Written by Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn
The schools that I attended had the option of a hot lunch you could purchase or you could bring your own lunch. I was a brown bagger. Not only was it cheaper to BYOL, but the food was generally less nasty. As a small child my mother would pack my lunch, but as I got older and her life got busier, I got the memo to make my own lunch.
Because I’m a last minute kind of person (don’t believe me? Ask my editor!), invariably my lunch would consist of a peanut butter and jam sandwich and a piece of fruit. PB &J was the quickest, easiest sandwich to make, so that’s what I lived on during the school year.
Oddly, this unadulterated peanut-butter-based diet didn’t make me loathe peanut butter. I went through collage eating PB &J’s, sent my husband off to work with PB&J’s, and proceeded to raise a new generation on peanut butter.
Today’s kids bagging their own lunches, or their moms doing it for them, face a new challenge. Because of the increasing number and severity of peanut allergies, many schools are banning peanut butter. For the peanut-challenged, this can be a literal life-saver, but for the harried moms trying to throw together a quick, nutritious lunch, it presents an early morning crisis.
But a crisis can just be an opportunity in disguise. In this case it’s the opportunity to explore the world of other nuts available out there. All nutritious, in their own ways delicious, and each with their own characteristics. Once you start making your own nut butters, you’ll find it’s fun and addictive.
ALL photos by Lynn Craig
Tips for making nut butters
- Working with a food processor to make your nut butter will give a grainier product while an industrial strength blender will give a smoother, creamier product. In the recipe below, I give direction for making nut butters with a food processor. (If you happen to have a Vitamix (or other super-strength blender), go to my website and check out my recipe for gourmet nut butter made with that appliance.)
- When making nut butters, always choose fresh nuts and store them in the freezer until ready to use. Nuts are high in natural oils and can go rancid when stored at room temperature.
- I’ve made nut butter with roasted and unroasted nuts, both work well. Don’t use salted or seasoned nuts, though. With plain nuts you can control the amount of salt, sugar, or seasonings that go into your nut butter.
- Some nuts (macadamia, cashew, Brazil to name a few) are very high in natural oils and will result in a runnier product than other nuts. The nut butter will firm up in the refrigerator.
- If your nut butter looks too firm to you, you might add a bit of nut oil to get the desired consistency.
In praise of walnuts
I used walnuts for this recipe. Walnuts are a delicious source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, which the body cannot manufacture. A quarter cup of walnuts provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance of these protective fats.
What’s the deal with Omega-3’s?
In case you’ve heard the buzz about Omega-3’s, but have no idea why you need them, they
- promote better cognitive function (better learning, higher test scores!)
- have anti-inflammatory benefits helpful for sufferers of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and psoriasis
And walnuts are also great because…?
As well as Omega-3’s, walnuts contain ellagic acid that
- supports the immune system (beat the cold and flu season!)
- has anticancer properties
Walnuts are also very high in protein (way to grow!).
Good news for the moms at home eating nut butter
- walnuts are a good source of fiber
- they are high in beneficial polyunsaturated fats which lower harmful LDL cholesterol
- and are also a good source of folic acid, important for the mom trying to become a mommy again.
And for women of all ages, those healthy fats are important for the production of sex hormones (which aren’t just about sex – there are estrogen and progesterone receptors on cells throughout the body, including the brain!).
So, now that I’ve sold you on nut butters as health food, let’s get started!
Cinnamon Walnut Butter
- 3 cups walnuts
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- generous pinch of salt
- Sprinkling of Stevia extract
- Place the walnuts in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the regular cutting blade. Process the nuts. After about 30 seconds it will begin to resemble graham cracker crumbs. After about 45 seconds stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Continue processing. After about 1-1/2 minutes, the ground nuts will come together into a ball. Taste the nut butter and add the seasonings, adjusting as you see fit. Some people like a sweeter or a saltier product. Make it the way you like it.
- Pulse the nut butter, taste, adjust the seasonings if needed, and pulse until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Store your nut butter covered (recycling a glass jar works for me) in the refrigerator.
After you’ve made your first batch of nut butter, have fun and play with nut combinations and flavors.
What’s your favorite nut and what flavoring would you pair with it?