Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for April, 2009

PISTACHIO POWER KNOCKS DOWN HEART DISEASE RISK

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 28, 2009

While there is still concern about salmonella contaminated pistachios, safe sources do exist. Check your local supplier, and ask questions about their suppliers. When you locate safe sources, stock up on them, prepare the incredibly delicious recipe below, and bone up on some heart-friendly pistachio facts.

Aside from being a tasty snack and a delicious addition to desserts, main dishes, soups, salads, sauces, and salad dressings, pistachios have proven themselves to be highly nutritious and medically effective in lowering the risk for coronary heart disease.

Several studies in recent years have focused on the natural cholesterol-lowering effects of pistachios without the use of statin drugs. One study conducted at Penn State University was a controlled feeding study using the American Heart Association Step 1 diet. The Step 1 study successfully demonstrated the powerful effects of pistachios in lowering total cholesterol by 8.4 percent and LDL cholesterol by 11.6 percent when eaten daily in three-ounce portions. Pistachios also contain high levels of antioxidants that aid in reducing inflammation in the arteries.

Another study conducted in Turkey and published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease in 2006, examined the effects of pistachios on plasma lipid profile and oxidative status in 24 healthy men and 20 healthy women. After one week on their normal diets, half the group continued their regular diet, while the other half substituted pistachios for 20% of their daily calorie intake for three weeks.
pistachio
Before and after the study, blood tests were charted for LDL (the bad cholesterol), HDL (the good cholesterol), total cholesterol, triglycerides, MDA (malondialdehyde), and AOP (antioxidant potential). After the three weeks, the pistachio group was found to have significantly decreased their total cholesterol, MDA levels, and total cholesterol to HDL levels, and the LDL/HDL ratios. The results showed that those on the pistachio diet decreased oxidative stress, improved their total cholesterol, and increased their HDL levels.

Those irresistible little green wonders are packed with protein and fiber, yet they are low in carbohydrates. Their high levels of good fats, mostly monounsaturated (fats), are part of their charm in lowering cholesterol. Pistachios are also a good source of arginine, a highly respected amino acid needed for the body to manufacture nitric oxide, known for its ability to dilate the blood vessels.

Natural plant fats called phytosterols are nature’s way of preventing the absorption of excess cholesterol into the blood. After peanuts, pistachios score next highest in phytosterols among the nut family with 214 mg of phytosterols for 3.5 ounces.

If you need a boost in potassium, count on pistachios with 1025 mg for that same 3.5 ounces. If you’re deficient in minerals like iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, or selenium, you might enjoy snacking on two generous handfuls of pistachios a day—that’s equal to about 3.5 ounces.

For so many nutritional needs, you can consider pistachios among your good friends. And to reap the benefit of pistachios to the fullest, be sure to reduce your intake of other dietary saturated fats, such as dairy products, meat, chicken, or fish. The studies and nutritional information were conducted using raw pistachios.

References:
Gebauer, Sarah K., Penny Kris-Etherton, Colin D. Kay, Sheila G. West, and P. Alaupovic. “Pistachios Lower Cholesterol, Provide Antioxidants.” Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04

Kocyigit, A, A.A. Koylu, H. Keles, “Effects of Pistachio Nuts Consumption on Plasma Lipid Profile and Oxidative Status in Healthy Volunteers.” Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease. 2006 16(3):202-9.

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Here’s a dish that frames beautiful, bright green pistachios with a backdrop of a golden brown garbanzo paté. Served as a casual, make-ahead dish, the paté becomes a tasty hot or cold filling for a sandwich. Cut it into squares and serve it as appetizer finger food at a party or picnic. To turn the paté into a hot or cold signature entrée, cut it into slices or wedges and serve them on a lettuce-lined platter with a dollop of Tofu Sour Cream and a sprinkling of paprika and minced chives topping each slice.

GARBANZO BEAN PATE WITH PISTACHIOS

Yield: 8 to 10 servings
garbanzopate

1 large onion, finely minced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 3/4 cups garbanzo bean flour
3 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup raw pistachios

Garnish
1 medium tomato, sliced, slices halved
1 Japanese or Persian cucumber, sliced
Sprigs of fresh dill or cilantro

1. Line a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan or a ring mold with enough plastic wrap to drape over the sides and set aside.
2. Combine the onion, carrot, garlic basil, curry powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and thyme in a large, deep non-stick skillet. Add the soy sauce, olive oil, and lemon juice and cook and stir over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion is soft and transparent. Reduce the heat to medium.
3. Add the garbanzo bean flour to the skillet and add the water, a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Adjust the heat to medium-high, if needed, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches the consistency of very thick porridge and begins to pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan. A thin, dry crust will form on the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the pistachios and stir well to distribute them evenly throughout the mixture. Spoon the paté mixture into the prepared loaf pan or ring mold, pressing firmly to eliminate any air spaces. Set aside for about 30 minutes to cool the paté. Fold the excess plastic wrap over the paté, covering it completely, and chill for at least 4 to 12 hours to firm.
5. Uncover the paté and unmold it onto an attractive serving platter. Garnish the top with quartered cucumber slices and surround the paté with the tomato halves topped with cucumber slices. Tuck a few springs of herbs around the base of the paté and cut it into serving slices or wedges.

