Foam, Sweet Foam

Long gone are the days of curdled soymilk clouding an otherwise lovingly crafted cup of coffee. Alternative milks have reached such astounding levels of acceptance in mainstream markets that even the most basic establishment will have at least one suitable substitute, if not two or three, for the dairy-adverse. Home brewers have even more to raise their mugs to, with more options available than one could hope to drink in a lifetime, no matter how prodigious their caffeine consumption. While almond has become the new default alt-milk, coconut is no slouch these days, and oat milk is now making a big splash on the scene, too. A whole world of creamy contenders remains on the fringes of widespread awareness, though, unsung and unappreciated for their own unique qualities. One such challenger poised to hit the big time is macadamia, if the latest submission from Milkadamia is any indication.

Differentiating themselves from the existing “Latte Da Barista” Macadamia Milk, this new line of coffee whiteners is aimed at home users looking for a simple splash of cream in their morning cuppa Joe. They’re so new that information is scant online; even their website hasn’t been updated to include these hot options. Shelf-stable and available in three flavors, Unsweetened Vanilla provides the most clean, neutral flavor while Vanilla and Fudge add an indulgent twist to the array.

Of course, with access to some world-class baristas at my second home at Nourish Cafe, I had to ask the experts what they thought of these innovative creamers. Across the board, everyone was impressed by the most basic entry, finding it hard to believe that absolutely no sugar was included in the unsweetened option. Smooth and rich in a way that’s near impossible to replicate with homemade recipes, this simple blend had genuine body that came stunningly close to true heavy cream. Though it wasn’t designed for foaming or latte art, it performed remarkably well when put to the test, too.

Turning up the flavor dial to 11, the sweetened varieties became my fast favorites, despite my penchant for plain, jet-black coffee in the morning. So called “fudge” lives up to its name, with a round chocolate flavor akin to liquefied truffles. Suddenly, I understood the craze surrounding flavored, fanciful lattes. Though clearly designed with the standard roasted bean in mind, I found it dangerously habit-forming in hot matcha, both green and blue.

I’m already craving my next fix, waiting for supply to keep up with demand. These new creamers from Milkadamia should be hitting store shelves sometime this month, and I’ll be first in line to add a generous splash to my next fresh brew.

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Griddle Me This

Every dog has its day, and so, apparently, does every food. If I observed every national “holiday” assigned seemly at random to all the various dishes and ingredients on currently listed on the calendar, this blog would become nothing but a giant red-letter day reminder. National Grilled Cheese Day, however, deserves a special mention. Today, like any other day that ends with a “y,” is the perfect time to butter up two thick slices of your favorite bread and stuff them to the point of bursting with any gooey non-dairy decadence your heart desires. Such a sandwich is a staple across the globe, beloved by all and easy enough for even the most novice cooks to whip up with confidence. It was even one of the first foods I managed to create for myself in my tween years, before cooking or even eating roused my enthusiasm. Sure, back then it was plain whole wheat bread and florescent orange slices of unmelting crayon wax that passed for vegan cheese, smashed and warmed into submission via an electric sandwich press, but a strong attachment to the concept still took hold.

Thankfully, we can do better- So much better, and with barely any additional effort. That’s why the sandwich in particular is truly worth celebrating. Even in its most fanciful, fully decorated formats, it will still be piping hot and ready to enjoy in a matter of minutes, at most.

The cheese itself remains a slightly controversial subject, with diehard fans taking sides either for or against various mainstream options, but the good news is that now there are actually options, and scores of them! If you’re not up to the task of starting from scratch, even your average big box store in middle America will carry at least one reasonable alternative to get your grill on. Daiya is perhaps the best known, with shreds, slices, and blocks of many flavors, with their new cutting board shreds leading the pack. Follow Your Heart does indeed remain close to my heart, offering some of the most diverse flavor options that range from pepperjack to provolone. So Delicious is still more of an ice cream powerhouse than anything else, but their classic shredded cheese options are making quite a splash on the savory side of the grocery store. Chao is best known for its smooth, creamy melt and unique coconut/tofu base. New on the scene is Culinary Co, still a bit difficult to track down but fantastic eaten hot or cold, which is quite a feat for most dairy-free cheese. Similarly, Parmela shreds are found in very limited markets, but worth buying in bulk should you manage to locate a good supply. Violife is making a big splash with its US release, once available only overseas but now taking the North American market by storm. Truth be told, this is but a tiny nibble at the larger feast of non-dairy gooey goodness, but we haven’t even begun to dig into the actual savory additions!

