Lightly-Spiced Almond Milk

March 16, 2012 § 3 Comments

About a month ago, I came across this video by Sarah Britton, blogger of one of my top three favs: My New Roots.  Since then, I’ve watched this little flic nine more times.  I’ve graduated from a noodle strainer to a cheesecloth to a fine mesh “nut milk” bag.  I’ve drunk a few gallons of nut milks.

Why go to the trouble?  Certainly, there are plenty of health benefits: Nuts are spankin’ healthy. Also, in most packaged almond, rice, oat, hemp and some soy milks there are added ingredients like carrageenan, a thickener (seaweed derivative) that can be rough on sensitive tummies and may have longer-lasting detriments.

These are good reasons to buy a few cups of raw nuts and dust off the blender. But I like making nut milk for two other reasons (the purported health benefits being a mere kick in the pants).  First, making this drink makes me feel delightfully resourceful.  Second, you can make oodles of variations.  I spice each batch differently, depending on my mood.  For instance, if I want a sweet nut milk, I’ll add medjool dates (soaked in water for a half hour to soften) or a tablespoon of honey to the blender.  If I want a plain milk, I won’t add any spices; it’s still creamy, the flavor is more subtle.  Below, I’ve put my favorite combo of late.  I use the leftover nut “pulp” to make cookies like these. I nibble on one or two for an afternoon snack with a cold glass of almond milk.

Ingredients:
1 cup raw almonds
8 medjool dates, pitted
water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, optional

Equipment:
fine mesh bag
blender
air-tight jars for storage

Method:

1. Pour raw almonds into a large glass bowl and cover with water.  Soak for a minimum of 8 hours, up to a day.  A half hour before blending, add dates to soften.  Drain almonds and dates and place in a blender with 4 cups of water and spices, if using.  Blend.

2. Place a fine mesh bag or cheesecloth in a pitcher.  Drain and squeeze the almond pulp.  Reserve pulp for a fun recipe.  Pour almond milk in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, vegan, gluten-free

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Coffee Fix: Fancy-Cowboy Style

December 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m not one of those “coffee is the nectar of the gods” sorts.  I don’t live for the “buzz.”  In fact, I admonish black cups that yield overly-jittery mornings that linger past lunch.  But a morning without coffee (or, I’ll be generous, without tea) becomes unmarked, lost in a haze of more and less important “to-dos” of the day.  A morning coffee isn’t nourishing in the way an omelet with red peppers is nourishing. In fact, if you look at the world through the lens of life-sustaining foods, no five-calorie drink realistically makes the cut.  If wouldn’t kill you to delay coffee drinking for a few hours; if you put off peeing or taking some important pills, the results could be disastrous.  In short, a cup of coffee is a comparatively superfluous delight.
Drinking coffee signals: I want the house to smell good.
It says: This is just for me.
It always says: Shut up and don’t nag.
And even in a travel cup it says: Baby, sip me slowly.  

Exhibit A: Tea steeping

Enter: The French Press.  I love coffee shops, but I love protecting my already-deflated wallet more.  A french press is a relatively inexpensive start-up purchase, it uses no electricity, the coffee grounds can be composted and the gizmo itself is versatile–I use my french press to steep loose-leaf tea, too (see Exhibit A and B). Making coffee at home is easy-peasy and takes fewer than ten minutes.

Exhibit B: Making chai tea

A note about coffee grounds: The best coffee, I think, is prepared with beans that are ground the day-of.  But if you don’t have a bean grinder, not to worry: You can still have a great cup of coffee so long as you use beans that have been ground relatively recently (ideally the last couple of weeks; short shelf-life).  If you like coffee from a particular cafe, buy a bag of their coffee beans and ask them to grind the beans for you.  Keep in mind: French press coffee requires the beans to be ground slightly coarser than that of a drip-coffee machine, so be sure to mention you have a french press at home.  Alternatively, most grocery stores have a coffee grinder in the coffee section–if you purchase your coffee there, grind it yourself and choose the setting.

What you need for one cuppa coffee:
French-press
8oz. water
2 tablespoons coffee grounds

Method:

1.  Heat one cup of water on the stove.  Meanwhile, measure two (heaping) tablespoons of coffee grounds into the bottom of the french press. When water comes to a boil, remove from heat.  When the water ceases to bubble, pour into the french press.  Stir with a spoon and then put the lid on top to keep the water warm.  Set timer for 4 minutes.

