Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

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POLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polenta Porcupine copy

POLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Fruit Mix

1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded

3/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup black raisins

1/3 cup diced dried Turkish apricots

1/4 cup pine nuts

 

Date Paste

2 cups pitted dates, snipped in half and lightly packed

1/2 cup water

 

Polenta

4 cups water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarse whole grain cornmeal

1/2 cup whole almonds

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

Note:

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

Posted in almonds, Desserts, Nut Desserts, pine nuts, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NEW YEAR REFLECTIONS ON VEGAN CHRISTMAS IN A NUTTY WORLD!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 2, 2013

Well, 2013 has officially begun and I’ve been considering resolutions to help make this world a healthier, happier, and more peaceful place for humans and animals and a more sustainable one for our planet. Reflecting on the past year, I realized those ideals have been my steadfast focus. They’ve enriched my life with purpose and joy and have helped others who have stopped by to visit this cozy little vegan niche. So, I’ve settled in and look forward to another fulfilling year.

Now I’m feeling a bit sentimental and want to share a smidgeon of holiday nostalgia.

Vegan Christmas – two words that may not go together in every household, but in my home, it was an exceptional holiday with tender memories to cherish. Imagine all the warm and wonderful traditional winter holiday blessings, and, then, put them all together into one special day on December 25th. Bit by bit, I baked a few batches of sweet goodies, sent invitations to friends to join us for a holiday potluck, and readied the house for a comfy crowd. I knew it would be a happy occasion, but I never imagined it would be as cozy, delicious, and nostalgic as it turned out.

I think there was a little vegan magic whirling in the air that day. My sweet hubby built a fire in the fireplace and lovingly tended it all afternoon. Coming in from the cold, our guests immediately gravitated toward the warm and cozy living room as they shed their coats and scarves.

A boldly-spiced apple cider was mulling on the kitchen stovetop ready to offer warming comfort, while the entire house became infused with a rich medley of lively aromas. The gently simmering cider was happily sharing its generous gifts of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and freshly grated nutmeg. Floating to the top of the cider were slices of lemon and orange contributing a subtle note of citrus. And, as if that were not enough, whole almonds and golden raisins, borrowed from my Happy New Year Glogg recipe, were also quite visible as one peered down into the large pot.

I loved seeing jolly faces stretch into big smiles as I passed the tray of apple cider. Into each of the small, glass punch cups I ladled the hot cider and included a few almonds and raisins in each glass. Within a couple of hours, that cider-filled, 12-quart stockpot was nearly empty.

When everyone’s potluck contribution was well warmed or perfectly chilled, we gathered around the table to fill our plates with a feast to boast about. There dishes too numerous to list. I will simply remember the tantalizing medley of savory, lemony, spicy, pungent, and sweet flavors that strolled across my taste buds.

Aside from making hot mulled apple cider, cookies, and confections, my contribution was an eye-appealing Tomato Pine Nut Pie with Sweet Potato and Nut Crust, a recipe from my new cookbook VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS. This is what the pie looks like:

Tomato Pine Nut Pie

The pie crust of crushed almonds, tofu, and yams makes this a unique dish and one that was enthusiastically received.

Because we were expecting about 20 people, I thought it would be best to triple the recipe and prepare it in a large rimmed baking sheet. It was the perfect amount and allowed for extra helpings.

Tomato Pine Nut Pie 1

This is what the dish looked like after it was ravished:

Tomato Nut Pie Leftovers

While assembling the pie, I realized this is not a dish that’s just for Christmas. It’s a charming recipe that can be enjoyed year round because the ingredients are readily available no matter what season. During summer, when green tomatoes are available at the farmstand, they can be substituted for ripe ones or intermixed, creating an appealing red and green theme.

This is one honey of a make-ahead dish, even up to two days ahead. To serve, remove the dish from the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature, and warm in a preheated 350-degree F. oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into serving pieces and enjoy.

TOMATO-PINE NUT PIE WITH SWEET POTATO AND NUT CRUST

Melt-in-the-mouth delicious and decked out for the festivities, this attractive Italian-inspired dish makes an ideal savory dinner pie with a unique crust.

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie or 6 servings

Crust
12 ounces sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups whole almonds
2/3 cup mashed tofu
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Light oil a 9-inch pie pan.

