Rainy Mornings & My Laboratory Kitchen

I woke up this morning to a beautiful, rain-filled yard and cloudy sky, grateful for the much-needed moisture here in the desert, and wandered outside to admire the dewy flowers and friendly snails out on the front porch before making a brew of mint tea in my London mug (what other mug would be suitable for a cloudy day?). But I was also grateful beyond the aspect of moisture, for it provided the perfect atmosphere for today's mission: making homemade almond milk (let's be real, it's so much easier to work on culinary projects when the sun isn't beckoning me outdoors to play with my three fantastically adorable puppies or soak in some rays).

I like to think of the kitchen as my laboratory. There are so many culinary experiments to try and master, and though I am sad to inform you that I'm not sharing my most recent mishaps in this post (let's just say homemade corn tortillas will take quite a while longer to master), I will share today's almond-milk-making process momentarily.

Those who know me can attest that I am a huge foodie. I love taking on cooking challenges (throwback to my summer of perfecting the French macaron ca. 2013) and trying different cuisines and dishes (shoutout to all those restaurants that have provided me with an exquisite culinary experience...especially those with duck; I appreciate you more than you know). I'm basically open to trying anything, and don't really have much of a problem with textures or taste, which makes me quite indiscriminate against any type of food or texture. And for that I am eternally grateful.

This past semester I took a risk and crisis communication seminar that used food risk as a case study to examine different risk theories. Though I didn't realize it at first, this course came at precisely the right time. I've been struggling with stomach issues for at least the past 8 or 9 months, and as time progressed, found myself feeling sicker and sicker. To the point where I just wasn't hungry anymore or actually felt nauseous throughout the day. Now that's really off for me. About halfway through the semester, my professor invited a nutritionist to speak with us about gut inflammation, and lo and behold, she described most, if not all, of my symptoms. It hit me. I had to be eating something that was hindering the functioning of my enteric nervous system (ENS), also known as the "gut-brain" (you can read all about the amazing capabilities and power of the ENS here if you're at all curious - caution: it's fascinating!). I decided to work with Suzanne so I could avoid the inevitable, exacerbated slowdown of my body if I chose to continue eating as I was.

Fast-forward two months (after surviving my blood test!), and it turns out that most of the healthy foods I've been consuming for the past 22 years of my life are actually causing a ton of havoc (i.e., inflammation) not only in my stomach, but also in the rest of my body and joints (who would have thought it would have an effect on inflamed knees!). I'll spare you many of the auxiliary details of the lifestyle regimen (sayonara to my MVPs cumin, tomato, and mushroom), but I'm essentially doing a jump-start on my digestive and immune systems with the 25 most beneficial foods for my body (HOORAY for lemon, mint, almonds, onions, and pinto beans!) for a period of time before adding in other foods. A limited variety of foods means a ton of experimentation in the kitchen, which I'm totally okay with! And it's actually been a lot of fun dreaming up new recipes (lamb marinated in mint and grapefruit and millet porridge, for instance) and making all of my meals from scratch, even though it can be time consuming. Not to mention, I'm feeling a bit better each day.

Today's experiment in the kitchen consisted of three ingredients: water, almonds, and vanilla. Simple, huh?

I started off with two cups of raw, organic almonds (which are tastier than regular almonds - they have more of a fruity, natural marzipan flavor to them, which makes it so easy to eat handfuls at a time!) and soaked them in a large bowl of water overnight (about 12 hours). Although you can get away with soaking them for as little as an hour, an 8-12 hour soak is recommended to fully saturate the nuts. From there, I rinsed the almonds to ensure there were no dregs on the skins before placing them in the blender with 7 cups of water (I doubled the original recipe) and a tablespoon of vanilla extract, then let the blender do the muscle work for about two minutes.

After the blender did its work, I poured the milk into a cheese cloth contained within a sieve over a large bowl to catch the bits of almond and did a thorough squeezing to ensure I'd gotten most of the liquid out. What remained was a nice bowl of vanilla almond milk and a side of almond paste (which will be going in my smoothies and millet porridges from here on out). 

 

My experiment was not left without a mess. Thankfully, I had my loyal sidekick, Tomás, to pick up the extra bits of almond paste (it's his favorite nut) I'd spilled on the floor in the process. I think he's pretty grateful for my kitchen sloppiness and probably hoped I'd dropped all my almond paste for him to eat up!

 

 Mr. T begging for some extra almond paste

Mr. T begging for some extra almond paste

In all, it was an extremely straightforward approach, and the milk is utterly fantastic, smooth, and rich! Only thing I would add next time is a whole vanilla bean (to increase the vanilla tones) and possibly a sweetner. Though I made a whopping 7 cups of milk, I think this is going to be a recipe I come back to time and again! The recipe posted below is the original, which yields about 3.5 cups milk.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3.5 cups filtered water
  • 1/5 tsp vanilla extract

Process:

  1. Soak raw almonds in a bowl of water overnight (8-12 hours)
  2. Rinse almonds & place them in the blender with the 3.5 cups filtered water
  3. Blend on high for about 1-2 minutes, or until the almonds are broken up (you'll see little, brown specks)
  4. Place a cheesecloth or sieve over a large bowl (I used both to 1. support the cheesecloth as I was pouring, and 2. to ensure I filtered out all the almond fibers) and pour the milk into the cloth
  5. Squeeze out additional milk from cloth and separate remaining almond paste between pours
  6. Rinse blender and pour milk back in (if you want to add cinnamon or any other flavorings, you'd blend them in here); this facilitates the pouring process as large bowl might otherwise spill the milk
  7. Pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge for 3-5 days and shake well before using, as the mixture will separate

This recipe is a stripped-down version of Oh She Glows' My Favorite Homemade Almond Milk. If you like dates, cinnamon, and caramel tones in your milk, check her recipe out!

Here's to a week's worth of almond milk and rainy days!

 

XO,
Leigh