Celebrate with Flavorful Nuts

Tree nuts are not only a delicious and healthy snack that can be eaten plain any time of the day, they can be “jazzed up” to give a special touch for any occasion or taste. Here are a few ideas to get your own creative juices inspired!

Ideas for Kids with a Penchant for Sweet Things:

Much better than a candy or sugar laden treat, toss raw nuts in enough warmed honey to coat, place on a parchment lined baking tray and bake on moderate heat until golden brown. Allow to cool, break apart and enjoy! If desired, dust with some nutmeg or cinnamon before cooling. You can even get the kids involved.

Nuts for Wine Lovers:

If you love wine, you’re probably familiar with a wine reduction, where you simmer wine until it’s a silky glaze. Toss nuts in this and allow them to soak before draining and roasting in a moderate oven until toasted! White or red is great, or even a liqueur – whisky pecans anyone?

Nuts for the Spice Lovers:

If you like a kick to your food, toss raw nuts in olive oil, drain well, then toss in your favorite spice blend, such as chili, cumin, curry, rosemary, Cajun spice, Chinese 5 Spice, cardamom, lemongrass or basil. Roast as above.

Chocolate Lovers:

Here’s a tasty alternative to chocolate coated nuts, and one that you can really personalize. Toast nuts then toss in melted honey or even molasses. Drain and then toss in cocoa power (dark or milk), and perhaps a few drops of peppermint, orange or vanilla extract. Or, toss in ground instant coffee and a few drops of Kahlua or Bailey’s and serve with coffee…makes great birthday gifts!

Asian Food Fans

Stir-fries commonly incorporate nuts of any kind, but try toasting nuts then tossing in honey and soy sauce, and cooling on parchment paper. This makes a lovely garnish over rice and noodle dishes, or if sushi is your penchant, puree nuts with wasabi, it makes sushi much more wine-friendly!

Whatever your flavor or preference, there’s a nut for it!

Happy New Year and Bon-appétit from the Nutty Chef!

Celebrating the Holidays with Nuts

Thinking of new ideas to make your celebration meals a bit more special – think of nuts!  Not only will they add a nutritional boost, but also a delightful crunch, flavor and creative spin.

Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices going:

Turkey Stuffing – add a few spoonfuls of diced roasted nuts, such as hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios and/or macadamias to your stuffing mix just before baking, and don’t forget to sprinkle some over the top as well.

Beans and Squash – when you’ve blanched green beans, toss with oil or melted butter, a spoon of honey and some toasted sliced almonds or diced pecans.  For a change, par cook squash, dice and toss with chopped raw nuts and maple syrup then bake until golden and crunchy.

Pumpkin Pie – take a delicious healthy twist for your pie shell by substituting half the butter for ground nuts or nut butter, or if it’s a graham crust, just toss in some raw chopped nuts.

Just nuts – for pre-dinner drinks or with your cheese plate course, toss your favorite nuts with oil and any spice or herb you fancy and bake until golden and aromatic – try rosemary and almonds, cumin and cashews, cinnamon and hazelnuts, chili and pecans, basil and walnuts, ginger and macadamias or cilantro and pistachios.

And for a wonderful side dish or light meal, try these muffins with squash and pine nuts…or walnuts, hazelnuts…

A new and fun way to serve barley risotto with earthy roasted squash – perfect for a special occasion or just for a snack.  You can just boil the barley if preferred, but this method brings out a lovely flavor and texture. You may think tea unusual for the glaze but it adds a rich depth to the mix.  Walnuts and pecans (or any nut for that matter) are marvelous with these too. Add them to the mix too if you like for some extra crunch.

