Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for the ‘pecans’ Category

MOUTH-WATERING MAIN DISHES FOR CANADIAN THANKSGIVING!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 6, 2012

Guest host Kathy Hester brings scrumptious slow cooker main dishes to the Thanksgiving table that can be prepared without last minute stress. Kathy blogs at The Healthy Slow Cooker where you can find tasty, from-scratch recipes and helpful advice on choosing just the right slow cooker for you. Kathy is the author of The Vegan Slow Cooker Book and when she’s not cooking, she develops recipes and does free-lance writing for several blogs like One Green Planet as well as magazines. Look for her new, not yet published cookbook The Great Vegan Bean Book.
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Every family seems to have a special recipe for sweet potato casserole. This one is less sweet than the sticky sweet casserole of my youth. It skips the caramel and marshmallow sometimes included. You could add vegan versions of both in if you really want to. After all, any day is a holiday when you get to eat sweet potato casserole!

HOLIDAY SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE

8 large sweet potatoes, cut in chunks
1 1/2 (355 ml) cups water
1/4 to 1/2 cup (60 top 120 ml)non-dairy milk (plain or vanilla)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
pinch ground cloves

topping:

2 tablespoons (28 g) vegan margarine
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
3/4 cup (170 g) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (30 g) whole wheat flour (*use gluten-free flour instead)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) non-dairy milk or water
1/2 cup (55 g) pecans, chopped

The night before: Cut sweet potatoes. Make the topping by combining the ingredients and mixing thoroughly. Store topping and sweet potatoes in fridge overnight. Chop pecans and store in a covered bowl, unrefrigerated, overnight.

In the morning: Add sweet potatoes and water to an oiled crock. Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours.

30 to 45 minutes before serving: Turn slow cooker to high. Mash sweet potatoes in crock. Add spices and part of the non-dairy milk. Add the rest of the milk if the potatoes are still too stiff, but leave out if they are runny. Drop spoonfuls of pre-mixed topping. As the topping begins to melt, spread with the back of a spoon across the top to make it more even.

Serve once the topping is melted and the dish is heated throughout.

Yields: 8 servings
Total Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Cooking Time: 6 to 8 hours
Soy-free, gluten-free

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I seem to be on a streak of ugly but packed-full of flavor recipes this month.

I guess the veggies that are available in January aren’t quite as flashy as some of the summer ones. That, and well, stews aren’t always pretty – but you can’t beat a one dish meal for an easy dinner.

In my next incarnation, I think I’ll add a handful or two of chopped greens to shake things up a bit.

You can really add any veggies you have on hand, too. I’m all about options and using what you have on hand. Yellow lentils instead of red, potato in place of turnip, and even carrot would all work just as good as the listed ingredients.

SLOW COOKER INDIAN SPICED CHICKPEA QUINOA STEW
gluten-free, soy-free

serves 4 to 6

4 to 5 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes (or 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup red lentils
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup peeled turnip, chopped
1 cup sweet potato, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped (about 1 stalk)
1 tablespoon not-chicken bouillon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons garam masala
salt, to taste

The night before: Chop veggies and store in the fridge.

In the morning: Put everything in the slow cooker and cook on low 6 to 9 hours. Taste, re-season if needed (you may not even need the salt if your bouillon is salty.)

This is a good one to make if you are going to be away from the house a little longer than usual. If your slow cooker runs hot add a little extra water if it will be cooking longer than 9 hours.

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Guest Host Carrie Forrest is a graduate student in public health nutrition and the author of the blog Carrie on Vegan. Through her writings, step-by-step photo guides and recipes, Carrie inspires readers to prepare plant-based recipes that are 100% delicious. Carrie firmly believes that superior health is achievable through nutritional excellence and specializes in whole-food, simple recipes that are low in added fats, sugars and salt.
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BUTTERNUT HARVEST STEW

I think fall might be my favorite season. I love the coolness in the air and the transition to warmer clothes. As a homebody, I like the shorter days that force me indoors to cook, read books or just cozy up to the fireplace. What I love most of all about fall is the introduction of fall fruits and vegetables, and butternut squash heads the list. Tips: If you cannot find pumpkin pie spice, use ground cinnamon instead. A medium butternut squash will weigh 2 to 3 pounds.

6 Servings

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash

1 large onion

1 cup button mushrooms

4 cloves garlic

¼ cup water

3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon no-salt seasoning

1 tablespoon dried oregano

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1½ cups cooked or canned cannellini beans

Vegan Cream Sauce

Directions:
1. Peel, seed, and cube squash.

2. Chop onion. Slice mushrooms. Mince garlic.

3. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add onions and cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until softened. Add garlic, pumpkin pie spice, no-salt seasoning, and oregano. Stir in butternut squash and vegetable broth. Add water if necessary to cover vegetables.

4. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until squash is tender.

5. Rinse and drain beans. Stir into soup and cook just long enough to heat through. Remove from heat. Using a hand immersion blender, process stew to desired consistency. Stir in Vegan Cream Sauce and serve hot.

Non-Dairy Cream Sauce

This sauce is the equivalent of heavy cream and can be stirred into savory soups and stews to add richness and flavor. I love using it in my Harvest Butternut Stew. Tip: I use soy milk in this recipe for an extra creamy texture, but you can substitute your favorite non-dairy milk.

6 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup raw unsalted cashews

2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk

Directions:
Combine cashews and non-dairy milk in a high-speed blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Posted in Canadian Thanksgiving, cashews, Celebrations, Holiday Recipes, Main Dishes, pecans | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Improving the Digestibility and Absorption of Nuts

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 27, 2012


I’m delighted to add this guest post by a person who knows nuts like few of us do. Jerry Henkin is a nut grower from New York. As a member of the Northern Nut Growers Association (NNGA) he takes an active role as their librarian and works to build and maintain the organization’s holdings. Jerry is also Vice-President of the New York Nut Grower’s Association (NYNGA).

NNGA held their annual meeting where Jerry gave a presentation based on his well-researched article below. He was generous enough to allow me to share the article on the NutGourmet Blog. You can contact Jerry at sproutnut@aol.com

Nut Nutrition: Improving the Digestibility and Absorption of Nuts by Soaking
By Jerry Henkin, NYNGA Vice President
August, 20, 2012

As growers of nut trees, we seek to produce the best nuts we can grow for consumption by people. There is also an interest among farmers who raise livestock, especially sustainable agriculture and permaculture practitioners, in using nuts as forage for animals. All of us should know about the healthful qualities of nuts for our own well being. We should eagerly share this information with others when promoting nuts.

