Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for the ‘chestnuts’ Category

VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS GIVE-AWAY!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 1, 2013

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HOW THE VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS COOKBOOK WAS BORN

Many years ago I remember being bummed out when one of our kids brought a vegan friend over the house for dinner. At that time, it was a big deal because I had no idea of what to fix for them.

Now that I’ve been vegan for 24 years, the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. Though things have changed considerably over the years, and many people have become pretty darned savvy about what’s vegan and what’s not, there are still some big gaps and big humps for vegans to overcome.

One of the major humps still plaguing vegans is the traditional holiday dinner, when the whole family comes together for the festivities. The lone vegan in a non-vegan family may be one of the lucky ones to have a vegan-savvy family that knows just what to cook to satisfy all tastes.

For the vegan whose family cooks the Standard American dishes for those big holidays like Thanksgiving, the struggle goes on.

That’s mainly why I created the Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook, but it was for me, too. I thought it would be fun to have a whole bevvy of holiday dishes in my repertoire that I could count on year after year and not have to struggle to come up with something special for the occasion.

I figured I wasn’t the only vegan who faced the quandary of what to cook for those special holiday meals–dishes that really stand apart from stuff I cook the rest of the year.

A FEW DISHES FROM VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS

I also wanted to be able to share those special dishes that make the holiday dinners so divinely delicious and so very memorable. Here are a few dishes to stir your curiosity:

carrotwreath copyAlmond Thumbprint CookiesNew Year LogSanta's Favorite Panforte

There’s nothing like a tasty teaser to spark even more curiosity, so I want to share one of my favorite appetizers that appears in the Christmas section of Vegan for the Holidays. Truth is that this recipe is so versatile, it doesn’t have to wait for the holidays to arrive.

Because the ingredients are available year round, Tofu Tijuana Cocktail is a delight even in the middle of July. Actually, it’s a fabulous starter in July when avocados are in abundance and reasonably priced.

Another point of versatility is the inter-play between tofu and chestnuts. When chestnuts are in season, generally from October through December and sometimes January, they ought to be the featured item in this starter. And, if you’ve never ventured into the land of cooking and peeling chestnuts, check out the step-by-step Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts details that appeared in an earlier post Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts.

The thing about chestnuts is their ultra sweet flavor and soft and pleasing potato-like texture. Chestnuts are not like any other nut, yet they are still considered a tree nut, like walnuts or almonds. What makes them so different? For starters, they have a soft and starchy texture rather than a crunchy nature like other nuts. They are extremely low in fat–about 2% rather than the usual 50% to 80% fat in most other nuts. Chestnuts are starchier than other nuts with about 27% carbohydrates, while other nuts range in carbs from 12% to 32%.

When chestnuts are not in season, replace them with chunks of firm tofu and enjoy a delicious starter that looks elegant served in long-stemmed wine glasses or champagne flutes.

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TIJUANA TOFU COCKTAIL

Colorful and inviting, this zesty appetizer comes alive with bright colors, bold flavors, and a glamorous presentation. I created this recipe to spotlight fresh chestnuts, then replaced them with tofu for its ease of preparation. Either way, this is a delicious starter. If you enjoy chestnuts as much as I do, go ahead and substitute them for the tofu and you’ll find they add a pleasant sweet balance to the savory and spicy flavors.

Yield: 6 to 8 servingsTijuana Tofu Cocktail 2copy

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 1/2 cups diced firm tofu, or chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts
1 large avocado, diced
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 to 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

1. Combine the canned and fresh tomatoes, tofu, avocado, onion, cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, and salt in a large bowl and mix well.

2. To serve, spoon the cocktail into long-stemmed wine glasses, old-fashioned glasses, or glass dessert bowls and garnish each with a sprig of cilantro and a wedge of fresh lime perched on the rim. Serve with spoons. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve later.

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Posted in Appetizers, Celebrations, chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Holiday Recipes, Vegan for the Holidays, Zel's Cookbooks | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE NUTTY SIDE OF THE NATURAL PRODUCTS EXPO WEST

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 13, 2013

One step into the Natural Products EXPO West vendor floors at the Anaheim Convention Center and you’ll have no doubt this annual event is THE premier trade show for manufacturers of natural products like food, supplements, body care products, pet foods and supplies, and eco-friendly items for the home.

Aisle Busy

With 2428 exhibitors and a whopping 63,000 attendees, you can bet the aisles were crazy busy, making it all the more exciting for those attending to discover emerging trends, new products, and indulgent flavors of old favorites.

With wildly colorful displays and costume-festooned participants, there was never a dull moment for both attendees and vendors. I walked my feet off and loved every moment! It was such a exciting learning experience asking how some of our foods are made, where they come from, and how they’re creatively formed and assembled.

Over the next few days, I’ll be blogging about some of the nicest, nuttiest niche num nums I found. I know some terrific items will be left out because the 3-floor, 393,000 square-foot show-floor event is so large it would be impossible to see it all, in spite of spending two very full days traversing the aisles ’til our feet ached. (It was worth it, of course!)

Chestnut Chips made their world premiere debut at the Chestnut Growers, Inc. booth on the 3rd floor of the convention center. These delicious, crunchy snacks were probably the most unique product I encountered. While fresh Chestnut Chips 2chestnuts are only available from October through December, these neat little chips are a year-round, totally natural, and very tasty snack food. Also neat is that chestnuts are a really low-fat, gluten-free food. Here’s the process that turns fresh chestnuts into chestnut chips: Once the shells are removed, the chestnuts are thinly sliced by machine and oven dried at Michigan State University Rogers Reserve in Jackson, Michigan where the chips were developed. That’s it–nothing added and nothing removed except moisture.

At the WEBSITE visitors can order fresh, dried, and frozen chestnuts as well as pure chestnut flour that contains no pellicle, the dark brown inner skin that’s sometimes a bitch to peel. They also have nutritional information and a ton of recipes.

Posted in chestnuts, Nut Organizations, Nut Uses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

DISCOVER THE MAGIC OF CHESTNUTS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 13, 2012

Once you’ve tasted fresh chestnuts, you’ll agree they have no equal. Chestnuts stand apart from any other nut, yet they are part of the same family of tree nuts as almonds and walnuts. From their natural sweetness to their soft, potato-like texture, these treasures of the autumn season enhance all dishes with unmatched flavor richness.

