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!

Virtues of Scratch

I don’t know how many times I can extol the virtues of food from scratch, but since part of this blog is to do just that, this post will be no exception. We really do try to limit how much processed foods we eat, making sure most, if not all, of the ingredients are both pronounceable and identifiable. Why someone would choose to make a cake from a box (with added goodies like distilled monoglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, not to mention hydrogenated oils), when a tastier cake can be made in roughly the same amount of time with a handful of ingredients? But, I don’t want to get all preachy about this. I just don’t buy the argument of convenience. One makes time for things that are important.

Things like…

Blueberries in Pie

…blueberry pie.

Blueberry Pie

We’re talking five ingredients (six if you count water) in this recipe, including flour, butter, blueberries, the juice and zest from a couple of meyer lemons, and a sprinkling of corn starch. The blueberries (frozen from last summer) are so sweet that no sugar was needed. Yes, it’s pie, but it’s mostly a delicious and healthy pile of blueberries.

Of course, the pie was made a little less healthy with the addition of:

Ice Cream

But, this again was made from cream (don’t ask how much), half and half, a bit of sugar and a splash of vanilla. Easy-peasy and so delicious. And, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say. So, don’t let Betty Crocker talk you into buying that box!

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.

Sunday’s Line-Up

While an astounding 106 million people get ready to while away the afternoon watching a group of men chase around a little ball, our house will be filled with the sites, sounds and smells of our own, slightly different, line-up.

First up, weighing in at 7 pounds and measuring 12 inches in diameter, the kitchen workhorse – our no. 10 Wagner Ware cast-iron skillet.

One Pan Granola

I use this pan probably more than any other kitchen utensil (silverware excluded). Today it was used for my one-pan granola (from stove top to oven). Yesterday, blueberry pancakes in the morning, sauteing onions and mushrooms for pizza in the evening.

A rookie skillet was added to the team today. A no. 7 skillet that will have its first trial run today, serving as a baking dish for a loaf of bread. Here you see it getting ready, conditioning after having had a serious scrubbing.

Conditioning "New" Old Skillet

You’ll notice that we’ve added a couple of potholders to the mix. These are pretty fresh off the crochet hook, Virginia having recently made these out of some lovely colors of Ultra Pima Cotton yarn. The pattern is by Mandy Powers.

Crochet Potholders

Crochet Potholders

Skillets, granola, potholders? I suppose some might think this hardly the substitute for the excitement and anticipation that await the fans of tight pants, 8 seconds of play followed by incessant replays and the yammering of commentators. I say, have your football. I’ll take a quiet afternoon with a spot of tea and the remains of last night’s rustic cherry pie.

Rustic Cherry Pie - The Day After