Since the inception of the Northern Nut Growers Association in 1910, only 1% of the articles in the Annual Report and The Nutshell magazine have dealt with the nutritional aspect of nuts. Though I am not a professional nutritionist, I have learned a great deal from studying scientific reports on nutrition that deal with nuts from NNGA literature and from the following organizations: The Food and Research Program, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Loma Linda University; the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University; the University of Scranton; Children’s Hospital, Oakland Research Institute; Penn State University; the University of Missouri; and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. I wish to thank Dr. Barry Kendler, a Professor of Nutrition at the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, who has helped me organize my presentation on nut nutrition.

I want to tell you what I learned about the health benefits of nuts and then describe a simple technique to increase the nutritional value of nuts by soaking and drying them.

Nuts are highly nutritious

Raw nut kernels (without salt, and not roasted in fatty oils, or “honey roasted”) are excellent sources of fiber, proteins, and the`” good fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). They contain an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Since each kind of nut has a different percentage of these healthful ingredients, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of nuts: pistachios, different species of walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, hickory nuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. Acorns are edible, as well; those of you who attended last year’s meeting in Utah heard Howard Manning speak about the tradition of the Native Americans in California leaching acorns to remove the tannic acid. They then pound the nuts into a meal.

Nuts are concentrated energy foods. Mountain climbers, Arctic explorers, and average hikers carry a portable sack of nuts and dried fruits along with water. Captain Reid Stowe took in-shell hickory nuts on his record-breaking 1,000 day sea voyage. (I should know because I supplied them to him along with mung beans for sprouting.) While nuts are high in calories, just eating a handful – about 2 ounces, or roughly 1/4 cup – 5 days out of the week is sufficient to bring you the health benefits that nuts can offer. Nuts do need to be chewed thoroughly for their healthful properties to be used by the body. They should not be eaten after a heavy meal because that could lead to weight gain. Nor should a bowlful of kernels be left on the coffee table in front of the TV during the football season.

Lifestyle plays a role in health
Eating nuts is not a guarantee of good health: some of the other factors that come into play are our genetic inheritance; the amount of exercise we do; our lifestyle choices and stress level; and the negative factors like smoking and being overweight. But the scientific studies cited at the end of this article indicate the health benefits that can accrue from a regular diet of nuts: They strengthen the immune system, lower cholesterol, and protect the body from viral invasion and tumor growth. They can lower the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Moreover, eating nuts on a regular basis has been shown to reduce the risk of Type II diabetes. They can lower stress levels. Nuts also reduce the risk of high blood pressure which can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Walnuts and pecans, especially, which are high in antioxidants, reduce the damage caused by free radicals. Almonds and peanuts should be eaten with their skins because they, too, contain high levels of antioxidants. Nuts may even play a role in maintaining healthy sexual function in men.

Chestnuts have special health benefits
Chestnuts, unlike other nuts, are a significant source of Vitamin C. They are also rich in vitamin B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, and Niacin. Chestnuts have the highest percentage of carbohydrates which has given them the nickname, “the runner’s nut” because they increase the body’s ability to cope with stress. An article in the NNGA Annual Report in 1987, by G.P. Abide, describes how to make chestnut chips as a commercial product. Chestnut flour is another value-added product. Mr. Abide advises nut growers to “be in line with current consumer trends favoring healthful foods.” How much more true that advice is now than 25 years ago.

We need to advise our customers and friends who eat nuts to store them in the refrigerator, and not leave them out on the kitchen table with a cracker and a pick, as inviting as that might sound. Nuts in the shell maintain their flavor longest. Most nuts can be stored in the freezer for years.

Some words of caution about eating nuts: There may be insect larvae within the shell. Also, nut kernels may turn rancid after a period of time if improperly stored. The oils within the kernel will spoil, causing the kernels to look yellowish and waxy. So look at the nuts you’ve just cracked out of the shell for insect infestation; feel them and smell them for signs of rancidity. If you’re cracking out nuts instead of buying the nuts already shelled, make sure to eliminate all shell materials – black walnut fragments can crack a tooth; tiny shell pieces can lodge in between teeth.

Nut allergies can be serious

A very small percentage of the population of the United States is allergic to tree nuts and/or peanuts. Some people can die if they consume even minute quantities which might have been added as an ingredient to other food products. In 1964 George Borgstrom wrote an article in the Annual Report calling for nut breeders to develop cultivars that would eliminate the allergens that cause such severe reactions in some people. To my knowledge, no one has taken up this challenge. Please let the NNGA know if this breeding work has been done.

Nuts enhance the dining experience
Now for the delicious part: nuts enhance the flavor and texture in bland foods like chicken, cabbage, salad, green beans, vegetable soup, waffles, pancakes, and muffins. While vegetarian restaurants have long served simple dishes using nuts, elegant restaurants have recently been offering pistachio crusted salmon, hazelnut stroganoff, and chocolate-chestnut trifle. Nuts can be added to milkshakes and made into nut milks and nut butters. The Native Americans of Virginia pounded hickory nuts into a paste, soaked them in water, and then used the “cream” as a delicacy. They also fermented this mixture to make a liquor.

Nuts are a food staple
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a major contributor to nut research in the early 20th Century, pointed out that nuts have double the nutritive value of lean meat, pound for pound. Yet the land required to produce nuts kernels is half that required to raise livestock. Kellogg believed that nuts should be a food staple, and not just a snack. He used nuts extensively as meals to his patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. In an age of horrible practices in meat slaughterhouses and packing plants, Kellogg said in 1916 that “the nut is sweeter, cleaner, healthier, and cheaper than any possible source of animal product.”

Marion Nestle, a noted nutrition activist, has continued Kellogg’s vision of a world where people eat healthy food. She said that one in seven people on the Earth in 2012 is hungry. She feels that the global food crisis will continue in the U.S. and abroad in cost, volatility, and availability.

In her books, Nestle links malnutrition and hunger with social problems. One approach, she believes is to encourage food co-ops as an alternative to “Big Food” because they are community-based and value-based. Therefore, they must sell clean, healthy, nutritious food. Here is all the more reason, I believe, to plant and care for nut trees now, so that we will have a supply of one kind of healthy food in the future. J. Russell Smith was one of the most outspoken proponents of this idea, which he advocated in his book Tree Crops, A Permanent Agriculture.

Soaking nuts enhances their nutrition
I’m now going to describe a simple method to increase the nutritional value of nuts which everyone can do as long as they have access to clean water. Barbara Mendez, a licensed pharmacist and nutritional consultant, and Zel Allen, the author of several books on healthy eating, have both written articles on the health benefits of soaking nuts. The process calls for soaking raw nut kernels in water for several hours. The kernels should be the freshest you can find. The soaking period varies from 7 to 12 hours, depending upon the density of the kernel, but cashews should be soaked for no more than 6 hours.

