Warning: This tiny change may ripple out to produce huge results in your lifestyle and what you believe is possible in all areas of your life.
Years ago, when we moved to Bend, our little family of four adopted a vegetarian diet. As we rebuilt our lives from the ground up in a new home and neighborhood, taking the opportunity to reexamine how we thought about what we were eating and why it mattered. Brent had received advice from a doctor to eliminate certain foods in order to decipher what may be the culprit inciting arthritic-like flare-ups in his joints, and that question inspired us to consider all of what we were consuming and the impact it was having on us and on our planet.
The more we considered what it would take to go vegetarian, the less crazy it seemed. It appealed to me to make plants, our original source of protein, the focal point of our diet. As it turned out, we found more reasons to say yes to going plant-based, than no. For each of the four of us, there was something bigger than us that we connected to which made our choice feel easy and clear.
As a parent, I am always trying to model to my children how and why I make the decisions that I do. I want the path to making resonant and conscious choices to be as clear as possible to them, even when the decisions present as complicated and high-stakes. The question of how and what we want to eat as a family, became a very fitting way to explore a vision of how we, as a family, engage to support a world in which we want to live, by asking of ourselves:
---> How can our actions support building the world we want to create?
These were huge questions for a six and eight-year-old to contemplate, and yet, surprisingly, they connected with an inner conviction right away and committed to a vegetarian lifestyle without looking back. I was shocked, and a bit skeptical. This will last a couple of months, tops, I said to Brent in confidence. In retrospect, I appreciate that as children the world seems simpler. If you love animals, don’t eat them. It was clear to them then as it is today—five years later and still mostly vegetarian. We offered an alternative lifestyle that they preferred, and with them onboard, our commitment was secured.
But, you may be wondering, what does that have to do with making your own cashew milk???
The Problem Begets the Solution
The one sticking point that was hard to change for us was our significant consumption of dairy. We had it in our cereal in the morning and added it to our coffee. We ate it in ice cream and enjoyed it as yogurt. But then my son developed an allergy, and we paused again to rethink where we could cut back.
What began as an exploration of alternatives to dairy milk, turned into an over-reliance on Costco’s soy milk, despite the issues consuming it brought with it, like the fact that it was
wasteful (almost a carton a day in the trash),
tedious to obtain (not a fan of going to Costco),
heavy to cart home and bulky to store
filled with preservatives and extras (despite getting the unsweetened version)
It was clear that we needed to be more self-sufficient and less wasteful.
Can We Make Our Own Milk?
Brent took the lead with a quick search to jumpstart our efforts, blending a medley of almonds, walnuts, and pecans into a consistency that was more like mud than milk.
“We can do better,” I said as we laughed and poured what didn’t cling to the glass back into the blender pitcher.
I didn’t know at the time, but later learned that not all nuts are created equal, some are much more fibrous and harder to convert into milk. For nuts like this you need (pardon my choice of words here) a nut bag into which you pour the blended nuts and water in order to squeeze out the yield of milk into a bowl. This was a messy and labor-intensive process for a high-frequency activity. I continued my search for another way.
Eureka! We Discover the Cashew!
And then I discovered the easy, breezy, delicious, versatile cashew, and this adventure became about something specific—making the seemingly difficult, easy, and deliciously fulfilling.
By blending cashews, we produced a creamy, silken liquid that had the texture and flavor of milk with a mild nutty taste that we could drink, add to our coffee and cereal, bake with, and add to soups—everything dairy or soy milk could do, cashew seemed to do better. Quickly the experimentation yielded results with a process that worked predictively and smoothly, all without pre-soaking or squeezing through a sieve-like woven bag.
We had graduated to producing an amount of milk to feed our family consistently without much effort or waste. What a revelation it was to be self-sufficient and without much effort.
Celebrating Small Acts of Alignment
I realized later what I love most about making our own cashew milk is that it aligns with my values of being a conscious citizen of my community and treading lightly on the planet. I was reminded in this whole process that it’s up to me to live in a way that connects my actions back to my values, and why I do what I do.
By making my own cashew milk and eating a vegetarian diet, I am living my values through small acts of alignment that we engage in as a family. It’s gratifying to recognize when your personal values are shared with others in your circle, becoming beacons of light around which we all come together to share.
Whether you’re choosing to make cashew milk, taking on a new volunteer role in your community, or taking a moment to engage meaningfully in conversation with a coworker over coffee—what we do and how we do it matters.
How are the daily choices you make an expression of one or more of your values in your life?
Becoming more aware of what your values are and which ones you are living through your actions is clarifying about what’s most important to you and why.
Ready to Create Your Own Cashew Milk?
The barrier to success is low on this one—low risk, high reward!
First, Why Cashews
Cashews are Queen! They blend smoothly, no soaking required, and are widely available. Milk from different nuts other than cashews is wonderful too. I have made and enjoyed Brazil nut, almond, hazelnut, pecan, and walnut milk, but cashews remains a staple in our house because they translate quickly into milk when you realize first thing in the morning that there’s no milk in the fridge and your cereal isn’t going to soak itself.
Making the Milk, the Dance
To make milk you need about 90 seconds to plug in the high-speed blender, grab the pitcher and leave it to fill under a running faucet, while you swing to pull open the freezer drawer, grab two fistfuls of cashews (about 2 cups) from the Ziploc to toss into the filling blender of water before shutting off the flow just as the water line hits seven cups. Imagine a body spinning around the kitchen like a Whirling Dervish, and you’ll know what I mean.
Place the carafe on the blender base, pop the cap on the cinnamon spice jar and dash in a teaspoon of sweetness, add the blender top back on (I almost forgot this once) before hitting the button to blend on high for 60 seconds.
Violà! You have cashew milk! Fill two glass carafes with the milk and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. We enjoy a carafe a day in our house.
Reasons to Give Cashew Milk a Try
Cashews are nutrient-dense
They have a lower fat content than most other nuts
They are rich in heart-healthy fats (same as in olive oil) and blend easily
They are a good energy-producing food source (potassium-sodium ratio is 510:15 (milligrams per 100g)
Other Great Reasons
Making your own milk is better for the cows and better for your body, reducing dependence on factory farming which makes up 70% of all dairy farms in the US
It greatly reduces your waste footprint, eliminating tossing containers into the trash after one use; both paper cartons and plastic jugs are made from virgin materials and cannot be recycled into recreating more cartons and jugs for sanitary reasons, so are at best downcycled into composite lumber.
The milk is made up of only two key ingredients and no preservatives: Cashews and water. Add a dash of cinnamon and a date for sweetness.
The Steps to Turning Cashews into Milk
Buy raw, unsalted cashews
Add a 1:3 ratio of cashews to water; 1 cup of cashews with 3 cups of water
Blend in a high-speed blender to liquify cashews without having to pre-soak
Store raw cashews in the freezer to lock in the freshness
Tip: Buy cashews in bulk at Trader Joe’s (runs about $7 per bag)
Add a dash of cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg for flavoring, and 1-2 pitted Medjool dates for a touch of sweetness.
Store in glass carafes in the refrigerator for up to a week
Drink and enjoy!
Try it and let me know how you like it!
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