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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Game Day Almond Recipes

Sunday is the big game day and whether you're entertaining or going to a friends house, you need good food. The following two recipes are easy snacks that are perfect for bringing to a party or to make ahead for your own. They will be able to sit out all day during the game and still be delicious! The added bonus, they have almonds in them!
I am the kind of cook that looks at a recipe and looks for ways to put my own spin on it. Maybe there is an ingredient I don't like or I don't have on hand, I use something else. My husband even jokes that if I make the same dish twice, it is never the same. I usually never follow recipes, so I did my best to accurately measure for you today. But I am a strong believer in making it your own, so feel free to switch it up!

Sweet and Spicy Party Nuts

2-3 cups assorted nuts- I used 2 cups almonds and 1 cup cashews. Pecans or peanuts also work well.
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2-3 teaspoons packed brown sugar- use more or less depending on how sweet you want them
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper- more or less depending on how spicy you want them
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons sea salt


1. First, you will need to roast the nuts and pumpkin seeds at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. If you are using already roasted nuts you don't need this step.
2. In a large bowl combine butter, sugar, cayenne and pepper until all sugar is dissolved and blended with all ingredients.
3. When nuts are done, combine them with the sugar mixture. They will be hot so mix well and be sure to the scrape bottom of bowl.
4. Once nuts have cooled slightly, add salt and chocolate.
5. Store in an airtight container and Enjoy!







 Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup dry oatmeal
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flax seed- Sometimes I just use whole seeds for more crunch
1/3 cup honey

1. Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix well.
2. Form mixture into bite size balls.
3. Cool in fridge and enjoy!

Substitutions: For a more nutty taste substitute almond butter for peanut butter. For a sweeter taste, I also love adding 1/2 cup of shredded coconut to these too!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

California drought

Well the rain Gods haven’t been listening to our rain calls and all those rain dances being done across this great state of California.  As declared by our Governor, Jerry Brown, we are officially in a drought. It’s been all over the news about how California is setting record dry days, this isn’t the kind of record we want to be setting. Every time I look into the 10 day forecast the rain isn’t there. In fact, we have 70 degree days and sunny for our forecast. Some parts of the country may be jealous of this type of the weather, I would be more than happy to take some of the snow from the Mid-West. Without the snow pack in the California mountains and without rain this winter, California is scared for the summer months to come. The below picture shows how much snow we had last year in our mountains versus what we have this year and last year was a low snowfall year.

Jerry Brown used this NASA satellite picture in his drought declaration

Farmers showcase these signs along major CA highways
California State water allocations for 2014 have been cut to a mere 5% of what we are paying for. This is huge! California’s Central Valley farmers pay for water through the state water project and irrigation districts, but to only receive 5% of the contracted water is going to hurt our crops dramatically. For some farmers who don’t have a reliable ground water supply, the irrigation district water is their only water supply. Farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley have been forced to fallow their land and let trees die because they have no water for them. 

Depicting the water cuts over the years. This year our water is cut by 95%
In the Southern San Joaquin Valley, we have a wait list for up to 18 months for farmers who need to drill a new agriculture well or to drill a deeper well on their property. Because our state water allocations have been decreasing every year, farmers are investing in drilling deeper wells in search for ground water. A new well could cost upwards of $500,000 to drill, this is a very costly unexpected expense to deal with. If all these farmers start to drill new wells and deeper wells, the aquifer will continue to decrease as well. By lowering our aquifer we are only making it harder for everyone to be able to find a safe and reliable water source to farm with. 
 
Water is an essential tool in agriculture. Without water we will not be able to grow the over 400 crops that California is known for. We are quite diversified, but we are also specialized in growing crops you can only grow in California. Without California water,  California won’t be able to farm. As I watch the water flow down the California Aqueduct on the way to Southern California, I can’t stop but ask myself if the urban communities are aware of the severe water drought issues and how much they will have to pay for food tomorrow if we don’t start conserving our water today.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

No moisture = Poling

California hasn’t had any rain this winter season and we have had barely any foggy days. In the Southern Central Valley we are known to have thick Tule fog, but we haven’t had any this year. Without the rain or fog there is little to no moisture in our air. Almond farmers need moisture to properly winter shake their trees, as we discussed in winter shaking. Without the moisture the almonds don’t shake off the tree.

