Normally when I post a recipe I highlight one or more of the ingredients, so today I’m going to talk quickly about walnuts.  I find that walnuts don’t get the attention they deserve … when we talk about nuts in our diet it often comes in the form of peanut butter, or maybe even almond butter.  I often toss a handful of slivered almonds on my salads, but this time I’m taking the road less traveled and adding walnuts.
Walnuts are a good source of something called ‘phytonutrients’.  Simply put – phytonutrients are the extra-healthy nutrients produced by plants; we can call these “plant based nutrients”.  More specifically, walnuts are high in ‘phytosterols’ … if we break the word down, you notice that both words start with “phyto”.  Now we can assume now that this is also talking about something made by plants.
Any guesses for the second half?
If the second half of the word ‘sterol’ sounds familiar, and the word “cholesterol” came to mind, then you’re on the right track.  Put “phyto” and “sterol” together and you get a cholesterol produced by a plant – and this is the best part:  it is cardio-protective.  Unlike cholesterol from meat products, which we try to limit (but not eliminate, our body still needs a small amount!) in our diet, plant sterols are heart-healthy.
If that wasn’t enough, walnuts are also a source of protein, magnesium, vitamin E, fiber and potassium.  As usual, there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  Limit your serving size of walnuts to 1oz, which is about 8 walnut halves as nuts are a good source of energy (calories).
Roasted Beet Salad with Balsamic-Orange Vinaigrette and Candied Walnuts
Salad:
5 cups shredded romaine lettuce
3 small beets
1 pear, diced*
½ cup orange segments, cut into small pieces
2 green onions, diced
1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1 tsp maple syrup
¼ cup feta cheese
¼ cup dried cranberries
Dressing:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp maple syurp
2 tsp orange zest
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400F and while the oven is heating make a tin-foil pocket for the beets.  Once oven is to temperature, place foil-wrapped beets in the oven to roast for approx. 40 minutes or until tender (you can stick a fork through the centre).  Remove beets from the oven and allow to cool.
2. Prepare to toast the walnuts by heating a skillet on medium-low.  Add the walnuts to the skillet, stirring frequently until they become aromatic, about 5-10 minutes.
3. Add 1 tsp of maple syrup to the walnuts and mix well, continue to stir over low heat for another 5 minutes.
2. Once beets are cool, peel and dice into bite size pieces.
3. Combine lettuce, beets, pear, orange pieces, onions, feta cheese and dried cranberries in a large bowl.  Add the walnuts.
4. To make the dressing whisk together all ingredients and toss into salad.
* to bring out the flavours in the pear you can also lightly bake it in the oven at 400F, wrapped in tin foil for 5-8 minutes.
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