Creamy Homemade Almond & Coconut Milk - in 5 easy steps!

It was about 4 years ago when I decided to quit drinking dairy milk. My reasoning was because dairy milk is high in sugar. My reason for avoiding all things high in sugar was so I could... eat sugar! I am very addicted to candy. I love candy like a crack head loves crack, okay? I'm talking SOUR candy... I like the stuff that makes your tongue peel when you have eaten too many. I didn't just cut out dairy milk, but I also cut out all types of condiments such as Ketchup and salad dressings, as well as any and all fruit juices. I have never been a soda drinker or a dessert eater so those things weren't a problem. I wanted to cut out extra sugar anywhere in my diet possible, simply so I could eat candy whenever I wanted and not feel guilty about it.

It was then that I started purchasing unsweetened almond milk. I was in love with the idea, only 35 calories in a full cup, with no added sugar!? Jackpot. For a long time I thought I was making the healthiest choice by drinking almond milk over dairy milk. It wasn't until recently, when I attempted a Whole30 (that lasted a whole 11) that I realized some of the unsavory ingredients in commercial almond milks. It is basically a few almonds, water, and a bunch of thickeners and emulsifiers. One ingredient that really bothered me after I looked into it was carrageenan. It is derived from sea weed so you would think it is good for you, right? Wrong. It actually causes troubles for a lot of people, specifically with internal inflammation. Well, isn't dairy inflammatory? Yes, for a lot of people it can be. So really they are trading one inflammatory product for another without realizing it.

Carrageenan is not just found in a lot of commercial almond milks and coconut milks but I have also seen it in my protein supplements, deli meats and cottage cheese. This stuff is everywhere! This was just the push I needed to make my own almond milk at home. . There are some brands out there that have done away with using carrageenan, although in my mind it was still a lot of money to pay for thickened water. Why pay $4 for that when you can make your own at home for the same price? The cost is the same, but the best part is you know exactly what is in it and you can customize it to your liking. Also a big added bonus, you get coconut or almond flour as a byproduct. Buying any kind of grain free flour at the store can be very pricey, now you can make your own and save money. If you make a couple batches a week you will be giving the stuff away. Your friends will thank you.

What will you need?
  • 1 cup raw shelled almonds, or unsweetened coconut (or you can mix the two and make coconut/almond milk!)
  • 3 cups fresh water
  • Blender
  • Nut milk bag, cheese cloth, or a very clean kitchen rag

Step 1
  • Soak almonds in water overnight. This will increase the nutrient bioavailability of the almond, allowing you to digest it better. It will also make them plump and easy to grind up in the blender.
  • Coconut does not need to soak that long, you can simply soak it for 1-3 hours. Just long enough to soften it up a little bit. I like to heat it slightly on the stove first, then let it soak. But, if you want truly raw milk then it does not need to be heated.

Step 2
  • Pour out the water from the almonds and rinse them off well. Then combine with 3 cups fresh water in the blender. (It is important NOT to use the water they have been soaking in for your milk. While the almonds soak they release phytic acid and other enzyme inhibitors that make it hard for our bodies to digest them correctly.)
  • You can simply keep the coconut in the same water and put it into the blender.

Step 3
  • Blend on the highest setting for 2-3 minutes

Step 4
  • Using a nut milk bag, cheese cloth, or a clean dish towel to strain it, pour contents from blender into a bowl. Ring out all the milk you can from the nut bag, this will leave you with a big ball of left over almond or coconut meal.

Step 5
  • Sweeten milk with sweetener of choice (optional) and place directly into the refrigerator.

Step 6 - optional
  • If you want you can simply throw away the left over almond or coconut meal, or you can make flour with it. If you want to make the flour then spread the left over meal onto a baking sheet with parchment paper and put in the oven at 170 degrees to dry out. This should take roughly 1 to 2 hours. Keep a close on eye on it so it doesn't burn, stirring it around occasionally. Once there is no moisture left throw it into the food processor and process into a fine powder. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Shelf Life: The milk will last only 3-4 days but the flours will last months if you keep them cold. 

Edited to add: once the coconut milk has chilled in the fridge some of the fat and creamy goodness will settle on the top. That is your coconut cream! You can skim it off and put it in the freezer to use later. Or you can mix it back into your milk. It's soooooo yummy. 

Some things to keep in mind about homemade almond or coconut milks that differs from store bought:

  • They will not have the same nutritional values. The milk in stores have been fortified with vitamins and minerals that your homemade milk will not have. The advertisement "almond milk has 50% more calcium than dairy milk" is because it is fortified with calcium, just like dairy milk is fortified with vitamin D. If you want a higher micronutrient content in your milk you can fortify it yourself with whatever micronutrient you would like. Just add it to your blender!

  • Not only are your micronutrients going to be different but so are your macronutrients. You will likely have a higher fat and protein content in your homemade milk. Commercial brands have very few actual almonds in them. A simple way to figure out your nutritional information for your milk is to measure the amount of almonds or coconut you used, look up the nutritional information for that. Then after you have filtered your milk, measure your left over almond or coconut meal and look up the nutritional information for that, keeping in mind this will be about 20% water. Subtract the numbers for the meal away from the numbers for the original amount of almonds and you have a pretty good estimate.

  • They will not be as thick as store bought milks. The ones on the shelves have multiple thickening agents in them to make them creamier. The consistency of your homemade milk will be more like skim milk. You can make it thicker by adding more almonds or coconut. If you like thicker milk try a 1:2 ratio rather than 1:3.

