Live And Let Live

Seriously- why do people have such a hard time keeping their negative thoughts to themselves?  Has anyone ever heard of the saying, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

It seems that lately, my co-workers, my gym friends and even my relatives, are compelled to give their unsolicited negative opinions about everything. A few months ago, I received negative feedback regarding my blog post about legumes. I know, I know, shame on me. To hell with all the vegetarians and health conscious people out there who eat beans as part of their diet. Apparently, whether or not beans are inherently poisonous is a debatable topic.

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Similarly, with certain oils- there are negative and positive articles about the virtues of all types of oils.  However, it is my belief that experts in the field are entitled to hold differing opinions as to just about anything if it is backed up by research. Lately, whenever I mention a topic that is remotely debatable, I am faced with an unprovoked chastising.  I have encountered this superior attitude more and more recently.

I never proclaimed to be a nutritionist or a medical professional. In writing my blog posts, I do a significant amount of research and it is my perogative as the writer, to choose to present the data as I wish. I do not take issue with the fact that someone has a differing opinion or theory based upon their “scientific evidence.” However, I do take umbrage when the person fails to see both sides of the issue. Agree to disagree. Live and let live.

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I understand in today’s society that consumers are more educated and more aware about everything than they were even 5 years ago. If you want to make it your life’s mission to only eat grass-fed beef and never eat in a restaurant for fear that they will serve grain-fed poultry in -gasp!- vegetable oil, I say, “more power to you!” If you want to grow your own fruits and vegetables, raise and slaughter your own chickens, I say, “Hallelujah.” But don’t disparage the rest of us who work long hours and don’t have the time or inclination to care about whether our salmon is wild or not. Don’t ram your Paleo philosophy down our throats when we don’t want to follow you. And finally, don’t look at me like I’ve just committed a heinous crime if you see me eating yogurt- yes- I still eat some dairy and I don’t deserve to be criminalized for doing so.

Tolerance and an appreciation for another’s beliefs and lifestyle is what makes a harmonious world.

“Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”- Albert Einstein

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“The highest result of education is tolerance.”- Helen Keller

 

 

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My (Almost) First Group Bike Ride

So I was supposed to go on my first group bike ride with the Bicycle Planet cycle group last weekend. The night before, I anxiously prepared like a high school freshman getting ready for her first day of school. Backpack or no backpack? Fanny pack? Heavens, no! That screams, “Tourist!.” How many water bottles? Where will I put them anyway? I only have a cage for one water bottle. Sunglasses? Where’s the holder-thing that attaches the sunglasses around my neck so they won’t fall to the ground? So many things to consider.

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After figuring this all out, I got up at the insane hour of 6:30 a.m.. For someone like me who still sleeps until 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I may as well have gotten up at 4:00 a.m. At 7:15 a.m., I rode my bike to the Bicycle Planet store and waited. Slowly, I watched as the other riders convened, one by one. I observed how they methodically removed their bikes from the trunks of their cars, put a towel on the ground and reconnected their bike tires. I watched them carefully pump air into their deflated tires. I heard the clacketty-clack noise of their cycling shoes as they made their way to the meeting spot.  Awed at how professional this group looked, I was starting to rethink my decision to partake in this group ride. After all, I had only been on my bike once…. that morning, as I rode around the block, exactly one time before heading over to the store.

Finally, an official-looking cyclist opened up the bike store and said that anyone could come in if they needed anything. I walked in and waited as he dealt with two customers at the desk. He gave them bikes and fitted them for helmets. When he finished with the couple, I asked the man behind the desk if it will be a problem during this morning’s ride that I am a beginner road rider. I explained that this morning’s one mile ride from my house to the store was my first time on the bike. He said that usually, beginner riders do not have a problem because there is generally a slower group. However, this morning, a significant number of experienced riders will be on the ride.  He suggested that I ride instead with the two people who just picked up their bikes. He said that they, too, were beginner cyclists and were going on a less challenging, local ride.

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I was devastated, crushed. I was so psyched for my first group ride. I spoke to Morry Edelstein, the owner of Bicycle Planet, who confirmed that usually, there are a number of beginner riders. He said that when the weather gets warmer, more beginners will show up and I should come back to ride with the group. Enter Shveta and her husband, Raul. Avid spinners, this was their first time on road bikes as well. They welcomed me and together, we rode the paved bike path to Bethpage State Park. Along the way, we wound up getting lost trying to find where the path connects and Raul gave me a quick reminder lesson as to how to properly shift the gears.

As we rode up and down the rolling path, Shveta and I kept assuring each other that we really are in good shape, despite our howling about our searing quads.

