Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Posts Tagged ‘walnuts’

THANK YOU BIANCA!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 17, 2009

Bianca, the Vegan Crunk was thumbing through my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, and chose to make my recipe for Nutty Oatcakes. She took some mouth-watering photos of the finished oatcakes and even made me ravenously hungry for them. As a topping to go with the oatcakes she also made the Apricot Cashew Butter, but decided to use peaches in place of the apricots—great idea!

Thank you Bianca for making those little treats look so delicious in the photos on your latest blog. The enthusiastic comments that followed prompted me to share the two recipes with my NutGourmet readers. I love these for breakfast, but discovered they also make one terrific snack.

From The Nut Gourmet:
These little flat breads are especially pleasing with fruit butters or sweetened tofu spreads, such as Date ‘n’ Raisin Tofu Spread (page 174) or Apricot Cashew Butter (page 169). All varieties of nut butters, jams, and jellies are also ideal toppings. For a complete breakfast, serve these crisp breakfast gems with fresh fruit or a fruit salad and a cup of herbal tea. These tasty oatcakes offer an added bonus. Since they require no refrigeration and keep for at least two weeks at room temperature, they make excellent travel food.

NUTTY OATCAKES

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
5 to 6 tablespoons water
1/3 cup coarsely ground walnuts
1 tablespoon organic canola oil
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a dry baking sheet. Blend 1 cup of the rolled oats into a fine meal in two batches in the blender at high speed. Transfer the meal to a medium bowl.
2. Add the water, walnuts, canola oil, baking powder, and salt, and stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. If the dough is too dry, add an additional tablespoon of water to make a firm dough that holds together well enough to form a ball.
3. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the rolled oats on a board or countertop. Press the dough down to flatten it slightly and sprinkle the remaining oats over the top. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place them on the baking sheet.
4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Turn the pieces over and bake another 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the oven door open until the oatcakes cool, about 5 minutes. Serve them immediately, or cool completely and store them in a zipper-lock plastic bag at room temperature. For longer storage, pack them into heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags and freeze for up to three months.

APRICOT CASHEW BUTTER

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 cup dried apricots
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cashews

1. 1 Combine the apricots and 1/2 cup of the water in a 1-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to low and steam for 10 minutes.
2. While the apricots are steaming, cover the raisins with warm water and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until they are plump. Drain the raisins and put them into the food processor. Grind the cashews into a fine meal in an electric mini-chipper/grinder or coffee grinder. Add the meal to the food processor.
3. Transfer the cooked apricots and their liquid to the food processor along with the remaining 1/4 cup water. Process until completely smooth. Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, Apricot Cashew Butter will keep for about two weeks.

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

BEAT METABOLIC SYNDROME WITH NUTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on July 19, 2009

A beautiful summer lunch or a delicious light dinner, this tasty salad has eye appeal, flavor satisfaction, and health benefits to boot. Many health studies that focused on lowering cholesterol show that a small amount of nuts, about 1.5 to 3 ounces daily, can result in lowered cholesterol, especially when the nuts replace other saturated fats in the diet.

Hazelnuts became an effective remedy in a study conducted at the University of Rovira I Virgili, Spain, that examined the effects of nuts on a Mediterranean diet in those who showed signs of metabolic syndrome. The researchers of the randomized trial divided the patients into three groups, each following a Mediterranean diet: a low-fat control group, a group with added olive oil, and a third group that ate nuts in place of the added olive oil.

The nut-consuming group was given packets containing 30 grams of nuts to be eaten daily, a measurement that equals slightly over 1 ounce. The nuts were a combination of hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds. There were no restrictions on calorie intake. The researchers followed the participants for one year and concluded the nut group showed a decrease in metabolic syndrome of 13.7%, while the olive oil group decreased 6.7%, and the control group decreased only 2%.

Other studies suggest that eating nuts regularly show benefits for weight loss, lowered insulin resistance, lower LDL cholesterol, and lowered risk for cardiovascular heart disease.

