Category Archives: nuts


sprout nuts and seeds

The Easy Way To Sprout Nuts And Seeds

Why Sprout Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are one of the healthiest and nutrient-dense foods. They are known to contain high levels of key minerals such as calcium, iron, omega 3 fats, and vitamin E. Studies have shown that consuming nuts may also help fight various conditions such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and depression.

Although rich in many nutrients, they have a mechanism that makes it rather hard for the human body to absorb these items. Enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances such as goitrogens and phytic acid make it hard both to digest and take up the nutrients contained in the nuts and seeds.

Fortunately, there’s a simple and natural way to get rid of these substances. Sprouting, sometimes referred to as soaking softens and readies the nuts or seeds for germination. When they are sprouted it forces them to get shed the phytic acids and other protective substances that ensure their survival but inhibit nutrient absorption. It also gives a little bit of a nutrient bump due to the sprouting activity.

It is, therefore, really important to soak and sprout nuts and seeds before consuming them in order to get the most nutrition possible out of them.

Once soaked, the nuts make the perfect snack or addition to your smoothies. They are also great for making nut-butters which are a great snack when added to sliced apples or pears, on celery, or used in a wide variety of recipes.

How to Sprout

Sprouting the nuts and seeds is quite simple.  All you need is a glass jar, some sea salt, water, and the nuts or seeds you want to sprout. If you’re using a quart jar you can make 4 cups, a pint jar will yield 2 cups.  For ease of use, it’s best to get wide-mouth canning jars.

The nuts and seeds need to be raw, unroasted, and unsalted in order for this process to work.  I do not recommend mixing the nuts and seeds together, even if they require the same amount of time for soaking. Personally, I find it better to soak each one individually. If you want to turn them into a trail mix or use them combined you can do that after they have been sprouted and dried.

Simply put the nuts in the jar, add two teaspoons of sea salt, fill it up with water and leave to soak for the required period of time.

How long to soak for sprouting

Every nut or seed has a different soaking period. Here’s a chart to help you understand the timing needed to soak each different kind.

Type of Nut/ Seed Soaking (Hours)
Almonds 8 – 12
Brazil nuts 8
Cashew nuts 2 – 3
Hazelnuts (filberts) 8 – 12
Macadamia nuts 2
Pecans 4 – 6
Pistachio nuts 6 – 8
Pepitas 8
Sesame 8
Sunflower seeds (no hull) 2
Walnuts 4 – 8

Once you have removed the seeds and nuts from the water, you can dry them; the best way is to use a dehydrator or oven. If you opt to use the oven, set it at 150F and let the seeds and nuts dry for 12 to 24 hours. Make sure that they are completely dry before removing them. For the dehydrator, it depends on how well yours works, if you have a manual you can check it for recommended drying times.

It is important to note that not all seeds can or should be sprouted. In particular, avoid sprouting chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and pine nuts.

In conclusion, sprouting nuts and/or seeds is easy to do and it comes with numerous benefits. Adding these amazing, nutrient-dense items to your diet is both good for you and delicious.

Sources
  • https://www.fastachi.com/nuts_health_benefits
  • https://www.foodmatters.com/article/the-benefits-of-soaking-nuts-and-seeds
  • Shahidi, Fereidoon, et al. 8 Almond and Almond Products: Nutraceutical Components. Tree Nuts: Composition, Phytochemicals, and Health Effects (2008): 127.
  • Vinson, Joe A., and Yuxing Cai. Nuts, especially walnuts, have both antioxidant quantity and efficacy and exhibit significant potential health benefits. Food & function 3.2 (2012): 134-140.
  • Yadav, Mukesh, et al. “Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review.” Nutrition research reviews 23.2 (2010): 184-190.

 

The Peanut Butter Issue

The FDA is out to lunch – with yet another case of food poisoning in the news it’s clear that those charged with keeping our food supply safe are not doing their job.  The scariest part of this is that in the face of budgetary cuts there are talks of allowing food producers more leeway to self-monitor.  This is putting the fox in charge of the hen house.  If true sanctions and consequences were put into place there might be more attention paid to the safety of the food products.

Fortunately that is happening in at least one situation.  Sunland Inc, the company responsible for manufacturing salmonella-laden peanut butter in the recent outbreak has been closed.  Articles that I have seen indicate that the company was surprised by this move and thought they would be able to re-open by the end of the year.  But after reading the conditions there and the continual disregard for food safety it is good to know that they will not be allowed to continue until they can prove (not just say but prove via inspection) that they have cleaned up their act.  I hope this trend of requiring manufacturers to truly be responsible, and not just say they’re following the rules, continues.

