Non Dairy Milk Alternatives

Don’t get me wrong, I love cow’s milk in its many forms: cheese, creme fraiche, Ayelada!  And I’d say that when you consume cultured whole milk dairy, from cows, goats or sheep, that have been raised humanly on an organic diet optimal for each breed, dairy counts as health food, in proper amounts, of course!  Unfortunately, like many of us, I don’t have the necessary enzymes to digest lactose, or milk sugars, present in raw dairy.  I’m ok with cultured cream or cheese but plain milk, no way!

Raw cow's milk in glass bottles from Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, MA

Raw cow’s milk in glass bottles from Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, MA

So, what should you drink in place of dairy milk?  I used almond milk for a long time since I’m allergic to soy due to years of eating highly processed vegetarian soy products, consider yourself warned, those are not health foods!  Almond milk comes in conventional and organic varieties, in these cardboard boxes, some refrigerated, some shelf stable, all of them with too many questionable ingredients.  And those containers are not recycle-able everywhere the way glass and metal are.  The same goes for the processed coconut milks and other nuts or seed based dairy alternatives.

The packaging is not awesome, the fillers and ingredients are weird and you are paying for water, with flavor.  Anyone can make flavored water!

The packaging is not awesome, the fillers and ingredients are weird and you are paying for water, with flavor. Anyone can make flavored water!

I have made my own almond milk, there’s one good solution.  Way less packaging, especially if you buy almonds in bulk, which you kind of need to in order to make homemade almond milk (or other nut/seed milk) affordable.  And almond prices are going way up since this years crop was a disaster.  My issue with making almond milk myself isn’t just the time, it’s putting the leftover almond pulp to good use.   Even though I have a great almond cracker recipe, totally worth making, it is time-consuming and I don’t really want to eat that many almond crackers each week.  The amount of milk I want to drink far exceeds the amount of leftover pulp I want to eat. And that’s why I haven’t ever gotten into the habit of making my own and my guess is most folks don’t either for many of the same reasons.  But I also no longer want to buy almond flavored water with junk in it!

The answer to the milk alternative issue is so simple I’m wondering how I could have overlooked it for so long: Canned, organic coconut milk and filtered water combine to make…coconut milk.  A non dairy milk that is organic, has minimal recyclable packaging, is nutritious AND it’s fast and easy to make, perfect!  When you make your own coconut based milk there are no weird ingredients or thickeners, and you are paying for some actual nutrition, not flavored water!

Coconut milk has a lot of health benefits to offer!

Coconut milk has a lot of health benefits to offer!

Coconut milk is nutritious?  Isn’t it high in fat?  Yes, and yes, one of the best fats you should consume regularly!  “Coconuts are highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.

Coconuts contain significant amounts of fat, but unlike other nuts, they provide fat that is mostly in the form of medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs) in particular, one called lauric acid. Lauric acid is converted in the body into a highly beneficial compound called monolaurin, an antiviral and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease causing organisms. It is therefore now thought that consumption of coconut milk may help protect the body from infections and viruses.

MCFAs are rapidly metabolized into energy in the liver. It is thought that unlike other saturated fats, MCFAs are used up more quickly by the body and are less likely to be stored as fat.”  -excerpt from Jo Lewin, Nutrtional Therapist on the  Good Food Blog

Two cans of coconut milk will make up to two 64 oz Mason jars.

Two cans of coconut milk will make up to two 64 oz Mason jars.

Organic, canned coconut milk costs me about $1.80 per can from the buying club at my co-op.  I use 1 can to make about 1/2 gallon mason jar of coconut milk, much cheaper than any of the pre-made non dairy milks, organic or otherwise that you can buy in the store.

To make: open one or two cans of organic coconut milk, add one can per 64 oz wide mouth mason jar.  Fill at least halfway with filtered water and blend using an immersion blender.  Add more water to desired consistency.  You can also add: vanilla or another extract and stevia or honey to sweetened things up if that’s your style.  Non dairy milk that’s affordable, organic, easy to make and delicious- let’s drink to your health!

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Almond Milk and Almond Crackers!

