Homemade Roasted Almond Butter

Peanut butter, hazelnut butter, almond butter, you name it. I’m an extreme fan of them all, and I will lick the jar of every last one of them. But, oh, the woe that lies in the bottom of the jar.

Deep in the depths of  the nut butter jar, there lies an emptiness that we all anticipate with dread: that moment when you can’t possibly scrape anymore.

Nut butter addicts, rejoice! You can replenish your jars with almost no effort at all. All you need is a bag of nuts, a food processor, and a smidgeon of patience. Okay, maybe sometimes you need a lot of patience, but I promise that it is so worth it. 

Making your own nut butters is an easy way to cut down on the preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and extra sugars that are lurking in your food. Not to mention it just tastes so incredibly fresh! Double win.

The following is a recipe for roasted almond butter, but this process can be replicated with almost any kind of nut.

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Roasted Almond Butter

Serving Size: 1 Tbsp

Servings: approximately 32

Calories per Serving: 40

Macros: Carbs: 2g

Fat: 4g

Protein: 2g

**Serving size, calories, and macros are approximate, not exact!

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz. bag of Raw Unsalted Almonds
  • that’s it!

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes

Transfer the freshly roasted almonds to your food processor equipped with the “S” blade and set on the “LOW” grind setting.

First, they will grind down into a fine almond powder. This is the almond meal that you pay an arm and a leg for at the grocery store! Keep going to get butter.

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Keep grinding, making sure to scrape down the sides every few minutes to remove the build-up on the walls. It will get clumpier…

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As the almonds begin to gradually release their oils, it will clump even more…

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Then, you will get to a point where you think to yourself, “Is that it? Did I make almond butter?”…

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KEEP GOING! You are almost there! Wait for it, that moment when *POOF!* it turns into almond butter!

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As if by magic, you will have a smooth, creamy almond butter! If you would like, you can add a tsp of sea salt and blend it in. You can also add flavors like pure vanilla extract, cinnamon, pure maple syrup, or honey! Whatever your heart desires. Store in an airtight container, like a mason jar, and it will keep for up to 2 weeks. As if it will last that long…especially if you use it to make my Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites!

 

My Tips:

  • The time it takes for it to turn into almond butter can vary drasticallyIn other words, patience is a virtue in this process! 
  • I found that roasting the almonds beforehand decreased this time significantly. I once made a Raw Almond Butter, and it took me over an hour! One time it just never turned into butter no matter how long I processed it. When I finally tried roasting the almonds, it took me roughly half an hour. Keep in mind that I have terrible luck with nut butters, so take that with a  grain of salt. Most everyone makes them in 15 to 20 minutes, but alas! I am cursed.
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HIIT: No Frills Cardio.

Some of us love cardio and some of us shudder at the very thought. However, most of us suffer through it in the pursuit of fat loss and newfound confidence, eventually even the post-run euphoria commonly known as the “runner’s high.” And let’s be honest, a good chunk of us on are on the cardio struggle train and would prefer to rip the bandaid off as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This is where HIIT comes in to save the day!

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training; in other words, short intense workouts consisting of quick bursts of energy followed by a recovery period.

Did you read that right? “Recovery Period?!” Yeah, a good ole recovery period that is crucial to the efficacy of the workout. Sounds like my kind of workout!

The Structure of a High Intensity Interval Workout

The basic structure of an HIIT session consists of four elements:

  1. Warm-Up Period. Each session should begin with a 2-5 minute medium intensity warm-up period, which can consist of brisk walking or light to medium jogging. If you would like, you can stretch for a minute or two after your warm up to prepare yourself for the real deal, but be mindful to not rest too long before you begin your intervals. You want to keep your body warm and ready for the training session.
  2. High Intensity Interval. Follow up the warm-up with a quick burst of energy; run or sprint with maximum intensity for 20 seconds to 1 minute. Do your best and push yourself in this stage, because the length of your high intensity bursts is subjective to your personal level of fitness and ability.
  3. Recovery Period. Take a rest in the form of a brisk walk or a light jog, you deserve it! Not too long though. The ideal structure of HIIT strives for a 2:1 ratio of high intensity bursts to recovery period, meaning that you should aim to sprint for twice as long as you rest. However, if you are just starting out with this method of cardio training, you can take it easy and rest for a little longer. As you become more conditioned, you will improve and get closer to achieving the ideal.  Depending on personal abilities and time constraints, repeat steps 2 and 3 for anywhere between 10-30 minutes. Some variations of HIIT, like Tabata, only last as long as 4 minutes, and are a great place to start if you want to sample.
  4. Cool-Down. Once you finish repeating your interval circuits, it is time to cool off with a low intensity walk, wipe the sweat off your face, and have a nice stretch while you marvel at what a cardio beast you are. You’re now basically a rockstar, or at least I think you are!

Remember that every body starts somewhere, so your sprint to rest ratio will vary based on your level of cardiovascular fitness.

In the middle of your sprint intervals, when you feel like dying or giving up, remember that this method of cardio does not come without some pretty awesome benefits.