And salmonella isn’t the only thing found in peanut butter.  Although this article is two years old it mentions rat feces.  I was not able to find specific mention of rat feces allowed in peanut butter (assuming that is part of what the FDA lists as “objectionable matter contributed by rodents”) but did find mention of rodent hairs at 1 or more per 100 grams of product being considered an “aesthetic” (their word not mine) defect and possibly actionable.  Also found in peanut butter?  Neurotoxic chemicals.  Peanuts are a highly pesticide residue contaminated crop; this makes choosing organic an important factor for those who choose to eat peanuts and peanut products.

I found it interesting to note that the article also did a side by side taste-test comparison of various peanut butters.  All of them were jarred, most had oil residue floating on the top, and sounded very unappealing from both a taste and visual perspective.  While the article didn’t list the ingredients I’m sure that most of them have added fat (thus the extra oil floating at the top), sugar, and salt.  None of which is really needed for peanut butter.

At my local grocery store there is a grind-your-own peanut butter machine.  At $3.99 per pound for organic, unsalted peanuts they sell a relatively creamy, good tasting, fresh smelling product.  Of course there is no way to know if anything has gotten into the peanuts in the machine; this means trusting the grocery store to clean it thoroughly on a regular and frequent basis.

It turns out peanut butter used to be considered a health food and was actually only sold regionally.  Over time this has changed and we now ship the stuff all over the world.  Except for the grind-your-own variety of course.

Over the years peanut butter has increasingly gotten a bad rap, primarily due to allergies.  It’s a popular legume though and that makes it difficult to tell people that they should avoid peanuts.  That bad rap, however, is not undeserved.  Part of the health challenge is that peanuts are a highly inflammatory legume.  They also tend to be high in carcinogenic aflatoxins and are frequently contaminated by the aspergillis fungus.  Additionally many health issues, from migraines to candida overgrowth to intestinal disorders are negatively impacted by consumption of peanuts and peanut products.  So while we consider them delicious they should be severely reduced or eliminated from the diet.

For those who can have nuts a healthier choice might be almonds, and almond butter, which is the most alkaline of nuts and has a much lower allergenic profile.

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photo: penarc

National Cashew Day

This November celebrates a rather “nutty” day, the National Cashew Day. While we’re all preoccupied with Thanksgiving planning and holiday preparations, this November 22 takes a moment to celebrate this rather tasty and very special ingredient to many of today’s recipes.

While cashews were once considered to be native to Northeast Brazil, they are said to have found their roots in ancient Africa. Grown for both the cashew seed, what we call the nut, and it’s outer coating, the cashew apple (haven’t seen many of these, but they apparently contain five times the vitamin C of the average orange), it is now grown throughout tropical climates, some of the prime sources being the Philippines and Nigeria.  Although less common that other tree nuts or peanuts, some people do have a serious allergic reaction to cashews.

The nut alone isn’t what it’s all about. There is far more to cashews than we think. In some countries, the juice of the cashew nut is a very popular drink, offering plenty of essential nutrients and often considered as a wholesome part of the diet. For medicinal purposes, cashews are renowned for their ability to ward off tooth infections due to the compounds naturally found in them. Parts of the cashew plants are even utilized as a medicinal aid for snake bites (such as the deadly cobra).

So, who decided that November 22 was going to be National Cashew day? Well, no one really knows.  It is believed that this tasty nut has been celebrated as far back as the 16th century.  Over the years, because of its integrity to so many different dishes found worldwide, the cashew gained fame amongst chefs and became a valued item, often appearing in restaurant specials. As its popularity improved during the fall season in America, November was designated a prime time for cashew flavored additions to dishes and today, November 22 has been designated as its celebrated day.

While most often available either salted or chocolate covered, cashews are so tasty that they stand up well on their own in a raw format.  This is the healthiest way to eat them as a mid-day or evening snack to keep your guests preoccupied while they converse with one another. We also find them in trail mixes, a great way to keep us company while traveling on the road.

