Christmas music is blasting at the mall, the city streets are twinkling with string upon string of colourful lights and last week my husband even went as far as serenading me with “Chestnuts roasting on a open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose,” and it got me thinking, “I have never tried to roast chestnuts. How hard could it be?”
I’ve always loved buying these enticing nuts from the markets and street vendors, but who knew that making them at home is so incredibly easy? Having now done it, I implore you to try it this holiday season to wow your friends and family. And, while I recommend enjoying a few hot chestnuts out of the oven, I have created a nutrition-packed pâté that is ideal for holiday gatherings.
Chestnuts are one of the few nuts that grow well in Canada and so I was able to find fresh ones at my local farmers’ market, but you can get them in many supermarket produce sections.
Five health benefits of delicious chestnuts
1. Chestnuts are on the front lines when it comes to fighting cancer. Chestnuts contain powerful tannins called proanthocyinadins, which have been shown to reduce the multiplication of cancer cells, and decrease the level of metastasis into surrounding organs.
2. Chestnuts are the only nut that contains vitamin C! Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is necessary for the elimination of disease-causing free radicals. Smokers are especially prone to vitamin C deficiency because of the free radical damage to their lung tissue.
3. Chestnuts are an excellent source of potassium. Adequate potassium levels are required by the kidneys to maintain a healthy blood pressure and prevent hypertension. So skip the sodium filled salted peanuts and take a crack at a chestnut as a healthy alternative.
4. Chestnuts are a great choice during pregnancy. Chestnuts contain high levels of folate that is necessary in pregnancy to ensure a healthy brain and nervous system of the developing fetus. Folate also has the ability to prevent certain types of congenital anaemia for proper oxygen transport to the tissues.
5. Choose chestnuts as a low-calorie snack to maintain a healthy weight. Chestnuts contain about 50 percent less fat than peanuts or almonds. Since fat has the highest caloric content per gram, this makes chestnuts an ideal low-calorie alternative to many other snacks!
The nutmeg and allspice make a perfect holiday addition to the creamy texture of the chestnuts. This pate works as an immune boost as well as increasing the cheer factor of any party.
1 cup (250 mL) chestnuts, roasted and peeled
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup (250 mL) onions, chopped finely
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil, divided
1/4 cup (60 mL) water
2 tbsp (30 mL) apple cider vinegar
½ tsp (2.5 mL) nutmeg
½ tsp (2.5 mL) allspice
1. Preheat your oven to 425 F (210 C).
2. Make a crosscut across the round side of each chestnut to keep them from exploding, and arrange them along with a bulb of garlic either on the oven rack or on a cookie sheet.
3. Roast until the skins have pulled back from the cuts and the nutmeats have softened (exactly how long will depend upon the chestnuts, about 20 minutes for small, 25 minutes for large.)
4. Remove the nuts from the oven, make a mound of them in an old towel, wrap them up, and squeeze them hard to release the skin. Allow to cool until you can peel them.
5. Peel the garlic cloves out of the skins and sauté with the onions over medium-high heat until lightly caramelized.
6. Sprinkle with nutmeg and allspice and cook for 1 minute.
7. Crumble chestnuts into the pan mixture. Add the olive oil, vinegar and water and cook for 4 minutes or until the chestnuts are moist.
8. Allow to cool, then pour ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth.
Makes 6-8 servings.
Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts the Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her soon to be published first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free foods that both taste great and assist the body in the healing process.
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