Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for the ‘pistachios’ Category

OPEN SESAME!–DIVA OF THE PATTY PAN

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 25, 2013

Like me, you’ve probably rediscovered an old favorite recipe that had somehow gotten lost and ended up at the bottom of a pile of papers you keep meaning to tackle. Well, actually, this little gem of a recipe didn’t end up in a pile because it’s one of the recipes in my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet. But it did kind of get lost between files in a hidden corner of my memory.

An upcoming visit from my friends Vesanto and Cam from Vancouver triggered my memory to bring up that file and I’m thrilled to share this flavor-filled recipe that’s never failed to get raves. I love recipes that can be prepared in advance and still taste great when you serve them a day or two later. This one’s a winner in every way.

The recipe is a unique take on a nut-filled patty that tastes great tucked into a pita, piled into a giant sandwich, enjoyed as an open-faced sandwich, or relished all by its delicious little self. You can even eat the patties cold, right from the fridge and find them perfectly flavorful.

Although the sesame seeds remain on the top and bottom of the patties, they successfully impart their definitive flavor that oozes sesame with each delicious bite. Versatility works great with this recipe–you can vary the nuts and vary the grain. It’s an excellent recipe to fall back on when you have 2 cups of leftover cooked grains. I like the patties with a little dollop Tofu Sour Cream, but you can shmear with any of your favorite toppings.

SESAME NUT PATTIES

Yield: Makes about 12 to 15 two-inch pattiessesame nut patties

1/2 cup hulled sesame seeds

1 cup walnuts
2/3 cup cashews
1/3 cup pistachios

1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon psyllium husks

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 cups cooked wild rice

1. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet or line it with parchment. Put the sesame seeds in a medium shallow bowl and set aside.

2. Grind the walnuts, cashews, and pistachios to a coarse meal in a food processor, and leave them in the processor.

3. Combine the water and psyllium husks in a small cup or bowl and stir well to moisten. Set aside for 1 minute to thicken, then add to the processor.

4. Add the soy sauce, chili powder, oregano, nutmeg, and thyme to the processor. Process briefly until all the ingredients are well combined.

5. Add the wild rice and pulse and process until it is well incorporated. If needed, add 1 to 3 tablespoons of water to moisten the mixture.

6. Form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls, place them on the baking sheet, and flatten slightly with your hand. When all the patty mixture is formed, dip each of the patties into the sesame seeds, covering both sides. Place them back on the baking sheet.

7. Shortly before serving, place the baking sheet under a preheated broiler, about 3 inches from the heat source. Watching carefully, broil for about 1 to 3 minutes, or until the sesame seeds are golden. Turn the patties over with a spatula and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden. Serve with Tofu Sour Cream or your favorite sauce.

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Posted in cashews, Main Dishes, pistachios, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

BEWARE THE CASHEW ALLERGY —-AND THE SECRET MANGO CULPRIT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in cashews, Nut Allergies, Nut Oddities, Nuts and Health, pistachios | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 124 Comments »

PISTACHIO CRAVINGS PRODUCE PISTACHIO ALCHEMY

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 6, 2010

While on vacation recently I began craving pistachios. To my surprise there wasn’t a single pistachio kernel to be bought. They were absolutely unavailable in the Philippines where my husband and I were visiting our son in Manila.

The notion of deprivation only served to spark my imagination. Soon pistachio thoughts drifted into a number of possible recipe ideas. The most potent of the creative sparks began to take shape in the form of cookies enhanced with ground pistachios. These cookies would be soft and chewy but dotted with a touch of crunch. And being so far away from home, I was surrounded by exotic herbs and spices. I could imagine infusing those pistachio cookies with an awesome combination flavors that came from the nuts’ own Middle East and Caucasus homeland—enhancers like rose water, cardamom, and saffron.

It worked! And my brief separation from those wonderful little nuts only made me grow fonder of them. As a result, the cookies not only have the ground pistachios comprising part of the flour, but they also have an appealing cluster of the nuts to garnish the tops.

Because this recipe contains no eggs, the cookies have no cholesterol. I’ve added liquid lecithin from soy to help bind the dough together. You can find lecithin at natural food markets.

Millet provides the delightful touch of crunch and certainly adds to the cookie’s nutritional value. This easy-to-prepare recipe is based on an old-fashioned oatmeal cookie recipe. I’ve adapted it to add unique texture and exceptional flavors that make these little treats quite special. I hope you find them as compelling as I have.

PISTACHIO PARADISE COOKIES

Yield: 3 dozen

2 cups whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup well packed brown sugar
1/2 cup uncooked millet
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups raw pistachios, divided

1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 large)
2/3 cup dairy-free margarine
3 tablespoons rose water
2 tablespoons liquid lecithin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 large jellyroll pans with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl combine the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, millet, baking powder, cardamom, soda, saffron, and salt and mix well. Break up any brown sugar lumps. Set the mixture aside and prepare the wet ingredients.
3. Measure 1/2 cup of the pistachios, and set it aside. Place the remaining 1 cup of pistachios into the food processor and pulse and process until finely ground into a powdery meal. Add the bananas, margarine, rose water, lecithin, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and process until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. The batter will become quite firm. Form heaping tablespoons of the batter into 2-inch cookies, placing them about 2 inches apart on the baking pan. Flatten them slightly and press a tiny cluster of the reserved 1/2 cup of pistachios into the center of each cookie.
5. Bake for 13 minutes. Then, reverse the positions of the cookie sheets and bake 4 minutes longer or until the cookies are nicely browned on the bottom. Remove the cookies to a dish to cool completely. If the cookies on the top rack need browning, move them to the bottom rack for an extra 2 to 3 minutes. The cookies will firm when completely cooled.
6. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze the cookies in layers with parchment or waxed paper between the layers.

