Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

VEGAN TASTINGS GO ELEGANT FROM HOTEL TO PARKING LOT

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 26, 2013

Reuben among guestsIn the last week Reuben, at left, and I attended two important vegan launch events as representatives of our vegan website–Vegetarians in Paradise. The first soire, on August 15th, was held in a beautiful setting on the sprawling lawn at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. The hotel’s aim was to introduce the new summer and fall vegan and farm-to-table menu items served in the Breeze Restaurant.

The second event, on August 22nd, took place in the parking lot at the Follow Your Heart food service facility called Earth Island. For Los Angelenos, Follow Your Heart is a long-standing and very beloved natural food market and vegetarian/vegan café where diners can order popular items like the Love Plate and Om-lette. And their exceptional soups are famous and even featured inEarth Island #1 their Follow Your Heart Vegetarian Soup Cookbook. The focus of the event was to introduce something vegans can never seem to get enough of–vegan cheese–specifically their new Vegan Gourmet Shreds–a meltable dairy-free cheese available in Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Fiesta Blend flavors.

The tasting at the Hyatt Regency was an elegant event with Executive Chef Felix Nappoly and Sous Chef Ali Parvinjah, who is vegan, greeting guests and chatting about the new menu offerings. Posing between the chefs is Co-host Carolyn Scott-Hamilton of The Healthy Voyager. Carolyn was instrumental in coordinating with the hotel’s PR Director Adrienne Devore to invite vegan media and VIPs to taste the new vegan items and signature vegan cocktails.

Chefs & Carolyn

Both chefs were recognizing the need to meet the growing demand of patrons requesting vegan foods. This is a really big deal–the Hyatt Regency is a very large and very well known hotel in Los Angeles where visitors come from all over the world. The hotel also caters large events for foreign visitors as well as local residents.

The chefs were gracious as they strolled around the outer perimeter of the 4-sided bar answering questions and posing for photos. Behind the bar a number of chefs were busily preparing gorgeous tidbits for tasting. On the vegan side were bit-size morsels of stunning appetizers, each served it its own unique mini dish.

The Breeze Restaurant will feature the following items in their new menu:
Beet Carpaccio, Gardein Chicken with Risotto, Macadamia Caprese with semi Dried Tomato, Basil oil, Mizu Vinaigrette, and Balsamic Caramel, Smoked Tofu Dijon with Stone Fruits, Red Beet Quinoa with Zucchini Noodles, Golden Raisins and Toasted Almonds, with Avocado Basil Oil and Yellow Beet Chips, and Vegan Breakfast Wrap.

Beet Carpaccio with Edamame Hummus and Basil Oilmacadamia Caprese with semi Dried Tomato, Basil oil, Mizu Vinaigrette, Balsamic CaramelRed Beet Quinoa with Zucchini Noodles, Golden Raisins and Toasted Almonds, Avocado Basil oil and Yellow Beet Chipssmoked tofu dijon stone fruitsGardein Chicken with RisottoSushiEnglish Pea Soup ShootersCherry Pie in mini jars

The photos suggest vegans will have an opportunity to enjoy an elegant array of menu choices that are stunning as well as tasty. If you drop in to Breeze Restaurant for a lunch or dinner and don’t see the new vegan items on the menu, be sure to ask. The menu will change with the seasons. And, as you might expect, the ambience is elegant and upscale.

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Follow your Heart’s Vegan Gourmet Shreds Tasting was a smashing success! Earth Island is a huge, completely solar-powered facility where the popular Vegenaise, Vegan Gourmet cheeses, and the multitude of Follow Your Heart’s salad dressings are prepared and shipped across the country. The parking lot in front of Earth Island easily morphed into a charming gathering of vendors and bloggers who will spread the word about the exciting Vegan Gourmet Shreds, the cheese that melts and makes so many foods taste so compelling.

