Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for the ‘Nut Companies’ Category

CHESTNUTS ARE BACK AND SO AM I!!!!!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 21, 2011

The chestnut harvest is in and ready for cookin’! I’ve just placed my order and will probably be cooking and peeling a heap of the beauties when they arrive in about a week.

This year I ordered from Girolami Farms and Correia Farms but an abundance of the sweet nuts can also be found at Allen Creek Farms, Croft Chestnuts, Washington Chestnut Company, Chestnut Growers, Inc., and Delamarvelous Chestnuts. Don’t wait too long to order. Many of the farms sell out by mid November, though some will have chestnuts through January.

Honestly, I’m not getting a commission for touting the chestnut growers. I’m just very passionate about chestnuts and hope to see more people cooking and enjoying their naturally sweet flavor and delightful soft and creamy texture.

The neat thing is if you’re not inclined to cooking and peeling chestnuts, you can buy them already cooked and peeled. It doesn’t get better than that!

Today, I’m welcoming myself back to fun and utterly delicious nutty blogging. I’ve been absent for good reason. I just turned in the manuscript for my new cookbook. Yea!!!! And Whew!!!!!

While the new book will still have a banquet of nut recipes, it places the focus on killer-delicious vegan recipes for the holidays—from Thanksgiving through the New Year. During the year and especially during this coming holiday season, I’ll be sharing some of the nuttier delicacies from Gone Vegan for the Holidays, starting today.

A year ago I was puttering in the kitchen with my freshly cooked chestnuts and came up with a seductively delicious meal starter I call Tijuana Chestnut Cocktail. No, this cocktail is not a beverage like its name suggests. Instead, it was my effort to create a vegan version of shrimp cocktail—only much tastier with the addition of chestnuts that contribute more complex flavor.

It looks really elegant and is amazingly easy to assemble. The photo says it all.

Initially, I created this recipe to spotlight chestnuts, then replaced them with tofu for its ease of preparation. Either way, it’s a delicious starter. For an exceptional presentation, serve the cocktail in long-stemmed wine glasses or champagne flutes. Put each glass on a dish with a doily underneath and garnish with a slice of fresh lime on the rim. Make the cocktail a day ahead, chill it, and it’s ready to serve.

TIJUANA CHESTNUT COCKTAIL

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

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

1. Combine the diced tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, tofu, avocado, onions, cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir well to distribute evenly. Serve immediately, or chill and serve later.

2. When ready to serve, spoon the cocktail into long-stemmed wine glasses, old-fashion glasses, or glass dessert bowls and garnish each with a sprig of cilantro and a wedge of fresh lime. Serve with spoons.

Posted in chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Nut Companies, Nut Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I’M HAVING AN AFFAIR– WITH CHESTNUTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 7, 2009

I love the versatility of chestnuts. No other tree nut can charm me with its sweetness and its unique potato-like texture that makes a dish like these tasty patties so compelling. Throughout the holiday season, I plan to have a supply of fresh chestnuts on hand. Once cooked and peeled, chestnuts will keep well in fridge for a whole week so I can have them ready to use when I need them for a recipe.

Buying Fresh Chestnuts
One of the neat chestnut growers on the West Coast, Ladd Hill Orchards Organic Chestnuts from Oregon, sells them fresh and dried. They also have a good supply of chestnut flour for anyone who enjoys baking for the holidays ahead. Another item they have available is a chestnut knife that comes in very handy for peeling the chestnuts. I’ve been cooking chestnut dishes for many years and bought my first and only chestnut knife this year. I sure don’t know how I managed without it—well, yes, actually I do. I always ended up with very sore fingers from peeling two or three pounds of cooked chestnuts in one sitting with nothing but a simple paring knife.

Because chestnuts are gaining popularity, some growers have already sold out. Here are other U.S. growers that sell chestnuts harvested from their own orchards: Empire Chestnut Company, Allen Creek Farm, and Girolami Farms Chestnuts.

Awesome Nutrition
Chestnuts totally rock because they’re very low in fat. You’ll never have to worry about gaining weight by eating chestnuts with a total fat content of 0.76 grams for 3 1/2 ounces cooked. That is low, low, low fat for a tree nut. And because chestnuts are about 14% fiber, they help to lower cholesterol.

Calorie wise, that 3 1/2 ounces will deliver 153 calories—not really too bad. At the same time, you’ll benefit from 2.9 grams of protein, 306 mg of potassium, and a good supply of B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and folate.

