Wednesday, July 23, 2014


With the almond milk industry skyrocketing, it seems as though more and more people have made almonds their non-dairy, plant-based milk of choice. It’s quite understandable. Almond milk has a terrific nutty flavor that beats rice and hemp; it doesn’t bear the negative phytoestrogen stigma of soybeans, and it isn’t remotely as calorie dense as coconut milk. What’s not to love? A lot, apparently.

According to Tom Philpott of Mother Jones, commercially available almond milk is simply “a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.” This is an issue on two levels.

1) Overpriced. Commercial almond milk is grossly overpriced for how few nutrients are actually inside. In Philpott’s estimates, an entire 48 oz. jug of almond milk contains the same amount of protein as a 1 ounce handful of whole almonds, while costing 6 to 10 times more (assuming the almonds cost between 39 and 66 cents an ounce, versus $4 for a jug of nut milk)! So if there is a 1 ounce protein equivalent of almonds in a jug, what else are you paying for? Extra additives like potentially inflammatory carrageenan, preservatives, and hidden sugars. No thanks.

2) Wasteful. It takes 1.1 gallons of water to grow one single almond in drought-prone California. That is an extraordinary amount of water for one single nut, not to mention the impact that the immense monocultures of almond farming operations have on the bees. And after all of that, we just blend and strain these little miracle nuts in more water? Since almonds are tiny nutritional powerhouses, it does seem wasteful to buy commercial almond milk, especially as you don’t know what they do with the “waste” meal, aka the actual nutritious almond meat.

So, what’s a smart way to get your almond milk fix? Make it at home. Drink the superior, freshly made milk, and use the tasty almond meal in baking. Instead of going out and spending an additional $10 on a bag of almond meal in addition to your jug of milk, you can get it all in one at a better price point.

Try to respect your food. Consider how much work went into cultivating that plant, and how far it had to travel to get to your table. Enjoy your entire almond, because almonds are a divine delicacy, even if they are a part of your day-to-day life. If you want to make almond milk, more power to you, but be sure to use the entire nut; otherwise, you’re robbing yourself of precious nutrients, your wallet of precious greenery, and the Earth of precious resources.

There are dozens of methods for making milk alternatives. Some call for the soaking, blanching, and peeling of nuts, some don’t. Some are straightforward, some are more complicated. Raw nuts are often specified to meet the needs of people who prefer raw food, but cooked nuts work just as well. Sweeteners are a big issue here. Agave nectar is a wonderful alternative to honey because it is low on the glycemic index and is vegan—but can be hard to find. Honey and pure maple syrup are good alternatives to processed sugar. Pitted dates and banana can be used to sweeten as well as to create a thicker texture. I suggest playing around with the recipes here (and the different sweeteners) until you find the perfect fit for your needs. All of these milks need to be refrigerated, and should keep for at least 2 days.

Inspired by Raw Food, Real World (Regan Books, 2005)
2 heaping tablespoons raw nut butter
2 cups filtered water
Pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons agave nectar or 1 packet stevia
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut butter (optional)

1. In a blender, puree all ingredients until smooth.

1 cup raw almonds, soaked at least 4 hours
3 cups filtered water

1. In a high-speed blender blend the nuts and water for about 2 minutes until the nuts are completely blended.
2. Strain the mix through multiple layers of cheesecloth in a colander two times.

1 batch basic almond milk
5 large soft pitted dates
2 very ripe bananas
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup raw macadamia nuts (optional)

In a high-speed blender add all ingredients and blend until combined.
Adjust sweetness to taste by adding more or less dates.
The macadamia nuts are optional but they will give the drink a thicker consistency.

1/2 cup raw cashew pieces
2 cups water
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Combine cashews with 1 cup water and maple syrup in blender.
Blend on high until thick and creamy.
Slowly add remaining water and blend on high for 2 minutes.
Strain if desired.

Hemp milk contains 33 percent protein and Canadian studies point to hemp protein as being the highest quality found in any plant. Hemp also offers well-balanced essential fatty acids that our bodies require and don’t make themselves. The key for making quick and easy hemp milk is to buy shelled hemp seeds. I called four local natural food stores and all carried shelled hemp seeds, so it is easy to go this route. Otherwise you have to take extra measures to strain out the shells. Check the dates on your seeds to make sure that you buy the freshest seeds possible. Store in a dark place. Sunlight will destroy the oils’ benefits and make the seeds rancid.

¼ cup shelled hemp seeds
1 cup warm water
Flavoring (vanilla, honey, etc.)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. 

1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups almonds
1-inch piece cinnamon bark
8 cups water
½ cup organic sugar (or your favorite sweetener

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Wash and drain the rice.
2. Use a spice grinder, or electric coffee grinder, and grind the rice until fine.

3. Combine rice with the almonds and cinnamon bark. Add 3 1/2 cups water, cover, and let sit overnight.
4. In a blender, blend rice mixture until smooth. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and continue blending. Add sweetener and vanilla extract.
5. Strain horchata with a metal strainer, and then again using a double layer of cheesecloth.
6. Add up to an additional 2 cups of water until it you get the consistency you like.

Inspired by Raw Food, Real World (Regan Books, 2005)
1 cup macadamia nuts, soaked 1 hour or more
3 cups filtered water
3 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons coconut butter (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)
pinch of sea salt

1. In a blender, blend the nuts and water on high speed for about 2 minutes.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend to combine.
3. Strain if you want it super creamy, or drink as is.

2 cups cooked oatmeal
4 cups water
1 ripe banana
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt (optional)
Sweetener to taste (if desired)

1. Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth about 2-3 minutes.
2. Chill, and shake before using.

1/2 cup brown rice
8 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Place rice, 8 cups water, and salt in pan.
2. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer 3 hours, or until rice is very soft. (You can also do this in a slow cooker overnight.)
3. In blender, puree rice mixture with remaining ingredients. You will have to do it in two batches. Puree each batch at least 2 or 3 minutes to completely liquefy the rice.
4. Add more water if you prefer it thinner.


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