Homemade Almond Milk

For those who would like an alternative to cow’s milk, this may be something you’d like to try. I have tried many brands of almond milk, and a few were okay, but when I read the ingredients, I thought, “Hmmm…homemade would be better.” And it is! (as usual)

These are the ingredients of a popular organic almond milk – “Organic almond base (filtered water, organic almonds), organic rice starch, organic vanilla, sea salt, natural flavor, carrageenan, riboflavin (B2), vitamin A palmitate and vitamin D2.”

Organic rice starch? Why would starch be in a milk product unless it’s to enable the manufacturer to reduce the expensive ingredient (almonds) and make it seem full-bodied by using a thickener? How many almonds might there actually be in this product? I did the math – 1/4 cup almonds has approximately 200 calories. The calorie count for 1 cup of the above-mentioned commercial almond milk is 40 calories. That would be the equivalent of 1/5 of 1/4 cup or less than 1 tablespoon of almonds. That’s about 7 almonds per cup of almond milk. But actually less, because we have to account for the starch calories.

And natural flavor? The exact definition of natural flavorings & flavors from the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Section 101, part 22 is as follows:

The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

Uh…all I know is “natural” flavor seems to be a highly processed food-like product.

And finally, carrageenan. The jury’s out on carrageenan. From an article on Stonyfield’s website, “Undegraded carrageenan is approved for use in all foods and infant formula in the U.S. In the EU, undegraded carrageenan is not approved for use in infant formula, but is allowed in all other foods that might be fed to children of any age.” There might be more to carrageenan than meets the eye, so if I don’t have to have it, I’d just as soon avoid it.

These are not ingredients that I have in my pantry, and I doubt that you do either. When was the last time you went to a neighbor and asked, “Um, could I borrow a teaspoon of carrageenan?” They’re just not what I would consider real food – whole foods created for us by a loving God to nourish our bodies and keep us healthy.

The ingredients in homemade almond milk? Raw organic almonds, filtered water, a tiny bit of sweetener (such as raw unprocessed honey), a pinch of salt, and pure vanilla extract, if desired. That’s it.

Homemade Almond Milk

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:

1/2 cup raw organic almonds

1 cup filtered water

pinch sea salt

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup or other healthy sweetener

1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (if desired)

3 more cups filtered water

Instructions:

1. Put almonds into a cereal bowl. Pour water into bowl to cover almonds by 1 inch. Let sit overnight.

2. Drain and rinse almonds. Discard that water. Place almonds, salt, sweetener, vanilla and one cup of fresh water in high speed blender. Blend for about 1 minute, or until almonds are fully pulverized and liquid appears thick and creamy.

3. Add one more cup of water. Blend to mix.

4. Add as much of third cup of water as it takes to reach the 3 cup line. Blend to mix. Taste, adjust flavors, and strain if desired. (If you strain it, the pulp can be saved and slipped into recipes here and there – even cookies!) If you don’t strain it, shake or stir before pouring.

5. Refrigerate and use within 3-5 days.

One cup of this almond milk has about 132 calories, 5 grams protein, 11 grams good fat (monounsaturated), 57 mg calcium, and almost 3 grams of fiber. It can be poured over cereal, used in cream soups and casseroles, and flavored with veggie “bouillon” and/or mushrooms to make gravy, as well as many other uses. In the next post, I’ll be sharing my recipe for Vegan Creamy Butternut Squash Soup made with this almond milk.

Let me know what you find to use it in!

Advertisements

GF Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake

At this time of year, my office usually has a bowl of snack size chocolate candy available for anyone at any time. Oh, goodness, it’s hard to stay away from! I’ve been averaging 2 a day on the days I go to work. :/ So I needed chocolate, but in a healthier package.

In this cookbook from my local library, I  found a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread. I almost didn’t make it because I did not have enough cocoa powder, but took a chance with what I had and I’m glad I did. It came out delicious! The sweetness is comparable to a quick bread, but since I couldn’t quite see having a piece for breakfast, I called it a cake.

I  made a few changes because of my preference for certain ingredients, but either way, I’m sure you would be happy with the result! (If gluten is no concern for you, just sub whole wheat pastry flour for a healthy alternative and omit the xanthan gum.)