Maple Syrup Glazed Barley, Tree Nut and Squash “Cupcakes”

Makes 10-12 cupcakes


¾ cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons black tea


12 ounces chopped squash or pumpkin (kaboocha is perfect)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups barley

1 teaspoon mustard seeds, optional

1 cup white wine

3 cups simmering stock or water

1 cup baby spinach

6 eggs

¼ cup milk

2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves

3 tablespoons pine nuts, or preferred nuts

Baby arugula, to serve

  1. Place the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until a glaze consistency, about 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F.   Brush muffin or cupcake pan with olive oil.
  3. Toss the squash with olive oil, to coat all the pieces and bake for 15-20 minutes or until just tender but still firm.
  4. While squash is cooking, place barley and mustard seeds in a large dry saucepan and lightly toast the grains on medium heat, shaking pan, for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine, reduce heat and cook until liquid is nearly absorbed, then add 2 cups of the stock or water and continue to cook until barley is plump and tender, adding extra stock if it becomes dry, and stirring occasionally.  Drain off any excess moisture.
  5. Place barley in a large bowl with the squash, spinach, beaten eggs and milk, and oregano.  Season to taste and mix well.  Spoon mixture into prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with nuts.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set through.  Allow to sit in the pan a few minutes before turning out and serving with the glaze spooned over the top.  Add a few leaves baby arugula on top if desired.

Recipe and Styling – Sally James

Bon-appétit from the Nutty Chef!

Nutty Gifts

As Christmas approaches and we try to come up with creative new ideas for friends and family, a way to avoid the crammed stores and busy streets is to create a treat in your kitchen with a your own personal touch.  And nuts are the perfect ingredient to start with as there are so many wonderful appetizing and healthy ways to prepare them. Here are a few ideas I hope will inspire your own creative juices – all you need are some nice boxes or jars, some ribbon and voila!

Mint dusted nuts – toast nuts and while still warm place in a bowl with enough warmed honey to coat them.  Mix well to coat all sides then pour into a sieve to drain.  Next, combine equal amounts of powdered sugar and cornstarch in a large zip lock bag, add a couple of drops mint essence (or your favorite essence such as chocolate or coffee), add the nuts and toss really well.  Transfer to a lined tray to dry then package as desired!

Nutty sweets – place nuts, any kind of dried fruit, some rum and a little skim milk powder if desired in a food processor and grind to a coarse paste.  Shape into balls and then roll in coconut, sugar, sesame seeds or more finely chopped nuts.  Wrap individually in cultured cellophane or arrange in a recycled chocolate box.  Great for your health conscious or vegetarian foodie as gift idea!

Italian Panforte (fruit and nut slice) and Amaretti (nut based cookies) – you can find plenty of Panforte and Amaretti recipes on line and incorporate a whole mix of nuts for a traditional Italian Christmas idea.  It’s nice to make a selection of Amaretti using different nuts and arrange alternately in a nice box.

Or try making all of the above and mixing together for a nutty Christmas assortment!

Bon-nut-appetit and cheers for the season,

The Nutty Chef

Add a Cool Nutty Touch to Summer’s Bounty

It’s the season where farmers’ markets pop up on every street corner, and the sun-kissed flavors make food so much more enjoyable. Tree nuts can add not only a delightful crunch and toasty flavor to the plate, they bring greater satiety and nutritional value, meaning you’ll want to snack less throughout the day–a win-win!  We all know how wonderful it is to sprinkle your favorite nuts on a salad, but here are some other ideas for incorporating tree nuts into summer meals:

  • Asparagus and any nut is a partnership made in heaven – the French and Italians love it with hazelnuts and almonds, but the plump spears are also marvelous with pecans, pistachios and walnuts.  Try grilling, roasting or blanching asparagus and then adding a crumble of goat cheese or ricotta and some roasted tree nuts. Or, for a main dish, add to pasta or risotto with roughly chopped nuts, basil, lemon and olive oil.
  • Artichokes make a delightful summer dip for vegetable crudités; add nuts such as pistachios and almonds to the mix with lemon and herbs. Puree cucumber, kefir, mint and green grapes along with almonds, cashews, pecans and pine nuts for a rich and creamy chilled soup without the saturated fat (see recipe below).
  • Those plump baby beets are divine served with crumbled walnuts or pecans, and perhaps some Greek yogurt. And, finely shaved radishes over fresh summer greens make a lovely salad with any kind of nut.  My favorites are hazelnuts, pine nuts and pistachios for a lovely mix of color, flavor and texture.
  • Try a warm salad of steamed garden peas and fava beans with mint, a squeeze of Meyer lemon and crumbled cashews, macadamias and hazelnuts.  And for the main scene? Rhubarb stalks – diced and sautéed with walnuts over a grilled chicken breast.

