National Nut Day, on Oct. 22, is the perfect time to crave hearty nut-packed dishes and treats. High in vitamins, protein, and healthy fats, nuts top the charts of healthy, all-natural foods and serve as money savers when compared with expensive animal or processed forms of protein. From on-the-go snacks and party bites to sophisticated desserts and dinner dishes, there are many inexpensive ways to feature nuts in this season's cooking.
ALMOND HONEY POWER BARS
Almonds are among the top recommended healthy nuts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and for good reason. Lean and high in protein, these nuts can provide healthy energy for hours. An almond-honey power bar, made with a recipe from Eating Well, could easily substitute for a meal that would cost double or triple the money to get the same nutritional value. With ingredients including honey, oats, and vanilla, this is a satisfyingly sweet treat.
Because of their high fat content, cashews are often the first choice as a base ingredient for nut-based dairy substitutes. Ultra-rich cashew cream is tasty enough to delight everyone, dietary restrictions or not. While buying premade cashew cream from specialty stores is very expensive, making it at home with a recipe by The Blender Girl is simple and costs little more than the nuts that go into it. Simply soak and blend at high speed with vanilla and sweetener (such as maple syrup) until creamy.
Spiced nuts are a wonderful touch at any holiday party and serve as a thoughtful homemade gift when packaged in gift bags. Allrecipes has a mix that combines salty, sweet, and spicy flavors in each bite. A little bit goes a long way and doubles as a salad topper or cheese plate accompaniment.
Almond butter is one of the most popular nut butters available, and it often costs top dollar -- in many supermarkets, $15 or more for a jar. Save money by making it at home, which is as simple as blending almonds (raw, roasted, salted, or unsalted) in a food processor or high-powered blender until smooth.
Making trail mix at home saves money and allows for a personalized blend. Nuts are a must in trail mix to deliver heart-healthy energy, whether hiking, running errands, or stuck in an airport faced with buying a $10 soggy sandwich. Choose a base of one or two kinds of nuts, such as walnuts and almonds; add two dried fruits, such as raisins and dates, and a seed such as pumpkin seeds -- and maybe a touch of chocolate.
Walnuts are a natural friend to baked goods, adding a soft crunch and rich flavor to breads, brownies, and cookies. MyRecipes proposes keeping cookie-baking costs low by adding a hefty dose of oats to the beneficial walnuts.
PISTACHIO ICE CREAM
One of the most loved, classic ice cream flavors is also one of the easiest to make at home, even without an ice cream maker. The rich oils in pistachios ensure a creamy texture and the light green color is always a stunner. The Table for Two blog's basic recipe starts with a classic custard base and lets cooks control the sweetness to fit tastes perfectly. Dark chocolate flecks are optional.
SQUASH WITH PISTACHIOS
Take advantage of the fall and winter bounty with this hearty and simple dish. Squash is one of the cheapest and healthiest foods pound for pound, helping offset the cost of pistachios, which can be pricier than other nuts. A recipe from Eating Well combines delicata and pistachios with orange to create a zesty, bright flavor profile that works as a side dish for a holiday meal or as the main event for a Meatless Monday.
Less expensive and less perishable than pine nuts, walnuts make an earthy and deeply flavored pesto. Saveur has a blend that can be used on crostini, tossed with pasta, put over eggs, or mixed into salad dressings to add a nutty and herbacious flair to any meal of the day. Because it is generously doused in oil, the pesto will keep in the fridge for weeks.
The key to tangy, delicious vegan nut cheese is the fermentation. Just like dairy-based cheese, the ingredients need to ferment, undergoing the chemical changes that create depth of flavor to satisfy that umami craving part of our tongue. Making the cheese is simple, requiring just a bit of patience alongside basic ingredients such as nuts, water, salt, and non-dairy yogurt.