Homemade Yogurt

I’ve been on this kick where I want to be as self sufficient as possible. Making as many things on my own that I can; including bread, granola, snacks etc. For the most part it is going well. The granola I’ve made is delicious and the bread is satisfying. Lately, I have been stuck on yogurt. I have been wanting to make it forever. Every recipe I’ve read says it is so easy and tastes so much better than store bought and is a hell of a lot better for you without all the preservatives that go into it. Finally I decided to give it a try.

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My two recipes.

I compared two recipes that I have, one from The Homemade Pantry (my favorite cook book right now) by Alana Chernila and another that I tore out of Edible Wasatch a magazine from back home in Utah. They both said around the same thing, mirroring each others instructions. This comparison is what gave me the strength to try it out. Basically you heat the milk, let it cool, mix in some store bought yogurt (for the bacteria and enzymes) or a yogurt starter, put it in your containers (mason jars) let it sit somewhere warm (like a slow cooker) and you are good to go! For me, it was not that easy.

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Heating the milk to 180 degrees and the letting it cool to 110.

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My 1/2 cup greek yogurt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I patiently waited for the milk to heat up to 180 degrees, let it cool to 110 degrees, mixed in my half cup of greek yogurt that I bought at the store, divvied the mixture up nicely into my little mason jars, put the jars in the warmed slow cooker and waited. I waited for 8 hours before putting the jars in the fridge overnight.

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All my cute mason jars. (And thats not mold I swear, just coffee grounds.)

Now, I have to admit that I tried making this twice back to back. The first night I let the yogurt sit for 5 hours before putting it in the fridge overnight. I woke up disappointed in the runny mixture that was not yogurt. I immediately went out and bought some more whole milk to try again, convinced that I just did not let it sit long enough in the incubation period. I was wrong.

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Here are my cozy little jars. Lined with tea towels.

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My cozy jars covered in the slow cooker.

I followed the instructions to a T; let the incubation period last longer than before and yet I still woke up mildly disappointed. I’m convinced it was either that the milk I bought was too pasteurized, which wont cause it to thicken properly because the majority of the bacteria is gone, or it is that I used the wrong kind of yogurt, which was not specified in either recipe, leading me to believe any yogurt would be good. I read that even if it is runny it is still good to eat and can be used in smoothies or over granola. So I had some for breakfast with my granola. It was pretty good, but not the consistency I prefer.

 

Next time I try to make yogurt I will have a powdered starter and a proper yogurt maker. I have decided that will fix my problems and I’m itching to buy one. Eventually I will have one, but for now I’ll have to be content with store bought yogurt.

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My runny yogurt, that is still pretty darn good. It looks more like milk than yogurt. 

If you do decide to make your own yogurt make sure the milk isn’t ultra-pasteurized. My dad said I should try making it with raw organic milk. Maybe that was the only thing I did wrong. If I try it again I will let you know the outcome. Below is the written recipe and instructions from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. I condensed it down to the main points.

  • 4.5 cups whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1.5 teaspoons powdered yogurt starter or 1/2 cup plain unsweetened full-fat yogurt
  • heat milk with a candy or cheese thermometer over medium heat until the milk hits 180 degrees, 15-20 min.
  • remove pot from heat and let milk cool to 110 degrees
  • empty the powdered yogurt starter or yogurt into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Add 1 cup warm milk from the pot and whisk until fairly smooth. Add  the mixture to the pot of warm milk and whisk until slightly foamy.
  • if using a yogurt maker, transfer half of the milk mixture back into the liquid measuring cup and pour into individual cups of yogurt maker. Continue to refill according to yogurt maker instructions
  • if using mason jars, fill a large jar and a small jar (or a bunch of jars) and screw the lids tight. Wrap jars in a towel to keep warm or place in an insulated cooler, or a slow cooker that has been warming. If using a slow cooker make sure to turn it off before putting jars in.
  • Wait for 5 hours. Check to see if yogurt is firm. If not allow to sit for two more hours. If it is put in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. This is easiest done overnight where you can wake up and have your delicious yogurt!

