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National Snack Food Month

February is National Snack Food Month, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to highlight the many virtues of snacking. Often maligned, snacks are an important part of a healthy eating plan. Research shows that most people consume 25% of their calories every day in the form of snacks. Of course, it’s important to choose snacks that are nutritious, such as nuts, fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread, cheese, and yogurt, to name a few. Not only do healthy snacks keep you satiated throughout the day and prevent going overboard at meals, snacks, such as tree nuts, are a great way to add vital nutrients to your diet.

Here are some ideas for nutty snacks!

  1. Simply a handful of nuts – whether it’s your favorite nut or mixed nuts, taking a bag of tree nuts to work or play is probably one of the easiest and healthiest snacks.
  2. Nut butter – on a cracker, in a celery stalk or under a slice of avocado, home-made nut butter will be sure to keep you going until dinner!
  3. Nut muffins can be whipped up in minutes and stored in the freezer to heat up as needed.   You can add dried or fresh fruit, spices, and make them savory or sweet.  Try these Pecan Banana Muffins, and feel free to switch out with your favorite tree nut and fruit!
  4. Nut-based cookies – the Italians have Amaretti, the Mexicans have their Wedding cookies, the Turkish use almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts for traditional cookies. You can easily make your own with nut meal or by grinding your own nuts. Here’s a Macadamia Shortbread, which can be made with any tree nut (i.e., walnuts and cardamom or pistachio and orange zest).
  5. Nut bars and bites – just put nuts, dried fruit and enough honey to bind together in a blender, and press into a lined-square pan or roll into balls and dust with coconut or seeds. Refrigerate and enjoy over the next few weeks! Here’s a recipe for some delicious Almond Bites that will keep you going on a hike or bike ride!
  6. Nut dips and crackers – just like hummus with chick peas, or guacamole, you can add nuts to any vegetable puree in a blender for dipping carrot, celery and zucchini sticks! Add fresh herbs, chili powder or Tabasco to spice it up!  This Pine Nut and Avocado Pesto combines the best of both worlds!
  7. Smoothies – there’s nothing simpler than mixing fruit, greens, or vegetables with tree nuts in a blender with some water, milk or nut-milk alternative.  Here’s one for cocktail time with Pistachios to end the day in style!

Want more ideas? We have an entire section on nutty snacks here

Enjoy!

Enhance Your New Year’s Toast with Perfect Nut and Bubbly Pairings

It’s time to raise your glass to celebrate and toast the year with friends, colleagues and family. If you’re wondering what to serve with your sparkling wine celebrations, nuts pair beautifully. The earthy richness of nuts enhances the yeasty, toasted notes of champagne and other worldly bubbles. And there are so many ways to prepare nuts that will bring a delicious addition to your holiday party.

Cheese and Nut Platter – Cheese is one of the most classic additions to a champagne toast, but have you thought of jazzing it up a notch by incorporating nuts with the cheese? Think goat cheese rolled into balls and coated in finely diced nuts; blue cheese sliced lengthwise and filled with honey and diced nuts; or for a bit fancier presentation, top a round of brie or camembert with a drizzle of honey, some chopped nuts and wrap in puff pastry before baking until golden brown. Serve warm while the cheese is still molten – just divine with pure Champagne. Or warm orange slices, with herbs such as oregano, thyme or rosemary and toasted nuts such as pecans, and spoon over slices of soft rind cheese on bread.

Naturally a classic Champagne is great with these, but not just champagne, a Blanquette de Limoux,  Crémant de Bourgogne or other non-vintage French sparkling wine would be delightful too.

Crackers – You can make your own crackers with nuts to make that perfect partnership, or make parmesan nut tuilles – place mounds of parmesan cheese scattered with chopped nuts on a non-stick pan over medium heat and cook until melted, then flip over and cook until set. Cool and serve as crackers. Lovely with a high-end Prosecco or Franciacorta.

Filo Fingers – Brush sheets of filo (phyllo) pastry with butter or oil, dust with nuts, shredded cheese and spices, then roll up into cigar shapes and bake until golden. The crisp toasty notes are lovely with a glass of bubbly—like a bright Cava!

