DIY Yogurt, Oh so dang easy!

Fermented and cultured milk, aka yogurt, sour cream, creme fraishe, cheese, whey are a important part of so many cultural diets.  Interestingly, it’s really only there in the West that milk is so greatly consumed in it’s natural or unfermented state.  Before pasteurization, milk would sour and separate naturally if not refrigerated. Left alone on the counter, ‘friendly’ bacteria begin digesting the naturally occurring milk proteins and sugars.  When the bacteria have produced enough lactic acid to consume and inactivate the ‘bad’ bacteria, the milk is considered preserved for a few days to a number of weeks.  Interestingly, it’s the breakdown of those proteins and sugars that may allow those with milk intolerances to consume fermented/cultured products. In a nutshell, this is the beginning of all cultured and fermented milk products.

 

For most of us, we are most familiar with yogurt.  It’s in almost every grocery store shelf, laden with flavors, sugars, additives, preservatives…occasionally a manufacturers will toss in a mix in of granola, chocolate chips or cereal*gasp*  in an effort to make it more appealing.  And while many will purchase, realize that this added sugars and preservatives is detrimental to the health benefits you’re striving for when purchasing.

 

Yogurt is NOT soured milk.  Yogurt is produced by first heating milk (preferably raw, but pasteurized can be used.  Ultra-pasturized isn’t recommended by the writer, and it doesn’t produce favorable results) and then introducing a‘live’ culture.  This culture can be obtained via mail order or internet from companies that specially ‘grow’ the culture desired (different cultures produce different results and/or textures) or via a like product.  Most often used here in yogurt is L-acidophilus.  others that may be included are S.thermophilus, L.bulgaricus, Bifidus, L.casei and possibly L.rhamnosus.  It’s also interesting to note that we are born with some of these friendly bacteria in our digestive tract.  Many health advocates recommend taking probiotics on a daily basis for digestive and immune health, making your own yogurt is a simple way to control exactly what is in yours.  

 

There have been numerous reports and articles written on the benefits of yogurt and cultured dairy products to lower cholesteroland helps protect against bone loss.  And as mentioned above, by keeping the immune system up to snuff, you are doing your part to keep some pesky pathogens at bay, guarding against disease and helping to get the fullest nutritional value of all the food you eat.  

 

What follows are my recipes for making yogurt at home, both with raw and pasteurized milk.  I have used both a yogurt machine (whichis nice because it’s pretty foolproof and provides multiple individual portions) and a quart mason jar left overnight in the oven with a pilot light.  personally, I prefer the mason jar.  I donated the yogurt maker.  :)  

 

 

 

Yogurt

makes one quart

 

1/2 cup ORGANIC plain yogurt, or 1/2 cup yogurt from a previous batch

1 quart pasteurized whole milk, non-homogenized if you can find it.  

candy thermometer (I use an instant read…the important thing is to test the milk and NOT touch the bottom of your pan!)

1 quart clean glass jar or 8-4 oz glass jars as provided in your yogurt maker

Getting to 180 degrees happens faster than you think.  Don't wander! 

Getting to 180 degrees happens faster than you think.  Don't wander! 

 

Slowly heat the milk to 180 degrees.  Remove from heat and allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees. (This takes longer than you’d think.  Stirring helps cool it down a little faster. ) Stir in the half cup of yogurt and pour all in a glass container.  (if using a yogurt makers, follow the manufacturers directions)  I prefer a glass quart mason jar, but a shallow dish will work too.   Cover and place in a warmed oven overnight.  I have a gas oven, and the pilot and interior light work well by themselves.  I’ve also used an electric oven, preheated to 225 -250 degrees, TURN OFF, and keep the interior light on.  Transfer to the refrigerator in the morning.  It will thicken as it cools.  

Once the milk reaches 180 degrees, it's frothy and little bubbles start to from around the edge of the pan.  Stir occaisionally so as not to scorch the bottom of your pan.  Yuck. 

Once the milk reaches 180 degrees, it's frothy and little bubbles start to from around the edge of the pan.  Stir occaisionally so as not to scorch the bottom of your pan.  Yuck. 

