beverages, dairy free, personal, recipes, Uncategorized

Cashew-Almond Milk

In the last year or so, my cooking has slowly gravitated towards staple-making. I like the idea of preparing the things that Jon and I eat super regularly, that form a sort of foundation from which we can assemble other dishes. Nothing super complicated.

I credit the origin of this idea to a few years back, when I read Tamar Adler’s Everlasting Meal.  She writes, “Cooking is both simpler and more necessary than we imagine. It has in recent years come to seem a complication to juggle against other complications, instead of what it can be – a clear path through them.” Though I’ve loved food for a long time, reading this is one of only a small handful of moments that I can credit with changing my approach to cooking entirely.

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Around here, staples include almond butter, milk & cheese; various salsas, tomato sauces, pestos, aioli, hummus, etc.; granola bars and granola; roasted and puréed vegetables; brown rice, soba noodle, or quinoa salads; and always something sweet- chocolate chip cookies and almond butter cups are the most popular. The process of staple-making has taken me through a rhythm of refining, adventuring out with new flavors & combinations, and returning to old favorites. These are the things I enjoy making the most and, time willing, will continue to make.

So, here is my process for making almond milk. Since almonds can be pretty expensive, even more so now that I’m not living in California, I’ve switched to a 50-50 cashew almond blend, which I find to be even creamier than straight almond milk.

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Cashew-Almond Milk
Makes 2 quarts

1 cup cashews (unsalted)
1 cup almonds (unsalted)
8 cups Filtered water
4 Medjool or 8 deglet noor dates, split between two batches
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, divided

Tools you’ll need: a high-power blender, and nut milk bag or tight-woven linen cloth 

Place the cashews and almonds in a large bowl and cover with water. Soak for at least 24 hours, but up to 48-72 hours if time allows.

After soaking, pour the nut mixture into a strainer and rinse under cold water, stirring with your hand, until the water runs clear.

Combine 1/2 of the soaked nuts with 4 cups water, 2 (or 4, depending on the variety) dates, 1/4 tsp. salt & 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Blend on high for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, take a clean bowl or wide-mouthed pitcher and line with the towel or nut milk bag. Pour the blended milk into the bowl, being careful not to let it spill over the edge. Gather the ends of the towel and, working slowly, squeeze to filter the milk out of the pulp.

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Once you have a roughly 1/2-3/4 pulp remaining in the towel, you should be done. Pour the milk into an air-tight storage container and repeat the process with the remaining ingredients.

Store the almond milk in the fridge. I find it tastes best when consumed in the first 4-5 days. Since there isn’t a preservative other than the salt, it will start to turn around then, but if it does and you haven’t used it all, it can still be used in place of a buttermilk in baking.

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A few other notes:

C O F F E E : I drink this almond-cashew milk almost every day in my coffee. It froths really well (maybe best 1-2 days after making it). Some separation happens after it sits in the coffee for a bit, but you can quickly stir to recombine and it tastes exactly the same.

D A I R Y  S U B S T I T U T E S: If I know I’ll be using this almond-cashew milk as a substitute for milk in a savory recipe, I’ll just use a little salt and leave out the dates. If you make it this way, it’s worth removing the skins (from the almonds) and using the pulp to make cheese. Season with lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast & chili flakes and it makes a pretty convincing goat cheese substitute- especially if left out to ferment for a few days at room temperature.

V S .  S T O R E  B O U G H T : This is definitely a recipe that is worth every bit of time and effort. Those of you who have already made almond milk at home may not need convincing, but homemade has been a total game changer for me. The best store-bought version I’ve found is Marin Living Foods, which, to my knowledge, is only available in the Bay Area. Until I find something that compares, I will be making my own!

V A R I A T I O N S : Cocoa Almond Milk – blend 1 cup of this cashew-almond milk with 2 tsp. coconut butter, 2 tsp. dutch process cocoa powder & 1 date

Please email me with questions! I’ve been making this once a week for the last year (ore more!), so am happy to help however I can.

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dairy free, events, gluten free, personal, recipes, snacks, Uncategorized

Curate Chicago Pop-up in Kalamazoo!

This weekend I’ll be in Kalamazoo for Curate Chicago‘s Holiday Pop-up shop! My cousin Christina is the talented co-founder and owner, and decided to host her first ever holiday pop-up in our hometown.

