Nuts Are Life!
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**WARNING** Please do not attempt any recipes in this post if you have ever had an adverse reaction from eating nuts, or have been told by your physician that you have a nut allergy.
As you begin your Vegan journey, you're going to learn new ways to utilize familiar staples to create that meat or dairy-like texture or flavor. This exploration is VITAL to your long-term success as a vegan. Learning how to create flavorful, savory dishes that closely resemble the foods you enjoyed as a non-vegan will help you curb your cravings, especially in the beginning during the “withdrawal” phase of your transition. Read more about detoxing from animal products here.
If you haven't already, you'll also want to check out the "Getting Started" post to read more about all the new vegan staples you should arm yourself with for maximum momentum, but for now, let's take a look at the superfood that is the nut itself.
Nuts are an incredibly nutritious source of good fat, fiber and protein. They provide Omega 3's, Vitamin E, Plant Sterols, and L-arginine. These nutrients make nuts a heart-healthy staple that everyone should be including in their daily diet. Keep in mind, however, that because a nut is a source of fat (good fat), it's also high in calories. So, while including nuts in your daily routine is crucial to your health, remember: moderation is key!
In addition to the beneficial micronutrients found in nuts, they are also densely packed with healthy minerals that will further aid in your overall health. Nuts stand tall among many of the fruits and vegetables that we've all been told are the key producers of vital minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium. Personally, I always believed that the best source of potassium was the banana, but that is not necessarily the case. According to this peer-reviewed article by Emilio Ross, from the Us National Library of Medicine, nuts kick some serious banana-butt in the potassium game! [See tables below] Nuts help maintain a balance of these minerals in your body to keep it in top shape, while also protecting you against bone loss, hypertension, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular risk in general.
nuts can be used to maximize health benefits and minimize non-vegan cravings!
Nuts are a fantastic substitute for cheese, breading, dairy milk, salad topping, salad dressing, "alfredo" sauce, and much more. Whenever I find myself craving something really rich and creamy, I turn to nuts to fulfill that need. You can get creative with these little wonder plants and see what you come up with!
*PRO TIP* One of the key steps in using nuts for any type of sauce recipe is to let them soak, the longer the better. If I plan to cook with nuts, I always make sure to fill a cup or bowl with the amount I plan on using, add some "room-temp" water, and set it on the counter before I head to work for the day. That way, they're getting a good 8 to 10-hour soak.
If you don't have that kind of time, then you can also boil the nuts to soften them. They won't be quite as soft and blend-able, but they will definitely still do the trick!
I do my best to eat a large green salad every day, and while I enjoy the occasional vinaigrette, I can't tolerate the tang on my salad every single day. For me, one of the hardest things about going vegan was giving up Ranch dressing. My boyfriend used to tease me because I had a few different types of Ranch in the fridge, and it was tough to toss them. Since, I've tried a ton of recipes to achieve the perfect Ranch substitute in non-dairy form, but to be honest, nothing has been just right.
However, in my quest for the perfect "Ranch," I did stumble across a few recipes that used nuts to make a creamy "sauce." Specifically, cashews seemed to be the perfect source in most of the recipes I discovered. So, I tried my hand at creating my own and it really hit the spot. Now, this substitute does not taste like Ranch to me, but it does give me that creamy, rich flavor and texture that I have been missing in my vegan life. In fact, I think I now prefer this new sauce over Ranch anyway!
Now, I can’t take full credit for this recipe as it is a combination of a few different recipes that I have found. I added and omitted certain things from each one and I ended up with this happy medium. I use this as a salad dressing, a dip, and I have even used it as a pasta sauce. It is so versatile and so yummy! Give it whirl and let me know what you think!
The cashew sauce recipe is just one of THOUSANDS of awesome nut recipes out there. The internet is a mighty treasure trove of delicious nut recipes, but this is one of my personal staples that I make about 2x per week to make sure I always have some on hand!
Like I said before, there are so many uses for nuts and I encourage you to seek out as many recipes as you can find. Below are a few amazing nut recipes that I have tried and I'm sure they will leave you thinking, "Why the heck did I ever eat dairy in the first place?!?"