However, cashews are found in far more places than just our daytime snack packs. When it comes to preparing vegetarian recipes, the cashew has a unique place on the ingredient list. In Kerala cuisine, the cashew is a vital ingredient in the dish known as Avial, which is a thick mixture of vegetables, curd, and coconut as well. Broccoli with garlic butter and cashew is also a very prominent and tasty dish, regardless of preference. Another favored recipe is Coconut Red Lentils with spinach, cashew, and lime, which makes for an amazingly healthy dish that anyone would enjoy. Additionally, cashews are an appetizing ingredient to many sauces, especially for chicken and turkey recipes. Sauces are often thickened by use of flour or other starchy alternatives, but if you’re searching for a new flavor or want to improve the nutritional value of your meal, consider some meaty dishes that utilize the healthy cashew as a saucy alternative. This holiday season, don’t neglect to introduce this fantastically delicious and amazingly healthy nut into your mealtime recipes.

Mark Gomez is owner and operator of Gomez Catering. Gomez Catering which specializes in providing full service, off-premise catering and party planning. With an emphasis on quality, customer service, and style we can help you with any size event but we believe there are no limitations when it comes to food. What lies in your imagination is our goal to create and bring to life.

photo: Midori

But I Need Milk For Calcium, Don’t I?

I have some clients who need to avoid dairy products.  Invariably when they find this out their first question is “Don’t I have to drink milk to get calcium?” or “But how will I get my calcium?”

Calcium is important in the diet, not only for healthy bones and teeth, but also to support nerve and muscle health as well as for blood clotting.  However it doesn’t just come from cows (or goats or sheep or camels or any other milk giving mammal).

Most people think calcium is synonymous with milk.  They’ve been so sold by the Milk Producers Federation that they feel they’ve gotta “get milk.”  However, milk, and other dairy products, are not the only way to add calcium to the diet.

For those who can’t drink milk there are alternatives such as almond, soy, oat, hemp, and rice.  And while the calcium and protein content of alternative milks vary (and is mostly added) it’s important to remember that there are ways to get calcium without drinking milk, eating other dairy products, or drinking alternative milks.

As a means of comparison, whole milk provides 110 mg of calcium per 100 gram serving.

Other sources of calcium include:

sesame seeds – 989 mg per 100 g
sardines – 382 mg per 100 g
almonds – 266 mg per 100 g
flax seeds – 255 mg per 100 g
turnip greens – 190 mg per 100 g
brazil nuts – 160 mg per 100 g
collard greens – 140 mg per 100 g
spinach – 99 mg per 100 g

photo: Stefan Kühn

raw nuts are best

It’s National Nut Day

Nuts are a great heart-healthy food.  They shouldn’t need a special day, October 22, for you to consider adding them to your diet.  It’s important to know that raw nuts are best for you. With conventionally roasted nuts, even dry roasting, the roasting process may seem tastier, but the oils are usually not the best quality. The oil can potentially be genetically modified corn, or from highly acidifying peanut oil, neither of which is something that we recommend. In addition to the poor choice of oils, the heat destroys some of the nutrients in the nuts. 

Raw nuts are best

Raw nuts are best but for optimal nutrient density, you can boost the nutrition by soaking them.  This breaks down the phytic acid coating, an enzyme that protects the nuts until they’re ready to sprout but inhibits our ability to absorb nutrients. When soaking or sprouting the nuts you remove this phytic acid coating which makes the nutrients more bioavailable. Soaking/sprouting couldn’t be simpler:

Soaked/Sprouted Nuts
Print
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups of nuts
  2. 2 teaspoons sea salt
  3. water
Instructions
  1. Place nuts in a quart jar, add salt, and fill with water
  2. Let soak overnight
  3. Drain and then dry in dehydrator or oven set at 175ºF 12-24 hours or until completely dry.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

Nuts are a healthy choice

Nuts provide a good source of protein. They’re also highly antioxidant, great for cardiovascular health, and a delicious choice for snacking.  There is even some evidence that eating nuts can be healthy for maintaining weight.  They can be added to salads, cooked dishes, eaten as a snack, sprinkled into breakfast cereal. There are many different ways to eat include them in your diet. While they’re great on their own, they can also be a fabulous addition to salads, desserts, and even pilafs or casseroles.

One of my favorite ways to eat nuts is to make my 3-2-1 Trail Mix. This is a great nutrient dense snack (especially if you soak the nuts and seeds ahead of time) and perfect for on-the-go or anytime you need a quick protein boost.

