Homemade Almond Milk

Almonds are one of the healthiest “nuts” you can eat (they are related to the peach, and are technically considered a seed). They are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as protein, and they also contain amino acids, manganese, and Vitamin E.   The US is the world’s leading almond grower, and essentially 100% of those almonds are grown in California.

Commercial versions of almond milk contain preservatives (which I feel affect the flavor), although they also tend to be fortified with calcium and Vitamin D which is a plus.  The biggest downside, however, is the sugar that is added to them.  Keeping this in mind, I set out to create a simple almond milk recipe that didn’t require any special equipment and didn’t have any added refined sugar.  After looking at dozen different recipes/methods, I decided to get into the kitchen and get working!

I started by soaking the almonds overnight in the fridge, covered.  This is an important part of the process because the soaking really brings out the milky-ness quality of the almonds and also makes them more digestible, resulting in better absorption of nutrients.  Another great benefit of soaking almonds (or any nut) is that it removes the tannin from the skin, which gives nuts their bitter flavor.

The next morning, I halved and pitted some Medjool dates to use as a sugar alternative, and also set them to soaking (so your blender is able to process them).  Once those had soaked for about 45 minutes, I got out the blender and started processing – first a heaping cup of soaked almonds went in, then 2 cups of water.  It only took a minute or two for the almonds to grind down, and then I added the dates (tasting the concoction after every two dates to see how the sweetness was progressing).  I decided that five was the perfect sweetness – not so sweet that it was overpowering but sweet enough to compliment the amazing almond flavor.  You can choose to omit the dates entirely, or add up to seven if you really like the sweetness of commercial almond milk.  The nice thing about using dates as the sweetener is that they are also high in fiber and are easily digested.  I added the last two cups of water, plus a pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt (my favorite) and I was ready to strain my milk.

You can strain the milk in a number of different ways, or if you are going to use the almond milk strictly in smoothies, then you can choose to omit this step (leaving the almond pulp in the milk gives you the full benefits of the almonds and is protein rich).  I chose to use a jelly straining bag, as it fit perfectly over the opening of my pitcher and has a super fine weave so I knew that my milk would be very smooth.  You can also strain the milk using a nut milk bag or a fine mesh metal strainer (I would suggest putting a few layers of cheesecloth in the strainer – that way as you finish you can gather up the corners and squeeze the last of the milk out of the pulp that is left over.  The almond/date pulp that you are left with can be used in many ways, including adding a bit to your morning oatmeal, adding it to smoothies, or dehydrating it and using it as a flour alternative.

Success – for about $1.33 a serving I had four cups of the most delicious organic and fresh non-dairy milk I have ever tasted!

Homemade Almond Milk © Sassy Sampler 2012

Homemade Almond Milk © Sassy Sampler 2012

Homemade Almond Milk

Recipe by Sassy Sampler

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c raw, organic almonds
  • 4 c filtered or spring water (cold)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3-7 fresh Medjool dates  (optional, for sweetness), split in half and pit removed, soaked for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours
  • Vanilla bean, cut in half and one side scraped and reserved (optional) OR 1/2 t pure vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Soak almonds in fresh water for at least six hours or overnight (if you choose to soak overnight, then cover and refrigerate the almonds).
  2. Drain and rinse soaked almonds.
  3. Using a blender or Vitamix, add almonds to blender with 2 cups of water.  Blend until it is relatively smooth (all the noticeable chunks are gone).  Add the sea salt.
  4. Add dates and blend to fully combine—3 dates will be slightly sweet and 7 dates will be similar to store-bought almond milk sweetness.
  5. Add remaining 2 cups of water and blend to combine (depending on the size of your blender, you may need to hand mix in the remainder of the water).
  6. Add vanilla bean seeds or extract if using and blend to combine.
  7. Strain mixture into a large bowl or pitcher, either using a metal fine-gauge strainer set over the bowl or a nut milk bag/jelly strainer bag.  If using a strainer, I recommend adding a square of folded cheesecloth and straining through that—you can gather up the corners and squeeze out all the milk much more quickly than using just a strainer.
  8. If using a strainer and no cheesecloth, use the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to gently push the milk through the strainer (don’t push down too hard or you will get some of the pulp in the milk).
  9. Refrigerate for up to 4 days in a covered container.  Because this is a raw drink, there may be separation after it sits—just mix and enjoy!