Posted in Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, pistachios, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

THE POWER OF THE FEW

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 21, 2010

I’m back and nutty as ever! No, I haven’t abandoned my post at the NutGourmet—just took a little holiday break to spend time with family and friends and cook up a flurry of great munchies I’ll share in future blog posts.

Now, I’ve returned with a fresh vigor and a feverish desire to share the nutty pleasures. Sometimes I bemoan the fact that nuts are not exactly dirt-cheap. Then, on the other hand, maybe that’s a good thing because many of us would probably be tempted to gorge on massive amounts of them. That would be a bad thing. How bad?

What constitutes a healthy level of nut consumption? The key is to remember there is awesome power in “just a little.” That “just a little” means there are potent benefits in consuming as few as one to three ounces of nuts a day. Translate that to the equivalent of about one or two generous handfuls.

Some might be thinking that limiting oneself to just one or two ounces of nuts a day may actually feel like utter deprivation. In truth, that small quantity is actually achieving a perfectly healthy ideal. It never ceases to amaze me that such a small quantity packs a big wallop in knocking down high cholesterol and blood pressure and reducing the risk of coronary artery disease.

At the December 2009 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, attendees learned from researchers at Texas Woman’s University – Houston Center that a mere two ounces of pistachios a day boosted levels of gamma- tocopherol, a natural form of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E. The authors acknowledge higher levels of gamma-tocopherol may offer protection against certain forms of cancer, namely lung and prostate cancer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. In 2005, the guidelines suggested incorporating 1.5 ounces of nuts such as hazelnuts into the diet several times per week. They suggest hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, folate, B vitamins and minerals that may play a role in lowering blood pressure. Hazelnuts are high in beneficial monounsaturated fats and only contain 4 percent saturated fats.

Just two handfuls of walnuts a day was the catchphrase of a study looking to inhibit the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice. W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia, gives the omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytosterols in walnuts a thumbs up for their ability to block the progression of tumors and suggests the compounds contained in walnuts could slow down the growth of breast cancer in humans.

A study cited in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated that just eight walnuts eaten at the end of a meal may be better than olive oil in helping to prevent damage to the delicate lining of the arteries. Walnuts were compared with olive oil in a study conducted at Barcelona’s Hospital Clinico and were found to better retain the elasticity and flexibility of the arteries when necessary to expand and increase blood flow. While many people turning to the Mediterranean diet credit the olive oil for the heart healthy focus, they miss the true hero—the little handful of walnuts.

Must one conclude that nuts are truly a miracle food? No, they certainly are not. Nuts are merely one of many of the highly nutritious plant-based foods that help us to stay healthy and assist us in returning to a state of health when we’ve fallen into the pit of chronic disease.

There really are no miracle foods, though many food purveyors work hard to convince people their product is theeee one to repair all the health ills and provide a cure-all. The power of the few remains the steadfast mantra referring to all whole, plant-based foods consumed in smaller portions than Americans have become accustomed to consuming. Feasting is best saved for special occasions.

For the daily diet, the power of a few nuts along with comfortable and reasonable portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and seeds brings impressive results in a surprisingly short time.

The following measurements comprise a one-ounce serving of nuts:

20 to 24 ALMONDS

6 to 8 BRAZIL NUTS

16 to 18 CASHEWS

18 to 20 FILBERTS (HAZELNUTS)

10 to 12 MEDIUM MACADAMIAS

28 SHELLED PEANUTS

18 to 20 PECAN HALVES

150 to 157 PINE NUTS (PIGNOLI)

45 to 47 PISTACHIOS

14 WALNUT HALVES

1 tablespoon PUMPKIN SEEDS

1 medium-size handful SESAME SEEDS

3 tablespoons SHELLED SUNFLOWER SEEDS

References:
Almond Board of California–http://www.almondsarein.com

American Association for Cancer Research “Walnut consumption decreases mammary gland tumor incidence, multiplicity and growth in the C(3) Tag transgenic mouse” AACR 2009; Abstract LB-247.

