Monday, October 15, 2007

The Nut Butter Post (and it's a long one!)

As a mom, when I introduced nut butters to our daughters, I soon realized that they didn't like the sticky texture much. Whole nuts weren't much of an option (choking hazards), unless of course I ground them and added them to different foods.

So, I got a little sneaky with nut butters. I'm going to share a few tips with you - and these are good for everyone - not just if you have kidlets. Some of these tricks can help you add these protein and nutrient-rich butters to your meals.

What are nut butters? Most of us know, they are like peanut butter, but made with nuts instead of peanuts. And, they are natural. If you are still buying Skippy peanut butter: stop! Go to the natural foods aisle of your store and get natural, organic peanut butters. They do not have any additives, hydrogenated oils, or sugars. Just peanuts... and with nut butters, they are just nuts (and sometimes nut oils are added). You can find almond, cashew, hazelnut, and macadamia nut butters. I understand there are even pistachio and brazil nut butters, but I haven't seen them here in Canada. Then, there are seed butters. Again, like nut butters but made with seeds. Here we have things like pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter, hemp seed nut butter, and sesame seed butter (tahini).

Now, since nut butters are generally not allowed in school (though seed butters usually are; more on that later), I normally give our girls a breakfast with some type of nut butter included. Oatmeal is one of their favorite. You can use instant oatmeal, or make your own from quick or rolled oats, or using other grains like barley flakes, brown rice cereal, cream of wheat... any hot cereal/porridge type of deal. The key is to have a thick, hot cereal. Then, take a big spoonful of nut butter and stir through while hot, as shown. It will melt into the hot cereal... this was a beauty trick for me, as I said when the girls didn't like the stickiness of nut butters. Then, you can add a sprinkle of cinnamon, chopped fruit like apples, strawberries, or pears, and some non-dairy milk... which will help to cool the hot cereal. If you need to sweeten it, use vanilla non-dairy milk, or some agave nectar or maple syrup. You can vary this basic oatmeal enough with different nut butters (cashew, almond, macadamia nut) and fruits/dried fruits to keep your lil' monkeys happy.

Another breakfast idea I posted about a loooong time ago. This is also a regular in our homes. I always buy the Lifestream Waffles, and lately I've been buying the hemp variety, just because it has a higher protein content than some of the other flavors. So, toast up those babies, slather with nut butter... then, this what the kiddos love... put a big mound of unsweetened (organic) applesauce on top. Kids love applesauce, and it also 'softens' the waffle for them - you know, makes it a bit mushy after ten or so minutes. Just what they like! Add a drizzle of agave if you like, and fresh fruit on the side. Their tummies will be filled and their brains fueled.

We all know to make nut butter sandwiches. I make them often, and sometimes I make quesadillas. I do a version in ED&BV, called Peanut Banana Tortilla Turnovers, and you can serve them with the Molassa-sauce if you like. This particular day, I used almond butter instead of peanut butter, and fresh strawberries instead of bananas... and I gave the girls soy yogurt for dipping. Again, kids love to dip!

As with my last post on smoothies, a super nutritious quick-fix is to add a dollop of nut butter to your smoothies. This is especially good in creamy smoothies made with frozen bananas and non-dairy milks (and you can still add the kale!) Almond and cashew butters are delicious, and even a small amount of hemp nut butter (on its own or in combination with other butters) is tasty.

Another thing I do is mix cashew butter with some Goddess Dressing into leftover pasta. Yup. The girls love it. If you have leftover noodles of any time sitting in the fridge, first add to a bowl and pour boiling water over the noodles to reheat and soften. Let sit for 5 or so minutes. Drain off all the water, and then gently stir in some cashew butter. You can add a dab of tahini too if you like. Then, add in some Goddess Dressing (and a touch of ketchup or agave to sweeten if you like). Don't add too much nut butter that it will be super sticky, just a spoonful or so to make a thick type of sauce. Now, if you want to throw some grated or diced veggies into the pasta, or frozen corn kernels or greens peas (again, first warmed in boiling water, and then drained)... do so! Add what veg your little guy or gal likes to eat.

Back to the seed butters. At our daughter's school, peanuts and nuts are not allowed, but seeds are. So, I make her seed butter sandwiches. Here's the thing, though, guys: seed butters are not as naturally sweet as nut butters. They have an inherent earthiness and sometimes bitterness. Tahini is particularly bitter, so I just don't use it for sandwiches. But, I do use sunflower butter and hemp seed nut butter. What you need to do is add some extra flavor. After spreading on the seed butter, sprinkle on some cinnamon, then add your jam or some agave nectar. You can even stir some agave/cinnamon into the jars of hemp or sunflower butter in advance to flavor them in advance. And if you send you kiddo to school with these, make sure you tell them and/or their teacher that these sandwiches might look like pb&j, but they are sb&j. :)

Note that some nut and seed butters are 'raw', and others are not. Raw nut butters will definitely be labeled as such. I now prefer raw almond butter to the roasted almond butter, as an example, but use what you like. Remember, the vegan palate develops over time, so while you may not like some nut/seed butters now, you may come to appreciate them later.

