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!

And don’t forget you can still enter the SOS Kitchen Challenge until April 20th!  For full details, see the SOS page.

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

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Comments

  1. Walnut butter! That must be positively scrumptious! I’ve got to try it soon. I’ve been on a “carob powder mixed with peanut butter” kick lately, so your carob variation is right up my alley. Yum!

  2. OH MY GOODNESS…Walnut Cacao OR Walnut Carob Butter?!?! These are going on the must-try after I conclude my ultra-clean all whole foods regime list!

  3. My goodness, that sounds amazing! Another good reason I really need to pick up some cocoa nibs (how pathetic is it that I STILL haven’t tried them yet!?).
    Here’s hoping you get to try those PB and Co. peanut butters soon, I am a big fan of both the white chocolate and dark chocolate varieties (surprise, surprise), so much though that I have to forbid myself from purchasing it since it lasts an embarrasingly short amount of time in my kitchen.
    Hope you have a fantastic anniversary celebration! :)
    -K

  4. Wow that photo of the nut butter on the rice cracker is just so clear and inviting

    I share your love of peanut butter – since I was a kid – though these days I have to hvae it 100% peanuts – and I am so impatient to see if sylvia likes it but am waiting til 18 months!!! But I have never tried the flavoured nut butters as I am a purist – however in a sauce like you have on pancakes sounds wonderful

  5. Another PB adorer here, but I like to experiment too! This does sound divine.

  6. I’m inspired to create a cinnamon nut butter this week. I used to be very committed to my chocolate consumption but I stopped craving it (I used to eat it everyday) a few years ago. Now, I like cinnamon in everything, so I will feed that need with this great idea for a DIY project.

    Tomorrow I’m going to try out my SOS Kitchen Challenge beet recipe too.

    Have a fabulous day Ricki.

  7. Who knew it was that easy to make nut butters?! You did, I guess! I have been meaning to make my own almond butter for awhile, and now that you’ve walked us through the process, I realize I really need to get on that!
    When I was in college I worked at the PB & Co. restaurant and ate Cinnamon Raisin Swirl or Dark Chocolate Dreams almost every day. Now I tend to stay away from peanut butter and do the almond thing instead, but every once in a blue moon I buy a jar of PB & Co.’s for a little nostalgic treat. One day, you’ll try them. They’re good, but they’re not the end all be all. Your walnut butter looks like it’s far superior! I’ll try it out and let you know. :)

  8. the coconut idea is pure genius!!

  9. I love making walnut butter too! I normally add cinnamon and powdered ginger to mine. However, your idea of cocoa nibs is great. I will try that with the next batch.

    Alicia

  10. Oh I miss peanut butter so much too, but sadly don’t see it making an appearance back into my life. It causes me to have a speckle of ‘bumps’ (aka pimples) on my forehead, and it is a bit of an addictive food for me. Even after I stopped eating peanuts, I still kept a jar of roasted peanuts in my freezer and would occasionally open it just to smell them, salivate, and remember happier times. I’ve not found any other nut butters to satisfy that peanut craving I get, but can be satisfied my mixing almond butter and tahini (2 parts almond/1 part tahini). Something about those two together recreates the peanut butter flavor for me.

  11. Oy, this sounds amazing! I have personally just discovered the wonders of cacao nibs.

  12. Such a great idea, Ricki! And you’re still very welcome- It was a pleasure swapping with you! :)

  13. I’ve never thought of making walnut butter (okay, I’m getting ready to attempt my first try at making peanut butter, that’s why I’ve never considered walnut butter) but I will try this. Thanks!

  14. Ricki, this is AWESOME!!! Walnut butter?! With cacao!? GORGEOUS!!

  15. I love making my own nut butters! Controlling the sugar and flavor components makes them even better! This sounds delicious!!!

  16. Oh my heavens, what a care package! Um, I have had Hannah’s white chocolate and if it should be too stressful for you to have that temptation in the freezer, I would be happy to take it off your hands :)

    I love making homemade nut butter! I do it most mornings – mini-batch style. Hmm, haven’t tried chocolate though …

  17. Josiane,
    I’d love to have the PB version, but it will be a while yet. . . but the walnut is yummy!

    Vegyogini,
    Hope it’s a great treat when you get off the cleanse!

    Johanna,
    The stuff on the pancakes is just the nut butter on its own–it is that thin at room temp!

    Judy,
    Go for it–be wild! ;)

    Lisa,
    I think you’d like this, then (and cinnamon is great in this!). Yay! So glad you’re joining the challenge!

    Eatavegan,
    Thanks so much–I feel much better about not having PB, now! ;)

    Lacey,
    Thanks so much!

