Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Posts Tagged ‘almonds’

CRANBERRIES AND ALMONDS GO NUTS TOGETHER!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 24, 2009

What a pair, those sweet-tart cranberries and crunchy, earthy almonds! They almost sing together in close harmony—they go together like strawberries and cream or mashed potatoes and gravy. You might even say they go nuts together—in a totally happy way. And for those who are not chocolate fans or who suffer from chocolate allergies, they will find these little balls of delight absolutely delicious and totally chocolate-free.

So in a wild and crazy kitchen experiment to create a fruity and nutty confection that holds together well and that also holds up well for several days in the fridge, I invited these divine little morsels to move in together. Now, they’re here to stay. I’ve even discovered they actually keep well in the fridge for two to three weeks—a terrific advantage when you want to keep something sweet to nibble on hand for unexpected visitors, or when you need something to give as a gift. Heck, these little sweeties can even cheer up a friend who’s got the flu.

Thinking ahead to the holidays, I love to make little sweet nibbles and bring them to a holiday potluck. They make a perfect hostess gift when I’m invited to a friend’s house for dinner, or to give as a thoughtful homemade holiday gift. And who doesn’t love to pop a mini morsel into the mouth and feel the near symphonic pleasure when those divine tart-sweet flavors bursts over the taste buds.

Imagine being on the receiving end of a gift-wrapped box or decorated jar of delectably sweet cranberry and almond treats. That is the joy you’ll be bringing to others with a little love spent in the kitchen preparing these tangy sweet treats that put the spotlight on cranberries and almonds.

NUTTY CRANBERRY CONFECTIONS

Yield: about 25 morsels

1 cup whole almonds

2 cups dried cranberries
18 pitted dates, snipped in half
1/4 cup apple juice
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped orange or lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup almond meal or finely grated dried unsweetened coconut
1 sprig of fresh mint

1. Place the almonds into the food processor and process until coarsely or finely ground, depending on how much texture you desire.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, except the almond meal and mint, and pulse and process until all the ingredients are well incorporated but still retain a little of the texture. You may have to stop the machine several times to redistribute the ingredients.
3. Using about a teaspoon of the fruit mixture, roll into 1-inch balls. Place the almond meal into a small bowl and roll the balls into the powdery meal to coat them.
4. Store the Nutty Cranberry Confections in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use. To serve, place the confections on a doily-lined serving dish and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Posted in almonds, Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

BEAT METABOLIC SYNDROME WITH NUTS!

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

A beautiful summer lunch or a delicious light dinner, this tasty salad has eye appeal, flavor satisfaction, and health benefits to boot. Many health studies that focused on lowering cholesterol show that a small amount of nuts, about 1.5 to 3 ounces daily, can result in lowered cholesterol, especially when the nuts replace other saturated fats in the diet.

Hazelnuts became an effective remedy in a study conducted at the University of Rovira I Virgili, Spain, that examined the effects of nuts on a Mediterranean diet in those who showed signs of metabolic syndrome. The researchers of the randomized trial divided the patients into three groups, each following a Mediterranean diet: a low-fat control group, a group with added olive oil, and a third group that ate nuts in place of the added olive oil.

The nut-consuming group was given packets containing 30 grams of nuts to be eaten daily, a measurement that equals slightly over 1 ounce. The nuts were a combination of hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds. There were no restrictions on calorie intake. The researchers followed the participants for one year and concluded the nut group showed a decrease in metabolic syndrome of 13.7%, while the olive oil group decreased 6.7%, and the control group decreased only 2%.

Other studies suggest that eating nuts regularly show benefits for weight loss, lowered insulin resistance, lower LDL cholesterol, and lowered risk for cardiovascular heart disease.

