How to make healthy choices every day

DIY Almond Butter + Almond Butter & Jam Sandwich Cookies

I ate a lot of peanut butter and jam sandwiches as a kid; not because I was picky, but because I just loved them. Sometimes my mom would throw some banana slices in, or swap the jam for honey, but whatever the combo, it was the ultimate comfort food.
Years later, I still enjoy the satisfaction that comes with the occasional stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of treat, but I skip the Skippy for tastier, more mature flavour prospects. I am a grown-up after all.

And as the adult that I am, I find myself pretty obsessed with nut butters of all persuasions. Sesame tahini, cashew, pumpkin seed, almond, hazelnut…the list goes on. Nut butters are versatile, working their magic in everything from savory to sweet, and adding a richness and high satiety factor to just about any meal. Happily, grocery stores are now providing many options beyond the peanut version these days, but of course, I prefer to make it myself at home. Like many of the “DIY” foods here at My New Roots, making your own nut butter is, I must say, disappointingly easy. One ingredient. A little roast, a quick blend. Bob’s your uncle. What’s the payoff you ask? Besides feeling pretty darn self-righteous, you get to enjoy something that I confidently wager, is better than any store-bought version you’ve ever tasted. In fact, I promise you that it is. And, you can control the ingredients by selecting the finest nuts, roasting them just the way you like, and adding only the things you want. There won’t be any refined sugars, hydrogenated fats or stabilizers lurking around in your nut butter. Heavens no!

The idea for these cookies came to me the other day when I had just whipped up a fresh batch of almond butter, the mind-altering aroma of freshly roasted nuts wafting through my little home, inspired me to skip the sandwich and go straight to dessert. I am so bad, but you can punish me later. For now, you can just thank me, because the Almond Butter and Jam Sandwich Cookie was born and you get to enjoy it.  I have no doubt that when you catch a whiff of your own almond butter whizzing up, besides the impulse to spread it on various parts of your body, ahem, you will also find the inspiration to make something beyond a sandwich. Or even a sandwich cookie.
I leave it to you. Just be responsible. You are a grown-up after all.

Raw or Roasted? A Nutty Path to Choose

When we eat raw nuts, we also eat the enzyme inhibitors that prevent the seed from sprouting on the grocery store shelf. This takes a real toll on our digestion, since these enzyme inhibitors also prevent our own bodily enzymes from breaking down the food in our digestive tracts, inhibiting absorption of precious vitamins and minerals. Although we’ve been led to believe eating handfuls of raw nuts everyday is tops for our health, this practice in fact, is extremely hard on our digestion.

There are two ways to destroy enzyme inhibitors, soaking and roasting.
I have spoken several times about soaking nuts, because in my opinion, it is absolutely the best way to consume them. However, from time to time we all need a little change and roasting nuts, just lightly, not only increases their digestibility, but brings out an entirely different flavour profile that blows plain ol’ raw nuts out of the water.

As is the case with most packaged food, the term “roasted nuts” that you see on the label is a little misleading. You see, roasted nuts are raw nuts essentially deep-fried in saturated palm kernel or cottonseed oil, heavily salted and frequently have other add-ins like corn syrup, flavoring agents and preservatives. If you ever buy roasted nuts, look for the words “dry roasted” and read the ingredient list to ensure that what you are buying is in fact, just nuts.

Better yet, roast your own! This process is incredibly easy and will produce a very tasty treat without any extra fat, additives or preservatives. You can enjoy nuts this way, or blend them up to make the nut butter of your dreams. Get creative – combine two or more of your favorite roasted nuts and seeds to make delicious nut butter blends, like sesame-cashew, pecan-pumpkin, or almond-hazelnut-sunflower. Just make sure to roast the nuts and seeds separately, as they require different roasting times, respectively.

Almond Butter
Makes approximately 1 cup
2 cups shelled raw/natural almonds (not roasted or salted)

1. Preheat oven to 300°F/150°C. Spread the almonds out in a single layer on baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes until fragrant and slightly darker in colour (a good way to check is to bite one in half and check the colour in the center. Instead of white, it should be golden). Remove from oven and let cool completely.
2. Transfer the cooled almonds to a food processor and blend on highest setting for 1-2 minutes to finely grind them to a powder. Scrape down the sides of the container. Continue to process the nuts an additional 1-2 minutes until the oils start to be released, and a smooth, creamy, runny paste is formed.  Transfer the almond butter to an airtight glass container and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for 1 month.

*Tip* If you want chunky almond butter, remove a generous scoop of the chopped nuts from the food processor before it turns into a powder. Set aside. Fold it to the creamy almond butter before storing.

And in case you haven’t read it before, you can see how my whole nut butter obsession began with my Hazelnut Butter recipe here.

Is it obvious to state that these cookies are really, really good? The almond butter biscuits are crispy and delicate, almost lacy, and not too sweet, embracing an oozy, syrupy center that creates that fine balance between the inside and out.
You can choose any jam you like – I just happened to have my mother-in-law’s incredible homemade black currant jam on hand. I found this particular flavour so complimentary to the cookies, because it’s just the slightest bit sour. I recommend you go for a jam that runs along the same, tart lines as it creates a more sophisticated flavour pairing with the cookies themselves. Think of the final product as a grown-up version of PB&J, even though kids of all ages will go crazy for it. The AB&J – the A is for Almond not Adult. That would be boring.

As a bonus, I made these treat vegan and gluten-free for everyone to enjoy. The chia seeds replace the egg, while adding fiber, and although you may be skeptical about the texture, you’ll be amazed at how the crunchy little seeds disappear into the crisp cookies. Coconut oil replaces butter (which you can use instead), but make sure to not use virgin coconut oil, as this type has a strong coconut flavour – find the one without a scent or you’ll end up with a very tropical tasting cookie indeed.
I used coconut palm sugar in this recipe, a relatively new ingredient to me, but one I’ve grown pretty fond of. It’s the dried sap from the coconut palm flower and is the “no brainer” of sugar replacements, as you can swap it 1:1 for the white processed stuff. I’ll talk more about coconut palm sugar in another post, but if you can’t get a hold of any try using any dry sweetener that you like.

Almond Butter & Jam Sandwich Cookies 
Makes 20 cookies
4 Tbsp. coconut oil, softened (you could also use butter)
4 Tbsp. almond butter
½ cup / 75 grams coconut sugar
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
4 Tbsp. water + 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups / 200 grams oat flour (grind gluten-free rolled oats in food processor)
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. sea salt
Jam or jelly of your choice

1. Combine water and maple syrup in a small bowl, add chia and stir well.  Set aside for at least 15 minutes to form a gel. Preheat oven to 350°F/ 175 °C.
2. Blend rolled oats in a food processor to make flour (a heaping 2 cups of oats should make the 1½ cups required for the recipe). Add baking soda and salt, pulse to mix.
3. In a large bowl whisk coconut oil and almond butter together until creamy. Add coconut sugar, vanilla, and chia gel, whisk to combine. Add the dry flour mixture in thirds, folding to incorporate. By the end you will have a rather stiff dough that you may need to mix with your hands.
4.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form the dough into 40 balls, roughly a level tablespoon’s worth. When all the balls have been made, take a flat-bottomed drinking glass and press the dough into rounds about 2”/ 5cm across. Bake for 8-10 minutes until just starting to brown on the bottom.
5. Let cool for a couple minutes, then place cookies on a cooling rack. When they have cooled completely, place a teaspoon or so of jam in the middle of 20 cookies, and place remaining cookies on top, pressing slightly to spread the jam (to keep the cookies crisp, only fill those that you will be eating that day). Serve.

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