milking an almond

We don't use a lot of dairy products in our home. I do buy my bi-monthly gallon of milk to make yogurt with, and I like to keep a little on hand for cooking and baking, and we have a couple of our cheese staples, oh ... and butter. But seriously, compared to how much I used to rely on my milk and cheese, we're down A LOT. Part of it is because of what I've learned about what an excess of dairy products can do to you, but also because I'm lactose intolerant. Not severely, I don't notice it unless I consume too much, but enough to want to be extra cautious. But there are occasions when a nice creamy beverage of some sort is just a need. Am I the only one? Either for hot chocolate, or to add into cold or hot breakfast cereals, or frankly, just to drink. I do like to make my own soymilk occasionally, especially since I make my own tofu ... occasionally ... but it is a fairly long and laborious process. And sadly, I don't love the taste of fresh soymilk like I used to. I started buying almond milk, but then I discovered raw, homemade almond milk. And I just can't go back to the store bought stuff.
In the past year or so, as we've made some adjustments to the way we eat, I've learned a lot about the health benefits of nuts and seeds. And especially about soaking them before hand. Nuts have a particular enzyme inhibitor which, when soaked, is released. And then all of this fabulous nutrition hidden inside is more readily available to digest. And you definitely want what's hidden in there. There are so many health benefits in nuts that unless you have an allergy, there is really no reason not to be eating them. You can follow this recipe with pretty much any nuts, but almonds have a nice balanced sweetness to them without an overwhelming flavor, so it's a good place to start. And I like this particular ratio of nuts to water (plenty creamy, but cost effective), but by all means, experiment with it.
Once you've run the nuts and water through your blender cycle, you simply strain it. At this point, I like to add a couple of possible flavorings. Sometimes I add the seeds of a vanilla bean, or if I'm feeling extra decadent, I like to add a couple of tablespoons of raw cacao powder to make chocolate almond milk. And once you try this, you might not ever go back to store bought almond milk. You can't compare it to the silky mouthfeel and clean taste of homemade.

Homemade Raw Almond Milk
makes roughly 1 quart
1 cup raw almonds
4 cups purified water
1-2 pitted Medjool dates (optional)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  1. In a clean glass pitcher that holds at least 5 cups of liquid, combine all of the ingredients and let soak for 8-24 hours, or overnight.
  2. Add the contents to the jar of your blender and let it run until the mixture looks very milky and frothy. If you don't have a high-speed blender, you might need to let it run extra long, but it'll still work just fine.
  3. Pour the liquid into a nut milk bag or a piece of muslin over a fine mesh strainer, and squeeze out all of the milk into your desired container. Let chill and serve. 

Once strained, you can clean out your blender jar and add the milk back in with your variation of choice:

seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
1-2 tablespoon raw cacao powder or cocoa powder
honey or pure maple syrup to taste (best if you don't start with the dates if you're using these)


I'm pregnant. And not to be all overly-sentimental, but it really is magical to know that my body is making a person. I love each of my kids so much and I'd do anything for them. But, at least for me, with the miracle of pregnancy comes a couple of very unfortunate changes. Those changes are my sweet tooth and weight gain. Usually, I don't crave sweet things. I love my occasional chewy chocolate chip cookie or bright lemon tart, and let's not forget a super rich chocolate cake smothered in ganache. But, in general, I usually would prefer seconds on dinner over dessert. But once I get over the hurdle of the miserable first trimester morning sickness (which is a total misnomer! Whoever thought to make the world think that the nausea subsides in the afternoon was lying), and I finally have some energy again, I suddenly want chocolate. No, really, like all the time. It hurts.

And you're thinking, "pregnant lady, then just eat the darn chocolate." But I really shouldn't, right? Not every craving is telling me what my body needs. Some are just crazy pregnant lady pointless cravings. So what am I supposed to do? I can't go out and buy a box of double chocolate magnum bars every time it hits. As much as I want to.

This exact thing happened to me the other day. And I didn't even have cocoa powder in my pantry. I'm not sure how in the world that could have happened, but it did. And I panicked. My chocolate hankering was a need. I tried to distract myself with chores like doing the dishes, but then I magically got stopped by the pantry, and started digging around for chocolate. So I tried again to take my mind off of it by checking my email, and somehow I ended up on pinterest, searching for no bake cookie recipes. The amazing thing was that I found several nutritious versions which got my mind racing. Somehow, I was able to scrounge up some usable ingredients to experiment with, and I got to work right away. The cool thing is, it all came together in minutes and I was eating my "cookies" within the half hour. And I didn't even have to feel bad because they were good for me!

The trick to this recipe is the dates. They are the base of the whole cookie. They are the structure and the sweetness. The fabulous thing about dates, particularly the Medjool variety, is that they are not only sweet but have a caramel-like complexity to them. But not only that, they are really good for you! Dates are great at aiding in digestion due to their high fiber content. They also provide calcium, selenium, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, potassium, and a whole bunch of other beneficial nutrients. What's not to love, right?

Along with the dates, we're using coconut flakes, coconut oil, nut or seed butter, and oats, with the optional cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips. All of which love your body with fiber, protein, all sorts of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and if you use the seed mix, you'll even get omega 3's and all sorts of other benefits.

