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!

Protein Porridge

Happy 2019, folks. I hope everyone had a wonderful year, but if not, I hope this coming one is everything you hoped 2018 would be. I am not much of a resolution setter, but I am a huge fan of goals and personal challenges, and also a numbers person. Last year I tried 76 new recipes, shared 36 posts with you lovely readers, started an Instagram, tried and liked a lower carb lifestyle, discovered the magic that is a spiralizer, and went to several difference food-related classes and events, including learning how to make vodka infusions and homemade sausage. I am looking forward to putting those last two things to good use this year, and sharing them with all of you.

One of my December challenges was to keep a food log, in which I write down all the things I eat every day. It’s an analog version so obviously not a calorie tracker, but it makes me stop and think before eating and helps me to choose healthier options, especially during the food cluster that is the holiday season. I feel very successful this year, navigating lots of deliciousness in healthy ways without feeling like I deprived myself of seasonal treats.  Whether, like me, you are looking to maintain a good thing, or perhaps to start anew, this easy peasy breakfast is a great way to start the day.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

In August when I went lower carb, I basically stopped eating my go-to breakfast of banana peanut butter oatmeal. Since it would’ve been half my carbs for the day, I opted for yogurt parfait and chia pudding and probably unhealthy amounts of eggs. As the weather cooled, however, I found myself missing my warm bowl of morning oats even more. I am no longer tracking my macros, but I’m still opting to do lower carb and higher protein whenever possible, so I set out to find an appropriate winter option. Patterning off my summer recipes, I kept the chia and hemp I’ve become accustomed to and added a few oats for volume. Quick oats work best since the hemp and chia don’t need much time to cook, but lightly blended old-fashioned oats works great too. (I tried it once without grinding them and didn’t care for the textural juxtaposition, but you can nix the grinding process if you don’t mind it.) Warm, cozy, filling, and even faster at cooking, this is my new favorite way to start a chilly morning.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

Even without the boosts this recipe has about 12 grams of protein, but I nearly double that with peanut butter powder and/or protein powder. I personally like the peanut butter powder best since it doesn’t affect the texture and adds a nice peanuty flavor with less fat than regular peanut butter (of which there is already plenty from the hemp and chia). You can use up to 1/4 cup depending on your calorie needs, although I typically use two tablespoons. Alternatively, you can use your favorite protein powder. This is a great option if you’re allergic peanuts or using mix-ins that aren’t typically paired with peanut flavor. Don’t add more than two tablespoons though (about half a scoop), because the resulting texture will be noticeably grainy and a little strange.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

Shockingly (jokes), my go-to mix-ins are half a banana and cinnamon, which pairs nicely with my peanut butter powder. Most fruits are great for this, and it’s a good way to use frozen produce as well. Just heat the produce first and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. If you’re not a peanut butter person (weird), I’ve listed a few other varieties that are excellent with or without protein powder. I also typically stir in a little plain yogurt to add that creaminess, or just actual heavy cream when I’m feeling more decadent. You can 100% skip this if you are dairy-free, or use your favorite non-dairy substitute. Although I don’t usually add it, a teaspoon or two of maple syrup is a nice addition for the more tart berries or options like pumpkin that are not inherently sweet.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

You can easily mix together all the dry ingredients in individual portions, then just add your mix-ins and water and you’re ready to go. I like to prep mine in 8oz containers so I can use it to measure the appropriate amount of water if I’m not at home. Additionally, nix the fruit entirely (but maybe up the spices) for a camping-friendly instant porridge that just requires hot water.

Get your protein in a cozy porridge and start your morning warm and happy. Give it a try and share your favorite mix-ins in the comments!