2. To make the crust, put the sweet potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan with water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the sweet potatoes well, transfer them to a large bowl and mash them well. Set aside.

3. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground yet still retain a little texture. Add the tofu and salt and process until well incorporated, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Spoon the tofu mixture into the bowl with the sweet potatoes and mix well.

4. Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to press it onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Build up the sides of the crust 1/2 -inch higher than the pie pan. Bake the crust for 15 minutes and let cool.

Filling
2 green onions, sliced
1 to 2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 to 3 tablespoons Homemade Parmesan (recipe below) or prepared vegan Parmesan
2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
4 to 5 large red or green tomatoes, seeded and sliced.

1. To make the filling, put the green onions, garlic, pine nuts, and Homemade Parmesan in individual bowls. Sprinkle the cornstarch on a plate.

2. Cover the bottom of the crust with one layer of eggplant slices. (This prevents the crust from getting soggy). Reserve remaining eggplant for another use. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and pepper.

3. Dredge one-third of the tomato slices in the cornstarch. Arrange the dredged tomato slices over the eggplant, filling all the spaces with small bits of tomato. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one third each of the green onions, garlic, pine nuts, and Homemade Parmesan over the tomatoes. Repeat the process to make three layers.

4. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Note: If using green tomatoes, the pie might have to hake another 15 minutes.

HOMEMADE PARMESAN
Often I’ve come to rely on a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan to add sparkle to a dish, soup, a casserole, or an appetizer. With only five ingredients, this recipe is almost instant to make and tastes enough like the real thing to put the Italian touch on everything from pizza to minestrone and a host of holiday or everyday dishes.

1 cup almonds
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground, yet still retain a bit of texture, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. (Avoid overprocessing or it will turn into almond butter.)

2. Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and garlic powder and pulse until well mixed. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. Covered and refrigerated, Homemade Parmesan will keep for 3 months.

Posted in almonds, Celebrations, Holiday Recipes, Main Dishes, pine nuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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 »

TOMATO PINE-NUT BREAD MAGIC!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 20, 2009

What a fabulous fresh tomato season this is!

I bought a lug of gorgeous slightly softened tomatoes from the farm stand and dehydrated about half of them. That prompted me to create a delicious variation of the previous post. Into the processor went the grains! Into a bowl went the tomatoes! A little mixing, a little stirring, a little tasting, a little baking, and voila! A great looking, great tasting, savory tomato-infused pine nut bread using the same whole grains as in the Pistachio Caper Bread. The key to this recipe is planning ahead to allow time for the grains to soak.

TomPineNutBread

SUN-DRIED TOMATO PINE NUT BREAD

Yield: 2 small loaves (4 to 6 servings per loaf)

1 cup wheat berries
1 cup oat groats

2 1/2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes
Hot or boiling water

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon psyllium seed husks

1 cup pine nuts
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Place the wheat berries and oat groats into a large bowl and add water to cover by 3 inches. Set aside to soak for 8 to 12 hours.
2. When the grains have soaked, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a large jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Place the sun-dried tomatoes into a medium bowl and pour hot or boiling over to cover. Set aside to soften for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Drain and rinse the soaked grains and place them into the food processor. Measure the tomato soak water and add enough tap or filtered water to make 1 1/4 cups. Add this water to the processor along with the salt, cayenne, and half of the well-drained sun-dried tomatoes.
4. Pulse and process the grains for about 2 minutes, or until they are ground to a coarse meal and all the liquid is well incorporated. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. If your processor has a small capacity, process the grains in 2 batches.
5. Combine the 1/4 cup water and psyllium seed husks in a small bowl, stir well, and set aside for 30 seconds to thicken. Add the psyllium mixture to the processor and process until it is well incorporated into the batter.
6. Transfer the bread batter to a large bowl and add the pine nuts, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Drain and chop the remaining sun-dried tomatoes and add them to the bowl. Mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
7. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared jellyroll pan in two even piles and use the spoon to shape the loaves into thick rectangles about 5 x 7 inches.
8. Lightly cover the loaves with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake for 1 hour and 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes longer. Cool the bread completely. Slice and serve.

Note:
Oat groats and wheat berries are available in natural food markets. Psyllium seed husks are also available in natural food markets. The psyllium husks serve to absorb water and act as a binder.

