5 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About California Almonds

Disclosure: I was provided with free travel and accommodations to the California Almond Orchard experience. I was not additionally compensated for my time. 

Think about this question for 30 seconds. Where did the almonds in your pantry come from?

If your answer is Trader Joe’s or the local supermarket, then this post is for you. Up until about two weeks ago,  I had not considered much about almonds other than their wonderful nutrient composition.  If someone asked me, “What makes almonds good for you?” I would’ve rattled off a list of nutrients, like fiber, protein, healthy fats, Vitamin E and calcium. If someone asked me, “How are they grown?”,  my answer would have been, “ummmm…”

5 facts about almonds

Luckily, the California Almond Board sent me on an amazing trip to the almond orchards in Lodi, California, where I was educated in all things almonds, including sustainability, growing methods, almond life cycles and nutrition research. This trip was so educational and interesting that I felt compelled to share what I learned. Plus, I’ve had this awesome almond recipe in the Nutrition à la Natalie recipe vault, and this is the perfect time to share it. Make sure you read all the way through to get the recipe.

5 Amazing Facts About California Almonds:

  1. Almond varieties. An almond is an almond, right? Wrong! There are actually about 30 different almond varieties produced in California, and 10 of those varieties represent over 70% of production. The different varieties are sorted into groups based on characteristics such as size, shape, and “blanchability” (removal of the skin). Most almonds produced in California are called Nonpareil, California or Mission.
  2. Bees are vital to almond growth. In recent years, there have been problems with honey bee survival. Since 1995, almond growers have invested more $2.3 million dollars in research to improve honey bee health. The Almond Board also partners with more than 20 organizations to support honey bee health.
  3. Almonds use the same amount of water as many other crops. In California, almonds have the reputation of using more water than other crops, which is unequivocally false. In the last 20 years. almond growers have worked to improve their water efficiency by 33%.
    Growing almonds uses the same amount of water as growing walnuts, pistachios, apples, pears, cherries, citrus and avocados.
  4. The almond life cycle is complex. Almonds grow on trees in November through February. They bloom into beautiful white flowers between February and March. Boxes of bees are placed in the orchards to pollinate the almond blossoms, and each pollinated blossom turns into an almond. From March to June, almonds mature on the tree and the kernel inside and the green fuzzy hull form and the shell hardens. In July and early August, almond hulls dry out and turn from green to brown and begin to split open. Shortly before harvest, the hulls open completely and look like this:almonds in the shell

From mid-August through October, mechanical tree shakers harvest the almonds by vigorously shaking them to the ground.

The almonds then dry in the sun before they are swept into rows and picked up by another machine.  The almonds then go to a processing facility to have their hulls and shells removed. The hulls are then used as livestock feed, and the shells are used as livestock bedding. The almonds are sorted according to grade and size. Then, they are kept in temperature controlled storage to maintain quality until they are shipped.

5. A nutrition fun fact. 

did-you-know-almonds

And finally, a recipe video for Almond Crusted Date Balls. What’s your favorite fact from this post? Share it with me on Facebook or Twitter!

Makes 5-6 balls

Ingredients:

¼ cup raw unsalted California Almonds

½ cup of pitted dates

1 tablespoon of peanut butter

¼ teaspoon of sea salt

Directions:

  • Place almonds in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
  • Place chopped almonds on a hot pan and toast until golden brown. Set aside the almonds.
  • Put the dates and peanut butter in the food processor and process until the mixture comes together.
  • Add sea salt to the almonds.
  • Roll the date and peanut butter mixture into tiny balls. Coat the balls in the almond mixture. Set aside on wax paper. When all the balls are coated, put in the fridge for at least one hour.

 

Blog Brûlée + A Love Letter To Blogging

10-productivity-tips

Disclosure: My attendance at the Blog Brûlée is partially funded by Sponsors of the Blog Brûlée, and I received a discounted registration to the event in exchange for writing this post. Opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated for my time.

