When my boys were little, play dates were one unabashed attempt to tire them out: How many times could I entice them to race to the other side of the playground, how many balls could they lose in the bushes, and could we keep everyone unscathed until pickup time? If the boys stopped for a second to remember they were hungry, snacks were shoveled down lightning fast. These boys are now teenagers, but not much has changed: They still take down food without pausing their game of hoops, and play until utterly exhausted.
My daughter, a kindergartner, is a different animal. She loves to race and climb and kick a soccer ball just like her brothers, yet her play dates invariably end with a quiet arts-and-crafts project, often involving unicorns, and an elaborate tea party snack. The most requested, coveted snacks must be pink, and because I try to keep food dyes to a minimum, my selections are frustratingly limited.
This is why we make strawberry almond milk every time one of her friends comes to play. A frothy glass of this pink milk is remarkably reminiscent of a sugar-laden strawberry milkshake, especially when served with a pink polka dot straw, but it is deceptively nutritious.
Almond milk is made by blending raw almonds with water and a touch of a sweetener, such as maple syrup, agave or dates. Then the blended concoction is strained into a silky, milky beverage. Almonds are full of protein for energy, magnesium for heart health, calcium for bones, vitamin B2 for eyesight and healthy fats for the brain. The strawberries donate a dose of vitamin C.
Always use plain, raw nuts, as roasted varieties produce a less creamy, bitter milk, and salted or sweetened nuts will alter the saltiness or sweetness of the milk. Soaking the nuts before blending, even for an hour, creates creaminess. Cashew and macadamia nuts make tasty milks, too, as do hempseeds and Brazil nuts. For any of these milks, the nut-to-water ratio should hover around one cup of nuts to three or four cups of water. Experiment to find your favorite consistency.
Place the nuts in the blender first — you want them to be against the blades so they are chopped as finely as possible — and add the water slowly. To strain, use cheesecloth, a nut-milk bag or a French press. Leftover milk is delicious poured over granola or whipped in a smoothie.
For those with girls who think pink, this just might revolutionize snack time. It will certainly give your daughter the energy she needs to climb high, run fast, kick far and play hard, just like a girl.
Strawberry Almond Milk, 3 to 6 servings (makes about 5 cups)
This easy recipe makes a sweet pink drink that looks just like a strawberry milkshake but is deceptively nutritious, providing protein, magnesium and calcium.
Filtered water is preferred here for best flavor, but tap water can be used. You’ll need cheesecloth (or a nut-milk bag) for straining the milk.
MAKE AHEAD: The almonds need to be soaked for at least 1 hour and preferably overnight. The strawberry almond milk can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days.
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 3¼ cups water, preferably filtered, plus more for soaking (see headnote)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Pinch sea salt
- 15 to 20 fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped (3 cups total)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place the almonds in a bowl. Add enough water to cover; let soak for at least 1 hour and preferably overnight.
- Drain and rinse the almonds, then transfer them to a high-powered blender, along with the 3¼ cups of water, maple syrup, salt, chopped strawberries and vanilla extract. Blend until you can see very few bits (as smooth as possible).
- Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth and place over a deep bowl or container. Working in batches, strain the mixture, pushing the milk and solids around to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids each time.
- Cover and refrigerate the strawberry almond milk until well chilled before serving.
- Recipe adapted from Heidi Swanson’s 101Cookbooks.com.
Article first published in The Washington Post on Thursday, June 22, 2017.