Because nuts are so delicious and versatile, they’re easy to include in the daily diet. Enjoy!

stufftomato

STUFFED TOMATOES WITH ROASTED NUTS

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup hazelnuts

3 to 4 zucchinis, coarsely chopped (about 4 to 5 cups)
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne
Freshly ground black pepper

4 lettuce leaves

4 large tomatoes

1/2 avocado, mashed or thinly sliced
4 black olives (Kalamata, salt-cured, or regular)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the hazelnuts and pecans on separate baking sheets and roast for 10 minutes. Pour the pecans onto a dish to cool. Pour the roasted hazelnuts onto a kitchen towel, wrap it up, and set aside for 10 minutes. Rub the hazelnuts in the towel vigorously to remove some of the skins and set aside to cool. Place both nuts in a zipper-lock plastic bag and coarsely chop them with a hammer. Transfer them to a large bowl and set aside.
2. Separately, place the zucchinis, carrot, and bell pepper into the food processor and process until finely minced, but not pureed. Add them to the bowl with the nuts.
3. Add the lime juice, rice vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cayenne, and pepper and mix well. Adjust seasonings, if needed.
4. Line 4 plates with the lettuce leaves. Create tomato flowers by placing them with the stem end down on the cutting board. Cut 8 wedges but don’t cut all the way through. Gently spread the wedges to create a bed for the nut and vegetable stuffing. Place a tomato flower on each lettuce-lined plate.
5. Divide the stuffing between the tomatoes and stuff the tomato flowers, placing some of the stuffing between the wedges. Garnish with the avocado and top with a black olive.

Reference:

Salas-Salvado, Jordi, et al. “Effect of a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented With Nuts on Metabolic Syndrome Status. One-year results of the PREDIMED randomized trial.” Archives of Internal Medicine 168 (2008): 2,449-2,458.

Posted in almonds, hazelnuts, Nut Recipes, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 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.
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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 »

NUT TRADITIONS IN AFGHANISTAN

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 25, 2009

Over the years while I’ve been teaching vegetarian cooking classes, I’ve developed recipes for a number of different international cuisines. Recently, I was asked if I could teach an Afghan cooking class at the Valencia County Library in Valencia, California. Naturally, I said I could. A little research turned up some delightful recipes I adapted to the vegetarian palate. The class was well attended with enthusiastic students feasting on Afghanistan’s charismatic cuisine featuring two delicious nut dishes I’m happy to share.

Afghanistan, I discovered, was along the silk route and adopted many of the spices from China and India as camel caravans crossed the Afghan desert. Spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, pepper fenugreek, turmeric, cumin, and coriander added exotic flavor to their cuisine, while their native almonds, walnuts, and pistachios contributed pleasing texture and heartiness.
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Of special interest to me was that almonds, walnuts, and pistachios were native to Afghanistan and became a traditional ingredient in savory dishes as well as desserts. In both recipes below, Afghani Stuffed Peppers and Carrot Halwah, chopped pistachios and almonds are sprinkled on top as garnishes, adding appealing texture, and healthful dining.

Afghan Nut Customs
Serving tea and white sugared almonds is a familiar custom during Afghan festivals. Eid-e-Qorban is celebrated at the end of the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, when families and friends come visiting each other to drink a cup of tea together and share some nuts, sweets, and sugared almonds called noql.

Long before Islam arrived, Afghans began celebrating the New Year on the vernal equinox, March 21. A variety of nutty desserts awaited the visiting celebrants. One treat, a unique nut and fruit compote called Miwa Naurozee is an favorite sweet prepared by soaking dried fruits and nuts for two days. The nuts are blanched and combined with the soaked fruits, along with their soaking juices, then served in bowls or cups. Other nut treats, like the nut brittle Halwa-e-Swanak, made with walnuts and pistachios, and Sheer Payra, a walnut and pistachio confection, may be offered to guests during the New Year celebration. These holiday traditions are still practiced today.
walnut3
Many versions of halwa, a pudding-like sweet that includes either walnuts, almonds, or pistachios or any combination of them, is customarily offered as thanksgiving, called Nazer, to recognize a number of meaningful occasions like returning from a journey, visiting a holy shrine, or recovering from an illness. People offering Nazer give their neighbors, passersby, and the poor with a dish of halwa or other sweet.

Almonds have a very special role in the typical Afghan wedding, which takes place in two stages. The religious ceremony is first and is not attended by the bride. During the celebration portion the bride and groom are brought together and seated on a raised platform. After serving the newlyweds a fruit drink called sharbat and a wedding sweet called molida, sugared almonds and other confections are showered over them as a symbol of fruitfulness and prosperity.

