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Blue Diamond Growers put love into Almond Breeze

“The almond is a very versatile product.”

No one exudes passion for a nut quite like Mel Machado. Machado is the director of members relations at Blue Diamond Growers, and is as invested in the business as any almond grower.

A farmer himself, Machado says you either love it, or you don’t. “Farming is a system and by that, there are no independent actions that don’t have reactions somewhere else,” he said. “It’s definitely not the easiest thing in the world. It takes vision and strength to be a good farmer.”

But the one thing about almond growing in California is that Blue Diamond values the input of every single one of the people working the fields — something that can’t be said about most companies.

Blue Diamond Almond Growers are part of one of the oldest cooperatives in the United States. It was created in 1910 with the intention of giving growers more power in the marketplace and improving the quality of the product. Today, there are over 3,000 growers in the cooperative and every single one of the farmers who market through Blue Diamond is considered an owner.

The important thing to remember about Blue Diamond is that quality is their number one priority. It’s an incredibly family-centric industry, meaning the almonds are grown with love and respect. Some of the growers come from three to four generations of farmers, and each one is invested in the cooperative. In fact, Machado makes a point to introduce the corporate members of Blue Diamond to these farmers so they understand all that goes into making such a delicious product.

In 2013, the cooperative opened the Blue Diamond Almond Innovation Centre, which is the world’s first and only research center dedicated to almond product innovation. It’s through this centre the company comes up with its new ideas. In fact, Almond Breeze, the dairy-free beverage, is a product of the cooperative’s Innovation Centre.  It’s there that different flavours and uses for the product are explored and tested. This includes beverages, snacks, crackers, and of course, traditionally flavoured nuts. Some of Machado’s favourite flavours (as well as his dog’s) are sweet thai chilli and wasabi soy.

The most popular products are, of course, the Almond Breeze beverages. Each one is smooth and creamy with a unique flavour that doesn’t overpower the delicious natural taste of almonds. It’s a great option for lactose-intolerant and vegan customers who still require a source of calcium and vitamins.

My personal favourite is the Unsweetened Almond Coconut drink! It has fewer calories than regular milk, contains the healthy fats and nutrients I need for my day, and tastes absolutely divine on my morning oatmeal!

You can find the Original and Vanilla Almond Breeze (sweetened and unsweetened) in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, but make sure to check the self-stable products on the shelves to find the chocolate and coconut flavours.

Wondering how to use your dairy-free beverages? Try a Key Lime Pie Smoothie:

For more recipes, go here!

Key Lime Pie Smoothie

Prep Time: 10 minutes                              Cook Time: 0 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) Almond Breeze® Unsweetened Vanilla
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh baby spinach
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) lime juice
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) lime zest
  • 5 ice cubes
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Directions

In blender, combine Almond Breeze, avocado, spinach, maple syrup, lime juice, lime zest and ice; purée until smooth.

If desired, rim 2 glasses with fresh lime and dip into toasted coconut.

Nutrition Facts

Per 1/2 recipe: Calories 190, Fat 8g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 150mg, Carbohydrate 27g, Fibre 2g, Sugars 20g, Protein 2g

 

Holiday Baking: empire cookies

In between the chocolate and heavy desserts this holiday, why not try these sandwich empire cookies? This recipe is one of my all-time favourites. Not only do they have a hint of almond in the icing, but the jam centre really balances everything out. They are also relatively easy to make, and look impressive to guests. It’s a refreshing change to the typical sweets passed around on Christmas Eve.

Here’s what you need:

cookie

1/2 cup butter

1 to 1 1/2 cup of white sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon baking soda (1 teaspoon if you use granular sugar)

Filling and icing

Raspberry jam

1 cup icing sugar

2 tablespoons of hot water

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

candied cherries or candied fruit

Photo by Robin Hood

The base is a simple sugar cookie recipe. You can use this one or follow your families instructions. Start by creaming together the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. It’s best to use an electric mixer, but if you don’t have one, make sure the butter is really soft. Then mix together the rest of the dry ingredients together, and pour into mixer gradually as you stir until dough is formed. If you have to, use your hands for the last bit of mixing, making sure to kneed the dough until it forms a ball.

You will be using a rolling pin to roll out the dough, so you may want to split the dough into two to make it easier.

Roll out the dough until relatively thin. Remember this is a sandwich cookie, and the thicker the dough, the bigger the cookie (and the fewer it will make). Use a cookie cutter to create shapes. I like to use a circle, but any shape will do! Place on greased baking sheet or a sheet with parchment paper. Cook for 10 minutes in the oven, at 350 degrees F. Take them out and let them cool.

This cookie has numerous steps. I like to bake the cookies one day, and then put them together the next. Make sure you set time aside for this recipe!

Once the cookies are cool, it’s time for the jam filling. Take your jam and a knife, and spread it on one side of the cookie, preferable the flat side. Take another cookie and place it on top, flat side down so it makes a macaroon-looking shape. Let sit until the jam settles.

In a bowl, mix the icing sugar, almond extract, and hot water together. Put icing on the top cookie, spreading it into a circle. Make sure to have the candied fruit easily accessible. After icing a row of cookies, stop and place a single piece of candied fruit in the centre of the cookie. Complete the row. Then, move on to the next row and repeat. Let the icing harden. This may take a few hours.

And voila! Empire cookies! Enjoy!

5 new ways to spice up your coffee

Mornings can be rough. The nights are short, the kids are off from school, and frankly, it’s too nice outside to even think about spending your day in the office. If you’re like me, you’ll need that cup of coffee before you say your first word. Why not try something new in your daily brewing routine and try these five different ways to spruce up your coffee. You’ll thank us later.

  1. Stir in some black sesame powder:

Black sesame seeds are highly nutritious, packed with vitamin B1, fibre, magnesium and calcium (just to name a few).  Add in a teaspoon to give your coffee a rich, nutty flavour.  This tastes especially good with coconut or almond milk.

  1. Sprinkle on some spices:

You don’t need a trip to Starbucks for that gourmet kick in your cup of joe. Add in some ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or cardamom directly into your cup before you pour in your coffee for a refreshing spice kick. Alternatively, you could sprinkle on the spices after you have poured your coffee for a lighter taste. These spices are a great alternative to sugar!

  1. Try using a different type of milk:

Swapping out your usual milk and creamer can add a new unique taste to the coffee. Try using variations such as almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, hemp milk or cashew milk. You can even pick between sweetened or unsweetened.

  1. Blend in some coconut oil:

Yes, that’s right, coconut oil.  Similar to the “bulletproof coffee,” this interesting add-in brings creaminess to the drink and can keep you full all morning.  Make sure you blend in the coconut oil so that is incorporated properly with the coffee!  This also makes it frothier – almost like a latté mmm!

  1. Try sweetening with maple syrup or pure vanilla extract:

Maple syrup contains 54 antioxidants and makes a healthy, low-calorie swap for your regular sugar.  Alternatively, you could add vanilla extract; just a few drops will do to add some sweet vanilla flavour.  If you are feeling adventurous, you can also try using almond extract.

You’re welcome.

How do you spruce up your coffee? Let us know in the comments below!