Monday, March 21, 2011

New Toy

"I got a new toy-oy! I got a new toy-oy!" (Imagine sing-songy voice.)

Last Monday, the boys and I went on an innocent little trip to Costco. Innocent--yeah, right!

Guess who was there? The Vita-Mix Lady, that's who. The Vita-Mix Lady and her Vita-Mix machine and her baskets full and ice chest full of goodies. We got to sample juice blended COMPLETELY smooth from whole fruits, ICE CREAM made in this miracle machine, tortilla soup to die for and whole fruit smoothies*. "Hmmm," said I, "I want one of these. However, I do not have the necessary dinero." So sad.

That was Monday. On Thursday, St. Patrick's Day, I made mint chocolate chip milkshakes. And guess what? My blender didn't like mixing that guy up, that's what! What visions started drifting through my head? Oh, yeah, Vita-Mix, baby. So on Friday, I concocted a plan. After punching a few numbers in on my phone--"Hi, Babe! Can I borrow some money?" That wonderful man of mine? He said, "Yes."

"Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Costco we go!" (Imagine sing-songy voice again.) And the nice Vita-Mix Lady? She mixed up more wonderful goodies for us as I picked up Mr. Vita-Mix box and put him in my cart.

That night, I made that wonderful man of mine chocolate hazelnut banana ice cream. I used chocolate hazelnut milk, frozen bananas and ice. That was it. He was amazed. But, My Lovin' Man being who he is, he had to give me a hard time yesterday. "You know, every time you turn that machine on, the lights flicker." (Imagine deep manly voice.) So I whisked him off to Costco, because yesterday (Sunday) was the last day that Vita-Mix Lady would be at Costco. She made us more tortilla soup, more ice cream and a GREEN smoothie. He was convinced.

Today, I made the kids a green smoothie. The ingredients?
  • white grape juice
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 apple (don't remove the core)
  • thin slice of lime (with the peel)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • couple spoonfuls of the pineapple juice the pineapple was packed in
  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • about 1 cup ice
And, Mikey, THEY LIKED IT! You CANNOT taste the spinach! Honest to Betsy.

Another great thing about this machine? It is just about self cleaning. You put some warm water in it with a drop of dish soap, turn it on, and presto-cleano!

We're having some delicious fun over here! Yeah, I will be broke for the next few months (I did mean borrow when I asked DH if I could "borrow" some money), but it's worth it. We are loving us some yummy treats. Hey, I didn't even add peas to the kids mac & cheese at lunch today--they drank spinach and fruit!

*Video demos are available at

Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Yogurt Tutorial

O.K., I haven't done a tutorial before, so bear with me.

I blogged about homemade yogurt here, and decided I would post about how I make yogurt. There are instructions all over the web, but I have my own little way of doing it. Here we go!!!

You will need:
  • 1/2 gallon of milk--I use 2% simply because I need a little fat to help me feel full for longer. You can use whatever percent you choose. Just know that the further away you get from whole milk, your yogurt will not be as firm.
  • Powdered milk--I use non-instant that I get from Azure Standard. I used 1/4 cup the first time I added this and 1/2 cup the second time. I didn't see any difference in texture between the two. An added benefit of incorporating the powdered milk is that it adds protein to your yogurt.
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt with live and active cultures. I prefer to use Mountain High, Cascade, Brown Cow or Trader Joe's.
  • Whisk or fork and a spoon
  • Measuring cup
  • Thermometer--a candy thermometer will work well. I have a digital meat thermometer that I attach to the side of my pan with a clothespin. I like that because it beeps when it reaches the right temperature--allows me to do a little less babysitting.
  • Jars with lids or a glass or ceramic bowl with a lid. I used a casserole dish for a couple of years. Now I use quart sized Mason jars with plastic lids. They take up less space in the fridge. (My picture has metal lids because all my plastic lids are currently in use.)
  • Playmate cooler with hot water (about 118º to 120º) OR large heavy bath towel
Pour your milk into a large pan. Slowly whisk in the powdered milk with your whisk or fork. Set your burner to medium heat. Put your thermometer into the milk. Allow the milk to come up to 180º. When it does, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool down to 118º. I found that placing the pan on a wire cake rack allows the milk to cool faster than leaving it on a solid surface.

