Category Archives: Dips and Sauces

Balsamic Berry Sauce

 

Fresh berries are nature’s candies. Bright and juicy, they are one of the most healthful natural foods. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, whatever the color they are super! If you want to use them for something other than snacking and parfaits, here is a great dessert sauce recipe!

This sauce is a perfect accompaniment to ice cream, or poured over angel food cake, or even by itself with some fresh cream. It would make a great sauce for chicken, duck, or pork as well. You may like it so much you just eat it from the pan with a spoon! Not that I would or did do that…

Frozen berries would work just as well, you would just have to cook it a little longer to evaporate the extra water. The longer you simmer, the thicker and more syrup-like this will become. You could even use it on top of pancakes! I used half blackberries and half raspberries, you could mix however you like.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

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Step 1: In a frying pan, mix berries with sugar, lemon juice and balsamic. Bring to barely a simmer, and cook on low heat for 20-25 minutes, until berries have liquefied and the mixture has become thick and syrupy.

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Step 2: Pour over some high quality vanilla or flavored ice cream, and enjoy warm!

This is delicious warm, and has a nice little tang from the vinegar. The lemon juice brightens it, but it is not absolutely required. You could try cherries too, I bet that would be the bomb diggity.

 

Last Minute Apps & Snacks

 

So, rumor has it tonight is some big sportsball thing…

Just kidding, of course as an American I’m aware of what is basically a national holiday, the Super Bowl! This year we even get back Roman Numerals (remember those things from history class? dare you to remember what more than 3 letters stand for…)

SuperBowlLILogoThis is a little ironic for me this year, as I just moved from CT (New England) to NC (the South, like Atlanta). While I could root for either, I think I like the Falcons’ colors better TBH.

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Whether you’re hosting or attending a party, you may not have had time to fully prepare, or you may have realized you have way more guests than you have chicken wings. In that case, you could panic and spend this week’s paycheck at the deli or getting a pizza…

OR you could try any of these super-simple app and snack ideas, each guaranteed to cost <$10 and take minutes to put together! I know which one I’d go with.

*Twice baked potato skins: Rinse and poke holes in a dozen medium potatoes. Bake at 350 for 45 min – 1 hour, until soft. Cut in half, scoop out the insides into a bowl and mash with some cheese or milk. Load back into skins, top however you want, and bake open-faced for another 15- 20 minutes. You could even build a “pick-your-own-toppings” bar, or let them keep warm in the oven until needed.

*White bean dip: Open a can of white beans, drain. Puree in a blender, and add garlic salt and lemon juice to taste, slowly pour in olive oil until you get your desired consistency. Serve with pita chips and fresh veggies.

*Bruschetta: Slice Italian bread thinly, top with diced tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar. Bake at 350 for 15ish minutes, sprinkle with basil, parsley, and/or garlic salt.

*Mac-n-cheese bites: Make a box of mac n cheese, then scoop into a greased muffin tin. Sprinkle with bread crumbs or crushed crackers, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Portion control!

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*Bacon-wrapped asparagus: Take slices of bacon and wrap around 2-3 bunched asparagus spears. Lay on a pan and bake in the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until bacon is crispy but asparagus is soft.

*Football deviled eggs: Make deviled eggs as normal (hard-boil a dozen, cut in half, take out the yellows. Mash with some mayo and mustard, fill back into the white halves) but then make them cute with football “laces” made from chives, black olives, etc.

*Caprese salad: Super simple, just layer sliced fresh mozzarella and tomato with some basil leaves, drizzle with olive oil. Bonus points if you get baby mozarella and grape tomatoes and put them on a skewer!

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*Quesadillas! Who doesn’t love quesadillas, they are a perfect hand-held food. Just take 2 tortillas, fill as you like with beans, avocado, guac, hummus, any kind of cheese, and fry on both sides until golden. Slice into quarters and serve with dips and toppers.

*Crock Pot Meatballs! There are so many options, but the best ones are just toss-it-in-and-wait. Swedish Meatballs are a classic, of course you could do regular tomato sauce and serve with thick hoagie buns, or try sweet and sour for an Asian twist.

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*Loaded nacho bar: Open a bag of chips and dump into a big bowl. Line a table with smaller bowls of beans, salsa, guac, sour cream, sliced olives, shredded lettuce, cheese, etc and let your guests customize to their heart’s content.

*Black bean hummus: open and drain a can of black beans. In a blender, combine with a clove or 2 of garlic, 2 tbsp peanut butter (yup you read that right), and olive oil. Whir until smooth!