Protein Porridge

makes one serving

Ingredients

basic porridge
1/4 cup quick oats1
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
2-4 Tbsp peanut butter powder OR 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter (optional)
2 Tbsp protein powder (optional)
6-8 oz water

2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt OR 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream (optional)
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)

flavor ideas with peanut butter
1/2 banana, mashed + 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup blueberries, mashed + 1/8 tsp cardamom

flavor ideas without peanut butter
1/2 cup peaches, mashed + 1/4 tsp cinnamon + pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree + 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut + coconut cream instead of yogurt

Directions

  1. If using fruit, mash it into the bottle of a microwaveable bowl.
  2. Add oats, seeds, peanut butter, protein powder (if using), spices of choice, and water. Stir until well combined.
  3. Microwave on high for about 2-3 minutes (2:20 in my microwave is just how I like it) OR use boiling water and let sit, covered, until thickened.
  4. Stir in yogurt and/or maple syrup, if desired.
  5. Enjoy immediately.

Notes

You can also use 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, lightly ground in a blender. I often do this method since we always have regular oatmeal on the counter for M. Also, if you are gluten-free, use certified oats to keep this recipe up to par.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

January is often a time for change; new diets, new fitness routines, new personal and professional goals. I am no exception to this rule, but this year I have a slightly different goal in mind with regards to my eating and this blog.

Off and on I’ve struggled with healthy eating, to the point that it’s been hard to feel good about eating anything that isn’t a plain vegetable. We are so inundated by “guilt-free” and “skinny” and “clean-eating” recipes that it starts to feel like every food is measured by how terrible of a person I am for eating it. This year, I’m done with that. Fat is not the enemy, carbs are not the enemy, and if I’m going to eat dessert then why the heck would I want it to be “skinny” or “light”. If you see me using these phrases here, please point them out. I know that changing my relationship with ingredients is not a one-woman task, and if you want to join me in this endeavor, I welcome all the help I can get.

In light of that, here is an extremely normal cookie recipe because if you’re going to have a cookie, have a proper cookie. (Those “skinny” recipes never work anyway, since most of the time people just eat twice as many of them.) Peanut buttery goodness complemented with the rustic flavor of oatmeal and the chocolatey crunch of peanut butter M&M’s, these are sure to please any peanut butter fan.

I’ve been making the standard peanut butter cookie recipe on the back of the Jif jar for as long as I can remember (even saving a label when my Costco started carrying Skippy instead), and it’s still one of my favorites. I usually add chocolate chips (and nix the sugar crosshatching) because nothing is better than melty chocolate and soft peanut butter cookie in one cozy mouthful. However, I also super love oatmeal cookies, and have featured a couple different ones on this site. Inspired by that flavor palate, I opted to adapt this recipe towards some oatmealy delight.

Largely the same as the original, I substituted some of the flour for some extra oatmeal mostly for texture purposes. I never pack brown sugar for cookie recipes, which I think blends nicely for the oatmeal pairing, but if you prefer a sweeter flavor then by all means pack that sugar firmly into your measuring cups.

For texture and color and always-welcomed chocolate, peanut M&M’s are a fun addition. I’ve also used peanut butter M&M’s and regular ole’ chocolate chunks, both with delicious success. Smooth peanut butter is my preference, but use chunky or add some chopped roasted peanuts if you’re in to that. Playing up the peanut flavor instead of just sugar is a nice twist on an old favorite, and it makes them great for hiking too.

Celebrate your progress towards your first month of goals, console yourself over the lack thereof, or just welcome in a new month with a batch of these cookies. Enjoying life is so much more than doing everything “right”, and a proper cookie is always a welcome lift in the day.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

Adapted from Jif
Makes about 3 dozen large cookies

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cup peanut butter (Jif or similar; I’ve never tried it with a “natural” sort)
1 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups unpacked light brown sugar
6 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

3 cups peanut M&Ms1

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine peanut butter, shortening, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat until completely combined.
  4. Add eggs and beat until just combined.
  5. Stir in flour mixture until combined. Dough should not stick to your finger if you press it; add additional flour 1/4 cup at a time if necessary.
  6. By hand, stir in M&Ms (so they don’t break.)
  7. Use a 1/4 cup cookie scoop to add balls of dough to cookie sheets (I could only fit about 8 on a pan), flattening the tops slightly.
  8. Bake 13-15 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned; remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. Store in an airtight container up to one week, or in the freezer for longer term storage.

