Testing a post from my phone
If you haven’t heard by now, I make my own yogurt. And I push it on everyone. “No, we don’t have sour cream, just use some yogurt.” “Mix some yogurt in that, it will be tasty!”. “Try putting yogurt on your cereal instead of milk.” “Hey, do you want some yogurt cheese?!”. Yep, whatever, I like yogurt and it’s many culinary uses, lol.
I researched and tested so many things before I finally nailed down a yogurt recipe that produces yogurt the way I want it. My yogurt is pretty firm and slightly tangy. I will share my recipes and processes for making yogurt. It will be lengthy, but useful
First some notes regarding the ingredients…
Milk - I really like the taste and texture of Horizon Organic’s 2% milk. That is what I use for most of my yogurt. When I do cream-top yogurt for Ethan, I will buy Country Girl Whole milk from the Farmer’s Market in Picayune, or I will buy Smith’s Whole milk from Whole Foods. Both are local creameries and both have tasty milk. I usually buy a half-gallon to make yogurt because we don’t really drink a lot of milk and the extra would probably go to waste. That is another plus for the Horizon milk. It is ultra-pasteurized, so it doesn’t spoil as quickly as pasteurized milk. Sometimes I will also buy heavy cream to add to Ethan’s yogurt, especially if I am only using 2% for his yogurt. Fresher milk is better, but if you use milk that is close to expiration, the yogurt will last longer than the milk would have on its own. I’m not suggesting that you use sour milk. But if your milk is 3 days from expiration and you know it will take you 7 days to finish the yogurt, that is OK. It will not spoil that quickly. I don’t know how long it would take it to spoil because we go through yogurt quickly.
Milk powder – I use non-fat milk powder as a thickener. Homemade yogurt tends to be more runny than store bought, but I don’t like runny yogurt. Adding milk powder does the trick. And it also adds a bit more protein too. Brands – right now I am using Great Value (gag, I hate wal-mart) because that was the only brand available when I bought it. I have some carnation waiting as soon as I finish the GV. I’d love to find organic milk powder. The cost increase doesn’t bother me because so little is used, you don’t notice the extra $$ spread out over the massive amounts of yogurt you make from it. I have also read that you can use reconstituted milk to make yogurt, but I haven’t tried that. I just add milk powder to my milk to thicken it a bit.
Yogurt culture – I have tried many different things here. I have successfully made yogurt from a freeze-dried culture, my own fresh homemade yogurt, store-bought plain yogurt, yogurt close to expiration. I have some of my own fresh yogurt in the freezer waiting to be tested. I have heard that you can successfully make a batch of yogurt from fresh yogurt that has been frozen and then thawed (not the same as frozen yogurt), but I have yet to try that. I do prefer to use some of my last batch of yogurt to start the next because it is more economical and more easy. But other than that, I can’t say that I prefer using dry culture versus store bought yogurt versus homemade yogurt. They all perform well, but each one will behaves differently, so you have to keep an eye on your yogurt to make sure it is not setting more quickly or more slowly than you expect. Dry culture sets up FAST and you will end up with really tangy, firm yogurt if you don’t pay attention to it. Most of the time, I use leftover homemade yogurt to start the next batch, and I know that my yogurt will be ready in roughly 4 hours. The older the culture gets, it takes a little more time. When it doesn’t set as firm as I’d like after 5 hours, I know it is time to start a new culture. When I make yogurt from a new dry culture, I have to check it after 3 hours because it sets up FAST. I don’t like my yogurt to be too tart because I like to eat it unsweetened. The longer it sits, the more tart it becomes. I have used Brown Cow Cream Top, Stonyfield Farms, and Whole Foods 365 plain yogurts as starters with success. I used Winn Dixie brand plain yogurt once and it was really nasty. nasty. i had to throw away the yogurt. I use Yogourmet dried culture, which you can buy from Amazon on the Subscribe and Save plan.