2.  Press the “plunger” down to the bottom of the glass jar to trap the grounds.  Pour coffee into a cup and drink black or with preferred additions (sweetener; cream).  In summer, add ice cubes.

Mango Margarita

August 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Tomorrow I jet eastbound to southern Maine (Irene, permitting)!  The following morning I’ll don my faded farming pants and begin a short term apprenticeship on an heirloom apple orchard/homestead.  I’ll be photo-documenting my first real-deal FALL (!) this October and in the coming months I’ll post a photo or two, along with some apples recipes.

But before I head out, it’s time to whip up a final batch of margaritas.  Akin to the semi-annual Fitz BBQ or Grandma’s wintertime delivery of peanut butter fudge, no drink sings of “home” more than this tequila-lime slurry.  My dad tweaked his tried-and-true blend to fit the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  While this version is not as authentic as its original counterpart, it’s lip-smackin’ good.

One important note: In addition to the mangoes, my pops adds one frozen banana or a pineapple core to impart a bit of sweetness, but not so much banana/pineapple that the flavor of either becomes detectable.  Alternatively, feel free to add additional honey or your preferred sweetener.

Ingredients:
1 cup lime juice
3/4 cup tequila
2 large mangoes, peeled and pitted
1 frozen banana and/or pineapple core
2-4 tablespoons honey
3 cups ice, crushed
sea salt

Method:
Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Taste and add additional honey if necessary.  Spread sea salt on a plate, about 1/8″ thick.  Dip the rim of each glass in a bit of the margarita liquid and place glass rim-side-down in the salt.  Twist until entire rim is coated.  Fill each glass and serve immediately.

Diet: SCD-safe, gluten-free, nut-free

Ginger Lemon Tea

July 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

Some of you may already carol the merits of the two primary ingredients in this drink.  But if you’re not a member of camp-ginger or camp-lemon—if, let’s say, the title of this recipe induced a nose wrinkle, a stomach turn or a mighty urge to click away to a different hyperlink—let me quell your worries.

Let me preface by saying that lemonade makes me pucker, unless it’s diluted with plenty of water and a couple glugs of orange juice. Similarly, if I had to eliminate one spice from my spice rack, it would be a toss-up between a pristine jar of ground ginger or a plastic container of poultry seasoning re-gifted to me nearly a decade ago.  Ginger and sweetened lemon water are two things I figured—if I ever really thought about either—I could very easily live without.

But friends, life is full of surprises!  Five weeks ago my friend invited me to one of our favorite local coffee shops.  I happened to have a bit of an upset stomach that day and when the cutie-pie barista started listing off the slew of available iced teas—ginger and lemon was his favorite—I shyly smiled and said “Oo, that sounds good!” while inwardly eye-rolling.  I sheepishly figured that, if nothing else, it might be a tummy-soother.  My friend and I shuttled back to our table, sweating glasses in hand, and I took a sip, hoping for palatability.

To say I liked it would be a severe understatement.  I went back to Bentley’s Coffee Shop and ordered that tea nearly every day for the next two weeks (disclaimer: Cutie-Pie was only present a third of the time).  To everyone I dragged with me, I claimed that I was deflating my wallet for “testing purposes,” while I tried to master my own Ginger-Lemon Tea at home.  But while that was sort of true, I didn’t start any feverish duplication attempts until my summer job started 374 miles away in Santa Fe.

If you’re not sold on making this drink, let me make one last attempt. I’m under the impression that when you boil the heck out of a bunch of ginger and mix it with a dizzying amount of lemon juice, they somehow rule out each other’s less-than-savory attributes and harmonize—with a nudge of honey—in the most exceptional way.  I’ve made over a dozen batches of this sweet-tea blend in the last month and this is as close as it gets to the real-deal.  (Although nothing is quite as good as sitting in Bentley’s with an iced glass in hand, gabbing by the big window with a good chum.  The ambiance can’t be beat.)