Note:
Garbanzo bean flour, also called chickpea flour, can be found in Middle Eastern or Indian markets. Because this special dish needs to be refrigerated for a minimum of 4 hours to cool and firm, begin preparation several hours ahead or the day before.

Variation: Other bean flours, such as lentils or green split peas, can be substituted for the chickpea flour. To create your own bean flour, measure 2 cups of dried green or brown lentils or green split peas and grind them into flour in a small electric mini chopper-grinder or coffee grinder. This quantity will equal the chickpea flour measurement. You will also need to increase the water measurement by approximately 2 tablespoons.

TOFU SOUR CREAM

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 12.3-ounce box extra firm silken tofu
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Use immediately or chill for an hour or two before serving. Refrigerated, Tofu Sour Cream keeps for 1 week.

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

The NUTTY Ball-Off Contest

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

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

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

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

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

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

yifan

    Blue Ribbon Prize Winner

NUT BALLS by YiFan Rao

Yield: about 25 to 30 one-inch balls

1 1/2 cups of raw almonds

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

10 to 12 dates, soaked in water overnight

1 cup golden flax seeds

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

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

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

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paula

    Second Prize Winner

NUT BALLS by Paula Shields

Yield: 18 to 20 one-inch balls

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

1/4 cup dried coconut, finely ground

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

Note: Dried cranberries would also make a tasty addition.

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wolfie

    Honorable Mention

NUT BALLS by Wolfie Cavender

Yield: about 40 one-inch balls

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

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

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

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

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pamela

    Honorable Mention

NUT BALLS by Pamela Lopez

Yield: about 24 one-inch balls

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

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

2 tablespoons cacao powder

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

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

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matthew

    Honorable Mention

NUT BALLS by Matthew Weisman

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

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

GOT PEANUT ALLERGIES? SUNFLOWER SEED BUTTER TO THE RESCUE!

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

Peanut allergies can make life rather harrowing for those who must avoid even the smallest quantity of peanuts and any by-products containing peanuts. That means many of the delicious foods made from peanuts and peanut butters are strictly off limits.

But sunflower seeds may come to the rescue! When I attended the Natural Products EXPO in Anaheim, California, in March, 2008, I enjoyed a pleasant encounter with SunGold Foods, Inc., a company that makes Sunbutter, a creamy product made of sunflower seeds.
sunflower
When I tasted their organic creamy Sunbutter, my first thought was that it was so like peanut butter I really thought it contained some peanuts. I was assured the smooth and rich-tasting “butter” was made only from roasted sunflower seeds—it didn’t even contain salt or sugar. It was thick, like peanut butter, and totally engaging. As I walked away from the booth, the thought of the sunflower seed butter clung to me like my favorite red sweater, and I knew a jar of it would soon become part of my regular pantry items.

Several of the peanut butter recipes in my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, will taste equally as delicious with this sunflower seed butter standing in for the peanut butter–recipes like the Peanut Butter Carob Pie, Yam and Nut Butter Soup, Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse, Pistachio Peanut Bon Bons, and African Peanut Soup.

And sunflower seeds are highly nutritious with plenty of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and Vitamin E. And as for the all-important minerals, they’re naturally packed with calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, iron, zinc, and copper.

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Sunflower seed butter–what a delight and what a treasure for those who will no longer have to miss out on a host of delicious peanut butter recipes! Armed with sunflower seed butter, peanut allergy sufferers and anyone who enjoys a flavorful and zesty dish can now make this delicious sauce for recipes like Indonesian Gado Gado or Satay. For this easy sauce that takes no more than 5 minutes to make, I would suggest using the unsalted and unsweetened variety. You can choose either the chunky or smooth texture.

A word of caution is in order, though. For those with peanut and tree nut allergies, sunflower seeds and products made from them may possibly pose the same risks as consuming peanuts and tree nuts. Always read labels of any products you purchase to make sure they were not made in a facility that processes peanuts or tree nuts. The Sunbutter is made in a peanut and tree nut-free facility, but may still cause serious risks of severe reaction for some people.

sunseedsauce

SUNFLOWER SEED SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup or organic sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large clove garlic, crushed
Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste

1 to 2 teaspoons finely minced chives

Combine all the ingredients, except the chives, in a small mixing bowl and stir with a whisk to blend the flavors. Stirring for a full minute creates a thicker sauce. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl and garnish with the chives. Serve as a dip for baked tofu or seitan, or spoon over steamed vegetables, cooked grains, or tossed salad.

Posted in peanuts, sunflower seeds | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

WALNUTS TAKE A MEDITERRANEAN TOUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

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

Stuffing
2 slices whole wheat bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yield: 18 muffins

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

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

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

1 cup chopped dates

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

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

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

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

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

 
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