Chestnuts are the only nut that contains vitamin C—how about 24.7 mg along with some trace minerals like iron, zinc, and copper, all essential for good health.

Now, let’s get down to some serious cooking. If you’re one who adores cooking and spends a bit of time at it, you probably keep a few things on hand that work into great leftovers. I like to keep cooked grains like pearl barley or short-grain brown rice in the fridge for those spontaneous moments when I feel like composing something unique.

These sweet little patties make a great side dish and can even be the centerpiece of the meal. Serve them with a hearty tossed salad, a steamed vegetable, and a bean dish and you’ve got a fabulously satisfying meal. In keeping with the low fat content of the chestnuts, I’ve also kept the recipe low fat by water sautéing the veggies rather than cooking them the traditional way in oil or some other fat. It didn’t hurt the flavor of the patties one bit—these little babies are very flavorful and retain the natural sweetness of the chestnuts.

chestnutpatties

CHESTNUT PATTIES WITH VEGGIE CONFETTI

Yield: 12 patties

1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced

7 ounces firm tofu, rinsed and drained
1 cup coarsely chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch cayenne

1 cup cooked pearl barley or short-grain brown rice

Garnish
Fresh dill or basil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a large jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper.
2. In a large, deep skillet combine the carrot, bell pepper, and onion and 1/2 cup water. Water sauté the vegetables over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 7 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and the onions are translucent. Add small amounts of additional water as needed to prevent the vegetables from burning.
3. While the vegetables are cooking, combine the tofu, chestnuts, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cayenne in the food processor and process until smooth and creamy.
4. Add the cooked vegetables, along with the cooked barley, and pulse chop carefully to combine the ingredients well, yet still retain the appearance of some of the diced vegetables.
5. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, forming 12 patties. Bake for 35 minutes, then, use a spatula to transfer the patties to an attractive serving dish. Garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy.

References:
“Nutrients in Chestnuts” Sandra L. Anagnostakis and Peter Devin. Northern Nut Growers Annual Report, 1999.

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Posted in chestnuts, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Companies, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ALMOND BUTTER TURNS SAUCY

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on July 22, 2009

Being thoroughly acquainted with myself, and feeling relatively content with that acquaintanceship, I recognize I have become much too much a creature of habit—not too different from my fellow humanoids. I refer to my food buying habits—specifically nut products.

Eons ago I tossed the processed, hydrogenated nut butters out of my pantry and literally became a zealot for natural nut butters. I checked every ingredient label with the same scrutiny as Fuzzy, my cat who sniffs and rejects every new food I’ve tried on him. Only the purest roasted nut butters were allowed to grace my morning toast.
almond3
But I recently had my epiphany when I attended the Natural Products EXPO way back in March of this year, 2009 that is. I discovered a ton of nut products that peaked my curiosity. Out went the boring habits and in came a host of new items, still scrutinized for their healthful properties, but new nonetheless.

One of those products came from a company called Once Again Nut Butters that enhanced one of their many varieties of almond butter with flaxseed oil. Flaxseeds are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids. Not a bad idea, I thought, since it’s an essential fatty acid that offers a ton of health benefits.

For several years I’ve heard and seen radio and TV commercials touting the benefits of eating fatty fish for its Omega 3 fats. Magazines and newspapers print articles pushing salmon as if it were the only source of these good fats. All I’ve read about Omega 3 describes the essential fatty acid as able to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke, boost the immune system, and reduce inflammation in the arteries. Those benefits sound great, but vegans are not amenable to chowing down on a plateful of salmon.

Instead, a compassionate soul like me has found a number of animal-free sources for this essential fatty acid—namely flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, canola oil, and dark leafy greens.

So there on the market shelf stood a jar of smooth almond butter with Omega 3. The ingredient label read “dry roasted almonds, flax seed oil.” Pretty darned pure, I thought. It passed the first test. Well, lights didn’t flash, nor did bells ring, but something came alive within and urged me to put it into my shopping cart. Then a surprising thing happened! I felt compelled to buy the jar next to it as well. That one was certified organic raw almond butter. WOW! Something wondrous was happening.
onceagain
It was with the first taste of this OMEGA 3-enhanced almond butter that I experienced true elation. At that moment I believed I had tasted the sweetest almond butter on earth until I spooned the organic RAW almond butter onto my toast next to the roasted nut butter. It was sweeter still! That was a total surprise. I eat raw almonds regularly, but never thought of buying a jar of raw almond butter. Could it be that one taste is enough to create a devotee?

