Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

WARNING: PRETTY PINK PEPPERCORNS CAN BE DANGEROUS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on July 19, 2014

Pink peppercorns, appealing and innocent-looking pink berries, can have the same serious, 105_5_11_13life-threatening allergenic potential for anyone who suffers from a tree nut allergy. People who avoid eating nuts because of tree-nut allergies may also want to avoid pink peppercorns. Pink peppercorns are members of the cashew family (Anacardiaceae) that includes cashews, pistachios, mangoes, poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac.

Thanks to the conscientious effort of Christina who writes Christina’s Cucina blog, I now have important allergenic information to share.

The serious side of pink peppercorns
Christina brought this critical allergen to my attention because her young daughter experienced 4490858102_603b6eef7a_zanaphylaxis, a life-threatening episode, after eating a food containing pink peppercorn seasoning. Because the child had a serious tree-nut allergy, the family made conscious efforts to avoid all nuts. A restaurant meal containing seasoning that included pink peppercorns brought on the anaphylactic episode. Fortunately, nature played a prominent role in her recovery, causing the child to vomit and expel the toxic substance.

However, the family was puzzled about the food that caused the severe reaction. After extensive research, Christina learned about the connection of this seasoning ingredient to the cashew family and confirmed that the chef at the restaurant had used pink peppercorns.

Because of her concern for others with nut allergies, Christina contacted Penzeys Spices and asked that a warning be placed on the labels of any of the spice blends containing pink peppercorns. The company complied and now has warnings on containers that include “pink pepperberries.” Penzeys Spices also includes the warning in their popular spice catalog.

Still concerned, Christina contacted Trader Joe’s and requested they label pink peppercorn as a tree nut, because of its relationship to the cashew family. Trader Joe’s responded as follows:

“The FDA has very strict guidelines for top 8 allergen labeling and we cannot place a warning for non-top 8 allergens on our product labeling. Pink peppercorns are not considered a top 8 allergen by the FDA and therefore we cannot include this in an allergen statement for our products. However, we will also be sure to share your comments and specific concerns with the appropriate parties within our Quality Assurance and Buying Teams for further review and consideration in the
future”

Pink peppercorns receive the guilty verdict
Others with tree-nut allergies have innocently encountered pink peppercorns, resulting in anaphylaxis and an emergency trip to the hospital. A 26-year old woman developed anaphylaxis after eating pink peppercorn seasoning. She had a tree nut allergy and experienced previous life-threatening episodes after eating cashews unknowingly. Cashews can be hidden in prepared foods and restaurant meals in unexpected foods like creamy sauces. The occurrence was a mystery until she learned about the relationship of pink peppercorns to the cashew-mango family. This incident was reported in The World Allergy Organization Journal Feb 2012; 5(Suppl 2) S152. Published online Feb. 17, 2012 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3512604/

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Researchers at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Department of Allergy and Immunology, reported on the case of the 26-year old woman mentioned above. They concluded, “This is the first reported case of a patient developing anaphylaxis after pink pepper ingestion. Patients with tree nut allergies may need to be educated regarding this potential allergen.” The researchers also noted there is potential for cross-reactivity among different members of the Anacardiaceae family.

Some people are so sensitive to tree nuts and, especially peanuts, that even touching nuts or inhaling in their presence may be serious. The allergenic substance in the pink peppercorns may be urushiol, an oily substance present in some members of the Anacardiaceae family. With mangoes, urushiol is found in the skin, while it is the shell that clings tightly to the cashew nut that contains the allergen. In poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, urushiol is an oleoresin present in the sap. This oil can cause allergenic reactions rather quickly.

In his revised and updated book On Food and Cooking; The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, author Harold McGee writes about pink peppercorns, “The tree is in the cashew and mango family, which also includes poison ivy and poison oak, and its brittle, peppercorn-sized fruits contain cardanol, an irritating phenolic compound that limits its usefulness in foods.”

Share this important message
The Food Allergy Research & Education organization advises that people with a tree nut allergy be prepared with emergency medication in case of anaphylaxis. They suggest having an epinephrine auto-injector like an EpiPen, Auvi-Q or Adrenaclick on hand at all times.

I’m aware that knowing this information could save your life or the life of someone you know. If you suffer from a tree nut allergy or know someone who does, I urge you to share this information and encourage others to read the ingredient labels carefully when purchasing spice blends to avoid these highly allergenic pink berries. Even if you’ve been using a product for a long time and think you’re familiar with the ingredients, read the label anyway. Manufacturers make changes in their formulations from time to time and are required to list new ingredients on their labels.

Families with young children with severe nut allergies need to take special precaution to make sure their foods are free of the entire family of nuts and related foods like pink peppercorns, and sometimes even sesame and sunflower seeds, which have properties similar to tree nuts.

Ask specifically about nut-containing ingredients at restaurants, friends’ and relatives’ homes, and daycare centers to prevent tragic life-threatening episodes. I know it’s a time-eater, but packing your child’s school lunches could be lifesaving. For those times when your child eats at the school cafeteria, I also think it’s important to ask about all the ingredients in prepared school lunches.

Teachers and day-care workers may find invaluable help at AllergyReady.com, a website that offers a free version of their program called How to C.A.R.E. for Students with Food Allergies, an online course.

About pink peppercorns
Research about pink peppercorns reveals they are not actually part of the Southeast Asian black pepper family at all, but are often included in colorful peppercorn blends that feature white, black, green, and pink whole pepper berries. Pink peppercorns offer a milder hint of spice than black pepper and have a delicate, sweet, fruity flavor due to sugar content. These peppercorns also add attractive color and appealing flavor to pepper blends and seasoning mixtures.

