Monday, March 18, 2013

Making Almond Milk

Fresh almond milk is delicious! I recently discovered my love for it when I experimented with a raw foods diet. The raw foods didn't last long (it became too hard to plan and prepare food), but there are a few things I learned that I'll be keeping around.

When you make your almond milk make sure you're using the right almonds. I've been using packages of almonds found in the baking aisle of my grocery store. They're just the typical Diamond brand of plain shelled almonds and they work just fine. Don't use dry roasted or salted nuts. It won't make good milk. I tried it just out of curiosity. It's grainy and not nearly as tasty.

I use a juicer for the final step in making almond milk. It is possible to finish without a juicer, but you'll need a nut milk bag. I've never tried it this way, but it seem more tedious and I've heard it can get messy.


  • 1.25 cups almonds
  • 4.5 cups water (plus water for soaking)
  • Agave nectar (optional)
  • Vanilla extract (optional)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Bowl
  • Colander
  • Blender
  • Juicer
  • Ladle or large spoon

Step 1: Soak almonds 24 hours
Place the almonds in a bowl and fill with water, just enough to cover the almonds. The bowl doesn't need to be completely full. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for 24 hours. I've let the almonds go a few hours more or less, but get as close to 24 hours of soaking as you can. I've found that letting it go for the full 24 hours makes the resulting almond milk smoother.

Soaked almonds
Step 2: Drain and rinse
You don't want to use the water the almonds have been soaking in, so put a colander in the sink and dump the almonds in. Rinse with some fresh water.

Almonds & water ready to blend
Step 3: Blend
Place the soaked almonds and *3 cups of water in the blender and blend for about 30 seconds.
Pour into a large bowl and add another 1.5 cups water. Stir in.
*If your blender fits all the water you can blend all with the almonds. I find that my blender is too full with the 1.5 cups almonds and 4.5 cups water, so I simply add the extra water in after I do the blending.

Step 4: Juice
Use a ladle to spoon the almond mix into the juicer. The "juice" that comes out is your yummy almond milk! Once you've finished juicing you can add flavoring to your almond milk if you'd like. I add a dash of salt, about 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, and maybe a teaspoon or two of agave nectar. You can either stir the flavorings in or put it all back in the blender to make sure it's well mixed it.

Step 5: Store it
I generally get 5.5 cups of almond milk from this recipe. I store it in a half gallon mason jar in the fridge. It keeps for a few days. Generally I finish it within 3 days.

Almond milk will separate. Just shake it up.

Step 6: Use it!
My favorite way to use almond milk is to blend 8 ounces with half a frozen banana. Delicious!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Simple Salad That Made Me Love Lunch

OK, so the salad is much simpler than the title.

I've always been a picky lunch eater. I never know quite what I'm in the mood for. What ends up happening is I spend money going to buy lunch or I snack, and snack, and snack until dinner time.

A couple months ago Chris started buying avocados to toss in salads and take to work. At first I was just jealous because I love avocados, but I didn't want to touch his stash. After a week or so I broke down and made my own simple avocado salad. Just romaine hearts, shredded carrot, and one diced up avocado. For dressing I drizzled on some balsamic and sprinkled the barest bit of salt. Delicious.

When I make the salad I put it in a pyrex glass bowl, pop the lid on, and shake it up so the balsamic, salt, and avocado coat the lettuce. The photo shows the salad after I shook it up. All the avocado tends to settle on the bottom. I generally leave it there and "save the best for last" as the saying goes.

1 romaine lettuce heart
1 shredded carrot
1 avocado, diced
Balsamic and salt to taste
Shake it all up.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Getting used to eating [almost entirely] raw is difficult. Not so much in the adjustment to tastebuds, but in the preparation. With raw food you have to know so far in advance what and when you're going to want to eat something, unless it's a salad, juice, or smoothie. For example, this morning I woke up to find that it's a chilly dreary day. The kind of day that I would really like to have a nice cup of hot chai and pancakes. Pancakes. Warm and sweet with some of the maple syrup my parents just boiled down. There are raw pancake recipes, I had my eye on one with flax meal and blueberries, but they take hours in the dehydrator. And it's an awkward amount of hours too. Not enough that they could have been "cooking" through the night if I'd thought of it, but enough that if I put them together when I first woke up I'd be having them for lunch and by then the craving is gone and I'm moving on to salad or something.

So instead of my hot tea and pancakes I settled for a banana shake (almond milk and frozen banana). Delicious, but it doesn't quite scratch the same itch.

I don't plan on eating raw forever. This was intended to just be a month long experiment. Ultimately I just want to settle on a whole foods diet. And then it'll be hello [gluten free] pancakes!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Slow Cooked Chicken Stew: A Little Sweet, A Little Savory

When Chris and I moved one of the things on our essentials list was a slow cooker. Mostly we got it because we wanted to make pulled pork. We also figured it would be helpful for those days when I'm on design deadlines and Chris is at work all day. The thing is, neither of us had ever cooked in a slow cooker before and our recipe repertoire for it was blank. This means a lot of experimenting. Thus far they've all been successful. Last night I put together this chicken recipe. I don't believe in measuring very much when I cook. Instead I go with the "whatever seems right" method. In the recipe below I gave the amounts on any ingredient that I did take note of.

Serve over rice or with biscuits or naan. 

