Day 12: More on Menu Planning

Do you know why I have never written on menu planning here?  It's because I don't think in all the years I've been married (10 years) I have actually followed a menu plan.  I think it's pride.  And then, evaluating my food budget I'm served a piece of humble pie.  

The fact of the matter is the feeling of constraint I've felt in living by a planned menu.  Here's the thing...I actually love planning.  I am a planner, or shall I say, a dreamer and visionary; but, I completely stink at follow through.  It's why I gather lots of SJs around me to pay attention to details.  You would think I'm a "Perceiving" type.  I'm actually the "Judging" type, because too much spontaneity stresses me out.  You would also think I would take note of this and do something about it, especially in the one arena of home life, which happens EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  

However, pride cometh before the fall.  And friends, I have fallen.  It took me three babies and more to see my "I don't need your stinking planner" prideful attitude (along with SO much more).  So, in desperation for more balance, less stress, tighter budget, and playing creative ground...I've decided this weekend I will be creating a menu plan and *gasp* actually follow it.  I'm sure I've found numerous ideas on menu planning, but here's one I read and I like the approach.  

9 Tips to Successful Menu Planning

Now it's your turn.  Do you menu plan?  How do you approach it?  What are tips that are helpful for you?  

I'm joining  The Nester  in the 31 days series along with 1200 other bloggers. 

I'm joining The Nester in the 31 days series along with 1200 other bloggers. 

Day 5: How to Make Homemade Almond Milk


Truth be told, I still purchase cow's milk for my daughters (gasp I know).  I also on occasion drink it myself in the form of a latte, which honestly is quite rare as I prefer an Americano or regular coffee over many special drinks.  

A couple months back I was having some away time to write and noticed the coffee shop offered almond milk.  This isn't too surprising to find in a place like Bellingham with independent coffee shops, but it's also not the norm.  So, I took the barista up on the offer and bought a maple (almond milk) latte (yes real maple syrup).  Upon the first drink...bleh.  I'm a firm believer in giving food second & third chances.  Another drink...ugh, no dice.  It tasted like uncooked bacon or something.  Not the most appealing taste lingering on one's tongue.  

I would give that boxed almond milk another chance a couple other times; but, to no avail, the uncooked bacon taste.  It was then and there I would pick up the anchor and make some at home.  I was certain it was the additives in the milk that made it less than appealing.  Sure enough, my homemade almond milk was superb.  That already milky-like taste in almonds came through in the milk.  Steamed some up for lattes and it was no different.  Plus, super easy to make without utilizing a Vita-mix or Blendtec blender.  Use this in place of the milk to make your homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte. 

Homemade Almond Milk (printable recipe)

You can use a linen kitchen towel instead of cheesecloth, just not terry cloth.  You can also keep the almond pulp to use for future baking.  Simply spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 350.  Cool and store in fridge or freezer.  


1/2 cup raw almonds

3 cups water

2-3 Tb pure maple syrup (grade B)

1/4 tsp Celtic sea salt


  1. Soak almonds in a jar covered with purified water (using your Brita works fine) overnight or 8 hours.  
  2. Rinse your almonds, discarding the soaking water.
  3. Place almonds & 3 cups water into a blender.  If using a regular blender (non-Vita-mix or Blendtec), fold a kitchen towel and place on top of lid.  Puree or liquify the almonds & water until almonds have been thoroughly pulverized.  This can take about 45 seconds.  
  4. Take cheesecloth, folded, and line it in a sieve.  Put that cheesecloth lined sieve over a bowl and pour the almond mixture through.  The cheesecloth will catch the almond pulp.  
  5. Take the ends of the cheesecloth and wrap it up, in order to keep the almond pulp inside and squeeze the remaining milk out.  
  6. Add the maple syrup for taste to add a bit of sweetness.  Or if you are avoiding extra sugars, don't add it.  **You could use honey instead, or use a couple medjool dates while the almonds & water are being blended.**
  7. Store in the fridge for 3-5 days, or check for smell.  If it tastes sour, then it's time to throw it out.  

This is part of the Opening the Door to Autumn's Harvest Series

Make Your Own Vanilla Salt


I've been going through my plethora supply of vanilla beans (great deal through Azure Standard), in order to make Christmas gifts.  After pinning multiple felt & sewing projects on Pinterest, reality set in, "This is not the time to start something new. Do what you know & love."  

I know & love food.  The feel of my chef knife as I poke & slice through bean after bean, then scrape, scrape, scrape.  Food gifts do it for me.  Giving that gift of knowing what works to someone else is sharing the love.  Vanilla salt is gift.  When you eat a chocolate chip cookie, do you sprinkle salt on top before baking it?  If not, I implore you to begin.  Better yet, make your own vanilla salt & sprinkle that on top.  



After biting in a just from the oven chocolate chip cookie with a minute frosting of salt, you will forever be converted & find the chocolate pops in your mouth.  This year, I'm giving gifts of the best chocolate chip cookie dough (seriously it's the best, it even won the Chocolate Chip Cookie Olympics) with a small jar of homemade vanilla salt.  It's so simple, you'll wonder why you haven't taken to it before now.

What you need:


  • vanilla beans
  • sea salt (if you want fleur de sel--go ahead, but not necessary)
  • chef knife
  • cutting board
  • mortar & pestle


For every vanilla bean, you will want about 4 Tb of sea salt (that's 1/4 cup).  Cut both ends off of the vanilla bean & then with the point of the knife, slice right down the middle until the bean is split in two.  Open up the bean as much as possible so it's similar to a butterflied bean & take the edge of the knife to scrape the bean pods out.  Repeat to both sides.

Either using a mortar & pestle, or putting the salt on the cutting board with the bean, you will want to combine until the majority of the bean pods are evenly distributed. It looks similar to sand.


Save the beans & put in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar.  Package up the vanilla salt.  




Two Years Ago: Twist on Tuna Salad & Funny story