Posts Tagged ‘almonds’

How Not to Make Almond Milk: An Unrecipe

October 12, 2015

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Nut milks have become an important part of our diets, providing us with a plant based, lactose free alterative to regular milk. Almond milk, as well as soy and coconut milks are among the most popular choices of non-dairy milks.
In reading the label on the almond milk carton, I was shocked to see that it listed several ingredients, other than almonds, and water. There really isn’t any reason to have additives if you consume it quickly enough, as it is persishable. Carageenen and locust bean gum aren’t necessary ingredients to make almond milk, so why would we want to consume them? It is possible to make your own pure almond milk,( or any other nut milk ) and with the right tools, it also easy. I made a colossel mess the other day trying my hand at making homemade almond milk, so you don’t have to. Don’t worry, I got this one down now!

Homemade Almond Milk:

Soak unsalted, raw almonds in enough water to cover them fully and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. The almonds will get soft, but shouldn’t stay soaking long enough to sprout. We recommend using filtered water.

Drain the water and rinse the almonds with clean water. This will rinse off the phytic acid which has accumulated in the water, and  inhibits the body from absorbing nutrients.

It all went well up to this point. Then all hell broke loose!

Place the nuts in either the blender, or the bowl of the food processor. [*Tip #1: If you don’t have a Vitamix or other high powered fancy blender, use the food processor. I used both, which started the messy portion of this project]. Add clean, preferably filtered water. For 1 cup of nuts, add 2 cups of water or more. Next time I will err on the “more side” and probably use closer to 2.5-3 cups. Process for about 3 or 4 minutes until the nuts are ground into a fine meal, and the water is milky white.

SPOILER ALERT: Here is where the really big mess comes in. Pay attention, so this won’t happen to you.

Strain the almonds into a bowl, using a sieve lined with a cheesecloth, or a nut bag. [Tip#2 I didn’t have a cheesecloth, but I did have a lot of sterile gauze from a previous injury, so I used that. Don’t. Just don’t. The meal squirted out of the holes, and splattered on the counters, walls, floor and me. It is thick and gloppy and has the ability to go projectile. It is not pleasant to clean off of everything it spattered on. Which was pretty much everything.] Although the fine sieve will filter out the almonds, you need to have a cloth that you can wrap the almonds in and twist and squeeze to get the liquid out. I ended up using a kitchen towel, which was more absorbant than you want it to be. Do yourself a favor and invest in a nutbag, or at the very least a cheesecloth if you plan to do this. It will make a big difference not only in the mess department, but also in the yield of the almond milk. More on that in a minute.

Once you have extracted the liquid from the almond puree, pour it into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid, ala a Mason jar, and sweeten as desired. You can add a little agave, honey or maple syrup to give it some flavor, or just leave it plain. You should get about 2 cups of milk from 1 cup of almonds.
I used a 16 oz. bag of nuts and due to my ineptitude, I only got a full Mason Jar of milk, with a little extra to spare. That is until I pulled the funnel out of the full jar and knocked it over, spilling the entire contents down the sink. That left me with about 2 gulps of almond milk and a colossal mess.

Homemade almond milk has a very short shelf life of about 2 days in the refrigerator. Make only what you can consume. All those additives in the store bought type makes it last longer.

If you do this properly, you will have quite a bit of ground almond meal. You can store this in the fridge for a few days, and it is a great addition to smoothies, hot cereal, or an additive in muffins and sweet breads. It has healthy fats, protien, some bulk, and a nutty taste. It can also be dried by placing it on a baking sheet in the oven at a low temperature for a few hours until it is completly dry. Dried almond meal can be used in baked goods and in some cases can be a substitute for all or some of the flour in a recipe.

Verdict: I would do it again, and go straight to the food processor to grind the nuts, since my blender was not up to the job.  I would use a bit more water so that the meal is not so thick that it is like wet cement and hard to strain. You don’t want it to be too watery, but a little more liquid would have helped. I will buy a nut bag. It is made for this purpose, and was likely designed by some poor sod who had an experience similar to mine. I had never heard of this invention before, but for about $6 bucks, it could be well worth it. I will be careful when removing the extremely long tubed funnel from the jar so I don’t knock it over again. But I am not one to cry over spilled milk, although I may have said a few choice words I prefer not to publish here, I am willing to try, try again. I think the second time could be the charm!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Moroccan Chicken Tagine

December 11, 2013

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Those of you who follow us on Facebook ( and you really should!) know that I got a slow cooker as a gift. Those of you that follow this blog, know that I am more of a fast cooker type, using fresh ingredients to create seasonal, flavorful and simple dishes. I admit to being a bit intimidated by this concept of slow cooking, and put off trying it out. Finally, on the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I was home long enough to attempt to try it out. First, I did my due diligence, researching recipes, and reading the comments. Many of the readers complained that the cooking times were off. There was lots of conversation about too much liquid, or not enough. Many of the recipes were for dishes I simply don’t care for. Finally, I stumbled upon a recipe for a Moroccan Style Chicken Tagine, with dried apricots and chickpeas. The comments were all favorable, and dish did not disappoint. The rich flavorful stew that accompanies the chicken is hearty and tasty enough to hold its own as a vegetarian dish, with a few minor tweaks ( like losing the chicken!).

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I learned a few lessons experimenting with the slow cooker:

Just tossing the ingredients into the pot and turning it on isn’t going to happen very often. Browning meats, sauteing onions, and finishing sauces on the stove top are part of the success of slow cooked foods. This (un) recipe, is adapted from the Kitchn, and requires a bit of before and after work, but the results were worth the extra effort, and the added mess.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Chickpeas:

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them in olive oil until golden. Work in batches if necessary, until all pieces are done.  Transfer them to the slow cooker.

Using the same pan, saute one diced onion and 2 peeled and diced carrots in olive oil, until soft and slightly brown. Add 2 or 3 minced garlic cloves, and a chunk of ginger root, peeled and minced to the pan, and cook for about 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon or so of cumin, and cinnamon. Continue to saute until mixed.  Pour the mixture over the chicken. Add 1 cup of chicken stock, and a few large handfuls of dried apricots, chopped.

Turn the slow cooker up to high, and cook for roughly 4 -5 hours.

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Remove the chicken from the cooker, and place on a platter, covered with foil to keep warm. Pour the sauce, including the fruit and vegetables into a pan, add 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed.  Simmer until the sauce reduces a bit and starts to thicken.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the finished sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with chopped almonds.

Serve on a bed of cous cous and enjoy!

photos: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Homemade Granola

August 15, 2012

I have never been keen on granola, but once I tried this homemade version, I am hooked!

Since discovering the high iron content of dried fruits and nuts, I was inspired to whip up another batch tonight.  It is quick and easy, and has none of the additives found in the store bought versions.  It does pack some calories, so use it as I do: as a topping for plain Greek yogurt and fruit.

Here is the ultimate “unrecipe”. Use this as a guideline and tailor it to suit your taste.

Homemade Granola:

Mix together 2 cups of old fashioned rolled oats (dry oatmeal), 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, 1 cup of slivered almonds, ¼ cup vegetable oil, and about ¼ cup of honey. Stir to coat and pour onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees, stirring often until golden brown. This should take about 30 minutes. Watch it carefully: it goes from brown to burnt quickly!

Remove the granola from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Add diced dried fruit to taste. I used a combination of figs, apricots and cranberries. Dried cherries could be a nice addition too. You can also add some additional nuts, such as cashews or pecans. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar to sweeten, and mix well.

Store the cooled granola in an airtight container and enjoy!


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