3-2-1 Trail Mix
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 parts raw nuts (soaked/sprouted preferred)
  2. 2 parts raw seeds (soaked/sprouted preferred)
  3. 1 part dried fruit
Instructions
  1. Be sure to look for dried fruit that does not have added sugar, sulfites, or other preservatives
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

Nutrients in nuts

Different nuts have different nutrients making it a good idea to snack on a variety rather than just one or two.  I find that a quick and easy trail mix is 3 parts nuts, 2 parts seeds, 1 part dried fruit.  Mixing different nuts and seeds gives you a tasty treat and a nutritional boost.

For those who really want to know:

Acorns – highest in manganese
Almonds – highest in manganese and vitamin E
Beechnuts – highest in manganese
Brazil nuts – extremely high in selenium, also a great source of manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium
Cashews – highest in copper, but also a good source of magnesium and tryptophan
Chestnuts – (European) highest in manganese
Hazelnuts – (also called filberts) very high in vitamin E and a good source of B vitamins
Hickory nuts – very high in selenium, also high in magnesium, thiamin, and copper
Macadamia nuts – very high in selenium and thiamin, also high in copper and magnesium
Peanuts – not a nut, they’re actually a legume, a good source of manganese and tryptophan
Pecans – very high in manganese, also high in copper and thiamin
Pistachio – very high in B6, a good source of manganese, copper, phosphorus, and thiamin
Walnuts – very high in omega 3 fatty acids and a great source of manganese

Superfoods

Superfoods Trending Down

According to a recent news article, superfoods are trending down.  Not all superfoods, just the ones that have been the media darlings, acai, goji berries and the like.  I actually like this trend because as I wrote previously (back in 2008 I might add) we don’t need to import superfoods. Bringing them to your table from other countries that adds to the environmental impact of sourcing them. We would do better to utilize those that are readily available.  It’s more sustainable, eco-friendly, and also easier on your wallet.

What are superfoods

While there isn’t a true definition for a superfood, it’s generally accepted that they are foods with high levels of vitamins, minerals, and/or antioxidants. Eating them is supposed to be beneficial due to their increased nutrient values. To take advantage of their health benefits, choose local, or domestic, options.

Domestic superfoods

Berries– with lots of fiber and antioxidants they’re great and easy to add to the diet in cereal, yogurt, salads, plain, anytime.
 
Eggs – high in protein (1 egg provides 6 g) with lutein and zeaxanthin (good for your eyes) eggs are nourishing, versatile and satisfying.
 
Nuts – raw and unsalted are the best. Soaked nuts are optimal for good nutrition. Providing monosaturated fats they are a great heart-healthy choice.  Add them to foods such as cereals or baked good or take some along for healthy nutrition boosting snack.
 
Broccoli – yes, it is a super food.  With an amazing nutritional punch, it provides not only fiber and a wide range of vitamins, but it also has sulforaphane which is a potent cancer-fighting detoxifier.
 
Beans – with a hefty dose of fiber and iron beans are an all-around good for you food.  Soups, stews, and dips are a great way to add them to your meals.
 
Beta-carotenes – okay so this isn’t a food but rather a group of foods.  Found in orange foods (think sweet potatoes, winter squashes, carrots, etc) and dark leafy greens (the chlorophyll hides the color) like kale, spinach, collards, and more betacarotene is a powerful antioxidant that supports immune system health, reproductive health, and it’s very good for your eyes.
 
So while imported superfoods may be trending down I’m rooting for an overall upward trend in the concept of nourishing foods.
 
raw nuts in bowl

Snack Healthy With Crockpot Nuts

Previously I had posted some delicious snack mix recipes for the crockpot.  And in case you’re wondering, a crockpot and a slow cooker are the same thing. Crockpot is a brand name that has become a common usage term.  They’re all slow cookers and in my opinion they’re one of the best kitchen devices you can own. I wanted to share another great use for your crockpot, seasoned nuts. At this time of year a lot of nuts are available in the grocery store fairly inexpensively.  Making seasoned nuts is easy, tasty, and extremely versatile. Seasoned nuts even make great gifts when packaged in a cute jar with a bow or fabric top.

I love nuts as a snack.  They’re high in protein and are a healthy source of fat in the diet. Nuts also have lots of micronutrients (different ones for different nuts) adding to nutrient variety in the diet (in other words don’t always eat the same ones.  It’s important to note that peanuts are not included here.  First of all they’re not a nut, they’re a legume. Second, they’re not as healthy an option as true, raw nuts.   

Increase your nutrition

Soaking the nuts will help break down the enzymes that protect them from germinating too early.  Breaking down these enzymes will make the nutrients more available.  How long you soak nuts depends on what type they are.  You can use this soaking/sprouting chart that I found online as a reference.  To soak nuts I prefer to add 1 T. of an acidic medium to the soaking water, usually liquid whey left over from making homemade Greek yogurt, but in a pinch lemon juice will do.

