Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Homemade Yogurt: The follow-up

You domestic divas are surprisingly more interested in homemade stuff than I thought! Andrea asked about cost comparison and the taste factor, so here goes:

1 quart milk: $.60 {at about $2.40/gal)

1/3 c. non-fat milk powder: $.28 {box costs $3.36 and has 12 1/3 c. portions}

starter: $.20 {my Yo-Baby costs $.60 each & I used about 1/3 of one}

Splenda: maybe $.50 worth?

Total for 1 quart:
$1.58 at the most
W/o milk powder & using current batch to start next batch:

The non-fat milk powder is optional, but I read it makes a thicker yogurt. My Dannon Light & Fit cost $2.19 for 1 quart @ Woodmans, but it's next to impossible to find it at WM/Meijer/Jewel for that price; more like $2.99 and up. Not sure about Aldi's pricing, although I never liked the taste of their low-fat version anyways. This is all besides the fact that homemade yogurt is superior in quality.

Hmm. What exactly taste-wise are you looking for? To me the biggest issue is sweetness, which is easily adjusted. My batch tastes
richer. I'm guessing it is because of the 2% milk. Next time I will probably use skim, as I'm trying to watch my waistline. I would also say that the tanginess is more pronounced. Unsweetened, I would describe the taste as pretty tart sour cream. Comparatively, to my taste, commercial yogurt, particularly low-fat, has a chalky or slightly funny aftertaste, somewhat reminiscent of some artificial sweetners. My homemade batch tastes cleaner, if that makes any sense. {Phew! You're really putting my palate to the test here!}

**insert break to actually go taste the yogurt again to see if I'm missing anything**

The texture is thicker in my batch as well. My yogurt falls into thick ribbons from a spoon. The actual yogurt remains in the ribbon shape on the surface, instead of being thin enough to just immediately flow back into the jar. Thickness can be controlled by the length of culturing time, ranging anywhere from barely set to flan/custard-like.

Even I didn't think yogurt could be described so in-depth. Hope this helps! Any more questions?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Farewell Dannon!

I won't be needing you anymore. You served me well while I kept you around. You satisfied me with many a low-fat breakfast. You showed up in smoothies now and again. Even my husband, daughters & baby love you, bless their hearts. I might invite you back, time and again, if I am in a crunch. The reason I won't need you anymore is because I learned how to make my own homemade yogurt.

Yep. I'm just domestic like that.

{pictured here with homemade granola & berries}

This homemade stuff is thicker, richer, and better for you. Did I mention that it's cheaper too?

Cooking notes: I pretty well followed the instructions found here {I used the crockpot method, although I filled the crockpot about halfway with water}. I scalded my milk to 180° F, then cooled it to 110° F before adding the starter. The linked directions to not instruct this, but I've read that it is necessary for good results. After the yogurt cultured, I added 1/3 cup Splenda. That was the perfect amount of sweetness for me. Without sugar, the yogurt could be used {and tastes a bit} like sour cream. It can also be left to drain in a strainer lined with cheesecloth; you will end up with a cream cheese-like product but much lower in fat. I used Yo-Baby vanilla yogurt as my starter {my local WM did not have plain with live active cultures}. Live active cultures {six are present in the Stonyfield farms brand, as opposed to only 2 in other brands} are like good bacteria for your digestive system. Kinda like all those probiotics that are showing up everywhere. {Get your kids eatin' yogurt with live active cultures. They are great for the immune system!} You can always freeze the store-bought starter in an ice cube tray & then use one cube per starter. I have read that the longer you culture it, the tarter & firmer it gets. If you're not watching the waistline, you can also add heavy cream to your mix for ultra-richness. Try steeping the milk mixture with different ingredients too: vanilla bean, lavender, rosemary, etc. or adding stuff in after culturing. For more reading, a simple google of homemade yogurt will satisfy your curiosities.

Ever had a yogurt making adventure? Let me know if I've gotten you interested!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's good for you!

Remember me asking why everyone is crying? Turns out it's better for you than I thought. Even God thinks so.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. ~Ecclesiastes 7:3
Basically, cryin' is good for ya. Who knew?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Frugal Date

...well, only if you live around these parts.

Have you ever used ? The website offers discounted gift certificates to participating restaurants. Typically a $25 gift certificate costs $10 (already a discount in its own right), but until October 26th, you can get them for $4 by using coupon code: SAVOR. {Read about it here.} Many of the restaurants have restrictions, so look carefully before selecting. One local restaurant without any restrictions {except for 18% gratuity} is Joey T's on the Fox. {I previously purchased two certificates for Dunhill's & was going to suggest that for this frugal date. In the two days I've worked on this post, it appears that those are no longer available; limited number per restaurant.} You print the certificates on your computer & they are validated at the restaurant location. I have not actually done this {I have printed them, but not used them}. As mentioned, I have purchased some certificates myself, so I have put "my money where my mouth is", so to speak.

