Cheap and easy almond milk

It’s finally fall!  Which means we are in the mood for cheap, healthy, easy afternoon snacks, and also fighting off our seasonal sniffles.  Which means more warm beverages and less dairy in this family.

Welcome homemade almond milk.  I started making it a few years ago but was turned off by the blanching and straining and how time-consuming the whole process was.  Then I realized that almond butter has already been processed in a way similar to cooking and grinding – could I use that?

I did.  It worked and I used this recipe for quite a while.  Then it separated into a thin white liquid and chunks at the bottom.  Great if I drank it in the first 5 minutes, but I wanted something I could save for a few days.  So I checked out a few other recipes, and looked at the ingredients on my favorite store-bought almond milk, and tried adding lecithin (an emulsifier) and tapioca (makes it creamier).

Since then, I have dropped the tapioca, but kept the lecithin.  I love how it now keeps it from separating, and allows for a super-creamy drink that will keep in the fridge for a few days as well.

Ingredients:

2 tbsps creamy almond butter

3 capsules lecithin (the outside of the capsule melts and blends into the liquid)

1.5 quarts warm water

 

  1. Heat one liter of water to about 100 degrees F.  Pour in a large blender such as a Vitamix.
  2. Add lecithin and almond butter
  3. Blend for 30 seconds on high until smooth and creamy
  4. Add last 2 cups (half a liter) of water
  5. Adjust flavor as desired with vanilla, cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice (my fave in the fall)
  6. Serve hot or cold.  Keeps in the fridge for at least 3 days – but my kids usually drink ours up within the first 24 hours!

img_3022

Here’s what I love about this recipe:

Cheap:  $0.42 for the almond butter, $.15 for the lecithin and it makes 1.5 liters. 
Healthy: almonds are rich in calcium, potassium, and healthy fats – making this a good beverage for getting those electrolytes pre or post-workout.  Lecithin supplements come primarily from soy or sunflower, but lecithin is naturally also in eggs and certain veggies.  One of lecithin’s key components is choline, which helps maintain healthy cell and brain function.  

Tasty!  I serve it hot or cold, with or without cinnamon, vanilla, and honey.  Hope you enjoy it too!

Advertisements

Warmth. Cinnamon. Vanilla. On a cold afternoon…yum!

Has this latest arctic blast hit you like it has Houston?  Brrr!!!  We are NOT used to subfreezing temps.  Not that I’m complaining; the brisk weather does make me move a little faster when outside, but I also find that I want to curl up on the couch with a good book and cup of hot cocoa.

Except I did that yesterday.  And the day before.  And with January diet resolutions and what not, I can’t drink gallons of hot cocoa every day and still fit into my new Christmas clothes.

Enter my super-simple low-calorie, dairy and gluten free, cinnamon/vanilla almond milk that is pretty much amazing and needs an amazing name to match (any creative minds out there?).

ingredients
ingredients

For the ingredients, I used

1 tbsp of almond butter

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 capsules lecithin (helps the almond butter dissolve, plus it’s a good source of choline for the nervous system)

4 cups warm to hot water

put all ingredients in blender and blend for 1 minute or until white and frothy.

IMG_3028serve in four cups and top with a dash of cinnamon.  My kids guzzled this down with their afternoon snack.  Next time I think I might try chai or pumpkin pie spice… Enjoy!

Figs!

freshfigs2
Matt’s has green banana figs, as well as a couple types of darker ones.

It is fig season in Houston, and we had a ton of fun picking these sweet, succulent gems at Matt Family Orchard this week.  The only thing better than picking them is eating them!  if you have only had dried figs, let me say there is no comparison to the fresh version – especially fresh from the tree.

Figs have been cultivated and enjoyed by humans for thousands of years and in various cultures from Egypt to Israel to Athens and finally, brought by missionaries (ie, mission fig) here to the USA.  Like many fruits they are a rich source of potassium and fiber, as well as vitamin K.  They should be picked when they are the consistency of a peach, but not too squishy.  Unripe figs are NOT good (don’t ask me how I know) and they do not ripen after they are picked.

How do you eat figs? The first afternoon we made fig sherbet.  It was a hit!

2 frozfig sherbeten bananas

10 fresh figs

1-2 tbsps almond milk

Blend well and serve immediately.  Makes enough for 5-6 small servings.

