the almond milk rescue

I was still on a high from last weeks pretzel success and feeling rather invincible when I decided that this week I would make another attempt at baking “the perfect crusty loaf”. Going back to work has seriously affected the amount of time I have to cook, so when I found a recipe that actually read “1. Mix together all the ingredients in the morning before you go to work. 2. Leave it in the warmest spot in your kitchen and allow to rise for 6-8 hours. 3. When you come home from work…” Are you kidding?!? I had joked that 2014 might be the year I finally achieved baking success, but I didn’t actually believe it. So before I left for work one morning I followed the recipe directions (seriously, I did!); mixed together the ingredients, left the covered bowl in a warm spot, said a quick prayer to the baking gods and hustled myself and the kids out the door. Flash forward eight hours to the biggest epic fail of my baking career. BIGGEST. EPIC. FAIL. After an eight-hour rise the dough was still fairly flat, I gave it a quick knead and attempted a second proofing only to be left with a big sticky mess to clean up and to top the disastrous attempt off nicely—the loaf stuck like glue to the bottom of my brand new dutch oven. Sigh… Calgon take me away.

It seemed a little early for a glass of wine and while I love coffee; freshly ground, freshly brewed, strong coffee, if you know me then you know that the only time of day I actually drink it (or anything caffeinated for that matter) is in the morning. If I need something warm and soothing later in the day then its usually a cup of decaf chai tea with a splash of milk—I love the creamy, spicy warmth that comes with chai. I’ve recently started making green smoothies again which means that I have always have almond milk in the house. I started tinkering around with other ways to use almond milk and discovered that when you heat it up and add lots of spices to it you wind up with the perfect warm, smoothing chai-type drink. Sure it won’t make you the queen of all bakers, but it will warm you from the inside out and offer you a few moments to regroup before the next “perfect crusty loaf” recipe comes along.

Warm Spiced Almond Milk
This recipe also works with regular milk, however I actually prefer it with the almond milk.

almond milk5

2 cups almond-coconut milk
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract
2 tsp. honey

  1. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over a medium flame, stirring frequently, until the milk is hot but has not yet begun to simmer.
  2. Stain milk mixture through a fine mesh strainer and into a large mug and enjoy!

lean, mean + super green

I believe in eating real, delicious and satisfying food. If you’re going to eat chocolate; eat the best you can find. If you’re going to buy bread; buy something that will do more than keep your sandwich ingredients out of your lap. And if you’re going to try to lose a few pounds; do it with healthy for you food. Not frozen, processed, microwaved, artificial everything substitutes. Blech!

In the quickly approaching year since my last birthday I’ve noticed that my pants are not as loose as they once were, and that my energy levels are not exactly olympic. I honestly don’t care about growing older (gracefully, not kicking and screaming is my plan) but I do care about feeling older. Right about the same time as I was deciding how exactly to handle this tight pants predicament of mine, my college friend and fellow blogger Lynda Layng Tama (www.healthyhobokengirl.com) posted a recipe for a Banana Almond Smoothie. Smoothies— I had a light bulb moment— smoothies could be the answer!

Her recipe was both easy and delicious. But, you know how I love to tinker with perfectly good recipes… I googled, researched and talked about smoothies with my health conscience friends. I tried multiple recipes, swapping and tweaking ingredients as I went until I found a combination that had enough protein in it to keep me from feeling hungry and enough good fruits and veggies to keep me feeling healthy. During my recipe research I discovered something called Spirulina powder. Spirulina is a simple blue-green algae that is apparently the ultimate superfood! It is reported to be: “a complete protein source; to contain 26 times more calcium than milk, to increase your immunity and metabolism; it is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, is loaded with vitamins and minerals; rich in essential fatty acids and claims to aid in the healing of allergies, ADD, hypoglycemia, diabetes, high cholesterol, fatigue, anemia and digestive disorders.” Even the ancient Aztecs used Spirulina and called it the ‘sacred power plant’. They believed it contained the energy of the sun and had amazing rejuvenating and vitalizing properties. Wow, that’s quite a resume! And who am I after all to question the Aztecs!?! So even if only half of it’s reported benefits are true, it seemed like a worthwhile addition to my smoothie.

Since I can’t start my day without some serious coffee, I decided to have my smoothie in place of lunch. (Lunch for me is usually a hurried affair anyhow so why not drink my smoothie while continuing to get stuff done?!?) Yes the spinach and Spirulina make this a frightening shade of green, even a green lover like me will admit that, but it’s really pretty tasty. Don’t get me wrong, my children have agreed to taste it but will never request a glass of their own, my husband calls it toxic waste and can barely stand to watch me drink it and it will never take the place of a lovely Niçoise salad, but it’s not so terrible either.

It’s still too soon for me to claim I’m down a pants size or that I’m able to run marathons because of my “Super Green Smoothie”. However I do feel both mentally and physically better prepared to handle whatever gets thrown my way, and for that I’m delighted.

Super Green Smoothie
You could use any type of berry in this or even some fresh mango, whatever fruit you like most. What I wouldn’t do is omit the banana (even if you’re not a banana lover) because it really helps to give it a little “non-green” flavor.

smoothieALT

1/2 cup plain almond-coconut milk
1/4 cup plain whole grain rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced strawberries (about 4 large)
1/2 ripe banana, frozen
1/2 cup non fat Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. Spirulina powder*
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 ice cubes
1 tbsp. almond butter
2-3 tsp. honey
1 handful fresh kale, spinach or dandelion greens

  1. Throw all the ingredients in the blender and give it a whirl.
  2. Sip, enjoy and feel like an Aztec warrior!

*You can purchase Spirulina powder at any health food store but before you do, I encourage you to do a little research of your own and discover what a superfood it claims to be.