A potent source of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fibre and antioxidants – plus regular consumption extends your life - nuts are a beloved component of the raw food lifestyle due to their ability to mimic cooked foods, like breads, pates, and the luscious texture of cheeses and milks with a few minor culinary manipulations like blending and processing.
Unlike dairy and meat, nuts come without unhealthy, saturated fat or hormones, while offering nearly as much protein as meat.
Buts offer a heartier, “stick to your ribs” experience; alternately, they can be whipped into a seemingly weightless cream to top desserts.
For this reason precisely, nuts are often an excellent way to help someone transition to a raw or plant-based diet, as it helps to quash any feelings of deprivation.
Nuts can be used in a range of dishes and make satisfying breads, crackers, pates, nut loafs, soups, salad dressings and toppings, dips, creams, butters, milks, cookies, dessert crusts, crumble toppings and more.
Due to their high-fat ratio, cashew, macadamia and pine nuts make absolutely tantalizing cheeses and creams.
Harder nuts like walnuts, pecans and almonds make excellent pates, which can be eaten as-is stuffed into a bell pepper or wrap, or also dehydrated into loafs or little pieces that can replace ground meat in traditional cooked dishes like spaghetti sauce.
Walnuts, pecans and almonds are most traditionally used to make piecrusts and crumble toppings, while cashews, macadamia nuts are often sweetened and blended as the creamy pie filling.
Just about any nut can be used to make a rich and creamy nut-milk, although brazil and almond nut milk is an all-time favourite among many raw foodists.
It is important to select nuts of high quality that have not been broken down into pieces (which increases oxidation). Ensure that almonds are truly raw; due to pasteurization laws in North America, the only true raw almonds travel from Europe.
When raw-cooking with nuts, it is best to soak nuts when possible, since all nuts (except brazil nuts and hazelnuts) have high levels of enzyme inhibitors on their exteriors.
Since seamless digestion is a high priority on a raw food diet, soaking nuts releases the bitter enzyme inhibitor, which makes it easier for the body to digest. Soaking nuts also makes the nut softer and easier to work with.
While overnight soaking suffices for all nuts, softer nuts like cashews, macadamia nuts and pine nuts don’t need to be soaked more than two to three hours (although it is fine if they are soaked longer).
Always rinse your nuts well after soaking and store in water in the fridge if not being used immediately (being sure to change the water daily). For recipes that call for dried nuts, some raw foodists like to soak and then dehydrate their nuts for 24-48 hours (below 115°) to ensure the nut remains a “living” food (although some raw foodists forgo this step as it can be labour intensive!). Enjoy the nut-based raw recipes below:
Herbed Cashew Cheese
This cheese makes an excellent topping for raw flax crackers or as a spread in wraps. Feel free to experiment using your favourite garden herbs.
2 cups cashews, soaked 2 hours, rinsed and drained
1-1¼ cups filtered water
¼ tsp. probiotic powder
½ Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp. green onion, chopped
half clove garlic, pureed
Blend the cashews, water and probiotic powder until smooth, adding more water as necessary. Place cheese in a pint-sized container and let sit in a warm location to ferment for 8-12 hours (less time is needed if in a warmer climate).
In a bowl, mix in the chopped parsley, dill, green onion and pureed garlic with the cashew mixture with a spatula. Place into a round pan, sealing the top with plastic wrap and let cool in the refrigerator for 12 hours. This keeps for up to one week sealed in the fridge.
Chocolate Cherry Brownies
This cake is gooey and sweet. Carob powder makes it a bit sweeter, while cacao adds a bitter-sweetness to it. Those avoiding caffeine should consider carob powder instead of cacao.
1 cup walnuts, ¼ quarter extra roughly chopped
1 cup pecans
¾ cup Thompson raisins, unsoaked
6 Tbsp. carob or cocoa powder
¼ cup dried cherries, soaked 20 mins and chopped
1 tsp. cherry extract
3 Tbsp. water
Process one cup of walnuts in a food processor into a course meal. Add the pecans and process again, being sure not to over process the pecans. Add raisins and process quickly to break them up.
Add the carob or cacao powder, the cherry extract; process just until incorporated. Place mixture into a bowl and add water, cherries and additional chopped walnuts and mix well by hand. Pack firmly and place in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving. This cake keeps for a week in the fridge or for a few months in the freezer.
Do you have any stories with nuts? Challenge yourself this week to include more nuts in your diet. And please leave your comments below.
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