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Volume III
July 27, 2012

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

Aw Nuts!

By Alice Osborne

Nuts and seeds are a healthy, satisfying snack, but they're high in carbohydrates and oils so about an ounce a day should suffice. Snack smart by measuring out your one ounce to avoid continuously reaching into the bowl.

Choose nuts that are still in their shells - they'll keep you busy because they take longer to crack and eat. Either way though, shelled or not, they'll fill you up fast.

When purchasing nuts and seeds, look for those without blemishes, wrinkles or discoloration. If they're in shells, pick them up and shake; you'll hear rattling if they're old and dry. For this reason, be wary of nuts and seeds on sale. The retailer may be trying to push old and substandard product on the unaware consumer.

Avoid nuts that have been roasted with hydrogenated oils or sugar (read the labels). When it comes to nut butters, try to grind your own at your local natural foods store. That way you know it's fresh. But if you don't have this option, then look for brands with just nuts and a little salt (no added sugars or oils).

Nut oils are great for imparting a deep robust flavor to foods - just be sure to use sparingly. I love walnut oil and cook a lot with sesame seed oil. Drizzle your chosen oil over a finished dish, but don't saute with it; nut and seed oils don't handle high heat very well and nutrients are destroyed.

Nuts and seeds go rancid quickly, so store them in airtight containers in a cool, dry spot, away from light. The refrigerator or freezer is ideal for up to a few months. But be sure to taste your nuts or seeds before using them. Rancid nuts will be bitter and oily, and they will ruin a batch of cookie dough or cake and muffin batter.

There are so many creative and delicious ways to enjoy nuts and seeds. Besides the aforementioned 1-oz as an out-of-hand snack, they make great sandwich spreads, and veggie dips. And then how about:

•  Stirring nut butters into soups and stews to thicken them.
•  Tossing that 1-oz. into a green smoothie for a protein boost.
•  Toasting pine nuts in a dry skillet until fragrant and sprinkling atop a salad.
•  Adding a sprinkling of chopped nuts or seeds to nonfat frozen yogurt.
•  Adding chopped nuts to steamed vegetables or a garden salad for extra crunch.
•  Substituting nuts for croutons in soups.
•  Adding protein to a vegetarian pasta dish with chopped nuts.
•  Mixing chopped nuts and dill into low-fat cream cheese for an easy spread.
•  Topping low-fat cottage cheese with chopped nuts and seeds.

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