Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for February, 2009

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 »

Eat Nuts Obamicon Style

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

Today, a very special friend emailed me this wildly expressive Obamicon-style poster of my portrait. He happens to know about my passion for spreading the word of the health benefits of nuts.

So, with his creative ability to turn a phrase, he superimposed the “perfect mantra” onto my photo.

I love it! It’s perfect for a nut like me. Just two words, yet they speak my message with such clarity.
zelposter

Posted in Nut Oddities | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Whimsical Quotes from a Nut

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

Nuts add pleasure to my life in countless ways. I appreciate them for adding spark to my recipes. I love them for their delicious flavor. I am grateful for their health benefits. I enjoy their pleasing crunch. But, that’s not all.

I love nuts for their literary charisma and for bringing a smile to my day. Check out the quotes below—perhaps they’ll make you smile, too.

“Warning: the Internet may contain traces of nuts.” — Anonymous

“The gods send nuts to those who have no teeth.” — Proverb

“Women, asses, and nuts, require strong hands.” — Proverb

“Love your enemy – it’ll drive him nuts.” -– Anonymous

“Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.” –Charles M. Schulz

“Don’t worry if your job is small and your rewards few. Remember that the mighty oak was once a nut like you.” — Anonymous

Posted in Nut Quotes and Toasts, peanuts | 1 Comment »

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 »

Chestnut Stuffed Apples

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

I adore chestnuts—not that I don’t love all the other nuts, too, but chestnuts—well—they’re special—really special. Chestnuts have a texture like no other nuts. They’re very very low in fat so they have a totally different mouthfeel from other nuts.

Tree nuts are known for their high monounsaturated fat content, but chestnuts are different with a total fat content of 8%, while almonds contain about 80% fat and walnuts have about 87% total fat. Even the saturated fat content of chestnuts bottoms out at 2%, while other nuts range from 7 to 22%.

Chestnuts are starchy and, when cooked, their texture could be compared somewhat to a firm, boiled potato—actually, more like a creamy Asian sweet potato because chestnuts are sweet. Also, chestnuts are not crunchy like other nuts, and they’re mostly eaten cooked rather than raw. Their soft texture and sweetness set them apart from other nuts.

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Try free-associating the words “baked apples” and you’re sure to arrive at familiar words like home, homespun, comfort food, old-fashioned, Mom, fragrant aromas, warmth, sweet, raisins, and kitchen. But it’s doubtful you’ll connect chestnuts with baked apples. This grand combination, heightened with orange blossom water and a heavenly sauce, invites happy gorging in a good sense—the ingredients are wholesome and nourishing. This is a great make-ahead dessert that can be served chilled or gently warmed. To warm the apples, place them in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. To warm the sauce, place it in a saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
bakedapple2
CHESTNUT STUFFED APPLES

Yield: 4 servings

4 sweet apples (Fuji, Gala, or Pink Lady), washed and cored

Filling
1 cup cooked, peeled, coarsely chopped chestnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange blossom water**
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Creamy Sauce
3 cups vanilla soymilk
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 to 3 tablespoons water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place the prepared apples into an 8 x 8-inch baking pan, and set aside.
2. TO MAKE THE FILLING, combine the chestnuts, raisins, dates, water, maple syrup, lemon juice, orange blossom water, and cinnamon in the food processor. Pulse and process until the mixture is almost pureed, leaving the mixture with a little toothy texture. You may have to stop the machine once or twice to scrape down the sides of the processor and process again to incorporate the stray bits.
3. Use a pointed spoon to fill the cored apples, pushing the filling firmly down into the bottom of the cavity. Mound the remaining filling over the top of the apple and smooth the top.
4. Place an aluminum foil tent (shiny side down) over the baking dish and seal the edges well. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes. Baking time will vary with the apple variety. Fork test after 50 minutes.
5. TO MAKE THE CREAMY SAUCE, combine the soymilk, brown sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wire whip. Watch carefully to avoid a messy boil-over.
6. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the gently bubbling sauce a little at a time, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, or until thickened to desired consistency.
7. TO SERVE, place the baked apples into individual dessert dishes and spoon a generous serving of the sauce into the bottom of each bowl, forming a pool of creamy sauce.

To enhance the dessert presentation, here are some suggestions:

    Float fresh raspberries in the sauce
    Float fresh strawberries in the sauce
    Make a sauce with raspberries or strawberries blended with sugar to taste and drizzle over the top
    Drizzle warm chocolate syrup over the top of the apple filling and allow it to cascade down the sides
    Drizzle a small amount of rum, brandy, Kahlua, or Crème de Cocoa into the sauce

**Orange blossom water can be purchased at most Middle Eastern, Greek, Italian, Armenian, and Iranian grocery stores. If you are unable to locate it, don’t worry. Simply leave it out, and the recipe will still bring delicious satisfaction.

Posted in chestnuts, Nut Desserts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

COOKING AND PEELING CHESTNUTS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 12, 2009

Chestnuts reside on my favorite pedestal. There is a tendency for many people to avoid using fresh chestnuts because, admittedly, they are a bit time consuming to prepare. I promise, though, they are totally worth the time expended. Here’s the technique:
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Cooking
Using a firm, sharp paring knife, make a horizontal cut completely across the domed or rounded side of each chestnut. If both sides are flat, make the cut across one of the sides. Place the chestnuts into a large saucepan, and cover them with about 3 inches of water.

Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat just slightly to medium-high, and boil the chestnuts gently for about 25 minutes for the large Asian chestnuts purchased in the market and about 35 minutes for chestnuts grown in the U.S..
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Roasting is another method of heating the chestnuts so the peels can be removed. Pile the crisscross-cut chestnuts onto a baking sheet and roast them at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool them slightly and peel away. Some chestnut aficionados suggest soaking the chestnuts for about 20 minutes before roasting, claiming it makes them easier to peel.

Still another method for heating chestnuts prior to peeling them begins with making a crisscross cut on the shell. Then put them into a large, deep skillet with a small amount of oil, about one tablespoon for each pound of chestnuts in the shell. Turn the heat to high and cook them for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing the chestnuts continuously with a wooden spoon or shaking the pan to prevent the direct heat from burning them.

I prefer the boiling method because sometimes the roasting and stove-top methods result in chestnuts that also need to be boiled to soften them enough for most recipes.

Peeling
Now, prepare a cup of tea for yourself and sit down at the table with the pot of cooked chestnuts on a trivet. Have a bowl handy for the peeled chestnuts and another for the shells. Take out three or four chestnuts at a time and put them on a small dish or bowl in front of you. Cool them only slightly–they peel more easily when they are quite hot.
chestnutpeel
Using your paring knife, take hold of the shell close to a crisscross cut, and remove the shell with a pulling motion. You will also need to remove the brown inner skin as well. Be prepared for a little tug-of-war. Sometimes the inner skin is a bit stubborn. If it is too resistant, the chestnut may need to be cooked a few more minutes.

As the chestnuts cool, they become a little more challenging to peel. It’s best not to fight with them. Just put the pot back on the burner and heat them up for a few minutes so you can finish the task with ease. Just be sure there is enough water in the pot to cover the chestnuts. The job can actually be fun if you can convince your family to participate in the peeling project.

Posted in chestnuts, Cracking and Peeling Nuts | Tagged: , , , , | 23 Comments »

HOW IT ALL PECAN

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 10, 2009

Pecans are charismatic and personable and have a way of charming their way into your heart—it really doesn’t take much to win you over. Just crack open a fresh pecan in the shell, pop it into your mouth, and you’ll soon taste a divinely delicate sweetness with distinct undertones of an earthy creaminess.

Their flavor is reminiscent of weak coffee with a hint of sugar and a generous pouring of milk. As you pop another fresh pecan into your mouth, notice the texture is unlike any other nut and is best described as having an endearing subdued crunch.

Because pecans are native to the American South, they frequently turn up as pecan pie on Southern dessert menus. This version has all the eye-appealing and flavorful attributes of its traditional counterpart with the added benefit of being egg-free and cholesterol-free. Taking the place of the eggs is a combination of tapioca flour and flaxseeds that give the pie its unique, creamy texture. Tapioca flour performs the double duty of thickening the filling as well as providing an inviting glaze.

Create a love-at-first-glance dessert by taking the time to sort out beautiful pecan halves for the topping and then arranging them side-by-side in concentric rings.

This is one of the many delicious recipes in Zel Allen’s The Nut Gourmet cookbook.
pecanpie
DOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Yield: 1 9-inch pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

1 1/4 cups attractive, unbroken pecan halves
1 1/4 cups coarsely broken pecans

2 tablespoons non-dairy, non-hydrogenated margarine
1 1/2 cups 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. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a large baking sheet. Bake the pie crust for 5 minutes and set it aside on the baking sheet to cool.
2. Place the unbroken pecan halves in a small bowl, and reserve them for the topping. Place the coarsely broken pecans in a non-stick skillet and toast them over high heat, stirring constantly, for about 1 to 2 minutes until the pecans become slightly fragrant. Watch carefully to avoid over-toasting or burning them. Pour the toasted pecans immediately into a dish to cool. When cool, spoon them into the bottom of the pie shell.
3. 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, then set aside to cool about 30 minutes.
4. Place the soymilk in a bowl and stir in the tapioca flour. Set it aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca to absorb some of the liquid.
5. Meanwhile, place the flaxseeds in a small electric coffee grinder or mini chopper-grinder and grind them to a fine meal. Add the flaxseeds and the tapioca soaked soymilk to the cooled corn syrup mixture. Stir to combine, and pour the mixture into the blender. Blend for 1 minute until smooth, then pour over the toasted pecans.
6. Top the pie with the reserved pecan halves, arranging them in concentric circles beginning on the outside. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly, then chill in the refrigerator. The pie will firm after it is thoroughly chilled.

Working with Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds processed in the blender with water can serve as a thickener and binder in baked goods. Because of their viscous nature, flaxseeds ground with water tend to cling to the blender, if allowed to dry. To ease the cleanup, fill the blender with water as soon as you remove the flaxseed mixture and allow it to soak for a few minutes before washing it.

