January 29, 2014

Easy, Affordable Homemade Yogurt

Several years ago, when I got my first dehydrator, I tried making homemade yogurt using the recipe and instructions that came with the dehydrator.  I don't quite recall the recipe, but I remember it included powdered milk, an ingredient I don't usually have on hand.  The yogurt containers that came with the dehydrator held much less than would satisfy my family.  In the end, the attempt failed.  None of the four containers produced any yogurt, just a soupy mess.  Long story short, since then I thought making yogurt at home was costly and difficult.  Wow!  Was I wrong!

Fast forward to last summer.  One of my favorite books I read last summer was "Making It" by Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen.  One of the projects they describe in the book is making yogurt.  They made it sound so simple!  I just had to give it another try.  After a quick Google search, I found a website aptly named MakeYourOwnYogurt.  The entire site is all about making yogurt.  It is very in-depth.  If you are not sure about any of the steps I list, just check this site.  In a nutshell, here are the instructions...

You will need milk.  I used whole milk, as that is what we usually buy.  I like my dairy products rich and creamy.  However, you can use whatever you usually buy.  Remember, the point of this is to be able to make delicious yogurt for less than you can buy it.  The amount of milk will depend on the amount of yogurt you want to make.  You will actually make the same amount of yogurt as the amount of your milk, but end up with less finished product depending on how thick or thin you like your yogurt.  You will also need a few tablespoons of good quality, plain yogurt.  No sugar added, no flavoring added.  Be sure the yogurt you choose to use as your starter contains active bacteria.  (Before you flavor or sweeten your finished product, be sure to save a few tablespoons to use as a starter for your next batch.)

You will also need a thermometer.  I suppose you don't actually need one, but it will be helpful.  Finally, you will need some sort of double boiler.  I don't have one, but it just so happens that the ceramic insert to my slow cooker fits perfectly on top of my 8 quart stock pot.  Pour your milk into your top pot.  Put enough water in your bottom pot to come up to the top of your milk (like a water bath).  Bring the water to a boil and heat your milk until it reaches about 185º.  Keep the milk at that temperature for 20-30 minutes.

Next, place the milk in an ice bath to quickly cool it to about 108º.  Alternatively, you can also let the milk cool on it's own, but I like to get it done quickly.

Once your milk is cool, add your 2-3 tablespoons of plain yogurt.  Stir to combine them.

This is the part that might take a little trial and error.  You need to keep your milk-yogurt mixture warm (at about 108º) for about seven hours.  I have read that some people simply let it ripen overnight, but I like to start mine in the morning and let it ripen all day.  The best way I have found to keep it warm is to have my mixture in the slow cooker insert, wrapped in a warm towel, in my oven.  Usually, about halfway through the seven hours, I have to turn my oven on for a minute or two to warm it back up, but that is all I have to do.  Salad In A Jar, and ehow both have lists of other ways to keep your mixture warm during the ripening process.  I highly recommend checking them out to see what method might be most convenient for you.

After about seven hours, you have yogurt.  However, it will be quite runny.  If this is how you like your yogurt, then you are ready to flavor and refrigerate it.  If you like your yogurt a little thicker, or furthermore, if you want Greek yogurt, then you will need to drain off the excess whey.  I used a 2 quart mixing bowl, my old Tupperware strainer, and some coffee filters, but you can use whatever works for you.  Just pour your yogurt into the strainer.  I let mine drain for a couple of hours to reach my preferred consistency.  Your time might be different.  Be sure not to throw away your whey!  You can use that in all kinds of ways.  I usually add my leftover whey to bread dough, or soup broths.  

Once you've reached your desired consistency, you are ready to flavor your yogurt any way you wish.  This time, I flavored the whole batch of yogurt (minus my starter) with vanilla, then separated it into individual containers so everyone could have their own flavor.  Here is my daughter's strawberry, my older son's blueberry, my honey-cinnamon, and my younger son's orange.  My husband had orange, as well.  And as for our English Bulldog, Zeus, he takes his plain.  How will you flavor your homemade yogurt?


January 16, 2014

Mid-week Morsel: Wish Lists for the 21st Century

As usual, right after Christmas, the kids start finding things they wish they would have put on their Christmas lists, or bought with their Christmas money.  And as usual, I tell them to ask for the items for their birthdays.  The only problem is that none of their birthdays are for a few months, and no on can ever seem to remember those really cool, I've gotta have it right now, items when the birthdays start rolling around.

This year, I decided to seek out a more modern way to keep track of all those must-haves.  A quick Google search showed that there are several free online wish list services available including, AddWish, WishListr, Giftster, and WantsThis.  I did a little more searching and found some reviews.  Using the information I found, I was able to narrow my list of possible sites down to two, WishListr & WantsThis.

Since they are both free, I decided to set up accounts on both sites so I could truly compare them side by side.  Both were easy to use, and visually appealing.  Both had nifty bookmarklet options to make adding items to the list convenient.  Both also allowed visitors to mark items as purchased so as to prevent duplicates, however, there was one feature on WantsThis that I really liked; the rest of the family doesn't have to sign up for an account in order to view the kids' lists.  The reason for that just happened to be one of my daughter's favorite features on WantsThis.  Each user is given his/her own url.  It works like this; if I were to set up a wish list with the username Simply The Good Life, my url would be SimplyTheGoodLife.WantsThis.com.  My daughter thought is was really cool that the website's url stated that [she] wants this.  When it comes time to share their lists with family members, all we have to do is send one mass email with the each child's url, and everyone can keep up with their ever-changing wishes.  Hooray!


January 6, 2014

Honey Spice Infusion Recipe

Winter break is over.  Today was the first day back to school, and as I lay in bed last night I realized...my throat was sore.  Ugh!  I have a cold.  By this morning I was cold, achy, and my throat was even more sore.  Naturally, I don't have any teabags right now.  Double ugh!  What I needed what something hot and soothing, and that is just what I found.  I dug through my spice cabinet and came up with this delicious and soothing honey spice infusion; perfect for anyone with a cold, or just a cold day.

Here's what you do... Heat 8 ounces of water to near boiling.  Pile 1/8 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. ground clove (or 2 whole cloves), and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon in the center of a coffee filter.  Fold the filter up to make a teabag, and staple closed.  Steep the spicebag in the hot water for approximately 5 minutes, more or less depending on how strong or weak you usually like drinks.  After removing the spicebag, stir in 2 Tbsp. honey, and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice.

Absolutely delicious!  It feels great on my sore throat, but you don't need to feel bad to enjoy it.  This cold weather is perfect for snuggling up with a hot and spicy drink.