Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Yogurt Making Improvement #2

Yesterday, I shared about how the EcoTemp Digital Alarm Thermometer greatly improve my yogurt-making experience.  Now I thought I'd tell you about improving the actual yogurt. 

I have come to vastly prefer Greek yogurt to the thinner, 'regular' type, which is one reason I wasn't overly thrilled with the yogurt I'd made in my initial, though successful, attempt.

I knew that this time, I wanted to try to make it into Greek yogurt.  I'd read that the way to accomplish this is draining the yogurt through cheesecloth.  Cheesecloth doesn't seem to be stocked in any of the stores I frequent, so the lack of it delayed my 2nd yogurt attempt for weeks.  I finally decided to start the yogurt, then force myself to go find cheesecloth in order to finish.  But Hubby found a package out amongst his shop's wood finishing supplies, so I was good to go.  (Don't worry, it was new and sealed, so no finish or sawdust, and it listed food straining as one of its uses, so was certainly suitable.)

I would've liked to use a fine mesh strainer, but since I had a gallon of yogurt to strain, I got out my largest colander, also the one with the smallest and most plentiful holes.  I placed the colander in a tall bowl, and positioned an inverted cereal bowl underneath, to keep the strained yogurt from sitting in the drained liquid whey.  

I cut a piece of cheesecloth long enough to go down into the colander and hang over both sides, so it wouldn't slip in... I opened it out to fit, and ended up with 2 layers.  Then I spooned in the yogurt.  I covered it with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge overnight.  (I had to remove a shelf from the fridge, because this contraption ended up to be so tall!)

OK... THEN I started to wonder if I'd done this at all right, and looked for instructions on the internet.  First of all, almost every site said I was supposed to use 'several layers' of cheesecloth.  2 sure doesn't qualify as several, so I figured I'd awaken to a milky drainage, instead of clear, and have to start over.  Most people seemed to recommend tying the cheesecloth over the top of the yogurt, and even hanging it from a cabinet knob to help squeeze out the whey.  But one person suggested doing it the way I had... Just covering it and setting it on a fridge shelf, so I stuck with that and hoped for the best.

I also found that, as I'd wondered, I could've tried other fabric for the straining, like a broadcloth or muslin.  It's just recommended that one avoid colored fabric in case it bleeds into the yogurt, since blue yogurt wouldn't be very appetizing...

The next morning I was delightfully surprised to see that neither the storing and covering methods, or the conservative use of cheesecloth had been at all a problem.  I had about half the amount of yogurt, which according to what I'd read, was the expected.  I also had about 6 cups of liquid whey...clear and yellowish, as it's supposed to be.

The whey is supposed to be wonderful in baking... as a one to one swap with whatever liquid might be in muffins, bread, etc.  I tried it in my bread recipe, but instead of extra pop, as described by other whey-users, my bread didn't rise as much as usual, and got a little overbrown in the time it took to bake to its 200-degree internal temperature.  There are too many factors that influence this to blame the whey, so I'll have to try again another time.  Making at least 2 batches of yogurt a week, which is what it will take to keep our yogurt supply going, will give me plenty of whey to play with.               

Strained longer, I can make "yogurt cheese," which is supposed to be like cream cheese.  I think I may also be able to make Ricotta cheese using some of these same techniques and ingredients, so I hope to try that, too.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Yogurt Making, Improved!

When I last made yogurt, I said it'd be SO much easier, if I didn't have to keep running back and forth, trying to catch the milk as it rose, then cooled to specific temperatures... and that a thermometer with alarms for both heating and cooling would be ideal.  

Well, a conscientious and kind reader remembered that wish and sent me a link to ThermoWorks' EcoTemp Alarm Thermometer.  

At $39, I felt it was an affordable convenience for something I intend to use consistently and often.  I added a few accessories... a clip so it can hold onto the sides of pans and bowls, a protective cover, and an additional probe that allow it to be used in my probeless bottom oven.  So my overall price was about $65.  I've used it SO many times in the several weeks I've had it, and I just finally used it to make yogurt again this past week.

In making yogurt (using the same recipe and methods as the first time), it's the first time I've tried setting the alarm or using the clip.  

Either I'm not setting it up right, or the clip is a bit flimsy and awkward, but it does the job.  

The alarms, though, were WONDERFUL.  There weren't any directions for using it, but I found setting it to be pretty easy to figure out.  

