Showing posts with label WB2012. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WB2012. Show all posts

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Mozzarella Cheese

After my success with ricotta cheese, I was very excited try my hand at a little more involved cheese - mozzarella.  However, there was one problem.  New Jersey was conspiring against me in this particular challenge. 

After much reading, leafing through multiple cookbooks and cruising the blogosphere, it was the general consensus that you should use raw milk to make your mozzarella cheese.  Unpasteurized, non-homogenized, raw milk.  There was just one problem to my obtaining said raw milk, it is illegal in New Jersey to commercially sell raw milk. 

I couldn't find it in my supermarket, at any of the small co-ops or sitting in a cooler at the farmers market.  Raw milk is a precious, and apparently illegal, commodity.  Over the past few years, groups have brought bills to the state senate to legalize the sale of raw milk.  As of right now there is a bill with the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that would allow the sale of raw milk under certain conditions, whatever that means.

Due to the current laws of the Garden state, the only way for me to get raw milk would be to cross a border into either Upstate New York or Pennsylvania.  I know there are lots of dairy farms upstate, but I thought it would be a little excessive to drive over seventy miles just to buy milk.  That would be one expensive gallon of milk.  Instead, I went to Whole Foods and bought a gallon of organic, pasteurized milk.  If you can get your hands on raw milk, I'm a little jealous of you!  If you can't, just be sure to buy milk that isn't homogenized.  That won't work at all.

With the raw milk drama behind me, I was able to get down to cheese business.  Along with my organic milk, I got out a big (non-reactive) pot, my jar of citric acid (not from the lab!) and my rennet tablets.  Sounds a bit like a science experiment, right?  Here's a breakdown of what everything is doing.

You need a non-reactive pot, which is any pot made of clay, enamel or stainless steel.  Do not use your fancy copper or aluminum pans.  Copper and aluminum will react with the acid you will be adding to the milk and impart a metallic taste on your cheese.  I used a stainless steel Dutch oven.

Citric acid is one of the most common acids found in your house.  Those oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits are sour because of their high concentration of citric acid.  You need to use it to sour the milk.  What you are actually doing is changing the pH of your milk.  As you lower the pH of the milk from nearly neutral (around 6.8) to slightly acidic (roughly 4.6), the proteins in the milk precipitate, separating from the liquid whey.  I got my citric acid from the King Arthur Flour online store.

Hi, I'm citric acid!
Rennet is a bunch of enzymes that we use to coagulate the milk and completely separate the curds from the whey.  Chemically, rennet is a protease.  This means that it breaks down the proteins, breaking bonds of the amino acids and making the proteins smaller.

All these sciency things come together to make delicious cheese.  And it was a very fun and non-sciency process.  I'd recommend making mozzarella cheese to everyone.  Does it taste much different from store bought fresh mozzarella?  There isn't a huge difference, especially if you get yours at a farmers market or Italian deli, but yours will definitely be fresher!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Tortillas

Okay.  Confession time.  I do not like corn tortillas.  There, I said it.  I don't really like going out to "authentic" Mexican restaurants because they always serve tacos on corn tortillas.  It's a combination of the texture, flavor and the fact that they fall apart so easily.  My taco fillings always wind up on the plate (or my lap).

When I was confronted with the tortilla challenge, I asked myself  - Should I really bother making corn tortillas?  I'm not going to eat them.  I've eaten in some pretty good Mexican restaurants in the city and I don't even like their tortillas.  I would also never buy them from the store to begin with.

With these thoughts running through my head I decided against making corn tortillas.  I did do a little corn tortilla research and they seem pretty easy to make.  Mix some masa harina with water and press balls of dough flat.  Grill the flattened dough on a skillet for a minute each side.  Ta da?  Gross corn tortillas.  Sorry, I mean corn tortillas.  To each their own.

I am a flour tortilla girl all the way!  And I really enjoyed making these this week.  The total amount of time I spent on the recipe was an hour.  Those sixty minutes include all the required resting time for the dough, shaping and grilling!  You can have a Mexican party on the table in no time flat.

