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Nuts for Nut Butters!

Posted: October 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: DIY, Lunch, Pantry staples | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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I might have been the only child on the face of the planet who despised Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I started eating nut butter. I didn’t know what I was missing! My tipping point occured when I started packing my own lunches for work, and realized all the possibilities for these creamy spreads!

No longer is the pb+j the standard! Looking for a way to liven your lunchbox? A healthy spread for your child’s sandwiches? Something new to dip vegetables in? Consider trying a new nut butter! Nuts are high in protein, fiber and good fats, and even a small amount can add a boost of flavor to your meals.

Most supermarkets carry specialty nut butters these days, but if you can’t find them, your local health food store is a great resource. And for the most economical way to enjoy nut butters, make your own at home!

1. Almond Butter

The almond is a sweet nut, that lends itself well to sweet flavors. A good alternative flavor-wise to peanut butters, goes well in sandwiches, spread on fruit, or stirred into oatmeal. For homemade, process for up to 15 minutes in the food processor (until it forms a smooth, spreadable paste).

Try one of these combos: [Almond Butter + Figs] or [Almond Butter + Apricots] or [Almond Butter + Orange Zest] or [Almond Butter + Honey] or [Almond Butter+ Chocolate Chips + sprinkle of Coconut] or [Almond Butter + Sliced Cherries]

2. Cashew Butter

Cashew butter is incredibly creamy with great mouth feel and a more subtle nut flavor. It lends itself well to Indian flavors and spices. Cashews also go well with other tropical fruits, such as mango and pineapple. For store bought, try For homemade, process for 2 to 5 minutes in the food processor.

Try one of these combos: [Cashew Butter + Curried Chicken Salad] or  [Cashew Butter+ Mango] or [ Cashew Butter + Pineapple] or [Cashew Butter+ Sliced Banana].

3. Hazelnut Butter

Most people equate hazelnut butter with outrageously sweet chocolate and hazelnut spreads, but savory hazelnut butter made out of plain ‘ole hazelnuts is a wonderful addition to sandwiches and can lend itself to a wide variety of flavors. For homemade, process hazelnuts in the food processer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Try one of these combos: [Hazelnut butter (unsweetened) + salty cheese (feta or goat)] or [hazelnut butter+ sliced bananas+honey] or [hazelnut butter + roasted pumpkin (or pumpkin puree)] or [hazelnut butter+ stilton cheese+pears].

4. Walnut Butter

Walnut butter is a slightly bitter, slightly sweet spread. The flavor is definitely more bitter than other butters, but don’t let that deter you! For homemade, this butter processes quickly in just a few minutes. (Occasionally I’ll add a pinch of sugar and cinnamon in my version.)

Try one of these combos: [Walnut Butter+Apples+Honey] or [Walnut Butter+Bananas] or [Walnut Butter + dried figs] or [Walnut Butter+Sliced Pears] or [Walnut Butter+Prunes] or [Walnut Butter+ Roasted Sweet Potatoes +Cumin].

Tips for making your own nut butters:

  • Use raw nuts, or toast lightly for 10-12 minutes before processing.
  • No oil needed – but a pinch of salt can add depth to your butter (without making it salty.)
  • Nut butters are easily made by grinding nuts in a food processor until they form a smooth paste. The time it takes ranges from 2 minutes for cashews to up to 15 minutes.
  • Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl if you see the nuts aren’t blending well.
  • Because they are more perishable than shelf stable butters that you buy, make your nut butter in small batches, and store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a month.
  • For easy spreading, allow nut butter to come to room temperature.

    For more inspiration on cooking with nuts – here are a few books on the subject:

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    Nuts in the Kitchen by Susan Herman Loomis , 272 pages

    Nuts: More than 75 Delicious & Healthy Recipes , 128 pages.

    photo via thegreendiva

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    Delivering Happiness

    Posted: April 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Exercise, Lunch | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Brunch: Fresh Farm Egg (from Tomales) omelet with oregano and feta cheese, and a whole wheat pita. I attempted a Jacques Pepin style omelet as witnessed two nights ago on Anthony Bourdain, but this ended up a little bit more like scrambled eggs after I lost patience with his method.

    Today I had a day off – a little odd for a Wednesday, and truly made the most of it. I cleaned, I ate two point five home cooked meals, I *finally* went on a longish walk and enjoyed the sunshine, I sat in a cafe and drank iced masala chai, I got done more errands, and I made a tasty dinner. Oh, and I read an entire book.

