Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 9, 2015


Pecans are native to the American South, and you can bet those creative Southerners put them on the menu every chance they could find. Those delicious little pecans even made the South famous for its pecan pie, an irresistible dessert that makes ex-pat Southerns very homesick.

Many Southern families have their own treasured family recipe–possibly even some handed down from grandma’s or great-grandma’s secret recipe. Years ago, family recipes were so cherished many were kept secret.

I have great respect for those delicious heirloom recipes that bring families together at special times like the holidays. And I also love the way Southerners say pecans– south of the Mason-Dixon line they call them puh cons.

My holiday version has all the eye-appealing and flavorful attributes of its traditional counterpart with the added benefit of being totally vegan. But I must admit that veganizing the recipe was one heck of a challenge.

My first 8 attempts–yes, it actually took 9 tries to get it right–came out too runny or totally soupy. It was maddening and totally frustrating, but I was one determined gal. The goal was to find a way to thicken and bind the ingredients, as eggs would do in the traditional recipe. About the 8th time the top baked perfectly, and I thought I had achieved success at last. But, no! As soon as I cut into it, it was soup.

Taking the place of the eggs is a combination of tapioca flour and flaxseeds that gives the pie its unique, creamy texture. The tapioca flour also performs the double duty of thickening the filling as well as providing an inviting glaze that enhances its appeal. The key was tapioca flour –it worked like magic! Now I’m thrilled to share this recipe that’s from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

There are many ways to arrange the pecans on the top. Some people simply sprinkle broken pieces over the filling, but I wanted a pecan pie that was pretty darned eye appealing. If you have the time, start by sorting out beautiful pecan halves of similar sizes for the topping. Then arrange them side-by-side in concentric rings beginning in the center of the pie.

At serving time, make way for those pecan lovers who scramble for a piece of pie!

Down Home Pecan Pie


Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie

Nutty Wheat Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup organic canola oil
2 tablespoons cold water

Pecan Filling
1 1/4 cups coarsely broken pecans

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dairy-free margarine
1 1/2 cups light or dark corn syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup regular soymilk
1/2 cup tapioca flour, packed

5 tablespoons flaxseeds
1 1/4 cups pecan halves

1. TO MAKE THE PIE CRUST, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet. Combine the pastry flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.

2. Add the oil and mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Add the water and stir thoroughly until the mixture forms a soft dough and all the water is absorbed.

3. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper, place the pie pan over the dough, and invert the dough and pan together. Remove the waxed paper carefully and firm the edges of the crust. Trim the excess crust with a knife. Bake the Crust for 5 minutes and set it aside on the baking sheet to cool.

4. TO MAKE THE PECAN FILLING, put the coarsely broken pecans on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 minutes. Immediately pour them onto a dish to cool. When cool, spoon the pecan pieces into the bottom of the pie shell.

5. Melt the margarine over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 5 minutes and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.

6. Put the soymilk in a small bowl and stir in the tapioca flour. Set it aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the liquid. Don’t rush this step. The tapioca flour needs a full 5 minutes to absorb some of the liquid.

7. Meanwhile, put the flaxseeds in a blender or mini chopper and grind them to a fine meal. Add the flaxseeds and the soymilk mixture to the cooled corn syrup mixture. Stir to combine, and pour the mixture into the blender. Blend for 1 minute, until smooth. Pour over the toasted pecans.

8. Top the pie with the pecan halves, arranging them in concentric circles, beginning in the center. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before chilling in the refrigerator. The pie will firm after it is thoroughly chilled.

Posted in Desserts, Holiday Recipes, Nut Desserts, pecans, The Nut Gourmet, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on July 6, 2015

Need a little argan oil to soften your dry skin? I had never heard of the stuff until recently, but I’m learning quickly about its allergenic challenges along with its benefits, thanks to the helpful comments I received on this blog. The oil comes from a tree nut, which explains why people with tree nut allergies are experiencing skin irritation after using the oil. arganoil2

Because argan oil and shea butter have beneficial moisturizing effects on the skin, many cosmetic, body, and hair care manufacturers include them in a host of new products. They’re in common use today and turning up everywhere, causing unpleasant allergic reactions in people who suffer from tree nut allergies.

Prompted by the comment about a previous post (Beware the Cashew Allergy–and the Secret Mango Culprit!), I began to research the plaguing issue of allergic reactions from nut-derived ingredients, like tree nut oils, in body care and beauty products. What seems cashew2like a benign moisturizing lotion designed to soothe and comfort dry skin just might be the hidden culprit of a miserably itchy rash.