  • It’s hard to beat the umami punch offered by your average sauteed mushroom, but you can one-up that basic approach with silky caramelized onions, a touch of garlic, and to really gild the lily, a pinch of truffle salt.
  • For a little sweet and savory twist, crisp slices of green apple add a crunchy, tart punch to the combination, which goes particularly well with a cheddar shred or slice.
  • Spice things up with a generous handful pickled jalapenos, and take your sandwich on a quesadilla-inspired departure with roasted red peppers, black beans, and tender summer squash.
  • Go green to ramp up the health factor by stuffing your bread with a serious serving of wilted spinach, kale, and/or arugula, and play up the fresh herbs like thinly sliced scallions, parsley, rosemary, oregano, and thyme.
  • Keep it classic with juicy ripe tomatoes, or sun-dried if out of season, and a few crisp slices of meatless bacon if you’re feeling particularly indulgent.
  • Consider a more spring-y approach with grilled asparagus and roasted beets ramping up the vegetable factor, and don’t forget a touch of lemon zest and ground black pepper to brighten the whole package.
  • Make something that an avowed carnivore would crave by loading up on cooked beefy crumbles, finished with a dollop of marinara sauce or fresh pesto.With so many fantastic culinary adventures to embark upon, the most difficult part of crafting an excellent grilled cheese sandwich is simply deciding on the flavor destination! Do tell: what’s your current favorite combination?

Wave of the Future

If you can blend it, you can milk it. Once defined and dominated by soybeans alone, the very nature of non-dairy drinks is hotly debated by enthusiasts and detractors alike, struggling to find commonalities that might link that vast array of plant-based sources crowding out the antiquated plastic jugs of cow juice. It’s not just the sales figures that are booming, but the unparalleled variety and access that consumers can now enjoy, just as easily opting for an almond, hemp, or oat mustache instead. New blends are still popping up rapidly, before you can even empty your first frothy glass. Now, along with those nutty and beany staples, the lactose intolerant can stock their fridges with banana milk.

Banana Wave presents itself as a game changer seeking to disrupt the industry, but the whole truth is less likely to make real waves. Built upon a foundation of bananas, soymilk, and gluten-free oats, in that order, it’s more like a thin blended smoothie than a true dairy substitute, bearing a viscosity similar to a simple protein shake.

Surprisingly subdued in flavor, the initial impact was less sweet and potent than anticipated, perhaps to placate drinkers that might not be entirely on board with a fruity intrusion. Flax oil, though a welcome change of pace from lower quality canola or safflower, contributes a discordant note and slightly mineral aftertaste. An impressive battery of vitamins and minerals bolster the nutritional profile, proving that it has more to offer than the average watery mammalian formula. Undeniably smooth and creamy, it certain still has its charm. I could see this being a great grab-and-go snack, if only it was packaged in single-serving cartons. Overall, it’s a great concept that hasn’t yet realized its own full potential. I’m looking forward to the day when I see Banana Wave on the shelf, right alongside the heavyweights battling it out for non-dairy dominance, but I don’t think it’s quite ready to roll with the punches just yet.

Cash[ew] is King

Well, it’s about time! Considering the proliferation of non-dairy milks, populating grocery stores near and far in unprecedented numbers, it seems unthinkable that cashews have been entirely missing in action… Until now. Who better than to unleash the world’s first commercial cashew milk than So Delicious, having proven their mastery of both frozen and refrigerated dairy-free delights? Before I even realized my own unfulfilled nut milk desires, this turned out to be the creamy drink I had been waiting for all along.

Almond milk is my typical go-to milk alternative, a prime candidate for drinking, baking, cooking, and yes, ice cream-ing. From here on in, consider that prime spot in my fridge under serious reconsideration, because So Delicious’ cashew milk performs all of those tasks with equal grace, and of course, great taste. Currently offered in only two flavors, Unsweetened Vanilla and Unsweetened, my only hope would be that the line takes off and expands to include a chocolate option, for those nostalgic chocolate milk cravings.

