Good things to eat

Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

This Blog turns six!

So hard to believe it has already been six years, since I took those food writing classes, on those damp Winter nights back in 2011.

This blog was a class assignment.  I don’t know if any of you know this, other than blog writing people, that things that are posted on the internet, don’t really exist until you tell someone to look at them.

Click here to see very first post!

Sure, someone might randomly come across your post, but even that is unlikely unless you somehow  make it known to any search engine.  That’s why “tagging” is important or attaching it to thing like Facebook or Twitter.  So people can even know it’s there.

There are many tactics on how to get more traffic to your blog, like going to other like-minded blogs and “liking” stuff or commenting.  Then the other people who look at that blog see you and might want to check out what your blog is…..and so on and so on.

That’s why I say having a blog is kind of like having a bank account that you don’t really touch but it keeps getting interest.

In the last few years, life has gotten in the way of me being able to add and offer up things to the blog on a regular basis, yet every day, someone, somewhere, somehow takes a look at one or more of my posts.

That’s really cool.

Thank you for all the support over the last six years!  I wish I could promise to “get back at it” but we do the best we can with what we’ve got!

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When was the last time you changed the filter in your Britta water jug?

I know, me too.

I’m not a fan of bottled water for many reasons.  I  try to avoid it where ever possible, but there are always a few places, like when inside the gate at the airport or other restricted places  that you have no choice if you need a drink.

And I am blessed to live in a place that has some of the cleanest tap water that there is.

Now we can debate the merits of the filtered water till the cows come home but bottom line,  for some reason, water just always tastes better when it is filtered and left in the fridge.

I myself have had a Britta water filter jug for years and very much enjoy it.  Truth is, chlorine is a volatile gas and so when water is left sitting, filtered or not, it will dissipate.  So probably just filling any jug and putting it in the fridge for a while will taste better than regular chlorinated tap water.

So do the filters help?  Well I think so.  They can filter out quite a few things and some they can’t.

But the one thing to remember, for them to work well, is to CHANGE them from time to time!!

The manufacturer suggests once a month.   But they would, wouldn’t they?  Cause they want you to buy more of them.

I am comfortable with using one for three months.  But it will depend on the frequency of use.

But I admit, sometimes it can drag on much longer to six months or more!!

Perhaps we should use the same rule of thumb that we do for the battery in our smoke detectors.  To at least change them every time we change the clocks!!

Another tell-tale hint that it is time to change them is when you start to get a weird coloured film inside the top of the jug where you put in the fresh water……that is never good…..but does go to show you that the filter is working!

And the whole bit about soaking the new filter for about an hour before using is actually true.   I used to poo poo it and just shove it in and go.  But when you do this, you will notice a layer of the black coal dust on the bottom of the “clean” water for a few days after.   You don’t want that, so just soak the filter and then I always run one jug worth of water through it first, dump it out and then start using that water from there on.

I also have a smaller filter jug that I bring with us on road trips.  As soon as we get into the hotel, I fill it up and we have drinking water instead of getting dinged from the mini bar or the vending machine.

But where ever you might use your filter jugs, it is important to keep them clean and maintained other wise you might as well just drink out of a puddle like your dog!

Water is such a precious and vital to life commodity.  We really want to treat it right!

 

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A great little thing

Here is something I found that can make a Vegan’s ( or anyone really) life just a little easier!

I’m not sure what they are officially called…… a julienne peeler perhaps?

It is a little gadget that looks like a regular peeler, only when you look hard at it, you will see it has all these little teeth instead of the regular blade.

Then you run it along the raw vegetable of your choice and it produces wonderful match stick width , or “juliennes” of stuff.

And they are ready to add to your salad or other decorative dish!

SO much easier than trying to cut them all small and neatly the same……..cause I know that not everyone lives with a CHEF!!

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My new favorite toy

I just LOVE this thing!!

The Chef got it for me for Christmas and now I use it all the time!

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I originally wanted it so I could make flat breads, Chapati and home made tortillas. I’d been making them in the regular skillet but sometimes it is too hard to get the lifter or spatula under them at that angle.  But this, with no real edge, makes it so easy!

