‘To everything there is a season’


By Bill Colvard - bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com



Almond crackle cookies and a cup of hibiscus tea are a perfect way to celebrate National Almond Day.


“To everything there is a season,” according to The Byrds (and also Ecclesiastes), and apparently, to everything there is a National Day. Or an International Day. Or maybe even a week or a month.

Or so it seems.

June 18 is a pretty busy day as it is simultaneously International Panic Day, International Picnic Day and National Splurge Day. Meanwhile, it is right smack in the middle of Accordion Awareness Month.

Tomorrow is National Almond Day, and though not nearly as ripe with possibility as Sept. 19, otherwise known as International Talk Like a Pirate Day, it does offer up some tasty possibilities.

One ounce of almonds (20-25 almonds) contains 160 calories and only 1 gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol. Almonds are also an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, are a good source of protein and potassium, are full of vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber, and can help lower cholesterol. Almonds also help to slow absorption of sugar and carbs.

And they’re tasty. Don’t forget tasty.

Almonds can also be ground into almond flour to replace wheat flour for folks who follow a gluten-free diet. They can also be soaked in water to make almond milk for vegans, the lactose intolerant or just anybody who chooses to restrict dairy in their diet.

It’s no surprise that demand for almonds has skyrocketed in the last decade, even as California farmers have increased the number of acres planted in almond trees from 590,00 in 2005 to 890,000 in 2015, according to The Sacramento Bee. Not without some controversy, as almonds are notoriously thirsty trees. It requires a gallon of water to produce each nut, a fact that has not gone unnoticed during California’s long drought.

The good news for consumers is that prices have recently come down a bit and now the tasty, healthy goodness of almonds can be enjoyed more often at a more reasonable price. In an appetizer, main dish, side dish, dessert, or just munching straight out of the container they were bought in, almonds are ready to serve.

But if you like chocolate with your almonds, you’ll have to wait until July 8 for Chocolate with Almonds Day.

If almonds aren’t your thing, or even if they are, you might feel your personal interests would be better served by a different national day. Perhaps one that doesn’t exist yet, although that would appear to be unlikely with the wide assortment of holidays already in existence.

Given the fact that neither National Almond Day nor International Talk Like a Pirate Day are paid days off, you may have guessed that there are two kinds of holidays. The first kind — the one that might result in a day off from work — requires a literal act of congress. There aren’t too many of those.

The second variety, the goofy ones, are much simpler. They are simply holidays because they’re on a calendar and people celebrate them. If you want to start one of these holidays, submit your idea to Chase’s Calendar of Events and nationaldaycalendar.org. An accompanying social media campaign in support of your holiday is not a bad idea.

It can be done. Anna Jarvis almost single-handedly was responsible for Mother’s Day being made a holiday. And it’s a real holiday. The kind that required President Woodrow Wilson to sign a document. Not to mention that in 1914, Jarvis didn’t have the internet to advocate for her cause.

That accomplishment certainly deserves an almond cookie. As luck would have it, this is the eve of National Almond Day.

Mangia!

Almond Crackle Cookies

These delicious and simple to make three-ingredient cookies are often attributed to cookie maven Dorie Greenspan, but recipes abound on the internet.

6 tbsp. sugar

1 large egg

1 ¼ cups sliced almonds (blanched or unblanched)

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Have a small cookie scoop or a teaspoon at hand. Whisk the sugar and egg together in a bowl for a minute or so, until well blended and just a bit thick. Add the almonds and whisk until evenly coated with the mixture. You need to use the batter right away — it separates as it stands. In fact, it’s good to give the batter a stir or two as you’re spooning it out. Each cookie needs 2 teaspoons of batter. Scoop the batter onto the baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space between the mounds of batter, and flatten each mound with the back of a fork. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans midway through baking. The cookies should be toasted-almond beige, and dry and crackled on top. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool for about 10 minutes. Carefully lift the free-form cookies with a wide spatula. If your kitchen is cool and dry, you can keep these in a tin or paper bag overnight. Keep them longer, and they might soften, a condition easily reversed: Place the cookies on a lined baking sheet and warm them in a 350° F oven for about 6 minutes; cool on the sheet.

Almond and Chevre Cheese Balls

8 ounces goat cheese

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

2 tbsp. finely chopped shallots

2 tsp. dried basil

1 tbsp. vermouth

2 cups sliced almonds (with skins)

In mixing bowl, combine goat cheese, cream cheese, shallots, dried basil, and vermouth. When well blended, roll mixture into single ball or several bite size balls (about 1 inch in diameter). Spread almonds on pie plate. Roll cheese ball(s) through, making sure every side is coated with almonds. Wrap cheese ball(s) in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with crackers or raw vegetables.

Homemade Almond Milk Recipe

Makes about 1 quart

2 cups raw, blanched almonds

5 cups water

1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

1 – 2 tbsp. maple syrup, honey, or agave syrup (optional)

1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

Place the almonds and the water in a bowl and allow to soak for at least six hours (you can also let them soak in the pitcher of your blender if it’s not being used for anything else). Place the almonds and water in the blender (if they’re not already in there). Add all of the other ingredients and blend on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth. You can adjust the amount of sweetness as you go. Place your strainer over the empty bowl. Fold the cheesecloth so that you have a sheet made up of at least 3 layers, and position it over the strainer. Pour the almond milk into the bowl through the strainer and the cheesecloth, allowing the solids to collect in the cheesecloth. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth and press out any remaining liquid. Transfer your homemade almond milk to a bottle and keep refrigerated. Will keep for a week there.

Eggplant-Almond Enchiladas

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups onion, minced

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. cayenne

3 cups tomatoes, chopped

6 cups eggplant, diced (about 1 large one)

salt and black pepper

8 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1 cup jack cheese, grated

12 corn tortillas

Canola oil for frying

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour half of the olive oil into a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add half of the onions and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Stir well, and cook for 5 minutes. Dump in the tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Halfway through cooking add half the garlic, and black pepper to taste. Puree the sauce when done in a blender when it has cooled slightly. Be careful. While the sauce is cooking, pour the rest of the olive oil into a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the rest of the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the eggplant and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The eggplant should be soft. Add the garlic and green bell pepper. Stir well, remove the cover, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat, and then add the cheese and almonds. Stir well. Pour enough canola oil into a skillet to cover the bottom. Turn heat to medium high. Fry each tortilla for just a few seconds on each side. You want to cook them until they become leathery, not until they crisp up. honestly no more than 3 seconds a side. Transfer each to a paper towels, and remove as much oil as possible. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place about 1/4 cup of the filling into each tortilla, and then roll up. Place them seam-side down in a baking sheet. Pour the sauce over. Place in the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until warm. Serve.

Almond crackle cookies and a cup of hibiscus tea are a perfect way to celebrate National Almond Day.
http://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/web1_almond-cookies.jpgAlmond crackle cookies and a cup of hibiscus tea are a perfect way to celebrate National Almond Day.

By Bill Colvard

bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com

Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

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