Food and drink: To eat or not to eat 

That is the holiday question

'Tis the season and if you aren't yet glutted by the gluttony or sated by all the satiations, you're likely contemplating the holiday goodies and baddies hanging around. The bits of Christmas baking, the leftover turkey and stuffing, the remainders of holly-jolly gift baskets your niece and nephew and mother-in-law all brought over for your Boxing Day open house.

If, like us, you have the above still kicking around, the following guide on what to eat and what not to may prove helpful. If all else fails just give it to your dog - just kidding. All that chocolate might kill Puddles. In fact, a few items are best kept away from same (see below). Otherwise, pick your moments.

 

The chestnut

To eat. In fact, eat them large and eat them often. With the exception, perhaps, of New Yorkers, we North Americans haven't twigged onto the joys of chestnuts like our European cousins, who use them in myriad forms from chestnut flour to marrons glac├ęs (chestnuts deliciously infused with vanilla syrup).

You'll never look back once you've tasted a properly roasted chestnut - the outer shell is slightly charred, which means the flesh will have a sweetness to it, something like caramelized onions. That's when you'll hunt down a good supply of fresh chestnuts or a street vendor who sells them already roasted (there's usually one on the corner of Robson and Howe, beside the Vancouver Art Gallery).

Chestnuts are great for diabetics and the rest of us, as they have a very low glycemic load, meaning they won't send your blood sugar level through the roof. Unlike most nuts, they store future energy as carbohydrates rather than oils. They're low in saturated fats as well as cholesterol and sodium. They're also high in fibre - 10 chestnuts account for almost one fifth of your recommended daily intake of fibre, so useful at this time of all things cheesy, meaty and creamy, when the only fibre is in the wrappers.

To pick out good ones, look for glossy, dark brown ones with no cracked shells that feel heavy. To roast your own, cut an X on the flat side of each chestnut with a knife. Use a heavy frying pan - a cast iron one is perfect - pour in a few drops of vegetable oil and "roast" your chestnuts over medium heat, shaking the pan often.

I like them when at least one side is just a bit blackened and they're toasted all around. They're done when the shells and the inner nut skins peel off easily.

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