What makes them so extra special is their limited availability. Chestnuts grown in the U.S. are available only from October through January, though some growers sell out earlier.

Asian markets that import fresh chestnuts from China and other Asian regions have them available throughout the spring.

For instructions on cooking and peeling chestnuts, see these earlier post at:

Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts

Peeling and Cooking Chestnuts Step-by-Step

Here are some handy, time-saving chestnut measurements:

A 15-ounce jar of cooked, peeled chestnuts contains about 2 1/2 cups.

One pound of fresh chestnuts in the shell will make about 2 1/2 cups peeled cooked chestnuts.

SEE ONLINE CHESTNUT RESOURCES BELOW.

Following are some delectable chestnut recipes for the festive holidays ahead. The recipes are from my new cookbook Vegan for the Holidays. The last recipe. Fresh Chestnut Soup, is from my first cookbook, The Nut Gourmet.

GARLICKY CHESTNUT BUTTER

With the addition of a bit of kitchen sorcery and a whirl in the food processor, naturally sweet and starchy chestnuts become transformed into an irresistible creamy spread that stands out on any variety of bread, bagel, or cracker. Consider this buttery spread as a tasty accompaniment to any savory dish, and use as you would a relish or a spread on your favorite bread or rolls.

Yield: about 1 1/4 cups

1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup water, divided
1 1/4 cups cooked and peeled coarsely chopped chestnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 sprig parsley, for garnish

1. Cook and stir the onion, garlic, thyme, and 1/4 cup of the water in a medium skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the chestnuts, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Process for 1 or 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the parsley if desired.

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CHESTNUT-SMOTHERED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Brussels sprouts and chestnuts may seem like the ultimate cliché of trendy holiday foods, but not so this tasty version that turns Brussels sprouts haters into devoted converts. The plan-ahead host may want to blanch the Brussels sprouts the day before for convenience.

Yield: 12 servings

1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters lengthwise
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup diced red bell peppers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
24 cooked and peeled chestnuts, diced, or 1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
6 pimiento-stuffed green olives, minced
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 green onion, sliced, for garnish

1. Combine the Brussels sprouts, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir for 4 to 5 minutes over high heat, or until the onions are very soft and the tomatoes begin to break down. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
2. Add the chestnuts, garlic powder, onion powder, and olives. Season with salt and pepper. Cook another 1 to 2 minutes to heat through. Spoon into a serving bowl or platter and garnish with the green onion if desired.

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UPBEET CHESTNUTTY POTATO SALAD

What makes this salad a delightful departure from standard potato salad is the medley of sweet yams, sweet chestnuts, and sweet beets laced with a tart touch of lemon juice and vinegar. For convenience, purchase the jarred or vacuum-packed cooked, peeled chestnuts. If you’re not a fan of chestnuts, you can eliminate them or substitute with one cup of lightly steamed sliced carrots and still enjoy this delicious salad.

Yield: 6 servings

4 medium white or red Rose potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 large sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 large beets, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

1 cup cooked and peeled chestnuts, quartered, or lightly steamed sliced carrots
4 green onions, sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

Fresh sprigs herbs for garnish

1. Put the potatoes, yams, and beets in separate saucepans and add enough water to cover them. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-high and cook until the potatoes and beets are just tender when pierced with a fork. The potatoes will cook in about 5 to 7 minutes. The beets will take about 25 to 35 minutes.
2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Line a plate with three layers of paper towels and transfer the beets to the plate. Use extra paper towels to pat the beets dry.
3. Add the beets, chestnuts, green onions, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the potatoes and toss well. Transfer the salad to an attractive serving dish and garnish with a few sprigs of herbs, if desired.

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WILD RICE AND CHESTNUT PILAF

Chestnuts are the definitive sweet infusion that makes this earthy pilaf so special, while exotic spices help transform it into a vibrant side dish.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

3 1/4 cups water
1 cup wild rice
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 cup chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts, or coarsely chopped raw or roasted
walnuts
1 green onion, sliced, for garnish
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Combine 3 cups of the water, wild rice, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the rice is tender and most of the water is absorbed.
2. Meanwhile, combine the onion, tomatoes, the remaining 1/4 cup water, curry powder to taste, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, and garam masala in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the onion and tomatoes are softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
3. Drain any excess liquid from the rice and add the rice and chestnuts to the tomato mixture. Mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Spoon the pilaf into a serving bowl and garnish with the green onion and parsley if desired.

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SAVORY CHESTNUT AND FRUIT STUFFING

This sumptuous stuffing, replete with chestnuts, is so fruity and ravishing, it makes a delicious meal by itself. Enjoy it as a side dish or use it to stuff acorn, butternut, or delicata squash.

Yield: 12 to 15 hearty servings

2 cups water
2/3 cup pearl barley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

8 cups whole wheat bread cubes
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

3 large sweet onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped

2 large apples, cored and chopped
1 1/4 cups chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts, or pecans, or walnuts
1 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (preferably Turkish)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons white miso

Garnishes
1/4 bunch parsley
3 tangerine wedges or Fuyu persimmon slices
3 fresh cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine the water, barley, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the barley is tender and all the water is absorbed.

3. Meanwhile, place the bread cubes on a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until dry. Transfer the bread cubes to an extra-large bowl.

4. Add the vegetable broth to the bread cubes and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the bread cubes are broken down into a coarse meal. Set aside.

5. Combine the onion and celery in a large, deep skillet and add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. Cook and stir for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the onions are very soft and translucent. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl with the bread cubes.

6. Add the apples, chestnuts, raisins, cranberries, apricots, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and mix well.

7. Thin the miso with about 3 tablespoons of water, add it to the stuffing mixture and combine well to distribute it evenly. Adjust the seasonings.

8. Spoon the stuffing into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until a light crust forms on the top.

9. To serve, garnish one corner of the pan with parsley and artfully nestle the tangerine wedges and cranberries into the parsley if desired.

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FRESH CHESTNUT SOUP

While this unique, tantalizing soup is cooking, it sends waves of beckoning aromas so irresistible it just may become a holiday tradition at your house. For the best flavor, prepare the soup a day ahead, giving it plenty of time for the seasonings to fully develop. To reheat the soup, warm it gently over medium heat and stir frequently to avoid burning.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

3 1/4 cups water
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 serrano or jalapeno chile, minced

2 quarts unsweetened soymilk
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/4 pounds fresh chestnuts in the shall, cooked and peeled or 1 (15-ounce) jar cooked
chestnuts

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the water with the carrots, onion, celery, and chile in a large deep skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Set aside.

