Got {Almond} Milk?

31 01 2011

We’ve talked about how to make peanut butter from scratch. MP900407429But what about making nut milk from scratch?

It’s easy.

It’s cheap.

And, oh, it’s good.

When 2Chili asked what I was blending now, with that unmistakable “I can’t believe you’re blending again,” tone, I told him quite simply. “Almond milk.”

And there was a pause. And then, a typical 2Chili retort. “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just buy it?”

Well, as a matter of fact, no. And it wouldn’t be as fun.

Depending on where you live, a quart of almond milk is probably around $3, give or take. For us, it’s $2.79. Making your own requires just a few ingredients and about 2 minutes.

Are you sold yet? imageI am.

There are lots of formulations for DIY almond milk out there, and this one is an adaption from Ani’s Raw Food Essentials. This formula will work for pretty much any nut milk – almond, pecan, cashew – whatever floats your boat or dunks your Oreo.

For almond milk, you need:

  • 1/2 to 1 cup almonds, soaked in water overnight. I made a batch with 1/2 cup, and a separate batch with 1 cup. Both worked and I couldn’t tell a significant difference in taste between the two. The 1 cup version was just a little richer.
  • 3 tablespoons honey, agave or even pure maple syrup. This is not essential if you are watching sugar, though it sure makes it good! You could scale it down, too, if you wanted a little sweet but not too much.
  • Dash of salt
  • 3-5 cups water, depending on how thick you want it. I went with 5 cups, as I am used to drinking skim milk. If you plan ahead and soak your almonds in the amount of water you intend to use, you can use the water you soaked the almonds in, as it will have all the almond “extract” in it.
  • A blender (any blender will do)

Add all the ingredients into your blender, and blend on “high” for 1-2 minutes. I blended on level “2” on the Ninja for about a minute.

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While you technically don’t have to do this step, I recommend it. Much like my little juicing experiment a while back, I felt it was necessary to strain the almond bits out of the liquid.

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After the straining, you’ll be left with nice clean almond milk. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

I am saving the “pulp” to use in oatmeal or recipes that call for almonds (after a quick taste test confirmed it still tastes like almonds). That means there is zero waste, as the plastic bag that the almonds came in went into the recycler.

As a side note, this plastic container holds 8 cups of liquid so you can get a gauge of the volume output.

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I had a glass with some freshly baked mini pretzels. Y-U-M.

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For 2Chili’s sake, here is the cost breakdown, based on 1 cup of almonds and 5 cups of water.

  • Almonds: $1.12  ($4.49 for a 4 cup package from Trader Joe’s)
  • Honey: $.42 ($4.49 for a bottle of honey with 32 tablespoons from Trader Joe’s)
  • Water: We’ll say this is free, as 3-5 cups in the scheme of your water bill is pretty insignificant
  • Total: $1.54 

So, take that, 2Chili. Almost half price and more than double the fun!





Blueberry Pie Energy Bars (AKA DIY Lara Bars Part 2)

25 01 2011

I have been on a DIY Lara Bar tear for a while, necessitated by some seriously busy work days lately. They make a great on-the-go snack, especially when you’re seriously on the go.

Since I figured out how to make a reasonable Lara Bar facsimile, I haven’t found myself willing to pay for one already made. Funny how that works!

Anyway, this week, I was out of dried cherries, but had dried blueberries, so I went to work figuring out a new flavor of my “Angie Bars.” I think this is my new favorite flavor! They are pretty sweet, so if you’re watching the sugar, perhaps up the almonds and reduce the blueberries a bit. But, especially pre-run, bike, or swim, when I’m after a bit of sugar, these have really been hitting the spot.

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Blueberry Pie Energy Bars

Makes: 3 bars

Ingredients:

  • 6 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/3 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries

Method

  • Pit and chop dates into big chunks
  • In a high speed blender or food processor, blend the almonds until they are well chopped. I blended mine to almost almond butter consistency in the Ninja, but this is not necessary.
  • Add blueberries to the blender and blend until the almonds and blueberries are well integrated, about 30 seconds to a minute
  • Add chopped dates, and blend until the mixture comes together – this took about 30 seconds for me
  • Pour mixture onto a sheet of wax paper larger than the mixture, and fold the paper over the mixture
  • Press the mixture down with your hands into a rectangular shape about 3/4 inch thick
  • Place the formed rectangle into the fridge for about 2 hours to harden up, and then cut into three equal portions
  • Store wrapped in wax paper or baggies in the refrigerator

Nutrition

Based on 3 servings.