After soaking the kernels, use a paper towel to pat them dry. Then, to return the kernels to their natural crispiness, dry them in one of several ways:

1. Roast them in the oven, or a counter-top toaster oven, at 150° to 170° F. for 15 to 20 minutes
2. Place them in a pan and let them dry over the pilot light of a stove for 12 to 24 hours, depending upon how long you have soaked the nuts
3. Use a food dehydrator set at 118° F. for about 7 hours.

During this period, the kernels increase their antioxidant and phytochemical capacity because soaking releases some enzyme inhibitors. This makes the nuts easier to digest. Tannins are removed from walnuts, making them taste sweeter. Soaking nut kernels also allows the body to absorb and use this food, instead of passing kernel pieces rapidly through the body. In effect, you are maximizing the nutritional value of your food when you follow this process. Note that this method reconstitutes nuts whose moisture levels have been previously reduced. They are therefore best eaten within two days.

After you’ve done this for a while, you’ll know the best soaking and drying times for nuts. Since each batch of nuts is different, don’t be afraid to experiment with the soaking and drying times to produce the healthiest and most delicious nuts you can.

List of Sources
Abide, G.P., et al., “Chestnut Chips: A Possible Option for Chestnut Processing”, NNGA (Northern Nut Growers Association) Annual Report 78:12 – 14, (1987)
Allen, Zel, The Nut Gourmet, Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion, Book Publishing Co, 256 pages, 2006, especially “Amazing Health benefits in a Nutshell”, pp. 16 – 19
Allen, Zel, “Nuts – the Delicious Path to Good Health”, The Nutshell, Volume 62, Number 3, September, 2008, p. 16
Allen, Zel, “To Soak or Not to Soak – It’s a Nutty Question”, MNGA (Michigan Nut Growers Association) News, Fall, 2011, pp. 7 – 8
Bixby, Willard G. [NNGA President], “Resolution Adopted by the NNGA, Inc.”, September 14, 1929, NNGA Annual Report 20:158 – 159 (1929)
http://bodyecology.com/articles/how_to_eat_and_not_eat_almonds.php, “How to Eat and Not Eat Almonds”, November 9, 2006
Borgstrom, George, “Nuts in Human Food – A Critical Appraisal”, NNGA Annual Report 55:60 – 64 (1964)
Cajorie, F.A., “The Nutritive Value of Nuts”, NNGA Annual Report 10:80 – 87 (1919)
Cao (Tsao), Roon, “Nutritional Data from Heartnuts”, NNGA Annual Report 98 (2007)
Chen, C.Y. and Blumberg, J.B., “Phytochemical Composition of Nuts”, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008:17 Supplement 1:329 – 332
Chestnut, V.K., “Primitive Manufacture and Use of Acorn Meal”, NNGA Annual Report 8:43 – 45 (1917)
Downs, Albert A., “Trees and Food from Acorns”, NNGA Annual Report 40:177 – 179 (1949)
Greiner, Lois, “Marketing Naturally Nutritious Nuts”, NNGA Annual Report 77:10 – 12 (1986)
Higdon, Jane (2005), [update, Drake, Victoria J., 2009], “Nuts”, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, 2012
International Nut Tree Council, “Go Nuts Go Healthy”, 11 pages, 2001
Kellogg, J.H., “Advent of Nuts into the Nation’s List of Staple Foods”, NNGA Annual Report 8:46 – 58 (1917)
Kellogg, J.H., “The Food Value of Nuts”, NNGA Annual Report 7:101 – 113 (1916)
Kellogg, J.H., “More Nuts, Less Meat”, NNGA Annual Report 21:57 – 65 (1930)
Kellogg, J.H., “Nuts Need as Supplementary Foods”, NNGA Annual Report 11:83 – 92 (1920)
Kendall, C.W., et al., “Nuts, Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes”, British Journal of Nutrition, 2010 August; 104(4)
Kendler, Barry S., “The American Diet and the Need for Dietary Supplementation”, Nutritional Perspectives: Journal of the Council on Nutrition of the American Chiropractic Association, October 2010
King, J.C, et al, “Tree Nuts and Peanuts as Components of a Healthy Diet”, Journal of Nutrition , 2008 September; 138(9):1736S-1740S
Li, L, et al. “Fatty Acid Profiles, Tocopherol Contents, and Antioxidant Activities of Heartnut (Juglans ailanifolia Var. cordiformis) and Persian Walnut (Juglans regia L.), Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, 2007 Februray 21:55(4)
Lombardini, Leonardo, “Phytochemicals and Antioxidants in Pecan”, NNGA Annual Report 99 (2008)
Lovell, John D. and Norton, Julia A., “Food and Horticultural Psychology in Relation to Nut Growing”, NNGA Annual Report 74:119 – 123 (1983)
Malinsky, Alex (aka RawGuru), “ ’C’ is for Chestnut and Vitamin C”, Natural News.com, January 26, 2011
Mendez, Barbara, “Soaking Nuts and Seeds for Maximum Nutrition”, The Nutshell, Volume 66, Number 2, June 2012, pp. 12 – 13
Moree, Shiro, “Health, Nutrition, and Nuts: In a Nutshell”, The Nutshell, Volume 61, Number 1, March, 2007, pp. 24 – 28
Nut Gourmet Blog, May 11, 2011, “Go Nuts Over Antioxidants”, MNGA (Michigan Nut Growers Association) News, Summer, 2011, pp. 11 – 16
Skylles, J. Trevor, “The Nut Crops of Turkey”, NNGA Annual Report 62:70 – 76 (1971)
Smith, J. Russell, Tree Crops, a Permanent Agriculture, The Devin Adair Co., 1953, especially Chapter XV, “Nuts as Human Food”, pp. 202 – 205
Spaccarotella, K.J., et al., “The Effect of Walnut ntake on Factors Relating to Prostate and Vascular Health in Older Men”, Nutrition Journal, 2008 May 2:7:13
Stafford, W.E., “Use of Nuts by the Aboriginal Americans”, NNGA Annual Report, 14:57 – 59 (1923)
Talbert, T.J., “Nut Tree Culture in Missouri”, NNGA Annual Report 41:134 – 135 (1950)
University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, “Nuts to You”, The Nutshell, Volume 51, Number 2, June, 1997, pp. 1 – 2
Villarreal J.E., L. Lombardini, and L. Cisneros-Zevallos,” Phytochemical Constituents and Antioxidant Capacity of Different Pecan [Carya illinonensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] Cultivars”, Food Chem. 102:1241-1249, 2007
Vinson, J.A. and Cai, Y., “Nuts, Especially Walnuts, Have Both Antioxidant Quantity and Efficacy and Exhibit Significant Potential Health Benefits”, Food Function, 2012 February 3; 3(2)
Young, Robert O., “Eating Nuts May Prevent Cancerous Lungs and Prostate”, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research, Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, Houston, Texas, December 6 -, 2009; reference: http://ivanhoe.com/channels/p_channelstory.cfm?storyid=23047

