Friday, January 28, 2011

Rich and Aromatic Almond Milk - yes, made at home!

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Dear fellow nut-cases,

While I don't ever see myself becoming a vegan or all-raw foodist, I enjoy eating and cooking (or in the raw case, preparing) meals that follow that trend.  It is without question healthier and easier on the body to leave meats and, often, cooked items off the menu.  Eating lots of produce, nuts, whole grains, and the like provides your body with vitamins and minerals and nutrients and micronutrients and water content and fibers that are all vital to giving your body the tools to build, digest, grow, and heal properly.

Almonds themselves are a great source of protein - so this drink makes a wonderful post-workout recovery drink!

Almond milk from the store, however, almost always (even organic brands) contain artificial vitamins that cause nutritional imbalances and toxicity over time.

I enjoy incorporating raw and vegan/vegetarian cookbooks into my bookshelves so that I have plenty of options right at hand to prepare creative meals that don't use meat or a lot of fatty, hard-to-digest ingredients.

A cookbook that I've recently started using to find new recipes is Raw Food/Real World, a fun and beautifully photographed book full of gourmet dishes that use loads and loads of nutritious ingredients.  In this book, they had an entire chapter on delicious drinks.

The following recipe, which is a barely modified version, is for a refreshing, rich drink made from almonds and optional sweet ingredients (without any sweetening it is still good as a quick drink, but a little too "watery-nutty" for my taste).  Many of you are probably already used to almond milk, like Almond Breeze.  I love those drinks!  But I really love being able to make things at home, so I was delighted to learn this recipe.

It calls for raw, unsalted nuts, but I had an entire box of roasted, salted almonds so I figured I'd use those before buying any.  I rinsed them thoroughly and soaked them for just a few hours longer than the minimum the recipe recommends.

Almond Milk
Serves 2 (but I can drink it all!)

1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water 4 hours or overnight
4 cups filtered water
1/4 cup agave nectar, OR raw honey, OR a few drops stevia liquid
Optional: 1 tablespoon non-GMO soy lecithin
Optional (but I highly recommend including!): a few drops almond extract
Pinch of salt

In a high-speed blender, blend the soaked and drained nuts and filtered water on high speed for 2 - 3 minutes to ensure the nuts are well blended.  Strain through a mesh strainer and cheesecloth as many times as you like to ensue it is very smooth. I strained it through a mesh strainer twice first, and then through a few layers of cheesecloth three times.  

Rinse the blender cup thoroughly and then pour the almond milk back in with the remaining ingredients.  Blend to combine thoroughly and taste for sweetness.  

It will settle into two layers in the fridge if it sits for very long, but don't be alarmed by the strange appearance - just give it a good hard shake!  Serve cold and refreshing.  

Enjoy your easy-breezy almond milk!  Personally, I like to have a cold glass in the morning while I organize my schedule for the day. 

Until next time  - 

Mrs H

P.S. fun idea: I am freezing some of mine in my ice cube tray for making fruit smoothies!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A fighter till the bitter end ...

Dear compatriots and comedians alike,

In response to our appeal for competition with the last few tonic samplers, I've received an e-mail submission from a young feller who claims he can contend with Michael of Microsoft for a placid post-tonic expression.

Fire cider is an aptly named fiery, contentious tonic, designed to cure and prevent ills by bolstering the immune   system.  The various fresh, organic ingredients are loaded with natural supplemental aids for the body.  If you need to try some before you make some, drop me a line ...  The recipe is at this link.

verdant cilantro ...
the hottest peppers you can find (habanero, serrano ...)
fragrant ginger root ...
pungent horseradish ... 
fresh-peeled garlic ...
newly peeled white onions and (not pictured) ground turmeric
The ingredients are peeled, dumped into a blender, mashed fine with raw, unpasteurized, organic apple cider vinegar with the 'mother' still intact, and then left to sit and soak for 6 - 8 weeks (or longer, until you need to strain it out to use it).