Members of the Anacardiaceae (cashew) family and natives of South America, these pink berries grow in clusters on a tree known by many names: Brazilian pepper, Peruvian pepper, Peruvian mastic tree, Baies Rose, California pepper tree, American pepper tree, Florida Holly, Christmasberry, and peppercorn tree. Though there are two tree varieties that produce these berries, the berries themselves are quite similar.

Brazilian peppercornsThe Brazillian pepper tree, introduced into Florida in the 1800s and also known as Florida Holly and Christmasberry, is scientifically classified as Schinus terebinthifolius. The tree grows more like a tall shrub, up to 33 feet high, with broader, alternating leaves than its cousin, the Peruvian pepper tree and is considered an invasive pest. Peppercorns from this variety may owe its toxicity to its content of urushiol oil allergens and phenolic cardanol.

The Peruvian pepper tree, also called Peruvian mastic tree and Baies Rose, is classified schinus-mollescientifically as Shinus molle, and is commonly listed as the California pepper tree because it thrives so well in California’s hot climate with very little water. This variety grows quite tall, up to 40 feet, and resembles a weeping willow with elongated narrow leaves that cascade downward, giving a delicate lacy appearance. This variety is common in Southern California and other warm climates like Hawaii. Shinus molle is the variety of pepper tree that grows on the French island of Reunion. Much of the pink peppercorns that the U.S. imported came from this island. This variety may or may not contain urushiol oils.

The University of California lists Schinus terebinthifolius and Schinus molle as minor toxic garden plants that may cause illness like vomiting or diarrhea.

The bright pink berries have many names also: Christmas berries, rose berries, false pepper, pink peppercorns, pink pepperberries, pink berries, and rose baises.

A culinary delight with a dangerous edge
Innovative chefs are always searching for the next food ingredient to thrill the foodies who love a new trend. But they never considered the possibility that an unassuming ingredient like pink peppercorns could be a risky flavoring choice. Several years ago, pink peppercorns became the trendy gems of innovative chefs who would crush them and add them to gourmet dishes to add a sweet, peppery taste and appealing pink color. Bold chefs used them to garnish canapés, flavor ice cream, and add zest to chocolate.

A number of craft beer brewers suggest adding pink peppercorns in small quantities when brewing beer or ale to add a sweet, fruity quality, resulting in flavors similar to golden raisins, plums, or juniper berries. Sometimes brewers combine the pink peppercorns with other herbs or spices to appeal to those who appreciate unique beers. These fruity style beers are known as Saison or Lambic.

Peru 2Many ancient cultures actively brewed beer, but it was the Incas who recognized the flavor potential of adding pink peppercorns to their beer. Predating the Incas were the Wari tribe from southern Peru who used their native foods to brew beer–fermented corn and pink peppercorns.

The F.D.A. weighs in
Writing in The New York Times Home & Garden section, on March 31, 1982, Marian Burros reported the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) took action to halt imports of pink peppercorns from France because of concern they may cause serious toxic reactions. Under the food-additive amendment to the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, it became illegal to import pink peppercorns. The law did not affect any supplies of pink peppercorns already in the U.S., and none were recalled because the F.D.A. declared it lacked financial means to issue a recall and did not consider them life-threatening.

A University of Michigan herbal consultant explained that pink peppercorns, Schinus terebinthifolius, are related to poison ivy and can cause the same unpleasant symptoms people Braz6experience when exposed: swollen eyelids, shortness of breath, violent headaches, chest pains, sore throat, hoarseness, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and upset stomach. Apparently, some birds that ingest the peppercorns can experience intoxication. After learning this information, the F.D.A. issued the following statement:

“While it is not known how many berries are required to cause adverse effects, experts advise against eating the pink or red peppercorns.”

The article mentions the French government’s claim that pink peppercorns grown on their soil under different conditions do not cause any of the troublesome reactions. The F.D.A. said they would maintain the ban until they were given proof by the French government that the imported peppercorns would not cause harm. “No one is able to tell us the exact ingredient that is causing the problem,” said F.D.A.s’ John Taylor III, Director of the Office of Regulatory Affairs.

Taylor recognized the berries from the trees grown in the U.S. and those grown on the Ile de Reunion, a French island near Madagascar, were the same species but may have different volatile oils that made the French berries problem-free.

The New York Times article said the F.D.A. proposed the French government send an affirmation that stated the pink peppercorns were “generally recognized as safe.” Until then, the ban would remain in place.

Wikipedia mentions the ban was lifted but does not provide a date or any statement from the F.D.A. Because it may be difficult to determine which variety of the pink berries are contained in seasoning mixtures, or whether variety matters, I would advise anyone with a nut allergy to avoid pink peppercorns completely.

