Monday, 17 February 2014

Almond Milk

It's a few days yet before I will get to reintroduce cow's milk back into my diet and to be honest I haven't missed it too much so far. I can't abide drinking  the stuff and I only really have it in tea and porridge, both of which are being denied me at present. I'm much more concerned about the fact that cheese has been taken away from me but fingers crossed that won't be for too much longer. 

While exploring this diet I've been doing a lot of reading about the the various food choices that are available to us every day. There's endless approaches to healthy eating out there, each one with a more zealous proponent behind it than the last. Whether it's getting back to your inner caveman and going paleo, embracing your inner vegan, or 'simply' going gluten or sugar free (in my experience, this is anything but simple) there are several staples which keep cropping up in recipe after recipe. Coconut oil seems to be this season's new must have product, but at roughly €15 for a 450g jar this seems like a rather prohibitively expensive alternative to butter if you're using anything more than a spoonful per recipe. Likewise coconut sugar is nearly a tenner for 250g. Ok, maybe your baked treats will be 'guilt free' but clearly only the more well to do among us are entitled to a clean conscience. Nut butters and nut milks are also big on the list. Cost aside, I'm a bit suspicious of alternative products anyway. They are often hailed as the next best thing only to have their guilt free claims dashed a year or two later, all be it often in a quieter fashion and when not so many people are paying attention. Health is big business (a quick search on coconut sugar brings up plenty of articles negating it's claims of a low glycemic index).

Sorry that's the cynic in me. I suppose I'm just traditional in the sense that treats are treats because they're bad for us. Maybe we should just try to retrain our sweet teeth rather than fooling them with super expensive alternatives that may not really be that good for us anyway. Sugar after all, no matter where it comes from is still sugar. 

I digress. 

The reason for my post today is that one alternative I have experimented with is almond milk. As I said, I don't really have much use for milk generally but so much of the reading I was doing was mentioning nut milks I got curious about it. Also, yesterday was the day I had to introduce corn. The diet sheet specified to eat fresh corn 3 times a day for 2 days. I couldn't quite get my head around corn on the cob for breakfast so I found a recipe for corn cakes online. This one required eggs and milk and looked really promising. I was quite excited about trying it. That was before I had my hopes about eggs dashed so spectacularly. So eggs were out. Obviously I couldn't have the milk part either and shop bought nut milks were out as I'm not allowed anything processed at all for the duration of the diet. Thankfully the internet provides and I came up with loads of recipes for nut milks and it seemed super easy. All you need is a blender and some muslin cloth. I'll give the recipe below. 

So not to be deterred, I doctored the recipe a bit, used my almond milk substitute and the result wasn't all that bad. Maybe they're a bit much for breakfast every day but if you're a corn fan they'd certainly make a nice lunch alongside some salad or a side for dinner. I would say they definitely need a bit of sauce with them. I made a guacamole to go with them which worked well but a tomato salsa would be quite delicious too. I imagine the eggy version would be a bit fluffier and so more forgiving.

So far so good with the corn. Although I do feel as I introduce more foods my willingness to admit to a reaction is decreasing and my patience with the diet is waning. I really don't want to have any food intolerance and so when I feel a reaction coming on I tend to put it down to something else. The amount of self examination involved in figuring this diet out is quite exhausting and my willingness, or lack thereof, to comply could become an issue in getting over the last few hurdles. Fingers crossed I'm just in a slump right now and positivity will prevail tomorrow. 

Anyway, here are the recipes of yesterday's experiments. Enjoy.

Almond Milk

You can really use any nuts you want for this. Cashews and brazil nuts are also mentioned quite frequently in many of the 'healthy eating' recipes.

1 cup whole almonds
2-3 cups water (depending on the consistency you want your milk. I used two but the more water the more economical your milk is!)

Soak the almonds overnight in cold water. They should plump up and soften.
The next day drain them and rinse.
Put them in a blender with the 2 cups of water and blend until smooth.
Strain the milk into a jug through a muslin cloth squeezing out the pulp to get the most milk out that you can. (If you're luck enough to have a vitamix blender you may not need to do this as it will blend the nuts so smooth that there won't be much pulp left. How I want a vitamix blender.)

straining the milk from the pulp

The milk will last 2-3 days in the fridge. The left over pulp, while not very flavourful on it's own, can be dried out in the oven and used as a topping for cereal or added to muesli or granola. Or here's some other recipes I found which look interesting. If I was going to do this regularly I would definitely need to come up with a good way of using up the left over pulp as it seems too wasteful otherwise.

You can use the milk any way you like. It's great in tea, muesli, porridge, rice pudding or baking.

It's worth experimenting with the water content to get the milk consistency that's right for you. You could also try adding some vanilla if you want a sweeter flavour, especially if you're going to be using it in puddings or deserts.

Corn Cakes (my egg free version)

1 cup corn flour (finely milled cornmeal not the thickener we're used to calling cornflour)
1/2 cup fresh or tinned corn kernels
1/2 cup milk of your choice
1/4 bulb fennel chopped finely
1/4 red chilli chopped finely
salt to taste
butter (if you're allowed butter)
oil/butter for frying

Puree half the corn in a blender or mash it with a fork.
Mix the corn flour, blended and whole corn, fennel, chilli, and salt in a bowl.
Add the milk and mix to a batter. You may need a little more milk than stated depending on consistency. The mixture should be fairly wet and fall off a spoon easily.
You can mix in some melted butter at this point if you're allowed.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Spoon the batter into the pan (this should make 4 patties) and allow to cook until brown on one side then flip and brown on the other, reduce the heat and let cook for a minute or two.
Remove from the pan, drain the excess oil on kitchen paper and serve.

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