Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for July, 2009


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on July 22, 2009

Being thoroughly acquainted with myself, and feeling relatively content with that acquaintanceship, I recognize I have become much too much a creature of habit—not too different from my fellow humanoids. I refer to my food buying habits—specifically nut products.

Eons ago I tossed the processed, hydrogenated nut butters out of my pantry and literally became a zealot for natural nut butters. I checked every ingredient label with the same scrutiny as Fuzzy, my cat who sniffs and rejects every new food I’ve tried on him. Only the purest roasted nut butters were allowed to grace my morning toast.
But I recently had my epiphany when I attended the Natural Products EXPO way back in March of this year, 2009 that is. I discovered a ton of nut products that peaked my curiosity. Out went the boring habits and in came a host of new items, still scrutinized for their healthful properties, but new nonetheless.

One of those products came from a company called Once Again Nut Butters that enhanced one of their many varieties of almond butter with flaxseed oil. Flaxseeds are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids. Not a bad idea, I thought, since it’s an essential fatty acid that offers a ton of health benefits.

For several years I’ve heard and seen radio and TV commercials touting the benefits of eating fatty fish for its Omega 3 fats. Magazines and newspapers print articles pushing salmon as if it were the only source of these good fats. All I’ve read about Omega 3 describes the essential fatty acid as able to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke, boost the immune system, and reduce inflammation in the arteries. Those benefits sound great, but vegans are not amenable to chowing down on a plateful of salmon.

Instead, a compassionate soul like me has found a number of animal-free sources for this essential fatty acid—namely flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, canola oil, and dark leafy greens.

So there on the market shelf stood a jar of smooth almond butter with Omega 3. The ingredient label read “dry roasted almonds, flax seed oil.” Pretty darned pure, I thought. It passed the first test. Well, lights didn’t flash, nor did bells ring, but something came alive within and urged me to put it into my shopping cart. Then a surprising thing happened! I felt compelled to buy the jar next to it as well. That one was certified organic raw almond butter. WOW! Something wondrous was happening.
It was with the first taste of this OMEGA 3-enhanced almond butter that I experienced true elation. At that moment I believed I had tasted the sweetest almond butter on earth until I spooned the organic RAW almond butter onto my toast next to the roasted nut butter. It was sweeter still! That was a total surprise. I eat raw almonds regularly, but never thought of buying a jar of raw almond butter. Could it be that one taste is enough to create a devotee?

Inspired to the max I decided this fabulous almond butter had to join my family and me at the table not only for breakfast, but also for dinner. An instant flash of AhhhHahhh coaxed me into the kitchen, made me grab the jar of Omega 3 almond butter, and cook up an almond sauce with savory flavors perfect to spoon over the brown rice pasta I had planned for dinner. I aimed for a sauce that was well seasoned, thick, and creamy but didn’t expect the rewarding flavors that resulted. This sauce was so indulgent and rich in flavor, it gave a simple pasta dish an elegant gourmet touch. With the leftovers, I made a veggie Gado Gado, giving the dish a unique new twist. It’s usually made with a peanut sauce.



Yield: makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta

1 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup water
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
Pinch cayenne

3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup roasted almond butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds

1. Combine the onions, water, garlic, and cayenne in a large deep skillet and cook, stirring frequently, over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onions are softened and become translucent.
2. Add the vegetable broth, almond butter, cumin, coriander, salt, chili powder, and lemon juice and adjust the heat to gently simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will begin to thicken in about 5 or 6 minutes.
3. Serve over pasta and garnish the top of each dish with a sprinkle of the crushed toasted almonds. Refrigerated in a covered container, leftovers will keep for about 4 to 5 days.

The sauce has a tendency to thicken as it stands. Thin it to desired consistency beginning with small amounts of water. Refrigerated leftovers will become almost solid. Thin with water and reheat over medium-low heat.

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, Nut Companies, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »


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

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

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

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

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

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



Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup hazelnuts

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

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

4 lettuce leaves

4 large tomatoes

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

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


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

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


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on July 6, 2009

Only a nut like me could get ecstatic about the Northern Nut Growers Association celebrating its 100th annual meeting from July 19 to July 23, 2009 at Purdue University in Indiana. Imagine—an organization in existence for 100 years and still going strong.
And I’m a devout devotee of The American Chestnut Foundation, an organization with high hopes of soon restoring the American chestnut to its once lush forests along the Appalachian slopes using scientific breeding and backcrossing methods to produce a blight-resistant American chestnut.

