Light ‘n’ Easy Almond Eggnog (Dairy Free!)

I know, I know. I’m pretty much the worst blogger ever now. But hey, blame it on my job or the sequel that I’m still pumping out or the fact that right now it’s holiday everything or… well, whatever you want to blame it on, really. And then rest assured that I am indeed alive, just not quite the blogging fiend that I was at this time last year, for the moment. I always bounce back to you wonderful folks though, and I’m sure that eventually I’ll be back in full blogging swing — just not right now, le sigh.

Which honestly is kind of a shame, because blogging about the holidays always just served to contribute additional warm fuzzies. I mean, you guys already know how much I EFFING LOVE CHRISTMAS, and getting to share that through pics of decorations and sweater-clad schnauzers and whatnot was always a lot of fun. Buuuut, as all of you well know, life priorities are constantly shifting, and blogging has never been, nor likely will it ever be, a full-time job for me, and thus is probably never going to be at the tippity top of my priority list. But that doesn’t mean I can’t miss it!

Aaanyway, back to the matter at hand. Though I may not be taking unrelenting photos of it all, I am indeed still whiling away in the kitchen every now and again. And since the holidays are one of my favorite times to try my hand at lightening up old recipes so that I can indulge in all the fun (with half the guilt), I’ve been doing a lot of holiday recipe experimentation lately! So thanks to my friends at Almond Breeze, who are constantly pushing me to be creative with my, er, creation of recipes, I now bring you a light and creamy (not to mention incredibly easy!) homemade eggnog recipe that won’t set my tummy a-rumblin’ because it is dairy-free! Huzzah!

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Light ‘n’ Easy Almond Eggnog
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (I used Almond Breeze Vanilla)
4 egg yolks (separate out the whites and keep them to make an egg white scramble or use in your royal icing or something!)
1 dash ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar (or sweetener of choice)

Instructions:

1. Combine almond milk, egg yolks, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat on medium-low heat, constantly stirring, until mixture begins steaming, about 5 minutes.
2. Add spices and extracts, combining gently and continuing to stir for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. Mixture should begin thickening slightly.
3. If you like a thicker ‘nog, allow to cool before consuming. You can do this quickly by immersing the pot in cold water, or by simply allowing it to come to room temperature naturally. Garnish with additional nutmeg and a cinnamon stick, if desired!

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Yup, easy as that! And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet, which is that the grand total of calories for this decadent treat comes to… 100 calories! Ta-daaaaa! Plus the fact that it’s cream-free definitely helps those of us who are lactose-challenged (something for which my digestive track is eternally thankful!)

I hope you’re all having the most wonderful of holidays, and I certainly am going to try my best to get back into the swing of regular blogging (how many times have I said that now? Ha…!) in the New Year. After all, I’m certainly not immune to those New Year’s resolutions… and I’m sure I’ll need all the help I can get!

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Creamy Gazpacho

Summers in our nation’s capital come in pretty much one flavor: humid. And though, granted, this summer has been slightly less sticky than most, I’m still just one big ball o’ sweat most of the time when I’m outside. So when it comes to foods that I’m craving in August, I’m almost always going to prefer something chilled over something hot. Duh.

Of course, one can’t live off of popsicles forever (I’ve tried, believe me), so upon occasion you might find me in the kitchen trying to whip up a nice no-heat meal. Don’t worry, I’m not going raw. I’m just hot — all the time. Which brings us to the following recipe — one that’ll make you forget you ever even liked hot soup to begin with.

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Whether eaten (er, drank?) straight from the blender or allowed to chill for a few in the fridge, I just know that this creamy (yet dairy-free!), zesty gazpacho will hit the spot. It’s light, it’s bright, and depending on how spicy you want to make it, you can take your tastebuds for a real ride, hehe. Reserve a bit of the tomato, cucumbers, and onions to chop and serve in the bowl for a bit of texture, or blend it all to your heart’s desire. There’s really no wrong way to make this, since all it takes is a handful of fresh, natural ingredients and a blender!

