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2012 Winter Issue 6 (February 17, 2012)

On all the wonderful things that can be done with almonds

February 17, 2012
By Zoe Suche

Valentine’s Day, like Christmas and birthdays, can be a bummer for those of us trying to avoid wheat flour—and by that I mean pretty much every type of baked good that crops up around these times of year. (I’m looking at you, heart-shaped cookies in the LDC.) Flowers and chocolate are wonderful, but inevitably, a lot of cookies are being produced at this time as well. It’s not that gluten-free baked goods don’t exist; it’s that no one really knows how or bothers to make them—again, thanks for the rice pudding yesterday, LDC. Not quite the same.

Fortunately, in time for this latest food-filled holiday, I discovered something really exciting in Econo’s new gluten free section—they actually stock almond flour, which is actually kind of shocking considering that it’s probably one of the more obscure foods derived from almonds that exist out there-pretty impressive for a grocery store that doesn’t even sell seafood except for out of a can.

With the addition of the flour, my room now contains a borderline absurd quantity of almond-foods, which is why I’d like to devote a little time to being excited about this little nut. Almonds are one of the best foods you can eat; they’re a great source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and the kind of unsaturated fat that lowers your cholesterol. They’re also so, so versatile; right now I have bags of regular and slivered almonds for cooking, as well as almond butter—a healthy equivalent to peanut butter—almond milk—which tasted better and contains more calcium than dairy milk—and now almond flour, which is just almonds ground up really really small. (Apparently that’s what almond butter is too. How do they have such different consistencies? A mystery for another day.)

Last week I actually made pumpkin bread, which has been off my edible list for a while. In fact, it was the first piece of bread that I’ve enjoyed in a while (refer back to my rant about the evils of wheat-free bread). Yesterday, to combat that age-old problem of “there’s a plate of cookies on my roommate’s desk that I can’t eat-what to do?” I made almond flour sugar cookies with a date filling (a note about dates: when they come pitted they aren’t that great and the inside is all dried out). They weren’t quite the same as the funfetti cookie that I guiltily snuck on Valentine’s Day; but I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to suck it up and get a stomachache if you really value the cookie. It’s a cost-benefit analysis, really—although in retrospect, funfetti really isn’t that special and probably wasn’t worth it.  This weekend I have plans for a chocolate raspberry quinoa cake. Things are looking rather exciting in the wheat-free baked-goods world; exactly what’s needed heading into eighth week, right?

To get back to the point of this article: in life as in cooking, it’s pretty amazing what you can get used to; at some point you might realize that something you thought was essential to your lifestyle could in reality, with a little effort, be replaced by something that’s better for you.

Right now can you imagine life without milk, flour, or peanut butter? Turns out almonds solve all of these problems for you, and keep you healthier in the meantime. In the transcendentalist literature I’ve read over the last week or so, I’ve watched Henry David Thoreau give up many of what we would consider essential comforts, only to discover that he didn’t actually need them. I’m pretty far from a simple cabin in the woods, but hey, almonds are a start.

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