Category Archives: DIY

Who needs to buy Almond Milk…..

…..when you can make your own anytime you want it!

Now, in this family, we go through almond milk FAST – mainly in our daily Shakeology shakes and with cereal.  (YUM!)  We used to get our almond milk in a 2 pack from Costco for just over $8 (or $4 for each carton).  WELL, a couple months back, we invested in a Vitamix, AND, in the recipe book that came with it, there was a recipe for almond milk! Turns out, it’s as simple as simple comes to make it.  SO, thus began my almond milk making endeavor.  Seriously, it’s SO simple….

First, pick up some almonds.  I like to buy in bulk and get the 3lb bags from Costco for $16.

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Then, I soak them in water for anywhere from 30mins to overnight.  Soaking isn’t necessary since the Vitamix pulverizes everything so easily, but I like to “rinse” or “clean” them just a bit. (I think it yields a smoother, cleaner tasting milk)  Once soaked, discard water.

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Place in blender.  The Vitamix recipe book almond milk recipe calls for 1 cup of almonds to 3 cups of water.  After making it this way a few times, I realized I like my milk thinned out just a tad more, so I up the water amount to closer to 3.5 cups per cup of almonds.  Even by “thinning” the milk out with the extra water, this recipe produces almond milk that’s stronger, and more almond-tasting than our previous store bought milk!  If using a vitamin, blend on Variable slowly increasing to level 10, then on High for 40-60 secs or until everything looks adequately blended.

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Here’s what it’ll look like all blended up:

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Next, strain the almond milk through a nut milk bag or yogurt strainer.  I use a nut milk bag (purchased on Amazon).  It looks like a super fine mesh or cheesecloth drawstring bag.  Now, some recipes say to just pour the milk into the bag and let it naturally drain through.  Well, I’m just too darn impatient to sit around waiting all day for it to drain on its own! So I let the bulk of the milk drain through for a couple minutes, then – while holding the top of the bag shut – gently twist and squeeze the rest of the milk out.  All that’ll remain is the almond pulp in the bag. (discard pulp and thoroughly wash nut milk bag for next use)

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This whole process is truly SUPER simple! I’m just trying to outline every step….it really takes just a matter of minutes start to finish.  And, you’re left with fresh, amazingly tasty, homemade almond milk! I store my milk in a sterilite secure top closure pouring jug in the fridge …each batch usually only lasts 2-3 days 🙂  Maya approves of it too!!

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P.S. Cost-wise, I’ve figured out that store bought almond milk runs about $0.50/cup.  My home-made milk runs closer to $0.78/cup.  Yikes! BUT…..I’m LOVING the fact that there are NO extra ingredients in this.  It’s amazingly smooth tasting, has an intense almond flavor, and is FRESH.  No preservatives to hold its shelf life (as found in store bought almond milks), and I can make it whenever I want 🙂  I can also play around with the flavor profile – increasing or decreasing the water I add to it (store bought almond milk definitely tastes more watered down compared to “my” version, lol), and I plan on trying a vanilla version soon using pure vanilla extract.  Hey, if Maya loves it, I must be doing something right, right?

* I fully intend on doing an organic version in the future….but those organic almonds are just SO pricey! (like 2x’s the cost….)

Overall review….Both Marv and I (and apparently Maya too now) are loving our homemade almond milk!  I’ve had many cooking/baking/experiementing flops lately. Thankfully, this was not one of them! 😉

 

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Experiment away!

SO… I love experimenting. Whether it’s looking up a pinterest project, YouTube-ing how to make a certain “thing” (food, DIY, etc), or just flying by the seat of my pants <—-which usually turns out in failure…..I just love experimenting.

The joy of experimenting is being able to create something that you perhaps never thought you could do before.  For example, making our Halloween costumes for the past 3 years with a little craftiness and LOTS of trial and error after not having sewn since junior school – we were a family of skeletons (Maya was in my tummy), the Flintstones the next year, and Superheroes (Marv was deployed for the superheroes, but Monroe was in my tummy) this most recent year:
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Aside from those joys of experimenting, some of the lows are using up your time, money (ingredients/fabric/crafting items, etc), and brain power and sometimes having something not-so-good to show for it. For example – these “cookies” I made yesterday:
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Now, I must say, they look pretty darn tasty in this pic. Little do you know though, that these “cookies” were actually dry, crumbly little biscuit tasting things with pieces of chocolate chips in them (the saving grace of it all).  You see, I’ve never baked with coconut flour before. Yes, my bad for not having researched it more beforehand. I just figured that it’d be a good, tasty alternative to regular baking flour but boy was I wrong about that! I followed the recipe to a T, making sure I checked and double checked that I didn’t leave anything out, but nope, what should have been a nice gooey cookie batter was a dry crumbly mess. Darn coconut flour…..  I thought perhaps I could salvage it so I used my hands and balled these babies up, placed them on the cookie sheet and baked them. By golly the oven was already hot and ready to go so I was going to give it every chance of turning out that I could. Nope, dry cookie biscuits are what I got. My thoughts on this flour-swap-out-experiement = Epic Failure. Kids thoughts = yummy chocolate chip cookie biscuits! (they each got seconds) Yes they were crumbly and dry, but overall, the taste wasn’t all that bad…not good enough for me to save the leftovers though- it hurt to throw away all those used up, wasted chocolate chips 😦  BUT, lesson learned. So for everyone out there who’s reading this….do your research on coconut flour beforehand, find a coconut flour specific recipe, make sure lots of liquid/moisture is involved (since the flour apparently soaks it all up) and bake on!

