Yogurt Making

I sort of fell into yogurt making many moons ago when I had crazy visions of making my own cheese. Several times, I have been accused of making life more complicated than is necessary. This made me realize that I am a very challenge oriented person. Did I say that wrong? I don’t mean challenged in the mental way (although I do have my moments). I’m talking about the total emersion, forgo sleep, I will figure this thing out and do it myself, darn it, kind of person. Yea, does sound a little crazy. But i’m not apologizing. Not when I have tasty yogurt in my fridge to show for it. ūüôā This ones for you Steph. A fellow do-it-yourselfer!

*Tips
-Once you get the hang of it, you probably wont need the thermometer. You can just test the temp. with a clean finger.
-After I have made a batch of yogurt I Like to freeze a ice cube trays worth to have as a starter for the next batch. Freezing doesn’t kill the cultures.
-If you let your milk get too cold and it never curdles simply raise the temp. to the right temp. and let it continue to sit until it does curdle.
-If you let the milk get too hot and you kill the cultures then you will need to let the milk cool to the right temp. add a fresh starter and restart the 3 hour clock.

Ingredients:
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 quart whipping cream or 2tbsp. powdered milk (optional. Homemade yogurt is, generally, not as thick as it’s storebought counterpart. Adding whipping cream or powdered milk helps thicken it)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
-This yogurt will be your “starter”. Check the label! Pick a starter that doesn’t have gelatin or any other additives. Just milk and cultures! I like Dannon Plain or Chobani Greek Yogurt. Also make sure that it is well before the expiration date or else the cultures could be dead. After you make your first batch of yogurt you can use some of it to make the next one.

You will need:
Heavy pot with lid
thermometer
sterilized jars to store
sterilized spoon to stir starter into milk

Heat milk (and powdered milk or cream if using) to 185-195*F. If you rinse the pot with water before adding the milk I have found that it helps keep the milk from scorching on the bottom. Stir to further prevent sticking. Be careful not to let the milk boil or it will have a funky cooked milk taste. Transfer pot to a sink filled with cold water and let sit with lid on until milk is close to 110*F or until you can stick a clean finger in it without it burning. Stir the yogurt starter with the clean spoon and add a few tablespoons of the boiled milk to the starter to temper it.

Add the starter to the cooled milk (This is called pitching for all you dorks out there). Pour the still warm milk into the sterilized jars and screw on lids. (If you will be turning the yogurt into greek yogurt then you can just keep it in the pot.)

Next you will need to keep the milk in a place where it will not exceed a temp. of 122*F (which equals dead cultures) or will drop below 104*F (inhibits the cultures from converting the lactose to lactic acid). I have found that turning my oven on it’s lowest setting for about 5 min. every couple of hours does the trick. Alternatively, and probably the easiest, I have put a heating pad set to medium under the pot and then wrapped the pot in a bath towel. The milk will need to sit for at least 3 hours before it will curdle and turn into yogurt. As tempted as you may be to peek, do not mess with it until the three hour mark. You can leave it overnight as well. The longer it sits past the 3 hour mark the more of a “tang” it will have so this is purely personal preferance from here.

Once the milk has curdled you will notice a thin layer of yellowish water on top. This is whey and can either be stirred back into the yogurt or drained off. The yogurt will further thicken after refrigerating.


To turn the yogurt into greek yogurt, you will need to strain it. I use a clean white t-shirt of my husbands that I have torn up and saved for just this purpose. Line a large bowl with the cloth. Add the yogurt and then gather up all the corners and twist a rubberband around it and hang it for a few hours until you get the desired consistency. (You will want it a little softer than you like keeping in mind that it thickens once chilled) If you do strain it too long you can always stir back in a little of the whey. I like to freeze the whey in a icecube tray and put them in smoothies for the hubby after some of his workouts.

Eat Weeds!!!

