Walnuts: A versatile ingredient that makes entertaining easy

(BPT) – From appetizers to desserts, the flavor and versatility of California walnuts can elevate any dish. Planning a menu for small or large groups can be a lot of work. Depending on the gathering or occasion, you may need to plan snacks, appetizers and a meal that many people will enjoy. Fortunately, you can set the stage for success and satisfy a variety of palates with California walnuts.

Tips for entertaining with California walnuts

Walnuts are appealing and adaptable, with surprising versatility that makes them the unsung hero of the kitchen. They’re well known for the buttery richness and pleasing texture they add to many traditional dishes, baked goods, garnish or topping and as a simple, beloved entertaining snack. This is particularly handy when you’re entertaining. This versatile plant food, packed with a powerhouse of important nutrients, is a smart option for you, your friends and family.

Want to up the ante at your next event? Here are some additional ways to use walnuts when entertaining that you may not have thought of before:

Veggie trays: Elevate your veggie tray or charcuterie board by making walnut hummus, pesto and Muhammara, a roasted red pepper dip.

Meat alternatives: Walnuts can easily be combined in a food processor with your favorite combination of spices to create plant-based walnut meat that tastes great and is satisfying. Walnut meat is a tasty and a filling meat alternative that can be used in tacos, pasta sauces, on pizza, in stuffed peppers and more.

Delicious snacks: Sweet and spiced walnuts are a delicious snack or entertaining staple, and can be easily packaged into a lovely host gift if you’re attending a party.

Dairy-free treats: Walnuts can be used in new and innovative ways — like Vanilla Walnut Whipped Cream, a dairy-free treat topping for anything from hot chocolate to pies and cakes.

Recipe: Vanilla Walnut Whipped Cream

This light and airy walnut-based whipped cream flavored with honey and vanilla can be served with dessert, over berries and more. Visit walnuts.org for flavor variations. Makes 14 servings.

2 1/2 cups California walnuts, divided
1 cup water
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons honey, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Puree 2 cups walnuts and water in a blender for 2 minutes or until very light and fluffy.
Add powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon honey, vanilla and salt and blend for 30 seconds. Add the remaining teaspoon honey if you prefer a sweeter taste.
To achieve a thicker whipped cream, add the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts and puree until light and fluffy.
Store tightly covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. May be prepared two days ahead.

Why walnuts? Bountiful benefits

Being high in omega-3 ALA (2.5 g/oz.), walnuts are a great addition to any snack or meal. You can feel good that more than 99% of the walnuts grown in the U.S. are from the fertile soils of California’s Central Valley.

Entertaining tips and more recipes

California Walnuts is spotlighting a custom recipe collection that showcases even more ways you can use walnuts. Whether you purchased a one- or three-pound bag, or any size in between, California Walnuts has tasty, easy recipes that will ensure your walnuts go to delicious use — regardless of the occasion. For more entertaining ideas and recipe inspiration, visit Walnuts.org.

Bonus tip: Have leftover walnuts? For optimal freshness, keep them cold in the refrigerator or freezer.