Healthy Eating: Enjoy the health benefits of walnuts in this versatile sauce

If you are like me and following our “new normal” directions for living…you have been staying home.  “Stay home, Stay healthy”–it’s an easy directive that is not always easy to follow.  Cooking is a great way to use the extra time as well as to keep yourself nourished and healthy.   It’s likely that you have been making your favorite comfort foods to soothe your soul and your family. Reminder…mac and cheese is fantastic but not if you eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  
 
I have enjoyed trying out new recipes and experimenting. Especially because, I have used my time at home as a way to use up food items that have been lurking in my pantry and my freezer.   Canned beans for chili, turned into chili mac the next day. Roasted chicken one day; chicken, veggie and noodle soup the following day. Creative leftovers have become the “meme” of my kitchen. 
Even though I write a column called “Healthy Eating,” I am not a purist nor do I always follow my own directives! Really…I am human too and feeling the stress of the craziness of the world outside by doorstep. I made an outrageously delicious chocolate Bundt cake over a week ago and with only two of us in the house right now, we’ve been  having slivers of it on a regular basis. (Google Bill Cosby’s stand up routine about chocolate cake if you want to justify eating it for breakfast.) Nevertheless, I try to eat from the garden and my pantry and keep it in my personal “healthy” zone (without beating myself up too much with the “food police” luring inside my mind!)
 
One of my healthier and satisfying go-to snacks is nuts. I buy bulk raw nuts and roast them in small batches. I freeze the rest so that they stay fresh and don’t go rancid. So of course I have been roasting nuts that I have stored in my freezer. I love to roast an assortment of almonds, walnuts and pecans tossed with tamari. A small handful is perfect for a mid-afternoon snack.  I put roasted nuts in my morning granola as well. Nuts are versatile and filling. Walnuts seem to be my favorite these days.   
 
The health benefits of walnuts are many and include reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol, prevention of inflammation, improvement in metabolism, weight management (when eaten in moderate quantities), and diabetes control. Walnuts can also benefit brain health and act as a mood booster. Walnuts are packed with essential fatty acids and produce an oil that is a rich emollient and is known for anti-aging properties. Walnuts are a rich source of  Vitamin C,  B vitamins and Vitamin E as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium sodium and zinc. Walnuts are 65 percent fat by weight and 15 percent protein. They are richer than most nuts in polyunsaturated fats (often considered the “good” fats) and have a relatively high amount of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Walnuts are also particularly rich in an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid. Walnuts contain many other essential nutrients, and they are a good source of dietary fiber and antioxidants.
 
All of these beneficial nutrients contribute to walnuts being thought of by many as a “power food.” Eating them (in moderation,) can help improve your health in these ways:
  • Boost bone health
  • Improve brain health
  • Antioxidant power
  • Improve metabolism
  • Control diabetes
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Regulate sleep
  • Mood booster
  • Strengthen immune system
Here is a quick and easy walnut sauce that can be used on rice, chicken, potatoes, salads, pasta.  It’s so versatile that you will find lots of ways to use it — probably many that are new to me.   I love to serve it over roasted sweet potato fries with brown rice and vegetables.
Roasted Walnut Garlic Sauce  

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Spread 1 cup walnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 6-8 minutes, watching them carefully so they do not burn, remove when they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly.

3. Add the toasted walnuts, 1 clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, and 2 teaspoons of maple syrup to a blender. Blend on high, adding 1 cup of water to thin the sauce as needed—you are looking for the consistency of thick cream. Season with salt to taste. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Recipe can be easily doubled.

—  By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

 

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