Tuesday, September 27, 2011

homemade greek yogurt

Wow. My blog has been depressing lately. Talk about a Debbie Downer, huh? wuah wuah. Time to move on to happier topics.



I don't normally like yogurt, but I was addicted the first time I had Greek yogurt. What's the difference? Greek yogurt is thick. Mmmmmm. Because it is essentially concentrated yogurt, it packs an impressive amount of protein per serving. My diet is definitely lacking in protein, so this helps.

However, Greek yogurt is not cheap. My favorite brand is about $1.50 per 6-ounce serving. I can make my own for about 30 cents per serving (plus whatever I decide to add to it--honey, jam, fruit, etc).

It turned out "okay" the first couple of times I made it, but after a few tweaks, my latest batch is smooth and yummy. Take note: this is not a quick process, but it is much cheaper than buying Greek yogurt.

Here is what I do:

Ingredients

2 quarts (or 2 liters; doesn't have to be exact) of fat free milk (I use 2% now, because I ran out of fat free one day and the 2% was soooooo good as yogurt)
1/4 cup yogurt with live active cultures
1/4 cup honey (optional)
candy thermometer

*Yields about 1 to 1 1/2 quart/liter depending on how much whey you strain out. If you want thin yogurt, don't strain out any whey and you'll have 2 quarts/liters.

Directions

Note: I prefer to start this process in the evening since it needs to sit for 6-12 hours.
1. Heat milk in a large pot to 175-180 degrees (be careful not to scald it otherwise the bottom may burn and a film might form on the top).

2. Remove from heat, stir in honey (optional--you can make it plain and add flavor later), and allow to cool to 100 degrees. If you would like to speed up the cooling process, transfer to a casserole dish or bowl that has a lid. (Either way, the cooling process takes a long time.)

3. When the milk reaches 100 degrees, turn on your oven to the lowest setting (warm). This is just to warm the oven a bit.

4. Add 1/4-1/2 cup yogurt (be sure to use yogurt with live active cultures, which is pretty much all yogurt...).

5. Add the mixture back to the bowl of milk.

6. TURN OFF THE OVEN.

7. Did I mention TURN OFF THE OVEN? You don't want to cook the yogurt.

8. Put the lid on the pot/bowl (or cover it somehow) and set it on the rack in the oven.

9. Leave in the oven over night (6-14 hours. They say it is more tart the longer it incubates.)

10. In the morning, it should be somewhat firm (the texture of soft yogurt). If it's still runny like milk, it didn't work. My condolences to you. Better luck next time. However, it has worked every time for me.

11. If you like thin yogurt, you are finished! Stick it in the fridge and enjoy! If you want thicker (Greek) yogurt, press on, my friend.

12. Line a colander with layered cheesecloth or a thin dish towel (I prefer a large thin white dish towel) and place the colander in a bowl to collect the whey.

13. Dump the yogurt into the towel in the colander, gather up the sides of the towel and twist gently to contain all the yogurt inside. You will see the whey straining out of the towel and colander into the bowl. (Empty the bowl if the whey reaches the bottom of the colander.)



14. Put the bowl/colander/towel/yogurt contraption in the fridge for an hour or two (less if you like thinner yogurt, more if you like thicker yogurt).

17. Unwrap the strained yogurt and dump it into a clean bowl (saving the whey on the side). Most recipes would say you are done, but this is the step I discovered to make it really good. Using a hand mixer, whip the yogurt until it is smooth again (adding whey if it is too thick for your liking). Taste it and then whip in more honey as needed. I think I added a lot. :) I like things sweet.

18. Throw out the rest of the whey and put the finished yogurt in a mason jar or other container to store.

Stirring in jam or fresh fruit makes for yummy yogurt, too. Enjoy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

who knew?

I just wrote a wonderful recommendation for Graham and Liam's caregiver and sent it to a lady looking for a nanny. I had to force myself to push "Send." I didn't want to.

