Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Make Yogurt

Unfortunately for my family, my cheese-making obsession didn't end with Labneh and Paneer. And yet again on Sunday my guys had to suffer through the smell of ripening milk (though this time it was only slight).

Sunday I made yogurt!

Of the three cheeses I've made so far, yogurt was the most difficult...that is to say not difficult at all as far as cheese-making goes, but harder than the other two simple cheeses I made a few weeks ago. Making yogurt requires you keep a constant temperature of 100 degrees for at least 6 hours, and since I don't have a fancy yogurt maker this is where the hard part came in. I had to get creative. Here's how I did it:

What you'll need:

Quart of milk (I used organic 2% milk):
1/2 cup of yogurt preferably at room temperature (I used Stonyfield Organic Lowfat Yogurt)
Instant-read thermometer (T got me a super nice Taylor digital thermometer; it came as a surprise in the mail one day)
Heated bowl and/or several blankets, a heating pad or a really warm room


Bring one quart of milk just to boiling.

Turn the burner off as soon as the milk boils and let it cool down to 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk 1/2 cup of yogurt into the milk.

Poor mixture into a heated glass bowl (I just warmed a Pampered Chef quart-sized glass measuring cup in the microwave) and cover with a lid, alumnium foil or plastic wrap.

Wrap bowl in a blanket or two and place in a warm area, in my case that was right next to the radiator in Mr. S's room. I also placed a microwavable heating pad under the bowl and as an added measure a ladybug PillowPet on top.

Let sit for at lest 6 hours, and then carefully check to see if you have yogurt. If not, let rest for another 6 hours. The longer you let the mixture rest at 100 degrees the thicker and tangier it becomes.

I let my yogurt go for about 7 hours, and ended up with a softer yogurt than I normally like. However, it is the tastiest yogurt ever! Super tangy (like I like it) and creamy. I mixed in some blueberries and maple syrup and it tasted so yummy on top of my oatmeal this morning.

Here's a link list of great yogurt tutorials if you're interested in trying your hand:

* Make Your Own Yogurt
* Yogurt Making Illustrated
* Sustainable Attainable's Yogurt Tutorial

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Knitting with Ginny from Small Things again!

On the needles: Vanilla Soaker, a wool soaker for cloth diapered babies in newborn size with a button down top (for a still attached stump).

I'm thinking of selling these in the Etsy shop T and I are hoping to open. The designer, Kelly Brooker, offers a pretty inexpensive cottage license and I could sell as many as I want. So far, it's been a pleasure to knit. The pattern is color coded for size, offers numerous yarn weight options, copius notes and is about 18 pages long. Definitely worth every penny of the $5 I paid for it!

Off the shelf: My library's copy of The Progress of Love by Alice Munro. I'm in between books on my reading list and wanted a sure bet. And you can never go wrong with Ms. Munro.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fanciful Creatures

Mr. S and I are creating a field guide to the creatures he makes up. This is the first entry in our book. Seamus drew this Blocklicsblacklicsblocklics (or Blocklics for short) and dictated to me all the details and characteristics of this amazing bird of prey.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday in the City

Yesterday, we spent a good few hours in the City visiting one of T's old friends. T hadn't seen his friend since high school, and S and I were excited about lunch in the City and Toys R Us afterward.

We met in Times Square (not our favorite place), and because we rarely set foot in midtown, I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures.

You can really tell in this last photo that Mr. S was coming down with something. By the time we got home he was complaining of a sore throat, and after a trip to the doctor this morning we learned he has Strep Throat for the second time in four weeks.

We found a nice, quiet diner in the middle of it all and spent long lunch catching up.

The hostess gave Mr. S a lollipop before we left.

Toys R Us was just as we'd left it the last time we visited. Giant Ferris Wheel and T-Rex. Superman on the ceiling. We bought 1/2 pound of candy from Candy Land and headed home.

Nothing wears you out like an afternoon in Times Square. It's loud, there are flashing lights and advertisements on every conceivable surface and more taxis and tourists than you can shake a stick at.

By the end of the day we all looked like this:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I'm joining Ginny's yarn-along this week! The black beret I've been working on for a couple of days is now complete, and just this morning I removed it from the plate on which it was blocking.
I know Spring is just around the corner, but it's still so friggin' cold here, and I've been wanting a simple black beret for awhile now. When I saw this free pattern I couldn't resist, especially since I already had black bulky weight yarn. The hat is super warm, made with Quince and Co.'s Puffin yarn, and it was so fast and easy to knit, I'm considering making another one in rust-red with a pom-pom on top.

The book I'm reading is Virginia Holman's Rescuing Patty Hearst, which I got on inter-library loan from the library where I work. It's a memoir about a particular time in the author's childhood when her mother kidnapped her and her little sister and took them to live in the family's delapidated beach cottage and about her mother's descent into schizophrenia. It's beautifully written and fascinating, albeit quite a bit heartbreaking, and I'm thoroughly caught up in it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Super S

Oh, my little man is getting so big. I love it and I hate it at the same time. I miss the cute and cuddly baby S, but this bigger S is so interesting and smart and sometimes just down right mischeivious. His Spider-Man mask from Halloween no longer fits over his face. So now he pretends it's a motorcycle helmet or if he's a two-headed dragon that day, it's his second head. And if he's a dinosaur, he'll pull his hair through the eye holes to make horns.

