Archive for November, 2013

Almond Milk

There are generally several types of nuts and seeds that you can buy in the grocery store bulk section, including unsalted, salted, organic, non-organic, gourmet flavors and candied. Due to a law made in response to few years of harmful bacteria contaminated produce, regular raw almonds are illegal to sell in stores, which forced businesses to sell only chemical or high-heat treated almonds. This makes raw almond availability rather scarce, and now raw almonds have to be bought directly from the growers. For some odd reason, this law only pertains to almonds, seeds, grains or other nuts.

I made the strange observation earlier this year that some grocers are selling organic sprouted almonds; I am guessing that this is due to the additional processes that the nuts must go through before they are sold to stores (someone please correct me if I am wrong). Maybe no one thought to sell them this way before, or maybe there was too much speculated financial risk of the projected cost. I am not sure, but these days people are definitely willing to pay for the convenience and availability of store-bought raw almonds. Let me tell you, sprouted almonds are more expensive and have a stronger flavor; a rare few tasted as intense as alcohol-free extract. It might be possible due to their increased nutrients and flavor from sprouting that fewer almonds are needed to make nut milk with the same amount of flavor, which may also help to balance out the price. As these almonds are already prepared through sprouting, they do not have to be soaked, which saves a bit of time and labor. Personally I still like purchasing raw almonds directly from the growers at the farmers market during peak season, since I don’t mind soaking and dehydrating the nuts myself.

Please see my previous cashew milk blog entry for general directions for making non-dairy milk. I have included some suggestions for sweeteners and spices.

Plain Almond Milk
My husband and I prefer to make lots of plain unflavored milk at once, so we can use it in a wide variety of foods, from smoothies to soups. Adjust the milk proportions and flavors as you like.

Yields 6 Cups

Ingredients
2 C Prepared Almonds
6 C Filtered Water
1 Pinch Sea Salt

Directions
Process the almonds, salt and water until the nut pulp is fine and the liquid turns white; the nuts can’t be over-blended. Strain the mixture through fabric, like cheese cloth or a nut milk bag, making sure to squeeze the ground almonds within the fabric to release more liquid without letting the pulp squish through. Set the pulp aside. Store the milk in a sealed jug or jar(s) in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

Notes:
Reserve the pulp for another batch of milk, or dehydrate it into almond meal to later use.
You can also freeze the milk into cubes to melt into hot tea or coffee or make into ice cream.

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Cashew Nut Milk

For those of us who have an allergy or an intolerance to milk, eating or drinking many tasty creamy delights that normal people can have can prove difficult to consume, even with allergy and digestive pills. This means, no cheese, yogurt, ice cream, milkshakes, cheesecake,…. You get the idea. As more people are discovering their own digestive intolerance and allergies, more options are becoming available in grocery stores and restaurants. At the same time, recipes for dairy alternatives are being perfected with improved colors, flavors and textures. Thank goodness there are so many food enthusiasts excited about experimenting with ingredients! For instance, I have seen all sorts of non-dairy milk and cheese alternatives in stores and online, such as various cultured and non-cultured goodies made from hazelnuts, hemp seeds, coconuts, oats, rice, sweet potatoes, etc. The process of making special milk is pretty easy and is usually much cheaper and more environmentally friendly to make your own than buy it (processed with bonus additives) from the store, even if you buy organic ingredients. Making and drinking milk alternatives is so popular, the comedy television show, “Portlandia” (which is on Netflix right now), has even featured several hilarious spoof PSAs by the “Portland Milk Advisory Board” regarding different types of milk, including zucchini milk and berry seed milk (jam).

You can make the milks as thick or as concentrated as you like, although the methods depend on the ingredients used. Also depending on the nut and how you process it, like cashew milk can turn purple and pumpkin seed milk will turn green if they have their inner skins still attached. You can also flavor or sweeten them however you like. Some nuts, like almonds are naturally sweet, so they don’t require a lot of sugar. Others, however, may need a bit of help if they have a natural bitterness, like walnuts do. I like rice milk, but it’s very low in nutrients and is not raw (none of the store-bought milks are). Sweetened rice milk is fine and dandy for horchata, but I would rather make something with more protein and less sugar (I like to dilute restaurant-style horchata by half usually or at least wait until the ice melts, so I don’t feel like I’m drinking liquid candy). What I don’t want to do though is destroy the proteins in the nut milk by boiling water to concentrate it. I did read somewhere that milk concentration in a dehydrator is the preferred method to preserve the proteins and amino acids, but excess water can also be steamed off by simmering the milk in a pan over the stove, constantly stirring and frequently measuring the temperature to prevent the milk from reaching over 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

