Monday, August 14, 2017

Domestic Goddess - Almond Milk & Almond Flour

A couple months ago when I was at Costco, and had just recently read a sobering article about the living conditions of dairy cows, I picked up a case of almond milk. I didn't really like that there were more ingredients than almonds, water, and MAYBE a bit of flavor (vanilla, sugar, whatever). So right there in the aisle, I googled "How to make almond milk" and I was BLOWN AWAY at how simple the process is. Anyone can do it!

First, you soak the almonds overnight in a bowl. You'll have the best tasting almond milk if you change the water a couple times. I usually let them soak for about 24 hours. Two tips I have learned from countless Google sessions: Costco really does have the best prices (3lbs for $12-13), and you can also blanch the almonds instead of soaking. Personally, I liked to just dump 2c in a bowl and walk away.

After you soak, you can leave the skins on, or you can peel them. If you leave the skins on, after you strain it, you'll have almond meal from the pulp. If you peel them, you get almond flour. I have tried it both ways, and in my opinion the milk tastes better when you peel them, it's much easier to strain, and almond flour is more useful than meal in my kitchen. Peeling sounds tedious, but once you have soaked the nuts, it's very easy to pinch the almonds right out of the skin. Takes me no more than 15 min to pinch 2c of almonds... if I am not trying to play Kingdoms on my phone at the same time.

Once you have peeled the nuts (or not), just put them in the blender. With 2 cups of nuts (pre-soaked), I fill my blender up to the top line. I was drinking whole milk before I switched, so your taste may vary. Pulse a couple times and then let it run for a couple minutes. Sidenote:  This old Emeril 3-in-1 BAM food processor/blender/juicer that has served me well for more than a decade but is probably on it's way out. I need recommendations for space saving multi-use appliances!

My third tip: for the love, buy a nut milk bag (affiliate link). You may not even make almond milk twice if you try to use cheesecloth instead, ESPECIALLY if you don't peel the nuts. The Ellie's Best one I linked to truly is worth every penny.

Here's where you start channeling your inner Caroline Ingalls: What is left over in the bag after you've squeezed out all the milk is NUT PULP and all you have to do is dry it in the oven and send it through the food processor (coffee mill?) for a couple minutes to have almond meal/almond flour. As I mentioned earlier, I prefer the texture of almond flour. I just spread it out on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours (I stir it up - carefully - halfway through) and when it's done I just buzz it through the food processor long enough to break up any big chunks.

And here's where you go next level: try to find an almond flour banana bread recipe (to use up those 3 black bananas we have every week) that ISN'T full of insane paleo/keto/gluten free ingredients you don't have on hand. Look y'all: I just want to avoid food waste. Let's not get crazy. Lucky for you, I managed to find one, which IS paleo but is NOT full of crazy ingredients, and it makes a delicious loaf of bread. So delicious, in fact, that Stella (our Great Pyranees/Border Collie puppy) ate the whole first loaf I made, and let me tell you how many tears I shed over how all my pioneering skills had been wasted on this stinkin' dog. The recipe is super easy, though, and a few days later I had enough almond flour for another loaf. The whole family gave the second attempt two thumbs up!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Science at Sunset

A friend said I should do a "What is Lilly Doing Today?" blog, and it reminded me when I closed Craves, Caves, & Graves, one of the things I wanted to do with a new blog was to keep that focus on learning and discovering new things to do around town. Since before Lilly was born, I've always had the idea of homeschooling/unschooling/road schooling in mind, and now that she's a toddler it's a constant buzz in my head. We still have some time before making a final decision, but I'm always looking for educational opportunities outside of the house. We have memberships to Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis Science Center, St Louis Zoo, and the parking pass for Grants Farm, and when it's not ungodly hot (I wilt) we try to take advantage of the family nights/member nights during the summer.