I lean a clean metal knife inside my jar to absorb heat.  The last thing you need is a quart of milk and broken glass on your counter!  

I lean a clean metal knife inside my jar to absorb heat.  The last thing you need is a quart of milk and broken glass on your counter!  

*Greek yogurt is a thicker texture and produces a favorable batch for me.  

Nighty-night...see you in the morning! 

Nighty-night...see you in the morning! 

 

 

****variation for RAW MILK

Heat milk to 110 degrees.  Remove a couple of tablespoons of warm mile and add this to one tablespoon of ORGANIC or yogurt from a prior batch.  Stir and add to your quart of milk, stir well and pour into a quart mason jar.  Add ANOTHER couple of teaspoons yogurt to the jar and stir well.  Follow oven instructions above or manufacturers directions on yogurt maker.  

 

From here, the possibilities are endless.  Your yogurt should keep for a number of weeks, covered and refrigerated.  And sometimes, be prepared for a flop or a runny batch.  It happens.  But rest assured that you can still use it in smoothies, Middle Eastern Indian dishes, or freeze it for later.  

 

The guidelines for the above recipes are from my ‘go to’ book, “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon that I purchased many, many years ago.   I was blessed to be able to hear her speak in Nashua, NH a number of years ago.  The impression has lasted, and has allowed me and my family to lead a healthy lifestyle.  It’s right there with my rice cooker, one of the best investments I’ve ever made.  

 

What's the buzz about Kombucha?

 

What is all the hype about this funky tea known as kombucha?

 

 Kombucha most likely started in China and spread to Russia more than 100 years ago. It is often called mushroom tea because the "SCOBY" (an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) that forms on the top resembles a mushroom. Kombucha contains multiple species of yeast and bacteria along with organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and vitamin C.

According to the American Cancer Society, "Kombuchahas been promoted as a cure-all for a wide range of conditions including baldness, insomnia, intestinal disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and cancer. 

Supporters say that kombucha tea can boost the immune system and reverse the aging process.

It's a wonderful probiotic. It is naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast, which is helpful for digestive health. It has a distinctive odor, but I find it to be very pleasant tasting. 

 

Here’s how to Brew a Batch.

 

I use a 2 a gallon clean glass jar, (WIDE MOUTH!)  and combine 8 cups hot water and 1 cup sugar in a metal pan, heat till sugar is dissolved, throw in the tea bags, cover to steep and let cool to room temperature. (always use either glass or Stainless steel pans and utensils when making kombucha).

 

Use 4-6 tea bags for a gallon of tea.  Try and find and organic black tea.  If you are using loose tea, use 4 Tbsp. for a gallon of tea.

 

The tea may be left in the liquid as it cools. Once cooled, remove the tea bags or completely strain the loose tea leaves from the liquid and pour into your clean glass jar.  Add starter tea (preferable with the scoby) from a previous batch to the liquid. If you do not have starter tea add an active kombucha scoby (These are also available in kits obtained online, some Natural Food Stores or find a friend who brews kombucha!)  

 

Cover the jar with a towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band; ants and fruit flies can smell sweet tea a mile away. 

 

Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for 7-30 days, or to taste. I usually taste after 5 days.  

The longer the kombucha sits and ferments, the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste. When making it for children, you may consider only letting it ferment for the 7-day period.

 

Keep the scoby and about 1 cup of the liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for the next batch. You will have the "mother scoby" that you added and a new "baby scoby" that will have formed on the top. You can reuse your mother scoby, and gift your baby to a friend by placing it in about 1-2 cups of the finished kombucha in a Mason jar.  You can also just keep it in the jar which is what I do - see photo!   They can get pretty thick, so just be aware. 

 

The finished kombucha can be flavored, or enjoyed plain. Keep sealed with an airtight lid if you like a fizzy drink like soda. This is a ‘Second Ferment” Lots of folks prefer fruit-flavored kombucha, and this can be done by adding any fruit juice to the cultured tea. Add about 3 Tbsp. of fruit juice per quart, seal with an airtight lid, and allow to culture on the counter for about 14 days. It can then be stored in the refrigerator. You can use quart Mason jars to try multiple flavors or make single servings. Remember to check and ‘burp’ if necessary, and note that ambient room temperature will cause your tea to ferment.  Warmer + faster! 

