Monday, April 21, 2014

Going Green in the Kitchen: Homemade Nut Butter

Growing up my mother made a famous “Chex Mix,” strictly by the recipe printed on the box many moons ago. This mix was the main reason that she would buy an infamously large, tempting blue can of mixed nuts. Standing in the kitchen, talking to my family or just grazing hungrily afterschool, I could put a major dent in that blue can of mixed nuts. Granted, I mainly picked out the good stuff, the non- peanuts coated in salt and roasted to perfection. When I finally summoned the willpower to stop eating the mixed nuts, my fingers would be covered in a thin film of oil and salt. Needless to say, mixed nuts have a special place in my heart.

Recently, I found a new kind of mixed nuts to get hooked on. This huge container of roasted, lightly salted mixed nuts is sold at Aldi for a great price. This particular kind of mixed nuts are a real winner for me because they are not too salty and contain no peanuts, just the good stuff! Inevitably,  I cannot leave well enough alone and just eat the mixed nuts. So, I made these deliciously simple mixed nuts into nut butter and I wasn’t disappointed by my experiment. Below are my wholesome and simple ingredients, agave nectar (organic, fair trade), roasted and salted mixed nuts, coconut oil (organic), and vanilla extract.


The formula:

    • 2 cups salted, roasted mixed nuts
    • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
    • 2 tsp. agave nectar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

**cinnamon and cocoa powder would also make delicious add-ins

The process:

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Process for 10 to 15 minutes, until the nuts begin to release their oils, instead of looking chalky or chunky. Pack it into a mason jar and tada! it is ready for apple dipping or putting on toast with good jam. Keep in the fridge for long-term storage;  the nut butter can be microwaved to soften to a spreadable consistency.

This mixed nut butter is a little sweet with a definite hit of vanilla flavor that goes well with the richness of the roasted nuts. In the past, I have always trusted the fun grinders in the bulk section of grocery stores (I know I am not the only one to find these somewhat amusing, right?) to grind my nut butters or defaulted to Skippy Natural Peanut Butter; this is only my second attempt at nut butter. During this process of making my own nut butter, I found that making your own is a true test of patience. During the middle of the process, I was afraid that I had messed up somehow because I didn’t think it looked right, but it had been in the food processor for over five minutes! However, I refused to proceed with processing the nuts until Jerry reassured me that our food processor was still covered under its first year warranty and that if it conked out I wouldn’t be responsible and we could get another one. Phew! Back to business, I continued using the food processor until the nuts turned into a creamy butter.

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The green: Anytime I can use bulk ingredients, such as a humongous container of mixed nuts or bag of bulk nuts, I jump at the opportunity. You can save disposable packaging and often recycle or reuse the bag/container. Next time, I would possibly try this recipe with organic nuts which do not contain the pesticides applied to conventionally grown nuts. This leads me to my next reason why making your own nut butter can be more environmentally friendly, not only can you reduce packaging but you can control exactly what goes into your nut butter. Peanuts can absorb pesticides especially well and are one of the plants with higher concentrations of pesticides that are ingested (no peanuts in mine though). I am not advocating that you use organic ingredients (I only purchase some things organic) but it at least makes me feel better to be familiar with what is in the food I eat, instead of ingesting mystery partially hydrogenated oils that are often found in the old-fashioned peanut butter I grew up eating.


So, if you have time to spare and the ingredients on hand, consider making nut butter as a delicious, “green” staple for your household! Enjoy!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A New Series and Catching Up

Just to catch you up on my life in the last several weeks, I will share five highlights:

1. Free Cone Day on April 8th at Ben and Jerry’s! I first tried Ben and Jerry’s at Davidson and fell in love with both their ice cream and the company’s purchasing principals (organic, fair trade ingredients whenever possible). Basically, Free Cone Day was my motivation while I was taking the GRE that morning. FYI, ice is always good motivation, at least for this girl.20140408_122320_resized

2. Mornings made glorious. For breakfast, I have been eating a lot of these morning glory muffins that although not photogenic were quite tasty. I also have been eating a lot of a cranberry apple bake that all the women in my family make (imagine the most delicious concoction of cranberries, apples, oats, butter, and sugar that can be eaten as a side, dessert, or breakfast- YUM!).


3. Homemade bread. In the last month, I have been on a homemade bread kick, baking homemade whole wheat buns, the no-knead whole wheat bread pictured below, and whole wheat sandwich loaves. I had the idea of making a double batch of sandwich bread last time and freezing one. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before because it makes homemade bread during the middle of the week very do-able.


4. Spring flavors. Jerry and I used our citrus juicer attachment to make lemonade. I had never made homemade lemonade. It was delicious but I never knew lemonade required so many lemons! I am planning on making some Easter favorites, like challah, hot cross buns, carrot cake, and/or pineapple upside down cake in the coming week.

5. Finding joy in the little things. Lately, I have shifted my mindset from anxious because of uncertainty about a job for next year to just savoring each moment. I know it sounds cliché but it is so true. Lately, I have enjoyed taking our dog Louie for long walks, savoring “me” time, exploring the Charlotte area with Jerry (new restaurants or grocery stores, hiking, etc.), catching up with friends, volunteering for a good cause close to my heart, and reminiscing about the past while anticipating the future.


Also, I want to announce a new series that I will be doing on my blog, Going Green in the Kitchen.

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I am embarking on this project in the hopes of becoming more mindful about how I consume products in the kitchen. As an environmental studies concentrator at Davidson, it always seemed easy to be active in environmental clubs and walk to the health food store or the farmer’s market, both right down the road. However, living in an apartment with someone else to feed is much harder. I can’t just buy the things I want to buy, some of which have been deemed “strange” by Jerry. Also, Healthy Home Market and the farmer’s market are not quite so close and I have to be deliberate about where I spend my money. With all of these things in mind, I am launching this series, as both a personal challenge and hopefully an inspiration to others. Disclaimer, I am not sure how long this series will run but I plan to post weekly.

Coming up soon, homemade almond butter!