Monthly Archives: May 2012

Difference Between Blanched and Unblanched Almond Flour

This year I began baking with almond flour. Most recipes will call for non-specific regular “almond flour” while others specify “blanched almond flour”. This intrigued me, was there really a difference? My local grocery store only sells Bob’s Red Mill and that has been what I’ve been buying and using and have found it to work well but I had nothing to compare it to. I was surprised to read that Elana, from Elana’s Pantry and author of the book The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, does not recommend Bob’s Red Mill (see what she says here) and instead favors Honeyville Farms.

Several years ago Mr. Nine & I had the pleasure of visiting Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie, Oregon. I love his vision of the company, their products and facility! His almond flour has been working fine in my recipes, but it is really expensive so I decided to look into alternatives.

A family member recommended Trader Joe’s for having the best prices on almond flour and indeed they do! Too good to be true? I decided to grab a bag at TJ’s this weekend, and ordered a bag from Honeyville online to compare all three.

Almond Flour Brands

Here we have Honeyville Farms, Trader Joe’s and Bob’s Red Mill (in the container, unfortunately I do not have the original bag). Let’s take a look at all three compared side by side.

Almond Flour Comparison

Honeyville Farms Blanched Almond Flour – $6 lb.*
view on Honeyville Farm’s website

Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal/Flour From Blanched Whole Almonds – $10.99 lb.
view on Bob’s Red Mill website

Trader Joe’s Nuts Just Almond Meal – $3.99 lb.
view on Trader Joe’s website 

* Based upon purchase price of $29.99 for a 5 lb. bag since 5 lbs. is the minimum purchase. Please note that I did not include the cost of shipping or sales tax, if applicable. Prices will also vary depending on where you live and shop. I’ve seen Bob’s Red Mill for as high as $12.99 at Super Target down the road!

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal Flour Blanched

Shown above is Bob’s Red Mill. A nice light golden color (obviously blanched, even though that word doesn’t stand out on the product packaging) and is a fine texture. The packaging describes this as a meal/flour.

Honeyville Farms Blanched Almond Flour

This is Honeyville Farm’s almond flour. Very similar to Bob’s, just a touch lighter in color and is ground just ever so slightly finer. It would be hard for me to tell the difference if I was not directly comparing the two. I did notice that Honeyville was more fragrant in smell (a fresher almond aroma).

Trader Joe's Almond Meal

Trader Joe’s almond meal is darker in color and you can see the pieces of skin. This is a tell-tale sign that it is not blanched.

It is important to know that almond meal is not the same as almond flour. Almond meal is simply ground up whole almonds with their skins, while almond flour is blanched and processed into a finely ground flour. Trader Joe’s says “meal” right on the bag, and you tell an immediate difference by color.

I’ve used both Bob’s and Honeyville in baking and both perform as well as I’d expect. I’ve yet to try Trader Joe’s in a baking application (just bought it this past weekend), but I think it would be better suited for applications as breading chicken, or mixed into something where you wouldn’t mind the little pieces of almond skin. It might also work in a recipe where flour is not one of the main ingredients, or where the end result has a dense texture.

To me, Bob’s and Honeyville are virtually the same. Bob’s is easier for me to purchase since I can just go down to my local store and buy a bag. However, even with shipping ($4.49), Honeyville Farm’s almond flour is a heck of a lot cheaper. Depending on where you shop the savings could be 50%! The downfall to Honeyville is that you do have to buy it in bulk  (minimum 5 lbs.) but I will definitely use it up so I didn’t mind buying such a large bag.

In conclusion Honeyville Farms is the winner in my book because of price, color, freshness and how it performs. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Bob’s either, especially if you don’t plan on making a lot of recipes with it and don’t want to commit to a 5 lb. bag.

What brand of almond flour do you use? Have you tried Trader Joe’s Almond Meal in baking? How did it turn out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Looking for where to buy almond flour? Most stores like Jewel, Trader Joe’s, Super Target, Woodman’s, Whole Foods & Hy-Vee (to name a few) carry it in the gluten-free section or in the aisle with specialty flours and baking mixes. The most popular brand in my area is Bob’s Red Mill and it comes in a clear plastic 1 lb. bag. You can also order it online on websites like Honeyville (see link in post above) or King Arthur Flour. You could also make your own, but I’ll save that for another post. 😉

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Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , | 24 Comments

A Healthy Food Community is Growing

Living in a community plagued an abundance of fast food restaurants and more greasy bar food than one could imagine, it is refreshing to see some healthy and creative women in our community combating that.

