Nut Butter Trio

Last year I borrowed a food processor a few times because I had been concerned I wouldn’t use it enough to make the storage space worth it. After the third time in as many weeks that particular hesitation seemed downright silly and I promptly put it on my Christmas wish list (thanks Mom!)

Nut Butter Trio {{Baking Bytes}}

My initial interests were hummus and pesto, which I made regularly throughout the summer and fall. Thoroughly sold on food processors, I adventured into the world of nut butters. Starting with an amazing one from my favorite cookbook, Run Fast, Eat Slow, I quickly caught the bug and tried other types as well. The recipes here are all small batches so you can test them out, but I usually double them now. (If you have extra, I am pretty sure your friends will help you out – mine always do.)

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The first one (top/right, in my photos) is a minor adaptation from the RFES cookbook. Vanilla and espresso come together in a sweet and creamy peanut butter that is perfect for your morning toast or an afternoon pick-me-up. The espresso kick means it pairs perfectly with coffee and a hint of vanilla never goes wrong. I especially liked it on banana or pumpkin bread, but found I preferred the regular version with apples.

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After peanuts I moved onto almonds (bottom/left). While I personally do not see the appeal of standard almond butter as a spread (unless you are allergic to peanuts), I do enjoy it in oatmeal and on yogurt parfaits on occasion. This iteration, however, is lovely on all your favorite morning carbs and especially so on oatmeal pancakes. Lightly sweetened and with plenty of poppyseed flavor, it’s a lovely twist on a peanut-free variety. For some springtime fun you could even add some lemon flavor via zest or infused olive oil to brighten the whole thing.

Nut Butter Trio {{Baking Bytes}}

Lastly, I gave walnuts a try (the dark one, clearly). The texture of this butter turned out a little grainier (although perhaps they just weren’t roasted/processed long enough) but the flavor is possibly my favorite. Hearty walnut balanced with a chai spice blend is a match made in fall heaven and definitely needs to grace your table soon. I make my own chai spice, but it is easily tailored to fit your preferences. I enjoyed this one on toast (obviously) and waffles; a light drizzle of maple syrup only adds to the experience.

Nut Butter Trio {{Baking Bytes}}

Whichever nut butter speaks to you the most, I hope you find a new favorite in this collection. There’s something for everyone here and I hope you use it as a starting point for all sorts of experimenting in the future. These butters would also make amazing gifts for the holiday season, a small 4oz jar of each flavor would be both adorable and delicious. (If you’re wondering about the super cute jars in my photos, they are upcycled Olivelle sea salt containers, so I’m not sure where to purchase them – sorry!)

Vanilla Espresso Peanut Butter

Modified from Run Fast, Eat Slow
Makes about 1.5 cups

Ingredients

2 cups roasted, salted peanuts

1 Tbsp brown sugar, to taste
1/2 Tbsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp chia seeds, optional
avocado or olive oil, optional1

Directions

  1. Add peanuts to a food processor and process until smooth, scraping the sides as necessary. This can take several minutes but the mixture should go from grainy to clumpy to a ball and finally, to creamy.
  2. Add in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla bean powder, and vanilla extract and blend until combined.
  3. If desired, add in avocado oil (for extra creaminess) and/or chia seeds (for a protein boost) and process again until incorporated.
  4. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Should keep at least one month.

Poppyseed Almond Butter

Makes about 1.5 cups

Ingredients

2 cups almonds2

1 tsp almond extract
2 Tbsp sugar, to taste
2-4 tsp poppyseeds, to taste
1 tsp salt

avocado or olive oil, optional1

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spread nuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast about 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Do not burn!
  3. Let the nuts cool for about 10 minutes, then add to a food processor and process until smooth, scraping the sides as necessary. This can take several minutes but the mixture should go from grainy to clumpy to a ball and finally, to creamy.
  4. Add extract, sugar, poppyseeds, and salt, then blend again until completely incorporated.
  5. If a smoother texture is preferred, drizzle in avocado oil to taste.
  6. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Should keep at least one month.

Chai Walnut Butter

Makes about 1.5 cups

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts2

2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp chai spice
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

avocado or olive oil, optional1

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spread nuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast about 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Do not burn!
  3. Let the nuts cool for about 10 minutes, then add to a food processor and process until smooth, scraping the sides as necessary. This can take several minutes but the mixture should go from grainy to clumpy to a ball and finally, to creamy.
  4. Add sugar, spice blend, vanilla, and salt, then blend again until completely incorporated.
  5. If a smoother texture is preferred, drizzle in avocado oil to taste.
  6. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Should keep at least one month.

Notes

Depending on how much fat/water is still in your nuts and how chunky you like your nut butters, you may not need any oil. I found I liked some of them (almond butter especially) with oil in it just to smooth it out, but it’s totally up to you! Also a great place to try an infused olive oil for a different punch of flavor.

You can certainly buy pre-roasted and salted nuts here, just skip the additional salt in the recipe. However, I found the ones I tried to be too heavily salted for my preferences. If you have access to roasted unsalted nuts then that’s even better!

