Monday, March 28, 2011


If you have a crockpot and some blankets, you can make yogurt. From start to finish, this is about a 14 hour process but there is very little work involved and most of it happens while you are sleeping.

Items Needed:

1 crock pot. Any size will do but one that can hold about a gallon of milk is good.

Powdered milk (optional)

6-8 ounces of plain yogurt for starter (or one cup reserved from last batch) OR powdered yogurt starter.



Cloth to strain it

At 4:30 PM, I filled my crock pot with milk until about a half inch from the top. It should take most of a gallon of milk with a standard sized pot. I added one cup of powdered milk and stirred it in. This step is not necessary but I've found it does make the yogurt a little thicker if you aren't using whole milk. I used 1% for this. I put the cover on and turned it on low and let it sit for 3 hours.

At 7:30 PM, I turned off and unplugged the crock pot. That's it. Then it sat for another three hours. Easy?

10:30 PM: I removed 2 cups of the still warm milk and stirred in my yogurt starter. This time I used 1 cup of plain yogurt. You can buy it in the store or use a frozen cup from your last homemade batch. I stirred in the yogurt with the two cups warm milk and poured it back into the crock pot and stirred again. I put the lid back on and wrapped the whole pot in blankets (I used three medium sized ones). Remember that the crockpot is still unplugged.

Then I watched a documentary and went to bed. You can leave it overnight for 8-10 hours. 10 hours will set it a little nicer but 8 is sufficient. It is not dangerous to leave the milk sitting warm overnight so don't worry about that. Remember that in much of the world, yogurt is consumed at room temperature.

7:30 AM: I lined a collander set over a large pot with white cloth and scooped the yogurt in to drain for a few hours. Put the straining yogurt in the fridge at this point. While it's fine to consume right now, it wouldn't be safe to continue to store it on the counter for more than a day. The picture shows only a little in the cloth but the yogurt I poured in filled the whole colander.

The first time I made yogurt I had to play with it a little before I put it in the strainer. I was so amazed that the spoon cut through it. I almost didn't believe the process would work and was fascinated when it did!

The amount of straining time depends on how thick you like your yogurt. I let this batch sit in the fridge for 3 hours. I then scooped it into a glass container and stirred the contents. I also reserved a cup of it for my freezer to make another batch. The yogurt closest to the cloth will be very thick. This is the start of yogurt cheese (my dad has made me strained yogurt sprinkled with mint to eat on Syrian bread and it's delicious. You can use it like cream cheese and it's better for you too). You can leave a bit of the yogurt to strain more if you want to keep a pot of yogurt cheese in your fridge. I'd probably leave it overnight for good results.

What's left in the pot after straining is the whey. Don't throw this away if you want a great source of protein to use as a substitute for water or milk in baking or smoothies. I got about 5 cups of whey this time and froze most of it. I'll probably make muffins with some of the whey tonight.

I really like homemade yogurt with a little maple syrup on it, but you can put whatever you like in it. Use it no differently than store bought plain yogurt. It's really delicious and economical and you'll be so excited when you first try it and watch that spoon drag in the morning!

Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm working on...

..perfecting a homemade version of a Nutrigrain bar. Or in my case, the 365 brand "all natural" version of it.

The first attempt came out tasting good but was a pain to put together. I can see definite possibilities.

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Pie Ends (a la Fred)

A customer of ours, Fred, started a conversation with me at work about my enjoyment of baking and just before Thanksgiving he shared a tip with me that I thought was cute. He suggested I make "roly poly's" with the ends cut off of an unbaked pie shell. I don't remember the exact details but I'm pretty sure it involved rolling them up with cinnamon and sugar and baking them. He shared that his wife makes this for the kids and it's been a big hit. Results were delicious!

My Dad's Spaghetti Soup (sans spaghetti)

My dad's soup was such a big hit in my house that when I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home from a trip to the city, I snagged another pound of the grass fed ground beef so I could make another batch.