But it also works just great for making pancakes, like kale pancakes, or otherwise!!

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And then, what’s really great, it that when you are done, you can pile the pancakes on the griddle  and keep them warm in the oven, because it is all cast iron, no worries about melting any handles!!

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And clean up is a snap, because we all know that we NEVER use soap on our cast iron products!!  Just give it a good scrub in hot water with a good stiff brush, dry it immediately and you are back in business!

My suggestion is you pick yourself up one of these.  You will be amazed at how handy it is!!

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2012 in review

Wow, how exciting.

WordPress has compiled a nice little statistics chart about

What Have We Got Here”  and I am very pleased with the results!

And a bit THANK YOU to Jennifer, Sophie, Roxanne and Jacquie for being my top  commentors!  I really do appreciate you taking the time to do so.

Happy New Year Everyone!!  May 2013 be the best year EVER!!!

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 18,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Here’s something you should know about!

Now, if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that I am an advocate of healthy eating!

But I also realize that people have to live in this world and need to enjoy life too.  So it has always been my philosophy that if people are well informed and can make the best choices for them, at least 80% of the time.  Then you should do okay.

By the same token, I am a great champion of “real” food!  Even if it is “oohy gooy” sweet or high in fat, I still think that if you made it yourself and know EXACTLY what is in it, that it is better than the processed version!

But ALL that being said, sometimes, life presents realistic situations, where unless you have a charmed life where you can spend all of your time preparing every last morsel of your own food, you are going to HAVE to eat something that came from a package!

It is just a fact of life!

So I was very happy when the nice people NATURALLY SAVVY approached me to have a look at their new book:

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UNJUNK YOUR JUNK FOOD

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And I think it couldn’t have been better timing what will Fall upon us and people getting back to their busy school and work lives where every now and again, packaged food is inevitable!

What they have done in this book is gone though an extensive list of “junk food” items and on one side listed the “undesirable product” with strong case evidence as to WHY you should NOT eat this particular item.  And then on the other side, listed a comparable product, i.e. a different brand of ice cream, with evidence as to WHY this one IS a much better choice!

But what’s really good is it is teaching you just WHAT you are looking for and how to recognize the “bad” ingredients from the “good”.

It is well organized and very easy to understand.  It has pictures of each product so you can recognize them when shopping and explains in easy terms the ingredient labels and shows the comparison between each product.

It is also chock full of explanations, definitions, tips and other helpful information, all in quick, easy to read format. 

And it is a great little size to put in your reusable shopping bag to bring along to the store as a great reference book while shopping!

And kids will love it because they will be able to play along in the grocery store!  “Buy THAT one Mommy not THIS one!”  Which might distract them from all the other activities they often get up to at the store!

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Here are some of the things you should keep an eye out for and to try and avoid when making YOUR choices!!

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For more information check out Naturally Savvy on FACEBOOK and TWITTER!

 

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The Lazy Margarita

What with summer winding down and the reality of “back to school” or “back to work” or whatever you are back to, even if that means cold weather and short days, here’s a tip I thought up on vacation and tried when I got home.

I call it “The Lazy Margarita”.  Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing like the real thing, especially when the lime juice has been lovingly  hand squeezed by some sweet boy named Rico.  But when you are back to reality and grasping at the final straws of summer, this can do the trick.

I was sitting in a hotel room after a long day of exploring Portland and had a few cans of Santa Cruz brand, organic ginger ale.   I took the plastic cover off the plastic cup and filled it with the ice that I had gone what felt like three blocks to collect from the ice machine.  That was always my favorite part about being on vacation as a child, getting a Coke from the vending machine and drinking it with the free ice!  To this day I can’t drink a Coke ( not that I drink much Coke any more, but you know, once in a while) without it being severely watered down!

So as I drank my ginger ale from my plastic cup, all I could think about was how good this would probably taste with a shot of Tequila in it!

When I got home…….that’s exactly what I did!  And it was GREAT!!  And a perfectly respectable “Lazy Margarita”!