These homemade tortillas were a blast to make.  Once I got the right consistency of the dough, somewhere between a still ball of play-doh and a sticky blob of oatmeal, rolling and grilling the tortillas was like making little pizzas.  I went with a recipe that included a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat flour, pretending that they would be healthier (as I planned on filling them with melted cheese, any level of healthfulness would be good!).

Compared to store bought, my homemade circles were flavorful, airy and flexible.  I used the tortillas for dinner, the same night that I made them.  I had another quesadilla a few days later and it was still pretty delicious!  If you have time, get in the kitchen and make tortillas yourself.  Think of the possibilities of making your own!  The different flour options, adding different herbs and spices and the different tortilla sizes you can make in your own kitchen.  I know I have a few ideas that I want to try out next time!  Stay tuned for more Mexican nights!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why Bother? - Homemade Jam

Back in the early eighties, my mom tried her hand at making jams and jellies.  Unfortunately my dad dubbed the products "Not like my mom's jams."  The canning materials went into the basement where they gathered dust for the next twenty-five years, until I went poking around.  Which is why last year, I inherited a large canning pot and three boxes of vintage Ball mason jars. 

I have fuzzy memories of my grandmothers basement.  It was dark, dusty and scary for an eight-year old.  It was full from front to back with old furniture, boxes of Christmas decorations and musty vintage clothing.  One corner also held a make-shift shelving unit, built into the stud of the walls, that was filled from floor to ceiling with dusty mason jars.  From what I remember, they were all filled with peaches.  I have no idea why.  My grandmothers house was in Upstate New York, where there are a dearth of peach trees.  If she had jars of jam in her basement, they looked like peaches to my young, frightened of the dark, eyes.

This weeks challenge was to channel my jam-making grandmother, using my moms vintage canning supplies and churn out modern preserves.  There are so many varieties of jams, jellies and preserves available in the grocery store and at the farmers market, I didn't want to make a plain, single fruit jam.  Why make plain strawberry jam when I can buy fresh, locally made strawberry jam at the farmers market right around the corner from my house?

There are a few reasons why you could make all of your own jam.  1. Using fresh, in season, organic fruits gives the most flavorful product possible.  2. Jam-making and canning is a simple process.  3. Make a batch of homemade jam - you have presents for everyone!

For my canning-fest, I chose two very different flavor combos.  First - fresh and bright Strawberry-Lemon preserves.  Next - tangy ginger-pear preserves.  Yes, I decided to go with preserves for both of my jams.  Personally, I like a bit of chunky texture to my spreads and therefore I'm not really a jelly fan.  I also didn't want to go with any tricky recipes that required added pectin from apples or the baking aisle. Maybe I'll give jelly a go once we finish these jars of jam!

Results - the strawberry-lemon jam was bright and fresh.  The recipe was super simple to follow and the jam came together very quickly.  This was exceptional on my morning English muffin and I will have no problem finishing the two jars that I made.  The ginger-pear preserves took a bit longer to make because the pears were very juicy.  Once complete, this jam made a striking change in a traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

When it comes to jams, jellies and preserves I have two suggestions - Head to the farmers market or "Pick your own" farm and stock up on local, in season produce.  And, when making your own jams, try something a little different, you can get strawberry jam anywhere.

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream

Important!  When it comes to canning, you want to be sure to follow canning rules to ensure a safe product.  To sterilize your jar and lids - Bring a large pot of water to a boil, it will probably take between 15-30 minutes for your water to boil.  Get it ready in advance.  Add your jars to the pot and boil them for 10 minutes.  Remove with tongs and pour out the water.  Let jars cool on the counter top on a kitchen towel.  Place lids in a heat-proof container and pour a few ladles of boiling water over them.  Try not to touch the inside of the lids with your fingers.

Once the jars are full, return them to the water bath and process for the required amount of time.  Remove them from the water bath and set them on a kitchen towel.  Let the jars sit at room temperature for 12 hours.  You should hear the jar lids pop closed after a few minutes.  If the lids haven't sealed in an hour, put those jars in the fridge.

