Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for January, 2012


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 30, 2012

One of my favorite cookbook authors, the well-seasoned Nava Atlas, has created Vegan Holiday Kitchen, a stunning new book with an impressive 200 well-crafted recipes to bring vegan joy and dining pleasure to holiday meals throughout the year.

Nava has graciously allowed me to reprint one of her recipes from the Christmas section. These are so gooooood, you’ll want to make these in January, May, or September, or any time, just because they’re, well, addictively delicious.

They’re easy and WOW! they make the kitchen smell so good before, during, and after baking! Once I opened those little jars of spices and started measuring, I knew their aromas would drift up and out in all directions and send pleasing scents throughout the house and even out the window. My lucky next-door neighbor had the pleasure of a delightful, spice-scented afternoon.

A visit to Nava’s wonderful website VegKitchen.com is a must. Once there, explore her generous array of recipes, kitchen tips, articles, and discover her many other books.


These have a nice cookie top highlighted by the use of sugar. If you need a big batch of easy little cookies, these are a good choice.

Makes about 4 dozen

1/2 cup Earth Balance or other hon-hydrogenated margarine
1/2 cup dry unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup rice milk
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or allspice
1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Powdered or granulated sugar for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Add the cocoa powder, sugar, and rice milk. Whisk together until the mixture is a smooth syrup. Remove from heat.

3. Combine the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center and pour in the chocolate syrup. Work together, first with a spoon, then with clean hands, to make a stiff batter. Work in the walnuts and chocolate chips.

4. Form into balls no larger than 1 inch in diameter. Arrange on two parchment-lined baking sheets, flattening each ball lightly with your palm (or bake one batch at a time). Bake for 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are just starting to turn golden. Don’t overbake, as these crisp up as they cool.

5. Sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar. Allow to stand for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. With a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to plates until cool.

Posted in Vegan Desserts, Vegan Websites, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 25, 2012

Until now I have only shared my own original recipes and nut-focused how-tos, along with a host of nut-filled posts from health-oriented nut studies to occasional forays into a touch of silliness.

My resolution for this New Year is to travel beyond the boundaries of nuts and share, explore, and discover websites that post magnificent vegan recipes and food creations deserving of praise and recognition.

I won’t abandon my beloved nuts—I do love them so! And I’ll also share recipes and tidbits from my new cookbook that will be coming out in a few months. The new book, with the working title Gone Vegan for the Holidays, is a bounty of delicious recipes that will make holidays at the vegan table very very special. Book Publishing Company is the publisher.

One exceptional, must-see webhttp://veganmenu.blogspot.com What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway? Drop by for a browse and you’ll quickly find yourself salivating over some of the most innovative and tantalizing vegan dishes you could ever desire.

These creative home chefs have taken vegan cuisine to an artful level and given their readers a ton of visual feasts with enticing food styling. They employ an awesome variety of Mother Nature’s treasures with passion and have mastered the art of stretching the mind with their creations.

Enjoy the charming photographic displays at this website. It’s like treating yourself to a fun day of window shopping.

Posted in Uncategorized, Vegan Blogs and Websites, Vegan Websites | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 22, 2012

Within a few hours after I posted my family’s experience with allergic rashes from consuming mangoes and cashews, I received the comment below. It’s so well explained in scientific terms I thought it important to share in a post rather than a comment.

The information comes from Sandra J. Baker, author of The Poison Oak & Poison Ivy Survival Guide.

Thank you so much Sandra. Your information explains the science behind my husband’s and two sons’ itchy rashes after eating mangoes and cashews. Hopefully, this post and the previous one will benefit others who suffer the misery of itchy skin rashes and haven’t discovered the cause.

Sandra writes:
I can add to your quest for information. Mango, cashew and poison oak, ivy and sumac are all in the family Anacardiaceae. Then poison oak, ivy and sumac join the genus Toxicodendron which contains the allergenic oil urushiol in its resin. But, mango and cashew also have allergenic oils. Mango has resorcinol, and cashew has anacardiol and cardol. All of these allergenic oils have enough similarity that if you are allergic to one, you are probably allergic to the others.

Mangos’ allergenic oil is mostly in the resin canals in the skin (always peel first before eating), and is thought to be somewhat weaker than poison oak/ivys’ oil. Some people are extremely allergic to it, but a mango grower said his workers usually don’t get much of a rash at the beginning of working with the plants. After a while, the sensitivity usually goes away. The oil can migrate from the skin into the flesh, so it is a good idea to stay away from all mango products, even juice if you know you are allergic.

All cashews imported into the US (even those labeled raw) are shelled and cooked a bit beforehand, because that will destroy the allergenic potential of the cashew nut shell oil that is between the honeycombed layers of the shell. (the oil of the cashew itself is harmless). (Poison oak/ivy and sumac oil is highly resistant to heat by the way.

Very seldom, cashews are accidentally imported without being cooked, and may have been contaminated from the shell cracking procedure, Rashes have been documented. This is a much smaller problem than that of mango rashes.

Posted in cashews, Nut Allergies, nut research, Nuts and Health, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments »


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 21, 2012

My husband has had a love affair with raw cashews for years and never had an allergic reaction to them. He’s also enjoyed mangoes and eats them with gusto whenever they’re in season. He’s nibbled on a couple of handfuls of cashews almost daily for years—that is, until now. Here’s an account of the surprising tale of the cashew allergy and the sneaky mango offender.

