Smooth Operator – Easiest Almond Chocolate Milk Ever

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Almond Tree Growing in Portugal

For some years now I have been told by many health practitioners and vegan friends that drinking dairy is bad for my health and that cow’s milk is for calves and not humans.  Mostly I’ve ignored this advice, because I really like the taste of dairy products, primarily butter and cream.   It has also been convenient for me to ignore the fact, that milk products may be bad for me or the planet,  as they are such a cheap commodity these days and really delicious. I have bought the odd bit of almond or rice milk in the past, but have found the commercial varieties quite watery and over priced.  Then a few months ago I decided to cut out cheese and yoghurt for a while (I was already consuming very little milk), and found that I was actually feeling better.

This got me thinking more about this dairy dilemma and I came to the conclusion that it is far more complex an issue than I ever thought.  The research on whether dairy is good for our health is pretty much divided, you can find arguments for as well as against everywhere you look. You really have to ask yourself “Does dairy work for me? What is my body telling me?”  However, for me, whether to dairy or not to dairy is ultimately an environmental question.  The fact is that the amount of dairy products we are consuming presently, is completely unsustainable for the planet. Furthermore the practices in large-scale factory style farms are often cruel to animals and many nutrients found in milk can be easily found elsewhere.

In steps the humble almond, queen of nuts .  This queen has surely got it going on! Almonds have so many health benefits I don’t even know where to start.  There is already a large body of evidence supporting many cardiovascular benefits of eating almonds. Every handful eaten daily was associated with a 3.5 percent decreased risk of heart disease ten years later. Almonds are already known to help with weight loss and satiety, help prevent diabetes, inhibit cancer-cell growth, and decrease Alzheimer’s risk.  Growing almonds also puts less stress on the earths resources, using much less water and power to produce.  Whats not to like?

Admittedly we could also run into strife here, as most almonds are grown in very dry, even drought stricken regions like California (82% of worlds almonds are grown here) and Spain.  Almond consumption has skyrocketed in the last decade and production won’t be able to keep up with demand if this trend continues. Fear not I say, everything in moderation.  Almonds can be enjoyed in small amounts and don’t have to replace whole food groups like dairy and flour.  I often despair when whole food groups get completely replaced by one product.  The key to a healthy planet and a healthy diet, in my opinion, is variety, moderation and eating seasonal.  Listen to your body, tune in and follow its cues. Your body will tell you when and what to eat, its your guru.

I still eat (and love) dairy but I consume much less than I used to.  I mainly eat raw organic milk and cheese and when I have time I will make my own kefir.  I try to buy local produce as much as I can, although I’m also a bit partial to french cheese.  Homemade almond milk has now become a firm favourite of mine.  Its luscious and velvety smooth and because it’s so filling, it really is satiating. I often have a bottle of this chocolate milk in the fridge to drink,  as a little sweet pick me up that’s good for the heart and the soul.

Almonds and a shot of Almond Chocolate Milk

Chocolate Almond Milk

Ingredients (this makes approx 500-700 ml depending on how much water is used)

  • 1 cup soaked raw almonds (soak almonds in filtered water for 8-12 hours, this will activate them)
  • 11/2 – 3 cups water (less water will make the almond milk more creamy, I usually use 2 cups)
  • pinch of salt

Method

  • put all the ingredients into a high powered food processor like a vitamix, (a normal, less powerful food processor will work too.  It will simply leave a more coarse pulp) and process for about 30 s
  • strain the mixture through a fine muslin cloth or a nut milk bag and collect the almond milk.

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    Almond Milk straining through a Milk Nut Bag

  • store the milk for up to 3 days in the fridge or continue with the chocolate milk recipe below

To make chocolate almond milk simply add 2-3 teaspoons of cocoa (use less if your sensitive to stimulants), 2 soaked dates and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence to 500ml of almond milk. Put it all back into the food processor and process until the dates are completely incorporated. You can also use less almond milk and add more water for a thinner drink.  Consume straight away or chill, I personally like it cold.  If you like your milk a bit more spicy try adding 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and the contents of a cardamom pod when your blending it.

This milk is delicious just on its own or try adding seasonal fruit and honey or dates instead of chocolate.  You can use this milk in baking etc just as you would normal milk.  If your milk separates in the fridge, just shake it before using it.  Experiment and make it your own best flavour.  I absolutely adore this chocolate version.  I serve it nice and cold in a small glass in the afternoon or after dinner.

 

With Love xx

 

Easy like Saturday Morning – Chocolate Chip Cookies

11751439_10207305567134432_5913152121547736348_nI love rituals and rhythms, particularly around food. I think they help ground me but they also give my family an anchor, like a ship being gently moored in a bay.  It says be present, stay a while and smell the roses.  It means we can drop our fight and flight and settle into a quality of being where we can expand a little.

So one of my rituals on a saturday morning is to make these cookies, or a variation of some sorts.  Since they contain chocolate they are a huge hit with everyone.  They happen to be gluten-free, but you could substitute the rice flour for normal or spelt flour if you like.  I have my opinions about gluten-free, but will reserve them for another post.  In short no one in our family is a celiac but we try to eat most of our grains fermented, if I’m using a recipe where that’s not convenient I will use gluten-free flours instead.

I do however stay away from refined sugars, in fact at the moment I’m staying away from all sugar for a while.  Sugar really affects my body so after years of fine tuning I know which kind of sweet treats I can tolerate without going into a sugar coma.  In this recipe I’m using Rapadura sugar, which is the commercial name for dehydrated cane sugar juice. It has a wonderful rich, caramel like flavour and closely mimics sugar in its chemical properties, without upsetting the body. Do be careful though, in large quantities this may just have the same effect as regular white sugar.

 Im not going to tell you that these are guilt free, what does that even mean? Eat as many or a little as you feel is right for you and experiment with the amount of sugar in the recipe.  I find that if I eat something sweet, a healthy dose of fat (butter in this case) and protein (almonds and hazelnuts) helps my body chemistry to stay stable. I also tend to eat sweets after a meal so that there is something else already in my stomach to absorb the sugar.

Last but not least I do realise that the ingredients in this recipe are fairly pricey and that eating these on a daily basis is not really realistic.  Which is why I make them on a Saturday to last the weekend and once they are gone, they are gone. After all that is why they are called treats, right?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole hazelnuts
  • 1 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2/3 cup rapadura sugar (Coconut sugar works as well)
  • 1/2 cup soft butter or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate chunks ( I use Lindt cooking chocolate) plus some pieces to decorate the cookies or you can use any other cookie decoration

Method

  • Put hazelnuts into the food processor and grind to a coarse meal
  • Add almond and rice flour, sugar, butter, salt and cinnamon and process until well mixed
  • Add water to bring it all together, it should be moist like wet sand but still firm
  • Put chocolate in for a final quick pulse
  • Form into walnut sized balls and put on a tray prepared with baking paper
  • Add the chocolate decoration to each cookie
  • Bake at 150 degrees celsius for 20 minutes

When you take the cookies out of the oven they will still be a little bit soft, don’t move them at this point.  Once they’ve cooled they will have hardened and you can move them.  I store mine in a glass Kilner jar, but they never last long anyway.  This recipe makes about 20-24 cookies, depending on how much dough gets eaten by little hands as they are making them!!

With Love x