Strawberry-Lemon Preserves
Adapted from Canning for a New Generation

2 pints strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
2 lemons, washed
1 cup sugar

Cut the ends off of the lemons.  Cut lemons in quarters and remove the seeds.  Slice lemons very thinly, about 1/8-inch thick.  Gently toss strawberries, lemons and sugar in a large bowl.  Cover and put in the fridge overnight.

Prepare 2-3 1/2-pint jars and their lids.  Combine fruit with 1/3 cup water in a large saucepan with high sides.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  Pour fruit into a colander and collect the liquids in a bowl below.

Return liquids to the pan and bring to a boil.  Cook for 15 minutes until the liquids are reduced to a syrup.  Return fruit to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Stir frequently and cook for about 20-25 minutes.  The strawberries should hold their shape, but be shiny and glossy.

Remove jars from the water bath and ladle hot water over the lids.  Add preserves to the jars.  Wipe the lip of the jars clean with a wet paper towel.  Place lids on the jars and screw on collars.  The lids should just be finger-tightened.  Process in the water bath for 5 minutes with the lid on the water bath.  Remove jars from the bath and let sit on a kitchen towel.  Do not disturb for 12 hours.

You can store the jam in the pantry.  Store opened jars in the fridge and eat within a few weeks.

Ginger-Pear Preserves
Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

6 pears (choose your favorite type), peeled, cored and chopped
Zest of 3 limes
Juice of 3 limes
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 tbsp grated gingerroot

Prepare 3-4 1/2-pint jars in a water bath.  Place 3 spoons in the freezer.

In a large, non-reactive, saucepan, combine pears, lime zest, lime juice, sugar and ginger.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir frequently and cook for 15 minutes. 

Test the gel - Take one of your frozen spoons and scoop up some of the liquid from the pan.  If the liquid drips off in small drops, the gel is not ready.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly and test again.  If the liquid falls off the spoon in a sheet, it it ready to can. 

Remove jars from the water bath and ladle jar into the jars.  Wipe off the lip of the jars with a wet paper towel.  Place lids on the jars and screw on the collars.  Process jars in the water bath for 10 minutes the the bath lid on.  Remove the lid and let boil for 5 more minutes.  Remove jars from the bath and place on a kitchen towel.  After 1 hour, check to see if the lids have sealed (the tops should not pop when pressed down).   If any jars have not sealed, place them in the fridge immediately.  Do not disturb the sealed jars for 12 hours. 

Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry.  Opened jars should be stored in the fridge.  Try this with peanut butter for a new take on your classic PB&J!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Gnocchi

From potato to dinner plate in less than thirty minutes.  That is the first thing I will tell you about these little potato pillows.  In less time than it would take you to get in your car, drive to the grocery store and return home, you can make your own gnocchi from scratch.  Also, they will taste amazing.

I've made my own pasta a few times before (remember the acorn squash ravioli and ricotta tortellini?) and remembered what a time commitment it was.  Between making the dough, rolling it out, forming the pasta and letting it dry, the only time I was saving was for the fact that homemade pasta takes almost no time to cook.  When I arrived home (on a late train, of course), I wasn't really keen on eating at ten o'clock at night.  I really wanted to eat post haste!

This is where the microwave came into play.  Did you know you can microwave a potato, assuming you have poked enough holes in it, and it will cook in only twelve minutes?  If you neglect to poke holes in the potatoes, you'll have the joy of watching a potato explode violently in your microwave.  Take your pick, both are excellent ways to use a potato.

Once the potatoes were cooked through (and not exploded, thank you very much) I just had to let them sit for a moment.  It was at this point that I put together the sauce for my eventual gnocchi dinner.  It was simple, get this...  Melt butter and thyme together.  Keep warm.  Fin.

The assembly of the gnocchi was the part that took the longest and mostly because no one wanted to help me roll out the dough.  Someone was busy making a Hot dog film.  Don't ask.  After combining all of the ingredients and giving them a quick knead with my two hands, the dough was ready.

