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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By: Leanne Ely
Figs have been harvested since the 9th century BC where they were a staple in Greece. And let me tell you the Greeks took their figs seriously. There were laws that forbade people from exporting the highest quality figs!
If you’ve ever enjoyed a fresh fig, you know why this fruit of the ficus tree was so revered.
And I, for one, certainly am glad that these delectable fruits eventually made their way to the western hemisphere! Figs are delicious on oatmeal for a sweet treat for breakfast, or on greens with goat cheese and walnuts. Poach them in wine and figs can stand in for dessert, too!
High in potassium, Vitamin B6, manganese and dietary fiber, figs are as nutritious as they are delicious!
Here’s your Trick:
Ripe figs should be kept in the fridge on a paper towel-lined plate. If you cover the figs, they will dry out. If you’ve purchased under-ripe figs, store them on a plate at room temperature. But don’t leave figs in direct light.
Because fresh figs are so very perishable, buy them the day before you plan on eating them. And when you’re buying figs, look for fruits that smell mildly sweet without any signs of mold.
And your Recipe:
Pork Loin Stuffed with Figs and Apricots
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Zest of 1 medium lemon
Zest of 1/2 medium orange
1/2 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds pork loin, butter-flied
COOKING INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, place first 7 ingredients (figs through cider); cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes; remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and celery; saute for 10 minutes then season with salt and pepper. Add fruit mixture; blend well then spread down the center of the pork loin. Roll loin back together and tie with kitchen string in the middle and at both ends.
Roast stuffed pork loin for 1 hour or until cooked through.
By: Leanne Ely
Once upon a time, the only potato option on the Thanksgiving Dinner table was your standard white mashed potatoes.
But today, we know that white potatoes aren’t the be all and end all in a starchy mash. There are several options in potatoes (and non-potatoes) for us to explore, so let’s take a look!
Traditional Mash. The key to the perfect mashed potato is cooking the right variety of potato. Maybe you didn’t realize there were different varieties of potatoes, and maybe that’s the reason why you haven’t yet perfected mashed potatoes! Start your mashed potatoes by using a variety like Yukon Gold or Russet that are best suited for mashing. Once the spuds are cooked through (fork tender), go ahead and mash the heck out of them with butter and cream or milk.
Traditional Mash (Purple Style). Take the nutrition of your traditional white potato mash up a couple of notches by using purple potatoes instead! Purple potatoes will cook up the same as a standard white potato mash, but their nutritional profile is much higher, thanks to that purple color. When you eat purple potatoes, you’re getting lots of antioxidants into you.
Sweet Potatoes. We go through a lot of sweet potatoes at my house. While they’re still a little high on the starchy side to be overindulging in, they are full of nutrients. I prefer the taste of roasted sweet potatoes to boiled sweet potatoes, so for a delicious sweet potato mash, bake your sweet potatoes in the oven first and then mash butter into them, along with whatever seasonings you like (salt, pepper, cinnamon, etc.).
Faux-tatoes. If you’re a hardcore Paleoista, and you’re limiting the amounts of carbs in your diet to the extent that you have a zero spud rule, you can still have a mound of creamy, buttery goodness on your Thanksgiving Dinner plate with faux-tatoes! The trick is that you use steamed cauliflower in place of the potatoes. For a decadent faux-tato dish, chop a head of cauliflower into bite sized pieces and steam those florets until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Drain the water off after they’re cooked, and pat the cauliflower florets with a clean towel to remove some of the excess moisture. Then, blend with butter, cream cheese, salt and pepper for a very delicious side dish.
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By: Leanne Ely
It is definitely pumpkin season! We know all about those classic orange pumpkins, but what about the pretty blue pumpkins?
Queensland Blue is a gorgeous pumpkin with a light blue, silvery skin. It’s a variety that hails from Australia and was introduced to the United States back in 1932. The Queensland Blue looks quite similar to the Jarrahdale pumpkin—another Australian variety.
Some people think these pumpkins look quite similar to Frankenstein’s head when you look at them from the side, making them perfect for spooky fall decor—but rather than toss it in the compost, go on and eat it after it has served its decorative destiny!
This winter squash—as with all winter squash—is chock full of vitamins and minerals. The sweet flavor and dry flesh of the Queensland Blue make it excellent for baking with.
Now that you’re eyeing up your neighbors’ deteriorating fall display with visions of pie in your head, let’s take a look at your trick!
It can be hard to tell when a blue pumpkin is ripe. It’s ready to eat when the stem is dry and starting to wither.
The skin of a Queensland Blue is very hard, so use a good sharp knife to get into it, and take care of those fingers. Try cutting it in half and roasting rather than peeling and chopping. This makes it easier to separate the flesh from the skin.
Beefy Mushroom Soup
1 1/2 pounds 95% lean ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
12 oz sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 1/4 cups low sodium beef broth
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (recipe below)
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup skim milk
In a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, brown ground beef, onion, mushrooms and garlic over medium-high heat; drain off any excess fat. Add broths, water and pumpkin; stir until well blended, thinning with additional water if needed; season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add milk and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Cut top off of whole pumpkin. Cut in half, scoop out seeds pulp from center. Cut pumpkin into quarters or even eighths depending on how big it was to start!
Lay pumpkin on baking sheet and bake in 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until pumpkin is fork tender. Let cool and then scoop the pumpkin away from the skin with knife or spoon. Process baked pumpkin in food processor until it is smooth.