California Pistachio Association–http://www.pistachios.org

The Hazelnut Council–http://www.hazelnutcouncil.org

Hernandez, M.S. American Association for Cancer Research (2009. December 9). Pistachios may reduce lung cancer risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 20, 2010 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208191956.htm

International Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation http://www.nuthealth.org

National Pecan Shellers Association–http://www.ilovepecans.org

Peanut Advisory Board–http://www.peanutbutterlovers.com

The Peanut Institute–http://www.peanut-institute.org

Ros, Emilio. “Eating walnuts at the end of a meal may help cut the damage that fatty food can do to the arteries” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2006/10/10 09:38:33 GMT

The Walnut Marketing Board–http://www.walnut.org

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, hazelnuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Organizations, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

NUTCRACKER SWEET—MY KIND OF NUTTY BALLET

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on December 2, 2009

As autumn approaches each year, I get a little antsy for freshly harvested nuts in the shell to reach the grocery store. This year’s fresh crop has arrived and is well worth the wait! Showing off their glorious colors, fresh nuts are noticeably more delicious—they’re sweeter, more moist, and have a distinctly fresh flavor. Don’t get me wrong; the nuts from last year’s crop are still great and have been stored with care to preserve them. It’s just that the fresh ones pop with flavor that compels me to keep reaching for another and another.

If you’re not a nut like me, you may not have noticed them yet—beautiful walnuts in their plump wrinkly shells that remind me of brains, almonds in their pitted golden shells with raggedy edges, pecans enclosed in deep red shells that look as if they’d been dyed, little round sable-colored hazelnuts that have a sort of musical sound when they clink together, and Brazil nuts with their large exotic-looking triangular chocolate brown shells that are a challenge to crack.

Sometimes I find bulk nuts piled into individual bins in the produce section, one bin for the walnuts, another for the almonds. But in recent years I found the nuts attractively packaged in three to five-pound mesh bags as a stunning, colorful mixture. I take them home and empty them into a sturdy woven basket with a strong handle. I call it my nut basket because I’ve outfitted it with the wildest selection of nutcrackers you’ve ever seen.

Friends who know I’m deeply into nuts have contributed an amazing array of nutcrackers to my collection that seems to joyfully multiply each year. There’s a special one that cracks walnuts with one squeeze and another that’s made for cracking macadamias. I have three very old nutcrackers that operate on the vice principle—no, those nutcrackers don’t do surgery on anyone—not even the Vice Principal—I was actually referring to the ones that simply work like vices where I place a nut between two metal parts and turn a crank to tighten the space between. Those three nutcracker vices are true antiques, rusted to perfection, wearing their 109 years with elegant dignity, and still working stalwartly.

I also buy bulk nuts already shelled for serious baking, but there’s something deeply bonding about sitting at the table with friends and placing the nut basket between us. It doesn’t take long before the ballet begins—the nut-cracking ballet, that is. You know, it’s the Nutcracker Sweet, and is it ever sweet. Pretty soon, there’s a giant pile of nut shells on the table, and still we reach for another nut, and then, another.

Nuts have a special way of bringing friends closer. They seem to invite sharing, not only the nuts themselves, but I’m often surprised at the conversations that flow after the first few nuts have been opened and tasted. Because of these opportunities, I’ve come to equate nuts with friendship.

During this holiday season, play the Nutcracker Sweet, enjoy good friends, and keep the nut basket handy. Now, I really must go—my pistachios are calling!

Posted in almonds, Brazil nuts, Cracking and Peeling Nuts, hazelnuts, Macadamias, Nut Oddities, pecans, pistachios, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

WHAT SORT OF NUTTY INDULGENCES WILL 100 CALORIES BUY YOU?

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

Gotta hand it to California pistachio grower Paramount Farms for the savvy way they chose to show off the pistachio by comparing 100 calories of pistachios to other snack foods. Those 100 calories deliver 1.1 ounces of pistachio in the shell, a very satisfying snack that can also rave about its good fats, high fiber, and high protein in addition to its vitamin A, its host of minerals, and its healthy measure of phytosterols.

Not so satisfying is 100 calories of chocolate chip cookie–that adds up to all of 1/2 of a cookie.

Also not too impressive is 100 calories of vanilla ice cream, which amounts to a mere 3 tablespoons. Both would still leave most people craving more.

You could also get 5 Saltine crackers for 100 calories (Oh, goody!) or 1/3 of a candy bar, but you wouldn’t be benefiting from anything good for you with those choices.

That 100 calories will buy you 14 gummy bears, but all you’ll get from those are 22 carbs (and not healthy complex carbohydrates at that) and 14.5 grams of sugar—neither will these rate high on the nutrition scale.

But that quiet little 100-calorie pile of 30 pistachios in the shell has so much more to give. While the other snacks contain less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, pistachios will give you 2 grams.

One ounce of pistachios out of the shell has even more fiber—2.9 grams and 5.75 grams of protein. Imagine, only 1 ounce can supply 5.75 grams of protein. That’s a pretty powerful little pile of nuts.

Packed with Minerals
The mineral content is where nuts really shine and pistachios are very generous. Here’s what 1 ounce will give you:

    30 mg of calcium
    34 mg of magnesium
    139 mg of phosphorus
    291 mg of potassium

Trace Minerals
Even the trace minerals are abundant in pistachios:

    1.11 mg of iron
    0.62 mg of zinc
    0.369 mg of copper
    0.340 mg of manganese
    1 mcg of fluoride
    2 mcg of selenium

Antioxidants
Pistachios even want to share some of their antioxidants with you—good guys that they are (I just love them!).