Working in three batches, I rolled the dough out into a long rope.  The rope was then chopped into 1-inch segments and each piece was rolled over the tines of a fork.  If you have a helper in the kitchen, you could probably get this done in half the time. 

But there we are, the little potato pillows were ready to go into the boiling water.  How long do they take to cook?  About three minutes.  More precisely?  Once these little guys float to the top, they are ready for consuming.  I slowly added the gnocchi to the water, one at a time and they slowly floated up to the surface one at a time.  The finished ones were scooped out with a slotted spoon and set to drain for a minute in my colander. 

When the final gnocchi was rescued from the boiling water, they all went into the pan with the thyme butter and were ready to go.  From potato to plate in thirty minutes flat.

How do these little guys compare to those vacuum-sealed store-bought packages of gnocchi?  No question, the homemade version trumps the premade ones.  You've got flavor for miles with your own handmade ones.  The texture of a freshly prepared gnocchi is out of this world.  The variety of potato pasta is endless, just think of all of the things you can add to the pasta dough! 

Hold yourself back from buying gnocchi in the store and make it a fun event with your little ones.  They'll really enjoy rolling out the dough and making the gnocchi shapes!  I know I did and I'm thirty years old!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Relayed for Life!

This past weekend was the culmination of all of the fundraising and we had our local Relay for Life! Boyfriend and I got to participate and make many laps around the Relay track. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, since I've never done a Relay event before, but it was lots of fun for everyone.

I'm pretty sure that it was the kids that had the most fun at the event and who could blame them. It's a parentally okayed event that you get to stay up all night and run around in a field. Or that's how our Relay event turned out to be!

The official events during the course of the evening were both fun and moving. I was intrigued to learn about the reasoning for an overnight event. The event runs from 6pm to 6am and Relay is meant to mirror a persons fight against cancer.

From diagnosis, to beginning treatment, to fighting through the darkness and finally being cancer-free, the setting sun begins the fight and the rising sun brings a new tomorrow with hope for a bright future.

Unfortunately, not everyone who is diagnosed with cancer makes it through the fight. The memory of friends, family and strangers taken early by cancer are celebrated during the sunset luminary lighting. Probably the most moving part of the evening, luminary bags, decorated and dedicated, are lit with candles. These luminaries lined the track, giving the Relayers a guide through the dark, helping us continue through until sunrise.

It was a fantastic event. I would definitely recommend taking part in your local Relay for life event. I also wanted to thank you allot helping raise over $350 for our team in my online bake sale. That amount was actually matched by my company, bringing our total to just under $700! Thanks to everyone!

To give you a little extra thank you, I made you a cheesecake. Made with freshly prepared, homemade ricotta cheese and locally grown strawberries!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Ricotta Cheese

I don't really know why ricotta cheese wound up on my Why bother challenge list. In all of my first twenty-one years of life, I never even ate ricotta cheese! Once I ventured out on my own, living in a one bedroom apartment as a newly minted graduate student, I occasionally came across a recipe requiring ricotta. Generally I passed it over for another recipe with "less exotic" sounding ingredients. Yes, ricotta was exotic at one point in time.

A few years later, the South Beach diet was the hot way to eat and I gave it a try, along with some friends. We mostly wanted to re-vamp our eating styles, rather than lose weight. If you know anything about the program, dessert during the first phase is always sweetened ricotta cheese. I ate it, it wasn't terrible.

As my culinary skills improved, I found myself trying out more and more items from the grocery store. Eventually things like curry paste, bakers yeast and fresh ginger made their way into the fridge, ricotta finally snuck into my grocery cart as well.

You still won't find me sitting down and eating ricotta cheese straight from the container, but I really enjoy adding it to pastas, making rich lasagnas and even lightening up a cheesecake. I don't use it that often and ricotta isn't really a staple in my fridge, which is why I was surprised to see it made it onto the list this year. Must have been someone out there that requested it!

If you came here this week for mozzarella, I'm sorry to disappoint. I neglected to look ahead on my list and failed to buy rennet in time. To keep up the cheese theme, I swapped the dates for mozzarella and ricotta!

