How to: Make Nut Milk

I’ve made milk without lactating or stealing from other mammals.  Life is good.  This is a seriously easy recipe.  Too easy.  I must be cheating somehow.

Kris and I completed a 2 week body cleanse, 2 liquid meals a day, only 1 solid, with some pretty strict restrictions on allowable foods.   We’re hooked on making smoothies for breakfast now.

One of the key ingredients for smoothie yumminess is homemade nut milk or nut mylk for the vegan fans.  It gives a protein boost and a creaminess to the smoothies.

This is so easy.  Try it; I dare you.

3 ingredients and you’re done.  4 if you include time.

We’ve got nuts,Not metaphorical nuts.  We’re at Garden of the Gods by the way.

Literal nuts.  Any kind, except peanuts.   I don’t know why that is.I used 1 cup, raw, unsalted walnuts.  We’ve done almonds and cashews with the same process; everything is equally delicious.

One key factor about the nuts is the higher the fat content of the nut, the creamier the milk will be.  Cashews and macadamia nuts are the highest in fat content, so they will have the smoothest, richest nut milk.

Ingredient #2: water. 3 cups.  Fresh filtered water if you can.  This will soak the nuts.

3rd ingredient, a high powered blender, like a Vitamix.  OK, this isn’t a real ingredient, but once you use one, you will never go back to regular blenders.  A high speed blender will vastly destroy or improve your life, maybe both, depending on if you are a pessimist or optimist.

Yes, of course you can use a regular blender.  We did for a while until miraculously we managed to convince my mom that we could swap our blender for her high speed Vitamix, just for the 3 weeks to complete the cleanse.  She doesn’t know that we stopped after 2 weeks.  I hope she’s not keeping track.

Here’s the process:

Place 1 cup of nuts in 3 cups of filtered water.Let soak for 3-8 hours.  You’ll notice the water become yellowish.  If you’re using almonds or cashews it becomes more murky.

Why soak?  Soaking nuts improves their nutritional content.  Many nuts (seeds too) have enzyme inhibitors meaning they are naturally prevented from releasing all their nutritional goodness unless they have enough moisture.  Soaking the nuts helps release these enzymes, making the nuts release more vitamins and become easier to digest.

After 1 hour you’ll see some nuts sink to the bottom and a yellowish color form in the water.Here’s after 2 hours.  More of the same sinking and yellowing.After 3, you’ll notice the nuts look lighter and fluffier.  It doesn’t seem that nuts can be fluffy, but they just look perkier and more alive.Drain the nuts in a sieve.

What’s a sieve you may ask?  A fancy cooking term for a device that’s let’s you strain out very small pieces.  People often use these for powdered sugar or to sift flour.  Some people call it a sifter.Place soaked nuts in blender.  Add another 3 cups of filtered water.  NOT THE SOAKING WATER.  There’s a time to be frugal and a time to get new stuff.  This is a time to get fresh water.  Blend until a nice frothy liquid.

Strain the bits and pieces of nuts through a fine mesh sieve.

If you want to get rid of even more of the little chunks of nuts, use cheesecloth over the sieve.  This is how I like to do it.There you have it, walnut milk or mylk.  This is delicious, nutty, slightly sweet, more delicate than milk.  It is much more watery than milk.  I don’t drink it plain from the container; it is an ingredient for smoothies, maybe baking, but I haven’t tried that.  Sounds cool though.

If you want it even creamier, add less water and more nuts.  Try a 1:2 ratio of nuts to water.  This recipe is 1:3, 1 cup of soaked nuts for 3 cups of water.

If you’d like it a little more sweet, add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1-2 teaspoons of agave nectar (a raw sweetener) or honey.  Also good,  a ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon.  If you’re in a bind or really don’t care about going all raw vegan, I suppose white sugar would be ok, but we’re trying to go unprocessed here.

Raw, pure milky goodness.

 

 

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Our No Front Lawn Experiment

One of our New Year’s Resolutions, and I quote, was “Rip up front yard and replace with something better.”  Who needs grass?  It’s like botox, once you start, you have to keep it up.

Here’s what we started with:Lots of beautiful roses that burst in the summer=pollinating insects.

Don’t be fooled, as we were, by the green color of what is posing as grass.  It’s really just a bunch of weeds and evil, invasive bermuda grass.  Ickk!

So, off with their heads, I mean roots!

Idealist that I am, I thought this would be a quick weekend project.  We’d just rip up the grass, then plant some cool vegetables, et voila, as the French would say, our garden.