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, chestnuts, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Allergies, Nut Growing, Nut History, Nut Nutrition, Nut Organizations, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, peanuts, pecans, Uncategorized, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

RESEARCHERS GO NUTS OVER ANTIOXIDANTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 31, 2011


Hippocrates (480 BCE-370 BCE), the Father of Western medicine, had the secret of antioxidants in a healthy diet, even though he may not have known it when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” He knew the power of foods from nature was both healing and preventive and emphasized that message to his followers. Though he didn’t have the scientific knowledge that foods from nature, such as tree nuts, contained powerful antioxidants, he witnessed healing taking place when patients ate pure whole foods. He recognized those foods contained remarkable elements that could not only prevent disease but also restore vigor.

Fresh, plant-based foods (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) do, indeed, contain powerful plant chemicals packed with antioxidants. What are these antioxidants and what can they do? While all plant-based foods contain these powerful healing elements, recent research has revealed the impressive antioxidant potential in tree nuts.

Researchers find nut benefits
Intensive tree nut studies have uncovered an array of antioxidant chemicals including lignans, napthoquinones, phenolic acids, phytosterols, polyphenols, flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, and tocopherols that can reduce inflammation in the blood, lower cholesterol, act against viral invasion, and protect the body from tumor growth.

Because we now know that antioxidants can scavenge and prevent unstable molecules called free radicals from destroying our cells, we can take joy in devouring a delicious handful or two of tree nuts every day to reap the many benefits from their excellent antioxidant properties.

In a 2009-study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Diet, researchers tested thirteen subjects to study the effect of a polyphenol-rich diet of walnuts or almonds on the blood. The subjects fasted overnight, had blood tests, and then were given either a walnut or almond smoothie or one that contained no nuts. After a week, each participant switched to a different smoothie, and each time, blood was tested several times after beverage consumption. Researchers found a noticeable increase in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, after subjects consumed the nut-based smoothies, but no change following the nut-free beverage. Noted were a significant increase in total antioxidant capacity and a reduction of blood oxidation in those participants consuming the polyphenol-rich nut smoothie.

Pecans have their own antioxidant story
In another study conducted at Loma Linda University, meals including whole pecans and blended pecans were compared with a control meal with no nuts to test for antioxidant activity. This small trial of sixteen healthy men and women used the crossover method where participants were given each meal at controlled intervals with a week in-between. Blood levels of tocopherals, the vitamin E antioxidant, doubled in those consuming whole and blended pecans, while antioxidant levels increased 12% and 10% respectively two hours after consumption. After meals including whole pecans, LDL oxidation decreased considerably after consumption. Triglycerides decreased only after the participants ate whole or blended pecans in their meals.

Chemistry Professor Joe Vinson, Ph.D. presented his research at a meeting of The American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California in March 2011 showing that walnuts have more high-quality antioxidants than any other nuts. “Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts,” said Dr. Vinson. “A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. But unfortunately, people don’t eat a lot of them. This study suggests that consumers should eat more walnuts as part of a healthy diet.”

To roast or not to roast
After Dr. Vinson’s analysis compared the antioxidants in walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans, he found antioxidants highest in raw, unroasted nuts. Vinson says, “The heat from roasting nuts generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants. People usually eat walnuts raw or unroasted, and get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants.”

When nuts are commercially roasted in added fats, like partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats or coconut or palm oils that are high in saturated fats, they raise the risk of heart disease by elevating the bad cholesterol that can deposit plaque in the arteries. Commercially roasted nuts may also be roasted at high temperatures that possibly damage or reduce antioxidant levels.

Differing opinions persist regarding antioxidant loss when roasting nuts. An inquiry to the California Walnut Commission turned up this response from their nutrition consultant, registered dietician Carol Berg Sloan, “We have had independent nutrient analysis done on raw and toasted walnuts and there is no change in the nutrient profile.”

Plant chemicals in nuts improve heart health
Dr. Joan Sabate, professor of nutrition at Loma Linda University, and colleagues examined 25 nut studies from other countries. Their nut research has shown that regular consumption of nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in several ways: lowering cholesterol levels, improving endothelial function, lowering oxidation in the blood, and reducing lipoprotein(a) levels. The researchers focused both on subjects with normal and high cholesterol and noted that nut consumption led to a marked improvement in both HDL and triglyceride levels. Along with their exceptional nutritional qualities, nuts contain an array of phytonutrients or plant chemicals with high antioxidant capacity.

An almond study at Tufts University unveiled 20 powerful antioxidant flavonoids in almond skins. Some of the flavonoids were the same antioxidants found in familiar foods like green tea that contains catechins and grapefruit that includes naringenin. The research team tested the antioxidants separately and together on blood samples that contained LDL cholesterol. Flavonoids in the almond skins improved the LDL resistance to oxidation by 18%, but when tested together with vitamin E in the meat of the almond, the resistance to oxidation increased by 52.5%. This research illustrates the benefits of the synergy that occur in nature and the importance of eating the whole nut, including the skin.

Which nuts lead the antioxidant parade?
Of all the tree nuts, walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts contain the greatest amount of antioxidants. Although peanuts are technically legumes, they are nutritionally similar to nuts. Like walnuts, peanuts are packed with high levels of antioxidants. Be sure to consume nuts whole to gain their full benefit, since much of the antioxidants are contained in the skins.

Antioxidants and plant chemicals are not the only healthful attributes of nuts. Nuts are an excellent source of protein, a quality that has placed them in the USDA MyPyramid Dietary Guidelines for Americans alongside meat, poultry, and fish. Nuts are also a powerhouse of minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, and copper that work as a cooperative team to bring excellent health and maximum immune function to the body.

Go nuts for nuts sake
It’s easy to include nuts in the diet. Nut researchers are now finding that two handfuls a day of tree nuts are better than one at delivering health benefits. Enjoy them as a snack, sprinkled in salads, blended into smoothies, ground into salad dressings, blended into nut milk, or included in muffins, cookies, and confections.

Buy them raw and keep them in the refrigerator for freshness. Though people tend to gravitate to one or two favorites, they will benefit from a variety of nuts because each kind contains different quantities of minerals, good fats, and beneficial antioxidants.

