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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nut Nog (a vegan version of egg nog)

I am a LOVER of egg nog.  Come Thanksgiving & Christmastime & I am usually guzzling as much as I can the whole season through.  As a child I often dreamed of finding a way to make my own egg nog so that I could make it all year long!!  I can also remember that they used to also sell a brand of it in cans on unrefrigerated shelves & I would dream of being able to buy enough of those to last the whole year through as well.  My mother never bought the canned stuff, at least not that I can recall, so I have no idea how it tasted or if they still make it or not, we always bought the stuff out of the refrigerator in cartons, next to the milk.

But while I am not completely egg free in my diet these days I am dairy free.  And while I have purchased silk nog & other brands, I do find soy milk hard to digest.  I get a bad stomach-ache after drinking it & I sometimes end up very constipated.  And that puts quite a damper on the holiday spirit, to say the least.

So I went to work on finding myself an egg nog replacement to love & cherish (& that I could actually make any time of year I want says my inner child!!).  And I eventually came up with this recipe.  In buying different brands of soy nog I did notice a HUGE difference in the flavoring of each brand.  So I will say that you can easily toy with the flavoring of this recipe to suit your taste as well.  I, personally, am not a big nutmeg fan.  It is needed, but only a tiny dash is needed for my taste.  The same is true of cloves for me.  Feel free to experiment & customize it to your liking!  I prefer using dates over refined sugar, but again, you can feel free to use whatever sweetener you prefer.

I do soak my nuts overnight & then throw out the soaking water & rinse the nuts well prior to blending.  If you didn't plan ahead you can soak for less time & I suppose in a pinch you could skip soaking altogether, although I don't think it's as healthy (nutrient-wise) or as digestible that way.  Be sure to use RAW UNSALTED nuts for this.  I usually get mine at Trader Joe's. 

Nut Nog

3 Cups water
1 Cup raw almonds
1/4 Cup raw cashews
4-5 dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (alcohol free is preferred in a recipe like this where it's not cooked)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash cloves
dash salt

*combine all ingredients into blender jar & blend well
*strain (you can use a nut milk bag or go to your local hardware store & buy a paint straining bag--it's the exact same thing for much less money)
*chill & enjoy--I store mine in a quart mason jar, this recipe makes ONE quart of the nut nog


Friday, June 1, 2012

Protein Shake

I know it's been quite a while since I posted on here.  Life has been busy.  I do have recipes that I want to share, I just have to make time to do so.

BUT, this is my latest obsession & I REALLY felt the need to share.

I've been working out 5 days per week for the past few weeks, so that means I've been consuming more protein shakes than before (I was working out 3 days per week prior to my recent increase). 

This is sooooo delish!  And you can't believe there's no dairy or refined sugar in it!!  Honestly this is just as good (if not better) than a shake from a fast food joint.

Ok, here goes:

8 oz almond milk
1 scoop protein powder*
1 Tablespoon almond butter
1/2 banana

Blend this up & enjoy!

*I use & love MRM all natural egg white protein.  I have it in both chocolate & vanilla varieties.  For this recipe I prefer vanilla, but chocolate would work too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Almond Yogurt

I am soooo excited about this recipe!  I think the thing that excites me most about a plant based diet is being dairy free.  I feel so much better (health-wise) & it's so exciting to find new alternatives to dairy.  20-30 years ago (around the time I first went veg) if it had been as easy as it is these days to be dairy free I'm positive I would've taken that leap.  But back then it wasn't this easy.  It was downright hard.  Of course there also wasn't internet back then, which is certainly very helpful.

Also the fact that my hubby has dairy issues (not to mention my toddler) makes me really excited to find alternatives.  I love to see them enjoy having alternatives like this.  I guess it's more exciting with my hubby because he's been living without for so long.  The toddler really doesn't know any difference.

And yes, you can easily go to a health food store (& even some well stocked mainstream grocery stores nowadays!) & get alternatives for any dairy desire you might have BUT it does usually come with a price.  It's usually quite pricey & it's oftentimes very processed with lots of additives.

My toddler has always LOVED yogurt & kefir.  He just seems to love that fermented taste.  I used to give him goat milk kefir (& when the prices started going up on that I started making my own) & goat milk yogurt since he couldn't tolerate cow dairy.  BUT these days I prefer to keep him totally dairy free & he seems healthier when I do so.  A couple of months before his 2nd birthday I switched him to rice milk from goat (& shortly thereafter started making that myself).  A few months back my hubby came home with rice milk yogurt for Lil J & he loooved it.  He eats it all the time.  BUT it's pretty pricey I must admit.  And personally I have an issue with it having so much sugar in it, at least the brand that our health food store carries does.  I believe it's the second or third ingredients on the ingredient list (after milk & water!)  One thing I will say about Redwood Hill Farms (the makers of the goat kefir & goat yogurt) was that their ingredients were amazing.  They only sweetened with fruit, fruit juice, honey, & real maple syrup.  That's the way I like to do things myself.