2. Combine the soymilk, nutritional yeast, salt, nutmeg, and tarragon in a large stockpot and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.

3. Combine 1/4 cup of the water with the cornstarch in a small cup or bowl and stir to make a thin paste. Add to the simmering soymilk and stir for 1 minute until it is well dissolved and the soup is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.

4. Combine three-quarters of the cooked vegetable mixture, three-quarters of the prepared chestnuts, and the remaining 1 1/2 cups water in the food processor and process until smooth. Add to the soup along with the remaining cooked vegetables.

5. Chop the remaining chestnuts and add them to the soup. Heat gently to warm through and blend the flavors. Garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of the chives and serve.

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Chestnut Resources

Allen Creek Farm Chestnuts

Correia Chestnut Farm

Empire Chestnut Company

Girolami Farms Chestnuts

Posted in Celebrations, chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Holiday Recipes, Salads and Salad Dressings, Side Dishes, Soups | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Improving the Digestibility and Absorption of Nuts

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 27, 2012


I’m delighted to add this guest post by a person who knows nuts like few of us do. Jerry Henkin is a nut grower from New York. As a member of the Northern Nut Growers Association (NNGA) he takes an active role as their librarian and works to build and maintain the organization’s holdings. Jerry is also Vice-President of the New York Nut Grower’s Association (NYNGA).

NNGA held their annual meeting where Jerry gave a presentation based on his well-researched article below. He was generous enough to allow me to share the article on the NutGourmet Blog. You can contact Jerry at sproutnut@aol.com

Nut Nutrition: Improving the Digestibility and Absorption of Nuts by Soaking
By Jerry Henkin, NYNGA Vice President
August, 20, 2012

As growers of nut trees, we seek to produce the best nuts we can grow for consumption by people. There is also an interest among farmers who raise livestock, especially sustainable agriculture and permaculture practitioners, in using nuts as forage for animals. All of us should know about the healthful qualities of nuts for our own well being. We should eagerly share this information with others when promoting nuts.

Since the inception of the Northern Nut Growers Association in 1910, only 1% of the articles in the Annual Report and The Nutshell magazine have dealt with the nutritional aspect of nuts. Though I am not a professional nutritionist, I have learned a great deal from studying scientific reports on nutrition that deal with nuts from NNGA literature and from the following organizations: The Food and Research Program, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Loma Linda University; the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University; the University of Scranton; Children’s Hospital, Oakland Research Institute; Penn State University; the University of Missouri; and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. I wish to thank Dr. Barry Kendler, a Professor of Nutrition at the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, who has helped me organize my presentation on nut nutrition.

I want to tell you what I learned about the health benefits of nuts and then describe a simple technique to increase the nutritional value of nuts by soaking and drying them.

Nuts are highly nutritious

Raw nut kernels (without salt, and not roasted in fatty oils, or “honey roasted”) are excellent sources of fiber, proteins, and the`” good fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). They contain an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Since each kind of nut has a different percentage of these healthful ingredients, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of nuts: pistachios, different species of walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, hickory nuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. Acorns are edible, as well; those of you who attended last year’s meeting in Utah heard Howard Manning speak about the tradition of the Native Americans in California leaching acorns to remove the tannic acid. They then pound the nuts into a meal.

Nuts are concentrated energy foods. Mountain climbers, Arctic explorers, and average hikers carry a portable sack of nuts and dried fruits along with water. Captain Reid Stowe took in-shell hickory nuts on his record-breaking 1,000 day sea voyage. (I should know because I supplied them to him along with mung beans for sprouting.) While nuts are high in calories, just eating a handful – about 2 ounces, or roughly 1/4 cup – 5 days out of the week is sufficient to bring you the health benefits that nuts can offer. Nuts do need to be chewed thoroughly for their healthful properties to be used by the body. They should not be eaten after a heavy meal because that could lead to weight gain. Nor should a bowlful of kernels be left on the coffee table in front of the TV during the football season.

Lifestyle plays a role in health
Eating nuts is not a guarantee of good health: some of the other factors that come into play are our genetic inheritance; the amount of exercise we do; our lifestyle choices and stress level; and the negative factors like smoking and being overweight. But the scientific studies cited at the end of this article indicate the health benefits that can accrue from a regular diet of nuts: They strengthen the immune system, lower cholesterol, and protect the body from viral invasion and tumor growth. They can lower the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Moreover, eating nuts on a regular basis has been shown to reduce the risk of Type II diabetes. They can lower stress levels. Nuts also reduce the risk of high blood pressure which can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Walnuts and pecans, especially, which are high in antioxidants, reduce the damage caused by free radicals. Almonds and peanuts should be eaten with their skins because they, too, contain high levels of antioxidants. Nuts may even play a role in maintaining healthy sexual function in men.

Chestnuts have special health benefits
Chestnuts, unlike other nuts, are a significant source of Vitamin C. They are also rich in vitamin B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, and Niacin. Chestnuts have the highest percentage of carbohydrates which has given them the nickname, “the runner’s nut” because they increase the body’s ability to cope with stress. An article in the NNGA Annual Report in 1987, by G.P. Abide, describes how to make chestnut chips as a commercial product. Chestnut flour is another value-added product. Mr. Abide advises nut growers to “be in line with current consumer trends favoring healthful foods.” How much more true that advice is now than 25 years ago.

We need to advise our customers and friends who eat nuts to store them in the refrigerator, and not leave them out on the kitchen table with a cracker and a pick, as inviting as that might sound. Nuts in the shell maintain their flavor longest. Most nuts can be stored in the freezer for years.

Some words of caution about eating nuts: There may be insect larvae within the shell. Also, nut kernels may turn rancid after a period of time if improperly stored. The oils within the kernel will spoil, causing the kernels to look yellowish and waxy. So look at the nuts you’ve just cracked out of the shell for insect infestation; feel them and smell them for signs of rancidity. If you’re cracking out nuts instead of buying the nuts already shelled, make sure to eliminate all shell materials – black walnut fragments can crack a tooth; tiny shell pieces can lodge in between teeth.

