Make Homemade Almond Milk

img_41521

A few months ago I wrote about my obsession with my new Blendtec blender, the acquisition of which led to some surprising changes to my everyday cooking repertoire, like trying to eat less meat and including lots more fresh fruits and vegetables in my family’s diet.

I’ve since traded in the Blendtec for a brand new Vita-Mix. There are endless debates about which of these high-power blenders is the “best”, and for me it came down to nit-picky details. For one, I got tired of how the Blendtec would move all over the counter while it was blending up a smoothie with lots of frozen fruit – the base doesn’t seem to have enough weight to withstand its own powerful motor.

On the other hand, the Vita-Mix container is a bit harder to clean, but, still, when I turn it on I feel that I’m in the presence of a superior, heavy-duty machine. It doesn’t have the automated digital “brain” of the Blendtec but requires manual operation instead. That’s okay with me – I’m all about hands-on.

I’m still experimenting with smoothies, using any piece of available produce in my kitchen, both fresh and frozen;  red, yellow or green.

I’ve even conditioned the children not to gag when I throw a handful of parsley or spinach leaves into their blueberry smoothie – they seem to believe that the taste of green materials is undetectable and that consuming them will hone their growing, spongy brains into glowing spheres capable of breathtaking genius. That’s mommy persuasion for you! And I thought my powers were fading a bit.

One thing that I now prepare on a regular basis is homemade almond milk.  Some members of our household don’t tolerate dairy products, but still like to splash a little something on a bowl of granola in the morning. I am also one of those people who cannot stand the taste of soy milk.

That’s where almond milk comes in. Almonds do contain a respectable amount of calcium – although admittedly just a fraction of that found in cow’s milk – as well as other minerals like selenium, magnesium and potassium. I can’t tell you for sure what the nutrition value of homemade almond milk is compared to the commercially made stuff, but at least when you make it yourself you know exactly what’s in it.

I recommend filtering the milk through a cheesecloth to avoid a bit of grittiness; I usually strain mine through a very fine strainer, but a small amount of solids come through. I don’t mind that so much, but if you want a perfectly smooth milk go for a cheesecloth or the unfortunately named Nut Bag.

Homemade almond milk tastes delicious with granola – try my favorite recipe for Homemade Granola, too.

Homemade Almond Milk

1 cup whole almonds

2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups filtered water

Blend all ingredients at high speed in a blender for about 1 minute. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined colander set over a large bowl. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Raw Sweet Corn Chowder

I got impulsive about a month ago and bought a new high-powered blender – The Total Blender by Blendtec. Costco was featuring a live demo of these super machines in action and I was curious.

I’ve been aware of the Vita-Mix brand of commercial blenders, and remember the ads they ran a few years back featuring hot, naked celebrity chefs posing with nothing more than a Vita-Mix and their birthday suit. But since I couldn’t imagine investing in a pricey machine that I’d probably use for little more than the occasional smoothie, I never even considered I might need or want one.

Some DinnerStyle clients of mine own a Vita-Mix, and I’ve been having fun “borrowing” it whenever I’m cooking for them by whipping up smooth soups and sauces for their dinners. The first time I turned it on I was a little amazed not only at its power, but also by how loud it was.

But here’s the thing: that baby made flawlessly creamy soup in about 15 seconds, like a mini cyclone in a jar. Needless to say, I found myself considering replacing my clunky old KitchenAid, which could barely manage to chop ice for emergency frozen margaritas, with a super new Vita-Mix.

When I saw the Total Blender at Costco, I borrowed my friend B’s iPhone and did a little research right there in the store, and found the price was right and reviews were mostly good. It compares neck-in-neck with the Vita-Mix, with a motor that is just slightly more powerful and a comparable 7-year warranty; the jar blade and motor base drive for a lifetime.

Blendtec has been around for years making commercial machines for places like Starbucks, and started marketing to home consumers. (I’d never seen the crazy “ Will it Blend?” infomercials until now, but they are somewhat entertaining) The great thing about buying things like this from Costco is that if the blender turned out to be a dud when I got it home, I could always return it. I love that.

So, I took my new blender home and it’s changing my life. Seriously! ( And no, I’m not even getting paid to say that) Now that its high summer and peak produce time, I’ve been making myself and my kids fresh smoothies for breakfast using organic berries, peaches and mangoes. I throw in entire vanilla beans and almonds and make creamy, dairy-free drinks for T, who suffers from a bit of lactose intolerance. No Chuck Norris action figures yet, but I might be tempted.


The makings for gazpacho in my new blender

I’m also blending up some sweet local tomatoes for gazpacho and raw sauces for pasta.
When I came across this Ani Phyo recipe for soup using raw, fresh sweet corn in the June 2008 Food & Wine magazine, I put my new machine to work.

The soup is fantastic – sweet and creamy, with the cashews giving the soup plush texture, as if it were dairy cream. I like garnishing the smooth soup with whole, raw corn kernels. When you have the freshest corn of the season, there is no better way to eat it than raw!

You most certainly can use a regular blender to make this – just make sure to soak the cashews for a few hours before so they blend up nice and smooth.

Raw Sweet Corn Chowder with Cashews
(adapted from Ani Phyo in Food & Wine)

4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and kernels removed with a chef’s knife
2 cups water, approximately
1/2 cup cashews, soaked 1 – 2 hours; drained
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small, peeled garlic clove

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or cilantro
1/4 cup choppped fresh tomato

In a blender, combine 2/3 of the corn with 1 1/2 cups water, cashews, olive oil, garlic and salt and puree until smooth, adding more water to achieve desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

Pour the soup into bowls and spoon the remaining kernels into each one. Garnish with basil and tomato.

Makes 4 servings.

Save This Page on Del.icio.us

Subscribe to FamilyStyle Food

Copyright (c) 2008 FamilyStyle Food