So fill the glass of your choice ( actual glass works fine too) with a lot of ice….even crushed iced, if you are more ambitious.  Pour in a shot of Tequila and then pour the ginger ale over it.   Let it sit just a little till the ice melts a bit.  Keep adding a bit more of any of the ingredients as you drink until you get the exact tastiest balance!

By By sweet Summer!!

The Lazy Margarita: Santa Cruz Organic Ginger Ale and Tequila

Friday Wisdom – August 17th

“Hungry For Change” – documentary

If you get a chance, I highly recommend that you check out this documentary.

“Hungry For Change”

It is free online until March 31st.

 

Pipe Cleaner?

I’m not sure where I first heard this or even if it is really true, I but I know I have been doing it for years!

I’m speaking of course about dumping coffee grounds down the sink!

I know that some of you will be outraged!  But in my mind it makes sense, kind of like an exfoliator for the pipes!

 

 

Coffee grounds

Now I’m not saying dump it all down at once and clog up the works!

What I usually do is dump it to the side a little and then use the water to gradually wash it down.

 

Wash it down to clean the pipes!

 

But think of it, scratchy bits flowing by in water, scraping off built up gunk on the way by and floating it away!

And I’m no chemistry expert but……I’m thinking that coffee grounds have to be a heck of a lot better for the environment than say……Draino?   Don’t you think?

 

 

 

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Tips – seaweed

Seaweed

Photo courtesy of  ( click here )

Did you know?

When making beans from scratch, as in from dried hard things not opening the can by your self, if you add some seaweed to the cooking water it will help make the beans less ” gas-producing” when you eat them! And adds a bunch of nutrients to boot!

Tumeric is also helpful with this problem and is good for lowered bad cholesterol so it is doing double duty!

Just thought you should know.

Fruit fly trouble?

Don’t you just hate them?  Their hovering about and their beady little red eyes!

We’ve been having fruit fly trouble lately.  Maybe it is the cooler weather, everyone moving inside, or maybe it’s all the apples we have?  Whatever the case, I hate them.

But I saw a guy on the news with a great little suggestion that did the trick!

Get a small glass or reseptical of some sort and pour in about an inch of vinegar.  Any kind is fine but I used sherry vinegar because it seemed more delicious than plain.  The guy on TV just made a little cone out of paper and put it in the glass. 

The theory is, the stupid fly will fly down the cone to enjoy the delicious vinegar only once he gets down there, he can’t figure out how to get out and then ends up drowning in the very same vinegar!!  Ingenious!

I tried the paper cone but it got wet and didn’t really work, but the Chef, being the smarty pants that he is, suggested I use a small funnel! 

Funnel in glass of vinegar ( fruit fly trap)

And BINGO!!  Worked like a charm!!

dead fruit flies!

Public Markets

You would think that a place like Victoria would have a public market!

I hadn’t really noticed that they didn’t have one until I was back in Toronto last year and was at the St. Lawrence Market and thought to myself “that’s what they need in Victoria!”  In fact when I got home I discussed the matter with a friend in the food business and tried to talk him into getting one going.

I spoke to another friend and she said, “I’m afraid that someone has beat you to it!” and handed me a brochure from the Victoria Public Market Society.  Seems these people have been on the case for awhile!

And this past weekend put on the “EAT HERE NOW 2011” festival in Spirit Square in downtown Victoria.

Eat Here Now festival

It was well attended and had an array of local farmers, vendors and Chefs from many restaurants with delicious samples.  As well as representation by many other relevant worthy causes.

Eat Here Now Festival Victoria

 

Eat Here Now Festival Victoria

 

Eat Here Now Festival Victoria

We have quite a few summer markets in various neighbourhoods where the farmers and artisans sell their wares, but we don’t have a permanent year round facility.

The likes of:

 Seattle’s Pike Place Market

or

Vancouver’s Granville Island Public Market

or

Montreal’s  Atwater or Jean Talon Markets

or

Ottawa’s   Byward Market

All wonderful places to get fresh produce, meat, cheese, baked goods and usually other exotic hard to find gourmet products!

A food friendly town like Victoria should absolutely have a Public Market of their own!

You have my vote!

Victoria Blues

Among many an activity in Victoria this weekend, one was the “Blues Bash”.  This is an annual Labour Day celebration that takes place in the Inner Harbour.

