Is almond milk a healthy option?

via Niki Bezzant: Is almond milk a healthy option? – NZ Herald

This article in the NZ Herald purports to challenge almond milk as a healthy food option but does it really?

The first point it makes is not health-related at all. Ok, so almond, soy, coconut etc etc etc milks are not really milks in the strictest biologic sense…even though we tend to use them in much the same way and these not-milks are probably healthy that the lightest of lite milks that have had most of the goodness scrubbed out of them. That bastion of common sense, the EU,  has said that “…plant-based products can no longer be sold…using terms such as milk, butter and cheese…” Think about that as you spread ETA peanut no-longer-really-butter on your toast in the morning, or as you explain to your kids that the PC Police require to now ask for peanut not-butter and jelly sandwiches…

calcium.JPG“…we could be misled into believing almond milk is as good as cow’s milk, from a nutrition point of view..” Or we might not be…the only concern really raised here is the low hanging fruit of calcium content, or more correctly, the red herring of calcium content. A balanced diet will include other sources of calcium like:

1) Raw Milk
1 cup: 300 mg (30% DV)

2) Kale (cooked)
1 cup: 245 mg (24% DV)

3) Sardines (with bones)
2 ounces: 217 mg (21% DV)

4) Yogurt or Kefir
6 oz: 300 mg (30% DV)

5) Broccoli
1 ½ cup cooked: 93 mg (9% DV)

6) Watercress
1 cup: 41 mg (4% DV)

7) Cheese
1 oz: 224 mg (22% DV)

8) Bok Choy
1 cup:74 mg (7% DV)

9) Okra
1 cup: 82 mg (8% DV)

10) Almonds
1 oz: 76 mg (8% DV)

The Herald, and the Healthy Food Guide staff writing for it, might be more concerned about the low health value of commercial almond milk and promoting homemade almond milk as a simple alternative. It is so easy to make, with far higher almond content, that healthy shoppers should be avoiding the commercial tetrapaks and stampeding the nuts shelves. I usually buy my raw almonds from Bin Inn in Taupo as they often have them on special or, for bulk, check to see if Penelope @ Happy and Healthy has any deals on…

The other advantage of DIY almond (or other nut-based) milk is that you have all the leftover meal with which you can do wondrous things including bliss balls, cheesecake bases, cookies etc. I toss a cup into my muesli when I’m making a fresh batch and also use it in lieu of bran flakes for wholemeal bread.

The environmental concerns raised in the ‘article’ are also not health-related. Water (mis)management issues in California are related to far more complex matters than the growth of almonds. Again another, red herring under the guise of a health issue. If this really concerns you, then buy Aussie almonds but – not mentioned in the article – parts of Australia also experience similar water management challenges so the PC brigade may wish to check first so that they can purchase conscience-free.

The ‘article is also quite biased in that it does not discuss any of the potentially unhealthy aspects of dairy food – one might wonder who paid for this ‘article’? In a society apparently so concerned about national levels of obesity, it doesn’t hurt to cut back on dairy intake. That was a tip I was given was back in the 90s but only tried a couple of years ago at the beginning of my green journey . Dropping my dairy consumption right back was the biggest factor allowing me to lose 20kg in 3 months without any great effort. Reducing ‘whites’ (white sugar, rice, bread, etc) and reducing the number of processing stages between the raw material and the final product were just supporting acts…

I’m not entirely ‘off’ dairy. I’ll occasionally have an ice cream or make a milk-based coffee at work and am happy to use cream in recipes where there is no practical green alternative. But everything in its place. Now, if I have dairy products too often, I just feel bloated and yuk…I have a balanced diet and so am not lacking any of the good things that come with dairy…

It annoys me that the NZ Herald and Healthy Food Guide continue to punt out this one-sided propaganda under the guise of health news. The facts are that if you don’t want milk/dairy and you have a balanced diet, then give the cow a miss…

Sautéed Honey Mustard Cabbage

This sautéed honey mustard cabbage bowl is a perfect detox breakfast, lunch or dinner. Cabbage is not only insanely good for you but it simply tastes amazing as well.

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Another winner from Jen Rice’s Sugar Soil stable…I’ve included the whole recipe here because I’ve had trouble getting it to show on the Sugar Soil site…very simple, very fast, very yum…

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of apple cider

1 tablespoon of mustard

3 tablespoon of olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons of honey

1/2 head of cabbage chopped into bite-size pieces.