Hopefully you have better luck than I did!

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Visiting Seattle

Holy cow, I just realized that it has been three weeks since I posted on my blog. That is such an internal let down since one of my goals was to post every week, I promise to do better! I have been meaning to post about our trip to Seattle for a while now but for some reason time has escaped me.

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Not the best picture, but the only picture of us in Seattle.

Now, it is known that Connecticut is just a minor pit stop in our life plan. We will be in Seattle eventually, hopefully a year or so at the most. Seattle has always been the ultimate goal and I was lucky enough to get to visit in March. I was in Seattle March 14th – 18th while Man was there until the 21st. He went for work and I went to tag along and explore one of my favorite cities and soon to be home town. We landed in the afternoon and met up with Man’s family, who had come in to town to see us. We were given a quick tour of Pike Place by my sister-in-law who lives in Seattle with her boyfriend. They showed us their tiny apartment where we pondered about how one day all of our furniture will have to fit into a whopping 700 square feet (I’m convinced we can do it). We then had a delicious family dinner at some place called Purple.

The next couple of days I had to explore on my own since Man had to work. I spent time with my sister-in-law and some family friends walking around the mall area. I really like how in Seattle (at least where we went) there isn’t just one central Mall. There are stores all over the place. You can stumble upon a Nordstrom with no other mall like stores around but then walk down the street and there is a Banana Republic. There also might be a hot dog place across the street and it absolutely works. It is refreshing from the typical suburban mall and It was great to see the city and be out with family. We had some lunch at the Dog In The Park, which isn’t in a park at all but rather the middle of a shopping area stuck in the side of a building encompassing probably around 100 square feet. These two nice boys made our hot dogs and they were so delicious. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have taken a photo.

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I have a friend, Tawnee, who moved out to Seattle the same time that I moved to Connecticut. Her husband has a job at a restaurant called Bottle House in Madrona, about 15 minutes outside the city. There is a picture of us below with our deliciously filling charcuterie board. This place has the most delicious wines served in both a glass and a bottle. If you happen to be the only ones there they might even make you a custom flight.

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IMG_0693 After dinner we went to a few smaller, local, quieter, speak-easy type bars. They weren’t anything special but I took this photo and am showing it because it reminds me so much of my favorite bar in SLC, Bar X. There aren’t bars like this in Connecticut, at least not that I’ve found, so I had to make a small tribute to the small, dark, speak-easy bars that I love and miss.

The next few pictures are just me being a tourist and walking around Seattle by myself. Drinking in the city and picturing what my life will be like once we live there.

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This is the cutest bookshop I found in Pike Place. Who doesn’t love a good reading nook? Or to be surrounded by books?!

IMG_0714I took a ramble through the Seattle Public Library, it is definitely worth a peek if you have time. This is the view from the top floor down to the bottom. The library has the most amazing architecture and reminded me of the library in SLC, fancy shmancy. I will definitely have a library card, everyone should have a library card!

Tawnee and I took a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Below is the view from the ferry on our way out. It takes about 30-40 min to take the ferry across the bay but it is worth it. It felt so nice to be on the water, even if it was incredibly windy. The town of Bainbridge is one of those places where you can’t help but want to live and grow old. Especially with the city being a boat ride away! We didn’t get to spend too much time there, just a quick yummy lunch, but I will definitely go back.

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View from the ferry. Me and my friend are on our way to Bainbridge Island, aka the cutest town I could ever hope to live in!

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A windy ferry ride!

The first time I went to Seattle I did not know that the gum wall existed. This time however, I was prepared! It was disgustingly cool. So much ABC gum.

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The gum wall! Always worth a trip.

