A lot of things are better off made than bought. I’m talking simple things, like salad dressing (unrefined oil + vinegar/citrus juice) and fruit-flavored yogurt (plain full-fat yogurt + fresh fruit). And it isn’t just a matter of the end product tasting better or being a more nutritious choice — which it does and is — it’s also a matter of getting to completely customize what you’re eating AND save time and money doing it.
I mean, which is easier: looking at what you already have and then making something with it in a minute or less, or going to the store and spending nearly an hour in the process? (Getting there, finding a parking spot, traipsing through the aisles, locating your desired section/product amidst the 44,999 other items on the shelves, scanning the full array of what’s there and trying to figure out what you want, glancing through the labels because you’re trying to make a good choice and getting justifiably frustrated because the labels seem to be purposely misleading to the consumer and prevent you from knowing what you’re buying, cross-checking prices to get the best deal, dodging other shoppers on the way back to the registers, standing in line to pay…you get the point.) It’s just easier to make it yourself. Even muffins only take 30 minutes from start to finish, including baking time and clean-up time.
But I digress…back to today’s easy DIY treat, namely: flavored milk. Anyone with kids knows strawberry milk’s magnetic appeal, and even adults like hazelnut milk. (Although most would add coffee to it, order it from a barista, and call it something fancy and grown-up-sounding.) Unfortunately, as Jamie Oliver pointed out in his Food Revolution series, commercial flavored milk has more sugar than pop does. Then there’s the dye used to make strawberry milk that shocking shade of pink. Not exactly a good beverage choice. I would even hazard the statement “not a sane beverage choice.”
If you have fresh strawberries on hand, by all means make a smoothie with strawberries, honey, and milk. If you don’t have fresh strawberries, though, and if you want more of a milk than a smoothie, you can use naturally sweetened strawberry jam instead. To make this glass of Strawberry-Almond Milk, I blended 1/2 cup of whole milk with 2 T. naturally sweetened strawberry jam and just a dash of almond extract. It will be much creamier, less sweet, and fresher than the commercial variety, and it won’t be very pink: in other words, you’ll have a rich milk gently perfumed with the essence of strawberry. The almond adds a nice nutty backdrop. You could use whatever jam flavor you like, actually: raspberry, blueberry, cherry, even fig. They will give you a delicious variety of flavored milks to choose from whenever you like. You can vary your selection even more by opting for non-dairy milks like coconut milk, (unsweetened) rice milk, and (unsweetened) almond milk.
To make the Peanut-Maple Milk, I blended 1/2 cup whole milk with 2 T. peanut flour, 1 T. maple syrup, and a dash of vanilla extract. You could use 1 T. natural peanut butter rather than the peanut flour if you’d prefer. This milk has a more intense flavor than the jam-flavored milk does — I like to have as a dessert milk. Or go with 2 T. cocoa powder, 1 T. maple syrup, and a dash of vanilla to make chocolate milk. Want a hint of hazelnut? Add a dash of hazelnut extract, too.
Flavored milk really is that simple, and if you use good-quality ingredients — i.e., whole milk from pastured cows, naturally sweetened jams, and natural peanut butter — your flavored milk will not only taste spectacular, you can think of it as a health food.