Vegging Out

Save a cow and crack a nut: How to shake the milk addiction and say no to sexy cheese

Save a cow and crack a nut: How to shake the milk addiction and say no to sexy cheese

I remember the fateful, somber day when I started to ponder milk, cheese and dairy derivative products. While savoring what was a daily routine for way too many years — a warm toasty garlic bagel with an overindulgent "shmear" of cream cheese, the kind whose melty perfection oozes in an attempt to escape from within its confines  — it appeared unfathomable to conclude that such a perfect marriage, carb and fat, could possible be something I would eventually reject.

But alas, my journey with food was busy making other plans.

It is hard to break conventions when they are ingrained in our everyday habits. Like milk with granola; a stinky feet and foul smelling Stilton with grapes; real, slightly sweet whipped cream with pumpkin pie; and unsalted European butter slathered sloppy on a crusty baguette. It is easy to associate all these couplings with comfort — the good things in life.

Yet, when contemplating on the purpose and origins of milk, I faced the inconceivable. It had to go, and it had to go quick.

More dairy intake leads to a greater risk of fracture, in essence, osteoporosis, one of the rationales for milk.

When it comes right down to it, isn't it bizarre that we would choose a substance solely and strictly biologically meant for another species' mother to beef up its young?

More so, as a culture, we reject the consumption of human milk past the neonatal stage, albeit leave it to the British to brew up a batch of ice cream made with human breast milk infused with vanilla and lemon zest. The Icecreamists coined the flavor “Baby Gaga.”

Gross? Maybe. Human milk for humans? A novel idea, I know. Organic, natural and free range, putting aside any required support undergarments. Gravity, after all, is a relentless bitch.

I don't mean to advocate for the systemic consumption of our own organism's white, opaque, fatty secretion. The irony here is just absurd though.

Why is cow fluid any less taboo?

The problem with cow’s milk

Think about it, milk is from a cow to a calf, or any mammal, helping it —let's call her Betsy — grow from 70 pounds, gaining upwards of 100 pounds per month, to the point where some weigh nearly 1,800 pounds by the time they reach maturity. Is that how large you’d like to be?

It's too fatty, we and our doctors complain. So dairy farmers create a low fat version of milk that resembles dirty water. There is too much saturated fat in yogurt. Let's just craft a no-fat version and do the same with cream cheese while adding on the artificial flavors, fake colors and chemical stabilizers. Yum!

And you want to eat that with the promise of calcium and lean protein. Yet according to biochemist Colin Campbell, the author of the The China Study, it is the increased amounts of acid in the blood and tissue caused by high doses of animal protein consumption that pulls calcium right out of the bones to neutralize the PH level — calcium's basicity helps balance acidic levels.

What does that mean? More dairy intake leads to a greater risk of fracture, in essence, osteoporosis, one of the rationales for milk.

 “A lot of people have allergies to dairy and it's harder to digest,” Marzano tells me. “But we miss that taste and creaminess that it adds to a lot of dishes. This recipe mimics that, with a lot of additional health benefits. And it is very rich.”

Weaning off dairy is something that most vegetarians, or omnivores for that matter, find beyond challenging. It's a chemical thing: Cheese makes you hormonally happy. Blame that on casein, which also appears in much smaller doses in human milk and promotes the motherly bond.

In cow's milk, casein accounts for 80 percent of the protein content — compare that to 60 percent in Homo sapiens. Its digestion promotes the release of opiates, a narcotic.

It’s a drug, sort of, and that isn't the cherry on top. Acne, allergies, increased LDL cholesterol levels — the bad kind — cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes are all associated with milk.

But what to do? There's something about the creamy, naughty texture and flavor of all things dairy that have become a must have in American comfort food. A world with green bean casseroles sans cream of mushroom soup? Inconceivable!

Dairy redux

There are plenty of substitutes.

Try soaking cashews with water overnight, then blending with water, another nut milk or stock for a creamy sweet or savory sauce, adding in your favorite spices and flavors. On the sweet side, that could be vanilla, cinnamon, maple syrup, and on the savory side, try garlic, thyme, salt and paprika.

It works just as well as a crème anglaise as a silky Alfredo, or a base for cream of mushroom soup.

There are substitutes for butter, cream cheese, melty cheese (the Daiya brand is my favorite) and milks galore — almost every nut, hemp, oat and soy. Almond milk is very easy to make at home.

Vegan crème brûlée? Been there, done that.

For more options, I enlisted the help of certified vegan chef and raw food instructor Gwen Marzano, who also meanders the aisles of Whole Foods as the in-house healthy eating specialist and caters under the G's Healthy Delights name. If anyone can raw veganize anything, count on Marzano. 

While on a quest to perfect the parfait, she decided on two ingredients that would imitate the texture we have come to long for and love: Young Thai coconut and cashew nuts.

“A lot of people have allergies to dairy and it's harder to digest,” Marzano tells me. “But we miss that taste and creaminess that it adds to a lot of dishes. This recipe mimics that, with a lot of additional health benefits. And it is very rich.”

That it is. And delicious it is, also. It's written all over our faces. Aside from these easy-to-find ingredients, you'll need a very powerful blender, like a Vitamix, and a lesson on how to crack open a young Thai coconut. Watch the video. 

Chocolate and Vanilla Parfait

For vanilla:

  • 1 ½ cup coconut water
  • 1 cup soaked cashews
  • 1 ½ tbsp coconut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup agave nectar (optional)
  • 1 cup coconut meat
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Blend all together until smooth, refrigerate for a few hours and then serve. Top with fruit, granola or your favorite mix ins. 

For chocolate:

  • 2 cups soaked cashews
  • ¾ cup cacao
  • ¾ cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ tbsp coconut oil

Blend all together until smooth, refrigerate for a few hours then serve. Try topping with a little cinnamon, coffee, granola or nuts. Or, you can mix both flavors for a dramatic swirl effect. 
 

News_Happy Cow
A happy cow is much happier without producing milk for anything other than its young.  Photo via WallpapersBuzz.com
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Dairy would be so jelous to know that it is these vegan parfaits that caused this delicious reaction. 
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The secret to these raw vegan vanilla and chocolate parfaits is young Thai coconut's meat and water, and cashews soaked in water. Photo by Joel Luks
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The texture is silky and sultry, perfect just by themselves or topped with your favorite nuts... Photo by Joel Luks
News_vegan out_vegan parfait
...fruits, cinnamon, coffee or combine both for a swirl effect. Try these at your next holiday brunch. Photo by Joel Luks
News_Happy Cow
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News_vegan out_vegan parfait
News_vegan out_vegan parfait