Leave the cookies for Santa, make these for yourself

by Sylvia Sommers

Are you aware that California is the only state in the U.S. that produces almonds, and that it is the world’s largest supplier? Spain and Australia follow California in almond production.

Almonds are commonly referred to as nuts, but they are really the seeds of the fruit of the almond tree. Botanically they are related to peaches, plums and apricots, which also have seeds.

Almonds can be used to add texture and flavor to both sweet and savory recipes. They are delicious raw or toasted, used in salads, added to pancake batter or finely chopped to make a crunchy crust for baked trout. I recently added almond butter to a banana sandwich. Yum!

Diabetics are encouraged to snack on almonds to aid in blood sugar balance.

However you choose to use almonds you are adding a nutritious source of protein to your diet or recipe.

This recipe uses finely ground almonds and almond extract in a loaf-sized cake, making a healthy holiday dessert.

Ground Almond Cake

(Makes one loaf)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 1/2 sticks of butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup of self-rising flour
3 ounces ground toasted almonds
1/8 teaspoon of almond extract

Allow the butter to get to room temperature. Using a mixer, blend butter and sugar until it’s creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Slowly add flour, almonds and extract. Beat until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed, then pour into a prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes, until the loaf is lightly browned.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then turn it onto a plate surrounded by canned peach halves that have been dried with paper towels.

Placing the cake and peaches on crisp lettuce leaves makes a pretty exhibit.

Note: A small nut grinder is a great investment to obtain a fine grind. Baking Joy spray is effective for prepping pans.

Christmas Bubble-Top Cake

White miniature marshmallows rise through cake batter to form a “bubble” top to this easy strawberry cake.

2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups sliced strawberries
3 ounce box strawberry gelatin
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs

Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Spread marshmallows over the bottom of the dish. Mix the strawberries and their juice with dry gelatin and set aside. Combine all remaining room temperature ingredients in a mixing bowl at medium speed. Alternate dry ingredients with beaten eggs, milk and the shortening. Beat batter until smooth. Pour over the marshmallows. Spoon strawberry mixture over the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Serve cut in squares while slightly warm.

Tip: A wet cake knife makes a smooth cut.

Sylvia Sommers, of Huntersville, is a cooking enthusiast and a registered nurse who has written for numerous publications.

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