Well now, how has everyone’s 2015 so far? I hope it’s been fantastic, because I have never been more excited for a new year in my life. Why, you might ask? Well, because for the first time ever I am allowing myself to be exited about it. Rather than dread another year and what it could possibly throw at me this time, I am going to be open and receptive to all the new beginnings it might hold for me. Want to ride along?
Now I can’t share every new beginning with you. After all, Cork and Spoon is a food and drink blog. Soooo, you may not see my latest jewelry pieces, hear my current running play-list, or see my newborn niece’s photo-shoot, but you will see any tummy yummy goodies inspired by those experiences. Just to warn you, though, all experiences are fair game: good or bad. After all, they both teach us something. My own bad experiences over the past two years have taught me that creativity has healing powers, that it can be the spark that ignites the flame which lights the way out of the darkest pit.
In conjunction with honoring my creative side, another spark for me has been my running. As you may recall, I completed my first race (a half-marathon!) last spring. Well, I’m training for my next one, which is just over a month away. Besides the various runs and exercises loaded up in a runner’s training plan, another important piece is the “fuel plan” as I call it: how you plan to fuel your training and your run. For example, once you start getting into Long Runs, meaning a run that lasts longer than an hour, you not only need to make sure the tank’s full when you start, but you’re going to have to re-fuel mid run. It’s better to learn what works with your body during training rather than find out on race day that coffee gives your the runs or a certain gel gives you heartburn. Needless to say, it’s a pretty good idea to incorporate your race day breakfast and any pre-race snacks and hydration into your training plan. For me, my race day and Long Run day breakfast has become a bagel (preferably the latest Thomas’ Bagel limited edition flavor) and creamy almond butter.
Mmmmmm, almond butter. I mean, I love peanut butter, too, but after making the switch I don’t think I’ll go back except as a treat (Reeses anyone?). Mostly, I do prefer the flavor, but nutritionally almond butter has just a little bit of a leg up over peanut butter, especially for runners, athletes, and other highly active people. In addition to having significantly greater levels of the anti-oxidant Vitamin E, almond butter also provides magnesium (supports muscle functions and energy production…and is said to help migraines!) as well as iron (necessary for producing hemoglobin and myoglobin, which are essential for the carrying of oxygen the body). Not to mention almonds are going to be easier on your body on race day. Almonds are actual nuts, while peanuts are legumes…you know…like beans…yeah, chili will not be anywhere on my plate until after the race. Did I mention my next half marathon is in Texas??
Now what really bites is that almond butter is typically, at it’s cheapest, twice the cost of peanut butter. That’s why when my beautiful chartreuse Blendtec (a birthday present to myself) arrived a couple of weeks ago, I already had homemade almond butter on my “to-make” list. Since my favorite almond butter is Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, I decided I wanted to make something similar and it would be a great way to use my maple sugar, which I don’t get to use very often (It’s pricey, so I use it for special recipes). I also decided to use coconut oil instead of grapeseed oil for two reasons. First, it added a little sweetness without more sugar. Second, it’s winter.
Who in the northern hemisphere isn’t craving a warm beach right now? Lol!
Happy New Year, friends!
Homemade Maple Coconut Almond Butter
Makes appx. 7 ounces (0.875 cups)
- 1 ½ cups raw almonds
- 4 tablespoons maple sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt (fine not coarse)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted for better results, but room temperature is fine).
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
Tip: To adjust for increased creaminess, add mild flavored oil, such as canola or grapeseed, beginning with 1 teaspoon and increasing until blended almond butter reaches desired creaminess.
- Pre-heat oven to 170°F.
- Spread almonds evenly on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, tossing almonds halfway through for even roasting. If needed, allow almonds to cool enough for handling, but make sure they are still warm.
- Pour warm almonds into your mixer jar or food processor bowl.
- Pulse almonds until pulverized into almond meal. Note: Professional grade blenders such as Vitamixes and Blendtecs don’t really need this step, but for less powerful appliances, better safe than blowing out your motor.
- Starting on a low speed and blend almond meal for 15 seconds.
- Increase to a high speed for 30-60 seconds, or until you hear the blade moving freely,i.e. your almond butter is stuck to the sides of the jar/bowl and no longer getting pulverized by the blade.
- Stop blender or food processor and use a rubber spatula to scrape the almond butter back into center of jar/bowl.
- Add coconut oil once the almond meals begins to form a paste.
- Repeat the blend then scrape cycle until almond butter begins to flow freely over the blades. Note: Your appliance’s motor should sound low, as if it’s working to churn that sticky butter. Remember to keep a watch on your appliance’s motor. If the machine gets too warm, stop the process and allow the motor to cool down.
- Add maple sugar and salt to the almond butter, as well as maple syrup and any additional oil for creaminess if using these options.
- Blend 30-60 seconds on high. Repeat as necessary to reach desired creaminess.
- Refrigerate almond butter in an airtight container for up to two weeks.