Pickles + Nut Butter [Things I Don't Buy Anymore]

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TGIF! I hope you’re staying cool wherever you are- we are certainly having a heat wave here in Maryland! I’m all for hot weather, but anything over about 90˚ is where I draw the line. The temperature has been hanging out 100˚ for what seems like forever- but fortunately the forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-80s all of next week! I will be really happy to escape the excessive heat (and humidity!) very soon!

I’m really looking forward to this weekend- I have some really fun stuff planned! I’ll be wrapping up my Friday teaching my Spinning and Bodypump classes later this afternoon, and come home to our weekly pizza night afterwards. I usually take a rest day on Saturday, but volunteered to cover the 8am Spinning class (let’s face it- I need the money!) and then will be celebrating Ashley’s wedding in the afternoon/evening! I’m so excited, and can’t believe it’s finally here! On Sunday I teach Spin class in the morning (again!) and then have one last Bodypump practice session (before the launch!) with some of the other instructors in the afternoon. After that, I’m meeting up with my friend Krista to see MAGIC MIKE. :)

Whew!

Ever since school ended, and I’ve had a bit more time on my hands, I’ve found myself making more things in the kitchen. I have had a “to do” list for simple recipes forever- things that I just didn’t make time for during the school year- and I’ve been tackling it one by one. And from that list there are two things that I’ve become slightly obsessed with making: pickles and nut butter. And no, I don’t eat them together (although I did know a girl in elementary school that would each pickle + peanut butter sandwiches!).

It all started when I bought some pickling cucumbers at the farmers market last month. Look how cute they are!

We are big pickle fans in my house, so I figured that making my own pickles would be a great idea. I remembered that I had pinned a pickle recipe from Ashley’s blog and used her “Simply Pickled” recipe to make my first batch. I was so excited to see how that first batch turned out- I couldn’t even wait a day to try them! Even after a few hours, the cucumbers started to “pickle,” and kept getting better as the days went on.

I’ve tried a few of the other recipes from Ashley’s pickle post, and am completely stocked up on all sorts of pickling spices. I’m also excited to try pickling some other vegetables like green beans, cauliflower, onions… maybe even broccoli!

As I said above, I’ve also had an obsession with making nut butter recently. I’ve been making my own peanut butter for a while now- it’s easy to do and you can’t really mess it up. I usually just throw a few cups in the Vitamix and let it go. It literally takes less than 2 minutes to make! As much as I love peanut butter, it’s not my favorite of the nut butter varieties- that title goes to almond butter.

I had tried making almond butter several times in the past, and just couldn’t get it right. I would do the exact same thing as I did with peanuts, and would end up with nothing but almond meal. But then, magically last week, I finally figured it out! There are two factors that contribute to successful almond butter making: #1: roast the almonds beforehand (thanks again, Ashley for that tip!) and #2: Let it GO. If you’ve ever tried making your own almond butter before, you’ve probably noticed that steam/smoke starts to come out of your food processor/Vitamix after a while. This always scared me, and made me shut off the machine. What I didn’t know is that it’s actually a good thing- the nuts need to heat up to release the oils and get soft enough to turn into nut butter. When I applied both of these factors to a batch I whipped up last week, it finally worked! I was beyond excited- finally I was able to get drippy, perfect almond butter!

I’ve developed a preference of using my food processor instead of my Vitamix to make nut butters- mostly because it’s easier to get every last drop of it out of there. I even made my own sunflower seed butter yesterday, which also turned out perfectly!

I used 2 cups of roasted sunflower seeds from Whole Foods (I also roasted them for a few extra minutes before using) that already had salt added, which yielded about 1 cup of sunflower seed butter.

I will definitely buy unsalted next time, as these were way too salty for my liking.

The great thing about making your own nut butter is that you can also flavor it however you want. Obviously, plain (with just a little salt) tastes great on its own. I have personally fallen in love with the honey/vanilla/cinnamon/sea salt combo. I’ve made varieties of peanut and almond butter with that combination, and it’s really hard to keep my spoon out of the jar! And, obviously, there are a bunch of other nut/seed varieties to experiment with aside from the three of these.

Salad dressing and jam is another thing that I enjoy making myself (it’s so darn easy to do), and I want to start tackling other condiments next: mayo (which is super easy), mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce… I’m seeing a few hours of browsing Pinterest in my near future.

OH- and one more thing (or three). I’ve finally gotten with the times and gotten a Facebook page and updated my Twitter and Pinterest accounts. If you’d be so kind to “Like” Oatmeal after Spinning on Facebook, I will be very thankful! And if you want to follow me on Twitter on Pinterest, please click the hyperlinks. :) And as always- thanks for reading. You guys ROCK!

If you haven’t entered the NuNaturals giveaway yet, there’s still time!

What are some of your favorite foods/condiments that you prefer to make at home, rather than buy at the store? Any good tips/recipes to share?