AB&B

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Rainy days are my reflective days.  The days where I think about the people I like.  What they mean to me, and why they mean what they do to me.  Rainy days make me ponder my future, and what the coming days have in store for me.  They make me relive lovely memories, savouring each precious moment as they flit by.  There is definitely something about rain that makes me peculiarly philosophical.

Rainy days also seem to be the days I’m most apt to crave things, whether they be certain smells, certain noms, or just a Hitchcock movie and a snuggly blanket.  Today being a rainy day, I couldn’t resist whipping up the components for one of my all-time favorite sandwiches: an almond butter and banana sandwich.

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My love for nut butter sandwiches is a very long one.  Initially, of course, I was a peanut butter and jelly (well, in my case, jam) fiend.  I couldn’t get enough of them.  Then, sadly, I came to realize that peanut butter was the reason I often got unpleasant mouth ulcers…  So I quit the peanut butter and ended up moving to almond butter, which I acutely love far better than peanut butter.  At some point jam became fresh fruit, and then I settled on bananas.  The nutty, barely sweet almond butter coupled with creamy, almost buttery bananas all atop homemade whole grain bread is a heavenly composition.

Homemade almond butter (or any nut butter) is by far better than anything you might buy in a store for multiple reasons.  The foremost reason is the very small ingredient list for homemade (just almonds and a touch of salt) in comparison to the five plus ingredient list for store bought (almonds, sweeteners, salt, and questionable oils).  In homemade almond butter, the almonds are definitely the star of the show; their flavours only being gingerly enhanced by a smidge of salt.

When I first set out to make my own almond butter, my first thought was to make raw almond butter.  Why?  Because raw is better, right?  Well, the answer to that is quite surprising.

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One of the first blogs that I read regarding homemade almond butter was Sarah Britton’s.  Ms. Britton, a Holistic Nutritionalist and Certified Nutritional Practitioner, said the following regarding raw versus roasted nuts:

“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.”

I was actually thrilled to read this because, truth is, I don’t entirely care much for raw nuts or seeds…  Their roasted counterparts are so much more rich in body and flavor, something my taste buds find hard to ignore.  That being said, I was happy to roast my nuts to not only destroy those enzyme inhibitors but also create a much more flavorful nut butter (as a side note, the other way to destroy the inhibitors is by soaking your nuts)!

When it comes to roasting nuts, it is best to do it yourself.  Most roasted nuts that you buy in the store are in fact “deep fried” nuts that have been plunged into very questionable oils to roast them.  If you do have to buy pre-roasted nuts, be sure that you buy dry roasted nuts.  This ensures that there was no deep frying done to the nuts to roast them up.

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This delightful bread is an incredibly easy yeast-based bread with absolutely no kneading required!  It takes just a few minutes to put together with minimal rising and baking time.  The bread is incredibly moist, with a large and tender crumb.  The crust is crisp and golden, without being tough or hard.  Admittedly, the bread is a little too soft for your classic pack-and-go sandwich, but it makes a great bread for a weekend sandwich or just sliced and spread with some butter with breakfast.

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Almond Butter

While this is an almond butter recipe, you could make any kind of nut or seed butter with these steps, just adjust the roasting times as necessary.  You can even make nut and seed combinations.  Sky’s the limit! Recipe inspired by Sarah Britton at My New Roots with only a few changes, http://mynewroots.org/site/2012/03/diy-almond-butter-almond-butter-jam-sandwich-cookies-2/

340 grams / 2 heaping cups shelled, raw/natural almonds (do not use roasted or salted)

fine grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Lay your almonds in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet (lining the sheet with parchment makes transferring the almonds easier).  Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly darker in colour (I find the best way to check the almonds for their colour is to bite one in half; you’re looking for a slight golden hue).  Remove the almonds and let cool completely.

Transfer the cooled almonds into the bowl of your food processor.  Grind on the highest speed for 1-2 minutes; until the almonds are chopped well.  At this point, you could remove a scoop of the almonds to incorporate at the end for chunky almond butter.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in a pinch of sea salt.  Continue to blend for 1-2 minute intervals until the nuts become creamy.  This can take a while; the trick is just to keep going.  If your food processor is old, like mine, be sure to give it breaks in between so the motor doesn’t burn out.  Transfer the almond butter to a jar to store (if it’s not too warm, you can leave it out, but I prefer to refrigerate mine just to be safe).

Makes about one cup

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Easy Little Bread

Recipe slightly adapted from Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks, http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/easy-little-bread-recipe.html.

1 1/4 cups / 300 mL warm water (105-115 F)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 tablespoon runny honey (I used clover)

125 grams / 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

140 grams / 1 cup whole wheat flour

100 grams / 1 cup rolled oats (not instant)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, for brushing

In a smallish bowl, combine the warm water and yeast; mix well until the yeast is dissolved.  Pour in the honey and mix well.  Cover with a tea cloth and leave in a warm place for 5-10 minutes, or until the yeast is slightly foaming.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.  Pour in the wet ingredients and mix very well (your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment works well here, but isn’t necessary).  Your dough will be very sticky.

In an 8-cup loaf pan, pour in the melted butter, using a brush to coat all of the inside of the pan.  Dump your dough into the loaf pan, spread it out, cover it with a slightly damp tea cloth, and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.

When the dough has nearly finished rising, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the middle.  Place your loaf in the center of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the loaf is golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan.  To give the bread extra colour, leave the bread under the broiler for just a heartbeat.  Remove from the oven and turn the loaf out quickly.  Let cool on a wire rack so the loaf doesn’t steam.  Serve warm or cooled.

Makes one loaf

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AB&B

I like my sandwiches open-faced, but you could easily make the sandwich closed.  Just use a little less banana.

Two slices of bread

About two tablespoons almond butter

1/4 of a banana

Spread the almond butter on each slice of bread.  Slice the banana and layer on top of each slice.  Enjoy!

Serves 1

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