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Simply Seasonal: Nuts make entertaining easy

Sue Barhamnewsroom@vaildaily.comEagle County CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Sue Barham
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado One of the first signs of the approaching holidays is the presence of the big barrels of nuts in their shells in the local grocery stores. Traditionally, toasting and cracking nuts in front of a warm fire was an activity to share with family and friends fun for all. Now were more likely to toast nuts in the oven, and the roasted aroma tempts people to hunt down the nutcracker.Since the days of the colonists, Americans have squirreled away nuts in the fall for the coming winter. Nuts are packed with protein and unsaturated fat, making them a concentrated nutrition source. These energy capsules offer a rich flavor on their own or when used in desserts, salads, soups, cereals and entrees. Stock up on assorted nuts at this bountiful time of the year. They can be frozen for use throughout the coming months. Nuts are excellent make-ahead snacks for impromptu entertaining and gift giving. There are countless varieties of spiced nut recipes and its simple to make up your own signature version. For an easy entertaining idea, Allison Helfer, pastry chef at Restaurant Avondale, suggests keeping the components of an autumn assortment on hand. Assemble a tray with a cheese, some crackers, jam or chutney, nuts and dried fruits, she said. All of these items can be kept on hand and assembled quickly for a colorful and appetizing snack.Or place a bowl of freshly roasted assorted nuts with a few nutcrackers alongside a plate of fine quality chocolate, and let everyone discover their favorite flavor combination. An assortment of walnuts, pecans, brazilnuts, hazelnuts, and macadamia will spark lots of conversation.Helfer shares her recipe for Almond Granola below. Simple to make, this granola recipe makes a pretty gift in a festive tin. Its great as a trail mix, or layered with fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast.For an impressive dessert, Helfer recommends a Chestnut Souffle. Most people are intimidated by souffl recipes, but they are really very simple, she said. They make a dramatic statement to conclude any dinner party.

4 egg yolks1 cup unsweetened chestnut puree1/3 cup sugar3 tablespoon milk1 tablespoon brandy4 egg whitesunsweetened whipped creamIn a small mixer bowl beat egg yolks till thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes; set aside. In another small bowl beat the puree, sugar, milk and brandy until smooth. Beat in egg yolks till well combined. In a large bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the beaten whites into the chestnut mixture. Turn into four ungreased six-ounce souffle cups. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes. Serve immediately. Top with unsweetened whipped cream. Makes 4 servings.

10 cups raw, rolled oats1/2 cup almonds, natural, sliced1 1/4 cup sunflower seeds1 1/3 cup brown sugar1 Tablespoon cinnamon3/4 teaspoon nutmeg2 cups (1 pound) butter1 cup pure maple syrup1 3/4 cup coconut, toasted3/4 cup dried cranberries3/4 cup golden raisinsCombine oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Melt the butter and maple syrup together and add to the dry mix, stirring to combine. Spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 250 degree oven till dry, about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally, but leave large chunks. Remove from oven and mix in coconut, cranberries and raisins. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 4 quarts.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale and Larkspur Restaurant. Avondale recently opened in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The restaurant features a West Coast inspired, seasonal menu and the chefs use time-honored cooking methods, such as slow roasting and braising, to create simple dishes rich in flavor. The wine program focuses on small production wines to compliment the straightforward cuisine. For more information visit http://www.avondalerestaurant.com.


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