Day 2 we tried a new twist on the tried and true cinnamon raisin oatmeal.  We made Coconut Fig Porridge.  Everyone had seconds, and there were no leftovers.  This recipe made enough for 4 large servings, or 6 small servings.

1 cup steel cut oats

4 cups wateroats&figs

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tsp cinnamon

10-12 figs

Simmer oats in water until soft, about 20 minutes.  Add coconut milk, cinnamon, and half the figs.  Mash well until there are “swirls” of fig in the porridge.  Top each bowl with a fig or two, a dash of cinnamon, and more coconut milk if you want a creamy consistency.

Last night we enjoyed salad with fresh figs, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Simply delish!

Any other recipe recommendations?  We want to go back for more, as well as the jujubes that are ripening.

Summer Salads

 

IMG_0979

  Spring is gone, summer is here, and we have been loving salads along with the warmer weather!  No longer are salads the anemic, tasteless plate of iceberg lettuce with tasteless tomatoes for color; even  food restaurants often have great selections, and a quick peak at menus from fine dining establishments are great inspiration for homemade blends of greens, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and nuts and seeds that are as tasty as they are healthy.  A few slices of leftover steak or chicken could round any of these out into a perfect summer lunch.

Beet and Goat Cheese

Cooked/canned beets, diced

Mixed greens preferably with herbs such as dill and parsley

Mandarin oranges

Goat cheese

Apple cider/balsamic vinaigrette*

Toasted walnuts or pecans

Start of Summer Salad

We enjoyed our first Greenling delivery a couple weeks ago, and are in love with the fresh, organic produce!  A trip to the farmers market or grocery store could have yielded similar items.  The key to this salad was to chop everything rather fine, and then toss the dressing in well so every bite was well-coated with panko and lemon juice.

Carrots, diced

Radishes, tiny slices

Green onions, diced

Fresh spring greens

Sunflower seeds

Tomatoes

2-3 tbsp panko (we like the flavored kind…or the crumbs at the bottom of the triscuits box work too!)

 dressing

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and white pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese to taste

Easy Strawberry Spinach Salad

Strawberries have been on sale for $0.99/lb here!  Try fresh, sliced strawberries on

Baby spinach

Nuts (I like walnuts, pecans, slivered almonds…candied pecans are the best!)

Gorgonzola (or other blue cheese)

Serve with your favorite vinaigrette.

For older berries that have lots of flavor but not the best looks,  try pureeing them in a blender with equal parts extra virgin olive oil, a dash of sea salt, and apple cider vinegar for strawberry dressing.

As other fruits come in season, serve raspberries, peaches, or pears on spinach with a bit of blue cheese and apple cider/balsamic vinaigrette.

*apple cider/balsamic vinaigrette recipe

2 tbsps apple cider vinegar

2 tbsps balsamic vinegar

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp sea salt (taste and add more if desired)

Smooth and creamy almond milk

I’ve posted an almond milk recipe before and liked the flavor of the original version, but found that it separated and wasn’t as creamy white as many of the store-bought varieties.  Hey, I’m a texture gal.

Then I started looking at the ingredients in my favorite brands, and experimenting.  My latest concoction has a few more ingredients, but I think it is well worth it!

1 tbsp almond butter

1 tbsp baby rice cereal or tapioca

1 capsule soy lecithin (I cut the capsule with kitchen shears and squeeze out the goo)

1 cup hot water, 1.5 liters room temperature water

sweetener or other flavorings to taste (I like a teaspoon of evaporated cane juice or vanilla)

IMG_2283 2

boil 1 cup of water, and mix with the almond butter and soy lecithin.  Lecithin is an emulsifier, which prevents separation of the water and almond oil.  See how nice and smooth it looks, but not quite white and creamy enough yet…

IMG_2284

IMG_2285

So now for the texture.  You have two options to get that white, creamy texture in storebought almond milk.

1) add tapioca to the hot water/almond butter/soy lecithin mix, mix well, then allow to cool before blending until frothy.

2)  Allow almond butter mixture to cool, then add water and baby rice cereal to blender.  Blend until frothy.

Some of the almond particles will settle eventually, but I store mine in glass jars so I can shake it up before drinking.  Now I think I’ll try some almond milk hot cocoa. 🙂

tex-mex pot of beans

I was really craving pinto beans earlier this week.  Yes, weird craving…but I like this recipe that came out of it!

