By: Leanne Ely
Tis the season for visions of candy canes and sugar plums and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But how many of us have actually roasted chestnuts? Have you ever eaten a chestnut?
Many cultures enjoy chestnuts as a valued source of nutrition. Chestnuts have been harvested for centuries in Japan, China, Korea, Europe and the Mediterranean. Greeks put chestnuts above almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts in terms of quality. So, why don’t we eat more chestnuts here in North America?
Chestnuts can be roasted (but please use an oven-it’s safer than an open fire) or cooked in soups and stews.
So, what’s so great about chestnuts?
Fiber. There is more fiber in a serving of chestnuts (3 grams per 100 gram serving) than there is in a serving of walnuts, pecans or pistachios.
Fatty acids. Chestnuts are full of linoleic acid and other essential fatty acids like palmitic and oleic acid, which are great for heart health.
Nutrients. Chestnuts contain potassium, magnesium, copper and high levels of Vitamin C. They also have lots of amino acids and antioxidants.
Chestnuts aren’t only nutritious, but they also have a pleasant taste.
So, how do you eat chestnuts?
Well. First, you take your chestnuts and cut an X on the flat side with a very sharp paring knife.
When the nuts are all scored with their X, pop them on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes in a 425 degree oven. This will make the X open a bit and the skins will peel easily off of your chestnuts. At this point, you can use them in soups or side dishes, but if you want to actually roast the chestnuts, keep them in the oven for another 20 minutes.
Peel the chestnuts while they’re still warm. Once they cool, the skins are difficult to remove.
I like chestnuts sautéed with Brussels sprouts and bacon. Mmmm!
While they do contain lots of nutrients, chestnuts are pretty starchy. They’re actually used in many cultures more as a vegetable (think potato substitute), so use them sparingly.
Do you enjoy eating chestnuts?
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By: Leanne Ely
Not only are they gorgeous, but cranberries are full of nutrition: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, potassium, iron, magnesium and folate. They also contain antioxidants and phenols that can protect you against all kinds of things, including urinary tract infections.
Since it’s cranberry season, you should stock up on as many of these gorgeous (tart) red orbs as you can. Don’t forget that cranberries freeze beautifully, so buy them now when they’re nice and fresh, and store as many as you can for the winter!
You might not realize it, but there are all kinds of uses for cranberries outside of turkey!
Here are 8 surprising ways you can make use of cranberries:
•Toss 1/3 cup of cranberries to your next smoothie. This measurement will make sure the tartness of the berries won’t totally overpower the drink.
•Smash some cranberries in your cocktails to take down the sweetness a bit.
•Shake things up by adding a cup of cranberries to your next apple pie.
•Add a few cranberries to your breakfast in your oatmeal or yogurt.
•Make your cranberries savory, and roast them with some shallots and a couple cloves of garlic.
•Chop a handful of cranberries into your favorite spicy salsa.
•Boil your cranberries in water with a bit of added honey. This will give you a lovely reduction to serve over pancakes or waffles.
•Puree a cup of cranberries, and whisk them into a your favorite balsamic vinaigrette for a healthy, delicious and beautiful salad dressing.
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By: Leanne Ely
Nutmeg comes from the seed of the nutmeg tree, which is native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. These egg-shaped nutmeg seeds have a beautiful, lacy reddish covering and that covering is where another spice called mace comes from. Who knew? It’s no wonder nutmeg and mace are such complimentary flavors.
Nutmeg is a staple in holiday cooking, found in traditional favorites like eggnog, gingerbread and pumpkin pie and grated over festive cocktails.
But there’s more to this egg-shaped spice than its familiar woody scent and complex flavor.
Once upon a time, nutmeg was used only by the most wealthy Europeans-everyone who could afford it had their own nutmeg grater.
Nutmeg was worth its weight in gold in these times and was believed to prevent the bubonic plague.
We don’t worry too much about the plague these days, but nutmeg can still benefit our health.
Nutmeg contains manganese and copper, which keep our skeletons healthy and strong. Copper boosts immunity while manganese helps our bodies to synthesize sex hormones.
Nutmeg seeds also contain chemicals that may fight the growth of cancer cells.
To get the most nutrition from your nutmeg, purchase the seeds and grate them with a microplane or a very fine grater at the time you’re using the spice. That way, the nutmeg stays much fresher than it does in its pre-ground state.
Nutmeg can be used to flavor smoothies, baked goods, Greek yogurt and so on and so forth. You can even grate some nutmeg in your coffee for a tasty holiday treat.
But you would be cautioned against taking in too much nutmeg. It contains Myristica oil, and this spice was once used as a psychoactive drug, causing the user to have hallucinatory effects when taken in large quantities! Myristica oil poisoning can also cause chest pain, sore stomach and confusion, and anyone with Myristica oil poisoning should get to the hospital asap.
Now that you know nutmeg is so good for you in small doses, I have to tell you a bit about this spice’s dark and bloody history.
Spice trading was big business in the Middle Ages. England and Holland once battled for control of Southeast Asia’s spice-producing islands, including the small nutmeg-covered islands called Run and Ai. According to historians, tens of thousands of the original inhabitants of the Spice Islands were killed by the Dutch with the survivors being enslaved in the nutmeg groves.
The British handed over Run in 1667 in exchange for what was considered a useless far off island known as New Amsterdam or, as we know it today, Manhattan. (Who do you think got the better deal?!)
The British attacked the Dutch-controlled islands again in the 1800s and controlled the Spice Islands long enough to remove nutmeg seedlings and plant them in other places around the world under British control.
Eventually, the price of nutmeg started coming down and even members of the middle-class could afford to use the spice in holiday baked goods and curries.
Isn’t that just a wild history?
I hope you appreciate that nutmeg you have in your cupboard just a little bit more now!
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