Finally, for a perfect finish you can’t beat cut up fresh stone fruit, melons and ruby grapefruit with a scattering of nuts and a spoon of Greek yogurt for a tasty treat!

Summer is for fun, so have some of your own with tree nuts!

Bon-appétit from the Nutty Chef!

Chilled Cucumber and Tree Nut Soup


  • 2 slices ciabatta bread, crusts removed and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced cucumber, Persian, Lemon and English are great
  • 2 cups green grapes
  • ½ cup tree nuts of choice
  • 2-3 teaspoons sherry or wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8-10 leaves mint
  • ¼ – ½ cup kefir* or plain yogurt


  1. Cover the bread in iced water and soak 5 minutes. Squeeze out excess water.
  2. Place bread in a blender with the cucumber, grapes, tree nuts, vinegar, oil and mint.
  3. Puree, adding kefir in a steady stream until desired consistency.  Season to taste, adding more vinegar if not “punchy” enough.
  4. Chill 30 minutes before serving. (Some people like to strain the soup, but I prefer the fiber and texture as it is.)

*Kefir is a fermented milk drink similar to liquid yogurt

Go Nuts for Romance…

When people think of romantic meals or foods, usually chocolate, lobster and champagne are the kinds of things that come to mind.  We all know nuts are loaded with nutrients that can keep our bodies and minds as healthy as possible. But they also contribute a more sensual pleasure to meals – texture!  We sometimes forget that texture can add as much interest to a meal as flavor – it does in fact contribute to and sometimes alter the flavor.  Here are some ways to make your meal more exotically romantic with some added nuts.

Breakfast in bed with pancakes, nuts, banana and honey anyone?  But on to the real meal…

  • Nibbles for Champagne – roast almonds then toss with a touch of truffle oil, or olive oil and sprinkle with a little truffle salt.
  • A silky soft soup of squash, peas, potato and leek or corn gets a delectable rich creaminess, by adding a handful of macadamias to the mix and then pureeing.
  • Scallops with a crust – make a crumb of hazelnuts and polenta and roll scallops in before pan searing, then serve on a silky bed of pureed corn.
  • A smooth and tantalizing dressing for salads can be made by pureeing roasted walnuts with a touch of walnut oil, lemon juice and Dijon. Add a few whole roasted nuts for texture.
  • Make your own sumptuous gateau – chop pecans and pistachios and roast with a dusting of sugar until caramelized, then fold through softened gelato or frozen yogurt.  Press into a tray and drizzle with melted chocolate then refreeze.
  • For a sweet and romantically elegant dessert, make a large meringue adding any ground nuts to the mix and smooth a hollow in the center.  Cook slowly, cool and fill with whipped cream and fruit!  Delicious!

This Valentine’s Day give your body, hearts and senses a touch of nuts!

From the nutty, but romantic chef!

Ground Nuts 101

I’d be lost without my stock of ground nuts- they add a wonderful flavor, texture and a nutritional boost to any meal or snack!  If you can’t find your favorite ground nut, just place whole nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until as fine or coarse as you like.

Here are some ideas to get you going:

Ground hazelnuts make a great sauce for asparagus or other veggies.  Simply heat in a dry non-stick pan until aromatic, add a splash of wine, stock, oil and lemon, and heat until thick.

Walnuts make classic Italian pasta crumble. Roast with torn bread and process with basil and a touch of milk or oil, toss in hot pasta with some whole nuts too!

Pastry or shortbread can be made from macadamias—simply process equal amounts nuts and flour (sugar for sweet pies), add a slow drizzle of skim milk till a dough forms then shape as desired.

Soup can be thick, creamy and healthy by adding ground almonds when you brown the veggies.  Just add stock, cook till desired, then puree—you have a whole meal!

Pistachios make pesto greener, healthier and more delicious. Simply spoon over risotto, fish, chicken or pasta!

Lastly, try rolling your next turkey burger in ground pecans, and add a few diced ones in the mix.  Talk about a gourmet burger!

Bon-appetite! From the “Nutty Chef”