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Of course, while in Seattle one must check out The Pike Pub. I tried a flight of 6 of their beers (pictured below) all were delicious. Tawnee and I didn’t really eat there, just a quick snack and some beer. Oh, did I forget to mention that it was also St. Patricks day and Man’s brithday? The Pike Pub had an awesome Irish band that came to play.

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This is what the back entrance looks like. The front entrance is through the market.

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The bagpipes are one of the coolest instruments!

Overall, I had the very best time in Seattle. My only complaint was that I didn’t get to do any exploring with Man while I was there since he was working the whole weekend/week, also that I had to leave on the red eye Monday night or Tuesday morning depending how you look at it. I could have spent the whole week exploring on my own!

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Some of my favorite things; muffins, tea, espresso, rain

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It has been raining for over 24 hours, and before that it was snowing. I enjoy the rain, especially when it is a tad warmer and in today’s case that means a stifling 34 degrees! I even tried to go running before remembering that there are no sidewalks around my neighborhood and the local walking path is covered in at least two feet of snow, at least I tried to exercise!

Now usually during this kind of weather I cook a whole bunch, but I made a delicious Jambalaya last week that has lasted us nearly an entire weeks worth of dinners. Usually I save left overs for when I don’t want to cook but this meal was so good and I was so excited about how long it lasted that we just kept eating it night after night. But today with the rain I decided I had to make something and I have been eyeing the oat bran that has been in my pantry cupboard for what seems like forever and decided Bran Muffins where the way to go.

I don’t know what it is about bran muffins but I absolutely love them, I can’t help myself. Usually they are moist and feel slightly healthier than any other type of muffin. I haven’t made them in the past because most recipes seem like they try to make bran muffins too healthy. I don’t keep things like ground flaxseed or safflower oil around and I don’t believe I would have bought oat bran on a whim but someone gave it to me and I kept it. Once I found a reasonable recipe I got very excited and had to share.

I adapted the recipe below from a blogger who adapted it from someone else. Both links are to be found at the end of this post.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, extremely soft (mine wasn’t as soft as it could have been and it made it a little hard to mix up)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (increase to 1/3 if you would like a little sweeter)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup yogurt (I used one self serve container of Chobani’s Honey Greek Yogurt that I had in the fridge, use whatever you think sounds good)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup wheat flour (I used wheat flour because that is what I have, use whatever flour is in your kitchen)
  • 1 cup oat bran (I have a generic Trader Joe’s brand which is as good as any)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional – I add cinnamon to everything)
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled (optional, I added because I had some lonely looking carrots left in the bottom of my fridge)
  • 1/2 cup extremely chopped almonds, or nuts of any kind (optional, I added for extra fun)
  • Below is what my mix looked like before I put it in the muffin tin, so if it starts out looking weird have no fear, it will turn out!

IMG_0622Instructions: easy as eating pie, because easy as pie doesn’t make sense as pie isn’t that easy to make.

  • heat oven to 400 degrees
  • beat your sugar and butter
  • add the rest of the wet ingredients; egg, yogurt, molasses, vanilla – my mixture was really wet so don’t worry if it doesn’t appear to be quite right
  • combine your dry ingredients in a separate bowl (or just toss in the mixer like me)
  • I added nutmeg, cinnamon, carrots and almonds to my muffins but you can add whatever sounds appealing. Chocolate chips, dried fruit, walnuts, coconut or zucchini shavings all sound like they would make some good additions.
  • Once everything is all mixed up go ahead and fill your greased muffin tin. I found that these muffins don’t rise a whole lot after the first batch so fill liberally.
  • Bake for 15 minutes
  • I ended up with 20 muffins, but my first batch was a tad short since I wasn’t sure how much the muffins would rise.

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Above you will see my short little muffins.I find that these are best enjoyed with your favorite beverage and a good read. The links for the original recipes are below. I am not sure how the other blogger made her muffins look so perfect, but it is the taste that matters right?