Victoria Blues Bash

Besides being able to catch some great bands and enjoy the sunshine, it’s also a great time to eat!

These days, “street food” is all the rage!

These days our favorite show on the Food Network is called “Eat Street”.  The show is produced out of Vancouver BC but most of the locations are in the US.  However they have featured a few places in Vancouver, here in Victoria and elsewhere on Vancouver Island.

What is really cool is that you can down load an “Eat Street”  APP to your smart phone so whenever you are in another city you can quickly check out where the best food trucks are located! 

I don’t think that any of the vendors from the Blues Bash have been featured on Eat Street but were still worth checking out anyway.

A local favorite is “Smokin Bones Cookshack” which has a full service restaurant in Langford BC and soon to have another location downtown Victoria in the recently converted to condos former Hudson’s Bay building.

Smokin Bones Cookshack

Another popular Victoria eatery call “PIG BBQ Joint” is usually also represented at Blues Bash, but for some reason I didn’t see them there this year.  They opened a bigger and better downtown location last fall and have been doing gangbusters!

These two vendors are who I deem most appropriate for a “BLUES” event.  I don’t know, ribs and pulled pork just scream blues to me!!

It is too bad that this event doesn’t some how co-ordinate with another popular event that I often used to attend in various locations in Ontario.  It was appropriately called “Rib Fest” and is a sort of travelling circus of meat that goes from town to town over the course of the summer.

I think these two festivals would be a match made in heaven!

Where we actually ended up getting something was from this food wagon called “EAT” because I’d been promising the Chef that he could get something that I’ve always known as a “Beaver Tail” but they seem to have different regional names.  This food truck calls them Langos and say they are Hungarian.

Langos at EAT

But in pretty much any culture or language, what they are is a big deep-fried piece of donut like dough and then topped with either a cinnamon sugar type topping ( which is the style I know best) or with various other savory toppings.

Lango or beaver tail?

 When I used to get these or rather “Beaver Tails” back in Ottawa they would suggest a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice over the top to bring out the flavours.  Nice!

Victoria Inner Harbour

Busy Labour Day weekend

Let us know about your favorite “STREET FOOD”.

 

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Here are some links to topics of interest:

Eat Street on the Food Network:       http://eatst.foodnetwork.ca/

Smokin Bones Cookshack:      http://smokenbones.ca/        

PIG BBQ Joint:            http://www.pigbbqjoint.com/

Victoria Blues Bash:   http://jazzvictoria.ca/

Rib Fest:                     http://www.canadaslargestribfest.com/

 

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Trouble with brown sugar?

Who hasn’t had a wave of inspiration to go and bake something, only to find your brown sugar has transformed into on solid rock hard ball?   Nothing worse.

Well the Chef showed me a cool trick to alleviate this problem!

You will have to transfer the offending brick to an air tight container and if it is too big you might have to hack it down a bit.

I find dropping the bag of sugar on to the floor from as high as you can then it might break into a few big chunks at least.

Hard brown sugar

Once you have some manageable amounts put them in the air tight container with a slice of bread!  Yes you read it right!  A slice of BREAD!  Doesn’t matter what kind.  I only happened to have some multi grain but plain ol white bread will work just fine too.

Slice of bread stuffed in jar of brown sugar

Seal it up and let the magic begin.

Bread in jar of brown sugar

Even after half and hour you will notice a difference.  Somehow, magically the sugar will suck the moisture out of the bread which relaxes the sugar and it lets go of the clumpiness.

Once the sugar is at a useable consistency, remove the bread.  Which is now transformed into the hard thing!

Use brown sugar as needed!

Softened brown sugar

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Blueberry season

It’s that time again!  Blueberry season in BC!

Blueberries have made the list of “Wonder Foods”.  Not only are they tasty little explosions of deliciousness but they are also chock full of anti oxidants and from what I hear, other magic powers!

Tub of blueberries

Whenever blueberry season comes round, I like to buy up a bunch and freeze them to use in my smoothies and other dishes all year long.   I learned the hard way that you can’t just rinse them off and toss them in the freezer.  It will only end in a heartbreaking clump of frozen blueberry misery!