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This exotic recipe originated as a ground lamb-stuffed chicken dish, but with lots of tweaking, the result is an extreme makeover. This tasty adaptation is now a wholesome vegan entrée with good looks, irresistible aromas, and hearty dining. I served the meal with a big tossed salad and a delicious grain called farro. However, more typical of Afghan cuisine would have been some Basmati rice garnished with chopped pistachios and minced parsley.
afghanpepper
AFGHANI STUFFED PEPPERS

Yield: 6 servings

1 green bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise and cored
1 red bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise and cored
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise and cored

Filling
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup pistachios

1 pound extra firm tofu, crumbled
Zest of 1 small orange
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
Freshly ground black pepper

Tomato Sauce Topping
3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper

1/4 cup unsweetened soy yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, place the prepared peppers into a 7 x 9-inch baking dish, and set aside.
2. TO PREPARE THE FILLING, combine the onion, carrot, garlic, water, and extra virgin olive oil in a large, deep skillet and sauté about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the onions and carrots become lightly browned and are beginning to caramelize. Add more water to the pan as needed to prevent burning the onions.
3. Add the raisins, almonds, and pistachios and cook 1 minute. Add the tofu, orange zest, lemon juice, salt, cardamom, dill weed, and pepper and mix well. Adjust the seasonings, if needed and stuff the mixture into the prepared peppers, packing the mixture firmly. Set aside and prepare the sauce.
4. TO PREPARE THE TOMATO SAUCE TOPPING, place the tomatoes and onions into the food processor and process until they are coarsely pureed.
5. Transfer the tomatoes to a 2-quart saucepan and add the cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Cook over medium high heat for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly, and season with salt and pepper.
6. Add the yogurt to the tomato sauce and stir well. Spoon a generous quantity of the sauce over the stuffed peppers. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake for 1 hour.

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While milk and ghee (clarified butter) are traditional ingredients in Afghan cooking, they have been replaced with alternative choices in this vegan version of a classic dessert served in Afghanistan and throughout many parts of the Middle East, including India. Still, the result is a tasty, brightly colored carrot pudding dotted with nuts and raisins and a hint of exotic spice. Serve the pudding warmed, room temperature, or chilled.
halwah

HALWAH-E-ZARDAK

(Carrot Halwah)

Yield: 4 to 5 servings

4 tablespoons dairy-free margarine (like Earth Balance)
3 tablespoons raw pistachios, coarsely ground
2 rounded tablespoons golden raisins

4 cups coarsely grated carrots (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups almond, soy, or rice milk
1/2 cup organic sugar

1 teaspoon rosewater
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon slivered almonds

1. Place 2 tablespoons of the margarine into a deep 10 to 12-inch skillet and add 2 tablespoons of the pistachios and all of the raisins. Cook over high heat for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, to brown the pistachios lightly and plump the raisins. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.
2. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of margarine in the skillet. Add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they just begin to brown.
3. Add the almond milk and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently for about 1 hour, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed. The carrots will have cooked to a nearly pudding-like consistency.
4. Add the cooked pistachios and raisins, the rosewater, lemon juice, and cardamom and mix well. Spoon into 4 or 5 small dessert bowls or teacups and garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pistachios and a few slivered almonds.

Posted in almonds, Celebrations, Nut Desserts, Nut Folklore, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health, pistachios, Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Nuts in the Bible

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 8, 2009

One rainy Saturday afternoon when I didn’t feel like jumping in the car and running errands or shopping, I decided to stay put and do some nut research. I was curious to see what the Bible had to say about nuts.

The best way to do my investigation was to find a concordance to the Bible, an alphabetical list of words used and the passages that contain them. Before the internet was around, I had to go to the library and find a copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

But that Saturday I sat down in front of my Mac, went to Google, and typed in “bible concordance.” At the top of the list was BibleGateway.com. I clicked on Keyword Search and entered the word “nut,” and what gems I found!

Genesis 43:11
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.

Song of Solomon 6:11
I went down to the grove of nut trees to look at the new growth in the valley, to see if the vines had budded or the pomegranates were in bloom.
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My next step was to learn what individual nuts were mentioned in the Bible. My search only turned up two kinds of nuts—almonds and pistachios. Almonds turned out to be the winner with eight entries while pistachios had only one that it shared with almonds. Since I have already given you the one shared by both almonds and pistachios, I decided to share the other almond passages with you.

Genesis 30:37
Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.

