Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for the ‘Nut Uses’ Category

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 »

TO SOAK OR NOT TO SOAK—IT’S A NUTTY QUESTION

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 7, 2011

I’ve often been asked whether it’s necessary to soak nuts before eating them. Is soaking a waste of time or does the process offer nutritional benefits? I thought it would be helpful to provide both views and let people decide what works best for them.

Frequently raw fooders soak nuts in preparation for assembling a recipe like nut milk, nut butter, or nut cheese. Soaking makes nuts softer and creamier and enhances the texture of many raw dishes. I’ve provided a section in my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, that covers soaking nuts, but this fun and informative blog gives me the opportunity to share the simple process with anyone searching for this information on the internet.

Soaking nuts offers several health benefits. The simple process of soaking nuts for several hours works like magic to increase their antioxidant and phytochemical capacity because soaking releases some enzyme inhibitors.

Some people have difficulty digesting nuts and eliminate them from their diet. They needn’t miss out on the healthful benefits nuts offer because a few hours of soaking does wonders—Soaking is the prelude to the sprouting process and releases enzymes that inhibit the digestibility of nuts. Soaking nuts also helps to break down their macronutrients. Protein, fats, and carbohydrates are broken down into digestible components, turning protein into free flowing amino acids, fats into fatty acids, and carbohydrates into simple sugars, essentially predigesting them.

After soaking for several hours, nuts become very soft and lose their crunchiness. To return them to their natural crispness, dry them with paper towels or a kitchen towel and dehydrate them for several hours at a temperature between 110 and 115 degrees F. Alternatively, you can roast them in the oven. 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.

Not everyone has problems digesting nuts. For those who do, soaking is definitely helpful. However, soaking adds to extra steps before one can actually eat the nuts. In today’s busy world, few of us are looking for extra processes in order to prepare our foods. I’m a from-scratch cook, but I, too, shun extra steps when they’re not needed.

For most of us with the ability to digest nuts without difficulty, we can reap the multitude of health benefits of eating nuts raw or roasted without soaking. Mother Nature has made a perfect ready-to-eat food that’s packaged in protective shells. Within those protective shells are a storehouse of minerals, heart healthy vitamin E, fiber, protein, and a mountain of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Nuts are a healthy, nutrient dense food that studies have shown to reduce the risk of heart disease when eaten in small quantities like one to two ounces daily. Fortunately for us busy folks, nut processors have also saved us the labor by shelling the nuts and putting them into convenient packages.

Nuts are freshly harvested in the fall and are so much tastier and moist than they are by the end of summer. For the holidays, I like to buy a variety of fresh nuts in the shell and put them in a bowl with several nutcrackers. Guests who visit my home during fall and winter have one nut-cracking good time and enjoy a heart-healthy, highly nutritious treat in the process.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Uses, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

CRANBERRIES—THE BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL MEET WALNUTS—THE OMEGA 3 CHAMPS

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

If you’re like many people who are starting to plan a Thanksgiving menu, the mention of cranberries brings to mind the standard cranberry sauce that clings to its traditional place on the Thanksgiving table. In many households, that’s where cranberries begin and end their existence—simply as cranberry sauce. Quite often, the convenient can of jellied cranberry sauce is the only association to cranberries people have ever had. I know, it’s easy—just open the can and plop the deep red blob into a bowl and pass it around the table at Thanksgiving—and maybe the canned cranberry sauce will even make a reappearance at Christmas, and maybe not.

But quite honestly, cranberries have a treasured place in my heart because they’re the darlings of the holiday season. In my house, they show up as Spiced Chestnut and Cranberry Nog, Tangy Cranberry Soup, Cranberry Fruit Salad, Spiced Cranberry Salsa, Cranberry Pomegranate Salad Dressing, Cranberry Spread, Hot Cranberry Punch, Cranberry Oat Muffins, and a ton of cranberry desserts like the one I’m sharing below. Putting it bluntly—they’ve got piss and vinegar! That’s verve and pizzazz to the less daring!

Cranberry Health Benefits
Healthwise, cranberries are packed with antioxidants. According to The Cranberry Institute, the antioxidant activity of flavonoids and polyphenols in cranberries works to prevent heart disease by preventing oxidation in the arteries. Those antioxidants protect the body from damaging molecules known as free radicals. Brain cells, too, receive that same protection. Aside from their beauty and versatility, cranberries add awesome health benefits during this winter season, when you want to chase away the sniffles, coughs, and flu.

Walnut Omega 3 Benefits
And when you pair the cranberries with nuts, like walnuts, which are another fabulous harvest delight, you get a double benefit. Walnuts are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the arteries. In turn, walnuts help to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke because they lower cholesterol, especially the LDL bad cholesterol.

The Omega 3 in walnuts also helps to alleviate the pain of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Omega 3 works to boost the function of the brain, helping people to perform on a high level, maintain good concentration, and keep the memory sharp. Those who suffer from mild depression may find the Omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts a gentle way to bring relief.