Bob GoldbergMichael BesanconPaul Lewin

Three of the original four owners Bob Goldberg Michael Besancon, and Paul Lewin meandered about the crowd chatting and shaking hands. While Michael Besancon moved on many years ago, Bob Goldberg and Paul Lewin are still leading Follow Your Heart’s 21st century journey forward. Marketing Director Katie Franklin stepped up to the mike to greet everyone and lead tours of the impressive solar facility. Bob gave a brief history of how Follow Your Heart began back in 1970 and grew into the wel-admired company it is today.

The parking lot was attractively outfitted with linen-draped standing-height tables with umbrellas providing welcome cover from the hot sun. Several of the familiar staff members from the café were busily weaving among the crowd and passing little dishes of cheese filled irresistibles.

Here’s what we gorged on as we waited in anticipation to taste the next delicious nibble. The photos follow the same order as the the names are listed:

Spinach & Artichoke QuicheEnchilada Bites 2Salad 2Crispy Chick'nMini TacosGrilled Cheese SandwhichesMac n Cheese

Mini Spinach and Artichoke Quiches featuring their Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Shreds

Enchilada Bites

Iceberg Lettuce Salad with cherry tomatoes topped with the new and very exceptional Bleu Cheese Dressing

Crispy Chicken w/mozzarella & tomato sauce

Veggie Tacos topped with their Fiesta Blend unmelted shreds

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches featuring Cheddar shreds in two versions: Roasted Garlic Vegenaise and Pesto Vegenaise

And Mac ‘n’ Cheese featuring their melted Cheddar

Each of the tasty cheese-filled morsels was an excellent example of how easy it is to incorporate the shreds into everyday favorite dishes. The killer-delicious mini quiches added an elegant touch to the array of samples, demonstrating how well the shreds could boost the flavor and appearance of party dishes to make them extra special.

In addition to the delightful cheese tasting, representatives of The Vegan Vine were serving up samples of their white and red wines in elegant, long-stemmed wine glasses, while Angel City Vegan Brewery was on hand to introduce two vegan beers by serving up generous cups filled to the brim.

The new vegan foods introduced at both the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel and Follow Your Heart have earned a special place at Vegetarians in Paradise–and we will happily spread the word. Both are representative of how far vegan cuisine has come in recent years. May vegan foods be THE foods of the future for humans, animals, and the entire planet.

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NUT MILKS ARE NOT APPROPRIATE BABY FORMULA!!!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 12, 2013

Over the years posting nut information on this blog, I’ve noticed the items that receive the most response are those that discuss nut allergies and some of the allergic reactions people have experienced from consuming nuts.

I usually address these by replying to comments people post on the blog. However, I recently received an email from a concerned Mom of a 13-month-old boy. This caring mom was breast-feeding her son for 9 months until she became pregnant and lost her milk supply.

Apparently, she turned to a cow’s milk formula and became concerned when her son developed a nasty diaper rash that would never clear up. She suspected the child may have an intolerance and sensitivity to dairy and began preparing various nut milks for him, one day making almond milk, almondmilkw:pitcheranother hazelnut, or macadamia milk using 1 to 2 cups of nuts to 4 cups of water.

She read my blog post on Brazil nuts and the many many comments people wrote in discussing their unpleasant reactions caused by the nuts and decided Brazil nuts were not a good idea for nut milk. I totally agree with that decision.

almondmilk bottleWanting to be sure her son was getting enough of the proper fats and nutrition in his diet, she began to question whether nut milks in general were an appropriate substitute for baby formula. She was adamant she did not want to return to cow’s milk formula and asked me if I had any resources she could research for proper baby/toddler diets.

Because this issue is so important to the healthy growth of her young child, I knew I was not qualified to address this with the wisdom it needed. I turned to my friend Vesanto Melina, MS, RD who kindly answered my call for help.

Articles180Here’s what Vesanto wrote:

“This family should definitely be using fortified nondairy milks–not nut milks for their little boy.

Fortified soymilk or infant formula are the only cow’s milk alternatives recommended before age 2
as these have enough calcium and vitamin D (and other nutrients) which nut milks made from nuts do not.

She should not be afraid of soy; the anti-soy hype comes from the dairy industry-related folks and is unfounded.

If she is concerned and does not want to use soy or dairy I could do a consultation with her
and figure out some options that work and are entirely nutritionally adequate for her son.”