Sweeteners – I do not sweeten the milk before making the yogurt. Depending on what sweetener you use, it can affect how the yogurt sets up, and it could add an adverse flavor. Yogurt occurs through fermentation of lactose, so if you give the bacteria other sugars to ferment, you will have different results. I don’t add anything to it to change the flavor before it ferments. I think you can add vanilla without issues, but I haven’t tried that yet. I sweeten my yogurt when its time to eat it. I use agave nectar because it dissolves very easily in cold liquids. Maple syrup is a good sweetener too. Honey works well, but it does take longer to dissolve and your yogurt can get a bit runny if you stir it too much. I sweeten the purees I use for fruit on the bottom yogurts. As a side note, Alton Brown says to use honey to sweeten the yogurt before fermentation. While I have not tried this, I consider it reliable advice because AB is rarely wrong. very rarely.
Fruits – Again, I don’t mix anything into the yogurt before it is ready to eat. However, I do make fruit on the bottom yogurt and allow the yogurt to ferment on top of the fruit. I use 8 oz mason jars and 5.5 oz jars that came with the yogurt maker. When its time to pour the yogurt into containers for fermentation, I put the fruit puree in first, then I carefully pour the milk-yogurt mixture on top. I try not to have the yogurt and fruit mix up too much. It sets up perfectly and it is delicious. That is my favorite way of making yogurt – single serving fruit on the bottom. You can sweeten the purees or just add agave nectar when its time to eat the yogurt. One of my favorites is mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon and brown sugar (or maple syrup). I also make apple sauce, pear sauce, pureed strawberries, blueberries cooked with brown sugar and vanilla. you can also just use fruit preserves if you don’t want to cook your own fruit.
And some notes on the process:
Sterilizing the equipment – I feel like this is a necessary step. I didn’t get consistent results until I started sterilizing everything in boiling water. Just cleaning it doesn’t do the trick – sterilizing is a must. Not everyone bothers with it, and yes it is a pain, but I don’t want to waste a batch of yogurt because it is tainted with unwanted bacteria. That is a bigger pain. To sterilize my equipment, I boil a big pot of water and give everything a bath in the boiling water. EVERYTHING. All the containers that will hold the fermenting yogurt, the spoons I use to mix it, the glass bowls that I mix it in, etc. I even dip the end of my thermometer in the boiling water.
Sterilizing the milk – Yes more than likely, the milk you are using has already been pasteurized, but by handling it, you may have exposed it to other bacteria that might interfere with the process. SLOWLY heat the milk to just before boiling (about 190), stirring a lot so it doesn’t scald, and then quickly cool it down to 120 or so. Some people (probably most) don’t do this, but I think it is necessary. Heating the milk also thickens it a bit which makes the yogurt more firm.
Notes on the needed equipment:
You can have as little or as much equipment as you like. some people are happy with a pot to heat the milk, a spoon to stir it, and a container to put it in to set. That works for some people I suppose. I don’t want my yogurt making to be some big production, but I do like to have consistent results, so I opt to use more equipment.
Thermometer – I use a thermometer throughout the entire process. The thermometer tells me when my milk is hot enough, and then when it is cool enough, if my yogurt culture is warm enough to go into the milk, and if my fermentation environment stays warm enough. I have a nice thermometer that Aaron got me for Christmas. It has a thermocouple probe and an infrared sensor. It is digital, so it reads instantly. I have no idea how much it cost as it was a gift, but it is worth every penny. I think every kitchen should have a thermometer with a thermocouple probe, so go ahead and buy one. If not, a candy or dairy thermometer should work as long as it reads quickly. You definitely want some method to determine that your milk is not going to be too hot to kill the bacteria in the yogurt.
Fermentation equipment – this is the easy part. You have lots of different choices, but none of them are difficult or expensive. I will tell you first what I use. I have a yogurt maker that holds 7 little glass jars and I also have a small styrofoam cooler with very thick walls. I use them both. The yogurt maker is a no brainer – just set it and you’re good to go. The cooler needs to be checked every so often to make sure that it is warm enough for proper fermentation. I have great results with both. It is cold in my house this time of year, so I put down a kitchen towel on the counter (we have granite and it is COLD) then I put a plate or stone bar pan or something sturdy on top of the towel, and the yogurt maker on top of that. I put a couple of towels over the dome of the yogurt maker to keep it well insulated. I use the yogurt maker for the single serving fruit bottom yogurts. For the cooler, I use quart size mason jars to hold the yogurt. Only two will fit – this is a small cooler, and I have no idea where I got it. I fill the cooler with hot water about 2/3 of the way up the jars. I don’t bother putting lids on the jars because I don’t move the cooler and I am careful. If you are worried about water splashing into the yogurt, you can loosely cap the jars. The hot water is about 120-125 degrees. Every so often, i check the temperature of the water to make sure it hasn’t dropped too low. If it dips below 110, I will scoop some out and refill with hot water.