References:
“422 A Rare Case of Food-induced Anaphylaxis to Pink Peppercorns.”
U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health from
The World Allergy Organization Journal Feb 2012; 5(Suppl 2) S152. Published online Feb. 17, 2012 at 10.1097/01.WOX.0000412185.17758.4f http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3512604/

“Brazilian Pepper-tree, Schinus terebinthifolius.”
University of Florida IFAS Extension http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fw037

Burros, Marian. “F.D.A. AND FRENCH DISAGREE ON PINK PEPPERCORN’S EFFECTS.” New York Times. Home & Garden, March 31, 1982. http://www.nytimes.com/1982/03/31/garden/fda-and-french-disagree-on-pink-peppercorn-s-effects.html

“Is it okay to eat the pink pepper corns out of my yard?”
Fluther.com http://www.fluther.com/145572/is-it-okay-to-eat-the-pink-pepper-corns-out-of/

McIlroy, Anne. “Ancient empire built on beer.” November 15, 2005. Globe and Mail. Organissimo. http://www.organissimo.org/forum/index.php?/topic/23318-ancient-empire-built-on-beer/

“Pink Peppercorns.” Clove Garden. http://www.clovegarden.com/ingred/cw_pprpz.html

“Spice Guide Entry For: Pink Pepper (Shinus terebinthifolius).”
Celtnet Recipes http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/spice-entry.php?term=Pink%20Pepper

“Toxic Plants (by scientific name).”
University of California Safe and Poisonous Garden Plants. http://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/Toxic_Plants_by_Scientific_Name_685/

“Tree Nut Allergies.” FARE: Food Allergy Research & Education.
About Food Allergies. http://www.foodallergy.org/allergens/tree-nut-allergy

“What’s The Deal With Green, Black, White, and Pink Peppercorns?” the kitchn. http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-deal-with-green-blac-93231

“When to Use Your EpiPen Auto-Injector.” EpiPen. https://www.epipen.com/en/about-epipen/when-to-use-epipen?

“Pink peppercorn.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. February 2, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_peppercorn

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WALNUT STUFFED EGGPLANT RECEIVES APPLAUSE!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 5, 2014

How nice it is to be able to serve a vegan entrée that makes people say WOW! That wonderful compliment came my way very recently at a luncheon attended by 80 non-vegetarians.

The luncheon was held at a very large hotel and conference center. When offered the entrée choices of Rosemary Sage Chicken with Piccata Sauce, Roast Salmon with Red Wine Sauce, or Vegan Walnut Stuffed Eggplant, 21 of the 80 people attending chose the eggplant dish–one of my very favorite recipes from The Nut Gourmet, my cookbook that was published in 2006 and is still in print. Especially rewarding was the lively applause when the chairwoman announced the entrée was my recipe.

I really wanted to thank the chef for accepting my recipe and preparing the eggplant entrée. I asked if was possible to speak to the chef. It seemed rather unusual for the chef at large hotel to even be willing to prepare a recipe from a patron. Within a few minutes, the chef came out with a smile. Desi Szonntagh is the executive chef at the hotel. After we chatted a bit, he said he really liked the recipe and felt it was a good idea to introduce his kitchen staff to something unique. He also appreciated the opportunity to experience something vegan that was not just pasta with vegetables.

If you have family members who really love eggplant, and you serve this delicious entrée, better get ready to receive a few WOWs of appreciation. I have no doubt you’ll agree this is one very killer delicious dish!

This recipe is a hearty Mediterranean dish with Greek ancestry and is pure heaven to walnut and eggplant lovers. Its exceptional flavor comes from the combination of cinnamon, tomato paste, and capers. Because the stuffed eggplant is so special, I keep the rest of the meal simple with stir-fried or steamed vegetables, bulgur wheat in place of a rice dish, and a tossed salad.

 

walnut stuffed eggplant

 

WALNUT STUFFED EGGPLANT

 

Yield: 4 hearty servings.

 

2 (1-pound) eggplants

Extra virgin olive oil

 

1/2 pound tomatoes, chopped

1/4 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced

1 cup chopped onions

4 large cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Freshly ground black pepper

 

1 cup raw walnuts, divided

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

3 heaping tablespoons capers, well drained

 

2 to 3 small ripe tomatoes, sliced

Salt

  1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, slicing through the stem end. Using a curved, serrated grapefruit knife, scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch shell, and coarsely chop the flesh. Put the chopped eggplant into a large, deep skillet or flat-bottom wok.
  2. Rub the inside of the eggplant shells with a small amount of olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Place the eggplant shells under the broiler, and broil them 3 inches from the heat source for 5 to 10 minutes, until fork-tender. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove the eggplant shells from the broiler and set them aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add the chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, cinnamon, and pepper to the skillet with the chopped eggplant, and cook and stir for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Coarsely grind the walnuts in a hand-crank nut mill and add 2/3 cup to the skillet along with the tomato paste and capers. Mix well.
  5. Fill the eggplant shells with the vegetable mixture and sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/3 cup coarsely ground walnuts. Top with the tomato slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake uncovered for 25 to 35 minutes.

 

 

 

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POLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 30, 2014

I’ve only encountered polenta in a savory form, usually served as a side dish. But I often wondered if it would be possible to turn it into a delicious, gluten-free dessert. When a friend invited me for dinner and asked me to bring dessert, she created the perfect opportunity for an experiment.

The texture of polenta was a concern. If polenta is not fully cooked, it can have a rather grainy texture, which would be horrible in a dessert. I also wondered if I could make the dessert sugar-free, since recent studies have revealed health concerns about sugar.

I decided to make a dessert polenta with dried fruits and prepared a simple date paste as the sweetener. As with most kitchen experiments exploring new territory, success often comes after several trials, eliminating this or adding that, or even changing the cooking method or varying the temperature.

Occasionally, magic happens and that first go-around works as if there were a tiny kitchen elf holding my hand and guiding me every step along the process. Amazing! And it looked pretty darned appealing, too!

