Mixed Nut & Seed Butter

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Today, I’m feeling nutty . . . and maybe a bit seedy too.  Perfect for sharing my friend Laurel’s recipe for protein-packed Mixed Nut & Seed Butter. This recipe blends nuts (cashew, almonds, walnuts and pecans) and seeds (pumpkin and sunflower).  The resulting butter is as creamy and smooth as any you’d find in a jar of Jif and yet does nutritional cartwheels around peanut butter.

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What’s with the Nut Butter Craze?

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up there was exactly ONE nut butter - peanut butter. Today, the store shelf is stocked with at least a half dozen options. Why? I attribute the explosion in nut butters to three main causes:

1. Peanut Butter is an Allergenic Food

As I wrote about in my Ants on a Rainbow Log post, peanuts are in the Top 8 Major Food Allergens and are required by law to be called out on ingredient labels.  Awareness of peanut allergies led many schools to adopt nut-free policies which in turn led to a lot of moms looking for non-peanut spreads for their kids’ sandwiches.  Soynut butter and sunflower seed butter are often the top recommendations by nut-free schools.

Even if you’re not allergic to peanuts, they are not a particularly health-building food. In fact, peanuts can be a host for fungus, bacteria, and mold. One type of mold peanuts commonly carry is aflatoxin, which is a carcinogen (promotes the formation of cancer).  These are all great reasons to make a different nut or seed butter your new standby for PB&Js.


2. We Got Over Our Fat Phobia

In the 1950s, scientists hypothesized that dietary fat was to blame for the skyrocketing rate of heart disease in the US. In particularly, scientists blamed saturated fat due to its ability to raise cholesterol.  This belief became institutionalized before it was ever proven and led to an unprecedented human experiment: the low fat diet.

Beginning in the 1970s, Americans adopted the low-fat, high carb diet (remember the USDA food pyramid?). During that time:

  • Obesity rates rose from 1 in 7 in 1961 to 1 in 3 in 2000, and

  • A huge study tracked 49,000 women following the low-fat diet for 10 years. There was no reduction in risk of heart disease or cancer.

While it took a long while to turn the slow-moving boat of public policy around, we are now safely in the post-low-fat diet era.  Thank goodness!

The low-fat diet hypothesis was wrong.
  • Today, even the USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines does not encourage a low-fat diet. In fact, its healthy eating style examples can contain up to 35% of total calories per day from fat.  

  • Good fats (like monounsaturated fats) are shown to protect the heart! Nuts and seeds are loaded with these.

Want to learn more about the role of fats in our diets?  This book is a fascinating read.



3. Protein Powered Living
Not only are we now on the Good Fats Fuel Us train, but we understand the critical importance of protein. Diets such as Atkins and Paleo go whole hog (pun intended) on protein. Even if you follow a more middle fo the road balanced diet, chances are you try to up your protein intake.

How Much? Protein needs vary by person, based largely upon age and activity level. To keep it simple, a good goal is 80 grams of protein per day for an adult. And, it’s not something you wan to skimp on folks!

Roles of protein in your health:

  • Building block of muscles, tendons, skin, and organs

  • Needed to produce enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and more

  • Aids in weight loss

  • Prevents weight gain

  • Maintains and builds strength

And what’s a convenient, portable way to eat protein? Not to mention an easy way to get kids to eat good fats? Nut Butter!

Protein Hack: Pumpkin Seeds! Just 1 ounce - about two handfuls - gets you 5 grams of protein, easy peasy.
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Store Bought Nut Butter Shoppers Guide

Don’t have time to make nut butter? I totally get it.  But don’t let your busy schedule stop you from enjoying nut/seed butters which can be a very healthy food. But beware!  Many brands of nut and seed butters are riddled with crap ingredients.

Here’s what to look for in a nut butter:

  • The ingredients should include just the nut or seed (for example, almonds).  Maybe a bit of sea salt.

  • For nut and seed butters, organic is preferable but not a deal killer.

  • For soynut butter, only buy organic or non-GMO.