Other methods that I have not tried: inside to oven set to 100 degrees, inside a crockpot that is turned on and off every 15 mins (yeah, i am not going to babysit my yogurt), wrapped in towels and a heating pad (I might try this sometime), inside a large cooler. Some people even leave it sitting out on the counter for 12 to 24 hours. I have no idea how that would turn out.
Vessels – you need something to heat the milk in, something in which to mix the yogurt and milk (can be the pot you used to heat the milk), and something to hold the fermenting yogurt. I use a stainless steel stockpot to heat my milk. I recommend you do the same. Stainless steel does not impart any flavor, when properly cleaned does not hold any residues, etc. I also use a stainless steel spoon to stir the yogurt. I use a glass bowl to cool the milk and stir in the yogurt. I use glass jars to ferment the yogurt.
I think that is about it for notes… now its time for recipes!
Plain low-fat yogurt
1 quart Horizon Organic 2% milk
1/2 cup non-fat milk powder
6 oz plain yogurt (unsweetened, unflavored, etc) at room-temperature
Sterilize all equipment. Heat milk to 190 degrees, then pour into a large glass bowl. Sprinkle milk powder on surface to reconstitute. Cool to 115 degrees and stir well to make sure milk powder is dissolved. Add the yogurt and stir well. Pour into glass jars and keep warm with your method of choice. In about 4 hours, your yogurt will be fully set. When the yogurt is set, immediately put it in the fridge and leave it alone until the next day.
1 quart Horizon Organic 2% milk
1/4 cup non-fat milk powder
1 cup heavy cream
6 oz plain yogurt at room temperature
Using basic yogurt instructions as above, adding the cream and the milk together when you heat the milk. The cream can easily scald if you heat it too quickly, so be careful. If any film appears on the surface, skim it off. Same fermentation time – roughly 4 hours. Might need an extra 30 mins. This yogurt is very creamy will be slightly less firm than the regular low-fat yogurt recipe. If it sits long enough to be that firm, it will probably be too tart.
Cream top yogurt
1 quart non-homogenized whole milk
1/4 cup non-fat milk powder
6 oz plain yogurt at room temp
Same directions as above, same fermentation time
Fruit on the bottom yogurt
Use your favorite yogurt recipe – this will work with any of them. Make fruit purees, apple sauce, etc. Bring it at least to room temperature, but no warmer than 115. Put the puree in the bottom of the glass jar and carefully pour the yogurt milk mixture on top, disturbing the fruit as little as possible. It should set up in about the same amount of time as it would without the fruit.
Yeah, I know it has been about 4 months now since I last blogged that it had been 8 months since my last post. I guess that means that my last real post was about this time last year! Wow, I am a terrible blogger!!!
This year is going to be great, so I plan to take up blogging again. And I also plan to take this site back a bit to how it was pre-Ethan. I used to write a lot about our fitness plan and eating healthy. When Ethan came along, of course, our lives became very focused on him, and everything else went to the backburner. It is time to regroup and set new goals for the blog. Less about Ethan and more about other things, particularly our devotion to living healthy. Not that Ethan is no longer important – he certainly is still the focus of our lives. But a bigger focus is living healthy as a family, so that is what I plan to write about!
I’m not going to take down the old content, but I may refresh the design somewhat when I have time (hmm, its not likely to happen soon). But I will start writing right away.
One thing that has inspired me to take up blogging is a little post I noticed on Facebook today. Our gym has a fanpage on Facebook and they asked if anyone would be interested in blogging fitness related stuff on their fanpage. Yep, I’ll participate in that! And well, if I’m going to post on their fan page, why not just take it up full time and blog here too!
Another inspiration is that we often get questions on how to stay fit, how to eat right, how do we manage to make it to the gym, etc. I can put all that here, and maybe inspire other people to get started with similar practices in their own lives.
