Chestnuts for the Holidays from The Biggest Loser Nutritionist

chest nutsMost of us enjoying snacking on and cooking with nuts throughout the year – but we often forget about chestnuts.

Now in peak season, chestnuts are a perfect addition to many holiday dishes. Freshly roasted, they’re delicious on their own.  When added to a simple vegetable dish or stirred into your favorite dressing they turn ho-hum to festive while adding flavor, texture and a big boost of nutrition to your meal.

Like most nuts, chestnuts are a good source of “healthy fats,” otherwise known as monounsaturated fats, and do not contain any cholesterol. These fats, if used in place of foods high in saturated fats, may help lower your risk of heart disease by reducing the total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels in your blood.

Chestnuts are considered tree nuts and may cause allergies to some. Like other tree nuts, they also contain omega 3 fatty acids (good fat). Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.

But chestnuts have unique properties that make them an especially good choice. They have 30% fewer calories than other nuts and they even contain Vitamin C. A one-ounce serving of chestnuts has 69 calories and only 1 gram of fat, whereas an ounce of walnuts has 183 calories and 18 grams of fat. The calorie breakdown for chestnuts is 88% carbohydrates, 8% fat, and 4% protein. Here’s the nutrient breakdown for an ounce of chestnuts, or about 3 to 5 nuts:

Calories 69
Calories from Fat: 5
Total Fat 1g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 1mg
Total Carbohydrate 15g
Fiber 1g
Sugars 3g
Protein 1g

With their creamy, starchy consistency, a chestnut’s texture when cooked is similar to that of a baked potato, with a delicate, sweet and nutty taste. This complex flavor profile means that chestnuts can help lend richness to a dish without delivering excess fat or calories.

We all know chestnuts can be roasted on an open fire – just like the song says! But in addition to enjoying them on their own, try adding them to some of your favorite recipes.  Chestnuts can be candied, boiled, steamed, grilled, or roasted in sweet or savory recipes. They can also be used to stuff vegetables, poultry, fowl and other edibles – for the holidays, or any special occasion.

Here’s a scrumptious recipe to add color, texture and flavor to your holiday table.

Cornbread and Sausage Dressing with Chestnuts and Figs

chest nut stuffing

Makes 14 cups

Ingredients
8 cups cornbread cubes, dried
8 ounces lean Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 cups chopped leeks or yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
26 ounces chestnuts, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup coarsely chopped dried figs chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Canola oil cooking spray
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Place cornbread cubes in large bowl and set aside.

In small nonstick skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat, crumbling and stirring until brown and cooked through. Drain well and set aside.

In large nonstick skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat. Stir in leek, celery and carrot; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute longer, but don’t allow garlic to brown. Stir in sausage, chestnuts, figs, thyme, sage, marjoram and 1 cup broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat; pour vegetable mixture over cornbread. Add parsley and stir well. Season with salt and pepper. (Dressing may be prepared to this stage a day ahead and refrigerated, covered.)

Whisk together eggs and remaining 1 1/2 cups broth and pour over cornbread mixture, tossing well. Spray 4-quart baking dish with canola oil cooking spray.  Cover dish with foil and place baking dish in oven. After 15 minutes remove foil from baking dish with dressing. Continue baking dressing for about 15 minutes or until top begins to brown.

Serve hot.

© Cheryl Forberg 2016