To enjoy roasted nuts, consider roasting them at a low temperature to preserve their valuable vitamin E and antioxidant flavonoid and polyphenol contents. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and dry roast them at 150 to 170 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a dish to cool and taste their exceptional flavor and pleasantly crisp texture.

References:
Antonio AL, Ferreira IC, Bento A, Botelho ML. “Influence of Gamma Irradiation in the Antioxidant Potential of Chestnuts (Castanea sativa Mill.) Fruits and Skins.” Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2011 Feb 28.

Barreira, J.C.M., Ferreira, I.C.F.R., Oliveira, M.B.P.P., and Pereira, J.A. “Antioxidant Activities of the Extracts from Chestnut Flower, Leaf, Skins, and Fruit”. Food Chemistry: 104:(3), 1106-1113.

Bolling, B.W., McKay, D.L., Blumberg, J.B. “The Phytochemical Composition and Antioxidant Actions of Tree Nuts.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 19(1):117-123.

Chen, C.Y., Milbury, P.E., Lapsley, K., Blumberg, J.B. Flavonoids from Almond Skins are Bioavailable and Act Synergistically with Vitamins C and E to Enhance Hamster and Human LDL Resistance to Oxidation. Journal of Nutrition. 2005; 135(6):1366-73.

“Chestnuts. Antioxidants. Gamma Irradiation.” http://nutraceutical.sujanani.com/news/?p=25001719

“Chestnuts.”belly bytes: where it’s all about food. http://www.bellybytes.com/food/chestnuts.html

Hudthagosol, C., Haddad, E.H., McCarthy, K., Want, P., Oda, K., Sabate, J. “Pecans Acutely Increase Plasma Postprandial Antioxidant Capacity and Catechins and Decrease LDL Oxidation in Humans.” Journal of Nutrition. 2011. Jan: 141(1): 56-62.

“Professor Vinson’s Research Shows Walnuts as ‘Top Nut’ for Heart-Healthy Antioxidants.” The University of Scranton. March 29, 2011. http://matrix.scranton.edu/news/articles/2011/03/Professor-Vinson-Antioxidants.shtml

Sabate, J., Oda, Keiji, Ros, Emilio. “Nut Consumption and Blood Lipid Levels; A Pooled Analysis of 25 Intervention Trials.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 2010;170(9):821-827.

Sloan, Carol Berg, RD. “Roasting Walnuts.” Email from the author responding to my inquiry to the California Walnut Commission about whether roasting walnuts lowers their antioxidant levels. 15 May 2011.

Torabian S, Haddad E, Rajaram S, Banta Jim, Sabaté J. “Acute Effect of Nut Consumption on Plasma Total Polyphenols, Antioxidant Capacity and Lipid Peroxidation in Healthy Volunteers.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Diet 2009, 22:64-71.

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, chestnuts, Nut Nutrition, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, pecans, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

CATCH THIS NUTTY HUG, ASHLEY!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 3, 2010

What a kick it was to receive a Google Alert leading me to a delightful blog authored by Ashley, a zesty blogger. The alert came to my inbox because Ashley received a copy of my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, from the publisher, Book Publishing Company, and made one of my unique nut-based recipes—BEAN BUTTER.

She loved it and shared her bubbly response on her blog. She even posted a photo of the book cover and took photos of the recipe in progress as it whirled in the food processor, traveled to a bowl, and finally ended up in her dish cuddled up next to a yummy banana.

When I read her upbeat comments on the book and the recipe, I was thrilled, naturally. We live in a world where so many people choose to find fault and criticize others’ accomplishments mercilessly that it was refreshing to read the good stuff—really positive, feel-good words. I can’t deny that it stroked by ego—honestly, it did—those sweet words made me smile a good long time and gave me double the happy outlook I normally have.

Since I created The Nut Gourmet, I’ve become so much more empathetic with other cookbook authors. Now that I’ve experienced the trials, successes, flops, and frustrations that go into developing an average of 150 recipes for a cookbook, I am ever so grateful for the sweet kudos that come my way.

Thank you Ashley, from the bottom of my heart. Now it’s my turn to share. Here’s Ashley’s blog Food, Fotos, and Fun!
Drop in for a visit and browse.

Now, for some more sharing. You, too, can enjoy the ever-so-nutty Bean Butter that features pecans–the favorite nut of Southern U.S.A. Combining unlikely ingredients often turns up pleasing results. Blending beans, dates, and pecans provides the base for a delectable spread that goes especially well with earthy breads like rye, whole wheat, or multigrain. For an ideal snack to serve the kids, spread Bean Butter on two slices of bread, then slip sliced bananas or thinly sliced apples in between to make a tasty, quick-fix sandwich.

BEAN BUTTER

1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15 pitted dates
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, as needed

Combine all the ingredients in the food processor and process until thick and smooth. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl and redistribute the ingredients. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, for a creamier, softer consistency. For a sweeter spread, add more dates.

Posted in Bean Recipes, Nut Recipes, pecans | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE POWER OF THE FEW

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 21, 2010

I’m back and nutty as ever! No, I haven’t abandoned my post at the NutGourmet—just took a little holiday break to spend time with family and friends and cook up a flurry of great munchies I’ll share in future blog posts.

Now, I’ve returned with a fresh vigor and a feverish desire to share the nutty pleasures. Sometimes I bemoan the fact that nuts are not exactly dirt-cheap. Then, on the other hand, maybe that’s a good thing because many of us would probably be tempted to gorge on massive amounts of them. That would be a bad thing. How bad?

What constitutes a healthy level of nut consumption? The key is to remember there is awesome power in “just a little.” That “just a little” means there are potent benefits in consuming as few as one to three ounces of nuts a day. Translate that to the equivalent of about one or two generous handfuls.

Some might be thinking that limiting oneself to just one or two ounces of nuts a day may actually feel like utter deprivation. In truth, that small quantity is actually achieving a perfectly healthy ideal. It never ceases to amaze me that such a small quantity packs a big wallop in knocking down high cholesterol and blood pressure and reducing the risk of coronary artery disease.

At the December 2009 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, attendees learned from researchers at Texas Woman’s University – Houston Center that a mere two ounces of pistachios a day boosted levels of gamma- tocopherol, a natural form of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E. The authors acknowledge higher levels of gamma-tocopherol may offer protection against certain forms of cancer, namely lung and prostate cancer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. In 2005, the guidelines suggested incorporating 1.5 ounces of nuts such as hazelnuts into the diet several times per week. They suggest hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, folate, B vitamins and minerals that may play a role in lowering blood pressure. Hazelnuts are high in beneficial monounsaturated fats and only contain 4 percent saturated fats.

