Soaking raw nuts, seeds, legumes and grains before processing or cooking significantly improves nutrient profiles. Why? Because they are biologically designed to germinate and grow into a plant. Many of the healthy enzymes are locked until ideal conditions activate their release. Also, as they absorb water, they become softer, and easier to digest, which maximizes nutrient absorption in your body.
I purchase in bulk, soak in salt water for 24 hours, and store in large bags in my freezer. Then, everything is ready when I am ready to cook. Plus, buying in bulk is cheaper, which makes a huge difference if you like cashew cream! If you don’t have a local source, check online. Be sure to search for “raw” and “organic,” as roasted, boiled and irradiated products won’t sprout, though soaking can still neutralize the anti-nutrients.
If you want to take it a step further, allow nuts, seeds, legumes and grains to sprout. Soak in salt water for 24 hours, rinse and drain. Keep them in a large bowl or jar with lots of surface area to avoid pools of excess moisture.Cover with a screen or towel. Shake them regularly and rinse at least twice a day. Sprouts will form in 1-4 days, depending on size and nature of the seed. Sprouting releases a fat-burning enzyme called lipase which means sprouted nuts and seeds are even sweeter…no added sugar required! The germination process also produces vitamin C, and increases vitamin B and carotene content. Phytic acid is neutralized and aflatoxins (potent carcinogens) are inactivated. (Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.) Finally, complex carbohydrates and proteins are pre-digested, and numerous enzymes are produced that aid in digestion.
Not everything can be soaked or sprouted easily, and I am not religious about this practice. Nuts and beans are a no-brainer in my house. Sometimes I let them sprout, but I always at least soak for 24 hours. Storing them in the freezer keeps life simple.
Almond milk is the easiest of all the plant milks to make. And honestly, it’s my favorite. No tedious advance preparations are necessary, though *soaking is beneficial. The flavor is so good it needs no additional ingredients.
Directions for homemade almond milk:
Take 1 cup of raw, organic almonds. Soak as/if desired. (If you need milk fast, just skip this. It’s ok! You’re already a winner in the nutrition game!)
3-5 cups water (no harm in making it go farther!)
Add almonds and water to high speed blender. I use a Vitamix. Blend on maximum for 2-3 minutes.
If desired, strain the milk using a nut bag or 90-grade cheesecloth. Or ditch the nut bag and grab an old pair of nylons. The remaining pulp can be used in okara recipes for pancakes, cookies and more.
*Soaking any tree nut or seed is beneficial. As nuts /seeds are biologically designed to germinate and grow into a plant, many of the healthy enzymes potentially available remain locked until ideal conditions activate their release. Also, as they absorb water, they become softer, and easier to digest, which maximizes nutrient absorption in your body. If you want to take it a step further, allow the almonds to sprout by placing the soaked almonds in a glass jar in the refrigerator for about 2 days. Sprouting releases a fat-burning enzyme called lipase AND sprouted nuts and seeds are even sweeter…no added sugar required!
Tell me, how do you like your almond milk?
Learning how to make homemade soy milk is simple, and easily lends itself to a “system”. Whether you drink it daily or use it occasionally for baking, spending $2+/box is not necessary. Just stock dried organic soy beans in your pantry, and you can have as much as you need whenever you need it. I purchased a 25# of organic soybeans on Amazon, and I must admit that it will last me a LONG time. But that translates to about $.80 for 8 cups. Store brands run at least four times that. And this is organic, which is non-negotiable when it comes to soy because over 90 percent of US crops contain GMOs. No. And Thank you.
How to make homemade soy milk:
Soak 1 cup dried soybeans in water for 3-4 hours. (Overnight is fine.) Drain. Cover with water in a sauce pan and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse. Notice the shell pods that float to the top. Scoop to remove. (You don’t need to get them all, just grab the majority.)
Place soybeans in a Vitamix or high speed blender. Cover with water to the 8 cup mark. Puree on high for 3 minutes. Add 1-2 tsp vanilla and 1-2 tsp sugar if desired.
Now, here’s where you can benefit from my learning curve. After you blend, other recipes will tell you to pour into a nut bag or strain thru a cheese cloth. And I can tell you, this is a DEAL BREAKER for me. In my initial attempts at this, I felt like I was back in the 1800s, doing laundry on a wash board. Kneeding and pressing and crying in angst as my hands cramped and I made a big Huge CRAZY mess all over my kitchen as it spilled and slopped and took forever and then still never seemed to strain all the way. I just gave up.