I set the high temp for 200 as the milk warmed slowly, on a medium-low flame.  Heating the milk not only allows it to ferment in a reasonable amount of time, but taking it past 185 will denature the proteins and it will be thicker.

When the milk was transferred to a bowl to cool, I set the alarm for 112, so I had time to get there and cover the bowl for transfer to the oven, without it getting cooler than the 110 degree fermenting temperature.  

Then, as before, it went into the oven, set on Proof at 110 degrees, and stayed there for hours.  Since I used a gallon of milk and I didn't know if the quantity in the bowl needed more time, I left it to ferment for about 8 hours this time, before carefully transferring it to the fridge for an overnight sit... instead of 4 to 5 hours in the oven like last time.

I think that made it a little more sour, and I won't leave it that long next time.  But there will definitely be a next time, because this thermometer made the job easier and more certain.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Grasping Time

My first step in making better use of my momming potential and time is to make more intentional use of this summer.

I don't intend to weigh the kids down with "schoolwork," but don't think it will hurt them to use parts of their days to enrich their minds and know I care about their continued development.   In going through our books, and noting how the family is not going to the bookshelf when they want to read, but too often to the teen trash section of the library (judgmental, I know!), I remembered that I used to give them summer reading lists.  These lists included age-appropriate reading to suit their interests; introducing/sharing classic books they didn't know existed.  

For Princess Eager, I plan to suggest choices such as Little Women or her sisters' favorite, An Old-Fashioned Girl, by Louisa May Alcott, Elsie DinsmoreCheaper by the Dozen, and Meet Me In St. Louis.

Prince Go-for-It already has a couple of books he wants to read: 
Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine and Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon's Legendary Coach and Nike's Cofounder.  They're both about running, but historical, biographical, and the fun pursuit of his own passion will help him also improve his reading speed and understanding.

Princess Eager might enjoy The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and/or Emma.  She is already reading Emmitt Smith's Game On: Find Your Purpose--Pursue Your Dream.

Prince Go-for-It's summer help:
The Key to Algebra series 
It's also a good time to help those with 'gaps.'  For instance, Prince Go-for-It would like to take 9th grade algebra at the junior high, but isn't sure he's prepared for that challenge.  I can sure help him do that.

Here is where I also admit that Prince CuddleBunny isn't reading yet... and some of you may be shocked and dismayed.  I read to him, and siblings read to him.  He does phonics.  Mostly we talk and 'do'... He watches, is in the middle of most any action, and absorbs information and skills like crazy. (I'm so jealous that he spotted a Cedar Waxwing on our huckleberry bush the other day... I've wanted to see one my whole life!)  It just hasn't been a priority for him to put together what he's learned and take off with reading on his own.  

Just a couple of the books by
Raymond and Dorothy Moore
Early in our homeschooling, I read books by Raymond and Dorothy Moore.  They homeschooled their 5 kids before homeschooling was at all a trend.  They believed in growing a whole child, not just a scholar, so their 'homeschooling' included manual work and service to home and community.  They didn't believe in early, formal schooling, and their own experiences included having one son who didn't read on his own until he was 11, at which time he was so eager to see 'what happens next' in a book his mom was reading aloud, that he took it to his room and figured it out.

A favorite reading-help:
 Teach Your Child to Read
 in 100 Easy Lessons
Each of the 5 Moore children graduated from prestigious universities and are professional successes.  I don't think it will hurt Prince CuddleBunny in the long run that he didn't read by age 8.  He is a busy and smart child, and will easily catch up once he starts.  But I do think it's time to put more consistent time in helping him reach this goal.  I think he just doesn't fully realize the fun of reading enough to want to do it on his own.

We also have a 'fun' workbook to chase away summer boredom, when the other kids are busy.  Scholastic Success With: 2nd Grade includes some lessons in map reading, math, penmanship, and grammar.

Among the books he and I will enjoy together this summer are Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Prince Stoic's old favorites, Some Summer!, and Soup.

I foresee some nice times ahead, around the fire or in a lounge chair on a covered porch...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Little Net Music

I blog, I Facebook, I Pinterest a little, occasionally watch a YouTube video, and can certainly research projects or shop... But I don't take advantage of, or even know anything about, so many of the other internet communication, social media, or audio-visual options.  So I know I'm behind the times, and may be telling you about something you already know.