Last week we went to Science at Sunset at the St Louis Science Center! The Science Center is open until 8pm on Thursdays during the summer, and you have time to catch ONE MORE on August 10! There are food specials and live music outside in the Grow pavilion, and all kinds of fun activities, and a special price for the King Tut exhibit. This week you can learn beekeeping basics!

On our visit we learned about milk and cow burps, aka "why I have started making almond milk at home." Methane from dairy farms is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas (not sure they mention this since it's sponsored by Prairie Farms). We do still buy cows milk for Lilly but cutting out my daily chai latte with whole cows milk cut our consumption by 1/3! 

Did you know that 30% of landfill trash in the City of St Louis is yard waste and food waste? We recently started composting (and got a Great Pyrenees/Border Collie pup who loves fruit & veggie scraps) and the reduction in our trash has been huge. It DOES matter which dumpster you use!

We have been talking about redoing our landscaping to get rid of grass and plant more native/useful plants, so I was very interested in this native prairie strip. We also talked about visiting Epcot Flower and Garden Festival next year for more landscaping inspiration, because they always do amazing things with edible plants.

Another thing that reminded us of Epcot is the greenhouse aquaponics area, just like Living with the Land! Aquaponics is a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water.

Don't forget to stop by the fermentation station for beer & wine, plus fermented foods! The pretzels are the best! There is much, much more to see in the Grow pavilion, and it's always accessible whenever the Science Center is open.

Monday, July 31, 2017

I'm Killing It Today!

I need to pat myself on the back for a minute: It's Monday, and it's the last day of the month, which is double cray when your business is sales. Despite this, I got us to story time at the library (EARLY EVEN), made almond milk, and also have the pulp drying in the oven right now for future almond flour needs. I found a great banana bread recipe for almond flour, so I can use those last couple bananas from every bunch. Yesterday I managed to cut up a watermelon and 2 lbs of strawberries for snacking. I'm feeling like I leveled up as a WAHM, and it's only taken 2 years!

We've been talking a lot about homeschooling, because it is just a really good fit for our family, so I've been following lots of homeschooling parents and resources on Instagram. Here's something telling: when my amazing day of productivity sent me to Pinterest to keep track of some of these things, I realized I hadn't used my account since before Lilly's first birthday. Maybe that first birthday Pinterest pressure is what drove me away. Ha!

The "Pinterest Mom" pressure is one of the things that has made me nervous about committing to the idea of homeschooling. I'm a field trip mom, not a craft time mom. But some of her school has to be at home, and do I have what it takes to make learning fun? All those different ways to use pom poms and macaroni. I'm just not crafty-creative. When I do a spontaneous craft, it's to solve a problem and usually involves math. I was beside myself with excitement when I discovered M is for Monster on Instagram last night! I immediately subscribed to the mini box and can't wait to share it. I've miss blogging to share fun!

Speaking of craft time, though, I am working on a Craft-a-Thon event for October where people can get together to work on a project all day, get some adult conversation, not be interrupted by their kids every 5 min, and have lunch and snacks included. I have a request in for a St Louis hotel conference room I've used before that is conveniently located across the street from Joanns. If that sounds good to you, let me know that you want to get on my list!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Missouri Botanical Garden Chinese Lantern Festival: Magic Reimagined

Big news! The Chinese Lantern Festival has been extended through the end of the month! Fans of Craves, Caves, & Graves may remember that we covered the 2012 Chinese Lantern Festival, and heck yes, it was amazing at night time! A once in a lifetime opportunity, until they decided to do it twice! But.... when you have a new baby, maybe $52 for two adults is a bit rich for your blood and you're wondering if visiting in the daytime is just as good. Honestly, if you can swing it you should see it at night. HOWEVER,  the Garden is free on Saturday morning, and the lanterns are really quite impressive in daylight. I was happy to spend the money we saved on lunch at Sassafras, because their chicken salad is soooo good.

