How to Make Homemade Almond Milk

Today’s post features one of those ideas that, before you try it, sounds crazy and needless and hard; but that, after you try it, becomes brilliant and easy and so simple, you can’t believe you waited so long to give it a go. Tim and I have learned how to make homemade almond milk recently and have since done it twice in the last few weeks. Each time, it’s amazed me—I mean, literally, had me staring at the towel I’m squeezing like a cow udder, in total disbelief. In case you relate in any way to my innocence in the almond milk realm, this post is for you.

Bowl of Almonds

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Thoughts on Three Days of Juice Fasting

Juice and Laptop | Food Loves Writing

For a person who is regularly bemoaning the complexities of adult life, a three-day juice fast provides a wonderful simplicity. When you remove the daily tasks of buying, storing, preparing, eating and cleaning up after meals, you find yourself with this new and unusual void of time—and in it, a surprising clarity about the rest of life. In those borrowed hours, while you toss a football in the park, while you paint for hours at the table, while you read novels in bed to your heart’s content, all when you normally would have been cooking or eating, you realize something about food you’d never before seen. Because food, in all its forms and flavors, is such a constant, consuming, captivating part of life, even the not eating of it carries weight and significance.

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Maple Ginger Tea Lattes + Buckwheat Ginger Cookies (+ AeroLatte Giveaway!)

[UPDATE: Giveaway is now closed. Congrats to ZDubb, winner of the Aerolatte frother!)
maple ginger tea lattes and buckwheat ginger cookies | foodloveswriting.com

“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” Andre Maurois

You may assume a couple that works from home together shares a great deal of time—and, in fact, they do. In our daily routine, Tim and I prepare joint breakfasts, raise questions to one another from across the room, share work snacks of chopped apples, almond butter on celery, warmed-up leftovers from the night before. Most afternoons, when one of us receives a question about schedules or planning, there’s little of that lag time between initial query and checking with the spouse because answers come quick when the spouse is but an arm’s length away. And I’ll tell you, quite candidly, that once you’ve tasted this kind of immediacy, it’s a hard thing to let go of, so we’re prone to say how much we hope we never will.

Still, though, time is not time.

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Sparkling Raspberry Lemonade + Sam’s Club Book Giveaway

I’ve gone to bulk warehouses since I was a kid, tagging along with Dad while he ran errands. My dad worked a lot of nights when I was young, building the cleaning business that he and my mom had started just before I was born. The way they tell the story, in the early days, they mopped up apartments for a local university, my mom then heavy with child. They had me, then my brother, and meanwhile the company grew. By the time I was in elementary school, there were several accounts to keep up with, taking Dad away from us most nights. So to make up for it, he’d take me with him—to work and on errands, the two of us riding together into the night sky.

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samsbook_mint

My dad, who sports short, graying hair and a neatly trimmed moustache, stands 5’10”, which today is just two-and-a-half inches higher than me, but I’ve always had to jog to keep up with him. When we’d arrive at the almost-empty parking lot of a shiny office building, I’d be trotting behind his white sneakers, pumping my arms to keep up. Wearing the same pleated Dockers and collared shirts he still wears every day, whether it’s Monday morning or Saturday afternoon, he’d be talking with employees about sealants and floor polishers and machinery, and I’d be hanging behind, hunting for a vending machine.

halvedlemons

It was the same when we went shopping. In the beginning, I think we went for work supplies, but later, we went just as often for laundry detergent or water or something else my family was in the habit of buying in bulk. While he’d be on a mission to get the items on his list, I’d be scoping out cases of candy or granola or chips. I’ve always been able to count on Dad for snacks. It’s one of the main things we share, besides our dark skin and giant smiles and ability to talk in-depth for hours: we like keeping foods on hand that are easy to grab and eat. Cashews, almonds, dark chocolate, dried bananas. We could go to Sam’s Club for fabric softener, but we’d emerge with a bin of something tasty I’d be able to break into and eat fistfuls of in the car. I knew this as well as I knew my name.

pitcherlemonade

Today, living in Nashville, Tim and I have bulk memberships of our own. This feels as much a proof of our adulthood as voting or paying bills. When we walk up to our local warehouse, flashing cards with our pictures on them to gain entrance inside, we’re essentially announcing to the salesperson and our fellow shoppers and anyone who sees us that we are responsible. We plan for the future. We buy toilet paper in advance.