... As far as quantity goes, we should probably be careful with these guys. They are addicting. Because even if they're made with good sugars and fats, they're sugars and fats. Too much is still too much. But go ahead and have a couple. It's definitely better than eating your traditional cookies. And you'd be surprised how tasty.

Nutritious no-bake, gluten-free, raw, vegan cookie bars
makes 16
18 Medjool dates, pitted
1/2 cup rolled oats (gluten-free if needed)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (vegan if needed) or 3 tablespoons cacao nibs
2 tablespoons nut or seed butter (raw if needed)
2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
pinch of coarse sea salt
raw seeds, optional (I always have a jar in my fridge with equal parts chia seeds, flax seeds, black and brown sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas, and sliced almonds to sprinkle on my yogurt or in my smoothies or whatever. I liked it in these cookies, but they're not necessary for flavor or structure)
  1. Generously grease an 8x8 baking pan with coconut oil.
  2. Pulse the dates in the food processor until coarsely chopped. You may need to stop and redistribute the contents because they tend to clump up a bit.
  3. Add all of the rest of the ingredients and pulse until medium chopped and well mixed. Don't over process, you want a little texture to it.
  4. Press the mixture into the prepared pan and freeze for 15 minutes or until firm. Cut into 16 squares. Put uneaten pieces back in the freezer for later.

birthday breakfast

My baby boy turned 2 today. Such a strange feeling. I mean, he is running and jumping like a two year old and feeding himself and speaks in sentences, so it shouldn't feel all that strange, but for some reason it does. I don't think I'll ever get over my children growing up. It's so thrilling to watch them learn and change and grow and become such remarkable people, but losing the baby-ness of it all is somehow so heartbreaking. Who knew parenthood would be two such extremes at the same time? I guess anyone who's had kids could have told me that. But it's one of those things I just didn't grasp until I had my own.

So one of our family birthday traditions is to have a special breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. And dessert--which is usually a cake of some kind. See, I'm not very good at fun kid stuff, and I'm working on that, but I've discovered, much like my mother, I show my love through food. So I ask my kids several days, sometimes even weeks, in advance what they want to eat on their birthdays. It's fun for me to hear the funny variety of things they'll say. Sometimes it's what we just ate for dinner, and sometimes it's something so way out of nowhere that I'm baffled at the response. But eventually, it starts to narrow down to one or two of their favorite meals. With my 4 year old it was "pink and chocolate and white chia pudding" and spaghetti and meatballs and a "big chocolate cake with ganache." With my oldest, it was very clearly a "pink cake with roses." But what do you expect to hear from a 2 year old? Not a whole lot past babbling. So my husband and I had to think really hard about the foods that he consistently enjoys. And we came up with a couple of very obvious ones. For breakfast it was either some form of eggs or waffles and cream and fruit. Dad, being the serious sweet food junkie that he is, of course tried to convince me baby boy likes waffles more. So it was decided on waffles. And though I would have loved to make some authentic Gaufres de Liege, I just didn't want to wake up at 4 am to start breakfast. (though unfortunately, thanks to a horrible thunderstorm I did end up wake up at 5:30 ... after which my scared little girls would not go back to sleep--which means neither did I ... but that's too long of a grumpy story for this particular piece of the internet) But I wanted that yeasty bite that comes with Gaufres de Liege. So why not make our favorite overnight yeast waffles instead? They're not dense and sturdy like the true Belgian waffle, but I'd say a pretty tasty relative. With a crisp crust and light-as-air crumb, soft enough that the roof of your mouth isn't raw at the end of the meal, but sturdy enough that it holds up to syrups and sauces and juicy berries and lots of whipped cream. Sounds like a dream, right? It kind of is.
Gah! Do you see that bubbly caramelization pattern on the crust?

And the best part? Starting the night before means pretty much no prep in the morning. You'll look like a hero come birthday morning because you've managed to make a spectacularly decadent breakfast while still getting to see the look on your baby's face as he opens each present and thanks his sisters and daddy and mommy for them. All the while your house starts to smell fabulously of vanilla and a caramelized yeasty crust forming. Oooh, I want some more. Let's get started.

Overnight yeast waffles
makes 6-8 waffles (in a deep, Belgian style waffle iron)
1/2 cup warm water (100-110°F)
2 1/4 (or 1 package) active dry yeast
2 cups warm milk (100-110°F)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
pearl sugar or turbinado sugar for sprinkling, optional

Favorite waffle toppings

  1. Start this batter the night before (or 8-12 hours before) you plan on cooking these waffles. In a large bowl, stir together the warm water and the yeast and let stand for 5 or so minutes to proof the yeast. Once the yeast is bubbles and frothy (proofed), add the milk, butter, salt and sugar, and mix well to combine. Add the flour and whisk vigorously to combine. You may want to use a hand mixer for this job. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter overnight.
  2. In the morning, right before cooking the waffles, add the eggs, baking soda, and vanilla extract. Using a handheld mixer or a whisk, mix well until the eggs are well incorporated. Cook in your waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions. But before you close the lid on that waffle to cook, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon or so of the pearl or turbinado sugar over the top, if using. And I recommend that you do. I tend to prefer my waffles on a slightly darker crust setting. Serve hot with your favorite waffle toppings.
If making a large batch, keep your oven on the lowest temperature you can with wire cooling racks, and keep your cooked waffles in there until ready to serve.