The Botanical Garden on Saturday morning is very much the stroller and gray hair set. I was surprised that even though the parking lot seemed full, the garden didn't seem crowded at all. It was very peaceful, and that may be compared to my memory of seeing the first lantern festival at night. Expect the evening to be crowded!

I have to give a shout out to the Flap Happy hats they sell in the gift shop. We've had a heck of a time finding a good sunhat to fit a newborn and with SPF 50 protection, this is worth every bit of $20. Lilly wears it every day, and it's funny to see the reactions of people who see a big floppy hat sticking out of a ring sling!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gateway Grizzlies

Do you love baseball and want to take your kids, but can't take out a second mortgage for major league stadium prices? Check out the Gateway Grizzlies! Their stadium in Sauget is directly across from the Arch and their ticket, food, and beer prices won't break the bank! You can even get a picnic table for 6 ($36) or 8 ($48) for a casual night with friends.

We attended the opening night game, with the baby, and I couldn't even tell you what team they played. I was there for a) the Best Nachos in Baseball, and b) the Best Burger in Baseball. You may have heard of the burger, a bacon and sharp cheddar number on a Krispie Kreme donut. For some reason I had envisioned this as being sticky, but of course, perfectly sensibly, they cut the donut in half like a bagel and turn it glazed-side in. I could not feel my blood slow in my veins as I expected. It's ... fine. I would eat it again. The nachos, I agree, are the Best Nachos in Baseball. I was skeptical of the philly steak, but they get two high marks from me for the white cheese (I hate that "nacho" cheese) and using red peppers instead of green.

Honorable mention for Best Item Not Labeled Best In Baseball: Funnel Cake Fries.

After we loaded up on the Best, we walked around the rest of the park and realized, holy smokes, the options are endless. We will definitely be going back to sample all the other concessions! Baseball? What baseball?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Holiday Tips From Franceth Manor

I see a blog going around Facebook that's all the reasons Christmas sucks for moms. My kid is only 5 months old, so I don't profess to be an expert, but I am really not into busy bragging and negativity. Rather than share that link and be critical, I decided to tell you the reasons my Christmas was excellent.

1. My husband who doesn't suck. If you're going to have a spouse, you should pick one who doesn't suck. Mine helps with decorations, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, baby baths and poopy diapers, basically everything. Sure, maybe sometimes I follow behind him to make adjustments, but a husband who doesn't suck is a huge time saver!

2. My job that doesn't suck. Trust me, I know how a rigid office schedule and awkward holiday parties can make the holidays stressful. Become your own boss! The best thing about being self employed is that I don't have to shop when 90% of other people are shopping. I went to the mall for fun three days before Christmas, and I sang songs the whole time I was looking for a parking spot. That, my friends, is a low stress life. Plus, I sell stuff that is essentially a luxury item, and rarely am I yelled at for it.

3. ONE CHILD! I hear some of the weirdest reasons for having more than one kid. Your only child will have friends and a support network in life even if you don't provide them biological relatives, I promise. And it makes holiday travel so much easier!

4. My family is not crazy about gifts. The extended family does a $10 fun gift exchange, and the great aunts & uncles kick in for one present for the littles. For immediate family, this year I tried to buy almost all gifts from small businesses, direct sales, or fair trade. It made gift giving more thoughtful than it had been in years, which felt good! Francis and I have never really done gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmas. Instead, we travel, and this year we are going to Disneyland.  Experiences. Travel. Dinner out. Museum memberships. So many things that are not just buying random crap on Amazon or swapping gift cards.

5. I donate to charity and did a food pantry can drive because it makes me feel good. I hope I will teach Lilly to be charitable from the heart. I know for sure that me bitching about having to buy canned goods for poor people on my mommy blog would not be teaching her anything worthwhile. Kids aren't dumb.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Holidays, I Can't Get My Sh!t Together

We (I) spent so much time trying to decide which photos to use, it is now too late to order, receive, address, and mail Christmas cards. Here are this year's contenders:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Franceth Manor!