Go on my nutty crew and get cooking, baking, whizzing, stirring, or just sticking a big spoon in that jar of your favorite nut butter and enjoying all on its own! (and if you have any sneaky mama tips to share with other readers, please do!)


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

thanks to you, Dreena, I'm super keen on hempseed butter (check out my most recent post - I created some Carob-Hemp Squares, which is a rendition of your Chocolate-Hemp Squares from Vive); and I also loooove mixing almond butter into oatmeal (another crafty suggestion from your emails!), purèeing almond-butter with a banana to make a pudding-sauce for waffles (I love the Lifestream Flax waffles, and the hemp ones are delicious as well); and peanut butter is wonderful for making a peanut-sauce for stir-fry dishes and such.

I FINALLY received my copy of ED&BV in the mail, and have already made some recipes from it (all hits!! yay!!); and I definitely plan on making the Peanut Banana Tortilla Turnovers, as well as some of the other nut-based cookies and other recipes.

Wonderful nut-post, Dreena!! and thank you for all of your helpful tips and information, as always!! :0)

Teresa said...

Thanks for all the great information Dreena. Luckily I love nut butter, particularly raw almond butter. I recently tried cashew butter too and it's great. I've been using tahini in sauces and hummus of course, but I'm now slowly developing a taste for it as a plain spread on things like wraps.

I still have yet to try hemp seed butter- but I think I'm going to have to buy some. I like your idea of sb&j sandwiches and will definitely be trying that out. How about seed butter in smoothies?

Vegan_Noodle said...

What a wonderful post!! I love nut butters and seed butters. Never had hemp seed butter, that's something I'll have to try! How sneaky of you to use seed butters as a sub for pb!! Thanks for the tips :-)

urban vegan said...

Nut butters are such a staple at my place. Cashew, Almond, Peanut, Sunflower, Tahini--I can barely close my refrigerator door!

bazu said...

Mmmmm, I can't get enough cashew butter, almond butter, and even plain ol' peanut butter. I love making peanut sauce for noodles using it. But I haven't tried too many seed butters other than tahini. What am I waiting for??

Anonymous said...

One of my fav recipes so far has been the PB Tortilla Turnovers...they are just so simple and delicious!! I'll have to try the strawberry/almond butter version though and those waffles. It's so funny because everything you talk about that's "kid-friendly" I know I'll love :)

Michelle.S said...

Great post Dreena! Love my cashew butter, but i should branch out. I used hemp seed butter before too.

Breaking news -I was tired of waititng for Amazon to ship me my 2 pre-ordered copies of EDBV so i called to say that I am ready to cancel my order and get them from My friend, the Veggie Vixen, received hers from Chapters ages ago and i have been feeling quite envious! anyway, now they are shipping them tomorrow but he said they weren't scheduled to go out until the 30th! gasp. how dare they keep Dreena fans and their copies of EDBV apart?!

Anonymous said...

I love nut butters. My daughter loves nut butters. Unfortunatly my son will not eat them. Or sandwiches of any kind. Or dips. Or anything mixed in with anything else. (He has sensory integration issues which have been resolved with everything but food). I know that if he would try these things he would love them but I am at a loss. He won't drink smoothies, either so I can't even sneak those nut butters in! Any ideas?
We had potato squashers tonight and everyone loved them! I think I may like them better than lemon rosemary potatoes. Yum, yum!

The Little Mama said...

Great post! We have an extensive nut/ seed butter section in our fridge. :)
Btw, I am loving ED&BV! Good work, Dreena!

Anonymous said...

Almond butter is one of my favourite toppings for oatmeal of all time. My family always looks at me oddly though.

I'm not so big on the seed butters, I'm thinking I'll have to try your sweetening suggestions.

wingraclaire said...

Thanks, Dreena, for the great and informative post. I generally take an sb&j sandwich to school every day.... I'm the teacher! Because of severe nut and peanut allergies, we are a nut-free classroom. Please be sure to read labels when purchasing your sunflower butter, because unless it specifies that it has not been made in a nut- and peanut-free facility, you are sort of defeating the purpose. Sungold is an approved brand, which is too bad, because organic varieties I've seen have not been made in a peanut -free plant. Oh well...

In my family we do the spoonful of nut butter in our hot cereal too, and it's a great way to use it.

kaivegan said...

You've got some really great ideas here, Dreena!

I don't have to be creative with cashew butter, since my kids prefer it over pb, but I am so trying your wonderful suggestions (or commands, lol).


Judy said...