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Creamy Gazpacho
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup crushed tomato juice (about 3 medium to large ripe tomatoes)
1/4 large onion, or 1/2 small onion
1 small cucumber, cut into rough pieces
1 poblano pepper (or green bell pepper)
1 – 2 jalapeño peppers (optional)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lime (juice only)
1/2 cup unsweetened Almond Breeze almond milk (vanilla or original — your choice!)
Salt & pepper to taste
Dash of green chile Tabasco sauce (optional)

Instructions:

1. Crush tomatoes until you yield ~1 cup of juice. Seeds and some pulp are okay.

2. Combine tomato juice, onion, cucumber, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, and jalapeño (if using) in blender. Reserve a tablespoon or so of the onion and cucumber if you want to dice and add to soup for texture. Blend on medium – high speed for 30 to 45 seconds, or until ingredients are all finely combined.

3. Add lime juice and almond milk, salt and pepper, and a few dashes of Tabasco (if using) to the soup and stir.

4. Pour over chopped tomato, onion, and cucumber, or serve ungarnished! Eat immediately, or keep it in the fridge to chill further before consuming.

5. Enjoy!

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almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Homemade Bubble Milk Tea

So, I throw the word “Whasian” around here a lot. And yes, I know it’s partly because I have a bit of a complex about people not knowing that I’m half-Chinese… since I don’t look particularly Asian (except for maybe a handful of times of year, which usually coincide with things like Chinese New Year or my brother’s Chinese Banquet-style rehearsal dinner). Though, to be fair, I went on a cruise with my family the summer after my Freshman year in college, and the ship’s photographer thought that I was Ben’s girlfriend (gross) rather than an actual part of my family. So I think said complex is at least somewhat understandable.

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ANYWAY. For as much as I mention my ethnicity on this blog, I don’t really highlight too many Chinese recipes. Mostly, this is because my mom is such an amazing cook that I don’t dare try to copy her recipes for fear of ruining the dishes for myself. But that’s not to say I don’t prepare my fair share of Chinese cuisine. I love whipping up a batch of frozen xiao long bao at home (steamed soup dumplings), I adore going out to dim sum, and I am absolutely OBSESSED with bubble milk tea.

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Bubble milk tea, boba, pearl milk tea, zhen zhu nai cha — whatever you call it, I love it. I was first introduced to this most magic of beverages during the three years I spent living in Taiwan, and to this day it is one of the surest ways to make me a happy, happy girl. Unfortunately, all the most authentic bubble milk tea places around here seem to be up in Rockville, and I don’t enjoy braving Seven Corners traffic enough to frequent the Eden Center on a regular basis. So, I’ve had to figure out ways to satisfy my total obsession occasional craving on my own.

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Now, admittedly, I cheat and use a milk tea powder more often than not. But! For you folks, who have probably come here to read at least a somewhat healthy-ish recipe, I decided to brew up a batch from scratch. You’re very welcome. 😉

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Introducing my very own taste-tested and Whasian-approved recipe for bubble milk tea. And because I love you guys so much, I even made it dairy-free, don’tcha know! I used regular ol’ black tea bags, but if you really want to go authentic, head for your nearest Asian grocery store and pick up a can of looseleaf Hong Kong-style black tea. Also, since I imagine most of you don’t keep the pearls in your pantry, you can zip right over to Amazon.com and pick up a pack of tapioca pearls, along with some of those nifty fat bubble tea straws.

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Bubble Milk Tea
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

4 black tea bags, or equivalent looseleaf black tea
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup uncooked tapioca pearls
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 cup unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze almond milk
Ice (optional)

Instructions:

1. Steep tea in boiling water. You are aiming for a very strong brew, so let steep for a good 8 – 10 minutes. It is also best to allow the tea to cool somewhat before mixing your milk tea.
2. While tea is steeping, heat water on stove in a small or medium sauce pot until boiling. Add tapioca pearls and cook until all pearls float to the top, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add sugar to pot and stir just until dissolved. Cover and let sit for an additional 5 minutes. Reserve about half of the tapioca pearls and sugar water for each serving of bubble tea.
3A. For frozen bubble milk tea, add tea, milk, sugar water from the pearls, and ice cubes to a blender, and blend until ice is fully incorporated. Add tapioca pearls and enjoy!
3B. For regular bubble milk tea, simply combine tea, milk, and sugar water in a pitcher or glass, then add pearls. If the mixture is not cool enough, you may add ice cubes or refrigerate* the tea first. Enjoy!

*Do not refrigerate the pearls in the tea — store them in the sugar water separately. The pearls become hard when cold, and will need to be reheated in the microwave to become soft again.

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So there you have it. You can add as much or as little additional sweetener as necessary to achieve the desired taste of your milk tea, but I tried to keep it fairly light. As mentioned, you can store any leftover pearls in the sugar water mixture (a mixture of water and honey is also a great preserver, and gives good flavor to the pearls). Just reheat the pearls for about 30 seconds in the microwave if you decide to use them later! Easy peasy.

