SOURCE: Almond Board of California

December 20, 2010 05:00 ET

Gluten-Free Holiday Entertaining With Almonds

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - December 20, 2010) - (Family Features) For those living with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, holiday eating -- or entertaining -- can be a tricky task. Fortunately, leading a gluten-free lifestyle doesn't have to mean sacrificing taste, versatility or the seasonal treats you crave each year. Almonds are an ideal solution for holiday entertaining because they are available in so many forms and functions -- and they're always gluten free.

"Avoiding gluten during the holidays doesn't mean you have to feel deprived," says Shelley Case, registered dietitian and author of "The Gluten-Free Diet." "Almonds are naturally gluten free and delicious. With a little planning you can create dishes that everyone will enjoy."

Adding the allure of taste and texture from the various forms of almonds to your diet makes it easier and more satisfying to live without gluten. They're a perfect solution for the gluten-free diet because they provide important nutrients such as fiber (3.5 g), calcium (75 mg), iron (1.1 mg) and protein (6 g) that can be lacking in many other gluten-free foods. Plus, a one-ounce serving of almonds (about 23) has 13 grams of good unsaturated fats, just one gram of saturated fat, and is always cholesterol- and gluten-free. What's more, almonds offer 7.4 mg vitamin E, 0.3 mg of riboflavin and 1 mg of niacin.

Gluten-free flour alternatives are often complicated mixes of many different types of ingredient flours, but almond flour is the one simple component that is easy to use and gets great gluten-free baking results, says Case. It brings great consistency to breads, cakes and cookies and acts as an ideal thickening agent for almost any sauce. Chopped almonds make for an interesting culinary twist when used to coat chicken or fish, and whole natural almonds are the perfect snack to provide lasting energy when busy in the kitchen or on-the-go. And, for a nearly guilt-free gluten-free indulgence, dark-chocolate-covered almonds are always a holiday hit.

Whip up a batch of these Gluten Free Amaretti Sage Cookies and impress your guests with a holiday cookie that will please any palate. 

For more gluten-free recipes and information, visit

Gluten-Free Amaretti Cookies
Yield: 30 cookies

2 cups California almonds, whole natural
1/2 cup sugar
5 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
30 cherries, dried, whole
1 cup powdered sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1/8 cup sage, minced, for garnish

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

Using a blender or food processor, grind almonds and sugar together until mixture looks like coarse grits. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, whip egg whites and vanilla stiff peaks form. Gently fold the almond and sugar mixture into the egg whites until fully incorporated.

Transfer mixture to a pastry bag with large, round tip. On a parchment-lined greased baking sheet, apply cookies in 1-inch rounds roughly 3/4-inch apart. Press a whole dried cherry into the center of each cookie.

Place cookies in middle rack of oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. until golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

For icing, whisk together powdered sugar and cream until smooth. When cooled, drizzle icing over each cookie followed by a sprinkling of the sage.