By Kelsey Casselbury 2017-01-31 19:34:33
NUTS ARE PROOF THAT GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES. Whether it’s almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios or that tropical delicacy, the macadamia nut, these crunchy little nuggets make for a heart-healthy snack on their own or add a little something extra to a baked good, salad or other delectable dish. Although they might be higher in fat and calories than some other snack options, the benefits of nuts significantly outweigh the drawbacks. However, did you know that many of the little gems that we call “nuts” aren’t really a nut? If you have a smirk on your face because you already knew that a peanut isn’t actually a nut, wipe off that expression—because you probably didn’t realize that there were other nut favorites that don’t meet the scientific definition. If you’re feeling a little bit baffled (and perhaps a little betrayed by your culinary education), read on to learn more about this fascinating fact, as well as some other tidbits you might never have known about the humble nut. When Is a Nut Not a Nut? We won’t keep you in suspense a minute longer than necessary—the “nuts” that aren’t actually nuts include almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and, of course, the mighty peanut. Whew! That’s almost the entire category! It all comes down to the difference between the botanical definition of a nut and the culinary one. Botanically speaking, a nut is a fruit that has a hard shell and an edible seed, but an additional specification means that the shell does not naturally open to release the seed. Nuts that do fit into this definition include hazelnuts, chestnuts and acorns (remember, we’re talking botany, not food items). The others are mostly seeds of drupes. Wait, what? A drupe is a type of fruit that has a flesh surrounding a hard center seed. Stone fruits such as peaches, plums and cherries are drupes, but so are almonds, pecans and walnuts! These are drupes in which we eat the seed inside the pit, instead of discarding the pit and eating the flesh. Some nuts, such as brazil nuts and pine nuts, are seeds from non-drupe plants. For example, the pine nut is the seed of—ready to have your mind blown?—a pine tree. Yes, really, they’re from pinecones. And, as you probably already know, a peanut is a legume (like a bean or a lentil); not a nut in any sense of the word. OK, fine. As chefs, you don’t really care what the botanical definition is, because a nut is a nut when you bake it into a muffin or sprinkle it on a salad. Still, this is a fun trivia fact to share with students or pull out at the next party you attend. Eat Your Heart Out There’s conventional wisdom that if a food is delicious, it must be bad for you (See: Chocolate. Ice cream. French fries. Pizza. Everything you recently gave up for that New Year’s resolution.) That’s not really the case with nuts. Although they’re notoriously high in fat, that fat is the monounsaturated “good” kind. These unsaturated fats reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) and, in fact, studies dating back to 1993 link nuts specifically to protecting against CHD. One more positive nutrition fact: Nuts are low on the glycemic index, due to their high protein and unsaturated fat content coupled with a fairly low carb count. Those who suffer from insulin resistance, such as with type 2 diabetes, can benefit from regular (moderated) nut consumption. Wait a Tic... As the saying goes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Up to 80% of a nut is fat, and though it’s the “healthy kind,” eating too many of them won’t do your waistline any favors. One gram of fat contains 9 calories (compared to the 4 calories in each gram of protein and carbohydrates), which means that any food that’s naturally high in fat is high in calories. So, the moral of the story is to eat nuts, but do so responsibly by sticking to the proper serving amount—which is 1.5 ounces. Allergies: The Elephant in the Room You can’t really talk about nuts, particularly in a school foodservice setting, without addressing allergies, the proverbial elephant in the room. Both tree nuts and peanuts are among the “Big 8” food allergens. An estimated 0.6% to 1.3% of the American population is allergic to peanuts, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), while 0.4% to 0.6% are allergic to tree nuts. In general, food allergies tend to be lifelong conditions, although some studies estimate 20% of children outgrow their peanut allergy and 9% outgrow a tree nut allergy. There is no cure or treatment for food allergies; vigilance in avoiding the offending food items whole or as ingredients is the only recourse for individuals with such an allergy, although there are medications to help address the symptoms of an allergic reaction. People with tree nut allergies typically are allergic to more than one variety, so it’s recommended that they avoid all types of nuts. Scientists are discovering that if you’re allergic to walnuts or pecans, you might not be allergic to cashews or pistachios, as they don’t necessarily