So I recently started thinking about trying an almond milk yogurt, now that I'm making my own almond milk.  In the stores I've only seen soy & rice as non-dairy yogurt options.  But I have to say that almond milk just has this creaminess to it that other non-dairy milks don't seem to have.  So that really made me want to make a yogurt with the almond milk.

I did a lot of homework.  I've made kefir before, many, many times, but I've never made yogurt before.  Kefir is quite easy to make, but yogurt seems to be very temperature sensitive.  And with kefir, you simply need kefir grains.  While with yogurt you need a yogurt culture starter.  So while they do have a similar taste, they are made quite differently.

My first attempt at making almond milk yogurt was in a crock pot.  I found lots of info online about making yogurt in a crock pot & since I love my crock pot I decided to give it a try.  I have to say I was pretty impressed.  The flavor of it was great, but it was very liquidy.  I don't think the temperature was maintained where it needed to be for the whole time.  And, to be honest, it was sort of a hassle to make it this way.  Since this is something I'm planning to do fairly regularly I decided it was best if I just invest in a yogurt maker.  They are small & easy to use & not very expensive.  (Well SOME of them are pricey, but there are plenty of affordable options out there.  I shopped amazon for mine & got one for less than $30 with good reviews.)  I have to say that I am very, very pleased with the results.  It can also easily serve as a non-dairy sour cream alternative.  (And, in all honesty, the vegan sour creams that I've tried were not good at all!!)

Ok, so you're probably anxious for me to just get to the recipe already!  Here it is:

I start by making almond milk, BUT I make it a tad thicker for this than I normally do.  So for this I do 1 cup raw almonds (which I chose to soak for 24 hours in advance & rinsed well after that), 1/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of chia seeds, & 2 cups water.  Blend that up & then strain it (I use a paint strainer bag to do this, you can also get nut milk bags online, you could also use a sieve lined with cheesecloth in a pinch).

Then you want to put your milk in a saucepan on the stove & heat it to 180 degrees F.  This is to kill off any bacteria.  When you're working with fermented foods you want to be really careful to not have any extra bacteria involved, only the beneficial bacteria.  (Make sure you wash the yogurt maker cups & lid really well)  I also chose to add 1 Tablespoon sugar to my milk during the heating.  Cow milk has lactose (milk sugar) in it naturally, which will feed the beneficial bacteria, but almond milk doesn't really have a natural occurring sugar in it, so I chose to add this.  You could use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar if you like.

Once it reaches 180 degrees F turn off the flame & remove from heat.  Let it cool for an hour or two, until it reaches 90-110 degrees F.  At this time you can add your culture starter & whisk it in gently with a fork. (You can get a yogurt culture starter online or at a health food store)  If you add the culture starter while it's hotter than 100 degrees F you risk the heat killing your starter, so be patient.  Then you want to pour your milk into the cups that came with your yogurt maker & proceed with following the yogurt maker directions. [I should add that at some point I decided to not heat it all the way to 180 degrees, concerned that the heat might kill some nutrients, but I have to say that the yogurt didn't have the same texture & was pretty watery.  So this step of heating the almond milk also helps for texture as well as killing germs it seems.]

I have only worked with this one particular yogurt maker, so I'm not sure how different they all are.  I do know that if you are using a freeze dried culture starter you should add on an extra 2 hours to the timer on your yogurt maker.  I was using a freeze dried culture starter & I set the timer on my yogurt maker for 12 hours.

After that time is over you want to put the container(s) of yogurt into the refrigerator for about 4-5 hours.

After that time you want to put the yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth & let it drain for an hour or two.  At this time you now have your yogurt.  :)  Enjoy!  You can add fruit, sweetener, use in a smoothie, or use as sour cream.  Use however your heart desires.

[On a side note: I thought I'd go ahead & leave the crock pot info just in case someone wanted to try out that method.  You want to turn the crock pot on LOW for 1-2 hours with the lid OFF.  (Do this while you're making your milk & heating & cooling your milk)  Then you put your yogurt into a container that will fit inside the crock pot (preferably a GLASS container).  You want to leave the lid on the yogurt container LOOSE & you want to wrap the container up in a towel.  Then you want to put the lid ON the crock pot & turn the crock pot OFF & unplug from wall.  Then you want to wrap the entire crock pot in a blanket & leave it overnight or about 12 hours.  Then take the yogurt out, refrigerate it, & later strain it, just as you would with a yogurt maker.]

If anyone tries to make their own yogurt please leave a comment & let me know how it goes.  I would think that you could certainly use any non-dairy milk you want to.

*And once you've made your own yogurt you should then be able to use that home-made yogurt in place of the culture starter in your future batches.  Always save a couple of Tablespoons of your yogurt for this.  Best of luck!!

PS-I plan to double this recipe for future yogurt making.  This only filled half of the containers that came with my yogurt maker.  I just wanted to make a small batch in case it didn't turn out well.  But if you want to be cautious & make a smaller amount then go with the amounts I listed here.  If you are confident it will turn out well & want to go full steam ahead then feel free to double the amounts.