But as a woman born in the seventies, when Wonder Woman wore a cape and Farrah Fawcet drove race cars, defeat is not something I take lightly. Besides, I had bought 25 POUNDS of soybeans. I was not throwing that way. And yet. FOR SURE. I was not squeezing it through a nut bag.
As I was researching various alternatives such as commercial grade sieves, strainers and cheese presses to make this job a little more 2012, I ran across one word of inspiration: nylon.
Today, I’m happy to have Spanx to make it all look smooth. But as a former wannabe Charlie’s Angel, I do own a pair of control top panty hose.
I keep them in the same drawer as the leg warmers and wrist bands. You know, just in case.
So instead of a nut bag, I started using control top nylons. Because nothing beats a great pair or L’eggs like a delicious glass of soy milk. Read more about how you can “Ditch the Nutbag” However, since then, I have found a 90 grade cheese cloth on Amazon that works even better.
Recipe for homemade soy milk:
1/2 cup dried soy beans
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
Remove any soy beans that look bad. Soak soy beans for 4-8 hours. Drain, add new water and boil soy beans for 15-20 minutes. Drain.
Place soy beans and 3 cups of water into Vitamix, high speed blender or food processor. Blend for one minute. Pour through nut bag, cheese cloth or nylon. Collect milk. Add leftover pulp (okara) to blender. Add 2 cups of water and blend for 1 minute. Strain again.
Collect the leftover pulp, and use it for pancakes or cookies.(I am working on a recipe, so if those words aren’t linked yet, bookmark this and check back next week…I’m working on it!)
Make Your Own Plant Milk: Homemade Coconut Milk
Making homemade plant milk is easy. Coconut milk is my favorite to cook with. It is creamy and rich. Making it from scratch is simple and fast.
The only issue to note is that it does have the distinctively delicious, sweet, coconut flavor. The unsweetened store-bought variety carries better in things like mashed potatoes and homemade vegan butter. But any recipe where the mild coconut flavor simply accentuates the intricate undertones, perfect for an Indian dish such as black rice lentil curry or desserts such as pumpkin pie with whipped cream, it is the ideal way to go back to basics. Oh, and it’s way cheaper.
How to make coconut milk: Since most of us don’t live in tropical locations where coconuts grow on trees, use raw organic shredded coconut.
I use an 8 ounce package. Place in a bowl, and cover with an equivalent amount of water. Allow it to hydrate for at least an hour.
Put hydrated coconut into Vitamix or high speed food processor. Add water that is double the coconut. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just eyeball it.
Blend for 3 minutes. Strain through a nut bag or ditch the nut bag and try a nylon alternative.
Add a tsp of vanilla and a tbsp of sugar. Or not. Shake well before use, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Maybe it’s just me (entirely possible), but making my own plant milks has been the biggest challenge in the quest for self-sufficiency. Here’s my truth: the nut bag is stupid. Human civilization is advanced, productive and intelligent-ish. So spending hours working myself into a sweat as I kneed and squeeze the stupid nut bag, spilling half of it in the process and turning my kitchen into a crime scene is not a sustainable procedure. There’s got to be an app for that.
While I appreciate modern convenience, our family goes through boxes of soy, almond and rice milk like it’s free. Only it’s not. At price points of $2-4 each, this is an easy category to target when budget cuts are necessary. I push water as often as possible, but I’ll agree that it doesn’t really work for cereal.
When I purchased my Vitamix for $450, I vowed to reach a break-even point as quickly as possible. So, following my personal financial principal of “spend money to make money”, I purchased bulk quantities of organic soy beans, oat grouts, shredded coconut, almonds, rice and hulled hemp, and began to search for the perfect recipes. I bought Rubbermaid containers that fit in my refrigerator door, and ordered the nut bag that was required in every recipe.
I was excited to get started. This was going to be awesome, for sure. Each recipe was a little different, but they all had one thing in common.
No matter which milk you are preparing, it will need to be strained. And every recipe I read calls for using a nut bag. And they all produce happy people drinking delicious milk made from whole ingredients in an easy process.