As many of you know, I made a life changing decision six years ago to quit my job and go back to school to study nutrition. I’m always asked why I chose the field of nutrition and the answer is simple– I love to cook, create healthy recipes, and I’m a huge fitness buff.  Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, right? That’s what I thought when I decided to turn my hobbies into a career. But, in grad school it became evident that nutrition is not just about cooking and enjoying healthy food.  Nutrition is a very clinically driven and scientific focused field. I quickly learned that many Dietitians work in hospitals or in the medical profession. Nervous that my career might lead me away from the things that I loved about nutrition, I created Nutrition à la Natalie.

This blog began as a simple platform to share what I love– healthy recipes and practical nutrition advice.  I didn’t know it at the time, but starting Nutrition à la Natalie was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Because I’m a blogger, I’m extremely fortunate to be able to participate in some amazing events, like Blog Brûlée. This once in a lifetime event is an invitation-only, blogging conference that provides education on a number of topics, such as blogging and social media best practices, fundamentals of food photography, communication and marketing strategies, brand identity and monetization. Blog Brûlée was created by the amazing Registered Dietitians that created the Recipe ReDux, and I was invited to the event because of my active participtation in The Recipe ReDux community. All of the attendees “have demonstrated leadership and participation in the healthy food blogging community and exhibit potential for growth and development in areas of social media outreach, photography, brand identity, etc.” 

Needless to say, I’m beyond excited to attend and I’m thrilled with the progression of my blogging journey. So, in the spirit of blogging, I put together a list of all things I love about being a blogger. For anyone who is thinking of starting a blog, here are some reasons why you should take the plunge.

  1. First and foremost, I get to attend incredible events–Blog Brûlée.
  2. I’ve developed a nutrition personality. My blog has taught (or forced) me to take a nutrition stance and develop a food philosophy. It’s not always easy to determine my thoughts on controversial topics, like sports drinks, being a vegetarian, whether or not coffee is healthy and body image, but writing about these things forces me to state my opinion. 
  3. I can share reliable information with a large audience. This blog is a place where I can share reliable and evidence based sports nutrition information with the masses. I try to present complicated topics in a way that is interesting and fun to read. 
  4. I’ve grown my writing skills and expanded my writing portfolio. As I mentioned earlier, nutrition is a very scientific field, and writing is not a big part of what you learn in school. This blog has taught me that I write  pretty well, and other nutrition publications are actually looking for Dietitian writers. Because of this blog, I now write for Women’s Running Magazine, FitnessMagazine.com, Eating Well, Shape.com and Food & Nutrition Magazine.  
  5. I’m able to connect with many of you! So many people have reached out to me from this blog, and I love being able to help and answer questions about nutrition and career changes. Keep the emails coming!
  6. I connect with many brands. I’m very excited to say that I might be a brand ambassador for some of my favorite food companies soon, so stay tuned on that. There will also be many awesome healthy living brands sponsoring Blog Brûlée, including Siggi’sAldiDavidson’sNational Peanut BoardMars Food of North AmericaPom WonderfulBell Institute of Health and Nutrition (General Mills) and Nestlé.
  7. I’m part of a blogging community. I’ve met so many other awesome blogging Dietitian’s through social media, and I’m excited to meet many of them in person at Blog Brûlée. Here’s a list of the other bloggers who will be joining me at the conference.  I highly recommend you check out their awesome blogs.

Stephanie McKercher, MS, RD | The Grateful Grazer

Ginger Hultin, MS RDN CSO | Champagne Nutrition

Brittany Poulson, MDA, RDN, CD, CDE | Your Choice Nutrition

Tawnie Kroll, RDN | Krolls Korner

Jodi Danen RD |  The Average RD

Christy Brissette, MS, RD | 80 Twenty Nutrition – Healthy Eating Made Simple

Liz Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT | Shaw’s Simple Swaps

Annemarie Rossi | Real Food Real Deals

Kristy Hegner, MPH, RD | Chocolate Slopes

Lauren Sharifi, RD LDN | Bite of Health Nutrition

Jessica DeGore RD LDN | Dietitian Jess

Bailey Sissom | Simply Sissom

Rebecca Clyde RD, CD | Nourish Nutrition Co.