Just two handfuls of walnuts a day was the catchphrase of a study looking to inhibit the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice. W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia, gives the omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytosterols in walnuts a thumbs up for their ability to block the progression of tumors and suggests the compounds contained in walnuts could slow down the growth of breast cancer in humans.

A study cited in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated that just eight walnuts eaten at the end of a meal may be better than olive oil in helping to prevent damage to the delicate lining of the arteries. Walnuts were compared with olive oil in a study conducted at Barcelona’s Hospital Clinico and were found to better retain the elasticity and flexibility of the arteries when necessary to expand and increase blood flow. While many people turning to the Mediterranean diet credit the olive oil for the heart healthy focus, they miss the true hero—the little handful of walnuts.

Must one conclude that nuts are truly a miracle food? No, they certainly are not. Nuts are merely one of many of the highly nutritious plant-based foods that help us to stay healthy and assist us in returning to a state of health when we’ve fallen into the pit of chronic disease.

There really are no miracle foods, though many food purveyors work hard to convince people their product is theeee one to repair all the health ills and provide a cure-all. The power of the few remains the steadfast mantra referring to all whole, plant-based foods consumed in smaller portions than Americans have become accustomed to consuming. Feasting is best saved for special occasions.

For the daily diet, the power of a few nuts along with comfortable and reasonable portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and seeds brings impressive results in a surprisingly short time.

The following measurements comprise a one-ounce serving of nuts:

20 to 24 ALMONDS

6 to 8 BRAZIL NUTS

16 to 18 CASHEWS

18 to 20 FILBERTS (HAZELNUTS)

10 to 12 MEDIUM MACADAMIAS

28 SHELLED PEANUTS

18 to 20 PECAN HALVES

150 to 157 PINE NUTS (PIGNOLI)

45 to 47 PISTACHIOS

14 WALNUT HALVES

1 tablespoon PUMPKIN SEEDS

1 medium-size handful SESAME SEEDS

3 tablespoons SHELLED SUNFLOWER SEEDS

References:
Almond Board of California–http://www.almondsarein.com

American Association for Cancer Research “Walnut consumption decreases mammary gland tumor incidence, multiplicity and growth in the C(3) Tag transgenic mouse” AACR 2009; Abstract LB-247.

California Pistachio Association–http://www.pistachios.org

The Hazelnut Council–http://www.hazelnutcouncil.org

Hernandez, M.S. American Association for Cancer Research (2009. December 9). Pistachios may reduce lung cancer risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 20, 2010 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208191956.htm

International Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation http://www.nuthealth.org

National Pecan Shellers Association–http://www.ilovepecans.org

Peanut Advisory Board–http://www.peanutbutterlovers.com

The Peanut Institute–http://www.peanut-institute.org

Ros, Emilio. “Eating walnuts at the end of a meal may help cut the damage that fatty food can do to the arteries” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2006/10/10 09:38:33 GMT

The Walnut Marketing Board–http://www.walnut.org

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, hazelnuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Organizations, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

NUTCRACKER SWEET—MY KIND OF NUTTY BALLET

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on December 2, 2009

As autumn approaches each year, I get a little antsy for freshly harvested nuts in the shell to reach the grocery store. This year’s fresh crop has arrived and is well worth the wait! Showing off their glorious colors, fresh nuts are noticeably more delicious—they’re sweeter, more moist, and have a distinctly fresh flavor. Don’t get me wrong; the nuts from last year’s crop are still great and have been stored with care to preserve them. It’s just that the fresh ones pop with flavor that compels me to keep reaching for another and another.

If you’re not a nut like me, you may not have noticed them yet—beautiful walnuts in their plump wrinkly shells that remind me of brains, almonds in their pitted golden shells with raggedy edges, pecans enclosed in deep red shells that look as if they’d been dyed, little round sable-colored hazelnuts that have a sort of musical sound when they clink together, and Brazil nuts with their large exotic-looking triangular chocolate brown shells that are a challenge to crack.

Sometimes I find bulk nuts piled into individual bins in the produce section, one bin for the walnuts, another for the almonds. But in recent years I found the nuts attractively packaged in three to five-pound mesh bags as a stunning, colorful mixture. I take them home and empty them into a sturdy woven basket with a strong handle. I call it my nut basket because I’ve outfitted it with the wildest selection of nutcrackers you’ve ever seen.

Friends who know I’m deeply into nuts have contributed an amazing array of nutcrackers to my collection that seems to joyfully multiply each year. There’s a special one that cracks walnuts with one squeeze and another that’s made for cracking macadamias. I have three very old nutcrackers that operate on the vice principle—no, those nutcrackers don’t do surgery on anyone—not even the Vice Principal—I was actually referring to the ones that simply work like vices where I place a nut between two metal parts and turn a crank to tighten the space between. Those three nutcracker vices are true antiques, rusted to perfection, wearing their 109 years with elegant dignity, and still working stalwartly.

I also buy bulk nuts already shelled for serious baking, but there’s something deeply bonding about sitting at the table with friends and placing the nut basket between us. It doesn’t take long before the ballet begins—the nut-cracking ballet, that is. You know, it’s the Nutcracker Sweet, and is it ever sweet. Pretty soon, there’s a giant pile of nut shells on the table, and still we reach for another nut, and then, another.

Nuts have a special way of bringing friends closer. They seem to invite sharing, not only the nuts themselves, but I’m often surprised at the conversations that flow after the first few nuts have been opened and tasted. Because of these opportunities, I’ve come to equate nuts with friendship.

During this holiday season, play the Nutcracker Sweet, enjoy good friends, and keep the nut basket handy. Now, I really must go—my pistachios are calling!

Posted in almonds, Brazil nuts, Cracking and Peeling Nuts, hazelnuts, Macadamias, Nut Oddities, pecans, pistachios, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

THANKSGIVING TORTE—GRAND DIVA ON THE HOLIDAY TABLE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 23, 2009

I don’t know if Thanksgiving is wild and crazy to the max at your house, but it sure is in mine–in a good way, that is. It’s our family reunion time, so I have family flying in from all parts of the globe for this nutty feast. All the bedrooms are full and the kitchen is in a constant state of activity. It’s been our thing for years so we really look forward to Thanksgiving week—a time that’s filled with lots of cooking going on, great aromas drifting through the house, lots of eating, and lots of laughing.

On Thanksgiving day the frenzy picks up and we’re all in high gear to get everything ready for that special dinner when we literally pile a ton of colorful, fabulous tasting dishes onto the buffet table that I describe as the groaning board. And we attack with fervor!