It must be chopped very, very fine - but beware, the odor so eye-wateringly strong it's almost overwhelming!

If you are desperate for tonic NOW, you can grind it all up and just eat the paste right away!  Otherwise, strain it out after it has steeped for the 6 - 8 weeks, and take a shot or two when you feel you need to encourage your immune system!

make it with friends ... and make lots of it ... plenty to share!
If you can handle this potent drink,your body will love you for it - but will kids drink it, you ask?

I don't know ... why don't we get on with the festivities and enjoy the Fire Cider Competition and find out!

Can a new young upstart take a shot of master tonic with a straight face, and beat out Michael of Microsoft, the current title holder for the Mostest Calmest Expression While Drinking Fire Cider?  You'll need to decide ...

Just to refresh your memory, here again is the video of Michael of Microsoft's tonic-sampling again.

What Microsoft has going for him: he's older, he's tasted more yucky things, he's experimented in the world of bizarre taste. 
What Microsoft has going against him: it's his first time tasting fire cider!

Not bad, you say?

Now, bring on the competition!

A new young Zeno of Citium has appeared on the scene, olive crown in hand, ready to carry the torch of tonic stoicism to the bitter end, to the painful collapse, to the glorious triumph!

What Zeno has going for him: he's downed gallons of this stuff - he loves it - he's crazy! 
What Zeno has going against him: he's just a kid ... kids wouldn't drink tonic with joy - or could they!?

Now that's a trooper if I ever saw one.

What say you?!  Post your comments below, and send me a video if you have one (uploading to YouTube is perfect because I can embed it into the blog from there)!

Off to sample my own shot of tonic for the morning,

Mrs H

If you feel inspired to make some fire-cider yourself, here is the recipe.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Waiting at home

Dear you, the reader and friend,

Sometimes it occurs to me that Mr H's ship date is fast, fast approaching!  The time seems to fly by.  There aren't enough hours in the day to spend together talking, planning, dreaming, working, washing dishes.

I will miss having my husband here to answer my myriad questions on everything from what kind of light-bulb to buy, to how to fashion a homemade weight for pressure canning? find directions online for me whenever I am late or confused or lost. chase me across the living room and onto the couch and make me laugh so hard the neighbor kid comes upstairs and asks us to be quiet because his mom is taking a nap! find a new engine, replace the old one in my car, buy new windshield wipers, change the oil, replace the mysterious tubes and pipes, rotate the tires, and vacuum the seats to surprise me... randomly take down the light fixtures and wash them before I even notice they are dirty, or pull apart the bathroom sink and clean out the pipes before I even realize it isn't draining properly!

I will miss having my man here to turn on the heater when I am coming home from a bustling day in town, to surprise me with a warm and cozy house when I know he thinks anything over 40 degrees is roasting. come flying into the bedroom and leap onto the bed and scare the living daylights out of me, and wrap me up in the quilt and tickle me until I can't breathe from laughing so hard! come inside from working on the truck to bring me a sprig of flowers from the tree, or pluck a blossom from the neighbor's bush and put it in my hair when we go for a walk ... spend an entire weekend under my sister's car working on the brakes, or at my parents' home rewiring the house or replacing the plumbing without being asked. pile muddy boots, running backpack, sweaty gym clothes, zune cords and headphones tangled in a mess, soaking wet baseball cap, and wadded smelly socks in the middle of the living room moments after I vacuum and put the pillows in order on the sofa. do crazy, impulsive things with me, and find new adventure everywhere we go - like offroading the little Kia in Death Valley or driving it through a snow storm in the California mountains!

I will miss how Mr H will leave wet towels on the bed after a shower and get the quilt top damp, or on the other hand switch the loads from the washer to the dryer before I even know the cycle finished so that my clothes don't mold when I forget for the tenth time ...

I will be lost without my husband here to watch exceedingly boring movies about outer space and snipers and weaponry and zombies, and fall asleep on the couch twenty minutes in to the movie! sing crazy songs in the car with me, and tell me that Smile is his song for me, and turn up the radio over and over on our four-thousand mile trip and look at me with love and say this one is about you.