It was a delicious surprise that also looked enticing enough to bring to a dinner party. When my friend asked what to call this dessert, I hesitated only a moment–and out popped the amusing name. Because of the bounty of fruits, small servings make this dessert go a long way. I actually squeezed 16 servings out of this dessert, but, really, 10 to 12 servings would be more realistic.

Polenta Porcupine copy

POLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Fruit Mix

1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded

3/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup black raisins

1/3 cup diced dried Turkish apricots

1/4 cup pine nuts

 

Date Paste

2 cups pitted dates, snipped in half and lightly packed

1/2 cup water

 

Polenta

4 cups water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarse whole grain cornmeal

1/2 cup whole almonds

  1. Line a large, shallow mold, about 9 to 11 inches in diameter, or a 2-quart ring mold with plastic wrap large enough to drape over the sides. Set aside.
  2. TO MAKE THE FRUIT MIX, combine the carrots, golden and black raisins, apricots, and pine nuts in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. TO MAKE THE DATE PASTE, put the dates in a food processor. With the machine running, add the water and process until smooth. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the workbowl. Measure 1 cup of the date paste and set it aside for the recipe. Save the remainder for another use.
  4. TO MAKE THE POLENTA, put the water, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  5. Add the cornmeal and return the mixture to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the reserved date paste and mix well with a wooden spoon to incorporate it thoroughly. The mixture will become very thick.
  7. Add the fruit mixture a little at a time, stirring continuously, until well mixed.
  8. Working quickly, spoon the mixture into the prepared mold and spread it to the edges. Let cool completely and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
  9. Before serving, invert the polenta pie onto a large platter and remove the plastic wrap. Poke the tips of the almonds into the top surface, gently pressing them in just enough to secure them.

Note:

Commercially packaged pitted dates, may contain one or two date pits that have evaded the pitting machinery. To avoid damaging the food processor blade, I use a kitchen scissors to snip the dates in half before adding them to the processor. The date paste makes about 1 1/3 cups.

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OKTOBERFEST ADDS WILD CELEBRATORY FLAVORS TO THE FESTIVITIES OF THE MONTH

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 7, 2013

 BIERFEST POTATO SALAD

Bierfest Potato Salad

 

Oktoberfest is a fun celebration that actually began in Germany toward the end of September and ended the first Sunday in October. The first Oktoberfest was a very festive occasion that took place in 1810. If you have a yen for the juicy details, you can read about the grand historical and celebratory event at Vegetarians in Paradise.

For now, I content myself with the thought that the entire month of October brings such beautiful, freshly harvested foods to the market that I plan on incorporating them into some tantalizing dishes and partying all month long.

There are probably hundreds of ways to make potato salad. Traditionally, this age-old favorite party salad is dressed with mayo, a rather fatty ingredient. In an effort to reduce the fat content and still create an appealing potato salad with satisfying flavor, I ditched the mayo completely and turned to cider vinegar instead.

Sound weird? It’s actually a handy little trick I picked up many years ago.  As soon as the potatoes are cooked and drained in a colander, I transfer them to a bowl and pour the apple cider vinegar over them. I  toss gently with a wooden spoon to make sure all the potatoes get the cider bath. What takes place at that moment is that the cider vinegar gives the potatoes an instant infusion of  a very pleasing tang.

Then, all the potato salad needs is a little salt and pepper, if you like, and some crunchy veggies. I decided to combine my end-of-the-summer tomatoes and bulbous bell peppers in a potato salad that would reflect the stunning harmony of the autumn season’s dazzling colors.

And, oh! I forgot one more little ingredient, tempeh bacon, that adds so much to the Octoberfest theme  and to the overall flavor. The grand result is a gorgeous potato salad that’s also deliciously flavor-drenched.

The salad is also good keeper that can be made a day ahead or enjoyed as a leftover that still retains bright beauty and lusty flavor. One big cautionary note–don’t overcook the potatoes (like I sometimes do when I have too many things going at the same time!) or you’ll have mushy potato salad!

 

Yield: 5 to 6 servings

2 pounds  Red or White Rose potatoes, scrubbed, cut into bite-size chunks

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

1 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided

1/4 cup  apple cider vinegar

1 cup  cherry tomatoes, halved

1 orange bell pepper, diced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 to 8 green onions, chopped

1 (8-ounce) package tempeh bacon, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, or to taste

1/4 bunch parsley, for garnish

1.    Put the potatoes and onion in a 4-quart saucepan with water to cover. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and cover the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until just fork tender, about 5 to 6 minutes.

2.    Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a large bowl. While the potatoes are still hot, pour the vinegar into the bowl and toss well with a wooden spoon.

3.    Add the cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, green onions, and tempeh and toss gently.

4.    Add the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper and adjust the seasonings to taste. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl and garnish with the parsley.

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SHIITAKE TORNADOES FOR CANADIAN THANKSGIVING

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 3, 2013

SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/zelallen/Desktop/SHIITAKE%20TORNADOES%20copy%202.doc

SHIITAKE TORNADOES IN

CASHEW CREAM SAUCE

SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/zelallen/Documents/Zel’s%20Documents/GONE%20VEGAN%20FOR%20THE%20HOLIDAYS/CHRISTMAS/Main%20Dishes/Shiitake%20Tornadoes%20in%20Cashew%20Cream%20Sauce.doc

Shiitake Tornadoes in Cashew-Cream Sauce copy

Picture-perfect, this sumptuous and very festive main dish makes a showy presentation on the Thanksgiving holiday table. Adorned in black sesame seeds, these 12 striking globes rise up from a rosy pool of seductive cashew sauce and entice the inquisitive palate.