Blueberry Almond Cardamom Smoothie

Smoothies are one of my favorite things about summer. There’s nothing like a cold smoothie at the end of a hard and hot workout for a no-brainer recovery meal. I’ve previously shared my other go-to peanut butter and banana concoction, but this is another excellent option for those that aren’t fans of banana or are in the mood for a less sweet experience.

Blueberry Cardamom Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

Plenty of blueberry flavor with hints of almond and cardamom make this reminiscent of one of my favorite pies, while the other mix-ins add protein and healthy fats to keep me full. Spinach is the best secret ingredient and if your blender allows, feel free to add more. As written, this recipe nearly exactly fills my single-serving blender (a bit overfills  it with the higher ends of everything) but if you’re using a standard size you can easily double the spinach content without affecting the delicious flavor.

Blueberry Cardamom Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

Like all smoothies, this one is super easy to tailor to your caloric needs: use the low end of the protein powder, chia, and hemp (or skip them entirely) for a lighter snack or a healthy dessert, and the full amounts for a proper meal replacement. I like my smoothies and milkshakes quite thick, but you can add extra almond milk to thin yours out if necessary.

Perfect for the next time you want pie but need protein, this is a great go-to to add to your summer smoothie repertoire.

Blueberry Almond Cardamom Smoothie

Makes 16-20 oz

Ingredients

3/4 cup frozen blueberries
2-inch piece frozen banana (optional, adds a touch of sweetness)
1/2 – 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1-2 Tbsp chia seeds
1-2 Tbsp hemp hearts
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, to taste
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 cup spinach, frozen and crushed1
3/4 – 1 cup almond milk, to taste

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender (I find it easiest to add the spinach and almond milk last) and process until smooth.
  2. Taste and add extra spice or thin almond milk as preferred.
  3. Enjoy immediately.

Notes

Easiest way to do this is just to pop a whole bag of fresh spinach in the freezer. Once frozen you can crush it with your hands or a rolling pin, which makes it much easier to pour into the blender cup.

Pear & Pomegranate Winter Salad

Although the blogosphere doesn’t always advertise as such, winter is just as good for salads as the heat of summer. I do eat fewer entree salads in the winter (unless it’s a sautéed steak version) but we nearly always have a side salad with dinner. With different produce available it’s a great time to mix up the flavors a bit and give your standard toppings a break.

Pomegranate makes its debut in late fall, and is often used for everything from smoothies to desserts. With a tart flavor and saturated color, it’s also a perfect topping to brighten both the flavor and aesthetic of a winter salad. My favorite combination is with pears, but green apples, oranges or blood oranges, and Asian pears are all delightful pairings.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

For crunch and a dash of protein, sliced almonds or toasted pumpkin seeds are my favorite additions. They are both neutral enough to blend with nearly everything, and add just enough texture to each bite.

Goat cheese is my go-to for almost everything, but for a punchier flavor feta is a great choice. A crumbly cheese works best but the palate is very versatile if chevré isn’t your thing. For the dairy-free folks, this salad is also excellent sans cheese entirely.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Lastly, a good quality balsamic vinegar is key here. I personally rarely use legitimate salad dressings and just dress mine with one of my large collection of Olivelle balsamic vinegars. Crisp Anjou Pear Balsamic Vinegar is my favorite for this particular salad, but a plain barrel-aged balsamic, anything with rosemary, or your favorite more neutral vinaigrette would also do nicely. I do recommend using a more viscous vinegar or a reduction to allow for a better coating.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Brighten your dinner table with this healthy and delicious salad that’s easy enough for every day, and fancy enough for holiday parties.

Pear & Pomegranate Winter Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

5 oz baby spinach (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup Olivelle Crisp Anjou Pear Balsamic Vinegar1

1/2 medium pear, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or sliced almonds
4oz goat cheese

Directions

  1. In a serving bowl, add spinach and vinegar and gently toss to coat.
  2. Reserving 1-2 tablespoons of each, add the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds or almonds. Add half the goat cheese and gently toss to combine.
  3. Arrange the pear on top of the salad, then garnish with remaining pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds or almonds, and goat cheese. Drizzle with addition vinegar or a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper, if desired.
  4. Enjoy promptly.

Notes

If preferred, you can substitute any dark balsamic vinegar or reduction, or your favorite rosemary vinaigrette. Barrel-aged vinegars are my favorite here!

Apple Cranberry Pie

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the pie the inspired the apple cranberry sauce from two weeks ago…this is it. You’re welcome.

For the past couple of years, M and I have attended a huge potluck feast rather than having a tiny Thanksgiving all to ourselves. This is fantastic for being able to eat many different dishes without having to cook them all, but does have the downside of often eating things at room temperature, regardless of what their ideal temp might be. There are always numerous pies in many different flavors, and going home hungry is pretty much impossible. I usually contribute to the event with homemade dinner rolls, but I may switch it up this year.

Despite the multitude of desserts, I always personally bake pies just for the two of us. M doesn’t get excited about pumpkin pie (weirdo) and apple is typically his flavor of choice. Last year, I found an apple cranberry pie that sounds amazing, and, (with M’s blessing), opted to make that instead. I don’t hate plain apple pie by any means, but there are many other flavors I consider to be much more enticing.

