If you don't know him, you probably don't know that Ian is a peanut butter fiend. My nick name for him is Peanut Butter. He once ate an entire jar of peanut butter for Christmas dinner. His sister brought him Reese's Pieces to Thailand because you can't get them there. For the last several years for his birthday, my good friend Lyn has made him a peanut butter cheese cake. Since this is our first year together away from Vancouver, I'm not sure if you can mail cheesecake, and Lyn won't give up the secrets of her delicious recipe, I figured I had to make Ian a peanut butter treat for his birthday. I have a recipe for peanut butter fingers that we both LOVE, but those are sort of a Christmas tradition, and I thought Ian should have something special for his birthday. I've tried making homemade peanut butter cups but they were just disappointing. So this year, after some consulation with Ian, we settled on Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars. Now, because they don't have custard filling, I guess they are just Peanut Butter Bars, but I used a Nanaimo Bar base for them; you know, chocolate, coconut, walnuts, graham crumbs, butter, mmmmm... For the middle layer I jut made a thick but simple peanut butter icing, with icing sugar, peanut butter, and butter. For the top, chocolate layer, it was simply semi-sweet chocolate chips melted with butter (Butter, butter, butter! That is sooo bad! Good thing these are a once a year treat!) Of course I topped the whole thing off with Reese's Pieces. They are delicious. They are super sweet. They are almost gone! Seriously. I made them Friday, today is Monday, and I think there are like six left.
On Friday night we stayed in to celebrate Ian's birthday, just the two of us. We attempted to make one of his favourite dishes of all time, Thai Penang chicken curry, and one of my favourite dishes, Thai Mango Salad.
Now to make Penang Chicken Curry, technically you need Penang curry paste, or sauce. We scoured this town and couldn't find any. I browsed the Internet, trying to find a simple substitute and couldn't find anything. To make the paste ourselves required spices there is NO WAY I would find in this town, particularly at this time of year. So I came up with an idea (because, like with the peanut butter bars, that's what I do. If I can't find what I want, I make it up.) So we used regular Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, and peanut satay sauce mix (it's a powder that comes in a pouch). It's Ian's favourite dish, he knows what he likes it to taste like, so at this point I put Ian in charge of it. He fried up some chicken, then removed it from the pan and poured in the cocunut milk. Then he added the red curry paste and the satay sauce and simmered it a bit. To that, Ian also added a little bit of regular old peanut butter, and tossed in a couple of bay leaves right near the end, before tossing the chicken back in. The outcome was a little more peanuty than the original that he loves, and next time we wouldn't add quite so much extra peanut butter, and I think I'd go a little easier on the Satay sauce too, but it was amazing anyways! It was soo amazingly delicious I can't even describe it!
While Ian was monitoring the curry I was preparing the mango salad. I used two ripe mangoes, and chunked them up. Then I sliced up a golden delicious apple, in tiny match stick slices. I added some very thinly sliced red onion, and a very generous handful of cashews. I dressed it with lime juice and a sprinkling of sugar. It was really good too, although the lime juice was pretty sour. I'm still working on a better dressing, but I don't really like the ones I've been able to find online, so I'm thinking I'll have to keep working on it. I think finding a suitable oil might be the trick, and I'm wondering if peanut oil, or coconut oil would work.
For dessert, of course we enjoyed our peanut butter bars!
Maybe it's the larger kitchen, maybe it's the dining room, maybe it's the fact that we actually eat at a table here, but Ian and I have both commented that food tastes better here. Maybe it's just that I've had way more time and energy to cook, and find recipes, or make things up. Maybe I'm just finding better recipes now. But whatever it is, we have definiately had the best meals we've ever made since we moved here.
I hope you had a happy birthday weekend, Peanut Butter! xoxo