Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Let's talk about walnuts


I submitted my thesis a couple weeks ago!

Everything I have been working on these past two years is culminating. I need to prepare a pretty long public lecture, (~45 mins at Western? Whaaat? At SFU it was only 20!) and study for any and all questions that may be asked of me.

So instead of talking about that, let's talk about something completely different.

"Isn't your blog supposed to be professional?"

That seems out of nowhere. But, as I am moving away from LondON at the end of May, I've been going through my worldly possessions in exhausting attempts to prioritize what I'll be sending home with my parents to Vancouver, what I'll be bringing to Houston, and what I'll be leaving with Rachel, giving away, selling, or throwing out. One category of these things are non-perishable food items.

I have a lot of nuts.

A. Lot. of. Nuts.

Especially walnuts.

Why do I have so many walnuts, you may ask? Well, I like baking. After a few months of deliberation and buying small, tiny-yet-still-pricey pouches of walnut pieces from various stores, I decided upon purchasing one of those giant 12 cups/3 lbs packages of walnut halves from Costco. I expected this would last me my duration of time at Western, despite, dear readers, being a frequent baker. And it would have been. It would have been.

Alas, during trip home to Vancouver to join my parents on a road trip into the US to see the eclipse and visit Yellowstone, I made some comment or another to my mother about the price of nuts, bulk items at Costco, and the thrifty life of a graduate student.

I'll tell you right now that a walnut is
over 3x that. (~26 kcal  vs ~7 kcal)
My mother is a very generous person, and such comments should not be made lightly.

The trip drew to a close, fall semester began, and life carried on as it would. Little did I know that a heavy care-package was on its way for me. You see, during this time my parents were also moving, and were downsizing on the non-perishable food items that they would be taking with them. In this package I would find nuts. Nuts of all kind. Almonds. Pecans. Walnuts. So many walnuts. Walnuts were in the greatest abundance in this package, and when coupled with the large kirkland-brand bag sitting scarcely touched in my pantry became a colossal accumulation that months of baking hath barely scathed.

It doesn't help that I've been perpetually dieting since Australia.

Fortunately for me, walnuts are the best of nuts to have surplus. They are extremely versatile in cooking, baking, and make an excellent complement to salads and various breakfast dishes. They are also extremely rich in omega-3 fatty acids. My diet has contained considerably less omega-3 since I stopped eating fish 13 years ago. Did you know that a mere seven walnut halves provides an adult's daily in take of omega-3? A diet rich in omega-3 is important for mental health [1] and brain development [2]. Lately I've been trying to make a decided effort to eat 0.5 oz of walnuts a day.

One of my favourite family recipes is for "birds' nest cookies". After making the dough, you roll it into little balls, dip the balls in a beaten egg, then roll them in chopped walnuts. Next, you press a little well (or 'nest') in the middle and fill it with jam before baking.  Now that I've written a lengthly blog post all about walnuts, I can be like all those food blogs that tell you their life story before finally sharing a recipe.

Elise's Mom's Special Birds' Nest Cookie Recipe.

  • 1 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (granulated)
  • 2 large eggs (separated)
  • 2 tsp vanilla (pure is best, extract works fine)
  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • dash of salt (whatever that means)
  • chopped walnuts (volume required depends on the surface area of your cookies)
  • raspberry jam or jelly (in my opinion, more is better)
Preheat oven to 300°F (148.889°C for you purists out there)
Cream butter and sugar together
Beat in egg yolks, vanilla
Mix in flour and salt
Make balls of chosen size (recommended, 1")
Dip in egg whites
Roll in chopped walnuts
Place on cookie sheet
Use thumb to make well in dough balls
You can put in the jam before or after baking
Bake for an indeterminate amount of time, because this recipe card doesn't say how long (12-15mins)

You're welcome.

Speaking of delicious walnut baked goods, this past Easter weekend, Rachel introduced me to a nice Korean bakery/street food store in Toronto. Their specialty is 호도과자 ("hodo kwaja") which are these little cakes in the shape of walnuts, filled with a sweet paste made of either red bean+walnut or sweet potato+walnut. These are really nice. Not to sweet, but definitely a nice treat with tea or coffee. I don't have a walnut-mold, but I think I'm going to try and see if I can replicate them at home as spheres.
These are really good, and if you are ever in KoreaTown on Bloor St.you should check them out.

[1] Grosso G, Galvano F, Marventano S, Malaguarnera M, Bucolo C, et al. (2014) Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Depression: Scientific evidence and Biological Mechanisms. Oxid Med Cell Longev 2014: 313570.

[2] Bourre JM (2004) Roles of unsaturated fatty acids (especially omega-3 fatty acids) in the brain at various ages and during ageing. J Nutr Health Aging 8: 163–174.

1 comment:

  1. I trust there will be walnut based treats at today's meeting?! :)