Exodus 25:33
Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand.

Exodus 25:34
And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms.

Exodus 37:19
Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms were on one branch, three on the next branch and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand.
almondunripe
Exodus 37:20
And on the lampstand were four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms.

Numbers 17:8
The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.

Ecclesiastes 12:5
And when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.

Jeremiah 1:11
The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.

Some people will read Bible translations where chestnut trees are mentioned in Ezekiel 31:8. Most translations including the New International Version will refer to the trees as ”plane trees.” Because chestnuts were growing in Asia Minor for centuries, I was surprised that chestnut trees were not commonly mentioned in the Bible

Ezekiel 31:8
The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty. King James Bible, Webster’s Bible Translation, and Young’s Literal Translation

What surprised me was that two of the almond statements were repeated in different chapters of Exodus. The bible translation used in the Bible Gateway website was the New International Version.

Oh, and I hope you like the Van Gogh Branches with Almond Blossom 1890 painting above.

Posted in almonds, chestnuts, Nut Quotes and Toasts, Nuts in the Bible, pistachios | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

TREASURE IN A NUTSHELL

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 7, 2009

I thought it might be helpful to have an overview of the nutritional highlights of tree nuts. While this listing is certainly a good quick reference, it only scratches the surface of the plethora of health benefits nuts have to offer.

It may seem that I’m promoting nuts as some sort of miracle food. Not so. I’m just recognizing nuts are one of Mother Nature’s many gems that are packed with goodness, especially when paired with other foods that are nutrient-dense and low in saturated fats.

In the information below there may be some terms that are unfamiliar. Here is a brief explanation:

Arginine –an amino acid that changes into nitric oxide that relaxes blood vessels and permits better blood flow. May help alleviate coronary artery disease like chest pain and clogged arteries (called atherosclerosis).

Phytosterols – natural plant fats found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that benefits the body by interfering with the absorption of excess cholesterol

Antioxidants – combination of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes found in plant foods that prevents our tissues from oxidation that leads to degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease

Tryptophan – an essential amino acid the body can’t manufacture and must get from food. Necessary for normal growth in infants and for nitrogen balance in adults. Used by the body to help make niacin and serotonin. Serotonin thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood

Folate – also known as folic acid or folacin, a form of the water-soluble Vitamin B9. Occurs naturally in food and can also be taken as a supplement. Helps prevent neural tube birth defects.

ALMONDS

    almond• Lower cholesterol, especially LDL (bad cholesterol)
    • Decrease risk for coronary heart disease
    • Lower risk for diabetes
    • Promote weight control
    • Good source of phytosterols
    • Excellent source of arginine
    • High in protein,
    • High in monounsaturated fats
    • High in minerals: calcium, iron, zinc, potassium,
    • High in vitamin E.
    • High in arginine
    • Packed with antioxidants

BRAZIL NUTS

    brazilnut• Provide powerful antioxidants
    • Highest level of selenium of all nuts
    • High in beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats
    • High in protein
    • High in minerals: calcium, copper, iron, potassium, and zinc
    • Source of arginine

CASHEWS

    cashew• Source of arginine
    • High in beneficial monounsaturated fat
    • High in protein
    • High in minerals: copper, potassium
    • High in folate
    • Help to lower cholesterol and decrease risk for coronary heart disease
    • Contain the highest levels of zinc of any nut
    • Excellent source of phytosterols

CHESTNUTS

    chestnut21• Super low in fats, especially saturated fat
    • High in B vitamins, good level of folate
    • The only nut to contain healthy level of vitamin C
    • Promote weight loss
    • Protect the heart
    • Lower cholesterol

HAZELNUTS

    hazelnut2• Contain the highest levels of copper of any nut
    • Protect the bones and blood vessels
    • High in minerals: calcium, potassium, zinc
    • High in folate
    • Lower cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol
    • High in heart-protective vitamin E
    • High in fiber
    • Good source of phytosterols
    • Loaded with antioxidants

MACADAMIAS

    macadamia• Highest in beneficial monounsaturated fats
    • Highest in B vitamins of all nuts
    • High in phytosterols
    • High in fiber
    • Source of arginine