To ease the holiday stress, have the cooked brown rice ready and make both the tornadoes and the sauce the day before. Stored them separately and assemble the dish shortly before serving. Briefly warm the tornadoes in a 350-degree F. oven and the sauce on the stovetop.

Presentation is everything with this dish. It’s so simple, yet makes these sesame coated balls look amazing. Hunt for long sprigs of rosemary to poke into each “tornado.” I just know that when you bring this dish to the table, you’ll hear some very pleasing ooohhs and aaaahhhs.

Present the tornadoes on a recessed platter that will hold a pool of sauce and allow you to garnish the edges. If you can’t locate black sesame seeds, roll the tornadoes in toasted or natural sesame seeds and they will still make an awesome main dish.

Yield: Makes 12 balls; 8 to 12 servings

Tornadoes

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps cut into quarters

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon tamari

1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives

3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely ground

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup black or regular sesame seeds

12 long sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half, for garnish

1.    To make the tornadoes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2.    Combine the mushrooms, onion, tamari, and tarragon in a large, deep skillet. Add water and cook and stir over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked and the onion is softened and transparent. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.

3.    Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor and add the olives. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Spoon the mixture into a large bowl.

4.    Add the rice, oats, walnuts, salt, and pepper and mix well. Pour the black sesame seeds into a deep, medium bowl.

5.    Using your hands, form the mushroom mixture into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll each one in the sesame seeds to coat well. Place the coated balls on the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Cashew Cream Sauce

2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste

1 to 2 tablespoons tamari

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

Pinch cayenne

1/2 cup cashews, finely ground

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

1.    To make the sauce, combine the vegetable broth, tomato paste, tamari, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, marjoram, and cayenne in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer 1 to 2 minutes.

2.    Add the cashews, whisk and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. The sauce will continue to thicken upon standing. Add extra vegetable broth to thin the sauce as needed. Before serving, stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

3.    To serve, spoon the sauce into a large, deep platter and arrange the tornadoes over the sauce. To garnish, poke a rosemary sprig into each tomato half and push them into the tops of the tornadoes, so they stand upright.

Note: If not serving immediately, refrigerate the tornadoes and sauce separately. Warm the tornadoes in a preheated 350-degree F. oven for 12 to 15 minutes before serving. Heat the sauce in a saucepan over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes.

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VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS GIVE-AWAY!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 1, 2013

My Beauty Bunny is THE PREMIER blog that reviews cruelty-free beauty products, including make-up, body, care, skin care, hair products, and a special section on vegan products. Visitors to this compendium of cruelty-free beauty products site will also find Leaping Bunny, a program that recognizes companies for their cruelty-free practices.

MBB-VH

If you love contests, My Beauty Bunny is the place to check out. There are plenty of happenings ongoing all the time!

MBB-VHHere’s how to win a Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook! http://www.mybeautybunny.com/win-vegan-holidays-cookbook/#ixzz2dSysAv00 thru Dec 31

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HOW THE VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS COOKBOOK WAS BORN

Many years ago I remember being bummed out when one of our kids brought a vegan friend over the house for dinner. At that time, it was a big deal because I had no idea of what to fix for them.

Now that I’ve been vegan for 24 years, the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. Though things have changed considerably over the years, and many people have become pretty darned savvy about what’s vegan and what’s not, there are still some big gaps and big humps for vegans to overcome.

One of the major humps still plaguing vegans is the traditional holiday dinner, when the whole family comes together for the festivities. The lone vegan in a non-vegan family may be one of the lucky ones to have a vegan-savvy family that knows just what to cook to satisfy all tastes.

For the vegan whose family cooks the Standard American dishes for those big holidays like Thanksgiving, the struggle goes on.

That’s mainly why I created the Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook, but it was for me, too. I thought it would be fun to have a whole bevvy of holiday dishes in my repertoire that I could count on year after year and not have to struggle to come up with something special for the occasion.

I figured I wasn’t the only vegan who faced the quandary of what to cook for those special holiday meals–dishes that really stand apart from stuff I cook the rest of the year.

A FEW DISHES FROM VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS

I also wanted to be able to share those special dishes that make the holiday dinners so divinely delicious and so very memorable. Here are a few dishes to stir your curiosity:

carrotwreath copyAlmond Thumbprint CookiesNew Year LogSanta's Favorite Panforte

There’s nothing like a tasty teaser to spark even more curiosity, so I want to share one of my favorite appetizers that appears in the Christmas section of Vegan for the Holidays. Truth is that this recipe is so versatile, it doesn’t have to wait for the holidays to arrive.

Because the ingredients are available year round, Tofu Tijuana Cocktail is a delight even in the middle of July. Actually, it’s a fabulous starter in July when avocados are in abundance and reasonably priced.

Another point of versatility is the inter-play between tofu and chestnuts. When chestnuts are in season, generally from October through December and sometimes January, they ought to be the featured item in this starter. And, if you’ve never ventured into the land of cooking and peeling chestnuts, check out the step-by-step Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts details that appeared in an earlier post Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts.

The thing about chestnuts is their ultra sweet flavor and soft and pleasing potato-like texture. Chestnuts are not like any other nut, yet they are still considered a tree nut, like walnuts or almonds. What makes them so different? For starters, they have a soft and starchy texture rather than a crunchy nature like other nuts. They are extremely low in fat–about 2% rather than the usual 50% to 80% fat in most other nuts. Chestnuts are starchier than other nuts with about 27% carbohydrates, while other nuts range in carbs from 12% to 32%.