Yep, so plan on seeing more posts. Maybe frequent, hopefully frequent, maybe not… We’ll see how long this lasts. If I really get crazy about blogging, you might just see other random stuff here, like how I installed a new backlit keyboard on my laptop this week. Or how I rooted my android phone and installed a new rom. Or maybe a bit more of our home renovation non-sense. You might be surprised
It has been 8 months since I posted anything on the blog! I plan to do something about that. Unfortunately, Ethan hasn’t really let me take any pictures of him in the last 8 months which would be one reason i haven’t blogged. I plan to do something about the lack of blogging, but I may not revive this blog. Undecided. It may be something completely new, something for me. I need to keep track of workouts and recipes and other type stuff, and I don’t know if this is the place to do it.
Anyway, I should give some info on Ethan as he is today.
Ethan is 3.
He talks a lot. He has a bit of a country accent and we often have to correct his choice of grammar. He picks up some weird things at school like “What’d ya do that fer?” to which we respond “Why did you do that?’”. In general, he talks exceptionally well and we like to converse with him.
He is wild. He talks back and acts naughty. He does really weird things. He likes to yell in stores. He is turning into “that kid”. I don’t like that.
He is very lovable. He loves to give hugs and snuggle. He still sleeps in our bed. And he wants to sleep in the middle so he can snuggle with mommy and daddy both. And he really enjoys it when Eris sleeps on the bed too.
He loves his doggie. They play together and rough house and act crazy. He chases her on his bicycle. She licks him on the face until he falls over and then she tackles him and licks him some more. He tries to dance with her and put her in a headlock.
He loves to read books. He loves for people to read to him and he loves to read his favorite stories to us. He still loves Where the Wild Things are and a new favorite is Peter and the Wolf. We have read those so many times that he can recite the story for us.
He is a puzzle maniac. We started with the 2′x3′ floor puzzles and have moved on to the 60 piece table puzzles. He still loves the floor puzzles because they are so easy for him. He likes the more advanced puzzles too, but they take longer for him to put together and he doesn’t have the best attention span for that!
He just got a haircut that looks just like Aaron’s. He is proud of his haircut.
He is potty trained. Once he decided he wanted to use the potty, it was so easy. He potty trained himself really. it only took a week or two before he was fully trained. We don’t even have to ask him, he just tells us. That is so wonderful.
He still loves dinosaurs and likes to pretend that he is a “big mean dinosaur”. He likes to stomp around and walk like a dinosaur and roar like a dinosaur. He also likes to pretend he is a wolf and buzz lightyear and max from where the wild things are.
He is getting tall. He is outgrowing 2T pants because his legs have gotten so long. They still swallow him at the waist.
That is all for now!
Yep, I’m sure you’ve heard the new already. The New Orleans Saints won the Superbowl! Satan is donning his snuggie! (And I can’t take credit for that cleverness – stole that funny line from Jacey’s status update on FB). Goooo Saints! We’re excited about the Saints parade tomorrow night in NOLA. Yippee!
We had a lot of fun watching the game. Here are some pictures of “The Eefin” hanging out with friends and family.
He lets me take his picture now. Sometimes. Don’t you love the face?
That’s a little better
There’s that face again! Hanging with grandma and Tyrone the wonder dog.
He spent most of the game eating. NONSTOP EATING. Here he is demanding some kind of food from the table.
Enjoying chili, rice, and chips
Ethan loves see-food. who doesn’t?
Isn’t he cute? Look at how big he is getting!! That shirt is a 3T and his pants are a 2T, and they aren’t falling off!
Taking a break from the food
Ethan loves hanging out with his buddies Hal Mark and Tyrone. Notice the reappearance of the face.
I guess you have to tickle him to get a good smile
He is mildly obsessed with himself. He kept staring at himself in the mirror and playing hide and seek with himself, and then he gave himself some kisses.
Ethan is trying to teach Tyrone his yoga moves, and I believe this happens to be the downward facing dog, lol.
Tuckered out from all the food, action, and fun!
I hope to have some Mardi Gras pictures to share next week! And then a trip to Dallas the week after that! woo hooo!
Just one picture from our visit to the park yesterday
He was in too much of a hurry to use the rail and be safe going up the stairs, so he opted to climb/crawl them instead.