The method of making alternative milks is pretty much the same no matter what you use. From what I gather, the first step is to prepare the seed (grain, nut or otherwise) into an edible form. See my blog entry on preparing nuts and seeds. (If you are working with grains or root vegetables, you have to cook them first). Blend the nuts, seeds, etc. with water; I recommend a high speed blender, like my Vitamix. Generally you want a ratio between a one to two and a one to four parts of nuts to water. According to Sarma Melngailis in her book, “Living Raw Food,” if you do not have nuts, seeds or what-have-you to grind up with the water, you can mix the water with nut or seed butter instead; Amanda Mercer’s alternative recipe uses 1/16 or 1/48 to 1 parts ratio (for instance one tablespoon almond butter to one cup water for thick milk or one teaspoon nut butter to one cup water for thin milk). Strain the milk through a fine mesh, like cheese cloth or a special nut milk bag; I bought mine at the Santa Rosa Community Market. Some nut pulp can be blended and strained to make a couple more milk batches, depending on the desired flavor intensity and thickness.

At this point, you can sweeten the milk (with stevia, agave, honey or dates just to name a few); there’s a wide variety to choose from depending on what flavor profile you want. You can flavor the milk with alcohol-free extracts (vanilla or almond), spices (such as ginger, chai spices, pie spices, cinnamon or cacao nibs) or cooled infusions (like herbal tea). Adjust the richness of the milk if you like by adding oils or butters, like those of coconut.

Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is great not only for cereals and smoothies and other normal milk uses, but is also great in making desserts, sauces and cultured non-dairy cheeses. This milk has a pleasing rich creaminess from the natural oils contained in the nuts.

Yields 6 cups

Ingredients
2 C Prepared Cashews
6 C Filtered Water
1 Pinch Sea Salt

Directions
Process the nuts, salt and water until the nut meal is fine and the milk opaque; the nuts can’t be over-blended. Place the nut milk bag or filtering fabric over a large clean container, like spouted glass measuring cup. Strain the mixture through fabric into the container, making sure to carefully squeeze the pulp within the fabric to release more liquid but without letting the pulp squish through. (Cashews can grind down to a very fine meal, and silty cashew milk is an unwanted and unpleasant surprise. So be careful not to squeeze too hard.) Set the pulp aside.

Notes:
Store the milk in clean, sealed non-reactive jugs or jars in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.
Reserve the pulp for another batch of milk soon, or dehydrate the almond meal to use later.
You can also freeze the milk into cubes to melt in hot tea or coffee or make into ice cream.

Fruit and Vegetable Presents!

I’m so excited! We just got our CSA (community supported agriculture) box of fresh fruits and vegetables! I made high pitched girly squeals or excitement, and then I unpacked the box, carefully removing each all of the items one at time. We received all sorts of fruits and vegetables! I laid them out on the dinning room table and took a few pictures. I know I’m silly, but each item seemed equally precious to me as I took in each marvel’s colors and shape. I carefully piled most of the fruit in my big fruit bowl. Next, I cut the hearts out of the lettuce, chopped the bottom end of the celery and separated the greens from the root vegetables to help them last longer and preserve flavor. I carefully wrapped the vegetables in reusable plastic bags to preserve their moisture in the refrigerator.

While at the National Heirloom Exposition, I met up with an old college classmate. I had been contemplating signing up with a local CSA program for years. Generally it’s much more cost effective and more environmentally responsible to buy your produce in season this way than driving to the store, and sometimes who knows how far those items are trucked, flown or shipped in from. Besides with a CSA box, I get to pay the farmers more directly. I felt rather conflicted though in choosing a local program; there are so many local farms in our area. How was I supposed to narrow them down to pick just one? Capay Organic Family Farm not only grows their own seasonal foods year round but also swaps fruits and vegetables with other Northern California organic farms in their co-op, which allows for greater variety due to the wide variety of climates and soils in this part of the state.

Capay has several different subscriptions so you pick the amount, types of produce you need and frequency of delivery. You can even get eggs, nuts and trail mix. On the next delivery day, the delivery guy can pick up your old box for reuse and recycling. Just make sure you remember to put your boxes out beforehand, otherwise you might amass quite a collection.

With my utter glee not yet diminished, I happily danced around the kitchen for a bit before reading the accompanying newsletter, which was this time focused on mangoes. Typically the newsletters feature upcoming events, articles, seasonal produce information, cooking ideas and recipes. As an added bonus, the accompanying packing list includes variety names, which is really helpful if you like to save your seeds for your garden or local seed exchanges, like with a gardening club or seed bank.