Rural Girl Soups

Rural Girl Soup to Go

Rural Girl Salad to Go

Last month, I had the opportunity to sample some soups & salads at a special event from a new soup delivery business called Rural Girl Soups. The concept is a weekly soup service that will deliver soup to your front door. The owner, Gail, makes all the soups from scratch and her husband Joe makes the deliveries. You leave a cooler with ice on your front step, similar to an old-fashioned milk delivery service. Rural Girl also sells colorful salads, cookies and resells hand pies from Over The Top Sweets in Elgin, Illinois and Potter’s Crackers from Madison, Wisconsin. (I just wrote about Potter’s in my last blog post, I picked up a package of their Rhubarb Graham Crackers at the Dane County Farmer’s Market!)

Jo Cessna Natural Cook

Then there is Jo Cessna, a lady who is helping us eat healthier one dish at a time. She calls herself A Natural Cook, and focuses on clean eating principles. Jo makes appearances a local events (I first saw her at a Progressive Wine Tasting last year), and does workshops and private or small-group cooking lessons. She also sells recipe cards and has a blog with more good stuff!

It is refreshing to these smart, beautiful, entrepreneurial women leaving their mark to help this community get back to real food. I’m inspired by these women and I want to be part of this real food movement and help to inspire others.

I’ve been busy in my own kitchen trying lots of new recipes. Most of the recipes I have been trying have been Paleo-ish or at least clean eating and gluten-free.

Mustard Lime Chicken

Elana’s Pantry Mustard Lime Chicken on the grill with a side of cauliflower puree. This marinade rocks and is so simple! Lime juice, cilantro, dijon mustard, olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper all mixed up in the Vitamix. I only had time to marinate it for 20 minutes (just long enough for the charcoal to get hot) and it was plenty of time! Loads of flavor here. The best part? I have a leftover breast that I plan on slicing up for a salad for lunch today!

Almond Cheddar Crackers

From the Almond Flour Cookbook, I made these Cheddar Cheese Crackers. They are made from almond flour, salt, baking soda, cheddar cheese, grapeseed oil and eggs. They were super easy to make (the oils from the cheese keep the dough nice and easy to form and roll), using parchment paper keeps things clean and pre-scoring them made it a cinch to snap after baking. I had to increase my bake time by 10 minutes to get them golden brown. They taste very similar to Cheez-Its only much better for you. I used a sharp cheddar from Wisconsin that I grated fresh (way better than the pre-shredded cheese!) and the flavor was great. The only thing I am not thrilled about is the texture which is a bit soft. It kind of reminds me of eating a stale cracker that has softened. 😦 I still like them enough to eat them, but wish they were crisper. This recipe makes A LOT of crackers so I may smash some and use it as a “breading” for baked chicken!

Paleo Breakfast Cake

Paleo Breakfast Bread. Wow. Super simple and quick to make! These contain only almond butter, eggs, honey, vanilla extract, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. The recipe also calls for stevia, but I left that out as I find it too bitter in baked goods. I mixed it in my Kitchen-Aid and then into the oven it went for 15 minutes (quick!). This “cake” has a mild sweetness and is really addicting!

Paleo Breakfast Cake

Moist, not overly sweet with a beautiful nuttiness. I usually wait for a cake to cool before cutting it, but I cut into this within minutes of it coming out of the oven. It tastes great warm, and sliced up fine. It also tastes good room temp. I had to stop myself from eating the whole pan.

I am in a baking mood this week, but a friend reminded me to focus more on eating vegetables and other healthy, clean, natural foods, and not just making Paleo-fied desserts and treats. I don’t always get into the baking mood though, so I am just enjoying it while I’m on a roll. However I will have to pay extra attention to adding more veggies into next week’s meal plan because I wholeheartedly agree with her (right after I make these Primal Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies). 😉

I almost forgot, I won Tales from an Average Runner’s Cryocup Giveaway! Mr. Nine made a ice massager from a Dixie Cup filled with water, but this looks better and more durable. I’ll let you know how it works once I get to try it.

Do you have any real food activists in your community? How are they making positive changes? Any tips on baking crackers that stay crispy?

Categories: Food, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Craving Quiche

Spent a fun-filled weekend in Madison.

Giraffe at Henry Vilas Zoo

Went to the zoo.

Pier on Lake Mendota

Walked along the Lake Mendota.

Stones Throw Madison

Did some bargain shopping ($10 clearance Lole top!).

Hopalicious and New Glarus

Stocked the fridge with some fave Wisconsin brews and my favorite preserves from the Dane County Farmers’ Market.