The Maximum Benefits of HIIT

Although during your workout you may be cursing cardio advocates, the benefits of HIIT are second to none. Not only are you given a fair chance to catch your breath when you have exhausted your energy output, but studies show that by raising and lowering your heart rate in intervals with High Intensity Interval Training, the effects and benefits of aerobic exercise are amplified. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Decreased concentration of adipose tissue in the body; in other words, increased and maximized fat loss.
  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Maximum results in minimal time
  • A healthier heart that works more efficiently. Love your heart, it loves you!
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Increased resting metabolic rate, meaning that you will begin to burn more calories at rest.

I guess it is safe to say that HIIT is the best bang for your buck. Why not give it a try?

HIIT the Ground Running

There are quite a few variations of High Intensity Interval Training to choose from. To get you started, here are a few basic and progressive beginner interval workouts that you can choose from based on your fitness level and what you feel is appropriate for you. They can be done on a treadmill or outside. The pace refers to the action that you should be executing, i.e. sprint or recover, and not a particular pace, because that is subjective and will vary for everyone. Refer to the intensity column to determine how much effort (again, subjective and relative to your abilities) that you should be exerting during each interval.

A 20-minute beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 6 sprint and recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

A 20-minute beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 6 sprints, long recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

When you decide that you are ready to move up a level, try this intermediary beginner’s workout that increases the amount of sprints and shortens the recovery periods within the same 20 minute workout.

A 20-minute intermediary beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 9 sprints, shorter recoveries, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

A 20-minute intermediary beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 9 sprints, shorter recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

The following HIIT circuit reaches the ideal of a 2:1 ratio between sprint intervals and recovery periods. Progress onto this workout when you feel that you are ready for more intense sprints and minimal recovery periods.

A 20-minute advanced beginner 2:1 HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 10 long sprints, and minimal recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

A 20-minute advanced beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 10 long sprints, minimal recovery cycles, and a cool-down. This workout upholds the ideal of a 2:1 sprint to recovery time ratio. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

Above all else, enjoy the process. High Intensity Interval Training is difficult and is meant to challenge you, so remember, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

 

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Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites

I used to hate bananas. The texture, the taste, the way “banana” rolled off my tongue. “Ba-na-na.” Hmph. I just simply pretended bananas didn’t exist. I left them alone, they left me alone, and all was well in the world. There was only one problem with this relationship between bananas and I: bananas are incredibly good for you and so versatile in the kitchen. Well, I have been cramping a bit during my workouts lately, and I could use a little extra energy pre-workout anyway…UGH, fine. I’ll learn to like them. But how?

Well, I love chocolate. MMM…chocolate. Yes, chocolate is nice, especially with peanut butter. Especially with anything, really. But how does this relate to learning to love bananas? WELL, let me explain it to you by using this simple equation: Chocolate+nut butter+banana=NOM. It’s simple really. Eventually you may even be able to subtract the chocolate, divide by the nut butter, and…just get a banana. It’s a novel idea.

That is how I did it. I utilized this cutting-edge, break-through approach of just eating a lot of bananas until I liked them. And it worked. Bananas and I are now close friends, and I suggest you include more of them into your diet. Except I will never recommend eating a banana whilst taking a hot bath. I tested that one out for you all, and trust me, it just isn’t a good idea.

Chocolate, nut butter, and banana all together in delicious harmony, however, is always a good idea. And with that, I present to you: Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites.

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Yeah, that just happened. And they were every bit as good as they sound. Did I mention that they are totally healthy? Yes, they are also that. So, what aren’t these little guys? Existent, because I ate them ALL.

Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites

Serving Size: 1 Banana Bite

Serves: as many people as you are willing (or not willing) to share with.

Calories per Serving: 105

Macros: Carbs: 4g

Fat: 10g

Protein: 2g

**Serving size, calories, and macros are approximate, not exact!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Banana
  • All Natural Nut Butter (I used homemade roasted almond butter)
  • ¼ cup Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Cacao Powder
  • Stevia, to taste.* (see note under “My Tips.”)
  • 1.5 Tbsp Unsweetened Coconut Shavings

Directions:

Peel the banana and slice it into ½ inch thick segments. Top each segment with approximately 1 tsp nut butter. Place banana pieces on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate coating. In a bowl, combine the coconut oil, cacao powder, and stevia (to taste). Mix thoroughly, making sure to break up any chunks of cacao powder. Set aside.

Remove banana slices from the freezer and carefully coat each one in the chocolate mixture. Place banana bite back on the cookie sheet to allow it to harden while you coat the others. Repeat this step, coating each banana bite twice. After the second coating, dip the top in unsweetened coconut shavings. Place cookie sheet with chocolate covered banana bites back into the freezer and freeze for another 30 minutes.

Enjoy these delectable little bites frozen, or let them thaw out in the fridge for a few minutes! The banana gets nice and oozy-gooey, and it is just too good to pass up.