If the shaker isn’t shaking all those almonds off the trees we have to bring in poling crews. This of course is an added expense that could leave the farmer with a bill that he wasn’t prepared for, as much as an additional $200 per acre, and all because mother nature didn’t respond to our rain dances. A crew upwards of 20 people take long 20 foot poles and walk through the orchards shaking any almonds off the trees that the shaker couldn’t shake off. You can imagine how tedious of a process this is. Your crew of people must be very vigilant and attentive to the trees making sure to get every last almond off.

 


The picture below shows what those almonds could look like if left on the tree. They are a point of disease for the tree and like below, could have worms living in them trying to survive the cold of winter. If the worm survives the winter, then in the spring it will become a moth and infest next years crop making it inedible. The poling crew is very helpful in shaking every last almond off the tree so we have a clean tree heading into bloom.





Until Next Time,
Almond Girl 

Friday, January 10, 2014

SMART goals for 2014

So it's a new year and with a new year comes new challengers, new adventures, new journeys and New Years resolutions. Well maybe for some people. I spent the last week trying to come up with something and I have decided I don't like the term resolutions. They never stick, they are always far fetched and people forget about them in a month. Most people try going to the gym more, drinking less coffee, spending less money, spending more time with family, etc etc. But what I find in these attempts are people who try for a month or so and forget even what their resolution was when April rolls around.

The term resolutions makes me think of something people make and forget. The term goal is something I look at as a challenge. I was talking with my boss the other day about my work objectives for 2014. My work has us all set goals and objectives as a team and an individual for us to follow. I am held accountable to these goals to succeed in my job and the possibility of a bonus at the end of the year. This is a way for me to have motivation to reach my goals and it works!

As I was racking my brain for my goals and objectives, my boss reminded me a good trick to use when creating goals- be SMART. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and follow a Time. I like to think of these tricks for my personal life as well as work. When setting goals for the year, they have to fit all 5 categories or they won't stick. I want to lose weight. OK well, is this specific? Follow a timeline? Measurable? Nice goal, but be more specific! I want to lose 20 pounds by May for a friends wedding. Specific- weight lose, Measurable- 20 lbs, Achievable - yes but if it was 100 lbs I'd so know way, Realistic- it could happen if I set my mind to it, Timeline- by my friend May wedding. Now this is a SMART goal.

So as we progress into 2014 and think about those resolutions we may or may not have created, lets set some goals instead. But remember to be SMART about them!

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winter shaking

It's been an unusually mild winter thus far. Not nearly enough rain or snow for what we need by this time of year. Pray for rain and water to come our way. Normally by this time of the year we have 3 inches or so. This year we have only had about half an inch, maybe. Rain is in our extended forecast for next Thursday, only 30% chance but I'm hopeful Mother Nature will hear our farmers cries!  

We need the rain to help our ground water supply. If it doesn't rain we will need to irrigate using our wells or irrigation district water even earlier than we otherwise would. We are only allotted so much irrigation district water each year, and we want to save our allotment to use it for the hot and productive months. If we don't receive enough rain and snow that allotment will be reduced by the state, as it has been for the past few years. If we use our ground water in the winter, we are lowering our water table with nothing to recharge it. Farmers pray for rain this time of year to help water the fields now and for the dams and lakes to store for our summer months irrigation. So do your rain dance!

It hasn't been too chilly, but we have had some cool foggy days. Those foggy mornings when it's a little damp are perfect for winter shaking. What's winter shaking you ask? In the winter after the trees have gone 'dormant' or asleep for the winter, they start to loose their leaves and the nuts that are left on the tree turn to mummies. During harvest time we sometimes aren't able to shake all the almonds off the tree due to some not being mature or ready to harvest all at the same time. Then, in the winter these nuts that are left on the trees allow insects to survive the winter and are a disease center for fungi and other infections to develop. By shaking the almonds off during the winter time we shake off some chance of these diseases settling in the tree. The fog and damp weather helps loosen up the mummies, making it ideal for winter shaking.

Shaking the mummies and leaves off the tree

Almond mummies left on the tree before winter shaking

Almond tree after winter shaking
Until Next Time,
Almond Girl