Inspired to the max I decided this fabulous almond butter had to join my family and me at the table not only for breakfast, but also for dinner. An instant flash of AhhhHahhh coaxed me into the kitchen, made me grab the jar of Omega 3 almond butter, and cook up an almond sauce with savory flavors perfect to spoon over the brown rice pasta I had planned for dinner. I aimed for a sauce that was well seasoned, thick, and creamy but didn’t expect the rewarding flavors that resulted. This sauce was so indulgent and rich in flavor, it gave a simple pasta dish an elegant gourmet touch. With the leftovers, I made a veggie Gado Gado, giving the dish a unique new twist. It’s usually made with a peanut sauce.

almondsauce

SAVORY ALMOND SAUCE

Yield: makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta

1 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup water
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
Pinch cayenne

3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup roasted almond butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds

1. Combine the onions, water, garlic, and cayenne in a large deep skillet and cook, stirring frequently, over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onions are softened and become translucent.
2. Add the vegetable broth, almond butter, cumin, coriander, salt, chili powder, and lemon juice and adjust the heat to gently simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will begin to thicken in about 5 or 6 minutes.
3. Serve over pasta and garnish the top of each dish with a sprinkle of the crushed toasted almonds. Refrigerated in a covered container, leftovers will keep for about 4 to 5 days.

Note:
The sauce has a tendency to thicken as it stands. Thin it to desired consistency beginning with small amounts of water. Refrigerated leftovers will become almost solid. Thin with water and reheat over medium-low heat.

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, Nut Companies, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

THIS LITTLE PEANUT WENT TO MARKET. . .

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 13, 2009

On the first weekend in March I was floating on a nut cloud and swimming in a warm and fuzzy nut pond. And if you’re as much of a nut butter lover as I am, I can assure you there was plenty to spread around.

Every year on the first weekend in March, the Natural Products EXPO comes to the Anaheim convention center in California for the largest food show in the country. This is the premier event for food manufacturers and sellers to display their wares and introduce new food products to retail buyers, the press, and those with a related food focus. The convention halls were practically bursting at the seams with 1900 vendors and 53,000 people in a frenzied environment of food tasting and product samplings along with an impressive array of knock-your-socks-off food displays.

As usual, I was trained on seeking nut products and trying to discover any unique ways nuts were being incorporated into good things to eat. Simply put, the experience was a banquet! And nuts were not the only items eager sellers were sampling.
peanut3
Peanut products won my popularity prize with the most vendors selling peanut butters, some purely organic, others enhanced with flavorings and palm oils to keep the nuts and the oils from separating. Many of the peanut companies posted notices on their websites stressing that none of their products came from the disgraceful Peanut Corporation of America responsible for all that contaminated peanut butter.

Overall, nuts made an excellent showing, but the one disappointment for me was that none of the hot prepared foods contained nuts of any kind with the exception of a lonely Thai peanut sauce and a peanut tofu. Nuts are so nutritious and high in protein and fiber–why couldn’t they serve as an excellent replacement for other protein-containing foods like tofu, wheat gluten, or animal-based items?

This year I noticed more companies featuring nuts in their products. Here’s a run-down of what I saw:
• nutty granola varieties and granola bars
• energy bars
• trail mixes
• meal replacement bars
• raw power bars
• almond milk
• hemp milk
• almond and hazelnut-flavored ice cream and gelato
• nut butters
• nut brittle
• chocolate-covered nut creams
• nut pralines
• chocolate covered nuts
• raw nuts
• roasted nuts
• and nuts seasoned with everything from habanera chiles to onions and garlic.

The most innovative new product I met at the market was peanut tofu. Though I was awe-struck at the moment, I later realized peanut tofu makes perfect sense—the Chinese employed the soybean in a unique process that turned it into tofu. The peanut is also a bean—so why not peanut tofu?

Of all the nutty products at the EXPO, my personal blue ribbon award goes to Sunergia Soyfoods from Virginia for the most creative product I have ever encountered. If you’re into the vegetarian lifestyle, you know that tofu is a great source of plant-based protein. But would you ever imagine a tofu made from peanuts? This outrageously creative company came up with Nufu Peanut Tofu—a tofu made from peanuts in two tasty flavors—sesame ginger and herbed hickory. With great flavor and familiar tofu texture, this peanut tofu packs 5 grams of protein in a 2-ounce serving. I’m sold!
peanuts-blanched

Novel ideas always show up at the EXPO. One company, Justin’s Nut Butter from Colorado, came up with a hip way to package and sell nut butter—little one-ounce foil-wrapped nut butter squeeze packs perfect for moms to pack into kids’ lunch boxes. Smart marketing idea! They also make classic peanut butter and p-butter flavored with honey and cinnamon. Their classic almond butters are also perked up with honey or maple flavoring. To prevent the nut oils from separating, they add organic palm fruit oil to their products.

