Wednesday 29 May 2013

Healthy, Inexpensive Homemade Yogurt

There seem to be chemicals and "unedibles" in almost everything we eat nowadays. Pick up any package for any food at your supermarket and it will be full of names you can't pronounce and need to google. Short of buying a farm and really MAKING everything for yourself, it's hard to avoid allowing some of these items into your diet. Luckily, there ARE some things you can make easily at home, without all the chemicals (and BONUS: for half the price).

Everyday at work I take a 2% Greek yogurt. A 4-pack of this yogurt sells for over $4 at my local store; while I know that's a ridiculous price to pay, I ALWAYS look forward to eating that creamy, tart yogurt at lunch. Also, the health benefits of yogurt are proven: increasing calcium intake for stronger teeth and bones, increasing the "healthy" bacteria in your gut (typically Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in "active culture" yogurts), and a low caloric but high protein snack to help fill your belly in a healthy way. All in all, yogurt is a winner!

Tired of paying the ridiculous fee at the grocery store, and not knowing EXACTLY what was in one of my favourite snacks, I set out to solve my problem...the answer was just a google away...HOMEMADE YOGURT!

The process seemed daunting at the time, until I stumbled onto a Kitchen Simplicity post about how to make homemade yogurt. With only 2 ingredients and a thorough description of what to do, how could I not try it!

Below I have included my photo documentary of the process.  My advice?  TRY IT!

What you need:
-2 L (quarts) of whatever milk you prefer. Personally, we drink 1% at home so that's what I used.
-2 tsps of any yogurt with "active bacterial culture" listed as an ingredient.  I used Oikos Key Lime which I conveniently already had in the fridge.  (it is my VICE!)

For the full "recipe" and instructions, visit Kitchen Simplicity but below is my quick step by step procedure!

1.  Pour 2L milk into a medium sized pot and heat to 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stir often so it doesn't burn.

2.  After reaching this temperature, allow milk to cool to 100-115 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stir, but less frequently.

3.  Add 2 teaspoons of yogurt with active bacterial culture and whisk the mixture together.

4. Place the milk/yogurt mixture into a glass bowl or casserole dish with a lid, and wrap with kitchen towels.  I used 2 kitchen towels and taped them securely with masking tape so they were securely nested around the dish.  Starting in a cold oven, turn on the heat for ONE minute and turn off promptly.  This will slightly warm the air in the oven but not enough to heat the yogurt mixture.  At this point you are only trying to maintain the temperature of the milk/yogurt so the bacteria can incubate and replicate, you are not heating it any longer.  Leave in the oven for 8-12 hours to incubate.  It works well to leave the oven light on to provide just the smallest amount of warmth to maintain the temperature.  I left mine overnight in the oven while I slept.

5.  After 8-12 hours, open the dish up to find your lumpy, tangy product.  There will be a watery fluid on top (whey) that you can either mix in for a thinner, more tangy yogurt, or you can strain out to create a thicker, "Greek" yogurt.

I strained mine through a cheesecloth to get the thicker consistency.  After straining, mix the lumpy mixture into a smooth consistency and there you have it!  Homemade yogurt!  Remember this is unsweetened, and unflavoured and has a nice tangy quality to it.  Mix in honey or your favourite berries or syrup for a tasty, TASTY treat and know that you created it, and know exactly the ingredients you are putting into your body. 


I'd love to hear from you below if you have tried this, or another method of making homemade yogurt.  Any other tips, tricks, or comments are read with joy!

Monday 27 May 2013

Sweet Treat for the One You Love!

I've been trying to stay pretty chill about being pregnant (mostly for my sanity and my husband's sake) but every once and again I get a little weepy, emotional, or extra needy. My husband had taken it all in stride and had embraced my new mental state, being extra loving, patient and affectionate on my tough days. We're living on a budget right now, saving for the baby WHILE completing endless renovations, but I did want to leave him a little surprise to let him know how much I appreciate him. Conveniently this Pinterest inspired surprise was based around his favorite candy--peanut butter flavoured anything!

