There was a recent buzz about Nutella, as two mothers filed and won a suit claiming the product’s ads wrongfully represented it as healthy. I’ve actually never bought Nutella myself, but I snickered when my kids recently implored me to buy the similar tasty spread they sampled while we were shopping at Trader Joe’s.
The store’s Cocoa Almond Spread is essentially Nutella made from almonds as opposed to hazelnuts; the ingredients are nearly identical. Sugar is the first ingredient, and it has skim milk powder, whey and soy flour. I did pick up a jar, explaining to the small fry the purchase was based on scientific research and my appreciation for their good behavior on our day of errand-running.
While waiting in line to check out, my wheels were already spinning about how I could make my own healthier version of the treat (that could potentially taste better and be less expensive to boot). I started to envision a blind taste test with the kids, during which my entry would naturally garner praises and hugs. Yes, this is how my mind wanders and I get so geekily excited and distracted by thoughts of healthy food…
It’s taken my about a week to get around to actually turning my daydreams into reality. I received a little inspiration thanks to Tropical Traditions, a fabulous company that recently contacted me to try out their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil. I have baked with their coconut flour in the past, but had yet to try their oil. As any of my regular readers know, I am completely smitten with coconut oil and jumped at the chance to test it out.**
My recipe calls for melted coconut oil, but since I just received my Tropical Traditions package and it’s 90 degrees out, I got to skip the melting process. This proved to be a time saver, as making your own nut butter requires time and patience. Two things of which I don’t have a surfeit, particularly the latter.
I have used many different brands of coconut oil (always organic and unrefined) and my first impression of Tropical Traditions is all positive. I’m always wary of receiving glass jars in the mail, but the package was ridiculously secure. A lot of my friends and readers who haven’t tried coconut oil express concern that the coconut flavor will dominate if they use it for cooking and baking. Tropical Tradition’s has a very mild coconut flavor, and when I had a few kids sample today’s recipe no one even guessed it contained any coconut. It was the perfect emulsifier for my spread, giving a nice sheen and spreadability to the finished product.
If you have never made your own nut butter, you may wonder if the mealy mixture you’re creating in your food processor will EVER come together like butter. I promise you: it will. The end result will not be as creamy as what you find on store shelves, but if you’ve purchased natural nut butter you know it’s not as smooth either. Just plan on multitasking during the preparation, and allow the natural oil from the nuts and coconut oil to do their work. I got the mail, read the mail, played many turns on Words with Friends, swept the kitchen floor and composed much of this post all while my food processor whirred away.
Homemade Cocoa Almond Spread
2 cups raw almonds
2 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1-2 tbs. honey (vegans could use raw agave)
2 tsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350. Spread your nuts out on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. This provides a really nice depth of flavor and also helps release more of the nuts’ natural oils.
Put nuts in your food processor and run it until they break down and become smooth. This will likely take at least 15 minutes. If you are finding your almonds aren’t achieving a smooth consistency, you can add a tbs. or two of water to help them emulsify.
Meanwhile, melt the honey and coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat; stir in cinnamon and salt.
Once your almonds have been ground to your desired smoothness, add honey mixture and process for 1-2 minutes more. Taste for sweetness.
I did not perform a blind taste test with the kids, but both gave this recipe a hearty thumbs up. It is much less sweet and smooth than the Trader Joe’s spread, but that didn’t seem to faze either of them. I found the Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Spread WAY too sweet for my taste buds, not to mention I didn’t want to consume the soy and dairy ingredients. I’ve been putting a tbs. of my version into my green smoothies, and had a little spread on half a banana before this morning’s run.
I can’t wait to feature yet another fun and delicious treat made with coconut oil that’s perfect for summer: homemade “magic shell” for ice cream! Even more exciting is that Tropical Traditions has made it possible for me to give away a 32 oz. jar of their Gold Label Oil to a lucky reader. Look for the recipe and giveaway later this week!
**Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.
If you’d like to learn even more about Tropical Traditions coconut oil, they provided this video with more information about their sourcing, product and its health benefits.