 

My favorite way to flavor the finished kombucha is by adding lemon and ginger. Add ½ tsp. sugar (I’ve used honey and maple syrup successfully here), a couple of slices of fresh ginger, fresh juice from ½ a lemon to a quart Mason jar. Fill the rest of the jar with brewed kombucha, and allow to culture on the counter for 5-7 days. Strain out the ginger pieces, and store in the fridge. (Leave out the lemon here and you can make some tasty ‘gingerale’ .

 

I like lemon is the summer, it’s really refrehsing! To make a simple lemon kombucha, add 1 Tbsp. fresh juice to every pint of finished kombucha tea, let ferment on the counter for abut 12 hours, then refrigerate. It’s wonderfully refreshing to add lemon and fresh or frozen berries. I allow the berries to ferment in the tea.

There is really no end to the flavors you can create for your kombucha, so have fun with it. Whether or not it cures cancer, I am not sure, but at worst you have a delightful and affordable probiotic.

Gluten Free? One Meal at a time!

When I first discovered I had issues with gluten I discovered that if I concentrated on one meal at a time it was much more manageable.  Breakfast being the first meal of the day was where I started.

 

Working and being pressed for time I tried to do make ahead b-fasts that I could grab and go or I run the risk not having anything at all.

 

Oatmeal, eggs, fruit, dairy are all good options.   I tend to stay away from boxed cereal as there are sugars to contend with, not to mention it’s a processed food with added preservatives.  Breakfast burritos (use scrambled egg instead of meat) on corn, coconut or rice tortillas are another option, as are egg sandwiches.  

 

Experiment and find a good pancake mix/blend that you like and mix a double batch.  Freeze the extras between pieces of waxed paper and stuff in a zip top baggie.  In the morning, a quick cycle in the toaster and you’re ready to go.  Sometimes I add a scoop or two of protein powder to the mix to amp them up.  Once warmed, a smear of jam or nut butter and you're ready to face the day. 

 

This refrigerator oatmeal recipe is by far my favorite.  There are so many variations and add ins.  Nuts, raisins, goji berries are favorites in my home.  While the recipe indicates that they should be used within a day or two, I usually make a weeks worth at a time.  Use up what you have in the fridge and cupboard.  It’s fast, easy and inexpensive.  And that’s the good thing. 

 

A quick lunch is also a VERY good thing because I am sure that you/ like me, have a million and one things to do and stopping to fix a wholesome lunch isn’t always one of them.  Working in a food market, it seemed that I was always grabbing a frozen “something” and it finally dawned on my to try and make my own.  So, #2, meals are rice bowls.

 

Just like the oatmeal, I make a weeks’ worth at a time, and pop them in the freezer.  By lunchtime they have thawed and they go in the microwave (if you prefer) for a minutes or so.  Voila!  Lunch on the go.  PS.  The best thing I did was invest in a rice cooker.  Best $20 I spent 6 years ago. :)

REFRIGERATOR OATMEAL

 

Ingredients

    •    1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats

    •    1/3 cup milk of choice

    •    1/4 cup yogurt of choice, the thicker the better!

    •    1-1/2 teaspoons dried chia seeds

    •    1 teaspoon honey, optional (or substitute any preferred sweetener)

    

 

Directions

In a half pint (1 cup) jar, add oats, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, and sweetener, if using.. Put lid on jar and shake until well combined. Remove lid, add fruit, add-ins,  spices and stir until mixed throughout. Return lid to jar and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. Eat chilled. 

*Kim's note:  I use the very freshest ingredients I can find, and this allows me to make a weeks worth at a time.  Experiment, and obs...if it smells or tastes off, discard and make a new batch!

 

RICE BOWLS

These make a quick lunch or a nice side dish for dinner. 

 

 

1# rice, your choice.  My fave is  Lundberg’s Wild Rice Blend.

1-2 bags frozen veggies (or fresh, if in season)

6-8 freezer safe containers

Braggs Liquid Amino’s, tamari or soy sauce, optional

Cooked meat, fish or egg optional.