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My Tips:

  • *There are many different kinds of stevia products out there on the market like liquid extract, powdered extracts, and stevia in the raw. Each varies in strength. Because of this, there is no exact measurement for the amount of stevia that you should use. Just sweeten the chocolate to your preferred level of sweetness using whichever product you have!
  • If you do not like stevia, or you do not have any, use a natural sweetener like honey or 100% pure maple syrup.
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Chilled Cucumber Melon Summer Soup

In the heat of a hot summer day, I think we can all agree that we would give just about anything for a chilled refreshment. Ice water, iced tea, lemonade, you name it. All these things can be considered summer essentials. I like to try new things, so this summer I finally tried something new that used to throw me for a loop: chilled soup. Every hip and trendy restaurant in town was serving it, and I thought, “Hey, I’m cool too!.” So, in an effort to prove how hip and trendy I was, I gave it a little taste. Just a small bite at first to see what I was getting myself into. Then I face planted into my bowl.

It was so refreshing and crisp, simple and satisfying. Now I can’t imagine summertime without it. A summer without chilled soup is no summer at all!

Next thing I knew, I was dreaming up ideas and combining flavors in my head that made my mouth water with anticipation.

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First up in the batting order we have a simple Chilled Cucumber Melon Summer Soup, a sweet combination of cucumber, watermelon, and tangy lemon that is crisp and delightful during the afternoon heat! This one quickly found itself a permanent home on my summer essentials list.

Chilled Cucumber Melon Summer Soup

Serving Size: 1 ½ Cups

Serves: 4

Calories per Serving: 35

Macros: 2g Carbs

0g Fat

2g Protein

**Serving sizes, calories, and macros are approximate!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and sliced.
  • ½ a small Watermelon, cubed.
  • Juice of half of a Lemon
  • ¼ tsp Sea Salt

Garnishes:

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Fresh Mint
  • Fresh Cilantro

Directions:

Combine the cucumber slices, watermelon cubes, lemon juice, and salt in your food processor and blend until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with a tablespoon of greek yogurt and chopped mint and cilantro.

Enjoy!

gazpacho

 

 

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“Diet” is a Dirty Word

With just a click of your trusty mouse, you can read weight-loss column after diet column, but leave yourself feeling confused, frustrated, and unmotivated. Are they telling you the truth, or is this just a plug for the “next-best” gimmicky product? There are so many conflicting ideas out there, and it can be difficult to navigate the waterways to find an approach that is suitable for you and your weight loss goals.

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What works for one person may not be the most effective and enjoyable for you. We are not clones, and we sure as heck are not birds and therefore do not need to eat like one.

Most of these columns fail to mention that it is not just the foods that we are consuming, but more importantly our lifestyle. Simply put, if it doesn’t stick, it doesn’t last. Nobody tells you that once you finish the “miracle diet,” the chances of you gaining the weight back are incredibly high. The cause of this is really quite simple. Crash diets help you lose weight quickly in the short term, but it takes a change in lifestyle for permanent, long term results.

Whenever I hear the word “diet,” I cringe. It evokes feelings of restriction, starvation, and dissatisfaction. You “can’t” have this, you “can’t” have that. The women in commercials that are selling these “diet” products with a huge smile on their faces as they jump into crystal clear water in their itty-bitty bikinis forget to mention that they are also starving and nutrient depleted. They twirl around in their bright-colored sundresses, hair down with not a care in the world, selling the idea that “eating less is a beautiful thing.” There is something wrong with this picture.

The best bit of advice that I can throw into the mix is to throw the word “diet” out the door! Forget the word ever existed. It brings nothing but heartache. “Diet” is a dirty, dirty word ranked right on up there with the b-word and f-word. It should never cross your mind, let alone your lips. It should be replaced with a much more pleasant, holistic word: nutrition.

There is no magic pill, no revolutionary diet bar, and no gimmick that can do for you what proper nutrition and regular exercise can.

This means that reaching your weight loss goals is easier than you think. It isn’t as complicated as these companies want you to believe. It is as simple as finding fresh, whole foods that you enjoy, and consuming them regularly to your heart’s content. Dive into the realm of natural food with the knowledge that your body is benefitting from each bite. Shift from the concept of “restriction” to the idea of “exploration” of fresh cuisine. Treat yourself every once and awhile, because restriction never boasted long term fulfillment. Find that balance between fresh food and indulgence that works best for you and keeps you feeling satisfied. Be happy. In the end, it is the development and establishment of healthy habits that determines the longterm results.

As much as exercise can appear to be monotonous and boring to the untrained eye, it can be quite the opposite. Try something new and switch up your exercise routine to keep yourself interested and your body guessing. Maybe you train for a half marathon or take a Zumba class one week and Pilates the next. Get involved in activities that build your confidence. Focus on improvement, not perfection. Everyone starts somewhere, so just know that with each attempt and every drop of sweat, you are changing your life, and therefore your body, for the better.

Above all, do what makes you happy. A healthy mind is a healthy body.

 

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