Monday, July 23, 2018

Mylking It

Many, many blog posts ago, I wrote a lil diddy which referenced the Blind Melon video in which a girl dressed as a bumble bee finds greater happiness upon discovering an open field with others dressed in a similar manner... perhaps a nod to the fact that we can let our freak flags fly while still finding peace. But, if we're to look at the food industry, the people who fit in but dressed blandly could be a symbol for processed food as it seems to be everywhere and, when compared to the real thing, is a little bland on flavor. The bee, however, might be the fruit or vegetable which goes un-selected in many circumstances but naturally finds happiness in a green field and the sunlight. And to some extent, I've felt a little like the girl in both symbolic circumstances. Socially speaking, I was never one to fit in (not sure why I'm using the past tense here) and, in terms of eating, I always thought it'd be easier to eat in Europe what with its raw meat and small cafes stuffed with pastries. But, at this point I've begun to push open a door (Instagram) where I've caught a glimpse of my "people" who seem to place a significant if not pretentious emphasis on wellness.

I'm pretty much an East Coaster. I like my rain, my privacy and my mid-range sedan (which would probably get laughed off the 405). But as much as I love my space, both actually and geographically, it's sometimes a little difficult to do the hippie-dippie things I like to do. Whereas I'd assume one might trip over a sound bath in L.A., they don't seem as ubiquitous in D.C. However, through Instagram, I seem to have found a flock of women who practice a certain lifestyle I find intriguing. Much like the little bee, I seem to have found my field of similar creatures. Of course, they don't know I'm there but art imitates life, yes? And if we're to go along with this bee analogy, a "queen bee" of the wellness world seems to be Amanda Chantal Bacon of Moon Juice whole emphasis on mylks inspired this post.

I wish they all could be California girls... who are into acai bowls and crystals.

As stated before, the East Coast is not necessarily a mecca for new-aged eats. And that's fine. While I love what these women of wellness have to offer, I'll admit that it's a little curious to place colloidal silver in a smoothie or pay $36 for bee pollen. And so, I was hesitant to admit to a friend over lunch that I make my own mylks. In response to a (very) raised eyebrow, I explained that like most things that are spelled differently these days (like kids' names), mylk was simply the very fashionable (if not pretentious) way of referencing milks made with nuts and seeds over animal origins. And, for this East Coaster, mylks are a great way to begin building a base for healthy eating while not falling over into the very hippie (and expensive) lifestyle of the West Coast wellness. Ergo, below are the different types of mylks you can make to add to coffee, smoothies and ice cream (more on that next week) and can help you in the department of protein and nutrient acquisition without all those annoying hormones. In my experience, it's difficult enough to regulate my own hormones without adding new ones from dairy products, etc. So in addition to knowing that all types of mylks "do a body good" I've tried to break down the specific benefits which each mylk delivers. Enjoy!

Almond Milk (enough with the mylk shit): I've begun with almond milk because a. it's alphabetically correct to do so and b. it's one of the more popular milks out there. Like any nut milk, almond milk is pretty easy to create... simply soak 1 cup of almonds in filtered water overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse the almonds and place in a blender along with 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Blend and strain through a cheesecloth and voila, you have yourself a batch of almond milk (Note: This process and proportion of ingredients can be used to make any of the milks below, however, the proper recipes are also hyperlinked).

Benefits: Almond milk is a pretty healthy non-dairy alternative. In general, almonds can serve as a significant source of protein (an essential part of a good breakfast) while also carrying properties that can lower cholesterol. They're rich in vitamin E, selenium and calcium which are good for your hormones, thyroid and bones respectively. In general, they're an all around powerhouse, but...

Drawbacks: When it comes to the practicality, almond milk is not the easiest one in the game. Almond butter is pretty ubiquitous but expensive and this may be almonds are quite literally a pretty hard nut to work with. Seemingly denser than a cashew or walnut, almond milk takes a lot of blending and a lot of straining before getting it right. In an ironic sense, because almonds seem to lack any water content, they take a lot of water to grow which has led to environmental concerns. But if this is your favorite hard knock, go for it.

Walnut Milk: I love walnuts. In general, walnuts kind of remind me of myself. They're definitely a bit soft, (hopefully) easier to work with than the almond with its strong backbone and morals and whatnot and they have a bit of a sweet side. But in a real sense, walnuts have been shown to, "promote heart-health", staunch inflammation and even, "lower the risk of Alzheimer's," (according to WebMD). As stated above, they're a little easier to work with, giving in easily to the pull of the blender without putting up a fight. Pretty much France in a "nutshell.". 

Benefits: As stated above, walnuts are good for the health of both the heart and the brain and makes a subtly sweet milk that lends itself well to both coffee and smoothies.

Drawbacks: Personally, I"m not sure if there are any drawbacks for me pertaining to this morsel but, when it comes to making ice cream, you'll likely want the thicker consistency of an almond milk (more on that later). 

Pistachio Milk: Until adulthood, I pretty much eschewed nuts entirely (I think because I really didn't like peanuts and basically "just said no" to anything with a similar name). And this could technically be why I've always like pistachios. With no "nut" in the name and a decidedly more pungent taste than its counterparts, pistachio milk is something I always get excited about making. It's not something that lends itself to coffee (which is the substance I use these milks in the most) but, next week, I'll explain why its one that's near and dear to my heart.

Benefits: If you make a lot of smoothies, pistachio milk is a good way to add complex flavor... especially if you like smoothies that include cacao nibs and and bananas. But pistachios themselves are a dependable source of antioxidants and are good at meal time since they help to promote a sense of satiety. They're also relatively small so they don't take to to long to soak up water.