Front and center on the table is the totally nutty vegan Thanksgiving Torte, our annual feast specialty that I want to share with all who aim for a kind and gentle Thanksgiving.
The recipe is from my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet and is pretty darned impressive looking—even if I have to say so myself. It’s a real good looker, especially when I serve it on a footed cake plate and garnish the heck out of it with sprigs of fresh herbs and orange slices.

The Torte makes the ideal vegan Thanksgiving dish with its varied textures and savory flavors from the combination of wild rice, mushrooms, nuts, and sage. Served with a robust Mushroom Gravy on the side, the Torte makes a very hearty main dish and goes well with all the typical side dishes like cranberries, gravy, sweet potatoes, chestnut stuffing, and a few veggie combinations. For dessert, its pumpkin and apple pies, of course. To ease the feast-day preparations, I usually make the Torte the day before, store it in the fridge, and reheat it at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

One little hint, the Torte preparation comes together more quickly if you cook the wild rice before beginning the torte or even the day before.

THANKSGIVING TORTE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

2 cups water
2/3 cups wild rice
3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 pound red or white rose potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecan pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces

1 (14-ounce) package vegan Lightlife GimmeLean Sausage
3/4 pound portobello mushrooms, chopped (about 4 large)
1 large onion, diced
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
1 1/4 teaspoons salt or to taste

2 ripe tomatoes, sliced

Mushroom Gravy
1/2 pound sliced button mushrooms
1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons water
1/4 soy sauce
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water

1. TO MAKE THE TORTE, lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan, line the base with parchment paper (for easier cleanup), and set it aside. Combine the 2 cups water, wild rice, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and steam for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Drain off the excess liquid and set the rice aside.

2. Combine the potato cubes, 1 cup water, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl, mash them, and set them aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toast the pecans and walnuts in a 10-inch skillet over high heat, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a dish to cool.

4. Combine the vegan sausage, mushrooms, onion, the 1/3 cup water, olive oil, poultry seasoning, and pepper in a large, deep skillet. Cook over high for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is transparent, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or paddle to break up the sausage chunks. Drain and reserve any excess liquid. Add the salt and hickory liquid smoke to the sausage mixture and mix well.

5. Add the mashed potatoes to the skillet along with the toasted nuts and cooked wild rice. Mix well to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Adjust seasonings if needed.

6. Press the mixture firmly into the prepared springform pan, and attractively arrange the tomato slices over the top, covering most of the surface. Bake uncovered for 1 hour. Allow the torte to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

7. TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM GRAVY, prepare it while the torte is baking. Combine the mushrooms, water, soy sauce, red wine, and lemon juice in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes.

8. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir with a spoon to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the bubbling gravy, a little at a time, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until the gravy has thickened to the desired consistency.

Posted in Celebrations, Nut Recipes, pecans, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

THE DAZZLING NUTTY BALL-OFF SAGA!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on June 27, 2009

Chef AJ has done it again! An innovative instructor, ablaze with the desire to inspire, she motivated the students of her healthy cooking classes to challenge their deepest, most inventive skills to create an innovative, truly healthy fruit and nut ball. By holding a contest to inspire them, Chef AJ lit the spark that set the students on a whirlwind kitchen adventure to dazzle the judges.

The unique Ball-off Contest, held Sunday, June 7, 2009, proved to be an exciting, one-of-a-kind event that had all the contest participants, the onlookers, cheering section, and the judges on edge. There was to be only one winner who would receive a copy of my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, in addition to private lessons with Chef AJ.

The distinguished judging panel
The judging panel of three included me, Zel Allen, my husband Reuben, who is co-publisher of Vegetarians in Paradise, an online vegetarian magazine, and Kimberly Horowitz. Chef AJ chose Kimberly as part of the panel of judges because Kimberly has the reputation of being a very fussy eater. Chef AJ says, “Kimberly hates everything! If she likes something at all, it must really be good.” We felt like celebrities with the power to change lives—well, almost.

Since there were six entries in the contest, there were six platters lined up at the judging table. Each platter, heaping with stunning fruit and nut-ball creations, had a number that corresponded to the participant. Only Chef AJ knew which balls belonged to which participant.

The balls were to be judged on three categories: appearance, creativity, and taste. Because each of the entries was amazing, flavorful, visually appealing, and downright delicious, each deserved special recognition. Choosing only one winner was tough—actually it was painfully agonizing and the judging panel deliberated with great seriousness to arrive at a true winner.

Let the tasting begin!
We tasted each of the balls, one at a time, and were captivated by each one. Yet we kept returning to platter #3, then platter #1, and again to platter #4, and #2. And on and on, savoring each of the distinctive entries. The creativity was commendable and refreshing.

Finally, we reached an exhilarating conclusion. The winner was Platter #2 that belonged to Nataly Carranza’s Almond Dream Balls. Quite often simple ingredients, assembled in just the ideal quantities, can become enchanting creations. That was what kept bringing our judging panel back to Platter #2. It was the combination of raw almonds, almond butter, and almond extract that earned the top award.

Below are the recipes for each of the delicious entries. Any one you choose to make will bring pleasure and taste delight to all who partake of these original taste treats made from all natural ingredients—nothing refined or processed here.

Nataly

Almond Dream Balls
By Nataly Carranza, the top prize winner

Yield: 15 to 20 balls

1/2 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup raw almond butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Shredded coconut

1. Place the almonds and walnuts into the food processor and process until coarsely chopped.
2. Add the dates, almond butter, and almond extract and process until the mixture holds together.
3. Place the shredded coconut into a small bowl. Remove 1 tablespoon of the date/nut mixture from the processor at a time and roll into 1-inch balls.
4. Roll the balls in the shredded coconut to coat completely.

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

Linda

Heavenly Balls
By Linda Zimmerling

Yield: 15 to 18 balls

1 cup raw pecans
1 handful dates soaked in water
5 unsoaked dates
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon Vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon caramel extract

1. Combine all the ingredients in the food processor and process until they are well moistened and thoroughly combined to desired consistency.
2. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between the palms of the hands.

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

YiFan2

Mint Chocolate Chip Balls
By YiFan Rao

Yield: Twenty 3/4-inch balls

10 to 15 dates to taste
1/2 cup hemp seeds
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1 small bunch fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup of almonds
1 cup of cashews (or any combination of nuts)

Cacao nibs for coating the balls

1. Place the dates, hemp seeds, cacao powder, mint leaves, and vanilla extract into the food processor and process to a mushy consistency. Remove the date mixture and set side.
2. Place the nuts into the processor and process to a flour consistency. Add the date mixture and process until well combined.
3. Form the fruit-nut mixture into small balls about 1-inch in diameter. Place the cacao nibs into a small bowl and roll the balls into the nibs to coat them.

