As a mom, when I introduced nut butters to our daughters, I soon realized that they didn't like the sticky texture much. Whole nuts weren't much of an option (choking hazards), unless of course I ground them and added them to different foods.
So, I got a little sneaky with nut butters. I'm going to share a few tips with you - and these are good for everyone - not just if you have kidlets. Some of these tricks can help you add these protein and nutrient-rich butters to your meals.
What are nut butters? Most of us know, they are like peanut butter, but made with nuts instead of peanuts. And, they are natural. If you are still buying Skippy peanut butter: stop! Go to the natural foods aisle of your store and get natural, organic peanut butters. They do not have any additives, hydrogenated oils, or sugars. Just peanuts... and with nut butters, they are just nuts (and sometimes nut oils are added). You can find almond, cashew, hazelnut, and macadamia nut butters. I understand there are even pistachio and brazil nut butters, but I haven't seen them here in Canada. Then, there are seed butters. Again, like nut butters but made with seeds. Here we have things like pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter, hemp seed nut butter, and sesame seed butter (tahini).
Now, since nut butters are generally not allowed in school (though seed butters usually are; more on that later), I normally give our girls a breakfast with some type of nut butter included. Oatmeal is one of their favorite. You can use instant oatmeal, or make your own from quick or rolled oats, or using other grains like barley flakes, brown rice cereal, cream of wheat... any hot cereal/porridge type of deal. The key is to have a thick, hot cereal. Then, take a big spoonful of nut butter and stir through while hot, as shown. It will melt into the hot cereal... this was a beauty trick for me, as I said when the girls didn't like the stickiness of nut butters. Then, you can add a sprinkle of cinnamon, chopped fruit like apples, strawberries, or pears, and some non-dairy milk... which will help to cool the hot cereal. If you need to sweeten it, use vanilla non-dairy milk, or some agave nectar or maple syrup. You can vary this basic oatmeal enough with different nut butters (cashew, almond, macadamia nut) and fruits/dried fruits to keep your lil' monkeys happy.
Another breakfast idea I posted about a loooong time ago. This is also a regular in our homes. I always buy the Lifestream Waffles, and lately I've been buying the hemp variety, just because it has a higher protein content than some of the other flavors. So, toast up those babies, slather with nut butter... then, this what the kiddos love... put a big mound of unsweetened (organic) applesauce on top. Kids love applesauce, and it also 'softens' the waffle for them - you know, makes it a bit mushy after ten or so minutes. Just what they like! Add a drizzle of agave if you like, and fresh fruit on the side. Their tummies will be filled and their brains fueled.
We all know to make nut butter sandwiches. I make them often, and sometimes I make quesadillas. I do a version in ED&BV, called Peanut Banana Tortilla Turnovers, and you can serve them with the Molassa-sauce if you like. This particular day, I used almond butter instead of peanut butter, and fresh strawberries instead of bananas... and I gave the girls soy yogurt for dipping. Again, kids love to dip!
As with my last post on smoothies, a super nutritious quick-fix is to add a dollop of nut butter to your smoothies. This is especially good in creamy smoothies made with frozen bananas and non-dairy milks (and you can still add the kale!) Almond and cashew butters are delicious, and even a small amount of hemp nut butter (on its own or in combination with other butters) is tasty.
Another thing I do is mix cashew butter with some Goddess Dressing into leftover pasta. Yup. The girls love it. If you have leftover noodles of any time sitting in the fridge, first add to a bowl and pour boiling water over the noodles to reheat and soften. Let sit for 5 or so minutes. Drain off all the water, and then gently stir in some cashew butter. You can add a dab of tahini too if you like. Then, add in some Goddess Dressing (and a touch of ketchup or agave to sweeten if you like). Don't add too much nut butter that it will be super sticky, just a spoonful or so to make a thick type of sauce. Now, if you want to throw some grated or diced veggies into the pasta, or frozen corn kernels or greens peas (again, first warmed in boiling water, and then drained)... do so! Add what veg your little guy or gal likes to eat.
Back to the seed butters. At our daughter's school, peanuts and nuts are not allowed, but seeds are. So, I make her seed butter sandwiches. Here's the thing, though, guys: seed butters are not as naturally sweet as nut butters. They have an inherent earthiness and sometimes bitterness. Tahini is particularly bitter, so I just don't use it for sandwiches. But, I do use sunflower butter and hemp seed nut butter. What you need to do is add some extra flavor. After spreading on the seed butter, sprinkle on some cinnamon, then add your jam or some agave nectar. You can even stir some agave/cinnamon into the jars of hemp or sunflower butter in advance to flavor them in advance. And if you send you kiddo to school with these, make sure you tell them and/or their teacher that these sandwiches might look like pb&j, but they are sb&j. :)
Note that some nut and seed butters are 'raw', and others are not. Raw nut butters will definitely be labeled as such. I now prefer raw almond butter to the roasted almond butter, as an example, but use what you like. Remember, the vegan palate develops over time, so while you may not like some nut/seed butters now, you may come to appreciate them later.
Go on my nutty crew and get cooking, baking, whizzing, stirring, or just sticking a big spoon in that jar of your favorite nut butter and enjoying all on its own! (and if you have any sneaky mama tips to share with other readers, please do!)