Go nuts over these pecan dishes

Pecans pack so much flavor, irresistible crunch and nutrition all in one bite, why save them just for pie? Consider freshening up family dinners with these naturally rich and subtly sweet nuts.

Here are some recipe ideas: Add crunch to this Chinese Chicken Salad by swapping out croutons with pecans, use chopped pecans as a flavorful coating for Pecan Chicken Meatballs, and bake this Pecan Banana Bread as a nutritious and kid-friendly breakfast or snack.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Pecans

Servings: 4

1/4 cup pecan butter
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs honey
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbs warm water, plus additional as needed (optional)

4 oz dried thin rice noodles
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup crispy wontons
1 cup mandarin oranges
2 Tbs sesame seeds
2 cups rotisserie chicken breast, chopped

To make dressing: In medium bowl, whisk pecan butter, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil and soy sauce until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons warm water and whisk until incorporated. Add additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if desired, until dressing reaches pourable consistency.

To make salad: Cook rice noodles according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain and transfer to bowl with cold water to keep from sticking. In large bowl, toss romaine and iceberg lettuces, pecans, scallions, bean sprouts, crispy wontons, mandarin oranges and sesame seeds.

Divide salad among four plates; top each with 1/2 cup chicken and serve with dressing.

Pecan Chicken Meatballs

Makes: 9 meatballs

1 lb ground chicken
1/4 cup spinach, chopped
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 egg
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup finely chopped fresh pecan pieces, divided

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In large bowl, mix ground chicken, spinach, lemon juice, egg, garlic, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne (if desired) and 1/2 cup pecans until well combined.

Roll chicken mixture into 1 tablespoon-sized meatballs. Place reserved pecans in bowl. Roll meatballs in pecans to coat then place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake 20-30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

Serve warm with sauces for dipping or over pasta.

Pecan Banana Bread

Servings: 8

10 oz gluten-free or regular baking flour mix
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup mashed bananas, ripe
1 cup raw pecan pieces, chopped, plus more for topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your 9x5 banana bread pan by coating with cooking spray and then sprinkling with a bit of the flour mix. Set aside.

In medium bowl, sift flour mix, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt; whisk to combine.

In mixer bowl, mix eggs, sugar and coconut oil 2 minutes on medium-low speed.

Scrape vanilla bean (or use vanilla extract) and add to mixture. Add yogurt and mashed bananas; mix 2 minutes on medium-low speed.

Fold 1 cup raw pecan pieces into batter until evenly distributed.

Add batter to banana bread pan and use spatula to smooth down top. Sprinkle additional pecan pieces on top.

Bake banana bread on top rack 60 minutes until toothpick comes out with few crumbs but not completely clean.

Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes in pan. Hold sides of pan and flip onto wire rack.

Allow bread to cool completely. Slice as desired.

Discover more nutritious recipes at AmericanPecan.com.