Add Some Flair (and Flavor) to Your Milk

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When we think of wholesome and healthy foods, milk is one of the drinks that spring to mind. We know we should drink more. We want our kids to drink it. The fact is, many people just don’t like the taste. For others, who already drink a fair amount of it, we can get a little bored.

Let’s address both issues at once, by adding flavor and a little flair! A simple syrup is a quick way to add a little flavor. Dissolve two parts table sugar in one part warm water, and add your favorite extract, to taste. Vanilla is especially good. Because the simple syrup is concentrated, you only need a small amount to add flavor, thus not watering down your milk. Simple syrups will work with any type of milk, including soy, rice and almond. This syrup also works very well in coffee. A simple syrup will last for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

In the fall, all thoughts turn to pumpkin! Pumpkin pie is sure to please. Mix a can of sweetened condensed milk with 3 Tbs. of pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice to taste. Stir in 2 cups of milk. Drink it as is or add it to your coffee for a pumpkin spice latte treat! The pumpkin spice flavor is strong enough to stand up to soy and almond milk as well. This will keep one week in the refrigerator.

Caramel is one of the hot flavors right now. Take a can of sweetened condensed milk, peel off the label and place it in your slow cooker unopened. Cover the can completely with water. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours. Make sure the can stays completely covered. Turn the slow cooker off and cool slowly. When the can is cool enough to handle, open it up and voila! You have gooey, thick caramel sauce. Use it as is added directly to milk or coffee. Caramel will keep one week in the refrigerator.

In warmer weather we want it to be ice cold. It’s perfectly alright to freeze your flavored milk. Add concentrated flavorings directly to milk and freeze in ice cube trays. As soon as it’s frozen, transfer cubes to a freezer container as it will pick up other flavors easily. Add to your milk or cooled coffee for an icy cold treat!


Make Your Own “Milk”

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As knowledge of dairy allergies and intolerances becomes more widespread, a greater number of people are turning to alternatives. Delicious, nutritious and versatile substitutes can be made from a variety of foods such as oats, nuts, legumes, rice and other grains. However, by far the most popular choices are soy milk, coconut milk and almond milk. While these are readily available in most grocers these days, many people are displeased with the number of additives in them. Fortunately, these healthy dairy alternatives are simple enough to make on you own, sans chemicals.

Coconut milk

For this, you'll need an eight-ounce package of unsweetened shredded coconut, some cheesecloth, four cups of boiling water, a sieve, a large bowl and a blender. Add both the water and shreds to the blender and puree them for about one minute. Next, layer the cheesecloth two layers thick in the sieve, hold it over your bowl and pour the mixture through it. After it's mostly drained, gather up the edges of the cloth and squeeze out the remaining liquid. You can use the leftover shreds to cook with.

If you want to add flavoring to your coconut milk, you can add either a whole vanilla bean or half a teaspoon of extract. However, you're free to add more if you'd like. Sweeten with sugar or honey if desired. Coconut milk is useful for baking, puddings, soups and stews as it is very creamy and possesses a thickening quality. The end product can be refrigerated, but it's recommended that you use it within three days for the best taste. Like most dairy substitutes, this doesn't freeze well.

Soy milk and Almond milk

The process for both of these options is the same. You'll need 1 1/2 cups of raw almonds or soy beans, four cups of water, cheesecloth, a sieve, a bowl and any flavoring you desire. Vanilla beans or extract are popular choices. To start, you must soak the beans or nuts for eight to 12 hours to soften them. Once this is finished, put them in a blender with the water and blend until smooth.

Pour the mixture through the cheesecloth-lined sieve and squeeze out the leftover liquid. You can save the resulting pulp and use it for baking or other purposes. Almond pulp in particular is excellent for cookies and cakes. Add vanilla or another flavoring and sweeten to suit your preferences.

Almond milk and soy milk aren't as useful for cooking since they lack thickening properties. This is especially true of using almond milk in puddings. Store your almond milk or soy milk in the refrigerator for up to three days. Freezing is not recommended since it can ruin the texture and consistency.