I spent a few days in beautiful Stowe, Vermont with my family recently.
We had a great time, and I was really looking forward to sharing some photos of our trip with you (the ones you see here are from my iPhone, but I took a few hundred more with my camera).
But then I accidentally erased them. Wiped them clean off the memory card when they hadn’t yet been backed up (obviously I erroneously thought that they had).
When it happened, I started to cry. My favorite picture I’ve ever taken of my son was in the batch. He was drinking a smoothie at the Ben and Jerry’s factory and looked so happy and handsome. All the photos of an awesome hike we did are gone, too- a hike my daughter swore up and down she absolutely could not finish because it was way too difficult but which she did in fact complete-and then smiled ear to ear at the top. The photos of the ducks in the lake at the end of the hike- the most beautiful ducks I have ever seen- gliding through the water bathed in the most perfect light ever. And lots more images I loved. All gone.
When my daughter asked why I was crying, I explained to her that the photos were my way of preserving my memories of the trip. That I needed them to remind me of all the fun we had. Of all the beautiful things we saw. “I know you like to take pictures, mom”, she said, “but you don’t really need them to remember our trip. The memories are inside you”. Of course she is right, but you can be damn sure I won’t ever make that mistake with one of my photo cards again.
What does this all have to do with walnut butter, you ask? Well in one of the shops in Stowe, there was a fantastic array of artisanal foods made in Vermont. One of the companies whose products were featured there made unique and delicious sounding nut butters, so I came home inspired to make my own.
Years ago, when I first discovered that you can make butters from all manners of nuts and seeds besides the peanut (which, after all is not even a nut…it’s a legume), I was beyond excited. Pecan butter? Macadamia butter? Pumpkin seed butter? Walnut butter? Yes, please.
I’ve never added anything “fun” to my nut/seed butters before but with all the ridiculously crazy weather we’ve been having (which limits trips to the store), I’ve been raiding my pantry. Here, I wanted to use up some dried cherries I purchased at Trader Joe’s a while back as well as some long-forgotten cacao nibs.
I really like this combination! The walnuts and cacao nibs have just a slight bitterness that is tempered by the addition of the dried cherries and the maple syrup. Don’t forget the salt- it’s just a small amount, but I think the flavor falls flat without it- and make sure to use a high quality Himalayan or sea salt for the best (and healthiest) results.
If you can’t find or don’t like cacao nibs, you can substitute some finely chopped organic dark chocolate, if you like.
Recipe for Toasted Walnut Butter with Dried Cherries and Cacao Nibs
Yield: 1 cup
It's so easy make customized nut/seed butters at home- all you need is a food processor or high speed blender (I used a Blendtec blender for this recipe).
*2 cups raw, organic walnuts, toasted in a 300 degree F oven for 20 minutes and then cooled slightly (if you have time to soak your walnuts in water overnight first, go ahead and do so...this can help make them easier to digest; if you do soak them, rinse them in clean water and pay dry before toasting them, or skip the toasting step)
*1 tablespoon toasted walnut oil (or use a different neutral oil like grapeseed)
*1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, plus more to taste
*1/4 cup unsweetened, unsulphured dried cherries, chopped (I bought mine at Trader Joe's)
*pinch or two of fine Himalayan or sea salt (start with one pinch, blend, taste, and add more if needed)
*1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs or finely chopped dark chocolate
1. Process walnuts in blender (or food processor). Add oil, if needed, to help blend them as they start to get sticky. Keep blending until the mixture smooths out (this took a few minutes in my Blendtec.
2. Add maple syrup, dried cherries, and salt, and process again. I didn't do this for long, because I wanted little chunks of dried cherries to remain. Taste and add more salt or maple syrup, if necessary.
3. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the walnut butter into a small bowl and add the cacao nibs. Mix well, then pack into a one cup glass jar for storage.
4. Store in the refrigerator and enjoy over the next couple of weeks. It's great on your favorite gluten-free or traditional toast, but it's also delicious spooned straight into one's mouth :)
More nut butter love:
Homemade Walnut Butter from Gluten Free Girl
Walnut Butter Heaven from Eat Well with Janel
Chocolate Cherry Almond Butter from How Sweet Eats
Nut Butters: Your Questions Answered from Edible Perspective