    Beta carotene 71 mcg
    Lutein + zeaxanthin 398 mcg
    Gamma tocopherol 6.41 mg
    Phytosterols 61 mg
    Campesterol 3 mg
    Beta-sitosterol 56 mg

From past experience and from observing how people behave at a party when they encounter the traditional bowl of nuts on the coffee table, I can predict pretty accurately that whoever is sitting in front of that little nut bowl is going to find those nuts very compelling. So compelling, in fact, that one little handful, about 1 1/2 ounces, will not be enough to satisfy. Within a short time, the nut bowl will be empty. That’s the typical snack addiction that catches people off guard.

So what’s the ideal quantity of nuts one ought to consider in the daily diet? Examining a number of nut studies, I noticed researchers recommend 1 to 3 ounces daily during the research trials.

I confess, that I am also a victim of the nut bowl snack addiction, but I’ve found a great
way to enjoy nuts, pistachios in particular, without getting caught up in their over-consumption.

MY SECRET IS TO PUT NUTS ON THE DAILY MENU BY INCORPORATING THEM INTO TASTY DISHES, RATHER THAN EATING THEM AS A SNACK. Nuts are so much more than a snack, They are wholesome, nutrient-dense food sources that can boost the healthfulness of any dish. If I include between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of nuts in a salad, soup, main dish, side dish, or even dessert, that dish will likely serve 4 to 6 people. That means that even if only 4 people feast on that dish, no one will be consuming more than 2 ounces of nuts at most.

Here’s a tasty way to enjoy pistachios, those wholesome little green wonders that bring us such pleasure:

This flavor-infused, layered vegetable casserole blanketed in a killer, thick, creamy, nut-based sauce is ideal when you need a dish to serve a large group. Like many recipes that include a blend of cooked ingredients, this one tastes even better when prepared a day ahead and reheated. If you take this delicious dish directly from the refrigerator, place it in a cold oven at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until warmed through.

PISTACHIO EGGPLANT NIRVANA

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

2 large eggplants, unpeeled, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 large onions, thinly sliced, slices cut in half
4 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced, stems discarded
1 to 2 teaspoons canola oil

Sauce
1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup pistachios
2 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons vanilla flavored soymilk
1/4 cup soy sauce

4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly oil 3 large jellyroll pans. Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside

2. TO PREPARE THE VEGETABLES, arrange the eggplants and onions on two of the baking sheets. It’s perfectly all right if some of the onions overlap, but keep the eggplant slices in a single layer. Place both baking sheets in the oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes.

3. Arrange the tomatoes on one half of the remaining pan. Toss the mushrooms with the canola oil in a medium bowl and pile them onto the baking sheet with the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes and mushrooms under the broiler, about 3-inches from the heat source. Broil them for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are softened.

4. When the eggplants, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms are done, set them aside and raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees while preparing the sauce.

5. TO MAKE THE SAUCE, place the pumpkin seeds and pistachios into the food processor and process until finely ground. Transfer them to a 2-quart saucepan and add the soymilk and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring well. Adjust the heat as needed to avoid a messy boil-over.

6. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir to form a smooth runny paste. Add the paste to the gently bubbling sauce, a little at a time, stirring well with a wire whip until the sauce is quite thick, about the consistency of oatmeal.

7. TO ASSEMBLE THE DISH, layer half the eggplant slices on the bottom of the prepared baking dish, followed by half the mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes.

8. Pour half the sauce over the tomatoes. Layer with the remaining eggplant slices, mushrooms, and onions and spoon the remaining sauce over the top. Top the sauce with the remaining tomatoes and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top.

9. Bake the Pistachio Eggplant Nirvana for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

For more data on the health benefits and nutritional information of pistachios, visit the Pistachio Health website.

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

NUTTY BAKER GOES WILD IN THE KITCHEN!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 13, 2009

I know I’m not alone when I say I have a thing for pistachios. They’re so darned lovable in practically every dish I’ve put them into. I had this wild idea to create a totally whole-grain, no-yeast bread and pack it with pistachios. I did it and it’s a winner!

Preparing, baking, and eating this bread will feel like Mother Nature paid a visit to your kitchen. This is not the airy white bread that comes from highly processed grains and leaves you with little nourishment. Because, this bread is made from truly whole grains and is prepared without yeast, it will be heavier, considerably denser, and delightfully earthy because it’s full of flavorful savory ingredients that give it a chewy texture.

Most of all, it’s delicious, but there’s something else very special about this bread. Wheat berries and oat groats deliver an impressive array of vitamins and minerals, 20 in all, plus protein, fiber, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. The oat groats add another dimension to the nutrition package—they contain soluble fiber that helps to lower cholesterol naturally.

pistcaperbread

PISTACHIO CAPER BREAD

Yield: 2 small loaves (4 to 6 servings per loaf)

5 1/2 cups water, divided
1 cup oat groats
1 cup wheat berries

1 tablespoon psyllium seed husks

2/3 cup raw pistachios
2/3 cup dehydrated onions
1/2 cup well-drained capers
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Place the oat groats and wheat berries into a large bowl and rinse the grains. Add 4 cups of the water to the grains and soak for 8 to 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a large jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Drain and rinse the soaked grains and put them into the food processor with 1 1/4 cups of the remaining water. Process the grains for about 2 minutes, or until they are ground to a coarse meal and all the liquid is well incorporated. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. If your processor has a small capacity, process the grains in 2 batches.
3. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of water with the psyllium husks in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside for about 30 seconds to allow the mixture to thicken. Add the thickened psyllium to the processor and process it into the grains.
4. Transfer the grains to a large bowl and add the pistachios, onions, capers, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
5. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared jellyroll pans in two even piles and use the spoon to shape the loaves into thick rectangles about 5 x 7-inches.
6. Lightly cover the loaves with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes longer. Cool completely, slice, and serve.

