As I sit here drinking an amazing apple spinach banana smoothie on day one of my smoothie cleanse, I have to say that it kind of tastes amazing. I am starting this whole “cleanse by body from holiday junk food” thing a day later than planned due to the embarrassing number of times I rescheduled the dinner we had last night with our good friends – who also happen to be our next door neighbors.
Our menu last night consisted of traditional Italian dinner fare. The main course was old school Sicilian style lasagna that is always a crowd pleaser. After simmering that sauce for the better part of yesterday, my house is still smelling like the Italian version of amazing.
We enjoyed some crusty baguette, cheese, pancetta, balsamic, olive oil, and dates as appetizers to launch us into the festive mood. And a simple salad of roasted beets julienned on top of a bed of spinach sprinkled with a few pecans and some goat cheese.
But it wouldn’t be a New Years dinner party without dessert? And after a heavy meal filled with starches, cheeses, and rich sauce, it needed to be something light. Amaretti cookies anyone? If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting these delicious biscotti alternatives, they are a crispy, crunchy little almond cookie that goes wonderfully with after dinner tea or espresso. Also, they are naturally gluten free, since they use ground almonds in lieu of flour. I am not one to love dishes that have been altered to be gluten free, infact I tend to avoid them. I have even been known to put things back in pastry cabinets at Whole Foods after discovering that said item was gluten free. No need to be skeptical of these cookies’ delicious integrity as a suitable dessert for all levels of gluten tolerance. They are crunchy little almond bites of yumminess that have been gluten free since the first little Italian Nonni ever whipped them up.
The process is similar to making a French macaroon – but much less fickle. These have a coarser crumb and are not supposed to be soft in the middle like the French version. In Italy, they are traditionally used like biscotti – to soak up espresso. But in our house, we love that they give you a little nibble of something sweet with your after dinner cup of coffee or tea.
- 2 ½ cups whole raw almonds
- 2/3 cup sugar divided
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon almond extract
- Coarse sugar for tops of cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Parchment is a MUST with this recipe!
Using a food processor, process almonds and 1/3 cup of sugar until finely ground. I had to scrape down the sides a couple of times.
Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form and then add remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until the shiny soft peak stage.
In a large bowl, fold the almond mixture into the whipped egg whites. Once combined roll into 1 inch size balls and dip tops into coarse sugar before placing on baking sheet.
Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 or until golden brown. At this stage although the exterior of the cookie may be crunchy, the centers will still be relatively soft. So reduce heat to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 10 more minutes. Without opening the oven door, turn off heat and allow cookies to sit in warm oven for 30-40 minutes more. This will help crisp up the insides without over-baking the exteriors.
Just in case you doubted me, I do see the irony in doing a smoothie cleanse and blogging about cookies, but this is a recipe I just had to share. (Dang it, now I’m hungry for an Amaretti!)