We traveled from our home in Los Angeles to the Philippines to visit our son who has been living and working there. Every day we feasted on the delicious and bountiful tropical fruits like longan, lanzones, jackfruit, pineapples, and the sweetest mangoes, ever.

Almost daily, we were enjoying those succulent mangoes with gusto and had them mainly for breakfast and occasionally for lunch. They were difficult to resist with their ultra silky smooth flesh and practically hairless texture. It was easy to cut into them and munch the flesh right off the mango seed.

One afternoon, my husband concluded his lunch with one of those irresistible mangoes, then, put on his socks and shoes for a fun outing that followed. Within an hour or two, he was scratching at his ankles that began to itch annoyingly. When he rolled his socks down to examine the cause of the itching, he saw a bright, red rashy area that practically encircled his ankles.

An internet search for mango allergy turned up a surprising bit of allergy information. Mangoes can, indeed, cause an itchy rash in sensitive people who handle the peel and eat the area directly under the skin. My husband remembered peeling the mango for lunch and made the connection that the mango residue on his hands came in direct contact with his ankles as he put on his socks. Fortunately, he was able to connect the mango to his itchy rash.

For several months our son had been suffering from an itchy rash that covered the upper portion of his body and his arms, but he could never find the cause. As the rash and itching worsened, he began taking medication to gain relief, but found little success. In an effort to trace the source of the problem, he began experimenting with different laundry detergents, lotions, and body-care items. He also began eliminating common foods known to be allergens, but nothing helped, until my husband’s dramatic mango reaction.

While we were together, our son also experienced a swelling and numb sensation in his lips and the area around his mouth. That symptom lasted for several days before subsiding. That, too, was mentioned in the research on mango allergy. The research was an aha moment for both my husband and our son who both swore off mangoes.

The rash on my husband’s ankles lasted for three weeks before subsiding. About a week after we returned from our Philippine visit, my husband resumed his handful of cashews and within an hour he began scratching his back. Sure enough, his back was broken out in a bright red rash that looked like slightly raised, individual red pimples–tons of them.

Then came another aha moment. That mango research mentioned the cashew family that includes cashews, pistachios, poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac. Now, both mangoes and cashews are off the menu for my husband and our son.

When we mentioned our mango experience to our other son, he told us he also experienced the numbness around his mouth and lips when eating mango. It appears there’s a heredity factor, so beware the cashew allergy and the hidden mango culprit.

Hopefully, my family’s rashy account may help solve a rashy mystery for others.

Posted in cashews, Nut Allergies, Nut Oddities, Nuts and Health, pistachios | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 130 Comments »


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 4, 2012

Do you ever yearn for a breakfast dish that’s playfully indulgent– deliciously sweet, but not too sweet—- a bit of crunch, but not too crumbly—- healthful, but still a tad naughty? I sure do.

These tasty oat squares are a variation of a recipe in my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, but I’ve taken them to a more daring level. These neat little breakfast treats have a pleasant little snap to them. Nice thing is that they can be made a day or two ahead and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy them.

They’re best served warm, so tuck them into a preheated 350-degree F. oven to warm for about 5 to 6 minutes. Bring one or two flavors of your favorite jam or fruit spread to the table along with the Creamy Tofu Topping recipe below.

Then spread an oaty cake with a lashing of jam, and spoon a dollop of Creamy Tofu Topping over the jam. Now, take a bite— WOW! It’s glorious— somewhat crunchy—-and a little chewy— and definitely creamy—-ahh! perfectly sweetened. It’s positively sensuous and will make you feel pampered and coddled with self-indulgence. But, hey, isn’t that a bit of OK!

What happens if you crave these often? No problem—-the recipe is easy—-make ‘em again and again!

Serve these with fresh fruit on the side—-perhaps a fruit salad–maybe cut up fruit slices— or simply bring the fruit bowl to the table with a knife or two and enjoy the fruit informally. And don’t forget that steaming cup of tea or coffee to complete this perfectly naughty breakfast.


Yield: 5 to 6 servings

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup coarsely ground walnuts
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons organic canola oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready a dry baking sheet and a rolling pin.
2. Put 2 cups of the oats in the blender in batches and blend briefly to create a coarse oat flour. Transfer the oat flour to a medium bowl.
3. Add the walnuts, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the water, canola oil, and almond extract and use the back of a spoon to mix into a thick, moist dough.
4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the remaining oats on the counter top or work surface and spoon the dough over the oats. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2-cup of oats over the top, covering it completely.
5. Roll the oat-covered dough into a rough rectangle to a thickness of about 3/8-inch. Using a flatware knife, cut the dough into 2-inch squares or rectangles and use a metal spatula to lift them onto the baking sheet.
6. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the cakes over and bake 10 to 12 minutes longer. Transfer to an attractive serving platter and enjoy.

Creamy Tofu Topping
1/2 pound extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put all the topping ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately or chill and serve when ready. Refrigerated, the Creamy Tofu Topping will keep for up to four days.

Posted in Nut Recipes, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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