An onion chopped

One large egg

One avocado diced

Directions

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1 tablespoon olive oil, honey and apple cider together and set aside.

Over a medium heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the cabbage and the onion to a skillet and sauté for 5 minutes.

Pour the mustard sauce over the cabbage and mix well, turning the heat to low and cook for about 5-7 more minutes.

While you are cooking the cabbage, fry or poach your egg in another pan.

Place the sautéed cabbage in a bowl with the egg and avocado on top.

Easy as an easy thing…reversing the quantities of honey and mustard will give you the same less sweet and with more of a mustard ‘bite’…

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Yesterday’s leftovers on black rice that I soaked overnight before cooking this morning…I used a very small pan to poach the egg and then realised that I don’t have a scoop small enough to  slide the egg from the pan…hence the semi-deconstructed look…

Of the two variations, I think I prefer the more mustardy version with rice: cabbage, mustard and honey for flavour, avocado of textural contrast and the rice for bulk.

As I type, I notice that I forgot to do the avocado this morning…a mission now for whatever tomorrow’s breakfast will be…

A nutty two in one…three even…

I think this idea first fell from a recipe that popped up in my or a friend’s Facebook feed for no bake cranberry energy bites from Life Made Sweeter

I liked the sound of it – ‘cept the peanut butter part. Almonds I’m reserving for coconut almond milk: it’s getting warmer here and porridge has dropped on the breakfast menu (pending more snow!) in lieu of muesli, which uses more milk.

Looking at the nuts available, sunflower seeds looked promising and a quick Google led me to this recipe at Pretty Prudent. It is so simple. The only crucial ingredient not listed in the recipe is patience: depending on your food processor, it may take a while for the powdered nuts to cream into butter

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Not yet..keep going

….just keep the faith, follow the directions and it will turn out OK. Three cups of seeds = about two cups of sunbutter.

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It’s fairly solid but spreads with care…more oil would make it creamier but compete with the sunflower seed flavour…the solution, as offered in the comments on the original recipe, may be to use sunflower oil for the creaming…

Keeping the butter in the fridge also contributes to the harder consistency and I’m wondering if my Mad Millie Ceramic Butter Keeper will keep it cool to enough to stop it going off too early but warm enough to be more spreadable…

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Why doesn’t someone invent a straight banana…?

Fresh banana and sunbutter on herb bread toast has been part of breakfast the last two mornings. Very filling with an interesting combination of sweet banana and stick nut…nice…but I would probably go for it more if the sunbutter was a little more creamy and a little less sticky – always my one big objection to most peanut butter…I may sub the sunbutter in instead of peanut butter in one of our peanut rice dishes to see how it goes…

So, getting back on track for the energy bites…again a recipe so simple…just follow the directions….too easy…

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My only deviations from the original recipe were subbing in the sunbutter and using almond coconut meal (leftover from almond coconut milk) in lieu of coconut…if you’ve got, I say, use it…

As writ, the recipe is good for about 20-25 bites. They store well in the fridge and are tasty and very filling: ideal for fending off attacks of the munchies…

Next time around, I will double the dried fruit – not necessarily cranberries – and use normal rolled oats instead of the quick cook oats – I just don’t think they add a lot of value – and/or I may sub in a not-oat-based alternative…not because I am particularly concerned about the gluten thing but because, again, I can…

And there you go, an easy three-fer….

Salmon with Spicy Tomato Rice

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Spur of the moment invention dinner…

As part of my green journey, I have been slowly reducing the number of production steps between me and the raw materials. Last week, I used the last can of tomatoes from the pantry and resolved henceforth to only use fresh tomatoes where previously I would have used the canned variety.

Obviously this means a little more planning ahead due to the shelf life of fresh tomatoes v their tinny competition. So the tomatoes I bought last we were starting to scream for attention and tonight was the night. I wanted to do something a bit different and also empty out the freezer a little more – still don’t have much space for frozen soups and TV dinners after giving up the chest freezer in the garage.

I took some salmon steaks out and only once they were committed to defrosting did I stop to consider how tomatoes might figure in tonight’s dining experience. I got some ideas from Google, selecting this one for Mexican tomato rice and beans from Fine Foods as my base.