Nut allergies can be serious

A very small percentage of the population of the United States is allergic to tree nuts and/or peanuts. Some people can die if they consume even minute quantities which might have been added as an ingredient to other food products. In 1964 George Borgstrom wrote an article in the Annual Report calling for nut breeders to develop cultivars that would eliminate the allergens that cause such severe reactions in some people. To my knowledge, no one has taken up this challenge. Please let the NNGA know if this breeding work has been done.

Nuts enhance the dining experience
Now for the delicious part: nuts enhance the flavor and texture in bland foods like chicken, cabbage, salad, green beans, vegetable soup, waffles, pancakes, and muffins. While vegetarian restaurants have long served simple dishes using nuts, elegant restaurants have recently been offering pistachio crusted salmon, hazelnut stroganoff, and chocolate-chestnut trifle. Nuts can be added to milkshakes and made into nut milks and nut butters. The Native Americans of Virginia pounded hickory nuts into a paste, soaked them in water, and then used the “cream” as a delicacy. They also fermented this mixture to make a liquor.

Nuts are a food staple
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a major contributor to nut research in the early 20th Century, pointed out that nuts have double the nutritive value of lean meat, pound for pound. Yet the land required to produce nuts kernels is half that required to raise livestock. Kellogg believed that nuts should be a food staple, and not just a snack. He used nuts extensively as meals to his patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. In an age of horrible practices in meat slaughterhouses and packing plants, Kellogg said in 1916 that “the nut is sweeter, cleaner, healthier, and cheaper than any possible source of animal product.”

Marion Nestle, a noted nutrition activist, has continued Kellogg’s vision of a world where people eat healthy food. She said that one in seven people on the Earth in 2012 is hungry. She feels that the global food crisis will continue in the U.S. and abroad in cost, volatility, and availability.

In her books, Nestle links malnutrition and hunger with social problems. One approach, she believes is to encourage food co-ops as an alternative to “Big Food” because they are community-based and value-based. Therefore, they must sell clean, healthy, nutritious food. Here is all the more reason, I believe, to plant and care for nut trees now, so that we will have a supply of one kind of healthy food in the future. J. Russell Smith was one of the most outspoken proponents of this idea, which he advocated in his book Tree Crops, A Permanent Agriculture.

Soaking nuts enhances their nutrition
I’m now going to describe a simple method to increase the nutritional value of nuts which everyone can do as long as they have access to clean water. Barbara Mendez, a licensed pharmacist and nutritional consultant, and Zel Allen, the author of several books on healthy eating, have both written articles on the health benefits of soaking nuts. The process calls for soaking raw nut kernels in water for several hours. The kernels should be the freshest you can find. The soaking period varies from 7 to 12 hours, depending upon the density of the kernel, but cashews should be soaked for no more than 6 hours.

After soaking the kernels, use a paper towel to pat them dry. Then, to return the kernels to their natural crispiness, dry them in one of several ways:

1. Roast them in the oven, or a counter-top toaster oven, at 150° to 170° F. for 15 to 20 minutes
2. Place them in a pan and let them dry over the pilot light of a stove for 12 to 24 hours, depending upon how long you have soaked the nuts
3. Use a food dehydrator set at 118° F. for about 7 hours.

During this period, the kernels increase their antioxidant and phytochemical capacity because soaking releases some enzyme inhibitors. This makes the nuts easier to digest. Tannins are removed from walnuts, making them taste sweeter. Soaking nut kernels also allows the body to absorb and use this food, instead of passing kernel pieces rapidly through the body. In effect, you are maximizing the nutritional value of your food when you follow this process. Note that this method reconstitutes nuts whose moisture levels have been previously reduced. They are therefore best eaten within two days.

After you’ve done this for a while, you’ll know the best soaking and drying times for nuts. Since each batch of nuts is different, don’t be afraid to experiment with the soaking and drying times to produce the healthiest and most delicious nuts you can.