And sometimes he's just a super hero.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baking Day

This morning I made Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds. Half of this went to work with Mr. T, but the other half will make perfect preschool snacks for Mr. S (after we give some to our upstairs neighbor Jan).

This is another recipe from my favorite, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I have to say I think this and How to Cook Everything may be the best cook books I own. I've been using them several times a week now for about six months, and everything I've made from them has been a success.

Bittman's sections on baking are especially nice, with hand-drawn illustrations and step by step instructions, and at the end of each recipe he provides numerous options for changing the flavor or turning the recipe into something else entirely.

This particular recipe is one of my favorites out of the book. I used apple juice and tangerine zest and a little cinnamon, which were all perfect compliments to the carrots.

Mr. S loved it too!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Muffin Monday

This morning I made Carrot Cake Muffins from a NY Times recipe. Unfortunately, these tasted more like bran muffins than carrot cake. But they were still a yummy way to start the day and Mr. S (and his new friend, Cruncher) LOVED them.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fabulous Prizes

Listen up Mamas and Papas and anyone with a wee artist in your life...Ginny at Small Things is hosting a fabulous giveaway of eco-friendly art supplies from Stubbby Pencil Studio. Just leave a comment on her post to enter.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to Make Cheese

I've been itching to make some cheese ever since that chapter in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where the Kingsolvers take a cheese making workshop with Cheese Queen Ricki Carroll. Now, I love cheese like nobody else, but when Barbara Kingsolver writes about it I'm completely transported. I'm right there with her in the kitchen with the rennet and whey and curds.

So, this weekend I decided to try my hand at two very simple cheeses. Nothing artisan, nothing complicated, no rennet involved. I'm talking about the kind of cheese everybody's Grandma used to make. The kind of cheese all yogurt-making cultures in the world make. A simple yogurt cheese, or Labneh. And a slightly more complicated but still oh, so simple, Paneer. I had no idea what I would actually use these cheese for once I made them. I just wanted to figure out how to make them.

Both cheese were so simple I was able to make them in the same day. I started with the Labneh, which only involved plopping a cup or so of organic, whole-milk yogurt into a cheese cloth, twisting the cloth tight and hanging it up to drip.

I first tied it to the faucet over the kitchen sink, but since I had to keep using the kitchen sink this wasn't too practical.

I ended up finding the perfect hanging device, an old Edible Arrangements metal basket.

6 hours later I had yogurt cheese, which looks and tastes like the most luxious cream cheese you've ever tasted.

For true Labneh I could have transferred the cheese attached to the hanging device into the refrigerator and left it there overnight. I'm guessing I would have gotten firmer and maybe tangier results. But this yogurt cheese was out of this world. So good in fact, that it inspired me to make something worthy of it: two enormous Apple Cheese Danish Braids.

I've never made danishes before, but boy did I luck out when I found this recipe on the How-To Baker Blog. This was truly the best danish I've ever eaten, especially hot out of the oven.

For the second cheese, paneer, I waited until closer to dinner time on Sunday night. I wanted to make the paneer to go with dinner and wanted to use the whey by-product as a broth in the vegetable soup I was making that night. I looked at all kinds of recipes and you tube videos, but one of the better recipes came from the Paupered Chef Blog. I didn't follow her advice to the letter, but here's how I made mine:

I simmered a quart whole, organic and pasteurized milk (Don't use ultra-pasteurized. It won't work.) until near-boiling. By near-boiling I mean the milk was just starting to bubble and froth.

Once the milk reached the near-boiling stage, I turned off the burner and added the juice of about 3-4 lemons and stirred and stirred. After less than a minute the curds began to appear, and I continued to stir until the whey looked greenish-yellow and not milky at all.

I let the whole thing sit in the pot for about five minutes and then poured it into a cheese cloth draped over a collander, which I'd placed inside a mixing bowl. You could just strain it over the sink, but I wanted to save the whey.

Then I twisted up the cheese cloth to wring out any excess whey, then folded the cloth over the cheese and placed in on a plate with a very heavy cast-iron tea kettle filled with water on top of it. This I let sit for about 15 minutes, but it probably should have sat for at least 30.

None the less, I had beautiful scrumptious paneer, which I proceeded to cube, dip in a corn meal batter and fry in olive oil.

This tasted lovely with our soup. Though I have to say, the whey was a little sour as a broth, at least for our tastes. I wonder if I'd used vinegar instead of lemon juice, if it would have been less so.

This was such a fun weekend project! I ended up getting three treats out of it: corn meal-fried paneer, apple cheese danishes and labneh samosas. (I just made my samosa dough and stuffed it with cheese instead of lentils.)

Next weekend...homemade yogurt.
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