People with serious tree nut allergies are almost always super-vigilant about avoiding any kind of nuts oralmond3 foods that contain nuts or nut oils, knowing that eating them will cause serious reactions, like anaphylaxis, that could send them to the emergency room. Serious tree nut allergies don’t usually come and go–they are generally life-long.

But what about people who rarely eat nuts and don’t realize they may have sensitivity to tree nuts and products containing nuts and nut oils?

Common tree nuts include Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts. Uncommon tree nuts, used mostly in the form of oils in cosmetics and beauty, hair, and body care products include the argan nut, sold as argan oil, and shea nut, marketed as shea butter.

Milder reactions to tree nuts may result in itchy rashes or pesty eczema that people might not readily trace back to nuts or nut products. After all, nuts are healthy foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and a host of antioxidants. Sufferers of these nasty, and sometimes very ugly, rashes may be applying beauty and body care products regularly without realizing they are THE PROBLEM. Another puzzler is allergic symptoms that show up after long-time use of a nut-or nut-oil-containing product.
almond2Manufacturers may say their product does not contain detectable protein residues from tree nuts, the trigger that causes allergic reactions, yet people sensitive to tree nuts and nut oils still react with eczema, rashes, and skin eruptions that drive them crazy with severe itching or burning.

Seeds, like sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, and flax, and oils from these seeds are also troublesome for some allergy sufferers and may cause similar reactions.

The real issue is that people don’t tend to read ingredient labels of the body care products they buy. And in some cases, not all of the ingredients are listed on the product label because there are so many. In those cases, consumers are encouraged to contact the product manufacturer. Because the ingredients of these products are usually in a daunting list of unfamiliar chemicals, most people ignore them.

While tree nut or seed oils used in cosmetic products may appear in the ingredient list, warning notations below the ingredient lists are rare and strictly voluntary. Just like foods containing tree nuts and other food allergens must be disclosed by naming the specific nut on the product packaging, the same ought to be protocol for body care and cosmetic products.

A warning on product labels like the following would be invaluable to those who must avoid these challenging allergens: “Warning: This product contains oils derived from tree nuts and/or seeds.

Poor Claude (comment section below) suffered a double whammy when he first applied argan oil to soothe the rash on his hands and body caused by eating cashews and pistachios. Argan oil is derived from a nut tree grown in Morocco. Users of the oil consider it a healthy culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal oil, but for Claude, the oil added fuel to the fire.

Then, when Claude applied Cetaphil Lotion to alleviate his rashy misery, the rash worsened. Little did he realize that the macadamia oil in this product piled more fuel onto the raging fire. The product lists the macadamia oil in its ingredients, but Claude was unsuspecting that he actually had a nut allergy.

Here’s the note from Claude:
“Thank you, Zel, for helping lots of people, including me. Argan oil is from a tree nut, very similar to Pistachio. Lots of people report rash with Argan oil (used for hair & skin). I have rash on my hands & body recently from eating cashew and pistachio. Then I was foolish to use Argan oil for the rash & bleeding skin. And it got TWICE WORSE. If you Google pictures of Pistachio versus Argan nuts … the clusters are similar.

“Then I bought Cetaphil lotion (has Macadamia nut oil), and the rash got even worse !!! Thanks to your blog, I’ll stop eating cashew & pistachio. Will give away the Argan oil & Cetaphil lotion (recommended by dermatologists!!!)”

Those who are allergic to tree nuts might want to add argan oil to their list of allergens to avoid. Argan arganoil may contain similar proteins as tree nuts that trigger life-threatening allergic reactions, namely shortness of breath and anaphylaxis, and should be avoided.

Argan oil is extracted from the almond-like nuts of the argan tree, Argania spinos, a fruit-bearing tree that grows wild in the desert regions of Morocco, Israel, and Algeria. The nuts, considered the fruit of theArgan Nuts tree, are classified as tree nuts. Because argan oil is not highly refined and is cold-pressed, it may retain some or all of the allergenic protein that causes allergenic skin reactions in some people.
Argan tree
Allergic reactions to argan oil include skin eruptions that might resemble acne appearing on the neck, upper back, chest, and around the hairline. Other people may react with contact dermatitis, appearing as red, scaly and itchy skin.

One person loved the way her skin looked while using argan oil but reported having a sore throat and swelling of the tongue she never connected to the oil until she discontinued using it and the symptoms disappeared.

After using argan oil shampoo, some people developed severe dryness of the scalp, itching, and even pain.

