Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Only Slightly Nuts

I used to think I was completely nuts when I decided that graduate school was a good idea. Have you ever known any sane graduate students? Yeah, I don’t either. And it concerns me deeply that the longer one stays in academia, the crazier one gets. It’s either that or they’re spiking the coffee with crazy pills around here.

The thing is, a Ph.D. program is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. The reason they call it “training” is that grad students fall on their faces every now and then. It can happen for lots of reasons: your research starts to tank, you get scooped by someone else, your boss takes a job in Europe without consulting you first, your paper spends a year in review purgatory. Not that I would know anything about that last one personally…or maybe I do! When my paper was in review purgatory, I sank deep into the mud of depression. It was ugly. I realize now, with the benefit of hindsight, that I did the best thing I could possibly do: I waited. I didn’t quit grad school, even though I was very tempted. I avoided any truly self-destructive behavior, opting for kitchen therapy instead. I wrote a lot on this blog. And I tried to keep up my energy by eating a lot of almonds.

Almonds are the most sophisticated nut. Even the name is a little chic, with that “l” silently forming your mouth into a half-yawn. Almonds are delicate in flavor, big on crunch, and utterly delicious in my book. I owe them a debt of gratitude; they feed me so well and so happily. Yasmin tagged me to talk about seven random things today. Instead, I’m going to bend the rules here and share seven random things about almonds. It’s only slightly nuts to love almonds as much as I do.

1) Like Nick, the friendly Peanut Butter Boy, I love almonds but don’t care for almond butter. I have not, however, tried the almond butter from Barney Butter, which practically has food bloggers shouting from the rooftops about how good it is. Nick, good guy that he is, has promised to share his thoughts with me about Barney Butter after he tries it, even if it sucks. This is one of the perks of being part of a foodie community.

A post-script about Barney Butter, added on January 9, 2009: Barney Butter has a free shipping code, ship4free, which worked for me in December 2008 when I was ordering Christmas presents. I'm grateful to Kath of Kath Eats Real Food for providing the code to her readers; many other bloggers are also giving out the code and now, so am I! Hurray for almond butter!

2) I want to play around more with almond parfaits. I remember a tasty one I made during my first year of grad school in which layers of plain yogurt, honey, bananas, and almonds are spooned into a glass. I stole the recipe from Self magazine. It is time to dust off the parfait glasses again!

3) My friend Shawn Marie cannot STAND almonds. She swears they taste like cyanide. Did you know that we can’t eat wild almonds because they really do contain cyanide? How lucky are we that a mutant almond tree happened to lose its ability to synthesize cyanide? I’d say we are very lucky.

4) My favorite almond granola is Molly’s French Chocolate Granola, which might be the very best recipe I’ve found on the internet. I pour milk over my granola and gobble it down in greedy spoonfuls. Daphna would want me to add that she likes this granola without the chocolate.

5) In order to make French Chocolate Granola whenever the mood strikes, I now keep a big bag of almonds and a two-pound jug of honey in the kitchen. I like to be prepared.

6) Matt does not like nuts in things. This is one of the few things about him that I do not love. It makes my baking life difficult if he is around. But I love him so much that I left the almonds out of half a batch of Sweet Maple-Glazed Almond Drop Scones, the recipe for which I found in The Cornbread Gospels. That was such a lovely morning: I baked scones and trashed the kitchen while Matt worked, then we had this stew and fresh-baked scones for lunch. We learned that the huge, shiny, rimmed roasting pan he gave me for Christmas works beautifully for baking scones. I love that pan.

7) My bag of almond flour is so underused that it makes me sad. I’ve made three different things with it. My suggestion box is open for new recipes that call for almond flour.

Want to play along at home? In order to not lose any friends, I’m not going to tag anyone directly, but I will provide the official meme rules. And if you are inspired to play, leave me a message and I'll stop by to say hi!

1) Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog. (Check!)
2) Share seven random or weird things about yourself. (Check!)
3) Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links. (Forgive me, Yasmin!)
4) Let each person know she’s been tagged by leaving a comment on her blog. (Does it count that I left Yasmin a comment?)


yasmin said...

7 facts about almonds! i love it. We have a big bag of unused almonds at home, so this is a pretty inspiring post for me. I've been all about cashews, but I should give almonds a second chance. I especially like the idea of integrating them into baking, it seems it's always about the walnuts when it comes to baked things.

Rosiecat said...