1 bag pinto beans, soaked for 24 hours and then cooked for 2 hours

1 tbsp chicken base (4 cubes boullion), or 1 liter chicken stock

1 tbsp cumin

1 small onion, diced

1 12oz can diced tomatoes

1 tbsp garlic, diced

1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

½ cup red wine

 

Drain pinto beans, then add chicken stock (or base/boullion and a liter of water)

Add remaining ingredients except for cilantro and wine and simmer for 30 more minutes.

Add cilantro and red wine, take off heat.

Garnish with more cilantro if desired, and add salt and pepper to taste.

quick & healthy spinach potato soup

I was inspired by the baby spinach and crouton soup recipe in Gourmet Today – but this is the quick & cheap version:

3 russet potatoes, cubed

1 10oz pkg frozen spinach

1/2 onion, diced

1 tsp each butter and olive oil

1 cup milk

2 tbsps chicken base

Place potatoes in a couple cups of water and simmer.  Place spinach on top of potatoes and let it steam while potatoes are cooking.  Meanwhile, sautee onion in 1 tsp butter, 1 tsp olive oil until brown and translucent.

Blend onion, cooked potatoes, spinach, milk, and chicken base (or vegetable stock if you want to go vegetarian).  Add water until soup is desired thickness.    Serve with bacon bits, cheese, yogurt, or crackers.

Super Slaws and Salads

When the heat index starts climbing over 100, I usually lose both my desire for hot comfort foods as well as my motivation for cooking them.

Step in salads and slaws. Most Americans don’t even eat half as many fruits and veggies as we need in a day, and this is a perfect opportunity to do so. And because so much produce grown in the good ole USA is in season now, you can do it on the cheap too!

Salads are easy. You can buy a bag at the store and a bottle of dressing of course, but with a little more time you can come up with some great-tasting creative combos of your own as well. Here are a few of my favorites this summer.

Tomato Cucumber Salad
Chop tomatoes (whatever are on sale) and cucumbers up into bite-size cubes. Add a touch of sea salt to taste. Enjoy.
(For an extra nutrition boost, add fresh spinach, diced carrots, radicchio, or red cabbage)

Easy Bean Salad
1 can white beans
2 tbsp giardiniera (we prefer Pagliacci’s Hot, but beware, it’s spicy!)
1 cup fresh spinach, shredded

Ginger Peach Slaw
2-3 cups savoy or napa cabbage, shredded
1-2 peaches, diced
1 cup spinach or other lettuce, shredded
2 tbsps orange juice
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp canola, safflower, or grapeseed oil
½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp garlic powder
Salt and sugar to taste
Mix fruit and veggies. Mix liquids and spices into a dressing. Pour dressing over veggies and enjoy.

Apple Slaw
2 cups savoy or napa cabbage, shredded
1 tart apple, shredded
1 cup fresh spinach, shredded
1 tbsp sunflower seeds or small walnut pieces
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

What’s On My Food? :: Pesticides On Food

What’s On My Food? :: Pesticides On Food.

 

This is my favorite website of the week.  I fully agree with their statement in the “how much is too much” section that it depends on the chemical, person, and exposure time and level.  Because we are all exposed every day to a multitude of chemicals I appreciate this handy tool to help minimize exposure from food.

Just click on your fave foods on the right hand side to compare organic and conventional.

USDA issues final rule on organic dairy

USDA issues final rule on organic dairy.

The rules have changed just a little for organic milk – the cows now must spend 120 days outdoors, have access to the outdoors for 30% of the year and be pasture-fed for at least 30% of the year.  Besides the obvious benefits regarding humane treatment, pasture-fed dairy cows produce milk with more CLA and omega-3 fats than those fed corn and soy.  Organic milk is already produced from cows who eat pesticide-free foods, are not cloned, and are not treated with antibiotics or hormones.  When deciding whether it is worth the cost, do remember that the cows that produce regular milk are kept out of the milk production line for two weeks after taking antibiotics in order to prevent them from getting into the milk, and only about 17% of conventional cows do receive rBGH.  For those of you in the Houston area who are interested in pasture-fed raw jersey milk, check out www.texascheese.com.