Luckily, the ingredients to make ricotta cheese are incredibly simple. Get this - milk and lemons. That's it! How much time will you devote to making your ricotta? A little over an hour of your day. And that's time you can spend making cheese and doing other things, like laundry or making breakfast. It was so much simpler than I could have hoped and the results were amazing.

Shortly after beginning to heat the milk and lemon juice, the ricotta started to come out of the milk. Little curds were floating on the surface within ten minutes of heating! Once I strained and collected my curds, I was so happy with the fluffy, white outcome.

I decided not to add any salt to the ricotta, since I had planned to make pasta and cheesecake with it, and stored it away in the fridge. Today I'll share with you the simple method for making ricotta cheese and the deliciously simple pasta I made with it later in the week. Next week you'll be treated to the cheesecake recipe!

Was making ricotta at home worth it? I enjoyed making the cheese because it was like a fun science experiment. If you want to get kids involved in cooking, this would be a great recipe to have them help you with. Would I make ricotta all the time? Probably not. You won't save any money making your own ricotta, you'll just have a lot of fun and be able to tell your friends "Yeah, I make my own cheese."

One year ago: Coconut Joys

Ricotta cheese
Adapted from Homemade Pantry

Simple, straightforward and so easy to make.  This is the gateway into making more complicated cheeses.  Starting with whole milk, the lemon juice helps to separate the curds from the whey.  Don't throw out the whey once you're done making the cheese.  Save it and put it in smoothies, use it in place of milk in bread recipes or just drink it (I wasn't so brave!).

1 gallon whole milk (don't use Ultra-pasteurized)
2/3 cup lemon juice (from about 3-4 lemons)
Salt to taste (optional)

Line a colander/strainer with a double-layer of cheesecloth.  Place over a large bowl to collect any whey that will drain through.

In a large pot, combine milk and lemon juice.  Stir for 5 seconds, but don't touch the bottom of the pot (stir the milk like this any time you stir the pot). 

Clip on thermometer and heat over low heat to 170 F, stirring occasionally.  This should take a while, between 40-55 minutes.  Once you hit 170 F, raise the heat to medium-high and don't stir anymore.  Once you hit 205 F, maintain this temperature for 3-5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. 

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out curds and transfer to the cheesecloth-lined colander.  Let the cheese drain for 10 minutes.  You've got ricotta!
Herbed-ricotta pasta
Adapted from Everyday Food

With your homemade ricotta, this meal comes together in just 15 minutes!  Chop your zucchini while the pasta is boiling and you've got a great weeknight meal.

1/2 lb short pasta, spirals or shells
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional to sprinkle on top
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
1/4 cup basil, cut into ribbons
1 tbsp dill, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions, add corn in the last minute of boiling.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain pasta.

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup pasta water, ricotta, zucchini, basil and dill.  Add pasta and corn and stir to coat.  Taste and flavor with salt and pepper.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Pickles

There are a few Why Bother challenges this year that I was not looking forward to.  Pickles was on the list of those that I was dreading.  It's not that I don't like pickles, or that I'm afraid of them, like one of my pickle-phobic coworkers (yes, seriously).  I was a little apprehensive about the process of pickling and preserving. 

I was well-prepared with canning cookbooks, mason jars and a huge pot.  The cookbooks courtesy of my fascination with jams, jellies, pickles and all things canned last year.  The jars and elephantine pot complements my mom, who was storing them in her basement for twenty years (they're vintage Bell mason jars!).  All I had to do was dive in and get to pickling.

Once I read a little bit about preserving and determined I wouldn't get botulism from homemade pickles (botulism tends to be found in low-acid preserved foods, pickles contain a lot of acid!), I read on and made a list for the spice store.

Did you stock up on spices last week when we made ketchup and mustard?  Well, you'll need those spices and a whole bunch more.  Mustard seeds, dill seeds, whole cloves, whole allspice, cardamom seeds.  The list is long on this one, unless you can locate pickling spices.

After searching several stores, I found pickling spices at Fairway.  If your grocery store isn't well stocked, I would suggest heading to Penzey's online.  They've got everything. 

