April 12, 2012 at 8:28 a.m.

For those who like almonds

For those who like almonds
For those who like almonds

Do you like almonds? We do. Between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Pacific Coast Range is California’s fertile Central Valley. Home of the oldest and most beautiful trees that bear edible fruit. This tree’s “pearl” is the delicious nut found inside the fruit, the almond. California is the only place where almonds are grown commercially, having been brought there by the Franciscan Padres from Spain.


Almonds are very good for us, having a very good amount of vitamin E, are high in fiber, high in calories and fat (whoops), and like all nuts, are cholesterol free. According to superstition: if you eat almonds before you drink an alcoholic drink, you will reduce your chances of getting drunk and avoid having a hangover. So, if you are going to consume an alcoholic drink, make sure you have a bowl of almonds ready to snack on first!

ALMOND CHICKEN SALAD
4 c. cooked and cubed chicken
1 c. diced celery
1 c. green grapes, halved
1/2 c. each, light mayonnaise and nonfat plain yogurt
1/8 t. white pepper or 1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 c. chopped slivered almonds, toasted
In a large bowl, combine first 6 ingredients; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Just before serving, fold in almonds and transfer to a pretty serving bowl.
Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional value: One serving (3/4 c.) equals 126 calories, 138 mg sodium, 43 mg cholesterol, 8 g carbohydrates. Note: To toast almonds: spread almonds in a single layer in a frying pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes or until lightly golden brown, watching so they don’t get too brown. Remove from pan immediately and turn onto a plate to cool; if left in the pan they will keep on browning.

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SKILLET CHICKEN WITH ALMONDS
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
3 T. canola or vegetable oil
1-8 oz. can each, sliced water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, drained
3/4 c. each, sliced celery, sliced fresh mushrooms
3/4 c. chicken broth
2 t. soy sauce, regular or lite
2 T. each, cornstarch and cold water
1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted

In a 12” skillet or wok, heat oil until hot; add chicken and stir-fry about 5 minutes or until chicken turns white. Add next 4 ingredients; stir-fry 3-5 minutes or until heated through. Stir in  broth and soy sauce. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water; stir into chicken mixture, stirring constantly for about 1 minute.  Turn into serving dish and sprinkle with almonds. Serve over hot cooked rice if you wish.
Makes six-eight servings.

Note: I serve it over hot cooked rice or rice noodles.


+++++

ALMOND BROWNIES
Brownies:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
4 eggs
1-16 oz. can chocolate syrup
1/2 t. almond extract
1 c. + 1 T. flour
1/4 t. salt

Frosting:
1 c. chocolate chips
1-8 oz. carton whipped topping, thawed and divided
1/4 t. almond extract
1/2 c. chopping, slivered almonds
In a large bowl mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (not just beaten a little). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in syrup and extract. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to chocolate. Pour into greased 13x9” baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean (brownies may appears moist). Cool on wire rack. For frosting: In microwave bowl, melt chips and 1 c. whipped topping; stir till smooth. Cool. Fold in extract and rest of whipped topping. Spread over cooled brownies. Sprinkle with almonds. Store in the fridge.
Makes three dozen bars.

Nutritional values: 1 brownie equals 149 calories, 30 mg cholesterol, 67 mg sodium, 21 g. carbs, 1 g fiber.

Thought for the Day: We have an Oriental lilac tree at the end of our deck about 5 yards from our porch swing. I watched from there as the robins flew back and forth from the tree to across the road where there are no homes. In their beaks they were carrying grass, bits of tiny branches and strings. The female (I presume) was head first into the nest, wiggling here and there making sure the “building materials” were going in the right spot. The male robin (again I presume) would take off for the lake periodically, to bring mud from the lakeshore to drop in the nest to hold everything together. What a thrill to see this production going on before my eyes. And when the baby robins eventually climbed out of the nest and jumped, trying out their little wings, I was reminded of the times our children “left the nest” and “spread their wings” for new adventures in their lives. I hope that at some point in time you might be able to witness to this kind of building. I know I’ve chatted for a while here but I couldn’t pass up sharing some reflections with you...not just recipes.

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