When chestnuts are not in season, replace them with chunks of firm tofu and enjoy a delicious starter that looks elegant served in long-stemmed wine glasses or champagne flutes.

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TIJUANA TOFU COCKTAIL

Colorful and inviting, this zesty appetizer comes alive with bright colors, bold flavors, and a glamorous presentation. I created this recipe to spotlight fresh chestnuts, then replaced them with tofu for its ease of preparation. Either way, this is a delicious starter. If you enjoy chestnuts as much as I do, go ahead and substitute them for the tofu and you’ll find they add a pleasant sweet balance to the savory and spicy flavors.

Yield: 6 to 8 servingsTijuana Tofu Cocktail 2copy

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 1/2 cups diced firm tofu, or chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts
1 large avocado, diced
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 to 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

1. Combine the canned and fresh tomatoes, tofu, avocado, onion, cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, and salt in a large bowl and mix well.

2. To serve, spoon the cocktail into long-stemmed wine glasses, old-fashioned glasses, or glass dessert bowls and garnish each with a sprig of cilantro and a wedge of fresh lime perched on the rim. Serve with spoons. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve later.

Posted in Appetizers, Celebrations, chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Holiday Recipes, Vegan for the Holidays, Zel's Cookbooks | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

VEGAN TASTINGS GO ELEGANT FROM HOTEL TO PARKING LOT

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 26, 2013

Reuben among guestsIn the last week Reuben, at left, and I attended two important vegan launch events as representatives of our vegan website–Vegetarians in Paradise. The first soire, on August 15th, was held in a beautiful setting on the sprawling lawn at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. The hotel’s aim was to introduce the new summer and fall vegan and farm-to-table menu items served in the Breeze Restaurant.

The second event, on August 22nd, took place in the parking lot at the Follow Your Heart food service facility called Earth Island. For Los Angelenos, Follow Your Heart is a long-standing and very beloved natural food market and vegetarian/vegan café where diners can order popular items like the Love Plate and Om-lette. And their exceptional soups are famous and even featured inEarth Island #1 their Follow Your Heart Vegetarian Soup Cookbook. The focus of the event was to introduce something vegans can never seem to get enough of–vegan cheese–specifically their new Vegan Gourmet Shreds–a meltable dairy-free cheese available in Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Fiesta Blend flavors.

The tasting at the Hyatt Regency was an elegant event with Executive Chef Felix Nappoly and Sous Chef Ali Parvinjah, who is vegan, greeting guests and chatting about the new menu offerings. Posing between the chefs is Co-host Carolyn Scott-Hamilton of The Healthy Voyager. Carolyn was instrumental in coordinating with the hotel’s PR Director Adrienne Devore to invite vegan media and VIPs to taste the new vegan items and signature vegan cocktails.

Chefs & Carolyn

Both chefs were recognizing the need to meet the growing demand of patrons requesting vegan foods. This is a really big deal–the Hyatt Regency is a very large and very well known hotel in Los Angeles where visitors come from all over the world. The hotel also caters large events for foreign visitors as well as local residents.

The chefs were gracious as they strolled around the outer perimeter of the 4-sided bar answering questions and posing for photos. Behind the bar a number of chefs were busily preparing gorgeous tidbits for tasting. On the vegan side were bit-size morsels of stunning appetizers, each served it its own unique mini dish.

The Breeze Restaurant will feature the following items in their new menu:
Beet Carpaccio, Gardein Chicken with Risotto, Macadamia Caprese with semi Dried Tomato, Basil oil, Mizu Vinaigrette, and Balsamic Caramel, Smoked Tofu Dijon with Stone Fruits, Red Beet Quinoa with Zucchini Noodles, Golden Raisins and Toasted Almonds, with Avocado Basil Oil and Yellow Beet Chips, and Vegan Breakfast Wrap.

Beet Carpaccio with Edamame Hummus and Basil Oilmacadamia Caprese with semi Dried Tomato, Basil oil, Mizu Vinaigrette, Balsamic CaramelRed Beet Quinoa with Zucchini Noodles, Golden Raisins and Toasted Almonds, Avocado Basil oil and Yellow Beet Chipssmoked tofu dijon stone fruitsGardein Chicken with RisottoSushiEnglish Pea Soup ShootersCherry Pie in mini jars

The photos suggest vegans will have an opportunity to enjoy an elegant array of menu choices that are stunning as well as tasty. If you drop in to Breeze Restaurant for a lunch or dinner and don’t see the new vegan items on the menu, be sure to ask. The menu will change with the seasons. And, as you might expect, the ambience is elegant and upscale.

*****************************************************************************************************************

Follow your Heart’s Vegan Gourmet Shreds Tasting was a smashing success! Earth Island is a huge, completely solar-powered facility where the popular Vegenaise, Vegan Gourmet cheeses, and the multitude of Follow Your Heart’s salad dressings are prepared and shipped across the country. The parking lot in front of Earth Island easily morphed into a charming gathering of vendors and bloggers who will spread the word about the exciting Vegan Gourmet Shreds, the cheese that melts and makes so many foods taste so compelling.

Bob GoldbergMichael BesanconPaul Lewin

Three of the original four owners Bob Goldberg Michael Besancon, and Paul Lewin meandered about the crowd chatting and shaking hands. While Michael Besancon moved on many years ago, Bob Goldberg and Paul Lewin are still leading Follow Your Heart’s 21st century journey forward. Marketing Director Katie Franklin stepped up to the mike to greet everyone and lead tours of the impressive solar facility. Bob gave a brief history of how Follow Your Heart began back in 1970 and grew into the wel-admired company it is today.