I will miss having my husband here to lay in bed with me and talk with me until all hours, and every time we say, "We should really go to sleep now!" to keep finding conversation together. remind me to calm down when I get stressed and anxious over little things like cleaning the house or finishing a kitchen project. sit in the living room and field strip and reassemble handguns with my little sisters while they time each other and shout and laugh so loud the neighbors come down to see what the ruckus is about! poke the eggs with needles before boiling them so they peel easier, and help me out with whatever I am working on in the kitchen. invite friends over for dinner and brag about my cooking, and show them my kitchen projects while beaming with pride and making me glow inside. show kindness to people that nobody shows kindness to, and help people that nobody wants to help, and do things for people who never could or would do anything for him in return ... eat pint after pint of my dill pickles and homemade relish in a silent vote of approval, and to share our homemade cider with everyone from his Navy chief to the neighbors!

I will miss my beloved while he is away.

I will rest in the safety of my Lord, and trust in the promise of His Word.

Thinking about the future with curiosity but not fear,
and some sadness but much joy,

Mrs H
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Next:  Preparation for departure ... 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fire-cider: First-timers take the plunge!

Dear healthful and home-medicated friends,

Many of you have tried the fire cider/home tonic that I wrote about earlier - with much success and grimacing!!

Here are a few people who sampled it at our house after dinner the other night ...

Michael of Microsoft was brave.  His lack of expression emboldened others to take the plunge!

Michelle the Blond Beauty, his wife, took a FEW shots of the stuff!

Andy the Olive-Eyed Man, encouraged by the fact that Michael of Microsoft was so unfazed, was finally convinced to throw back a sip.

It didn't go so well!

If you think you can do better than these guys, send me your video!

If you need the recipe, click here.  It's just a delicious, noxious mix of hot peppers, ginger root, garlic, onions, horseradish, cilantro, turmeric, and raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar!  It'll give your immune system a turbo-charged kick, and this time of year we all want to be downing as much raw nutritious support as we can!!

In honor of let's try to be healthy day, a holiday created by me ...


Mrs H

Friday, January 21, 2011

Deep-Winter Soup: Cabbage and Tomato

Dear home-bound snowed-in friends,

We aren't snowed in here, but I guess somebody somewhere probably is!

This is a rustic soup that happens to be not only absolutely delicious and fragrant, but as an added bonus it is fat free and vegan (although you can change that if you want!).

tomato-cabbage soup

from The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook, a wonderful cookbook written by a gardener, with the recipes handily divided by season so you are always cooking fresh, available produce.

2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head cabbage, cored and sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 quart diced tomatoes or 3-1/2 to 4 cups diced fresh
2 quarts vegetable broth (or chicken or turkey broth)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: Freshly ground white pepper
Optional: 1 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained, or chicken or turkey sausage

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot.  Add cabbage and onion and saute until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with juice, broth, and cumin.  If using sausage, add this to the pot now.

2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour or until you are ready to eat.

3. Season with salt, black pepper, and white pepper, being especially generous with the peppers.  Serve hot.

Optional toppings: cooked wide noodles, sour cream, shredded cheese
Good side dishes: roasted winter squash and potatoes, sourdough bread, biscuits

May your winter find you warmed but not heated,

Mrs H

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Share the Wealth: Blog Review - A Holy Experience

Dear companions in the faith and friends far away,

I love following blogs just as much as I enjoy writing this one.  I have a long list of blogs that I pop into occasionally, getting updated and then returning weeks or months later to catch the latest scoop; and I also have a short list of blogs that I follow regularly, often.

This one was important enough to me that I subscribed to receive her updates via e-mail so that I wouldn't have to keep checking to see if there were a new posting!  Ann Voskamp's blog isn't one for tips on homeschooling, cooking, canning - all of those are practical, wonderful things, and I follow various writers on those topics and use what I learn to improve our life at home.

