Ode to Cashew Butter
Cashew Butter?! Yes. Cashew Butter. Before I get into that however, I must first admit something. I totally made fun of Paleo when I first heard of it. You can ask my friend Becky who introduced me to the concept. I was completely lost. It's a diet? No, it's a way of eating (okay, that part made sense). But, "healthy" included heavy cream in my coffee and I could eat wings?! Here's the thing, like everything else that I did not understand in the past about healthy eating, I went right to making fun before doing some research. Now, we're not going full on paleo around here, but, those recipes generally help make for gluten-intolerant/Celiac/no dairy friendly recipes. Something we make more and more around here. These recipes also gave us cashew cream...more about that in a minute!
Admittedly, when I heard about the "caveman" diet, I guffawed. (You wouldn't believe how long I've been waiting to work that word into a blog post!) I mean, I'm pretty sure cavemen only took their coffee with heavy cream and a dash of cinnamon (thank you again Becky, that's how I drink it now!) and all, but did they use a french press like we do? I know, I know, I'm not being nice...but stay with me for a bit. Now, there are some truths to what I've read about paleo: natural, whole foods are better for you than processed. We embarked on holding true to a more whole foods life at the beginning of the year, continuing our quest to be a more healthy, fit family. That part of paleo makes sense to me. However, I'm not against a few grains now and then...especially since we've cut way back on the carb-heavy pastas. Quinoa makes a nice alternative to couscous in many of my older recipes, and corn tortillas are on our table at least once per week. We did change to (mostly) only eating meat from a local farm, and buy only sustainable fish. We also can get the same benefits of dairy free by making vegan meals. So, those of you who are full on paleo, good for you, that's impressive! For us, we're thankful for the recipes for healthy meals and treats, but aren't quite ready to give up some of our other staples.
Now, let's talk about one of the cooler things about these paleo recipes: taking bad for you treats and making them A LOT healthier. Are all of them then super good for you? Probably not, but being able to make a buffalo "cheese" dip for veggies and chips without chicken or cheese that was completely devoured is a definite win. Paleo cooking also gave us the super favorite Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole. It has chicken, and all kinds of deliciousness in a healthy, tasty casserole. My friend Kayla shared that recipe with us, which brought me to then purchase the cookbook it came from...I'm eternally grateful to her for that gift! Because of that recipe share, I set out to find other paleo treats, and came upon one that was less of a meal and more of a dip for a party. I made it to take to a fellow home-chef type's house for one of our day-long cooking parties. I had doubled the recipe, and it was pretty much gone within an hour or so. I made it again recently, quadrupling the recipe and again, it was gone by the end of the party. The main ingredient? Cashew cream! Yes. A cream made of cashews. The original recipe calls for not only making cashew cream, but mayonnaise from scratch. Sorry friends, Mama just doesn't have it in her to go that far at this point. Hellman's is where it's at for me. Without further ado, here is how you make cashew cream and an idea of what to do with the resulting yumminess.
Ranch Buffalo Dip
1 cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon dried chives
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup mayonnaise (For those of you following a vegan lifestyle, veganaise will sub just as nicely.)
1 cup hot sauce (I use Frank's)
Preheat oven to 350°. Boil cashews in 4 cups water for 30 minutes. In the meantime, mix all other ingredients in a casserole dish. *One note, I use A LOT of spices. I tried to guesstimate what I used above, but taste as you go...you may want to add more of something. When cashews are done, scoop out nuts into blender and add no more than 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Blend into a cream and try to not add too much more fluid to make that happen. You're looking for a thicker consistency. Scoop the cream into your hot sauce mix and stir everything to combine well. Place in the oven and bake until a crust forms on top (approximately 20 minutes). Enjoy with veggies and chips!