    Vegan Epicurean,
    It adds a lovely hint of chocolate–and some crunch :)

    Metta,
    Thanks for the faux PB idea–will give it a try!

    Erin,
    They’re great, aren’t they??

    Hannah,
    Thanks for being so gracious. I’m still drooling over the Sweet and Saras!

    Stacey,
    It’s really not hard. . . just requires patience. :)

    Astra Libris,
    Aw, thanks! :D

    Sarena,
    Yes, I like having that control, too. . . of nut butters, that is ;)

    Alisa,
    Single-serve is a great idea. And, sorry–I think I’ll hang onto that white chocolate for now! ;)

  18. Oooh that sounds really delicious!!!! I’ve been really into making my own nut butters recently, but I hadn’t thought of walnuts!

    I must also admit though that I am a HUGE fan of the Peanut Butter and Co.’s White Chocolate Wonderful as their shop in Greenwich Village is just a train ride away for me. Maybe you can cheat just a tiny bit on ACD and have a spoonful? I promise you won’t regret it. ;) Or maybe you will because it is quite addictive!

  19. Oh myyyy….that picture of it cascading down over the pancakes all luscious and thick….I’m in love. Seriously, in love. That has to be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever seen!

  20. Okay I definitely need to try this. Not sure I could live without peanut butter. Are you allowed hazelnut butter? a healthy nutella is also a great thing to try (ie no milk and use cocoa, hazelnut and stevia).

    I also see you have a picture of Justin’s nut butter. In the US, I love getting the single serve squeeze packs. These are great for traveling- and you can get almond. Still haven’t seen them in toronto unfortunately. I need to stock up while in new york!

  21. Saw your profile on another page. Glad I read your informative and well-written blog. Look foraward to following you here. Have a great day! Cheers!

  22. What a great idea! Walnut butter with cacao nibs? It sounds so great. I want a big spoonful right now. :) I’ve never made my own nut butters and I’m not sure why. It seems easy enough. I need to try it.

  23. never done walnut, but I live on brazilnut butter and hazelnut butter (occasionally pecan, but that’s WAY rich!) I will have to branch out!

  24. Lizzie,
    Lucky you to be near Greenwich Village! I’m afraid I can’t cheat just a little bit. . . too dangerous at this stage of the ACD! But the “Best Before” is (believe it or not) 2011, so I’ll wait a bit longer to try out the PBs! :)

    Voracious Vegan,
    Thanks! I think that was my favorite way to have it, too.

    Cathy,
    I tried the Justin’s single-serve in Florida recently–yum! And now I will just have to give the homemade “nutella” a try, too.

    Lazaro,
    Thanks so much, and thanks for reading!

    Lori,
    It’s actually very easy to make nut butter with a good food processor–all you need is patience!

    Cheryl,
    Brazilnut butter? What a great idea! :D

  25. omg, that picture, over the pancakes, is wanting me to leave my experiment in the dust and run home to make them!!!

  26. Great job on the nutbutter! And per the comment you left me that you’re vegan, GF, Soy light, high raw (I consider anything over 50% high raw !) but i am not a “label” girl that way so it’s not like i track it :) nor obsess. ha! too many way more fun things to be doing than worry if my chips were dehyd’ed over or under 118F. As if that really matters in life…well, it doenst to me.

    Anyway ricki, have a great nite!

  27. Hi Ricki! I’m an avid reader but have been too shy to post, haha. I just thought I’d let you know that this and your last post (the one abut beet burgers) inspired me to buy a food processor. I’m gluten-free so it’s about time I start grinding my own oat flours and such, too! I can’t WAIT to try this butter.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog <3 it makes me so happy to see recipes that I can make, and watching your beautiful girls makes me miss my furry best friend (who is back home with my parents) a little less.

  28. I love peanut butter too but I have trouble eating it ever since my first pregnancy. This soft nut spread sounds like an amazing alternative. I never think to add cacao nibs in this way. I seem to always think of crunch rather than flavor but this sounds like the flavor is used to great benefit too. I can’t wait to try it!

  29. Wow Ricki,
    That looks so fantastic, esp. on the pancakes. I am definitely giving this or one of the variations a try…looks too good not to!

  30. Brilliant! I have loads of walnuts I gathered at a friend’s farm. I need to shell & roast them, but it sounds like it’ll be worth it!

  31. i can’t wait to read about and drool over your anniversary meal, Ricki. too awesome on Hannah sending you a package of awesomeness – i hope you get to enjoy it all soon as well, and her homemade white chocolate…****swoon****

    i never think to buy the flavored nut butters. i think it’s because i’m kinda paranoid about the plastic packaging and i’m unsure if they’re organic (i know, i think i’m too picky sometimes as well. ha ha ha!) – but i can’t believe i never thought to make my own. i shall no longer go without having tried flavored nut butters, Ricki – i totally have a bag of unopened nibs in the pantry and i know just what to use ‘em for. thanks so much!!!!