Notes:
Oat groats and wheat berries are available in natural food markets. Psyllium seed husks absorb water and act as a binder. They are also available in natural food markets.

If not serving right away, wrap the breads separately in plastic bags and refrigerate for up to one week. Bring to room temperature before serving or wrap in aluminum foil, shiny side inside, and warm in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

I like to prepare these breads in advance and freeze them to give as gifts or to enjoy when guests come for dinner. To freeze, wrap the cooled breads separately in heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags. Frozen, they will keep well for up to 4 months.

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

PISTACHIO POWER KNOCKS DOWN HEART DISEASE RISK

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 28, 2009

While there is still concern about salmonella contaminated pistachios, safe sources do exist. Check your local supplier, and ask questions about their suppliers. When you locate safe sources, stock up on them, prepare the incredibly delicious recipe below, and bone up on some heart-friendly pistachio facts.

Aside from being a tasty snack and a delicious addition to desserts, main dishes, soups, salads, sauces, and salad dressings, pistachios have proven themselves to be highly nutritious and medically effective in lowering the risk for coronary heart disease.

Several studies in recent years have focused on the natural cholesterol-lowering effects of pistachios without the use of statin drugs. One study conducted at Penn State University was a controlled feeding study using the American Heart Association Step 1 diet. The Step 1 study successfully demonstrated the powerful effects of pistachios in lowering total cholesterol by 8.4 percent and LDL cholesterol by 11.6 percent when eaten daily in three-ounce portions. Pistachios also contain high levels of antioxidants that aid in reducing inflammation in the arteries.

Another study conducted in Turkey and published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease in 2006, examined the effects of pistachios on plasma lipid profile and oxidative status in 24 healthy men and 20 healthy women. After one week on their normal diets, half the group continued their regular diet, while the other half substituted pistachios for 20% of their daily calorie intake for three weeks.
pistachio
Before and after the study, blood tests were charted for LDL (the bad cholesterol), HDL (the good cholesterol), total cholesterol, triglycerides, MDA (malondialdehyde), and AOP (antioxidant potential). After the three weeks, the pistachio group was found to have significantly decreased their total cholesterol, MDA levels, and total cholesterol to HDL levels, and the LDL/HDL ratios. The results showed that those on the pistachio diet decreased oxidative stress, improved their total cholesterol, and increased their HDL levels.

Those irresistible little green wonders are packed with protein and fiber, yet they are low in carbohydrates. Their high levels of good fats, mostly monounsaturated (fats), are part of their charm in lowering cholesterol. Pistachios are also a good source of arginine, a highly respected amino acid needed for the body to manufacture nitric oxide, known for its ability to dilate the blood vessels.

Natural plant fats called phytosterols are nature’s way of preventing the absorption of excess cholesterol into the blood. After peanuts, pistachios score next highest in phytosterols among the nut family with 214 mg of phytosterols for 3.5 ounces.

If you need a boost in potassium, count on pistachios with 1025 mg for that same 3.5 ounces. If you’re deficient in minerals like iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, or selenium, you might enjoy snacking on two generous handfuls of pistachios a day—that’s equal to about 3.5 ounces.

For so many nutritional needs, you can consider pistachios among your good friends. And to reap the benefit of pistachios to the fullest, be sure to reduce your intake of other dietary saturated fats, such as dairy products, meat, chicken, or fish. The studies and nutritional information were conducted using raw pistachios.

References:
Gebauer, Sarah K., Penny Kris-Etherton, Colin D. Kay, Sheila G. West, and P. Alaupovic. “Pistachios Lower Cholesterol, Provide Antioxidants.” Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04

Kocyigit, A, A.A. Koylu, H. Keles, “Effects of Pistachio Nuts Consumption on Plasma Lipid Profile and Oxidative Status in Healthy Volunteers.” Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease. 2006 16(3):202-9.

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Here’s a dish that frames beautiful, bright green pistachios with a backdrop of a golden brown garbanzo paté. Served as a casual, make-ahead dish, the paté becomes a tasty hot or cold filling for a sandwich. Cut it into squares and serve it as appetizer finger food at a party or picnic. To turn the paté into a hot or cold signature entrée, cut it into slices or wedges and serve them on a lettuce-lined platter with a dollop of Tofu Sour Cream and a sprinkling of paprika and minced chives topping each slice.