GF Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Earth Balance, coconut oil, or olive oil

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup Sucanat (or organic sugar)

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 T milled flaxseed (optional)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups finely grated zucchini

2 1/3 cups GF flour mix *

2/3 cup cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×9 baking pan.

2. In medium saucepan, melt Earth Balance. Turn off heat, and add honey, Sucanat, vanilla, flaxseed and cinnamon. Mix well. Let cool a bit.

3. Finely grate 2-3 zucchini to make 2 cups. Don’t squeeze out the moisture – this helps moisten the cake. Add to wet ingredients in saucepan. Mix until well combined.

4. In large bowl, sift together flour mix, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt. (I use a fine mesh strainer.) Whisk well. Stir in chocolate chips

5. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until well combined.

6. Turn into well-oiled 9×9 baking pan and spread out evenly.

7. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (But don’t confuse melted chocolate chips with liquid batter! – Yes, I speak from experience.)

Serve with fresh, cold milk. (Recipe for almond milk to come soon!)

* A word about gluten-free flour mixes…

I would like to use all whole grains when I bake, but I’ve seen that that’s not realistic. First of all, some items wind up feeling like gravel in the mouth 😉 . And particularly with gluten-free baked goods, some turn out too crumbly and won’t hold together. So I’m taking the advice of those who’ve been doing this longer than I have, and using a whole grain/starch combination for my all-purpose flour mix. My flour mix consists of 70% whole grain flour (or combination of whole grain flours) to 30% starch. This works out to approximately 25 ounces WG flour to 11 ounces starch. Currently I’m using a mixture of 25 ounces brown rice/millet mixture and 11 ounces potato starch all mixed together and stored in my fridge. See below for possibilities.

Use 70% (25 ounces) of any of these whole grain flours, alone or in your desired combination:

Almond
Amaranth
Brown Rice
Buckwheat
Corn
Millet
Oat
Quinoa
Sorghum
Sweet Brown Rice
Teff

Then add 30% (11 ounces) of any of these starches, alone or in your desired combination:

Arrowroot
Cornstarch
Potato Starch
Tapioca Flour
White Rice Flour

Homemade chicken noodle soup with vegetables

I tried. I really tried. I always start out to make plain chicken noodle soup, and then I get going with the vegetables and can’t stop.

This will be a quick version. Well, maybe not really quick, but quicker than when I start with a whole chicken.

After work the other day, I was staring at my list of veggies that I keep on my fridge, trying to think of what I was in the mood for. It’s cold and rainy today, and I could only think of soup. My husband came home, I mentioned soup, and he said “chicken noodle soup!”

A note about ingredients: normally for the best flavor, I’d want to use a whole chicken. But honestly, I hate deboning the chicken and dealing with the grease from the skin, etc. So I keep organic skinless, boneless chicken thighs from Costco in my freezer for whenever I want to make chicken soup, pot pie, paprikash, etc.

Let’s make soup – if you’re new to making homemade soups, I’ll walk you through it.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with Vegetables

Makes 2 large dinner portions

Ingredients:

1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless organic chicken thighs

1 quart water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped cauliflower

1 cup chopped kale

1/2 cup frozen corn

8 ounces noodles (for GF, I use broken pieces of brown rice spaghetti)

1 quart organic chicken broth (optional)

Put chicken, water and salt into large soup pot. Bring to boil, and simmer for about one hour. If chicken is frozen solid, that’s okay. Just simmer for about 1/2 hour, then reach in with tongs and break apart the chicken pieces. Continue cooking for second 1/2 hour. The chicken should be cooked through and very tender by this point. (If it doesn’t shred easily, cook a little more.) Pull chicken out of its broth and set aside to cool a bit. When it’s warm to the touch, keep 8-12 ounces out to shred with two forks (or your fingers) for this recipe, and move the rest to the refrigerator or freezer to use for another purpose. (You needed to simmer the full amount of chicken, though, to make a rich broth.)

Add onion, celery, parsley and thyme to broth in pot. Simmer until tender.

Turn off heat and add shredded cooked chicken and diced raw zucchini to pot. (You are now done cooking in this pot – the diced zucchini will cook just sitting in the hot broth.)

In a small to medium covered saucepan, steam carrots and cauliflower in 1/4 cup water until tender. Strain, saving vegetable broth in freezer jar to save for future vegetable soup. Add strained carrot and cauliflower to pot.