Dry Rub 
(use enough of each spice so the combined ingredients can throughly coat all the chicken)
  • brown sugar, approx 2 tbl spns
  • cinnamon, 1/2 tsp
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • black pepper
  • paprika
  • garlic powder
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • celery salt

4 Thick-cut boneless chicken breast
Potatoes, cubed
1 large tomato, sliced thick
1 cup water
chicken bouillon (proper amount for 1 cup liquid)
1 bay leaf, black pepper, rosemary
1 Tbl spn lemon juice
1 large onion, sliced
5-6 large garlic cloves, sliced or minced
olive oil
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil.

Place potatoes in cooker. Cover with water, bouillon, lemon juice, bay leaf, rosemary, and black pepper.

Place sliced tomatoes over potatoes.

Combine all ingredients for dry rub and fully coat each chicken breast. Lay chicken over tomatoes.

Layer onion mix over chicken.

Cook on low for 6 hours.

When chicken in done (make sure inner temp is 170) mix flour, milk, and cream in a bowl and add to cooker. Cook on high for about 15 minutes to thicken sauce.

Serve over rice or with biscuits.

Creamy Rice Pudding

I love warm rice pudding. It's so decadent! Mmmm.... I went through a phase where I was making this recipe every other night. I still would, but I'm making an attempt to be more calories conscious. What a bummer! Because this stuff is gooooood!

I used to make this recipe using 4 cups of milk instead of 3. It makes it super creamy, but man, that's a lot of milk! So I cut back to a more modest 3 cups. Still a very rich and creamy pudding.

Rice Pudding Recipe

  • 1 cup (dry) Arborio Rice
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1 Tbl spn Butter
  • 3 cups Milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tspns Vanilla Extract
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • cinnamon to taste

Melt butter.
Lightly sautee rice in melted butter until well covered and starting to brown slightly.
Add water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add milk, sugar, and vanilla extract to pot.
Cover and simmer another 15 minutes.
Add egg (make sure to stir rice as you add the egg and mix in well so you don't have scrambled egg floating in your pudding).
Simmer uncovered until almost all liquid has evaporated.
Remove from heat.
Add cinnamon to taste.
Let stand until cool. (I tend to wait a mere 15 minutes and eat it nice and warm.)
Rice will continue to absorb remaining liquid as it cools.

Pumpkin Bread

I woke up one morning a few days ago and couldn't figure out what to eat. Somehow we'd run out of pretty much all breakfast stuff. I was trying to decide whether or not to put the effort into making pancakes (didn't really want to) when I noticed one lone can of pumpkin puree in the cabinet. Pumpkin bread seemed like the most reasonable thing at that point and I went in search of a recipe. I found one online that had some good feedback. I'm sure it was probably delicious, but without giving it a proper chance I decided to tweak a bunch of stuff. For one thing the original used 1.5 cups of sugar, which seemed a little over the top. I also added some sour cream to keep it moist and reduced the oil from 1/3 cup to 1 table spoon. The end result was delicious and it was devoured in two days. And it takes far less effort than standing at the stove flipping pancakes. 

Preheat the oven to 375
Lightly grease a baking pan approximately 7x13" in size

In a bowl combine:
  • 7 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbl spn olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbl spn sour cream

Mix these ingredients together and then add the following to the same bowl:
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ginger

Mix and pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Grandma's Peach Cake

Grandma's peach cake was always one of my favorite desserts to see at Summertime family gatherings. Recently I went on a little bit of a peach kick. I may have bought more than I could eat before they started to get too soft. That's when I remembered this delicious cake. It's supposed to be made with a stick of butter, but I haven't had butter in my house for probably 2 months. And I was too lazy to go out and get some, so I substituted 4 tablespoons of olive oil for the 1/2 cup butter called for in the recipe. It still tasted great.

Peach Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter (or 4 Tbl spns olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 peaches, sliced
  • Optional: other fruit like raspberries or blueberries
  • Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling
  • Baking dish (I used a small cast iron skillet)

Heat oven to 350
Mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, and flour.
Pour into baking dish
Top with fruit
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Cucumber Salad

Recently my favorite snack hasn't been cookies, cakes, or candies. (If you knew me then you'd know how odd that statement is.) What I have been eating like crazy is cucumber salad. Chris doesn't like cucumbers (I can't understand why), but this works out fine for me. I can make a big batch of the salad and know it'll be there when I want it. It's good on the first day the salad's made, but day 2, 3, & 4 are really where it's at.

Cucumber Salad

  • 2 medium to large cucumbers, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 2 Tbl spns olive oil
  • 4 Tbl spns vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together.
Enjoy immediately or save it for the next day and the next.
This amount generally doesn't last me more than 3 days.

Black Beans on Rice

This dish has become one of my easy go-to favorites. Sometimes I use the salsa, sometimes I don't.



  • lime juice
  • chopped onion
  • cilantro
  • salt & pepper

Beans & Rice

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbl spn dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbl spn cumin
  • 1 1/2 tspn oregano
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 cups cooked rice

In a large frying pan warm olive oil.
Add onion, pepper, garlic, parsley, brown sugar, cumin, oregano.
Cook until peppers and onions are soft. (About 10 minutes.)
Add beans and white wine. Simmer until reduced by one fourth.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice. Spoon salsa over rice and beans as desired.