Because nuts are so delicious and versatile, they’re easy to include in the daily diet. Enjoy!

stufftomato

STUFFED TOMATOES WITH ROASTED NUTS

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup hazelnuts

3 to 4 zucchinis, coarsely chopped (about 4 to 5 cups)
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne
Freshly ground black pepper

4 lettuce leaves

4 large tomatoes

1/2 avocado, mashed or thinly sliced
4 black olives (Kalamata, salt-cured, or regular)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the hazelnuts and pecans on separate baking sheets and roast for 10 minutes. Pour the pecans onto a dish to cool. Pour the roasted hazelnuts onto a kitchen towel, wrap it up, and set aside for 10 minutes. Rub the hazelnuts in the towel vigorously to remove some of the skins and set aside to cool. Place both nuts in a zipper-lock plastic bag and coarsely chop them with a hammer. Transfer them to a large bowl and set aside.
2. Separately, place the zucchinis, carrot, and bell pepper into the food processor and process until finely minced, but not pureed. Add them to the bowl with the nuts.
3. Add the lime juice, rice vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cayenne, and pepper and mix well. Adjust seasonings, if needed.
4. Line 4 plates with the lettuce leaves. Create tomato flowers by placing them with the stem end down on the cutting board. Cut 8 wedges but don’t cut all the way through. Gently spread the wedges to create a bed for the nut and vegetable stuffing. Place a tomato flower on each lettuce-lined plate.
5. Divide the stuffing between the tomatoes and stuff the tomato flowers, placing some of the stuffing between the wedges. Garnish with the avocado and top with a black olive.

Reference:

Salas-Salvado, Jordi, et al. “Effect of a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented With Nuts on Metabolic Syndrome Status. One-year results of the PREDIMED randomized trial.” Archives of Internal Medicine 168 (2008): 2,449-2,458.

Posted in almonds, hazelnuts, Nut Recipes, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 »

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 »

WALNUTS TAKE A MEDITERRANEAN TOUR

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 8, 2009

My husband and I were going to a potluck gathering for a small crowd, and I was asked to bring the appetizer. I had just bought a 2-pound bag of shelled walnuts and decided they were going to become the focus of my contribution.

Then I poked my head into the refrigerator to see what I had on hand and discovered the button mushrooms and the tomatoes I had bought just two days ago. The were still quite fresh and plump looking, so they, too, were included in what turned out to be a delicious starter that came together very quickly.

I always keep Spanish olives on hand because they compliment so many dishes that need a little touch of something pungent.

The end result is that I was able to capture the flavors of southern Italy and northern Spain in one tasty, no-cook appetizer that instantly beckoned with its good looks.

These special mushrooms are best eaten the same day they are prepared.
walnutmushroom
WALNUTTY MEDITERRANEAN MUSHROOMS

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

12 to 16 large button mushrooms, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter

Stuffing
2 slices whole wheat bread

1 medium tomato, de-seeded and diced
1/2 cup walnuts coarsely ground in a nut mill
1/3 cup diced sweet onions
1/4 cup minced Spanish olives
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Garnish
1 or 2 leaves green leaf lettuce
1 or 2 sprigs parsley or cilantro

1. Wash the mushrooms and pat them dry with paper towels. Apply gentle pressure with your thumb to remove the stems. Set them aside for a future recipe.
2. Break the bread into small pieces and put them into a medium bowl. Moisten the bread by pouring warm water to cover over the pieces. Then drain thoroughly and squeeze the bread dry.
3. Add the diced tomato, walnuts, onions, Spanish olives, vinegar, garlic, and salt to the moistened bread and mix well. Stuff generous portions of the bread mixture into the mushroom cavities.
4. To serve, line a serving dish with lettuce leaves, arrange the mushrooms on top, garnish each with a tiny sprig of parsley, and enjoy a nutty good starter.

