Sunday, April 27, 2014

Almond Milk

When I moved to China, I knew one of the more materialistic things I would miss would be milk. I love America’s milk. It’s so full of flavor and rich. China milk just disappoints. Well, it disappoints me anyway. So, I only used it sparingly in my coffee for the past 3.5 years. But recently I discovered ALMOND MILK. Let me tell you, it has changed my life!

My friend and I had almost finished Whole30, it’s a 30-day cleanse if you will. We were discussing our new found love of almonds. And of course we asked, “Can you milk an almond?” You can, folks! Here’s how it’s done!

You need:
• 1 cup raw or not raw almonds, soaked in water. I usually do 8-12 hours. But you can do as little as 2 hours. Or so I’ve heard. 
• 3 cups filtered water
• 1 Tbsp of honey/syrup OR any old sweetener. I prefer honey.
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon. This is optional. I like it though.
• small pinch of fine grain sea salt, to enhance the flavor. I don’t usually do this because the almonds I buy are a little salty.

I buy almonds at the store when I can. 
But if I’m just hanging around campus, I’ll just buy this at a little shop. 
Before we get started, here is a photo of raw and cooked almonds. The raw ones are on the left and cooked on the right. I have tried both. I like cooked better because it just has more flavor than raw almonds. Raw almonds are smaller and darker in color. 

First step SOAK:
Like I said the almonds are slightly salty, I kind of rinse them off and then let me soak up the water! I usually do 8-12 hours or overnight. I have yet to try just 2 hours. But Angela Liddon, writer of Oh She Glows Cookbook, says it can be done! This is her recipe with a couple of tweaks. 

Second BLEND:
Put rinsed almonds, water, sweetener and vanilla in your blender.    
Then blend, baby, blend! For about a minute. 


I usually get my dish towel and pitcher ready. I put a photo of the brand and towel. This is what I used when anything says, use cheesecloth. I have yet to find cheesecloth in China, but these little towels do the trick. 

Place the towel over your pitcher, like so. 

Pour the almond milk slowly in to the towel. It will begin to drip through the towel. 

Eventually, you can pull the towel up and squeeze the rest of the milk out. This usually takes 4-5 minutes. I usually pour about half and squeeze, remove pulp, pour the other half, squeeze and then remove the rest of the pulp. Speaking of pulp…   

When you open the towel, you have almond pulp. But there are all sorts of stuff to do with the pulp. Crackers, hummus, add to granola, pizza crust, or really any baked good.  

I usually put the pulp in a bowl and set it aside. 

You’re almost done!!!
Fourth BLEND:
Rinse out your blender and then pour all the milk back in. Add the cinnamon and salt if you wish. Blend on low, just enough to combine it all up.  

Viola! You have made Vanilla Cinnamon Almond Milk! 

Lastly POUR:
Pour the milk in to a glass container and it can be stored for up to 5 days. Shake well before each use because the almonds and water tend to separate.    

I hope you fall in love with Almond Milk like I did. Feel free to play with the recipe. Another friend suggested chocolate. I might try adding some cocoa powder sometime. Or maybe you want to keep it simple and just add vanilla. Or you don’t want it sweet. Or you want it sweeter. Do whatever you like. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Glasses Twins

Every fall term I teach a class called The Bible and Christianity. This alone is very rare and special in China. I have never heard of any other person doing this. And I highly doubt I will ever. The students in that class are my old sophomores. When they are juniors they have the choice to take several electives. I’m always encouraged and excited to see 50+ students in my class that first day. Some take the class because they are truly interested, some just like me as a teacher.

Let me tell you a little about Ocean. He has one of the most gentle and kind souls. Even in English class, he was attentive, active and so insightful. So, I was excited to see him in class.

Throughout the fall semester, he was SUPER active and a GREAT participant. As we walked through creation, the first sin, the Law, the Messiah, Jesus and his parables, Ocean lit up each week. He asked wonderful questions and had thoughtful insights. And half the time when other students posed questions, he was quick to jump in and respond with accurate answers. He just GOT it. It was great.

