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almond butter adventures

March 29, 2011

Last weekend, I had a revelation.

Almond butter is just ground-up almonds.

Profound, I know.

But it meant that a person in possession of a food processor and almonds could make their own almond butter! It would be so much cheaper and more efficient! No transport from almond grove to factory, no mass production, no days of travel from source to store! AND no paying a million dollars a jar. It seemed like a win, win, win, win, win. And win.

So a cup of almonds from the bulk bins at Wegmans was plopped into my cart during the weekly grocery run. I was beyond thrilled to go home and get processing.

I used this recipe as a basic “how-to” for how to proceed. Step 1: Toast the almonds.

Before:

After:

The nuts are done toasting when you start to smell them (but not this strongly). That’s a little something I learned from Miss Paula Deen. My love for the Food Network continues to grow exponentially.

Step 2: Begin processing.

Now, I was a little concerned when I read the part about “the first 5 minutes.” The first 5 minutes? I thought the death-defying blades of my mini Ninja would pulverize the almonds in 2 minutes, tops. This misconception was quickly disproved. I kept my chin up through the first few consistencies: chunks, cornmeal, fine grain. But then, after the initial 2 minutes, time seemed to stand still. No matter how long my little buddy churned away the mixture didn’t seem to get any creamier.Confident that eventually a creamy consistency would emerge, we plowed on.

Until the food processor started smoking.

Now, we’re not talking flames here. It’s just that when I would remove the top to scrape the sides some “steam” would rise from the container. I called it “steam” so I didn’t have to call it “smoke” which would have effectively ended my pursuit of streamlined almond butter. And so I continued to process, slowly but surely.

After ten minutes I could tell that this would be a much longer journey than I had originally anticipated. For both me and the food processor. When the top started getting quite hot I decided to pull out the instruction manual. I was a bit alarmed to read that the operator is “NOT supposed to operate the device for more than 15 seconds at a time.” Whoops.

And yet we continued despite the “steam” and the heat and the alarm that one of my most irrational fears (a blender or food processor spontaneously erupting, sending the blades flying) would actually come true. Why? Because I’m stubborn. And because I had already spent a good 30 minutes on this project. And because at this point I was really craving the final product.

Toward the end I decided to go gourmet and add a tablespoon of maple syrup to the mix. Tasty and an asset to the quest for creaminess. I also decided to take longer breaks in between processing intervals to prevent a full-scale disaster.

AN HOUR LATER…I reached my goal. Almond butter.

I learned several things from this experiment:

1 – Do not attempt a major feat of food processing with a mini food processor. Leave the big jobs for the big boys.

2 – Read the instructions before you start. (However, I’ve been trying to learn this since 1st grade. It has yet to stick.)

3 – Commercial almond butter is (surprisingly) not a rip off! I put my homemade version in an old peanut butter jar for easy storage but it doubled as an unexpected eye opener:

The jar is really only about 1/4 of the way full. That’s from $2.50 worth of almonds. So the big jars that cost $8 – $10? They’re legit!

Conclusion: Until I get a full size food processor I’ll leave this to the pro’s. But it was a good experiment. And I’m still enjoying the results!

Challenge Update:

In yesterday’s Monday Motivation I mentioned that I was starting The Challenge, which is basically a 10-step boot camp for making things happen. Things like this ordinarily thrill me because, let’s face it, I’m a productivity geek. But MAN ALIVE. The Challenge takes productivity to a whole new level. And with all of the stuff that has been taking up loads of real estate in my life lately, this was exactly what I needed. I did Step 1 last night and I’m working on Steps 2 and 3 today.

If you haven’t checked The Challenge out yet I would strongly encourage you to do so! It just might be the kick start you need to get moving in a new direction. It was for me!

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