Both have an excellent viscosity, a moderate thickness without any cloying sensation. Though considerably less rich than homemade cashew milk, for a mere fraction of the calories (35 per cup) it tastes surprisingly creamy and even slightly decadent. A very subtle nutty flavor defines their background flavor, distinctly cashew in essence, and easily minimized when mixed into other recipes. Bearing a clean flavor with no sugar to speak of, they can seamlessly work in any application, a testament to their versatility.

In short, if you don’t give these cashew milks a try, you’re seriously missing out! They may very well replace my almond standby, at least once they gain wider distribution in more mainstream grocery stores.

Don’t just take my word for it, go try them out yourself! I happen to have two freebie coupons in my possession, and I’d much rather they be in your hands, ASAP. If you’d like to win one, leave me a comment by August 30th at midnight EST telling me about non-dairy milk. Write about anything at all, whether it’s a recipe for your favorite variety, a funny story that involves the dairy-free drink, or even a love sonnet if you feel so inspired. Just make sure you fill out your name and a valid email address in the appropriate boxes so I know who to contact. Two winners will be drawn and contacted shortly after the entry period closes. Good luck!

And the winners, as chosen by the wisdom of the random number generator are…

Commenters #14 and #37, otherwise known as Mrs Zuvers and workingonworkingmom. Congrats you two! Expect to hear from me shortly with details on how to collect your prizes.

When You Feel Like a Nut

One sip of almond milk, so many years ago, was all it took to convert me to a believer; I haven’t looked back to soy ever since. Smoother, creamier, and without the distinctive bean-y undertones soy is apt to impart, the choice for both baking and drinking was clear. The biggest downside to the switch was in nutrition; quite simply, no nut can compete with legumes on the protein front. Finally, the gap is beginning to close, thanks to another brilliant innovation by So Delicious. Almond Plus almond milk has the best of both worlds, and doesn’t taste like a compromise in the least bit.

Perfectly smooth, this silky elixir has a velvety thickness that goes down easily, whether it’s topping cold cereal or drank straight from the carton. Either the Original or Vanilla flavors are irresistible as stand-alone drinks, and I’m not often inclined to down a plain glass of “milk.” Unsweetened blends seamlessly into savory dishes, and has become a fast favorite for creamy sauces, such as the classic alfredo. Perfectly suited for baking and dessert making as well, it’s quickly become my go-to “milk” for making ice cream. Luckily, for those lacking the patience or equipment, So Delicious has you covered with a brand new line of almond milk ice creams all their own.

Diving first into the basics, the Chocolate and Vanilla make a dazzling first impression. Unlike their other recent creation, coconut milk ice cream, the base is a silent player here, allowing the star ingredients to shine in their respective pints. Soft and easy to scoop straight from the freezer, the chocolate does err a bit more on the sweet side, but I can see it having huge appeal with children especially. Impressively complex in flavor, it’s much more than mere cocoa; such richness belies a truly modest nutrition panel. Vanilla actually tastes like vanilla, and not just an anonymous “plain” option. In fact, it tastes more like homemade ice cream than anything I’ve tried out of a commercially packed cardboard pint, which is about the highest compliment I can bestow.

Even with such high expectations, it only gets better from there.  Cherry Amaretto is not one I would pick up on my own accord, but one taste forced me to change my tune, because I would definitely buy it from here on out. Cherry-flavored desserts often rub me the wrong way, with artificial flavors carrying most of the weight in  a truly unnatural, over-concentrated sort of way. Such a sin is not one committed here, as the chunks of real cherry are impossible to miss. A light cherry essence is found throughout, accented by the barest hint of amaretto flavor, which rounds out the dessert nicely.  Those big chunks of sweet cherries and delightfully chewy, rather than icy, like so many poorly planned fruit additions. A sophisticated yet still playful combination, it’s clearly designed for a more mature audience, by would undoubtedly be enjoyed by the younger set as well.

Butter Pecan stole my heart with just its name. More than merely butter-y, it’s in fact butterscotch-y, with deep caramel notes mingling seamlessly with the floral vanilla flavor. Tons of sizable pecan pieces add a satisfying crunch, and assert themselves properly to justify the name. A subtle hit of salt serves to intensify this complex ice cream, accentuating all of its best features. For the next Thanksgiving dinner, I’m highly tempted to simply pack this ice cream into a flaky crust and call it pecan pie!

