Monday, February 28, 2011

Homemade Almond Milk

I hope you all are getting excited that winter is almost over!  I know I am!  In fact, I just ordered some vegetable seeds, just so I'm prepared and ready for the first opportunity that comes along to plant spinach.  I have recently gotten a few other items that have me chomping at the bit, waiting for spring and fresh, local produce, about one of which I will share in a moment.

School has been going well for all of us, and I am finally used to my new schedule.  The kids have adjusted well, also, and enjoy going to school with us on days when Chuck and I are both on campus.  I set them up in the library, or even in our classroom with us, and they do their schoolwork quietly while we are in class.  Since I am only in class for an hour at a time, it works well.  They are learning to do work independently, and when I get done with my first class (I take 2 on those days) I check their work or help them with the subjects they need help with before going to my second class an hour later.  There are actually a few days when I have class and Chuck doesn't, so he stays home with them and helps them with their school.  This is really working well for us and has forced us to make necessary changes in our habits while becoming more disciplined in all areas of our lives.  In fact, the kids' chores and school work are getting done faster and better than before I was in school.  I think that having Daddy home and monitoring things is really helping them to be more disciplined, and I am truly grateful for that.

My diet has been changing drastically in the last few weeks.  I had to do a report for Biology class, so I researched and wrote about how our body pH affects our health.  I have learned so much about the role that food plays in our lives, and it is really helping me to make some adjustments that I have been wanting to make.  I am significantly increasing the fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds in my diet while decreasing the amount of grains, starches, and animal products, though not completely eliminating them.  I am thus losing weight and am ecstatic that the pounds are beginning to drop off again.  All my food cravings are disappearing, as well. 

This brings me to some other news--I got a Vita-Mix!!!  I am so excited!  I have been wanting one of these champions of blenders for quite awhile, but finances have not allowed it until now.  My old blender (wasn't really that old) was dying a slow and painful death (and making all kinds of noises) due to all the blending with nuts (family loves the Nacho Cheeze Dip), so I decided that since we seem to use our blender a lot that it would be worth it to get the Vita-Mix.  Besides, it has an awesome warranty and great track record.

Along with my new blender, I purchased a nut milk bag, with the intentions of trying to make homemade almond milk again.  I've made it in the past, but I strained it with cheesecloth, which turned out to be a huge, messy endeavor that I decided wasn't worth it.  However, I came across this nut milk bag that had such great reviews I decided to give it another shot, and I am so very glad I did.

I have been making my own almond milk for a couple of weeks, now, and it is delicious!  The whole family loves it, including my husband.  I think the texture is similar to dairy milk, and it is just the right sweetness that we like.  I can control the ingredients that go into my milk, so I don't use the gums and sugars that the store-bought milks have in them.  I got this recipe from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen, modifying her recipe for Vanilla Mylk.  My husband isn't crazy about vanilla milk, and we really just wanted a good milk to put over cereal.  I will come up with a version of vanilla milk and chocolate milk, soon.

I seem to have misplaced my camera for the moment, so I can't share pictures right now.  I will try to get some pictures up, soon.  Enjoy!

Homemade Almond Milk
1/2 c. raw almonds, soaked at least 12 hrs. and rinsed
6 pitted Deglet dates
a pinch of sea salt, optional
5 c. cold, fresh water (not the soaking water)

Put all the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.  I blend it in my Vita-Mix for almost a minute.  With a regular blender, it may take a couple of minutes.  Pour the milk into your nut milk bag, holding it over a bowl with a spout or a pitcher.  Gently squeeze the liquid through the nut milk bag until it is all strained out.  You should be left with ground up almond pulp.  You can reserve this for other recipes if you're like me and don't want to feel like you are wasting food.  I made cookies with my last batch that turned out pretty good.  I will share the recipe when I get it perfected.  Pour your milk into a glass pitcher and store it in the fridge.

I have also been making green smoothies a lot.  They really seem to be helping me with food cravings, energy, and weight loss, and they taste great!  I simply use 1/2 spinach and 1/2 fruit with a little water to help things move along in the blender.  I know it sounds nasty, but when you have that much fruit, you really can't taste the spinach.  My whole family loves them, and I feel good because we are eating a ton of greens and fresh fruit.  I have noticed, too, that they are choosing to eat a lot more fresh fruit and veggies for their snacks and at meals.  Yay!

Last but certainly not least, I just have to post this link to my daughter's video on youtube.  I know it has nothing to do with the subject of my blog, but I'm just so tickled that she is singing her very own song in her very own video on the internet!  Check it out!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting in the Swing of Things

Well, I have been pretty quiet since the holidays.  I was sick for about 2 weeks following our trip to Tennessee right after Christmas.  Then--school!  That's right.  I have started attending Davis College full time.  In fact, my husband and I take 2 classes together and 2 classes apart.  Classes started last Monday, right after I got better from being sick.

I have really been focusing on figuring out a schedule for our family that works and just trying to get into the swing of things--going to school, leading Girl Scout troops, doing homework, cleaning and cooking, ministry, etc.  I have to admit that I haven't done much baking lately.  It's all I can do just to cook dinners.  The cook at school does a great job at making gluten free lunches for me (and the kids when they come to the campus to do their schoolwork in the library on Mondays and Fridays).  He is really wonderful.

I may be taking a little break from baking, but it will only be temporary while my family gets in the groove of our life right now.  I am already starting to do a little baking.  I baked a cake using Betty Crocker's Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix and made an awesome Cinnamon Vanilla Frosting with the help of my friend, Rob.  His mother gave him a great recipe for a Buttercream Frosting that we modified to fit my family's diet restrictions.  Mind you, it is not in the least bit low-carb or healthy because I did use confectionary sugar, but it sure tasted great!  It was for a football party, so I decided to go ahead and give my family a break from healthy food and let them have a little junk.  The funny thing is that only 3 of us ended up eating any of the cake, voluntarily!  I think it shows progress that the kids would choose to say, "No thanks.  I'm not that hungry and don't need all that sugar right now!"

For those of you who feel that an occasional unhealthy sweet treat is ok, I will share the recipe, but you'll have to wait awhile until I decide to make it again.  I have to make sure I have all the measurements right before sharing.  I will probably make another cake sometime in February, either for my anniversary or for Valentine's Day.  Perhaps I will decide a yellow cake with Cinnamon Vanilla Frosting would be perfect for the occasion.

In the meantime, stay warm.  Check out my recipe for Hot Chocolate on the recipe page.  I'll post a new recipe soon.