African Peanut Stew

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Okay, don’t get too excited.  Although we would love to say that TheshoeboxKitchen is coming out of retirement, well, we’re not quite ready for that.  But, while chasing around our 3 and almost 1 year olds tonight, we did manage to whip up a delicious stew that we would be remiss not to share with you.

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If you’re pretty much anywhere in the U.S. right now, well, IT’S COLD.  Around Atlanta fall has quickly blurred into winter, without much warning.  When the fire is crackling in the fireplace and you want to feel that same cozy warmth in your belly, this is the stew you want to make–trust us.  Hearty and savory with a thick, stick-to-your-soul sauce, at first glance this may seem like an old favorite from your childhood.  But this ain’t your momma’s winter stew–the ginger and peanut butter combination are sure to get your taste buds singing a new tune, while the hearty potatoes, mushrooms, and beef make you feel like you never left home sweet home.

African Peanut Stew (adapted from The Joy of Cooking cookbook)

  • 2 small cans tomato paste
  • 2 16 oz cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 pound ground beef (or stew meat, if you just finished splitting firewood)
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-size cubes
  • 1 carton sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bellpepper, diced
  • 1 jalepeno, diced (keep the seeds if you want an extra kick)
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, finely grated with microplane
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

In a pan, brown the meat and drain; set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven, saute the onion and peppers in the olive oil.  Add garlic and ginger, saute for 2 more minutes.  Incorporate the spices and tomato sauce/paste, then add the sweet potatoes and mushrooms.  Add enough water to cover the vegetables.  Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

After simmering, ladle out about 1/2 cup of the broth and whisk with the peanut butter until fully combined, then add the peanut butter mixture and beef to the stew.  Simmer for 10 more minutes or so, or until the beef is cooked through and the potatoes are soft (if you’re using stew meat, you may want to add the beef earlier).  We like to add the kale about 10 minutes prior to serving so that it still has some crunch to it, adding texture and interest to the stew.

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This stew is great served over brown rice or just ladled straight into a tall bowl.  We like to sprinkle red pepper flakes over the plated stew for an extra pop on the tongue.  You’re gonna want seconds for sure.

Happy stewing!

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Salsa Verde

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In keeping with Cinco de Mayo, and to make use of the abundant harvest of cilantro from our garden, we offer for your consideration a simple and delicious salsa verde.  As with most salsas, fresh ingredients are key.

Salsa Verde

  • 1 lb fresh tomatillos
  • 1 large white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 packed cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno (you decide whether you want the heat of the seeds)
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar (this ingredient is a bit controversial in traditional salsa circles, but we like it)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Kosher salt to taste (start with 1/2 tsp – remember, chips are salted)

Husk, wash, and quarter the tomatillos.  Rough chop the onion, garlic, and jalapeno.  Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.  Transfer to a saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes, until reduced to desired consistency.

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Enjoy with your favorite corn chip or, even better, spooned on top of carne asada.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

* Editor’s Note: Second day discovery: letting this already yummy salsa sit in the fridge overnight deepens and improves the flavor fourfold!

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Public Service Announcement

Hi stranger.  Okay, so maybe we’re the strangers here.  Two kids under 2 will do that to you.  Our apologies.  But somehow in the midst of the madness we just had to get this very important information out to the public . . .

Sometimes the best recipes are the most simple – those tried and true recipes that your mom still uses and has memorized and can’t remember where they came from in the first place.

This is one of them – we just gave it a very slight facelift.

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These are oatmeal cookies made using the recipe straight from the Quaker Oats box.  We simply substituted freshly milled hard red wheat flour for the AP flour and, since Jason refuses to eat raisins unless they come straight from a box, we threw in a mixture of chocolate and butterscotch chips instead.

The results knocked our socks off.

So go make these, we implore you.  We won’t even waste your time by posting the recipe here – just go Google it and get baking!!

Okay, back to the craziness . . .

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The Summer Tart Reconstructed (or, a Blackberry & Fig Tart)

What do you do when the blackberries are almost out of season and you’ve rescued one last bunch from the farmer’s market . . .

And in the same week your good friends give you some fresh figs plucked right off the trees in their backyard?

Well, of course you turn back to TheshoeboxKitchen archives and stumble upon this post,  then immediately decide to simply swap the peaches and blueberries for figs and blackberries and make yourself a summer tart!  Genius!

If you happen to have figs and blackberries lying around – or any combination of fruit and berries, for that matter – then follow the recipe from this post and make yourself a summer tart.  It’s really easy and incredibly rewarding – we promise.