If not serving right away, wrap the breads separately in heavy-duty plastic bags and refrigerate for up to one week. Bring to room temperature before serving or wrap in aluminum foil, shiny side inside, and warm in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

I like to prepare these breads in advance and freeze them to give as gifts or to enjoy when guests come for dinner. To freeze, wrap the cooled breads separately in heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags. Frozen, they will keep well for up to 4 months.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Look-Alikes

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 31, 2009

I love teaching plant-based cooking classes. What gives me so much pleasure is seeing the surprised looks and hearing the delightful expressions that come from students who are amazed that plant-based foods that spotlight nuts actually taste pretty darned good and are crammed full nutritious natural ingredients. The menu for a recent cooking class featured these very nutty bean patties made from black beans, pine nuts, and walnuts. The students loved them so much, they made both platters of patties disappear.
walnut2
While walnuts and pine nuts are quite different in nature, they do have some beneficial health attributes in common. Both contain significant levels of arginine to encourage good blood flow, phytosterols to regulate the absorption of cholesterol, and antioxidants that protect our cells from oxidation. They excel in healthful mono and polyunsaturated fats. Both nuts contain plenty of protein, fiber, B vitamins, especially folate, and vitamin E.
pinenut3
Focusing on their uniqueness, walnuts score very high in the all-important omega-3 fatty acids with 9.08g for 3.5 ounces that help to reduce inflammation in the arteries. Pine nuts contain no omega-3 fatty acids, but they do have a whopping 1324 mg of copper for 3.5 ounces to help protect the bones. Walnuts contain 2.94 mg of Vitamin E, but pine nuts stand out with their 9.33 mg of Vitamin E for 3.5 ounces. Walnuts deliver 104 mg of calcium, while pine nuts contain only 16 mg. Clearly, each nut, has individual strengths in particular nutrients, driving the point that no single nut stands out as superior. Variety works best.

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While these nutty bean patties deliver a rich savory flavor, they look surprisingly like chocolate cookies dotted with chocolate chips. Enjoy these with fresh salsa on top or tuck them into a whole-wheat pita with lots of trimmings like chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and shredded lettuce. You can also enhance them with your favorite barbecue sauce.

This is one of the delicious recipes from my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion.

beanpatties copy
ZESTY BLACK BEAN PATTIES

Yield: 9 to 10 patties (3-inch diameter)

1/4 cup raw pine nuts
1/4 cup raw coarsely chopped walnuts

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained*

1/2 cup oat bran or wheat germ
2 to 3 tablespoons water, as needed
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
2. Combine the pine nuts and walnuts in the food processor and process until they are finely ground. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Put the onion into the food processor and chop until it is minced. Transfer to the bowl with the nut meal.
4. Measure 1/2 cup of the black beans and add them to the bowl with the nut meal. Put the remainder of the beans into the processor. Add the oat bran, water, salt, cumin, coriander, chili powder, garlic powder, and pepper and process until well blended. Spoon the mixture into the nut meal and mix well.
5. Drop the mixture from a large spoon onto the prepared baking sheet to form nine or ten 3-inch patties. Flatten the patties slightly so they will bake evenly. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Turn the patties over with a metal spatula and bake 10 to 12 minutes longer.

Note: If you prefer to use canned beans rather than cooking beans from scratch, 1 1/2 (15-ounce) cans will give you the 2 cups of beans needed for this recipe. Rinse and drain the beans before using.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Bean Recipes, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health, pine nuts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

TREASURE IN A NUTSHELL

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

I thought it might be helpful to have an overview of the nutritional highlights of tree nuts. While this listing is certainly a good quick reference, it only scratches the surface of the plethora of health benefits nuts have to offer.

It may seem that I’m promoting nuts as some sort of miracle food. Not so. I’m just recognizing nuts are one of Mother Nature’s many gems that are packed with goodness, especially when paired with other foods that are nutrient-dense and low in saturated fats.

In the information below there may be some terms that are unfamiliar. Here is a brief explanation:

Arginine –an amino acid that changes into nitric oxide that relaxes blood vessels and permits better blood flow. May help alleviate coronary artery disease like chest pain and clogged arteries (called atherosclerosis).