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*Spinach Artichoke Dip: there are so many variations, but I’d go for any crock pot version. This way you can toss all the ingredients in, turn it on high when you arrive, then by halftime that dip is ready to keep the party rockin when all the wings are gone

*Football pepperoni roll pinwheels: roll out a tortilla, cover with a thin layer of pizza sauce, mini pepperoni, and cheese. Roll tightly, press down to make an oval shape. Cut into slices, lay on the side, and draw football laces with mustard, sour cream or sliced pepperoni

*Football shaped fritter: these are the cutest darn things, and actually quite healthy! Don’t let the beer-chugging manic shushing everyone know there’s a serving of veggies in there

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*Classic cheese or veggie tray: if you have some carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, or radishes, just serve with some ranch dressing or any dip. And if you’ve a brick or chunks of random cheeses, now is a perfect excuse to lay them all out artfully and clean your fridge at the same time

Whatever you make or eat, make sure you enjoy the company. That’s what any party is really all about!

Blender Pesto Sauce

 

One of my favorite things about summer is all the fresh delicious produce, including fresh herbs.  Basil in particular seems to grow really well near me in CT, last summer it turned into a huge bush of a plant, and this year’s crop looks promising for the same.  As you may or may not know, to keep basil producing you need to harvest regularly to encourage new growth and discourage the plant from going to seed.

That’s great news for those who love basil, like me!  Pesto is such a great, fresh, summer recipe that can be way easier than you may think. Many people are intimidated by pesto, thinking Pine nuts are way too expensive for me, or I don’t want to grate fresh hard cheeses just for a weeknight dinner.

Well, don’t worry this recipe is super low-stress! And super low cost too, if you have your own basil plant. During the summer, even if you don’t have basil of your own, it is super affordable at a farmer’s market as it peaks in production. This recipe uses fresh basil, but you can SO EASILY slip other greens in here!  Try adding fresh chives, green onion, swiss chard, spinach, collards, or arugula. Just keep it less than 1/3 the total volume and use mostly basil.

Basil in the blender

This recipe is made in the blender, which saves you the trouble of chopping or blending yourself. Just add you ingredients, adjust as needed, and whir away. Mix in the cheese just before serving, and you have a super quick, super healthy meal in minutes.

Blender Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basil (optional extra greens)
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used the green can stuff, you can also buy fresh hard cheese and grate it yourself to be more authentic)
  • Dash of lime or lemon juice
  • Sea salt or garlic salt to taste
  • Dash of cooking water from pasta, or hot water

Blender pesto sauce in a bowl

Step 1: Add the basil and greens into your blender, and whir once or twice.  Toss in the garlic, walnuts, and olive oil. Blend for a minute.

Step 2: Using a spatula, push the pieces down the sides of the blender. Continue blending and pushing it back down to blend it all together. Meanwhile, boil your pasta and drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water.

Fresh pasta and pesto sauce

Step 3: Pour the pesto into a bowl, using a spatula to get it all out.  Mix in the lime or lemon juice and sea salt or garlic salt to taste.  Then mix in the cheese, and add the hot cooking water until it is the consistency you desire.

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Step 4: Mix the pesto into your fresh pasta, and enjoy! I served this with garlic bread and an extra sprinkle of Parmesan on top. Some swiss chard and arugula is hiding in there, and no one was the wiser, I got two males to eat this and praise how good it was! Give it a try and see if you don’t want this to become a staple of your summer meals.

 

(Oh, and if you still have more basil left over, pesto freezes well, or try making some blueberry basil iced tea to go with the pasta!)

 

Blender Pesto Sauce

Blender Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil (optional extra greens)
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used the green can stuff, you can also buy fresh hard cheese and grate it yourself to be more authentic)
  • Dash of lime or lemon juice
  • Sea salt or garlic salt to taste
  • Dash of cooking water from pasta, or hot water

Instructions

  1. Add the basil and greens into your blender, and whir once or twice. Toss in the garlic, walnuts, and olive oil. Blend for a minute.
  2. Using a spatula, push the pieces down the sides of the blender. Continue blending and pushing it back down to blend it all together. Meanwhile, boil your pasta and drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water.
  3. Pour the pesto into a bowl, using a spatula to get it all out. Mix in the lime or lemon juice and sea salt or garlic salt to taste. Then mix in the cheese, and add the hot cooking water until it is the consistency you desire.
  4. Mix the pesto into your fresh pasta, and enjoy!
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Pink Fluff

 

With summer in full swing, there are picnics to attend, pool parties to have, and barbecues and potlucks to create a dish for.  This is the time for quick and easy, no-bake, crowd pleasing recipes.  It is hot enough outside, you don’t want to turn on the oven. And you only have an hour until you need to show up at someone’s door, dish in hand to share.

