Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Nut Butter Bandwagon

Friends, I have jumped on.

I've never been a huge fan of peanut butter or other nut butters. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy peanut butter. I love peanut butter in sweets, like cookies and candy. I still eat the occasional pb&j (perfect for when you're very overdue for a grocery store run!), splurge on a fluffernutter (sadly, not in years, since I've grown picky about my bread and everyone knows the only proper bread for a fluffernutter is wonderbread, or the Brand X version of it), I'll try almond butters and cashew butters, but I don't get excited about them. Several years ago, nut butters expanded to more than just peanut butter, so I was intrigued by almond butter enough to buy it... but the jar (minus about half a cup that I actually did eat) sat around for a while until I decided it was too old and pitched it. You see, if I'm going to eat something high in protein and fat that's not meat, I'm always going to choose cheese (yeah, yeah, nuts are healthy fats, blah blah. It's still high in calories, and until I get high cholesterol, calories are my main concern).

But lately nut butters have really taken off! As a food blog reader, I am well aware of the nut butter craze. It took several incidences, all of which happened to occur within a week of each other, to make me really change my mind about nut butters.

1. I joined Foodie Pen Pals. My first match was someone who really enjoys her nut butters, and since I really had no idea what to get her, I decided to find some interesting nut butter.

2. I went to Wegmans, and they had a whole nut butter and peanut butter alternative display. I seriously wish I'd taken a picture of the full display.
This is apparently not bad...? I still haven't tried it, even though I have a jar in my pantry now.

3. I forgot I'm friends with a bunch of nut butter fanatics, and one of them is related to the most creative of them all.

4. I follow a nut butter fanatic on instagram and have daily doses of nut butter excitement. This led to this purchase:

We actually saw this at a winery, but it was $8.99 a jar, which I'm sorry, is kind of insane. But a few days later, I saw it on instagram for a grocery store sale price of $3.49 plus a $1 off coupon and the poster was super excited and I was all intrigued that you could buy it at grocery stores. So on my next trip to Wegmans, I got it.

(Unfortunately I really wanted the honey kind, but they only had regular, chocolate and maple, so I chose maple)

Now that I have all this nut butter, I'm making an effort to use it- hey, it's not cheap! I don't want to waste it- although I'm sure I could find new happy homes for it, like Gal M donated this one to my cause (several months ago, actually)

(the name lies. It's not better, it's just more chemical-y. 
I am making a concerted effort to find a way to use it, however)

I found that nut butter and marshmallows make a very tasty afternoon snack.

Homemade marshmallows, of course!

As you can see, I've been fairly welcoming to nut butters entering my lifestyle.

Now, while nut butters in my pantry are a recent thing, nuts are not. I tend to go nuts in the bulk section. Now that I've left NH, I no longer have the great, reasonably-priced, something's-always-on-special bulk section a mile away. I have to plan ahead and wait til Clint goes up for something work-related and stops there on his way home. Last month, my parents happened to be up there, so mom offered to pick me up some stuff (poor mom usually forgets that I only want bulk things, so it's not an easy "oh yeah, a bag of flour, a box of raisins" type of thing). This time I asked for yeast (2 cups of yeast for $2.70? Can't resist that.) and cashews. Wouldn't you know, a week later we cleaned out the fridge and I found a giant sack of cashews.

But here's a little comparison. I asked mom for "a bunch of cashews". I wasn't really specific with the amount. Her bag is on the left. My bag of cashews is on the right, after I'd used half of them in the following recipe. A little difference, eh?


Anyway. My nut hoarding has been going on for years. What do I do with them? Yeah... I'm not really sure. Make cookies, I guess. Spiced nuts at Christmas time. I really love tossing in almonds or peanuts with caramel corn, kind of in a Cracker Jack esque manner. But really, in this day and age, what better use is there for 2-3 pounds of cashews than to make.....

Nut Butter?!

Gingerbread Cashew Nut Butter
heavily based on Chocolate Covered Kate's recipe (thanks to Google for introducing us)

2 cups of cashews (dry roasted, unsalted. Use salted if you'd rather, but don't add any additional salt, and it'll be realllly salty.)
1/2 cup (approximately) oil (I used olive)
3T molasses
2t cinnamon
1.5t ginger
1/2t cloves
1/2t nutmeg
1T brown sugar
salt, to taste (I added about 1/8t of sea salt)

In the bowl of your food processor, dump in the cashews and about a third of the oil. Process for about a minute, then add the molasses, spices, sugar and salt. Process for another half minute or so. It'll be pretty chunky/crunchy. Now start adding more oil, about 1T at a time, until you've reached the desired consistency. More oil=smoother nut butter. I skimped on the oil, as usual. That's it! Now eat it. I found this particularly delicious spread on apple slices, the apples really brought out the sweet and spiciness of the butter.

Cashews are notorious for going rancid, due to the high oil content. I'm keeping this in the fridge. It might be fine in the pantry, but I'm going to play it safe. I don't know enough about nut butters yet to instruct you all on the proper storage! We'll learn together.

Next up: fall-themed nut butter. And different nuts! I'm making up Clint's grocery list for when he heads north next week, what nuts should I get? Almonds? Hazelnuts? How would pecans or walnuts be in a nut butter? Or brazil nuts? Should I buy some of everything and make a mixed nut butter? Help me decide!

This recipe makes 16oz of cashew butter. Per 1oz (2T) serving: 172 calories, 14.7g fat (2.5g saturated), 9.5g fiber, 2.6g protein, 4.1g sugar. Because I now do that for every recipe I make. (I've lost 12 lbs so far!)

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