share some allergenic proteins. Still, better safe than sorry. While those with tree nut allergies might not have a peanut allergy, the risk of cross-contamination in food preparation with these ingredients is so high that many sufferers typically avoid all culinary nuts. Although the incidence of food allergies, particularly peanut allergies, has been on the rise over the past 15 years, a 2013 study published in Pediatrics determined that momstobe who regularly ate peanuts and tree nuts during pregnancy had children who were significantly less likely to suffer from nut and peanut allergies. As this issue was going to press, an expert panel sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIAID), a part of the National Institutes of Health, issued clinical guidelines about the early introduction of peanut-containing foods to infants as a measure to prevent the development of a peanut allergy. The panel recommends introducing peanut-containing foods to babies as young as 4 to 6 months, but parents and caregivers should always check with health providers first to determine both the child’s risk level and the approach. Clinical trial results reported in February 2015 found that regular peanut consumption begun in infancy and continued until 5 years of age led to an 81% reduction in the development of a peanut allergy in high-risk infants. This is great news, not only because these allergies are difficult to deal with, but also because peanuts can be a boon to the health of the developing baby, as a good source of vitamin E and healthy fats. Food allergies of all kinds are a serious matter for school nutrition professionals and the students they serve. Some school districts have established policies that ban all products that contain peanuts or other common allergens. Other districts have opted to focus on measures to help at risk students and their families make informed choices about cafeteria participation. Food preparation methods to guard against cross-contamination are among critical training steps for kitchen staff. FARE has compiled a list of resources that can help a foodservice operation avoid complications; it can be found at www.foodallergy.org/resources/schools. More Bees, Please! You might not be a fan of their stingers or the incessant buzz they emit, but bees are vital to our food supply because of their superb pollination skills. This is particularly true when it comes to production of certain types of nuts, including almonds. The majority of the country’s almonds are grown in California, and are responsible for the world’s largest “managed pollination event” (yes, there’s such a thing). Almond growers can rent or buy hives from pollination brokers (yup, that’s a thing). However, colony collapse disorder—i.e. the demise of honeybees—has caused researchers to explore the development of self-pollinating almond trees. That may be great news for almond growers, but not so much for those who make their living off the honeybees’ work ethic. Brazil nuts are even more delicate, requiring a specific kind of bee to pollinate. Only Euglossine bees, most often the females, can wiggle their way into the Brazil nut tree’s flower, pollinating the plant. The trees also take anywhere from 10 to 30 years to mature, if you are wondering why you don’t often see cheap Brazil nuts on a bid list for schools. The ForeignBorn Nut American Indians enjoyed native chestnuts on our beautiful continent long before the Europeans crossed the Atlantic. After a few hundred years of saying hello to the British, Spanish and French, though, the American chestnut tree fell victim to a disease brought from across the ocean. In the early 1900s, some 4 billion American chestnut trees were wiped out, leaving a few rare single trees growing naturally in just a handful of states. That’s why today, the United States imports more than 4,000 metric tons of European chestnuts, mostly from Southern Italy, to meet demand. These Sicilian chestnuts are the type that are large, meaty and, if luck has it, the most likely to be roasting on an open fire during the holidays. Hands Off! You’ll never see a cashew inside its shell, as you might find pistachios or walnuts that need cracking. Why is that? That’s just the manufactur er doing its part to help you avoid superitchy hands (or worse). The cashew shell contains phenolic resin, an allergen, as well as anacardic acid, a skin irritant (it’s related to poison ivy and poison sumac). In the process of handling a few unshelled cashews, you’ll be reaching for the antihistamines, stat. Although you could, in theory, roast the unshelled cashews to destroy the toxin, the smoke contains an irritant for the lungs—creating a situation that’s potentially life-threatening. Sweets for my Sweet How do you give chocolate a marginally healthier profile? Throw a heart-healthy nut in it! According to the Almond Board of California, research results show that 77% of people believe that adding almonds to chocolate makes the treat more nutritious. Of course, three-fourths of consumers also reported that chocolate tastes better with almonds