I’ve got you covered.

My family has a recipe that’s been around as long as I can remember. It is a part of every summer picnic, get-together, birthday party. Everyone who tries it for the first time loves it, and wants to know the secret. The secret of Pink Fluff.

What is Pink Fluff?

Well, it’s pink, and it’s fluffy. (And ridiculously high in sugar, so use good judgment with portion sizes 😉 )  All you need is 4 ingredients, canned, no need to even drain.  Mix well, chill, and get ready for the compliments to roll in.

Pink fluff ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 can crushed pineapple
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tub cool whip

Pink fluff ingredients to be mixed

Step 1: In a large bowl, mix all four ingredients, and refrigerate. Don’t worry about draining the pineapple, just pour it all in. The cherry pie filling is what gives Pink Fluff its lovely color, or you could boost it with a few drops of food coloring or fruit juice.

Pink fluff ready to eat

This stuff is addictive, it is tasty on its own right out of the bowl with a spoon, or it is also a great fruit dip.  Mix in some bananas, chopped strawberries, fresh cherries, or grapes. Slice up some apples or oranges and use them to dip. Keep this recipe in your back pocket, and you will never be unprepared for a picnic again! Enjoy.

 

Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens Sauce

 

This particular sauce is what I made to go along with my mouth-watering Butternut Squash Gnocchi.  Something about the combination of the autumn/wintry flavors and chewy texture of the gnocchi with the buttery but tangy sauce just makes fireworks happen.

And the gnocchi have hidden vegetables in it, plus this sauce packs in a serving of your daily greens!  So much health, in one deliciously sneaky meal!  No one will ever guess.  But they will ask for seconds.  Maybe thirds.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 good-sized collard green leaves, torn
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and/or lemon juice

Collard Greens Pasta Sauce Ingredients

Step 1: Place all ingredients but the butter & vinegar in a blender and pulse until chopped into small pieces.  Alternatively you can use a knife and chop them up yourself.  (But Ninja blender. So good.)

Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens

Step 2: Melt the butter in a pan, and bring to just a simmer.  Once it starts to turn brown, add all the chopped vegetables, and add in the balsamic vinegar.  Bring back to a simmer, and cook for 10-15 minutes, serve hot over fresh pasta.  Maybe a little fresh shaved Parmesan on top, if you’re feeling festive.

 

PS: You can substitute other greens in here if you don’t have or like or feel brave enough yet to try collards.  Try a nice safe spinach, or something crazy like mustard greens or beet tops.  Let me know how it tastes too!

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls

 

You know how sometimes you just want to make a meal that looks really nice and impressive, but you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen?  No energy or time for that today.  Well, here’s a great recipe that can easily be customized, takes less than 5 ingredients, and in under 30 minutes you have a very nice dinner that other people will think took all day!

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For these rolls, you can use any thin cut of meat.  Try pork chops or a thin flank steak.  Even a firm white fish fillet would work.  You can then stuff it with any types of vegetables, kraut, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc.  (See my stuffed pork chops for an example).

For this particular recipe, I thawed some boneless skinless chicken breasts, and then cut them in half down the center.  Then each half I put between two sheets of wax paper, and pounded them thin with a rolling pin.  You could use a meat cleaver or heavy glass as well.  The thinner they are, the faster they cook and the better able to roll them up they will be.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 thin slices chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 slices white American cheese
  • Optional: yogurt-dill sauce

Rolling up the chicken breast

Step 1: Pound the chicken thin, or use very thin cutlets.  Lay the chicken flat, and layer on the cheese and spinach.  Wrap the chicken around itself into a roll, secure with a toothpick if needed.

Insert toothpick to hold chicken roll together

Step 2: Set the oven to 350, and place the rolls in an oven-proof baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Optional: top with *yogurt-dill sauce.

Chicken rolls covered in yogurt-dill sauce

Step 3: Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked.

Chicken rolls and dill sauce baked

Serve your lovely rolls alone, or with whatever side dishes you like.  I made some rice and cranberry sauce, and let me tell you, chicken and cranberry sauce is an awesome combo!