EDITED ON 2/15 TO ADD: I did try making this using rice milk & it did not turn out at all.  They do sell rice milk yogurt in the store, so there must be a way to do it, but using this method outlined in this blog doesn't seem to be the way.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Alfalfa Sprouts At Home

I have tried many, many times to grow alfalfa sprouts in a "sprouting jar" & have had mixed results.  A lot of them not turning out too well.  I have tried lots of different sprouting jars.  But I have heard of "sprouting bags" & that they are a much better option.

I recently started making my own almond milk & I learned about "nut milk bags".  I also learned that you can use a "paint strainer bag" for much cheaper.  And I learned that this bag can also be used to sprout.

So I gave it a shot last week & had the best alfalfa sprouts I've ever sprouted.  I am beyond thrilled since I really love alfalfa sprouts & I refuse to buy them in the grocery store (even the health food store) since they are constantly being recalled.

So here's how I did it.

*Put your seeds in the bag & rinse well.  Put the bag into a bowl (dark colored bowl is best at this time) & cover with water.  Soak like this 6-8 hours or so.
*Once again rinse the seeds well & place back in the bowl (not soaking in water, but leave a little damp) & place out of sunlight.
*Keep them like this, rinsing 2-3 times per day, for a couple of days.
*Once they have little sprouts all over them you can transfer them to a clear bowl (preferably) & place in sunlight.
*Continue like this, rinsing 2-3 times per day, for a couple more days.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Home-Made Almond Milk

I've been making home-made rice milk for over a year now.  My toddler son adores it & guzzles it all day long.  I make it by the gallon & I make it a couple of times each week.  I also use it in cooking.  But I have to admit that I don't really like the flavor of it for just drinking.  It has a bit of a strong, nutty, flavor to it.  Especially with chocolate--whether as chocolate milk or hot chocolate--the flavors just don't go well together, at least for me they don't.

So a week or two ago I started trying my hand at making almond milk & I was pleasantly surprised.  I have to admit that I've never purchased almond milk in the store, as I had done with rice milk prior to making my own.  But there is a big advantage to making your own almond milk.  The ones sold in stores are pasteurized & this process kills nutrients.  So by making it yourself you will be getting far more nutrition out of it.

Perhaps the biggest issue is finding raw almonds.  I know Trader Joe's sells them.  And I also get them in bulk at a middle eastern grocery store near me.  Aside from those places, I'm not sure how accessible they are.  BUT if you really want some & can't find them, I'm sure there are sources on the internet.  I should probably look into that myself, at least just to compare prices & see if there's a better deal out there.

Before making my own almond milk I did some googling & looking at various ways that other people make their almond milk.  There's a lot of variations it seems & I'll mention them here in case you're interested.

1) Peeling vs not peeling; some say that the peel gives the milk a bitter taste, so they recommend peeling.  This can be done a couple of different ways.  You can blanch the almonds in boiling water for about 3 minutes & then when they cool off you can slip the skins right off (this could possibly negatively affect the almonds nutrition wise, similar to pasteurization I suppose).  You can soak them in water for about 4 hours & get the same result--where the skins simply slide right off.  Or you can simply not peel your almonds.

2) Straining; straining is a necessity, but there are a couple of different ways to do it.  You can do it through an average sieve with cheesecloth in the sieve.  Or you can buy a special nut milk bag on the internet ($5-$10 plus shipping) to strain it through.  OR you can save some money on that last option & go to Lowe's & get a paint straining bag (it's $1 per bag & it's the exact same thing as the nut milk bag on the internet).  I chose the last option.

3) Soaking the almonds; some soak, some don't.  I have learned that soaking the almonds for at least 24 hours makes more nutrients available to our bodies, so yes, I soak my almonds for 24 hours.

4) the amount of water used can vary; I like my milk a little on the creamy side, rather than watery, so I like the ratio I am using, but feel free to experiment with this ratio to suit your own tastes.


1 Cup raw almonds
3 Cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon chia seeds

*place all ingredients in blender & blend until well blended
*strain milk & place in jar in refrigerator
*use however you would use cow milk

As you can see it's super easy & fast to make
You can actually substitute any type of nut, so long as it's raw, to try out different flavors
I am planning to work on making a non-dairy creamer based on a nut milk in the future

Clarification on Soaking Beans

I have said many times, including in several of the recipes posted here on this blog, that I never soak my beans before cooking.  I've never noticed any difference in how they cook, so I just didn't want to be bothered with an extra step in the process.  A lot of people say you're supposed to have less gas as a result of eating the beans if they have been pre-soaked, but I rarely get gas from my beans (beans in a restaurant is an entirely different story, although I have no idea why that is), so I never cared about it for that reason either.

HOWEVER, I've been learning some new things lately & I have learned that soaking beans & seeds & nuts & grains makes them MORE NUTRITIOUS as well as making them easier to digest.  So of course I want as much nutrition as possible from the foods I eat, so I am now pre-soaking my beans before cooking.  I just wanted to clarify this so as not to lead anyone on the wrong path nutritionally speaking.

I am also frequently soaking almonds & sunflower seeds these days.  I have yet to soak any flour, but it's also supposed to make it more nutritious so at some point I will probably give it a try.