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Homemade Almond Milk

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For those of us avoiding dairy, finding a good milk substitute is imperative. I prefer almond milk of all of the choices. Not only does it have the best taste, but almonds have a bit of calcium in them, making almond milk a better calcium-rich choice than soy, rice or oat milk . Of course there is a commercial brand of almond milk out there, but making it at home is easier than you think. You will need the following tools: blender, measuring spoon or scale, and a jug for storing the milk. The ingredients are simple, as well. You will need 1 cup (or 5 oz) of blanched almonds, 4 cups purified water, dash salt.

Step 1: Blend 1 cup (or 5 oz) of blanched almonds on high speed until powdery. You may need to scrape the sides of the blender down.

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Step 2: Add a dash of salt and 4 cups of purified water to the blender. Blend for about 1 minute. The mixture should look cloudy and resemble cow’s milk.

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Step 3: Pour into container for storing in the fridge and keep chilled for up to 4 days.

Notes:

* If you desire a smoother consistency, strain the milk through a 2 layer cheesecloth. Cheesecloth can be found at art and craft supply stores such as Michael’s of Jo-Ann Fabrics.

* Some people like to add a teaspoon of vanilla to the mixture. I prefer mine plain, but add at will.

* There are other ways to make almond milk. One is using raw almonds and soaking them overnight. Check out this recipe.

* We recently did a cost analysis on homemade versus commerical almond milk. When Almond Breeze is on sale for $1.99, it is cheaper to buy it than to make our own. Almonds are pretty expensive, even when we get them from NutsOnline. So, homemade almond milk is not something that I make all the time simply because it does not always work out to be cheaper.

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Dairy-free & Gluten-free Spaghetti and Meatballs

img_32331serves 4-5

1 spaghetti squash
2 T. oil
1 bunch asparagus, chopped
1/2 c. shredded carrots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jar marinara sauce
1 pkg. Aidells Chipotle meatballs
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried basil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. nutritional yeast*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and pulp and discard. Bake covered with tin foil for about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand.

In a large non-stick pan, heat oil. Once oil is warmed, saute asparagus on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Add carrots and garlic and saute until all vegetables are cooked. Set aside. Add meatballs to the non-stick pan, turning frequently until heated through — about 8 minutes. Remove meatballs from the pan and lay out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to soak up any grease. Wipe out the pan and combine the asparagus mixture with the marinara sauce, oregano, basil, and salt over low heat to warm. Separate the strands of the spaghetti squash by running a fork through it from “stem to stern.” Serve by putting the spaghetti squash on the bottom, then sauce, then meatballs. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Enjoy!

* Nutritional Yeast is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium. It has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy. It can be purchased at most natural food stores.

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Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here’s my recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Not only do they contain significantly less sugar and fat than most recipes, but I have added a good deal of fiber. I have played around with these ingredients for a couple of years, working to perfect the recipe. Please let me know what you think.

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1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. almond meal
(I grind my own with a food processor)
1/4 c. oat bran
1/4 c. flaxseed meal
1/4 c. wheat germ
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1  1/2 sticks butter
(or 3/4 c. of crisco for those with a dairy allergy)
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
1/4 c. sugar substitute
2 c. chocolate chips
(Sunspire chips are dairy free)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients except the sugars. Set aside. Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spread onto jelly roll pan and bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Or for cookies, drop onto pan and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

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Smoothie Surprise!

I love to make this snack for my 14 month old son in the afternoons! It is full of fiber and veggies, not just fruit. Now that he has figured out how to drink from a straw, he is more eager than ever to have one of mommy’s smoothies! Enjoy…

Smoothie Surprise

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5-6 frozen, unsweetened organic strawberries
½ c. frozen, unsweetened blueberries
¾ c. 100% apple juice, chilled
½ c. water
½ medium zucchini, chopped
5-6 baby carrots
fistful of cabbage
1 small banana
¼ c. plain yogurt
1 T. wheat germ
1 T. oat bran
1 T. flaxseed meal

Pour the apple juice and water into the blender. Add the strawberries and blueberries and pulse until combined. Add the zucchini, carrots and cabbage, and pulse again adding more water if needed. Then toss in the banana, yogurt, wheat germ, oat bran, and flaxseed meal. Mix until you reach the desired consistency, adding more water or juice as needed. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