What you need to do is first wash them thoroughly and pick out any bad ones and pick off any stems or weird bits,  then put them into a clean tea towel to dry them.

Dry the blueberries well before freezing

Once they are good and dry transfer them to a baking sheet and spread them loosely.  It will be impossible to have it so that none of them are touching each other but make sure they have plenty of room and not crammed together, even if you have to do several batches.

Look them over again checking for any dodgy stuff you might have missed on the first pass.  Then into the freezer.

Now I KNOW this might be obvious to many but be sure they are laying flat in the freezer and secure.  There is NOTHING more unpleasant than picking up a tray full of blueberries off the floor when you open the freezer door and the tray falls out!

Give berries lots of room on the tray

They will need at least half and hour to freeze unless you have some kind of super freezer!  But longer is fine if you forget.  But just BE CAREFUL opening the freezer door!!

Once they are frozen load them into a plastic container or what I prefer is a zip lock freezer bag because they are much easier to fit into the freezer afterwards.

Frozen blueberries in a ziplock bag

Now you’ve got blueberries to last till next season!

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Home made crackers

So once you have all sorts of dips and spreads you will need something to put them on.

I am really a fan of making my own crackers.  Mostly because you know exactly what’s in them!

I’ve shown you how to make crackers before with the left over pulp from your juicer ( click here to check those out )  and then the crusts we made for our “raw pizza”  ( click here to see that) also make wonderful “raw crackers”.

What’s great too about making your own is that you can keep changing them up every time you make them.  Change the herbs or spices or add some different vegetables or different grains or flours.  And then depending on the thickness you spread them, will determine their crispness, size etc.

Here’s what I used today:  In the food processor add

  • 1 stalk of celery roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium sized onion roughly chopped

Grind these up until they are pretty fine.  Then add:

  • a handful of fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp dried garlic  ( fresh is fine too)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp whole flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Grind this up till well mixed then add:

about 1 cups worth of grain product either all one thing or a mixture of things like

  • whole wheat flour
  • rolled oats
  • flours like, rye, spelt, kamut, chick pea, rice…..you get the idea

Add that in gradually and mix until things get to a nice thick goopy stage.

Cracker mixture

                                

Then we spread it out on our cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to the desired thickness.  Be careful that whatever thickness you choose is the same all over otherwise the edges will burn.

Then score it into the shapes you’d like them to be if you want them the same.  This makes them easier to crack when baked.

Score crackers before baking

Course there is no reason why you can’t leave it is one big cracker and then break it up unevenly for the “rustic” look.

Bake slowly at about 300 degrees and keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Let cool and then crack away!!!

Home made crackers

 

 

 

Special Breakfast

No, it’s NOT my birthday!

The Chef had a little time on his hands and decided to surprise me with my favorite breakfast.   Well, his version of it anyway.

In an earlier blog I mentioned that my all time favorite special breakfast is peanut butter, banana and bacon stuffed French toast.    ( click here to read about my quest to find it )

It’s really a very simple idea.

Make a batch of your favorite French Toast.

Cook up some bacon.

Then take a slice of French Toast and spread on your favorite peanut butter.

Then slice up a banana on to the peanut butter.

Add a couple of slices of bacon.

Put on another slice of French Toast.

Well, that’s how I would do it.

But the Chef, well, he sliced up the banana and sautéed them in some butter and brown sugar first to add an extra layer of delicious!!

And he made it a triple decker number!!

Man that’s livin!

Peanut Butter, banana and bacon stuffed French Toast

Black Mission Fig pizza

Okay.

We’ve been SO good that I think it’s time for a treat.   But this is still a perfectly healthy choice if done the right way.  And is a GREAT summer dinner, snack or entertaining food.  It is particularly impressive when made on the Bar B que.

Let’s start with our old pizza dough recipe from before ( click here to see it ).

But if you don’t have the time or inclination to go to the trouble of making your own dough ( this time) then you could use a good quality whole wheat pita bread or a plain ol wheat tortilla, but would work just fine.