than without, so maybe it’s not all about nutrition! Perhaps we’ve uncovered the reason why a whopping 40% of the country’s almonds are purchased by chocolate manufacturers. In a Nutshell You might have presumed you knew all there was to know about nuts—mainly, they’re somewhat healthy, they’re a little caloric and they’re delicious (whether in chocolate or not). However, let this article serve as a reminder that every food—and every subcategory of a single food—has a story behind it that’s worth noting and appreciating. Walnut and Waldorf Salad With Yogurt 6 lbs., 4 ozs. Walnuts* 12 lbs., 8 ozs. Apples, sliced 3 lbs., plus 12 ozs. Dried cranberries 25 lbs. Plain yogurt 1) Set up a 6qt. food processor with an S blade, as well as a large mixing bowl with a whisk or paddle. 2) Add 2 1⁄2 lbs. of walnuts to the food processor. Pulse 10 times to roughly chop walnuts. Do not over-process. Empty the walnuts into a large mixing bowl. Repeat for three additional batches of walnuts. 3) Using the same processor, add 2 lbs. of apples. Pulse lightly four to five times or until the apples are finely chopped. Do not overfill the processor; take care the apples are only chopped and not pureed. 4) Add the apples to the walnuts in the large mixing bowl. Add the dried cranberries and fold it all together. Fold in the yogurt. Blend gently to avoid bruising the apples. 5) Using one 8oz. spoodle, portion 1 cup of the mixture into each serving container. Refrigerate until service. *Notes: California Walnuts may be used for this recipe. Recipe, Photo and Meal Pattern Analysis: California Walnuts, www.walnuts.org Nutritional Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS, www.evolutionofthelunchlady.com • The apples could be sliced with a Sunkist sectionizer and then diced to have a chunkier topping. Then mix those with the walnuts and cranberries. • The recipe itself looks great. However, chopping apples in a processor rather than hand cutting would make for a poor presentation. • I think kids would like this as a side dish with the prepackaged sandwiches that we offer every day. • I suggest substituting a sweet vinaigrette for the yogurt. SERVINGS 100 (1 cup each) PER SERVING 338 calories, 18.5 g fat, 15.4 g pro., 31 g carbs., 4 g fiber, 54 mg sod. MEAL PATTERN 2-oz-eq. meat/meat alternate, 3⁄4 cup fruit Spicy Thai Beef 17 lbs. Ground beef (80% lean) 1 qt. Water 3 cups Peanut butter, reducedfat, creamy 1 1⁄2 cups Lime juice 1 pint Soy sauce, reducedsodium 1⁄4 cup Garlic powder 1⁄4 cup Ground ginger 2 tsps. Crushed red pepper 12 1⁄5 cups Carrots, shredded 12 1⁄5 cups Cucumbers, diced 6 lbs., 4 ozs. Wholegrain spaghetti 1) In a bowl, combine the water, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic powder, ground ginger and crushed red pepper. Set aside. 2) Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Take steps to maintain quality until service. 3) Brown the ground beef, breaking it into 1⁄2-in. crumbles and stirring occasionally until the internal temperature reaches 160°F. Remove the drippings from the pan, but do not reduce heat. 4) Stir the peanut butter mixture into the ground beef mixture. Continue until the entire mixture is heated through, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed for the desired consistency. 5) Serve 1⁄2 cup cooked pasta with a #12 scoop of the beef mixture, plus 1⁄8 cup carrots and 1⁄8 cup cucumbers. *Notes: Optional toppings such as red bell pepper strips, sliced green onion, sliced fresh peapods, chopped cilantro or basil leaves, chow mein noodles can be added. An eighth cup serving of the veggies can be counted toward the meal pattern. Photo and Recipe: National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, www.beef.org • The recipe has good flavor, but it definitely needs more color, which can come from vegetables. We added red pepper strips and broccoli florets (lightly steamed) for color. • You could eliminate a cooking step by using beef crumbles. • I would look into serving this with thin-sliced beef, instead of the crumbles. • I would use marinated strips of beef, instead of crumbles, and include some Asian cut vegetables (broccoli, red pepper, onions) with it. • I would substitute fresh garlic and fresh ginger in place of the powdered forms. SERVINGS 100 PER SERVING 304 cal., 22 g pro., 13 g fat, 25.5 g carb., 4 g fiber, 296 mg sod. MEAL PATTERN 1-oz.-eq. whole grains, 2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 1⁄8 cup red/orange vegetable, 1⁄8 cup other vegetable Kale Pesto 1 3⁄4 cup Almonds, whole* 3 cloves Garlic 2 qts., plus 2 cups Kale, raw 7⁄8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated 1 3⁄4 cup Olive oil 1 tsp. Salt 1⁄2 tsp. Ground black pepper 1) Toast the almonds in a 325°F oven for approximately 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. 2) Pulse the garlic cloves in a food processor until finely chopped. 3) Add the kale, toasted almonds and Parmesan cheese and pulse until mixture is thoroughly chopped. 