Amen to Almonds

Avoiding processed dairy milk was one of the first steps in my real food journey. Something just didn't feel right about the cow's milk I was drinking in my tea and on my morning muesli or porridge. Considering the amount of (rooibos) tea with milk that I drink in a day, I was actually consuming quite a lot of milk and it felt heavy and unhealthy, instinctually. When I was at university, I slowly shifted to soy milk, as I loved it and it reminded me of my Hong Kong childhood- having freshly made soy milk from the small wonton noodle stalls on Stanley Street.

Soy milk was hailed as the healthier alternative and was one of the only widely available dairy alternatives at the time. Though the taste of mass-produced commercial soy milk does not even come close to the freshly made stuff. And this was all before I knew about the dangers of consuming most soy products; more detail on that to follow in another post. So I slowly began testing all the alternative milks that were out there: rice, oat, hemp, almond, hazelnut, coconut... Though they are all delicious, they all come with some pros and cons!

In short, rice milk is great if you can get (or make) brown rice milk, but most commercially-produced rice milk is made with white rice which has a very high GI. White rice is nutritionally poor as the majority of nutrients in rice are found in the layers that are removed to make it white, so what's left in white rice is mostly starch (yes please avoid all white rice products when possible). Oat milk tastes lovely on its own but in my opinion is a very poor milk substitute as it's very thin and watery, really does not work in tea! Hemp milk is delicious but has a very strong hemp taste, so some don't like it in tea or coffee as interferes with the taste of their preferred hot beverage.

Most commercially-produced almond and hazelnut milks are thick and taste very artificial. The only store-bought milks that have passed my test are Rude Health and Koko Dairy Free Original Coconut Milk. The latter is a beautifully bright white colour, exactly the same consistency as cow's milk and has a very faint and delicate taste of coconut. As far as mass-produced non-dairy milk goes, Koko is simply awesome! I love the taste and often just drink it out of the bottle.

Nothing will beat making your nut milks at home and it's so simple. After you've done it once, you will see it actually doesn't take that much time and the result is so worth it! If you get into the habit of soaking the almonds the night before, it just becomes part of your routine. At first, soaking the almonds seemed like an unnecessary step as no one had explained to me why it was so important, but this is actually essential as soaking nuts releases enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances. And just looking at the image above, which nuts do you think are easier for your body to digest? The hard, dry and shrivelled up ones or the pretty, plump and juicy ones? LOL! So please see below how to milk a nut... (yes all please chuckle); it always amuses our friends when we tell them that we have a nut milk bag to "milk our nuts". And the best part of this is you can replace the almonds for cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and the list goes on, you can make milk from pretty much every nut (I wouldn't do it with peanuts).

Ever since, I've cut out dairy milk from my diet entirely, I feel so much better: lighter, less bloated and my skin is clearer and healthier. I'm not saying all cow's milk is bad for you, especially if you are getting it in its raw and unpasteurised form, straight from an organic farm where cows are happily grazing on green grass in an open pasture, and for those of you who have that luxury, you are very lucky! But for those of us who live in cities and have busy lives, getting your hands on raw milk from happy cows is not easy and the stuff you get at the supermarket, well, let's not go into it right here, but it's not pretty!

Finally, did you know that 70% of the human population doesn't have the enzyme to digest dairy properly? An intolerance like this can explain a multitude of issues, not only digestive but acne, eczema, migraines and lethargy amongst others. Almond milk on the other hand, is higher in vitamins, especially vitamin A, D and E which does wonders for your hair, skin and nails. Almond milk also has no saturated fat or simple sugars, and it’s been shown to lower cholesterol and has significantly fewer calories than both skimmed milk and soy milk. It’s really the most delicious alternative!

So here is a simple recipe for homemade vanilla almond milk. It is so smooth and deliciously creamy! If you wish to have a totally unsweetened version, then just blend almonds and water (omit all the other ingredients and instructions). It is so yummy that minutes after making it last night (before I'd taken a photo of the final product), my lovely other half walked in excitedly and chugged half the bottle then said to me: "that is the best thing I've drunk all day" with a very happy smile on his face, which in turn made me very happy too. HAPPY NUT MILKING!

Homemade Vanilla Almond Milk

Makes 4 cups (approx 1 litre)

 

Ingredients:
1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water for at least 6 hours
3.5 cups filtered water
2-4 pitted Medjool dates*, to taste

a nut milk bag, cheese cloth, fine mesh or even clean pair of tights

Homemade Vanilla Almond Milk

Makes 4 cups (approx 1 litre)

Ingredients:
1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water for at least 6 hours
3.5 cups filtered water
2-4 pitted Medjool dates*, to taste

a nut milk bag, cheese cloth, fine mesh or even clean pair of tights

Optional:
1 whole vanilla bean*, chopped (or 1/2-1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste)
small pinch of fine grain sea salt, to enhance the flavour
 

Instructions:
1. Place almonds in a bowl and cover with water. It’s preferred to soak them overnight, but you can get away with soaking for less if you are in a hurry (soaking them releasing enzymes that are hard to digest).

2. Rinse and drain the almonds and place into a blender along with fresh filtered water, pitted dates, and chopped vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste.

3. Blend on highest speed for 1 minute or so.

4. Place a nut milk bag over a large bowl and slowly pour the almond milk mixture into the bag. Gently squeeze the bottom of the bag to release the milk. This took me about 3-5 minutes to get all the milk out. Place the almond pulp in a separate bowl (This can be used as almond flour/meal to make all sorts of yummy cakes and cookies, recipes will follow; don't throw away).

5. Add the pinch of sea salt and stir gently in the bowl, before pouring into a glass jar to store in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Shake jar very well before using as the mixture separates when sitting.

SuperTip: If your dates or vanilla bean are dry/stiff, soak in water to soften before use. You can also use another sweetener of your choice like maple syrup or date syrup. Same goes for vanilla, feel free to use vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste for a more subtle vanilla flavour.

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