Almond Joy

It’s no secret that almond milk has long been THE plant-based beverage du jour. Its flavor is mild, nutty, versatile and pleasing, although, oat milk is beginning to give it a run for its money. The health benefits of almond milk are undeniable, and it’s a wonderful alternative to dairy, which is good news for African-Americans, who suffer disproportionately with lactose intolerance. Although, almond milk is readily available in almost every grocery store, I prefer to make my own at home. Why, you ask? Well, the answer is so that I can control the purity, taste and thickness of the final product. The percentage of almonds used in production, is one of the most important variables that I want to control, because it’s responsible for the thickness, creaminess, taste and mouthfeel of the milk. Almonds are expensive to produce, which is why most almond milk manufacturers include 2% or fewer almonds, resulting in an unnecessarily thin and watery product. They compensate for the thinness of the product, by adding fillers and binders. Whatever your personal preference, making nut milks is simple and fun to do. Once you’ve made one batch, you’ll find that it’s easy to adjust it to your personal taste.

Here’s an easy recipe to try at home:

  • 1 cup whole raw almonds, soaked 8 hours, rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 1-3 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash of cinnamon (optional)

Directions

Combine all ingredients in an high-speed blender and process until smooth.

Separate the milk from the pulp by squeezing the mixture through a milk bag. Compost the pulp or reuse it as a flour substitute. I give mine to my chickens!

Serve chilled. Stored in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator. Almond milk will keep for up to 4 days.

Note: Once you’ve made 1-2 batches, you’ll have a better sense of your personal preference. Do you prefer it sweeter? Add more seedless dates? Does it taste too one-dimensional in flavor? Maybe you should add a pinch of salt or nutmeg. It’s your party, so celebrate your creamy, white mustache in your own, unique way.

Delish and Nutrish…Why Avocado Toast is the Ultimate Can’t Fail Meal

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I like to start trends, not ride them, so surfing popularity waves isn’t really my thing. One recent exception, however, is avocado toast! Although, it’s been the culinary rage for quite some time; it’s for good reason. It’s fast and easy to make, delicious, versatile and nutritious. The key is to purchase high-quality levain bread baked at your local bakery (if you can get it) and ripe, tasty avocados. Although, avocados are available year-round and nationwide due to the influx of Mexican imports; there is an ideal time to get more flavorful avocados, with a less mild and “watered down” taste. California avocados (Haas are recommended), are in season February-September, with their peak occurring in the warm summer months. Get them at the height of the season and when their prices have dropped substantially. Also, when you make your super simple avocado toast, be sure to experiment with different toppings. I sometimes drizzle spicy, infused olive oil on top or thinly sliced radishes and sprouts with a sprinkle of the popular season blend, Spike. I also like to make pesto “smavocado” i.e “smashed avocado”, by adding fresh pesto (often purchased in the cold case at Trader Joe’s) to my avocado mixture. Avocado toast is so simple to make, it seems futile to include a recipe, but here’s some preparation guidelines to help get you started:

Ingredients/Directions

  • Toast fresh levain bread (brush olive oil and rub fresh garlic on toasted bread)
  • Coursely smash ripe avocados (add lime juice, celtic sea salt, pepper to taste)
  • Spread avocado on toast and top with marash pepper (optional)
  • Top with any variation of yummy: sliced radishes, sprouts, green onions, red onion, microgreens

I like to add a sliced soft boiled egg with aioli topped with anchovies as a side dish. A short cut when making aioli is mixing mayo with horseradish and placing an anchovy on top, to add that unmistakable umami and briny note to your snack, brunch or dinner.

Enjoy!

 

RECIPE: Fresh Fig Crostini with Herbed Ricotta

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Depending on where you live, decadently sweet and luscious figs might already be in season. This roly poly, tear-drop shaped fruit is wonderfully versatile and can be prepared just as easily either fresh or baked, as it is within sweet or savory dishes. Figs have a long and storied ancient history, not to mention that it’s symbolic of peace and prosperity throughout the bible; but they’re also known for having substantial nutritional value. Figs are high in fiber and a great source of essential minerals, including magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, and potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, and vitamins K and B6.

Interestingly enough, 100% of the world’s dried figs are grown in California. That’s great news, because figs’ nutritional value becomes more concentrated when they’re dried. Not only do they contain antioxidants, but three little figs have approximately 5.5 grams of dietary fiber, which means this cherubic little fruit packs quite a punch. Moisture-rich figs contain 55% natural sugar, making them among nature’s sweetest fruits, and fig puree can be used as a great fat substitute in baked goods. This dish is wonderful served anytime: Breakfast, appetizer or a light lunch paired with a mixed spring salad. Feel free to add prosciutto to create a hearty main course

INGREDIENTS:

  • Thinly sliced baguette
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 3 teaspoons oregano
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sliced fresh figs
  • Blueberries or pomegranate seeds (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Place ricotta cheese in bowl and stir in your fresh and dried seasoning and herbs until well-blended. Sample and season to taste.
  3. Brush french bread slices with olive oil and arrange on top of baking rack and place in oven for 3-4 minutes (Don’t hesitate to check in on these little guys through your oven door window like you did with your childhood Easy Bake Oven!). Take out when lightly toasted and let cool.
  4. Place ricotta cheese spread on top of crostini and add sliced figs. You can drizzle honey or aged balsamic vinegar on top for added sweetness