If you or anyone you know might be struggling with a similar issue, registered dietician Vesanto Melina would be happy to consult and can be reached at her website Nutrispeak.

Some parents of infants may have read articles about soy that suggest it is an unhealthful food. Addressing this topic, Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, writes in her book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, “The media have propagated concerns about soy’s effect on Julieanna Heverhormones. You may have heard how soy consumption decreases fertility or gives a male ‘man-boobs.’ But no solid evidence supports these assertions.

“Similarly, fears circulated that soy-based infant formulas led to problems with sexual development, brain function, immunity, and future reproduction. No conclusive evidence supports these claims, either. Most experts are confident in recommending soy-based formulas.”

Because of its purity, several vegan moms recommend Baby’s Own Organic soy formula made for babies 1 year or older. This formula contains no GMOs and is the only formula that does not contain corn syrup, also called glucose syrup. It also does not contain ingredients like organic palm olein oil or hexane processed DHA.

Nutritional Comparison Chart -Soy Pediatric Formula is an excellent chart comparing the nutritional profile of several soy formulas with human breast milk and cow’s milk.

The important issue with nut milks is they do not contain the proper balance of nutrients to takealmonds & glass the place of breast milk or properly designed soy formulas.

Becoming Vegan bookIn their book Becoming Vegan, authors Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, both registered dieticians write, “The rationale for using formula in the 12-24 month period is that commercial formulas are modeled after breast milk and thus include most of the nutrients provided by breast milk (with the exception of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids) in amounts that are especially suited to the growth and development needs of infants.”

Most parents are aware that for feeding infants, there is no true replacement for the many benefits of breast milk. Dr. McDougallJohn McDougall, MD, extolls the virtues of breastfeeding in his Dr. McDougall’s Moments video, calling it the best and safest food for babies. In his video, he tells his audience that breast milk is always the perfect temperature, it’s clean, comforting, and is always free.

Posted in almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, Macadamias, Nut Allergies, Nut Nutrition, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

SWEET SUMMER PEACHES DANCE WITH CHOCOLATE AND WALNUTS

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

Summer desserts often spotlight fresh fruits as the center of the season’s sweet indulgences. Many of us home cooks, feeling a little weary of the long, long season of apples, pears, and oranges, really look forward to the refreshing flavors of stone fruits. They perk up the fruit bowl with their brilliant colors, and every bite is divinely sweet and juicy.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the market on a hunt for fresh, ripe peaches with the hope they would also be sweet. Often, the first-of-the-season fruits tend to be a bit tart–and they were–so tart they even made my mouth pucker. On this week’s shopping trip I was thrilled to discover bins of beautiful yellow peaches with a gorgeous rosy glow. I bought some for my cooking class and had the pleasure of hearing the peaches were delicious and the dessert was a smashing success.

This is a dessert I devised especially because it contained no sweeteners of any sort. The sweetness comes only from dates. It’s also gluten-free. Anyone wanting to avoid sugar or suffering from gluten intolerance will find this an ideal dessert because there’s no sacrifice–really–none at all because it’s decadently sweet and chocolaty rich without the offending ingredients. If allergies are a problem, just leave out the walnuts, and you’ll still have a fabulous dessert.

Easy as pie–that’s how I think of this recipe, and I think you’ll agree. You can also make it a day in advance by brushing the exposed peach flesh lightly with lemon juice to prevent discoloring.

nut toolsThe only tools you’ll need are a food processor and a hand-crank nut mill to grind the walnuts into a coarse meal. I’m pretty sure everyone knows what a food processor looks like, but I often encounter puzzled looks when I mention nut mill. If you don’t have one, you can use other tools, like a hammer, food chopper, rolling pin, or mini blender, to grind the walnuts into a coarse meal. The nut mill is the item in the center of the photo and has a black cover and black handle on the end of the hand-crank. It’s a good old-fashioned low-tech tool, but turns out perfectly ground nuts I often use as garnish or to add a little texture to a recipe.