  • Recipe I adapted from: http://www.digthischick.net/2009/05/bran-muffins-chicken-names-etc.html
  • Original recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2007/02/a-meatover-and-a-muffin/

Enjoy!

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Sweet Scones; memory of childhood

Scones are one of those breakfast items that you can do pretty much anything with. This recipe comes from an old scone cook book that my mother has had as long as I can remember. We used to make them all the time when I was little, it is the first recipe that I can remember making all by myself. I’m also going to be bold enough to say that this may be the last scone recipe you will ever need, it is so simple that you can add anything your heart desires to it. Now lets get started!

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Here is the recipe that my mom printed out for me before I moved so that I can always have it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbls. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbls. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup sugar (use 1/3 if you want something a little sweeter)
  • 2/3 cup milk

Directions: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Now comes my favorite part; mix in the butter. This is where it gets a little messy. You want to put all the butter pieces into the bowl and mix with either a pastry blender, if you have one, or rub in with your fingers. Your fingers might get a little sore but keep at it.  Here I am rubbing in the butter.

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Rub in the butter in until you have a course mixture, then toss in your sugar. Take a fork and mix in the milk. Once the milk is incorporated start using your hands to form the dough. It won’t be super sticky, maybe a little wet, but you can smell the milk and the sugar and it is divine. If you want to add in any nuts or berries here is a good time. Divide the dough in half and form two small flat circles, about an inch high.

IMG_0567Now if you want you can go ahead and brush the scones with egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar like I did to the dough on the right. It just adds a little something extra. Next cut the circle into wedges, I usually make three cuts and have 6 wedges. Put them on your cookie sheet and into the oven they go.

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Bake for 12-15 minutes until the sugar starts to split and the corners start to brown. They will expand just a little bit but they won’t get a whole lot bigger.

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I hope you enjoy these as much as I do, I ate three in one sitting! If you want more sugar you can slice them open butter them up and put some more cinnamon sugar on the inside, honey is also a good alternative. I think that once summer comes around with all the delicious berries I’ll throw some in the mix. Enjoy!

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Homemade Chai Syrup or My New Favorite Drink

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Homemade Chai. I’ve seen so many recipes and actually tried a couple too and they have never turned out. Last night I realized that the reason this is was because all the recipes I had tried were based on making the black tea portion of the drink. I would add all these spices to hot water and let it stew for hours until it was ready. The result was usually some really spicy water that no one at my tea party could be persuaded to drink, even when their cup was filled with mostly milk and honey. Now, I haven’t had a tea party in a long time, but a nice chai on a cold wintery day did sound delicious. Luckily I had found a new one to try on Food52.com. If you have not heard of this website check it out, it is AMAZING!

This is the kind of recipe that is so easy and delicious that on one hand you want everyone to try it but on the other hand you want to covet the recipe and allow your friends to only try it during tea parties or give it out as gifts on birthdays and Christmas so that you become the magical chai goddess. That is how much I adore this recipe.

Here is the site for the chai syrup: http://food52.com/recipes/25891-vanilla-bean-chai-syrup if you want to check it out on food52.

I altered their recipe a little bit because I didn’t have a couple of things so here is my alternate recipe:

1 can (14 ounces) condensed milk

2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon ginger

a couple shakes of white pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract

I realized that the reason this recipe is so fabulous is that you are making the sugary milky goodness that is a chai. All you have to do is mix the above ingredients together and store in a mason jar in your fridge. When you are ready to drink you make a cup of black tea and stir in a spoonful of your chai mix. I had two cups in one day, it is absolutely delicious!

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Eggnog Ice cream. Or, What To Do With Leftovers.

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It is the end of the holidays, yes, we have to admit it. A lot of people still have their Christmas trees and lights and wreaths, but come on people! It is time to move on to the lackluster time of winter. Now some of you might have leftover eggnog like me and in all honesty I only bought it last week but we ran out of espresso beans and I can’t make eggnog lattes anymore. We don’t have bourbon so I can’t make a nice festive cocktail either. Next best thing? Ice cream!

