Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pick of the Week: Almonds

It's week eight exploring's list of 13 super foods, and this week, the focus turns to almonds. Everyday Health chose this nut because it is loaded with fiber and monounsaturated fats, both which have been shown to lower cholesterol. They, along with most nuts, are so healthy that the Food and Drug Administration says that eating a mere 1.5 ounces of most nuts -- in addition to a healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol -- may reduce the risk of heart disease.

I agree, except for me, it is really hard to eat only 1.5 ounces of nuts. I cannot sit down and eat them as a snack, because before long, the container is empty. Instead, I chop either almonds or walnuts into a fine dice, and sprinkle them on my daily noon salad. Of course, I have to portion these servings into individual bags, because if I was left to sprinkling without measuring, I could eat my daily calorie count in one seating.

Even though nuts are high in fat and calories, Everyday Health cites studies that show eating almonds can actually help with weight loss, because the protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats in almonds provide the feeling of fullness, which prevents overeating. That might work for a person without food issues, but for me, the I've-had-enough-nuts switch is hard to trip.

Storing: I keep my almonds in the pantry, because honestly, they don't stay around long enough to need refrigeration. My mom, who could eat a nut or two and be satisfied, kept all nuts in the refrigerator.

Toasting nuts brings out the full flavor. Plus, it smells terrific, and I think scent is an important part of the cooking experience. Toasting will also keep nuts crisp. To toast, place the nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Nuts can also be toasted in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes, but be careful. I have burned many batches in the oven. A perfectly toasted turns a nice golden hue.

The following recipe is from "The Essential EatingWell Cookbook," edited by Patsy Jamieson, and has become my go-to recipe for company. It's fast, easy, and can be made days in advance, ready to put out when guests arrive.

2 cups whole blanched almonds
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
* Place almonds in a baking pan; toss with oil, cumin, salt and pepper.
* Bake until lightly toasted, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
* Makes 2 cups. Per tablespoon: 58 calories; 5g fat; no cholesterol; 2g carbohydrates; 2g protein; 1g fiber; 36 mg sodium
Variation: Use curry powder and cayenne pepper in place of cumin and black pepper.

1 comment:

  1. Stew Leonard's almonds (raw in a plastic container) are the best - they are just incredibly crunchy! Stew's also has portion packets - 10 packets that are one serving. Expensive but you (or at least I)can't overeat what's not in front of you.
    (And Trader Joes whole walnuts are just little pieces of heaven.)