Nuts are a portable protein source for many vegetarians/vegans. It is used in sweet and savoury dishes, as the feature in meals or background in snacks and can be blended, puréed or spread.
This week’s Meatless Monday is nuts!
The upside of nuts
Nuts contain essential fats, fiber, antioxidants and micro nutrients (e.g. selenium). There exists a variety of nuts and they are quite versatile in the kitchen. They complement any meal and provide satiety. Nuts have been on the recommended list for those with diabetes, heart disease and they are considered part of a healthy diet.
Nuts should be kept in the fridge to prevent their innate oils from going rancid. Before using, soak nuts in water to encourage enzyme activity and digestibility and avoid cooking them at a high temperature as this can degrade their oils. Opt for organic raw nuts that are preferably stored in the refrigerator of the grocery store.
The downside of nuts
Some people are allergic to nuts so can’t enjoy their benefits at all.
Not all nuts are created equal; some contain an exorbitant amount of fat (Macadamias are guilty of this) making them calorie dense. More is not necessarily better and many nuts are prohibitively expensive for some food budgets.
Commercially available nuts are often an antithesis to their unprocessed brethren. Improper storage of nuts, chemically treated plants and the addition of high levels of sodium, sugar and heat render processed nuts an unhealthy product.
Whether you can afford a Vitamix, Blendtec or standard food processor, you will need something for the preparation of nuts. A good knife along with some chopping skill will come in handy too. There are numerous nut recipes on the internet and in plant-based cookbooks. Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Nut butter
Go crazy-combine a variety of nuts. I just did a cashew and brazil nut butter with just a touch of coconut butter for some tropical va-va-voom to bring it all together
- Nut milk
Non-dairy milk need not be rice or soy only.
- Cashew cream
Flavour of the month for chefs and vegans alike. Can be used in place of regular cream.
- Dips, spreads and pâtés
Use your favourite nuts with herbs and spices for a nutty accompaniment to bread, vegetables and crackers.
- Loaves and fillings
Use ground nuts to form the basis for a stuffed pasta dish or a vegetarian/vegan meat loaf.
Add nuts to your granola and eat it as cereal, topping for yoghurt or as trail mix.
- Baked goods
Peanut butter cookies, baklava, cashew butter cupcakes, macarons, banana walnut bread, homemade nutella, pecan pie, nut brittle-ah the list goes on…
Add nuts to your salad or blend nut butter into your salad dressing. How about some pistachios to go with your Persian pomegranate salad?
- The mains
Include nuts in your soup, stew, stir fry, veggie burgers and curries.
- “Icing on the cake”
Use crushed nuts as a garnish.