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As we rode, Shveta and I talked about my husband, who loves to bike and how his back issue prevented him from participating in this ride. I said that my husband would get along well with Raul who kept pace about 50 feet ahead of us. At the end of an hour and a half, Raul estimated that we rode about 15-20 miles.

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Shveta and I exchanged telephone numbers, expecting to contact each other when we are ready to join the “regular” Sunday morning cycling group. We enjoyed the beautiful weather, got a rigorous workout, became familiar with our bikes and made new friends. Despite my immediate disappointment that I was not part of the Bicycle Planet cycling group, this smaller group proved to be an enjoyable venture. Sometimes things don’t always turn out as we planned….sometimes they are even better.

Hot Food and Nutrition Trends for 2014

What’s hot and trending in the food and nutrition world for 2014? Here are some trends that you won’t want to miss:

1) Clean eating- Clean eating is about eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts and less processed foods, sugar and salt. Whether you follow the Paleo diet, the Zone diet, Gluten-free diet, Weight Watchers or your own combination of what works for you- I am certain everyone can agree that processed foods should be eaten sparingly if not eliminated. Hence the increase in farmer’s markets and farm-to-table restaurants.

2) Cauliflower- This low calorie, vitamin-C rich vegetable is still expected to be popular in 2014. Whether eaten mashed like potatoes or seasoned and burnt in the oven, cauliflower will continue to be enjoyed by many.

3) Kale will continue to be juiced into smoothies, baked into chips or eaten in salads. One cup of chopped Kale has only 33 calories and contains significant amounts of calcium, vitamins A, C and K. Kale is also rich in the types of anti-oxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits.

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4) Coconut oil- rich in plant-based saturated fats will remain wildly popular among dietary fanatics and nutritionists- is used in cooking; slathered on skin and swished in the mouth for “cleansing purposes.” Coconut oil is better than butter and trans fats, however it is not as good as liquid vegetable oils like soybean, canola or olive oil, according to Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, Penn State University cardiovascular nutrition researcher.

5) The low-fat trend is weakening. Finally! Studies have shown that low-fat does not always lead to less body fat. As a result, the low-fat trend is fading as people are consuming more olive oil, avocados and bacon.

What particular superfood (food with supposed health benefits) do I like the best? Honey! Honey contains certain antioxidants which help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Athletes claim that ingesting honey helps to maintain glycogen levels and improve recovery time more than other sweeteners. Honey contains simple sugars, yet it is not the same as white sugar or artificial sweeteners. The combination of fructose and glucose found in honey actually helps the body regulate blood sugar levels.  Additionally, honey helps to alleviate coughs and may help reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders.

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Simply stated, I love honey because it is sweet. My unparalleled sweet tooth consists of a constant yen for chocolate. As I continue my quest to eat cleaner and healthier, I try to substitute honey as a sweetener whenever possible.

I have included one of my favorite honey recipes. This delicious honey baked chicken recipe has only 6 ingredients and is so easy to make.

Baked Honey Chicken

Ingredients

1 three (3) pound whole chicken cut into pieces or 4-6 thick, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup butter or margarine- melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup mustard (I used deli mustard)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in a shallow baking pan, skin side up if using a whole chicken. In a bowl, combine (with a spoon or whisk) the melted butter or margarine, honey, mustard, salt and cumin and pour the mixture over the chicken. Bake for 65-75 minutes, basting once after 15 minutes with the sauce in the pan. Bake until the chicken is browned on top and tender and the juices run clear when the chicken is cut open.

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Honey Mask for Dry Skin

1 teaspoon raw honey
1 teaspoon mashed avocado
1 teaspoon plain whole milk yogurt

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Spread the mixture on your face and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Wash off, carefully avoiding your eyes. The fats in the avocado and the yogurt will moisturize your skin. The lactic acid in the yogurt smooths your skin, stimulates collagen production and refines the pores.

Honey Mask For Sensitive Skin

2 teaspoons raw honey
1 teaspoon aloe vera gel

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and smooth on your face. Leave on for about 10-20 minutes, then wash off. The aloe soothes inflammation and rejuvenates sensitive skin.

Enjoy! And remember, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” Translation: You will be more successful in life being sweeter or nice, rather than being mean or hurtful to people.

 

Go Take A Hike!!

I mean it, “Go take a hike!” Last weekend, my husband, Jay and I took our pug, Max on a fabulous hike. The dirt trail started in the quaint, one-block town of Cold Spring Harbor, NY. The trail is actually located in Cold Spring Harbor State Park, part of the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail, located at 83-141, 25A in Cold Spring Harbor. Parking is easy and there is no entry fee. The adjoining Cold Spring Harbor Library has bathrooms for hikers’ use.