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Ooey Gooey Chocolate Rice Pudding

I’m gonna keep this short and sweet, people, because the more time I spend here writing this post, the more time I spending with my fingers typing instead of shoveling spoonful after spoonful of ooey, gooey, creamy, dreamy chocolate rice pudding into my mouth. Yeah, it’s pretty good.

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This steaming bowl of deliciousness is so, so easy to make, with only four real ingredients, plus a few seasonings and whatnot. Plus, it’s dairy-free! (And maybe gluten-free? I’m not actually sure about that. But definitely gluten-lessened!) With no added sugar other than what’s in Almond Breeze’s Chocolate almond milk (and perhaps a drizzle of chocolate syrup at the end… if you’re a glutton like me, hehe), it’s still very rich, hearty, and makes you feel all warm in the tummy.

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Rice pudding in general is actually quite versatile. It’s a dessert that can also be a breakfast food (just think oatmeal, minus the oats), so whatever you’re in the mood for, you’re pretty much covered. I added dried plums (mmm, fiber!) and blueberries to this dish to make it a little more appropriate to eat before 11 AM, but if you’re looking for something even less desserty, you can always just sub in non-chocolate almond milk, too!

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Chocolate Rice Pudding
Makes 2 heaping servings

Ingredients:

3 cups Almond Breeze chocolate almond milk
3/4 cup rice of choice (I used jasmine)
1/4 cup dried plums (or dried fruit of your choice)
2/3 cup fresh blueberries
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
Drizzle of chocolate syrup (optional)

Instructions:

1. In a medium saucepan, heat rice and almond milk until it reaches a soft boil.
2. Add seasonings and dried plums, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. As the milk gets absorbed and the rice thickens, being stirring more frequently. When the desired consistency is reached, remove from heat. Stir in blueberries and serve.
4. Drizzle on a squeeze of chocolate syrup, if desired, and enjoy!

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Nutritional info: Per giant heaping serving (1/2): 345 caloris, 4.6 g fat, 4 g protein. Per normal person’s serving (1/3): 230 calories, 3.1 g fat, 2.6 g protein.

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Chocolate Crepes

Mon dieu, mes amis! I am so humbled and flattered by all your support and camaraderie in response to my big job announcement post! You guys really know how to make a girl feel loved, you know that? Well, I’m tossing the love right back your way with an extra special (and extra delicious) new recipe!

You may have seen, from my previous post on crepes, that I have some serious love for these hoity-toity cousins to the good ol’ pancake. I’ve always loved how incredibly easy they are to make something so seemingly impressive. I mean, flour, eggs, milk, sugar… and a little water to thin out the batter. It really doesn’t get much easier than that!

So when Almond Breeze challenged me to come up with another delectable brunch recipe, I knew exactly what direction I would be headed in. Only these fluffy little dreams have one serious new twist to them: CHOCOLATE!

Yes, these sweet-but-not-too-sweet chocolatey crepes will have you singing aloud (probably in French). Eat them plain (they’re delicious on their own!) or stuff ’em full of whatever your heart desires! I went with a raspberry cream filling this time around, but you could honestly do anything! Jam, fruit, more chocolate (you know you wanna)… the possibilities are endless!

Chocolate Crepes

Ingredients:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar (or equivalent of sweetener of your choice)
1/2 cup Chocolate Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almondmilk
1/2 cup water
2 eggs (or vegan substitute)
Pinch of salt

Instructions:

1. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt) with a whisk or fork, making sure to break up any clumps in the cocoa powder.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until yolks and whites are fully combined and are fluffy. Mix in almond milk.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix together until thoroughly combined. Add water, using additional if you need to thin out the batter even more. You are aiming for a rather thin, drippy consistency.

4. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and grease with butter or nonstick spray. In 1/2 cup increments, drop batter into hot pan and swirl around until the entire bottom area is coated. Cook ~45 seconds, flip, and cook an additional 20 – 30 seconds.

5. Roll your crepes with whatever filling you choose! This time, I whipped up a very quick filling with cream cheese, raspberries, and a dash more of almond milk to thin it out.

6. Bon appetit!

This recipe makes 5 – 6 large crepes (only 5 if you mess the first one up, like I did, haha). And each crepe has only 115 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. Enjoy!

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.