Nutty - but nice



March 03, 2004|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you're lactose-intolerant or just adventurous, you have probably gotten acquainted with soy milk, rice drinks and other alternatives to cow's milk.

And you have probably discovered that you like some of these better than others.

When I did an informal taste test with a trio of elementary school kids - using vanilla-flavored versions of soy, rice and almond milks in milkshakes - the hands-down winner was almond milk. More flavorful than the other substitutes, the kids liked it almost as much as real milk.

So I was delighted when a reader, Kate Newton Schmelyun of Baltimore, tipped me off to a Web site maintained by the California Almond Board. The site has an entire section called "Almonds for Sipping."

The Web site,, has an extensive list of recipes, including several for almond-based beverages. (From the home page, click on "Browse All Recipes," then under "Recipe File" click on "Almonds for Sipping.")

Several of these recipes are based on almond milk, while others include almonds or almond butter, which is similar to peanut butter. Others make use of an almond drink base that is rather easily made at home with natural or blanched almonds, water and a touch of honey.

Any of these provides a good way to savor almonds and to cash in on their high nutritional value. Research is showing that almonds and many other nuts can have a beneficial effect on heart health as part of a moderate and well-rounded diet. Besides, they taste good. So here's to sipping almonds!

Mexican Almond Hot Chocolate

Makes 4 servings

3 1/2 cups low-fat milk

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup almond butter (see note)

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon almond extract

sugar or artificial sweetener, to taste

Combine all ingredients except almond extract and sweetener in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture is smooth and comes to a boil. Stir in almond extract, sweeten to taste and serve.

Note: You can purchase almond butter at Whole Foods and large supermarkets.

Per serving: 269 calories; 11 grams protein; 4 grams saturated fat; 12 grams unsaturated fat; 19 milligrams cholesterol; 23 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams dietary fiber; 110 milligrams sodium

Almond Fruit Smoothies

Makes 4 servings

1 1/4 cups orange juice

1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt

2 ounces tofu

2 cups fresh fruit (suggested combinations include strawberry and banana, kiwi and honeydew melon or mango and papaya)

1/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon wheat germ

Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth.

Per serving: 161 calories; 5 grams fat; 20 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol

- Recipes and analyses from www.almonds, Almond Board of California

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