Both organizations work with passion and dedication to researching, planting, breeding, and growing the best tasting, most nutritious nuts in the world. And because of their research, amazing developments in health science have come to the forefront. And I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a nut groupie who loves to read their newsletters.
Here’s some awesome news. The researchers at the University of Portland in Oregon discovered that the nuts, shells, leaves, limbs, and bark of the hazelnut tree produce a chemical called paclitaxel. Even the fungi that attack the hazelnut tree produce paclitaxel. That’s big news because paclitaxel is the active ingredient in the drug taxol, manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb, and used for treating patients with breast or ovarian cancer and the AIDS-related cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Until now, the drug was manufactured by extraction from the needles of the yew tree, a very costly process. With the discovery of paclitaxel contained in the hazelnut tree, nut growers now have a greater motivation to produce the varieties of hazelnut trees that contain the greatest quantities of the chemical. While hazelnuts contain some paclitaxel, eating them won’t offer sufficient quantities to offer treatment. The drug’s potency comes from a larger concentration of paclitaxel.

I was delighted to discover a recent study by the Mayo Clinic, published June 5, 2009 on their website, confirming that eating nuts regularly in small amounts, about 1.5 ounces a day, is good for the heart. The article, referenced below, quotes the Food and Drug Administration’s July 2003 statement that says evidence “suggests but does not prove” that eating nuts reduces heart disease risk.

The Mayo Clinic says the variety of nut is not what matters. It’s that nuts, in general, contain a combination of such valuable components like mono and polyunsaturated fats, L. arginine, fiber, vitamin E, and plant sterols that work together to lower cholesterol, especially the LDL cholesterol, and reduce the risk of developing blood clots that often cause fatal heart attacks. The amino acid L. arginine in nuts benefits the arteries by keeping them flexible to allow better blood flow. Plant sterols that naturally occur in nuts are plant fats that help to lower cholesterol by preventing its absorption during the process of digestion.

Instead of consuming less healthy snacks, the Mayo Clinic suggests those with heart disease would benefit from eating nuts instead that can help patients focus on a more heart-healthy diet.

To help keep you on the path to good health, here’s a tasty recipe for an easy summer sandwich that features hazelnuts, carrots, and healthy, fiber-rich whole grain bread.


These tasty hazelnut-studded sandwiches can be quickly assembled for a spontaneous picnic outing. Include a bean salad packed with chopped veggies, fresh fruit, and some vegan cookies, and you’ve got the makings of a great meal outdoors. For a stay-at-home light lunch, present the sandwiches with flair by cutting them into quarters and garnishing the plate with a fruit salsa.

Yield: 4 sandwiches

3 large carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
2/3 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped in the food processor
6 to 8 stuffed green olives, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced

1/4 to 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise

8 slices whole-grain bread
16 to 20 whole fresh basil or mint leaves

1. Combine the carrots, hazelnuts, green olives, and garlic in a medium bowl. Add enough vegan mayonnaise to moisten them well and hold the ingredients together.
2. Spread one side of each slice of bread with a light coating of mayonnaise, and spoon the nutty carrot mixture on 4 of the slices. Arrange the basil or mint leaves over the carrot mixture and top with the remaining bread.

For richer flavor, roast the hazelnuts. To roast, place the nuts on a baking sheet and place in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the nuts and pour them onto a kitchen towel. Wrap them in the towel and set aside for 10 minutes. Roll the nuts in the towel vigorously to remove some of the skins and set aside to cool completely. Chop the nuts coarsely in the food processor or place them in a zipper-lock plastic bag and pound them gently with a hammer until coarsely chopped.


drbriffa. A good look at good health. Evidence supports the incorporation of nuts in the diet. May 21, 2009.

Mayo Clinic staff. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health. MayoClinic.com. June 5, 2009.

Science Daily, April 11, 2000. Potent Anticancer Agent Found in Hazelnuts. Plant Could Become Alternative Source of Taxol Precursor.

Susman, Ed. StopGettingSick.com Going Nuts over Paclitaxel

Posted in Celebrations, chestnuts, hazelnuts, Nut Growing, Nut Nutrition, Nut Organizations, Nut Recipes, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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