Notes

Or any one of the following: peanut butter M&M’s, regular M&M’s, chocolate chunks, chocolate chips, roasted peanuts, etc. Mix and match to your heart’s desire.

Race Day Smoothie

About five years ago I discovered my favorite green smoothie, which I basically lived on during an extremely hot and smokey summer in Helena. I was admittedly liberal with the peanut butter and a bit light on the spinach, but overall it was a decently healthy dinner option for those days I didn’t want to eat anything warmer than ice.

Over the years I’ve lightened up my original recipe, opting for coconut or almond milk instead of cow’s and substituting PBFit peanut butter powder instead of the real deal. Peanut butter powder may sound silly, but in baking or smoothies I actually prefer it over the original. The peanut flavor is a bit more concentrated and it really lowers the amount of calories and fat. I’m not a calorie counter by any means, but it makes it much easier to create a snack-sized version while keeping all that wonderful peanut flavor.  I’ve also probably doubled the amount of spinach I use, since I’m now inclined to add it to almost anything from smoothies to soup to scrambled eggs, and it’s definitely my preferred salad base. The spinach only vaguely modifies the flavor but gives a big nutrient boost – presuming you don’t mind the crazy green color. I admit it’s a bit off-putting to the uninitiated but I’m so used to it that this smoothie without spinach now looks and tastes strange to me.

During the summer and fall I participate in tons of running events, where you have to get up stupid early in the morning in order to make it to the start line or bus pickup on time. My usual race day breakfast (or really any day breakfast) is oatmeal with banana and PBFit, but on the days it’s too hot for that I opt for this smoothie instead. They contain basically the same ingredients, with the smoothie having that extra spinach boost. It goes down much easier when it’s already 75 degrees or more, and takes just as little time to prep in the morning.

I like to pre-grind the oatmeal so there aren’t large chunks clogging up my straws, but it’s not strictly necessary if you have a really quality blender. The oatmeal not only adds some calories and makes the smoothie more filling, but I really enjoy the hearty flavor it adds to the palate. It’s not overwhelming but reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie, and is still pleasant for people who necessarily enjoy oatmeal on its own.

This smoothie tastes like a peanut butter banana milkshake but is a much healthier way to start the day. With the addition of oatmeal it sticks with you for quite a while, making it perfect for both pre-race and post-race. It’s also a pretty legit dinner for those days you’re feeling lazy or in a hurry but still want something on the healthy end of the spectrum, and your boyfriend isn’t around to insist smoothies are not a real dinner.

Race Day Smoothie
Makes one 16-20 oz smoothie

Ingredients

1/3 cup oatmeal

1 ripe banana (peeled, sliced, and frozen)2
1 – 1.5 cups coconut milk (or any unsweetened milk)
2 Tbsp PBFit
1+ cups frozen and crushed baby spinach
cinnamon, to taste

Directions

  1. Place oatmeal in blender (I like to use the single-serve size so I don’t accidentally make a gigantic smoothie) and blend until finely ground.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until completely mixed (this could take a minute or so). If it’s too thick, blend in additional milk 2 tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Enjoy immediately with a straw, a sunny day, and a good book.

Notes

1  For a lighter smoothie I just leave out the oatmeal; this is great for the days you want a lighter breakfast or a healthier snack/dessert later in the day. But for an entrée smoothie the oatmeal adds great flavor and makes it a lot more filling!

2  I typically slice mine into roughly eighths as they fit into my single-serving blender cup better that way. You can slice yours more or less to suit your needs.

I like to put a bunch in the freezer and then crush it all once it’s frozen. Then it’s really easy to measure out a cup or two for each smoothie on the fly.

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode

Ah, October. While most think of Halloween all month long, I focus on race season. Every weekend except one is taken up by a race, with this past weekend being the sole half marathon and taking place in Dallas. Unfortunately it was crazy hot and I missed my goal time by several minutes, but I did get third place in my age group and an award to boot!

