Friday, August 21, 2009

Making Yogurt

With the economy sucking, food prices rising out of this world, pinching quarters is nightmare! I have been researching how to make more and more home made dishes to meet our dietary restrictions. I had hoped to snag a yogurt maker on freecycle to no aval. The following is the best and easiest recipe I have found to date. I have not tried to make it yet but when I do I will post the results.

Making Yogurt
To make yogurt, you need some milk and yogurt culture, as well as a container, mixing spoon, and an optional bowl for mixing. You also need a means of warming the cultured milk at a low temperature during fermentation, which can be accomplished using a heating pad, yogurt maker, or oven on a low setting. The container can be a glass jar, ceramic bowl, or any non-metallic vessel (metal may interfere with the fermentation process). Containers and utensils should be sterilized in hot water before beginning, and the milk should be at room temperature or a little warmer. If you heat the milk to a boil first and then allow it to cool to room temperature, this will result in a thicker yogurt. If you use soy milk, which does not contain lactose, then it’s helpful to add a spoonful or two of sugar or maple syrup to encourage the fermentation process.

To the room-temperature milk or soy milk, you then add the starter culture, which can be either freeze-dried, powdered yogurt starter or a good-quality commercial yogurt. (Yogurt starter is available from many online stores; it comes in little foil packets like baking yeast, and when stored in the refrigerator, can last for up to a year or more.) If you use a commercial yogurt as a starter, then you need to follow some important guidelines in selecting it. First, buy the plain stuff (no flavors, no sugars, and no colors added). Second, you need to use yogurt with “active cultures,” which should be noted on the container. If there are no active/live cultures, or if it has been pasteurized AFTER the yogurt fermentation, then the stuff is useless as a starter. Some yogurt containers use the words “cultures added after pasteurization,” but in lieu of this additional information, you may just have to experiment and find out which type works best. Third, I would avoid any yogurt that has added pectin or another thickener listed as an ingredient, since this is evidence that it is not all that pure and its cultures were not potent enough to do the job on their own. Fourth, consider that more bacterial diversity is probably a good thing; many yogurts are made with no more than three or four cultures (generally L. acidophilus, S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, and/or L. bifidus), while a few health-oriented brands also use other Lactobacillus species such as L. casei, L. reuteri, and/or L. rhamnosus. Studies have proven that each of these additional species provides numerous benefits as probiotics and/or immune system enhancers. Also, the more commonly used S. thermophilus, and L. bulgaricus (two of the cultures normally used) do not survive the gastrointestinal journey in high enough numbers to colonize your digestive tract. Fifth, try to buy organic yogurt if it’s available, since you know your starter culture will be free of pesticides, hormones, steroids, and whatever else they feed big-dairy cows these days. This is an even more important consideration for the milk you buy to make your yogurt, which should be either organic or from a high-quality dairy. However, any milk labeled as “ultra-pasteurized” may be difficult to culture; ultra-pasteurization heats milk to a very high temperature, which changes its structure to a point where bacterial enzymes have a tough time digesting it. Trying to make yogurt from ultra-pasteurized milk will usually result in a wet and sticky mess. If I had a choice between ultra-pasteurized organic milk and non-organic milk, I would choose to make yogurt with the non-organic milk.

If using dried starter, follow the package directions. If using commercial yogurt as a starter, then mix in approximately one part yogurt to six parts milk. Yogurt should be heated to slightly above typical room temperature (70 degrees F, or 21 degrees C) to accelerate its biological activity, though a weaker yogurt can be made at room temperature. You can warm it in an oven or on top of a heating pad that does not get the mixture much hotter than lukewarm. Temperatures above 112 degrees F can kill the good bacteria, so if your oven or heating pad gets hotter than this, it will start to cook the milk instead of fermenting it. The proper fermentation time depends on whether you like a mild, drinkable yogurt (as little as 3 to 4 hours) or a dense, sour yogurt (7 to 8 hours or longer), and it depends a little on the air temperature as well. I find that the strength of the starter culture also plays a big part in fermentation time, and this can vary greatly.

The lazy (and most reliable) way to make yogurt is to buy a yogurt maker, which is essentially an electric warming device that keeps the mixture at an optimum temperature for yogurt formation (between about 108 and 112 degrees F). Several high quality yogurt makers are widely available from online stores, including models by Euro Cuisine, Yogourmet, Donvier, Salton, and other brands. Some yogurt makers have a single large container for making yogurt, while others come with 6-8 small, individual-sized yogurt containers. Yogurt is delicious eaten plain or with some maple syrup, honey, fresh fruit, sprouted wheatberries, granola, or other cereal. Remember to save a few ounces of your yogurt to use as starter culture for the next batch!

On a side note: A freecyler shared with me that she leaves her yogurt on top of the hot water tank for a few days in a a double plastic grocery bag~ the longer you leave it the tarter it gets.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Linguine with clam sauce

Linguine with Clam Sauce

2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams, with juice
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (make sure it says: Produced in Italy)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper to taste
1 (16 ounce) package linguini pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, start preparing the sauce. In a large saucepan, sauté the onions and garlic in butter until tender. Add the olive oil, clams with their juice, parsley, basil, and pepper. Place over medium heat until boiling. Serve warm over pasta. Sprinkle w/Parmesan. Serve with garlic bread and a salad.