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To make the dill sauce, the recipe is below.  This topping is great because it is so simple, and so versatile.  Spread it on sandwiches, add cucumbers to make tea sandwiches, use it on chicken, pork, or fish.  Try different herbs too, to change up the flavors.

*Yogurt-Dill Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Dill and yogurt sauce ingredients

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Enjoy!

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Ingredients

  • 2 thin slices chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 slices white cheese

Instructions

  1. Pound the chicken thin, or use very thin cutlets. Lay the chicken flat, and layer on the cheese and spinach. Wrap the chicken around itself into a roll, secure with a toothpick if needed.
  2. Insert toothpick to hold chicken roll together
  3. Set the oven to 350, and place the rolls in an oven-proof baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Optional: top with *yogurt-dill sauce.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked.
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Christmas Tree Appetizer Tray

 

With the holiday season come holiday parties. From friends to family reunions, cocktail hours and work gatherings, the holidays are rife with opportunity to eat things we normally wouldn’t, shouldn’t, and far more of them. You could choose to just eat yourself into a coma every week and deal with the consequences later. You could live a puritanical existence for the next few weeks, exercising iron will over all sweets and tasty delights. Or…

You could choose better options. You could nudge family, friends, and co-workers in a healthier direction. You could provide healthy yet delicious treats, so you know you will always have something healthful to enjoy at any get-together.

I know which option I choose each year.

Would you like to know the answer to one of life’s biggest questions? How can you be both happy and healthy all the time? The key to health and happiness, is moderation. Go ahead and indulge in the things that truly bring you joy, like the cookies you look forward to all year, spiral-sliced holiday ham, or your aunt’s amazing casserole. But know that means you must cut back in other areas. Don’t have every appetizer offered, three cups of eggnog, seconds and thirds at dinner, followed by an entire angel food cake roll.

And by bringing healthier options to any party or gathering, you virtually guarantee yourself at least one option that will be “safe” and you can indulge as much as you like. You are also giving everyone else at the party a healthy option they may not have considered previously.

Christmas tree healthy appetizer tray

This is an appetizer tray my mother had made for a party last year.  You will notice that it not only looks very appealing, with its holiday themed tree shape, but it also has a whole cornucopia of options from broccoli to cheeses, to olives and grape tomatoes. This would be awesome to serve with a healthful dip on the side such as Black Bean Hummus, Lean Green Guacamole, or Radish, Onion & Herb cream cheese dip.

How to create an appetizer tree:

  • 1 large head broccoli
  • 1 can black olives
  • 1 small jar green olives
  • Assorted cheese cubes
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • Handful of pretzel sticks
  • Any other dipping veggies, cut into cubes or sticks

Step 1: Dice all your veggies into bite size pieces, and cube the cheeses.  Drain the olives.

Step 2: In a large pan or on a serving platter, arrange the cheese and vegetables in layers, including at least 2 large layers of broccoli for the green color. Finish with a handful of pretzels on the bottom for the tree trunk.

You could get very creative with this, for example by including “ornaments” on the tree by using different colors of vegetables or fruits, or making different shapes.  You could use cauliflower, red bell peppers and tomatoes to create a santa hat shape, or other types of finger foods arranged to look like wrapped gifts.  Let your imagination run wild, and watch as the crowd gobbles up healthy nibbles happily!

Green Tomato Salsa

 

When you have lots of green tomatoes and are tired of fried green tomatoes, what else can you do besides wait for them to ripen?  You can turn a whole bunch of them into salsa!  Red tomatoes shouldn’t have all the fun.  Salsa is a classic condiment, and is great on tacos, eggs, in soups, or on chicken or pork.  Green tomato salsa has a unique vegetal taste that red tomato salsa can’t match.  And once you’ve made a big batch, you could can the rest and have it all year long!  Or give them as cute, thrifty, from-the-heart gifts.

This recipe includes no added sugar, you instead get some sweetness from baking apples.  If you require your salsa to be sweeter, you can add in a tablespoon or two.  I’d recommend apple cider vinegar over white, but you can also use white vinegar.  Add hot peppers to your own spice preference level too.  Same goes for sea salt, if you want some salt in your salsa.  I prefer my salsa as plain and clean as possible so I know what is in it and can adjust the meal as a whole later when I use it.

