Weekend Kitchen Experiments

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This was the first weekend since I don’t even know when that Alex and I have been at home all weekend and visitor-free…all weekend! We’ve been in Steamboat, Denver, and at Alex’s family cabin. A lot of of our family comes from Denver to ski and stays with us, so we’ve had our usual steady flow of winter house guests. While we generally like to run around adventuring, and we thoroughly enjoy getting to hang out with our families frequently, it was nice to have a weekend to ourselves and do everything on our own schedule. Needless to say, there was a lot of nesting. We went to the dentist, ran some errands, had a movie/candy night, dog-sat for some friends, went cross-country skiing, watched copious amounts of Modern Family, planted some seeds in our indoor garden, cleaned the house, and, of course, cooked and ate. Here are some new things we tried this weekend:

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade almond milk. See all the almond pulp settling to the bottom?

Homemade almond milk. See all the almond pulp settling to the bottom?

This homemade almond milk from Oh She Glows was pretty simple to make, and turned out fairly well for a first try. All I did was soak a cup of almonds overnight, and strain them and blend them with four cups of water in the morning. After then were sufficiently “milked” in the blender, I strained them through our

mini mesh strainer into a class measuring cup. The recipe suggested using cheesecloth or something called a nut milk bag…but I didn’t have either so I made do, straining and dumping the leftover almond pulp into a bowl periodically. Then I put the liquid back in the blender and added about a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a dash of cinnamon. Next time, I am going to try using less water, as my almond milk was pretty thing. Otherwise, it turned out pretty good.

Straining homemade almond milk.

Straining homemade almond milk.

Almond Peanut Butter Chocolate Bites

I started with this recipe as a base for what was called “raw cookie dough bites,” something you can make with the leftover almond pulp from making almond milk. But I didn’t really follow this recipe because I didn’t have half the things in it and didn’t want to go buy them (almond butter, coconut oil). Instead, I used 2/3 cup almond pulp, 4 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1/8 cup broken up chocolate with sea salt. I mixed the almond pulp (which we spent a lot of time drying in the toaster oven before using), honey, and peanut butter together to form balls. Then I stuck a couple pieces of chocolate in the top of each, and put them on a plate in the freezer for about 10 minutes. They ended up being pretty good treats, but certainly tasted nothing like raw cookie dough bites (does anything??) 🙂

Strawberry Almond Milk Ice Cream

Strawberry almond milk ice cream with chocolate on top!

Strawberry almond milk ice cream with chocolate on top!

Okay, it’s probably becoming pretty clear that I was on an Almond Milk bender this weekend….

In my defense, these recipes were just building up on my Pinterest for weeks while we were out having lots of adventures. I am lactose intolerant, so the more dairy-free recipes I can find, the better. Especially when it comes to the dairy stuff I miss the most, like ice cream. Obviously. Sigh. Anyways, I used this recipe as a base for my almond milk ice cream. I had 5 frozen bananas, like the recipe uses, but they weren’t peeled before being frozen. Peeling 5 frozen bananas did not seem like fun. It almost always results in frozen fingers. So I put about 3 cups of frozen strawberries in my blender with 2/3 cup of almond milk. I blended it up, adding small amounts of almond milk periodically and stirring the mixture as it blended. When it reached an ice-creamish consistency, I put it in a bowl and put some broken up dark chocolate with sea salt on top. Mmmmmm this is an easy recipe that I will probably use over and over with any frozen fruit. While this version is not as creamy as ice cream, it’s still delicious and I will be interested to try the recipe with bananas to see if that increases the creamy factor.

Sweet Potato Nachos 

Sweet potato nachos from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Sweet potato nachos from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Again, this is a recipe that I have been wanting to try for weeks, ever since I first saw it on one of my favorite food blogs, Two Peas and Their Pod. As the recipe said, I used three sweet potatoes and used my fancy mandolin cutter (for the first time!) to slice them all into equally thin rounds. This was a TON of sweet potato rounds. I popped them in the oven at 400 degrees, and watched them closely. Still, many of them burnt before others were even crisping at all. This, I did not understand because I knew for a fact that they were all the same thickness. I thought the oven might be too hot, so turned it down to 355 degrees after about 20 minutes and flipping the rounds once. I thought they might have had too much oil…or not enough oil? This turned out to be kind of a tough endeavor for me. In the end, they all shrunk a lot and the ones that weren’t burnt were more like sweet potato leathers than sweet potato chips. They weren’t as crispy as I had been dreaming of since I saw the recipe, but I used the best tray for our nachos. They cooked to a point where I thought if they cooked any longer they would burn, so I took out the tray, sprinkled some mozzarella cheese and black beans on the top and put them back in the oven for about 5 minutes. When the cheese was melted, I topped them with green onions, cilantro, avocado, and a little lime juice. Even though the “chips” weren’t perfect, these were super delicious. This was a creative and delicious flavor combo, and I will definitely keep trying at sweet potato chips until I get them just right.

Red Lentil failure

Sunday afternoon I put some red lentils on the stove for a curry I am planning on making later this week. I’ve made green lentils many times, but never red. However, in this case, I don’t think it was the color of the lentils that is to blame for the debacle I had. While trying to do too many things at once, my lentils boiled over and filled the tray below the burner with water. So, I switched them to another burner, turned it on simmer (since they had already boiled), and walked away. I checked on them once or twice, wondering why they weren’t doing much. I thought maybe the progress was slow, since the burner was on simmer. After about 45 minutes I realized I had turned on the wrong burner. Classic Cece mistake….

After cursing my own idiocy, I turned on the correct burner and let them simmer. Probably because of the extreme boil, followed by 45 minutes of soaking/cooling, followed by simmering these lentils came out as a mushy mess. Fail.

There’s always next time! And blended lentil soup.

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