Dandelion GreensSpring has finally hit the midwest and as token of it’s arrival i’ve been finding patches of dandelions popping up all over. I know that these are just weeds but these weeds are sporting my all time favorite color (yellow) and therefore they deserve a little more consideration. Round Up is not good enough for these little cuties. They are much better suited for a skillet with a pad of butter and some chopped garlic and just a hint of chili flakes. Prepared this way they are living out their true destiny.

Living in the midwest has really ignited the inner forager in me and i’ve been aching to try my hand at it. The husband on the other hand. Not so much. Something about it not coming in a plastic container, ladden with pesticides and bought at an inflatted price just doesn’t appeal to him. No not really. Actually from the way in which he sniffed and then skeptically took that first bite told me he thought I might be poisoning him. I found the show he put on quite amusing. But after the initial skepticism and my showing him on google where it said that dandelion greens are in fact tasty and non lethal, he decided that he would eat them again and that they were in fact pretty good eats. Score! A convert!

And for all you healthy minded:

According to the USDA Bulletin #8, “Composition of Foods” dandelions are nature’s richest green vegetable source of beta-carotene, from which Vitamin A is created, and the third richest source of Vitamin A of all foods, after cod-liver oil and beef liver! They also are particularly rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin, and are a good source of protein.

Given that common sense is not as prevalent these days I should say that you may not want to pick dandelion greens if the ground has been previously sprayed with poisons or dogs have peed on it. Wouldn’t be so tasty and could end badly. Also the smaller leaves are less bitter and can even be eaten fresh in salads. If you do pick the larger leaves you will want to boil them two to three times with fresh water each time to wash out some of the bitterness.

Ingredients:

1 tsp. salt

1lb. dandelion greens, (I filled up a plastic grocery sack about 2/3 full)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. butter

1/2 onion finely diced

1/4 tsp. red chili flakes (optional)

2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Soak dandelion greens in a large bowl of cold water with 1 teaspoon salt for 10 minutes. Drain.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon salt. Cook greens until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until chilled.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat; cook and stir onions and red pepper flakes until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Increase heat to medium-high and add dandelion greens. Continue to cook and stir until liquid is evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.

Daddy and Baby eating

I thought this was too precious not to share!

Long Ears

If you take one look at my daughter you will know exactly why Easter is just my cup of tea. Despite being born in the fall, she’s been donning the bright pastel colors all her life. Not to mention most of her outfits have ears on them or little paws. It has occurred to me that she may grow to think she’s an animal. But she’s just so darn cute I can’t help myself.

While we won’t be promoting Mr. Easter bunny I do want her to have the same joy I had of searching for eggs and eating (a very few) sweets. We also want to make sure that the resurrection story of Jesus takes center stage while also celebrating the spring season and all of Gods little (and fuzzy) creatures. This year I had a lot of fun making Hot Cross Buns which are typically eaten on Good Friday as rememberence of the crucifixion. I wish I could say I stopped there. (My tummy was sure glad I didn’t though) I also made some cute little bunny sugar cookies using the color flow method to decorate and then those turned out so well that I made a bunny shaped bread. I guess it is true what they say about bunnies. They multiply!!

Bunny Sugar CookiesBunny Sugar Cookies

These sugar cookies are nice and soft and they keep their shape really well if you let them chill in the refrigerator at least an hour before rolling out. I liked that they weren’t very sweet. By the time you get all the sugary icing on them they are a perfect balance.¬†which also means you’ll¬†be able to eat way too many¬†before your tooth hurts.

Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

This made about 17, 6″ easter bunnies

3/4 cup butter softened

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2.5 cupa all-purpose flour

1tsp. baking powder

1/2tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, and¬†vanilla extract. In a seperate bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture about a cup at a time. Mix to combine. Chill dough at least 1 hour and up to 24 hrs. Preheat oven to 400*F. Roll dough to 1/4″ thick and cut out shapes. Place 1″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 6-8 min. Transfer to wire rack and let cool.

Icing

Basically all your doing is watering down a Royal Icing. But before you do, you will want to pipe all around the cookie with the Royal Icing to make a dam to keep the color flow from flowing off the cookie.