Drawbacks: As pistachios carry a unique flavor of their own, they're sometimes tough to pair with other elements. 

Oat Milk: A few weeks ago, I read about oat milk and was curious to see if I could make it on my own. Indeed, one can make oat milk quite easily. As a quick alternative to nut milk, oat milk can be made by blending 1 cup oats, 4 cups water, a pinch of salt and a pitted date without waiting for anything to soak. If you have a tree-nut allergy, this is obviously a good, vegan route to go but there are also obviously a few differences in nutrition and texture that oats provide. 

Benefits: Oats are obviously pretty good for you. Like pistachios, oats carry antioxidants, fiber and can help to lower blood sugar levels (which can be doubly boosted by adding cinnamon into the mix). There's also the benefit of immediacy in which the milk can be produced without the need to soak them overnight. However...

Drawbacks: Oat milk oddly produced a stringy texture. While I often think of oats in the context of porridge, I thought such a milk would possess a certain thickness akin to those made with nuts. While the texture's a little weird, however, this element is made up for in the pleasant taste which can be applied to everything from coffee to some forms of ice cream. 

So there you have it... a few ways to make you own milks/mylks which can literally set a base for other healthy recipes used throughout the wellness world. While the textures are a little curious, note that your homemade milks are devoid of chemicals which otherwise make commercial products more shelf stable or simply give it the texture of regular milk. The more I read, the more I see that such chemicals can really play a role in our health issues. So while the creation of such milks might seem reserved for a high-class, hippie subculture, eating healthy and homemade is in everyone's interest.  Make one batch and you'll feel like you're in California...

California, here we come.

Friday, July 20, 2018


Currently, I'm working on a post about clean eating and how it can clean out things very internal (like your gut) to things very external (like the environment). So, suffice it to say, clean eating (as I've found it) can really clean out your olfactory glands... allowing you to consume smells more intensely or ones you may have overlooked previously. And whereas before I considered more expensive forms of aromatherapy (see: Aromatherapy Associates) I find that today, having a few simple smells around the house can brighten my mood/ease my stresses or simply make my experience in the kitchen more interesting.

Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment: My engagement with scents as anxiety reducers really began when I read that lavender could play a roll in easing one's mind. How hard could it be to find lavender-scented shit? But the truth is, as ubiquitous as lavender is across bath and body products, most of them are laced with other chemicals that might undo any good the lavender presents. Enter Tata Harper products. While expensive, Tata Harper products feature non-toxic ingredients, grown on her farm in the state of Vermont. While I don't buy her skin-care products (or many skin care products for that matter), I did buy her lavender-scented aromatic stress treatment to ease my sense of the daily jitters. Does it work? No. Do I maintain that one day it will work. Yes.

Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castille Liquid Soap: While I can't afford anything of Tata Harper's that requires more than a small dab on each wrist, Dr. Bronner's Lavender Scented Soap is another deal. While a little more expensive than Ivory which always makes me shake my head as I bring it to the checkout line, it does smell pretty good at a price that lets me clean my entire body. Does it work as a scented de-stressing agent? Yes. Do I  mean it? Yeah, prolly.

Herbs: I'm a pretty visual person. In a very embarrassing sense, this is probably why I became a fiend for cooking. While books never really held my attention, I could breeze through recipes, look at the pretty pictures and actually do something with the information. And once those videos came out showing how to make a meal in a time lapsed-sequence, it was all over. And the Food Video Channel for the New York Times runs a few good videos that are less frenetic than those of the Tasty variety and maintain healthier ingredients. Again, when it comes to anxiety, eating healthier presents the middle-way of something both effective and (often) easy. And so, in one video, a cook offers that chopping and using herbs in cooking offers a good bit of aromatherapy in the comfort of ones kitchen. While the Peruvian chicken or whatever she goes on to make looks tasty, I've offered some additional recipes which make good use of herbs as well.

Green Goddess Dressing: I made green goddess dressing a few summers ago (gleaning a recipe from the New York Times - surprise) and now it seems to be everywhere. Being relatively easy to make, the dressing features parsley as a staple flavor, an herb which carries a variety of benefits. While there is no evidence that parsley affects the stress levels of one's body, it can have a myriad of other effects within our system. According to physicians featured in Reader's Digest, parsley carries a fuckload of vitamins, including A, B, E and K which can help with our eyes, skin, inflammation levels and bones respectively. Basically, it can make you feel like the goddess you are. 

Dilly Dilly: I love dill... way more than I like those Budweiser commercials. And unlike some other herbs (see below) dill lends itself to dishes that stretch across several seasons. And, unlike parsley, dill (or dill weed) has been shown to have positive benefits on our mental health. According to Dr. Josh Axe, dill weed has been demonstrated some antidepressant qualities what with its polyphenols and tannins and whatnot. And in terms of packing in the herbs, dill features well in an herb salad but for me, a little Greek restaurant down the road features dill potatoes and they're my favorite. Get a (similar) recipe here. If you're super ambitions or just want to use up the dill in your fridge, you can pair it with a tzatziki sauce. Double dilly.

Fava Bean Dip: The only herb I like more than dill is probably cilantro. Having been blessed with genetics that doesn't make it taste like soap, I tend to put cilantro in a lot... in the summer... when it can pair with a lot of foods. Whether it be a salsa with ripe tomatoes or the fava bean dip above, cilantro goes well with something cool when it's hot. 

Herb Oil: Or, you could just make an herb oil which, obviously, I wanted to share in video format ;)

So there you have it, a few scents that can help you "smell the roses" of life. In my experience, whether they truly work or deliver a placebo effect... they at least allow me to engage more of my senses throughout the day. Perhaps I will become a less visual person after all.