Back-to-School Swag #4: Almond Fresh Review & Giveaway (and Breakfast Soup Recipe!)


[Official Disclosure Statement for pesky legal reasons:  Almond Fresh provided me with coupons for free samples of their product, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product. They also provided a blender as a gift, which worked out really well, because I’ve left it unopened and am saving it for one of YOU. I will be shipping it to the winner at my own expense.]

For those of us who don’t “do dairy,” alternative milks are a blessing and a staple in our lives.  I remember the first time I tried soymilk shortly after I switched to an all-natural, whole foods diet oh-so-many years ago; my first impression was, shall we say, less than enthusiastic.  (I did come to love soymilk over the years, especially once different manufacturers learned how to remove that beany undertone).

These days, there is a plethora of different alternative milks available, from soy to almond to rice to hemp to potato.  Before I embarked on the ACD and could still consume sugar, I tried pretty much every alternative milk that exists.  Nowadays, I regularly alternate among all the different types, both to avoid generating allergic reactions to one particular kind and simply for the variety.  My two favorites are rice and almond milk.

So it made perfect sense that I’d jump at the opportunity to sample Almond Fresh when the company contacted me a while back.

Almond Fresh is a new almond milk on the market. What distinguishes it from the competition is, in part, its location in the supermarket: like fresh salad dressings, homestyle pastas, or tofu packed in water, Almond Fresh is sold in the refrigerated dairy case and must be kept cold, even before it’s opened.  It has a deliberately shorter “best before” window than the majority of alternative milks that are sold in aseptically sealed cartons (those that can sit at room temperature for months at a time before you open them).  The concept is to make it fresh, pour it into cartons fresh and sell it fairly quickly, as opposed to the sealed boxes that might have been packaged six months before you drink them.

As the website notes, the drink is made with California almonds and contains vitamins A, D and E; no cholesterol; and is naturally trans fat free and gluten free.  One of the reasons I personally choose almond milk most often is that almonds are a good source of calcium, so I can boost my calcium intake a bit when I drink almond milk.  I also love the flavor, which doesn’t really taste all that almond-y to me (but the HH would disagree). 

In my taste test, I found the “original” flavor to be just a little lighter in texture than the other brands I’ve tried, which is a plus if you’re drinking it straight up–though perhaps not so much if you decide to make puddings or whipped toppings with it.  (Note that I tasted only a tiny sip, as the original and vanilla flavors both contain evaporated cane juice, a no-no on the ACD). There’s also a new Unsweetened variety that I can’t wait to try–unfortunately, it wasn’t in the store when I went to purchase my samples.  Almond Fresh’s unsweetened milk is, the company tells, us, “the lowest calorie almondmilk available,” with just 30 calories per serving.

If you’ve never tried almond milk, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  With its slightly nutty, mild flavor and light texture, it’s a great milk for smoothies, baking, cereals, or just about anywhere you’d use dairy milk. 

And now, for the giveaway. . . .


Would you like to try some complimentary Almond Fresh?  I’ve got FOUR coupons, each for one free carton of the milk.  I’ll be giving them away to four different readers. 

In addition, I have this lovely Cuisinart Blender just hanging out in my office (still in the original packaging), waiting to find a new home with one of YOU! 

SmartPower Premier™ 600-Watt Blender

[This could be YOURS!]

Here’s how to enter:

The contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered!

The contest is open to Canadians and Americans, with major apologies to readers from other countries!  (I’m hoping for an international giveaway next time).

To be eligible to win either the coupons (good only in Canada) or the blender (good in both countries), simply leave a comment on this post telling me what you’d do with your Almond Fresh–and DON’T FORGET TO MENTION WHERE YOU LIVE!  Would you bake it in a cake, drink it straight, add it to cereal, bathe in it?  Whatever almondy uses you dream of, let me know here!

And that’s it.  That’s right, one comment, one entry, and you’re done! This will give everyone the same odds of winning the grand prize.  Of course, I’d still love if you tweeted about it, wrote about it on Facebook or your blog, etc., so others can join in the fun. 

The contest will close at midnight on Tuesday, October 5th, after which I’ll choose four names at random for the coupons. The four winners’ names will be put back into the running and I’ll choose another random winner for the blender. I’ll announce all the winners on Wednesday.

