I've mentioned in previous posts that going dairy free was just as hard for me, if not more difficult, than going gluten free. I miss all the smooth, creamy sauces, melty cheeses, and rich ice creams of my past. Unlike the plethora of easily replaceable gluten free foods that taste just as good as the "original," there seem to be few products that legitimately work as dairy free substitutes.
One dairy replacement product that I truly loved was coconut milk. Coconut milk is a very versatile substitute for many dairy-based products, such as cream and milk. It can be used in savory recipes as well as sweet. The best dairy free ice cream I have ever had was made with coconut milk. I also loved this lemon cream coffee cake, and made it several times. However, sadly, I developed an intolerance to coconut...so that had to go too :(
I've experimented heavily with using nuts as dairy replacements - from my favorite almond milk, to cream cheese substitutes. I have found that nuts work exceptionally well in many forms to create a pretty good milk or soft cheese sub.
Lately, I've been on a nut milk kick. Blame it on being pregnant, where I am consuming way more refined carbs than I'd normally eat. The only thing that seems to appeal to me first thing in the morning is cereal. Thank goodness for GF Rice Krispies and the GF Chex line! When I am ill-prepared, I'll grab a box of store-bought almond milk out of the pantry, and choke that down w/ my cereal. However, nothing beats the consistency and flavor of freshly-made nut milk.
Enter cashew milk.
This has become my go-to recipe for surviving the mornings. It's incredibly rich, it's creamy, and it can be sweetened if you want to have a glass with your favorite gluten free cookies! It works fabulously in smoothies, milkshakes, and ice cream.
Even better, unlike the process of making almond milk, there is no straining involved with cashews! Just run your high-powered blender long enough, and it will get the job done quick and easy! Note: If you don't have a high-powered blender, I would recommend soaking your cashews for at least an hour before processing them, to make them softer.
You can alternate between the sweetener of your choice. I have tried Elana's recipe w/ agave nectar, Gena's vanilla-tinted variation w/ soaked dates, and I've even experimented with adding stevia or a bit of molasses for the calcium benefit. All have turned out great, but I think the agave nectar might be my favorite.
The "recipe" for cashew milk is really quite simple. Give it a try sometime, and you'll see why I love this creamy dairy free drink!
Gluten free, dairy free, coconut free, grain free/Paleo
1 c cashews, soaked at least 1 hour
4-5 c filtered water
Sweetener of choice (agave nectar or a few dates soaked for 20 min), to taste
A pinch of salt, if desired
A splash of vanilla extract, if desired
Rinse cashews well after soaking. Combine with other ingredients in a high-powered blender. Blend for 2 minutes on high. Taste, and add additional sweetener if desired.
Serve chilled, and stir well before use. Stores well for 3-5 days.
*Most of the recipes I've seen recommend soaking your cashews for 1-8 hours, but I've skipped this step numerous times, and still had success.
*You can also thin the milk out a bit more with an extra 1/2-1 c water, if you'd like to get more bang for your buck.
*One great tip for that last-minute cashew milk craving: Throw a couple ice cubes in with your serving of milk and blend. This will chill the milk enough to pour over cereal.