Between my three canning cookbooks, there were fifteen different cucumber pickle recipes!  That's not even including the other vegetables and fruits that you can pickle - asparagus, green beans, pineapple, peaches, beets, garlic and plums.  The pickling section was extensive.  I chose to go with refrigerator dill slices and preserved bread and butter chips. 

If you want to make pickles, be sure to set aside a few hours.  Just like making ketchup last week, this was a bit of a process.  Between preparing the jars, making the pickling liquid, preparing the cucumbers and finally canning the veggies, you'll be in the kitchen for at least two hours.  The results though, are beyond anything I've had from the store.

The dill slices, my refrigerator pickles, came out crunchy, full of flavor and slightly sweet.  The bread and butter chips have been amazing on our turkey burgers, and straight out of the jar.  I don't see myself making anymore cucumber pickles any time soon, I have a pretty good stockpile in the pantry and fridge!  I do find myself leafing through the cookbooks, trying to decide what to pickle next!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Ketchup & Mustard

With Memorial day weekend just a few days away, it's time to get to making our toppings for hot dogs and hamburgers!  Don't put away your car keys just yet, you may still need to make a trip to the grocery store! 

I was on the fence about making my own ketchup and mustard.  I mean, they cost about a dollar.  Two dollars if you want to buy organic ketchup.  Would it really be worth the time and effort to make my own condiments?  Yes and no.

First, in order to make your own condiments, you need a well-stocked spice cabinet.  Celery seeds, cumin seeds, whole yellow mustard, whole cloves, cayenne pepper, the list could go on.  If you decide to make either of these recipes, be sure to check your cabinet thoroughly and make a list. 

You'll need to head to a grocery store or spice market that has a large spice selection.  Penzey's spices is a great store with just about everything you'll need.  You can also order online and you'll have your spices in a few days.  Whole Foods had a smattering of spices that I needed and I filled in the remainder at Fairway (a popular tri-state area grocery chain).  When I thought that I had them all, I realized I was missing celery salt and had to make a last minute trip to Pathmark.

I decided to make honey-mustard, since I already had plain yellow mustard and Dijon mustard in the fridge.  It was simple enough to make.  Just combine all of the ingredients and let it sit overnight.  In the morning, pour it all into your favorite food processor and pulse the heck out of it.  It smells amazing.  How does it taste?  Mine came out super spicy!  The reason?  The freshly purchased mustard seeds.  Those little guys really pack a flavor punch.  While it doesn't have a distinctly honey flavor, it will be amazing on hamburgers and hot dogs.

I put off making ketchup until just last night because I couldn't find the time to make it.  The process is simple enough, you just have to have enough time to allow the tomatoes to reduce and reduce and reduce.  It took a long time.  Complaints came left and right about how weird/bad it smelled.  The boiling vinegar made my eyes tear up.  Sure, I got some tasty ketchup out of the process, but it took a long time.  Maybe make this on a lazy Sunday.  Personally, I'm going to just buy organic ketchup when I run out of my own!

There we have it.  We can make our own condiments!  It's up to you as to whether it is worth the price of all of the specialty spices to have homemade ketchup and mustard.  I think I'll try a few different mustard flavors before hanging up my condiment hat.

Stay tuned for next weeks final installment of BBQ food - pickles!  Then we'll see how all of these homemade foods do near the grill.  How will homemade ketchup and mustard pair with my own refrigerator pickles?  Will I be overwhelmed with flavor?  Will I eat all of the pickles before they make it to the burger?  Will I even put them on a burger?  We'll find out!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Yogurt

The dairy section of my local grocery store contains at least a hundred different varieties of yogurt.  I'm thinking that this is not unique to my corner of the world.  I'll bet that your local store has a similarly large selection of yogurts.  From fat free to full fat, organic and chemical-rich, flavors varying from strawberry to chocolate to key lime.  With this endless sampling of yogurts it was a big question to answer this week, why make your own yogurt?  I can give you not one, but three reasons.