If you are fortunate enough to have friends with a fig tree (thanks Brett & Katie!!), prep the figs by cutting off both ends then quartering.  For this tart, we used about 1 cup each of blackberries and quartered figs.

Soon the neighbors will be knocking on your door (they did for us! okay, it wasn’t because of the tart, but we gave them some anyway) because the sweet, buttery aroma of this tart cooling on your dining room table is driving them crazy.

We highly recommend serving this tart with a scoop (or two) of really good ice cream.  We used Jeni’s Brown Butter Almond Brittle, which complimented the buttery crust of this tart perfectly.  If you can’t buy Jeni’s ice cream where you live, well then make it yourself!  And fortunately you now can with ease, thanks to Jeni’s new book (no, we don’t know Jeni and she has no idea who we are – we just reeeeally love her new cookbook and we want you to have it too so we can talk with more folks about how good the book and the ice cream you make from it is).

So, what are you waiting for?  Summer is slipping away!  Go make this tart and we’ll savor together these last hot, muggy nights of summer – with happy bellies.

P.S. Brett, of Brett & Katie’s figs featured in this post, is a fellow math teacher and friend of Jason’s.  Brett has a really cool (read: geeky) math blog.  You must check it out if you like geeky math blogs (it’s okay – embrace your inner nerd) and want to be challenged to think outside the box a bit when it comes to math education.

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A Sneak Peek into TheshoeboxKitchen

I first have to say that this attempt at videography (our first) was inspired by our food blog heroes over at notwithoutsalt.  If you want to go see some extremely artistic foodies who really know what they’re doing (and post much more regularly than we do), go check them out.  Ashley and Gabriel, you truly inspire us!

Now, without further ado, here’s a little peek into our world.  This was a simple meal – BLTs – prepared for Jason’s mother, affectionately referred to now by her grandmother moniker, “LaLa.”  We hope you enjoy.

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Strawberry Ice Cream

It’s summer.  That means at least two things:

1) Time to catch up on blog posts

2) Strawberry ice cream

There is nothing quite like fresh summer strawberries.  But fresh summer strawberry ice cream?  To. Die. For.

So, without further ado, here’s how you, too, can make this magic happen in your kitchen.

Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 2 cups strawberry puree (I wish I could tell you how many strawberries it takes to make 2 cups of puree – we overestimated and ended up making 4 cups of puree – no worries if you make more than 2 cups, we’ll show you what to do with the leftovers in a minute)
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch (instead of using egg yolks – so I guess this is more like a gelato)

Puree enough strawberries in your blender to make two cups of puree.  We left ours a little chunky so we’d have small bits of strawberry in the ice cream.  Set aside. 

In a mixing bowl, whisk the corn starch into the half and half until it is dissolved.  Add the salt and whisk to incorporate.  Now add the strawberry puree and whisk to incorporate.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and heavy cream, then bring to a hard simmer, whisking frequently.  Once the mixture is simmering, remove from the heat and add the contents of your mixing bowl, whisking constantly, then return the saucepan to the heat and whisk frequently until the mixture begins to simmer.  Continue to whisk over the heat about 5 minutes after the mixture has started to simmer, or until you feel the mixture thickening and it begins to coat the bottom of the saucepan.  Transfer mixture to a bowl which is placed in an ice bath (ice bath?  huh?  click here to read about preparing an ice bath!) and continue whisking until the mixture no longer steams.  Whisk in the vanilla extract, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 5 hours or overnight.

Once chilled, churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the ice cream maker’s instructions (usually about 20 minutes).  Scoop the ice cream into a container, cover, and return to the freezer to allow it to harden, about 3-4 hours.

Due to the water added by the strawberry puree, it is best to let this ice cream stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before scooping.  That is, if you can wait that long.

Oh, what to do with that extra strawberry puree?  Make strawberry puree pops, of course!

Alice whole heartedly approved of this use for the extra puree.

Happy summer!!

P.S. If you’re not into hip photo filters, here’s the true color of this delicious ice cream:

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The Perfect Cup of Coffee

The following photo essay is dedicated to Tobias Riggs, who gave me my first perfect cup of coffee.

Come share a cup of coffee with us some time.

Editor’s Note: If you love coffee like we do, start investing in the equipment you’ll need to make the perfect cup at home yourself (or add these items to your Christmas list like we did!).  We use the Behmor 1600 Coffee Roaster, a Breville Conical Burr Grinder, and a Chemex 8-Cup Drip Coffee Carafe.  No, these companies don’t send us any money – we just like their products.

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