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The views are beautiful on this very steep hike. I have heard that if you go in the summertime, you won’t see much of a view through the trees but you will enjoy the benefit of a cool, shaded hike. The hike itself is only 1.25 miles in each direction but it felt like twice that far. Maybe the hike felt longer because we stopped periodically to give Max water or because Max stopped to play with every dog we passed on the hike. Little Max, only 19 pounds with short legs, had to be carried twice uphill on the way back. Although he loved the hike and even ran ahead (on a long leash) in certain spots, the steep hills became challenging for him.

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We saw several people using hiking sticks which may be useful for the steep inclines. We also saw a few people jogging the trail which I thought would be really fun until I realized that the steep, jagged path may be a recipe for disaster for an accident-prone person like me. Instead, next time, Jay and I came up with the idea of each of us wearing a 20 lb. weighted vest during the hike.

It sounds like a great idea now- extra cardio- but wait until we are actually trying to walk uphill with our weighted vests. I’m sure there’s a funny blog post in there somewhere.

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We ended our hike at the bottom of a hill where the trail met Lawrence HIll Road. If you cross over this road you can enter into Trail View State Park and hike it all the way to Bethpage State Park.

Jay and I will probably hike further next time, wearing our weighted vests, without Max, as the longer hike may be too much for him.

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Check out the Long Island Greenbelt Trail online at ligreenbelt.org for hiking maps and trail information. The Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference is a non-profit organization that has created more than 200 hiking trails on Long Island. A few years ago, I bought an informative book, “Hiking Long Island: A Comprehensive Guide To Parks And Trails” by Lee McAllister. The book features hiking trails and nature walks throughout Long Island.

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Happy Hiking!

(view from the parking lot at the base of the trail)

What’s For Dinner?

We have all uttered those words, “what’s for dinner?” or “what’s for lunch?” at some time. And we all know what healthy foods to eat when we go out for lunch or dinner. By now, you probably even know the healthy choices to eat at fast-food places. Yet sometimes the healthy food choice is not staring at us in the face. Or maybe we are bored of the traditional healthy choices. Sometimes we are short on time or cash. I have compiled a few healthy food options that I turn to when I am short on time or money. Maybe when you are stuck somewhere without the typical healthy food choices, you will remember this post.

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When I eat a hamburger, I order a whole wheat or whole grain bun because I must eat half a bun with my burger. It’s strange because I eat meatballs and steak without bread but I can’t go bun-less with a hamburger. However, for the carb-free eaters, two new (new to my area) hamburger fast-ish food places; Dirty Burger and BurgerFi offer hamburgers wrapped in lettuce. My husband loves the burger-wrapped in lettuce alternative. Occasionally, after I eat a hamburger at these places I find that I am still hungry. Sometimes I order another hamburger but other times, instead of eating french fries or onion rings, I order a hot dog (without the bun). I know I may get negative feedback about this but I have spoken with two nutritionists who said that if its a choice between french fries, onion rings or a hot dog, at least the hot dog provides protein.

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Sometimes I find myself near a pizza place and although I really want the slice of pizza (my favorite food ever!), instead, I order a side of meatballs.  A side of meatballs is usually two or three meatballs and at times I order it with a little bit of melted mozzarella cheese. I find that the protein in the meatballs keeps me satisfied for hours. Again, a better alternative than eating two slices of pizza.

For many reasons, it’s always better to plan meals ahead of time. However, sometimes life gets in the way; maybe you had to work late, or an unexpected deadline came up or you were stuck in a last-minute meeting at work and there’s no way you want to start grilling chicken after the day you’ve had. It’s times like that when I pick up a cooked, rotisserie chicken at my local supermarket or prepared foods store. In my area, I can buy a whole chicken for less than $7.00 at Shoprite super market or Iavarone specialty foods store. I ask the person in the meat department to please cut the chicken up for me and it lasts for days. If you do not eat the skin, it is a very healthy, cheap option for dinner and the next day’s breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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When dining out, if you are craving something other than the typical salad with grilled chicken or broiled fish, I have a suggestion for you. I found a wonderful restaurant, Hill Country in New York City. This meat-intensive, Paleo-friendly, barbecue restaurant has locations in New York City, Brooklyn, N.Y. and Washington, D.C. Their dry-rub style ribs, sausage, brisket and other meats are slow-cooked and served on butcher-paper, counter-style by the pound. Yes- you order and pay by the pound! Portions are ginormous. Their spare ribs are like the brontosaurus ribs Fred Flintstone ate. I’ve been to the New York City location many times and I’ve ordered one rib and a piece of brisket and then went back up to the counter and ordered more ribs. Their chicken and side dishes are also excellent but truthfully, I go there for the meats. Vegetarians will like the mac n’ cheese, green bean casserole and white shoe peg corn pudding.