And don’t skimp on the garnish! Those little finishing touches are what dazzle the eyes and ramp up the temptation meter. A few perky sprigs of fresh mint and some scattered nuts on the dish do the deed.

Well, here they are–fresh, sun-ripened peaches stuffed with indulgent chocolate all ready for dessert. They look so irresistible, chocolate fans will snap up these gorgeous treats in a flash. The best part is that you won’t need to use the oven or stovetop to prepare this hot-weather dessert–it’s deliciously raw and can be assembled within minutes. And it doesn’t hurt that they look so tantalizing.

Chocolate Stuffed Peaches copy

CHOCOLATE STUFFED PEACHES

Yield: 4 servings

6 fresh peaches

1 cup firmly packed dates, cut in half
2 to 3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nutmill
12 golden raisins, for garnish
3 to 5 fresh mint leaves, for garnish

1. Cut the peaches in half, discard the pits, and set aside.

2. Put the dates into a food processor and pulse chop a few times. With the machine running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the water and process until well mixed but still very slightly chunky, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add all or part of the remaining tablespoon of water if needed to moisten the date mixture.

3. Add the cacao and almond extract to the processor and process briefly until completely incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons of the ground walnuts and mix well. Put the remaining ground walnuts into a separate small bowl.

4. Using your hands, form the cacao mixture into twelve 1-inch balls. Press a ball into each of the peach halves. Holding the peach carefully, invert it and dip the top of each cacao ball into the ground walnuts to coat the top of the ball. Arrange the peach halves on an attractive serving platter.

5. For the finishing touch, poke a golden raisin into the center of each cacao ball. Sprinkle any remaining nuts around the platter and garnish with the mint leaves.

Posted in Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE NUTTY SIDE OF THE NATURAL PRODUCTS EXPO DISCOVERY #2 – DON’T GO NUTS! PEANUT-FREE SOY BUTTER

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 15, 2013

Don't Go NutsThere were so many great nutty finds at the Natural Products EXPO West this year. But here’s a no-nut twist – nut-free, peanut-free Soy Butter – and it’s delicious. It’s flavor and texture are reminiscent of peanut butter, but with its own distinct and different nature.

Created by Jane and Doug Pinto especially for their daughter, Lily, who has a serious, life-threatening nut and peanut allergy. This very enterprising Pinto family wanted to help their daughter and other families with children suffering from nut and peanut allergies.

Their effort led to creating their own facility where no nut or peanut has ever entered the building. They even have equipment that blows dust off every item before it enters the facility to be sure there is no nut contamination.Don't Go Nuts Soy Butter

DON’T GO NUTS is a unique company with a focus on social responsibility, sustainability, and creativity.

The product comes in several varieties to please all preferences. There’s Organic Chocolate, Organic Pure Unsalted, Organic Slightly Sweet, Organic Lightly Sea Salted, and Organic Cinnamon Sugar. All the flavors are USDA Certified Organic.

Posted in Nut Allergies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

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.

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

NEW YEAR REFLECTIONS ON VEGAN CHRISTMAS IN A NUTTY WORLD!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 2, 2013

Well, 2013 has officially begun and I’ve been considering resolutions to help make this world a healthier, happier, and more peaceful place for humans and animals and a more sustainable one for our planet. Reflecting on the past year, I realized those ideals have been my steadfast focus. They’ve enriched my life with purpose and joy and have helped others who have stopped by to visit this cozy little vegan niche. So, I’ve settled in and look forward to another fulfilling year.

Now I’m feeling a bit sentimental and want to share a smidgeon of holiday nostalgia.

Vegan Christmas – two words that may not go together in every household, but in my home, it was an exceptional holiday with tender memories to cherish. Imagine all the warm and wonderful traditional winter holiday blessings, and, then, put them all together into one special day on December 25th. Bit by bit, I baked a few batches of sweet goodies, sent invitations to friends to join us for a holiday potluck, and readied the house for a comfy crowd. I knew it would be a happy occasion, but I never imagined it would be as cozy, delicious, and nostalgic as it turned out.

I think there was a little vegan magic whirling in the air that day. My sweet hubby built a fire in the fireplace and lovingly tended it all afternoon. Coming in from the cold, our guests immediately gravitated toward the warm and cozy living room as they shed their coats and scarves.