Thank God I have a husband who actually thinks things through and likes to problem solve.

He took a more rational approach to my idealistic one.  He went through about 3 different path designs before finally settling on the one that would optimize access to the different areas of the front yard.  What can I say, he’s an engineer, this is what he’s been trained to do, optimize space and utility.

Here’s our final design:So far this is half of the front yard, and the rest will surely follow.  In May we were able to rip up this part, the right side of our yard, a 16’ by 17’ space with lots of sun.

This would be our space for a French potager. For non-garden people, or wannabes like me, a potager is just an uppity way of saying French-style kitchen garden with cooking herbs, vegetables, and complementary flowers to bring in the beneficial insects.

Here are the stages of the No-Front Lawn Experiment, which took us 3 weekends with the help of a few sucker fabulous friends.

  1. Plan out a design.
  2. Rip out the sod.
  3. Find cheap or better yet, free, manure and compost to enrich the soil.
  4. Create your path.
  5. Plant your potager.

Stay tuned for more about our No-Front Lawn Experiment.

Moroccan Lentil Salad

Lentil beans are the poor man’s feast.  We always have a bag on hand for emergencies.  Fast. Cheap.  Tasty.  Better yet, healthy and low-fat.  Also, they are filling.

Cheap+filling=delicious.

I grew up on lentil soup or some variation of bean soup.  This is a lentil salad, meaning it is not liquidy and can be a chameleon like hummus.

If you need healthy brown bag lunches and are tired of PB ‘n J, try this Moroccan Lentil Salad.  Sounds like a commercial, but I’m serious.  Cook it on Monday and it’ll give you between 3 and 4 different lunches, depending on how much you want to eat.  Put it on top of salad, fantastic.  Inside a wrap-mmm good.  As a side dish next to fish- you’ve got your protein for a year.  You get the idea.

Printable Recipe:Moroccan Lentil Salad

We’ll start with green lentils, though in reality they look brown.  Food has a lot of misnomers.  Ever heard of red cabbage?  It’s really purple.  Red onions too, really purple and white.  Maybe the powerful person who called green lentils green thought green was a better color than brown.  Who knows, but we must oblige.

We’re going to cook a cup of lentils, really a fistful, with 3 cups of water.Don’t forget to cover it!!  Trap in the steam.  Trap in the heat.

Salt?  NO!

Bay Leaf? NO!

But lentils are soooo plain, what about some other flavor?

Just you wait…

Bring it up to a boil and then lower it to simmer.  This will cook for about 30 minutes.

Now we’re going to make the secret: Morrocan dressing.  It’s got a hint of cumin, a little pirouette from lime juice, color from turmeric, and ginger and garlic pizzazz.  Pizzazz I tell you.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Whisk it all together in a small prep bowl. Enter the greens from stage left.  We have cilantro, mint, and zucchini.  Notice the green theme?  Another reason these lentils should be green lentils. That there is my second zucchini from the garden and I have a gazillion more about to avalanche into the house in the next 2-3 weeks, so I got to stay on top of it and try to add them EVERYWHERE.  Well, except my morning coffee.  Don’t want to taint that moment of bliss.

The last 7-10 minutes of cooking the lentils, I slide in the chopped zucchini for good measure. The lentils should be done in 30 minutes or so.  You want them to keep their shape, but you also want them well…cooked.  Over 30 minutes is fine, under no way.  I’d say 40-45 minutes max, just in case you forget about it.  And no, that doesn’t mean I forgot about the lentils either, but thanks for thinking of it.

Put lentils and cooked zucchini into a medium sized bowl.  There shouldn’t be any liquid.  If there is, you may need to drain them first.  Pour over the fragrant dressing, take a whiff, and mix. Also add some fresh chopped mint.  Oh goodness, that smells so good.  Sometimes I wish you could just scratch and sniff the computer screen.I was going all healthy so I put a heaping 1/2 cup of the lentils on top of mixed salad greens, then sprinkled on fresh chopped cilantro and shredded carrot.Buen Provecho!

Monday’s Photo: Windy Rainbow

Back in February Kris and I drove down to San Diego.  Trust me, I know it is not NorCal, but it still is a beautiful place to visit.

Driving down, right before the Grapevine leading into Los Angeles, an expansive rainbow shot across the sky.  I yelped for Kris to pull over, the last exit before miles of twisting, turning, and reminders of what I ate for lunch.

