Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July Daring Cooks Challenge - Nut butters!

Doesn't that sound intriguing? I thought so. It could be due to my life long love of Peanut Butter, but I was really excited about this challenge.

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

The challenge was to create a nut butter of your choice and use it in a savory (not sweet) dish. Commonly found in a number of Asian and African countries, different nut butters provide another complex note in sauces, add protein and flavor, and can be used to replace dairy and other fats in dishes.

When I was a vegan for a few years, nut butters was one of my main protein sources. However, I had never made my own. Wow, was that an oversight. I loved these, and couldn't keep my spoon out of the almond butter. I used it on toast with cinnamon for quite a few breakfasts. I chose to make 4 nut butters - all from toasted nuts - cashew, almond, hazelnut, and peanut. Those are from the left in the picture.

Did I mention I can't tell my left from my right? Yes, I double checked the picture and asked a friend about the direction, so that's right (I think).
I was surprised to taste the cashew butter in an Chicken Noodle sauce (pictured above). After making the butters, this was the first thing I made. It had a smooth, rich taste that was surprising to me. Combined with other flavors in the sauce, I could barely tell it was cashew.

My sauce is a little different colored because I added a bit too much carrot, smoked paprika, and sricha. All in all, this was a great meal. The cashew sauce was filling, but didn't feel as heavy as my tradional peanut spaghetti. And, it was full of vegetables, which I loved.

My next dish was another savory dish - my peanut spaghetti recipe. This is one of my go to meals. It's quick, it's filling, and most of the time, I just eat that and a salad for dinner. This time, I sauteed some shrimp and placed them on top of the dish, and it was a great addition.

I like to stir some of the sauce throughout the spaghetti, then place some on top for a finishing touch. It's a great filling meal when you are in a hurry. The sauce keeps well in the refrigerator for a few weeks, up to a month.

This is my final recipe for this month, and boy, was it a good one. I wanted to make some cookies, and thought that hazelnut would taste the best. However, the hazelnuts I used I couldn't get all the skins off, and they didn't process as completely smooth as the other nut butters. I was a bit worried about the texture when I put it in a cookie.

The answer - oatmeal! These cookies are rich, yet delicate, and practically disappeared from my house. Yes, they were that good. They tasted like hazelnuts, but in a very good way. They weren't too sweet, and just melted in my mouth. I loved them...so did my family.

So how do you make nut butter? Simple. Just toss some nuts in a food processor, and process until smooth. You can add salt to taste if you want. And, if you want a smoother butter, you can add some oil. I added about 1 T. oil per cup of nuts. You should keep in mind that your nut butter yield is about 1/2 of the amount of nuts. For example, if I use 2 cups of peanuts, it should yield 1 cup of peanut butter.

I also chose to toast all the nuts I used. I feel it gives a richer flavor. Simply spread them out to a single layer on a cookie sheet, place in a 350 oven, and roast for about 10 minutes, or until you can smell the nuts. Remove, cool, and make your nut butter.

Chicken Cashew Noodles

1 cup, or 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1/2 lb. mushrooms
1/2 c. carrots, chopped into 1/2" pieces
1/2 c. celery, chopped into 1/2" pieces
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 c. snow peas, chopped
1/2 lb. fettucinni, cooked according to package directions

Cashew sauce:
½ inch (1 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped
8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
½ cup (120 ml) cashew butter
¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) brown sugar
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vinegar
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) toasted sesame oil
1 t. smoked paprika
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (75 ml) water
Hot sauce to taste (optional)

For the cashew sauce: Combine all ingredients except water into a food processor and process until very smooth, adding the water as needed for consistency. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days until ready to serve.

For the noodles: In a saute pan, heat 1 T. oil, and fry each vegetable (except scallions) separately until lightly cooked. Combine all ingredients in a pan and toss. Add sauce as needed until evenly coated everything. I used almost 1/2 of the sauce for this, and added 2 T. water.

Serve with scallions.

Peanut Spaghetti (serves 4)

For the sauce:
1 can coconut milk
2 T. thai red curry paste
1/2 T. soy sauce or fish sauce
2 T. cider vinegar
3/4 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. water
1 t. sricha, optional

For the shrimp:

1 lb. 21-30 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. lime juice
1 t. old bay seasoning

1 lb. cooked spaghetti, prepared according to package directions, reserving up to 1/2 c. pasta water
2 scallions, chopped

For the sauce - combine all ingredients for the sauce in a saucepan and heat for 3-5minutes until almost boiling. Can be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month.

For the shrimp: Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook shrimp until just pink. Remove to a bowl and lightly coat with lime juice and seasoning.

For the spaghetti: Coat the spaghetti in 1/4 of the sauce mixture until well combined, adding pasta water if needed for the right consistency. Serve with shrimp and scallions.

Oatmeal Hazelnut Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. roasted hazelnut butter
2/3 c. oatmeal
2 t. hazelnut liquer
1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and hazelnut butter. Mix until very well combined. Add remaining ingredients and stir until just combined. Each cookie should be approximately 1 tablespoon of dough, and flattened slightly on baking sheet. Don't worry, these won't spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes until very light brown. Let cool on cookie sheet.


  1. You went all out on this challenge I can't decide which I like better but the hazelnut biscuits are calling me but the cashew sauce looks divine. Well done on this very tasty challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. Right to left or left to right, your nut butters look scrumptious. What a great idea to add smoked paprika to the cashew dressing! Thanks for sharing your recipes for peanut spaghetti and oatmeal hazelnut cookies; they both look delicious.

  3. Looks incredible, the challenge was great wasn't it? Looking forward to the next one!

  4. Can't wait to try your cashew chicken!


  5. We think you got left to right correct, but is it upside down? Just kidding...

    We're also of the 'how did we not try this before' camp. We'll continue to experiment, just as it sounds you will too.

    Well done on some great dishes!

    Stay JOLLY!