4) With the food processor running on low, add the oil. Season with salt and pepper. *Notes: According to the recipe source, you can use almonds, walnuts or a combination of nuts in this recipe. Menuing ideas include tossing the pesto with whole grain pasta or vegetables, or serving it over fish or chicken. Recipe, Nutritional and Meal Pattern Analysis: Chef Scott Samuel/Culinary Institute of America SERVINGS 50 (1 oz. each) PER SERVING 109 cal., 2.26 g pro., 10.6 g fat, 2.4 g carb., 0.09 g fiber, 76.9 g sod. MEAL PATTERN 1⁄8 cup other vegetables Morning Muffin 3 qts. Peanut butter 4 lbs. USDA pasteurized liquid eggs 2 qts. Water 2 5lb. boxes Wholegrain muffin mix 1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the peanut butter and liquid eggs. 2) Add the water to the peanut butter mixture and blend well. 3) Add one box of muffin mix and whisk together. Add the second box of muffin mix, and blend together. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure the dough is thoroughly blended, but do not over-mix. The dough will be stiff but moist. 4) Preheat a convection oven to 350°F 5) Spray nine 12count muffin pans, plus one six-count muffin pan. 6) Using a #12 disher, place one well-rounded scoop of muffin dough into each pan well. 7) Bake the muffins in a convection oven for 25 minutes, or until the centers are moist but not wet. 8) Remove from oven and let cool. *Notes: Jif Peanut Butter can be used in this recipe. Nutritional data based on Gold Medal WG Variety Muffin Mix. Recipe, Photo and Meal Pattern Analysis: Smucker Foodservice, Inc., www.smuckerfoodservice.com Nutritional Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS, www.evolutionofthelunchlady.com SERVINGS 112 (3.3 ozs. each) PER SERVING 322.5 cal., 17.1 g fat, 8.5 g pro., 34.4 carb., 2.3 g fiber, 350.6 sod. MEAL PATTERN 1oz.eq. whole grain and 1oz.eq. meat/meat alternate 6 Nuts to Know ALMONDS: These are considered the most nutritionally dense nut, offering the most overall nutrients (including protein, fiber, calcium, iron, fiber, vitamin E and more) per calories and per ounce. They also head the list as the nut variety with the fewest calories per ounce. You can buy them raw, toasted, slivered or coated with fun flavors. Toasting them can improve their chewy texture and elevate the mild flavor. Sliced or slivered almonds add an elegant touch to salads and green beans. 23 nuts in 1oz. CASHEWS: They are a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and iron, and these nutrients help to build energy, strong bones and teeth and healthy skin, hair and nails. Apostrophe-shaped, cashews offer a creamy, smooth texture and feature a high starch content, but less fat than other nuts. You can use cashews to create a dairy-free vegan dip or spread. 18 nuts in 1 oz. PEANUTS: Despite allergy concerns, these remain the most popular “nuts” in the United States. They can help maintain healthy skin, hair and muscles and provide potassium to regulate the body’s water levels and help prevent muscle cramping. When was the last time you made the ubiquitous peanut butter cookie? Want something more savory? Explore the web to find classic Asian recipes that feature peanuts as a sauce or chopped topping. 28 nuts in 1 oz. PECANS: Despite an especially high fat content, pecans are reported to help lower blood cholesterol and guard against infections and even cancer. Although there’s little agreement about the “correct” pronunciation of this native American nut, you’re unlikely to find detractors of the classic pecan pie. 19 halves in 1 oz. PISTACHIOS: Native to the Middle East, the pale green color of this nut is the result of chlorophyll that develops as the seeds grow. Although their size makes shucking a chore, they are worth the effort—plus, pre-shelled varieties tend to be very salty and pricey. Eaten raw by the handful is a favorite, but consider adding them to provide crunch and flavor to desserts. 49 nuts in 1 oz. WALNUTS: These large, meaty nuts are high in omega3 fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease, arthritis and depression, but also can make the nuts susceptible to becoming rancid. Unshelled nuts should be stored in the refrigerator. They have a high amount of tannin (also found in red wine), which can make them bitter to super-tasters. Toasting can reveal more sweetness, which can make them a great addition to your morning oatmeal. 14 halves in 1 oz. Recipes published in School Nutrition have not been tested by the magazine or SNA in a school foodservice setting, except for certain “Kitchen Wisdom” selections, which are evaluated by a volunteer pool of operators. Required ingredients, preparation steps and nutrient content make some recipes more appropriate for catering applications or adult meals. Readers are encouraged to test recipes and calculate their own nutrition analyses, meal patterns and HACCP steps. » BONUS WEB CONTENT Food Focus Looking for more great recipes that use nuts? Head to the web, to this month’s Bonus Web Content section, to check out a Penne with Chicken and Walnut Pesto recipe that didn’t fit into our print edition. Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonus to access.
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