Go Nuts!

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I suppose it’s inevitable that I’d write about nuts today. It’s tough not to have nuts on the mind when you’ve been munching on them during a 10-hour road trip, passing grove after grove of pistachios and walnuts and almonds in the San Joaquin Valley.

That’s OK, though. I love talking nuts. Back when I thought low-fat was the way to go to maintain a comfortable weight, I rarely touched them. But I’ve learned a lot since then. For starters, research has shown that people who eat a handful of nuts a few times a week actually weigh less than those on a stringent low-fat diet (I can back that up from my own experience*). And a strong stable of studies shows that eating nuts protects your heart, too, lowering risk of heart attack by up to 30%-50% in some cases.

That’s some serious incentive to eat something so appealing to begin with. Each variety has its own unique flavor, texture and, I would claim, personality. So go a little nuts this week . . . and feel good about it!

* Just be aware that nuts do pack a lot of calories: 1 ounce–roughly a few tablespoons–will set you back around 170. Making smart choices will balance it out, though. I like to snack on nuts in lieu of pretzels and sprinkle them on salads instead of croutons, for instance. That way I’m getting about the same amount of calories with loads more nutritional value and tons more taste.

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Cherry Almond Crumble

This cherry dessert is great to make when you’re stalled between fruit seasons. Frozen organic fruit is preserved at its peak and is a great time-saver when you want a quick dessert. Don’t let the number of ingredients fool you–this crumble comes together in a snap.

cherry-crumble-recipe4 cups fresh (pitted) or frozen (thawed) sweet cherries
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl, tossing gently to coat fruit. Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish.

Combine almonds and the next 7 ingredients (through extract) in another bowl. “Rub” in butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over cherry mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden.

Serves 8