Friday, January 31, 2014

RECIPE: Homemade Almond Milk

Let me start by saying I've never been a big fan of dairy substitutes. I don't drink a ton of milk, but I absolutely love cappuccinos made with our Nespresso machine, and nothing I've bought in the store has frothed up or been anywhere near as delicious as cafe au cow. So I had resigned myself to the fact that I'd be switching to green tea for the duration of The Whole Life Challenge. I was, however, planning to buy almond milk for my husband, who would be doing the challenge with me, and who does enjoy almond milk, especially in his smoothies and cereal (puffed brown rice is compliant at the WLC intermediate level!).

Alas, when I reviewed the labels on each and every container of almond milk at the store, I discovered that even the unsweetened varieties contained ingredients, such as cargeenan and guar gum, that aren't allowed on The Whole Life Challenge. So I turned to my group members to see what they suggested. One person said I should buy made-to-order almond milk from a local grocer, but when I saw the price ($16 a quart? I'm sure it's delicious but are you effing kidding me?), that option was off the table. Then, another member* suggested making the almond milk ourselves. His recipe sounded simple enough, so I decided we'd give it a go. And guess what? Not only was it easy, it was unbelievably delicious—so much better than the cardboard-flavored fluid from the grocery store—and better still, it steamed up flawlessly for my morning cappuccino. Plus, we had leftover almond mulch that we could use in other recipes (like homemade LaraBars)!

Just one quick note about the following recipe: I make it with vanilla beans and dates, which are optional but really help to round out the flavor and add just the right amount of sweetness. (I don't like my milk or coffee sweet, and these additions don't make it too sweet at all.) A lot of other recipes out there suggest vanilla extract and sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup, but those ingredients are not Whole Life Challenge compliant like whole dates and vanilla beans! (Yes, every vanilla extract I've found has alcohol and/or sugar in it...and honey and maple syrup are really just sugar.) Whew. Okay, then. Here, without further ado, I will walk you through how to milk an almond.

(printable recipe)
Serves 8
4 cups (16 oz.) of raw almonds
8 cups (64 oz.) of filtered water
1-2 vanilla beans (optional; they can be pricey so I like to buy them in bulk)
2-4 pitted dates (optional)
1-2 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt
Additional water for soaking almonds

1. Place almonds in a large (32 oz.) container and cover completely with filtered water.
2. Place vanilla beans and dates (if using) in the separate 8 cups (64 oz.) of filtered water.
3. Soak everything overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
4. Drain and rinse the almonds and place in a high-powered blender.
5. Add 5-6 cups of the vanilla-date water, along with the vanilla beans and dates (if using) and the salt, to the almonds.
6. Blend at a ludicrous speed until all solids are pureed.
7. Place a nut milk bag (or a very fine mesh sieve) over a large bowl, and pour in contents of blender. Make sure to squeeze (or press) the hell out of the mulch in order to strain off every last delicious drop.
8. Set aside the almond mulch. (You can toss it or store it in a container for use in other recipes. I'll be posting some at a later date!)
9. Pour the milk into a large (at least 64 oz.) container, and then add the remaining vanilla-date water to it (pour water through a sieve if there are any solids left in it) and gently stir.
10. Store milk in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Note that you will need to shake it thoroughly each time you serve it. (We like to store ours in Klean Kanteens for easier shaking!)
11. Marvel at the awesomeness that is you, making your own damn almond milk from scratch! Then make lots of juvenile jokes about pulverized nuts and nut sacks.

*With special thanks to The Whole Life Challenge BEATS team members William Perry and Mairi Sturch for the recipe inspiration!

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