But during my luxurious day of blogging and kitchening in my nightie, Pandora was a big part of the wonderful ambiance.  For anyone else who spends much of their days in somewhat close proximity to their computer, and doesn't know about it, I thought I would make an introduction.

I first became aware of Pandora in December when Prince Steadfast was home for Christmas break, and sitting with us at the table during school time.  He was playing music while using his laptop computer, and through the morning, we enjoyed his choice of mellow, Christian rock.  I noticed that although the music was all similar in tone and style, it was all different bands, so I asked him if it was a mixed CD or what.

He helped me find Pandora.com, and my first selections were holiday tunes.  After registering on Pandora (it's free), you are able to indicate an artist, album, or song around which to form a 'station,' like a custom radio station just for you.  That initial choice will set the tone for other music the program selects to play for you. You can fine tune the album by entering other songs to help narrow the field, and you can also click 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' to give feedback to the program, so it zeroes in on the type of music you want to hear.  --On Independence Day, I listened to Patriotic music and Souza marches!

You are not confined listening to only one station at a time, which is nice for me, because I like variety.  You can shuffle all of your stations for a wider variety of listening pleasure, but you can also select just certain stations you want mixed.  On 'Nightie Day' I enjoyed stations that included classical music (heavy on cello and J.S. Bach, since I have a YoYo Ma classical station, and a Johann Sebastian Bach station), contemporary Christian praise music, and the added some light-heartedness with the fun and romance of Colbie Caillat. 

The page showing the list of my Pandora 'stations.'  You can see by the photos
in the upper right that it was playing Bach Cello Suites when I captured
this image, and had just finished playing a Chris Tomlin song.  The station
this song was intended to match is highlighted (orange) in the list on the left.

Music not only soothes the savage beast, but I can tell you now that it also soothes, and brightens the day of the recently anxious and stressed.  If you don't have access to a similar musical resource, I hope this might help you add some joy to your days.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quinoa Going Greek

Once again, as with my Italian and Asian versions, shared in the 2 previous weeks, I claim no expertise in ethnic cuisines of any sort.  --So this is my own take on "Greek" Quinoa Salad, based mostly on Greek gyro sandwiches we've had.  Princess Artiste couldn't stop snacking on it before heading out to the gym, and said it's her new favorite dinner.  Hubby said it was definitely worth remembering for another time, and sharing on the blog, so here you go...

Greek Quinoa Salad
2 cups Quinoa, cooked as directed, using chicken stock as the liquid 
1 1/2 lbs beef steak --marinated for an hour or more in Greek Marinade found on the  Greek recipes section of Food.com.

While the quinoa cooks, then cools slightly, and the steak marinates, prepare the following:
1 1/2 slicing cucumbers, peeled, sliced, then salted, set to rest for 20 minutes, and drained 
1/2 large, sweet onion, finely sliced, then cut in 1/2" pieces 
4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped 
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
*If I'd had them, I would've also added olives, and pepperoncini or sliced Anaheim peppers. 

Drain, and broil or grill the steak until it reaches the desired doneness.  Allow it to rest a few minutes, and slice thin, across the grain.

Toss all the above together with a dressing of
1/2 cup plain yogurt  
Lime juice, squeezed from one lime 
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar 
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil 
1 tsp dried oregano  
3 tsp minced parsley 
My poor attempt at staging... Should've put more salad in the bowl!  ;-)
1/4 tsp garlic powder 
1/4 tsp black pepper 
dash cayenne pepper
Serve warm or cold.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Anyone Else?

This morning the dogs got me up.  They're not patient at all, so I slipped a comfy sweater over my nightgown, and ran downstairs.

After tending to the dogs, I started into my day... added photos to today's blog post, did the dishes left from last night's birthday dinner...  It was a little gray outside, and an uncharacteristically quiet and peaceful day around our house.  People were in and out, but mostly out.  Only the younger 2 were home in the afternoon, but played quietly or napped, after getting up early for Vacation Bible School... Princess Eager as an assistant group leader, and Prince CuddleBunny as a participant.  

With the house so quiet, it was a great opportunity to sit at the computer to get a bit ahead on the blog, while I also worked a bit in the kitchen...  A nice, leisurely pace and day.  I actually had time to think about only one or two things at a time!