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

WALNUTS IN A TIE WITH FISH: OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS THE PRIZE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 5, 2009

Reap the immune-boosting Omega 3 benefits of walnuts while enjoying a breakfast of irresistibly delicious muffins.

In an article titled “Dietary Alpha-Linolenic Acid Reduces Inflammatory and Lipid Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Hypercholesterolemic Men and Women” published in the November 2004 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, Penny Kris-Etherton, researcher and professor of nutrition at Penn State University, says, “The important new finding with our research is that a diet high in walnuts beneficially affects multiple risk factors for coronary heart disease, which can have a greater impact on decreasing cardiovascular risk than just targeting single risk factors.”

While many people think of fish as the only source of Omega 3 fatty acids, Dr. Kris-Etherton says, “The omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts were converted to the same omega 3 fatty acids found in marine sources, and had a similar effect on inflammation. Reducing inflammation can help decrease the process of arteriosclerosis—the development and build-up of plaque in the arteries.”

Dr. Kris-Etherton stresses that walnuts are an excellent source of not one, but two essential unsaturated fatty acids, alpha linolenic acid and linoleic acid. Walnuts are also an excellent source of fiber, protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, and minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. Maple Dream Muffins is another delicious recipe from my book The Nut Gourmet.

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A FAMILY FAVORITE, these moist, spicy, and nutty muffins are an excellent choice to serve for brunch or breakfast on the run. They’re so fully flavored they need no jam or other topping. If this recipe makes too many muffins for your needs, simply tuck a few into the freezer for a future occasion. Accompany the muffins with plenty of fresh fruit in season and complete the morning meal with a steaming cup of herbal tea.
mapledream
MAPLE DREAM MUFFINS

Yield: 18 muffins

Prune Puree
1 cup pitted prunes
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

Batter
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/3 cups maple syrup
1 cup vanilla flavored soymilk
1 teaspoon maple extract

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup chopped dates

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 18 standard-size muffin cups with paper baking cups.
2. Combine the prunes and water in the blender and process until smooth. Measure 1/2 cup of the prune puree for the recipe and set it aside. Refrigerate or freeze the remaining prune puree for a future recipe.
3. Toast the walnuts in a 10-inch non-stick skillet for 1 to 2 minutes over high heat, tossing continuously with a wooden spoon until lightly browned. Immediately transfer the walnuts to a dish to cool and set them aside. Alternatively, place the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast them in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Combine the reserved prune puree, maple syrup, soymilk, and maple extract in a small bowl.
5. Combine the rolled oats, whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl, and stir with a wire whip to distribute evenly. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the maple syrup mixture. Add the dates and 1 1/4 cups of the walnuts and mix well.
6. Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full with batter and top with the remaining walnuts. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out dry. Serve warm or at room temperature.
nutgourmetcover
Storage: Covered with plastic wrap or packed into zipper-lock plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator, leftover Maple Dream Muffins will keep for one week. To serve, warm them in a preheated 350-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes. For longer storage, pack the muffins into heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags and freeze them for up to three months.

Notes: If you prefer, 1/2 cup jarred prune puree may be used in place of the pitted prunes and water.

If you do not have whole wheat pastry flour on hand, use an equal amount of all-purpose whole wheat flour. This will produce a slight heavier muffin, but the flavor will still be deliciously satisfying.

Baking Hint: To prevent nuts from sinking to the bottom of the muffins or cakes, toss the nuts with the flour so they are lightly coated before adding them to the batter.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

YIN YANG NUTTY ADVENTURE!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 3, 2009

While my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, was in the editing process, my editor suggested I include some bean spreads made with nuts. That was a great idea I hadn’t even thought of. It was my husband who came up with the idea of putting a dark bean recipe and a light bean recipe together to form the yin yang symbol. Wow! Another great suggestion I could instantly picture in my mind.

nutgourmetcover1

That very afternoon my kitchen was buzzing with the food processor in full gear as I concocted the recipe below. It makes a great party dish that can be prepared a day ahead and always gets conversation flowing.

