Thursday, June 23, 2011

Things You Should Make Yourself - Almond Milk

This is the first part in an on-going series of things you should make yourself. Not only is homemade better, tastier, and healthier - it's usually far less expensive!

What motivates you to learn to make something yourself? For me, it was Almond Dream changing the formula on their almond milk. They were the only brand I had been able to find that did not contain carrageenan, a seaweed additive I have a sensitivity to. It makes me sick so I avoid it as much as possible and I especially cannot consume beverages with it. When I noticed it was now in the almond milk I was consuming, I got mad and then I got smart.

I started venting to my vegan friend, Morgan (who has a fantastic vegan blog) and she said "girl, why are you not already making your own almond milk?"

The answer was simple, I just hadn't thought of it!

Using Morgan's terrific and easy recipe I tweaked it to work for my personal taste - I use 1 cup nuts to 6 cups water and leave the rest the same, skipping the hemp powder.

I found my own version of almond milk nirvana!

I used to use almond milk in cooking and baking and to splash on cereal but I was never one to pour myself a glass and drink it up ... that is, until I started making my own!

I've been making it for awhile now and I make it at least once a week, sometimes two. You can make it unsweetened for cooking too (just skip the sweetener and vanilla, keep the oil)

Morgan gives you great direction and she even has a link to her sisters blog that has a video of her making the milk!

I do highly recommend buying a nut milk bag. It will make life so much easier. I ordered mine off and there is a direct link to it at the bottom of my blog. You can also get the cacao powder and make chocolate almond milk. Yummy!

I keep my almond milk in quart sized Ball canning jars. It's easy to store and I can just shake it up before using. I also date mine with a sticker each time so I'm sure to use it up within 5 days.

I use medjool dates in mine since I don't like Stevia and I'm not a big fan of agave since it's processed. Dates give you fiber and vitamins and minerals and they are all natural!

I used to have a Ninja brand blender and it worked great for almond milk. I now have a Vita Mix  and it works even better but don't assume you need one to make almond milk. Any decent blender with some power should work. Bed, Bath & Beyond has the Ninja ... use one of their coupons and save 20%!

The best part of making my own almond milk? It costs 1/3 what I was paying for the store bought almond milk!

If you try making your own, let me know how you like it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Reading

I love books and I love to learn about nutrition, veganism, and other health topics. Many people ask me to recommend books to them about the vegan lifestyle. I also get requests about vegetarianism ... I was vegetarian for 7 years before becoming a vegan. I would rather someone start with a vegan book even if they aren't ready to go straight into being a vegan because there is always room to grow! I've found that most people that start with being vegetarian will eventually go vegan so it's better to at least educate yourself on the lifestyle even if you continue to consume eggs and dairy. Most of these authors have websites and I've included the links for you. You can get free recipes and learn more about their books.

These are my most fave vegan books:

This book is a plan that will allow you to try veganism for three weeks, that is how long it takes for you to get used to change. Three weeks is a good amount of time for you to re-train your taste buds and to start seeing some health benefits of a life without animal products. There is also a great website about the 21 Day Kickstart. 
A couple times a year they host a free online program that you can sign up for. Every day they will email you recipes, videos and vegan celebrity pages with lots of info. I've done the program twice even tho I am already a vegan.
The Engine 2 Diet is especially good to help men make a change into becoming vegan. The book is by a pro athlete turned firefighter who happens to be the son of renowned cardiologist, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. There are lots of easy and manly recipes! Rip's website.
The vegan bible! This cookbook is one of the most popular vegan cookbooks available. I've only made a few things from it but it's definitely one to get if you love to cook. Isa has an amazing website.

A tough love approach to all things vegan. This book will empower you to dedicate yourself to the vegan lifestyle and it is not for the faint of heart. This is the book I go to when I need to remind myself why I'm choosing this lifestyle and why it's more important than ever.
This is my most favorite information book. Chock full of scientific info on nutrients and vitamins, this is a solid go-to book for vegans. I think it's one every vegan should own.
If you want to go vegan for health reasons, this is the book for you. Dr. Barnard makes a convincing case for the new four food groups - whole grains, veggies, fruits and legumes.
Another favorite, Alicia's book is a gentle teaching of why being vegan is important for the animals, for your health and for the health of the planet. She's tough when she needs to be but she also comes across as the perfect first vegan friend you need as you start your journey. She talks about three stages - flirting (dipping your toe into being vegan), vegan (taking on a no animal product lifestyle) and superhero (more of a macrobiotic diet). The recipes are great. Alicia also has a website, The Kind Life
I liked the Skinny Bitch series, which I also recommend if you are tough enough to handle it.  I was excited to get Kim's new book. It has fantastic recipes and photos along with lots of information about  food ingredients, food shopping and the vegan lifestyle. Kim has a website, Healthy Bitch Daily

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

You Don't Have Time To Eat Healthy? That's Bullshit.

Do you often say  ‘I don’t have time to eat healthy?’   Let's be honest... a little tough love here... It’s more like ‘I won’t MAKE the time to eat healthy’ ..  if you really WANT to do something, you will find a way. It’s true. You find time to do other things like watch TV or attend a sporting event or read a book or go to the mall.