Beauty in the Breakdown Blog reported dramatic breakouts with red, itchy, bumpy, and burning rash over the hands, face, shoulders and head after using argan oil on the hair.

Blog author Emily Bell says, “From my research, I have collected my own preliminary list of what to avoid in beauty products if you have a tree nut allergy: argan oil, almond oil, macadamia nut oil, shea butter, ginkgo biloba, and any derivation of walnuts such as walnut shell powder or Brazil nuts such as Brazil nut protein (in the Aveda Be Curly Style-Prep).

“In going back and inspecting all my beauty products, I have seen it all. There is also some debate on whether coconut oil should be added to the list, but I personally haven’t had a reaction to it. (Update: There is also some debate on whether shea butter should be on the list. I absolutely love the smell of shea butter but have yet to determine whether or not I react to it.)”

Sold as a non-greasy oil for softening and hydrating the skin, the argan oil is used on the scalp and hairarganoil__16010.1408225053.550.550 as well as the skin. As hair oil, it’s used to prevent frizzing and split ends. With its high fatty acids content, the oil is thought to aid in preventing brittle hair. Because it contains high levels of vitamin E and antioxidants, some consider it to have anti-aging properties that help the skin retain its elasticity, softness, and youthful appearance.

In addition to being the source of oil used in cosmetic products, the argan tree provides other benefits in its native region. Its leaves are healthy food for cattle, while the wood becomes fuel for indigenous people.

The oil also has culinary uses in the regions where the argan tree is grown. Home cooks drizzle it on couscous and other native foods. The oil extraction process produces a thick residue that’s sweetened by Berber cooks and used as a dip for bread, a traditional breakfast treat.

Medicinally, the oil is a good source of unsaturated fatty acids, tocopherol, and phenolic compounds considered beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, and atherosclerosis. Some studies reported the oil helps to lower cholesterol, stimulates circulation, and improves immune function.

SheaBecause I use so few cosmetics and body care products, Ith-1 never gave shea butter much thought and had no idea of its origin until now. Shea butter, I learned, is derived from a fruit-bearing nut tree that grows wild in West and Central Africa and is known by many names, sometimes called the karite nut or vitellaria paradoxa. The fruit of the tree looks similar to an avocado, and when crushed, it produces oil highly prized for use in cosmetics.

The oil of the shea nut contains only a minimal amount of protein, the constituent in tree nuts thatSheaButter2 triggers allergenic reactions. It’s not considered highly allergenic, but very sensitive people may want to exercise caution and avoid products containing shea butter. Though shea butter is not commonly used in cooking, it has sometimes provided a good substitute for cocoa butter used in chocolate processing.

Allergic symptoms may be as severe as anaphylaxis and asthma or mild as allergic rhinitis. Using shea butter can also result in annoying symptoms like dermatitis or hives, known medically as urticaria, resulting in itching or burning. Some people have even reacted with vomiting.

On the positive side, one health study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 1979 noted a medicinal value for shea butter in reducing nasal congestion in people suffering from rhinitis. Known mainly for its ability to soften and soothe dry skin, shea butter is often applied to calm skin rashes, dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. Yet, for some people with tree nut allergy, shea butter is the cause of those miserable rashes and severe itching.

I want to express my appreciation to everyone who has taken the time to offer comments and encourage other to share their issues, too. Those comments were extremely helpful and are what prompted me to do a bit of research and share what I’ve learned about ingredients I never suspected would be problematic.

While my son is still plagued with itchy rashes that drive him a bit nutty, he is still sorting out troublesome ingredients that may be hidden in unexpected places.

Please do keep the comments coming. As new information comes my way, I’ll gladly pass it on in this very nutty blog.

“Argan oil.” Wikipedia.

Astier*, C., El Alaoui Benchad, Y.,. Moneret-Vautrin, D.-A., Bihain, B. E., and Kanny, G.. “Anaphylaxis to argan oil.” European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 15 Oct 2009. DOI: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2009.02200.x

Bell, Emily. “Argan oil update: tree nut allergy?” Beauty in the Breakdown. June 20, 2013.

Berrougui, H., Cloutier, M., Isabelle, M., and Khalilm A.

“Phenolic-extract from Argan Oil (Argania spinosa L.) Inhibits Human Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) Oxidation and Enhances Cholesterol Efflux 
from Human THP-1 Macrophages.” Atherosclerosis. 2006 Feb;184(2):389-96. Epub 2005 July 12.

Castle, Jill, “14 Hidden Allergens in Everyday Products: Common Foods and Non-Foods Contain Hidden Allergens.” About Health. January 25, 2015.

