Probiotic Goodness

Finding a steady supply of probiotics has been such a necessary step in restoring the balance of bacteria in my gut (yes, this is a little on the TMI side of things, but even after two years, I am still experiencing the effects of chemo, but I think even more so from the heavy antibiotics I was on). I got hooked on Fage a little while ago, and while I love the thick, creamy yogurt, I was really hoping for something organic.

I brew. I bake. It was only a matter of time before adding yogurt to the list of staples made from scratch (is beer considered a staple?). I finally took the plunge last night, and the steps were almost too simple to think they would actually work, or result in something edible. But, I’m happy to say, that less than 12 hours later, I’ve got a couple of pints of delicious, homemade (organic) yogurt in the fridge. I found the basics for this recipe here.

First, heat 1/2 gallon of milk to 180º F (gently, preferably in a double boiler). Once temperature has been reached, remove from stove and pour into a bowl to let it cool back down to 110º F.

Yogurt, Step One (Heat)

At 110º F, stir in three tablespoons of yogurt (with live active cultures, of course). Cover, wrap with a towel and place in an oven with the light left on. Leave overnight (or for eight hours). At this point, you should have yogurt. But, I really like greek-style yogurt, so the next couple of steps are for that.

Yogurt, Step Two (Strain)

Line a strainer with four layers of damp cheesecloth, set in a bowl and fill with the yogurt. Let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour, then collect the whey that has strained out of the yogurt. Of course, you can just toss this, but I’m thinking there’s some bread in the near future made with this:

Yogurt, Step Three (Whey)

Put the strainer back in the fridge for another hour. I suppose you could keep straining this for as long as you want, until you achieve the density that you like. But, after about two hours I had a consistency that seemed good.

Yogurt, Step Four (Enjoy)

The next step, as with everything else we do around here, is to enjoy!

The Essentials

I’m sitting here Sunday morning, hunkering down as the second snowpocalypse begins outside. I was up early, warming up the house with baking bread. Specifically, I was attempting to make buns, being once again discouraged by the mile-long list of ingredients in the store-bought varieties.


These appear to do the trick (we’ll be testing them out later today as they sandwich a black bean burger with sautéed onions and mushrooms), and they were super easy to make. I modified an existing recipe to work with the ingredients I had on hand. The recipe is as follows.

Combine and heat to about 120 degrees :

  • 1/2 cup Fage
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Mix together in a separate bowl:

  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Then, add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, including 1 egg. Mix thoroughly, then slowly combine about 2 to 2 1/2 cups white flour and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (I used my KitchenAid stand mixer for about 2 minutes). Take dough and pull apart into 10 to 12 pieces, which you then roll into a ball then place, slightly flattened, on a baking sheet (or, in my case, a silpat covering a baking sheet). Let rise for 30 to 40 minutes and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes (or until golden brown).

One of the biggest satisfactions of making food from scratch is the total control over the ingredients. I’m not sure why sandwich buns need high fructose corn syrup, or any of the other “enhancements.” These may not have the shelf life, but chances are they will be long gone before they expire.

Still on the topic of essentials, I’m happy to say my spinning wheel has been getting some use (not quite the 15-minutes a day I had hoped to accomplish in the new year), enough to finally finish some lovely 3-ply yarn.

Handspun Corriedale

This is spun from some handdyed Corriedale that Virginia picked up for me from cloudlover (at last year’s Shepherd’s Harvest festival). I navajo-plied the yarn, yielding approximately 370 yards from a little less than 5 ounces of roving. I believe a pair of socks are being planned with the yarn.

And, speaking of socks, Virginia has been working on several pair (as usual), one of the most recent are these:

Handknit Socks

Knit following one of Charlene Schurch’s four-stitch reticulated patterns in her book Sensational Knitted Socks. These are made with two colors of Jawoll “Aktion.”

Well, I’m off to make some lunch, and to draw in some energy for the piles of snow that will need to be shoveled over the course of the next 24 hours.

Of Roly-Polies and Pretzels

Inspired by a recipe for a jam roly-poly, I attempted my own version of this jam-filled, biscuity goodness. The end result, though not resembling anything like a rolled up swirl of jam and dough, is still a perfect accompaniment to cup of earl gray.

Cherry Rumple (aka Failed Cherry Roly Poly)

Virginia dubbed it the “Cherry Rumple.” The biscuit dough was a bit on the soft side, which caused some flattening/spreading (or, “rumpling”) in the oven. The recipe (although, I will be tweaking it in the future to make it stiffer) is as follows:

  • 1 1/4 cups of flour (maybe make this 1 1/2 cups?)
  • 3 Tbsp ground golden flax seeds
  • 3 Tbsp cold butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Mix above ingredients together until well combined, then add:

  • 1/2 cup Fage + enough almond milk to make 2/3 cups liquid
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Stir until just combined. Then, roll out on to a piece of wax paper sprinkled with flour – makes about a 9 x 12-inch rectangle that is 1/4 inch thick. Spread about 1/2 cup of cherry jam over surface, leaving about 1/2 inch of edge jam-free. Roll up, using the longer edge as starting point. Place on cookie sheet, seam side down. Bake for 30 minutes in 350 degree oven. After roll has cooled, slice and enjoy!