What the picture doesn’t show you is how windy it was outside.  My guess, 40-50 mile an hour winds.  Just a disclaimer, I really have no idea how to estimate how fast wind blows.  All I know is that the wind was punching me, and at any moment I could’ve been knocked out.

This picture more aptly portrays the wind I faced to get the rainbow shot.  So windy, I didn’t even want to open my eyes, but that didn’t stop me from laughing and eating my hair.Happy Monday, Folks!

Operation Roots Not Fruits

Way back in February or March, I made a post about My First Foray into Edible Landscaping, planting 3 blueberry bushes in my front yard.  They took well to the space and started to produce pink and white bell shaped flowers.  I don’t know where I read it from, but for some reason, I got it into my brain that the first year I plant blueberries, or any berry for that matter, I should cut off the flowers so the plants put their energy into establishing roots.  I called it Operation Roots not Fruits.  Against my better judgement, I cut off about 10 innocent white flowers and 20 or so bright pink ones.  Roots not Fruits I kept assuring myself.

Time passed.  A few more rebellious late flowers came out.  I either forgot about them or was too traumatized from the first (mind you, the only) experience.  I didn’t want to behead my blueberries anymore.  Operation Roots Not Fruits was an emotional failure.

Then, this past weekend, Kris and I were walking out to the driveway, passing the blueberry bushes, and what do you know, 3 blueberries sat there, winking at me.

Because I was denied being able to touch things that excited me in stores as a child, I stopped in my tracks, mesmerized, reached out my hand and touched it like Dory with the baby jellyfish in Finding Nemo.  They were soooo cute.  The blueberries, not the jellyfish (pronoun antecedent clarification for all the English teachers).

Suddenly, the one I was touching collapsed in my hand.

I swear, I did not pick it; it FELL into my hand, ripe and squishy.

Obviously I couldn’t just put it back on the plant; you break it, you buy it, right?  So, I showed Kris my accidentally acquired blueberry and eat it.  I would have shared it with him, but really who’s going to cut 1 blueberry in half?

The other 2.  Well…I ate those two one afternoon while Kris was working.  Not before I snapped a few pictures though.

White Chicken Chili with Beer

I ask myself, it’s the middle of summer, why on earth am I making a soup?  You may doubt my thought processes (I sure do sometimes), but this White Chicken Chili with Beer recipe will make you want to forget the heat and just go and make a batch.

Printable Recipe:White Chicken Chili with Beer

It all started with an idea to use cashews in chili to try to thicken it and make it creamy delicious.  Since cashews are a light taupe color, the chili had to be a white chili, not your classic red one.  This required some chicken and white beans.  I wish I found some white navy beans, but all my store had was white kidney beans, no matter.

Like any good chili, it all starts with the pot.  Stainless steel in my case.  Warm it up over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Swish it around to coat the bottom.

Now add 1 small diced onion,and 4 minced garlic cloves.We used to have this nifty plastic device that would poke through all the holes of the mincer and get the strangled remains.  Then it got mangled in the garbage disposal, and we decided to just use our fingernails.  Make sure you get all the garlic pieces.  Don’t get grossed out that your hands will smell.  If someone doesn’t like the smell of garlic, I think you need to reevaluate your relationship.

Shake it around so the onion begins to change color, some edges will be browned and beginning to caramelize and look like this: a little bit of brown, a little bit of translucent.Now add the diced chicken breast and your spices.1 heaping (and I mean heaping, abounding, overflowing) teaspoon EACH of chili powderand 1 of ground cumin.Dice up 1 jalapeno.  Can your house handle all the heat?  One person, who shall remain nameless, in my house isn’t a fan of spicy, so I have to cut out the seeds and membranes where all the heat is stored, like so.Also dice up the canned roasted chilies.  The seeds are fine from these chilies because they’ve been roasted and canned, so their taste is much more subtle.  Check out the charred parts.  That’s where the goodness is hidden.A little extra sauce is fine to add to the chili, but not all of it.  Or heck, why not, add all the sauce in.Use your trusty spoon to coat the chicken with spices and aromatics (AKA onions ‘n garlic ‘n chilies).  Start to cook the chicken for about 4 minutes until it’s white in parts, but other parts are still pink.  Now come the liquids.

Find yourself a great beer.  If you pick Bud Lite or Coors, well,  I suppose I can still appreciate you if you like those beers.  Just get some beer.