I am really excited to be joining her on Saturday and Sunday to sell some of my favorite food “staples” – almond milk, granola bars, and almond butter cups. For those who are or were able to attend, I wanted to share some information about ingredients and sourcing here. Details about the event are also included below. Hope to see you!

Curate Chicago Kalamazoo Pop-up

  • Location: 116 W. South Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • Date: December 1 – December 7
  • Hours: 10am – 5pm

Here’s a list of everything I’ll be selling:

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Cherry Almond Granola Bars 
Ingredients: gluten-free oats, brown rice cereal, slivered almonds, dried dark cherries, cocoa nibs, homemade almond butter*, Fase Apiaries wildflower honey, cinnamon, sea salt. Allergens: tree nuts.

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Toasted Oat Tahini & Hazelnut Bars
Ingredients: gluten-free oats, brown rice cereal, hazelnuts, coconut, raw tahini, Michigan raw honey, Dutch-process cocoa powder, coconut oil, Michigan maple syrup, Nielsen-Massey Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract. Allergens: tree nuts.

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Salted Almond Butter Cups
Ingredients: Enjoy Life chocolate chips, homemade almond butter*, Fase Apiaries wildflower honey, organic powdered sugar, Nielsen-Massey Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract, sea salt, Maldon sea salt (for finishing). Allergens: tree nuts.

Cinnamon Date Almond Milk 
Ingredients: California almonds**, medjool dates, cinnamon, sea salt. Allergens: tree nuts.

Cacao Almond Milk
Ingredients: California almonds**, medjool dates, sea salt, coconut butter, Dutch process cocoa powder. Allergens: tree nuts.

*the almond butter is made with almonds only – no oil or salt added
**the almonds were purchased from D&S Ranch in Oakhurst, California, and are from a crop harvested in September.

All ingredients and packaging were sourced from small businesses or farmer’s markets in Southwest Michigan whenever possible. For the almonds, I purchased them directly from D&S Ranch in California for two reasons- 1) to support the grower! and 2) freshness matters so much, especially when it comes to the almond milk & almond butter. The almonds are the foundation of every one of these recipes, so starting with a quality ingredient makes for a much more delicious finished product.

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One final note: shelf life! Almond milk is best consumed within 4-5 days, the granola bars will keep in the fridge for at least 3 weeks, and the almond butter cups can be frozen & consumed whenever!

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dairy free, dessert, gluten free, soy free

espresso chocolate chip cookies

Happy new year! This January marks two years since I gave up eating gluten, and my baking life hasn’t really been the same since. There have been a few successes, most notably this cornmeal almond cake, some brownies, and a few other things here and there, but for the most part my forays into gluten-free baking have been far from successful. Sunken loaves of banana bread, and several dozen variations of cookies which began with a lot of hope and twelve spoonfuls of dough on the cookie sheet, yet somehow always became one thin, crumbly mess. I know there are gluten-free baking mixes out there, but I haven’t found one that works for me- either it contains dairy (off limits), has a grainy texture, or still leads to the aforementioned pancake cookie.

And then, about a month ago, one of my co-workers at Williams-Sonoma gave me the recipe for gluten-free cinnamon swirl raisin bread from The How Can it Be Gluten Free Cookbook (America’s Test Kitchen). The bread was a huge success – (I’m still enjoying slices from the freezer) – but what was equally exciting was the leftover gluten-free flour mix I had ready to go in the pantry. I’ve been baking quite a bit using that blend since then, and the cookies are finally turning out! The recipe below is adapted only to make these cookies gluten- and dairy-free, but otherwise comes straight from Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen.

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Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup Earth Balance (soy-free), at room temperature

1 egg, at room temperature

3/8 cup cane sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. vanilla

142 g. America’s Test Kitchen gluten-free flour blend (you can find the recipe here)

1 tsp. salt

10g ground espresso / coffee

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and coffee. Set aside. In a larger bowl, combine the butter and two sugars. Beat with a hand mixer on high for 3 minutes, until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for one minute. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir until incorporated.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or a Silpat sheet, and drop by the Tablespoonful onto the sheets. You should get about 12 per sheet and 24 cookies total. Bake one sheet at a time for roughly 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are set. Let cool completely before removing the cookies from the sheet, and store at room temperature in an air-tight container. cookies_05

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