It looked like – and was – a quick cook so I got the rice on first. Now that the last of the white rice is gone, it’s all brown from here on – I’m using a mix of long and short grain – with black held in reserve for special occasions. The spicy tomato bit has this in it:

  • 1 teaspoon of oil (grapeseed tonight)
  • 6 close of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 generous tablespoon of Jalapenos, also finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of black salt (the colour doesn’t really mean anything)
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1 can of red kidney beans (also the last can)
  • 440 grams of fresh tomatoes, blended
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of oregano
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of coriander powder (will use crushed seeds next time)

I started by frying the garlic and jalapeno in the oil til the flavours were rally strong – about a minute – before stirring in the spices and slat. After a couple of minutes add the tomato and beans, followed by the herbs. If it looks a tad dry, add about half a cup of water (I rinsed  the bean tin into the pan).

Once this is simmering away, I added the salmon steaks, and let it all simmer away until the rice was done.

Nice a simple. Hot and spicy. Brought out a good sweat on a cold wind wet night…

Took out some more fish to do again with the leftovers tomorrow…

 

Mad Millie Nut-milk Bag

 

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a big fan of reducing dairy content in our diets. I caught up with my sister and her family in Waitomo late last year when they were visiting the NI: we exchanged a few foodie tips and then this arrived a few months later for my birthday.

Previous on this green journey, I’ve tried nut-milk bags and dumped them in favour using simple squares of voile that I bought from Spotlight. I was happy using the voile but squeezing the milk out was kinda messy. Using the Mad Millie bag works best if the milk mix is left to drip through overnight so adding an overhead of coordination and organisation to ensure a continuous supply of milk: in short, the full process of soaking and filtering takes 24 hours so ideally needs to start as soon as the current bottle runs out.

I usually only use the milk at breakfast time on my muesli and in my cuppa tea and only in my cuppa if it’s in my take to work thermal cup. The reason for this is that something in the milk reacts with some teas (haven’t worked out a pattern yet) and causes a mild congealing reaction. It doesn’t affect the taste but doesn’t look so sharp: a friend recently re-introduced me to straight black tea and I’m more likely to have this for an open cup cuppa. Unless it’s bake fest night and I need to use some milk, I don’t usually use any milk in the evening.

My daily coffee fix, I now usually get via a bannofee smoothie using coconut milk powder for the milk content so no need for milk there anymore ‘specially since switching to this drink has dropped my coffee consumption to a cup a day (from 7-8!)

So..the Mad Millie Nut Milk Bag

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It’s quite simple really: extend the legs, hook the bag into the frame and pour in the milk and meal mix. The legs aren’t quite long enough to rest on the counter and hold the bag clear of the accumulating milk. One day I might get round to making a base frame to hold it slightly higher…

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After that, just let it sit overnight. By morning most of the liquid will have filtered through and the last vestiges can be gently squeezed out before consigning the remaining meal to the dryer.

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You do need to take care that the stand is set up squarely or life may become messy. My meal mix is about 1.25 litres; although the bag would hold more, I would start to worry about its stability if it was filled much more.

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I used this bread bag that Mum made, especially in summer, to prevent any ‘floaters’ or ‘swimmers’ getting into the milk.

The meal mix I’m using at the moment is a 25/25/50 mix of almonds, sunflower seeds and coconut chips. The sunflower seeds help spread the life of the more expensive almonds and add a slightly less sweet edge to the flavour but this could be easily counteracted by dropping a vanilla pod or some dates into the blender during the first part of the soaking phase.

Verdict? Certainly a handy device and now my tool of choice for making non-dairy milk. Yes, the filtering time means I have to be a little more organised but that’s not a bad thing. It would be nice if it came with a second bag so that I could still ‘milk’ when the other bag is in the wash but I guess that I can get another made up if I really feel the need…

An oxymoronic treat…

An recipe that I didn’t, not being particularly chocolatey inclined, seek out…it appeared in one of my culinary feeds and the concept of a healthy chocolate cake begged further exploration, more so when one of the main ingredients is kumara…

I cannot find the source of the original recipe: all the links in my PDF of the recipe go to Happy and Healthy (one of my main sources of healthy raw materials) so I’m assuming that this a Kiwi recipe from a site not particularly visible to Google…

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Rather that try to cut a neat circle with scissors to line the base of the pan, I tried trapping the baking paper between the base and sides of the spring-form pan: perfecto!!!