Almond Milk PDF

You can use the leftover pulp in many ways:

  • Put it in a dehydrator and you will get almond flour
  • Mix a tablespoon or two into your oatmeal/hot cereal.
  • Mix with a little honey or agave and spread it thin on a baking sheet—bake at 350°F until crunchy.
  • Add to smoothies
  • Check out Pinterest for more almond pulp ideas!

Almond milk is a tasty way to add heart-healthy fats to your diet!

Your leftover dates can be used for future batches of almond milk, or can be made into a yummy “caramel” dip…or you can just eat them!  I recommend pitting them and then putting a walnut in the center (great suggestion for an appetizer from a customer).

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Vanilla Chia Pudding

Working in the natural food industry, we see all kinds of food fads – some of them are perfectly legit and are eventually accepted into the mainstream, and some fade away for a host of different reasons.  One fad that I hope will develop into mainstream diets are chia seeds, which are considered to be a ‘superfood’.

“Why a superfood”, you ask?  Most of us know chia seeds only because of Chia Pets (which are a non-food grade version of the seed), but they pack a lot of punch in a really small package.  Chia seeds have been traced as far back as the Aztecs, who valued them because of their high nutritional value.  These teeny tiny seeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants and also contain a respectable amount of protein, Omega 6 fatty acids, and calcium.  They help you stay hydrated (they hold over 10 times their weight in water) and are a great snack if you need a little pick-me-up.  Chia seeds are also great for diabetics because they help slow your body’s conversion of starch to sugar.

My glass of chia water from this AM!

So….how do they taste?  Pretty boring, which is a good thing.  They have a slightly nutty flavor and are pretty bland, so they mix well into a variety of different foods – you can mix them into just about any cold liquid (try stirring a spoonful into water, milk, iced tea, juice, smoothies, etc.) and you can also incorporate them into your bowl of oatmeal or yogurt.  The biggest complaint I hear about them is the gelatinous layer that forms around them when they have soaked in liquid – it can be a little strange if you haven’t tried them before.  I personally like that quality about them – it definitely makes them more interesting!

A great use for them is chia pudding – you can make a “pudding” with the seeds simply by putting some in milk and letting them hydrate, but this recipe adds some additional healthy foods like raw cashews and Medjool dates and doesn’t contain any added sugar.  It is appropriate as a snack, breakfast, or dessert and has the consistency of tapioca pudding (although it isn’t nutritionally deficient like tapioca pudding is).  It’s also really easy to make, since you are basically just throwing everything in the blender – no cooking involved!  This naturally gluten-free and vegan pudding was a huge hit with everyone who tried it (except for one small boy whose father was very disappointed because he liked the pudding so much!) and will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days – so make some all for you or to share with those you love!

Vanilla Chia Pudding photo © Sassy Sampler 2012

Vanilla Chia Pudding

Serves 6-8

From Martha Stewart Living (there are some great recipes on her website that are gluten-free – just type “gluten-free” into the search box for related videos, articles and recipes)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 c organic chia seeds
  • 1 organic vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped—reserve seeds and pod
  • 1 c (5 oz) organic raw cashews, soaked in filtered water for 2 hours or overnight, at room temperature
  • 4 c filtered water
  • 7 organic Medjool dates, pitted
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 T organic raw coconut butter, such as Artisana
  • 4 t pure organic vanilla extract
  • 2 c mixed berries—raspberries and blueberries are great
  • 3/4 c organic maple syrup for drizzling

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place chia seeds and vanilla pod in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Drain the cashews and rinse them well.
  3. Add cashews, water, dates, salt, cinnamon, coconut butter, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds to a blender.
  4. Gradually bring up to high-speed and blend for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour mixture into the bowl with the chia seeds and vanilla pod—whisk well.
  6. Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent the chia seeds from clumping.  The pudding should thicken quickly (it won’t come to pudding consistency until it has been chilled in the next step).
  7. Refrigerate pudding until cold, about 3 hours.
  8. Remove from fridge and discard the vanilla pod.
  9. Whisk the pudding.
  10. Divide pudding among 8 bowls.  Top each with berries, and drizzle with maple syrup, if desired.