He doesn’t sit still long enough for me to take any pictures these days. He refuses to look at the camera. For a while he would cry when I pulled out the camera, but thankfully he isn’t doing that right now. I was shocked the other morning when I asked “Can mommy take your picture?” and he said “yessssss. Mommy. The E. Pic-sure” And then he proceeded to give me a goofy cheese face, but I’ll take any cooperation I can get.
Snuggling with “cat cat”
And yeah, here’s a decent example of what I usually get when he looks at the camera. He gives a sour face which is almost instantly transformed into screaming and tears. “no mommy da camera. noooooo pic-sure!” This look, however, quickly went away because he was having too much fun playing at the park.
I should really take some time to write about all the things he is doing now.
For a while he didn’t talk much at all, but all of a sudden, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, he started talking up a storm. I have no idea how many words he knows now, but I would say he knows about 300 or so. Maybe more. I dunno. He learns new words every day and his language gets better every day. I can understand almost everything he says, but I don’t know how well others can interpret the Ethan speak. A good bit of what he says makes sense to other people, but I generally have to translate. We can actually hold small conversations and read books and sing songs together.
He seems to know everything, and you only have to tell him once for him to remember. Its a bit scary how much he remembers, even from months ago.
Ethan still loves to read books, and now he will actually look through them on his own and recite the words that he remembers. His favorite this afternoon was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. He kept telling me about the “fat catpiller” coming out of the “coo-coon”. And “da egg lay leaf!”
He asks all the time to “go mommy’s white car. the park!”
He knows all the basic colors (red green blue yellow orange purple pink white black brown) and he also knows a few random ones like tan and gray.
He knows how to count from one to ten and will recite them with me sometimes. Generally though, when I ask him to count, he just repeats 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4 but it sounds more like this “treee oh treee oh treeeeeeee ooooooooh” getting louder and more insistent with each repetition.
He runs all over the place and jumps on the bed and does kung fu. He says “he haaaaa” and chops his arms and spins around. He can identify right from left. He can stand on one foot and balance with his arms out. That is a pretty funny sight because he concentrates so hard on not falling over. He loves to jump on the bed or the couch and sing 5 Little Monkeys. “no mo monkeys, jump da bed. Fall! bump da head!!”
Tonight he even asked to brush his own teeth and actually did a good job. I told him to make sure he brushed his back teeth, and to my surprise he took the tooth brush out of his mouth and tried to brush his back. That was pretty hilarious. I had to let him know that he didn’t have any teeth on his back.
Despite all the things he is learning, he is still a shrimp. He is getting bigger, but he is still so little! That is OK though. If he was heavier, I would have a sore arm from toting him around. And I would be in trouble when he decides to “stomp da mom” which involves him pushing me to the ground and jumping on my belly. Seriously, jumping and stomping on me while I groan and act tortured. He finds it hilarious! I have developed abs of steel to protect myself from the stomp mom game.
That’s enough for now. Good night!
Friday, December 18:
Mom, Dad, Aaron, Ethan, and I packed up the car and drove overnight to catch our flight in Atlanta.
Saturday, December 19:
Breakfast in Atlanta, then on to the airport to wait for our flight. The E was pretty tired and I was able to get him to nap in the airport terminal.
We flew out of Atlanta to San Juan, Puerto Rico. We picked up our rental car, met up with Aunt Carol and Uncle Jim, and headed to the resort (The Wyndham Rio Mar in Rio Grande, PR) to unpack. Dinner at Antojito’s just down the road from the resort.
Sunday, December 20:
Breakfast at Antojito’s. Puerto Rican coffee is awesome.
We spent a couple hours in the car driving through the central mountains on the way to Ponce.
We picked the wrong day to go to Ponce. Everything was closed on Sunday.
But the weather was beautiful, so we enjoyed a stroll around the town square.
Then we head over to see the Caribbean sea. We searched for an unlisted beach named Playa La Jungla, but we were unable to find it. We stopped at another beach and we were disappointed that it was mostly mangroves. Had we known how awesome the snorkeling was in those mangroves, we would have stayed. But instead, we just took a few pictures and went to find a beach better suited for swimming.
We drove to a beach with a crowded parking lot, expecting that it must be a pretty beach. While it was crowded and lots of people were in the water, it was pretty gross with lots of red seaweed washing ashore. The ocean bottom was slimy and gross and the water was very cloudy. After driving all that way we decided to swim a bit anyway.
