I’ve been engaged in quite a few conversations about food and health lately. The DJ Tytron and I have somewhat persnickety dietary needs — some out of necessity, such as the complete omittance of gluten; some, simply because we feel better when we eat some things versus other things. The list is flexible. I’ve been asked a lot if we “do” Paleo, or if we “do” other diets.
We don’t follow any diet that has its own name, as far as I can tell. We have a custom diet we’ve created that feels right for our bodies. There are foods Tytron loves that I can’t tolerate. There are things I can safely ingest that make Tytron sick to his stomach. We’re always in flux, always learning, always making small adjustments as our diet becomes cleaner and our bodies more sensitive. Recently, we’ve noticed that every time we eat rice products we both get bloated and feel unwell, sometimes with some pretty severe intestinal distress. Sigh. Another grain bites the dust. I don’t think we’ll abstain from rice altogether, but it will no longer be a staple ingredient to fill out our soups and stews, and I’ve been diligently working on cutting most of it out of my gluten-free flour blend.
But hey, we still binge on chips and salsa sometimes. We have been known to nosh on big-ass steaks. Some nights when we’re home watching movies or playing games, we might tear through a half a tin of dark chocolate-dipped macadamia nuts, like slavering, cocoa-destroying beasts. We still treat ourselves to a Mexican Coca-Cola when we visit our local taco stand (corn syrup is Tytron’s kryptonite, but cane sugar in moderation won’t make him hark up the tacos in the parking lot). We still eat corn products (the horror!) and we still have some processed sugar, because guess what: Processed sugar is fucking delicious. So is fat. So is salt. Obviously, the key to everything is moderation.
We love nuts. Whoever figured out how to coax delicious, creamy milk from nuts was a goddamn genius. (I’ll allow you a moment to indulge your inner ten-year-old, here. Done with the nut jokes? Ready to move on? Great.) Going dairy-free was one of the more profound dietary decisions we’ve made recently. Cow dairy, especially, does not agree with our bodies. We still have grated Parmesan from time-to-time, and infrequently make regrettable decisions in moments of weakness regarding our guts’ ability to process delicious cheeses, though, sticking to goat cheese has reduced the painful aftermath by a huge margin. I still use butter when it’s essential to one of my more delicately balanced baked goods. But we don’t do cream, milk, ice cream, sour cream, or any other fresh, liquid dairy because it’s a recipe for gastro-disaster.
I’ve recently fallen in love with homemade almond-coconut milk. I don’t make it all the time, because it’s a little more expensive than the stuff in the carton, obviously more labor-intensive, and it’s so delicious that it disappears from my fridge quickly enough that the previous two factors become Bigger Issues. It’s an amazing treat, though.
- 1.5 c. raw almonds
- 6 c. filtered water
- 1/3 c. (approx) coconut cream (see note)
- 1 c. coconut water (see note)
- *1-2 skinned and pitted dates (to taste) – or-
- *1-2 T coconut sugar or brown sugar
- *vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste, or a drop (just one or two!) of vanilla extract
- (* = optional)
Submerge almonds in water overnight (about 8 hours, so a full day will work, too).
After my almonds are done soaking, I squeeze the outer skin off of each one. It sounds labor intensive, but the skin falls off readily after soaking, so it only takes a few minutes and makes a big difference in the hummus mix I make with the leftover almond.
Drain almonds and place in blender or food processor with about a cup of filtered water, blend until smooth. Strain through a cloth to extract all the milk. Add another cup of water and strain that through the almonds to get all the milk out. Set the used almond paste aside. Put the almond milk back into the processor, add your dates or sugar, and the coconut water and cream. Spin the dates, vanilla, almond milk, and coconut milk together until uniform. Add the additional water and pour into whatever container you’re using to store the milk and refrigerate.
I don’t know how long it will keep, because it doesn’t last long enough to spoil in this house. In case you don’t have cheesecloth lying around, old (clean/sterile) pantyhose feet make excellent filters.
Note: If you’re using small cans (12 oz) of coconut milk, one will do – just pour the whole thing into the mix. I buy the restaurant-sized cans at the local Thai store, so I open it, stick it in the fridge, allow the cream to rise and condense, then scoop about 1/3 c cream + 1 c. watery part into the milk mix. This adds some flavor and body. Without it, the almond milk is fine but very light and without a lot of mouth feel, which I like. Sweetening with dates vs. sugar also adds body and a nice caramel flavor.
Almond-Cashew Ranch Hummus
This is a recipe I modified from a vegan-cashew ranch dressing.
- 1 c of raw cashews, pre-soaked for 8+ hours
- almond paste leftover from almond milk recipe
- 1/2 – 1 c. unsweetened almond milk or water
- 1 clove fresh garlic
- a couple chopped, fresh chives
- 1/2 T garlic powder
- 1/2 T ground black pepper
- 2 T chopped italian parsley
- 1 T chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 T dried
- 1 tsp. paprika
- lemon juice and white wine vinegar to taste – I think I use a couple tablespoons of each
- salt optional, to taste
- olive oil optional, to attain desired texture
Throw everything in the food processor and blend to desired consistency.
Here’s the thing: the listed ingredients end up making a convincing ranch flavor, but you don’t have to have a bunch of fresh herbs to make a delicious dip. If you don’t have some of these things on hand, just throw in whatever spices taste good together. The nuts are light enough in flavor that they’ll accommodate on whatever you add. If you like it thicker, add less liquid. If you’re not a huge garlic fan (there’s something wrong with you, but whatever), leave out the fresh garlic clove. If you don’t want to add oil, don’t. If you want it thinner so you can use it as a salad dressing, add more almond milk or water. It’s hard to screw up this recipe. It is ridiculously delicious on pretty much anything that’s good with a savory sauce. We put it on our salads, meat, chips, raw veggies, whatever. I, in fact, had some for breakfast this morning with persian cucumbers and coffee. So there.
If you don’t want to hull the almonds, you can also spread your nutty bits out on a piece of parchment paper and dry them. With the unhulled almond remnants, I either make a finer almond meal for baking or use the bits for other recipes, salad topping, faux breadcrumbs, and more. They’re also great added to soups and stews as a texture filler if you don’t want to add grain.
Enjoy your nuts!