Bruschetta with Nuts – The world is your oyster with ideas for bruschetta with nuts. Try toasted ciabatta bread spread with a nut butter or pesto and topped with mozzarella and tomato. Or spread with fig jam, ricotta, some toasted hazelnuts or almonds, fresh herbs and a slice of prosciutto or smoked salmon.

Puff Pastry Fingers – Roll puff pastry until just a bit thinner and cut into fingers. Scatter with goat cheese, rosemary, pine nuts or chopped nuts and bake until puffed and golden.

Chocolate Enhanced Nuts – There are so many ways to liven up chocolate with nuts. Melt your favorite chocolate in a parchment lined tray, scatter with nuts, dried fruit, even trendy toppings such as coarse salt, chili flakes and bacon bits. Allow to set then break into bark. Here’s an idea from our website.  Experiment with Brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts and macadamias – just delicious!

Stuffed Dates – An old classic, dates sliced open and filled with goat cheese, walnuts or pistachios, honey and thyme pair beautifully with a local sparkling wine, of which there are many to choose!

Something more substantial? – Prawns dipped in egg wash, then in ground macadamias and shredded coconut before deep frying perhaps? Or scallops seared and served with an almond Gazpacho like at the famous Waterbar restaurant? Scroll through our brochure to find this recipe and more from well-known chefs.

Wishing you all a happy, safe and healthy holiday season!

Fall for Nuts in Soup

Our fireplaces are lit, the leaves are falling, decorating the ground in a carpet of orange and yellow hues, and salads are being replaced by soups in our culinary thoughts. Soups offer so many options – a satisfying lunch, a quick starter, or a full meal of beans and vegetables.

Tree nuts have many roles in soups, from thickening to adding a lovely crunch topping. And they add a nutritious boost of protein, healthy fats and sustained energy. Here are some simple and exotic ways to jazz up your soups with nuts:

Nothing adds creamy, richness as well as a beautiful thick texture to pumpkin or winter squash soup like macadamia nuts. But hazelnuts work wonderfully too adding a new kind of nutty richness. Any pumpkin works well in this recipe, but Kabocha or Blue Ballet give you the best depth of color and flavor.

In this delicious Mediterranean Carrot Soup, nuts both thicken the soup and form a part of a crunchy, sweet sour agrodolce on top. You can use any tree nuts, and even use other vegetables such as celery root or sweet potato.

Our Potato Soup is given a splash of color and the delightful burst of flavor with a pistachio pesto topping. Nuts add a visual splash of contrast in texture and flavor. A white bean soup is gorgeous with an almond, pine nut or cashew pesto, or scatter soy glazed walnuts and pecans on creamy mushroom soup.

If you’re making an Italian style minestrone or vegetable and bean soup, top with some toasted pine nuts, or puree any vegetables, and top with crème fraiche and any toasted diced nuts – Brazil nuts give a wonderful contrasting boost.

Then there’s the toast – a side of grilled ciabatta with a nut spread made at home makes the perfect soup “side”. Here are some ideas for nut buttered bread to dunk in your soup.

There’s nothing better than your own creation, so wander around your grocery store, buy what’s in season and at a good price, and get playful in your kitchen with the tree nuts you have on hand…you won’t be disappointed.

Cheers!

The Nutty Chef

Go Nuts at the Grill!

Are you a lover of the great outdoors, grilling, eating or cooking under the stars? If you want to add a touch of something new and special, think tree nuts! These “nutritional powerhouses in a shell” add a marvelous crunch and a boost of health benefits to any grilled dish.

Are you a simple grilled slab of meat lover?

Try adding nut pesto – and don’t just think basil and pine nuts. Basil is also wonderful with walnuts, or try pistachios and mint, cashews and macadamias with cilantro, hazelnuts and parsley, pecans and arugula…or your own designer pesto.

For more of a “fine dining meets grill” approach, slice a secret pocket into the center of the steak and fill it with a soft cheese mixed with lemon zest, herbs and chopped roasted nuts before cooking. Great with beef, lamb, pork and fish, such as tuna and swordfish. Avoid using chicken or turkey with a secret pocket, just to be safe.