You can find almost all the ingredients in our bulk department, including organic chia seeds.  I served them with Remlinger Farms Berry Jubilee, grown in Carnation, WA and organic bulk maple syrup.  The berries are in our frozen section year-round.

The pudding can be refrigerated for up to 5 days in a covered glass container.

Soaking the cashews first  makes them more digestible by deactivating the enzyme inhibitors that are naturally present.  They also won’t turn into a really smooth paste if they are not soaked.  Don’t soak them for more than a day as the nuts will disintegrate into a gelatin-like substance.

Vanilla Chia PuddingPDF

Raw Caramel Dip – Yum!

Apple season is upon us, and it sure seems like they had a good growing season. All of the new crop apples I have tried have been crisp and delicious. For this week’s recipe demo, I wanted to be sure to include them for that reason. I check Ali Segersten’s blog (of Whole Life Nutrition cookbook fame, written with her sweetie Tom Malterre, which you can find at the Co-op) www.NourishingMeals.com from time to time, and came across her post for a raw “caramel” dip recipe and it sounded so good (and easy!!) that I had to try it.

I was not disappointed. The recipe calls for fresh Medjool dates, raw cashews, and a little bit of maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt. You soak the dates and cashews (separately) for 2-3 hours and then throw everything into a blender or Vita-Mix and presto – a delicious vegan, gluten-free dip that smells like cookies and tastes like caramel!

I sampled the dip with locally grown Bellewood Acres Jonagold apples – they are slightly tart and very crisp – a perfect complement to a locally created recipe! FYI – they give farm tours at Bellewood September 1st – December 31st between 10am-6pm. I spoke with a customer who just went out there with her kids and she said that they had a lot of fun, and so did she!

photo honeycrisp apples raw caramel dip

Raw Caramel Dip © 2010 Sassy Sampler

RAW CARAMEL DIP

http://www.nourishingmeals.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c raw cashews *
  • 1 c medjool dates, pitted (about 8-10 dates)
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 2 t vanilla
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Date soaking water as needed

* cashews are technically not raw because they are heated to remove the shell.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place the cashews into a small bowl and cover with water.  Let soak at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Place the pitted dates into a separate small bowl and cover with water.  Let soak for 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Drain and rinse the cashews, then place them into a blender or a Vita-Mix, along with the drained dates (save the date soaking water).
  4. Add the maple syrup, vanilla, and salt.
  5. Add about 6—8 T of the date water and blend all ingredients until ultra smooth, scraping down the sides if needed.
  6. Scoop into small bowls and serve with sliced, fresh apples.

Raw Caramel Dip PDF

Tom Malterre and Ali Segersten wrote the Whole Life Nutrition cookbook.  Tom is the Co-op’s nutritionist — you can find him twice a month at the Co-op. Check the most recent Co-op newsletter for dates/times.  He will be here to answer your questions about healthy eating, nutrition, and diets.  We are lucky to have them so accessible – a customer told me today that she learned about Tom and Ali while she was living in Arizona and followed her blog, and was so excited when she moved here and found out they were local!

Alissa Segersten received her Bachelor’s of Science from Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. She is the previous owner of a Personal Chef business in Seattle, Washington that successfully addressed the health and lifestyle needs of many families with her delicious, healthy cooking. She is currently a cooking instructor and author of the food blog http://www.nourishingmeals.com, empowering people with cooking skills and knowledge of whole foods so that they may reconnect with the pleasure in eating delicious, nourishing food.

Tom Malterre received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University and is licensed by the state of Washington as a Certified Nutritionist. Tom travels throughout the United States and Canada lecturing at conferences on topics such as Vitamin D, Gluten Intolerance, and Digestive Health. He empowers people through classes, seminars, and private counseling with his insight and depth of knowledge on the biochemical interactions within our body and their relationship to our diet .