The parking lot was attractively outfitted with linen-draped standing-height tables with umbrellas providing welcome cover from the hot sun. Several of the familiar staff members from the café were busily weaving among the crowd and passing little dishes of cheese filled irresistibles.

Here’s what we gorged on as we waited in anticipation to taste the next delicious nibble. The photos follow the same order as the the names are listed:

Spinach & Artichoke QuicheEnchilada Bites 2Salad 2Crispy Chick'nMini TacosGrilled Cheese SandwhichesMac n Cheese

Mini Spinach and Artichoke Quiches featuring their Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Shreds

Enchilada Bites

Iceberg Lettuce Salad with cherry tomatoes topped with the new and very exceptional Bleu Cheese Dressing

Crispy Chicken w/mozzarella & tomato sauce

Veggie Tacos topped with their Fiesta Blend unmelted shreds

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches featuring Cheddar shreds in two versions: Roasted Garlic Vegenaise and Pesto Vegenaise

And Mac ‘n’ Cheese featuring their melted Cheddar

Each of the tasty cheese-filled morsels was an excellent example of how easy it is to incorporate the shreds into everyday favorite dishes. The killer-delicious mini quiches added an elegant touch to the array of samples, demonstrating how well the shreds could boost the flavor and appearance of party dishes to make them extra special.

In addition to the delightful cheese tasting, representatives of The Vegan Vine were serving up samples of their white and red wines in elegant, long-stemmed wine glasses, while Angel City Vegan Brewery was on hand to introduce two vegan beers by serving up generous cups filled to the brim.

The new vegan foods introduced at both the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel and Follow Your Heart have earned a special place at Vegetarians in Paradise–and we will happily spread the word. Both are representative of how far vegan cuisine has come in recent years. May vegan foods be THE foods of the future for humans, animals, and the entire planet.

Posted in Appetizers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NUT MILKS ARE NOT APPROPRIATE BABY FORMULA!!!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 12, 2013

Over the years posting nut information on this blog, I’ve noticed the items that receive the most response are those that discuss nut allergies and some of the allergic reactions people have experienced from consuming nuts.

I usually address these by replying to comments people post on the blog. However, I recently received an email from a concerned Mom of a 13-month-old boy. This caring mom was breast-feeding her son for 9 months until she became pregnant and lost her milk supply.

Apparently, she turned to a cow’s milk formula and became concerned when her son developed a nasty diaper rash that would never clear up. She suspected the child may have an intolerance and sensitivity to dairy and began preparing various nut milks for him, one day making almond milk, almondmilkw:pitcheranother hazelnut, or macadamia milk using 1 to 2 cups of nuts to 4 cups of water.

She read my blog post on Brazil nuts and the many many comments people wrote in discussing their unpleasant reactions caused by the nuts and decided Brazil nuts were not a good idea for nut milk. I totally agree with that decision.

almondmilk bottleWanting to be sure her son was getting enough of the proper fats and nutrition in his diet, she began to question whether nut milks in general were an appropriate substitute for baby formula. She was adamant she did not want to return to cow’s milk formula and asked me if I had any resources she could research for proper baby/toddler diets.

Because this issue is so important to the healthy growth of her young child, I knew I was not qualified to address this with the wisdom it needed. I turned to my friend Vesanto Melina, MS, RD who kindly answered my call for help.

Articles180Here’s what Vesanto wrote:

“This family should definitely be using fortified nondairy milks–not nut milks for their little boy.

Fortified soymilk or infant formula are the only cow’s milk alternatives recommended before age 2
as these have enough calcium and vitamin D (and other nutrients) which nut milks made from nuts do not.

She should not be afraid of soy; the anti-soy hype comes from the dairy industry-related folks and is unfounded.

If she is concerned and does not want to use soy or dairy I could do a consultation with her
and figure out some options that work and are entirely nutritionally adequate for her son.”

If you or anyone you know might be struggling with a similar issue, registered dietician Vesanto Melina would be happy to consult and can be reached at her website Nutrispeak.

Some parents of infants may have read articles about soy that suggest it is an unhealthful food. Addressing this topic, Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, writes in her book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, “The media have propagated concerns about soy’s effect on Julieanna Heverhormones. You may have heard how soy consumption decreases fertility or gives a male ‘man-boobs.’ But no solid evidence supports these assertions.

“Similarly, fears circulated that soy-based infant formulas led to problems with sexual development, brain function, immunity, and future reproduction. No conclusive evidence supports these claims, either. Most experts are confident in recommending soy-based formulas.”

Because of its purity, several vegan moms recommend Baby’s Own Organic soy formula made for babies 1 year or older. This formula contains no GMOs and is the only formula that does not contain corn syrup, also called glucose syrup. It also does not contain ingredients like organic palm olein oil or hexane processed DHA.

Nutritional Comparison Chart -Soy Pediatric Formula is an excellent chart comparing the nutritional profile of several soy formulas with human breast milk and cow’s milk.

The important issue with nut milks is they do not contain the proper balance of nutrients to takealmonds & glass the place of breast milk or properly designed soy formulas.

Becoming Vegan bookIn their book Becoming Vegan, authors Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, both registered dieticians write, “The rationale for using formula in the 12-24 month period is that commercial formulas are modeled after breast milk and thus include most of the nutrients provided by breast milk (with the exception of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids) in amounts that are especially suited to the growth and development needs of infants.”

