Guest Product Review: Living Tree Raw Almond Butter! »
There’s something timeless and wonderful about the taste of almonds that no other seed or nut butter could ever match. But hot dang, that ish is expensive! Anyone who’s bought almond butter recently knows that there’s quite a significant price jump between peanut butter and almond butter ($5 to $10 sometimes!), and an even greater price gap between roasted and raw varieties of almond butter. You could easily pay $7 to $10 more for raw almond butter! In these tough times, that’s a lot of dough to spend on butter!
In my opinion, shelling out for more expensive almond butter isn’t usually worth it. I mean, we have nonprofit jobs, families and gender-queer allies to feed! That said, I believe splurging now and then for raw, sprouted, organic, non-GMO almond butter from Living Tree is just about the healthiest and tastiest decision you could make!
While I don’t think heated nut fats will kill you, I do believe that sprouted nut butters taste better and are the only legit way to know you’re eating truly raw almonds. Sprouting almonds before grinding them into nut butter is one of the most labor-intensive and debated practices in the nut butter business. In order to call your food “living,” some say nut butters have to be sprouted. California has some pretty tough laws when it comes to heating almonds, even those that are organic and labeled “raw.” I am pretty sure the most common source of “truly raw almonds” are imported from Italy.
That means that raw almond butter could basically refer to many different levels of “rawness,” and the only real way you can really tell if an almond is raw or living is if it sprouts. Living Tree Sprouted almond butter is definitely raw, and is an incredible hybrid between chunky and smooth. It feels like a totally different almond butter. It’s incredibly fluffy, like eating an almond cloud, with little grains of sand flowing into your mouth and heart.
If you’re going to dump tons of almond butter into a raw pad thai recipe or use it as the base of an almond butter and jelly sandwich, then you can choose whatever brand/roasted/raw variety you see fit. But if you’re going to invite your snobby raw correspondent over for a spot of green tea and raw crumpets, I would be ever so delighted if you served Living Tree Sprouted Almond Butter!
UPDATE: I found out from Living Tree that their organic, “alive” almond butter is only raw, not sprouted. They only purchase almonds from local organic California family farmers, and have been working with the same farmers for more than 15 years.
Instead of actually sprouting the almonds, they instead make the almond butter over several days. The key difference in their process is that they slice and never grind the almonds. After this, they let the mixture rest overnight, and slice again the next day. This is why their almond butter tastes so fluffy, and they believe it preserves the health content of the nuts.
[Photo courtesy of Living Tree, which sent me a complimentary jar of the almond butter.]
Vegan MoFo: Rachel’s Amazing Super-Fast Oatmeal
I eat the exact same thing for breakfast about 97 percent of the time. Why? Because it’s awesome, and also because there’s nothing worse in the morning than having to make decisions. Actually, the cat peeing on your bed or a car alarm going off for hours are examples of worse things, but why make life harder, you know?
I make a non-instant, microwave version of oatmeal with awesome stuff in it. It’s super-healthy, keeps you full, and takes only five minutes, including prep!
Disclosure: the photo above is not a photo of my breakfast. It’s a photo of someone on Flickr's breakfast because a) they're a way better photographer than me (come on guys, you've seen me try to shoot food) and b) I forgot to take a photo of my breakfast.
1/3 cup rolled oats (NOT quick-cook or instant. Glue-city!)
About 2 Tbsp. chopped date pieces (to taste)
Sprinkle of salt
2/3 cup water
Sliced almonds (Or even better, those chopped and roasted ones you normally grind into almond butter that they seem to sell nowhere on Earth but the Berkeley Bowl. I’ll love you forever and even pay you back if you wanna mail me some of that, SO GOOD.)
Mix the oatmeal, salt, water, and date pieces in a microwave-safe bowl. The date pieces (or other dried fruit) are key: They break the surface tension and help keep your bowl from overflowing (science!).
Microwave for 3 minutes. Important: You may have to experiment with your power-level settings here. If your oatmeal overflows and pisses you off, then set the power level lower. I used to have a shitty microwave and it just worked, but now I have a stronger one and have to set it to Power Level 7.
Let cool for like a minute, then sprinkle with cinnamon, flax oil, and almonds to taste. I guess you could use other nuts or whatever but I’m almonds all the way, baby. Sometimes when I’m feeling really crazy I sprinkle on some chia seeds, but watch out, those like to nestle between your teeth and make you look dumb when you get to work even though you really did brush them, you swear.
Enjoy the deliciousness! Also cinnamon in the A.M. helps you be less hungry all day (Dr. Oz says so)! So do fat and protein! It’s really awesome!
You’re welcome. Now you know what to have in the house for me when I come visit.