Here’s what to avoid in a nut butter:

  • Added unhealthy oils (often palm oil)

  • Added sugars (often cane sugar or cane syrup)

  • Preservatives other than sea salt (often they have mysterious sounding names like mixed tocopherols)

Do you have trouble digesting nuts and seeds?  For many people, soaking or even sprouting them prior to eating makes a world of difference.

What To Do with 4 Cups of Nut & Seed Butter

Honestly, my bigger problem when I make this recipe is to NOT eat two jars of this stuff in a week! However, in case you need them, here are some ideas and tips for how to use it up:

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  • Cut end-of-the-day sugar cravings - instead of reaching for a sweet treat at the end of the day, try eating a tablespoon of Mixed Nut & Seed Butter.  The combination of good fats and protein can decrease sugar cravings by giving your body a slow burning fuel source (what it really needs) to power through those last few hours of the day.

  • My favorite snack - apple slices smeared with Mixed Nut & Seed Butter. Maybe add a dusting of cinnamon or a sprinkle of chia seeds for an additional good fat - Omega-3s. It’s also great on bananas and rice cakes.

  • My kids’ favorite snack - same as above, but add raisins and unsweetened coconut too.

  • As an ingredient - in other recipes like Creamy Pumpkin Gluten-Free Noodles, Paleo Banana Zucchini Muffins and Blueberry Almond Butter Smoothie.

  • Upgrade to your ‘ole PB&J sammy!

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Mixed Nut & Seed Butter

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Be sure to buy raw nuts and seeds.  We will toast them immediately before making the Nut & Seed Butter to bring out the natural oils and flavor.  If you prefer to roll raw, feel free to skip the roasting step.

The addition of coconut oil is to lubricate the grinding process whether you use a Food Processor or High Speed Blender. I also think it gives the finished Nut & Seed Butter a silky texture. However, the recipe works fine without it if coconut oil isn’t your fav.

Yield: about 4 cups

Total Time: 27 minutes or 40 minutes, depending on grinding method

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw cashews

  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

  • 1 cup pecans

  • 1 cup walnuts

  • 1 cup almonds

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (optional)

Directions:

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  • Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

  • Pour the cashews, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds onto one rimmed baking sheet and spread in a single layer.  Pour the pecans, walnuts and almonds onto a second sheet.

  • Place both baking sheets in the oven.  Remove the one with cashews and seeds after 10 minutes.  The seeds will appear golden brown.

  • Remove the sheet with the nuts after 13 minutes.  The nuts will appear slightly more golden and the walnuts will have an oily sheen.

  • Allow all the nuts and seeds to cool for 10 minutes.

  • To Grind in a Food Processor:
    Add the now cool nuts and seeds along with the coconut oil (if using) and sea salt in the bowl of the food processor.  Turn on and allow to run for 15 minutes. You can scrape down the sides from time to time. Or not. It will work either way.  The butter is done when it is completely smooth and has a glassy sheen.

  • To Grind in a High Speed Blender:
    Place the coconut oil (if using) into the blender container.  Carefully pour the now cool nuts and seeds in along with the sea salt.  Immediately turn the blender to its highest high setting for 1-2 minutes.  Hold on tight, it’s going to be a loud and bumpy ride! Use the tamper stick to continuously push down.  The butter is done when it is completely smooth, begins to swirl freely in the blades, and has a glassy sheen.  

Not getting a smooth consistency?  Try adding some oil, one tablespoon at a time.  Olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil would all work flavor-wise.
  • To Grind in a Regular Blender:
    Um, don’t do it.  Seriously, you won’t end up with anything resembling nut butter and there’s a high probability your blender’s margarita days will be over. 

  • Transfer to two pint sized jars and allow to cool on the counter.  Keep refrigerated and use within 1 month. Can also be frozen for up to 6 months.

That’s it! Please leave me a comment and let me know how this recipe works for you and how you think Mixed Nut & Seed Butter stands up to others you have made or purchased.

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#ReverseAngle: My kitchen buddy. Rarely am I cooking in the kitchen alone. Today, Jackson decided to sautée purple carrots and spinach in his own little cast iron pan. Dinner of pork green chile stew was also in the works!

RecipesLaura McCall