Flash in the Pan: Flavored Nut Butters for the Rest of Us (Walnut-Cacao Nib & More)
[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
[Ooohh-wee! Just look at those little cacao nibs peeking out!]
First: thanks, everyone for the great anniversary wishes on my last post! (The HH thanks you, too, in his inimitable fashion). Because we won’t actually celebrate until this Saturday evening, I’ll be posting photos of our meal in the subsequent blog post after that. Stay tuned!
In the past week or so, I’ve received a few emails asking how my ACD is going, and I realized it’s been a while since I posted an update. So, here goes:
For the most part, everything is pretty much status quo (with the ACD, that is. But The EL-LENd Me a Hand campaign continues to grow–join the wave and possibly win a free cookbook!). Basically, I’m now following Phase II of the Whole Approach diet, which now adds the occasional fruit (apples and berries, primarily) and some gluten free flour products. These new additions have opened up the world of baking possibilities once again, which makes me happy (I take it where I can get it). I’ve now lost 46 pounds and holding , which also makes me happy, though I wish it were a bit more. I’m feeling about 95% better, with lots of energy and clear headedness–which makes me very happy. And I still cannot eat peanuts, pistachios, fungi, yeast, alcohol, or any sweeteners except yacon and stevia. Which decidely does not make me happy.
Not happy, especially, since one of my very favorite foods in life has always been peanut butter. I’ve been eating it since the early days of my childhood when The CFO and I would sneak downstairs at 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning to watch Bugs Bunny with a side of soda crackers (loaded with PB) to my days as an undergrad in my first apartment when almost every breakfast consisted of a bran muffin slathered with PB, to the halcyon days of my relationship with the HH when we’d regularly slurp up Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup or munch on my all-time favorite Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies or Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudgies with abandon (not to mention a few other things we used to do with abandon–no, no, you debauched minds, you! I meant drink wine with dinner).
Not so any more.
Luckily, the ACD permits other nuts like almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts, so I often substitute almond butter for the PB in recipes, with little if no loss of appeal. But there’s one place where almonds can’t easily stand in for peanuts in an ACD-friendly format: flavored peanut butters.
Ever since I first caught a whiff of peanut-butter laced names like ”Dark Chocolate Duo” or “White Chocolate Wonderful” or “Mighty Maple,” I’ve been dying to try them but could never find them here in Toronto. And then, I started the ACD, which meant no PB at all.
[Bounty courtesy of Hannah--and yes, that's her homemade vegan white chocolate on the end! Whoo hoo!]
And even when the amazing Hannah of Bittersweet sent me a faint-inducing care package with all manner of treats, including those aforementioned PBs (bet you thought I forgot, eh, Hannah?), I couldn’t even try them out! (Don’t worry, I’ve set them aside until the very last day on the “Best Before” stamp, hoping I’ll have a chance to dig in by then; and the white chocolate is waiting patiently in the freezer). Thanks again for the delectable chocolate and nut butter bounty, Hannah!
Well, that got me thinking. (What? Again??). I’ve been making my own nut butter for years; if you’ve never tried it, you will be amazed at how easy it is. Homemade nut butter is so much healthier than store bought–even the all-natural kind– because you control exactly how long the nuts are roasted, and there’s no need for additional oils (which are often added to store-bought brands). In addition, homemade tends to be fresher than pre-jarred types. Heck, I realized, I could make my own, ACD-friendly version!
And then it hit me: instead of attempting to create a poor imitation of peanut butter using almonds, why not concoct something completely different, unique unto itself? I decided to create a flavored spread with walnuts. Why walnuts? Well, I love the flavor of these little cerebrum-shaped nuts when they’re just lightly toasted; they’re wonderfully nutritious, with about 95% of your recommended daily intake of Omega 3 fatty acids in a 1/4 cup (60 ml) serving and a bevy of other amazing nutrients, fiber and protein. And since their fat content is slightly higher than that of almonds, walnut butter is easier to blend in a food processor and results in a richer flavor. Perfect!
[In lieu of syrup over pancakes--heavenly!]
I opted to mix my walnut butter with cacao nibs for a chocolate intensity, and sweeten with just a bit of stevia. The result was a textured spread, a bit thinner than regular almond butter, but so much more luscious. I absolutely adored it, and could barely contain myself from licking it off the spoon. The cacao conferred a hint of chocolate throughout, which was, surprisingly, not the least bit bitter even though the nut butter isn’t extremely sweet.
Because of its light texture, this is a perfect topping for breakfast breads and quickbreads like scones, biscuits or pancakes–but that won’t diminish its charm if spread on an otherwise unadorned rice cake. You’ll never crave peanut butter again!
Since this is a kind of “healthy makeover” recipe, I thought it would be great for Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. Head on over and check the roundup!
Walnut Cacao Butter (ACD Phase II and beyond–with ACD Phase I variations)
Spoon up some of this amazing spread when you want to feel special. I made a small batch because otherwise risked eating it all–but the recipe will double nicely. The variations are almost endless.
2 Tbsp (30 ml) cacao nibs, unsweetened chocolate, or chocolate chips
2 heaping cups (200 g) lightly toasted walnuts
1/8 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
10-15 drops plain or vanilla flavored stevia, to your taste (I like NuNaturals Vanilla)
In the bowl of your food processor (or in a coffee grinder if your processor blades aren’t too sharp), process the cacao nibs briefly to break up into crumbs. Don’t overprocess, or you’ll have cacao flour; you want a bit of texture. Remove the nibs to a bowl.
In the same processor bowl, whir the walnuts and sea salt until the mixture becomes almost perfectly smooth (this should occur fairly quickly).** Stop the processor, add the stevia, and pulse a couple of times to blend. Add the cacao nibs back in and stir to combine, but don’t process again.
Turn the mixture into a clean jar. Makes about 1 cup (240 ml). Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week (well, I’m actually guessing on that one, since it didn’t last that long in our house).
** If you use other nuts, you may need to process longer. Walnuts and pecans smooth out fairly quickly; almonds take a bit longer (since they have a lower natural fat content). Cashews, in my experience, take longest (up to 10 minutes, scraping down sides of processor occasionally); you might need to add 1-2 tsp coconut oil to help them along.
Carob Variation: (ACD Phase I and beyond): Instead of cacao nibs, use 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) carob powder, added with the walnuts. This will make the spread slightly thicker, but no less delectable.
Coconut Variation (ACD Phase I and beyond): Add 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) coconut oil or coconut butter (a la HEAB) along with the walnuts (will also firm it up a bit). Add 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) coconut flavoring with the stevia, if desired; stir in 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) unsweetened shredded coconut once the butter is completed. This will result in a very firm spread once refrigerated.
Last Year at this Time: Flash in the Pan: Inter-Faith Holiday Pudding
Two Years Ago: A Date, A Dilemma and a Diet (no recipe)
© 2010 Diet, Dessert and Dogs