Pizza Dough

So once you have your base of choice, start by schmearing it with some caramelized onion or home made onion jam ( we’ll tackle that project another time).

Caramelized onions are super easy.  Slice up a good size onion into thinly sliced rounds or nice big thin slices.  Pot em in a frying pan with some olive oil and cook until they get sweaty and limp looking.  At this point you can turn down the heat and just keep cooking slowly till they get brown and goopy.  OR you can cheat and give them a shot of soya sauce or Worcestershire sauce or a good shot of brown balsamic vinegar which will give them a nice brown colour and a bit of sweetness.

So after the caramelized onions we’re going to add the beautiful Black Mission Figs  ( click here to read about them)

Black Mission Fig

Slice them into let’s say 8ths, thin enough but not too thin.  Add them to your pizza.  Next we will crumble some good quality blue cheese just to give them that tangy bite against the sweetness of the onions and figs.  Then sprinkle with a few pine nuts or chopped raw walnuts and you are DONE.

Black Mission Fig Pizza

Simple yet elegant.

Pop them in the oven or onto the bar b que and bake them until the crust crisps up and the cheese melts just a little.

For a little added taste and nutrition, just before serving hit them with a little baby arugula.

Black Mission Fig Pizza with carmelized onions and blue cheese

These make a great starter at your party or served with a side salad a nice light summer supper.

Yumm-eee.

Raw Almond Milk

Okay, I know I keep talking about “RAW” almond milk which is very different from the stuff you buy in a tetrapak.  And of course that is a perfectly agreeable product, BUT if you are trying to eat completely raw then it won’t work because it has been pasteurized for your safety.

The live or “RAW” almond milk is truly that, alive and full of wonderful enzymes.

Now like much of living a raw lifestyle, it is a bit of work and planning, but if you are committed, then it will become part of your daily routine.

Here’s how we start.

Take about a cup of organic raw ( as in not toasted, roasted or blanched) almonds and place them in a bowl covered with fresh water.

Soak your nuts

And there they should sit for about 8 hours.  I usually do this at night before bed and then make the milk in the morning, or else put them out before I leave in the morning and make the milk when I get home.

Once they have been well soaked, it is time to make the milk.   At this point you have two choices, you can either skin the nuts or not.  Both are perfectly fine and the only difference this will make is the colour.   If say you are trying to trick….I mean…..encourage….a doubter of the goodness of almond milk, you might want to skin them to get the nice white milk, otherwise it is fine to leave the skin on.

But in this case I have skinned the nuts.   It is easy and fun….for a few minutes anyway.  Just squeeze the nut between your fingers and it will pop right out of it’s wrapper!!

Skinning almonds

Once you are ready, skinned or not…..

Naked almonds

Put the nuts in a blender and add one cup of fresh water.  If you want your milk a little sweeter, you can also add 1 tsp of pure maple syrup, but on this occasion I didn’t.

Add water

Now whiz this up on the strongest setting and keep whizzing until the nuts are completely pulverized and there is only a liquid left in the blender.

Now you are going to need a “nut bag”.  Okay, maybe you won’t have one, it took me forever to find mine.  I looked in every hippie store in the land but finally after years of searching finally found one in a groovy store in Portland Oregon!   Then again, you can probably buy them on line but I didn’t want to pay the shipping that would probably cost more than the bag itself!

Nut bag

So if you aren’t fortunate enough to have your OWN nut bag, then cheese cloth will work just fine.  That’s what I used for years before acquiring my nut bag.  Cheese cloth is just a bit messier and harder to maneuver but does the job just fine!

Now with SUPER clean hands, you are going to pour the nutty goop into your nut bag or cheese cloth while it sits in a bowl or other convenient receptacle.

Now you are going to pick up the bag or cloth and turn and squeeze and keep turning and squeezing as all the nut milk comes out into the bowl.  Squeeze and squeeze until you can’t squeeze anymore!!

Once you have done your best with that, now you will dump the pulp BACK into the blender, add another cup of water and do it ALL again!

Finally you will have a wonderful supply of “fresh squeezed” almond milk to use in all of your wonderful “RAW” foods recipes or to just drink as is!

Fresh squeezed almond milk

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