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

Paula2

Coconut Delights
By Paula Shields

Yield: about 18 balls

2 cups raw pecans
1 cup raw almonds
12 to 15 dates, soaked overnight in just enough water to cover
1 handful black and golden raisins combined
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or more to taste

3 to 4 ounces coconut powder

1. Combine the almonds, dates, raisins, vanilla extract, sunflower seeds, and cinnamon in the food processor and process, adding the date water as needed to wet and bind the mixture.
2. Place the coconut powder into a small bowl. Form the date-nut mixture into 1-inch balls and roll them in the coconut powder to coat them completely.

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

Blanca

Mama’s Balls
By Blanca Carranza

Yield: 15 to 20 balls

3 plantains

1/2 pitted dates
1/4 cacao powder
1/4 orange juice

Cacao nibs
1/4 raw chopped walnuts

1. Boil the plantains until soft. Cut them in half and remove the fibrous strings from the center
2. Place the plantains into the food processor along with the dates, cacao powder, and orange juice and process until smooth.
3. Remove about 1 tablespoon of the mixture at a time and roll into 1-inch balls.
4. Combine the cacao nibs and chopped walnuts in a small bowl and roll the balls in cacao nibs and chopped walnuts in the mixture to coat completely.

Posted in almonds, cashews, coconut, Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, pecans, sunflower seeds, Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The NUTTY Ball-Off Contest

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 18, 2009

My friend, Chef AJ, teaches healthy vegan cooking classes. At the end of a special 6-week session, she inspired her students to take on a unique challenge—to create their own, from-scratch NUT BALL recipe as a dessert treat. To make this challenge even more exciting, she gave them a deadline and said there would be a contest and an enticing prize.

Chef AJ gave her students a rough recipe for the Nut Balls and asked that they design their recipe without any kind of traditional sweetener—only dates. There were no restrictions on ingredients—only that they be natural, unrefined, and unprocessed.

On the evening of Sunday, April 4, three of us intrepid tasters participated in judging this unique and very spirited event—my husband and I and Kimberly Elliott (because she hates healthy food and will only eat stuff that tastes really great.) Of AJ’s nine students, five of them entered their creations and made enough Nut Balls for all of the 15 to 20 attendees to taste as well. Though the event took on a raucous party-like atmosphere, there was a serious edge to the contest–the judging was to be based on appearance, taste, and creativity. The entire group also voted.

Knowing what lay ahead, my husband and I ate lightly for dinner to keep our palates refreshed and clear. Each of the Nut Balls was innovatively conceived, deliciously indulgent, and looked visually engaging, but two recipes stood out from the rest for their exceptional taste and out-of-the-box creativity.

Following are the NUTTY BALLS recipes along with their photos that are so enticing you might want to reach into the dish and nab one:

yifan

    Blue Ribbon Prize Winner

NUT BALLS by YiFan Rao

Yield: about 25 to 30 one-inch balls

1 1/2 cups of raw almonds

1 cup of macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
1 cup of dried pineapple, diced
1 cup of dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup of raw almonds, roughly chopped

10 to 12 dates, soaked in water overnight

1 cup golden flax seeds

1. Grind the 1 1/2 cups of raw almonds to a fine meal in the food processor and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Add the macadamias, pineapple, apricots and the 1/2 cup chopped almonds to the bowl.
3. Chop the dates and add them to the bowl. Mix well until the mixture becomes sticky.
4. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between the palms of the hands, then, roll the balls in the flax seeds to coat them completely. Place the balls into a covered container and freeze. Serve the balls frozen, partly defrosted, or room temperature.

Note: If you prefer sweeter balls, add more dates to taste.

The balls are very sweet for my taste so I rolled them in golden flax seeds to offset the sweetness. Since many people thought the flax seeds were sesame, I’m sure sesame seeds will work just as well. …YiFan

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

paula

    Second Prize Winner

NUT BALLS by Paula Shields

Yield: 18 to 20 one-inch balls

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup raw almonds, soaked for several hours
1 1/2 teaspoons non-alcoholic vanilla extract
10 to 12 dates soaked in water overnight
1 tablespoon goji berries
1 tablespoon raisins (black, golden, or a blend)
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs, slightly ground

1/4 cup dried coconut, finely ground

1. Combine all the ingredients, except the dried coconut, in the food processor and process to a fine or slightly chunky consistency, adding the date soaking water as needed to moisten and bind the ingredients together.
2. Form into balls by hand and roll each one in the ground coconut. Place the balls into a covered container and put them into the freezer. Serve frozen or room temperature.

Note: Dried cranberries would also make a tasty addition.

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

wolfie

    Honorable Mention

NUT BALLS by Wolfie Cavender

Yield: about 40 one-inch balls

2 cups raw cashews
1 1/2 cups raw sunflower seeds

1 3/4 cups cacao powder, divided
2 cups of dates, finely chopped
1 cup of dried cherries, finely chopped

1. Place the cashews and sunflower seeds into the food processor and process them until they are finely ground.
2. Add 1/2 cup of the cacao powder, the dates, and the cherries to the food processor and process until all the ingredients are finely ground.
3. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between the palms of the hands. Place the remaining cacao powder into a bowl and roll the balls in the powder, coating them completely.
4. Place the finished balls into a covered container and freeze them. Serve them frozen, partially thawed, or room temperature.

Note: The balls are quite firm and dense. Soaking the dates or cherries or both will create balls with a more moist texture.

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

pamela

    Honorable Mention

NUT BALLS by Pamela Lopez

Yield: about 24 one-inch balls

1 cup raw almonds, finely ground in food processor
3/4 cup sunflower seeds, finely ground
1/4 cup cacao powder

1 cup chopped dates
1 handful raw cacao nibs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cacao powder

1. Combine the nuts, seeds, and cacao powder in the food processor and pulse briefly.
2. Add the dates, cacao nibs, and vanilla extract and process until the mixture becomes well blended and sticky.
3. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between the palms of the hands and then roll them in cacao powder. Place the balls into a covered, shallow, plastic container and freeze them. Serve frozen, slightly thawed, or room temperature.

Note: To vary the recipe, use pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or a mixture in place of the sunflower seeds. Other dried fruits like goji berries or cherries may be used instead of or in addition to the dates.

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

matthew

    Honorable Mention

NUT BALLS by Matthew Weisman

My recipe was the same as Pamela’s, but I used raw pistachios instead of the raw almonds.

Posted in almonds, cashews, coconut, Macadamias, Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, Nut Uses, pecans, sunflower seeds, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 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!
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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.

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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.
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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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