Phytosterols – natural plant fats found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that benefits the body by interfering with the absorption of excess cholesterol

Antioxidants – combination of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes found in plant foods that prevents our tissues from oxidation that leads to degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease

Tryptophan – an essential amino acid the body can’t manufacture and must get from food. Necessary for normal growth in infants and for nitrogen balance in adults. Used by the body to help make niacin and serotonin. Serotonin thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood

Folate – also known as folic acid or folacin, a form of the water-soluble Vitamin B9. Occurs naturally in food and can also be taken as a supplement. Helps prevent neural tube birth defects.

ALMONDS

    almond• Lower cholesterol, especially LDL (bad cholesterol)
    • Decrease risk for coronary heart disease
    • Lower risk for diabetes
    • Promote weight control
    • Good source of phytosterols
    • Excellent source of arginine
    • High in protein,
    • High in monounsaturated fats
    • High in minerals: calcium, iron, zinc, potassium,
    • High in vitamin E.
    • High in arginine
    • Packed with antioxidants

BRAZIL NUTS

    brazilnut• Provide powerful antioxidants
    • Highest level of selenium of all nuts
    • High in beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats
    • High in protein
    • High in minerals: calcium, copper, iron, potassium, and zinc
    • Source of arginine

CASHEWS

    cashew• Source of arginine
    • High in beneficial monounsaturated fat
    • High in protein
    • High in minerals: copper, potassium
    • High in folate
    • Help to lower cholesterol and decrease risk for coronary heart disease
    • Contain the highest levels of zinc of any nut
    • Excellent source of phytosterols

CHESTNUTS

    chestnut21• Super low in fats, especially saturated fat
    • High in B vitamins, good level of folate
    • The only nut to contain healthy level of vitamin C
    • Promote weight loss
    • Protect the heart
    • Lower cholesterol

HAZELNUTS

    hazelnut2• Contain the highest levels of copper of any nut
    • Protect the bones and blood vessels
    • High in minerals: calcium, potassium, zinc
    • High in folate
    • Lower cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol
    • High in heart-protective vitamin E
    • High in fiber
    • Good source of phytosterols
    • Loaded with antioxidants

MACADAMIAS

    macadamia• Highest in beneficial monounsaturated fats
    • Highest in B vitamins of all nuts
    • High in phytosterols
    • High in fiber
    • Source of arginine

PEANUTS

    peanut2• High in resveratrol a heart-protective antioxidant
    • Promote weight loss
    • Combat prostate cancer
    • Highest in phytosterols
    • Lower cholesterol
    • Highest in arginine of all nuts
    • High in mono- and polyunsaturated fats
    • Good source of protein
    • High in minerals: calcium, iron, potassium, zinc
    • High in B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber

PECANS

    pecan2• Highest in antioxidants of any nut
    • Good levels of phytosterols
    • High in beneficial monounsaturated fat
    • High in minerals: manganese, selenium, and zinc
    • High in B vitamins and heart-healthy vitamin E
    • High in fiber

PINE NUTS

    pinenut3• Excellent source of arginine
    • High in phytosterols
    • Good levels of mono- and polyunsaturated fats to keep cholesterol in check
    • Excellent source of protein
    • High in vitamin E and B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber

PISTACHIOS

    pistachio2• Impressive levels of phytosterols
    • Packed with antioxidants
    • High in beneficial monounsaturated fat.
    • Good source of protein, calcium, iron, copper, and zinc.
    • High in vitamin E and B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber
    • Excellent source of arginine

WALNUTS

    walnut2• Only nut (except butternut) with essential Omega 3 fatty acids
    • Lower cholesterol
    • Combat cancer
    • Boost memory
    • Lift mood
    • Protect against heart disease
    • Help to develop more than 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function
    • High in tryptophan
    • Loaded with antioxidants
    • Good source of arginine
    • Good source of protein
    • Good source of minerals: calcium, copper, iron, zinc
    • High in vitamin E and B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, Macadamias, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nuts and Health, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Welcome to Inaugural Ball #44

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 21, 2009

Yesterday was a celebratory day from sun-up through well into the evening! It was January 20th, the inauguration day of our 44th president—President Barack Obama. And it was a day packed with great fun, fabulous food, and the camaraderie of good friends!
inauguration2
No, I didn’t travel to DC and brave the chilling temps to watch our new Pres become sworn in, recite the flubbed oath of office, make one of his inspiring speeches, and stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue—though that might have been pretty darned exciting.