Show up for lunch, where lunch salads are around $8, lunch pastas around $9, and lunch entrees around $10.
After lunch, take your lunch date over to Barnes & Noble where you can browse through books & magazines & enjoy a free cappuccino, by printing your coupon here. This coupon is only good until 10/31/08.

Total cost:
$4 {certificate} + $5 tip {20% gratuity on a $25 check} + free cappuccino = $9

Need gifts?
The coupons are good for one year from the date of purchase. Restaurant locations are all over the country, so you could even purchase them for long distance friends & family. Sounds like a frugal Christmas gift idea to me :>)

Think I'm gonna go purchase some Joey T's certificates now.....


Last weekend we enjoyed some family time when my dad & step-mom came in for a visit. In the three years we have lived here, we have never visited the little antique shop/pumpkin patch that is less than a mile from home. It was high time!

I've been playing with Photoshop lately {could you tell?} & using it to enhance my pictures. I love the way the technique I'm using makes the colors pop & almost glow. You can see some examples below. The first one is the original; the following photo is the enhanced version.

We picked out several cute pumpkins & a whole bunch of mini-gourds for home decor. I think those were a pretty good deal at 4/$1. There were mini white pumpkins that would look adorable, when hollowed out, as votive holders for the harvest table. I'm probably not going to carve any of the big pumpkins, but am considering some painted pumpkins, perhaps using one of the stencils here. The antique shop was charming & I can't believe how much the kids enjoyed it! These are real antiques, as opposed to new stuff made to look vintage. We admired really old telephones, an antique baby stroller, chests and wood burning stoves. I drooled over two big bins full of metal cookie cutters. I plan to go back for those when time permits. I fell in love with a big window pane with mullions making about 12 different sections. Cleaned up a bit, I'm wondering if it could be hung on the wall, with some photos mounted in some of the sections. At only $18, I think it may just show up in my living room. My dad took notice of my fascination with the vintage oil lamps & offered to buy me one. They remind me of something you'd see in a Pottery Barn catalog, only at a fraction of the price. I am told mine can still be used, so will need to purchase some lamp oil and a new wick. Here it is:
Remember those little knitted pumpkins & how I was so addicted fascinated with making them? Well, I'm back at it.

I forgot how many stitches to cast on, so this first one is a baby compared to the ones I made before. So cute & slightly imperfect, just like a real punkin! A set of three will serve as a housewarming gift for a lovely family.

{{Kudos to you if you've managed to stay with me this far & not fall asleep!}}

Last but not least, a family photo from the punkin place {Photoshopped of course}. Think it's suitable for a Christmas card?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why the tears?

I read these memes/quizzes/get-to-know-your-friends-better type things and it asks when the last time was the person cried. The responses are frequently something like "yesterday, last Tuesday, over the weekend, etc."So I just have to ask:

why is everyone crying all the time?

I get teary-eyed once in awhile {maybe a couple times a month}, but can't say that I have an all-out flood more than once every few months. The last thing that got me cryin' real good was receiving a notice that our mortgage payment is going up $400 per month. That deserved a good cry to me.

Are you crying over happy things? Frustration? Pain? Please shed some light on this mystery.

**edited to add: I just want to clarify that I am sincerely curious about why women cry frequently. I didn't mean for this to come off crass or to insinuate that there is something wrong with crying. Maybe I am just not as emotional as some or maybe I just have many really emotional friends!**

Friday, October 17, 2008

Planning: The Thanksgiving Edition

I remember an older post about how I felt like I was always planning. {I thought this post was maybe a year old. Turns out its a little older than that. I've been blogging for that long??!!} Well, it's that time again. We will be hosting Thanksgiving this year, followed by Sebastian's first birthday, followed by, of course, Christmas and New Year's. This post will feature my Thanksgiving planning, followed by posts to detail the other two events.

First I chose the time. 3 pm for dinner. It may seem a little early to some, but I have a few guests who drive 2 hours to get here, so I wanted to be sensitive to their return time. Next up, menu. I only have a rough outline so far. I plan on doing many of my old familiar recipes, along with some newer ones. I'm getting more and more untraditional as far as Thanksgiving goes, but of course I don't want to freak out my die-hard old-fashioned guests. My menu in progress:

Turkey: Rosemary Breasts & Smoked (?) Legs
Potato Dish
: Potato & Leek Gratin

Sweet Potato Dish
: Spiced Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Green Veg:
Green Beans with fried Shallots (?)