Never mind the fact that both our memberships have been gifted to us (the first as a birthday gift last August; the next, directly from Sam’s Club, who wants us to talk here about the warehouse shopping experience and a summer promotion they’ve got going on). From the first moment we walked those aisles together, calculating the savings on a giant bag of frozen organic fruit versus the 16-ounce bags from the grocery store, we were hooked. Generally speaking, we look to buy local and to support small business, but true confessions: if you show us a 12-ounce container of organic raspberries at Sam’s for $3.99 ($3.99!), we’re sold.

rlemonade_2glasses_fromabove
RLemonade_2glasses

A few weeks ago, we used our new membership to buy 24 ounces of fresh organic raspberries, a bag of lemons and a case of Pellegrino, which we took home and turned into this refreshing, sparkling summer drink. It’s part of Sam’s Club’s current “Fruit Cooler” challenge, wherein they’re inviting bloggers to create refreshing summer recipes based on produce from their stores.

As part of the project, they’re giving away one of their beautiful cookbooks, “Fresh, Fast and Fabulous,” to a commenter on this post (will be chosen Friday morning Congratulations, Kendra!). They’d also love you to try the challenge in your own home. The idea’s not that different from the way my dad and I have always shopped together: go into the store, hunt down what you like—although, I will grant, my preferences today lean more towards organic produce or cases of oranges than they do towards candy bars—take it home and, enjoy.

For more information on Sam’s Club produce, visit SamsClub.com/meals.

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Kefir Drinking Chocolate

It’s morning, but there’s little light, the rain and clouds hiding the bright early sun, so even though the clock says 7:30, it feels like we should crawl back under the sheets, where at least we’ll be cozy and warm and protected from the dark, dreary day that awaits us.

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After weeks of three-digit temperatures—not just here but in Chicago and Wisconsin and maybe where you are, too—Nashville has finally received what all the farmers have been praying for: days and days of gray skies and wet grass and the blessing of rain that turns acres of dry, brown land back into green.

frontwindowrain

The last couple days, I’ve worn long sleeves again (who would’ve thought!) and worked on my computer from beneath a big, wool blanket.

livingroomrain

I’ve stared out at the wet world, watching the raindrops stick to the windows, hearing cars splash puddles as they drive by, feeling the drips on my cheeks and my arms when I escape to the mailbox in the middle of the day.

plants

And I’ve given thanks for God’s life-giving sky, for how much better it waters the earth than our hoses and irrigation systems and sprinklers.

I’ve felt, again, how seemingly powerless I am, even compared to something as simple as the weather, which can change farmers’ livelihoods and affect prices at my grocery store and alter what’s in my weekly CSA in a way I could never do. I’ve looked at my neighbor’s flowers—the ones she’s been trying to save with her faithful watering and weeding and steady hours outside; the ones that have become such a desert, wilted and parched and sad—and seen how days of downpour can change them, can bring them back to life.

And then, from the comfort of my little house where I’m watching this happen, I’ve cradled cups of drinking chocolate, sipped while we work in the dim light of our dining room, sweet and rich and strong.

cacaobananas

The idea for this drink is simple: combine kefir (or yogurt) with a heap of raw cacao, a banana and a little honey; then, blend until smooth.

breakfasttable

What results is a thick and creamy drinking chocolate that sticks to the sides of your mug the same way that it clings to your teeth and your tongue, dark and frothy, luxurious and decadent.

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It’s a real pick-me-up—just like for us these days, are afternoons of rain.