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It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time! How to Make Your Own Peanut Butter in 3 Minutes

10 01 2011

Mmmm. Peanut Butter. So good, and so simple, yet most people buy it already made and full of salt and preservatives.

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Hold on to your hats, ‘cause today we’re making peanut butter with just one ingredient: Peanuts.  

Oh yeah.

In roughly 3 minutes, start to finish, you can have fresh peanut butter, and it is so simple you won’t believe it.

This would be a good project to have the kiddos help with, because it’s kind of fun to watch the transformation.

First, we need our ingredients: 16 ounces (that’d be a pound) of unsalted shelled peanuts. You can use salted peanuts too, but I prefer the no sodium aspect of unsalted. Safeway had a sale on peanuts recently for 2 for $4.00 on Planters, so that’s what I have. You can probably find them even cheaper in the bulk section or at Trader Joe’s.

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Pour the peanuts into a high speed blender. If you only have a food processor, it will work too, it’ll just take a little longer.

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Blend on “1,” for a Ninja, or “Low” for other brands, until you have a peanut butter consistency you like. Seriously, it’s that easy. It took me a total of three minutes. If you have a food processor, count on 6-10 minutes, and be sure to scrape the sides down every so often.

This was after one minute, notice that the bottom half already looks like peanut butter:

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This was after two minutes, mostly all combined:

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After a couple of minutes, stop and push down any peanut dust that isn’t getting incorporated before you finish blending to make sure none goes to waste and then resume blending. Blend until you get a thickness you like. It will thicken up more the longer you blend it.

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Voila. Peanut butter in three minutes.

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Finish it off by scooping into a very fancy container and storing in the fridge. You can see I went with something super high end.

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Let’s review the steps:

  • Pour 16 ounces (or more) of peanuts into a high speed blender or food processor.
  • Blend for about 2 minutes on a low setting, stopping to scrape down the sides if needed
  • Blend for another minute or two until you get the consistency you like (longer for food processors)
  • Enjoy, and try not to eat it all before you put it in your fancy storage container

And, that’s all there is to it. I admit to licking the spoon. A few times. Please don’t tell 2Chili I double-dipped!





Getting Juiced: How to Make Juice with a Ninja Blender

4 01 2011

Recently, a reader posted a question about juicing with the Ninja on my blender review page. She wanted to know how well it works for juicing, and if it requires a lot of water to produce juice. I honestly didn’t have a good answer because I hadn’t tried using it for juice. 

My first inclination was that if you’re after only juice, a traditional juicer is probably the way to go. Curiously, the Ninja infomercial shows that it can be used for juicing, but I was unable to find anything about juicing on their website, which made me think it was a bit of a stretch for the blender.

After doing a couple juice tests and successfully yielding juice, I’m changing my mind a little (not entirely, though). I did a little quick research, and it seems you can get a decent juicer for about $99, give or take, which is also the price of the Ninja Professional Blender. The complaint with juicers seems to be that they make a big mess on the inside that is hard to clean and you have to really chop stuff up to juice, you can’t put things in whole.

With the Ninja, you can put in big chunks of pretty much anything and it devours them, so there are no worries there. It is also super easy to clean. Unlike dedicated juicers, you do have to add water so that it will blend to a smooth consistency, but not huge amounts (in my uninformed and inexperienced juicing opinion). I’m not sure if adding water is considered a drawback or not. The main drawback, I think is, that after blending, if you want just juice without pulp, you will have to strain the pulp separately.

Bottom Line: If you want juice from your Ninja because you don’t want to buy a dedicated juicer, I can honestly say it works. However, if you are a daily juicer, I would still probably recommend a dedicated juicer due to the required manual straining. Here’s a look into my little experiment, in which I juiced oranges, and separately, carrots.