Red-Label Curry no Ohji-Sama

I finally made S & B’s red box of Curry no Ohji-sama with chicken and mixed vegetables. It tasted so good! This variety is a Japanese sweet curry roux mix that was originally intended for children, but I don’t see why adults shouldn’t enjoy it, too. S & B also makes a blue-box version of this curry, too, which has a different flavor (from what I can tell based on the listed ingredients). What exactly the blue-labelled box mix is supposed to taste like is still a mystery to me, but it looks good. For more information, please read the sections I wrote on both varieties here  or here.

Thankfully, both flavors are gluten-free, as they include corn starch and white sorghum as thickeners in lieu of wheat. The directions call for the addition of meat, but you can substitute it with beans, tofu, nuts, seeds or whatever protein you prefer. The package instructions also call for potatoes and carrots (two sources of carbohydrates), which I felt were not inclusive enough. I didn’t just want to use a boring brown or yellow potatoes and a red onion (the sweet yellow and white cultivars carry less sulfur), and I decided not to serve the curry with rice but to add more colorful vegetables instead. I felt as though that the more colors I included, the healthier and tastier the meal would be, so my curry was a rainbow of yellows, orange, purple, red, whites and greens.

Each box comes with two curry roux blocks, enough to either make the curry twice or cook a double batch. The bricks are sealed individually, so you can cook one and save the other for later, preserving the flavor and moisture and preventing spoilage. As soon as I pealed back the wrapper on the roux, I knew I was in for a treat from the pleasant aromas and yellow curry color of the savory spices and slight sweetness of fruits and vegetables. I could already smell the wonderfully enticing scents of cumin, coriander and turmeric, and for some reason my mind went to cinnamon as a complimentary flavor. Maybe next time I should make a cinnamon infused dessert.

Cooking the Chicken & Vegetables

As usual, I made many of alterations to the recipe, but the dish turned out quite scrumptious, much to my delight and satisfaction. My husband liked it so much, he went back for seconds. He’s a pretty picky eater, so that’s certainly saying something. Please keep in mind that this is a sweet mild curry, so you may have to adjust the flavors to more of your liking; check out Sadie’s blog entry on the blue-box curry roux for some suggestions. Surprisingly with all of the extra meat and vegetables, the curry sauce was still rather thin in consistency. I used the same cooking techniques as described in the directions and decided not to add a thickener (like corn or arrowroot starch) on the first try, since the mix already contained some. Another option is to let some of the water evaporate rather than cooking the meat and vegetables so long with the cover on. Regardless of the outcome, the meal was a success and a learning experience.

Red-Label Curry no Ohji-Sama with Chicken & Mixed Vegetables
Adapted from the instructions on the back of the package
As stated above, this dish already includes enough carbohydrates, so do not serve this with a white rice. If you want to serve it along side or over something, I suggest something with fiber, for instance more vegetables (broccoli or cauliflower) or a seed-like “grain” (quinoa, millet or buckwheat) as a side.

Serves 6Curry no Ohji-Sama With Chicken & Vegetables

Ingredients
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Sweet Onion, peeled, trimmed, coarsely chopped
1 Head Garlic, peeled, trimmed, coarsely chopped
2 Medium Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1″ cubes
2 Medium Carrots, trimmed, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
2 Purple Potatoes (any variety), coarsely chopped
1 – 2 Chioggia or Red Beets, trimmed, coarsely chopped
2 Stalks Celery, diagonally sliced into 1/2″ pieces
1 Broccoli Head and Stem, trimmed, coarsely chopped
2 C Baby or Dinosaur Kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces
2 C Carrot Greens, stemmed, optional
1/4 – 1/2 C Enoki Mushrooms, trimmed, left long or quartered
2 1/2 C Filtered Water
1/2 pkg Red Label Curry no Ohji-Sama Roux, finely chopped
Rice Wine Vinegar, optional
Sweet Paprika, to taste, optional

Directions
Saute the onions and garlic until the onions are soft and translucent in a large lightly oiled pan over medium heat (I used my Misto to spray on the olive oil). Mix in the carrots, beets and potatoes, stirring occasionally. Cook this mixture until the carrots are slightly soft.  Add the water, broccoli and celery. Bring the liquid to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the mixture for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables become tender. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the kale, greens and mushrooms. Fold in the curry roux, half at a time. Cover and return the pan to the heat. Simmer the curry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the roux is evenly distributed. Taste the dish, add more paprika (and or other spices) to taste. Serve the curry either on top of an accompanying vegetable in bowl. Be sure to ladle on some extra sauce if you like.

I served this dish along side a tossed green side salad drizzled with a tasty miso sesame dressing.

Cooking the Chicken & Vegetables