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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!

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