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Nutty Nutrition and Kitchen Challenges

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This post is adapted from my guest post on Stone Soup, the blog of Food and Nutrition Magazine, which is a publication of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Header Picture

I often challenge myself to use an ingredient in a new and unexpected way. The results are usually delicious, such as pumpkin mac ‘n’ cheese or chocolate barbeque sauce. Of course, perhaps cucumber cookies weren’t such a good idea … but that’s okay. Making culinary mistakes marks a fearless cook who is open to learning in the kitchen. And these bursts of courage can extend beyond your mixing bowl. The braver you are with food, the easier it will be to tackle life’s challenges.

Take nuts, for example. Packed with protein and healthy fats, nuts are more than an afternoon snack – they’re also a satisfying addition to many dishes. They add fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals. Replacing some of the meat or meat substitutes in your meals and snacks with nuts increases variety and bumps up your intake of nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium and copper.

One word of caution: Nuts are calorie-dense and high in fat. The fat is mostly mono- and polyunsaturated fat, so replacing foods high in cholesterol-raising saturated fat with an ounce or two of nuts a day will give you the nutrient benefits without the extra calories. Now, a second word of caution: As always, choose unsalted nuts to avoid a hearty helping of sodium with your healthy meal. Check out the chart below for a nutty nutrient breakdown. (All data comes from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.)

Nut Chart

Charts are a little dry, so let’s look at a few graphs. This first one compares the % calories from fat with the % calories from protein in each nut. The size of each bubble corresponds with the amount of fiber in each nut.

Graph with Fiber

This next graph is similar, except the size of each bubble corresponds with the amount of saturated fat in each nut. Pretty different from the previous graph, isn’t it? Eating a variety of nuts will ensure you get a balance of nutrients.

Graph with Sat Fat

Nuts can be added to many dishes, from macadamia nut pancakes to pistachio-crusted salmon. To stretch my culinary boundaries, I decided to use hazelnuts, a nut I rarely use. Hazelnuts have a slightly sweet dish that makes them ideal for desserts. What about a main course?

Whole Grain Pasta with Roasted Beets and Hazelnuts

  Prep Time: 10 minutes

  Cook Time: 45 minutes

  Keywords: roast entree vegetarian nuts

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 1 pound beets, with greens (approximately four beets)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound whole grain pasta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • Fresh-grated nutmeg
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash beets and cut off tops and bottoms. Chop beet greens into 2-inch pieces and set aside—do not discard.

Drizzle each beet with a ½ teaspoon of olive oil and wrap in foil. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, unwrap beets and use a butter knife to scrap off the skin. Chop into half-inch cubes and set aside.

Fifteen minutes before beets finish roasting, boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks, heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in medium skillet and sauté garlic for 30 seconds. Add beet greens and sauté for 2 minutes, or until wilted. Set aside.

Heat remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil in small skillet and add hazelnuts. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes or until hazelnuts are light brown and toasted. Remove from heat.

Divide cooked pasta among four plates and top with roasted beets, sautéed beet greens, and toasted hazelnuts. Grate nutmeg over the top and add shaved Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Note: Enjoy with grilled tofu or tempeh to boost your protein intake.

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Now THAT’S being brave in the kitchen. I’ll see you in my bungee-jump fencing class.

Q: What’s your favorite kind of nut?

10 Comments

  1. I eat almonds the most but I really enjoy hazelnuts as well. In fact I added some hazelnuts to my smoothie yesterday it was delicious’

    1. Hazelnuts in smoothies is a great idea!

  2. I eat almonds every day as a midday snack! And love ’em. I also love adding nuts to my savory meals but don’t tend to do much with hazelnuts. This pasta sounds like a great way to incorporate them into my life!

  3. There is no kind of nut that I don’t love! Nowadays I try to incorporate them into other things, like salads, so that I don’t end up eating way too many. I used to buy raw almonds and soak them in water to make them more delicious and easy to digest, but now I usually buy roasted ones (due to laziness). Pasta with hazelnuts sounds delicious!

  4. Simply Life says:

    I love experimenting with new ingredients (when it works out well 🙂 !!

  5. I usually eat almonds and walnuts, but I love cashews. I haven’t had hazelnuts in a long time. I’ll have to buy some. I love the addition of hazelnuts to your pasta dish!

  6. Oooh, I woulda never thought to use hazelnuts in a pasta dish which is weird since I use pine nuts in pesto all the time. Time to bring in the hazelnuts because this dish looks good! 🙂

  7. I love pistachios…and I love that you used nuts in a main dish. I’m making a pistachio almond pesto this weekend. I can’t wait to give it a try! Thank you for sharing another delightful post. What a bright and happy way to end my Tuesday! I hope you are having a blessed week.

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