  32. Wow!!! This looks delicious! I’m always impressed by what you come up with Ricki! Especially with being on the ACD, you’re amazing! These recipes look great and I’m not even on it! :) It’s something I’ll be looking into possibly in the future though…I give you a lot of bravo’s though for sticking to it for so long….I tried it for a couple days/week last summer and was sure I was going to die!!!! I’ve bookmarked your recipes with a special ACD label too so that if I do have to go back to it, I’ll at least know where to get some ACD goodness!!! :)

  33. Yummm another delectable creation. I love how you poured it all over the pancakes mmmm. I used to hate nuts but even when I hated nuts I liked walnuts. Love that you added cacao nibs to it too.

  34. YUM! What a brilliant idea!!!!!!!
    Must give it a go!

  35. This looks yummy. I have a question though, doesn’t roasting nuts, even lightly, cause oxidisation and production of free radicals? I thought all nuts should be consumed soaked and raw?

    • Raelene,
      The short answer is, “yes.” Heating the nuts will affect the natural oils and cause some oxidation. But so does cutting an apple in half and exposing the interior to the air. Unless you eat a 100% raw diet (and even then), you will always have some oxidation and free radicals in your food. The idea is to minimize it as much as possible, or counteract it by eating lots of antioxidant rich foods. I much prefer the taste of roasted nut butter, so I buy raw, unsalted nuts and roast my own–it’s a compromise. :)

  36. Okay so I tried this recipe, in fact I am in the kitchen right now …a little disappointed with the results. I was hoping to have this with pancakes Sunday morning. My walnut cocoa butter turned out pretty dry. I even added some olive oil to it (didn’t use coconut oil b/c you wrote that it’ll make it even firmer) but to no avail. The walnuts didn’t become creamy smooth in the processor. It was pretty crumbly and after I added oil, it became lumpy :( Is my walnut cocoa salvageable? Will I be able to have it with pancakes tomorrow? :)

    • Hi Meera,
      I’m a little confused. . . you call this “walnut cocoa butter,” but there is no cocoa in my recipe. If you added cocoa (powder), that is likely the reason it’s dry. Did you change anything in the original recipe?

      When I put toasted walnuts in my food processor, they liquefy quite quickly (under 2 minutes). I then add cacao nibs, which are solid. I am not sure why your walnuts didn’t become smooth. . . it may depend on (a) the kind of walnuts; (b) how well toasted (or not) they are; and (c) the kind of processor you have. It sounds like your mixture curdled because the oil separated out. When I have that problem, I add something dry (like carob powder) or a non-oily liquid, like soymilk; however, I have no idea what your butter looks like, so I can’t say for sure. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you.

  37. Oh I figured Cacao is the same as Cocoa. I did add unsweetened cocoa powder (didn’t have nibs) but that doesn’t explain why the walnuts didn’t turn out smooth. I used CuisineArt processor and toasted the walnuts for about 5 minutes. I don’t use soy so I’ll add rice milk to it. Even if I can’t have it on pancakes, I am sure it’ll taste good on rice crackers.
    Thanks for such a quick reply.
    M.

    • I also have a Cuisineart. . . I really don’t know why it didn’t work. With mine, it takes just a few minutes to achieve the texture you see in the photos. I do toast my nuts for a little longer–maybe 10-12 minutes at 350F (180C). I hope you’ll let me know how it tastes once it’s done!

    • Jessica Dinius says:

      From what I’ve read, Cacao is the same as Cocoa. Cocoa comes from the cacao plant. “The word cacao is the only word ever used in any of the hispanic languages to describe what English speakers think of as cocoa. It is actually widely believed that the word cocoa has its origins in a spelling mistake. ” http://vegetarian.about.com/od/beverage1/a/Difference-Between-Cocoa-And-Cacao.htm

      • Jessica, that’s true, but today’s cocoa is processed and often treated with chemicals. Cacao refers to the raw pods that are still in their natural state, and so contain more antioxidants. If you’ve ever tried them side by side, you can really tell the difference (I find cacao powder to be slightly fruity and not as bitter as cocoa). :)

  38. Sorry for the late reply. I think next time I’ll let it process longer. It actually tasted fantastic just couldn’t put it on pancake. Thanks again!

  39. Jessica Dinius says:

    Sounds tasty. I would recommend using raw walnuts to get the full amount of nutrients that they have to offer. :)

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