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We eat yogurt daily and store-bought yogurt tends to be both expensive and high in sugar. I had no idea how easy it is to make your own. I’ve found it kind of fun too – and I’m no cook, let me assure you, but I am a fan of saving money and learning new things. While making the first batch, I told my husband “I’m cooking up a pot of savings!”

A coworker motivated me to finally try it – she makes it every week. She gave me a high level overview of the process and gave me my first starter. We’ve made about 5 batches so far and it’s yummy and not that hard. My husband got into it too and has been making batches and improved the process by finding better tools for straining.

Then I also read up on it on the food blog of the Apartment therapy website, called the Kitchn: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-yogurt-at-home-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-125070.
Also this page was very helpful: http://www.fromscratchmag.com/make-homemade-yogurt-homemade-yogurt-recipe/.

In case you’re interested in trying it:

You need:
Milk, a pot, a whisk, glass containers with lids, a meat or candy thermometer, dish towels, and “starter”: yogurt with active cultures, about 1/3 cup. You can use plain yogurt with active cultures from the store and once you start making yogurt you will save some of it as a starter. It must have active cultures and should be plain (non-flavored). Either “Greek style” or regular yogurt is fine.
Optional: a strainer, cheesecloth, a bowl to strain whey into.

Steps:

  • Heat about one half-gallon of milk in a pot – we use 1% Oakhurst milk. Use the thermometer to monitor it until it reaches 180 degrees.
  • Turn off the heat and let the pot cool down to 120 degrees. When it reaches about 120, whisk in all of the starter.
  • Pour the milk + starter mixture into glass containers such as canning jars – we like the Ball wide-mouth jars with the screw-on white plastic tops. It will fill about 4 of those jars.
  • Let the containers sit for at least 4-6 hours at around 100 degrees. We achieve that temperature by wrapping each jar in 2 dish towels and putting all of the jars together into a zippered insulated cooler. The longer you let it sit, the thicker it becomes but also the more tart it will get – so this part is all about your own preferences.
  • After it sits 4-6 or more hrs, stir. At this point, since we like Greek-style thicker yogurt, we strain some of the whey out. My coworker doesn’t strain it and just has to restir it when she eats it because the whey will separate from the rest of the yogurt a bit.
  • For the Greek-style yogurt, strain whey with something like cheesecloth or a thin tea towel, over a strainer or chinois, into a bowl or directly into the glass container if possible. This is the only step that is a pain and can get messy. (Can cause some muttering, too, if you, say, have to clean 2 cups of spilled yogurt from under the microwave). After some experimenting, we’ve started using washable jelly strainer bags – I think these – http://www.amazon.com/Norpro-615-Jelly-Strainer-Piece/dp/B001FBEHFC – and a chinois – something like this http://www.amazon.com/8-Inch-Depth-Chinoise-Strainer-Stainless/dp/B000J3ZYCC. This is less messy and we don’t end up with towels that frankly stank like the old post-feeding baby bibs did, especially in warm weather.
  • I recommend saving the whey in the fridge – it is filled with protein and good for smoothies.
  • Refrigerate the yogurt – best to do so overnight. Save some of the new batch in a small container to be your starter for the next batch.
  • Do you need to “refresh” the starter over time? Not sure. We need to research this. My husband did notice that the 3 biggest yogurt brands with active cultures had a slightly different list of cultures. So is it optimal to alternate among brands to get a wider spectrum of cultures? Should you add some sort of culture “boost” from the health food store? I do not know the answers nor have I had a chance to research them. But if I do, I’ll share it here (or if you know, please comment below!) That’s another fun part of DIY, isn’t it – learning all these details about something you didn’t know squat about, like, a month ago.

Eating:
When I pour it out to eat, I add a little maple syrup and strawberries or raspberries, and for texture I add Grape Nuts or Kashi 7 grain puff cereal. Sometimes I also add a bit of Goya canned coconut milk. We also use it plain in place of sour cream with tuna, chicken salad, in smoothies, and on quesadillas / burritos / nachos. I also mix it with salsa and add ground chipotle powder for tortilla chip dip.

So far we have shared the homemade yogurt with my parents who liked it a lot and used it in smoothies and with tuna.

Do you love yogurt too? What do you use yogurt in? Do you make your own? If not, would you ever consider it? Tell me, I must know, as I’m now an official Yogurtista (a term we coined while high on active cultures).

