Nuts About Nuts!

Ok, so I love nuts. Who doesn’t…? I guess maybe those with a life-threatening allergy… If that’s you, not to worry. Although this time I’m discussing nuts, seeds have a very similar nutritional make up.

Nuts are close to the perfect food. They are tasty, good for you, require no preparation, and can be used in almost any dish, sweet or savoury. My family and I eat nuts everyday. Nuts are a very important part of a healthy diet and, unless you have an allergy, should be consumed often. I find most people do not eat enough nuts if they are even eating them at all.

Nuts are particularly important for kids. They need foods high in healthy fats to keep them going and to help with brain development, and nuts are a great source of healthy fats. They also contain protein, fibre, and vitamins and minerals. Although the exact nutritional profile differs between varieties, nuts are generally about 10-20% protein and 50-75% fats (mainly mono and polyunsaturated). They contain differing types and amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients so it’s best to rotate your nuts to ensure you are getting all they have to offer.

Unfortunately, nuts have gotten a bit of a bad wrap over the last few decades due to rising numbers of allergies. For awhile, it was even recommended that you delay introducing nuts to infants to help prevent food allergies. This advice has since been found to be false and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends not waiting to introduce nuts even if there is an increased risk of allergy. For more information on this, visit: http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/feeding_your_baby_in_the_first_year

We are also emerging from a huge ‘fat scare’ where everyone seemed to be avoiding fats like the plague. Thankfully, we seem to be getting over that as we are realizing that low fat diets actually make things worse. Fats are necessary for health and normal functioning. We need fats; the right kind of fats. Even if you are trying to lose weight and cut calories, you should not be avoiding healthy fats.

Now, I’m not saying that you should go forth and consume an entire bowl full of nuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. I just want to get the point across that you don’t need to be afraid of nuts and, in fact, should give them a welcomed and important position in your diet amongst all the other healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables. Better yet, use them to bump out some unhealthy foods. Because nuts are high in fats and proteins, they give you more energy and keep you feeling satisfied longer as compared to a sugary snack.

Nuts Pic

Here are things to keep in mind when purchasing and storing nuts:

  • Buy your nuts raw, and not roasted. Exposing nuts to high heat strips them of some of their health benefits. The unsaturated fats become rancid and some of the vitamins and minerals can be depleted. Buying shelled nuts is even better, but not as convenient.
  • Store your nuts in the fridge. Unsaturated fats are sensitive to heat and light. Keeping them in a cool, dark place keeps them fresh for longer.
  • When buying nut butters, be sure to check the ingredients. Typical store bought nut butters are loaded with sugars and trans fats. Check the label to make sure the only ingredient is nuts.
  • Nuts can sometimes be a bit hard to digest. Try soaking them for 4-6 hours or overnight. They become softer and, some think, easier to digest.

Easy ways to include nuts in your diet:

  • Plain straight up nuts. Not tempting enough?  Try adding some dried fruit (… and perhaps a few dark chocolate or unsweetened carob chips) to make a trail mix.
  • Nut butters (natural nut butters with no added ingredients) spread on crackers, bread, celery (ants on a log anyone?), apples, etc.
  • Sprinkle nuts on a salad.
  • Try a nut inspired recipe like this Asian Cashew Quinoa Salad.
  • Add ground or whole nuts to your oatmeal or hot cereal. Chia and hemp seeds are great for this too.
  • Add nuts or nut butters to a smoothie.
  • Use different kinds of nuts to make pestos to use on pasta, meat, or as a spread or dip.
  • Grind nuts and use the powder to coat slippery fruits like banana and melon. On top of adding a nutritional punch it also makes them easier for little ones to pick up. Just pop nuts in a food processor, magic bullet, blender, or coffee grinder and pulse until nuts are ground into a powder.
  • Mix ground nuts in baby food purees or cereals.
  • Add ground or whole nuts to yogurt.