If you’re a bit intimidated by the artistic aspect, set that fear aside and simply enjoy two separate spreads that make delicious party food. Both recipes can serve as a sandwich filling, an endive filled appetizer, stuffing for a mushroom appetizer, or just a succulent spread over whole grain bread, pita, bagels, or crackers.

Nuts Boost Nutrition

Nutritionally, you can’t beat beans for their wonderful high protein, high fiber, and generous soluble fiber that help to lower cholesterol. Besides, they’re downright satisfying.

With the addition of nuts, you’ve got an even better nutrition boost. Macadamias contain the highest level of monounsaturated fats of all the nuts. That’s the good fat that helps to lower cholesterol. And walnuts are king of the omega 3 essential fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the arteries and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

Now, what’s with the yin yang treatment? The symbol has Taoist origins. The circular form represents the universe, while the dark and light colors suggest opposites in the universe. And since nothing in this world is all black or all white, a small white dot appears in the dark portion and a small black dot accents the light section.

The macadamia-filled Chunky Cannellini Mac Spread sings a masculine hot, light, and
active yang song while the Walnutty Black Bean Spread balances with a feminine, cool, dark, and passive yin song.

While famous sculptors used a hammer and chisel to create their artistic form, my tool of choice is nothing more than the simple spoon. Here’s to delicious eats and a touch of creative joy!
yinyang
YIN-YANG NUTTY BEAN SPREAD

Yield: about 4 cups

Chunky Cannellini Mac Spread
3/4 cup raw macadamia nuts

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained
2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

1. Place the macadamia nuts into the food processor and process briefly to break the nuts into smaller chunks.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and process until thick and slightly chunky. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl.
3. If you prefer a smoother spread, first process the macadamia nuts into a paste in the food processor. Then add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
4. Transfer to one side of a serving dish and set it aside. Wash and dry the processor work bowl and blade.

Walnutty Black Bean Spread
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup raw walnuts
1 tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar *
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dried onion flakes

1. Combine the beans, walnuts, vinegar, water, cumin, chili powder, and salt in the food processor and process until smooth. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl.
2. Add the onion flakes and pulse until they are incorporated. Transfer to the serving dish beside the Chunky Cannellini Mac Spread, and work with the back of a spoon to form the two spreads into the yin-yang symbol. Begin by forming the Chunky Cannellini Mac Spread first. Then, the Walnutty Black Bean Spread will fall right into place. Covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator, leftover Yin-Yang Nutty Bean Spread will keep for about one week.

* Umeboshi plum vinegar is a unique vinegar made from the brine used to salt and pickle ume plums used in macrobiotic cooking. The vinegar has a tangy, salty, and delicately sweet flavor and is used sparingly as a seasoning. You can find this item in natural food markets but can easily substitute with seasoned rice vinegar.

Posted in Bean Recipes, Macadamias, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NUT TRADITIONS IN AFGHANISTAN

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 25, 2009

Over the years while I’ve been teaching vegetarian cooking classes, I’ve developed recipes for a number of different international cuisines. Recently, I was asked if I could teach an Afghan cooking class at the Valencia County Library in Valencia, California. Naturally, I said I could. A little research turned up some delightful recipes I adapted to the vegetarian palate. The class was well attended with enthusiastic students feasting on Afghanistan’s charismatic cuisine featuring two delicious nut dishes I’m happy to share.

Afghanistan, I discovered, was along the silk route and adopted many of the spices from China and India as camel caravans crossed the Afghan desert. Spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, pepper fenugreek, turmeric, cumin, and coriander added exotic flavor to their cuisine, while their native almonds, walnuts, and pistachios contributed pleasing texture and heartiness.
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Of special interest to me was that almonds, walnuts, and pistachios were native to Afghanistan and became a traditional ingredient in savory dishes as well as desserts. In both recipes below, Afghani Stuffed Peppers and Carrot Halwah, chopped pistachios and almonds are sprinkled on top as garnishes, adding appealing texture, and healthful dining.