This recipe is easily tweakable to your tastes: If you like it sweeter, add another quarter-cup honey.  If you want the lemon to stand out more than the ginger, add the juice of another lemon or two.  I’ve made this tea several times with just ginger tea bags (four bags total for this recipe) and it’s quite good—but nothing beats the real-deal ginger.  If you can, buy the knobby rhizome.  It’s critical to note that the recipe makes a concentrate.  I’d rather not expend the energy to bring eight cups of water to a boil.  Instead, when the concentrate has cooled, you can reconstitute with another quart of water and chill until serving.  (Usually, lacking shelf space, I simply leave the concentrate in a glass jar in the fridge and pour myself a half-glass and top it off with cold water.)

Ingredients for a 1-quart concentrate*
*Reconstituted, this recipe yields 2 quarts ginger-lemon tea
2/3 to 3/4 cup lemon juice (approx. 5 large lemons)
4 cups water
1/3 cup ginger, peeled and chopped in hunks
1 ginger tea bag (optional)
½ cup honey, high quality

To make a pitcher of tea:
3-4 cups water, chilled (added at the end)

To make one glass of tea:
Add equal parts chilled water and concentrate 

Method:

1. Peel ginger (perfectionism is unwarranted here) and chop into chunks.  In a medium saucepan, heat water to a boil.  Add ginger and simmer for 20 minutes; the water will turn an amber-gold color.  Remove from heat and steep an additional 10 minutes (if desired, add one tea bag at this stage).

2. Meanwhile, squeeze lemons and strain pulp and seeds.

3. Remove ginger pieces (and tea bag, if using) by straining or skiving off with a slotted spoon.  Add lemon juice and honey to the pot.  Heat and stir until honey dissolves, just below a simmer.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

4.  Add 3 cups of water and taste; add additional water if preferred.  Chill in the refrigerator and serve over ice.  A fun tip: Freeze an ice cube tray with ginger-lemon tea and serve drink over iced tea cubes.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, gluten-free, nut-free

Good for the Heart & Soul: Pumpkin Spice Latte

December 18, 2010 § 3 Comments


A few days ago I putzed around a nearby market, ambling in and out of the bulk bin aisles.  Each time I turned the corner, I noticed another stack of canned, organic, pureed pumpkin on sale — above the roasted almonds, next to the tamari-flavored pepitas, underneath the bins of flaky nutritional yeast and clumpy falafel mix.  Pumpkin pies, breads and muffins are on their way out; eggnog, citrus-anythings and biscotti are on their way in.  While I wholeheartedly embrace these sweet, seasonal additions, I’m not quite ready to give up my favorite pumpkin recipe.  A few weeks ago I caroled and crooned over morning mochas.  This piping hot, pumpkin beverage is on par with it’s chocolate-y counterpart.  A few times a week, I fill up my leaky travel mug and perfume my little office with smells of pumpkin and cinnamon.  My shelves are now stockpiled with pumpkin puree and I just refilled my mini, glass jars of autumn spices.

Ingredients (serves 1 large or 2 small cups):
1 cup almond milk (plain)
1/2 cup coffee, strongly brewed
1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin butter*
1/2 teaspoon honey (or more, to taste)**

*I use Trader Joe’s (it’s my favorite!) but you can also make your own.

**If following a vegan diet, swap honey with maple syrup.

Method:

1. Prepare coffee.  My method, using a french press: Place 2-3 tablespoons of ground coffee beans in the bottom of the glass jar and heat water on the stove until boiling.  Remove boiling water from heat and let cool for just a moment (so it stops bubbling), then pour water into french press and steep 4 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, combine almond milk, pumpkin puree, spices and pumpkin butter in a small saucepan on the stove.  Heat on medium-high heat and whisk, on-and-off, as the liquid begins to heat.  When the coffee is prepared, pour into the almond milk mixture and continue whisking.

3.  Stop whisking when bubbles start to appear around the edges of the pan (don’t bring the whole mixture to a boil).  Take a quick taste.  If too bitter for your preference, add a half teaspoon of honey and whisk until combined.  Serves two small or one generous portion.

Diet Notes: gluten-free, vegan (see asterisk)

Good for the Heart & Soul: Mocha!

November 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

It’s by no means “bone-chilling-cold” in Tucson, Arizona.  But the nighttime temperatures are scooting toward the 30s and I’m afraid to use my gas heater.  As such, I’ve come up with a good reason to untangle myself from 18 very-warm blankets each morning.  May I present my latest, daily, sweet-tooth habit: A piping hot, creamy, good-for-the-soul mocha.  This isn’t your standard (400 calorie) coffee-shop, chocolaty-espresso drink, but rather, a slightly-less-decadent, winning morning addition to my yogurt & granola addiction.