In same small saucepan, steam kale and corn in 1/4 cup water. When tender, strain, saving broth as you did with the carrot/cauli mixture. Add strained kale and corn to pot.

Stir soup well and heat up a little if it has cooled off. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired. If you would prefer more broth than this recipe provides, open a quart of organic chicken broth and add according to your family’s needs. We don’t add a whole lot of noodles, so this amount of broth is sufficient for us. But if you like a lot of noodles, you’ll probably need extra broth.

(You may be wondering why I don’t just cook all the vegetables together in the chicken broth. If I were making vegetable soup, where I want the broth to taste like all of the vegetables, I would do just that. But I want this broth to taste like chicken! I made the mistake once making soup the long way – boiling a whole chicken, standing there forever deboning it, cutting up the celery, onion and carrots. I cooked all of these veggies in the chicken broth, and it wound up tasting like carrots! It totally overpowered the chicken flavor. Never again! So it’s worth it to me to labor just a teeny bit more to keep the flavors separate until last minute and then add the sweet vegetables like carrots and corn at the very end.)

Cook noodles in a pot of salted boiling water  according to package directions until al dente. Strain and add to individual bowls, if possible. (I do this for two reasons. Number One, hopefully there will be enough soup for leftovers, and I can’t stand water-logged noodles. And Number Two, my husband likes a lot more noodles in his soup than I like, so we’re both happy!)

Ladle soup over noodles in bowls. Serve with grated romano cheese, if you like. Enjoy! 🙂

If you would like to receive this blog directly to your email, you’re welcome to enter your email address as directed on the right.

Vegan Creamy Cauli/Split Pea Soup

Last week, a few friends and I went to a retreat in California. Everything about it was wonderful, including the food. The meals included an abundance of vegetables and a great use of whole foods. And whenever I needed to ask, there was a gluten-free substitute – including GF carrot cake and chocolate mousse!

I did, however, eat a lot more meat than I am used to, so when I got home, I couldn’t wait to make a vegan meal for supper.

Fortunately, a Whole Foods email had arrived suggesting “Warming Meals for Cooler Weather,” with a few recipes I wanted to try. I couldn’t decide between two of them – that’s where it began, and this is where it ended!

Vegan Creamy Cauli/Split Pea Soup

Ingredients:

4 cups water

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup yellow split peas

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrot

1 rib celery, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

4 cups chopped cauliflower

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled apple

2-3 cups almond milk* (see below)

cayenne to taste

Garnish:

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 t salt

sprinkle of cayenne

Instructions:

1. Bring water to a boil. Add salt and split peas and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tender.

2. While split peas are cooking, saute onion, carrot, celery and garlic in oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. After split peas have cooked and are tender, add sauteed veggies, cauliflower, curry powder, apple and 2 cups almond milk. Simmer until veggies and apple are tender. Add extra 1 cup almond milk as desired.

4. Prepare garnish: toss pumpkin seeds, oil, and seasonings until seeds are well coated. Roast in oven at 350 degrees for about 3-5 minutes, watching carefully, until crisp.

5. Taste soup and adjust seasonings. This can be served as is, or you can blend it with a stick blender till smooth. Top with seasoned pumpkin seeds.

*To make your own almond milk, soak 1/2 cup raw almonds overnight in water. Strain and rinse. Add to high speed blender with 2 cups water and blend until almond particles are fully pulverized and milk looks creamy. Use as is for this recipe. Or you could add a pinch of salt, a few drops of vanilla and a bit of pure maple syrup to taste if you’d like to use this for drinking or to pour over cereal. (In this case, you might also want to strain it, but that’s optional. Just shake well each time you use it.)

Tomato, Spinach, Cheddar Quiche – Quick and Easy

 

I wanted to make a quiche to bring to our ladies Bible study this morning and had to scramble (haha) for ingredients because I’ve been away for the past week and had no fresh veggies in the house. No problem! (Alas no picture either because, as usual, I was running late and forgot to snap one! Just imagine this with beautiful chunks of red tomato throughout – very impressive but so easy!)

Blend in blender:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

3-4 tablespoons flour (GF if desired)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

few scrapings nutmeg

Toss together in bowl:

1 1/2 grated cheddar cheese

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 cup frozen spinach, squeezed in paper towel

1 c fresh tomato, cored, seeded and chopped, or equivalent of canned diced (let sit on paper towel for a few minutes to remove excess water)

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1. Turn cheese and veggie mixture into oiled pie pan.