I realize I am fortunate to work from home and I probably have more free time than someone with kids or a regular job but there are MANY people that do have full time jobs and families and go to school and all sorts of other things that manage to eat well and exercise.

You do what is necessary if you want to do it.

A couple hours of prep time during your free time is really all it takes to put habits into place that can keep you on track for the week.  Making a weekly meal plan is a great first step. This way you know what you’re having so there is no last minute panic to pull something together. Plus, it makes shopping easier and you tend you use up ingredients if you make a plan. I sketch out a basic weekly plan on what I want to have and then each day I decide what I’m in the mood to make from my weekly list.

Where to find the time?

Place a TV where you can see it in your kitchen so you can do prep work while watching your fave TV shows.

Get the kids or hubby involved!

Get up an hour early on your days off to get a little prep work done. It really doesn’t take much time.

Crockpot! It’s an important tool to utilize. It can cook meals for you like a personal chef! You can come home, have dinner and then freeze the leftovers!

If you can afford it, buy some pre-prepped items like baby carrots, bagged lettuce, shredded carrots, jarred garlic, prepared hummus. Of course, it’s cheaper to do it yourself but decide what it’s worth to you to cut a few corners.

Use frozen veggies. They are just as good as fresh. Limit canned veggies tho. (except beans)

Buy canned beans if you can’t make the time to cook from dry. They cost more than dry but they are still pretty cheap!

Using a jumbo muffin pan is a great way to freeze individual servings of oatmeal and bean dishes. You just need the freezer space to allow it to freeze. I like to use Ball freezer jars or Gladware mini containers as well.

If you take a lunch each day it’s easier if you take the same stuff every few days to limit what you have to think about. Did you know Jennifer Aniston ate the same salad every single day for 10 years when she was working on Friends?

When you are making a meal, make extra and then you have instant leftovers that can be reheated later on or tossed into a lunch.

What to prep?

Make a bowl of brown (never white) rice that you can use for quick stir fry and bean dishes. A rice cooker is a great investment. I make rice twice a week.

Make a bowl of pasta  (penne works great) and toss it with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together. Then you just need to toss it with some hot marinara and sautéed veggies for a quick meal.

Make a pot of soup or chili at the beginning of the week and eat it all week long. You can even take it in your lunch.

Make a batch of steel cut oats in the crockpot and then portion it out into individual servings and freeze. You are about 2 minutes from hot oatmeal in the morning. It's really good with a diced banana and a little nut butter mixed in.

Make veggie burger patties and keep them in the fridge or freezer, then just cook one up when you want it.

Make a pot of rice and beans and freeze into individual servings. They can be eaten alone, with chips as a dip, or turned into tacos and burritos!

Chop up salad fixings so it’s easy to toss together a salad or a quesadilla.

Chop up veggies for stir fries ahead of time. (I always keep thin sliced mushrooms and chopped green onions in my fridge and then toss in a handful of frozen peas)

Mix up your own salad dressings. They are fresher, less fattening and won’t contain crappy ingredients. I make a couple kinds at the beginning of the week.

Make a couple healthy dips or spreads (like Mexican tofu dip, muhammara or hummus) and then you have a quick snack with carrots for dipping or to spread over crackers. You can also use them to make a veggie wrap.

Have a healthy dessert or cookie made up to snack on when you want something sweet. I like to have brown rice treats on the counter each week. Perhaps oatmeal cookies! I always keep fresh granola around too.

Keeping healthy habits.

The most important thing to remember is this  - Don't buy junk and you can't eat junk.

The same goes for the hubby and the kids. Just stop buying crap and bringing it into your house. If you want to eat junk then you should have to make the effort to go and get the junk. Buy one serving so you can’t overeat it. Surround yourself with healthy foods and you will grow to love eating them. Like the old saying goes “if you aren’t hungry enough to eat a piece of fruit, you aren’t hungry”.

Only buy wholesome foods like whole wheat breads, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, barley, whole oats), whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes, fresh veggies and fruits, beans and nuts.

Commit to trying to new things and ingredients or things you’ve disliked in the past. If you hated a certain veggie as a kid, buy it and try it again. Cook it in a different way. Almost every veggie is delicious roasted. You may discover that you love it! But whatever is in season and find something to do with it.  It’s usually priced really well and the best time to eat it!

Buy healthy snacks like nuts, veggies, and fruits. Again, don’t bring crap into your house. Pack healthy snacks in your bag or desk drawer. Temptation is everywhere so don't ever allow yourself to be caught without a healthy choice.

Stay away from anything packaged and processed. It’s garbage and it’s full of sugar and crap. Eat whole foods.

Educate yourself on what is good and bad for you. Make the decision to take control of your own health. Strive to get off or stay off medicines by choosing the right foods!

Google for new recipes! There are millions of great blogs and websites that are literally a few clicks away on the internet. If you have kids, invite them to plan a meal once a week by looking for recipes they’d like to try.

Challenge your kids to try new things. Let them choose a veggie or fruit at the store and then come home and Google for a recipe to make with that ingredient. If you make veggies, fruit and whole foods a normal part of your lives, your kids will grow up eating them and they will actually like them.