Are you a burger buff?

Chopped nuts mixed into a burger add a nice crunch and toasty flavor. You can also spread buns with a ground nut butter. Place roasted or raw nuts in a food processor (or coffee grinder) and pulse on and off to grind, then slowly drizzle in nut or olive oil to bring to desired consistency. Great with a touch of lemon juice, honey or soy, and herbs too!

Smash up some ripe fig or stone fruit and mix finely chopped nuts into the paste with a drop of wine or vinegar as a lovely burger topping. You could also put this into a small pan to simmer on the grill to make a fresh chutney –  just add a touch more liquid.

Is fish your fancy?

Whole fish, wrapped in parchment or grape leaves and then in foil, is divine on the barbecue. First, brush the paper or leaves with oil and sprinkle with a layer of sliced or chopped nuts before placing the fish down and wrapping it. This makes a lovely crust. You can grill fish fillets and chicken breasts this way too!

Turkey Time?

If you’re grilling the whole turkey or breasts, you can make deep slashes in the meat and fill with one of the pestos or just nuts and herbs – even tucked under the skin works like a charm.

Tree Nuts: The Salad Hero! 

As we head into summer, salads are at the forefront of our minds! There’s so much wonderful produce available lighter meals just seem right. Whether you’re a Caesar addict or love a good grainy salad, nuts bring an extra boost of nutrition and crunch to any salad, as well as sustenance to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.

Think of a Niçoise scattered with toasted sliced almonds, a wedge dotted with roasted walnuts or a Caesar with pecans crumbled into the breadcrumbs. There are so many ways to bring the joy of nuts to your salad bowl, and ramp it up a notch in flavor, texture and health. 

Here are five tips to get your creative juices started:

Keep it class with a Waldorf Salad – The Waldorf is making a comeback and the mixture of walnuts, apples, celery and grapes deliver a meal that is fresh, fruity and light. You could use any nut in this apple, celery and grape salad recipe!

Pair fruit and nuts together – Strawberries are a common addition to salads this time of year, not to mention other berries and stone fruit. To get the most flavor, select fruit you can smell and that gives just a little when you squeeze them. Strawberries are lovely marinated in a little balsamic to bring out their flavor. You can add them to any greens and scatter with fresh ricotta. This recipe features pecans and berries, or try this one using pistachios rolled up in a ball of goat cheese, for a French twist.

But why stop at strawberries? Try blackberries with spinach and almonds, blueberries with arugula and goat cheese or raspberries with mixed greens and cucumber. And then there’s our luscious stone fruit – sliced peaches or nectarines over greens, with toasted nuts of any kind, just shouts summer. Here’s one with arugula and almonds or a grilled peach salad with pecans.

Go all in on grains – Make your salad a complete meal with the grains you love, lots of chopped vegetables, a splash of olive oil and lemon and a scattering of any nut! You could use quinoa, barley, rice, farro or any cooked grains. Cook a batch over the weekend and separate into meal portions to freeze for when you are ready during the week for your grain and nut boost! Try this one using hazelnuts that is light and bright for a warm summer day, or a farro and almond salad that is sure to keep you energized!

Make it a wrap – Whether you fill a lettuce leaf with prawns and noodles as in this classic Sang Choy Bow, lay out the makings for a party with walnut larb lettuce wraps, or just put your salad in a tortilla to make a wrap, eating salad with your hands just seems right sometimes!

Keep things toasty with a warm salad – If you’re after a warmer salad, consider toasting tree nuts in a dry pan until golden and aromatic, then removing them from the heat and tossing your dressing into the hot pan, so it sizzles and absorbs the nut’s essence. Toss through some bitter greens like escarole, frisée and radicchio while still warm and crumble goat cheese on top. This is wonderful with macadamias, almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts.

The combinations are endless, so Go Nuts with your salads this summer!