2. Pour blended liquid mixture over.

3. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, then at 300 degrees for additional 30-45 minutes. It’s done when it doesn’t jiggle and when knife inserted into center comes out clean.

That’s all!

 

Pumpkin Oat Scones with Cranberries and Pecans

If you would like to receive this blog directly to your email, you’re welcome to enter your email address as directed on the right. Coming soon – homemade butternut squash soup, chocolate chip banana circles, and i-never-thought-it-could-taste-so-good tofu!

Lately, I’ve been wanting to bake with apples or pumpkin. Pumpkin won. 🙂

I’ve been making these scones for many years. The original recipe came from this cookbook published in 1979. Wow – I was single then and not even dating my future husband! I’ve made these with raisins, apples and blueberries, but this time I worked pumpkin, cranberries and toasted pecans into them. Mmmm…

I like the uniqueness of scones. When I eat a scone, I have certain expectations. I want it to be rich and a bit crumbly, not dense. I want to feel the complex texture – the bits of oats, nuts and fruit that I put into it. I don’t want it to be smooth like a biscuit that’s more of a side item. A go-with. A scone is the main fare! It should look earthy. Wholesome. Hearty. And it shouldn’t be too sweet, like a dessert. Just slightly sweet, like I’m eating one of the original scones from Ireland of old where flour and sugar were precious commodities. These scones are whole grain, can be gluten free, and celebrate the coming of Fall!

The ingredients in this are like those in all of my recipes – examined for nutritional content and processed as little as possible. Recipes abound that are rich and sweet that do not do your body one bit of good! I can’t, in good conscience, give you those.

I feel a strong sense of responsibility to give you what will nourish your body  toward good health. Some people really have no idea that nutrition is a science, proven to affect health. Food intolerance, too much protein, too many processed foods, too much bad fat and sugar, too few nutrients – all of these can cause health issues that people go to the doctor for, and then are put on medication. For instance, the CDC estimates that 2.7 million children in the U.S. are currently taking medication for ADHD. Many of these children can be treated by a high-nutrient diet and avoid the side effects of medication.

If you have parents who were aware of the benefits of whole natural foods and passed that on to you, be grateful for it! That’s where I’m blessed – my mom is a retired registered nurse and learned early  about nutrition. She actually introduced me to it when I was a teenager, and my interest in it stuck. Thanks, Mom!

We can learn and affect the next generation. 🙂 That’s what I want to do. How about you?

So as far as I can know, the recipes I use for my family combine good flavor, natural ingredients, and solid nutrition. This is what I offer to you!

On to the scones…

You may remember from here that I am new to a gluten-free diet, which I became committed to after experiencing relief from my long term joint pain. I’m experimenting with all of my old recipes, adjusting them to fit my new nutritional focus. I keep a jar of gluten free flour mix ready in my pantry for when I want to bake. I learned from the master, Shauna James Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl (this page will give you all the details), how to make a whole grain flour blend. Below is the recipe I used for my GF flour mix that I used in these scones. I’ve written the scone recipe as a regular recipe that anyone can use – just know that for the gluten-free version, you are to substitute GF oats (if you’re extremely sensitive to gluten) and GF flour mix for the whole wheat or white flour.

GF Flour Mix:

18 ounces brown rice flour

7 ounces millet flour

10 ounces potato starch

Instructions:

Whisk or sift all ingredients together till thoroughly combined. Store in mason jar in refrigerator.

Pumpkin Oat Scones with Cranberries and Pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

When preheated, toast 1/3 cup pecans for 3-4 minutes. No more! They burn easily. (I only burned one batch this time.)

Dry ingredients:

1 1/4 c oats (GF if necessary)

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (or GF flour mix)

1 T baking powder

1/2 t cream of tartar

1/2 t salt

2 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

1/2 t allspice

1/4 t nutmeg

1/3 c toasted pecans, broken with fingers

1 T milled flaxseed or chia seeds (optional)

1/3 c dried cranberries, fruit-juice sweetened

Wet ingredients:

6 T melted butter, Earth Balance or extra virgin coconut oil

1/3 c pure maple syrup

1/4 c canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 egg

Instructions:

1. Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.

