I’m old enough to remember when almonds were a novelty.
Almonds in the shell usually were the more difficult to crack among the unshelled mixed nuts in Christmas gift baskets or available by the scoop in grocery stores. My brother and I in the 1970s were masters with the pecans and walnuts, but we struggled to crack the almonds and dig out the raw nut.
Those bins went away as public hygiene and food contamination became an issue. Thank goodness.
Today almonds are available in several easy-to-use forms, including almond butter and almond milk, from not just health food stores but also grocery and convenience stores.
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Almonds have a lot of fans, no matter the health-conscious regimen being followed. In a nutshell (see what I did there?), here are the benefits of almonds, according to a summary from the Almond Board of California’s website almonds.com:
► A 1-ounce serving has 13 grams of “good” unsaturated fats, only 1 gram of saturated fat, 6 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.
► Almonds are cholesterol free.
► 1 ounce of almonds has 50% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E, which offers antioxidant properties that can protect the cells.
► About 25% of the RDA of riboflavin, also called vitamin B2, is in 1 ounce of almonds. Riboflavin helps in the proper development of skin, blood cells and the lining of the digestive tract, and in brain function, according to webmd.com.
Almonds are a calorie-dense, portable snack (160 calories for 1 ounce). That portability makes them a great on-the-go snack.
Another use: almonds are an inviting addition to the current party food craze of charcuterie boards or grazing tables. A crunchy nut gives textural contrast between the nibbles of meat, cheese, fruit and olives.
As satisfying as almonds can be, even the tastiest foods become unappetizing if eaten every day. One solution for adding variety is making flavored almonds.
Just as chicken wings have found new life with the addition of flavors from other cuisines, so too can almonds revel in seasoning twists. Following are recipes for Teriyaki Almonds and Parmesan and Garlic Almonds.
The Asian-inspired recipe is adapted from one in “Calf Fries to Caviar” (1983) by Janel Franklin and Sue Vaughn. The second recipe is adapted from Natalie Rizzo’s Parmesan and Parsley Roasted Almonds on the almonds.com website.
One adjustment to the Teriyaki Almonds recipe is using raw almonds instead of the blanched variety, which are skin free. The tannins in the almond skin can give a “drier” mouth feel, but the recipe was satisfying with the substitution. The almonds were popular at a recent game night party.
I also replaced the dry sherry with rice wine vinegar, which I commonly have on hand.
In the second recipe, I dropped the parsley, because I’m not a fan of the herb and rarely have it on hand. And, although garlic is not in the original recipe name, it has a forward presence.
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Cutting the garlic in half made the almonds more pleasing, without giving you offensive breath that would make a dragon cower. But, there’s enough of a hint of the garlic that it warranted being included in the name.
When your almond routine is boring, these recipes break the monotony in a tasty way. But, they also add calories, so try not to plow through the batch in one sitting.
Share your favorite recipes or food-related historical recollections by emailing Laura Gutschke at email@example.com.
(Adapted from recipe in “Calf Fries to Caviar” (1983) by Janel Franklin and Sue Vaughn)
2 cups (about 8 ounces) raw, unsalted whole almonds (or use blanched)
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
dash garlic salt
1. Heat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Spread almonds on ungreased sheet pan and toast for 20 minutes, stirring two or three times during cooking.
3. In a microwave-proof liquid measuring cup with pouring spout, melt the butter (or melt in a small pot on the stove). Whisk in the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and ginger. Pour over the almonds and stir to coat evenly. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally for even cooking. Remove from oven when toasted a slightly deeper brown, but not burnt.
4. Sprinkle almonds with garlic salt to taste. Remove almonds to paper towels to cool to room temperature. Serve immediately, or store in refrigerator for up to three days.
Parmesan and Garlic Almonds
(Adapted from Parmesan and Parsley Roasted Almonds by Natalie Rizzo at almonds.com)
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) raw, unsalted whole almonds
4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the almonds, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir well to combine.
3. Spread almond mixture on prepared sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.
4. Remove sheet pan from oven. Let almonds cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese on top. Taste, and if necessary, add more salt. Serve immediately, or store in refrigerator for up to three days.
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Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.