CASA GRANDE -- June is a celebration of many things, among them National Dairy Month and its counterpart awareness campaign, National Dairy Alternative Month.

While National Dairy Month was started in 1937, National Dairy Alternative Month began in 2006.

There are plenty of milk alternative beverages on the market including those made from soy, rice, coconut, flaxseed, oats or various nuts. They can be purchased sweetened or unsweetened.

But they’re also fun, inexpensive and easy to make at home and don’t require any special ingredients or equipment. And although the process can be a bit time consuming and messy, it’s well worth the effort.

Below are recipes for homemade cashew dairy alternative and oat milk. The process for making both is the same and it can be used with other types of nuts as well, including macadamia and almond.

The key to producing a thin, smooth texture for the beverages is to strain the liquid through fabric to remove the remaining nut debris.

A fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth could be used to remove some of the nut material, but to remove all the leftover nuts, a more tightly woven fabric should be used. We used a piece of muslin material but a coffee filter would work as well.

If the beverage is going to be consumed right away — over cereal, in baked goods or in a smoothie — it could be used straight out of the blender, but if it’s going to sit for a while, the liquid needs to be filtered, otherwise the nuts will gradually separate from the liquid and sink to the bottom.

The removed nut material is also useful and can be used to make granola bars, cookies or dozens of other baked goods.

Cashew dairy alternative

1 cup cashews

5 cups water

2 tablespoons vanilla

2 tablespoons agave syrup

Place cashews in 5 cups of water, cover and refrigerate for about 24 hours.

Once the cashews are soaked, pour contents — including soaking water and nuts — into a blender and add vanilla and agave syrup. Blend until smooth.

Strain the mixture through fabric to remove nuts.

Store covered in the refrigerator.

Oat-based dairy alternative

1 cup oatmeal

5 cups water

2 tablespoons vanilla

2 tablespoons agave syrup

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and creamy.

Strain the mixture through fabric to thin the liquid.

Store covered in the refrigerator.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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