Mrs. May’s Naturals from California attracted a pack of nut-loving snackers to gobble up their amazing nut crunches that feature every variety of slow-roasted nuts and seeds you can think of. Some are combined with sea salt and sweetened with organic sugar–others are simply blended with fruits to give them sweet appeal. But all of them are irresistible and often show up at parties like the Academy Awards gathering I attended recently. There were bowls of these crunchy babies on every table.

One of my favorite standout products at the market was Sunbutter from North Dakota, a totally peanut-free butter made from roasted sunflower seeds. The unsweetened variety is my fave and is unbelievably tasty with nothing more than roasted sunflower seeds. It’s got awesome flavor and is actually reminiscent of ultra creamy peanut butter. Anyone allergic to peanuts or tree nuts could safely enjoy this treat because it’s made in a peanut-free and tree-nut free processing plant. The other varieties include those made with organic sunflower seeds, sea salt, mixed tocopherols (those are fat-soluble antioxidants in the Vitamin E family), and evaporated cane juice (a fancy name for organic sugar).

Yummy nuts made by Yumnuts Naturals from Connecticut truly are just that—a yummy snack food made with dry roasted cashews as the base. Each of the six varieties is coated with sweeteners like honey, corn syrup, and/or sugar. Some have other irresistible additions like cocoa powder, coconuts, salt, chili powder, lime juice, and zesty Cajun seasonings.

A recent marriage took place in the peanut community—Sunland Inc. found its soul-mate in Peanut Better and now they are one, growing and processing some of the tastiest natural and organic nut butters made from just Virginia peanuts, either crunchy or creamy, with nothing else added. These little critters pack three to five sweet little
peanut4Virginia peanuts into each pod that finds their most nurturing climate in New Mexico. Their flavor- infused p-nutbutters are a riot with 13 different varieties. The vanilla cranberry pops with sweetness, the caramel feels all warm and fuzzy, and the spicy Southwestern zings with the perfect touch of chili heat. Here are some of the other wild and creative flavors: banana, raspberry, cinnamon, dark chocolate, sweet molasses, cinnamon currant, onion parsley, hickory smoked, and Thai ginger and red pepper. So many choices!

Sweet Ella’s Organic Peanut Butter from Michigan comes in creamy and crunchy style and contains only two ingredients—peanuts and sea salt and it rocks the tastebuds! I’m a nut for the crunchy style and can honestly say it was delicious. This company, founded in 1910 by Ella Koeze’s great great grandfather who came to America from the Netherlands, is now celebrating its 99th birthday and carrying on a unique legacy. Their USDA certified organic peanut butter is made on vintage equipment and prepared in small batches.

Cream-Nut Natural Peanut Butter is also made by the Koeze Company and contains only Virginia peanuts and salt. The difference is the Cream-Nut Brand is not made with organic nuts, but has the distinction of being produced on the same vintage equipment as Sweet Ella’s.

almond2
Raw is the rage! And Two Moms in the Raw make an impressive line of raw organic granolas packed with a bushel of nuts like pecans and almonds along with berries and whole grains. For those unfamiliar with raw products, raw means nothing is heated at temperatures higher than 118 degrees in order to preserve the natural enzymes. Seeds have many of the same healthful properties as nuts, and there’s a ton of them in the gluten-free dehydrated sea crackers offered by this savvy company

Living Intentions from San Francisco has Gone Nuts! That’s what they call their line of raw, vegan, sprouted nut blends that totally lured me in with their captivating array of flavors. Who can resist a handful of sesame teriyaki flavored nuts, or cilantro lime mojo with pistachios and pepitas? And their sweet and spicy pistachios with chipotle–Whew! That’s one hot mama!

