Editor's note: Columnist Holly Clegg, who has been battling stomach cancer, has entered hospice care. At this time, she plans to continue her column.

I love cooking with nuts. They add that delicious, crunchy flavor that's just hard to resist.

And when it comes to nuts, pecans are my go-to favorite. Toasted or raw, spiced or candied, pecans come in so many varieties that provide just the right depth of flavor to these trim and terrific recipes.

Nuts are calorie dense, so you don't want to go too crazy eating them. However, their health benefits are plentiful. Just keep them in the 1- to 1½-ounce serving size, and they can be an outstanding part of a healthy diet. The fat in nuts is mostly those good-for-you unsaturated fats, which can help to prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and promote brain health. They also provide a host of other health benefits including fiber, protein, potassium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins E and B6.

If you are looking for a quick-fix meal with exciting flavor, try my Beef Lettuce Wraps, a tangy, spicy version of a low-carb taco. Meaty ground sirloin mixed with savory hoisin sauce, herbs, veggies and pecans wrapped up in lettuce leaves combine for a tasty crunch that will delight your taste buds. Feel free to toss in shredded cabbage, cucumber, bean sprouts or whatever you have on hand, and serve with extra hoisin sauce.

Holly Clegg's Well Done: Recipes for Beef Lettuce Wraps, Pecan Rice, Harvest Chicken Salad

Pecan Rice from my "Kitchen 101" cookbook is a great side dish that complements just about anything. A few savory ingredients come together beautifully for this dish that can help round out your home-cooked meal.

Pecans are a perfect topping to salads, but have you tried pecans in your chicken salad? Talk about good. This diabetic friendly Harvest Chicken Salad combines seasoned chicken, sweet tart cranberries, crunchy apples and toasty pecans mixed with just a touch of mayo and nonfat Greek yogurt to keep the saturated fat to a minimum while keeping all of the tasty creamy goodness. This is a protein-packed dream lunch.

For a green salad with unexpected, mouth-watering ingredients, this Pear Chopped Salad from my thehealthycookingblog.com will delight your taste buds. Pears, pecans, turkey bacon and feta over romaine is definitely a wow salad.

Gourmet flavors with simple prep makes a winning combination in my (cook) book.

Terrific Tips:

  • Nuts are a great snack to have on hand to keep blood sugar and energy levels stable.
  • Pecans contain the highest amount of antioxidants of any nut.
  • Hoisin sauce is thought of as Chinese barbecue sauce. It has a thick texture, dark color and variety of dipping and marinating uses. Ingredients can vary, but the base contains soybean paste, salt, spices and sweeteners — lending dishes a savory, sweet flavor.
  • For the Harvest Chicken Salad, you can use red, green or a combination of apples.

 

 

Holly Clegg, best-selling national cookbook author of the trim&TERRIFIC & Eating Well cookbook series, specializes in easy, healthy, everyday recipes. Visit her website, The Healthy Cooking Blog. Follow her on facebook.com/HollyClegginstagram.com/holly_clegg and twitter.com/hollyclegg. Email her at holly@hollyclegg.com.