Potter's Crackers

And a few more Farmers’ Market finds like Stella’s Hot & Spicy Cheese Bread and these Rhubarb Graham Crackers from Potter’s Crackers.

There was also lots of eating, wandering around, a trip to Olbrich Botanical Gardens and we even went over to Sundance to see the film Salmon Fishing in Yemen.

Today I stayed home and got caught up on things like laundry and mowing the lawn. After attending to the fun domestic stuff, I took a little trip to Barnes & Noble and treated myself to a new cookbook. After a week of eating out (between my Door County and Madison travels) I wanted to jumpstart some healthy eating and be inspired with some new recipes.

The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

I’ve been making many of Elana’s recipes from her website and thought it was time that I bought her book. While in Madison, I had some of the best quiche ever from La Baguette. Authentic French bakery, the quiche and pastries taste just like I remember from Paris. Swoon. While the quiche was sinful, it was also most likely made with butter and heavy cream (that is why it tastes so darn good!). I was happy to see a healthier version of quiche in the cookbook and decided that I’d make it for dinner tonight.

Quiche Crust

Here is the Savory Pie Crust (I did a sloppy job pressing it in the pan) made with just almond flour, baking soda, salt, green oniongrape seed oil and water. I did have to bake it about 12 minutes longer than the recipe stated, but it came out perfectly golden and made the house smell like almond cookies.

While the crust was cooling, I cooked the onion, broccoli, mushroomssun-dried tomatoes and garlic. I let the veggie mixture cool and went to water some plants in the garden. A half hour later and I was ready to prepare the quiche. I whisked 3 eggs and gently stirred in goat cheese & salt. I folded in the veggies and poured it into the prepared crust. Baked for 35 minutes and then let it sit for another half hour (while I did some more gardening).

Savory Quiche

The completed Savory Vegetable Quiche cooling on the table.

Quiche Closeup

Sliced and plated, ready to eat. Mr. Nine added lots of hot sauce to his, and admittedly the quiche was rather bland. I decided to forgo the hot sauce and just enjoy the mild veggie flavors. The crust was a bit crumbly, like a graham cracker crust. Next time I’d add another egg or two (my egg to veggie ratio seemed off, but I just eyeballed my measurements) but this was a good “healthy quiche” recipe. Of course it wasn’t as indulgent and creamy as La Baguette, but I won’t have to spend an extra hour (or two, or three) in the gym because of it. 😉

As I am writing this blog post, I smelled something burning. My Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars! It wasn’t quite ready at 25 minutes, so I left it in for a few more but forgot to set the timer. 😦 I hope they are not too ruined… they look okay, but do smell a little overdone. I have no idea how long they’ve been in there… but longer than they should have been. Boo. I really wanted these to snack on this week and do not feel like making another batch tonight.

It is amazing how you can sit down at the computer for “just a few minutes” blogging, reading emails, catching up on Facebook and suddenly a huge chunk of time is gone.

Do you ever lose track of time while on the computer? Do you ever set a timer for yourself to limit your online time? What is your favorite quiche recipe? Rich and indulgent or light and healthy?

Update: The Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars ended up being edible. A little on the dry side, but not burnt. They were probably in there 10-15 minutes longer than they were suppose to so that says a lot to how fool-proof this recipe is. 🙂

Categories: Food, Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Nicolet Bay 5k Race Weekend Recap

Back from my girls weekend in Door County!

Door County Country Chalet

Our charming rental “chalet” in the woods. After dropping off our luggage we went to the Ephraim Town Hall for packet pick-up. The sun was out and there was an excitement in the air (along with lots of bugs). That evening we stayed in and cooked since it was the night before the race. Roasted vegetable lasagna was the star, and a garden salad, spinach cake, garlic bread were the supporting acts. We also had a festive taco dip, fresh fruit, and other little snacks. I made up a batch of cranberry apricot truffles for something sweet. We had so much food that we forgot to take some out of the fridge. While most people like to super hydrate with water the night before a race, I like to have a glass of wine with my dinner to relax. 🙂 Dinner was wonderful and we went to bed early to get a good night of rest.

This was my first race coming back from my ITB injury, and as much as I wanted to run the half marathon with the girls, I played it safe and stuck to the 5k race option. Check out the course:

Nicolet Bay 5k Course Map

The course runs on park roads that hug the two bays. I was so excited!

The race didn’t start until 10:35 so we were able to sleep in, have breakfast and take our time getting ready.