This Thanksgiving, consider adding another dessert to the menu–one that will sit proudly beside the venerable Pumpkin Pie and promise to send quivers of anticipation among the awaiting diners. This exquisite pie from The Nut Gourmet cookbook is beautiful, emits a wonderful aroma, and knocks the socks off with its assertive sweet and tart full-throttle tang.

cranwalnutpie

Toss showy red cranberries, walnuts, and raisins into a pie crust and the result is a stunning dessert that features a zippy sweet-and-tart flavor. This tantalizing treat is an ideal, easy-to-prepare, make-ahead holiday dessert. Cranberries have arrived at the market and will be available throughout the holiday season. Buy several packages and enjoy combining them with walnuts and sweet or dried fruits to temper their tartness. Convenient, ready-to-eat shelled walnuts freshly harvested this fall await your tender touch.

CRANBERRY WALNUT PIE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 recipe Flaxseed Pie Crust (below)

Filling
1 cup raw walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nut mill
1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, divided

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a 9-inch metal pie pan.
2. Put the walnuts into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Sort the cranberries and discard any spoiled ones. Wash the cranberries in a strainer and drain them well.
4. Place 1 cup of the cranberries into the food processor and pulse-chop them coarsely. Transfer them to the bowl with the walnuts and add the remaining whole cranberries.
5. Add the raisins, organic sugar, brown sugar, and almond extract and toss well.
6. Combine the cornstarch, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl or cup, and stir to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the cranberry mixture and stir thoroughly.
7. Spoon the filling into the prepared pie shell and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool about 30 minutes. Serve warm, or cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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The Crust of the Matter
Truthfully, pastry making is a bitch! Some people whip out a pie crust as easy as making smoothies—but not me! It has been such a challenge that for years I tended to avoid making pies at all. That is, until I came up with a few pie dough recipes I could consider friendly to the most timid of bakers. This easy pie dough is impossible to kill. Just toss the ingredients into the food processor and use your fingers to spread it into the pie pan. It’s as easy as that.

You can even use this recipe to make pre-baked pie crust when preparing a no-bake pie. Just spread it into the pie pan and cover the dough with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Weight the foil down with a thick layer of dried beans and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. The process is called blind baking.

FLAXSEED PIE CRUST

Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons organic sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup organic canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1. Combine the whole-wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, and salt in the food processor and process to distribute the dry ingredients evenly.
2. Add the canola oil and water and pulse and process until well combined and the mixture forms dough that holds together.
3. Spoon the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to spread the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.
4. Fill the crust with the desired ingredients and bake.

Note:
For a sweeter crust, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of organic sugar or brown sugar

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Celebrations, Nut Desserts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Uses, Nuts and Health, Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The NUTTY Ball-Off Contest

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

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

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

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

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

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

yifan

    Blue Ribbon Prize Winner

NUT BALLS by YiFan Rao

Yield: about 25 to 30 one-inch balls

1 1/2 cups of raw almonds

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

10 to 12 dates, soaked in water overnight

1 cup golden flax seeds

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

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

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

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paula

    Second Prize Winner

NUT BALLS by Paula Shields

Yield: 18 to 20 one-inch balls

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

1/4 cup dried coconut, finely ground

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

Note: Dried cranberries would also make a tasty addition.

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wolfie

    Honorable Mention

NUT BALLS by Wolfie Cavender

Yield: about 40 one-inch balls

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

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

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

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

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pamela

    Honorable Mention

NUT BALLS by Pamela Lopez

Yield: about 24 one-inch balls

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

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

2 tablespoons cacao powder

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

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

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matthew

    Honorable Mention

NUT BALLS by Matthew Weisman

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

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

THE CURIOUS CASHEW

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

Compared to other nuts, the growing habit of cashews is–well, strange, bizarre, and curious.

Every tree nut has something special about the way it grows and what portions of the tree are useful for other purposes. Cashews are not the exception and are most unique. Not only does the cashew tree produce delicious cashew nuts, it also offers resources useful for edible and commercial purposes.
cashewapple2
The cashew tree is a peculiar plant with multiple uses, yet we’re only familiar with one of its fruits—the cashew nut. The cashew tree also produces an edible, pear-shaped fruit called the cashew apple. The fruit, extremely rich in vitamin C, is eaten raw, as well as made into jam, marmalade, candy, and juices.

The photos in this post show the exotic cashew apple with the cashew nut in its shell growing at the base of the fruit.
cashewapple
In addition to being an excellent food source, the cashew yields oil used in flavoring and cooking foods. The tree produces a sap or gum sometimes used in bookbinding and often incorporated into a varnish used to protect woodwork from insect damage.

The cashew nutshell contains an oil used in the manufacture of brake linings and is sometimes applied to metals as an anti-corrosive agent. The shell oil is also utilized for waterproofing and as an adhesive. Natives in South America applied cashew nutshell oil in the treatment of scurvy, sores, warts, ringworm and psoriasis. The oil is found to have potent antibacterial properties. Not many plants can claim to provide so many benefits.

Posted in cashews, Nut Growing, Nut Uses | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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