Last week, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I was pretty upset even though we fully expected the diagnosis. After dinner that night, I pulled out a piece of dairy cheesecake and ate it. It was comfort food, and this daddy’s girl needed some comfort.
If you follow my blog, forum or website, you know at one time I was severely allergic to dairy. In fact, once I quit reacting to dairy, I totally lost my taste for it. Yes, it does taste good, but I don’t crave it anymore. I could take it or leave it. The problem was that I didn’t leave it last week. I suffered no (I’ll spare you the awful details) symptoms of my former intolerance. Only one tiny thing happened. I went from a size 6 to a 10/12 overnight. The next morning, I couldn’t get one thing I owned over my hips or around my bust despite not feeling bloated. That led to a good cry and me swearing off all dairy in all forms for a very long time.
I’m fine with that.
So what do you do when either you can’t tolerate dairy, there’s none locally that is raw or you can’t afford the good stuff? I suggest switching to coconut milk.
There are multiple ways to get coconut milk. You can make your own or you can buy it canned in the store. You can buy coconut concentrate products or refrigerated, liquid milks in the dairy case of your local grocery store. They each have their benefits and drawbacks.
Make Your Own
You can make your own coconut milk by combining shredded, unsweetened coconut with boiling water in a blender, allowing it to soften, then blending. You then strain the milk and use the liquid as coconut milk. The benefit to this method is that it is fresh. The drawback is that the milk is thin and it takes time to make.
Canned Coconut Milk
There are multiple brands of canned coconut milk at the store. The main benefit to this method is that it is fast and the milk is rich and thick. The drawback is that, of course, the milk is canned and only the Native Forest brand claims to be BPA-free.
You can buy coconut concentrate or ‘manna’ from companies like Nutiva, Wilderness Family Naturals and Tropical Traditions. This is a thick, solid paste that you mix with water to reach your desired amount of milk. These products work great for smoothies and dishes where you are not depending on the thickness of the coconut milk. These products store well on the shelf, take up no fridge space, and take up less room than the equivalent of canned coconut milk. The drawback of these products is that they are horribly thin and the texture isn’t smooth. In order to get these products to totally smooth out, you have to either use heat or a powerful blender.
Recently, several companies have released thin versions of coconut milk that have the texture and consistency of commercially-produced nut and rice milks. These products pour like dairy milk. Price-wise, they are competitive. But their texture is unacceptable for replacing cream and they have a lot of ingredients that aren’t considered the best option. Some have ingredients you want to avoid, including thickeners, artificial vitamins and refined sweeteners.
So, what do I use, and where? I’ll fully admit I don’t make my own coconut milk from shredded coconut even though it is the best choice. Why? It takes time I don’t have and it’s more expensive for me than the canned coconut milks. It costs twice as much for me to make. I use the BPA-free Native Forest coconut milk when I need a thickener or to replace any recipe calling for dairy cream. I use coconut concentrate from Wilderness Family Naturals in smoothies or dishes like soups where a thin sauce or liquid is acceptable. It makes a good replacement for a small amount of cream in soups that are brought to a boil. Refrigerated milks make their way into the house on the very rare occasion that I’m totally desperate and hubby buys the groceries and does all the cooking.
What About Nut Milks
I don’t generally recommend the commercially prepared nut milks on a regular basis because they aren’t soaked and they all have some undesirable ingredients. If you need an option with some protein and you’re making them at home, I think nut milks can be a good option. This is especially true if you’re trying to come off of dairy and you’re needing to replace that protein in your diet.
Soak your nuts as directed in Nourishing Traditions, then drain and rinse them. Place them in a blender, cover with water and blend until smooth. Strain. Store any unused milk in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.