February 24, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.

Almond tree's promise of spring

Almond tree's promise of spring
Almond tree's promise of spring

It's about almonds today. The word for almond in ancient Hebrew means "gift from God." The almond tree is the first in the Holy Land to flower, beginning in early winter. When the beautiful white blossoms with pink tinges burst, it is a sign of winter being nearly over and spring to arrive soon. There are two varieties of almond trees, the sweet or edible almond and the bitter where almond flavoring comes from. For thousands of years, the oil of the almond was important not only in cooking, but also in lotion, creams and powders.

Do you remember using Jergen's hand lotion with the fragrance of almond? It smelled wonderful! Well, we're certainly not going to make foods using almond lotion but maybe almond oil.

So, let's start with...

MANDARIN ALMOND SALAD

4 T. sugar, divided

1/2 c. slivered almonds

1/4 c. canola or olive oil

2 T. vinegar

1 T. minced fresh parsley (Can use 1 t. dried parsley, but fresh is much better)

1/4 t. salt

1/8 t. each, black pepper and hot pepper sauce

1 small bunch of Romaine lettuce torn in bite size pieces

1-11 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained well

1 small red onion, sliced (if you can't find a small one, cut the slices in fourths)

In a small skillet, melt 3 T. of sugar (yes, sugar), over low heat stirring constantly. Add almonds and stir until coated with sugar and are light brown in color. Immediately turn them out onto foil or waxed paper to cool, braking them up with a fork into small pieces; set aside. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine next 6 ingredients and remaining sugar; shake well. Just before serving, combine rest of ingredients and almonds in a large bowl. Shake dressing; pour over salad and toss lightly.

Makes 4-6 servings.

+++++

ALMOND CELERY BAKE

3 c. sliced celery, about 1/4-inch thick

1/4 c. plus 2 T. shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 t. paprika

couple dashes pepper

1 can cream of celery soup, undiluted

1-1/2 c. soft bread crumbs

1/2 c. slivered almonds

Put celery in a greased 8x8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese, paprika and pepper. Top with soup. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with almonds. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until golden brown.

Makes 6 servings.

This is a veggie side dish that not many would think about making and it's good with any meat, foul or fish.

+++++

DOUBLE ALMOND COOKIES

2 c. flour

1/2 c. finely chopped almonds (chop using slivered almonds)

1/8 t. salt

1 c. butter, softened

1 c. sugar

1 egg

2 t. almond extract

In a small bowl, combine flour, almonds and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine butter and sugar until creamy. Blend in egg and almond extract. Gradually add flour mixture.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden brown.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

A little info for you: One pound of almonds will give 1-1/4 c. chopped and 1-1/2 c. ground.

The way to skin and blanch almonds is to put them in a saucepan, cover with boiling water. Let them simmer for 1 minutes. Drain and press between your fingers at one end and they'll pop out of their skins. After you've skinned them dry them for 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven. To toast skinned almonds, spread them in a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until almonds are tanned. Stir now and then so they'll toast evenly without burning.

TFD: Children's ears may be closed to advice, but their eyes are open to examples.

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