Follow my blog with BloglovinI ate a few nuts and seeds occasionally as a snack or on top of yogurt and salads before my plant-based life, but I didn’t know how versatile nuts really are. Nor did I know anything about the proper preparation of nuts and seeds. Now I couldn’t imagine my life without nuts and seeds: they are the base of many vegan foods I eat and drink including smoothies, milks and sweet treats. In this Vegan Basics Part 3 I’m happy to share with you Why and How to eat nuts and seeds – little tips I’ve gathered along my vegan journey.
Before I go any further my tip number one is about the proper preparation of nuts and seeds: soaking and dehydrating. Soaking nuts and seeds in warm water and some salt is a way to get rid of phytates and enzyme inhibitors which make nuts and seeds hard to digest. This is a good article on the benefits and how-tos of soaking and dehydrating.
Soaking and dehydrating is something I do automatically now, but it was challenging at first. I thought it’s too time consuming, too difficult, just too much trouble. Well, I was wrong 🙂 The key here (and in preparing many other vegan basic foods) is planning beforehand and preparing large quantities at a time. A good rule of thumb is to start soaking a new batch well before you’ve used the previous one, because the whole process requires a lot of (passive) time, about 12-24 hours depending on the nut/seed in question.
So WHY do I recommend eating nuts and seeds? Here’s my personal view:
- They’re a good source of healthy fats and all in all their nutritional profile is excellent (walnuts, almonds, pecans, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflowers seeds being among the healthiest).
- Due to their high energy content (protein, fiber and fat) nuts and seeds keep you full long, and you only need a small handful to satisfy snack cravings.
- As mentioned, they are an amazing base for many vegan foods such as milks, smoothies, savory sauces, butters, pies, raw treats and granola. Nuts and seeds are also a simple way to turn any salad or smoothie bowl (or yogurt) into an even more delicious treat – just sprinkle some on top of your meal.
- Preparation of nuts and seeds is super easy: you don’t need any fancy equipment; a jar or bowl, water, salt and oven is enough. Of course a dehydrator is very convenient, but I’ve managed well without one. The active preparation time of nuts and seeds is also fairly short, about 10 minutes.
HOW to eat nuts and seeds? Here are some of my personal favorites:
- Nut milk. Do you have a blender? Can you whip up a smoothie? If the answer to both questions is yes, then please try this easy recipe for a nutritious and delicious non dairy milk (recipe below). I use nut milk in smoothies, in my morning coffee, in baked goods, frozen treats, or even in savory foods. I’ve made nut milk with cashews, almonds, walnuts, and pecans, cashew milk being a clear favorite. My kids love especially chocolate and strawberry versions (pictured above, recipe below). Cashews are the easiest nuts to “milk” – soaking time is short (~4 h) and you don’t need to take out the nut pulp after blending because the pulp is very creamy and blends right in.
- Nut cream. Imagine a thick silky smooth cream with a beautiful vanilla flavor. A cream that is nutritious and totally dairy free; a cream that can be used in smoothies, porridges, overnight oats, savory sauces, any kind of desserts…or just simply eaten with fresh berries. This magical cream is made from one of my fav nuts: cashews. I’ve used cashew cream in many of my recipes on the blog, this one being one of my favorites.
- Nut & seed butters. One of my favorite nut based foods is nut butter. Any kind will do, home made of course is always the best (and also the least expensive!). I often experiment with different flavor combinations, lately almond-walnut-pecan butter has won over our hearts. This is a simple recipe, which I modify a bit: 2 tbsp maple syrup instead of dates and I also add a pinch of salt. I also like to roast almonds for a few minutes in the oven before blending them – this gives an amazing deep nutty flavor to the butter.