What a great post Dreena. I love the quesadilla idea.

Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan! said...

I love this post!

I'm so intrigued by the cashew butter/Goddess Dressing/pasta idea. This is a combo I'd not have dreamed up in a million years but it sounds like something I now must try!

Thanks, Dreena!
ps- those Spicoli Burgers are my new fave burger of all time. Soooooo yummy!

Susan said...

I have to ask--why aren't nuts allowed in your daughter's school?

Anonymous said...

Hello, Dreena! I wanted to let you know that I bought ED&BV this weekend in my local Borders store. You must be proud - it is a beautiful cookbook! I just can't decide which cookies I want to bake first... I'm having a little Halloween party in one of my university classes & I want to expose some non-vegans to the wonderfulness of animal-free cookies!

- Robin

Peace, Love and Veganism said...

Loved this post!! I've been loving your Nicer Krispie Squares with nut butter, and this past week I think everything I made had peanut butter in it, including my favorite new supper dish: African Pineapple Peanut Stew! I can't get enough :) Next week, I plan on making a sunflower seed spread/dip for lunch. Great to know that seed butters are ok!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh my Dreena you've outdone yourself with the Thai Chick-Un Pizza. Hubby said it was outstanding. I agree!
The Veggie Vixen
P.S. The Tamari-Rosted Chickpeas are awesome, especially next to hash browns on a Sunday morning. :-)

angela said...

Hi Dreena - thanks for the hints about nut butters - I do the quesadilla one myself - but being myself, I call it Elvis Fu Young - which delights my daughter - of course she does seem to eat things with ridiculous names more readily than without. And thanks for the kale hint - I had tried kale smoothie before but had not pureed it enough - this time, I added it with the banana to my regular smoothie & treated it like a roux - not adding much liquid until it was good & gone. I could not even tell it was full of kale. Now to work on sneaking nut butters into cereals - she can't have oats or wheat & isn't fond of amaranth or quinoa - hmmm...

Dreena said...

hey guys, glad some of these nutty tips were useful to you... and thanks for the early feedback on ED&BV too!!

veggiegirl, it's great you are liking hemp butter. It's a great addition to nut butters in our diet, and for some it takes a little getting used to... not too much for you, which is great.

Teresa, the only seed butter I've tried in a smoothie is hemp nut butter. Not sure if the others would overpower the smoothie - worth trying sunflower maybe, in a small amount. Have you ever used them in smoothies?

ha, Julie, come have lunch with us then! You can have all the dips and kid-happy food you like. :)

Michelle d., that's a bummer! boooo on both amazon and chapters making you wait. :( Just not cool. I'll be posting another recipe today, maybe that will help hold you over. Your book will certainly be your Halloween 'treat', then!

mom2wilmo, definitely not easy, wow. I'm not sure what to suggest to help you since I can sense that you have tried just about everything. What are his favorite foods? Does he like pancakes, for instance? Would he try having "a pancake tower" - making smaller pancakes and layering with some bananas and nut butter in between? Does it help to make an open face nut butter sandwich and then do a happy face with jam? What about trying the Creamy Cashew Dip, so he can dip his fave fruits in it - or use it as a 'sauce'. Just some ideas... and I send you luck!

Vegmomma, thank you much! :)

Wingraclaire, thanks for that tip - it's a great one.

Kai!!!!!!! Blast from the blogging past!! :) How great to hear from you again - yay! I prefer cashew butter over pb too. I think some people are pb lovers - I like it, but for sure almond butter and cashew butter are often more appealing to me.

DGMGV, yeah, it sounds kinda funky, but it works. I started mixing tahini with Goddess Dressing, which is also good (and since Goddess Dressing is tahini-based, it's a natural match). But, the kids find tahini bitter, so I added cashew butter - and they loved that! I'm sure you'll find some creative ways to make it really sing for adults too. :) And RAD on the spicoli burgers - I'm stoked you dig 'em!

Susan, there is normally a nut-free policy because of allergies. And though peanuts are different from tree nuts like cashews, etc (peanuts are a legume), most schools have a peanut-free policy and also a nut-free policy. Some children have serious (even life-threatening) peanut and nut allergies these days, it's a bit scary.

Robin, thank you. I do love the whole look of the book (and the recipes too), so I'm glad you love it too!!

Yay veggie vixen!! Thanks for that, and hoo-ahh when hubby loves it too, right?! :)

aimee said...

Dreena...thanks for the great advice about sweetening the seed butters. They are still a little too bitter for me (I'm still evolving!). And...I tried Kale in my smoothie this morning! What a great addition. Although I'll admit my family looked at me a little strangely! I felt so virtuous I think I'll do it again tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

So many wonderful "butters" to try, so little time! I seem to be stalled on the raw almond butter (holding onto the "raw" one for as long as I can, sigh) and cashew butter. I may have to branch out now.