Either I’m doing it wrong (likely) or they left out the part where working the milk through the nut bag is akin to doing laundry on a wash board down in the creek.
I tried so many times. Soy, almond, rice, oat, hemp and coconut milk alike. I’d pour it into the nut bag and it would just….sit there. Gentle coaxing, full out beating, tears and bad words were employed. Nope.
I even attempted to construct a homemade vice, considered purchasing a cheese press for $200, and tried to get smart with a spaghetti squash.
After deciding that a commercial grade sieve was the answer, an out-dated word in the product description caught my eye. It was a simple word that is no longer tossed around at parties. Because it’s 2012. But back when Def Leppard ruled rock n’ roll, and before Spanx and spray tans made mini skirts an option for women over 30, nothing beat a great pair of L’eggs like control top NYLONs…
In a far away drawer, tucked in between a pair of leg warmers and the last can of Aqua Net, I have a pair of pantyhose saved for emergency use only.
Who would have guessed that making my own soy milk would constitute an emergency of such drastic proportion?
I got the nylons. I cut them up. I poured the milk into the pouch and held my breath.
It was perfect. Painless. In less than a minute, I was squeezing the last of the liquid and dreaming up other recipes for the leftover okara (pulp).
I have tried it with every kind of milk. Many times each. (I’ve been working on this for months!) Almond, soy, rice, coconut, oat and hemp.
The only one that I didn’t love was the hemp. It is grassy and bitter. But it tastes the same in the nut bag too. I threw away the rest of the hemp and called it a success. I’ll take 5 out of 6. And they are fabulous!
How to dry herbs. (Also, how to grow common sense . . .)
I have a confession. For years, I’ve grown different herbs. From lavender and various mints, to my favorite Italian seasonings like basil, oregano and thyme, there is nothing better than pulling a leaf, rubbing it between my fingers, and inhaling the beautiful and healing scents of the garden as I stroll around my yard.
But I’ve always grown more herbs than I can use. And at the end of the season, when they fade with the first frost, I stock up on the dried versions from the grocery store.
Because I have no idea how to dry herbs.
But my quest to take every ingredient I use as far back to the original form as possible included the dried herbs in my spice cabinet. I had no idea what the drying process entails, but it can’t be that complicated!
For sure. It’s not.
Before the weather turned cold, I cut the plants at the ground and placed them in reusable shopping bags on a high shelf in my pantry. I left them there for a few weeks while I researched various drying techniques.
Meanwhile, they dried. No help from me.
But then…ugh. How do I get the leaves from the stems and into storage? I considered my various choppers, grinders, blenders, and food processors and procrastinated for another week. This was going to be messy and complicated!
This weekend, I pulled them from their hiding place to force myself to finish. And while I ran around the kitchen preparing dinner, my daughter sat on her stool and started playing with the parsley. I told her that was fine, but to please “play” over a bowl. She began rubbing the leaves between her fingers. They crumbled away from the woody stems without effort. Within a few minutes, she had the stems removed, the pedals finely ground and a winter’s worth of flavor ready to be stored.
She didn’t google “how to dry herbs” or consult a farmer for technique. She just instinctively knew what to do. Because kids are a lot smarter than adults sometimes.
Gardening is beautiful in so many ways. And so are my kids.
Every year as I prepare my garden for winter, I wonder what to do with green tomatoes. There is a special place in my heart for the little guys that work hard till the end, only to be defeated when the first frost declares “times up!”.
In my quest to restore dignity to my little late blooming friends, the problem of ” What to do with green tomatoes?” has turned into a banquet of options that include green tomato chili, green tomato saute, homemade pepper hot sauce, and now, pickles!
If you have an almost-empty jar of pickles filled at least half way with juice (I think a lifetime supply of these came with my refrigerator!), you need to do nothing more than add your green tomatoes to the mix and wait about two weeks.
Seriously! That’s it.
If your running low on leftover pickle juice, it’s easy to make your own with a pickle seasoning packet and white vinegar. Choose your flavor of choice with bread and butter, Polish, Kosher and sweet varieties.
This works especially well with cherry or grape tomatoes. Just pop them into the jar! But you can slice larger tomatoes in whatever shape packs the most into the juice.
I add fresh garlic to mine as well. The flavor is over the top. The little green misfits are redeemed!