As my husband and I notch up the years we find ourselves searching for the healthier option where food is concerned and January is a good time for you to start thinking about changing your diet.

Nuts feature very heavily in this quest for the best foods as Nuts contain good cholesterol. Nuts are also very good for anyone on a gluten-free, low-sodium or low-carbohydrate diet or for vegetarians. There is something for everyone below including healthy bars for snacks and a chance for me to include a few sweet options. The fruit and nut bars are very easy to make and with my husband being diabetic, I just substitute the sugar for powdered Candrel and it works fine. The cookies are a little more involved, but if you make a big batch of dough you can break it into portions and freeze them up to 3 months. The cashew butter is lovely on toast, with a banana or whisk up for smoothie.
Buen Apetito

Fruit and Nut Bars

1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups toasted oats
2/3 cup chopped dried cranberries/golden raisins
¼ cup chopped pecans
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8 x 11″ pan with foil. Coat with cooking spray.
Whisk egg, egg white, sugar, oil, cinnamon, salt and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in oats, cranberries/raisins, pecans and flour. Spread in prepared pan. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool & cut into bars with a lightly oiled knife.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1½ cups white whole-wheat flour
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter
5 tbsp canola oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup chopped roasted peanuts

Whisk white whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat sugar, peanut butter, oil and butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on high until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Place half the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and shape into a 10-inch log (it’s OK if it’s not perfectly round). Repeat with the remaining dough. Wrap and freeze until just firm, about 45 minutes. Re-roll the logs to make them rounder and return to the freezer until very firm (at least 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Remove one roll of dough at a time from the freezer and let it stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Unwrap the dough and slice crosswise into ¼” thick rounds, turning the dough a quarter turn after each slice to help keep the cookies round. Place ½” apart on the prepared baking sheet. If your cookies aren’t as round as you would like, shape the dough with your fingers. Sprinkle each cookie with a little chopped peanuts and gently press into the cookie to help them adhere. Bake 8 minutes for soft cookies or 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with second roll.

Cashew Butter

1½ cups unsalted cashews
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp canola oil/melted coconut oil
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spread cashews, coconut and sesame seeds in a shallow baking dish. Bake, stirring once or twice, until fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; add oil and salt. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed, until smooth and creamy (8-10 minutes).

Date and Pine Nut Oatmeal

1 cup water
Pinch of salt
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tbsp chopped dates
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Bring water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in oats, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand or 2-3 minutes. Top with dates, pine nuts, honey and cinnamon.

Overnight Oats Variation
Combine ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats with ½ cup water and a pinch of salt in a jar or bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, add toppings. Eat cold or heat up. Makes about 1 cup.

People with Celiac Disease or gluten-sensitivity should use oats that are labelled “gluten-free,” as oats are often cross-contaminated with wheat and barley.

Flourless Almond Cake

½ cup whole almonds, toasted
4 large eggs (room temperature) separated
½ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

2 tbsp honey
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper. Process whole almonds in a food processor or blender until finely ground (you will have about 1¾ cups ground). Beat 4 egg yolks, honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Add the ground almonds and beat on low until combined. Beat 4 egg whites in another large bowl with the electric mixer on medium speed until very foamy, white and double in volume, but not stiff enough to hold peaks, (1-2 minutes). Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and gently remove the side ring. Let cool completely. If desired, remove the cake from the pan bottom by gently sliding a large, wide spatula between the cake and the parchment paper. Carefully transfer the cake to a serving platter. To serve, drizzle the top of the cake with honey and sprinkle with sliced almonds.