Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Adventures in Yogurt-Making

Since leaving my full-time job when my daughter was born three years ago, I am constantly looking for ways to make things or do things inexpensively. In the last year or so, Pinterest has been my go-to way of finding recipes or instructions for these experiments. I still Google specific things I am looking for, but many times Pinterest has inspired me to do things I never would have thought possible.

Yogurt-making was never something I intended to do on a weekly basis, but thanks to Pinterest, I make a batch of yogurt nearly every week. I use my crock pot, making it super-easy to transform milk into yogurt. There are no strange ingredients to buy in order to get started. I've talked to people who use their oven and coolers, but I'm not that ambitious, so this crock pot method is perfect for me! Here is a link to the web site that I use:http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html

I was reluctant to try making yogurt because I had heard that homemade yogurt is thinner than commercially-made yogurt.  I love Chobani Greek Yogurt, which is extra-thick and creamy, so the thought of runny yogurt just wasn't appealing to me.  At $1.25 per cup, however, it is a bit costly when both my daughter and I are eating it on a daily basis.  I can usually buy a gallon of milk for $2.50.  I am able to make a half-gallon (~10 servings) of yogurt each week, costing just $1.25...the same as one 6 ounce serving of Chobani.                                                                                    

At first, I was discouraged with the consistency of the homemade yogurt, but have since discovered that adding slightly more "starter" (plain yogurt) during this process makes it much thicker, almost as thick as Chobani.  I don't measure anymore, but I add ~3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup.  I don't add fruit to my yogurt until we're ready to eat it.  In fact, we usually eat it plain, as it has a much milder flavor than traditional plain yogurt.  We also like it sprinkled with granola or my daughter sometimes likes mini chocolate chips or M&Ms in hers.

This is how I make Homemade Yogurt, adapted from the instructions using the blog I referred to above:
8 cups (half-gallon) of 2% Milk

1/2 cup live/active culture plain yogurt (I used Dannon Natural Plain Yogurt)


Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add a half gallon of milk. Cover and heat on low for 2 1/2 hours.

Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.

Let it sit for 8 hours.

Chill in a plastic container(s) in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Christmas Blog Post in January :)

Every day, I am amazed at how God provides for my family.  Seriously.  Every time our family needs anything, we pray continuously and wait and God always shows us His providence.  My husband and I reflect often on how truly, abundantly blessed we are. When our family needs something, somehow God makes it happen. 

I try not to be a Scrooge, but I really have a strong desire to "simplify" Christmas.  We worship Jesus and celebrate His birth all year long, not just on December 25th.  My husband and I have had many arguments discussions about the necessity of giving our kids elaborate gifts and can't seem to agree on this issue.  In November, my children began talking about Christmas and which gifts they would like to receive.  As I listened, the gifts grew in price--my daughter wanted a Toy Story Woody doll, my youngest son wanted a really cool baseball bat and some throwing knives (I know, my thoughts exactly!), and my oldest son wanted a Taylor acoustic guitar.

In case you are unaware, Taylor acoustic guitars START at $600.  I immediately told him to choose something else because it isn't happening. Our son helps our children's librarian at our local library run a guitar club for kids and they give free guitar lessons to around twenty kids every Thursday and Friday.  He is a responsible, obedient, godly young man who loves the Lord, works hard at homeschooling and helps out around the house like no other teenage boy I've ever met and he loves playing the guitar.  We went to Guitar Center and let him play a bunch of different guitars and our good friend and worship leader brought over some guitars for him to play.  The joy on this little boy's face while playing these guitars was priceless. He even offered to put $100 towards this gift.  But spending this much on a single Christmas gift just didn't make sense for our family. 

My family jokes that if they need something, that I am usually able to knit them whatever it is or find a way to make it using Pinterest.  A few days later, we agreed that we would pray about this and see what God would do.  That's when the Etsy orders started rolling in. I was knitting non-stop and couldn't keep up!  I shipped birds nests and golf club covers and slippers and bunny rattles and hats all over the United States in December.  My sister got orders from some people locally and I knitted more slippers and more hats and gloves and stuffed animals.  A dear friend asked me if I would like to cater a brunch for her mom's group. More friends bought hats and birds nests.  A random check for $20 came in the mail because I'd purchased a certain kind of toilet cleaner (weird, right!?). I love that, in a way, I was able to knit my son a guitar!

During this time, other non-monetary bonuses kept popping up.  I "bought" Amazon gift cards with my Swagbucks balance.  If you haven't signed up for Swagbucks yet, please feel free to use my link: http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/sarahrobinson.  I used them to buy the really cool baseball bat and the throwing knives (these may end up being a temporary gift that is confiscated until he's a bit older!).  I even had enough left over to buy a Polly Pocket helicopter, two books, and a guitar tuner.   Then, Meijer had an mPerks offer for $30 off of my next general merchandise purchase.  Woody from Toy Story costs $39.99, so just $9.99 after the mPerks!  At this point, I am astounded that I've only spent roughly ten dollars of our "real" money on my children's Christmas gifts and gotten them everything they wanted.  I bought them a few other things as well, but I didn't spend anywhere near the amount I anticipated.