My friend Becca found these two recipes on Ashley McLaughlin’s site Edible Perspective, which is part photography blog and part recipe blog and totally worth looking into!  I made one change to her cracker recipe below, switching out mashed banana for Candida diet friendly pumpkin puree.  But first, the almond milk recipe…

I have tried a few times to make my own almond milk since I do drink quite a lot of it- in a shake for breakfast most mornings, in my tea, in my weekly batch of coconut yogurt.  I buy Blue Diamond brand but I hate throwing away all the containers.  I also want organic milk and I can’t always find prepackaged, organic, unsweetened almond milk.  The problem I’ve had in the past with most almond milk recipes is all the left over pulp.  I made a few batches of watery milk and then made the pulp into a few different inedible things.  So I switched back to just buying packaged almond milk.

I made up both of these recipes once and have plans to make some minor changes next time. I’m hoping to finally be able to stop buying and start regularly making my own milk!  I really like this almond milk recipe for several reasons:

One, it doesn’t call for lots of almonds and therefore doesn’t result in heaps of soggy almond puree that needs to get used up somehow.

Two, I can make this recipe with organic almonds and

Three, there’s no packaging to throw out or recycle.

Lastly, the almond cracker recipe is an excellent way to use the almond pulp, perfect!

Tastes good and is convenient but it's not organic and the packaging is wasteful : - (

It tastes good and is convenient but it’s not organic and the packaging is wasteful : – (

If you want almond milk with a little more body than you get with this basic recipe you can always add a little tapioca starch (this is what they use in commercial almond milks) to a small amount and thicken on the stove then blend it back into to your batch.  Or, you can try blending in a little canned, organic coconut milk, or, how about some cultured creme fraiche?  I think I will try adding the cultured cream to my next batch to see if I can’t make some cultured, better tasting almond milk.

Homemade almond milk: you know what's in it, there are no thickeners or preservatives and there's no container to throw out!

Homemade almond milk: you can make it with organic almonds, there are no thickeners or preservatives and there’s no container to throw out!

The following two recipes could easily be doubled if you use a lot of almond milk or if you love the crackers, which you can eat like cereal!   Give it a try: better ingredients and nothing to throw away = win win!

Homemade Almond Milk vegan, gluten-free // yields 32oz milk // yields ~1 cup almond pulp

If you find yourself with an abundance of almond milk and can’t use it quickly enough freeze the extra in ice cube trays, then store in a sealed container in the freezer.  Use instead of regular ice cubes in smoothies!

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • water for soaking
  • nut milk bag  (I filtered mine through a fine mesh sieve and it worked well for the first batch, when I make a double batch next time I will want to use the bag) 
  1. Cover almonds with cool water and soak overnight or for at least 4 hours. Or, cover almonds with water in a pot and bring to boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour.
  2. Rinse and drain the soaked almonds then place in your blender with 3 1/2 cups water.
  3. Blend starting on low and working to high for about 30-60 seconds until fully blended.
  4. Hold the nut milk bag over a large bowl and pour the milk through the bag.
  5. Let the milk strain by squeezing the bag from the top down. The squeezing process should take about 2-3 minutes until no more liquid comes out of the bag.
  6. Pour into a 32oz sealable container (like a large mason jar) and refrigerate for 2-4 days. Shake before each use.
  7. Remove the leftover pulp from the bag and store in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Yields just over 1 cup of loosely packed almond pulp.

tips/substitutions: You can make this using a variety of nuts and seeds and even things like oat groats. Sometimes the amount of water to nuts/seeds/oats will vary depending on the flavor and creaminess you like.   Things like cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa powder, etc. can also be added, just be sure to blend well.

I think I will try using less water next batch, that way the pulp is still the right amount for the cracker recipe and perhaps the milk will taste a bit richer.