I modified this recipe from the comments and reviews section of a recipe I found online so it is completely my own version.

Ingredients:

2 Cups eggnog

1 Cup heavy cream

2 Eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Nutmeg

Directions: Heat up your eggnog and heavy cream in a medium saucepan to around 170 degrees. Thats is the magic temperature for ice cream. If you don’t have a thermometer wait until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. (I got my thermometer cheap form the grocery store.)IMG_0460

While that is heating up go ahead and whisk your eggs, sugar, and nutmeg together. Once the liquid is to the correct temperature go ahead and pour about half of it into the egg and sugar mixture while mixing. This is my attempt to give you a visual with only two hands.

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Make sure to mix while you pour so that the eggs don’t cook. Once your egg and liquid mixture is all mixed up go ahead and pour it back into the remaining custard. Now add the vanilla and heat back up to 170 degrees stirring constantly. Once the mixture is heated strain it through a fine mesh strainer to catch any cooked egg bits. You can see the egg bits that are caught in the strainer and the ones leftover in the saucepan below.

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Now cover and chill in the refrigerator until completely cool, about an hour, or three. Once chilled go ahead and put the creamy custard into your ice cream machine and use based on manufacturer instructions. I have a kitchen aide ice cream maker and it took around 10 minutes to turn into creamy frozen deliciousness. Once complete put into your freezer containers and let it freeze up! The outcome is amazingly rich eggnog custard ice cream and when I say rich, I mean it. You don’t really need a whole lot to be satisfied.

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These aren’t the very best pictures, but I tried to show you how delicious this ice cream is. I even scraped out the ice cream maker the best I could, I had half a mind to lick it clean!

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Homemade Granola Bars

Well, it has been over a week since my last post. Not that I am following a strict schedule or anything I just hoped to be writing more! We are all moved in, well the boxes are in their specific rooms, and I finally went grocery shopping so it is time to bake! Lately I’ve been watching the food network a whole lot and discovered Ree Drummond, more commonly known as The Pioneer Woman. She is FABULOUS! I’m itching to buy her cook books. But she made this easy and delicious looking granola bar the other episode and I decided now is the time to give it a try. The Man only eats granola bars for breakfast so we go through quite a few. I used some adaptations to her recipe which is located here:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/granola-bars-recipe/index.html

For example, instead of the wheat germ, which they did NOT have at the grocery store I used a combination of 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup oats. Here are some photos to document my process since Ree doesn’t have any on the Food Network recipe page.

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Here are my two pans of the oat mix. Seriously use two pans. I’ve always dumped all the ingredients together in one bowl or on one pan but there are too many and you want to toast all those little guys.

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I melted my chocolate and made the sticky mixture at the same time, because why not? Also, I ended up using an entire bag of chocolate… never skimp on the chocolate!

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Pouring and stirring the sticky mixture, which smells divine as it is cooking. I love molasses!

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After it was all mixed and poured into the buttered dish I couldn’t resist trying some, it was so good. In the comments of Ree’s recipe on The Food Network  a lot of people seemed to experience issues with the granola bar mixture sticking to the pan. Make sure to butter up every nook and cranny to avoid this catastrophe. You wouldn’t want your granola bars sticking to the pan after all that hard work! I myself did not have any trouble with the mixture sticking to the pan.

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Next let them cool. I probably waited 30 min, or however long it took me to make an eggnog latte and drink it. This is one of the hardest things for me. I have a hard time with patience and baking. The latte probably helped a bit, get a warm beverage and sit your bum down on the couch and let those babies cool!

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Instead of cutting my bars and dipping them into the chocolate like Ree I went ahead and poured my chocolate, which was pre melted, onto the top of the granola bars in the pan before they were cut. Saved myself some extra clean up.

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After letting them continue to cool I’ve cut them up and stored them away. But not without another taste test. And the verdict is delicious!

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