Is it crazy that I have six kinds of nuts in my kitchen right now? Seven, if you count me when I'm cooking.

Yasmin, I always forget about cashews! I love cashew butter--I had a streak a few years ago where I made smoothies with cashew butter--but I need to use up my cashews before they become rancid. Any ideas? Perhaps you could post seven things you like to do with cashews? :-)

The walnut gets all the attention...what a diva.

seeleelive (for the love of peanut butter) said...

I stumbled across your blog from *you guessed it* Peanut Butter Boy, and after reading your 1st comment about Almonds, I would like to add that I cannot wait for Nick's review on Barney Butter. I have a jar of MaraNatha AB in my room and it's only 1/2 used. I go through Peanut Butta like a busy bee making honey...

JD said...

RA, I second the comment from Matt about not liking nuts in things. I think for me it is a texture thing. Usually when nuts are in things, they are in smooth and creamy things, like ice cream or brownies. Leave the nice smooth texture alone please! I do, however, love to snack on nuts, almonds and cashews especially. I also love almond slices in salads.

Rosiecat said...

Busy indeed, Seeleelive! What an adorable comment. I keep checking the nut butter shelves in Whole Foods for Barney Butter; I would buy a jar to try if it were in a grocery store near me. I'm not quite ready to start mail-ordering my food...but if Nick gives it the thumbs-up, then I'll probably ask my friend Daphna if she wants to order some Barney Butter with me.

JD, I didn't know this about you! I will keep it in mind the next time we're eating home-cooked food together. Interestingly, Matt also likes nuts by themselves; I think it's a texture and a flavor thing for him.

I agree with you: nuts in a salad are great! They make it more of a main dish for me, especially if there are some cubes of cheese thrown into the mix. Yum.

daphna said...

Sure, do you want to order with the free shipping code? We can each get a jar!

Rosiecat said...

Daphna, let's do it! Barney Butter, meet your newest friends.

I think I should do a review of Barney Butter, too! You know, just to thrown my two cents' worth into the mix. Daphna, would you like to do a two-palate review with me?

Joanna said...

i didn't know almond flour existed!!! i've never heard of it before and i don't think i've seen it either.

i love almonds, too. before i went vegan, i ate almond joys all the time. they were my favorite candy bar and i have yet to find a vegan replacement :(

ttfn300 said...

ooh, almond flour... i'll point you here:

(i didn't have coconut flour, so just used mix AP and WW pastry, also cut back on the sweetner)

almonds, cashew, all nut butters... how i love thee :) maybe they should go on my xmas list!

Rosiecat said...

Joanna, almond flour is great! I love it. It's just finely ground almonds, with or without skins, depending on whether they've been removed before the nuts are ground. I buy mine at Whole Foods in the baking aisle; I think I bought the Bob's Red Mill brand. I've made Almond Blondies and a muffin recipe with it. Mostly I think of it as a way to replace wheat flour with something fun and different--more caloric, but also packed with nutrients.

So sorry to hear about the Almond Joy! You could toss together some almonds, vegan dark chocolate, and coconut in a baggie for now...until you find a better replacement. Almond Joy Trail Mix!

ttfn300, hubba hubba! That cake sounds awesome. I should make it, especially since my freezer is refusing to let me stuff any more bananas inside. Did you use stevia? If so, how did it work out for you?

I would love a stocking filled with jars of nut butter! I think you're really onto something here...

ttfn300 said...

Hmmm, i don't even remember seeing that in the recipe :) oops! I think I had tasted my banana mix (a couple times, just to make sure it was ok) and it was so sweet I just went without adding anything to the dry ingredients.

Rosiecat said...

ttfn300, I like your methods. I think I'll use a similar strategy when I (finally!) get a chance to make that cake. Honey and bananas are both very sweet. I might get a little crazy, though, and throw in a few shreds of coconut! Oh yes.

Asmodeus said...

I agree with you that Matt is lame for not liking nuts in things. Life is too short to eat everything separately, for Allah's sake!

Rosiecat said...

Or perhaps Matt is just more in touch with his inner hunter/gatherer? He does like big hunks of meat, perfectly ripe fruit, and handfuls of nuts, but he likes them as separate courses. If he can appreciate the flavors in such simple foods, does that make his palate more refined? Or does it make it less refined if he doesn't appreciate the synergy when nuts join forces with scones?

Perhaps only Allah can answer these existential questions.