Recipe Review: Vermont Food and Garden’s Linguini with Peanut Sauce


URL: http://verfoodie.blogspot.com/2010/01/this-sauce-is-staple-for-me-in-summer.html

Have you ever looked in your cupboards and fridge, seen all of your “staple” items and thought, “Ho hum, I’m so _bored_ with it all!”? I found myself facing that very sentiment this week. I knew I had some boneless, skinless chicken breasts which needed to be cooked up or frozen, as well as a metric ton of dry, whole wheat pasta in my cupboard, but I didn’t want to make any of the usual suspects. You know the ones: chicken cacciatore, chicken parmesan, or even just fettucini alfredo with grilled chicken. Don’t get me wrong; all of these are fantastic! But I was really craving something different.

So, I opened up my favourite search engine and started tossing in various staple ingredients I had in-stock and the word “recipe” to see what  might come up. I was just looking for new ideas, freak takes on old favourites or just something I hadn’t thought of before. After my fifth or sixth attempt to toss in various search words – which I don’t even recall what they were in the end – I finally stumbled across a blog called Vermont Food and Garden, specifically a post called “Linguini with Peanut Sauce”. Now, I’ve never had Thai food. I understand, from what people have told me, that peanut sauce is a very Thai thing and also a very good thing. I’ve never had it! But looking at the list of ingredients, it sounded delicious and promising. I had spaghetti, not linguini, but it would do, I was sure! Peanut butter? Check. Scallions (green onions)? Check. Garlic, ginger, soy sauce? Check, check and check! I went through the list and realized, “I can make this without stopping by the grocery store!”

First, I doubled the recipe because when I make pasta, I generally make a lot of it. My husband is a big eater, so I thought that I should ensure that we’d have enough for dinner for both of us, lunch the next day, and probably a second dinner, at the very least. I really don’t make spaghetti enough, so I should have realized that cooking the entire box at once would yield a _lot_ of pasta. But hey, lots of leftovers! But even just doubling Kathy’s recipe gave me a lot of peanut sauce. I recommend if this is your first peanut sauce rodeo, to stick to the portion size the author (Kathy) suggests for your first attempt. I’m just lucky that I ended up liking peanut sauce! And her blog post suggests that the sauce will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, so I have some time to use all of the excess sauce before it goes bad.

Now, I must say that I did not remain completely, strictly loyal to her recipe. I didn’t know if I was going to like it. Sure, I like the individual components well enough, but together? I was a bit skeptical. So I really went out on a limb making up a double batch! I didn’t have fresh ginger, so I used ginger paste, which I always have on hand. Instead of garlic powder, I chose minced garlic. I followed the recipe up to this point, substituting where I had do with the garlic and ginger, but I really kept true to Kathy’s recipe initially. Not knowing what it’s supposed to taste like, I have to say that I was impressed! But I felt that for my own palette, it was missing a little something. At her suggestion of not adding more soy sauce but adding salt if needed, I added a pinch of sea salt. But from my understanding, Thai food is about balancing sweet, salty, sour, etc. It was missing sweet, as far as I could tell, as I used unsweetened, unsalted creamy peanut butter. Admittedly, I added 1 Tbsp of liquid honey (keeping in mind that I doubled the recipe, so maybe 1-2 tsp for the batch size she suggests) and that seemed to be perfect!

I have to tell you, tossing whole wheat spaghetti with chopped scallions and cooked frozen peas and the peanut butter sauce was a really exciting thing for me. The peanut smell was divine, getting more intense as it made contact with the hot noodles. I did find it tough to mix at first, so  I added a little extra water directly to the pasta with the sauce, just to get it mixed a little better. What a HIT! I served this up with strips of chicken breast meat stir-fried in teriyaki sauce, lemon and garlic, sprinkled with seasme seeds. It was just such a warm, earthy dish, with a touch of sweetness, a touch of heat from the garlic and ginger, and it was so incredibly easy to make. The only thing I would do next time is maybe add a little more ginger and garlic, as Kathy recommends to do to your own level of heat. I don’t care for super-spicy foods, being a “super-taster”, but her portions keep it nice and mild. Granted, fresh ginger might have made the difference in that heat level. Just something to keep in mind.

All told, I would make this recipe again and again. I’ll be adding it to my “usual suspects” list to diversify it a bit more, and will be looking for ways to change it up from time to time. Here’s a thought: what about using it as a dip for chicken and vegetable skewers? YUM!

 

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Boxwave Keyboard Buddy Case

Recently, I qualified for a hardware upgrade for my phone, so I went from the iPhone 3 to the iPhone 4. I was considering other phones because I really missed the tactile sense of keys beneath my thumbs. But by pure fluke, I stumbled across an iPhone 4 case which sported a mini bluetooth keyboard. This one was on ThinkGeek.com. After reading a few less than flattering reviews, I realized that one was not for me, as the structure of it was called into question. I wanted something sturdy, and this one twisted out (the phone sometimes hitting keys on the way) and relied on a single pin to hold it in place.
After a bit more searching, I stumbled across a review of the Boxwave Keyboard Buddy Case (see the site for pictures). They raved about it. Now, I will admit this one cost twice as much as the others I had found online, but the structure seemed more sound, as the keyboard slid out of the back of the phone on the side, like other phones I’ve seen (without a touch screen). On a whim, I decided to order one.
Yes, it’s true that it could have been a $70 mistake, which would have been quite the disappointment, but it wasn’t. My new iPhone 4 snapped into the case with ease and the keyboard slides out without issue and stays put. The structure seems stable. And the keys are a nice size, over all. There is a mini-USB port on the side for charging up its battery and an on/off switch (which I wish was labeled) so that you don’t unnecessarily drain the battery, as well as a ‘reset’ button (use a pin to access it).
Synching it up to the iPhone was painless. Opening the Settings app in the iPhone, you would navigate to the Bluetooth settings, turn it on and wait for the phone to detect the keyboard. You might have to hit the reset button once to help it find it (I honestly forget now). It gives you instructions to punch in a 4-digit code it displays on the screen to synch it up properly, then you’re good to go.
Over all, the performance has been pretty decent. If I have the option of using the on-screen keyboard on its side (making the on-screen keys bigger), I will often opt for that, but sometimes an app won’t do that, so I’ll opt for the keyboard for its bigger keys. One unfortunate thing I noticed is that when using this keyboard, the iPhone’s Auto Correct function and auto-capitalization disappear, making it necessary to hit the shift key more often as well as being careful of spelling and correcting this yourself. And some keys feel like they ‘click’, while others don’t, so sometimes it throws me off, but I am learning to ignore that input.
With that said, a nice feature of the keyboard is that it has arrow keys to move up, down, left and right, allowing for easier cursor placement if a correction needs to happen. The Home key is represented in the upper left corner of the keyboard as well, giving some additional functionality, though I still find myself using the Home key on the iPhone itself out of habit. And I have yet to actually run the battery down and have only charged it up once, though there’s no indicator that the power is dead that I can tell — perhaps the only indication will be when it just stops responding.
All told, I’m pleased that I purchased the Boxwave Keyboard Buddy Case, despite its heftier price tag. I like having the more tactile alternative to the iPhone’s native, on-screen keyboard.
~ Kelly
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