 

Names

For a long time there was only one name I’d ever have wanted to change my name to.  (If I wasn’t a cheapo, of course).  It was a real name I came across when doing data entry as a faculty assistant in grad school the second time, about 15 yrs ago, before dropping out the second time.  Her name was: Ginny Champagne.  Ginny Champagne!  I mean, a name that incorporates two drinks!  I hope her middle name is Kahlua.

Anyway, the other day I came across a rockin name that’s a close second for my most wanted new name: Althea Wolf.  Ah, the things I could have accomplished if I’d been Althea Wolf.

It’s All Relatives

5 simple steps to give your outlook a quick boost:

1) Ensure you’re sporting a decent muffin top.  Check!

2) Take your 9-year old daughter, granddaughter or niece clothes shopping at the end of a long day.

3) Choose clothes for you to try on and bring the 9 year old in the changing room with you.  Ensure the fluorescent lights are goin’ strong.  Bonus points if your back-ne has been blossoming and the room has 8 mirrors to show every angle.

4) Try on the clothes and ask for honest opinions.  Embrace the tsunami of honesty unleashed, from: “That just looks…weird,” to “How many times do I have to say that it looks like someone cut it up with scissors?” to my favorite, the wide-eyed stare + low groan combo.

5) Decide that looks aren’t everything and have some Mint chocolate chip ice cream*.

*In step 5, you may substitute Mocha chip or Coffee oreo.  We cannot guarantee the results of any other flavor substitutions.

I Got the Letter C

I’ve been enjoying Kathy A. Johnson’s blog “Catching Happiness” at www.catchinghappiness.com. She recently participated in a meme started by Simon at Stuck in a Book.  His instructions were:

I’m going to kick off a meme where we say our favourite book author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via random.org. If you’d like to join in, comment in the comment section and I’ll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)

I requested my letter at her post at http://www.catchinghappiness.com/2014/06/brought-to-you-by-letter-g.html.  My answers are below. What fun!  Please play along.  A bloggy, asynchronous playdate if you will.   If you want me to assign you a letter, let me know in the comments.  Even if you don’t have a blog, you can leave your favorites in the comments.  (I promise not to give you Q or X!)

My randomly generated letter from Kathy was “C”. Here goes!

Favorite “C” book author – this was instantaneous, as my favorite author of all time is Truman Capote. I haven’t read everything he has written, but close to it.  For any “Lost” fans out there, it feels a bit like when Desmond has a Dickens book on the island but is hesitant to read it, because he has read all other Dickens works and that would be it.  I own, but haven’t yet read, “In Cold Blood”, the book he’s best known for besides “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I think my favorites are his short story and essay collections, especially “Music for Chameleons.”  I love the way he twists language.  He bends language like so much taffy, in a way I’ve only otherwise encountered with my second favorite author, Nabokov.

Favorite “C” song Crucify by Tori Amos, on the album of the same name.  (1992).  That entire album was so eye-opening and inspiring.  I love this song, although I wish a pal of mine never asked me, “What does she mean, that her heart is in cheese?”  “Chains,” I said.  “Her heart is in chains.”  But now all I hear is “cheese.”

Favorite “C” filmThe Commitments. (1991). “Heroine kills.”  “I never pictured God with a fat gut and corset singing “My Way” at Caesar’s Palace.”

Favorite “C” object – Card, Library !  Still feels pretty miraculous that you can find wonderful books and media and take them home to enjoy.  I would live at the library if I could.

Hosea Pudding Paper

For me, waking up on most weekday mornings looks like I’m struggling to emerge from quicksand or coming out of a weekend-long bender. I thrash, I groan, I frown, I rub my head and I often cuss. As an extra treat, I may natter on half-asleep about some gibberish.

But this morning when he woke me up, I had something crucial to relay, an invention from my dream that would be wildly successful. In the dream, it was quite clear that this new product would bring glory and riches to our family.

That thing is: Hosea Pudding Paper.

I was excited as I explained that it’s sort of like wax paper, but it’s edible. After you finish eating the pudding, you, ah, can eat the, ah, paper too. The longer I described this product the more confused and uncertain I was becoming.