Almost five months ago, I struggled with the idea of sending my boys to a stranger's house all day. We didn't even have a transition. Just dropped them off cold turkey the first day. I was sad. While I got a very good vibe from Rocio and felt totally comfortable leaving my kids with her, it was still hard. I didn't want my boys to get attached to another mommy.

Fast forward to today.

Christian's temp job is over at the end of this week and he'll stay home with the boys once again. I know Rocio has bills to pay as well, so I'm helping her find other kids to watch. She'll be interviewing with a new lady tomorrow to see if it is a good fit, but I can tell she just wants to keep Graham and Liam. She looks like she's going to cry whenever she talks about Graham and Liam's last day at the end of this week. I want to cry along with her. When she told me about her interview tomorrow, she asked me one more time if there were any updates on Christian's job, in hopes that we could stay. She had to have a talk with her 4-year-old and 2-year-old about how the boys won't be coming over any more. She said last time they said goodbye to kids she watched, her little boy cried often and wanted them to come back. That breaks my heart.

It has only been 5 months, but they are family to my boys now. Liam jumps for joy when he sees Rocio in the morning.

I want to be selfish and string her along. Maybe Christian will find another temp job. Maybe she can just wait. If she takes a new family and Christian finds more work in a couple weeks, we are out of luck and have to send our boys elsewhere. But I can't expect her to go two, three, four weeks without pay in hopes that our boys can come back.

With tears in my eyes, I give a good recommendation and push send.

But secretly I hope the new lady chooses someone else.

Monday, September 12, 2011

how do you...?


(Photo source)

Answer me this: When you are in a rut, how do you pull yourself out of it?

Do you pray?
Do you distract yourself?
Do you meditate and work through it in your mind?
Do you wait it out?
Do you make a list and take action?
Do you talk it through with friends?
Do you hold it all inside?
Do you blog about it?
Do you read inspirational works?
Do you listen to uplifting music?

Humor me. How do you pull yourself out of a rut?

(Upcoming posts: Homemade Greek Yogurt; Camping with Two Small Boys; Laptops, Cars, and Running Shoes in Dog Years; and Plans for the Autumn Season)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

swim diapers



Behold. Adorable reusable swim diapers.



My frugal friend, Cheri, was sick of buying disposable swim diapers. When she was living in Arizona, her girls pretty much lived in swim suits. And even though Cheri was not a cloth diapering mama at the time, she knew she could not keep spending her money on disposable swim diapers.

Being the jack-of-all-trades that she is, she decided to whip up some reusable swim diapers! (Who does that? Who just whips up cloth diaper designs?) After discovering how well they worked, she even started selling them on Etsy. Lucky us!

So here are my boys in their ADORABLE Cuddle-Me-Mine swim diapers.



And in case you need more convincing than how adorable they are, try this:

1. The have a range of snaps meaning your child can use them for multiple years. Graham and Liam can use the same size on different snap settings.

2. They hold poop in! You know that that's the only point of a swim diaper, right? You know the pee goes right through swim diapers and into the pool, right? If you didn't know that, now you know. Graham pooped once in these cloth swim diapers (while running around on the beach) and we had no idea. Those diapers did their job. No poop leakage. Impressive.

3. A package of swim diapers costs what? $10? And how quickly do you go through that? Buy a couple of these reusable diapers and use them for a few YEARS. That's some serious savings.

4. They are thin and not bulky. They fit well under swim shorts and swim suits. Or, as you can see, they are adorable on their own.

5. You can wash and dry them with your regular laundry. (If your kid poops in one, just swish it around in the toilet to get the poop off first. It doesn't happen often.)



Cheri just started making her own fitted cloth diapers and covers for every day use, and I'm super excited to get some in the mail. I'll let you know how those work, but for now, I highly recommend that you ask for some swim diapers for Christmas... You can get them at The Kitchen Sink Boutique on Etsy. And then you can thank me later for telling you about them. :)