Monday, October 31, 2011

Crockpot on Vacation!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Greek Yogurt

Yogurt making has been on my to-do list for quite some time.  Yesterday I finally did it!  I found a good recipe on YouTube for making Greek yogurt (done by a Greek professor).  Here is the link to the YouTube video recipe.  Note: I made a 1/2 batch of what he says in the video.

Here's how I did it:

Things you need
1/2 gallon milk
2-3 TBS. Plain yogurt with live cultures (check the label)
8 oz. Whipping cream (the liquid, not the fluff you put on dessert)
5 pint jars
Instant read thermometer
Crockpot (or other warm place for incubation)
A canning funnel might also be helpful

Before starting, preheat your jars and crockpot by filling them with warm water (like pictured above) and turning the crockpot on low until they are around 110-115 degrees, then turn it to 'Warm' or off.

1.  In a large pan, heat milk to 180 degrees F, stirring more and more as it heats up.

2.  Take the pan off the heat and put in an ice bath, stirring until cooled to about 110 degrees F.  I did this by putting ice and cold water in my kitchen sink and putting the pan in it.  It only took a couple minutes for the milk to cool down.  Take the pan out of the ice bath as soon as it reaches 110 degrees.

3.  Scoop out 1/2 cup of warm milk and stir 2-3 TBS of plain yogurt into it.  Then put the mixture into the large pan and wisk it in good.

4.  One at a time, empty the warm water out of your preheated jars and fill them with the warm milk mixture.  Place them into the warm-water crockpot.  Keep the temperature at 110 degrees for 4-5 hours.  Don't set the crockpot on low and walk away!  Keep the thermometer in the water and check on it from time to time, adjusting the heat and lid as needed.  (prep time up until this point was only about 20 minutes)  I did end up setting canning lids on the tops to prevent a milk film from forming.

5.  Do something fun while you wait for your yogurt to 'work'; something like, say, paint your nails like candycorn and watch The Wonder Years.  :-)

When the yogurt is set up, you will see it separate when you tip the jar.  Hopefully you can see that in this picture:

6.  Line a colander with coffee filters or clean t-shirt cloth.  Pour the yogurt into the colander, which should sit in a large bowl to catch the whey.  Note: if you use cheesecloth, you will likely loose some yogurt through the holes in the fabric.

7.  Let the yogurt strain for several hours until it reaches the thickness you like.  Greek yogurt is typically very thick and won't pour off the spoon when you turn it upside down.  I let my yogurt strain for 7 hours and it wasn't as thick as some Greek yogurt I've seen, but it was thicker than regular yogurt.  I has the consistency of sour cream.

8.  Put the yogurt into a bowl and stir well to even out the texture.  If it's too thick, stir in some of the whey until it's the consistency you like.  Store in a quart jar in the fridge.  Don't throw away the whey!  Store it in a jar in the fridge and add it to your baked goods for extra nutrients. 

Here is my finished product!  The whey is on the left and the yogurt is on the right.  It's a little tart for me to eat plain, so I like to add fruit, granola, vanilla, or whatever I'm in the mood for.  Try this sometime, if you haven't already.  It's not hard to do, and most of the work is done for you in the crockpot.  It's a great project for when the kids are at school or for the weekend.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Squint Your Eyes, You'll See...

How did this all begin?  My mom had a crockpot when I was a kid, and it looked like the one in the picture below.  I believe I remember one of the first times she used it, too.  We were sitting around the dinner table eating, and I noticed the pot sitting on the counter across the kitchen from me.  Maybe I forgot to wear my glasses that day, I don't know, but the label was puzzling to me.  I said, "Mom...what's a CROCH pot???"  .... .... I'm sure up until that point I had never uttered the word 'crotch' before, much less at the dinner table in front of my parents!!  Oy, the laughter and red faces... 

Anyway, my mom used the croCKpot for many meals when I was growing up and I thought it was neat how she could fill it with stuff, turn it on, and let it fix supper for her.  The only bad thing was the torture of smelling the delicious dinner WAY before it was time to eat.  I'm happy to continue the torture tradition with my own family and hope that they not only catch on to the concept but that they also read the label correctly.

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I'm starting this off with a concoction!  I was wanting to make bread pudding for breakfast, but while looking for a recipe I also came across a recipe for pumpkin pudding.  I compared the two and made my own recipe for pumpkin bread pudding.  It turned out pretty good and got good reviews from those of us who actually like pumpkin pie and can eat it without any toppings.  ('D' said he wouldn't like it unless it had whipped cream on it, and 'A' didn't like it at all, but he doesn't like pumpkin pie either.)  I admit the recipe doesn't have a 'wow factor' that makes me drool just thinking about it, and maybe some Cool Whip would do that for me (it always does).  You could also make a traditional bread pudding sauce to put over it.  The recipe could probably be adjusted and tweaked to make it a little better, and if I get around to doing that, I'll let you know what happens.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

10 slices of bread
1 15oz. can of pumpkin
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 TBS melted butter
1 TBS pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. vanilla
(add some nuts or raisins if you like them)

1.  Let the bread sit out to get stale, or put it in a warm (but off) oven for a while until it's a little crispy but still soft on the inside.  Cut it into cubes or rip it into pieces (depending on your mood).  Put the bread pieces in a greased crockpot.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over bread pieces.  Stir gently to coat.

3.  Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or until center temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

I used store-bought white bread (bleck!), but I think it would probably be even better with homemade bread or cinnamon raisin bread.  I put this all together late at night and turned on my crockpot at 11pm.  It was ready for my husband to eat at 5am. 

Try this recipe sometime and tell me what you think.  If you tweak it, please share!

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Amatuer on the loose!!

I'm new to this blog thing and feel a little lost.  I should probably do this with a clear head during daylight hours instead of late at night.  But what can I say....  I had to stay up late so I could turn my crockpot on for tomorrow morning's breakfast.  I know my way around a slow cooker, but not so sure about this blog.  Bear with me.  :)