I am off to hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park this weekend. It's about a 15-mile round trip, with a 4,800 feet elevation gain, that we will tackle in the course of one day. The question that keeps coming to my mind is -- what snack should I pack?
It has to be something filled with energy, easy to pack, and sharable with my fellow hikers. I'm also looking for a treat that is rewarding, so I can enjoy it when I reach the top of Half Dome. Given that everything will have to fit into my backpack, I definitely need an all encompassing snack. After much flipping through my cabinets, I decided on the necessary components.
Nut Butter + Cookie + Chocolate
Nut Butter: Nut butters are healthy and packed with a lot of nutrients. They are always my breakfast of choice before any race I run, and they have carried me across many finish lines. Call it my comfort race food. Usually three large spoonfuls (or more) on a piece of wheat bagel. It's not a race weekend, but I can definitely use the energy that comes from a nut butter. While peanuts and almonds have the most protein, this is still a "vacation" hike, so I'm opting for my tastier preference: the cashew (which is not too far behind on the protein count).
Cookie: Cookies are definitely sharable. And throw them in my reusable snack bag. Packable.
Chocolate: This is the classic reward. Let's eat chocolate on the top of Half Dome!
And so, the verdict: I'm hiking with Cashew Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
This recipe will be posted in two installments. Since I have to carry the weight of these cookies during my hike, every ingredient needs to serve its purpose. Wholesome ingredients only. Not a drop of extra stuff. So, I'm making the entire thing from scratch. Today's installment: The Cashew Nut Butter.
Nut Butters are very easy. The concept is to simply put everything into a blender or food processor and turn it on. Adding oils will make the nut butter a little smoother, and adding salt, sugars, honey, or any other additions will give it some extra flavor. In my Cashew Nut Butter, I added coconut oil. I used coconut oil (as opposed to any other oils) because it has a light nutty taste that pairs well with the cashews. It also is solid at temperatures above 76 degrees fahrenheit / 24 degrees celsius, so it will keep the nut butter from being too runny so long as the temperature is below 76 degrees.
- 2 ⅔ cups roasted cashews
- 1 tablespoon cold-pressed virgin coconut oil
- Salt and sugar - to taste (if desired)
- Place the cashews in a blender or food processor. Start by pulsing the cashews for about 30 seconds. Once the cashews are broken into pieces, start blending continuously. Once the mixture turns thick and chunky, stop the blender frequently and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- At this point, add in the coconut oil. Keep blending until the oils have been released from the cashews and a nut butter forms. It should now have a shiny sheen to it.
- Add salt and sugar to taste, if desired.
- Transfer to a separate container and serve.
- It should take about 10 minutes total, depending on your equipment and the consistency you prefer for the nut butter. I used my Cuisinart stick hand blender with the chopper attachment and it worked well, but I had to take a few breaks to allow the motor to cool down (which was a perfect opportunity to take the below series of the transformation of the cashews into the nut butter).