List of Sources
Abide, G.P., et al., “Chestnut Chips: A Possible Option for Chestnut Processing”, NNGA (Northern Nut Growers Association) Annual Report 78:12 – 14, (1987)
Allen, Zel, The Nut Gourmet, Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion, Book Publishing Co, 256 pages, 2006, especially “Amazing Health benefits in a Nutshell”, pp. 16 – 19
Allen, Zel, “Nuts – the Delicious Path to Good Health”, The Nutshell, Volume 62, Number 3, September, 2008, p. 16
Allen, Zel, “To Soak or Not to Soak – It’s a Nutty Question”, MNGA (Michigan Nut Growers Association) News, Fall, 2011, pp. 7 – 8
Bixby, Willard G. [NNGA President], “Resolution Adopted by the NNGA, Inc.”, September 14, 1929, NNGA Annual Report 20:158 – 159 (1929)
http://bodyecology.com/articles/how_to_eat_and_not_eat_almonds.php, “How to Eat and Not Eat Almonds”, November 9, 2006
Borgstrom, George, “Nuts in Human Food – A Critical Appraisal”, NNGA Annual Report 55:60 – 64 (1964)
Cajorie, F.A., “The Nutritive Value of Nuts”, NNGA Annual Report 10:80 – 87 (1919)
Cao (Tsao), Roon, “Nutritional Data from Heartnuts”, NNGA Annual Report 98 (2007)
Chen, C.Y. and Blumberg, J.B., “Phytochemical Composition of Nuts”, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008:17 Supplement 1:329 – 332
Chestnut, V.K., “Primitive Manufacture and Use of Acorn Meal”, NNGA Annual Report 8:43 – 45 (1917)
Downs, Albert A., “Trees and Food from Acorns”, NNGA Annual Report 40:177 – 179 (1949)
Greiner, Lois, “Marketing Naturally Nutritious Nuts”, NNGA Annual Report 77:10 – 12 (1986)
Higdon, Jane (2005), [update, Drake, Victoria J., 2009], “Nuts”, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, 2012
International Nut Tree Council, “Go Nuts Go Healthy”, 11 pages, 2001
Kellogg, J.H., “Advent of Nuts into the Nation’s List of Staple Foods”, NNGA Annual Report 8:46 – 58 (1917)
Kellogg, J.H., “The Food Value of Nuts”, NNGA Annual Report 7:101 – 113 (1916)
Kellogg, J.H., “More Nuts, Less Meat”, NNGA Annual Report 21:57 – 65 (1930)
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Kendall, C.W., et al., “Nuts, Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes”, British Journal of Nutrition, 2010 August; 104(4)
Kendler, Barry S., “The American Diet and the Need for Dietary Supplementation”, Nutritional Perspectives: Journal of the Council on Nutrition of the American Chiropractic Association, October 2010
King, J.C, et al, “Tree Nuts and Peanuts as Components of a Healthy Diet”, Journal of Nutrition , 2008 September; 138(9):1736S-1740S
Li, L, et al. “Fatty Acid Profiles, Tocopherol Contents, and Antioxidant Activities of Heartnut (Juglans ailanifolia Var. cordiformis) and Persian Walnut (Juglans regia L.), Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, 2007 Februray 21:55(4)
Lombardini, Leonardo, “Phytochemicals and Antioxidants in Pecan”, NNGA Annual Report 99 (2008)
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Malinsky, Alex (aka RawGuru), “ ’C’ is for Chestnut and Vitamin C”, Natural News.com, January 26, 2011
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Nut Gourmet Blog, May 11, 2011, “Go Nuts Over Antioxidants”, MNGA (Michigan Nut Growers Association) News, Summer, 2011, pp. 11 – 16
Skylles, J. Trevor, “The Nut Crops of Turkey”, NNGA Annual Report 62:70 – 76 (1971)
Smith, J. Russell, Tree Crops, a Permanent Agriculture, The Devin Adair Co., 1953, especially Chapter XV, “Nuts as Human Food”, pp. 202 – 205
Spaccarotella, K.J., et al., “The Effect of Walnut ntake on Factors Relating to Prostate and Vascular Health in Older Men”, Nutrition Journal, 2008 May 2:7:13
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University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, “Nuts to You”, The Nutshell, Volume 51, Number 2, June, 1997, pp. 1 – 2
Villarreal J.E., L. Lombardini, and L. Cisneros-Zevallos,” Phytochemical Constituents and Antioxidant Capacity of Different Pecan [Carya illinonensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] Cultivars”, Food Chem. 102:1241-1249, 2007
Vinson, J.A. and Cai, Y., “Nuts, Especially Walnuts, Have Both Antioxidant Quantity and Efficacy and Exhibit Significant Potential Health Benefits”, Food Function, 2012 February 3; 3(2)
Young, Robert O., “Eating Nuts May Prevent Cancerous Lungs and Prostate”, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research, Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, Houston, Texas, December 6 -, 2009; reference: http://ivanhoe.com/channels/p_channelstory.cfm?storyid=23047

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, chestnuts, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Allergies, Nut Growing, Nut History, Nut Nutrition, Nut Organizations, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, peanuts, pecans, Uncategorized, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

CHESTNUTS ROCK & ROLL OUT OF THE SKILLET!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on December 13, 2011

In case you’re wondering if I’ll ever get off this chestnut kick, I can assure you I will– almost immediately because I’ll be leaving on vacation until the end of the year. So, although it saddens me to abandon these tasty little wonders, I must leave the chestnuts behind. But—just one more recipe before I leave—just one more.

I concocted this very tasty side dish to use up the batch of fresh chestnuts I had left in the fridge. It turned out so well, I felt compelled to share the recipe. I hope you’ll come up with a better name for this dish than I did. As a matter of fact, please do—I would be in your debt.

At this time of year I often see recipes pairing chestnuts and Brussels sprouts. And I’ve even added my own version of the duo. But this little side dish, this wondrous infusion of chestnut and mushroom flavors, is soooo much tastier, yet the seasonings are relatively uncomplicated. If you can find Bunapi or Beech mushrooms (usually Asian markets have them), add an 8-ounce package to the mélange. It’s pure mushroom bliss!

A BEVY OF CHESTNUTS AND MUSHROOMS

Yield: about 6 servings

1 medium onion, chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup water

8 to 10 ounces king oyster mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 cups cooked and peeled chestnuts
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 green onion, sliced
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the onion, garlic, and water in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onions are soft and transparent. Add small amounts of water if needed to prevent burning.

2. Add the mushrooms along with 3 to 4 tablespoons of water and cook, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to an attractive serving dish and serve immediately.

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GARLICKY CHESTNUT BUTTER #2

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on December 9, 2011

It must be in my genes to tinker with a recipe. It frustrates my sweet, perplexed husband who tells me the recipe is perfect just the way it is. Still, I tinker, either to improve the flavor, the texture, or the health benefits.

In this case, my effort was to see if I could eliminate the olive oil from the previous posting of Garlicky Chestnut Butter and reduce the fat and calories. My concern was whether the chestnut butter would still retain its awesome flavor?

Mission accomplished with success! In this second version, the process is the same but the oil is gone and replaced by water. The result is a lighter, creamier chestnut butter with wonderful flavor. Of course, the fresh chestnuts I used are naturally sweet. I ordered them from two chestnut growers: Girolami Farms and Correia Chestnut Farm, both located in Northern California.

The recipe is super easy and shows off fresh chestnuts at their best. The chestnut season is very short. Most groceries won’t have them available beyond Christmas or New Years. Next trip to the market, buy some fresh chestnuts, cook them using the step-by-step directions below the chestnut butter recipe, and enjoy a luscious, sweet, buttery spread.

Garlicky Chestnut Butter #2

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1/3 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cups cooked and peeled coarsely chopped chestnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small sprig parsley

1. Combine the onions, garlic, thyme, and 1/4 cup of the water in a skillet and cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onions are softened. Add a few tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.

2. Transfer the mixture to the food processor, add the chestnuts, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of water and process for 1 or 2 minutes until smooth and creamy. Spoon the Garlicky Chestnut Butter into an attractive serving bowl, garnish with the parsley, and provide a spreading knife.

Posted in Celebrations, chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

CHESTNUT BUTTER RULES THE PLANET!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on December 4, 2011

Garlic and chestnuts might seem like an unlikely pairing, but wait ‘till you taste this awesome and easy, buttery spread. It has become so addictive I simply can’t keep my fingers out of the bowl.

Unfortunately, the little bowl of creamy, brown chestnut butter is not very photogenic so I hope you’ll take your palate on this trip instead of your eyes.