However upon starting the batch, I realized that I was out of thin spaghetti. Hence the substitution. It still came out nice and it's a bit easier for my youngest children to eat. Upon soaking up in the fridge a bit, it's more like an "American Chop Suey" stew. I put two bags of it in the freezer. Yum.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pecan Pie (sans corn syrup)

Thank you again, Mrs. L for finding me a Pecan Pie recipe that was exactly what I was looking for (natural ingredients. no corn syrup. no crisco)! I'm so appreciative of my baking helpers. It makes it really fun! If you would like the original recipe, it can be found here at All Recipes.


1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 c melted butter
2 eggs
1 TBS flour
1 TBS milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400%

In bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add butter. Stir in brown sugar, white sugar and flour and mix together well. Add milk, vanilla and nuts.

Pour into unbaked 9" pie shell.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then turn the heat down to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Mine was done at 35 minutes.

It came out spectacularly!

Pie Crust (Rolled)

I'll start by saying that I'm not crazy about making rolled pie crust. It's not that it's any more work than anything else. There's just something about it that makes me have a tiny bit of "ugh, I have to make a real crust for this." Maybe, it's because it's a bit messy. I'm not really sure. But I finally worked it out so my crust comes out decently now. I used to overmix the dough terribly and now that I've been a little more patient, I seem to do o.k.

I start by weighing the butter. A one crust pie calls for 1/3cup plus 1 tablespoon of butter. More easily is to weigh out 3.2 ounces. Here is what 3.2 ounces of butter looks like (above).

In a bowl, mix 1 cup of flour with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cut up your butter into chunks and sprinkle into the flour/salt mix tossing the pieces as you go.

Using a pastry blender (or two knives criss-crossed), cut the butter into the flour.

Most recipe books will tell you to cut the butter in until the pieces are the size of peas. I don't know about the rest of you but I've never ended up with nice neat "pea sized" bits of flour coated butter in my dough. I usually get uneven, variously sized bits. And that's been o.k. This is just about what it looks like when I get to the "I'm done cutting in the butter" stage. (above)

Most recipe books also tell you to sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of cold water onto the mix one tablespoon at a time. Fluff with a fork until the dough "just" starts to leave the side of the pan. I've never gotten by with only 3 tablespoons. If I don't add at least 4 tablespoons, my dough doesn't gather. This isn't a good picture, but what I do is after the 3-4 tablespoons I try to see if I can press the dough into a ball with my hand and move it as one lump. This is what I consider done.
I get the best results when I stick the bowl and dough in the fridge for 30 minutes. It makes it easier to roll out. It's not a requirement but it really does help.

My dining room table is one slap of wood and it makes the surface nice and large to roll out a crust. I liberally flour the table and the dough and start working on it with the rolling pin. If it starts to break along the edges, you can patch it with end pieces as they stick out. It takes quite a bit of flour and a couple of flips for me to keep it from sticking to the pin and the table. If you don't flour enough, you might find that big hunks of butter pull out of the dough, and that's a pain to work back in (you usually can't)

My fully rolled crust, ready for putting into a 9" pan, with some extra bits to make some little treats with.

For a two crust pie, double the recipe and split the dough into two batches before chilling.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen

With few exceptions, children love to cook. I don't mean giving your 4 year old a frying pan and bacon and saying "go to it!" But handing them a pan to grease or a bowl to mix or a butter knife with some peanut butter and some bread and they're ready to jump in. In the process of learning how to cook they sniff, taste, and handle all sorts of varieties of foods which also has the added benefit of increasing the types of food they are willing to eat. Guaranteed that a child who cut the veggies, sprinkled the cheese, and flipped the omelette proudly onto a plate will be much more likely to eat said omelette.

Also it's fun. They are generally supervised and it keeps them from making messes in other parts of your house while you cook.

My oldest child is 5 1/2. And now he's at the point where he could make an edible simple sandwich if asked. If I am in vision range, he can make toast. He (most of the time) even remembers to put the butter away and get napkins out for each kid.

If you've never thought to give your two year old a mixing bowl and spoon, try it! What's the worst that could happen? A bit of flour (or a bowl) on your floor? Small price for an experience that you just might find the both of you grow to love.