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Florida Vacation + Tropical Lemonade

Florida Vacation

The day after we arrive in Florida, we’re laying by the water in Bradenton Beach, listening to the sounds of the waves and the seagulls, our four chairs propped up in soft white sand alongside a tall umbrella and a cooler and bags packed with books and snacks and iPhones, and I think to myself, you know, there’s just something about the ocean.

beaches

We’re here on a four-day getaway with our friends Terry and Carrie, who had a client who had a house who’s now sharing it with us, giving us her keys and her fridge and her pool and her king-sized beds and balconies, and, free of charge, letting us call them home for the weekend. This vacation, a sort of a belated birthday present for Tim whose one birthday request was a trip with these friends, is the longest vacation and first time we’ve been back to beaches since our honeymoon, and we almost can’t believe it’s happening.

back of the beach house

The thing I always feel when I stand next to the ocean, hearing the lapping waves and staring out at the unending blue-green waters, is how small I am compared to it, how barely noticeable. It’s like driving through a hailstorm or watching a flood: what you’re looking at is so much bigger than you are, it’s almost overwhelming—but in a way that humbles you and makes you feel grateful rather than make you feel insecure.

beach house windows

I say to Tim when we’re driving in on Wednesday, It’s weird to think I lived here once, for my entire freshman year. We go up to Clearwater Beach on Friday, the beach I used to drive to with friends, and I think of my old Volkswagon Jetta, the one with maroon paint and a broken bumper that I’d have to pull off the road to re-duct-tape when it came loose in the wind. We find the spot where Terry and Carrie got engaged, and it’s just behind Leverock’s, a now-closed restaurant in St. Petersburg that I used to go to when out-of-town friends came in to visit, long before I knew them, before I knew Tim. We drive through my old campus, and I see the dorms that gave me bed bugs and the dining hall where I made waffles and the field where I watched soccer games my roommates’ boyfriends played in.

pier on the canal

Seeing these old sites is a little like looking at the ocean or, flipping through old yearbooks or, mentally going back in time: they remind me of my small place in this world, of how hindsight often dwarfs things, of how some memories get cloudy with time. It’s also like looking at a former version of myself, one that was terribly unsure of life, of the future, of what she would study or what she would pursue, and feeling glad to be different now, with degrees and a job; yet at the same time, looking at her and feeling sad to be in many ways the same, sometimes unsure, sometimes wondering where I belong.

tarpon springs

We visit Tarpon Springs, a town I remember for its historic town square and Spanish moss trees, but today it gives us sponge docks and tourist shops and a wide stretch of Greek cafes that remind me of the Mediterranean. I think about how different things look when you’re 18, when you haven’t traveled much outside of a high school trip and vacations with your family. I think about the gift of learning to explore and how that gift gives you new eyes and perspective, enough that it changes places you thought you knew.

eco bean cafe

We scout out cool places to eat, from smoothies at Eco Bean Cafe, 501 North Pinellas Avenue, Tarpon Springs, to fresh orange juice from a random roadside stand that puts orange grove in quotation marks.

orange shop in Florida

There’s dinner one night at The Refinery, 5137 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, where the dining room is fully booked but we have our pick of seats at the empty upstairs patio off the bar.

The Refinery Outside

plates at the refinery

And my favorite meal, hands down, is Saturday night at Mi Pueblo, 8405 Tuttle Avenue, Sarasota, a Mexican restaurant that offers both a traditional and an organic menu, as well as a festive interior of star lights and Mexican tiling and bold colors everywhere you turn your head.

Mi Pueblo outside

Tim and I split a burrito made of sunflower seed “beans” and vegetables in a citrus sauce, wrapped in a giant collard leaf that makes me feel like I’m eating a garden, and we drink a Licuado de Chocolate made of macadamia nuts, cacao, banana and spices.

Mi Pueblo inside

We read and we watch a movie and we walk a few blocks from the house to see the sunset along the water, and our pace slows down as life becomes more simple.