GARBANZO BEAN PATE WITH PISTACHIOS

Yield: 8 to 10 servings
garbanzopate

1 large onion, finely minced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 3/4 cups garbanzo bean flour
3 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup raw pistachios

Garnish
1 medium tomato, sliced, slices halved
1 Japanese or Persian cucumber, sliced
Sprigs of fresh dill or cilantro

1. Line a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan or a ring mold with enough plastic wrap to drape over the sides and set aside.
2. Combine the onion, carrot, garlic basil, curry powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and thyme in a large, deep non-stick skillet. Add the soy sauce, olive oil, and lemon juice and cook and stir over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion is soft and transparent. Reduce the heat to medium.
3. Add the garbanzo bean flour to the skillet and add the water, a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Adjust the heat to medium-high, if needed, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches the consistency of very thick porridge and begins to pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan. A thin, dry crust will form on the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the pistachios and stir well to distribute them evenly throughout the mixture. Spoon the paté mixture into the prepared loaf pan or ring mold, pressing firmly to eliminate any air spaces. Set aside for about 30 minutes to cool the paté. Fold the excess plastic wrap over the paté, covering it completely, and chill for at least 4 to 12 hours to firm.
5. Uncover the paté and unmold it onto an attractive serving platter. Garnish the top with quartered cucumber slices and surround the paté with the tomato halves topped with cucumber slices. Tuck a few springs of herbs around the base of the paté and cut it into serving slices or wedges.

Note:
Garbanzo bean flour, also called chickpea flour, can be found in Middle Eastern or Indian markets. Because this special dish needs to be refrigerated for a minimum of 4 hours to cool and firm, begin preparation several hours ahead or the day before.

Variation: Other bean flours, such as lentils or green split peas, can be substituted for the chickpea flour. To create your own bean flour, measure 2 cups of dried green or brown lentils or green split peas and grind them into flour in a small electric mini chopper-grinder or coffee grinder. This quantity will equal the chickpea flour measurement. You will also need to increase the water measurement by approximately 2 tablespoons.

TOFU SOUR CREAM

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 12.3-ounce box extra firm silken tofu
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Use immediately or chill for an hour or two before serving. Refrigerated, Tofu Sour Cream keeps for 1 week.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Bean Recipes, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, pistachios | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NUTS TO THOSE QUOTATIONS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 23, 2009

I’m often amazed at how often the words “nut” or “nuts” or mention of particular nuts enter into conversations, jokes, comparisons, political commentary, and famous quotations. Below are a few quotations to ponder, some from well-known literary figures and some less familiar. The frequent mention of nuts in famous quotations speaks for the important role they have played in daily life throughout history.

For years I’ve heard people using expressions like “so and so is a tough nut to crack,” or “That’s a nutty idea,” or “We’re all a little nuts.” I find myself using expressions like “nutty,” “nut case,” and “totally nuts” when referring to myself, or on occasion, when referring to someone else.

What is it about nuts that invites this notion of craziness or being out of step with reality in such a humorous, non-confrontational manner? I certainly don’t have the answer, but I do often wonder why nuts make us just a little nutty from time to time.

    “I’m Charley’s aunt from Brazil–Where the nuts come from.”– Brandon Thomas, playwright, Charley’s Aunt (1892)

    “Pistachio nuts, the red ones, cure any problem.”–Paula Danziger, American children’s author

    “Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough. Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or to the little peanut they will give up their secrets, but I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also – if you love them enough.” –George Washington Carver, scientist and inventor

    “Sweetest nut hath sourest rind.”–William Shakespeare in As You Like It, act 3, sc. 2, l. 155-7.

    All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut. –Anne Brontë, British novelist and poet In Agnes Grey, ch. 1 (1847).

    Even to this day, no native Australian animal species and only one plant species–the macadamia nut–have proved suitable for domestication. There still are no domestic kangaroos.–Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology

Posted in Macadamias, Nut Quotes and Toasts, pistachios | Leave a Comment »

THIS LITTLE PEANUT WENT TO MARKET. . .

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 13, 2009

On the first weekend in March I was floating on a nut cloud and swimming in a warm and fuzzy nut pond. And if you’re as much of a nut butter lover as I am, I can assure you there was plenty to spread around.

Every year on the first weekend in March, the Natural Products EXPO comes to the Anaheim convention center in California for the largest food show in the country. This is the premier event for food manufacturers and sellers to display their wares and introduce new food products to retail buyers, the press, and those with a related food focus. The convention halls were practically bursting at the seams with 1900 vendors and 53,000 people in a frenzied environment of food tasting and product samplings along with an impressive array of knock-your-socks-off food displays.

As usual, I was trained on seeking nut products and trying to discover any unique ways nuts were being incorporated into good things to eat. Simply put, the experience was a banquet! And nuts were not the only items eager sellers were sampling.
peanut3
Peanut products won my popularity prize with the most vendors selling peanut butters, some purely organic, others enhanced with flavorings and palm oils to keep the nuts and the oils from separating. Many of the peanut companies posted notices on their websites stressing that none of their products came from the disgraceful Peanut Corporation of America responsible for all that contaminated peanut butter.

Overall, nuts made an excellent showing, but the one disappointment for me was that none of the hot prepared foods contained nuts of any kind with the exception of a lonely Thai peanut sauce and a peanut tofu. Nuts are so nutritious and high in protein and fiber–why couldn’t they serve as an excellent replacement for other protein-containing foods like tofu, wheat gluten, or animal-based items?