Afghan Nut Customs
Serving tea and white sugared almonds is a familiar custom during Afghan festivals. Eid-e-Qorban is celebrated at the end of the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, when families and friends come visiting each other to drink a cup of tea together and share some nuts, sweets, and sugared almonds called noql.

Long before Islam arrived, Afghans began celebrating the New Year on the vernal equinox, March 21. A variety of nutty desserts awaited the visiting celebrants. One treat, a unique nut and fruit compote called Miwa Naurozee is an favorite sweet prepared by soaking dried fruits and nuts for two days. The nuts are blanched and combined with the soaked fruits, along with their soaking juices, then served in bowls or cups. Other nut treats, like the nut brittle Halwa-e-Swanak, made with walnuts and pistachios, and Sheer Payra, a walnut and pistachio confection, may be offered to guests during the New Year celebration. These holiday traditions are still practiced today.
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Many versions of halwa, a pudding-like sweet that includes either walnuts, almonds, or pistachios or any combination of them, is customarily offered as thanksgiving, called Nazer, to recognize a number of meaningful occasions like returning from a journey, visiting a holy shrine, or recovering from an illness. People offering Nazer give their neighbors, passersby, and the poor with a dish of halwa or other sweet.

Almonds have a very special role in the typical Afghan wedding, which takes place in two stages. The religious ceremony is first and is not attended by the bride. During the celebration portion the bride and groom are brought together and seated on a raised platform. After serving the newlyweds a fruit drink called sharbat and a wedding sweet called molida, sugared almonds and other confections are showered over them as a symbol of fruitfulness and prosperity.

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This exotic recipe originated as a ground lamb-stuffed chicken dish, but with lots of tweaking, the result is an extreme makeover. This tasty adaptation is now a wholesome vegan entrée with good looks, irresistible aromas, and hearty dining. I served the meal with a big tossed salad and a delicious grain called farro. However, more typical of Afghan cuisine would have been some Basmati rice garnished with chopped pistachios and minced parsley.
afghanpepper
AFGHANI STUFFED PEPPERS

Yield: 6 servings

1 green bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise and cored
1 red bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise and cored
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise and cored

Filling
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup pistachios

1 pound extra firm tofu, crumbled
Zest of 1 small orange
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
Freshly ground black pepper

Tomato Sauce Topping
3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper

1/4 cup unsweetened soy yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, place the prepared peppers into a 7 x 9-inch baking dish, and set aside.
2. TO PREPARE THE FILLING, combine the onion, carrot, garlic, water, and extra virgin olive oil in a large, deep skillet and sauté about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the onions and carrots become lightly browned and are beginning to caramelize. Add more water to the pan as needed to prevent burning the onions.
3. Add the raisins, almonds, and pistachios and cook 1 minute. Add the tofu, orange zest, lemon juice, salt, cardamom, dill weed, and pepper and mix well. Adjust the seasonings, if needed and stuff the mixture into the prepared peppers, packing the mixture firmly. Set aside and prepare the sauce.
4. TO PREPARE THE TOMATO SAUCE TOPPING, place the tomatoes and onions into the food processor and process until they are coarsely pureed.
5. Transfer the tomatoes to a 2-quart saucepan and add the cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Cook over medium high heat for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly, and season with salt and pepper.
6. Add the yogurt to the tomato sauce and stir well. Spoon a generous quantity of the sauce over the stuffed peppers. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake for 1 hour.