Most parents are aware that for feeding infants, there is no true replacement for the many benefits of breast milk. Dr. McDougallJohn McDougall, MD, extolls the virtues of breastfeeding in his Dr. McDougall’s Moments video, calling it the best and safest food for babies. In his video, he tells his audience that breast milk is always the perfect temperature, it’s clean, comforting, and is always free.

Posted in almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, Macadamias, Nut Allergies, Nut Nutrition, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

SWEET SUMMER PEACHES DANCE WITH CHOCOLATE AND WALNUTS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on June 13, 2013

Summer desserts often spotlight fresh fruits as the center of the season’s sweet indulgences. Many of us home cooks, feeling a little weary of the long, long season of apples, pears, and oranges, really look forward to the refreshing flavors of stone fruits. They perk up the fruit bowl with their brilliant colors, and every bite is divinely sweet and juicy.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the market on a hunt for fresh, ripe peaches with the hope they would also be sweet. Often, the first-of-the-season fruits tend to be a bit tart–and they were–so tart they even made my mouth pucker. On this week’s shopping trip I was thrilled to discover bins of beautiful yellow peaches with a gorgeous rosy glow. I bought some for my cooking class and had the pleasure of hearing the peaches were delicious and the dessert was a smashing success.

This is a dessert I devised especially because it contained no sweeteners of any sort. The sweetness comes only from dates. It’s also gluten-free. Anyone wanting to avoid sugar or suffering from gluten intolerance will find this an ideal dessert because there’s no sacrifice–really–none at all because it’s decadently sweet and chocolaty rich without the offending ingredients. If allergies are a problem, just leave out the walnuts, and you’ll still have a fabulous dessert.

Easy as pie–that’s how I think of this recipe, and I think you’ll agree. You can also make it a day in advance by brushing the exposed peach flesh lightly with lemon juice to prevent discoloring.

nut toolsThe only tools you’ll need are a food processor and a hand-crank nut mill to grind the walnuts into a coarse meal. I’m pretty sure everyone knows what a food processor looks like, but I often encounter puzzled looks when I mention nut mill. If you don’t have one, you can use other tools, like a hammer, food chopper, rolling pin, or mini blender, to grind the walnuts into a coarse meal. The nut mill is the item in the center of the photo and has a black cover and black handle on the end of the hand-crank. It’s a good old-fashioned low-tech tool, but turns out perfectly ground nuts I often use as garnish or to add a little texture to a recipe.

And don’t skimp on the garnish! Those little finishing touches are what dazzle the eyes and ramp up the temptation meter. A few perky sprigs of fresh mint and some scattered nuts on the dish do the deed.

Well, here they are–fresh, sun-ripened peaches stuffed with indulgent chocolate all ready for dessert. They look so irresistible, chocolate fans will snap up these gorgeous treats in a flash. The best part is that you won’t need to use the oven or stovetop to prepare this hot-weather dessert–it’s deliciously raw and can be assembled within minutes. And it doesn’t hurt that they look so tantalizing.

Chocolate Stuffed Peaches copy

CHOCOLATE STUFFED PEACHES

Yield: 4 servings

6 fresh peaches

1 cup firmly packed dates, cut in half
2 to 3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nutmill
12 golden raisins, for garnish
3 to 5 fresh mint leaves, for garnish

1. Cut the peaches in half, discard the pits, and set aside.

2. Put the dates into a food processor and pulse chop a few times. With the machine running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the water and process until well mixed but still very slightly chunky, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add all or part of the remaining tablespoon of water if needed to moisten the date mixture.

3. Add the cacao and almond extract to the processor and process briefly until completely incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons of the ground walnuts and mix well. Put the remaining ground walnuts into a separate small bowl.

4. Using your hands, form the cacao mixture into twelve 1-inch balls. Press a ball into each of the peach halves. Holding the peach carefully, invert it and dip the top of each cacao ball into the ground walnuts to coat the top of the ball. Arrange the peach halves on an attractive serving platter.

5. For the finishing touch, poke a golden raisin into the center of each cacao ball. Sprinkle any remaining nuts around the platter and garnish with the mint leaves.

Posted in Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE NUTTY SIDE OF THE NATURAL PRODUCTS EXPO DISCOVERY #2 – DON’T GO NUTS! PEANUT-FREE SOY BUTTER

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 15, 2013

Don't Go NutsThere were so many great nutty finds at the Natural Products EXPO West this year. But here’s a no-nut twist – nut-free, peanut-free Soy Butter – and it’s delicious. It’s flavor and texture are reminiscent of peanut butter, but with its own distinct and different nature.

Created by Jane and Doug Pinto especially for their daughter, Lily, who has a serious, life-threatening nut and peanut allergy. This very enterprising Pinto family wanted to help their daughter and other families with children suffering from nut and peanut allergies.

Their effort led to creating their own facility where no nut or peanut has ever entered the building. They even have equipment that blows dust off every item before it enters the facility to be sure there is no nut contamination.Don't Go Nuts Soy Butter

DON’T GO NUTS is a unique company with a focus on social responsibility, sustainability, and creativity.

The product comes in several varieties to please all preferences. There’s Organic Chocolate, Organic Pure Unsalted, Organic Slightly Sweet, Organic Lightly Sea Salted, and Organic Cinnamon Sugar. All the flavors are USDA Certified Organic.

Posted in Nut Allergies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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