: Crock-pot Stuffing with Sausage, Mushroom & Apple

probably rolls of some sort with a loaf of some sort

store bought gravy & Cranberry Zinfandel Sauce

Dessert #1:
Rustic Pumpkin Pie

Dessert #2: Pecan Pie (?)
Thanksgiving, for me, is like the World Series, Super Bowl & World Cup all rolled into one. I am willing to include lots of touching details since it is just once a year. {Of course, to see how well I work under stress, I HAD to have a baby - birthday - the week after Thanksgiving.....} I plan to send out Thanksgiving invitations, but haven't been successful in finding inspiration for those. Still need to decide if I want to do buffet or family-style. I kind of enjoy the Norman Rockwell appeal of family-style, but buffet style would mean more room at the table. Now for the Thanksgiving table eye candy for our viewing pleasure:

:: first six images are Country Living - last three are Martha Stewart ::

The Martha Stewart images are all clickable for project directions! The kids could easily be involved with assembling some of these table decorations. I love the gratitude sayings wrapped around the glasses. Those will definitely be part of my tablescape this year! I have always like the idea of setting 5 kernels of corn at each placesetting, as a reminder that some days, that was all the Pilgrims had to eat. Another idea that will on my table!

So, there ya have it. My preliminary plan for the best food-related holiday of the year.


Thursday, October 16, 2008


Stephanie tagged me with an I Love Your Blog award. I am supposed to answer the following questions with one word each & then tag 7 other people. She already has tagged many of the people I would have and I usually don't pass these types of things along, but I've love to answer these, nonetheless. Here goes!

The questions are as follows:
1.Where is your cell phone? Charging
2.Where is your significant other? Out
3.Your hair color? Dishwater
4.Your mother? Strong
5.Your father? Smart
6.Your favorite thing? Creating
7.Your dream last night? Strange
8.Your dream/goal? Godliness
9.The room you're in? Play
10.Your hobby? Crafting
11.Your fear? LOSS
12.Where do you want to be in 6 years? Wiser
13.Where were you last night? Home
14.What you're not? Timid
15.One of your wish list items? Vacation
16.Where you grew up? LITH
17.The last thing you did? Chat
18.What are you wearing? Sweats
19.Your t.v.? Forgotten
20.Your pet? None
21.Your computer? Dell
22.Your mood? Joyful
23.Missing someone? Little
24.Your car? Old
25.Something you're not wearing? Socks
26.Favorite store? Woodmans
27.Your summer? Quick
28.Love someone? Surely
29.Favorite color? Pink
30.Last time you laughed? Yesterday
31.Last time you cried? ??

I loved the One Word Answer concept. Really made me think hard about what I wanted to say!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall Hospitality

When entertaining, even for a simple get together, I like for my guests to be greeted by special touches. We had some dear friends {the pastor that married us, actually!} over for Sunday's meal. I brought out last seasons' sewing projects: my first attempt at a table runner & some fall napkins {still *love* the napkins}. The flowers were purchased at Aldi for $2.99. That was the only thing I bought for the whole meal! I highly recommend having all white dishes, for so many reasons: they go well with all seasons of decor, they never go out of style, they don't distract from the colorful food presentations, they can easily be mixed and matched with other white dishes if some of them happen to break. I served Rachel Ray's Winter Stew {already was on the weekly menu} with a fresh loaf of homemade bread {*love* my bread machine!}, had my guests bring a large garden salad, and made molten chocolate lava cakes {all ingredients already on hand}. I think it was the perfect light & simple meal {topped off my a lavish dessert}!

Got any favorite fall touches for entertaining?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Without Fanfare

I figured this day would come eventually, just maybe not so soon. At the beginning of August, several events in my life all sort of lined up to propel me into making some healthy life changes. {Erin, your success has always inspired me!}

I decided to start a chronicle of it here.

I told myself that once people started noticing my efforts, that I would make an official announcement on this blog. It will be hard to hide it much longer, so I'll just let it my
other blog speak for itself. Hope you can stop by soon for a visit!

Friday, October 10, 2008

I *heart* fall

I don't think I could love another season more if I tried. There are just so many things I love about this time of year. Being a warm-blooded girl, the cooler weather just suits me so well! I love the crispness of the days, the warmth of fall baking, harvest spices, snuggling in front of a fire. I love outdoors stuff, like apple orchards, pumpkin patches, the changing colors of autumn's glory. I love fall flavors like pumpkin (yum!) and cranberries. My wedding anniversary is in the fall (coming up on 10 years, ya'll)! And Thanksgiving! Don't even get me started on lovin' Thanksgiving! Some pictures of fall goodness I've been enjoying so far:

These harvest cupcakes were made ala Semi-homemade style. The great thing about cooking so much from scratch is that even when you don't, people still will think it's homemade. (sssh! Don't tell anyone I said that!) The cake is a boxed spice mix & the frosting is a recipe from Magnolia. I think presentation goes a long way in making something go from pretty good to extra special. We eat with our eyes first, then with our mouths!