Kelli Shallal MPH, RD, CPT | Hungry Hobby

Amber Ketchum, MDS, RD | Homemade Nutrition

Dianna Sinni, RDN, LD | Chard In Charge

Emily Cope-Kyle, MS, RDN | Emily Kyle Nutrition

Kristen Smith, MS, RDN, LD | 360 Family Nutrition

If you’re thinking of starting a blog, don’t waste another second! Just know that it’s a labor of love and something that should give you enjoyment. Stay tuned for more info on Blog Brûlée.  And follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to see pictures from the event.

 

Cauliflower Poppers with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

Anyone who says they don’t like appetizers is clearly lying. My favorite part of any party is having a cocktail while enjoying some delicious bite sized treats. The only problem with appetizers is that they are usually really high in calories and not very filling. And, I end up eating a ton of them and not feeling full afterwards. Luckily, that’s not the case with these Cauliflower Poppers with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce.

pinterest photo of caulfilower poppers

These fun appetizers are loaded with fiber, so they will actually fill you up. Plus, they are low in calories so you won’t feel guilty indulging in these and some dessert. Make them for your next tailgating party and they will disappear in an instant!

Makes 4-6 serving (each serving is 4-5 poppers)

Ingredients:
Poppers:
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
cooking spray

Sauce:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

cauliflower poppers with honey mustard dipping sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cornmeal, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, Old Bay, cayenne and sea salt. Stir until well combined. Put the flour in a separate bowl. In a third bowl, crack two eggs and whisk together.
  3. Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray. Take each piece of cauliflower and dip it into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumb mixture. When the piece is evenly coated, lay it on the baking sheet. Repeat with each piece until the baking sheet is full (you may need a second baking sheet).
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes and then turn the cauliflower. Bake for 10 more minutes on the opposite side.
  5. While the cauliflower is cooking, make the sauce by whisking together the oil, yogurt, mustard, vinegar and honey. Season with salt and pepper.

#WednesdayWisdom. Did You Know?

Eight weeks ago, I started sharing a “Did You Know?” picture every Wednesday. The picture includes 1-3 sentences about a certain food or nutrition fact. This week for #WednesdayWisdom, I compiled all 8 pictures here so that you can catch up on any you may have missed. Make sure you follow my Instagram and Facebook page to see these updates every Wednesday.

TELL ME: Is there a certain food or nutrition fact that you would like to learn more about next Wednesday?

Apples are a member of the rose family of plants. (1)fun facts about grapes  popcorn is a whole grainwhy jicama is a probiotic  facts about strawberries facts about coffee information about side stitches information about sugar guidelines for kids

Lemony Grain Salad with Feta & Almonds

I really don’t like to think of Labor Day Weekend as the end of summer. Not only is it still hot and humid in NY, but summer doesn’t officially end until September 22nd.  So I’m saying NO to the end of the summer and whipping up a delicious and refreshing summery grain salad. Even if you don’t agree with my sentiment, you will definitely want to make this Lemony Grain Salad with Feta & Almond to accompany your main dishes at this weekend’s backyard BBQ.

PINTEREST PICTURE OF LEMONY GRAIN SALAD

To create this healthy salad, I used Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend, which is a combination of Israeli couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans and red quinoa. Don’t live near a Trader Joe’s? No problem. Use any other dry grain blend that you can find at your local supermarket and cook it according to the package directions. I like to use a variety of grains for different textures and nutrients. I also added some shredded carrots, chopped cucumber and slivered almonds for a little crunch.  Lastly, the saltiness of the feta cheese nicely balances the tart lemony dressing. I love how all of these flavors came together, and it’s the perfect lighter side dish for anyone who doesn’t want to feel overly full at the end of the BBQ.

grain salad with lemon, cucumbers, carrots and feta

Makes 4-6 servings (a serving is about 1/2 cup)

Ingredients:
2.5 cups water
1.5 cups Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend (or any other blend of dry grains)

Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup cucumber, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots, washed and shredded (I used a peeler to peel them into thin shreds)
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/4 cup unsalted slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

lemony grain salad with cucumbers, carrots and feta

Directions:

  1. Bring the water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add the grains to the water. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside in a large bowl to cool.
  2. While the grains are cooling, make the dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and honey. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Once the grains have cooled (they can be luke warm), add the cucumber, carrots, almonds, feta cheese, salt and pepper to the bowl. Pour in the dressing and stir to mix. Eat immediately or refrigerate for later.