Mad About Nuts

Research supports that nuts are all they’re cracked up to be. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has an approved qualified health claim stating, “Scientific evidence suggests eating 1  1/2 ounces of most nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”  That’s some news I can live with. Walnuts also contain the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids  and are rich in MUFA’s (monounsaturated fatty acids).  My favorites nuts, walnuts and almonds, along with the other seven varieties of tree nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews , macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, and hazelnuts hit the right flavor profile with cooks and snackers alike. 

Nuts are crunchy, rich in flavor, sometimes salty, promote satiety, and with respect to nutrition they are terrific packages of protein, fiber, and as discussed above, healthy fats.No wonder the FDA deemed nuts healthy and snacking on a handful of nuts every day good for the heart. Here are some creative ways to include more nuts in your diet:

Breakfast– Sprinkle chopped nuts on yogurt, hot or cold cereal, or mix in cream cheese to spread on a bagel. Add chopped macadamias or pistachios to your favorite bread, pancake, waffle or muffin recipe.

Snacks – Nuts are perfect as a tasty snack between meals, and research has shown that they may keep you full longer. For better portion control, divide your favorite nuts into 1  1/2 ounce portions and store them in individual bags. Grab a bag of nuts on your way out the door, or keep several bags in the car or our desk for easy snacking. When snacking at home, mix toasted nuts with popcorn or trail mix to boost the nutrition content.  A bowl of whole nuts in the shell becomes an edible centerpiece or table decoration. Place a nutcracker and a dish for the shells nearby and soon you may find your family, or guests, sitting around the nut bowl, cracking and eating away.

Appetizers – Top softened Brie or Camembert cheese with chopped pistachios for a simple, elegant treat. Add your favorite nuts to any cheese and cracker platter, or as above, simply serve them straight up in a bowl.

Soups – Sprinkle chopped nuts on a bowl of soup for added flavor and texture. For example, garnish potato soup with finely chopped pecans or hearty split pea with hazelnuts.

Salads – Restaurants often serve creative salads with various nuts and fruit. Do the same at home by adding whole, sliced, or chopped nuts to your favorite salad recipes. For instance, toss pecans or walnuts with blue cheese or Gorgonzola to add zip to a spinach salad, or garnish chicken salad with slivered almonds.

Vegetables – Nutty vinaigrettes made with chopped hazelnuts or Brazils add pizzazz to steamed vegetables… even the pickiest of eaters may give vegetables a try when dressed with nut vinaigrette.

Pasta – Pine nuts have always been the secret ingredient to a tasty pesto, but other nuts, such as walnuts, can add protein and flavor to pesto. Sprinkled on top or mixed in with a sauce, nuts give a special flair to any pasta dish. Fettuccine with toasted walnuts is always a hit.

Homemade GiftSpiced nuts make a tasty homemade gift. They require no special handling or refrigeration and can be made ahead and stored until gift giving time. Wrapped in a cellophane bag with a festive bow, the gift of homemade spiced nuts will surely please.

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