1. It's so cheap!  That's right, making your own yogurt with save you money.  This is especially true if you want organic yogurt.  Let's do the breakdown.  (All prices are taken from my local Peapod site, prices will vary by region)

1/2 gallon of organic milk - $3.69
1 single serve plain organic yogurt - $0.99
1 single serve plain organic Greek yogurt - $1.99

From my experience, a half gallon of milk will yield approximately six servings of Greek yogurt and 8 servings of regular yogurt.  If you decide to make the entire half gallon of milk into Greek yogurt, you save $8.25! 

If you decide to go the non-organic route...

1 gallon 2% milk - $3.69
1 serving plain yogurt - $0.50 (on sale this week!)
1 serving plain Greek yogurt - $1.25

Servings from 1 gallon of milk - 16 regular yogurts & 12 Greek yogurts
Savings - $4.31 (regular), $11.31 (Greek)

Put that money in your piggy bank!

2. It's so easy!  If you have a food thermometer, this is a breeze to do.  If you are without thermometer, do not worry.  You can still do this.  The hands on time for preparing this yogurt was so minimal, I was able to do several other things at the same time.  If you can put milk in a pot, the transfer it to a jar, you can make yogurt. 

If you own any of the following - an oven, a towel & a pot, a yogurt maker or a heating pad - you can make yogurt.

If you have a container of yogurt in your fridge, you can start making yogurt right now.

3. It's so delicious!  I was a little skeptical at first, thinking that my yogurt would come out all funky and I would be wasting my time.  However, once I popped open the jar of my freshly made yogurt, I was a skeptic no more.  I dipped my spoon in and tasted the fresh yogurt and active cultures and was pleased at the yogurty flavor.  More intense than most store-bought varieties, you can't get fresher than this.

The flavors options are only as limited as your imagination.  Keep it simple and drizzle on honey, sprinkle with walnuts and cinnamon.  Make it fresh and puree seasonal fruit for a topping.  Take it over the top and blend it with a little sugar and cream cheese. 

There we are, three wonderful reasons to start making your own yogurt!  I have been enjoying fresh Greek yogurt all week with my breakfast and I couldn't be happier.  Would I do it again?  I already have. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Bagels

Monday morning I walked into work with three bags full of fresh, homemade bagels.  I sent around an e-mail to my coworkers and they came by for breakfast.  People limiting themselves to a half bagel soon came back for the second half.  Some showed up later in the day for a second bagel, wanting to try each of the flavors that I brought in.  I don't know whether it was the draw of a homemade treat or that never-dying grad student mentality.

For those of you that don't understand the "grad student mentality," let me explain.  Grad students live on a small income and love free stuff.  Any free stuff.  By the time you hear that there is free food in the building, it's already gone.  Grad students are like little piranhas.  After five years of perfecting this skill, it never goes away.  Former grad students will always find the best free stuff, make friends with them!

Of course I'd like to think that it was the bagels that brought people back for seconds.  This past weekend I spent half a day prepping, kneading, rising, boiling and baking two batches of bagels.  I decided upon two different recipes, one requiring oil and one a simple dough.  Both recipes required quite a bit of hands on time and a lot of flour! 

Today I'm sharing the recipe for my blueberry-oatmeal bagels with you (tomorrow we'll have some cherry-coconut beauties).  These were the favorite of my two weekend endeavours.  Beginning with a traditional bagel recipe, I swapped out some of the bread flour with oat flour.  Once the dough came together I poured in a pouch of dried blueberries, they turned the dough a beautiful color. 

After a short rise period, the bagels were boiled for a short time in slightly sugared water.  A nice egg-wash and sprinkling of rolled oats and the bagels went into the oven.  Within a few minutes, the apartment was filled with the sweet smells of yeasty bread.  The first batch of bagels wasn't ready until around noon, but that didn't stop me from having one for lunch!

Now the big question, was all the time invested worth the final product?  No doubt about it, yes.  Store-bought bagels, even some deli-bought bagels, tend to be too tough on the outside and too huge for a normal person.  Making your own bagels at home gives you the option to change the flavor, size and texture of the bagels.  And really, nothing beats a house that smells like freshly baked bread.  It's a bonus.

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