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Be creative with your food choices. It’s fun to come up with fresh ideas for eating healthy. Honestly, I have a limited palate and I tend to get bored eating “salad with grilled chicken.” If anyone has any healthy eating ideas they would like to share, feel free to comment on this post.

Biking- You CAN Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

When I see a group of multi-colored cyclists riding in a giant herd, engulfing one side of the street or the service road of a highway, I am sure that I’m not alone when I say that I am both intimidated and in awe of those athletes. At this point in my life, I’d like to change my feelings of intimidation into feelings of confidence and try to become proficient in cycling.

I am proud to announce that I am now an ambassador for The Bicycle Planet located at 340 Robbins Lane in Syosset, NY. For years, my family and I have purchased our bicycles from The Bicycle Planet so I know first hand about their top quality bicycles and accessories. I received a free “triathlon kit” from The Bicycle Planet, which is comprised of bike shorts and a matching tank top, both emblazoned with The Bicycle Planet logo. I plan to wear the cycling clothes when I participate in the triathlons, bike races and rides.  I also received a 10% discount on a new road bicycle that I bought to use in the competitions.

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The Bicycle Planet has a wide variety of Road, Mountain and BMX bikes from companies like Trek, Gary Fisher, Specialized, Pivot and many more. They carry roof racks, hitch racks and trunk mounted racks from several companies, including Thule. The store also has a top notch service shop and a large selection of clothing featuring Pearl, Izumi, Castelli and Champion System, just to name a few.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Morry Edelstein, the owner of The Bicycle Planet. A true cycling enthusiast, Morry and I discussed the benefits of me joining one of the store’s group rides in order to get more cycling experience. I have always enjoyed bike riding and years ago, I competed in several triathlons and duathlons (run-bike-run). However, I never specifically concentrated on my cycling. I plan to change that.

My first order of business was to purchase a new bicycle. Other than the 10- speed Schwinn I rode in eighth grade, I have never ridden a road bike. Morry set me up with Paul, one of the managers and expert bike fitters at the store. I met with Paul twice. The first time I came to the store we discussed all of my road bike options. I told him that I wanted a model in a lower price point, with the understanding that if I continue to race and improve, I would eventually trade-up to a more advanced model. Paul was extremely knowledgeable about all of the different models. He was a pleasure to work with because he worked within my budget and didn’t try to sell me a more advanced model that I felt was cost prohibitive.

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Paul and I discussed that I would wait to buy the clip-in shoes and pedals until I become more comfortable with the bicycle. I know that I will eventually purchase the clip-in shoes and pedal system because of the overall efficiency but I wanted to wait until I rode the bike a few times. Paul understood this and in no way did he pressure me to change my mind. Paul said that if I eventually purchase the clip-in shoe and pedal system, I can bring my bicycle back to the store and pedal my bike while I watch the instructional video which explains how everything works.

When I returned to the store to pick up my bike, Paul did the bike fit in the fit studio. I never realized the importance of a proper bike fit. When I used to ride my old bikes, I always made sure that my feet could firmly touch the ground. With the road bike, my feet barely touched the ground until I took one foot out of the strap-in pedal. This is an entirely different concept and a change that I will have to get used to. A proper bike fit is crucial for optimal performance, injury prevention and comfort. Paul took three-dimensional measurements with a specialized tool and adjusted the seat and pedals to ensure that the bike fit me properly.

It was difficult not to get carried away with the bike accessories but at Paul’s suggestion, I did purchase a flat kit.  The flat kit has all the necessary items to enable me to change a flat tire- once I attend the informational class to learn how to change a flat tire.

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So now I’m all set to join one of The Bicycle Planet road rides which start at the store every Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. Morry assured me that the Sunday morning ride group encompasses all cycling levels; from beginner to elite. I am excited to go on my first group ride armed with the knowledge that I will most probably be at the back of the pack. Since I thrive on challenges, I fully expect to be at the top of the pack, with the leaders, in no time.  Anyone want to join me in a few weeks?

Morry mentioned that they will soon be resurrecting the “women only” rides that used to be very popular.  I will keep you posted on my cycling progress and report back after I go on my first group ride. I hope to ride with my husband, Jay, as soon his back injury heals. I also plan to start swimming soon- to prepare for the triathlon.

