Nuts are one of the healthiest foods we can eat, helping lower cholesterol and protecting against heart disease, but too often our options are limited to finding them in trail mix, granola bars, and the occasional cereal. Thankfully we aren't stuck with these good but often boring options.
There are some creative and delicious ways to cook with nuts that not only provide great flavor and texture to meals, but also add life-enhancing Omega-3, fiber, and antioxidants.
Let's Start with Breakfast
Top your oatmeal with a handful of chopped walnuts or add ground almonds to your morning smoothie. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts on a veggie-stuffed omelet or stir in ground hazelnuts to pancake or waffle mix.
One of my favorite sauces for pancakes is one my Mum made when I was little. She mixed ground almonds with honey, butter, and a bit of cream to make a thick, luscious sauce that far surpasses any bottle of fake maple syrup.
Honey Almond Sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup ground almonds
1. Combine honey, butter and cream in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
3. Stir in ground almonds.
4. If using on pancakes or waffles, serve warm. Otherwise, let cool until it is spreadable.
Add slivered almonds to tuna or chicken salad, sprinkle toasted nuts over green salad, and make bread filled with seeds and nuts to produce a far more nutritious base for open-faced sandwiches.
THINK NUTS ARE FULL OF CALORIES? THEY ACTUALLY HAVE FEWER CALORIES THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT!
Top butternut squash soup with a dollop of sour cream and a hearty sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts and branch out from familiar peanut butter on your sandwich or celery sticks by experimenting with almond butter or cashew butter.
When Dinner-Time Swings Around
Jazz up baked red snapper, tilapia, or even cod with a delectable topping of ground walnuts mixed with lime zest, and a bit of butter.
Combine ground almonds with dessicated coconut and toast them in a wok (watching closely so they don't burn) then stir them into curries as a delicious thickener.
Instead of breading your chicken, veal, or pork cutlets with breadcrumbs, use ground nuts tossed with chopped, fresh herbs and garlic to make a far more nutritious coating.
Baked Red Snapper with Citrus Walnut Crust
1/2 cup ground walnuts
Zest and juice of one lime
Zest and juice of one lemon
3 pounds red snapper
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
2. In a small bowl, mix together walnut meal and citrus zest. Set aside.
3. Arrange fish in a single layer in baking dish, skin side down. Drizzle citrus juice over fish, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Spread walnut citrus mixture over top as evenly as possible.
5. Scatter butter bits over everything.
6. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until fish is done.
For Healthy Snacks
Keep a supply of toasted nuts on hand to keep you from reaching for bad fat-laden potato chips. Play around with spices and flavorings to find options you like best. Consider tossing toasted almonds with soy sauce, sesame oil, and Asian spices or sweeten things up by toasting hazelnuts then stirring them in honey simmered with cinnamon and cardamom.
Krista Bjorn is a food and travel writer. She blogs daily on her site RamblingTart.com. She's a self-described "Danish-Canadian lass who loves to write, travel and cook with people I love."