Posts Tagged With: nuts

National Grab Some Nuts Day

Hold onto your privates. Your private stash of nuts, that is! August 3 is National Grab Some Nuts Day, and we’d hate for you to come up short.

Humans have been grabbing nuts for about as long as nuts have been around to grab. Archaeologists unearthed evidence of this fascination with nuts at a site in Israel, where seven different varieties of nuts were discovered, along with the stone tools needed to crack them open. The site was estimated to be 780,000 years old, and included almonds, water chestnuts, acorns, and pistachios. Nuts were also popular closer to home; Native Americans frequently used “hammer stones” to crack open beech nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, pecans, and hickory nuts, which were either eaten whole or ground up into a nut butter. Other folks around the world prized nuts for their oil, or turned them into a powder used for thickening foods. Nuts pack a nutritional punch, making them a great source of energy and protein.

Nuts also have a very strict definition, which means that some of the nuts you think are nuts aren’t really nuts. That’s nuts! By definition, a nut is a fruit composed of a hard shell and a seed. So far, so good…but read the fine print: that shell must not open to release the seed. So, from a botanical standpoint, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns are all true nuts. Peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios? They’re nuttin’ but wannabes. Though technically incorrect, any large, oily kernel found within a shell and used as a food source is considered a nut. So Planters, you’re off the hook.

One reason nuts are such a popular snack is due to their health properties. They are considered a “superfood” high in healthy monounsaturated fat and other good-for-you nutrients including vitamins E and B2, folate, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium. They tend to be high in calories though, so a handful at a time is plenty.

A day rarely goes by where I don’t grab some nuts, so today’s food holiday was easy to conquer. I’m particularly fond of Blue Diamond’s lineup of bold flavored almonds, so I indulged in some Sriracha and Jalapeño Smokehouse nuts. For dessert, I added a few Planters Salted Caramel peanuts.

nuts

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251/365: National Date Nut Bread Day

Mark your calendar, today’s date is important. Today’s date, in fact, is front and center and baked into bread. September 8 is National Date Nut Bread Day!

In yet another weird twist, December 22 is also devoted to date nut bread. I checked, I double-checked, and then I double-checked again. ‘Tis true. We pay homage to date nut bread twice this year. By then we’ll be steaming down the home stretch, so I probably won’t complain too bitterly that “we’ve already done this holiday!”

The word date is derived from dáktulos, the Greek word for finger. So the next time somebody cuts you off in traffic, give ’em the ol’ dáktulosThey were named for their resemblance to a finger, actually – though that’s a pretty shriveled-looking fat finger, if you ask me. Dates “date” back thousands of years, and were an important staple food for those in the Middle East. Evidence of their existence dates back to as far as 7000 B.C. Wow, were there even people around then? In fact, dates are mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible. They grow on palm trees and ripen in four stages: kimri (unripe), khlal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), tamr (ripe, sun-dried). They favor warm climates and grow abundantly in regions such as the Middle East, Africa, California, and Arizona.

It’s unclear who first thought of combining dates and nuts into a loaf of bread and baking it, but we’re glad they did – it’s a tasty, slightly sweet and crunchy treat. I used this recipe and baked it up myself. We were both very impressed!

National Date Nut Bread Day

Categories: Bread | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

57/365: National Pistachio Day

Today’s holiday honors a food that appears to be smiling back at us: the pistachio. Aww. I almost feel guilty eating the poor little fella.

Key word: “almost.”

Aww. They're smiling!

Aww. They’re smiling!

Pistachios have been around since at least 6750 BC. They grow on trees and are related to mangoes, sumac, and poison ivy…so if you’re itching for a handful of pistachios, now you know why! They are native to the Middle East, and are believed to have grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Like almonds, pistachios are the seed of a fruit rather than a genuine nut, like Charlie Sheen. Pistachio trees were introduced to the U.S. in 1854, and grown commercially beginning in the early 20th century.

In the Middle East, pistachios are referred to as “the smiling nut” and in Iran they are called “the happy nut.” In America, those nicknames belong to Lindsey Lohan and Gary Busey, accordingly. (These “crazy celebrity” jokes never get old!). They are very healthy for you (the nuts, not the celebrities), containing more antioxidants per serving than green tea. They are a great source of fiber, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6. The shells are recyclable, too: you can use them as kindling with crumpled paper to start a fire, line the bottom of houseplant pots with them to provide drainage and soil retention, and use them as mulch for plants and shrubs. The shells are sometimes dyed red or green because holiday colors are festive and pretty!! Actually, it was to hide the stains from the grubby farmhands who used to pick the fruit by hand, but nowadays pistachios are machine-harvested, so dyeing is rarely performed anymore.

For today’s challenge, we wanted to do a little bit more than just open a bag of pistachios and eat a handful. So, we opened a bag of pistachios and ate a handful…AND we made pistachio-flavored instant pudding. Double pistachio whammy, people!

Pistachios

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47/365: National Almond Day

Some of these food holidays are downright nutty. Take, for instance, today: it’s National Almond Day!

Actually, I should strike that joke from the blog, because it turns out almonds aren’t true nuts at all – they are actually a fruit, more closely related to cherries and plums than to cashews or walnuts. The almond “nut” is the seed of the green, fleshy fruit. I guess the folks at Almond Joy never got the memo; their candy bar slogan – “Almond Joy’s got nuts, Mounds don’t” – is just plain wrong (not to mention grammatically clunky to begin with). In truth, Almond Joy’s got fruit, Mounds don’t.

Almonds are native to the Middle East, where they grew like weeds in the lands around the Mediterranean Sea, and were one of the first trees domesticated by man. Most ancient civilizations relied on almonds as a food source; they date back to 4000 B.C. They are mentioned numerous times in the Bible, where they were revered as symbols of divine approval and hope. The Book of Genesis calls almonds “among the best of fruits,” and almond branches were a symbol of the virgin birth of Jesus. In fact, many paintings depict almonds circling the baby Jesus (though it could be that the artists had merely worked up hearty appetites while slapping oil on canvas). King Tut was buried with several handfuls of almonds when he died, in order to nourish him on his journey to the afterlife. I’d have preferred a pizza myself, but maybe all their Round Tables were closed for the night.

Cultivated almonds are delicious and nutritious, but wild almonds are another story. Their kernels contain prussic acid, a fancy name for cyanide, and are deadly if eaten raw. Domesticated almonds are safe due to a genetic mutation that eliminated the toxic substance.Today, nearly 80% of all almonds in the world are grown in California. Earlier attempts to grow the fruit in southern states were unsuccessful due to killing frosts and high humidity, but the Golden State’s climate proved to be ideal for these little suckers.

We could have just eaten a handful of almonds to celebrate today’s holiday, but it’s the weekend and we wanted to get creative, so we decided on a chicken teriyaki stir-fry topped with slivered almonds. It was a delicious combination!

Stir-fry with slivered almonds

Categories: Nuts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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