The Great Outdoors…Better with a Side of Nuts

Whether you’re an extreme hiker, mountain biker, fisher, forager or just love picnics and camping, taking along some nuts can only enhance your time outdoors.  Filled with important nutrients that can provide energy and keep you full, tree nuts can be prepared in many delicious ways that work perfectly in an outdoor adventure.

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices going:

  1. Simply nuts – of course, the easiest way to enjoy tree nuts is to pack some in zip lock bags to tuck in your backpack.  But you can upgrade the experience by seasoning the nuts or adding dried fruit.  We have plenty of seasoning ideas in our recipe collection.
  2. Nut cookies – whether it’s a chewy breakfast cookie, a rich shortbread, or dippable Biscotti, sitting on a mountaintop or riverside with a beverage and a cookie is truly magical, and prepares you for the next leg of your journey.
  3. Nut burgers – These burgers can be made ahead of time, wrapped and then cooked on the campfire!  A delicious lunch or dinner to send you off to a blissful sleep under the stars.
  4. Frittata – A picnic or al fresco lunch just begs for a frittata, and adding nuts brings a wonderful texture and flavor.  They can be enjoyed cold or warm out of the oven for a back yard family feast!
  5. Breakfast – Take some muffins or a nourishing Grain Bowl on the road to get your day off to the right start!
  6. Nut butter – If you’re feeling tired, take a spoonful of nut butter with honey for a quick and lasting lift.

Wishing you a happy and safe summer season, enjoying the wonders of nature!

The Global Nutrition Powerhouse – Nuts!

Throughout history nuts have played a significant role in the diets and health of cultures around the world and have formed the staples of many dishes intrinsic to their cuisines. From sustaining explorers to being featured in celebrations, nuts have enjoyed a universal appeal. Let’s have a look at the origins of some tree nuts and classic ways they can inspire us in our daily nut creations:

Almonds – Mentioned in the bible and Greek Mythology, almond history mainly revolves around the Mediterranean and particularly Spain. From soups like Ajo Blanco, where almonds give a silky creaminess, to a rich Romesco Sauce from the Catalan region, where almonds combine with roasted peppers and spices to make a delicious addition to fish and other dishes. And a tapas platter would be incomplete without some paprika spiced Marcona almonds.

Brazil Nuts – Grown mainly in the lowland Amazon rainforests, Brazil nuts are native to Southern American cuisine. Brazil nut trees sometimes live 500 years or more and grow up to 165 feet. Many organizations work tirelessly to preserve the forests where these valuable selenium-rich nuts grow, supporting the livelihoods of families reliant on their harvest. Many from the region simply slice the nut to toast and toss with herbs as a healthy protein rich snack, but in Peru, their Brazil Nut turrón will rival any Spanish or Italian equivalent.

Cashew Nuts – Though most associate cashew nuts with India, the nut actually hails from South America. Portuguese colonists were responsible for introducing the nut to West Africa and India in the 16th Century, and now the nut is commonly used in South Asian cuisine. Cashews are used whole for garnishing sweets, curries, stir fries, or Sang Choy Bow, or ground into a paste that forms a base of sauces for curries (e.g., korma).

Hazelnuts – A symbol of wisdom, fertility and knowledge, the hazelnut has been found in writings dating back centuries from China to Greece. Originally believed to have been from Asia minor, the nut spread all over Europe, particularly embraced by countries such as Turkey and Italy. One traditional Turkish dish featuring hazelnuts is Bafra, which every home makes at celebrations. It’s simply a thin yeast dough sprinkled with sugar, hazelnuts and raisins, rolled up into a cylinder and baked. You could just use filo pastry to make your own simpler version. In Italy, Torta Nocciola can be found in bakeries everywhere, and farmers take their abundance of hazelnuts to local oil producers to make hazelnut oil, which is wonderfully aromatic on salads.

Macadamias – Contrary to popular belief, macadamias are actually native to Australia, being one of the main forms of sustenance for indigenous Australians on walkabouts. The tree was, however, first commercially harvested in Hawaii. Being a relatively “new” discovery, most recipes featuring macadamias are modern and creative, making use of the creamy, crisp texture and buttery flavor. They make a wonderful butter replacement in shortbread, and macadamia crusted fish appears on menus around the world.