I’m now in Houston and kicked off the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing which I’m superbly psyched to be attending. I do miss Bozeman’s October weather, but a whirlwind weekend with my favorite aunt for running and eating and Six Flags, followed by the inspiration of being around so many women in tech fields (plus my first time in Texas), is definitely worth skipping a few properly autumnal days.

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

Even with my disinclination towards Halloween, it does make for a great excuse to bake overly decadent treats that have no real justification. Although I’m still working on losing a few pounds and ergo drastically limiting my sugar intake, these tortes a la mode I made for my anniversary with M last Valentine’s Day are even more appropriate for the current holiday season.

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

The original recipe created a full-size dessert, but I felt a mini version was the right choice for me. Already portioned, pretty for pictures, and simpler to tote around. As a bonus, it’s also easier to give away the extras to my unsuspecting coworkers. I have included the instructions for the miniature ones, but for the full-size option simply double the recipe and use two 8″ cake pans.

Intensely chocolatey and riddled with peanut butter flavor, these tortes are drizzled with more of both because, well, why not? Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to round out the experience, it’s an immensely rich dessert and high in presentation points.

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

Fudgy chocolate cake interspersed with chopped Reese’s, the tortes on their own are a wonderful treat, made extra decadent by sandwiching a spread of peanut butter, and drizzled with a peanut butter glaze and chocolate sauce. Smooth vanilla ice cream tones down the decadence just a tad, and makes for a lovely creamy and fudgy juxtaposition. (The sauces also make great ice cream toppings on their own.)

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

For an extravagant dessert experience bring out the big guns and make these layered tortes a la mode as directed below. For maybe a slightly more tame dessert endeavor, just top each mini torte with a little peanut butter glaze and chocolate sauce, and call it a day. Whichever route you take, or perhaps a hybrid of the two, your peanut butter chocolate lovers are sure to be thrilled.

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode

Adapted from My Baking Addiction
Makes 6 or 12 servings

Ingredients

Cake
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup sugar
2 eggs

1.5 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt

5 Reese’s cups, chopped

Filling
peanut butter, heated if necessary for spreading

Glaze
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 – 4 Tbsp heavy cream

2 Tbsp prepared chocolate sauce

vanilla ice cream

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Liberally coat a mini cheesecake pan with cooking spray. (A muffin tin will also work.) If you’re using anything besides silicon or mini springform pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk melted butter and cocoa powder until completely combined.
  3. Stir in the sugar 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well between each addition (use a spatula).
  4. Repeat with eggs, 1 at a time.
  5. Add vanilla, flour, and salt, and stir until there are no streaks of flour.
  6. Fold in chopped Reese’s.
  7. Divide batter evenly between mini cheesecake (or muffin) wells, about 3 Tbsp each.
  8. Bake 18-25 minutes, until tops are matte and a toothpick comes out mostly clean, similar to brownies.
  9. Let cool completely.
  10. Run a knife around the edges of your pans and remove all cakes.
  11. Spread peanut butter on half of the cakes (I used about 1 tsp each), then top with another cake. Transfer to a platter, cake plate, or individual plates (or whatever you plan to serve from). Alternatively, for 12 smaller servings you can carefully cut each cake in half, spread peanut butter on the bottoms, and replace the tops.
  12. Whisk together additional peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 2 Tbsp heavy cream until smooth. If you want a thinner glaze, add additional heavy cream in small amounts at a time until desired consistency is reached. (If you are making 12 servings and want ample glaze, you may want to double the amounts.)
  13. Carefully top each mini cake with 1-2 tablespoons of glaze, letting it drip slightly down the sides.
  14. Drizzle with melted chocolate chips or chocolate sauce.
  15. Just before serving, top each stack with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  16. Enjoy!

Notes

I recommend you use a sweeter peanut butter like Jif or Skippy which probably doesn’t need to be heated, but if you insist on using a natural peanut butter it might need to be warmed a little in order for it to be easily spreadable.

I used homemade chocolate sauce I already had on hand; Hershey’s or similar would work great, or melted chocolate chips are always a good option. If you are concerned with presentation, I recommend putting the chocolate sauce in a piping bag and cutting off a very small tip so you have good control over your drizzle.