Milking the Almond Cow

Although I am not vegan, I drink almond milk. I have never liked the taste of cow’s milk and in fact, have always found it very strange that adults and children, weened from their Mother’s breast (or bottle), continue to drink another mammal’s milk. Why? Because the Doctor’s make us think it’s the only route for calcium.  Bull-oney. Many vegetables have calcium. Don’t get me wrong though, I do use Shatto (locally farmed) whole milk in some of my baking, and I consume other dairy products as well.

Anyway, because I try as much as I can to avoid preservatives and other additives store bought brands may have, I decided to make my own almond milk. In the long run, it’s also a money saver- that is, once you endure the cost of buying the raw almonds themselves. But a little goes a long way.

I found my almond milk recipe amidst the pages of one of my favorite cookbooks “the gluten-free & dairy-free kitchen” on page 173.  Because many people have requested this recipe from me, I decided to share it here. Tried & True.

dairy milk alternative

the goods

Total prep time for this recipes between 6 and 12 hours, depending on how long the almonds are soaked. Then the total preparation time is 15 minutes.

Equipment needed:

* Soaking bowl

* Blender

* Cheesecloth

* Spoon

* Measuring cup

* Bowl for catching milk

* Container for milk

Ingredients:

soaking bowl

* 1 cup raw almonds, soaked for 10-12 hours

* 4 cups water

* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 1 tablespoon date syrup (page 189), brown rice syrup, or maple syrup (optional)

Directions:

1. Using a colander, drain the soaked almonds and rinse under cold water. (I sometimes mix the reserve water with my required 4 cups of water.)

2. In a blender, combine almonds, water (I recently cut my water down to 3 1/2 cups), and optional ingredients (if so desired).  Cover the blender and whirl the mixture at top speed until creamy, about 1 minute.      IMG_1642

3. Line a fine- mesh sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth, then place sieve over/ into a larger bowl.

strainer cheesecloth in strainer

4. Pour the almond mixture into the strainer (I only pour and work with half of the mixture at a time) and allow it to fully drain.

5. According to the recipe, it  says about 5 minutes, but I gage it, then gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and squeeze the mixture to extract  any remaining liquid.

milking almond cow

milking the almond cow

milking the almond cow

*Reserve the pulp for another use, such zucchini or banana bread, or the “flop” snicker doodles I made that have been degraded to snicker nibbles. (I will share my mistakes with images in a future post.)almond pulp

6. Transfer the milk to a glass container ( I use a canning jar) with a tight fitting lid, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Note: the almond milk will fast pungenty after about 3 days.

milk

Useful tips, slightly edited, that I found online at Everyday Minerals:

* First, remember this will not taste like store bought almond milk since there are not any additives. (The Everyday Minerals author highly recommends to add a sweetener to taste. I however, never use sweetener to keep my options open for what I use the milk for.)

* To make creamier almond milk, add 1 teaspoon of walnut or almond oil. (I have not tried this yet.)

* Try experimenting with different flavors when blending the vanilla, water, and almonds. Some options might include: 1 banana and nutmeg, ½ cup pureed strawberries, ¼ cup of carob powder or melted chocolate. (Interesting, but this becomes more a smoothy with some of the ingredients.)

* You can make thicker almond milk by adding less water. Keep in mind that this will produce less milk and it will be harder to strain.

* If you do not have a cheesecloth, a strainer can be used instead. (I have done this, however your final product will be grittier.)

Some final words:

If you make this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback, along with any twists or turns you took to alter, refine, and personalize.

Oh and voila!, here is the smoothie I made  this morning with my home made almond milk, mixed frozen berries, a banana, 1 TBS flax meal, and Brown Cow brand Maple Yogurt.

mixed berry smoothie

Lunch in a Museum

Today, Friday, January 25, 2013 marks a fabulous lunch date with my longtime friend Jason at Cafe Sebastienne, a restaurant which nestles comfortably inside the Kemper Museum. I hadn’t seen Jason for a months, so we needed a space that offered not only good food, and a relaxing ambience- somewhere we could take our time.

a view of the cafe courtyard

Before I go on, I do have to admit to you that I work part-time at Cafe Sebastienne as a host, but this will never impair my critique of the restaruant or the food.  I am especially NOT biased in one way or another regarding the food, because anywhere I go, I like some things and I dislike other things- and either way, I will definitely say something about it, all while recognizing that everyone has a different palette than mine.

