Monday, October 20, 2014

We've gone NUTS...Cinnamon Toasted Walnuts

If you follow Spoon of Hearts on Facebook, you know that after a recent vacation, my sweet husband and I have vowed to adopt a healthy eating plan and make some changes. We cook at home more than we eat out, and even though we eat fairy healthy, we are both challenged with the genetics of cholesterol and weight struggles. So, after a post vacation grocery trip, my husband came home with a 3 lb bag of raw walnuts.
The health benefits of walnuts are without question. They are thought to be helpful in cardiovascular health, weight control, inflammation, as well as metabolic syndrome. A quarter-cup serving has 113.3% of the daily recommended intake of Omega 3 fatty acids. Rather than restating all of the health benefits here, if you would like to know more, here is a link to the most comprehensive source that I found
This brings up 2 questions - What if you don't like the taste? What to do with 3 lbs of raw walnuts?
First ... I am not a fan of raw walnuts. Many people believe that roasting nuts negates their health benefits. It turns out that if you are going to roast walnuts, it is best to do so at a low heat. Meh. I wasn't too sure about that, until I did it. They turned out so well, I made 2 different versions.


2 cups walnuts
2 Tablespoons sugar (I used demerera sugar)
Ground cinnamon to taste
Olive oil

Too many kitchen gadgets make for a crowded cottage kitchen, so I am quite selective about what things get to take up valuable space. Two things that I used for this recipe that I highly recommend for every kitchen are a small "beverage" blender and a "spray style" oil dispenser.  
The "beverage" blender for a while was always advertised on TV. You can pay a lot or a little for one, and the first one that I bought was generic, inexpensive, and came from a drugstore. Amazingly, it lasted for several years with a lot of use. We have a newer one now that came with 2 blades and 6 different plastic "cups" that screw into the blade top and have a storage top as well. Of the two blade attachments, one has tines that stick up (use this one for liquids) and the other has tines that are closer to the base (this is the one I used to this recipe, and it is more of a grinder for dry ingredients). 

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Put the sugar and cinnamon into the blender/spice grinder and pulse until it becomes a fine powder.
Sugar and cinnamon ground to a fine powder
Sugar and cinnamon before grinding

The benefits of grinding the sugar and cinnamon are that it makes a little go a long way, facilitates an even distribution on the walnuts, and allows for caramelization even at low heat.

Here is where the oil "spray" dispenser comes in. We keep one filled with olive oil, and that is why I've used olive oil in this recipe. Once you have one, if you don't already, you will find that you use it more than you could imagine. The spray dispenser can be purchased at most grocery and discount stores, and is great because it gives even coverage with much less oil.  

Put the walnuts in a good sized bowl, and spray them with a light coating of oil. Stir them around and spray them once again for the best coverage. They should not look oily, and it only takes a tiny bit.  

Sprinkle approximately 1/3 of the sugar mixture over the walnuts, and stir to mix. Repeat this until you have used the entirety of the mixture. If you are watching your sugar intake, use as much as you need to get a nice coating and reserve the remainder for other dishes (it is amazing sprinkled over apples before baking).

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. If you read my earlier post about cookie baking (Homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies) it explains why I have become very partial to parchment paper, which is what I used here. Spread the coated walnuts onto the covered baking sheet.

Here comes the easy part. 
Put them in the oven.  
Set the timer for 15 minutes.  
Take them out of the oven.
Enjoy the aroma while they cool.
Store in a sealed container.
Try not to eat them all before your husband gets any ... oops, that's me. 

These are one of the most wonderful snacks I've ever tasted. They are sweet, simple, and healthy.  What else can you do with these besides eat them by the handful? Toss them over oatmeal, add them to granola, sprinkle over a salad, mix into greek yogurt, or crumble over a baked apple or pear.

Remember how I mentioned having 3 lbs of raw walnuts?  I made a savory version of this recipe with salt, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. That recipe is coming next...

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