2. Whisk wet ingredients together in small bowl.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix with rubber scraper until moistened.

You can form scones in different ways. One was is to turn dough out onto floured pastry board. Form a log, pat down into a rectangle, then cut into about 12 triangles.

Alternately, you could turn it out onto floured pastry board, pat into one or two circles, then cut into 8 “pie wedge” type triangles, separating slightly.

OR you could just drop 8-12 spoonfuls of dough directly onto oiled baking sheet just like drop biscuits. (see “drop” scones above)

Using pancake turner, move to oiled baking sheet. For a nice touch and some added sweetness, you could paint these with milk and then sprinkle the tops with raw sugar. I did that on some of these in the pictures. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on size. Enjoy the fragrance permeating your house. Candle businesses spend a fortune trying to fabricate what you’re creating with natural ingredients! 🙂

Remove from pan immediately. As with most baked goods, they are best while still warm (or briefly warmed up). Brew hot drink of your choice. Put feet up. Enjoy!

Basic Crustless Quiche

I was invited to have lunch with a friend around 30 years ago (Can it be?!), and she served this quiche.  She gave me her recipe, I changed it to eliminate the crust, and I have made it many, many times since then. It makes a great entrée for brunch or dinner and is a well-received dish to bring to a group meeting or potluck supper. I occasionally bring one to our morning ladies Bible study.

This quiche can be made with or without meat. It can be made gluten-free or with wheat flour. The filling can be poured into a pie crust, but it does perfectly well without one. I will give you the basic recipe as well as many options – be creative! Choose something different each time using the basic structure found here.

Basic Crustless Quiche (GF version)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Custard ingredients:

4 eggs, preferably farm-fresh organic

1 1/2 c organic 2% milk

2 T GF millet flour

1 T arrowroot

1/2 t salt

1/4 t dry mustard

Few scrapes of nutmeg

1/2 t dried herbs or 2 t fresh (about 1 t each fresh chopped rosemary and sage)

Filling:

1-1 1/2 c grated cheese (I used half grass-fed cheddar and half monterey jack)

1 small to medium onion, chopped and sautéed

Approx. 2 cups vegetables, lightly steamed or sautéed, and patted dry (I used 1 1/2 yellow zucchini and 1/2 bunch kale)

1/2 cup meat, if desired

Some notes about ingredients you may choose to use:

1. Vegetables – Broccoli, cauliflower – slice thin, lightly steam. Frozen spinach or kale – squeeze dry. Fresh greens – pull leaves off tough ribs, wash, shake off water, steam in covered pan until reduced to about 1-1/2 cups worth. Zucchini, asparagus – sliced or chopped and lightly sautéed. Tomatoes – chopped and drained a bit on a paper towel. Fresh sweet peppers – no need to saute. Frozen organic corn – no need to cook first. Potato – sliced and lightly steamed.

2. Cheese – Swiss, cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella, gouda, havarti – just grate on large-hole side of box grater. One kind or combination of a few. Low-fat is okay. Just don’t use romano or parmesan cheese as your only cheese. You may, however, add a few tablespoons for flavor. Brie is wonderful!

3. Onion – after chopping, you may saute, but you don’t have to.

4. Milk – Two percent works well. One percent’s okay, too. And I’m sure whole milk would be wonderful!

5. Herbs – dill weed, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, summer savory, etc.

Instructions:

1. Blend custard ingredients (except for fresh herbs, if using) in blender or place in bowl and blend with stick blender. Set aside while making filling.

2. Oil pie pan. Place it on a foil-covered baking sheet.

3. Cover bottom of pie pan with sliced, sautéed zucchini. Sprinkle chopped onion evenly over zucchini.

4. Distribute steamed kale over onion layer. Sprinkle shredded cheeses (and meat if using) over kale .

5. Blend custard again for a few seconds. Stir in chopped rosemary and sage. Pour over fillings in pan.

7. Very carefully, place baking sheet with filled pie pan on center shelf of oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 300 degrees 30 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out without any custard sticking to it. Let sit 10 minutes to settle before serving.

Some great combinations:

Asparagus and Swiss.

Corn, peppers, and black beans with cheddar/monterey mix.

Spinach, havarti, and nitrate-free bacon.

Mozzarella and tomato with basil.

Broccoli, potato and cheddar.

What combinations can you think of?