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Almonds help us celebrate in good health

merelize, It doesn’t take a national food day to celebrate the health and taste benefits of almonds, but it’s a fun reason to enjoy them.


Feb. 16 is celebrated as National Almond Day, so why not join in the fun and make something with almonds? Not that we need an excuse, of course. Every day is a good day to cook with and eat almonds.

Any of the following recipes can also be used to help you celebrate Valentine’s Day, which most of us know falls on February 14.

I am fortunate that my sister gives me some almonds from an old but productive tree on the ranch she lives on. California is famous for its abundant almond crop. They are also very healthful snacks, especially for someone like me who happens to be a diabetic.

I love to eat them raw without any salt or other seasonings. Join me in celebrating the California almond, and we don’t have to limit that enjoyment to just one day of the year. When you think about it, the same can be said for Valentine’s Day. Pork strips with almond crust

1 cup coarse dry bread crumbs (whole wheat works great or any panko style)

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg white, beaten (not stiff)

1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1. Preheat oven to 425. Set a wire rack on a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray.

2. In a food processor, place bread crumbs, almonds, garlic powder, salt and pepper; pulse mixture until the almonds are coarsely chopped. Transfer to a shallow dish.

3. Place egg white in another shallow dish. Dip both sides of each pork slice in egg white, then evenly coat with the almond mixture. Place the pork strips on the prepared rack and coat on both sides with cooking spray.

4. Bake strips in preheated oven for about 16 to 18 minutes, or until they are golden brown and meat is no longer pink inside.

5. While meat is cooking, prepare sauce: In a small bowl, whisk honey, soy sauce and mustard. Serve with the pork strips. Makes 4 servings. Almond squares

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg, separated and at room temperature

1/2 cup almond paste

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups flour

2 1/2 ounces sliced almonds 1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream butter and gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, almond paste and almond extract, beat until well blended. Add flour and mix well.

2. Spread mixture in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Beat egg white until foamy; brush over entire surface of dough, and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool completely, and cut into 2-inch squares. Store in airtight containers. Makes 12 servings. Macaroons

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 package (14-oz.) sweetened flaked coconut

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

24 whole unblanched almonds

1/2 cup dark chocolate morsels 1. In mixing bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, coconut, almond extract and salt.

2. Drop mixture in 1 tablespoon mounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving a little space in between. Press an almond into the top of each mound.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 17 minutes or until they turn golden color. Remove and cool on wire racks.

4. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate morsels on HIGH for 1 minute and 15 seconds or until melted and smooth, stirring at 15-second intervals and once more at the end. Transfer melted chocolate to a 1-quart zip-lock plastic freezer bag and snip a tiny hole at one bottom corner. Pipe melted chocolate by slightly squeezing the bag, drizzling or zig-zagging for a decorative effect. Pear and almond turnovers

1 package (17-oz.) frozen puff pastry (2 sheets) thawed overnight in refrigerator

3 firm, ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch of salt

1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon warm water

1/2 cup sliced almonds 1. Preheat oven to 400 and arrange a rack in the center. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out each sheet of puff pastry into a 12-inch square. Trim edges then cut each pastry sheet into four equal squares.

2. Place squares onto prepared baking sheet and refrigerate about 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.

3. In a bowl, mix the pear pieces, lemon juice, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Remove pastry from refrigerator and arrange evenly on your work space. With pastry brush, moisten the edge of half of each square with the egg and water mixture, forming a letter L.

4. Divide filling evenly on each square, placing it in the center. Fold the dough over the filling to form a triangle and press the edges together with a fork to seal. Brush the tops with remaining egg mixture, cut slits in the tops and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

5. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the turnovers are puffed and golden brown. Some of the filling juice should start to ooze out. Best if serves soon after baking. Makes 8 servings.

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