Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Jazz Up Your Meals w/ Almonds

(Tips by Harriet Hobgson)

The dictionary defines an almond as the kernel of the fruit of a tree. But Silk Road traders thought of almonds as a portable and tasty food source. Many cultures, including the Romans, reserved almonds for celebrations. Today, many of us prepare holiday recipes that contain almonds.

Why have almonds been popular for centuries?

The answer: Almonds have a unique flavor and give food an extra crunch. Toasted almonds and golden raisins, for example, turn basic cooked rice into a tasty pilaf. Almonds give green and meat salads an extra flavor punch. Adding 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract to vanilla pudding mix makes it taste like made-from-scratch.

Put almonds on your grocery list and jazz up your meals. Curried almond Soup sounds like company fare, but it's a yummy Saturday night supper when served with crusty bread. The Almond-Apricot Granola is perfect at breakfast time and snack time. Almond extract and whole almonds make these Chinese Almond Cookies doubly good.

CURRIED ALMOND SOUP

2 tablespoons canola oil, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup whole almonds, 2 tespoons (or more) curry powder, 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon granular flour, 2 cups skim milk, 2 cups low-fat chicken stock (from a carton) 1/2 teaspoon light salt

In a large pan, saute almonds in canola oil, butter, and curry powder until nuts are lightly browned. Remove nuts with slotted spoon and cool. Put almonds in a food processor and process for about 10 seconds, or until nuts are ground.

Sprinkle flour over remaining oil-butter in pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for one minute to form a roux. Using a whisk, gradually add milk and chicken stock to roux. Stir soup until slighty thickened. Add ground almonds and salt to soup. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parsley. Yield: 4 servings.

ALMOND-APRICOT GRANOLA

Dry ingredients: 6 cups uncooked oatmeal, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Wet ingredients: 2 tablespoons canola oil, 3 tablespoons frozen apple juice (undiluted), 1/4 cup honey, 2 teaspoons almond extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. Line a jelly roll pan with non-stick foil. Pour granola mixture into pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring twice, until granola is golden brown. After granola has cooled add 1/4 cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips. Yield: About 7 cups.

CHINESE ALMOND COOKIES (Sorry, these aren't low-cal.)

1 cup butter-flavored Crisco, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup Splenda, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 large eggs (room temperature), 1 tablespoon almond extract, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 cups pre-sifted flour, 1 teaspoon (or more) of water, 1 package (3 1/4 ounces) whole almonds

In large mixing bowl, beat Crisco, granulated sugar, Splenda,
and brown sugar until flullfy. Add eggs and almond extract. Beat one minute more. With mixer at lowest speed, add remaining ingredients, EXCEPT almonds. Finish blending dough with a wooden spoon, adding a few drops of water if necessary.

Form dough into small balls. Roll balls in granulated sugar. Put balls on prepared baking pan, one inch apart, and flatten slightly. Place a whole almond in the center of each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Yield: 5 dozen.

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