Picking a favorite flavor out of this incredible selection is almost as difficult as picking a favorite child, but I can’t deny that the Mocha Almond Fudge would undoubtedly rank very high on my list. More than mere coffee and cocoa, there’s a whole lot going on in each spoonful. A gooey fudge ripple marbles throughout the pint, adding a blast of chocolate decadence every now and then, like built-in hot fudge sauce. Huge, plentiful chunks of fresh and lightly roasted almonds keep things exciting, although the smooth coffee backdrop would hardly be dull all by itself. I have a feeling that even coffee-haters may love this ice cream- It’s just that good.

Many other of So Delicious’ classic ice cream flavors will also be available in almond milk format, and let’s not forget about the novelty treats, too. Naturally, I wolfed down the whole box of Mocha Almond Fudge Bars in record time, but the Vanilla Bars were not long for this world, either. Something about that crisp, fast-melting chocolate coating makes this already killer ice cream even more irresistible. Biting into that frozen cloak of cocoa, it yields with a satisfying snap, revealing the contrasting creaminess within. It’s the kind of addictive treat I can’t keep on hand regularly if I hope to maintain a diet that includes edibles other than ice cream.

Though I was terribly spoiled by a sneak-peek shipment of these items, most should already be available in specialty markets such as Whole Foods across the US by now. When I’m ready to give the ice cream maker a much deserved break, I know just where to turn for delicious frozen desserts. To share the almond love a bit, So Delicious provided 2 freebie coupons for any of their products, so that means that two lucky readers will get to pick out something sweet, on the house! Just leave a comment that includes a valid email address, and tell me what your favorite flavor of ice cream is. The giveaway will close to new entries on Friday (the 13th!) at midnight, EST. Check back in this space to see the winners.

UPDATE: As chosen by the random number generator, the winners are…

#17, Roopa!

and

#31, Allie!

Congrats, and to everyone else, don’t go far- I’ve got another giveaway coming up very soon…

Flax or Fiction?

In a sea of greatly varied non-dairy milk options, it’s hard not to play favorites. When the best can rank even better than the original cow creations, and the worst can taste like putrid dish water, it helps to be discerning. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not exactly a fan of rice milk, so Good Karma isn’t a brand typically on my radar. Producing only rice milk and rice milk frozen desserts, it simply never caught my interest… Until now. Branching out into the world of flax, their latest and succinctly named offering of Flax Milk ventures out into new territory. One of only two flax beverages on the market, it’s not one I can find locally yet, but ever since sampling the Vanilla and Unsweetened varieties, I’ve been desperately scouring the shelves for my next fix.

Appropriately anonymous and well-suited to cooking and baking, the unsweetened “milk” is good, but I would be hard pressed to come up with a rave about something that excels at tasting mild. However, the Vanilla is another story. Not particularly thick but far from the watery mess I had feared, this flax beverage is surprisingly smooth and creamy. Accentuated with a light sweetness, it’s highly drinkable, and practically begging for a rich chocolate cookie alongside as an accompaniment. A very impressive and respectable non-dairy milk indeed, I would happily purchase this one frequently for my everyday smoothies… if only I could find it!

Also new to the Good Karma line-up is their rice-based coffee creamer. Highly skeptical, to say the least, but undeniably intrigued, I simply had to try what is currently the only existing rice milk creamer on the market. Sure there’s plenty of soy and coconut options now, but rice could provide those with allergies and coconut-adverse tastes a whole new lease on lightened coffee life.

Just like the previous beverages, I was shocked at how good all three flavors (Original, Vanilla, and Hazelnut) were. Near flawless, in fact; I’d even venture to say that they’re better than the typical vegan creamers I had been using. Much thicker than the competition, like heavy cream, each bottle contained a luscious, silky-smooth liquid entirely richer and more satisfying that I could have anticipated. Fatty in the best way possible, it added volumes of depth to any average latte.

I generally prefer my coffee black though, so where this creamer really shined in my eyes was when it made it into the savory side of the kitchen. Using the unsweetened, original flavor in my Straight-Up Scramble brought this simple staple to life. I found myself making many more scrambles all month, right up until the bottle went dry. Don’t even get me started on the ice creams it churned out… It feels mean to tease about such decadent treats.

In a stunning coup, Good Karma has changed my mind on what rice, and flax, is capable of. If only they could get their products into more mainstream markets, they’d be an unstoppable force of non-dairy drinks!