Royal Icing:

1.5 tbsp. Merengue Powder

1/2 lb. sifted pure cane confectioners’ sugar (2cups)

3-4 tbsp. lukewarm water

Make sure all utensils are grease free. Mix sugar and merengue powder in a stand mixer on low speed until blended. Add water and mix 7-10 minutes at low-medium speed until icing loses its sheen. To prevent drying, be sure to cover the bowl with a damp cloth while working with icing.

To make Color Flow Icing:

add¬†2 tbsp. of extra water at a time, being sure to mix well and test for “trace” before adding more water. Your icing is the right consistency when you drizzle some of the icing in the bowl it dissappears before 3 seconds. You are then ready to pipe the color flow onto the cookie. Use a toothpick drag the frosting into small nooks and pop rising bubbles. Let dry until completely hardened (roughly 24 hrs. depending on the size of the cookie)

I’ve had this recipe for awhile. I was mainly interested in it due to the childhood song by it’s name. You remember the one right? “One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns”. I hummed this tune most of the time while they baked. I think it positively effected the way they came out. ūüôā

Hot Cross Buns

Makes 2 dozen

ingredients:

1.5 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl, pan, and knife

1 cup plus 1 tbsp. whole milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4.5 tsp. active dry yeast

coarse salt

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

3/4tsp. nutmeg

4 lg. eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 lg egg white

5.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (You may need more depending on your humidity)

1 1/3 cup currants (I sub. craisins)

1 tbsp. water

2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I sub. fresh orange juice)

Butter a Lg. bowl. Heat milk in the microwave until 110*F. (about 1 min. in my microwave) Pour milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. With machine on low, add butter, granulated sugar, yeast, 2tsp. salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 4 eggs. Mix in flour, about 1 cup at a time, until soft dough, sticky dough forms around dough hook. Continue mixing, scraping sides of bowl as needed, until smooth 4 minutes (Dough will be pretty sticky)

Add currants, and mix till incorporated. Turn dough onto heavely floured surface. Shape into a ball. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume. (about 1hr 30min)

Generously butter an 11×17″ baking pan. Turn dough onto work surface and knead briefly to deflate. Divide into roughly 24 equal pieces (about 2 oz each) Shape into¬† a tightly formed ball. Transfer to pan, spacing 1/2″ apart. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise again in warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375*F. Whisk together egg white and water and a pinch of salt. Brush tops of buns with egg wash. Using a very sharp, buttered slicing knife or kitchen shears, cut a cross into the top of each about 1/4″ deep.

Bake until golden brown, rotating pan midway through to ensure even color, 18-25 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack. Let cool, about 30 min. Whisk together remaining tbsp milk, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon juice. Pipe or spoon glaze over buns.

Bunny Bread Bunny BreadThis little bread bunny is especially close to my heart. I’ve been really reluctant to let the hubby even touch it. It looks way more complicated than it really is. I have a feeling this little guy will be making a yearly appearance. The recipe and directions for shaping the dough can be found here on this clever ladies blog.

My Collection of Mothers

sourdough starterI am sort of a¬†self proclaimed mom collector. I have a biological mother, a stepmother,and a mother in-law. I’ve decided to add another mother to this equation becase well,¬†3 just isn’t enough. This one is unique in that I created it. It’s my mother sourdough starter!

I became really intrigued with bread starters whilst working in a cross continental restaurant back home. I had been tinkering with bread making and was wanting¬†the pastry¬†chef¬†to tell me why I kept failing. The chef showed me his mother and told me about it’s story. Oh, you didn’t know that bread starters have stories? Oh yes. They have stories. Tales of being born in a great great great somebodies kitchen. Tales of traveling the world with their owners. Tales of feeding interesting people. I suddenly felt cheated that no one had passed one down to me. But the buck stops with me. My daughter will not have to do without because her mother has made a mother! ūüôā Can you tell i’m excited about this?