    This book:  Tony Hsieh’s ‘Delivering Happiness’ (pre-order it here on Amazon). I got an advanced copy after hearing Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose discuss it on their random show. I’ve written more about how much I like it over on goodreads.com

    Rather than sitting in my house all afternoon reading, I walked over to the Castro, and I sat down at Samovar tea lounge to get my read on. I ordered my favorite, their iced masala chai, which comes in this beauteous metal glass. And after a few minutes of reading, I glanced over to my left…. and there was Tim Ferriss (original recommend-er of book I was reading). I opted not to be crazy fan girl, and let him get his work done, but it was a pretty neat coincidence.

    I briefly took a break in reading this afternoon to go on an errand to Target, where we saw this exercise in… art/patience/obsession – perhaps a college art project? Or just a lot of afternoons of boredom put to better use….


    When we got home I was itching to finish my book, so I put together an easy dinner that I just made up on the fly – a sweet potato, caramelized onion with bacon, rosemary, and goat cheese bake. It was loosely inspired by my favorite pizza at Veggie Planet in Harvard Square – the ‘Lunch for Henry’ which along side their ‘Mexican bean’, I have dreams of on a regular basis.

    I preheated the oven to 400 F, then sauteed half an onion in a little bit of olive oil and a slice of chopped bacon for about 10 minutes. I then layered some thinly sliced sweet potato in this foil lined pie plate. I layered in the onion mixture after it had started to brown, and then I crumbled on a few ounces of fresh goat cheese, topped with another layer of sweet potato, and then shaved on some parmigiano reggiano. I covered it with foil, baked it for 30 minutes, took off the foil, and baked it for another 15. It could have used another 10 minutes to get more crispy, but I was hungry, and it tasted sufficiently delicious.

    Finally, if anyone is looking to buy real estate in my neighborhood (Noe Valley), I noticed this beauty up for grabs:

    I’m sure it’s going for around 1.5 million.

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    Weekly Meal Planning

    Posted: April 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Dinner, Lunch | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

    [Happy photo of the day: Pepper, getting a belly rub.]

    For the past few days I’ve been making more concerted efforts to plan my meals so that I know what I’m going to eat for dinner before 4:30 pm. Cutoff time of doom. So at the beginning of the week I sat down with a big stack of magazines and cookbooks to gather some ideas for some good home made dinners.

    Sunday Night: Curried Red Lentil Soup.

    I decided to make myself some lentil soup. In a medium soup pot, over medium heat I added a few tablespoons of olive oil, and a small pat of butter. I sauteed 1/2 a red onion, the white part of a leek, about 1/2 a link of chorizo that was in my freezer, and 3 small roughly chopped carrots in the pot, for about 20 minutes, until everything was starting to get brown and soft.

    At that point I added 1 cup of red lentils, and 1/2 cup bulgur wheat. I added in a pinch of red pepper flakes and a small knob of ginger. I then added four cups of water, brought it to a boil, and then turned it down to simmer for 30 minutes. Stirring every ten minutes or so.

    At the end, I lightly toasted a tablespoon of curry powder, and added a tablespoon of tomato paste. I added this into the soup, and a can of light coconut milk, and a heaping teaspoon of sea salt. It’s lovely when you put the salt in, because it goes from a very boring dull soup, to something absolutely delightful. I let everything simmer on low for about 20 more minutes, until I couldn’t wait any longer to eat. I topped my bowl with some chopped cashews and grated coconut.

    Lunch next day:
    This soup only got better on day two. I also brought some fennel and celery salad, with fresh parsley, dill and lemon dressing.

    Monday Night: Grilled Chicken Pita Salad adapted from Sunset Magazine’s “30 Fast and Fresh Weeknight Dinners” from this months’ issue. Devon’s mom gave me a subscription to Sunset this year, and it’s grown to be one of my favorite magazines. I grilled a chicken breast and the asparagus on my griddle pan, got the bulgarian feta and kalamata olives from the cheese shop on 24th, and made my own pita chips by popping a pita in the oven at about 400 for 8 minutes. Easy peasy.

    Lunch the next day:
    I brought the second chicken breast that I grilled, and a few of the leftover spears of asparagus, extra cherry tomatoes, and a lemon. I also brought an apple for snack.

    Tuesday Night: Braised Swiss Chard, and Mac + Cheese Ever since trying Tori Ritchie’s braised swiss chard with cannellini beans, I’ve been meaning to go back and recreate this recipe. I did it last night as a nice complement to some Annie’s Mac and Cheese which I’ve been craving for weeks. I didn’t put the cannellini beans in this batch, and I used spring onions, carrots, and chard from my farm box.

    No leftovers today for lunch, because I have the day off!


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