Making Almond Milk

Shortly after my youngest daughter was born, we realized that she could not tolerate dairy. Since I was breastfeeding, I choose remove dairy from my diet so as not to upset her little tummy. It was a challenge at first, but I gradually came to enjoy my non diary options and found lots of tasty alternatives to cows milk.

Chocolate almond milk was one of those alternatives. See, I love chocolate almond milk. A lot. I could easily chug a half gallon in a day. My girls love it too, so I often freeze it in little popsicle molds to make healthy fudgesicles. 

Yesterday I went shopping and nearly bought some but, I refrained because, well, its pricey. And wouldn’t you know, as soon as I got home I immediately wished I had a big glass of chocolate almond milk. Cold and refreshing, coupled with a cookie or two maybe? Why oh why didnt I buy it?! Saver’s remorse hit hard.

Thankfully, I have people in my life (Hi, Sara!) who are resourceful and like to say, “hey why don’t you just make your own almond milk?” instead of listening to my whining.

So, I hopped online and found a recipe for chocolate almond milk. Much to my pleasure, I found that making almond milk is actually pretty easy! And it tastes really good, too. Bonus!

Ingredients:

1.5-2 C Raw Almonds (soaked overnight)
4-5 C Water
4 Tbs Organic cocoa powder
4 Tbs raw honey

Directions:

  • Pour raw almonds into a jar and fill with water and soak overnight
  • Pour out the dingy water and rinse the almonds off
  • Put the softened almonds into a blender.
  • Add 4-5 cups of water
  • 4 tablespoons of organic cocoa powder
  • 4-5 tablespoons of organic honey or stevia (or whatever sweetener you might like)
  •  Blend, blend, blend
  • Strain the liquid into another container

And wala, chocolate almond milk!

You can keep this milk in the fridge for about a week. But I doubt it will last through the day at our house ::gulp gulp gulp::

**you can also dehydrate the leftover almond meal in the oven on low for 2-3 hours and use it for baking!**

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

Did you know that, of our 5 senses, smell is the most closely related to memory?
One of the smells that brings back the best memories for me is the glorious fragrance of homemade whole wheat bread. Mmmmm…

My mom used to make bread every week (6 loaves at a time!!) and the smell of her homemade bread would welcome us home after many snowy play days. There was nothing quite walking in the door, pulling off our snow gear, and sitting down to a fresh slice of warm bread slathered in butter. This woman can make some bread!

My amazing mother!

Growing up, I made bread a number of times with my mom. I always told myself that when I had a family I would make our bread every week “just like mom”. Well, for the first couple years of marriage I didnt make bread weekly like I thought I would. Whatever my excuse, I just didnt do it. Well, at the beginning of this year I decided that it was time to suck it up and just DO it!  I wanted to make all of our meals from scratch and I wanted them to be healthy, inexpensive, and fresh. Sure, there is work that goes into it. And planning. And budgeting. But let me tell you something. It is so worth it.

So, here is the recipe that I use every week now. I started out using a my mom’s recipe and then I tried a recipe on allrecipes.com or epicurious.com (I can’t actually remember now). I gradually tweaked things and changed a few ingredients or methods to fit my preferences to fix the issues I had.

Before today I never measured or documented how I make bread, but I decided to take pictures of every step this time.

This bread is easy, tasty, moist, and it rises like a charm. It is also whole wheat, non-GMO, and organic. 3 things that important to us as a family.

(Most of) the ingredients

Ingredients:
3 C Water
1 Tsp honey or sugar
1 Tbs Active Dry Yeast
2 Tbs Olive Oil
4 Tbs Honey
1 Tsp Salt
5-6 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (keep 1/2 cup out for kneading)
A couple dabs of butter
2 loaf pans

 

Directions:

1. In a medium-large bowl, add 3 lukewarm cups of water. This means that its just above your body temperature without being too hot and killing the yeast.
2. Add a teaspoon of honey or sugar and stir into the water (a bit of sugar helps the yeast to proof).

3. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of active dry yeast into the water. I use dry active Redstar yeast. Stir the mixture until the yeast is mostly disolved and looks like this.

4. Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes. This gives the yeast time to proof and activate- it will look more fluffy and bubbly.

5. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 4 tablespoons of raw honey, 1 teaspoon of salt and mix well.

6. Gradually add 5 to 5 1/2 Cups of Whole Wheat Flour. I use a fork to mix the flour in.  Add enough flour that it starts coming away from the sides a bit but is still doughy. Like this.

7. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm-ish spot for about 45 min (until its doubled in size) I accidentally bumped the bowl before taking this picture, so this was already starting to deflate – you get the idea though, right?