If you have fond memories of sea monkies then this will be right up your alley. (I¬†would know. I had sea¬†monkies)¬†Basically what you’re doing is capturing the wild yeast in the air and then cultivating it. What’s so great about this is that since the wild yeast in the air is so varied from place to place, each starter is unique and will make a¬†bread with subtle¬†nuances all it’s own.¬†Once it’s established it’s virtually indestructable. I’ve heard that you can even dehydrate it and freeze it. Who know’s. Maybe i’ll dehydrate it¬†and give it to kids as holiday presents instead of those useless sea monkies. Sea monkies can’t make bread. I’ve also researched and found that this is not just for sourdough bread. You can use it in place of virtually any recipe calling for yeast. There are also some recipes floating around about using sourdough starter in cakes, pankcakes, and cookies.¬† Convinced yet? I thought so.

What you’ll need:

Clean non metal container- metal reacts with the starter. use a plastic container or mason jar

Unbleached wheat flour

Filtered water- I’ve heard that some waters can have too much chlorine which could kill it. I have used tap water at times without any bad effects

Roughly 2 tbsp. granulated sugar- to kickstart the starter with lots of yummy sugar to eat.

Day 1: combine 1/2 cup flour with apx. 1/4 cup water and sugar. Stir well to combine. The consistency should be that of a shaggy dough. Cover with a kitchen towel or I put a paper towel under the rim of the canning lid. I kept my starter on the top of the fridge where it was nice and warm.

At least once a day and as much as every 12 hours¬†for the next 7 days:¬†dump out 1/2 of the starter and add 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup water. Stir well. Be sure to always use clean utensils. You don’t want to introduce any harmful bacteria that could kill it. During this time you will see bubbles rising from¬†your starter and¬†it will smell¬†sour maybe like rotten milk. This is good. Right now it’s just bacteria. Not yeast yet.

On about day 4 things will look pretty lifeless. This is the bacteria dying to give way for the yeast to spring to life.

On roughly¬†day 6-8¬†(the day really depends on your climate) the mixture will suddenly spring to life and you’ll see lots of bubbles and it will smell yeasty. Congratulations! You have a mother!

From this point, you can make bread but it’s best to continue the process of feeding it (dumping 1/2 adding the flour and water) to build up the flavors for at least another week.¬†When it can reliably double in size a few hours after each feeding then you have a strong robust starter.

To store starter: If using a plastic container put the lid on or if using a jar you can put saran wrap¬†with a rubber band on top and place in the fridge. If you¬†seal off the container with a tight fitting lid¬†the gases won’t have anywhere to escape¬†and you’ll have a mess. Unless you plan on using it weekely, feed roughly once a week.

sourdough bread

Keep posted. I will be posting the recipes i’ve used with it so far and believe me. They are delicious!

 

 

Snowtastic!

When¬†hubby plopped a $10 bag of bird food in our shopping cart last week I started to protest but then decided it wasn’t worth making a fuss over. I was too tired and he had just let me buy some outrageously discounted terra cotta pots.¬†My pots were more than the bird food so I considered us even.¬†One, two, three days went by. No birds. Then one day after a big snow storm, we have a bird aviary! It so nice to see some life out there in this cold, bleak weather. Even our feline family members have taken up residence on the barstools next to the window to better inspect these little guys. I think though, that they have different intentions for staring. Anyway it was money well spent!

I know i’m supposed to say how horrible and annoying snow is so that i’m not a dead give away for being from the south but I can’t help it. I LOVE SNOW!!! So far we have:

ate snow

shoveled snow

made a snowman (or rather snowbot)

thrown snow

sled through snow (there must be a science to sledding because we mostly butt planted)

made snow angels

Is there anything¬†I missed to do¬†because if so I don’t want to miss out? Happy Sabbath all!!

Pita Please!

055 (2)

A few weeks back I had a hankering for pita bread. This was no surprise. I frequently find myself obsessing over carbs. What was a surprise was that before the end of the next day I had managed (with the eager help of the hubby) to scarf down two batches of this recipe. Before you judge me too much I should say that we did make some hummus and tzatziki sauce¬†to accompany which was rationalized as a complete meal (garbanzo beans=protein, pita=carb, cucumber in tzatziki=vegetable. See? Healthy right?) Like¬†I said, don’t judge.