Add half the bottle to the chicken.  It’s up to your own discretion what you do with the other half of the beer. While the chicken starts to cook, go out to the garden and clip some fresh oregano.  Dried oregano is fine too though.

This was my fist time using herbs from my garden, so I got a little giddy.  He…he.

Chop the oregano and add it to the cooking chicken.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth. Drain the 2 cans of beans in a colander.  While you’re there, make sure to rinse them well with water; you’ll remove a lot of the excess salt. Place about 1 cup of beans in a blender, but dump the rest of the beans into the pot.

To the blender add ½ cup of cashews (about one left handful)and ½ cup of low-fat milk.  Liquefy until you get a creamy paste.  Then add to your chili.  It will change everything, color-wise.  It’ll also change the thickness of your chili.Here’s what it’ll do…make your chili beautiful and delicious.  Heck, it’ll make you beautiful and delicious.Last thing, stir in 2 tablespoons of cornmeal to help thicken it even more.  Make sure to break up any clumps that form from the cornmeal with your spoon.  This is a good place to end, but if you can handle another level of heat, mix in some good hot sauce, like Tapatio (preferably not Tabasco which is a little too vinagary).  3 splashes per serving.  That’s 6 servings.  You can do the math.

It’s inevitable.  All chili must be served with fresh, chopped cilantro.  I wish I added cheese.  I was desperately hungry.  Make sure you add cheese.  Mmmmm…a good pepper jack or monterey jack would be divine.P.S. Don’t forget about the rest of your beer.  Enjoy!

Lessons from the Garden: Mystery

We have a few trees in our yard that the previous homeowners, for one reason or another decided to completely WHACK.

First we have an orange tree.You can see what’s growing in the back.

Next, a peach or nectarine, we’re not exactly sure since its fruit isn’t much more than a large pit surrounded by taut skin.And finally, our mystery tree extraordinaire.What you’ve probably noticed is that even though the entire tree has been cut down, more keeps a comin’.  The orange tree is a solid 12 feet tall.

The peach (or nectarine, whatever it is) has what seems like a million suckers coming out of its root stock.  Kris insists that we keep it one more year just to “See what happens.”

Then we have the mystery tree which last summer bloomed brilliant white flowers, no fruit. This year, the same stunning cloak of white flowers. I thought it was just a flowering tree, which is pretty darn cool in its own right, but this year…it has shockingly produced fruit.

Fruit that for the longest time mystified us.

First I thought it was a cherry tree.  The bark seemed reddish.  the leaves were oval with wave-like edging.  The fruits dangled from the branches, prompting much excitement.Then, the fruits got bigger.  And bigger.

I thought they were apples because they kept expanding.  Oh, we were excited to possibly have green Granny Smith apples.  So perfect for baking.

We left for a 2 week visit to Kris’ family in Nebraska, returned, and lo and behold, our it-was-a-cherry-now-its-an-apple tree has finally established its true identity.Bright red-violet plums.  Beautiful tangy plums that our dog Titania can eat if she sits back on her haunches and jumps up to pick them off of the low hanging branches.  She loves them.  Kris and I love them.  And finally, the mystery has been solved.

Double Tree Hotel Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’ve ever stayed at the Double Tree Hotel you’ve most likely been given a warm chocolate chip cookie as a welcome gift.  These cookies are so popular that they even have their own webpage (click here ) and countless attempts at copying their secret recipe.  So, what’s one more?

One secret of these cookies is to make them for a crowd.  Bring some in for your co-workers or your child’s little league team, or, if you are lucky like me, a group of drunken graduate students playing softball.  Works like a charm every time.

Printable Recipe: Double Tree Chocolate Chip Cookies

All cookies (and cakes too) consist of dry ingredients and wet ingredients that you mix together to make the dough/batter.  I like to start with the dry ingredients because I’m superstitious.Yes, this is a giant bottle of cinnamon.  We like to do things in an extreme way in my house.Start by adding ¾ cup quick-cooking oatmeal to a food processor.  Quaker Oats are good, but if you are cheap like me, the generic works just as well.   Pulse the oatmeal 10-15 times until you get a fine looking consistency.  The oatmeal is really just a subtle aftertaste in the back of the cookie.  Only true foodies can taste this flavor hint.  Finely chopping the oatmeal in the food processor adds to the mystery taste because no one can actually see the oats.

Add the chopped oatmeal to a large mixing bowl.  Place a sifter over the edges and sift in 3 cups of all-purpose flour.Also put in 1 teaspoon EACH of baking soda, ground cinnamon, and salt.  Voila, dry ingredients done.  Set this aside so the flavors can mix.  Just kidding.  You really just want the bowl out of the way while you work on the wet ingredients.  Make sure to mix it all together.