Ingredients

2 medium (baked & skinless) kumara
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, melted.
60g or 6 squares of 85% cacoa dark chocolate (Lindt or Green & Gold), melted
¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
¼ cup organic rice malt syrup
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda (sifted)
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 165°C

Lightly grease a 20cm cake ring pan with coconut oil.

Place the baked sweet potatoes in your food processor and process until pureed.

Add the rest of the ingredients and process them until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes. Bake slightly longer for a crunchy outer shell.

Let it cool. Once cool, place it in the fridge overnight.

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This is the first result made exactly in accordance with the recipe. I used the Lindt chocolate and, once it had cooled overnight in the fridge, had collapsed into quite a firm slice with e very strong chocolate taste. This version did rise during baking but slowly deflated into a more solid slice during its overnight sojourn in the fridge. To be honest, I think it has a better flavour and texture ‘deflated’…

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For my second attempt I didn’t change anything in the recipe but used the slice as the centre layer on another variation on the no cheese cheesecake theme. The effect that I was after was a strong contrast between the deep chocolate centre and a tangy orange topping.

The base is the standard mix of dates, coconut oil and meal derived from my nut milk production line. This base had a very strong baked overtone and I think this is from overheating the meal when drying it over the fire – we scraped most of this off and the slice was strong enough to still support the top layer.

The orange topping is a cup of cashews soaked overnight in the the zest and juice of a dozen navel oranges and then pureed in the blender. More zest required next time, I think, as the orange taste was quite distinct but without the tangy effect I sought.

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An outcome of discussions on the orange chocolate cheesecake was a curiosity regarding the necessity for the syrup in the recipe. We felt this could be safely replaced with a mashed banana. Version #3 replaced the quarter cup of syrup with a mashed ripe banana and the Lindt chocolate with an equivalent weight of Healtheries sugar-free chocolate baking bits. To compensate for the additional liquid in the banana I added two extra tablespoons of coconut flour.

The result was definitely workable and one small segment survived fire training the following night. An unexpected but not unpleasant result was the embedding of small chunks of unmashed banana – not properly mashed – spread through the slice, delivering a nice banana hit every couple of bites. I don’t think it was necessary to add the extra coconut flour so will skip that next time but keep the banana. The chocolate flavour was not so smooth or strong – but still eminently doable – as with the Lindt but I’m not sure whether that would be due to the change in source chocolate or the drier mix caused by the extra coconut flour.

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A surprise chunk of unmashed banana is just visible in the edge closest to the knife…

Definitely a winner recipe…very simple to make, albeit with the slight inconvenience of needing an overnight chill in the fridge and with the high kumara content, if nothing else, is at least one way to get the kids to eat their veges…

Pistachio, chia seeds and vanilla “icecream”…

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The first fire training night after I got back from my training course the Fire Services’s  National Training Centre in Rotorua was our first Brigade meeting for the year. These are every two month and are where we decided on allocation of funds and resource, develop training programmes etc. In our Brigade we always lay on a dinner.

I normally draw dessert – our dinners are all self-cooked: everyone contributes to a course. This time I wanted to play with some of the ideas I’d hoovered up off the ‘Net in the previous few weeks. I settled on three recipes to make a single disk but the way it panned out, I ended up with two separate desserts.

Plan A was for a  pistachio chia pudding layered with a plum cream topped with a dairy-free vanilla ice cream. The layered part went together OK, although my layering needs work as you can see from the image above.

I had to double both recipes as I was preparing for fourteen – that’s a lot of pistachios to shell and ideally to fill the cups I would have needed the same again. The pistachio flavour is very strong and distinctive: it went OK with the plum cream layer but both would have been better if served separately- next time I do this recipe, I’ll be thinking more along the lines of three sampler deserts with plain ice cream…

The ice cream just didn’t work and, going on many comments on the page, that’s more down to the recipe than anything that I did or didn’t do. Simply the recipe, Jamie Oliver or not, does not contain any ingredients that will set it. A more recent note on the recipe page says that the staff will have a look at it. What I ended up with was a large vanilla-flavoured ice block with not the slightest creamy characteristic.