So listen, if I can start cycling at 48 years old, you can too! Seriously, what’s stopping you? Are you nervous? Afraid? Intimidated? Don’t be! Trying new things keeps us young, fit and interesting. It’s always good to change things up- work new muscles and reach a new level of fitness. Get started today!

Disclaimer: Although I did receive a free triathlon suit, a free bike fit and a discount on my road bike, I was not pressured to write a positive review and all opinions expressed in today’s post and all future posts are mine alone.

What Happened To Good Ole Peanut Butter?

When I was a kid, the choice of peanut butter was between Skippy or Jif and maybe some supermarket brand that no one ever bought. Then years later I remember going to a health food store in my neighborhood where you could watch your own peanut butter being made fresh. You would scoop the peanuts and then pour them into a gargantuan machine where the peanuts would be pulverized right before your eyes. No additives, no sugar. Yummm fresh peanut butter- what could be better? Other than the fact that it didn’t last more than a few days?

Fast forward to the present day and there are apparently a plethora of peanut butter options that are a heck of a lot healthier than what we ate growing up. A walk down the aisle of a regular super market will give you the old standards like Skippy and Jif, yet these days you will find low fat and chocolate flavored options along with Smuckers “natural” peanut butter. Some supermarkets carry almond butter- peanut butter made with almonds, not peanuts.

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Health food stores and stores such as Whole foods or Trader Joes stock a variety of these new and improved, healthier peanut butter alternatives. My local Whole Foods sells almond butter, sunbutter, cashew butter, soynut butter and even powdered peanut butter.  “Just Great Stuff” is powdered organic peanut butter which when mixed with water has a smooth consistency and contains a fraction of the fat than in all of the butters just listed. And it is very tasty!

So what’s all the fuss about these new “alternative” peanut butters? Are they really healthier than our old peanut butter? What about the taste? What do the critics say?

Most of the consumer brands consist of Hydrogenated vegetable oil (to prevent oil separation), salt (to avoid spoiling), Dextros and artificial sweeteners (for taste). As an alternative to making your own nut butter (see my recipe below), I found a few healthy and delicious peanut butter alternatives in my local stores.

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Almond butter is made by grinding and smoothing almonds into a paste. By eating almonds or almond butter, you get fiber, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and phosphorus.  Both almond butter and peanut butter are high in monounsaturated fats, however, almond butter is a slightly better nutritional choice with 5 grams per tablespoon versus 3.3 grams per tablespoon in peanut butter. Foods rich in monounsaturated fats may help to lower cholesterol. Almond butter is also a slightly better source of fiber and has four times more vitamin E than peanut butter. Vitamin E is known for its anti-oxidant properties and may help to prevent heart disease and cancer.

Soynut butter is made from roasted soybeans. Soynut butter is ideal for people with allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. Soynut butter is also gluten-free and dairy-free. Nutritionally, soynut butter is slightly better for you than peanut butter. In a 2 tablespoon serving, soynut butter contains 170 calories per serving, while peanut butter has 190 calories. Soynut butter has 100 calories from fat while peanut butter has 130. Both soynut butter and peanut butter are high in protein. Yet peanut butter contains more vitamins and minerals than soynut butter.

Unlike many other nuts, cashews and cashew butter do not contain omega-3 fatty acids which may reduce the risk of heart disease and prevent high blood pressure. However, cashew butter does contain high amounts of other heart-healthy fats and essential minerals and is a good low-carbohydrate, high protein option.

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Sunbutter or sunflower seed butter is peanut-free, tree-nut free and gluten-free. Followers of the Paleo diet usually opt for almond or sunflower butter. Sunflower seeds contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals. They supply B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, A, D, E and K and minerals such as calcium, potassium, zinc phosphorus, magnesium and selenium. Sunbutter is low in saturated fats, high in protein and low in sodium and has no cholesterol.

Personally, I think sunbutter is tastier than almond butter and soynut butter leaves me with a strange aftertaste. I also enjoy the taste of cashew butter, especially when it is homemade. This recipe for cashew butter is very easy to make and tastes delicious.

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Homemade Cashew Butter

Ingredients

2 cups unsalted roasted cashews
2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

optional 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

In a food processor or blender, combine cashews and 2 tablespoons of the oil (and salt and sugar, if desired). Process on high speed for 30 seconds and then scrape down the sides with a spatula. Continue to process until you reach desired smoothness, adding 1 teaspoon of oil at a time, depending on how smooth you want the cashew butter. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.