8. Sprinkle about 1/2 Cup of flour onto the dough and mix it in so its not super sticky.

9. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured counter top and begin kneading

10. Knead the bread- sprinkling on flour as you go to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.

 11. Here is a step that I made up to help keep the dough moist and still prevent it from sticking to the counter: I add a dab of butter to my hands or on top of the dough and continue kneading. I alternate kneading with flour and butter a few times until I’m satisfied with the texture and feel of the dough. I usually knead for about 8 minutes and until the dough is no longer sticking to my hands and the counter, but is still moist and soft.

Butter on dough

12. Add a couple of drops of oil to your (cleaned) bowl, and set the dough in the bowl. Then turn the dough over so that the top is oiled and doesnt dry out while it rises.

13. Cover the bowl again and let it rise for about an hour or until its doubled.  Like this.

14. Take the dough out and separate into 2 even parts. Preheat the oven to 350f now so that its ready.

 

15. Flatten out both sections of the dough with a rolling pin or something similar – I used an empty container since I dont have a rolling pin. Then roll the dough up (as if you were rolling a sleeping bag or a tortilla). The reason I flatten and then roll the dough is to prevent any air bubbles from causing holes in the loaves.

16. Place the rolled dough into the pans and let the dough rest for a few minutes (5-10) before putting into the oven.

17. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. The top of the bread should be hard and if you press on the crease (where the top and side meet) it wont give way. Then, 5 minutes before you take the bread out, brush on a tad of olive oil or butter to help it darken up a bit without getting too hard. Its really just to make it look pretty :)

18. When its ready, take the bread out of the oven, place on the counter, and let cool for a minute or two. I then use a rubber spatula to make sure all 4 sides are loosened from the pan before tipping it out.

19. Tip the bread out of the pan and lay it on its side or on a cooling rack for a bit.

20. DIG IN AND ENJOY!!

Top with butter, jam, peanut butter, honey, vegemite….whatever your heart desires. And watch out because this stuff disappears FAST!

Mark, enjoying some fresh bread.

Let me know if you try this recipe and how it turns out! Or if you have another recipe you love- I’d love to try it!

 

Quinoa: Packing a Protein Punch

Its a meal, its a snack, its quinoa!

Quinoa still on the stalks – beautiful isnt it?

When I was pregnant with my second daughter, my midwife talked a lot about eating a healthy diet and emphasized protein as an important part of every meal.

Diets that are high in protein have been proven to help a pregnant mothers avoid pre-eclampsia, lessens the chance of preterm birth, and it helps keep one’s energy levels up, so I was all for it!

Since I’m not a huge fan of meat, she suggested that I try adding quinoa into my diet. Quinoa is a grain-like crop that is grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is gluten free and contains 8 grams of protein in a 1 cup serving. It is light, fluffy, easy to make, can be eaten alone or added into foods. The kids love it, its healthy, and BONUS – its not very expensive!

As soon as I tried quinoa, I was a convert.

Even after I gave birth, I remained a huge fan of quinoa. One of my favorite quinoa dishes is this awesome mediterranean quinoa salad. I love to bring a big bowl of it to picnics or whip up a batch for a weekend get-together.

If you want some other ideas for how to use quinoa, check out my pinterest board. I have pinned a number of fun recipes. Like the curried quinoa pictured below.

Curried Quinoa – Yum!

Another quinoa-based meal that I recently discovered, and has become a staple in our home, is the “mini quinoa egg quiche”. That’s probably not the real name, but since I kinda just make it up as I go that’s what I call it. My friend Beth introduced me to the concept, and I love it!! I dont have a picture for you because we gobbled them up too quickly. But if you make some and send me a picture, I’ll put it in here!!

Ingredients:

Heat oven to 350

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 1 Cup cooked quinoa (you can also soak quinoa overnight so it sprouts)
  • 1/3 C milk (optional)
  • 6-7 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup chopped spinach
  • 1/4 Cup salsa
  • 1/2 Cup grated cheese
  • 1/3 C corn
  • 1/3 C black beans
  • A sprinkle of salt and pepper
Mix all of the ingredients together and then scoop into a muffin tin.
Bake in the oven for about 15-18 min or until you can press the top and it springs back. Nice and spongy-like.
Let them cool a bit so your don’t scald your tongue. Then top with some salsa and enjoy!
The nice thing about this recipe is that you can play around with it and add other ingredients while still using the quinoa/egg as a base. You could easily add bacon or sausage for a breakfast version. Feta and tomato for a greek version. Peppers, onions, and chicken or beef for a dinner version. Anything goes. You can also make a double batch and freeze some to warm up at a later date. Easy peasy. 
If you’ve never tried quinoa, now is the time! If you are already a quinoa fan, these recipes are sure to give you some more fun ways to add it to your meals.
Happy Eating!