In my home, life becomes rosier when chestnuts are on the holiday menu. I can say with confidence that this savory chestnut butter has no equal. With the addition of a bit of kitchen sorcery and a whirl in the food processor, naturally sweet and starchy chestnuts become transformed into an irresistible creamy spread that stands out on any variety of bread or cracker. I love the spread as a filling for celery sticks or spread on carrot, turnip, or Persian cucumber slices.

You can take this spread in a different direction by replacing the onions, garlic, and salt with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, and a smidgeon of maple syrup to create a sweet spread or filling for baked goods. You can even stuff it into dates and top with a walnut half or a slice of Spanish olive. No doubt, creative cooks will find tons of other reasons to lick this savory-sweet chestnut butter off their fingers.

The chestnut butter is a good keeper and retains its flavor for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

For directions on cooking and peeling chestnuts, scroll down to the previous post and you’ll find step-by-step photos and directions. You can even skip the cooking and peeling by buying cooked and peeled chestnuts in jars or vacuum sealed packages during this holiday season.

Garlicky Chestnut Butter

Yield: 1 cup

1/3 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup cooked and peeled coarsely chopped chestnuts
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small sprig parsley

1. Combine the onions, garlic, olive oil, and thyme in a skillet and cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the onions are softened. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water if needed to prevent burning. Add the chestnuts and cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes longer.

2. Transfer the mixture to the food processor, add the water and salt, and process until smooth and creamy. Spoon the Garlicky Chestnut Butter into an attractive serving bowl, garnish with the parsley, and provide a spreading knife.

If you love garlic, you’ll go nuts over this quick-to-assemble spread. Please do let me know if you come up with interesting ways to enjoy it, and I’ll gladly share your suggestions on this blog.– Zel

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PEELING AND COOKING CHESTNUTS STEP-BY-STEP

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 9, 2011

If you’re a regular NutGourmet visitor, then you’re probably aware I have a passion for chestnuts. Chestnuts are special gems with a very short season. By Christmas they will be a rarity in grocery stores, except for the Asian markets that import Chinese chestnuts.

So many people feel intimidated by chestnuts and haven’t the faintest idea how to cook, peel, and even incorporate them into a recipe. American grown chestnuts have just been harvested for the season, so this is the perfect time to jump in and give these wonderful nuts an opportunity to show their stuff in a delicious dish.

With the step-by-step guide that follows, you’ll see how easy it is to cook and peel chestnuts and store them until you’re ready to add them to a tasty recipe. Chestnuts have totally won me over. Give them a try—I’ll bet you’ll get hooked on them, too.

Step 1: This post shows a criss-cross cut on the chestnuts. I’m updating the technique to one that produces much better results for cooking and peeling the nuts. 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, choose one of the sides for the wide horizontal cut. The cuts allow the chestnut to release steam and prevents it from bursting open during cooking. Hold the chestnut firmly with one hand and make the cuts with the other. Use a very firm paring knife with a 3-inch pointed blade. Don’t be timid. Poke the tip of the knife right into the chestnut, about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch deep.

Step 2: Put the cut chestnuts into a saucepan and add enough water to cover the nuts by about three inches. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the chestnuts for 25 to 35 minutes. Then, turn off the heat. The shorter time will result in firm chestnuts. Longer cooking will make them softer to use in puddings and creamy recipes.

Step 3: Use a slotted spoon to remove only a few chestnuts at a time from the pot and put them into a small bowl. You’ll notice the horizontal cut allowed the shell to pull back, making it much easier to peel. The nuts peel much easier when they are quite warm. Have ready a bowl for the discarded nut shells and another bowl for the peeled chestnuts.

Step 4: Now you’re ready to peel. You can use the firm paring knife or a chestnut knife with the very short, curved blade. Fix yourself a nice cup of tea and prepare for a relaxed peeling session that might take 20 to 30 minutes depending on how many chestnuts you’ve cooked. Poke the point of the knife into the cut and pull up on the peel.

Step 5: Chestnuts have a hard outer shell and an inner soft skin called the pellicle. Sometimes both the outer shell and inner skin will come off together, but occasionally, they’ll have to be peeled away separately.

I hope you’ve rewarded yourself and tasted a few tidbits of broken chestnuts during the peeling session. The cooked and peeled chestnuts are now ready for incorporating into a recipe.

Storing the Chestnuts: If you plan to use the chestnuts within two or three days, cover them with plastic wrap and store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator. For longer storage, put them into a heavy-duty plastic bag and freeze them. Allow several hours to defrost at room temperature before using. Defrosting chestnuts in the refrigerator will result in mushy nuts.

Chestnuts are practically fat free! There’s nothing like them on the planet. Their appearance, flavor, and texture are not like any familiar nuts such as almonds or walnuts, yet they are classified as tree nuts. Chestnuts can be eaten raw but deliver far better flavor and texture with cooking. Once cooked, they are sweet with a creamy texture similar to cooked potatoes.

You can incorporate cooked chestnuts into beverages, soups, salads, stir-fries, casseroles, puddings, pies, and baked goods and desserts of all kinds.

Ready for a delicious chestnut side dish for the Thanksgiving feast?

A stunning dish with rich, complex flavors, this delectable stuffed spinach roll is a winning company entrée with irresistible charm. American grown chestnuts, delightful in texture and flavor, add a delicate sweetness that enriches the creamed stuffing. For optimal success, prepare both the spinach roll and the stuffing a day ahead and store them in the refrigerator separately. To prevent the spinach layer from becoming soggy, assemble the dish and warm it at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes close to serving time. The Roulade can be warming while serving the salad or appetizer course.

