Day 22 of vegan recipe challenge: snack time

I recall a time when I was flirting with adopting the Paleo diet, and I borrowed some literature from a friend who was already on that path. I stopped dead in my tracks when I read that peanuts – PEANUTS – were a carcinogen and were to be completed shunned.

But? But?

As quickly as I picked up the book, I cast it aside, vowing to never abandon my friend the peanut, who had been with me as longer as I can remember (unless, of course, there is evidenced-based research out there that notes the dangers of eating said nut, which then I will give it stronger consideration).

Dinners growing up often had a blob of peanut butter on the side. It didn’t matter what else was served on the plate. I was going to have the daily dose of orangish-brown goodness. This trend continued through college where I would eat peanut butter straight from the jar (hello freshman 35!).

I may not have peanut butter every day still, but it’s pretty close. At least I’ve matured into integrating peanut butter more as an ingredient than the star attraction (fact: there is nothing wrong with peanut butter taking the main stage). I’ve tried to allow other butters to join the fold – almond, cashew, sunflower seed – but I’ll be honest: peanut butter is still my number uno, my home skillet, my butter from another nutter.

If you love peanut butter as much as me, then you will enjoy these incredibly simple yet satisfying Thai Peanut Cucumber Cups. My friend Samara made them as a pre-dinner appetizer last month, and we crushed them, happily.

cucumbers1

Thai Peanut Butter Cups (from Vanilla & Spice blog)
Makes about 20 – 22 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 tsp sweet chile sauce
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of ground ginger (or fresh ginger)
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp water
1 English cucumber
1/3 cup shredded carrot
Sesame seeds
Chopped peanuts

To prepare:
To make the peanut sauce, stir together the peanut butter, chile sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger until smooth. Add the water to thin out a bit. Set aside or store in the fridge until needed.

Slice the cucumber into pieces about 1 inch thick. Use a melon baller or a ½ tsp measure to scoop out the middle seedy portion of each slice – don’t go all the way through, you still want a bit of cucumber at the bottom of each cup!

To assemble:
Lay out cucumber cups on a plate or serving dish. Spoon the peanut sauce into each cup (I just estimated how much to put in – you want a round mound in the middle of each cup but not too much that it overflows).

Sprinkle a bit of sesame seeds on top of the peanut sauce in each cup, followed by a bit of shredded carrot and crushed peanuts – it might help to do the peanuts first so they stick to the peanut butter, then finish with the carrots, but the order doesn’t really matter!

Refrigerated finished cucumber cups until serving time.

cucumbers2It’s peanut butter cucumber time!

It’s fun for the whole family! And, it definitely elevates the cucumber to a new level. Sometimes that little vegetable could use a spark, and this recipe does just that.

In non-vegan related topic, I have to share that one of my favorite podcasts is NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour (you’re welcome). If you are not an avid listener yet, you’ll discover that at the end of each show, they offer what is making them happy this week. So this is mine:

Driving home from the store over the weekend, I found myself responding to Aaron by saying: “Yep yep yep yep yep” in this strange, alien-like (and somewhat Australian??) voice. Neither of us could immediately pinpoint the pop culture reference. But, through the power of Google and a little sleuthing, we re-discovered part of our childhoods that was tucked in a brain fold far, far away:

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