You do need to dry the nuts after soaking before you make these recipes.  You can either use a dehydrator or cook them on low (200 F) in your oven.  When they are completely dry they are ready to eat as is or spice them up a bit.

Crock Pot Roasted Nuts

4 c. raw soaked nuts
1/2 C. melted coconut oil
seasonings

Cook on low for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, with the lid off
When done turn off the crockpot and let the mixture cool completely in the crock before jarring up

How you season them is up to you.  I have a couple of mixes that I like but feel free to go ahead and make up your own.

1 T. Penzey’s taco seasoning + 1/2 t. hot sauce or 1 t. red pepper flakes

1 T. tamari sauce + 1/2 t. garlic powder + 1/4 t. sea salt

1 T. curry powder + 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1 T. sucanat + 2 t. ground cinnamon + 1/4 t. nutmeg

2 t. vanilla + 2 t. sucanat + 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice

More great recipes

A crockpot is one of the most versatile kitchen implements you can own (and use). The important thing is to use it. Perfect for breakfast, dinner, food prep, there are a lots of great ways to incorporate a crockpot into your food plan, saving you time, money, and cleanup in the kitchen (and who doesn’t love that?).  Here are some more great recipes to get your crockpot mojo going:

Chocolate Granola

Today we have a special treat as my friend Christine shares her chocolate granola recipe. I’ve always loved granola because it’s a quick healthy breakfast, a great snack; it’s also quick and easy to make. One of the other great things about granola is how it can be changed around to suit individual tastes. The idea of making it in a crockpot, is a big “wow” because it doesn’t get any easier than that.

Christine shared the following thoughts with me, “A friend had told me a little about using dark chocolate. Apparently, it contains ‘good’ fats, that our bodies need to digest properly. I began to think about the other good fats I’ve been trying to feed my family, coconut, olive oil, and nuts, etc. Chocolate granola sounded like a good breakfast food. I knew from prior experience that a little coconut oil at breakfast helped me control my appetite. I found a basic recipe and substituted some things and added a few. It smelled wonderful – kind of like chocolate potporri all day. When all seven of us like something, its a keeper! This one will be a regular breakfast item for our family.”

With the addition of ground flax and coconut oil this recipe provides some great fatty acids (flax seeds have omega-3 while coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids). These healthy fats help provide saiety, or fullness, which means it helps fill you up. Dark chocolate and cocoa provide antioxidants, especially epicatechin (found also in green tea) which protect against cardiovascular disease.

Here’s Christine’s recipe, as she says it’s a big hit with her family, I’m sure it will be for yours as well.

Chocolate Granola
Mix in crock pot:

7 C. organic old fashioned oats
1/2 C. ground flax
1/4 C. organic brown sugar
1/2 C. shredded coconut
Pinch of sea salt
½ C. raw honey
2 T. maple syrup
¼ C. coconut oil
2 T. cocoa powder

Mix well and heat on low all day, stir once in while.

After slightly browned (4-6 hours on low) stir in:
½ C. 70% chocolate or darker, finely chopped
1 C. chopped almonds & walnuts

Cool completely then store in an airtight container


Chocolate granola photo courtesy of Christine Michael Gibson

Almond Delights

My friend Cindi, who also grinds her own flour, has been experimenting with different kinds of cookies. Her kids have been in love with my Sunshine Cookies since they were first introduced to them when Cindi took one of my classes a couple of years ago. Looking to expand their cookie repertoire a little she’s been playing around with different, healthier, combinations of ingredients. I think this one is a keeper since she writes, “My son who doesn’t really like cookies, except for your sunshine cookies, ate about 4 of them in one sitting.” She notes that these cookies come out very moist like a marzipan cookie.

This is her first “official” Cindi recipe and I’m just thrilled that she’s allowing me to share it with you here. These sound absolutely fabulous and I can’t wait to make up a batch of almond flour and try them.

Cindi’s Almond Delights
2 cups almond flour
3/4 cups evap. cane juice crystals
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg

blend softened butter for a minute or two
add all the other ingredients and mix well
roll into balls and press with a fork
bake at 300 degrees for about 25-30 minutes; cookies will not brown
to decorate, top with sliced almonds or drizzled or dip in dark chocolate

Enjoy!


delicious looking photo – Cindi H.