This year I noticed more companies featuring nuts in their products. Here’s a run-down of what I saw:
• nutty granola varieties and granola bars
• energy bars
• trail mixes
• meal replacement bars
• raw power bars
• almond milk
• hemp milk
• almond and hazelnut-flavored ice cream and gelato
• nut butters
• nut brittle
• chocolate-covered nut creams
• nut pralines
• chocolate covered nuts
• raw nuts
• roasted nuts
• and nuts seasoned with everything from habanera chiles to onions and garlic.

The most innovative new product I met at the market was peanut tofu. Though I was awe-struck at the moment, I later realized peanut tofu makes perfect sense—the Chinese employed the soybean in a unique process that turned it into tofu. The peanut is also a bean—so why not peanut tofu?

Of all the nutty products at the EXPO, my personal blue ribbon award goes to Sunergia Soyfoods from Virginia for the most creative product I have ever encountered. If you’re into the vegetarian lifestyle, you know that tofu is a great source of plant-based protein. But would you ever imagine a tofu made from peanuts? This outrageously creative company came up with Nufu Peanut Tofu—a tofu made from peanuts in two tasty flavors—sesame ginger and herbed hickory. With great flavor and familiar tofu texture, this peanut tofu packs 5 grams of protein in a 2-ounce serving. I’m sold!
peanuts-blanched

Novel ideas always show up at the EXPO. One company, Justin’s Nut Butter from Colorado, came up with a hip way to package and sell nut butter—little one-ounce foil-wrapped nut butter squeeze packs perfect for moms to pack into kids’ lunch boxes. Smart marketing idea! They also make classic peanut butter and p-butter flavored with honey and cinnamon. Their classic almond butters are also perked up with honey or maple flavoring. To prevent the nut oils from separating, they add organic palm fruit oil to their products.

Mrs. May’s Naturals from California attracted a pack of nut-loving snackers to gobble up their amazing nut crunches that feature every variety of slow-roasted nuts and seeds you can think of. Some are combined with sea salt and sweetened with organic sugar–others are simply blended with fruits to give them sweet appeal. But all of them are irresistible and often show up at parties like the Academy Awards gathering I attended recently. There were bowls of these crunchy babies on every table.

One of my favorite standout products at the market was Sunbutter from North Dakota, a totally peanut-free butter made from roasted sunflower seeds. The unsweetened variety is my fave and is unbelievably tasty with nothing more than roasted sunflower seeds. It’s got awesome flavor and is actually reminiscent of ultra creamy peanut butter. Anyone allergic to peanuts or tree nuts could safely enjoy this treat because it’s made in a peanut-free and tree-nut free processing plant. The other varieties include those made with organic sunflower seeds, sea salt, mixed tocopherols (those are fat-soluble antioxidants in the Vitamin E family), and evaporated cane juice (a fancy name for organic sugar).

Yummy nuts made by Yumnuts Naturals from Connecticut truly are just that—a yummy snack food made with dry roasted cashews as the base. Each of the six varieties is coated with sweeteners like honey, corn syrup, and/or sugar. Some have other irresistible additions like cocoa powder, coconuts, salt, chili powder, lime juice, and zesty Cajun seasonings.

A recent marriage took place in the peanut community—Sunland Inc. found its soul-mate in Peanut Better and now they are one, growing and processing some of the tastiest natural and organic nut butters made from just Virginia peanuts, either crunchy or creamy, with nothing else added. These little critters pack three to five sweet little
peanut4Virginia peanuts into each pod that finds their most nurturing climate in New Mexico. Their flavor- infused p-nutbutters are a riot with 13 different varieties. The vanilla cranberry pops with sweetness, the caramel feels all warm and fuzzy, and the spicy Southwestern zings with the perfect touch of chili heat. Here are some of the other wild and creative flavors: banana, raspberry, cinnamon, dark chocolate, sweet molasses, cinnamon currant, onion parsley, hickory smoked, and Thai ginger and red pepper. So many choices!

Sweet Ella’s Organic Peanut Butter from Michigan comes in creamy and crunchy style and contains only two ingredients—peanuts and sea salt and it rocks the tastebuds! I’m a nut for the crunchy style and can honestly say it was delicious. This company, founded in 1910 by Ella Koeze’s great great grandfather who came to America from the Netherlands, is now celebrating its 99th birthday and carrying on a unique legacy. Their USDA certified organic peanut butter is made on vintage equipment and prepared in small batches.

Cream-Nut Natural Peanut Butter is also made by the Koeze Company and contains only Virginia peanuts and salt. The difference is the Cream-Nut Brand is not made with organic nuts, but has the distinction of being produced on the same vintage equipment as Sweet Ella’s.

almond2
Raw is the rage! And Two Moms in the Raw make an impressive line of raw organic granolas packed with a bushel of nuts like pecans and almonds along with berries and whole grains. For those unfamiliar with raw products, raw means nothing is heated at temperatures higher than 118 degrees in order to preserve the natural enzymes. Seeds have many of the same healthful properties as nuts, and there’s a ton of them in the gluten-free dehydrated sea crackers offered by this savvy company

Living Intentions from San Francisco has Gone Nuts! That’s what they call their line of raw, vegan, sprouted nut blends that totally lured me in with their captivating array of flavors. Who can resist a handful of sesame teriyaki flavored nuts, or cilantro lime mojo with pistachios and pepitas? And their sweet and spicy pistachios with chipotle–Whew! That’s one hot mama!