Ann Voskamp speaks instead to another deep-seated need of Christ-following women - she speaks to the spiritual encouragement, the holy uplifting, so desperately desired by all of us living in a world where our faith and godly way of life is hardly respected, barely accepted, often rejected.

Most of her webpages have beautiful background piano music playing; so if the baby is sleeping or you have other music playing, be alerted!  The pause/play button is at the top of every blog post.  

Read her own words describing herself here.

Feeling the weight of the casual comments on the condition of your house, when you spend your days discipling the children when the world would be more comfortable seeing you send them away for the day so you could preserve the pristine waxed floors?  Ann has been there.

Need an attitude check for your parenting or your marriaging?  I get the feeling Ann has received those checks many times in the past, and out of the depths of her experience she speaks - she's been given godly wisdom.

Want to finish a project, start some good habits, begin a healthy lifestyle, get your children on an inspirational track - but it's crowded by other obligations and things visually in front of you?  Ann has a simple, inspirational calendar - if you can't download it and print it, just write it on a tablet of paper.  The inspiration is here.

Want to begin memorizing Scripture - starting with the book of Colossians?  Ann has created some beautiful cards here.

Find the entire blog here - at

Ann is following her spiritual gift of encouragement to the benefit of all her many readers - we are taught to encourage one another by sharing our faith, and that is what she so precisely does with her Holy Experience blog.

I hope you find it as enjoyable as I do!

Mrs H

Ann just released her first book, which immediately went to #7 on Amazon's Top 10 list

Read Ann's response to this Dotal Anecdotes review of her blog here

Monday, January 17, 2011

Christmas Celebration Continues with Breakfast Frittata!!

Dear early risers (or not, as the case may be),

I love a good breakfast casserole!  They're so easy to make, and fun to serve.  I have a few favorites, but this one is especially delicious.  We made it for breakfast on Christmas day, and it was such a big hit we had to have an encore on New Year's Day!

The original recipe is from the Williams-Sonoma catalog; I made a few minor variations of my own.

Sausage and Egg Breakfast Casserole

3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
2 teaspoons ground mustard or whole-grain mustard
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 lb pork breakfast sausage links
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch strips
Optional: 1 small to medium mild onion, minced
4 - 12 oz spinach, washed, dried, and chopped into bite-size pieces
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Gruyere, white cheddar, or sharp cheddar cheese
Optional: Extra cheese for sprinkling
Optional: 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

In a bowl, combine milk, eggs, and mustard.  Whisk or blend until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Add the flour and the 1 teaspoon salt, and blend for 30 to 60 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight (I find the second option more realistic for a "breakfast" casserole!).

Preheat oven to 425F.  Lightly grease an 8x8 or 11x7 glass casserole dish (if doubling, use a 9x13 dish).  (If you have an oven-safe 12-inch skillet, don't grease a casserole but see note in italics below.) 

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a frying pan (if you are going to bake it in the skillet, use a 12-inch skillet here); add the sausages and brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to the casserole dish.  Return the pan to the stove and add another teaspoon of oil; saute bell pepper and onion if using, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Spread over the sausages in the casserole dish.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil.  Add spinach, season with salt and pepper, and cook briefly until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.  Spread over bell peppers in the casserole dish.  (If you have a 12-inch skillet appropriate for baking, just set the cooked ingredients aside on a plate as they finish.  Once the skillet is empty, grease it appropriately and layer in the vegetables and sausage.  Continue following the directions below.)  

Remove batter from the refrigerator and stir in cheese.  Pour over the sausage and vegetables in the casserole dish.  If desired, sprinkle top of casserole with additional cheese.

Bake until the batter is puffy and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.  Do not open the oven door early.  Garnish with chives if desired and serve piping hot!

Serves 4 to six.  Appropriate condiments: ketchup, sour cream, syrup, hot chocolate!

Celebrating a little bit of life every day,

Mrs H



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