Making these cookies I’ve had a few realizations.  One is that our kitchen appliances really don’t have that long of cords, especially the food processor and the stand mixer.  So, I fumbled my way around the kitchen appliances -all of which came from our wedding gift registry-did some quick rearranging and cord stretching.  I had to move the food processor completely out of the way for the mixer.  I must have accidently moved the switch to “on” because as soon as I plugged it in, the whisk attachment started making undulating circles in the air.  Ooophs, note to self: make sure things are off before you give them electricity.

Alright, we’re ready.  Careful of dogs that may lie close to your feet as you work.  In a stand mixer, cream together 3 sticks of butter.  This was all the butter we had in the house.  I don’t bake very often.  I also forgot to read the recipe all the way through and only set out 2 sticks this morning to soften up.  So, I took another one out, went to the grocery store to pick up chocolate chips, came back and the butter was ready.  It’s been pretty hot out here in CA (alright I won’t say the temperature because some people might get offended where it is really hot).

The butter got real soft, real fast.  Ick!As I was saying, cream together the butter and sugar.  As you see it, remind yourself that you’re giving away all of the cookies.  It’s the only way to justify using ALL THAT BUTTER.

You’ll fight with the butter because it’ll clump up in the middle of the whisk and along the edges of the mixer bowl.  A rubber spatula works wonders at beating the butter into its proper place.Next step, eggs.  Break 4 eggs into a separate bowl.  This way you can fish out any eggshells.  Of course if you’re awesome and you already know that, well, by all means, just break them one at a time into the mixer. People like me, read clumsy, need the extra caution of a separate bowl.  For people like me, there will always be eggshells to fish out.  What’s my secret?  After myriad attempts at trying to bring the shell piece up from the side and grabbing it, only to have it slip over my finger, I’ve learned another way.

Know thy enemy and take advantage of the fact that the shell is not moving at the bottom of the bowl.

Relax all your muscles in your face, take a deep breathe, then feel your way along the bottom of the bowl towards the piece of shell.  As soon as you feel its sharp edginess, push hard with all your might and slide it up the side of the bowl.  DO NOT PASS GO; DO NOT COLLECT $100; take that shell and send it directly to jail, your compost heap; it’ll do wonders.

Once the eggs are ready, dump them into the mixer one at a time.  Mix after each egg until incorporated.Add 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla.  It makes a beautiful brown swirl when you add it to the mixer.  Use your imagination; I didn’t get a picture.

Also add the juice of 1 lemon.  If you can understand my bad luck with eggshells, you can probably guess my luck at juicing a lemon.  This is why I use a citrus hand juicer.  If only all of life’s problems could be solved with a simple gadget.

All right.  On one side of the ring we have the wet ingredients, and on the other, the dry.  Everything about cookies comes down to dry and wet ingredients.  Now put it all together, and mix with a rubber spatula; the same one you used beating the butter into its place, no need for more dirty dishes.Once the dough is ready, gently mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts (or pecans, but this is not true Double Tree style, so accept the fact that if you’re using pecans you are tainting the purity of the recipe). Gently mix it all together to form your dough.  Cover the cookie dough with plastic wrap, stick it in the refrigerator, and forget about it.  At least for the night.  OK, at least for 12 hours; trust me on this.  Couldn’t do it?  Neither could I, so I took a leetle taste.  If you have issues eating raw cookie dough, don’t.  Kris and I snuck a spoonful each for dessert.

THE NEXT DAY…

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper or cooking spray.  We’ve had this parchment paper for years-it doesn’t go bad even though I don’t bake often. So, some people I know actually cut their parchment to the exact size of the cookie sheet.  I kinda like the wild quality of mine.  Can parchment paper be wild?  I also like to fold the edges under, but it usually rolls up on itself until I plop some cookie dough on it.

Speaking of plopping,12 plops.  That’s a good number, twelve.  Use an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop or just a heaping spoonful and drop the dough onto the parchment paper.  Make sure to leave space between the cookies; give ‘um room to spread.

What does it take for a girl to get a little help around here?Bake at 375 degrees for 13-14 minutes, until golden brown and tantalizing.  I made 36 cookies…I mean 35, one fell, yeah that’s what happened, honey.Enjoy with (drunken) friends.  Don’t forget the milk!