Going Nuts About Nuts
When we think of the holidays, one of many things that comes to mind is roasting chestnuts over an open fire. Although roasting chestnuts over an open fire might be a bit much, holiday baking usually involves lots of different nuts. Pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts - we love them all. From cakes to candy and salads to desserts, nuts dress up our holiday dishes.
When buying nuts in the store, choose nuts still in the shell when possible. Yes, this is a little more work, but the shells keep the nuts fresher. Choose nuts whose shells are clean and unblemished. If you buy nuts already shelled, choose plump, unbroken nuts. Shriveled nuts usually have a bitter flavor. Unfortunately, nuts can be costly if you aren't careful. If you need to watch the budget, buy nuts on sale and in larger quantities. Freeze what you don't need in an airtight bag. You can even gather your own at a local orchard and save even more. Most orchards will crack and blow the hulls from the nuts to make for easier shell removal. Just be sure to remove all of the hull or your baked goods will have a bitter taste.
Roasting nuts brings out their flavor. Be careful not to over-roast them or they will taste bitter. To roast nuts, spread them evenly on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes. After roasting, top nuts with favorite flavoring. Keep in an airtight container. Roasted nuts do not last as long, so don't roast them more than a day or two before you plan to use them.
The assumption has been that nuts are not a healthy choice. However, in the last few years, research has shown that eating nuts in moderation is actually good for you. Grabbing a small handful of nuts is definitely a healthier choice than eating some of the higher-fat foods we are bombarded with during the holiday season.