Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I'm Going Nuts
When I was little I couldn't see the point of the newspaper. (I understand that with the internet, no one sees the point of a newspaper now, but this was way back when.) Why would anyone want to start their day looking at depressing pictures of war, stories of crime, and horrible economic news? The only part of the paper worth anything was the comics page. While my parents drank nasty coffee and read their awful part of the paper, my sisters and I would eat our sucrose flakes and squabble over who got to read the funnies first. (Although, really, including Mary Worth, Apartment 3G, and Judge Parker in the funnies was odd, because they were never funny.)
Once the comics were mined for their nuggets of humor, all that was left was the puzzles and little filler sections. One of those fillers was a column called Ask Andy. Andy was, apparently, some sort of genius, because he had answers for every question that was mailed in to him. Or, he printed the questions that he knew the answer to and pitched the rest. Either way, I was always trying to come up with a great question to send in so I could see my name in print.
The questions that were printed were on the order of "Why is the sky blue?" and "How do snakes move in the sand?" I'd come up with a stumper and run it by my dad, the physics professor. He encouraged my enthusiasm for scientific enquiry, hoping I'd grow up to be a super science nerd, too. Sorry to disappoint, Dad.
I never got a question printed. I don't remember that I even mailed in a question. My dad always had the answers. It could be that he was smarter than Andy.
One question that would be worthy of sending in to Any would be "why don't seeds and nuts sprout in the shell?" And the answer to that question leads to the kitchen.
Nuts contain high amounts of enzyme inhibitors. That's the reason that eating a lot of nuts can make your tummy feel unhappy. God put the enzyme inhibitors there to keep the nuts from sprouting prematurely, trying to make a new plant when it's not even in the ground. That's a good thing. But having those enzyme inhibitors in your tummy is not a good thing.
So how do you make nuts a happy thing for your digestive system? The same way that God does. Soak those suckers. When you plant a seed and wait and wait and WAIT for little green bits to poke through the ground, what's happening underground is germination. Part of that process is the seed (or nut) getting wet enough long enough for the enzyme inhibitors to be neutralized so that growth can happen.
In my kitchen this translates to a big bowl of saltwater on the counter with a batch of nuts having a pool party in it. I soak the nuts, drain, then dry either in the oven or food dehydrator. (Good information on how to soak various types of nuts is in this post.) After they're dried till crispy, I put them in a zip-loc bag and store them in the freezer. I often carry a small bag of walnuts in my purse as a snack to keep my blood sugar level even. When I offer them to friends (it's rude to snack without offering to share, my mother told me), I'm frequently told "No, thanks. I don't like walnuts." Then when I encourage them to try my soaked nuts, they're amazed at the difference. No bitter taste! No heavy feeling in the tummy! It's wonderful how simple soaking changes them so much.
Once you try soaking nuts, I doubt you'll go back. And once you've fallen in love with the new and improved flavor of walnuts, you'll want to try this recipe to showcase their great taste. These bars are sticky, crumbly, gooey, loaded with nuts, flavored with honey and are absolutely delicious. Plus they're super easy to make. So get soaking and baking!
Walnut and Honey Bars
- adapted from The Cookie Book
1-1/2 cups (6 oz) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (4 oz) butter, diced
scant 3 cups (11 oz) soaked and dried walnut halves
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup (2 oz) butter, melted
1/4 cup (2 oz) light brown sugar
6 Tbsp dark clear honey
2 Tbsp light cream
1- Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Lightly grease an 11 x 7-inch baking dish.
2- In a food processor, combine the flour, confectioners' sugar, and butter and process until the mixture forms crumbs. Pulse, adding 1 to 2 Tbsp water till it makes a firm dough.
3- On parchment paper, roll the dough out into a rectangle to fit the bottom of your baking dish, 11 x 7-inch. Flip the parchment paper over the baking dish, peeling the dough off to line the bottom of the baking dish. Trim and fold the took edge inwards.
4- Prick the base thoroughly with a fork. Line it with foil and weight the foil with baking beans or pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, return the dish to the oven, and bake another 5 minutes, until cooked, but not browned. Remove the pan and reduce the temperature to 350 deg. F.
5- Sprinkle the walnuts over the base. Whisk together the remaining filling ingredients. Pour over the walnuts and bake for 25 minutes.
6- Place the pan on a wire cooling rack to cool completely before slicing.