Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Going nuts for New Year's

Ah hah! Nuts really are good for you! That's because unsaturated fats keep your good cholesterol high, while reducing bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood; of interest is that low-fat diets reduce good cholesterol as well as the bad kind, and also raise triglycerides.

Along with about 14 grams of fat (most of it unsaturated), an ounce of nuts has 4 to 8 grams of protein (a glass of milk has 8) plus various micronutrients. Another good feature is that nuts are digested slowly, helping control appetite and blood sugar.

More good news! A tablespoon of peanut butter or an ounce of nuts five days a week reduce the risk of developing adult-onset diabetes by 20 to 30 percent. A recent study done in Australia suggests that walnuts can lower diabetes risk.

Some not so good news if you are a person who picks through mixed nuts to pick out cashews, macadamias, Brazil nuts or pine nuts: they contain a tad too much saturated fat for the FDA. You can eat them, of course, but perhaps not as many.

Nutty basics:

1. What makes one ounce of nuts: about enough to fit in an Altoids box: 14 walnut halves, 23 almonds, 6 to 8 Brazil nuts, 1/4 cup peanuts or 142 pumpkin seeds (but who's counting?). That quantity of nuts, or a tablespoon of peanut butter, each day for five days of the week will make any nutritionist happy.

2. Nuts are about half fat: with 12 to 14 grams per ounce, about the same as a tablespoon of olive oil.

3. Nuts as a source of protein: Nuts contain 4 to 8 grams of protein per ounce.

4. Keeping nuts fresh: Nuts go stale and even rancid rather quickly. But they keep in the refrigerator for a month, and in the freezer for a year.

5. Roasting: Nuts are good for you whether raw, roasted or ground up. Roasting your own will deliver a lot of flavor. Toss 2 cups nuts with 1 tablespoon of oil, chopped herbs if you like, and roast in a 350 F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until brown.

6. Nut oils: Walnut oil, almond oil, peanut oil, etc. The oils carry many of nuts benefits and are good for salads and cooking. They keep best in the refrigerator.

Sweet & Savory Mixed Nuts

Works with only 1 variety of nuts or any combination. The egg white helps the seasonings stick to the nuts.

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fine salt
1 egg white
2 cups nuts, roasted or raw

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grind fennel seeds, five-spice powder and sugar together with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Whip egg whites by hand until frothy. Toss the nuts into the egg white. Remove with a slotted spoon, draining off excess egg white. Toss the drained nuts with the spice mixture. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until crisp--5 to 7 minutes for roasted nuts, up to 15 minutes for raw nuts. Turn at least once. Makes up to 2 cups.

Rosemary Almonds

Try this recipe substituting oregano, marjoram or other herbs for the rosemary

1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups unsalted, raw almonds
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt butter in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and rosemary and stir for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the almonds and season generously with salt. Stir about 1 minute, until the almonds are well coated with butter and spices. Add the Worcestershire sauce, shake pan vigorously, then stir the almonds until glossy, about 1 minute. Pour nuts onto parchment-covered baking sheet and bake until they're toasted and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool before serving. They will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Mexican Pumpkin Seeds

Some like 'em hot!

1 tablespoon canola oil
6 garlic cloves, crushed
6 dried arbol chiles
2 cups shelled pumpkin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chiles, and toss once or twice. Add the pumpkin seeds and mix to coat lightly with oil. Saute the seeds, stirring frequently (they puff a bit and some will crack and pop) until most of them have turned from green to golden and skins are crisp. Add salt and remove from the pan. Discard garlic. Serve hot or at room temperature. They will keep in airtight container for 5 days. Makes 2 cups.

Spicy Indian Nuts

These are not hot. Add more nuts, if you wish, and add an extra tablespoon or 2 of oil to boost the flavors.

1/2 cup flaked coconut (or strips, or shreds)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/3 cup raw peanuts
1/3 cup raw cashews
1/3 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup raisins
2 puffed rice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or red chile powder

Toast coconut on a baking sheet under a broiler stirring often, until golden. Add to the nuts. Combine salt, turmeric and cayenne. Add to the oil when it is hot but not smoking. Stir into nuts. Makes about 4 cups.

Happy New Year and a healthy, happy 2005!


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