I confess. I’ve got a soft spot for almond butter. Couldn’t resist Once Again Nut Butter whose brochure says “We spread integrity.” The company is a cooperative with a mission to help address Third World poverty by starting and supporting organic farm co-ops and paying U.S. prices to the growers. I had a great tasting session at their booth and loved their crunchy almond butter. It was pure heaven with nothing else added and nothing taken out. They also make the smooth along with one that includes flaxseed oil to provide omega 3 fatty acids. Other products include organic sunflower butter, cashew butter, and peanut butter, along with sesame tahini. Every preference is covered—smooth, crunchy, salted, unsalted.

Still strolling through the peanut patch I struck gold when I reached Feridies from Virginia. And, naturally, Virginia peanuts were their specialty, though they did have cashews, almonds, and pistachios, too. This vendor had something for everyone—salted, unsalted, redskin, honey roasted, butter toffee, hickory smoked, hot & spicy, chocolate covered, Cajun spiced, garlic, and wasabi flavored—it was snacker’s heaven!

It was obvious that Peanut Butter & Co. from New York likes to play in the kitchen and has fun naming their flavored peanut butters. Guess what’s in The Heat is On? Or Dark Chocolate Dreams? These special blends use organic palm oil to prevent the oil from separating, while Smooth Operator and Crunch Time are made from great tasting peanuts and salt. From their simple sandwich shop beginnings, their PB&J ‘wiches attracted dating couples, lunching execs, and even celebrities. Can’t you just taste their grilled peanut butter sandwich stuffed with bananas and honey?

The Shangri-la of the Himalayas came to the EXPO via International Harvest from New York. All their products are raw and organic from Hunza and the world. I was literally compelled to stop and stare at their brilliant display of nutty trail mixes. The Himalayan Trail medley was a gorgeous combo of almonds, figs, apricot kernels, mulberries, golden raisins, and apricot halves. The Hunza Goji Trail added bright red-orange goji berries to the mix. It was so appealing I could barely control myself from stashing handfuls into my bag. The company likes cashews and pistachios, too, and included them in other fruity mixes.

And then there was Amoretti, an awesome company that makes unique products especially for chefs and the food industry. Their focus is outrageously cool things like almond pastes, marzipans, nut pralines, nut flours, nut and fruit ganaches, and pistachio dessert sauce. Another section of their catalog featured nutty flavoring syrups in almond, peanuts-shelled1chestnut, praline, hazelnut, macadamia, pistachio, and walnut flavors. And wildest of all food products are their edible food perfume sprays with the scent of almond, amaretto, coconut, hazelnut, or pistachio. Wouldn’t that make dessert impossible to resist with those fragrant aromas perfuming the air right under your nose? And have you ever seen gold or silver French Almond Dragees?
They were gleaming brilliantly in the company’s stunning catalog. I can easily imagine a platter of gold and silver-coated candied almonds presented at an elegant event!

Wickedly delicious is the hottest way to express the nirvana that greeted my taste buds at the Mudslinger’s booth. Their ice cream-like frozen desserts are decadently delicious and creamy to the max. My best pics were the soy milk-based Peanut Butter Palooka and the coconut milk-based Coconut Pecan Praline. Am I a crazy nut lover, or what?

Primex Farms in California is a very cool company that not only grows, roasts, and packs their whole and shelled pistachios, but they also promote the sale of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, and pine nuts along with some fruits grown by other farms. They call themselves traders, an old-fashioned term, and sell the nuts all over the world. When I asked about their charismatic display, they presented me with an awesome press kit from the California Almond Board. I soon discovered there are more California almond varieties than I was aware of—10 in all. The press kit contains such an array of almond information it was like taking a course that begins with almond horticulture and ends with processing and storing the nuts. That is one savvy organization.
peanutplant

Coconuts made a lively debut in Turtle Mountain’s coconut milk non-dairy frozen dessert made from the first pressing of the coconut meat. The result is a decadently rich coconut-cream-based-frozen dessert that just oozes with creamy richness. The company aptly named this delicious treat Purely Decadent. Even better, they’ve used this coconut milk base to create two exquisite flavors–mocha almond fudge and peanut butter zig zag.

Making creative use of the coconut shells most of us would likely toss out, Coco Loco made magic with them and brought coconut shell jewelry to the EXPO. In an attractive display the company presented a line of jewelry one could wear from head to toe—literally. There were coconut shell hair sticks and coconut shell toe rings. And for the in-between parts the display included earrings, rings, pendants, nose rings, necklaces, and bracelets.

At the end of that tasting weekend I had to take my tummy home for a much needed rest and a nutty detox with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Posted in almonds, cashews, coconut, hazelnuts, Nut Companies, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

 
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