Making Orange Juice

I picked up a bag of small oranges for this experiment, and then peeled them with a knife to make sure I removed most of the white fuzz that remains if you peel them with your hands. I picked these small oranges because larger naval oranges aren’t as sweet to me, and I didn’t want to add any sugar.

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I dropped them in as whole as possible (mostly in halves).

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Then, I pulsed a few times to mix them up, and then blended on “1” for about 30 seconds, until the oranges were fully blended. At this point, I started adding water. I started small, with about 1/3 cup, and eventually ended up using about 1 full cup to get the juice into a somewhat thick, but juice-like consistency. You could definitely get away with adding less water, but I wanted to be sure I would get a decent yield of juice.

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I blended on “3” for about one minute to get the pulp broken down fairly well, and then strained through a sieve to get out as much juice as possible, pressing with a spatula to make sure the leftover pulp was very dry.

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10 small oranges (I didn’t picture one of them because I had already cut into it) yielded 20 ounces of juice, with about 2 cups of pulp. I tried to make creamsicle ice cream from the pulp, but sadly, it wasn’t even edible, probably because all the sugar was squeezed out of it!DSC_0019

The end result was definitely orange juice, and it tasted really good. I’m not a big orange juice drinker, but I downed this juice happily because it didn’t have added sugar. 20 ounces was about 3 days worth of juice (small servings), so, 3.33 oranges per serving.

Summary of Steps:

  • Peel oranges with a knife, leaving as little “white pulp” as possible
  • Add oranges to Ninja (whole or halved is fine) and pulse a few times to combine
  • Blend for about 30 seconds on power level 1
  • Add desired water – roughly 1/4 cup for every 3 oranges
  • Blend for about 1 minute on power level 3
  • Pour juice into a sieve/mesh strainer, and push juice through the strainer with a spatula
  • Enjoy!

Total time:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Blending time: 2 minutes
  • Straining time: 1 minute

Making Carrot Juice

I chose carrot juice as the second juice trial because carrots aren’t as inherently “juicy” as oranges, and, because I’ve been working on a carrot cake muffin recipe, so I knew I had a use for the pulp. I am kind of surprised at how well the carrot juice came out!

Safeway had a sale on peeled baby carrots, and our dog Pipa loves baby carrots, so I went with those over full sized carrots (less work is a good thing).

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This is roughly 3 cups of baby carrots.

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Much like the orange juice, I pulsed a few times to combine, and then blended on level 1 for about 30 seconds.

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This left a carrot purée, so I started adding water slowly to figure out how much was needed. I ended up adding about 3/4 cup in total, and blended on level 3 for about 1 minute.

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Then, it was time to strain. I had 2Chili pour out the blended mixture so you could see the thickness pre-straining.

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The same method was applied here – strain in a sieve, and push the liquid through the mesh strainer with a spatula.

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In this case, 3 cups of carrots yielded about 16 ounces of carrot juice. I had never tasted carrot juice – it was surprisingly good!

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I used the leftover pulp in muffins, which worked better than trying to use the leftover orange pulp, but wasn’t as good as just shredded carrots.

Summary of Steps:

  • If using whole, unprepared carrots, wash and scrub or peel them
  • Add carrots to Ninja (whole is fine) and pulse a few times to combine
  • Blend for about 30 seconds on power level 1
  • Add desired water – roughly 1/4 cup for every cup of carrots
  • Blend for about 1 minute on power level 3
  • Pour juice into a sieve/mesh strainer, and push juice through the strainer with a spatula
  • Enjoy!  

Total time:

  • Prep time: 0 minutes (using prepared baby carrots)
  • Blending time: 2 minutes
  • Straining time: 1 minute

Behind the Scenes

While all of this juicing was going on, my helper was steadfast by my side, hoping for a scrap of anything to fall her way as I dropped peels into the compost bag. This is not unusual, but today she was looking extra dejected!

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I’m more into smoothies and green drinks, I don’t know that I’ll juice very often, but it is nice to know that option is available. Happy blending!