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From Fruits to Nuts

Toothaches are the worst. No question. No debate.  Several months ago, my dentist told me root canal surgery was necessary to alleviate my toothache. I didn’t realize, at first, that it would take several appointments for the root canal and replacement crown.  Since I wasn’t allowed to chew hard or sticky foods, I missed some of my favorite frequent snacks: dried fruit and nuts. They are also useful ingredients to have on the shelves to incorporate into the repertoire of the craft and finesse of eating solo.

Dried fruit is a way to get the nutritional benefits of fruit, the vitamins, minerals, and fiber, without having to search for decent fresh fruit and worry about storing it.  They supply energy rapidly. I am diabetic so I carry dried fruit when I need something to boost my blood sugar so I don’t have to rely on white sugar-laden candy.

I have found I simply feel better when I eat quality protein.  Nuts are packed with protein and will fill you up quickly because they are high in calories and fat. Don’t fret. They do not contain saturated fat so do not contain cholesterol.  

The portion size of nuts will not have to be large because they are so dense. They are a good source of protein if you aim to cut back on the saturated fat contained in meats.

The process of drying fruit not only concentrates the flavor, but makes them far more shelf stable and portable than fresh fruit. The nutritional value is also dense.  The most common dried fruit is raisins but there are so many more fruity flavors. Dried cranberries are fairly common as are dried apples, apricots, cherries, pears, dates, and prunes.

Both dried fruit and nuts are useful to have on hand for meal preparation. Many ethnic cuisines utilize these ingredients. Nuts or dried fruit can certainly be added to green salads.  Nuts like cashews or almonds are great additions to stir fries. Both nuts and dried fruits can be added to dishes based on rice or other grains and served warm or chilled.

To prepare a rice salad for take-away to work or school lunch, cook brown rice or a rice blend, preferably one with wild rice, since its earthy flavor complements nuts so well. Use part of your cooked rice for a dinner, with chicken or a pork chop, for example, and cook enough extra to prepare the salad.   

As the rice cools, stir in some olive oil and apple cider vinegar, to taste.  The rice will absorb these liquids so you can be generous but be sure and taste for the vinegar level of your choice.  Add roughly chopped dried fruit or nuts, the selections can vary each time. Almonds and dates combine well, walnuts and dried cranberries are a welcome pair.  Some diced onion and green pepper can be stirred in as well. Add a bit of coarse salt, taste and add more, if needed.

Dried fruits and nuts can often be found for in bulk so can be purchased in as little or large an amount as you need. The bulk bins are often in the Natural Foods Sections or next to the Produce Section of a well-stocked grocery.

 A word of caution: I have seen too many people over-rely on fruit juice for supposed nutrition. Although, juices do contain vitamins, the beneficial fiber content of the fruit is missing since it is strained away from the liquid juice.  The portion size of juice is often way too large thus providing way too much sugar, even though it is natural fruit sugar, at one time. 

Dried fruits and nuts are welcome additions to busy days as they are packed with excellent flavor, beneficial nutrition and slow, even energy release.