What you'll need:
-a small jar (I used a magnetic spice jar with a clear lid ($2.99) but you could easily use a small mason jar or equivalent
-a permanent marker like a Sharpie or a paint pen
-Reese's Pieces

All you need to do is write a note on the jar (in my case I used the clear lid of the spice jar) containing the phrase "I love you to pieces" or a similar line. Then, fill your jar with Reese's Pieces and leave on a space where your significant other will find it. Since mine was a magnetic spice jar I stuck it to the front of the fridge where I know he'll head after work. Marriage doesn't have to be full of extravagant gifts and gestures, but the smallest of ideas can spread a lot of love!

Saturday 11 May 2013

Safe, Non-toxic Coloured Play Dough!

I came across this idea in the local community newspaper, and wanted to ensure I remembered it for when my own kids are old enough to want to play with play dough.  Instead of spending your hard earned cash on that smelly, neon play dough, this is a homemade, toxin free recipe that will be sure to get your kids sculpting and creating in no time!

Recipe for Uncoloured Dough:

Mix together:
3 cups white flour
1/2 cup table salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Boil 2 cups of water.  Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and stir.***
***(eliminate this step if adding any of the homemade colour recipes found below)

Pour water/oil (or homemade colour mixture) into dry ingredients.

Mix with a spoon and add more flour as required for kneading (most likely ~1 more cup).  Knead until smooth with the consistency of bread dough.

This play dough can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

Homemade Colour Mixtures

For these mixtures, substitute them in the above recipe in place of the water/oil mixture.

Green--Spinach  Boil 2 1/2 cups of water.  Add two handfuls of spinach and simmer 15 minutes.  Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and puree.  Add the puree to dry ingredients.
         --Liquid Chlorophyll  Boil 2 cups of water.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of liquid chlorophyll.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and add to dry ingredients.

Yellow--Turmeric Powder  Boil 2 cups of water.  Add 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder, stir, and strain if desired.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and stir.  Add to dry ingredients.

Orange--100% Carrot Juice  Bring 2 cups of carrot juice to a slow rolling boil.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and stir.  Add to dry ingredients.  (can also use boiled carrot puree in place of juice)

Red/Pink--Red Cabbage  Boil 3 cups of water.  Add 1/2 a cabbage, diced.  Simmer for 20 minutes and strain.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and add to dry ingredients.
              --Red Beets  Boil 2 1/2 cups of water.  Add 1 large diced beet.  Simmer for 15 minutes and strain.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and stir, then add to dry ingredients.  (Red beet powder can be used as well)

Baking Soda Blue--Boil 3 cups of water and add 1/2 a cabbage, diced.  Simmer for 20 minutes and strain.  Add 1 teaspoon baking soda and stir.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil and add to dry ingredients.
**note:  I have no idea how this creates a blue colour, but if anyone tries it, please let me know!**

Brown--Cocoa  Boil 2 cups of water.  Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa and stir.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil, stir, and add to dry ingredients.

Feel free to mix and match, and experiment with other naturally coloured items in your house!  This non-toxic, colourful, kid-friendly recipe should be a staple for any mom wanting

I would love to hear from you below, or if you try this, or have tried it, leave some feedback or other colour options you've discovered!  Happy sculpting!

Sunday 5 May 2013

Welcome Back!

Hello my friends, and thanks for coming back!

I realise I have left you for far too long but as I'm sure we all know, life can get crazy in a hurry!  My apologies for not posting in over a year, however I'm hoping to change that!

The website will be taking a minor turn in content to one of a more broad category as my life mirrors this change by taking a new turn itself.  My husband and I have recently found out we are going to be welcoming a baby boy in September 2013 after almost 2 years of trying to have a baby and enduring the painful ups and downs of that process.

Because of this, some of the blog content/reviews etc. will likely be more "mom" and "baby" oriented, however I still hope to post my favourite recipes, eco products, gardening, and composting experiences!  I am SO VERY excited to take this journey, and I hope you will come along!

With all the new changes in my life (and changes to come), I would love to connect with some other moms/moms to-be, or blogs that you all like, so please feel free to post in the comments below, or email me using the "Contact" form above!

Thanks for your patience over the last year's silence!