The town I live in today is a far cry from where I grew up. With a population of only 2,000, you could say our Midwestern town was almost microscopic. Actually we can’t even claim that previous descriptive, we are technically classified as a village (yes, those still exist), so I should be politically correct..
Anyways, growing up in a rural town has had its many advantages. Not only was I oblivious to violence and danger for most of my childhood, I was also constantly surrounded by compassion. Every neighbor, postal worker, police officer and teacher knew me on a first and last name basis. Because if they weren’t acquaintances of my family, they were probably long time friends. Most residents have lived there for most, if not all of their lives. So whether I was running around town, playing basketball with my best friend or just hanging out at my high school events, I was always surrounded by people who knew me on a personal basis. While that had it’s own slew of setbacks (if only drama was nonexistent), it also has an incredible impact on my character. For the first 18 years of my life, I was held accountable by a community of people, which just motivated me to prove myself accountable. My motivation and drive to succeed are significant effects from living among a close knit support system. It has also incited my appreciation for kindness and genuine empathy. While I cannot speak on the level of tolerance, I can say that the special gift of Midwesterners is that we genuinely care about the wellbeing of those around us.
On a lighter note, we also have a great appreciation for a tall glass of milk. There was not one single dinner that I attended through my childhood that went without a serving of good ol’ wholesome milk. Today I don’t indulge the practice much, if ever. Because in the last few years, dairy products have started to affect my digestion, so I have been limiting my consumption. And since I do appreciate some creamy oatmeal and frothy smoothies in the morning, I had to find substitutes to satisfy my cravings. When it comes to the packaged variety, my favorite is coconut milk. It’s incredibly creamy and doesn’t taste watery like rice or soy.
And since I’ve discovered this new gadget called a nut milk bag, I think I am going to be making more of my own variety. Nut milk is incredibly nutritious and tastes just as delicious as the cow version, especially when homemade. It may sound intimidating, but I assure you it’s as easy as whipping up a milkshake. The great part about this recipe is that you can swap out cashews for any nut you’d like. From almonds to pepitas to macadamias, you can really use them all. Just make sure to soak them for at least eight hours and overnight if possible. In the morning, drain your nuts and give them a good rinse. Add to a blender along with a good serving of water and whirr away. Drain the milk through a nifty nut milk bag or you could use cheesecloth or pantyhose. Any item will get the job done. What remains is the pulp. You can either use it in smoothies for an extra protein boost or you could bake with it. At this point, you can drink the milk straight up or have some fun with flavorings. I went a sweet route here with a little sprinkle of cinnamon and touch of vanilla and honey. Use your imagination and have fun with the flavorings!
Now, you can pour the strained milk into a clean resealable container and let it chill in the fridge. Enjoy the milk for up to 3-4 days. It’s delcious on it’s own, in oatmeal, blended into smoothies or atop crunchy cereal. I promise you won’t even miss the dairy version. It’s creamy, smooth and slightly sweet from the honey and vanilla. Now, please excuse me while I indulge in nostalgia with a big, chilled glass of milk. Enjoy!
Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Milk
makes about 32 oz milk
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
4 cups filtered water
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
nut milk bad or cheese cloth over a sieve
Place cashews into a small bowl and cover with water. Cover and let sit for at least 8 hours. Once soaked, drain and rinse cashews under cold water. Add to blender with 4 cups water and blend on high until completely processed and milk begins to froth. Pour into a mason jar or pitcher lined with a nut milk mad or covered with a sieve and cheesecloth. Once liquids completely pass through, squeeze excess milk from bad using clean hands. Save pulp for smoothies or use in a cracker recipe. Add drained milk back into a cleaned blender and add honey, cinnamon and vanilla. Blend quickly and store in a clean mason jar or sealable pitcher. Keep in the fridge for 2-4 days, shake before use. Almond pulp can be kept in an airtight container for 3-4 days.