Ideas for leftover almond pulp:

  • 1-2 tablespoons in a fruit smoothie
  • experiment with adding small amounts (~1/4 cup) to things like muffins + quick breads for added moisture
  • stir in 1-2 tablespoons in the last 1 minute of making stovetop oatmeal
  • added to granola before baking
  • added to pancake recipes
  • dehydrate into almond meal
  • compact in a sealed container and freeze for later use

Cinnamon Peanut Butter Almond Pulp Crackers vegan, gluten-free, grain-free // yields ~120-150, 1-inch crackers

  • 1 cup loosely packed almond pulp, from 1 batch of almond milk
  • 1/2 cup organic, canned pumpkin puree
  • 6 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup ground flax meal
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 300* F.
  2. Line 2 medium sized baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Add all ingredients in a large bowl and mash together with a fork until fully combined.  You should be left with a soft, loosely formed ball of dough.
  4. Split the ball in half and place on each parchment lined pan.
  5. Spread with your hands evenly and as thinly as possible.  Ideally, 1/16 – 1/8-inch thick. I used a lightly oiled sheet of parchment on top and used a rolling pin to get an even, thin sheet of dough.
  6. Score with a butter knife into about 1×1-inch sized crackers.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, then carefully flip each cracker over and bake for another 15 minutes.
  8. Flip again and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until deep golden brown.  They will still be slightly soft when removed from the oven.  Total bake time: 55-65 minutes.
  9. Let fully cool.  Crackers will become crunchy as they cool.  Store in a sealed container on the counter for 1-3 days.

I think, if you left out the cinnamon and vanilla you could easily make these into savory crackers with a touch more salt and whatever herbs and spices you like.

It’s Chocolate, For Breakfast

This is something that I recommend to a lot of my clients who are on the Candida diet and want something other than eggs or leftover veggies for breakfast.  There are plenty of variations but this basic breakfast shake recipe packs in a lot of protein, fiber and antioxidants.  It’s easy to digest and, duh, it’s chocolate, for breakfast!

Healthy chocolate breakfast, or snack or dessert...

Basic Breakfast Shake: Ingredients

1 Cup or more Unsweetened Almond Milk or soy/dairy milk

2-3 Tablespoons Hemp Protein/Fiber Powder (basically just ground hemp seeds, they sell ‘Living Harvest’ Hemp Protein at Whole Foods and I get Nutiva brand through my co-op)

Nutiva brand ground hemp seeds, lots of fiber and protein and it's vegan too.

2 Tablespoons unsweetened Dutch cocoa or raw cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons ground raw flax seeds (the omega 3 fatty acids help with inflammation and overall health)

1-2 Tablespoons almond butter and/or coconut milk.  Don’t bother with ‘light’ coconut milk it’s just regular coconut milk with a lot of water added.  A little of the full strength variety goes a long way for flavor and satiety.

Stevia to taste for sweetness

Dash of Cinnamon and/or ground ginger (both of these combat Candida and add unexpected flavor)

Optional: ¼ Cup organic whole milk yogurt. Hawthorne Valley Farms makes great yogurt or you can use soy yogurt by Wildwood, the plain flavor tastes like plain, tart yogurt!

Add some ice if you like and blend it up! You can use stand blender or immersion blender, my favorite kitchen tool. Drink right away.

Close up of ground hemp

Nuts and Seeds Cookies

Candida diet friendly cookies full of nuts and seeds and dark chocolate chunks!

Yup, they look like cookies and they taste like cookies but they are also a great source of energy, unlike traditional cookies.  No sugar means no sugar crash or empty calories.  I’ve been playing with the coconut flour I found a few weeks ago and after several successful batches (you are welcome!) and several happy non candida diet taste testers, thanks guys, I think we have a successful, healthful cookie, if that’s the right noun.  The original recipe is from the Coconut Secret website (is coconut really a secret?) and their recipe didn’t take into account the very helpful information on how to cook with coconut flour that can be found on the package.  Maybe this is the ‘secret’: 1/4 cup of coconut flour is equivalent to 1 cup of wheat flour and for each cup of coconut flour you should use 4 eggs.  Easy enough for doing recipe conversions on your own.  Here’s my altered, sugar-free recipe for cookies full of all the good stuff and free of all refined white stuff.  These are a really tasty, good for you alternative to what we normally consider cookies.