If you are using a cooler to incubate your yogurt, go ahead and get this ready. You will want enough water in the cooler to come up to at least the mid-line level of your jars. Make sure that water is not over 120º. For several years, I simply used a heavy bath towel folded in half to incubate my yogurt. I just made sure I placed the jars in a relatively warm place. This using the cooler and hot water is new to me, but it feels like I am doing more to make the yogurt. I always worried that the temp was not good enough just leaving it covered on the counter.

While the milk is cooling, place your yogurt into a bowl. When the milk reaches 118º, spoon some of the warm milk into the yogurt and whisk it up. This is similar to tempering eggs. Pour your yogurt into your pan of milk and mix well. I really like using a whisk as this will break up any "lumps" of yogurt. Pour your mixture into the jars or bowl. Wipe the lip clean with a damp paper towel and put the lids in place.

Put the jars into the cooler or in a warm spot in your kitchen. Close the lid to the cooler or cover with the towel. You want to leave this undisturbed for 6 to 8 hours.

When the time is up, carefully look to see if the yogurt has solidified. If there is a yellowish liquid on top, don't worry. It is just the whey. You will see more of it as you begin to use the yogurt. You can dump it out or stir it back into the yogurt. If you decide to dump it out, I recommend saving it in another jar in your fridge. The whey can be used in any recipe that uses buttermilk. Let me tell you, it makes wonderful pancakes! You can also line a strainer with cheesecloth, dump your yogurt in, put the strainer over a bowl and place it in the fridge. This will give you a thick Greek yogurt-like consistency. You can also use this in the place of cream cheese.

Oops, I digressed. Once your yogurt has cultured, place it in the fridge to cool completely. You do not want to dig in until it cools off--it will be a runny mess if you do, and really, who likes warm yogurt.

There you go. Save some for your next batch. After a while, it may lose it's potency and you will need to buy more plain yogurt to use as a starter.

Happy yogurt making and eating!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ahhh . . . homemade

I love to make food from scratch. I made yogurt for several years, then burned out on it and started buying it again. However, price drove me to make my own again last night. I am SO GLAD I did!!!. I added powdered milk this time, something I hadn't done in the past. And it is definitely firmer. I just feel so good about feeding my family made from scratch goodness.

So that brings me to my current post. I live down the street from a day old bread store. It is an Oroweat store, so the bread is not full of junk like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils--not a bad deal. But here's the thing . . . the bread just didn't smell right to me. It had a sour smell. Not the good kind of sourdough smell, but a smell that made me wonder if it was o.k. to eat. So I started back making my own bread. It tastes so much better. DH was not too happy only because of the size--the loaves tend to be on the short side. Of course, that can be solved by making the recipe bigger to make bigger loaves. Ah, the problem: my KitchenAid does not handle the larger amount of dough very well. I have the 4-1/2 quart model. I LOVE my KitchenAid. But from necessity, I have started looking for another mixer. KitchenAid does make a 6 quart model, but still I wonder if it will be powerful enough for my whole wheat flax seed bread. Enter the Bosch mixer. Ahhh, now THERE is a mixer! It claims to be able to handle 15 pounds of dough. That's a LOT of dough, but for, well, a lot of dough. Hmm, what to do.

Yes, yes, I could make bread the old-fashioned way--kneading it by hand. That was nice BC/BH (before children/before homeschool). Now I have the opportunity to make the most of my time while feeding my family with the most nutritious food I can. Kneading bread does not lend itself to maximizing time.

Disclaimer: This is not a post of complaint. It is simply musing in type.