Break out the Tye-dye

6 Apr

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Last weekend, I gathered some eggs from my chickens, participated in an anti-war demonstration, made my own nut butter, wore my Birkenstocks over my sandals and burned some incense. …WHAT?!?!? Ok, ok, I was having some fun with you…only one of those statements is actually true (hint: look at the picture). To me, all of those activities seem rather “hippy-ish” (no offence at all if any or all of those things are things you engage in on a regular basis). I am in no way a hippy – I won’t be voting for the Green Party in the upcoming election, I hate incense and I wouldn’t be caught dead in socks and sandals (even though some very cool people that I know choose to partake in this fashion “statement”). But, last weekend, I did make my own nut butter….so, as per the title, if that makes me a hippy, then break out the tye- dye (wait ‘till you see what I did with it, then you’ll really  think I’m a hippy).

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Now, I know that many members of the blog world have made your own nut butters. In fact, the inspiration for the title of this posts comes partly from Tina – I remember her blogging about how her husband referred to her homemade nut butter as “hippy butter.” I have no exact measurements for you, but since my ingredients were simply 100 % nuts (how’s that for all-natural?), you can’t go wrong!

Homemade Nut Butter

I started by getting my nuts nice and toasty. I keep my nuts in the freezer (they IMG_0627keep longer that way. Due to the high natural oil content in nuts, then will go “off” more quickly if stored at room temperature), so toasting them in the oven took just over 10 minutes at 350. I just spread  them in a single layer on a baking sheet and toasted away. My mix of nuts consisted of pecans, cashews, almonds and hazelnuts; all unsalted, with skins. I was REALLY happy with the flavour I got, but at the same time, I can’t wait to try other nut combos. Once toasted, I put all the nuts into my mini food processor (I didn’t even wait for them to cool) and got to blending.IMG_0628IMG_0629

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two pictures show different stages in the blending process. At first, it’s just finely chopped nuts….then the mixture gradually starts to clump up and come together…until it’s finally a nice smooth paste as all the oils are released…no added ingredients needed!IMG_0630

I found my homemade nut butter a lot smoother than most natural nut butter that you buy, it didn’t separate at all. I was going to just put my nut butter into a tupperware, but I decided it seemed much more “artisanal” to go for the Mason jar, don’t you agree? From the quantity of nuts I used, I got about 3/4 cup, I’d say (the amount in the jar is the entire batch). Side note: don’t you LOVE the new picture spot I found? It’s our dining room window in early evening….I just love the combo of the old wood, the lace runner and the perfect lighting! 

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So what did I do with my delightful nut butter? Generally, although I LOVE peanut/nut butters, I try not to eat a lot of them because of their high calorie content. But some did find its way onto a slice of HG Banana Bread (thawed from the freezer) for a late night snack…tasty! But that’s not the “hippy” use I found for my nut butter….no…that was: homemade granola bars!

Since it was the beginning of the month, I was thinking about what to make my brother-in-law for his monthly birthday sweets instalment. Since he and my sister have just gotten possession of their new house, and he is busy doing some minor renovations over there,  granola bars came to my mind. I thought they’d make the perfect healthy snack/breakfast on the go for the busy days ahead. I’ve made 2 granola bar recipes from Smitten Kitchen, both have been delicious. I remembered one had nut butter as an optional ingredient, so I figured, if making homemade granola bars, why not go all the way (into hippy-dom Winking smile) and use my own homemade nut butter?

The recipe I used is below, my adaptations/changes/notes are in brackets. These bars are really tasty, but a bit hard to cut, even after chilling in the fridge for 1/2 hour, as per recipe recommendations. You just have to use your hands to sort of smush them together a bit…definitely worth the effort! And a bonus for my celiacs out there….if you can get your hands on gluten-free oats (I know they’re hard to find), you can make these gluten-free!

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from King Arthur FlourIMG_0643

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness akin to most purchased bars; use less for a mildly sweet bar)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender – that’s what I did)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (I went for the full 3 cups…a nice mix of sweetened flaked coconut, lots of dried raisins, dried apricots, dried apricots, a little bit of leftover tropical fruit from the tropical chocolate chip cookies, and chopped pecans and cashews)

1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional) (since I was so enthused about my homemade stuff, I used 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

6 tablespoons melted butter (since I bumped up the nut butter, I decreased this to 4 tbsp)
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup (I used honey…if you observe the warped bottle in the photo above, it’s because my honey had crystalized and I had to microwave it in the bottle…and it warped)IMG_0644
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″  (mine was 9 x 9) pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and IMG_0645water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)IMG_0646

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)IMG_0653

Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. [Updating to note, as many had crumbling issues:] If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

There you go, 2 delicious hippy-inspired recipes (and once again, no offence at all meant to anyone who considers themselves a hippy, I’m just having a little fun, since I am about as far as you can get from a hippy). Put on your tye-dye, light your incense, break out your guitars and enjoy!

Do you have any favourite “all-natural” (hippy) recipes you make? Or do you consider yourself a hippy?

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4 Responses to “Break out the Tye-dye”

  1. Samm I Amm April 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Great post! I’m allergic to peanuts so I can’t eat peanut butter, and your nut butter sounds like a great alternative. Enjoyed reading your blog for the first time and am looking forward to doing t again!

  2. Katie @ Real Food Katie's Way April 6, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    Hilary you are hilarious! I laughed out loud at the birkenstocks remark…

    I love love love homemade nut butter! Doesn’t it make you feel awesome knowing there is no added crap in there AND proud that you created that in your own kitchen??

    I love all things granola and those bars looks really yummy! I love that last photo!

    • hungryhealthyhilary April 7, 2011 at 7:40 am #

      Thank you! Especially for the compliment on the photo…I know my photography isn’t the greatest, so I ‘m really trying to work on that!

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