And Tim takes my hand and I tell him, I’m thankful for the ways God changes us over time. I’m thankful for the ways He still will.

ginger pineapple limeade

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Homemade Blueberry Kefir

how to make blueberry kefir

Today, we started our morning with homemade blueberry kefir—a beverage that’s becoming something of a staple in our home—creamy and satisfying, sweet and tangy, loaded with good probiotics and convenient to grab on the go.

Even though making our own kefir is something we’ve talked about since before we were married, it’s only been in the last few weeks that we’ve finally ordered live kefir grains online and begun the process of combining them with raw milk and watching them grow. And, just as it is with ice cream in this household, the person behind the process is the one much more knowledgeable about food and nutrition in this marriage, Tim—which is why today’s FAQ-style post is all from him!

Below, he answers questions on how to make kefir, why use live grains, why it’s so good for you and more. Enjoy!

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Fresh-Squeezed Citrus Juice (+ some Web favorites)

citrus

Tim and I have been drinking a lot of fresh-squeezed juice lately, ever since my parents bought and sent us the citrus press of our dreams a week or two ago.

ciiiiitrus

It’s fantastic. We’ve had grapefruit juice. Orange juice. Grapefruit orange juice. Grapefruit lime, orange lime, grapefruit orange lime. And I tell you, every time we sip a new glass, it’s one of those “ah!” moments where you just can’t help but say out loud how good, how sweet, how completely perfect, the thing you’re drinking is.

grapefruit juiced citrus

That last sentence, the one where I say we can’t help but talk about how much we love our juice, is kind of funny, I think. Because the truth is, as you know from that last post, most of the time and with most things, I feel like it’s the exact opposite: It is work for me to notice benefits. It is a fight to see how we’ve been dealt with bountifully.

juiced grapefruit

Tim and I were just saying the other night how, no matter where you are in life or what you have, there’s always something to get down about. Our natural bent is to want—to get a house that you love and are so excited about, but in a few years or maybe a few months, want a house that’s newer or older or bigger or different; to buy a new outfit, but quickly see it become an old outfit, and want a new one; to have an amazing dinner and want another, better one; to love your new juicer and fresh-squeezed juice enough to “ah” one morning, but then quickly move on the next.

It’s so natural, so innate to notice what we lack. It’s so unnatural, so not innate to offer up a sacrifice of praise.

grapefruit juice

I asked on Twitter and Facebook the other day, If you could only pick ONE, which is the blog you always look for updates from? Which one is your all-around fav?

I asked because I’ve realized, although I follow over 100 different blogs, on topics ranging from food to couponing to photography, the ones I most look forward to are the ones that are good at praise, good at being thankful; the ones that focus on simple joys; that lift me upwards.

Because I need that kind of refreshing, healing voice. Because I want to be it.

So while I think on that a little more, I thought I’d share some of my favorite spots on the Web lately, some new and some not:

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Hot (!) Spiced Milk

hot spiced milk

I started making this milk within the last few weeks, inspired by the tumeric milk posted over at the beautiful Journey Kitchen. Similar to a hot chocolate my friend Carrie makes (milk + cocoa powder + sweetener + heat = bam!), it’s nothing complicated or confusing. It’s hot and soothing—pure comfort when paired with a big down comforter and some online TV, especially when it’s as cold as it has been around here lately. And, because of the powerful spices, spiced milk is actually really beneficial for your health, too:

spices

First, there’s tumeric, the bright yellow spice that colors mustard and flavors curry. Commonly used in both Chinese and Indian ancient systems of medicine, tumeric is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory spices out there, the same ingredient I heard physicians wax eloquent about at a CCFA symposium I attended with my friend Alicia a few years ago. Because inflammation is connected to so many physical ailments, from Crohn’s to eczema to heart disease, foods that work against inflammation are like nutritional powerhouses, ingredients I want to work into my diet as much as possible.

