Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health


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

Here’s a nutty toast in honor of the inauguration of our 44th U.S. president:

Our nations problems may seem like tough nuts to crack, but may those nutty challenges crack easily under your inspired leadership and nourish our hearts and our spirits.

Posted in Nut Quotes and Toasts | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Walnuts and Omega 3 Fats—Married For Life!

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

FATS—should we embrace them or turn our backs on them? Are they good for us or do they challenge us with chronic health problems?

In spite of all the bad things we’ve heard about fats in the diet, there are some fats that are absolutely vital and indispensable to our existence. These “good” fats are protective of our health.

I want to focus on those good fats—Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Most people get plenty of Omega 6 fatty acids from meat, dairy products, and vegetable oils. The critical fat that’s often in short supply is Omega 3.

How often have you heard about those almost magic Omega 3’s and that we should all be eating salmon two or three times a week to get those essential fatty acids? I’ve even gotten an earful of those messages from doctors on the radio or in TV interviews. You probably have, too.
What you might not hear are other great sources of those important fatty acids. Have you ever encountered doctors on TV, radio, or in newspapers mentioning that WALNUTS are a terrific source of Omega 3 fatty acids? Probably not. It’s almost as if salmon had an exclusive contract!

Because of my strong interest in nuts for their many health benefits, I’ve learned a few things about walnuts and Omega 3 fatty acids.

Here are some tidbits you may not be familiar with. Walnuts are among the few foods that contain Omega 3 fatty acids. The other Omega 3 food sources include fatty fish like salmon, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, soybeans, butternuts, and the oils made from these foods. Hempseed, canola oil, broccoli, and dark leafy greens are also really good sources.

So, what on earth are Omega 3 fatty acids anyway and what makes them so darned important? Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fat that our bodies need to function healthfully. Here are some of the important tasks this fatty acid performs:

• Critical for optimal brain development and function
• Important for nervous system performance
• Vital to form healthy cell membranes
• Needed to hold the cells together and keep them flexible
• Prevention of neurological disorders
• Helpful in hormone production for many metabolic functions

Aside from their great flavor, crunchy texture, and high levels of fiber, protein, B vitamins, folate, minerals and antioxidants, walnuts are the proud possessors of Omega 3 long-chain fatty acids

Whenever I feel a craving for nuts, I can almost always predict it’s walnuts I’m yearning for. The truth is that craving doesn’t occur often because hardly a day passes at our house without some kind of nuts appearing at one meal or another to combine with Omega 3-containing foods. That’s how much of a dedicated nut case I am. But maybe the walnut craving is my body communicating that I’m a little low in those all-important Omega 3 fatty acids.

What to do? I simply keep a good supply of shelled walnuts in a jar in the fridge so I can quickly respond to my body’s call. It’s as easy as that!

But the secret to maintaining a healthy body that doesn’t constantly send out cravings is to eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods daily with an emphasis on plenty of fruits and vegetables and a handful or two nuts, and seeds.

As the main overseer of my family’s health, I’ve developed a storehouse of delicious easy-to-prepare nut recipes. I’d like to share a family-favorite walnut recipe from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

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.


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

2/3 cup raw walnuts
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 them to the skillet along with the tomato paste and capers. Mix well.
5. Fill the eggplant shells with the vegetable mixture and top with the tomato slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake uncovered for 25 to 35 minutes.

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

American Chestnuts Return

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 16, 2009

People are frequently asking me which nut is my favorite. That’s a really tough question to answer. Because each of the nuts has its own unique qualities, all have a special place in my heart.

Today, I’d like to share some history about the American chestnut. It’s a story of hope and perseverance. At one time the region along the U.S. Eastern Appalachians was a lush, dense forest of stunning American chestnut trees that grew as tall as 100 feet. Each year in the early autumn ripe chestnuts would drop onto the forest floor and provide food for the forest animals and sustenance for those living in and around the forests.
The trees grew branchless for about 50 feet and also provided strong hardwood to the lumber industry. Chestnut wood was used for household furniture, paneling, fencing, and musical instruments.

Hardy though the mighty chestnut tree was, it fell prey to a deadly fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, from trees imported from Japan during the 1800s, though it took several years and much research to discover the origin of the disease.

In 1904 the first infected chestnut trees, about 1,400 of them, were found in New York City along the avenues of the Bronx Zoological Park. At first, the park’s forester, W. H. Merkel, noticed only a few yellowed leaves. A year later he found chestnut trees sickened with dead branches barren of leaves that signaled serious problems. By 1950, the blight destroyed almost all the American chestnut trees and was considered one of the greatest ecological disasters the country had ever experienced.

But thanks to some very dedicated people, we may someday be able to reintroduce Americans to their delicious native chestnut. Today, the American Chestnut Foundation is working with plant pathologists and researchers to restore the chestnut trees to their once magnificent and prolific forests. For more detailed information see http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch.html

Posted in chestnuts, Nut History | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Peanuts Pack Antioxidants

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 14, 2009

Peanuts and peanut butter deliver great flavor delight, but there’s much more behind those crunchy legumes we’ve come to think of as nuts. Peanuts are loaded with resveratrol, a super antioxidant that, ounce for ounce, has 30 times the power of grapes. Resveratrol is found in ample amounts in grape skins and red wine, but one ounce of peanuts packs as much resveratrol as two ounces of red wine.

Richly flavored with peanuts, also known as groundnuts, and lightly spiced with a seasoning combination that hints of far away places, this hearty soup just might entice you to make an entire meal of it. This is one of my very favorite easy, no-fail recipes.peanutsoup


Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds Roma or regular tomatoes, chopped
2 onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 cups water
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, minced (divided)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups finely chopped Swiss chard or spinach
3/4 cup unsalted chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts

1.    Combine the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olive oil in a large stockpot and cook and stir over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes are softened and the onions are transparent. Turn the heat down to a simmer.
2.    Add the water, tomato sauce, 3 tablespoons of the mint leaves, chili powder, cumin, salt, and red pepper flakes and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.
3.    Add the Swiss chard and peanut butter and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly to distribute the peanut butter. The soup will thicken slightly.
4.    To serve, spoon the soup into bowls and garnish with a pinch or two of the remaining mint leaves and the crushed peanuts.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, groundnuts, Nut Recipes, peanuts | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

%d bloggers like this: