Maybe it’s the fact that I collected 80 essays today, or the mountainous mounds of clean, unfolded laundry lounging on my bed, or perhaps it’s the endless paperwork and errands surrounding our upcoming move to New Zealand, but one thing is certain: I feel a wee bit overwhelmed lately, slightly nutty. Which got me to thinking about, well, nuts, and how much they enrich my life.
It sounds like a silly, simple thing, but nuts are the vegan’s secret (energy) weapon. Unfortunately, for those of us who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, nuts were considered of the Dark (ie, Fat) Side. Instead of munching on a handful of almonds, walnuts, or cashews, I was the TCBY worker’s worst freaking nightmare, asking to taste all eight “low fat” or “fat free” flavors. I would have done well to note that Seventh-Day Adventists — many of whom consumed record-breaking amounts of all kinds of nuts, but walnuts in particular, were some of the oldest living humans on earth. (I’m sure avoiding hard drugs helped their longevity, too, but really, it’s clearly about the nuts.)
Protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, and healthy fats — nuts have them all, baby! Before you take a spatula straight to that jar of natural peanut butter, however, let me remind you that nuts are like tiny power bombs, so a few go a long way. Which nuts are best? Simply put, all nuts are good for you, so experiment — toast hazelnuts to add to your hot cereal, try chopped walnuts and pecans on salads, and crush cashews or peanuts on Pad Thai and savory stews. Blended raw cashews with water creates a creamy sauce that can be seasoned in endless ways, and combining finely chopped walnuts, rice, lentils, onions and simple seasonings can a very fine vegan meatball make. A few nuts add incredible texture and flavor, turning a simple dish into a masterpiece.
One confusing side note about nuts: should we eat them raw, or roasty-toasty? In terms of health benefits, it’s best to either eat nuts raw or roast them yourself at low heat, and not too long (take it easy, Iron Chef). Apparently roasting nuts at high heats for too long kills off many nutrients and can also create carcinogens — aside from tasting like charred gravel. Certain bacterias can thrive in raw nuts (especially almonds) and toasting or blanching them reduces the risk of contracting a food-borne illness when you’re trying to eat like a health goddess.
I will post more nut-related recipes soon. Until then, my friends, I’ll be folding laundry. And going nuts. Join me?