- Nut cheese. I haven’t tried a lot of vegan cheeses yet, just some cashew cheese spreads and this gorgeous almond feta. But I have a ‘cheeses-to-try’ list and this one is first on the list: Vegan Pistachio and Cranberry Cheese Ball by the lovely April-Tui of thebalancedvegan.com
- Nut based crusts for raw cakes or raw bites. Oh how I love raw and raw-ish treats made with healthy, wholesome ingredients. Raw treats tend to be quite heavy so usually just a small piece is needed to satisfy sweet tooth cravings. My go-to nut choices for raw cake crusts are pecans, walnuts and almonds. I love to experiment with crusts, but the basics are always the same. I use nuts (soaked and dehydrated until they are dry), a sweetener (dates are excellent, but mulberries or raisins work too!), some coconut oil, spices such as vanilla, Ceylon cinnamon or ground cardamom and a pinch of salt. I turned two of my favorite crusts into a yummy smoothie and pudding topping: raw pecan bites and tasty snack bites
- Nut flour. I bake gluten-free only, and I’ve experimented a lot with nut flours. I never buy packaged nut flours from the store, because they are expensive and I get the best quality by grinding the flour myself. Just a simple food processor does the task well! I’ve used a quick and flavorful nut flour based crust to make both a persimmon pizza pie and fig pizza pie (both of them yummy).
- Nut & seed based pestos and sauces. Pestos are a life-saver. They take a plain meal to a whole new (gourmet!) level. You can’t go wrong with pestos or sauces if you blend nuts or seeds with fresh herbs, lemon juice, garlic and some salt. You could use healthy green leaves such as kale or spinach for added nutritional boost, and the flavor won’t change; herbs, lemon and garlic hide whatever sneaky greens you want to add. My go-to nuts and seeds for pestos are walnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, and cashews for a creamy sauce like this one with my colorful salad.
- Nut & seed based granolas. One of my family’s most loved snack is healthy home made granola. I’ve earned the “best mom” title many times when I’ve baked granola on a slow Sunday morning 🙂 I usually add some secret boosts like chia seeds, and use a natural sweetener, mostly dates. And then of course there are nuts and seeds – I usually use chopped walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds and sunflower seeds. This is one of our favorite granola recipes: tahini-granola clusters.
- Nut based snack bars. There’s no need to buy expensive snack bars (which might not even be so healthy), because granola bars and nut & seed based bars are easy to make at home. And it’s really easy to make these yummy snacks healthy and wholesome! I would love to try these Walnut maca powersnacks by Janine of nutsandblueberries.com and White chocolate macadamia granola bars by Audrey of unconventionalbaker.com
If I eat granola crumbled on top of my overnight oats in the morning, nut milk in my morning coffee, seeds sprinkled in my Buddha bowl lunch, a slice of a raw treat in the afternoon, a smoothie with cashew cream in the evening, I get the recommended daily intake (about a handful) very easily. There are days when I get uncontrollable sweet cravings and we have absolutely no baked or unbaked goods. Luckily we ALWAYS have nut butter and it is seriously one of the best healthy treats on earth, just eaten with a spoon..straight from the jar 🙂
- Cashew milk
- For soaking:
- 1 cup cashews
- 1-2 tsp good quality sea salt
- Creamy vanilla cashew milk
- Soaked cashews
- 3 cups of water
- 3-4 pitted dates (depending on how sweet you want your milk)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- Chocolate cashew milk
- ~1 cup cashew milk
- 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
- pinch of coconut sugar
- Strawberry cashew milk
- ~1 cup cashew milk
- ¼ cup chopped fresh strawberries
- pinch of beetroot powder (to enhance the pink color)
- Preparations: soak cashews in room temperature for about 4 hours in a jar or bowl filled with warm water and salt.
- Drain and rinse cashews and put them in a high-speed blender.
- Add water and other ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Make chocolate and strawberry milk by blending all the ingredients until smooth.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container and use within three days.
Cashews when soaked properly are very creamy, and make a really lovely creamy milk. I never separate cashew pulp from the milk, I just blend the milk really well until super creamy. If you like your milk without (creamy) pulp, just use a cheesecloth or nut milk bag to take away the pulp.
ps Remember to buy your nuts and seeds raw and unsalted, preferably also organic.