Some doubts began to form: how would you hold the pudding paper? Would it have an edible handle? Do folks really eat that much pudding? How is this pudding containment method superior to a small cup, or a sugar cone?

And I realized that, no, this wasn’t some sort of Ben Franklin moment with a great innovative idea. Rather, my brain was piecing together random things: “Hosea” was the answer in a recent crossword puzzle, and my husband’s been on a pudding kick lately (our theory is calcium deficiency).

Brains are strange. “Hosea pudding paper”? I shan’t quit my day job.

Sorry, no whimsy today.  Oh, and please stop reading if you hate needles.

~~~~~~~~~~~

My heart feels down today.  Nine years ago today, when I had my daughter, there were, as they say, complications.  She was born 6 wks early by emergency C-section; I had Preeclampsia.  I mention this to explain why I got a transfusion that day. I was so grateful someone had donated the blood that helped me recover.  For nine years I told myself I would donate blood someday in honor of that gift generously, anonymously given to me.

It seemed serendipitous that my employer had a blood drive today, my daughter’s birthday.  It’s a sign – it means this is the year, I thought. I looked forward to it all morning.  I went there just before lunchtime.  I’d been drinking plenty of fluids. I brought my ID and reading materials.

Things were going along well. The finger prick showed my iron levels were great. Questionnaire was fine, blood pressure fine, pulse fine. I told the nurse my reason for doing my first donation. I was eager to start.
Nurse 1 seemed a wee bit concerned about small veins (I am 4’ 11”) – but not too concerned. She inserted the needle and I dutifully squeezed and released every 5 sec. She was silent. Then, she brought over another nurse to consult.

“I need your magic fingers,” she said to Nurse 2.

I could hear vague mentions of things not flowing.  They repositioned me and had me move my feet like windshield wipers while I kept squeezing at 5 sec intervals.  Nurse 2 started to prod and twist the needle a bit.  That’s when I got reaaaaally clammy.  I was sweating so badly I actually fogged up my glasses.

I tried not to think about the fact a colleague from another dept I don’t know so well was in the next bed.  A veteran donor, he was getting quite the show.  Ice packs were put under my neck; cold cloths on my forehead.  They said we were about halfway done.  Then Nurse 1 started getting proddy with the needle and I tried muttering something about please not touching it but couldn’t really get it out.

Eventually they called it quits.  They said the vein was working against them, trying too hard to clot.  I didn’t even notice at first the tears sliding down the sides of my face until they were watering my shoulders.

“Will you be able to use the amount I gave?” I asked softly.  Nurse 1 didn’t meet my eye when she said they can’t give it to another person, too many coagulants in it or something.  But they could use it in the lab for research or something.  She took a Sharpie and made big X’s on the stickers on my bag and explained that I won’t receive a donor card now, but please, come back and try again.  This happens, you were brave, and so on.  They had no tissues but she found paper towels for me to rub my eyes with.

Sure, not my fault, blahblahblah.  But instead of getting to feel proud, feel like I’d honored my daughter and balanced the karma, I get to feel like I wasted their time, bummed us out and probably set myself up to be moody for tonight’s bday dinner.  It also brought about memories of feeling like a failure when I couldn’t deliver my baby the “right” way and then couldn’t make enough milk for her and we had to supplement with formula.  Yes, shit happens / I’m not a failure / I tried my best at these things.  But disappointment is bitter, gets you searching for a culprit.  When the only suspect is you, that’s where your blame goes. Then, you get frustrated with yourself for the negative thinking.  And it adds up to one hell of an unproductive afternoon.

The worst part besides seeing the big X’s on my bag o’ useless liquid happened in the parking lot. A sweet-looking older woman was staring at the big ol’ cotton square and tape on my arm, and gave me a huge “way to go!” smile.  An “I donate too!” type of smile.  And I felt like a fraud, a speck, a taker.

Some advice from mum

Motherly advice from me at dinner tonight:

“Do not put that fork near your eyes. Make safe choices – please. “

“Look,” I said to my daughter, “when I’m stuffed in a bag and kidnapped by the gypsies, I want to know that you’ve got enough horse sense to keep yourself alive until they bring me back.”

So I’m not what you’d call a “traditional” “parent”. But statements like that do tend to hold her attention, for a little while anyway. And I’m hoping a little while is all it takes for important horse sense bits to sink in.

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