Monthly Archives: July 2011

My Kind of Multiculturalism

It seems like every time I tell someone that I’ve made yogurt at home, they’re very excited about it and want to know how. It’s simple and very inexpensive. I use a slow cooker, but you can also use a heavy pot wrapped in a heating pad.

Pour a half gallon of whole milk into the slow cooker. Turn onto low setting for two and a half hours. Turn off and unplug the slow cooker and wrap in a large bath towel – you want good insulation. I wound up using two to wrap around the sides and also over the lid. Let that sit for another three hours. Thoroughly stir in one container (8oz) of the plainest yogurt you can find. To avoid impossible-to-smooth lumps, scoop the container of yogurt into a small bowl, then stir in a few spoonfuls of milk. Keep adding milk until the yogurt has thinned out considerably, then pour the contents of the bowl into the slow cooker and stir that in completely. I used plain Greek yogurt that listed only one ingredient – milk. Re-wrap your slow cooker and leave at least 8 hours or overnight. TA-DA! You have homemade yogurt.

When I made it, the upper level was a bit softer than the lower level, but it still held its shape when scooped with a spoon. DO NOT stir the yogurt to try to balance this out, because the whole thing will turn into thick soup, and will not hold its shape at all. I wanted some very firm, almost “dry” yogurt for tzatziki sauce, so I lined a sifter – the simple bowl-shaped kind with a handle, not a flour sifter – with cheesecloth, placed it over a large bowl to catch the whey, filled it with the top layer of yogurt, folded over the cheesecloth, and put a bowl on top of the yogurt for some pressure. I tried adding a can of beans on top but that threatened to make the top of the yogurt squish out because I filled it a little too full. The bowl by itself was just enough. I let it sit while prepping and grating the cucumber, and by the time I was done it was the consistency of room temp cream cheese.

I got the half gallon of milk on sale (88 cents); ditto for the yogurt container (49 cents). That means I wound up with 72 oz of yogurt for $1.48 (including sales tax), or just a smidge over two cents an ounce. Store brand el-cheapo yogurt is about ten cents an ounce. OH YEAH. *does a little dance*

It was also DELICIOUS. It was not quite as tangy as sour cream, slightly sweet (that milk-type of sweet, not fruit-sweet), creamy… Wonderful. I definitely recommend trying it even if it’s just to say that you made it. Add fruit, make tzatziki, put it into cakes, add it to sauces, freeze it in an ice cream maker, use it for smoothies, dollop it on granola, drain it with cheesecloth after adding some herbs and spread it on toast like cheese, or just snarf it up plain like I do. Yum yum yum.


My Bread Stars in Slasher Flicks

I think this blog needs to move on to its kitchen aspect, especially after that last post. I was in a dark place.

I’ve been sort-of teaching one of my friends to cook. I say “sort-of” because it’s been largely baking, and because we’re just making things, and hoping he learns something along the way. So far I think I have managed to beat this important lesson into his brain, if nothing else –
“READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! AGAIN! AGAIN!!”

I’m not exactly Mr. Miyagi. If he had to wax on, wax off, I’d be constantly taking the rags away from him and saying. “You’re doing ok, but more like this, and you really shouldn’t do that ever, except sometimes. Watch this.” But then, I’m also not Julia Child, doing everything – it irritates him to no end when I stand there with a smirk and say “Pshhh… you wash the dishes, you got them dirty.” (It’s one of my favorite parts, even if I do usually wind up breaking down and drying, if not also rinsing.)

We started with potato salad and Nutella pound cake. (links will take you to the respective recipes) The potato salad was an inspired opening play since it involved several different general-application techniques, and the only thing that could have burned was the bacon. It was also dead simple to make: Fry bacon. Cook and peel eggs. Boil and peel potatoes (it is 100% easier to peel red potatoes after they are boiled, and it also removes the eyes at the same time). Chop veggies. Stir in mayo and mustard. Chill. It was delicious. We, and the third friend whose kitchen we were borrowing, consumed the entire batch in a matter of minutes. Well, I did manage to rescue about one and a half cups of it to take home for lunch the next day. We did halve the recipe though, so we’re not total pigs. I think next time I would not halve the amount of dressing, because the potatoes soaked up a tremendous amount and it was a little less than satisfying the next day, being rather dry.

The pound cake came together beautifully. The loaf pan was buttered and floured immaculately. Yet the darn bottom stuck, so only the top two-thirds came out when we turned it up after letting it cool for almost an hour. The three of us ate the bottom right out of the pan. It was also delicious. Buttery, dense-crumbed pound cake met ribbons of creamy Nutella in a dance which seemed to trail off long after the mass of masticated unhealthiness settled into stomach slumber. We split the loaf into thirds to take home, and I must confess, I ate all of mine in one sitting.

The next session, we made the coy Simple One-Hour Bread and fresh fruit muffins. Let me talk about the muffins first, because they’re the good news.  Continue reading