Truth is, I didn’t even venture out of my San Fernando Valley house except for the few moments it took to line the walkway to my house with a dozen plastic American flags I had collected over the years from realtors’ 4th of July promotions. Seems my husband caught the Obama fever, too. He posted a sign on the door he calligraphed in red, white, and blue that read “Welcome to Inaugural Ball #44.”
inauguration3
Yes, we were having an unofficial inaugural event of our own by sharing the day with a dozen active and politically savvy friends. We invited them for a potluck lunch and an afternoon glued to the TV to take in the Washington excitement and festivities surrounding the inauguration. The table was set with napkins in the appropriate colors, too, along with a giant stars and stripes candle in the shape of “Uncle Sam’s patriotic hat.”

We honored our new president with a proper toast and dined on comfort foods. We passed the day laughing, shouting, commenting, listening, and were totally transfixed by this historic day that stirred so much hope throughout the nation. The friends who had the endurance to stay for dinner enjoyed a bowl of vegan chili that was cooking in the crockpot all afternoon. The entire event was heartwarming and memorable down to the evening’s ball hopping parties.
inauguration21
It was such a joy watching Barack and Michelle steal a few hugs during their dances at the balls and watch them exchange loving smiles and an occasional peck on the cheek. We even loved her stunning white ball gown and daytime yellow outfit.

I along with my husband and friends are feeling a long-awaited sense of relief that our country will, at last, be in responsible hands. Things are definitely looking up.

Our best to you Barack and Michelle Obama!

Below is my delicious PINE NUT infused potluck contribution to our Inaugural Ball. You don’t have to wait for an inaugural event to enjoy this sumptuous dish. It’s delicious any time. If the quantity is too large, simply cut the recipe in half and bake it in an 8-inch square-baking dish.

sweetpotatoragout

SWEET POTATO AND SAUSAGE RAGOUT

An elegant ragout that brings sweet potatoes into the limelight, this dish scents the entire kitchen with seductive aromas while roasting. Although our typical grocery stores make the distinction between yams, which are orange, and sweet potatoes, which are yellow, technically, they are all sweet potatoes. For this dish, I prefer the orange sweet potatoes for their appealing vivid color, though I have sometimes used some of each. Enjoy the bold flavors this entrée brings to the festive season along with its inviting colors and irresistible seasonings and textures. This is an easy, make-ahead dish that tastes even better the next day.

To store in the refrigerator, remove the aluminum foil and cover with plastic wrap. To reheat, replace the aluminum foil and place the baking dish in a cold oven at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, remove the ragout from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature. Then warm in a preheated 350-degree oven. Serve along with a salad and a vegetable side dish like steamed or sautéed Brussels sprouts or broccoli.

Yield: about 6 to 8 servings

    3 to 3 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
    4 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

    1 large onion, sliced, slices quartered
    2 ribs celery, chopped
    1/4 cup water
    1 tablespoon canola oil

    1 large carrot, coarsely shredded

    4 strips Fakin’ Bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1/3 cup raisins
    1/3 cup raw pine nuts
    2 tablespoons brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1 pound Lightlife GimmeLean, sausage flavor

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and have ready a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
    2. In a large bowl combine the sweet potato chunks, maple syrup, lemon juice, soy sauce, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger and set aside.
    3. In a large, deep skillet combine the onion, celery, water, and canola oil. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften. Add more water if needed to prevent burning the onions. Add the carrots and cook another 2 to 3 minutes.
    4. Transfer the cooked onions and carrots to the bowl with the sweet potatoes, along with the Fakin’ Bacon, raisins, pine nuts, brown sugar, and salt. Stir well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
    5. Break the Gimme Lean sausage into bite-size chunks and add to the bowl, stirring gently.
    6. Transfer the ragout to the baking dish, cover with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake for about 30 minutes.
    7. Remove from the oven, carefully lift the foil, and stir the ragout. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Recover with the aluminum foil and bake another 20 minutes. Spoon the ragout into serving bowls along with some of the sauce.

Posted in Celebrations, Nut Recipes, pine nuts | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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