Important Note:

Whole nuts and large dollops of nut butters can be choking hazards for children. Grinding nuts and sprinkling them on cereals, fruits, or adding them to smoothies is your best bet to avoid this risk. When using nut butters, spread thinly and avoid globs.   When children are old enough to begin eating whole nuts, try soaking them to soften them up and ensure the pieces are not big enough to block an airway. Here is some additional information on choking hazards: http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/preventing-choking-suffocation-children

Easy-going Tomato Salad

Wow, it’s been awhile. We have completed our move from Guelph down to the Niagara region and are finally getting settled in. I have been spending a lot of my free time getting acquainted with some of the farmers markets and farms that are in the area. There is certainly no shortage of farm-fresh fruits and veggies down here this time of year; I’m loving it!

One of my favourite purchases has been fresh local tomatoes.   I try to get all my tomato cravings out at this time of year and then abstain when they are out of season and not-so-delicious. I’ve been trying different varieties this year to see what I may like to try and grow next year. As I was admiring all of the beautiful colours in my bowl, I decided I should share my favourite tomato salad recipe.

Unfortunately, I’m the only one in my household who likes tomatoes. Nicholas will eat them sometimes, so I always put a little on his plate just in case, but I make this salad in small portions, as I’m usually enjoying it on my own. That’s ok though, some things are too good to share anyway.

This salad is all about winging it with whatever you have on hand, which is part of the reason I like it so much. Since I never measure the ingredients, everything is approximate, and if you don’t have or don’t like one, two, or even three of the ingredients, you can easily leave it out and still come out with a great tasting salad.

 Tomato 1

Easy-Going Tomato Salad

Serves 1-2

(All ingredients except tomatoes are optional depending on what you have on hand and your preferences)

  • ½ cups roughly chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes of any variety
  • 2 big splashes of olive oil
  • 1 big splash of balsamic
  • 1 small clove of garlic pressed or minced
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil or parsley or other herb of choice
  • 1-2 tsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tbsp goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 slice hearty whole grain bread (fresh, stale, or lightly toasted)

Gently mix everything in a bowl until your tomatoes are coated in a nice creamy dressing (unless you leave out the cheese, then it won’t be creamy). You should have quite a bit of delicious liquid in the bottom of the bowl due to adding salt to the tomatoes. This is intentional, as you can either add some homemade croutons (hunks of stale or lightly toasted bread) to soak it up or leave it to the end to mop up with freshly baked bread. Yum!

tomato 2

 

Ridiculously Easy and Delicious Dairy-Free Ice Cream

I can’t remember where I first saw this recipe, but it is all over the healthy/vegan recipe blogs.  Our family is (mostly) dairy-free, and a summer without ice cream is just wrong.  Sure, there is a lot of pre-made dairy-free ice cream on the market, but it’s expensive, and now it’s soooo easy to make your own healthy version.

All it takes is one ingredient: frozen bananas. That’s it! Well… plus any flavourings you want. The consistency is that of soft serve ice cream.  Yes, there is always that underlying banana flavour, but it works well with many ice cream flavours, hence the banana split, and I don’t think it’s very overpowering.

When I first saw this recipe, I thought it was too good to be true.  How could I have gone this long without knowing about this?  I had to try it for myself.  I got out my trusty food processor and some frozen bananas, and minutes later, I had what looked to be soft serve ice cream.  I added some cocoa powder and a spoon of peanut butter, blended some more, and scooped it out into bowls for Nicholas and myself.  One taste and I was a believer.  It’s awesome, and I can tell Nicolas agrees, because he finished his bowl too.

I made it again the following night for Isaac to see if it would pass the husband test.  He complained that I didn’t give him a large enough serving; I would say that’s a pass!

A big thank you to whoever first figured out that frozen bananas turn into ice cream!

Nick Ice Cream

Here are the measurements I used:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen bananas, peeled (thawed at room temp for about 10 mins)
  • 2-3 tsp cocoa powder
  • 2-3 tsp natural peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Place bananas in food processor and blend until mostly smooth
  2. Add cocoa powder and peanut butter and continue blending until soft-serve consistency
  3. Scoop into 2 bowls and enjoy!

Try experimenting with flavours to create your own. Anything goes; Strawberries, hazelnuts, vanilla, etc.  Please share any interesting flavour combinations you’ve tried in the comments section.