Pecans – The only tree nut actually native to America is the pecan, and it is a species of the hickory tree.  Pecan use dates back to the 1500’s where it was found along riverbeds in the south east US and northern Mexico, particularly around the Mississippi region. It was a staple of the pre-colonial American diet, being used in Fall and Winter and often used to make a nut milk, or soups and breads. Kanuchi is a Cherokee soup in which pecans are pureed with salt and water and usually topped with roasted squash.  Pecan pie is one of the most famous American desserts, but pecans are now widely used in salads, cheese boards, muffins and just as a delicious snack.

Pistachios – A relative of the cashew, the pistachio originated in the Middle East, and is mentioned in the book of Genesis. Historically the nut was savored by the wealthy and royalty, and it wasn’t until after WWII that the pistachio became more mainstream. While it was still considered a delicacy in France and countries north of the alps, Italy found a way to incorporate the nut in their cuisine, from delicate cookies, gelato and even as a pizza topping.

Walnuts – Walnuts are one of the oldest food trees known to man, dating back to 7,000 BC. Once named Juglans regia, “Jupiter’s royal acorn,” historical records suggest the nut came from Persia where it was saved for royalty. A classic Persian dish is Fesenjan, featuring a walnut and pomegranate stew with chicken. In the Mediterranean they are intrinsic to many dishes, from an Italian walnut sauce for pasta, to Greek Walnut bread.

So, globalize your kitchen, expand your culinary repertoire and Go Nuts!

Jazz up your Holiday Party with Nuts

The holidays are here – full of joy, friends and family, celebration and parties!  It’s time to search for creative ways to entertain and come up with new ideas for party nibbles and small bites to serve with drinks.

Incorporating nuts into the menu has a number of benefits –they pair wonderfully with wine, they offer a multitude of flavors, and they add a heathy dose of nutrients often lacking in party food. So put out some bowls of mixed nuts, or go a step further and try some of these great ideas:

Cheese Platter – Nuts and cheese are nothing new – we’ve even done a whole blog on the topic. Think of a ball of goat cheese crusted in roasted chopped nuts and fresh herbs, or honey and walnuts drizzled over Manchego. Or, some camembert cheese baked in oiled ramekins with a splash of whisky, and some chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pecans, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Bake for 10-15 minutes in a 350° oven. It’s delicious spooned onto flatbread crackers.

Bruschetta – Mushrooms are in season. Imagine a bruschetta with burrata or ricotta cheese and braised mushrooms, such as chanterelles, with a crumbling of roasted walnuts, pine nuts or Brazil nuts and fresh oregano or thyme.

Flavored Nuts – Whether sweet or hot, adding a delicious, flavored crust to nuts enables you to craft your own party nibble. We have a multitude of ideas for ways to season nuts in our recipe column, or use your own inspiration by adding your favorite herbs and spices. (They also make a great party gift bag for guests to take home).

Mini Pizzas – Turn our pistachio and zucchini pizza into pizza bites or use any nuts of choice. Simply cut small discs out of your pizza dough with a cookie cutter before putting on the topping and bake as usual.

Chicken and Shrimp Skewers – A real crowd pleaser, simply thread strips of chicken or a few raw shrimp onto soaked bamboo skewers, brush with some sesame oil and soy sauce, then serve with a nut sauce for dipping. Blend together nuts such as cashews, macadamias, almonds or hazelnuts with a squeeze of lime juice, soy, ginger and mirin (rice wine) or rice vinegar, adding enough liquid to make a dipping consistency.

Nut-stuffed Olives – You’ll often see almonds in olives in market olive bars, but you can really put any nut inside an olive. Make it even more special by finely dicing the nuts, adding goat cheese with some herbs or garlic and gently piping this mixture into the olives.

