Using Nuts...

Many recipes call for nuts of different kinds, prepared different ways.  We use them in baking, salads, casseroles, candy-making and as a garnish all year round.
The oil in nuts can turn rancid quickly; I keep mine in the freezer until ready for use.  Shelled nuts keep about 2 years in the freezer.
Chopping nuts: 
Ever wonder if you are getting your nuts the size the recipe calls for?  Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but here are some guidelines.  For salads and main dishes, I usually just break up nuts by hand so you can see what is in the recipe.  However for baking, it may make a difference in the finished product’s success.
Coarsely chopped nuts: Use a serrated knife.  Cut in pieces about 1/3 inches in size.  I often simply break up nuts like pecans with my hands for coarsely chopped.
Finely Chopped Nuts:  Use a serrated knife, the pieces should be about 1/8” in size. 
Finely Ground Nuts:   Use a nut chopper or your food processor.  I prefer a nut chopper – it’s easy to make nut butter instead of chopped nuts in your processor.  I have a newer chopper I love (on the right in the photo), but old ones like our Mom had are readily available in thrift shops and antique malls.
Toasting Nuts: 
Toasting nuts really enhances the flavor in almost any recipe.  If you already have your oven turned on to bake, I like making them in the oven.  If not, the microwave does a pretty good job.  Remember, it’s better to have them less toasted than burned!
In the Oven:  Spread on a baking sheet and toast at 350° (or up to 425°) for about 5-15 minutes or so, watching carefully.
In the Microwave:  Spread your nuts on a plate and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes for ½ cup of nuts.  Watch carefully, take out when a little less brown than desired, as they will continue to brown for a few moments.
Use these methods for toasting seeds, like sesame or sunflower seeds or coconut too.
Nut Substitutions:
I often substitute one kind of nut for another, depending on price and availability.  Granted, some recipes, like pecan pie and black walnut cake just aren’t the same without the nuts called for, but in many breads and cookies and cakes, it really isn’t that critical, in fact, it may make an old recipe taste new again!
-Almonds, hazelnuts (for baking) OR Brazil nuts OR cashews OR pistachios (unsalted) can usually be substituted for each other for many recipes.
-Walnuts, black walnuts and pecans are nuts I often use interchangeably, depending on what I have on hand and the price at the time. 
-Hickory nuts are not seen commonly anymore, but pecans make a good substitute.
I usually keep bags of blanched almonds, pecan halves and walnut halves in my freezer all the time, ready for anything!

In the photo above:
Center:  Country Peach Tart

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