Pretzel Love
I always forget how fun it is to have pretzels in the house, but they never seem to make it in to the shopping cart when we get groceries. I picked some up this morning and made two very different snacks. The first requires no recipe, since you basically melt (gently) whatever favorite chocolate you have on hand in a double boiler, stir in some pretzels, remove and cool on wax paper.

Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

These will come in handy when I’m looking for something to get me through the rest of the afternoon at work. And, if that doesn’t do the trick, a small bowl with some navy bean hummus with sun-dried tomatoes will.

Navy Bean Hummus

In a small food processor, combine the following until very smooth:

  • 1 cup dried navy beans that have been cooked/boiled until very tender
  • 3 or 4 sun-dried tomato halves
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • juice from 1 large lemon
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
  • a splash of water to make desired consistency

I freely admit it. I like to snack.

Routine is Good

Vacations are good. They break up your routine, change your scenery and commitments, and allow you to explore. Being back home after a longish break is good, too. There were certain aspects of our routine that I really missed. These are just a few.

With Summer really starting to ramp up, it’s a good thing we are back. The yard was a bit on the jungly side and needed quite a bit of beating back, but that also meant our potted tomatoes were doing equally well. I was happy to notice that some of them already have buds.

Tomato with Buds

The hours of yard work are rewarded with a refreshing beer on the deck. I brewed and bottled a batch before we left, giving it enough time to condition in the bottles while we were away. The resulting brew, what Northern Brewer calls its “Twisted Enkel Blonde,” is a crisp Belgian beer that is quite thirst-quenching (though some moderation might be called for – this is no Bud Light).


Our routine also includes plenty of time in the kitchen. Even though we enjoyed trying new foods out, it’s good to get back to home cooking, and there are certain “staples” that we just like to have. If you’ve been reading this blog, you may recall a recent cake recipe. I made a variation of it to have with dinner with my parents last night. This time using some freshly picked rhubarb and topped with strawberries (reduced a bit in some balsamic vinegar).

Rhubarb Cake with Strawberries

Almost weekly, I like to try out granola variations to have for breakfast. This particular version seems to be a good blend. It’s perfect in the morning with a sliced up banana and my favorite milk substitute.


I don’t really measure ingredients when I make granola (it changes based on what I might be in the mood for), but the basic recipe for this is:

  • a splash of olive oil (maybe slightly more than a tablespoon)
  • a glug of maple syrup
  • a squirt of honey or molasses (or both)
  • a heaping spoonful of crunchy, unsalted peanut butter

Gently heat above ingredients in large saucepan (on low) and add:

  • 4 to 5 cups of rolled oats
  • a handful of chopped raw cashews
  • a smaller handful of raisins
  • a sprinkling of dried cranberries
  • a sprinkling of raw sunflower seeds
  • a sprinkling of raw pumpkin seeds or pepitas

Once all the ingredients are lightly coated, spread on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 300ºF oven for about 20 minutes (or until the oats are lightly toasted). I usually stir the baking granola every 5 minutes or so to keep the raisins for getting overly done. Let cool in pan before storing.

Granola - Detail

Some things are definitely worth coming back to.

Baking Recovery

It’s been so nice to finally have all of my energy back, and I feel like I might be making up for lost time. Not that I didn’t do any baking while I was recovering from the cancer treatment, I certainly had curtailed the activity.

Well, curtail no more. I’ve been playing with the master recipe from Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day (the recipe gives you about 5 one-pound loaves to make over the course of a week, so there’s lots to play with). This particular iteration may have to be part of our routine. It’s a cinnamon-raisin bread that toasts nicely and is perfect, really, any time of the day (I was going to say “breakfast,” but who’s kidding who).

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Basically I pulled off a pound (or grapefruit-sized hunk of dough) and, using a rolling pin, flattened it into a 9 x 12 inch area. After sprinkling generously with cinnamon and raisins, I rolled it back up into a log-like shape (tucking in the ends) and continued with the directions as is.

What I haven’t mentioned is that I acquired a baking stone, and that has pretty much changed my life. Why did I wait so long? The crust on this bread is thick, the custard resilient (but not too spongy), and, frankly, it’s amazing there is enough bread left to take a picture of.

Of course, bread is not the only baking that I’m doing. I’ve started experimenting with vegan cakes, and I’ve settled on a perfect batter that goes well with all manner of inclusions. Last week it was rhubarb. This week a combination of lemon, blueberries and poppy seeds.

Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Recipe for Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup (heaping) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (or less) of sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 teeny pinch of salt
  • 4 Tbsp poppy seeds

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, then add:

  • Juice of half a lemon, combined with enough warm water to make 1 cup
  • Zest of that half a lemon
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar

Mix until batter is nearly combined, then add:

  • 1 cup blueberries (we’re cleaning out our freeze in preparation for this season’s fruit, so I thawed some blueberries for this cake)

Continue mixing until all ingredients have been incorporated (don’t over mix). Pour in to 9-inch round cake pan and bake at 350º for 30 minutes (or until toothpick inserted comes out clean).

Let cool and top with glaze made from the juice and zest of the other half of the lemon (basically add some powder sugar until the mixture is pourable, but not too thin – it’s really hard to screw this up, so I just toss a bit in at a time and whisk the mixture until it seems like a good consistency).

Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I’d better start getting out on my bike more regularly, because with all this baking in the house, and only two people to enjoy it…