CHESTNUT ROULADE FLORENTINE

Yield: 8 servings

Spinach Roll
2 pounds frozen spinach
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered egg replacer
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Chestnut Veggie Stuffing
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 head medium cauliflower, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup quartered cooked chestnuts
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/3 cup black raisins
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened soymilk
1/2 cup cooked whole or coarsely chopped chestnuts
Salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne (optional)

Garnish
1 large unpeeled cucumber, sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
Paprika
1 tablespoon minced parsley, chives, or arugula

1. TO MAKE THE SPINACH ROLL, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment and set aside.
2. Place the frozen spinach into a 4-quart saucepan, add 1/2 cup of the water, and cover the pan. Cook over high heat for 2 minutes, reduce the heat to medium, and cook about 3 minutes. Lift the cover, stir the spinach, replace the cover and cook about 6 minutes, or until the spinach is fully cooked.
3. Drain the water and squeeze the spinach through the fingers until it is bone dry. This step will take several minutes but is important to the success of the recipe. When the spinach is completely dry, place it into a large bowl.
4. Combine the powdered egg replacer and the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and beat with a fork until thoroughly combined and foamy. Add it to the cooked spinach and mix thoroughly.
5. Add the salt and pepper, mix well, and spoon the spinach mixture onto the prepared jellyroll pan. Use the back of a spoon or a fork to spread the spinach into a rectangle approximately 9 1/2 x 13 inches. Bake the spinach for 20 to 25 minutes, remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool completely. Cover the jellyroll pan entirely with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
6. TO MAKE THE CHESTNUT VEGGIE STUFFING, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the cauliflower, bell pepper, quartered chestnuts, onions, raisins, garlic, and cinnamon. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Reduce the heat to medium.
7. Combine the soymilk and the 1/2 cup whole chestnuts in the blender and process until creamy. Add the creamy mixture to the cooked chestnut-vegetable medley and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the mixture is thoroughly combined and thickened. Season the veggie stuffing with salt, pepper, and cayenne, if using.
8. TO ASSEMBLE THE ROULADE, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the spinach roll from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Place a clean sheet of parchment over the spinach roll, cover with another jellyroll pan, and invert the pan. Carefully remove the top layer of parchment and bake the spinach roll, uncovered, for 5 minutes to remove excess moisture.
9. Set aside 1 cup of the Chestnut Veggie Stuffing and spoon the remainder onto the spinach layer, placing it lengthwise down the center.
10. Lift one side of the parchment and use a knife to release the spinach roll from the parchment, if needed, folding it over the stuffing. Lift the other side of the parchment and fold the spinach over the stuffing. Use your hands to overlap the spinach roll and completely enclose the stuffing.
11. Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes to warm through. While the Roulade is warming, spoon the reserved stuffing into a small saucepan and warm over medium-low heat.
12. Remove the Roulade from the oven and use a flatware knife to carefully slide it toward the edge of the parchment. Lift the parchment, Roulade and all, off the jellyroll pan and onto an oval or rectangular serving platter. Gently push the Roulade completely off the parchment and center it on the platter. Spoon the warmed stuffing over the Roulade lengthwise down the center.
13. TO GARNISH AND SERVE THE ROULADE, line both sides of the Roulade with the cucumber slices, cut side facing inward, and place a cherry tomato half on top of each cucumber half. Lightly sprinkle the top of the Chestnut Veggie Stuffing with paprika and minced herbs. Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut the Roulade into serving portions.

Note
I place a high value on fresh chestnuts for the seasonal nuance and the ambrosial quality they bring to a dish. I’ve even attempted to substitute with potatoes or sweet potatoes because of their starchy nature, but neither measures up to the real thing. Nothing quite takes the place of the fresh chestnut. Invite them to dinner and perhaps they’ll become as high on your holiday shopping list as they have on mine.

Posted in chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Nut Recipes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

CHESTNUTS ARE BACK AND SO AM I!!!!!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 21, 2011

The chestnut harvest is in and ready for cookin’! I’ve just placed my order and will probably be cooking and peeling a heap of the beauties when they arrive in about a week.

This year I ordered from Girolami Farms and Correia Farms but an abundance of the sweet nuts can also be found at Allen Creek Farms, Croft Chestnuts, Washington Chestnut Company, Chestnut Growers, Inc., and Delamarvelous Chestnuts. Don’t wait too long to order. Many of the farms sell out by mid November, though some will have chestnuts through January.

Honestly, I’m not getting a commission for touting the chestnut growers. I’m just very passionate about chestnuts and hope to see more people cooking and enjoying their naturally sweet flavor and delightful soft and creamy texture.

The neat thing is if you’re not inclined to cooking and peeling chestnuts, you can buy them already cooked and peeled. It doesn’t get better than that!

Today, I’m welcoming myself back to fun and utterly delicious nutty blogging. I’ve been absent for good reason. I just turned in the manuscript for my new cookbook. Yea!!!! And Whew!!!!!

While the new book will still have a banquet of nut recipes, it places the focus on killer-delicious vegan recipes for the holidays—from Thanksgiving through the New Year. During the year and especially during this coming holiday season, I’ll be sharing some of the nuttier delicacies from Gone Vegan for the Holidays, starting today.

A year ago I was puttering in the kitchen with my freshly cooked chestnuts and came up with a seductively delicious meal starter I call Tijuana Chestnut Cocktail. No, this cocktail is not a beverage like its name suggests. Instead, it was my effort to create a vegan version of shrimp cocktail—only much tastier with the addition of chestnuts that contribute more complex flavor.

It looks really elegant and is amazingly easy to assemble. The photo says it all.

Initially, I created this recipe to spotlight chestnuts, then replaced them with tofu for its ease of preparation. Either way, it’s a delicious starter. For an exceptional presentation, serve the cocktail in long-stemmed wine glasses or champagne flutes. Put each glass on a dish with a doily underneath and garnish with a slice of fresh lime on the rim. Make the cocktail a day ahead, chill it, and it’s ready to serve.

TIJUANA CHESTNUT COCKTAIL

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked, peeled and chopped chestnuts, or cubed firm tofu
1 large avocado, diced
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

1. Combine the diced tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, tofu, avocado, onions, cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir well to distribute evenly. Serve immediately, or chill and serve later.

2. When ready to serve, spoon the cocktail into long-stemmed wine glasses, old-fashion glasses, or glass dessert bowls and garnish each with a sprig of cilantro and a wedge of fresh lime. Serve with spoons.

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RESEARCHERS GO NUTS OVER ANTIOXIDANTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 31, 2011


Hippocrates (480 BCE-370 BCE), the Father of Western medicine, had the secret of antioxidants in a healthy diet, even though he may not have known it when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” He knew the power of foods from nature was both healing and preventive and emphasized that message to his followers. Though he didn’t have the scientific knowledge that foods from nature, such as tree nuts, contained powerful antioxidants, he witnessed healing taking place when patients ate pure whole foods. He recognized those foods contained remarkable elements that could not only prevent disease but also restore vigor.

