Food of the Week: Almonds

Growers associations for different varieties of nuts all tout phrases like “one of the healthiest types of nuts” and “a heart-healthy food.” The Almond Board of California is no different, and because its goal is to increase profits for almond growers, its claims shouldn’t be accepted without critical analysis. It seems, though, that many of these claims do hold up, or at least find consensus among nutritional scientists.

Though technically they are seeds, almonds contain more protein, fiber, and calcium than seven other varieties of nut. (This seed/nut distinction is interesting. I found the following quotation, from someone named Martha Croll in an online forum, helpful: “Perhaps we can say all nuts are seeds but not all seeds are nuts.”) Almonds are also well-known as a source of vitamin E. This is not to say that the only nut you should eat is almonds, but they are certainly a good choice.

Nut flours, butters, and other nut products are becoming more widely available in many of the places we buy food, and almond versions of these products may be the most widespread. You can also make your own almond flour in a coffee grinder, and your own almond butter in a food processor. Two tips for the latter: roast the almonds first, and process them longer than you might think.

Homemade Starbucks
Orange Cake

I had never cooked with whole oranges before—have you? This cake is scrumptious, and healthy enough to eat for breakfast. From Elana Amsterdam’s blog.

2 oranges
4 eggs
¾ c. agave nectar
2 c. blanched almond flour
½ t. salt
1 t. baking soda

Wash the oranges and boil them whole (peel and all) for 1½ hours, or until soft. Place the oranges (peel and all) in a food processorand blend until smooth. Process in eggs, agave, almond flour, salt, and baking soda until well blended. Pour batter into a greased 9-in. cake pan and bake at 375° for 45–50 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for two hours.

North African-Style

Seeing zucchini at the grocery store or farmer’s market never inspired me before I tried this dish, but things are different now. My mouth is watering just thinking of this tangy, peppery, garlicky zucchini. From Angela Shelf Medearis.

3 T. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced
¼ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ c. raisins
3 T. chopped almonds
3 t. brown sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and garlic and stir to coat. Stir in the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10–15 min. or until zucchini is tender.

Oven-Fried Chicken
with Almonds

A South Beach Diet recipe, one of many approaches to healthified fried chicken.

1 c. bread crumbs, almond flour, or combination
¼ c. grated Parmesan
¼ c. finely chopped almonds
2 T. chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. salt
¼ t. dried thyme
Pinch black pepper
¼ c. olive oil
2 lbs. chicken breasts, pounded to ½-in. thickness

Heat oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, combine ingredients through the pepper. Place the oil in a shallow dish. Dip the chicken in the oil, then dredge in the crumb mixture. Place in a greased baking pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until juices run clear.

Paleo Banana Bread

The Paleo diet, according to Wikipedia, is “based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals” consumed by Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. Thousands of years later, this recipe comes from Elana Amsterdam’s blog. I felt her recipe could use a bit more sweetener, thus the addition of optional sugar.

3 bananas (about 1 ½ c.), mashed
3 eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
1 T. honey
1-2 T. sugar (opt.)
¼ c. palm oil shortening or softened butter
2 c. blanched almond flour
½ t. salt
1 t. baking soda

Heat oven to 350°. Place bananas, eggs, vanilla, honey, sugar (if desired), and shortening or butter in a large food processor and pulse until blended. (Alternately, use an electric beater.) Pulse in almond flour, salt, and baking soda. Scoop batter into a greased 8-in. x 4-in. pan and bake for 55-65 minutes.

Pesto Almonds

These would be nice to feature on an appetizer buffet with other flavors of roasted nuts. From

2 egg whites
¼ c. packed whole basil leaves or ¾ t. dried basil
2 c. whole almonds
¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan
1 t. salt
½ t. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 225°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or greased foil and set aside. If using fresh basil, combine them with the egg whites in a blender; process on low speed until mixture is pureed. Toss egg white mixture with the almonds. Drain in a sieve. Stir together cheese, salt, and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Add drained almonds and toss to coat. Place almonds in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Note: When I drained these, only a small amount of egg white dripped down, so that step can probably be skipped.

Almond Flour Pancakes

Low-carb, though decidedly not low-calorie, especially if you top with butter and syrup. From

½ c. almond flour
1 heaping t. baking powder
¼ c. melted butter
2-4 T. milk or cream
2 eggs, beaten
Dash cinnamon
Sweetener to taste (1-2 packets, opt.)

Combine all the ingredients and pour a third of the batter on a microwavable dinner plate. Cook in the microwave about one minute, until the batter becomes like a moist cake. Move the pancake to another plate and repeat the process.