There are also ginger and cardamom, long considered beneficial for digestion; cinnamon, which helps regulate blood sugar; cayenne, aid to the circulatory system, among other things; and cloves, another anti-inflammatory and also anti-bacterial spice. I add raw honey for taste, but I could just as easily be adding that for the nutritional benefits as well, as raw honey has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.

hot spiced milk for two

But all that aside, trust me when I say the health benefits are just icing on the cake for this drink, which is at once soothing and stimulating, spicy and sweet. Going down your throat, it burns just slightly (and of course, you could adjust the spices to your liking if you’re less tolerant of the kick of cayenne) and feels like a kicked-up version of chai tea or some really amazing steamed milk.

More than anything though, to me, it’s been one of a hundred comforts I’ve been tasting over the last few days, I really believe brought to me by the Great Comforter, the one to whom I could barely hang on at the beginning of this month. There have been long talks with Tim, encouraging Bible studies with friends, peaceful nights of sleep, random free tickets to the symphony, the ability to think clearly enough to remember how many blessings I’ve been given. My friend Joanna, in a recent email, told me that the darkest times in our lives are also times covered by God’s love and grace to pull us out of them, and she’s right. I’m tasting that these days, and it is good.

You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.
(Job 10:12 NIV)

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Fennel Nettle Iced Tea

fennel nettle sweet tea

Today is September 2. September 2! Tim and I are getting married in 44 days, as in next month, six weeks from tomorrow. Yesterday, September 1, I went to a dress fitting. I stood in front of a wall of mirrors and looked at myself, standing next to a tall blonde woman with a thick European accent who tried to sell me a $350 veil, and I thought, look at me! I’m wearing a big, white dress! And then I thought, look at me? I’m wearing a big, white dress?

bulb of fennel

Tim comes over most nights and we make dinner together. Wednesday, it was brown rice pasta covered in olive oil, chopped heirloom tomatoes and lime basil (thank you, Angela!), hunks of sheep’s milk feta that melted into a cheesy sauce, salt and pepper. Last night, it was a roast chicken and broccoli, and now I have stock simmering on the stove. After we eat, we sit on the air mattress I have set up in my living room as our makeshift sofa, and we watch TV on the flat-screen my brother gave us (!!) and fall asleep until a show ends and wakes us up, and Tim leaves, and I go to bed.

fresh fennel

A couple times this past week, I’ve been woken up (at 1 AM, at 4 AM) by my late-night upstairs neighbors arguing. The first time, it was so startling, so surreal, I just laid in bed, my heart racing, wondering if what I was hearing was really happening. The second time, I realized it was, and I wished someone else were hearing it, too. Last night, I recognized that someone was crying.

fennel tea

We have a to-do list, me and Tim, a long one. It’s filled with tasks to accomplish before the wedding, and every time one of us says or thinks, man, I wish we were just married already!, I remember the list and think of all the things separating us from then, and I say something very unhelpful to Tim like, Why didn’t we elope?

making tea

And another night goes by, and another day, and I go thrifting with my future sister-in-law and find a $7 chair and a $9 chair and a gorgeous $7 crock for our future umbrellas, and our house becomes more and more of our future home, and Tim and I make another dinner, and we bake another batch of cookies and, we make reservations for our honeymoon.

fennel tea

It’s in this new almost-home that a company asks to send me some fresh fennel and then surprises me with an entire case (!!), so then there Tim and I are, standing side by side, making a big salad and cooking the leaves in a tea, while he’s talking about the health benefits of fennel and how it’s good for your immune system, your colon, women’s health.

And it’s in times like those that it hits me, just like when we’re eating dinner on our hardwood floors or laughing about how we have to jiggle a toilet valve every time we use the bathroom, I don’t want to forget this. Any of it.

Someday far from now, when we have furniture and a garden and a long history of sharing the same last name, when we’ve already done holidays with both families, when these simple beginnings feel faded and almost not real, I don’t want to forget how nice it was to be at the threshold of sharing life together. I don’t want to forget how all the changes—in the pain as much as the bliss—were so new, so unexpected, so constantly surprising. I don’t want to forget they were good.

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