Welcome to Eat Well Every Day

Welcome to Eat Well Every Day!

I've spent years researching nutritional information, food ideas and recipes, because cooking and eating - especially with family & friends - are some of life's great pleasures. And guess what- healthy food doesn't have to be boring! It can be exciting and delicious!


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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Almonds and Pears

“Almonds and pears” – sounds like something out of an old nursery rhyme, or maybe some Cockney rhyming slang. But it isn’t either of those, it’s two ingredients that are cheap, plentiful and healthy, which combine together beautifully in many recipes, especially cakes and cookies.

I’ve told you about pears – ‘the gift of the gods’ and why pears are counted in the top 100 healthiest foods.

But what about almonds? The humble ‘nut’ (botanically, it’s a ‘drupe’ not a nut, but who’s counting?) of a tree related to peaches and apricots, with the most glorious blossom in early spring, the almond has been revered for thousands of years as a symbol of fertility and happiness. When you see the white froth of almond blossom, you know spring is just around the corner.

Believed to have originated in the North of Africa and western Asia, almonds are now grown in many countries with a Mediterranean climate, including Australia. Australia is the world’s third-largest producer of almonds, after California and Spain. No wonder we can always get fresh almonds relatively cheaply!

Almonds can be bought as plain raw nuts, roasted, blanched, blanched and slivered or flaked, or as almond meal. Because the Omega-3 and Omega-6 content can be damaged by high heat, it’s preferable to dry roast the nuts yourself, instead of buying commercially roasted almonds. Put them in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes in a low oven (no higher than 100C or 212F).

Almonds’ high nutritional value

Because of their subtle flavour, almonds can combine with almost any other food But it’s not their versatility that includes them in the ‘healthiest foods’ – these nuts are actually given ‘qualified health claim’ status by the United States’ Food & Drug Administration in recognition of the health benefits of eating almonds every day.

For such a small item, an almond packs a mighty nutritional punch. As well as their high protein content, almonds have monounsaturated fat, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, fibre, and as much calcium as cow’s milk, along with good amounts of Vitamins A, C, E and D, all the B vitamins, folate and Vitamin K. Then there's the minerals: copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

So, to the recipes: Pear and Almond Cake

Almonds combine beautifully with pears in this cake, which can double as dessert, warmed slightly and served with cream, icecream or yoghurt. Or you can toast slices and spread with soft butter.

2 cups sugar
3 cups pears, peeled and diced,
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour and baking powder to raise,
1 teasp bicarb (baking soda)
1 teasp salt
2 teasp cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup oil or melted butter
2 teasp vanilla essence
1 cup slivered almonds

Mix together the pear pieces and sugar and leave for 20 minutes or so to develop juices.

Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon and raising agents, then add rest of the ingredients and stir well. Bake in a greased large square tin or a Bundt pan at 180C (350 F) for 1 hour.

Ginger and Almond Cookies

Remember to make the dough well ahead of when you want these cookies, as it has to sit in the fridge for several hours to firm up before baking.

¾ cup (190 g/6 ounces) of softened butter
1 cup packed, soft brown sugar
2 tablesp light molasses, honey or Golden Syrup
1 egg
1½ teasp baking powder
½ teasp salt
1 teasp fresh ginger, grated finely, or at least 1 teasp ground ginger (more if you prefer)
1¼ cup plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
48 blanched whole almonds (cheaper to blanch your own.)

In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses/honey/Golden Syrup, the egg and ginger. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then mix into sugar and butter mixture until you have a soft dough.

Form the dough into two logs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Meanwhile, blanch your almonds, if you haven’t bought ready blanched ones. Put them in a heatproof bowl, pour hot, (not quite boiling) water over them and leave to cool, when you can slip the skins off.

Cut the dough in slices and shape these into walnut sized balls. Put about 2" apart on a greased cookie sheet, and press a blanched almond into centre of each ball, flattening them slightly. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a 175C (350F) oven until lightly browned on bottom.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Buon Appetito!

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