Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Roasted Chestnuts: My Favored Winter Treats

Chestnuts are a quintessential flavor of the holiday season. Roasting them on an open fire means one thing: Christmas. It's the first line of the "The Christmas Song," - but the holiday staple deserves a spot in more than just carols and the turkey stuffing.  

One of the most delicious winter food treats I am missing most in North America is roasted chestnuts.  Walking in cold weather over the Christmas markets, warming my hands on a bag of chestnuts, just taken out of the oven, is one of my beloved winter memories. 

In Switzerland and Italy, you can find the chestnut paste, pressed through a sieve, looking like spaghetti and topped with a generous load of whipped cream, in every coffee shop or gelateria.

In Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slowakia, Tschechien, and many other countries, the chestnut paste is offered in every grocery store. There you can find it in the frozen foods department, usually in the ice cream section.

Chestnuts taste buttery and slightly sweet and are a great snack on their own.  They also can be used in a myriad of recipes ranging from stuffings to desserts.  According to The Local, Swiss people eat nearly 2,000 tons of chestnuts a year.  The chestnuts are usually eaten in sweet desserts or just roasted and eaten out of paper cones on the street.

"Chestnuts are an excellent source of manganese, molybdenum, and copper and a good source of magnesium.  In addition, they are a good source of vitamin C as well as vitamins B1, B2, and B6 and folic acid.  The health benefits of chestnuts center on their nutritional content.  However, unlike other nuts, chestnuts are a low-fat variety and do not provide the benefits of a high level of monounsaturated fat."
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

"Chestnuts are the only low-fat nuts, containing just 1 gram of fat and a little less than 70 calories per ounce of dried or roasted nuts.  Additionally, chestnuts are the only nuts that contain vitamin C.  In fact, just 3 ounces of chestnuts supply about 45% of the recommended daily amount of this vital antioxidant nutrient.  And they’re a great source of dietary fiber, which helps lower blood cholesterol levels. When chestnuts are in season, you can roast them in the oven.  If you’re pressed for time, you can buy them prepackaged and ready to eat any time of year.  You should eat up to three ounces of chestnuts a day to maximize their benefits."
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The Chestnut Trail in South Tyrolia
The chestnut trail in the Valle Iscarco, in German called “Keschtnweg”, connects the 60 km long sunny slopes between Bolzano and Bressanone and from Bolzano and Merano.
Particularly in autumn, the chestnut trail is definitely one of the hiking highlights in South Tyrol.

No matter if you prefer to do a tour of several days or just one or two single stages, hiking on the chestnut trail is always a great opportunity to connect hiking and enjoying tasty local dishes and drinks, particularly during the “Törggelen“ time between September and November.

Tips for Roasting Chestnuts
Oven-roasted chestnuts are easy to make and give you a buttery and slightly sweet snack that is good on its own or in recipes. The shell must be cut before roasting.  If the shell isn’t cut, it will cause the chestnuts to explode from the trapped steam.  Plus, this makes them easier to peel.

Steam makes peeling easier.  Soaking the scored chestnuts helps them absorb water between the shell and the nut.  This creates extra steam between the nut and outer shell and separates the two for easier peeling.  Bonus, it also helps keep the nuts moist.

There are two layers of shell.  There is the hard outer shell, as well as a fuzzy, thin inner shell.  This inner shell can grow into the ridges of the chestnut and be difficult to remove, especially if the chestnut is dry or old.  Use the tip of a sharp knife to help remove the difficult spot.

Adding them to your diet will benefit your weight loss journey. According to various studies, eating plenty of fiber may help promote bowel movements, reduce blood cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar levels and keep your gut healthy.



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