electric mixer until soft, white peaks form. It should take about 5 minutes.

Gradually add the sugar 1/3 of a cup at a time and beat well after each addition. Then fold the flour into the batter. Pour the batter into a greased 10″ tube pan that has a removable bottom (which isn’t essential, but it does make things easier.)

Bake on a lower oven rack at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Once finished baking, loosen edges of the cake from the pan with a knife.

Remove the tube and cake from the outer pan. Then remove the cake from tube and cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

The homemade cake is definitely denser and heavier, and because it is not being bought off a shelf or wrapped in plastic, it does not have any chemicals and preservatives and tastes much better.

And whenever we eat a piece, we still drown it in chocolate syrup, because that is really the best way to eat angel food cake. Though, strawberries are a delicious addition to angel food cake as well.



The Best Brownie Cookies

Jay worked a lot this weekend, so while he was at the office and Bette napped, Lilla and I baked. We were just finishing up when Jay arrived home in time to taste test our cookies. He took one bite and said they were the best cookies he had ever had.

I can’t take credit for them. I didn’t create the recipe, but I certainly can share it. And if you need some knock-out cookies, bake these. They are the best cookies ever.

This is what you will need: 1/2 cup butter, 4 (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate squares, 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels divided, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 4 large eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 cups chopped pecans toasted (optional).

Combine the butter, unsweetened chocolate, and 1 1/2 cups of chocolate morsels in a large saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Then let the chocolate cool a bit.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Beats the eggs, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer. Gradually add dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Add the melted chocolate to the mixture and beat well.

Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of chocolate morsels and pecans. Drop the dough by 2 tablespoonfuls 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degree for 10 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool slightly. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let them cool completely.

You can store them in an air-tight container.

And make sure to enjoy them. They are the best cookies ever.

*Courtesy of Southern Living.