I will never give up my pumpkin pie, but for a fresh flavor, this might be a new fall favorite. Traditional apple and cozy spices are complemented perfectly by the tart cranberries. It lends a more complex profile without being overwhelming, and still works just as well for both dessert and breakfast as your traditional apple. I’ve always been partial to the more tart fruits, and the addition of cranberries here is a wonderful update. A little almond extract completes the whole experience.

As a bonus, the cranberries also add some beautiful color to your place. Bright red cranberries make the dessert table more festive both in flavor and presentation, and you can really up the ante with some fun pie crust cutters. Arranging leaves is way less tedious than a lattice crust, and even more impressive looking; a win-win situation in my book. Paired with homemade cinnamon ice cream or cinnamon whipped cream (recipe included), the tart pie and creamy topping are a perfect end to any fall day.

If you’re looking for a way to add some flair to the table this year, look no further than this pie. It’s sure to be a hit, and maybe even a new holiday tradition.

Apple Cranberry Pie

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes one standard pie

Ingredients

pastry for a double-crust pie

3 large apples, cored, peeled, and sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract

optional crust topping
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

cinnamon whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine apples, cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, spices, and extract. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Roll out half your pie crust into a circle (as close as you can), then gently drape into the bottom of your pie dish. Trim edges to a half inch or so wider than the plate.
  4. Gently spoon your filling into the crust, using a slotted spoon to avoid the excess liquid.
  5. Roll out your remaining crust and arrange on top of the filling however you like (I used pie crust cutters for the shapes here), pinching together any seams. For bonus presentation points, crimp edges with your fingers or a fork, or arrange cutouts along the edge. If you do a full crust on top, cut a few vents for steam to escape.
  6. In a small container, stir or shake remaining cinnamon and sugar together. Sprinkle evenly on top of the pie (I use an empty spice container.)
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. If necessary, tent the pie with foil to avoid over-browning the crust.
  8. Let pie cool on the counter for at least three hours.
  9. Just before serving1, make the whipped cream. Using a hand-held or stand mixer, whip cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form.
  10. Add in sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, and continue to whip to desired consistency.
  11. Serve pie at room temp, topped with cinnamon whipped cream or cinnamon ice cream. (Or your favorite vegan alternative.)
  12. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap or foil.

Notes

You can make the whipped cream ahead of time and store it in the fridge, but you may want to whip it again just a bit before serving as it tends to loosen over time. It only takes a couple of minutes so I typically just make it on demand.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

Likely from here through Christmas my posts will be pretty seasonal, but also more abundant. Hope you enjoy the plethora of holiday options!

Of all the dishes weighing down a typical Thanksgiving table, cranberry sauce is one of my favorites. I love all the more sour berries and a nice tart cranberry sauce is a lovely addition of color and flavor to my plate. As a kid I’d often take seconds and thirds just of cranberry sauce, and adult me is not much different. The perfect cranberry sauce is different for everyone, and the key to happiness is making it yourself so it’s just right. Maybe you’ve always been an out of the can sort of person (no judgements!) but I encourage you to try the from-scratch version this year.

Cranberry sauce is one of those things I’m absurdly picky about, and it’s rare that someone else’s recipe really strikes my fancy. I need all the cinnamon and none of the orange, thick and chunky and not too sweet. I’m not sure why orange became the traditional flavor pairing, but I personally think it too easily overpowers the rest of the flavors.

Inspired by a pie last year (check back in two weeks for that), I tried utilizing apple instead. It complements the tart cranberry perfectly, without becoming a prominent flavor. Instead of it being an obvious addition, the apple blends more smoothly into the whole profile, adding a little something without necessarily being able to pinpoint it.

I added a smidge of almond extract to round out the holiday experience, but you can certainly use vanilla if you prefer. Almond is a nice twist on tradition without straying too far from comfy, and I often utilize it in fruit pies in lieu of (or addition to) vanilla extract.

This is definitely my new go-to cranberry sauce recipe, and I’m already looking forward to making it again in a few weeks. It’s excellent both chilled and warm, resulting it an excellent make-ahead recipe. Large enough to share or to enjoy copious leftovers, so long as everyone doesn’t serve themselves the same heaping amount I tend towards.

If for some reason you’re hesitant on the apple, or want to keep to a more traditional flavor, just leave that out. It’ll still be an excellent spiced cranberry sauce with a little almond boost.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

Makes about 2.5 cups

Ingredients

3 cups fresh cranberries
1 medium apple, grated
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp cinnamon (or one stick), to taste
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp almond extract (or vanilla)

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, stir together cranberries, apple, sugar, and water.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Stir in cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Cranberries should be a mixture of burst and whole.
  4. Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick.
  5. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, use a fork or a silly egg salad masher to mash the cranberries to your desired texture. (I like mine chunky but all burst, so I mash mine pretty well.)
  6. Allow to cool briefly before serving, optionally garnished with sliced almonds.