During the holidays, it's common for people to go a little nuts – nuts over shopping for the perfect gifts, nuts by eating too many goodies, and nuts obsessing over every detail when entertaining. Now that the holidays are behind us, there's another way to go nuts that's beneficial any way you look at it. Go nuts – literally. 

Nuts are truly wonderful – you might even call them Super Food. They're nutritious, versatile, and delicious. They're good raw, roasted, candied, by the handful, as a snack, in savory recipes, in baked goods... and there's so much variety: peanuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamias, Brazil nuts, pistachios... we're getting hungry just thinking about it. 

The health benefits are plentiful. We won't bore you with a lesson on nutritional chemistry, but it's nice to know that nuts are loaded with anti-oxidants, that a small handful of nuts every day can help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, that nuts are high in fiber, and that they may also reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.  

On the down side, nuts can be high in calories if you over indulge. Also, depending on how they're prepared (loaded with oil and salt, for example), they may introduce elements you want to curtail. So keep that in mind, but don't let that stop you from finding creative ways to use nuts.

Here are a few ideas to add more nuts to your cooking. 

  • Mix finely chopped almonds or pecans with bread crumbs as a coating for chicken or fish. 
  • Toss cashews into a stir-fry with onions, mushrooms, crisp green beans, and chicken. 
  • Put some raw walnuts into your salad.
  • Incorporate pecans or hazelnuts into a squash or sweet potato casserole.
  • Add nuts to home made pies, muffins, cakes, and breads.
  • Combine walnuts, pecans, or almonds with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, add any other spice you like (pepper, cumin, garlic powder), and bake on a cookie sheet at 350-degrees for about 20-30 minutes. Eat them alone or use them as part of a party mix. 

Get out your nut cracker because this is the time of year when you'll find raw nuts in the shell in every supermarket. Or buy them already shelled and ready to use. It doesn't matter. We know you'll come up with lots of ideas once your imagination starts going NUTS!

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