A few suggestions:
• Buy frozen strawberries and blueberries as well as bananas & baby carrots at your local warehouse club (Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s). If our bananas ripen before we can eat them, I peel and freeze them, which works out perfectly for smoothies. I puree my baby carrots and freeze them in ice cube trays if we can’t eat them fast enough.
• Instead of plain water, try seltzer water or club soda for a little extra zing!
• If the smoothie is for adults, consider using Dannon’s All Natural Plain yogurt which has 2 ingredients – milk and active yogurt cultures. If the smoothie is for children consider using Stonyfield Farm’s Organic Whole Milk Plain yogurt, which has a few more ingredients – milk, inulin, pectin, and 6 active cultures.
• Keep your flaxseed meal in the freezer and your wheat germ in the fridge.
• If you have some leftover, pour it into a pitcher and save it for dessert after dinner. It will keep for about a day in the fridge.
• Have fun experimenting with your own creations. I love to add pureed mango from our freezer if I have it on hand. Sometimes I don’t have a few of my favorite ingredients as listed above, but the smoothie still turns out great. (The photo above is minus blueberries. Normally, the drink is a lot darker.)

Oh, and why do I call it such a generic name — smoothie surprise? Well, because everyone I serve it to is shocked that’s there’s cabbage and zucchini in it!

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Here is my son signing, “more, more!”

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Crunchy Granola Bars

Several years ago my mother-in-law gave me a granola bar recipe that I love! I have played with it a lot in order to make it healthier. Here it is…
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½ c. unsalted butter, melted
¼ c. brown sugar
1/3 c. honey
1 t. vanilla
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
½ c. flaxseed meal
4 c. quick rolling oats, uncooked
1 c. walnuts, chopped*

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Melt the butter and then add the sugar. Add all other ingredients. Mix very well (make sure all of the ingredients are “wet” otherwise you will have loose granola rather than bars). Press firmly into a well greased 15”x10” jelly roll pan (Pampered Chef stone works best). Bake for 10 minutes or until slightly browned and bubbling. Remove from oven, press bars down again and return to oven for another two to three minutes. Remove bars and cut immediately. Let cool and then store in an airtight container or ziploc.

*Another variation is to skip the walnuts but add wheat germ. It gives the bars a nutty taste. I’ve found that if you do so, it’s best to add 2 more T. of melted butter to hold the bars together. If you want both walnuts and wheat germ, that works too. Just remember to add that extra butter.

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Substituting Flaxseed meal for fat & eggs

My sister-in-law and I were discussing flaxseed meal two years ago (I know…weird) when she passed along the following substitutions:

2 T. flaxseed meal = 1 T. margarine, butter, or cooking oil6035_goldflaxmeal16oz.jpg

* When baking with flaxseed meal as a fat substitute, baked goods will brown more quickly.

1 T. flaxseed meal + 3 T. water (let stand for a few min.) = 1 egg

* This mixture works well in recipes such as pancakes, muffins, and cookies. It will result in a chewier version of the recipe.

Flaxseed can be substituted for fat because of it’s composition:
21% protein

42% fat (omega 3’s 24%, omega 6’s 6%, monounsat 8%, sat 4%)

28% fiber

6% carb

3% other

Oh and why would you go to the trouble of such substitutions? Flaxseed meal…

  • Contains healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils—no trans fat or partially hydrogenated fat.
  • An excellent source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a powerful compound that is converted by the body to healthy omega-3 fats.
  • Contains more dietary fiber—about 28% of flax seed is dietary fiber—than other whole-grain ingredients.
  • Highly soluble fiber lowers the glycemic index by slowing the absorption of sugars from the intestinal tract.
  • Significant source of high-quality protein—protein ratio equivalent to that of beef, chicken, pork, or fish—makes flax seed ideal for vegans and vegetarians.
  • The richest source of lignans—a phytoestrogen that affects the metabolism of estrogen—providing 75-800 times higher levels than other plant sources.
  • Full of complex carbohydrates with little to no net carbohydrates.
  • Packed with vitamins and minerals such as B-6 and magnesium.

Mmmm, bring on the flaxseed meal!!

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