So, basically, that’s my long winded way of saying experimenting can yield some great results but along the way, you’ll have lots of flops (as I just described above). But you know what? That’s what makes everything so exciting!  Marv will be the first to tell you that (especially in the kitchen) I’m either a hit or a miss:
– Basil pesto with pine nuts = miss.
– Chinese 5 spice slow cooker chicken = miss.
– Made from scratch cinnamon bread (the first 3 times) = miss
– Graham crackers (again w/ coconut flour) = miss
* Homemade organic chicken nuggets = HIT!
I love experimenting (poor Marv), because I know that eventually, I will hit that jackpot, and reap the joy of having created something exceptional! Whether it be the satisfaction from being able to make our own Halloween Costumes (just wait til you see our costumes this year…. 😉 ) or the satisfaction from finally cooking/baking something yummy for us ALL to enjoy. It WILL happen eventually!

The same goes for life. For every negative experience in life that you go through, that just means you’re one step closer to experiencing something positive. Never give up. Never lose hope. Just imagine what’s waiting for you right around the next corner……. If you give up now or stop trying, you’ll never get there.

 

Green thumb

When Marv deployed back in June 2013, we had basically just moved into our house and had barely enough time to completed renovations.  Being left in our new house, with just myself and the kids, I decided I would use the deployment time to make the house a bit more ‘homey’! Since the inside of the house was pretty much “done” this meant I could focus my efforts on the backyard.  Here was my garden space BEFORE:

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With LOTS of help from my dad (who has a serious green thumb…), we set out together to create my own little slice of garden heaven.  Thank heavens for Home Depot being just down the street from us….  First came purchasing some more cement blocks to create a raised barrier for the added soil and nutrients that we (and by “we” I mean my dad…) would be mixing in.  Maya was a big helper with this.

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Next came prepping the soil meaning [my dad] had to uproot a pesky tree stump, take out countless roots and grass vines, and mix in extra nutrients to ensure my new garden would have fertile, nutrient-rich, plant-growing soil 🙂  Milo was a big helper with this. Boys and dirt go hand in hand…

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Finally, the much anticipated PLANTING could begin!  To begin with, I planted a clipping of basil taken from my parents’ garden. For this one, I clipped off a 10″ or so branch of basil, then placed it in a cup of water on my windowsill for a good 1-2 weeks to give the roots some time to sprout. Once the roots were established, I then planted it right into my garden along the fence.  I planted a mini tomato plant (that was a volunteer plant from my parents’ back yard, 3 japanese cucumber plants (purchased from Home Depot), a small section of green onions (from my parent’s garden), and a small section right next to that of garlic chives (a random hybrid of chives that taste exactly like garlic!…purchased from the Hawaii Kai farmer’s market from an entirely organic booth)

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Every day, we’d go outside to check on our garden, weed it, water it, and DIG in it, lol.  I have the best helpers anyone could ask for.

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Before long, our “starter” garden started to produce!

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Within a couple months, my little garden turned into a full service farmer’s market!

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I had beets, broccoli, carrots, heavenly scent gardenia plants (that were hidden amongst some overgrown bushes right next to my “garden” when we 1st moved in…it’s amazing what a little pruning and TLC can do!), and can’t forget our dwarf avocado tree!

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SO, I’ve had my mini garden now for just about 8 months. As a recap, so far I’ve grown basil, green onions, garlic chives, carrots, beets, broccoli, and japanese cucumbers. My garden TODAY includes some of the aforementioned in addition to cantaloup vines, strawberry plants, cilantro and taro (that one just randomly popped up on its own, go figure…).

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I ALSO have papayas (that also randomly popped up in the back corner of my yard…) 2 pineapple plants (grown from pineapple tops), and can’t forget our trusty dwarf avocado tree that’s STILL giving us avocados. I’ve been eating delicious avocados now for going on 4 months…. 😀

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It’s just amazing the fulfillment that you get from being able to walk outside to your backyard and pick things from your very own garden! It saves money, you know that no harsh chemicals or pesticides were used in growing them, kids are more likely to try eating fruits and veggies that they may otherwise avoid when they’re the ones nurturing and growing them! (Milo LOVES raw broccoli picked fresh from our garden and eaten on the spot!….who would’ve guessed?), and it’s FUN watching things grow!  Can’t wait for our cantaloups in another month or so (the vines have flowers now!) since that’s Milo’s favorite fruit, and our 4 strawberry plants all have white flowers on them with little strawberries starting to bud in the center of those too!  Now the next question will be….WHAT TO GROW NEXT?!