What I liked most about this recipe is that it produces a nice chewy pita like the ones I get at my favorite greek restaurants. I should note that if you’re using these as a sandwhich where you would want a nice “pocket” in which to stuff, I would reccomend baking them in the oven instead. The drawback to¬†baking them in the oven¬†is that it’s more like a sandwhich bread in texture and seems a little dry to me. But if your used to the pita from most grocery stores than that may be more to your liking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup tepid water (to activate yeast)
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 2.5-3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

Mix the water and yeast together in mixing bowl and let sit until the yeast is dissolved and foamy (about 5 min). Add 2.5 cups flour, salt and olive oil to mixer and with paddle attachment mix until it’s a shaggy dough.

Switch to dough hook and knead on md. speed (4setting on a kitchenaid mixer) about 5-7min or until smooth and elastic  (You may need to add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky).

pita rising

Transfer dough to clean bowl and turn to lightly coat in olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm area (like a sunny window seal or warm oven) until doubled in size, 1-2 hours

*From here you can refrigerate the dough for a later time. you can also pinch off a piece to make only a few at a time and refrigerate the rest. It will keep for a week.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surfuce and divide dough into 8 equal balls. (I weighed mine on a scale beceause im o.c.d like that) Flatten each ball into a small disk with your hands and cover the pieces that your not working on with a piece of plastic wrap or kitchen towel

rolled out pita

With a floured rolling pin, roll each piece until about a quarter inch thick. Lift the dough and turn frequently to prevent it from sticking to the counter and sprinkle with extra flour as needed. (a bench scraper can be a huge help here to help rotate if it sticks but you can also use a spatula) If the dough starts to spring back when rolling, set aside for a few minutes to give it time to relax.

*Once you get the hang of things, you can roll one while your cooking one.

pita ready to be flipped cooking pita

Warm a cast iron skillet over md-high heat. Make sure your pan is good and hot before cooking. Wipe the pan with a oiled paper towel. Dust off any flour that’s on the surface of the dough and lay onto skillet. Cook on first side for appx. 30 secoonds. You’ll see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook another 1-2 min. There should be large toasted spots on the underside. Flip again and cook another 1-2min. to toast the other side. During this time the pita should start to puff up.

*if your pita doesn’t puff at all it could be that your skillet is not hot enough

Eat while hot. Leftovers can be kept in a airtight bag for several days.

Pita bread

To Bake in oven: Heat oven to 450*F. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to heat. If you don’t have a baking stone place a cookie sheet¬†on the middle rack. Place rolled-out pitas directly on the baking stone/cookie sheet and bake for 3 min. The pita will start to puff up after a minute or two and is done when it has fully balooned. Cover baked pitas with a clean dishtowel while cooking remaining pitas.

Monthly Marker Onesies

monthly marker onesies

I love giving gifts that are homemade. Maybe my grandma is to blame. I remember giving her scribbled on paper and decorated rocks as a kid. She would dote on them and hang them prominently on the fridge. “I wouldn’t trade them for a whole bag of worms” she would say. This seemed like the greatest of honors. Never ocurred to me how cheap worms were.

It’s funny how we don’t really change all that much as adults. Now I call my scribbles and crafts grown up words like homemade, heirloom, or hand crafted. I’m not going to lie. I still get that proud, giddy kid feeling when I give them away.

There’s no better ocassion for gift making then a baby shower. The options are endless. For this particular friend I chose to do the monthly marker onesies. They recently got a fancy DSLR camera and I suspect that their little girl will be at the other end of that lens more often than not. Taking pictures every month for the first year is such a neat way to see just how much these bean sprouts grow in a year!

I found the printout for the iron on’s here. This lady really saved me alot of time. She has a printout for either a boy or girl theme and she even mirrored the numbers so that they would come out the right direction once ironed on the onesies. One thing I did learn (the hard way) about buying the onesies, is to buy them all in the same name brand. It’s rediculous how different the sizes are from one brand to another.

 

 

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