 

Cook your rice according to your cooker’s (or the package) instructions.

 

Divide rice evenly into your containers, about 1/2 to 3/4 cup per container.  I usually get about 6-10 per one pound package of rice, depending on the kind of rice.

 

Spritz the rice with Braggs (or other) and pile on your veggies and cooked protein, if using.  Give the veggies another spritz, and pop on the lid, freeze or refrigerate till you’re ready.

I'm not a fan of microwaves, but these can certainly be heated in there if you wish.  I will sometime just allow to that during the morning at room temp, and eat cool as a salad.  And of course, you can reheat in the oven or on the stovetop in an appropriate container.   

 

These are incredibly versatile, considering all the add-in’s and/or spices options available.  A sprinkling of curryand a bit of chicken is really tasty, as is cheese or nutritional yeast.  A chopped, hard boiled egg and some tamariand you’ve got Chinese takeout, no preservatives, added sodium or hidden MSG. 

 

 

 

 

Variations

 

Apple Pie

•    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice

 •    1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, (or chopped apple)

    

 

    Blueberry-Maple    

    •    1-2 teaspoons maple syrup (more or less to taste) to replace honey in original recipe

    •    1/4 cup blueberries (or enough to fill jar)

   

 

    Cocoa-Banana    

    •    1 tablespoon cocoa powder

    •    1/4 cup diced ripe banana, or enough to fill jar (approx. half of a small banana)

          

 

    Peanut Butter Banana    

    •    1 tablespoon peanut butter (may substitute PB2 powdered peanut butter)

    •    1/4 cup diced ripe banana, or enough to fill jar (approx. half of a small banana)

 

 

Fruity Vanilla

    •    1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

    •    1 tablespoon fruit jam, preserves, or spread

    •    1/4 to 1/3 cup fruit, fresh or frozen (cut berries in half), or enough to fill jar

 

 

Nut milks

DIY NUT MILKS


If you are like me, dietary restrictions make you read labels.  It shocks me to see all of the additives and stabilizers, thickeners, emulsifiers and even sometimes sugar! in a box of 'alternative' milk.  Frustrated, I set out to explore a cleaner option.  When you make it yourself, YOU have control.  What goes in it, how often it's made (so it's fresh!), how much you make each time, flavor blends and flavorings.  Have fun.  You never know what new favorite you’ll discover!  Here’s a few tips I’ve discovered:

Sweeteners:  I prefer a less sweet taste, and while I’m a firm believer that white processed sugar is the enemy it does sometime satisfy a sweet craving if I whirr in a tablespoon or 2 of honey or a medjool date or two (added fiber bonus!)  Some nuts are naturally sweeter than other, so if you’re adding, start with less especially if it's your first time using that nut.  

Straining:  For most, you’ll need a ‘nut bag’ which is just a bag of clean, finely woven material.  Skip it and use a REALLY CLEAN (aka brand new and hand rinsed!) knee high or  cut the leg from an unused pair of pantyhose.  

The Leftovers: Whatever you do, don't toss it!  You’ve got the makings of flour, nut meal, fiber, protein bars (yes, I have recipes for that too!)…just to name a few.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, spread the pulp out in a thin layer and dry for about 6 or 7 hours on the lowest setting of your oven, door ajar.  (overnight is a good time) A food dehydrator work well too.  Use the dried pulp in baked goods, yogurt, granola or veggie burgers. 

These are so easy, once you try them and get one batch under your belt, you'll never buy premade again (except for an emergency!) 


Cashew Milk
originalrecipe from elanaspantry.com

Note: I've made this, it's easy and what started my path.  Why mess with a recipe that works?

Smooth, creamy and naturally sweet, this dairy-free Cashew Milk recipe is a fantastic milk substitute. It’s also super easy to make. Unlike my almond milk recipe, and other nut milk recipes, it does not require a nut milk bag. You simply whip it up in the blender without the hassle of straining out the pulp. For that reason, Cashew Milk is a favorite! I use Cashew Milk in smoothies and tea or splashed over a bowl granola.