As so many homeschooling families do, we use cooking for many things: home ec, math, science and down right fun. This is one of those occasions! On our AmbleRamble group, Dana shared this wonderful recipe. I could NOT wait to make it~usually we have a "special" breakfast...aka meat (bacon or sausage), french toast, or a coffee cake. The reason behind this was because Saturday mornings in the winter have a wonderful slow mode. We are all home and have time to really spend time on breakfast. I will definitely be adding this yummy recipe to our Saturday morning breakfast menu. Thanks Dana Wixson


Basic Biscuits & Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, chilled
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips for scones (optional - NOT!)
1 beaten egg plus 1 tablespoon sugar for tops of scones
Makes 12 biscuits or 8 scones

Helpful Hints:For light, flaky biscuits and scones, be careful not to mix or knead the dough too vigorously. Biscuits and scones are best when served warm.

Directions:Preheat oven to 450 degrees for biscuits, 375 degrees for scones.
Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl.
Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Stir in milk until soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 7-8 times, just until dough is smooth.
(For chocolate chip scones, stir in chocolate chips before kneading.)

FOR BISCUITS: Flatten to 1/2-inch thick and cut into2 1/2-inch rounds. Place 1 inch apart on large ungreased baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12-15 minutes.

FOR SCONES: Transfer dough onto ungreased baking sheet.Shape dough into flat, 8-inch round. Cut into wedges, butdo not separate. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar (YES!), if desired. Bake round until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Separate into scones.

Scones are wonderful because they are so versatile. Try using orange zest with dried cranberries, blueberries or any kind or fresh or frozen berries. My favorite here in the Pacific Northwest is logan berries.

Yummy Microwave Brownies

Someone stopping over and no real time to make a desert to serve? Problem solved! I friend shared this with me (thank you, Kathy) and think they are good and great for the kids to whip up for an afternoon or weekend snack.

They would be easy enough to switch over if usig all purposeglute free flour for the regular flour, casin free butter, gluten free vanilla and egg sustitute could easily be used as well. See one you get the hang of gf/cf cooking making substitutions is pretty simple! :0)

I do not use sugar. I use splenda and a 1/3 of what is called for otherwise it is way too sweet.

Microwave Brownies

non-stick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled a bit
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Spray the inside of an 8×8 glass baking dish.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder and flour.
In a larger bowl, whisk together the cooled butter, eggs, and vanilla. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet with a wooden spoon.
Scrape the batter into the baking dish. Microwave 4-7 minutes on high, just until the brownies are “done” in the middle.
Let the brownies cook on a rack 5-10 minutes, then cut into squares and eat.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Scones ~and these are gluten free!

One of the things I love about living in the Pacific Northwest is an over cast day that just screams for a fire in the fireplace, a hot cup of tea and a good book. But there is also the need for snackage! A wonderful and easy recipe that goes great with tea or coffee besides girl scout cookies is scones.

The great thing about scones is the sky is the limit with these babies! Dried cranberries with orange zest, blueberries, raspberries, oh I could go on but lets get cooking ~:0)

The Baking Beauties have two wonderful recipes for scones. (They also have over 160 GF recipes posted on their site. Gotta love 'em!)

I must admit I try to shy away from chocolate for my son and our youngest daughter because it just does not set well with either one but that does not mean that I don't. When I do use chocolate I use gf/cf chocolate chips. Where the BB's have you add buttermilk I add a little almond milk. I am sure you could dair-ese or dry casin free milk but no one in my family likes it.
Please let me know if you try these recipes, what you think and what changes you made.

Enjoy and happy baking!

Gluten-Free Scones:

1 1/4 cups rice flour (I used brown rice)
3 1/2 Tbsp tapioca flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 tsp xanthan gum
1tsp salt
4 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sultan raisin (optional, I did dried cranberries & the zest of one orange instead)
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt OR sour cream
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Rub in the butter. Add the sultans (or cranberries & zest) and gently mix together.
Lightly whisk the eggs and plain yogurt together.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg and yogurt mixture. Mix to soft dough, adding a little more yogurt if necessary.
Turn onto a rice-floured board and knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to about 1-inch thick and cut out rounds using a 2 1/4" cutter (or use a pie cutter & cut into 8 wedges). Place on a rice-floured baking sheet and brush with a little egg wash.
Bake for approximately 10 minutes until golden brown on top. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Serve split in half with butter and jam.

This second recipe comes from a fellow gluten-free blogger. She is a new reader over here at The Baking Beauties, and I really appreciate her feedback here, as well as her blog. If you have some time, please check out her blog at Artsy-Foodie. Thank you, Alexa, for the wonderful GF recipes! I couldn't stop eating these scones, they have a wonderful texture. :)

Gluten free Chocolate Pumpkin Scones

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp milk

Add Ins:
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix all the wet ingredients in a small bowl.
Pour oil into the flour mixture, then butter. Combine with your fingers until nice and crumbly. Make a well in the middle.
Pour the liquid mixture into the well and work in by mixing with a spoon until just combined. Add pecan pieces and chocolate chips and mix in.
Using 1/4 cup measuring cup (or large cookie scoop), drop batter onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before eating (if you can wait that long).