Chocolate Slabs – There’s always room for sweets on your party table and making your own chocolate slabs is a fun way to surprise guests with your creativity. Try chili flakes with dark chocolate and roasted almonds; salt, milk chocolate and pistachios; honey, white chocolate and walnuts, or fresh rosemary and hazelnuts on a mixed swirl of chocolates. Simply line a baking tray with parchment, pour over with melted chocolate and scatter with nuts and seasoning of choice. They go wonderfully with a glass of red wine or sparkling! Or if cocktails are the event, mix a little liqueur such as brandy or Cointreau into the chocolate.

Wishing you all a happy, safe and healthy holiday season!

Nuts on the Thanksgiving Table

Thankfully the world is gradually returning to a pre-pandemic state, and we can gather families and friends around the Thanksgiving table. As we look to create something special to celebrate, nuts can enhance so many of our traditional and not-so-traditional dishes. Here are some ideas to jazz up your Thanksgiving table with tree nuts.

Thanksgiving Toast – The party begins with a glass of bubbles or cider, and there’s no better accompaniment than a bowl of roasted nuts. They’ll keep your hunger craving at bay until the feast arrives.

Soup for starters – Switch from squash soup to our Mediterranean Carrot soup with a sweet and sour nut and dried fruit topping. Very fitting for a Fall table!

Stuffing – Add some crunch to your stuffing mix with nuts such as walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts, and perhaps the sweet touch of cranberries or currants.

Go Nuts with your Turkey – There are many ways to add some nuts to your turkey aside from the stuffing. Try bringing an Italian flair with either a pesto or a Spanish Romesco – you can substitute any tree nuts in these recipes. If you’re just going with roasted breasts, make a crumb of chopped nuts, cheese and mixed fresh herbs to crust the outsides.

Sweet Potato Casserole – Give your casserole a nutty sweet topping as the crowning glory. A scattering of pistachios, pecans and/or pine nuts, mixed with brown sugar and a few dollops of butter, turns a side into a treat! This is especially great if you have a non-meat eater in the group!

Green Beans –  Green beans and sliced toasted almonds are made in heaven, just with a kiss of honey, lemon zest and butter, and hazelnuts bring a beautiful earthiness to this green bean dish. Cashews and macadamias are also lovely with beans, but especially with pan roasted Brussel sprouts!

Nut Pastry for your Pie? – Pastry made with nuts makes a delicious and healthy alternative to traditional pastry. Try an Apple Gallette to use up the last of the season’s apples. Or if you want to go more traditional, here’s a part Pumpkin Pie, part cheesecake that’s sure to please anyone.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Nutty Chef!

Around the World in 5 Nutty Desserts

It’s National Dessert Day and we decided to pay tribute to some of the many wonderful desserts enjoyed around the world, where nuts are a key ingredient!

Baklava – The first known record of Baklava dates back to 800BC in the Assyrian empire. Now credited to Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines, that sweet and sumptuous layering of filo dough, honey and spiced nuts can be found all around the world. Here’s a classic Greek recipe for you to try!

Schnecken – This traditional German pastry is also commonly found in Austria, France and Northern European countries. A pastry formed into the shape of a snail (translation of Schnecken), is glazed and dusted with nuts. This version, which you’ll find on our website, is made with hazelnuts.

Macaroons (Macarons) – The dessert you have when you’re not having dessert, these small nut-based meringues are filled with a succulent cream and come in a range of flavors. Fabulous with coffee or tea, they are now very popular in cafes around America. Here is one featuring almonds and a sweet raspberry filling.

Gelato – Who would say no to a classic Italian gelato, which often includes a base of nuts such as pistachio, nocciola (hazelnut) or almonds? Gelato is traditionally made using a milk-based custard rather than cream, so it’s often lower in fat and sugar than ice cream. An Indian version called Kulfi, uses condensed sweetened milk, saffron, turmeric, pistachios and cashews, and is perfect after a curry dish!

Rosewater Rice Pudding with Nuts and Pomegranate – There are many versions of sweet rice puddings from Lebanon, which use the floral notes of rosewater and a dusting of nuts, to Asia and Britain where either ginger or nutmeg lift the sweet rice and are always more appealing with a sprinkling of nuts!

Bon Appétit!