Guest recipe: A professional chef’s perfect spring meal »
I never used to like salad until I worked at Parc. They paid way more attention to their salads than any vegan place I’ve worked at and you can tell—the dozens of hours I spent learning to cut herbs and shallots cleanly and efficiently, and then the seasoning conferences over a five-gallon bucket of sherry-shallot vinaigrette. Often a sous chef would taste each individual salad for seasoning before sending it out. There are salads on a level beyond that, too.
The crazy thing is that the difference between a sweet/greasy/goopy bowl of lettuce for two people and a great meal in salad form can be some chump change and maybe 10 to 15 minutes’ worth of work. While it is currently green almond season, I haven’t found them growing around Philadelphia, so here is a recipe for a cold spring soup and salad both using last year‘s almond crop and some of this years best baby vegetables:
1 clove garlic
½ lb. blanched almonds (you can either get these pre-blanched or you can do it yourself by putting raw almonds in a pot of boiling water for about two minutes, then putting them in an ice bath and rubbing the skins off.)
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
½ cup plus one Tbsp. olive oil
1 oz. of rustic bread
½ oz. slivered almonds
2 oz. olives
1/4 oz. shallots
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (or just use more lemon juice)
1 bulb baby fennel
2 small radishes
2 baby carrots
1 big crimini mushroom
1 baby beet
1 cup small flavorful greens—arugula, pea shoots, purslane, etc.
8 leaves parsley
½ bunch chives
We start with the soup.
A lot of people are familiar with tomato gazpacho, a cold soup of Spanish origin. Tomatoes have only been in Europe since the 1500s, but Spain is home to another great soup served cold that predates that by a long-shot, sometimes called white gazpacho. This is an almond-based soup, creating creaminess from the delicious fats and proteins found in almonds, as well as from stale bread and olive oil which is added in. While non-dairy milks and creams are common now, they (and their close relatives like this soup) are also common throughout history, all over the world—from Chinese soy milk to Spanish almond cream, and hickory nut milk of the Creek Native Americans. One thing common to all of them is the fresher they are, the better. I’ve taken the basic soup recipe from Jose Andres’ Made in Spain where he makes it with figs and marcona almonds instead of the salad.
- One day before making this soup, cover your almonds with 3 cups of water and let them soak overnight. Starting things a day in advance is something I really like—it’s so un-american. Because I don’t like America [.pdf].
- The next day, bring a small pot of water to a boil and toss in your garlic. Boil for about a minute, then drain and let the garlic cool.
- Put the almonds with their soaking water in a blender with the garlic, sherry vinegar, olive oil and your bread. Puree until smooth, at least two minutes. I find a lot of people think that like 15 seconds in a blender is enough—maybe for your low-fat triple banana goji berry smoothie, but not for most things. Salt to taste—this recipe will take a good deal of salt so start with 2 tsp.
- Pour this through a fine mesh sieve. At first, not much will come through. If you have a chinois you can push the liquid through. If not, instead of pushing (which will push the grainy stuff through as well) tap the side of your strainer with a spatula. The liquid will dribble through. This is the only annoying part of this recipe as it can take a good five minutes of tapping. The result will be worth it.
The vinaigrette (you can make this up to 3 days ahead):
Unlike the soup, you will want this vinaigrette to be chunky, so either use a food processor or mince these things with a knife.
- Spread your slivered almonds on a sheet tray and toast them in the oven at 325 for about six minutes, till golden (you can do this another day in advance, too). Let them cool. Pulse them through a food processor or just crumble them in your hands. Put them in a bowl.
- Drain (and pit if necessary) your olives and put them in the food processor until they are pretty evenly minced, scraping down the sides with a spatula if need be.
- Mince your shallot and juice your lemon.
- Mix the almonds, olives, lemon juice, vinegar (if using), oil and shallots in a bowl. Whisk together. Season with salt and pepper and adjust your oil and lemon juice/vinegar as necessary.
- Using a mandolin, a sharp knife, or a vegetable peeler, shave your fennel, mushroom, radish, and carrot as thin as possible while maintaining evenness.
- Then shave your beet, keeping it separate.
- Pick your parsley leaves. Mix your non-beet vegetable shavings with your parsley and greens and dress with the green olive vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste as you mix.
Ball up one portion of salad (1 medium handful) to place in the center of each bowl try to get some height. Pour ¾ cup of soup into each bowl, around the salad. Place 3 or 4 beet shavings on top of each portion. Mince your chives. Drizzle your soup with olive oil and sprinkle it with chives and coarse sea salt. Serve with toast or, preferably, fresh grilled bread.
Mark Tinkleman is committed to a radically better future for all of humanity. He is a cook by profession, was trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and has worked at award-winning vegan and omni restaurants in New York and Philadelphia. He lives with his beautiful partner and their cat in Philadelphia. Go Philly!