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While milk and ghee (clarified butter) are traditional ingredients in Afghan cooking, they have been replaced with alternative choices in this vegan version of a classic dessert served in Afghanistan and throughout many parts of the Middle East, including India. Still, the result is a tasty, brightly colored carrot pudding dotted with nuts and raisins and a hint of exotic spice. Serve the pudding warmed, room temperature, or chilled.
halwah

HALWAH-E-ZARDAK

(Carrot Halwah)

Yield: 4 to 5 servings

4 tablespoons dairy-free margarine (like Earth Balance)
3 tablespoons raw pistachios, coarsely ground
2 rounded tablespoons golden raisins

4 cups coarsely grated carrots (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups almond, soy, or rice milk
1/2 cup organic sugar

1 teaspoon rosewater
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon slivered almonds

1. Place 2 tablespoons of the margarine into a deep 10 to 12-inch skillet and add 2 tablespoons of the pistachios and all of the raisins. Cook over high heat for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, to brown the pistachios lightly and plump the raisins. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.
2. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of margarine in the skillet. Add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they just begin to brown.
3. Add the almond milk and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently for about 1 hour, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed. The carrots will have cooked to a nearly pudding-like consistency.
4. Add the cooked pistachios and raisins, the rosewater, lemon juice, and cardamom and mix well. Spoon into 4 or 5 small dessert bowls or teacups and garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pistachios and a few slivered almonds.

Posted in almonds, Celebrations, Nut Desserts, Nut Folklore, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health, pistachios, Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

TASTE THE LOVE ON VALENTINE’S DAY

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 14, 2009

Warm the heart of that someone special with a blushing red, homey dessert you can prepare a day ahead and serve chilled. For a romantic touch, garnish the old-fashioned tapioca pudding with homemade chocolate hearts so irresistibly infused with love Cupid is sure to hit the mark. Valentine’s Day planning is the perfect opportunity to get out those heart-shaped cookie cutters that wait a full year to help love blossom. The Chocolate Hearts can be made several days ahead and either baked in the oven or dried in the dehydrator. Seal the Chocolate Hearts in a zipper-lock plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator.
rastapioca

RASPBERRY TAPIOCA PUDDING WITH CHOCOLATE HEARTS

Yield: 6 servings

2 cups frozen raspberries
1/2 cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 3/4 cups soymilk
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond extract

1. Combine the raspberries, organic sugar, tapioca, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan and mix together. Gradually stir in the soymilk and lemon juice until the mixture is well blended.
2. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract.
3. Cool 5 minutes, then spoon into serving bowls and chill 2 to 4 hours or until firm. Serve with Chocolate Hearts.

Chocolate Hearts

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons golden raisins

To make the Chocolate Hearts in the oven

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a jellyroll pan with parchment. Have ready various sizes of heart-shaped cookie cutters.
2. Combine the walnuts, dates, water, cocoa, and golden raisins in the food processor and process to a lightly textured puree. You will have to stop the machine several times to redistribute the ingredients until everything is well incorporated and the nuts are broken down to a fine, slightly textured meal. The mixture will be very thick.
3. Spoon the chocolate mixture onto the prepared baking pan and use the back of the spoon to press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan to form a rectangle approximately 8 x 9 inches by 1/4-inch thick.
4. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the chocolate sheet is set but still soft. Remove the pan from the oven and cool about 30 minutes. Then use the cookie cutters to create several hearts. The hearts will firm as they cool.

To make the Chocolate Hearts in the dehydrator

1. Prepare the mixture as for baking. Then, simply spread the chocolate-date mixture on a teflex-lined dehydrator tray and place it in the dehydrator. Set the dial at 115 degrees and dehydrate for 9 to 12 hours.
2. Invert the chocolate-date sheet onto an unlined rack, remove the teflex sheet, and use the cookie cutters to press in several hearts, leaving the chocolate sheet intact. Return the tray to the dehydrator and dehydrate 8 to 12 hours longer to create a soft, but solid sheet. Allow the chocolate sheet to cool completely before removing the hearts.

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

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 »

 
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