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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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!

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Strawberry Shortcake Casein Protein Mug Cake

Any fellow strawberry shortcake fans out there? This little dessert is a body builder in disguise, and it is virtually shame-free.  From the moist, strawberry sprinkled cake to the sweetened yogurt oozing over the top, everything in this cake is made of “clean” ingredients that will actually feed your body with what it needs to grow muscle: protein! It is the perfect post-workout snack if you had a late gym session or if you need a little guiltless pleasure when that nighttime sweet tooth creeps up on you. Since casein protein digests slowly, it will feed your muscles through the night! Bonus!

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Lately, I can’t get enough of mug cakes. Genius.

Strawberry Shortcake Casein Protein Mug Cake

Serves: 1 person

Calories per Serving: 315

Macros: 19g of Carbs

11g of Fat

35g of Protein

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 1 ½ Tbsp Coconut Flour
  • 1 Scoop Vanilla Casein Protein Powder
  • ½ tsp Baking Powder
  • Stevia, to taste
  • ¼ Cup plus 1 Tbsp Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Unsweetened Natural Apple Sauce
  • 1 Egg
  • ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Strawberry, cubed

For the Topping:

  • 2 Tbsp Nonfat Greek Yogurt (I use Fage 0%)
  • ½ Tbsp Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • ⅛ tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Stevia, to taste
  • 2-3 Strawberries, cubed
  • ½ Tbsp Unsweetened Coconut, shredded or chopped

Directions:

In a coffee mug, mix the ingredients for the cake, first dry then wet, making sure it is thoroughly blended. Mix in the cubed strawberry. Batter is relatively thick. Microwave for 3 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the topping. In a bowl, combine the greek yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, vanilla extract, and stevia. Let chill until cake is finished.

Top the mug cake with the “icing” mixture and garnish with cubed strawberries and the coconut. Enjoy!

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My Tips: 

  • When the cake finishes cooking in the microwave, let it cool for a few minutes in the mug before flipping it onto the plate. It allows it to cook a little more and really set! I also find that this makes it easier to remove it from the mug.
  • If you don’t have casein protein handy, you can substitute it for whey protein. I have not done this, but you may have to tweak the recipe a bit to get the desired consistency. In my experience, I have needed less liquid when baking with whey.

A Lifestyle to be Proud Of.

I want to tell you a little background about me, my history with health and fitness, and the biggest lesson I learned through it all: my health is much more important than my weight. I am a real person with real strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone else. We all have cellulite-free dreams of frolicking in a bikini all summer, but how we get there is another story. Losing weight does not necessarily mean that you are utilizing healthy habits.

 I think it is important to distinguish that “skinny” and “healthy” are not automatically synonymous terms.

In my case, I would say my past approach with weight loss was less than ideal, although not as harmful as others. Everyone starts somewhere, and for me, that place was average, out of shape, and entirely unhealthy.

I used to count my calories like a mad woman and adhere myself to a firm calorie-constricted diet. I would consume no more than 1200 calories a day, yet often would consume less with a sense of accomplishment and pride. It didn’t matter to me what these calories consisted of. It could have been Skinny Cow ice-cream or 100-calorie snack packs, as long as I met and did not exceed my goal of a maximum of 1200 calories that day, I was successful in my mind. “Eat Less, Move More” was my motto. I would drop weight like it was no big deal. “Oh, Spring Formal is in a month? No problem, let me just drop 10 pounds real quick.”

Yeah, the idea of losing a lot of weight really quickly sounds pretty great, but in reality, it was completely and totally unhealthy in so many ways. I was obsessed with counting calories, and it affected my social life. I would have rather saved the calories than hang out with my friends and possibly “binge.” If I ever went over 1200 calories, it was followed by feelings of defeat and guilt. Even if I exceeded my limit by eating something that was actually nutritious, like a piece of fruit or a handful of carrots, I felt like a failure. One should never feel guilty for nutritious foods. This kind of lifestyle was completely unsustainable; I couldn’t abstain from my friends and the finer things in life for the rest of my life just to be skinny!

In the end, when I couldn’t stick to it anymore for a number of reasons and would go back to living a normal life, I would gain all the weight back and then some. It was like a yo-yo weight-loss roller coaster that never ended, and it was incredibly disappointing, discouraging, and damaging to my self-esteem.

I decided I needed a lifestyle change, and it needed to be long-term and sustainable. Counting calories every day and only consuming enough to not be considered “starving” was not only impractical and unsustainable, but harmful to my health in the long-term. The short-term satisfaction of being skinny for a few weeks was not worth the long-term health hazards of living this way.

As soon as I recognized that what I was doing was unhealthy and came to terms with it, I immediately stopped counting calories and instead started acknowledging the nutritional value of what I was eating. I read labels, learned about the ingredients, and focused on health benefits instead of weight loss. The most important change that I had to make was my mindset.

Viewing your health as a lifestyle and not a diet is, in my opinion, the most important aspect to this change. As I worked on improving my mindset, I noticed incredible changes in my energy levels, clarity, and (of course) my body. The changes to my body became secondary concerns behind the multitude of health benefits that I was providing my body with! When I began to take care of my health by fueling my body with nutritious foods, the rest took care of itself, including my weight. I became increasingly more aware of what an incredible machine the human body is, and it really is quite amazing what it can do for us if we treat it right.

The lesson I learned through this process is that in order for it to be a lifestyle that you can maintain for the rest of your life, you have to have realistic expectations and goals. You don’t need to adhere to impractical restrictions like “no carbs after 3 PM” or put yourself on some liquids-only detox for days on end. It’s about creating healthy, sustainable habits that you can live with. You can start by making healthy substitutions for things you like to eat, making conscious decisions about what you are feeding your body, or quitting the calorie-counting.

Try something new, experiment, venture outside your comfort zone. Find what works for you, and make it a lifestyle that you can be proud of!

There is so much more to life than just being skinny for skinny’s sake. There is no need to sacrifice your happiness just to look great. Feed yourself healthy, nutrient dense foods, and enough of it, and the rest will take care of itself. You don’t necessarily have to “eat less,” you just have to eat right!