Birthday Boom

For reasons beyond my grasp, it seems like May marks the beginning of birthday season. Inexplicably, it’s as if millions of mothers across the globe decided that the late spring and early summer months were the ideal time to bring a new life into the world, plotting out their pregnancies accordingly. Facebook alerts me every morning about another dozen, two dozen friends celebrating another year on earth, growing more numerous and incessant with every passing day. Though entertaining in theory- and I’d never doubt the determination of a woman about to bear children- I can only chalk it up to coincidence, or at least on my part, good luck.

Having so many parties clustered closely together can be stressful for planning, but a boon for batch baking. Fire up the oven once, whip up a single batter in bulk, and fulfill your festive commitments for scores of friends with ease. The trick is picking something that everyone will like, won’t break the budget, and can suit all sorts of dietary restrictions.

Meet your new best birthday friends. These babies have it all, and yet, demand so little. Just three main ingredients gives rise to tender, chewy blondie bites that taste like cake, but are healthy enough to qualify as a legitimate protein bar. In fact, I must sheepishly admit, it was Luka’s first birthday that originally inspired these almond butter-based morsels. After adding rainbow sprinkles for the human party goers, it became abundantly clear that these were way better than bland dog biscuits here. No added sugar keeps these treats well balanced, but for the voracious sweet tooth, you may want to consider inviting up to 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar to the soiree.

The magic ingredient here is Noosh Birthday Cake Almond Butter. No, they didn’t sponsor this post; I’m just a super fan and can’t get enough of the stuff. How nuts can taste like spreadable cake is beyond me, but there’s no denying that buttery taste, rich with childhood nostalgia and subtle notes of vanilla frosting. Combining that with gluten-free flour and everyone’s favorite bean brine sounds like a formula too simple, too basic, too good to be true… But like the sudden abundance of birthdays, some mysteries aren’t meant to be solved.

Continue reading “Birthday Boom”

Advertisements

Spring Produce Spotlight: Green Almonds

Standing tall and pert in rows a dozen deep, forests of asparagus cover the tables at farmers markets as far as the eye can see. Classic harbingers of spring, their appearance signals a definitive end to winter, as though the slender green stalks had slain the seasonal demon themselves. Deep green, royal purple, ghostly white; all colors were represented on this early April day, each bundling growing more enticing, glowing more vibrantly in the rising morning sun than the last. With a heavy bag straining under the weight of this spring plunder, it would be easy to call it a day, feeling quite content with a delicious, albeit rather predictable haul. Don’t make that mistake. Delve further into the booths, interrogate the farmers if you need to, and seek out rarer treasures. For a window of about three to four weeks, green almonds may be hiding in plain sight at your local markets, amassed in humble little piles or collected in small baskets, just behind the more popular fare. Off-putting fuzzy exteriors belie a firm, crunchy texture, wholly edible and entirely delicious from the outside shell to kernel. Their short window of availability is dictated by the maturation of the almond, transforming the fresh fruit into the crunchy nut we all know and love. Leading with a pleasantly bitter taste, the overriding flavor is that of lemons and cucumbers, sometimes with a hint of tart grape in the background. Juicy yet crisp, they’re impossibly addictive when eaten with just a light pinch of salt. Sure, you could chop them up and add them to salads, use them for garnishes on chilled soups, or otherwise toss them into any raw or cooked preparation you see fit, but they’re best when allowed to shine solo. At most, go ahead and cure them in a lightly sweet and sour brine, and you’ll have the stuff of pickle plate dreams. One would never mistake them for the roasted almonds they may one day become, which is part of the appeal. You may think you know the common nuts, but catch them on the unripe side and you’ll have a whole new snacking sensation in store.

Simple Snackies

Consider, if you would, the almond.

Unassuming, humble, maybe even a bit plain. Every and their best friends eat almonds in something or other; Cookies, salads, casseroles, you name it. They’re nothing new, but I think they deserve a second thought.

Personally, 9 times out of 10 I will be reaching for the super salty almonds over anything else available. Yes, I absolutely am, without a doubt, a chronic and progressive salt-addict. The more I get, the more I want. Sadly, not even canned soups, pumped up with enough sodium to make the Red Sea appear mild, are safe from my special “spice.” Salt shakers are dangerous things in my house; It’s not unheard of to refill it once a week.

But I want to have no guilt over at least one little snack. Almonds are so chock full of those lovely vitamins and heart-happy essential oils everyone always talks about, it’s just not fair to write them off due to sodium. Not to mention the wallop of protein they contain into such a small space, which makes them an excellent food for the road or other spots tough to find proper sustenance. Sure, you could always eat them raw, but I just don’t find them flavorful enough to satisfy my palate.

That’s why I turned to my second favorite and far over-used seasoning: Cinnamon! Yes, if it’s not salt, it’s cinnamon. Into oatmeal, cereal, over toast, in bread, English muffins… It really just goes so well with practically every grain. This time, paired with a nut, it proves to retain the same flavor enhancing powers I lust after.

Really, it’s so easy to make these you truly don’t even need to measure. I just want you to try it and see for yourself that wholesome foods don’t need to be complicated or fussy; Nor, do they have to deprive you of a tasty treat.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Cinnamon Glazed Almonds

Cinnamon Glazed Almonds

A wholesome sweet snack with a bold punch of cinnamon spice.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Raw Almonds
  • 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Confectioner's Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a silpat or parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  2. Toss all ingredients into a small bowl and combine thoroughly, being sure to coat all the almonds completely in the syrup and spice. Spread evenly in one layer on the baking sheet and roast in the oven for 5 minutes. Shake around a bit to flip them over and make sure they arenā€™t sticking too badly. Bake for another 5 minutes or more, until they turn a slightly darker brown or smell nutty. Watch carefully, because nuts can go from lovely golden to blackened gravel in no time flat.
  3. Remove from the oven and immediately take off of sheet, or they will continue to cook. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Notes

You could easily double, triple, or even quadruple the amounts without any difficulty. Extra can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 272 Total Fat: 17g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 15g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 3mg Carbohydrates: 28g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 20g Protein: 6g