Archive for DIY

Coconut Milk Substitutes

A couple weeks back, I was craving a vegan dessert that used coconut milk as its base. Now, normally, I keep a can of coconut milk in my cupboard at all times. It’s easy enough to do–shelf-stable, and good for so many applications–both savoury and sweet.

But for some reason that day, my cupboard was coconut-milk free! I had used up my last can and not replaced it.

Coconut Milk Substitutes

So I started thinking about substitutions. What could I substitute for that can of coconut milk?

There are surprisingly quite a few options. I tried them all out, and here’s what I found:

  1. Make your own coconut milk. Click here to learn how.
  2. Use a powdered coconut milk. I bought mine at the Bulk Barn, but there are several large manufacturers who also sell it in grocery stores. I’ve seen Grace Brand, for example, in my local Loblaws. Basically, you use a couple tablespoons of the powder and stir it into water or another non-dairy milk.
  3. Pure Creamed Coconut. This little pouch contains the milk, solids and fat from the coconut, so it gives you a more balanced coconut milk. Again, you just add a few tablespoons to water to create your coconut milk. It’s available in grocery stores beside the canned coconut milk.


I tried all 3 coconut milks, and examined them both for texture (thickness, creaminess, etc) and taste against canned coconut milk, and of the 3, the Pure Creamed Coconut was my favorite.

While I like the idea of making my own coconut milk, it does leave behind a lot of solids, and unless you use those solids in some cookies or energy balls, that means waste.

The coconut milk powder that I bought required me to mix it in with a non-dairy milk. I didn’t like this idea for two reasons: first off, you have to have non dairy milk on hand, and you may not. Secondly, the coconut milk just tasted like cashew milk (which was the base milk I mixed it into). What I have to experiment with is mixing the coconut milk powder into water and seeing how that turns out.

The Pure Creamed Coconut was my fave and the most like canned coconut milk of the three. However, there were a few small solids in there, so just be aware that it may not be as smooth and creamy as your regular canned coconut milk.

One last tip: if you are using pure creamed coconut, it helps to soak the unopened pouch in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes or so before you use it to soften it up.

Have you used coconut milk substitutes? What’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

DIY Food Photography Background for Instagram

A few months back, I got a tutorial from Jeremy and Adrian on food photography for Instagram. If you’re not following @foodgays, go do it right now. I’ll wait.

These guys are at the top of their game, and they have the social proof (50K followers) to prove it.

DIY Food Photography Background

They use various coloured backgrounds for their shots, some are lighter and some are darker, depending on the colour of the food and the mood they want to create.

I decided I would make some for myself, and as fate would have it, at that time I happened to be hanging out on Granville Island while my son took classes at Arts Umbrella.

While wandering around Railspur Alley one day, I noticed a box marked “FREE” out back of the Arts Club’s Theatre shop. Sticking out of that box were rectangular pieces of plywood of exactly the right size for a photography background. Score!

A quick trip to the dollar store and to Michaels (or Opus if you’re on Granville Island, anyway), and less than $20 later, you’ve got a couple of gorgeous backgrounds to showcase your #FoodPorn.


Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Plywood, at least 2″x 3″
  2. Acrylic paints in various colours (for the lighter board, I used a sample of an interior paint that cost $5, and for the darker board, I used the blue and purple (acrylic, from Opus) from a previous project I had, and then bought a black acrylic paint from Michaels for $1.19).
  3. Sandpaper in various grits (you want a rougher grit (60) for the beginning and a finer grit (100) for finishing) $2.50
  4. Paintbrushes (I bought the disposable ones from the dollar store) $1.25

Total cost to me: $4.94!

How to do it:


Begin by sanding the plywood down on all edges. This is not just for esthetic reasons, but also so that you don’t get splinters. Nothing ruins a photography session like splinters! Start with the rougher grit sandpaper and go over all the edges thoroughly. Then do a good sand on the surface of the plywood as well, to get rid of any imperfections or paint or whatever might be on there. The boards I selected had some paint on them, I sanded some of it down, but I left most of it there, because I think it adds an interesting, dimensional element.



Wipe down the entire board with a damp cloth. This is to get rid of all the dust you just created from sanding it. Allow it to dry

Now you can begin to paint. The idea is to create several layers that all need to be slightly transparent, so if your paint has good coverage, you may want to thin it down a little with some water.

For the light board, I used two coats of the interior wall paint.


For the dark board, I started out with a coat of my lightest colour, the purple. Then I layered a coat of the dark blue over that, and finally, a coat of the black, allowing them to dry thoroughly in between coats.


Once everything is completely dry, you want to take your fine grit sandpaper and run it over the boards in random places, sanding down to the wood. The idea is to create a distressed look, that looks like paint is worn off in different places. You really want to create something that has interest and texture, and not something that looks like it’s freshly painted.

You could seal the whole thing with a coat of shellac if you wanted to. This would make the surface more “wipeable” in case you spill food on it. I chose not to do that, mostly because many shellacs are shiny, and I don’t want my background to glare.

That’s it!

If you try this DIY, please tweet or Instagram it and tag me in the photo @rebeccacoleman, because I’d love to see!

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