Saturday, December 11, 2010

Homemade almond butter

In my slow, but steady, journey to a more natural diet, I began making almond butter a few months ago.

I was often reading of the benefits of this wonderful alternative to peanut butter. The Doctors, Jillian Michaels, and Denise Austin said I should switch from peanut butter to almond butter so I jumped in the car and headed to the grocery store. When I saw the price, I immediately had a heart attack and fell to the floor faster than Alan can fall asleep in the recliner. When the paramedics came, they recommended that I learn to make my own almond butter. After all, what good are the health benefits if I have a coronary every time I purchase a jar? Made perfect sense to me.

Before I share my recipe, here's what I have learned about almond butter:

It is a food paste made from almonds (duh). Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, which are considered to be a healthier form of fat than saturated fat. Like other nut butters, almond butter retains the nutritional value of the almonds it comes from. It is rich in protein, calcium, iron, essential fatty acids, Vitamin E, magnesium, and it is a great source of fiber. Unfortunately, it is also higher in calories than many other nut butters, but to me, the heart-health benefits outweigh the extra calories.

The uses for almond butter are as varied as they are for peanut butter. It can be used like a spread, mixed into sauces and dressings, eaten plain, or used in desserts. The flavor is actually quite similar to peanut butter, with a faint hint of almonds.

There are a number of different styles of almond butter, starting with toasted or raw. Toasted almond butter has a richer flavor, but some people prefer the milder taste of raw almond butter. The smoothest and creamiest is made from almonds that have been blanched to remove their skins, and then finely ground. More chunky versions include almond skin, and are not ground as finely.

My version is made with toasted almonds, including the skin. I have made both toasted and raw, and personally prefer toasted.

You'll need a heavy-duty food processor (not the small, mini version) plus these ingredients:

2 cups toasted almonds (I toast in the toaster oven on 350 degrees for six minutes)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or to taste)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (or to taste)

Add the toasted almonds to the food processor and process until the nuts are finely chopped and begin to turn creamy (1-2 minutes). Add the salt, olive oil, and brown sugar and process until the following consistency:

That's it! Seriously!

Store the almond butter in your pantry or refrigerator. Just remember, there are no preservatives, so choose your storage method with that in mind. I have successfully pantry-stored almond butter for over a week with no problem.

I love almond butter on vanilla wafers! What's not to love?