Nutty Over 10 Nuts and Yes! That Includes Chestnuts

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Unless you are on a low fat diet or have a nut allergen issue, you’ll probably find a few of these nuts in your pantry at home or on your plate at your favorite restaurant. I love nuts and I could probably live on them for an extended time but I recognize that even with nuts, everything is best in moderation. Here’s my list of theTop 10 nuts to pantry stock for your cooking, baking and snacking needs, saving my favorite for last just in time for the holiday season.

  1. Brazil Nuts
  2. Macadamia Nuts
  3. Almonds
  4. Pecans
  5. Walnuts
  6. Cashews
  7. Hazelnuts
  8. Pistachio Nuts
  9. Pignoli (Pine) Nuts
  10. Chestnuts

#10 Chestnuts – I love Chestnuts or Castagne as they are called in Italy. They are the classic comfort food when it comes to nuts, putting us in a good mood and reminding us that the holiday season is here. I add them to our Thanksgiving stuffing and make sure they always have a place on our Christmas dessert table.

I have fond memories of my in-laws loving chestnuts as much as we do today. Tom’s mother would inspect each and every chestnut in a bulk basket at the produce store for the good ones. His Dad would get his handy “chestnut knife” ready. In actuality, it was a simple pearing knife but we knew that the task would not continue without this special tool which was perfect for marking an “X” on each chestnut before roasting them on a salted pan. They loved to have a few chestnuts dipped in a small glass of red wine at the end of Christmas dinner. Personally, I’m good with a buttery salty coating and a glass of egg nog as I stare at the large basket of fruit, feeling guilty but not enough to pass up this seasonal treat. How do I like chestnuts best? In a simple little brown paper bag so I can make believe I am enjoying them while window shopping in the Big Apple.

Burlap.Chestnuts     ChestnutsAtPinocchios

We even brought our little love of chestnuts to Pinocchio’s Ice Cream when we operated the store on Sanibel Island. The first Friday in December is the Sanibel Luminary Stroll. It’s a festive time for island businesses to kick off the season with complimentary food, drink, song and cheer. Giving the little bags of Chestnuts to our loyal Customers was memorable. Although a few patrons admitted to never eating them, (those are the fans who came back for seconds) many Customers shared their own treasured memories of preparing and sharing chestnuts with family and friends.

 

Enjoy eating your Chestnuts. I hope you cherish every bite this holiday season.

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Here are the lyrics to “The Christmas Song”

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols
Being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like eskimos
Everybody knows
A turkey and some mistletoe
Can help to make the season bright
Tiny tots, with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep, tonight
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loading lots of toys and goodies
On his sleigh
And every mother’s child
Is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly…
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said
Many times, many ways
Merry Christmas, to you
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loading lots of toys and goodies
On his sleigh
And every mother’s child
Is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly…
So I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two…
Although it’s been said
Many times, many ways
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas, to you
Merry Christmas

The Christmas Song” (commonly subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” or, as it was originally subtitled, “Merry Christmas to You) was written in 1945 by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé.
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Pumpkin and Zucchini Flowers

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My husband, daughter Stephanie and I could not wait to begin a new chapter in our life by moving to Southwest Florida after vacationing on Sanibel and North Captiva Islands for over 20 years. Although there are no regrets while enjoying beautiful sunsets, shelling and never having to shovel snow from our walkways, we unanimously agree that the smell and feel of autumn is sorely missed. Yes, raking all those leaves is not something we pine for but the weekend visits to our favorite local farms, the taste of apple cider, determining who will make it through the corn maze first this year and of course, finding the perfect pumpkin.

While my family searched high and low for the classic shape color and size worthy of our carving skills, I searched for beautiful bright yellow flowers attached to the pumpkin and squash vines. Mr. Henry Dykeman of Dykeman Farms in Pawling, NY would hand me a brown paper bag and watch as I surveyed his beautiful farm for these golden beauties. He would ask how I planned to prepare them for my family and nod in approval. Ahhhh. The memories of returning home with all of our farm treasures and knowing the next few hours would be spent cleaning and cooking these delicacies which became a family tradition.

Moving this story fast forward to Florida, I would venture to farm stands and ask if they could order pumpkin or squash flowers for me. They would politely look at me as if to say “What are they and why do you want them?” I am eternally greatful to John, the owner of Pair-A-Dice, my local produce store around the corner from my home for knowing what pumpkin and squash flowers were used for in cooking and for always going the extra mile whenever I ask him for something out of the ordinary. My advice is to find a caring produce provider like John and give these a try. You may find yourself creating a new tradition to welcome fall.

Note: I reference Pumpkin flowers but squash/zucchini flowers will work as well. Squash flowers are smaller in size but offer a similar delicious seasonal taste. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 25 Pumpkin Flowers
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour sifted
  • Vegetable Oil for Frying
  • Sea Salt & Pepper for Seasoning

RECIPE:                                                                               2 Forks

Rinse each flower individually under cold water. Remove the stem. Gently, open the flower and pull out the stamen. Rinse the inside of the flower with cold water.  I prefer to break one side of the flower and lie them flat on a paper towel for drying but some prefer to keep the flower intact which is important if you planned to stuff the flowers but not for this recipe. Pat the flowers dry with a paper towel.

Flowers Drying On Mat

Stems and Stamen         Cleaned Pumpkin Flower

Whisk the eggs, milk and dash of cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste for the egg bath in a shallow 9 inch pan or baking dish.

Have your flour ready in a similar 9 inch pan or baking dish.

*For frying 25 flowers, I prefer to use my 9 inch All Clad skillet. This skillet allows me to fry the flowers in 4 – 5 batches and use less oil in the process leaving you less cleanup too 🙂

Flour,Egg & Pumpkin Flowers   Flower in Egg Mixture Dredged in Flour

Dredge the clean dry flowers, one at a time through the egg mixture and then dredge them through the flour. Place on a cookie sheet.

*Note: I use a Silpat on my cookie sheet. If not, Parchment paper works well.

Heat the oil in the skillet on Medium to High Heat #5 – #6.

Early Frying Stage     Golden Frying

Drop the pumpkin flowers one at a time in the oil and lower the heat to #4 for a golden coat. You do not want them to cook on high heat continuously which will result in an over-fried brown coating.  Watch them carefully and turn them over once the ends of the flowers begin to cook/sizzle.  Remove them with a slotted spatula and place them on a clean Silpat cookie sheet.  Note: I typically use paper towels to absorb the oil but in using less oil in a smaller frying pan/skillet at a reduced temp, I eliminated the need to absorb excess oil.

While warm, grind some fresh sea salt and even a very small dash of cinnamon for taste.

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Store the pumpkin flowers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 days or in freeze them in an airtight container among layers of wax paper up to 3 – 4 weeks. I have made pumpkin flowers in mid to late October and managed to preserve them as an accompaniment to our Thanksgiving meal.  Simply defrost the flowers for 10 minutes. Spread them on a Silpat cookie sheet and warm them in a 325 degree oven for 7 – 10 minutes.