Fresh, plant-based foods (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) do, indeed, contain powerful plant chemicals packed with antioxidants. What are these antioxidants and what can they do? While all plant-based foods contain these powerful healing elements, recent research has revealed the impressive antioxidant potential in tree nuts.

Researchers find nut benefits
Intensive tree nut studies have uncovered an array of antioxidant chemicals including lignans, napthoquinones, phenolic acids, phytosterols, polyphenols, flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, and tocopherols that can reduce inflammation in the blood, lower cholesterol, act against viral invasion, and protect the body from tumor growth.

Because we now know that antioxidants can scavenge and prevent unstable molecules called free radicals from destroying our cells, we can take joy in devouring a delicious handful or two of tree nuts every day to reap the many benefits from their excellent antioxidant properties.

In a 2009-study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Diet, researchers tested thirteen subjects to study the effect of a polyphenol-rich diet of walnuts or almonds on the blood. The subjects fasted overnight, had blood tests, and then were given either a walnut or almond smoothie or one that contained no nuts. After a week, each participant switched to a different smoothie, and each time, blood was tested several times after beverage consumption. Researchers found a noticeable increase in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, after subjects consumed the nut-based smoothies, but no change following the nut-free beverage. Noted were a significant increase in total antioxidant capacity and a reduction of blood oxidation in those participants consuming the polyphenol-rich nut smoothie.

Pecans have their own antioxidant story
In another study conducted at Loma Linda University, meals including whole pecans and blended pecans were compared with a control meal with no nuts to test for antioxidant activity. This small trial of sixteen healthy men and women used the crossover method where participants were given each meal at controlled intervals with a week in-between. Blood levels of tocopherals, the vitamin E antioxidant, doubled in those consuming whole and blended pecans, while antioxidant levels increased 12% and 10% respectively two hours after consumption. After meals including whole pecans, LDL oxidation decreased considerably after consumption. Triglycerides decreased only after the participants ate whole or blended pecans in their meals.

Chemistry Professor Joe Vinson, Ph.D. presented his research at a meeting of The American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California in March 2011 showing that walnuts have more high-quality antioxidants than any other nuts. “Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts,” said Dr. Vinson. “A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. But unfortunately, people don’t eat a lot of them. This study suggests that consumers should eat more walnuts as part of a healthy diet.”

To roast or not to roast
After Dr. Vinson’s analysis compared the antioxidants in walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans, he found antioxidants highest in raw, unroasted nuts. Vinson says, “The heat from roasting nuts generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants. People usually eat walnuts raw or unroasted, and get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants.”

When nuts are commercially roasted in added fats, like partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats or coconut or palm oils that are high in saturated fats, they raise the risk of heart disease by elevating the bad cholesterol that can deposit plaque in the arteries. Commercially roasted nuts may also be roasted at high temperatures that possibly damage or reduce antioxidant levels.

Differing opinions persist regarding antioxidant loss when roasting nuts. An inquiry to the California Walnut Commission turned up this response from their nutrition consultant, registered dietician Carol Berg Sloan, “We have had independent nutrient analysis done on raw and toasted walnuts and there is no change in the nutrient profile.”

Plant chemicals in nuts improve heart health
Dr. Joan Sabate, professor of nutrition at Loma Linda University, and colleagues examined 25 nut studies from other countries. Their nut research has shown that regular consumption of nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in several ways: lowering cholesterol levels, improving endothelial function, lowering oxidation in the blood, and reducing lipoprotein(a) levels. The researchers focused both on subjects with normal and high cholesterol and noted that nut consumption led to a marked improvement in both HDL and triglyceride levels. Along with their exceptional nutritional qualities, nuts contain an array of phytonutrients or plant chemicals with high antioxidant capacity.

An almond study at Tufts University unveiled 20 powerful antioxidant flavonoids in almond skins. Some of the flavonoids were the same antioxidants found in familiar foods like green tea that contains catechins and grapefruit that includes naringenin. The research team tested the antioxidants separately and together on blood samples that contained LDL cholesterol. Flavonoids in the almond skins improved the LDL resistance to oxidation by 18%, but when tested together with vitamin E in the meat of the almond, the resistance to oxidation increased by 52.5%. This research illustrates the benefits of the synergy that occur in nature and the importance of eating the whole nut, including the skin.

Which nuts lead the antioxidant parade?
Of all the tree nuts, walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts contain the greatest amount of antioxidants. Although peanuts are technically legumes, they are nutritionally similar to nuts. Like walnuts, peanuts are packed with high levels of antioxidants. Be sure to consume nuts whole to gain their full benefit, since much of the antioxidants are contained in the skins.

Antioxidants and plant chemicals are not the only healthful attributes of nuts. Nuts are an excellent source of protein, a quality that has placed them in the USDA MyPyramid Dietary Guidelines for Americans alongside meat, poultry, and fish. Nuts are also a powerhouse of minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, and copper that work as a cooperative team to bring excellent health and maximum immune function to the body.

Go nuts for nuts sake
It’s easy to include nuts in the diet. Nut researchers are now finding that two handfuls a day of tree nuts are better than one at delivering health benefits. Enjoy them as a snack, sprinkled in salads, blended into smoothies, ground into salad dressings, blended into nut milk, or included in muffins, cookies, and confections.

Buy them raw and keep them in the refrigerator for freshness. Though people tend to gravitate to one or two favorites, they will benefit from a variety of nuts because each kind contains different quantities of minerals, good fats, and beneficial antioxidants.

To enjoy roasted nuts, consider roasting them at a low temperature to preserve their valuable vitamin E and antioxidant flavonoid and polyphenol contents. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and dry roast them at 150 to 170 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a dish to cool and taste their exceptional flavor and pleasantly crisp texture.

References:
Antonio AL, Ferreira IC, Bento A, Botelho ML. “Influence of Gamma Irradiation in the Antioxidant Potential of Chestnuts (Castanea sativa Mill.) Fruits and Skins.” Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2011 Feb 28.

Barreira, J.C.M., Ferreira, I.C.F.R., Oliveira, M.B.P.P., and Pereira, J.A. “Antioxidant Activities of the Extracts from Chestnut Flower, Leaf, Skins, and Fruit”. Food Chemistry: 104:(3), 1106-1113.

Bolling, B.W., McKay, D.L., Blumberg, J.B. “The Phytochemical Composition and Antioxidant Actions of Tree Nuts.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 19(1):117-123.

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