From earlier posts, you may have read about some Kentucky friends that came to visit. While they were here, Ocean had some time to hang out with Ben and Tyler. I don’t know the details of what they talked about, but I did hear that both parties enjoyed talking with each other. The information I got from Tyler and Ben was that Ocean considers himself a believer or at the very least, very close to becoming one.

In the spring, I always offering to study further with students from the Bible class that desire to study more. Ocean was one of those students. We’ve been studying through James. And once again, he just GETS it. 

Continue to pray for him and his journey towards the One True God.

Isn’t he the cutest? We’re glasses twins. I couldn’t resist a photo.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Linda and her heavy burden...Part Two

If you haven't read my previous post, Part One, you should.

Ok, picture it. August 2013. Linda calls and asks about my upcoming Bible class!!! I'm so glad she remembered, or Father reminded her. I told her the time, place and date. She said she could come the first couple weeks because she doesn't have class. She teaches freshmen and they start later in the semester. I was excited and told her I would meet her and we could walk together.

The first couple weeks we cover Creation, the Fall, freedom, The Law, etc. Some good ol' good Old Testament stuff. She loved the Creation story. 
"God must be so creative and so powerful to do all those things. But I still can't understand how there is light, but there is no sun. He is also very organized."
When we talk about the Fall, I pose the "What is freedom?" question. And "Are rules necessary?" "Can you have rules and freedom?"
"This is such a good question. It really makes me think and I think it makes your students think too. I always thought freedom is doing what I want. But there must be rules. If there is no rules, things will go crazy. Maybe society can not be under control. And God gave the man and woman one rule. It's very easy, but they didn't follow. Before I knew the whole story, I thought God is so cruel. But I can understand more. We must follow rules. We should follow rules. Or there will be chaos."
After a couple weeks, she couldn't come to class anymore. We met a couple times outside of class and talked more about the Bible. I also gave her one to borrow. She said she had been reading it and loved all the stories. They were very interesting.

Around November 2013, she told me she didn't want to be separated from her husband anymore. She was really upset about this. But he was unwilling to move back after graduating in May 2014. He wanted her to go there. But she knew the difficulties of moving and how hard their life would be. He didn't have a promise of a job after graduation. She also wasn't sure if she was going to be able to find a job. Many Chinese people say, "The competition is fierce." There are SO many people with much of the same certificates and qualifications. You have to be exceptional in order to stand out and be hired. She wasn't confident that she would be noticed in such a massive city. All these worried about her marriage, finances, her in-laws, her son and job weighed heavy on her. But she was pretty sure, even if she didn't want to go, her husband wasn't going to budge. She would more than likely be moving in summer of 2014.

I told her I would be praying for her and her family. I would be really sad if she would to go, but I understand. If I was married, I would most DEFINITELY not live in a different city. I told her to keep reading the Bible I gave since it gives her peace. And that she is more than welcome to take it with her. Join me in praying for her.

Whole30 rocked my world...

Oh yes. I have followed the trend. If you don't even know what Whole30 is, just goes to show how much cooler I am than you ;) 

But seriously, I don't want to be dramatic. However, Whole30 has kind of changed my life. I'll first tell you the Purpose...

It's like the healthiest, most intense detox of your life!!! It's meant to boost your energy levels, give you more regular bowels, up your metabolism, boost your immune system, eliminate certain conditions or aches. The food we eat has more of an effect on us than we know or can to admit. Stripping certain foods from your diet for 30 days can have wonderful health and psychological benefits.