My Plan B recovery plan was to grab a tub of TipTop vanilla ice cream from the local GAS petrol station and Four Square dairy – when they learned it was for the Brigade dinner, they kindly refused to charge me for it…thanks, team!

The ice cream was the common denominator between the pistachio and plum dessert and what was now a rich vanilla cream over ice cream dessert. The pistachio and plum dessert would have been better served as two separate option and not layered in the same cup – next I’ll serve each of the three desserts in separate corners of a dinner plate, with a scope of ice cream in the middle.

I’m quite keen to play more with pistachios as the flavour is so distinctive and strong; the plum cream I could take or leave but the vanilla ‘cream’ was to die for – seriously: rich, sweet and strong…unfortunately not enough survived for any photos…next time..

Literal green pizza

Playing with toys again…had to wait weeks before the Todo pizza makers showed up again at NZSale…only a third of the price they go for at Mighty Ape…Yes, I know I can make pizzas in the oven but I was interested in something that might offer a more portable pizza-ing experience and a new toy (plus it IS in Deadpool colours)

p70101-192150I made a few conventional dough-based pizzas but I’d been hearing for a while about vegetable bases for pizzas. Being gifted a full head of broccoli seemed like a perfect opportunity to try this (plus a head of broccoli goes a loooong way in conventional meals).

I found this recipe at Gothamist. It was easy, easy, easy…I put some baking paper down case it stuck but I need not have worried: the base pan is super-non-stick.

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The topping was just whatever was in the fridge: tomato, pineapple, yellow capsicum and some mozzarella…

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Forgot to add the tomato sauce base (store-bought pasta sauce) so applied over the top of the other toppings…

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Came out OK…cooked for about 20 minutes…even though the base is a full head of broccoli, the taste is quite subtle and not as overpowering as you might expect – probably a good way to sneak soem veges into unwilling younger diets…

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I use the pizza make quite often with a variety of bases, including store-bought ones which are good to rush meals and also wraps, although these need some care so that the more liquid toppings don’t flow off the edge…

No cheese cheesecake #4

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If I stopped looking at Facebook, I’d stop getting these inspirations…I thought I was done with the ‘ no cheese’ cheesecake thing (#1, #2, #3) but this one just looked too good not to try…It’s another Nadia Lim creation, a bit pricier than the others only because avos area  little pricey at the moment: not a problem in season or if you are lucky enough to have your own tree…

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I need some more practice building a  level base as it always seems to build up unevenly around the edges, giving this untidy appearance of more base than filling: it is actually, more filling than base, just doesn’t look it…

My base was simply the meal left over from a batch of almond/coconut milk (a litre of milk gives up exactly the right amount of meal for the base). The avocado gives the filling a silky smooth texture and the lime zest and juice adds a real zing to the flavour – or it would if the only limes at New World that week weren’t nasty little dried up things with nary a drop of juice….and if my back bottle of lime juice had more than half the required cup of lime juice.

I’m tempted to try this again this week with the full charge of lime to see how much zingier it is…it was OK this time but I felt the lost zing potential…

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I did make the berry coulis recommended in the recipe but tossed in the last of the coconut milk just to expend it…tasted OK but the milk neutered the sharp crisp berry taste…should have just used water like last time…

Still…it went very nicely with ice cream down at the station…

 

Beetroot and prunes in breadless burgers

While not in the market for another burger mix, the bright colours that accompanied the recipe on Sugar Soil hooked me: any healthy benefits aside, most beetroot recipes have striking colours and this one was no exception…

I made the mix in accordance with the recipe on line but next time I think l’ll aim for a mix with more even proportions of the beans, beetroot and prunes: I found the sweetness of the prunes rather underwhelming even though I did add more than the recipe quantities.

On a whim, I also decided to have a play with breadless burgers…Empowered Sustenace had some good ideas...it wasn’t difficult and I’m keen to try some of the other ideas as well. The most successful in this go-round was the mushroom evolution: fried just enough to bring out the flavour, and then stacked with the usual fillings burger-style…

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Mushroom ‘buns’

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Open burger on an eggplant ‘bun’

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Open burgers on pepper ring bases

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Mushroom and eggplant ‘buns’

Very tasty, with crisp clear flavours and surprisingly filling…no dairy, no nuts, no meat, no bread, no sugars, no hassle…