PEANUTS

    peanut2• High in resveratrol a heart-protective antioxidant
    • Promote weight loss
    • Combat prostate cancer
    • Highest in phytosterols
    • Lower cholesterol
    • Highest in arginine of all nuts
    • High in mono- and polyunsaturated fats
    • Good source of protein
    • High in minerals: calcium, iron, potassium, zinc
    • High in B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber

PECANS

    pecan2• Highest in antioxidants of any nut
    • Good levels of phytosterols
    • High in beneficial monounsaturated fat
    • High in minerals: manganese, selenium, and zinc
    • High in B vitamins and heart-healthy vitamin E
    • High in fiber

PINE NUTS

    pinenut3• Excellent source of arginine
    • High in phytosterols
    • Good levels of mono- and polyunsaturated fats to keep cholesterol in check
    • Excellent source of protein
    • High in vitamin E and B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber

PISTACHIOS

    pistachio2• Impressive levels of phytosterols
    • Packed with antioxidants
    • High in beneficial monounsaturated fat.
    • Good source of protein, calcium, iron, copper, and zinc.
    • High in vitamin E and B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber
    • Excellent source of arginine

WALNUTS

    walnut2• Only nut (except butternut) with essential Omega 3 fatty acids
    • Lower cholesterol
    • Combat cancer
    • Boost memory
    • Lift mood
    • Protect against heart disease
    • Help to develop more than 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function
    • High in tryptophan
    • Loaded with antioxidants
    • Good source of arginine
    • Good source of protein
    • Good source of minerals: calcium, copper, iron, zinc
    • High in vitamin E and B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, Macadamias, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nuts and Health, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Spoonful of Almond Paradise

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

Just thinking about baked apples brings to mind the image of an “old fashioned comfort food.” In trying times like today’s struggling economy, isn’t nurturing and comfort just what we need?

Here’s my suggestion: Set your woes aside just long enough to nurture the need. Be a smart shopper and you’ll find apples at affordable prices. I tend to seek out ethnic markets, farmers’ markets, and small mom and pop markets that often have lower prices on fresh produce.

Then, haul out the apple corer and bake up a dish of comfort for yourself and your family. You might even have these delights baking while you’re eating dinner. About halfway through the baking time, the apples begin infusing the air with sensational aromas that bring pleasure and happy anticipation to everyone present.

Deliciously homespun, this enhanced version of baked apples from my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, is super easy to prepare and creates its own rich fruity sauce. Some of the filling that’s mounded on top of the apples cascades down into the sauce and thickens it to perfection. Included in the filling is rose water for its delightful infusion of flavor; however, if you don’t have any on hand, it can easily be omitted without harming the outcome of the recipe.

In a future blog I’ll share some really impressive nutritional info about almonds and their awesome ability to lower cholesterol with just a handful a day. For now, just enjoy some old fashioned comfort.
almondparadise
ALMOND PARADISE BAKED APPLES

Yield: 4 servings

4 large firm apples (Braeburn, Rome Beauty, Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady)

Filling
2/3 cup whole raw almonds
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons organic sugar
1 teaspoon rose water (optional)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup black raisins
1/4 cup golden raisins

Sauce
1 1/2 cups unsweetened pineapple or apple juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup organic sugar to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Wash and core the apples, arrange them in the baking dish, and set them aside.
2. TO MAKE THE FILLING, grind the almonds to a fine meal in the food processor. Add the water, sugar, rose water, and almond extract and process into a creamy paste. Spoon the almond paste into a small bowl and add the raisins.
3. Using a pointed spoon, fill the apple cavities with the almond filling, packing it firmly all the way down into the bottom of the cavity. Mound the remaining filling over the top of the apples.
4. TO MAKE THE SAUCE, combine the pineapple juice and sugar in a small bowl, mixing to desired sweetness. Pour the sauce into the bottom of the baking dish around the apples and cover the dish with aluminum foil, shiny side down.
5. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on the apple variety. Fork-test the apples after 50 minutes. To serve, place the apples into dessert bowls and spoon some of the sauce into each bowl. Serve with spoons, though some people may prefer a knife and fork as well.

Note: The baking time for this recipe has a wide range. Some apple varieties, like Rome Beauty, are softer and bake in 50 to 6i0 minutes, while very firm apples like Fuji take longer.

Posted in almonds, Nut Recipes, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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