The Rules...
  • No sugar of any kind: raw, organic, artificial, etc.
  • No dairy: no raw milk, goat milk, soy milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, etc.
  • No legumes: no beans of any kind, black, kidney, white, pinto, lima, peanuts, etc.
  • No alcohol or tobacco.
  • No grains: wheat, barley, oat, corn, rice, etc. This also includes quinoa and couscous, the pseudo-grains.
  • No white, red, purple or gold potatoes. In any form.
  • No carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. It's really important to check the labels of things you are buying or going to cook with.
  • No paleo-ifying baked goods, desserts or snacks. You are trying to break those habits of snacking unnecessarily and eating "junk food." For the next 30 days, don't try to replicate food you miss. Just eat good, real, wholesome food.
My Whole30
I'm going to do my best to put it all into one paragraph. In the beginning, I honestly thought I was going to fall asleep at the wheel. Well, hypothetically. I live in China, so I don't do much driving. Okay, I do NO driving. But if I was behind a wheel, I think I would have fallen asleep during the first week. Depriving my body of sugar was the hardest part. I mean, I didn't gorge myself on it before, but my morning coffee always had sugar and milk. Which leads to my second challenge. COFFEE. I thought I wasn't going to make it! I was sure I was going to give up coffee altogether before the 30 days was up. But other than that I had fun cooking and trying to create new dishes with what seemed limited ingredients and spices.

Okay, I can't do one paragraph. It's going to be more like four. Week Two. I was feeling it!!! They call it Tiger Blood. I was SO energized. I was sleeping better, more fully and deeper. I was guzzling black coffee. My bowels were better than they have ever been. If you know me, I've never had good bowels. I'm almost always constipated and I usually have to drink a special tea to get things going. TMI? Get over it. I was even feeling lighter. And I was past the icky bloated stage, so that was nice too.

Week Three. Not much to say. Things were still going well. I was getting a little frustrating/bored with food. I was having a hard time feeling like I wasn't eating the same thing over and over again. And I was craving sweets and breads more than ever. But I didn't give in!

Week Four Plus 2 days. At first half of the last week, I had this anxious, can't wait to be done feeling. All I wanted to do is eat chocolate and pumpkin bread and banana bread, ANY bread! But I didn't give in or entertain those thoughts too much because I knew I was almost done. The second half was full of ideas and thoughts. How was I going to go on after Whole30? What habits did I want to continue? Was I going to allow sugar again? How can I be healthy about the amount of breads and grains I eat? Why did I EVER taint my coffee with sugar and milk before?! I'm trying to figure it all out.

Cons/Hard Stuff
  1. Don't let my optimism fool you. It was tough to stick to. And I did mess up a couple times because I was a little absent-minded. But I'm not a die-hard Whole30ist, so I didn't start over at day 1 when I did.
  2. I was super tired the first week-ish.
  3. There was one day around day 9 or 10 that I had really bad stomach cramps. Like fetal position style.
  4. After a while, it got hard to be creative with food.
  5. Living in China, it was tough not having some things that could be easily purchased in America. Like seasonings or sauces other Whole30ists used.
  6. At first, cooking/prepping/planning was a hassle!! What a time consumer.
  7. I had trouble with breakfast. I'm not a breakfast eater. So, that was tough to do.
  8. I also had trouble with the portion sizes. It felt like SOOO MUCH food sometimes.
  9. Always having to cook at home. China is a social-eating society.
  10. Having to go to the grocery store more often.
  11. I missed yogurt a lot!

Pros/Things I've learned
  1. I feel like my tastebuds have been enhanced.
  2. I have more energy.
  3. Better bowels and movements.
  4. Sleep has improved. I fall asleep faster and longer and deeper.
  5. I lost about 12 lbs/5.5 kg. Arms, legs, tummy overall skinner.
  6. For the most part, I've broken my nasty snacking habit. AND if I ABSOLUTELY have to have a snack, I make it a healthy one; fruits, nuts, etc.
  7. My close fit better.
  8. I feel healthier and lighter.
  9. I know I can live without sweets, sugar, breads and other things I thought I couldn't do with out.
  11. My mouth salivates when I think about wholesome, all natural, unprocessed food.
  12. I don't crave bad foods or junk food.
  13. Having a healthier relationship with carbs. And food in general.
  14. Enjoying cooking again and getting better at it. Or at least I think so.
  15. Connecting with my body. That sounds so "spiritual" and "hippie." But I mean, I know when I'm truly hungry and when I'm not. And making a wise decision accordingly.
  16. I have a good sense of how different foods effect my mood, body and energy levels.
  17. Starbucks will be a special treat. I won't over do it.

Here's the site. Check out Whole30 and decide if it's something you want to try.

Hahahaha, and please ignore my face in the photos above.