For the past two weeks, I’ve scuttled out of bed (toes scampering across cold tile) to heat up the water pot while I commence the unexciting doldrums of morning (washing face; yawning).  Minutes later, water pot whistling, I whip up a mocha (or a pumpkin latte; recipe coming!).  When the drink is steaming-hot, I fill up my travel mug.  The house smells rich and spicy.  I get ready for work.  I walk to the university.  When I arrive, I unlock the thick, wooden door and open the flappy blinds by my two desk windows.  I wheel the horrendously squeaky chair over to the desk past two, crammed bookshelves, a road bike and cardboard boxes stuffed with plant presses and old newspaper clippings, and I settle in by the humming computer.  I sip my special drink, beginning the work day.

Ingredients:
1 cup almond milk (plain)
1/2 cup strongly-brewed coffee
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaping tablespoon dark cocoa powder (high quality)
1 tablespoon hot chocolate powder (high quality)*
pinch evaporated cane sugar or spoonful of honey, to taste**
1/4 tsp. vanilla (optional)

*As an annual splurge, I buy this Fair Trade cocoa from Conacado in the Dominican Republic.

**For those on a vegan diet, omit honey and swap with maple syrup.

Method:

1. Prepare coffee.  My method, using a french press: Place 2-3 tablespoons of ground coffee beans in the bottom of the glass jar.   Heat a half cup of water on the stove until boiling.  Remove boiling water from heat and let cool for just a moment (so it stops bubbling), then pour water into fresh press and steep 4 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, combine almond milk, cocoa, hot chocolate powder and cinnamon in a small saucepan on the stove.  Heat on medium-high heat and whisk, on-and-off, as the liquid begins to heat.  When the coffee is prepared, pour into the almond milk mixture and continue whisking.

3.  Stop whisking when bubbles start to appear around the edges of the pan (don’t bring the whole mixture to a boil).  Add vanilla.  Take a quick taste.  If too bitter for your preference, add a half teaspoon of honey or evaporated cane sugar and whisk until combined.  Serves two small or one generous portion.

Diet Notes: gluten-free, vegan (see asterisk)

Orange & Black Tea Fizzy Drink

September 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

The events of this past week have become jumbled in one rather large smear, like an action shot taken on a slow shutter speed.   I’ve moved twice, started intensively training for my first race (!), jumped, full-throttle into a few terrific work projects and got 8 hours of sleep over the course of three days.  Somewhere in there I also turned 23!  Because my life was a bit zippy, I didn’t have much time to pick up my spatula and whip out the ol’ cast iron.  Suffice it to say, my meals have been positively scintillating: I’ve scooped my way through two yogurt containers and I consumed somewhere in the ballpark of 13 peaches.

But today made up for a few too many yogurt bowls of yester-week:  I sauted carrots for a bean salad flecked with dill and lemon, picked maroon eggplants from the garden to slap on the BBQ, roasted tomatoes with heirloom garlic to top a summery salad…  At 1:45pm, our little table teetered with colorful bowls and steaming plates, smelling of smoke and charcoal.

While dishes circled around the table, we sipped this delightful, bubbly drink, tweaked from the Food Network.  The original recipe calls for sugar, which has been swapped out for agave nectar (a natural sweetener that doesn’t require any sort of melting as it dissolves immediately in liquid).  Feel free to tinker.  Initially, upon skimming Giada’s recipe, I figured this sweet drink would yield six, modest servings (six cups of liquid, afterall).  But on this hot, late-summer day, we sipped our way through the entire pitcher by the time the double-decker birthday cake shuttled out of the refrigerator.

Ingredients:
2 cups water
7 bags black tea
1 cup orange juice, fresh
3 cups seltzer water
1/4 cup agave nectar

Method:
At least 6 hours in advance, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Remove water from heat and add tea bags; steep for 20 minutes, then discard bags.  When concentrated tea has cooled to room temperature, add orange juice and chill.  Just before serving, add seltzer water and agave nectar (to taste).

Diet Notes: gluten-free, vegan, nut-free

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