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

Nuts in the Bible

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

One rainy Saturday afternoon when I didn’t feel like jumping in the car and running errands or shopping, I decided to stay put and do some nut research. I was curious to see what the Bible had to say about nuts.

The best way to do my investigation was to find a concordance to the Bible, an alphabetical list of words used and the passages that contain them. Before the internet was around, I had to go to the library and find a copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

But that Saturday I sat down in front of my Mac, went to Google, and typed in “bible concordance.” At the top of the list was BibleGateway.com. I clicked on Keyword Search and entered the word “nut,” and what gems I found!

Genesis 43:11
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.

Song of Solomon 6:11
I went down to the grove of nut trees to look at the new growth in the valley, to see if the vines had budded or the pomegranates were in bloom.
vangoghalmondtree
My next step was to learn what individual nuts were mentioned in the Bible. My search only turned up two kinds of nuts—almonds and pistachios. Almonds turned out to be the winner with eight entries while pistachios had only one that it shared with almonds. Since I have already given you the one shared by both almonds and pistachios, I decided to share the other almond passages with you.

Genesis 30:37
Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.

Exodus 25:33
Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand.

Exodus 25:34
And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms.

Exodus 37:19
Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms were on one branch, three on the next branch and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand.
almondunripe
Exodus 37:20
And on the lampstand were four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms.

Numbers 17:8
The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.

Ecclesiastes 12:5
And when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.

Jeremiah 1:11
The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.

Some people will read Bible translations where chestnut trees are mentioned in Ezekiel 31:8. Most translations including the New International Version will refer to the trees as ”plane trees.” Because chestnuts were growing in Asia Minor for centuries, I was surprised that chestnut trees were not commonly mentioned in the Bible

Ezekiel 31:8
The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty. King James Bible, Webster’s Bible Translation, and Young’s Literal Translation

What surprised me was that two of the almond statements were repeated in different chapters of Exodus. The bible translation used in the Bible Gateway website was the New International Version.

Oh, and I hope you like the Van Gogh Branches with Almond Blossom 1890 painting above.

Posted in almonds, chestnuts, Nut Quotes and Toasts, Nuts in the Bible, pistachios | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

TREASURE IN A NUTSHELL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALMONDS

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

BRAZIL NUTS

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

CASHEWS

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

CHESTNUTS

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

HAZELNUTS

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

MACADAMIAS

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

PEANUTS

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

PECANS

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

PINE NUTS

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

PISTACHIOS

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

WALNUTS

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

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

THE WONDERS OF HAZELNUTS

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

Because I know how beneficial hazelnuts are to our health, I wanted to incorporate them into a recipe that also has other nutritious ingredients that are low in fat. So here’s a tasty recipe that allows the hazelnuts’ healthful monounsaturated fats to help bring down high cholesterol.

In an 8-week cholesterol-lowering study published in the September 13, 2006 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the participants began with a 4-week control diet. Then they were placed on a diet enriched with 1 1/2 ounces of hazelnuts a day and were successful in decreasing their total cholesterol by 5.2 % in the remaining four weeks of the study.
hazelnut
Hazelnuts are high in copper, the mineral that plays an important role in forming collagen crucial for bone formation. Collagen is also the connective tissue of our skin and helps to maintain our appearance. Copper also helps sustain elasticity of the blood vessels that, in turn, aids in stabilizing our blood pressure.

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Deliciously caramelized onions possess an alluring natural sweetness that’s hard to resist. This unique recipe makes a richly flavored spread to enjoy on toast or bagels for breakfast, or an appetizer spread for toasted pita wedges or crackers. Nice thing is you don’t have to spend oodles of time in the kitchen to make this tasty spread. It’s one of those simple preps you easily can start, stop, and assemble when it’s convenient.

ROASTED ONION AND HAZELNUT BUTTER

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

2 medium onions, sliced 3/8-inch thick
1 medium carrot, sliced thin

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw hazelnuts

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne (optional)

Garnish
Dash paprika
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs like parsley, chives, or mint

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and have ready a lightly oiled baking sheet.
2. Place the onion and carrot slices on the baking sheet and roast them for 20 minutes.
3. While the onions are roasting, grind the hazelnuts to a fine powdery meal in batches in the food processor, a small electric coffee grinder, or mini chopper and set them aside.
4. Remove the onions from the oven and sprinkle the balsamic vinegar over them. Toss them well with a spatula and roast them for 10 minutes longer.
5. Transfer the roasted onions to the food processor and add the hazelnuts, chives, salt, and cayenne, if using, and process until the mixture is almost pureed. Tiny visible bits of carrots and chives give the spread an appealing appearance.
6. Spoon into an attractive serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika and a pinch of fresh herbs.

Suggestion: Another way to enjoy this extraordinary buttery spread is to turn it into an open-faced cheese melt. Spread a generous portion of the “butter” on slices of whole-grain bread. Top with sliced tomatoes and arrange slices of vegan cheese over the top.

Place the open-faced sandwiches on a baking sheet and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Cut into quarters and serve as finger food, or serve with a knife and fork and enjoy for breakfast or lunch.

Posted in hazelnuts, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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