Preheat oven to 350° F

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Coconut Flour
  • 1 cup Almond Meal
  • 1/2 cup Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1/2 cup Sesame Seeds
  • 1/2 cup Sunflower Seeds or unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate chips (or cacao nibs)
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder

Mix together dry ingredients and set aside.

Wet Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Oil, heated to liquid
  • Stevia to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 Tablespoons ground flax whipped into 1/4 cup water until it becomes a sticky, thick mixture.

Mix together wet ingredients and blend into dry ingredients. Batter should be stiff, yet moist. Using a spoon, about the size of a Tablespoon, form cookies and place on a cookie sheet. Flatten cookies slightly. Bake 15 minutes or until golden around the edges. This will make about 42 cookies and here’s the nutrition information I figured out per cookie:

Calories: 92  Carbohydrates: 2  Fiber: 2  Fat: 8  Protein: 2.3

The black sesame seeds really stand out and they taste good too.

Homemade Coconut Yogurt

I love yogurt.  For me it is a very calming and soothing food.  Loaded with probiotics, yogurt is a living food that it so beneficial to the digestive system.  Milk proteins do something unique to dairy when cultured.  Coconut milk does not thicken into creamy deliciousness without a little help from natural thickeners so I used small amounts of them in my recipe.  Coconut yogurt is delicious, filling and free of whey and lactose, two things my body just doesn’t get along with.   I have included my calculations for the nutrition information for those of you counting carbohydrates or just curious!

Coconut yogurt in my yogurt incubator!

Ok, maybe a word or two on yogurt makers before I get on with the recipe.  A ‘yogurt maker’ is no more than a glorified heating pad and you can, if you so desire, make your own. There are certainly plenty of suggestions on the interwebs. I did try to make my own yogurt using a medium sized cooler and hot water.  Aside from the recipe I used being total crap, it worked out all right.  Usually I’m a do it yourself kinda cook but apparently, when it comes to making yogurt, I’m quite happy to use my single purpose yogurt maker.  It has 8 glass (yes!) containers with lids and I don’t have to worry about keeping the temperature steady in my drafty kitchen.

Ingredients for Coconut Yogurt:

1 1/2 cups almond milk (unsweetened, of course)

3 cups organic coconut milk (make sure it’s NOT lite, that just means it’s watered down, don’t fear the coconut fat, it’s good stuff!)

1/2 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt (from a previous batch or store bought, just make sure it says ‘live, active cultures’ on the container and is free of weird colors, ‘fruits’ and sugar.  You can also use powdered yogurt starter)

1/2 teaspoon Agar Agar

1/2 tablespoon Tapioca starch

Mmmmm, coconut yogurt close up!

The Procedure:

In a sauce pan heat the coconut milk and 1 cup of the almond milk over medium high heat.

Whisk the agar agar, tapioca and remaining 1/2 cup of almond milk together in a seperate bowl and then whisk it into your sauce pan with the coconut and almond milk.

Keep on whisking and let the mixture come to a boil.  Turn the heat down a bit so it’s at a soft low boil for a couple of minutes and then remove from the heat.

Continue to stir occasionally and let it cool down to 100-110 degrees F. You can use an ice bath if you want things to cool down quickly. I find that the inside of my wrist works well as a temperature gauge but you can use a candy thermometer if you’re not sure.  Basically you need the coconut mixture to be a little warmer than body temperature but not so hot that you will kill the cultures when you intoduce them.

When the coconut mixture has cooled to  the right temperature range, take out about a 1/2 cup and mix it separately with your 1/2 cup yogurt starter or powdered starter.  Then add the yogurt starter mixture into your coconut mixture, stir to combine.

Pour the yogurt into the clean containers you will be using with your yogurt maker of choice.  Wait 7-12 hours, it will get thicker and tangier with time.

Put the warm yogurt in the fridge, it’s best when it’s chilled!  Remember to set a half cup aside to start your next batch.

For each shy 1/2 cup serving there are: 165 calories, 3 grams net carbohydrates, a nominal amount of fiber, 1.3 grams of protein and 16.3 grams of good for you fats.