After a long day of sightseeing and swimming in the Caribbean, we got back in the car and drove back towards the north side of the island. We observed a beautiful tropical sunset over the central mountains.
We stopped in Guavate to enjoy the Lechon Asado and watch the Puerto Ricans enjoy their Sunday evening.
Monday, December 21:
This was probably the best day of the vacation. We took the ferry to the island of Culebra to see Playa Flamenco. Ethan had so much fun in the “big pool”.
Just off the beach there were a couple of reefs perfect for snorkeling. We were able to see lots of fish and interesting coral.
After swimming and snorkeling at the beach in Culebra, we took the ferry back to Fajardo to kayak through a bioluminescent bay.
Tuesday, December 22:
We intended for this to be a day of recovery and relaxation on the beach after the first couple crazy days of vacation, but we ended up going to San Juan instead. Everything in San Juan would be closed later in the week, so we had to see it all today instead. Ethan slept in a bit before we got started. While Ethan slept, Aaron head over to an awesome little bakery and picked up a sample of local pastries such as quesitos, mallorca, and guava danish.
Once again we had beautiful weather.
We walked around Old San Juan and stopped in an old church that reminded me of the churches that I saw in England.
We also toured El Morro. The fort and the view were spectacular.
We ate dinner in Old San Juan, then we head back to the resort to rest for the next day of adventure.
Wednesday, December 23:
Another long day in the car! Our plan was to drive to the Arecibo area to see the Camuy Caverns and the Arecibo Observatory. Unfortunately, the caverns were packed and they don’t give you a good rundown on how the ticketing and tours work. We arrived at 12:30, waited around for an hour and a half, ate lunch, then learned that the tours had been stalled for another hour and a half so that all the staff could take their afternoon siesta. Aaron and I decided we didn’t want to wait any longer because we would miss seeing the observatory. We set out down some crazy, narrow mountain roads through the karst country to arrive at the Observatory. Only 10 kilometers from where we left Mom and Dad at the caverns – it was a 35 minute drive! We toured the Arecibo Observatory, which is the largest radio telescope in the world.
We then drove back to the caverns to pick up mom and dad. It only took me about 20 minutes to drive back because I felt a lot more comfortable with the crazy mountain roads. We then head to Lares to find the world famous Lares Heladaria (ice cream shoppe). This ice cream parlor claims to have over 1000 flavor recipes and at any time they have about 40 flavors to choose from. Flavors range from the normal vanilla and chocolate to local flavors such as sweet rice and guava to really odd things such as white beans, garlic, or chicken. We didn’t try anything too crazy, so everything we tasted was delicious. We then got back in the car for another LONG drive back across the island.
Thursday, December 24:
Christmas Eve, and finally a day of relaxation! We hung out at the resort all day playing in the ocean, swimming in the pool, and drinking delicious rum drinks.
Friday, December 25:
Merry Christmas! Aaron and I started the day with a trip to the bakery and then a morning hike in El Yunque National Forest. The view from the mountains was pretty awesome!
We hiked through the rain forest to see La Mina falls.
We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the resort body surfing in the ocean, swimming in the pool, and drinking more fabulous rum drinks from the Tiki bar at the resort.
Saturday, December 26:
Time to head home. We spent the morning packing up the car, then we had another breakfast/brunch at the bakery, and another drive through the rain forest. We dropped off the rental car, head over to the airport, and drank a few more rum drinks before we boarded the plan. Bye bye San Juan! We landed in Atlanta and then drove to Steak N Shake for some greasy American food!
I have plenty more pictures to share and I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this post as I have time.
In case you haven’t heard, we are headed to Puerto Rico! I’m currently on the plane, entertaining myself with free wifi while Ethan naps and Aaron checks out the scenery. Ethan has been a very good boy on his first flight. He’s a great little traveler. I just wanted to write a quick blog post before we fly over the Atlantic and lose the wifi. So hello!!! Maybe I will get a chance to post a few pictures in the next few days! Hope everyone has a nice Christmas
Here are a few quick shots from my blackberry. First, Ethan’s nap at our gate in the airport. Second, he was happy to get on the plane. And last, his nap during our flight.
Ethan is sick yet again. Just a few photos of his sad little face.
See the flushed feverish cheeks? He is cute though.