Green tomato salsa ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 10 pounds green tomatoes
  • 2-3 large green apples
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 hot pepper (serrano, jalapeno…)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Green tomato salsa ingredients chopped

Step 1: This step definitely takes the longest, but is fun.  Rinse your tomatoes and other produce, and chop everything into small bite-size pieces.  I just did them in rotating batches of lots of tomatoes, then half the onion, then one pepper, etc. until everything was chopped up.  Put it all in a big stock pot.

Green tomato salsa cooking

Step 2: Put the heat on medium-high, and add the cider vinegar.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover, and cook for at least one hour.  You can go do something else while this is cooking down, and could probably do it in a slow cooker as well.

Filled green tomato salsa jars vertical

Step 3: If you want certain spices/flavorings (like bay leaves, cumin, sea salt, cilantro, etc) add them here.

Green tomato salsa jars no lids

Step 4: To use a pressure canner, consult the instructions for your machine.  To use water bath canning, same prep work.  Sterilize your empty jars by running through a dish washer cycle and/or boiling in plain water 20 minutes.

Green tomato salsa jars horizontal

Step 5: Fill each jar up to 1 – 1/2 inch from the rim.  Wipe the rim clean, and place a lid and ring on it, tightening it (but not too tight, you need air to escape).  Here I tried the Tattler re-useable jar lids for the first time!

Green tomato salsa jars in water bath canner

Step 6: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and place the jars inside.  Process the jars for about an hour.  Adjust for your altitude if above sea level.

Green tomato salsa jars vertical

Step 7: Remove the jars to a towel, and let them sit, undisturbed, overnight or about 8 hours, to cool.  The lids should “pop” tight and will not give or bounce when pressed.  Put any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks.  Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

 

Veggie Packed Pasta Sauce

 

Pasta sauce is one of my absolute favorite things to pack extra veggies into!  Any time you have a sauce, chili, soup, or stew, is an excellent opportunity to be sneaky healthy.  By blending things in, no one knows they are there, yet you are giving the people eating the meal extra doses of fiber and vitamins.  There’s no reason not to!

The best things for blending in include beans, greens, and carrots.  Beans thicken the sauce because of their natural fiber content.  Greens may change the color a bit, so keep that in mind.  And carrots provide a slight sweetness while not affecting the overall color very much.  Keep in mind with carrots, you must cook them first so they soften before trying to blend them in, or juice them.

In this sauce, I went really bold and added some spinach as well as a half bag of frozen carrots and peas I had left from a previous meal.  To this I added a full can of stewed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup milk.  Simmering everything together makes it soften, and then if you have eaters that won’t tolerate chunks, pop half or all of it into a blender before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 can stewed diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 bag frozen carrots & peas
  • 1/2 cup milk

Sneaky healthy pasta sauce

Step 1: Thaw the spinach, and squeeze out extra water.  Put in a pan with the peas and carrots, and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes or until carrots have softened.

Rigatoni with spinach pasta sauce

Step 2: Add the tomatoes and milk, and cook another few minutes.  Puree in a blender.  You can further cook it down to thicken the sauce, or serve as is.

I added some crumbled cooked bacon and sprinkled on Parmesan cheese, but if you serve as is this is a perfect vegetarian meal.  You can see what I mean about the greens changing the color of the sauce.  If that is a problem, just start with very small amounts of greens, maybe just a handful of spinach rather than the whole package.

 

Slow Cooker Chicken with Peanut Sauce

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Peanut butter is a great source of health protein, as long as you don’t go overboard the fat content isn’t a deal-breaker.  It is also a very cheap staple to keep in the kitchen.  But even the most devoted lover of peanut butter sandwiches can get bored of them in time.  A simple peanut sauce goes great with chicken (or pork!) and when made in the slow cooker, it is a breeze to whip up something exotic in no time at all with basic staples.
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This sauce is a complex mixture of creamy, salty, spicy, and peanuts.  Obviously do not make it or eat it around people who have a severe peanut allergy, as it contains both peanuts and peanut butter.  You can control the level of spice by choosing what kinds of pepper to add, if any.  Feel free to tweak the seasonings to your preferences.
Ingredients:
  • 2-3 pounds chicken
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp peanuts, crushed
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced, or 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • Optional: 1 tsp Thai chilie

Step 1: Mix all wet ingredients in a bowl.

Step 2: Add chicken and all of the spices.  You could either mix this in an oven-safe container and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours, or mix in a crock pot and bake on low for 5-6 hours.

And here you have the chicken and sauce in a crock pot.

The crushed peanuts are added on top, then cooked on low.

The peanut sauce thickens over time, and is delicious served over pasta or rice.