Good luck, everyone!

 [An early recipe attempt: chocolate-almond mousse]

And now for a recipe! I wanted something that would highlight the almond milk’s natural flavor and versatility. A smoothie is great, but how about something a little more interesting?  And then, it came to me: Kutya, also known as a Ukrainian Christmas staple. 

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Windsor, my room mate came from generations of Ukrainian stock. While her family wasn’t particularly religious, they did keep up with the culinary traditions associated with their faith.  And since Ukrainian Christmas usually fell some time in early January, I was thrilled when they invited me to join them and I was able to accept (having already spent the “regular” Christmas holidays with my own family in Montreal).

Roomie lived in a small bungalow in the west end of Toronto with her (divorced) mother and older (spinster) sister.  Like Russian nesting dolls, the three women appeared to be progressively smaller versions of the same thing: Mother was tall and lanky, with greyish brown hair clipped close to her head.  Older Sis was just slightly shorter, with the same hair (though sporting a little less grey).  With her angular body and pixie haircut, Sister bore an uncanny resemblance to Miss Hathaway from The Beverly Hillbillies.  Then there was Roomiekins herself, shorter still, with slightly longer hair but basically the same facial features. 

Having raised her two daughters on her own with little help from her ex-husband, Mother was exceedingly frugal in her approach to life.  Her house was sparsely furnished with a variety of hand-crocheted coverlets strewn across the backs of sofas and a smattering of mismatched chairs.  As I recall, Mother kept expenses down during the winter months by setting the thermostat at 15 or 16C (59-61F) and cooking almost everything they ate from scratch. 

It was in the kitchen, in fact, where Older Sister distinguished herself.  Decked in a pink and blue gingham apron over her crisp white shirt (buttoned right to the top) and beige polyester slacks, Sis could be found in front of the stove most Saturday evenings, mixing up homemade date squares (I used to dream of that gooey auburn filling sandwiched between cinnamon-oat crumble), walnut cookies, an unusual but highly appealing fruited coleslaw, and–my personal favorite–a homemade granola replete with plump dates, raisins, oats, seeds and hand-chopped almonds.  I was lucky enough to receive a jar of the stuff as a Christmas present one year, its cover dotted with red and green star stickers and the top tied with a festive plaid ribbon. (It was long gone by New Year’s.) 

[My breakfast “soup,” circa 2010]

For the holidays, Sister cooked up a huge pot of what looked to me like barley soup.  Floating in a murky broth were fairly large, oval grains that plumped and bobbed as the liquid simmered.  After a suitable interval, to the pot was added a handful of poppy seeds and some honey, after which the mixture simmered a bit longer. Once cooked, it was left to stand overnight on the stove (in those days, who thought about food poisoning from unrefrigerated foods? Besides, their kitchen would have been frigid enough to preserve Tutankhamen’s remains, so I think the soup was safe).  The next morning, we ate it for breakfast.

“It’s part of our tradition, a way to welcome in the new year,” Roomella explained.  The barley-like grains were actually wheat berries, soaked and then slow cooked to chewy perfection.

She ladled it out into bowls, the black specks floating loosely on the surface of the broth. I immediately loved the slurpy, sweet liquid studded with chewy golden grains and the aromatic crunch of the seeds in every spoonful.  I was determined to make it again in my own kitchen.

Of course, the holidays passed, Roomeronie and I returned to our university residence and I forgot about the kutya.

That is, until now.

This recipe is very loosely based on that long-ago original, and I daresay I like this one better.  Because wheat is verboten on the ACD, I’ve substituted whole oat groats, which preserve the same chewy bite and general shape of the wheat berries. This “soup” makes a fabulous breakfast bowl, with no heating required. It’s also a perfect base for additional nuts and seeds sprinkled on top, as you like. 

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Thanks to the lovely people at Almond Fresh for providing the prizes for this giveaway.  They also have ongoing events and contests on their own page, if you’re interested in checking them out.

Last Year at this Time: Review of Clean Food and Gluten Free Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Two Years Ago: Blast from the Past: Barley Hazelnut Salad


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