I moved from blogging and yogurt-making to starting crust for dinner quiches when I realized it was 5 PM, and I was still in the nightgown!  In my defense, it's a cotton knit, full-length gown that Princess Sassy bought, mistaking it for a maxi dress... So it's just casual and comfy, but doesn't look too bad.... ?

Princess Sassy is appalled.  But it's not like I ran to WalMart in it.  -Mostly just blogged away, and the only time I even went outside was to answer questions for the man from the truss company, whose visit I hadn't expected.  (Hopefully, he assumed it was a dress!)  I really don't think he cared a bit about what I was wearing, as long as he was able to accomplish his calculations.  And I did shower and dress before dinner. 

Knowing Stacy and Clinton would never okay nightgowns as daytime replacement for a comfy summer dress, the princess has threatened to turn me in to "What Not to Wear," one of our favorite sinful pleasures whenever we get the chance to watch cable TV.  She pointed out that it's not the first time I'm still barefoot and in some sort of pajamas by the time people are returning from work and school.  So, if she wants to threaten me with a televised, $5000 shopping spree and makeover with someone cutting my hair who's not me?  Bring.  It.  On!  ;-)

When Hubby got home, he asked how my day was.  I just held out my hands, showing him I was still in my nightgown and cozy sweater.  He said, "It was good, then, huh?"  He knew.  Sometimes I never make it out of pajama pants because the day was too hectic.  Not today.  Ahhhhh.

I can't be the only one who occasionally blogs all day in pajamas... Anyone else want to 'fess up?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Happy Birthday...

Prince Stoic!  --Grab a hammer!

Yep, the prince 'got to' help work on the garage when he was home yesterday for his birthday celebration.  When Princess Bossy called with birthday wishes, he told her he'd been tricked.  ;-) 

Later told his dad he really didn't mind helping.  --Because he's a great kid!  And a helpful and skilled builder, too.

He worked with his 3 brothers...

And Hubby was up there to supervise....  See the sling that he MUST wear until 6 weeks after surgery (which will be August 2)?... Nope!  I don't either!  Bad Hubby.  Also, it looks like pretty active "supervision" to me...

The garage progress by the end of the day:                                                                                                                                                                          

At last Prince Stoic was able to enjoy his favorite birthday dinner, White Chicken Enchiladas, followed by the his favorite birthday dessert, ice cream cake, made lovingly by Princess Eager.  (We didn't have enough candles, so we did 2 and 3, for 23).

Midnight in Paris
After feasting, we all sat down to enjoy the movie, "Midnight in Paris."  Princess Sassy said it hadn't been a big hit in theaters.  If she's correct, it's probably because too much of the viewing public didn't recognize the names and accomplishments of the famous artists and authors of classic literature represented in this Woody Allen film.  Too bad... They're missing out on a fun and interesting movie, and the knowledge of great art and literature.  It may have motivated us to reacquaint ourselves with some great works, too.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

In the Face of Tragedy

Praying for all those injured and/or affected by the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

A Miniature Clay Pot
Marie at A Miniature Clay Pot has written a moving and heart-wrenching piece, recounting her personal experience in that theater the night and moment of the massacre.  It's so powerful, and well worth a read:

So you STILL think God is a merciful God?!

"Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being caught." 
Proverbs 3:25

Friday, July 20, 2012

No More Newlyweds in the House

Nope.  They didn't move... They're just no longer newlyweds (kind of)...

Happy First Anniversary,
 Prince Steadfast and Princess Sassy!

It's hard to believe that a year ago we were in the whirlwind of the two weddings.  It seems forever ago, and like it was just yesterday.  (How does that work?!  But I know it's true of so many things. - Time is a mysterious thing.)

I thought I'd just take today to share some glimpses of their past year.

From first sight of each other on the big day...

through honeymooning and adventures through the rest of the summer...

They found a rock wall to climb near their
honeymoon spot...

And the bride seized the moment, even in
her dinner dress!

Getting Big Sis married off

Fall and winter nesting, cooking, and play, often including siblings and friends...

Snowshoeing in the yard...

and in the mountains

And back to summer again.

These 2 sure know how to make the most of available moments, and those smiles are plentiful and genuine.  It's been a pleasure to be witness to their unconditional love, developing teamwork, and to be included in their fun!  It's great to see this wonderful start to many happy years to come.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...