Drissi, A., “Argan Oil Research.” Amal Oils. http://www.amaloils.com/Argan-Oil-Research

Drissi, A., Bennani, H., Giton, F., Charrouf, Z., Fiet, J., and Adlouni, A. “Tocopherols and Saponins Derived from Argania spinosa Exewrt, an Antiproliferative Effect on Human Prostate Cancer” Cancer Invest. 2006 Oct; 24(6):588-92.

“Food Allergen Labeling And Consumer Protection Act of 2004 Questions and Answers.” FDA: U.S. Food and Drug Administration. July 18. 2006.

“Is Argan Oil Safe For People With Tree Nut Allergies?”. OneSpot Allergy http://blog.onespotallergy.com/2014/04/is-argan-oil-safe-for-people-with-tree-nut-allergies/

“Nut and Peanut Allergy.” Teens-Health from Nemours.

Orwa C, A Mutua, Kindt R , Jamnadass R, S Anthony. Vitellaria paradoxa. Shea oil, shea butter, beurre de karate. 2009 Agroforestree Database:a tree reference and selection guide version 4.0 http://www.worldagroforestry.org/sites/treedbs/treedatabases.asp

“Special Precautions when Using Moroccan Oil Shampoo.” Argan Oil Care. July 15, 2014.

Summers, Gerrie. “Shea Butter: What It Is, Why It Works.” About Style.

Tella, A. “Preliminary studies on nasal decongestant activity from the seed of the shea butter tree, Butyrospermum parkii.”
British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 1979 May; 7(5): 495-497.

“Tips for Avoiding Your Allergen.” FARE: Food Allergy Research & Education.

“Tree Nut Allergies.” FARE, Food Allergy Research & Education

“What are Argan trees; what is argan oil?” Yahoo Answers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on July 4, 2015

U.S. Food Safety just posted a warning that macadamia nuts purchased at King Soopers and City Markets may be contaminated with salmonella. Ingesting salmonella contaminated nuts could cause severe illness.

These nuts came from Free Range Snack Company. Raw macadamia nuts – bulk #54192.

Posted in Macadamias, Nut Allergies | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in cashews, Nut Allergies, nut research, Nuts and Health, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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

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

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

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

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

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


walnut stuffed eggplant




Yield: 4 hearty servings.


2 (1-pound) eggplants

Extra virgin olive oil


1/2 pound tomatoes, chopped

1/4 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced

1 cup chopped onions

4 large cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Freshly ground black pepper


1 cup raw walnuts, divided

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

3 heaping tablespoons capers, well drained


2 to 3 small ripe tomatoes, sliced


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




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


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


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



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.


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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


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


Bierfest Potato Salad


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yield: 5 to 6 servings

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

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

1 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided

1/4 cup  apple cider vinegar

1 cup  cherry tomatoes, halved

1 orange bell pepper, diced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 to 8 green onions, chopped

1 (8-ounce) package tempeh bacon, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, or to taste

1/4 bunch parsley, for garnish

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

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

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

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

Posted in Celebrations, Holiday Recipes, Octoberfest, Side Dishes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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





Shiitake Tornadoes in Cashew-Cream Sauce copy

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

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

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

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

Yield: Makes 12 balls; 8 to 12 servings


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

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon tamari

1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives

3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely ground

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup black or regular sesame seeds

12 long sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half, for garnish

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

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

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

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

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

Cashew Cream Sauce

2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste

1 to 2 tablespoons tamari

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

Pinch cayenne

1/2 cup cashews, finely ground

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Freshly ground pepper

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

carrotwreath copyAlmond Thumbprint CookiesNew Year LogSanta's Favorite Panforte

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T MISS AN OPPORTUNITY TO WIN YOUR OWN COPY OF VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS! CLICK ON My Beauty Bunny <a href=”http://www.mybeautybunny.com/win-vegan-holidays-cookbook/#ixzz2dSysAv00&#8243; title=”My Beauty Bunny cookbook give-away”>


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

Yield: 6 to 8 servingsTijuana Tofu Cocktail 2copy

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

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Chefs & Carolyn

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

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

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

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

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


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

Bob GoldbergMichael BesanconPaul Lewin

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

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

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

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

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

Enchilada Bites

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

Crispy Chicken w/mozzarella & tomato sauce

Veggie Tacos topped with their Fiesta Blend unmelted shreds

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

And Mac ‘n’ Cheese featuring their melted Cheddar

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

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

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

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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,507 other followers