A boldly-spiced apple cider was mulling on the kitchen stovetop ready to offer warming comfort, while the entire house became infused with a rich medley of lively aromas. The gently simmering cider was happily sharing its generous gifts of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and freshly grated nutmeg. Floating to the top of the cider were slices of lemon and orange contributing a subtle note of citrus. And, as if that were not enough, whole almonds and golden raisins, borrowed from my Happy New Year Glogg recipe, were also quite visible as one peered down into the large pot.

I loved seeing jolly faces stretch into big smiles as I passed the tray of apple cider. Into each of the small, glass punch cups I ladled the hot cider and included a few almonds and raisins in each glass. Within a couple of hours, that cider-filled, 12-quart stockpot was nearly empty.

When everyone’s potluck contribution was well warmed or perfectly chilled, we gathered around the table to fill our plates with a feast to boast about. There dishes too numerous to list. I will simply remember the tantalizing medley of savory, lemony, spicy, pungent, and sweet flavors that strolled across my taste buds.

Aside from making hot mulled apple cider, cookies, and confections, my contribution was an eye-appealing Tomato Pine Nut Pie with Sweet Potato and Nut Crust, a recipe from my new cookbook VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS. This is what the pie looks like:

Tomato Pine Nut Pie

The pie crust of crushed almonds, tofu, and yams makes this a unique dish and one that was enthusiastically received.

Because we were expecting about 20 people, I thought it would be best to triple the recipe and prepare it in a large rimmed baking sheet. It was the perfect amount and allowed for extra helpings.

Tomato Pine Nut Pie 1

This is what the dish looked like after it was ravished:

Tomato Nut Pie Leftovers

While assembling the pie, I realized this is not a dish that’s just for Christmas. It’s a charming recipe that can be enjoyed year round because the ingredients are readily available no matter what season. During summer, when green tomatoes are available at the farmstand, they can be substituted for ripe ones or intermixed, creating an appealing red and green theme.

This is one honey of a make-ahead dish, even up to two days ahead. To serve, remove the dish from the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature, and warm in a preheated 350-degree F. oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into serving pieces and enjoy.

TOMATO-PINE NUT PIE WITH SWEET POTATO AND NUT CRUST

Melt-in-the-mouth delicious and decked out for the festivities, this attractive Italian-inspired dish makes an ideal savory dinner pie with a unique crust.

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie or 6 servings

Crust
12 ounces sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups whole almonds
2/3 cup mashed tofu
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Light oil a 9-inch pie pan.

2. To make the crust, put the sweet potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan with water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the sweet potatoes well, transfer them to a large bowl and mash them well. Set aside.

3. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground yet still retain a little texture. Add the tofu and salt and process until well incorporated, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Spoon the tofu mixture into the bowl with the sweet potatoes and mix well.

4. Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to press it onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Build up the sides of the crust 1/2 -inch higher than the pie pan. Bake the crust for 15 minutes and let cool.

Filling
2 green onions, sliced
1 to 2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 to 3 tablespoons Homemade Parmesan (recipe below) or prepared vegan Parmesan
2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
4 to 5 large red or green tomatoes, seeded and sliced.

1. To make the filling, put the green onions, garlic, pine nuts, and Homemade Parmesan in individual bowls. Sprinkle the cornstarch on a plate.

2. Cover the bottom of the crust with one layer of eggplant slices. (This prevents the crust from getting soggy). Reserve remaining eggplant for another use. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and pepper.

3. Dredge one-third of the tomato slices in the cornstarch. Arrange the dredged tomato slices over the eggplant, filling all the spaces with small bits of tomato. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one third each of the green onions, garlic, pine nuts, and Homemade Parmesan over the tomatoes. Repeat the process to make three layers.

4. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Note: If using green tomatoes, the pie might have to hake another 15 minutes.

HOMEMADE PARMESAN
Often I’ve come to rely on a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan to add sparkle to a dish, soup, a casserole, or an appetizer. With only five ingredients, this recipe is almost instant to make and tastes enough like the real thing to put the Italian touch on everything from pizza to minestrone and a host of holiday or everyday dishes.