  • Your homemade milk will likely not be a sweet as those bought from the store. A lot of them have added sweeteners. You can easily add whatever sweetener you like to your homemade milks. Some options include: vanilla extract, prunes, figs, honey, stevia, maple syrup or even sugar if you'd like. My favorite is to use 2 figs that have been soaked in water for an hour and 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

Enjoy your fresh milk and if you like the post please share it!

Exercise During Pregnancy

Recently, an exercise video I did was featured on an Instagram page that has a significant amount of followers. That gave me some insight into what it is like to be on the other side of internet bashing. I was amazed that so many people still consider exercising during pregnancy to be dangerous and shameful. There were comments about how selfish I am for exercising. That I am putting my babies life in danger all for a better body. That I was stupid, idiotic, and shame on me for convincing other idiots to do the same.

Why do some people still consider pregnancy to be an ailment? Don't get me wrong, pregnancy is tough! Not everyone is blessed with an easy go at it. Personally, this time around I have really struggled with prenatal depression as well as pretty intense back pain from early on. There are women who have high risk pregnancy and really struggle. The fact of the matter is not all pregnancies are created equal. Exercising during pregnancy is not practical, and sometimes is not safe for everyone. That being said, for a normal healthy pregnancy exercise should be recommended and encouraged.

If you were previously exercising before you became pregnant it is safe to say to can and should resume your regular exercise routine as long as it is comfortable. Even those who have not been exercising should begin an easy entry level routine such as prenatal yoga, light cardio, or simple beginner body weight strength exercises.

Some of the benefits of exercise during pregnancy include:

Weight Management: Though you cannot completely control the amount of weight you gain, daily activity can help you stay within a healthy range.

Pain/constipation/bloating: Exercise can help with back pain and general stiffness by strengthening your body and improving posture. Many women also suffer from constipation, bloating and swelling. Daily activity can help prevent those symptoms or atleast move them along quicker.

Stress/Anxiety/Depression: Exercising can be a great way to alleviate stress and boost your mood. During activity your body will release endorphins and endorphins make you feel good! Getting your heart rate up and your blood flowing can increase your daily energy as well as self confidence.

Labor and delivery: Keeping your body strong and your cardiovascular strength up during pregnancy can help you have an easier labor and delivery. Squatting is commonly a position during labor that will help the pelvis open during pregnancy to help the baby descend. Practicing squatting during pregnancy will strengthen your pelvic floor and prepare your body for labor.

Recovery and postpartum: If exercise is maintained during pregnancy it will aid in a quicker recovery from birth. Also, it will be mentally and physically easier to get back into exercising when your care provider gives you the okay to do so.

There are obviously some high risk activities that should not be continued into pregnancy, such as skiing, scuba diving, contact sports or any other sport with a high fall risk. When it comes to regular basic exercise, it is better to participate than not for a low risk normal pregnancy. The benefits are well worth it. So get clearance from your doctor to get out there and get active!

Protein Packed Curry Butternut Squash Soup with Orzo and Spinach

1 butternut squash
1/8 C orzo pasta
4-6 C homemade broth (or store bought)
1 C whole milk (or coconut milk)
1 T coconut oil
1 package of Silken Tofu
1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes
2 stalks green onion
1 bunch spinach
1/2 tsp chopped basil
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp green curry paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

-Preheat oven or toaster oven to 425 degrees.
-Split butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds.
-Coat squash with coconut oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and basil.
-Bake for 40 minutes or until tender enough to be scooped out of the shell.
-Scoop the flesh into a large soup pot, add broth, milk, chopped tofu, coconut flakes, chopped green onion and all of the seasonings, stir together well. 
-Bring soup to a boil then turn it down to medium/low heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
-Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender until the soup is smooth and creamy.
-Return the soup to the heat and bring it back to a simmer.
-Add the orzo pasta. Stir gently until pasta is cooked, roughly 5 minutes.
-Turn off the heat.
-Chop spinach using a food processor and stir it in.
-Top with fresh green onions or cilantro for garnish.

A message to those with Get Fit resolutions.

Get fit. Lose weight. Eat healthier. Those are all things that seem to be on the top of the list for New Year Resolutions. People buy their gym memberships, shop for their new exercise attire and head in for their first workout. Most people don't really know where to start and the most self explanatory item in a gym is the treadmill. They start there. As the week goes on they get a little more comfortable and move on to the resistance machines, or even using some free weights. Seasoned gym goers watch from afar as all the newbies take up their equipment and throw a wrench in their regular workout routines. It's not the newbies I have a problem with. It's those of us who have gotten so comfortable in our routine and our gym that we can't seem to make room for new people with new goals. I used to be one of those avid gym goers that would dread the New Year. January meant a packed gym full of uneducated people hogging my benches and spending too much time resting between sets. You can hear the meatheads saying things like give them a couple weeks and they will give up. Since when did the people who have actually had to opportunity to achieve their goals gain a monopoly on the gym? At what point does it become okay to judge someone just starting on their journey to health? We all started somewhere. We all have goals we have yet to reach.

So this is to you, the person just starting on your health and fitness journey. First off, congratulations for making such an important decision for yourself! When you go to the gym for the first time, I don't want you to feel unwelcomed or out of place. I want to say welcome to your new sanctuary! Yes, some of us are possibly irritated that you are here and counting the weeks until you disappear. Not all of us, though. I don't like seeing the population of the gym dwindle month after month. I want you to stick around! I want to see you reach your goals. I want to help you reach your goals. If you get discouraged, and at some point you probably will, I want to challenge you to ask someone for help. If you are intimidated by the weights, ask someone to show you a few moves. You will find we aren't all too preoccupied with ourselves and our workouts, some of us want to help you succeed. We are willing to take the time and show you some of the things we have learned. I hope the gym is just as busy next December as it will be this January. Stick around, 2016 is your year.