For lunch today though I had the fish of the day, grilled salmon, coated with a tangerine agrumato (citrus oil).  The salmon was served medium rare over a tomato barley stew, and sided with fresh green beans. When it arrived, the presentation was a lot better than the photo I captured. In fact, I had already started to dig it, before I realized that I needed to take a picture. Oye. The stew was a little creamier than I expected, and not quite as flavorful with savory spices as I had hoped, but the salmon was perfectly medium rare and green beans were not overcooked. I had planned to take half of my meal home, but I indulged and ate the whole thing. From my experience while eating many times at and working at  Cafe Sebastienne, one can never go wrong by ordering the fish, as it is always the fresh and of the best quality.

grilled salmon, served over tomato barley stew, sided with fresh green beans

After I scarfed down my food, paired with a glass of rose’ wine, I ordered dessert: a tasty apple rum raisin crisp with ginger ice cream. Jason has a slice of budino, a rich flourless chocolate cake. Sorry to say I did not get pictures, so you’ll just have to go in and taste test the desserts yourself.

Overall, my experience was good, with Charles as my server, my food was fabulous, but most importantly it was the great company I had at lunch that topped it all off to a marvelous day!

paintings inside the cafe

Fluffy Gluten Free Waffles

Because this is a gluten free recipe, I must convey that my house is NOT gluten free, and so far I do not intend to make it that way. My motto is “everything in moderation” and until something happens which alters my way of thinking, my life will remain in balance.

But  these days admittedly I have been experimenting with more gluten free recipes than normal after noticing the more I cut gluten out of my diet, my stomach is happier. If only I weren’t so in tuned to my body, I would eat whatever I want, when I want. Waaah, but that’s just not realistic.  Most of the time when I bake or cook gluten free though, I don’t usually tell my family about the alterations.  I mean seriously, do they really care so long as it tastes good?  However, I do make mental notes of their compliments or criticisms, praise or disgust and lately I’ve been realizing that perhaps I should document my mental note: recipes I like or don’t like and why; ingredient tweaks and secrets (at least that I’m willing to relay)…….and so much more regarding edible, plus all those other things might find their way into our bodies one way or another…

… and so I have chosen to do so here- on these pages and posts.

I am sharing this basic waffle recipe, tweaked to be gluten free, because the morning I made them my daughter said, “Wow Mom these are great! Better than the waffles you normally make.” Honestly, the only thing I did was change the flour. I have always worked off the “Basic Waffles” recipe in The Joy of Cooking Cookbook on page 801, and have always altered the recipe by adding, omitting, and experimenting with other ingredients, but this was the first time I used a gluten free flour blend.

Gluten Free Four Blend

(recipe from The Dairy-Free & Gluten-Free Kitchen)

1¼ cups brown or white rice flour

3/4 cup potato starch (do not use potato flour)

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1/2 cup sorghum flour or garbanzo bean flour

Combine the rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, and sorghum flour in a large bowl. Mix together with a whisk until thoroughly blended. Transfer flour mixture to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.  This gluten-free flour mix will keep for 4 months in the refrigerator. (I use mine so quickly, I keep it on the countertop.)

Facts about xanthum and guar gums (because they are in ingredients below):

These binding agents lend elasticity to baked goods. Good for gluten-free. But please note, a little goes a long way- use too much and the dish will be gummy, use too little and it will crumble too easily.  This is the concept I have been experimenting with when altering a basic recipe with gluten-free flour.

Now to the waffles.


Basic Waffles

gluten free waffle

Choices on how much butter you use are factored by: 4 tablespoons for a reduced-fat waffle; 8 tablespoons for a classic light and fluffy waffle; or 16 tablespoons for the crunchiest most delicious waffle imaginable.

(Preheat waffle iron)

Whisk together in a large bowl (dry ingredients):

1¾ cups of gluten-free (or all purpose) flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon flax seeds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk together in a separate bowl (wet ingredients):

3 large eggs, well beaten

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1½ cups milk

Directions:

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Gently whisk them together with a few strokes.  If you wish, fold in other ingredients at this time. Otherwise, spoon approximately 1/2 cup batter (or the amount recommended by waffle manufacturer) onto the hot waffle iron, making sure its distributed evenly by using a non-meltable utensil. Close the lid and bake until waffle is golden brown. To gage when my waffles are done I use my own discretion, and utilize the “ready” light on my waffle maker as a reminder to check on them. So obviously serve immediately slathered with butter and syrup. Even add some powdered sugar to make a syrupy sugar paste. MMMMMM yummy.

Some final words:

I usually double this recipe and put the leftover in the freezer, making sure to slightly undercook the amount I know will become freezer bound; so when the waffle gets reheated in the toaster or toaster oven, it won’t be overcooked. “Le’ go my Eggo.”

If you try this recipe, I welcome your feedback: to know if you thought these waffles were tasty, if you added your own alterations, or if there’s anything you might change for future quality purposes.

Now I’m off to make some homemade almond milk and gluten-free snicker doodle cookies -with the almond pulp from my milk making…….