Costco Running Outfit

My race outfit from Costco! Yes, Costco makes decent running clothes and I love them. The pants are Kirkland yoga crop pants for $16.99 and the space-dye racer-back tank was $12.99. There is a rumor that some of Costco’s workout clothes are made in the same place where they make Lululemon. I own a pair of Lululemon capri pants and I can say that I think the Costco ones are just as good if not better quality. The fit and fabric are both perfect and the price is right. I actually bought a pair of these pants last summer and after a few dozen washes they are still great and don’t pill like Lululemon. The amount of money I saved covered the cost of my race entry, my portion of the chalet rental and a few bottles of cherry wine! 😉 Check out these other discussions on Costco’s Kirkland workout clothes here, here and here.

We decided to drive to the race instead of taking the trolley. There were tents set up with clothing and shoe vendors, food, drinks and music playing on the speakers. We had quite a bit of a wait until the start (I had about an hour and a half) so we just chatted and the time flew by.

Get Outdoors Wisconsin

The weather was PERFECT for running. It started out cloudy and cool, a few rain drops, then the sun came out. My friends left to go head to their half marathon start and I decided to walk around Nicolet Bay and take some photos. Pretty soon it was time for me to follow the signs to the starting line.

5k Start

There were lots of people with fun signs like this one:

Race Sign

I did a mile warm-up run 10 minutes before the start and then lined up with about 500 other runners.

Starting Line

I started in the back of the front third of the pack, although I soon realized that I should have started closer to the front. Many people in front of me walked right from the start and I landed on my ankle funny trying to get around them. The first mile flew by and I was really in a good groove. Much of the race is on tree-lined paved roads but every once in awhile you’d see views of the bay.

Door County Green Bay

Could the scenery be any better? The water was so blue and the sun had come out and made everything sparkle.

Around Mile 2

This was around mile 2. The trees were so green and although there were other runners on the course it wasn’t too crowded.

Horseshoe Island

Another view of the water, between miles 2 and 3. That is Horseshoe Island in the background.

Park Road

A typical view of the course, smooth winding roads in the park. Most of the route was flat but there were a few slight hills. I heard the half marathon course had many more hills.

I was in awe of the views, and just the feeling of being alive and healthy enough to run through the park that I started talking aloud sharing my excitement with whomever was next to me. I kept snapping pics like these as I was running and wasn’t taking the race too seriously. I wanted to finish in a decent time but also knew that I haven’t been back running long and my pace hasn’t been the greatest. I saw the finish line and sprinted into the chute and was surprised with my time of 28:20.

7 out of 51 Age Group43 out of 315 Gender104 out of 479 Overall

I’ll take that. Honestly the time didn’t matter, just finishing without feeling any knee pain was my goal. Sometimes people get so hung up on their times that they forget to enjoy the course. I wanted to soak it all in and be “aware” and present in the moment.

I ran down to the food tent for a cookie, banana and water and then headed to the beach to do a little yoga and stretching. I knew I wasn’t getting an age group award but I stuck around to hear most of the runners be called up to the awards table. It was just before noon and I wanted to go back out on the course and cheer and wait for my friends who were doing the half. I walked up to mile 12 which had a perfect view of the bay and I cheered for a half hour straight until my hands felt numb from clapping.

Soon I heard my friends come charging down the course and I ran with them to the finish. It was amazing to see Mandy cross the finish line of her first half marathon! I started to cry a little! There was hugging, laughing, and smiling until our faces hurt.

After heading back to clean up, we went to Husby’s for our free beer and some greasy bar food. The Kentucky Derby came on and that was fun to watch another kind of race. I’ll Have Another won!

Husby's Kentucky Derby

They had a band outside and they played one of my favorite songs – Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer” – so we stayed to listen to a few songs. We tried to stay up late drinking and celebrating, but truth be told we were so exhausted that we turned in early. I needed toothpicks for my eyelids to keep them open!

My friend who organized this weekend gave us Etsy swag bags on our pillows that contained this thoughtful “sole sister” charm.

Sole Sister Charm

Photo by Ilona M.

As someone who loves Etsy and use to sell on there, it made me happy to see that she got everything from there. I like that this charm has a bare foot, too because I’ve been running semi-barefoot (minimalist) lately.

The following morning we went to White Gull Inn for breakfast, picked up wine, stopped for coffee, shopping, etc. and then headed home. There were so many other moments in between that I am leaving out for the sake of keeping this post fairly short.

The race was well organized, had a small town feel (despite a decent number of runners), an amazing course and accurate mile markers (which is rare). It was perfect and I’d do it again! It was a great weekend and I am happy to be back running.

What is your favorite race? Do you ever travel to do races with friends, or do you prefer to keep it local?

Categories: Running, Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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