It's nice to have a quart of this cashew milk ready in the fridge at all times. This cashew milk has the viscosity of regular whole milk; if you want to make milk with the consistency of 2% cow milk, add another cup of water. For half and half (great for coffee and tea), use only 2 cups water in the above recipe. Cashew milk can be very foamy when first removed from the Vitamix. It will settle nicely after sitting in the fridge overnight.

1 c. raw cashews, soaked overnight
3-4 c. water
pinch celitc sea salt

Directions: 
-Discard soaking water and rinse cashews thoroughly until water runs clear.
-Place cashews, 3-4 c. fresh water and salt in a vitamix.  
-Process on high speed for 20-30 seconds
-store in fridge  

Raw Almond Milk
1 cup raw almonds
4 cups filtered water + more for soaking almonds
sweetener of choice – maple syrup, agave, cinnamon, etc

Soak 1 cup of almonds overnight (or all day) in a bowl of filtered water.
Strain and rinse soaked almonds (they are delicious at this point, try one!). Dump them into your blender with the 4 cups of filtered water.
Blend on high for 5 minutes.

Place the nutmilk bag in a bowl (preferably in the sink), and empty the blender into the bag.

Squeeze the milk through the bag into the bowl (kind of like, I assume, milking a cow?). The almond meal will stay in the bag and you’ll be left with just the yummy milk.

Now rinse the blender and the lid. Pour the milk back into the blender and add the sweetener of your choice. I usually add a few tablespoons of maple syrup, maybe a squeeze of agave, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a pinch of sea salt. Blend again for a minute.

And that’s it. Yummy milk alternatives that are  actually better the next day once the foam has settled and the flavors have mixed together. Add it to coffee and tea, eat it in cereal, and drink it by the glassful through the day.

If you DO have a Vitamix of another high capacity blender, you can up the portions of almonds and water so you end up with more milk. I usually use 1 1/2 cups of almonds and 6 cups of water. This fills the Vitamix to capacity, which honestly is a huge plus with this type of blender. So much more space! I used to have to blend the milk in batches, which just made the whole process longer and less streamlined.

And again, just like with the cashew recipe above, if you prefer a 2% type milk, add more water or less, if you'd like a creamer for tea or coffee.  

You can also use the same formula to make milk from different nuts. I’ve make brazil nut milk before and it was delicious too. Make some soon!   

Spicy Ginger Syrup

It was CHILLY this morning here on the farm.  Cooler temps make me crave the warming spices, so I got motivated and grabbed the ingredients for my Spicy Ginger Syrup, great on pancakes and waffles but better (IMHO) in coffee and tea.

Assemble:

a couple of knuckles of ginger, peeled.

A vanilla bean (you'll split and scrape)

A few cinnamon sticks

Brown sugar, coconut sugar

Filtered Water

(ignore the garlic...another recipe! )

Making a simple syrup is well, simple.  1:1 ratio of a sugar or sweetener and water.  So, 3 cups of filtered water and 1-1/2 cup of coconut sugar  http://amzn.to/2cnmOWs

and 1-1/2 cup of light brown sugar, here's the brand I use http://amzn.to/2bTTXYb

Over low heat, dissolve sugars stirring occasionally.  While that's going, peel your ginger and slice.  Add to your warming syrup, along with a few cinnamon sticks.  Bring all to a simmer and let those flavors meld for about 15 minutes over low heat.  Then, hard as it may be, turn off the heat, pop a lid on that pan and walk away.  For a long time.  *sigh*

Once cooled, strain, add your vanilla bean (cut & scraped) and bottle.  Store in refrigerator.

It's that easy.

Use it in coffee, tea, over waffles, as a base for BBQ sauce.  The possibilities are endless.  

My fave is a Gingerbread Latte, using an espresso shot (or 4oz of strong hot coffee, 4 oz. of warmed milk and about 1-2T of ginger syrup.  Top with whipped cream.  

Should you decide to use only white sugar, you'll end up with a lighter colored and flavored syrup.  The coconut and brown sugars give you a nice, deep, rich flavor I enjoy.

Fall doesn't get any better than that.

 

 

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