I confess. I’ve got a soft spot for almond butter. Couldn’t resist Once Again Nut Butter whose brochure says “We spread integrity.” The company is a cooperative with a mission to help address Third World poverty by starting and supporting organic farm co-ops and paying U.S. prices to the growers. I had a great tasting session at their booth and loved their crunchy almond butter. It was pure heaven with nothing else added and nothing taken out. They also make the smooth along with one that includes flaxseed oil to provide omega 3 fatty acids. Other products include organic sunflower butter, cashew butter, and peanut butter, along with sesame tahini. Every preference is covered—smooth, crunchy, salted, unsalted.

Still strolling through the peanut patch I struck gold when I reached Feridies from Virginia. And, naturally, Virginia peanuts were their specialty, though they did have cashews, almonds, and pistachios, too. This vendor had something for everyone—salted, unsalted, redskin, honey roasted, butter toffee, hickory smoked, hot & spicy, chocolate covered, Cajun spiced, garlic, and wasabi flavored—it was snacker’s heaven!

It was obvious that Peanut Butter & Co. from New York likes to play in the kitchen and has fun naming their flavored peanut butters. Guess what’s in The Heat is On? Or Dark Chocolate Dreams? These special blends use organic palm oil to prevent the oil from separating, while Smooth Operator and Crunch Time are made from great tasting peanuts and salt. From their simple sandwich shop beginnings, their PB&J ‘wiches attracted dating couples, lunching execs, and even celebrities. Can’t you just taste their grilled peanut butter sandwich stuffed with bananas and honey?

The Shangri-la of the Himalayas came to the EXPO via International Harvest from New York. All their products are raw and organic from Hunza and the world. I was literally compelled to stop and stare at their brilliant display of nutty trail mixes. The Himalayan Trail medley was a gorgeous combo of almonds, figs, apricot kernels, mulberries, golden raisins, and apricot halves. The Hunza Goji Trail added bright red-orange goji berries to the mix. It was so appealing I could barely control myself from stashing handfuls into my bag. The company likes cashews and pistachios, too, and included them in other fruity mixes.

And then there was Amoretti, an awesome company that makes unique products especially for chefs and the food industry. Their focus is outrageously cool things like almond pastes, marzipans, nut pralines, nut flours, nut and fruit ganaches, and pistachio dessert sauce. Another section of their catalog featured nutty flavoring syrups in almond, peanuts-shelled1chestnut, praline, hazelnut, macadamia, pistachio, and walnut flavors. And wildest of all food products are their edible food perfume sprays with the scent of almond, amaretto, coconut, hazelnut, or pistachio. Wouldn’t that make dessert impossible to resist with those fragrant aromas perfuming the air right under your nose? And have you ever seen gold or silver French Almond Dragees?
They were gleaming brilliantly in the company’s stunning catalog. I can easily imagine a platter of gold and silver-coated candied almonds presented at an elegant event!

Wickedly delicious is the hottest way to express the nirvana that greeted my taste buds at the Mudslinger’s booth. Their ice cream-like frozen desserts are decadently delicious and creamy to the max. My best pics were the soy milk-based Peanut Butter Palooka and the coconut milk-based Coconut Pecan Praline. Am I a crazy nut lover, or what?

Primex Farms in California is a very cool company that not only grows, roasts, and packs their whole and shelled pistachios, but they also promote the sale of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, and pine nuts along with some fruits grown by other farms. They call themselves traders, an old-fashioned term, and sell the nuts all over the world. When I asked about their charismatic display, they presented me with an awesome press kit from the California Almond Board. I soon discovered there are more California almond varieties than I was aware of—10 in all. The press kit contains such an array of almond information it was like taking a course that begins with almond horticulture and ends with processing and storing the nuts. That is one savvy organization.
peanutplant

Coconuts made a lively debut in Turtle Mountain’s coconut milk non-dairy frozen dessert made from the first pressing of the coconut meat. The result is a decadently rich coconut-cream-based-frozen dessert that just oozes with creamy richness. The company aptly named this delicious treat Purely Decadent. Even better, they’ve used this coconut milk base to create two exquisite flavors–mocha almond fudge and peanut butter zig zag.

Making creative use of the coconut shells most of us would likely toss out, Coco Loco made magic with them and brought coconut shell jewelry to the EXPO. In an attractive display the company presented a line of jewelry one could wear from head to toe—literally. There were coconut shell hair sticks and coconut shell toe rings. And for the in-between parts the display included earrings, rings, pendants, nose rings, necklaces, and bracelets.

At the end of that tasting weekend I had to take my tummy home for a much needed rest and a nutty detox with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Posted in almonds, cashews, coconut, hazelnuts, Nut Companies, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

 
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