1 cup almonds
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground, yet still retain a bit of texture, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. (Avoid overprocessing or it will turn into almond butter.)

2. Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and garlic powder and pulse until well mixed. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. Covered and refrigerated, Homemade Parmesan will keep for 3 months.

Posted in almonds, Celebrations, Holiday Recipes, Main Dishes, pine nuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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 »

POMEGRANATE – AN AUTUMN TREAT!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 28, 2012

When I was a child, I used to think pomegranates were magical. Their neatly ordered, tightly clustered seeds and amazing sweet-tart flavor always intrigued me, and I loved the flavor with my first taste. I have never fallen out of love with those divinely bright red, mystical fruits and always wait with anticipation for autumn to come and ripen the pomegranates hanging from my neighbor’s tree.

It’s ironic that I have a neighbor who doesn’t like the fruit but has a beautiful and very prolific pomegranate tree in his yard. Luckily, he knows I adore them and is happy to see the pomegranates leave his care for a better home.

I put them right to work and they’ve magically turned up in four of the recipes in my new cookbook, Vegan for theHolidays that features so many foods that are special to the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

In the recipe below, the “magical fruit” meets up with other bold flavors and delivers a lively autumn salad that works perfectly as a side dish on the holiday table.

POMEGRANATE-APPLE SALAD WITH GINGER AND MINT

Yield: 6 servings

1 large pomegranate
2 sweet, crisp apples, unpeeled, chopped
8 ounces edamame, cooked and shelled
1 navel orange, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 heaping teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

1. Cut the pomegranate into quarters. Carefully remove the seeds with your fingers. Put the seeds in a large bowl.

2. Add the apples, edamame, orange, maple syrup, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar, ginger, and salt and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.

3. Add half the mint leaves and mix well. Garnish the top of the salad with the remaining mint leaves. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Serve the salad within 2 hours.

Posted in Celebrations, Holiday Recipes, Salads and Salad Dressings, Vegan for the Holidays | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

POTATO SOUP FOR THE QUEEN’S TASTE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 26, 2012

A simple homemade potato soup is a long-time family favorite in my home. But sometimes I just want to step outside the box and explore creative ways to serve the same delicious favorite with a bit of a tweak to give it a fresh lift. With the addition of a few root vegetables and spoonful or two of some lively seasonings, the sleepy little potato wakes up fully refreshed and ready to impress everyone who pokes a curious finger into the soup pot.

And if the Queen wants to step into the kitchen for a taste, I will welcome her with a curtsy and hand her my one and only silver spoon.

Of course, I know that’s not likely to happen, but it was a fun thought to imagine what I might do if a royal figure dropped in while I was cooking up something so tasty it would evoke an enthusiastic response. More likely is that it’s just a great idea to have a flavorful pot of soup on hand during the busy holiday season that’s just ahead. We’re often so busy we don’t have time to spend preparing fussy meals. That’s when a nourishing, flavor-infused, homemade soup is so welcome and so satisfying.

ROOT FOR POTATO SOUP

Yield: 6 servings

2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
1 large turnip, peeled and diced
1 head garlic, minced or crushed
5 to 7 cups water, divided

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup white miso
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pepper to taste
Pinch cayenne

Garnish
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped peanuts
Ground sumac or paprika

1. Combine the carrots, onions, parsnip, turnip, garlic, and 2 cups of the water in an 8 to 10-quart stockpot. Cook and stir over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add increments of 1/4 to 1/2 cups water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning.

2. Add the potatoes and the remaining 5 cups of water, cover the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer 1 to 2 cups of the potatoes and vegetables to a small bowl. Using an immersion blender in the stockpot or a regular blender, process the soup until it becomes a smooth, creamy puree. Then, return the chunky vegetables to the soup pot.
4. Add the miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and cayenne and mix well. Adjust the seasonings, if needed.
5. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts and ground sumac.

Posted in cashews, Holiday Recipes, Soups | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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