Caramel Frosting
Makes enough to frost about 18-24 cupcakes
2 sticks butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3/4 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. milk

1 T. dark corn syrup ~ I didn't have any, but if you do, then go ahead & use it!

1 t. vanilla

Cream the butter for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat on low for 2 minutes. Add the milk, syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Use immediately or store covered for up to 2 days.

**I let my frosting sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes before piping, just to let it firm up a bit. Then I refriged the frosted cupcakes, so the tops could firm up before covering them with aluminum foil for transport.**

The original recipe says to make the frosting one day before you need it, so the graininess of the brown sugar improves overnight. I avoided this by slightly heating the milk & brown sugar together til the sugar dissolves, then completely cooling in the fridge before adding to the butter/sugar. It's up to you.

Hope you're enjoying your own fall goodness!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Apples & Acorns

Are ya feeling the recipe love here yet? This one is perfect for fall, just right for using those orchard fresh apples, requires little prep & hands-off for 1 hour, and best of all: cheap {well, not to mention tasty too}! If you've never had acorn squash, or other squash for that matter, the taste reminds me of sweet potato, but has a much stringier texture. I served this with pork tenderloin, seared on the stovetop & finished off in the oven; a classic pairing of pork & apples.

Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 2 ~ easily doubled to serve 4

1/4 c. apple juice

1/8 c. brown sugar

2 apples

1/2 T. butter

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg

1 acorn squash

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut squash in half. Scoop on seeds. Cut a little sliver off of the bottom of each half, so that it stands up in the baking dish. {I had to have hubs do the cutting because that skin is pretty tough!} Put 1" of water in a baking dish & set the squash halves inside. Put the apple juice and sugar in a small saute pan & reduce by half or until thickened & syrupy. Turn off the heat and add the apples, butter, cinnamon & nutmeg. Fold together until everything is coated with the apple syrup. Fill each acorn half with half of the apple mixture. Bake for 1 hour. Enjoy!

{The original recipe is here, but I tweaked it a little based on personal preferences. Also, you need to adjust the sugar based on the sweetness of your apples. I was using Jonamac, so I reduced the sugar to just allow the flavor of the apples shine through. Tarter apples? Use more sugar.}

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Frugal Love: Post-Its

How about leaving your man some little notes of affection/appreciation/desire in unexpected places? Try his underwear drawer, leave a whole bunch covering the shower door or his computer monitor, stuck on his morning cereal box, or tucked in his Bible or current reading selection. If you're not feeling the love this weekend, it doesn't have to be anything too sentimental. I'm sure he would love something simple like "Thanks for taking out the trash without complaining" or "You are a great provider for our family". It'll only take a minute or two. Your marriage is worth it!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Small, but Good

We all know the saying about the size of the package that good things come in at times. This is definitely true of fingerling potatoes. I had seen them. I had read about them. Until this week, I had never cooked or ate them. As you can see, they vary in size from about 1/2 palm-sized to the size of a small rock.
Most of them are about the size of a finger, hence the name.

Feeling {still} too sick to heavily research the perfect recipe, I just followed the one on the bag. I wished I would've taken an after picture {they didn't hang around long enough}, so you could see how yummy they looked, lightly browned & crispy in spots, garnished with, what the season has left me, of fresh chives. They have a creamy interior, reminiscent of Yukon Golds, and in my opinion, would be perfectly elegant enough for the holiday table or a special occasion. At $2.99 for 24 ounces, they're a little too pricey to grace my table on a regular basis. And as it turns out, the recipe on the back of the bag {with a slight tweak} turned out to be perfect after all.

Honey-Mustard Fingerling Potatoes

Serves 4

2 T. olive oil

1 1/2 t. kosher salt**

1 1/2 t. fresh ground pepper

1 T. honey

1 T. Dijon mustard

1 T. fresh chopped chives

24 ounces fingerling potatoes

Wash and dry potatoes. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, salt, pepper, honey & mustard. Add potatoes & toss well to coat. Spread out on baking sheet & bake at 425° F for 25 minutes. Garnish with fresh chives.
**I am using kosher salt which is less salty than table salt. If you are using table salt, I would maybe only use about 1/2 t. and then add more at serving time. I do really love the kosher though for the crunch it adds to my food. I rarely ever use table salt any more, other than in baking & in the pasta pot.**