Super Easy Slow Cooker Homemade Yogurt (No Straining) & Refrigerator Oatmeal

This is one of those recipes that I had to ask myself…why have I not been doing this forever?!? I am amazed at how easy it is to have a bunch of homemade yogurt to put in my fridge for a lot less money than buying it at the store.  Also, I love knowing EXACTLY what’s in my yogurt.

My recipe for slow cooker homemade yogurt has been adapted from Money Saving Mom’s recipe here.

This step is NOT necessary, but….If you would like a thicker yogurt or Greek yogurt, here are some tips for straining your yogurt. If you do this, you can save the whey that is strained.  Freeze in ice cube trays or containers.  I have made this Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffin recipe using strained whey.

Interesting articles about uses for whey…

Whey in baking

How to Use Leftover Whey

I used to strain all my yogurt, but found that the extra step was too much for me.  Now, it works out great to make my yogurt into refrigerator oatmeal.  The oats soak up some of that liquid and it makes for a great texture.

Here’s the recipe.

Super Easy Slow Cooker Homemade Yogurt

Ingredients

  • About 12 cups Whole Milk (I pour enough milk so that it is roughly 2 inches from the top of the slow cooker)

    • Note: more or less…I’ve used 8 cups with this same recipe before and it turned out the same)

  • 1/2 cup Plain Yogurt

    • Note: This recipe is pretty forgiving, so this amount can be altered if needed. For the first batch, you will need to buy plain yogurt from the store as a starter.  For future batches, just reserve 1/2 cup from your last batch of homemade to use as a starter for the next one.

Tools

  • Slow Cooker

  • 2 Bath Towels

  • Whisk

Step 1: Pour milk into slow cooker.

Step 2: Turn slow cooker on LOW for 2-1/2 HOURS.

Step 3: Turn slow cooker OFF, *UNPLUG SLOW COOKER*, and let sit for 5 HOURS.

Step 4: Mix in plain yogurt using a whisk.

Step 5: Wrap slow cook with 2 towels, each towel in a different direction. Let sit 12 – 18 HOURS. Make sure slow cooker is unplugged!

Step 6: Ladle yogurt into containers or make Refrigerator Oatmeal (see below).

Step 7: Refrigerate for 8 HOURS.

IMG_0099

IMG_0104

 

Maple Blueberry Refrigerator Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1/4 C. Old Fashioned Oats

  • 1-2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup

  • 1/2 C. Yogurt

  • 1/2 C. Blueberries

Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a container in order listed.  Stir gently to mix.

Step 2: Refrigerate 8 HOURS.

 

IMG_0100

IMG_0101

IMG_0102

 

 

 

Lancaster County Farm Fresh CSA – Week 1

Our family decided to try out one of the local CSAs – Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. We signed up for the Winter CSA Omnivore package which includes a share of vegetables, 1 pantry item (syrup, applesauce, etc.), 1 lb. pasture-raised meat, and 1 cheese block.  All items are locally farmed or made in our county and all items are organic.  Each week we go to our host location and pick up our box of goodies.

I’ve been a ‘little’ excited about this.  The fun of trying new recipes with fresh-from-the-farm foods has turned our daily dinners into a thrilling hobby for me. A few of the things we’ve gotten in our box the first couple weeks I had never heard of in my life.  Some I had heard of but just never tried.  I love that we’re trying new things and getting more veggies in our diet at the same time. Win, win.

Here’s what came in our box Week 1…

  • Orange carrots
  • Black radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Yukon gold potatoes
  • Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes)
  • Portobello mushroom caps
  • Shitake mushrooms
  • 1 jar applesauce
  • Chicken legs
  • Blue cheese

Here’s some of the recipes we tried with these items…

Homemade Mushroom Soup by Season with Spice

Review: A-mazing! We used all the shitake mushrooms and one Portobello cap for this recipe.  We will definitely make this again.

Homemade Mushroom Soup recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com

[Photo via Season with Spice]

Whitechapel Shepherd’s Pie @ Allrecipes.com

Review: Very good! I included black radishes, rutabaga, carrots, and potatoes from our box to make this.  We also traded out the ground lamb for ground beef since we already had it in the freezer.

Whitechapel Shepherd's Pie Recipe

[Photo via Allrecipes.com]

Creamy Scalloped Ginger Sunchokes by Boulder Locavore

Review: Never having heard of or tried sunchokes before, we didn’t know what to expect from this recipe.  The flavor was a little….weird….for our taste.  However, the following day I had the leftovers and they were delicious…much better after a night in the fridge.  I’m not giving up on sunchokes, so if we get them again, I’d like to try preparing them a different way.  Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll make this recipe again.

[Photo via Boulder Locavore]

Garlic Roasted Chicken & Potatoes @ Allrecipes.com

Review: This was really yummy.  We included the potatoes, rutabaga, and chicken from our box in this recipe.  I was most surprised by the delicious flavor of roasted rutabaga coated in garlic and maple syrup.  I might make that by itself next time, it was so good.  We will definitely make this one again!

Garlic Roasted Chicken and Potatoes Recipe

[Photo via Allrecipes.com]

Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs by Taste of Home

Review: We had two different kinds of blue cheese in our fridge, one from our CSA and one from the grocery store.  Because I’m pregnant and can’t eat soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, I wasn’t able to try the blue cheese from the CSA box.  I made half the eggs with the CSA cheese and half with the store-bought cheese.  Brandon wasn’t crazy about the CSA blue cheese eggs…said they tasted like a farm smells. P-U. We did enjoy the store-bought blue cheese deviled eggs though.  I put some hot sauce on mine and it was delicious.

Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs Recipe

Photo via Taste of Home

Cookbook Club – Mexican Night

I’ve had the best time participating in a group called Lancaster County Cookbook Club.  Each month we rotate themes/cookbooks and hostesses, and try out several different recipes.  Back in September, we did a Mexican Night which produced some A-MAZING food.  Pics below.

Some other themes we’ve done…Breakfast for Dinner, Favorite Spice/Herb, Pioneer Woman, Martha Stewart, Tapas, Meatless, and more.

IMG_7459

IMG_7461

IMG_7462

IMG_7463

IMG_7465

IMG_7466

IMG_7467

IMG_7468

IMG_7469

IMG_7471

IMG_7472

Peach Picking

I always have an interesting time picking fruit with B.  With the strawberry picking, he would throw the strawberries in the containers back into the plants.  Now with the peach picking, he liked to find the most rotted, disgusting peaches off the ground and add them to our basket. Thanks, B.  Gotta love ya. 🙂
image_2

image

image_2

image

image_1

IMG_0563Now, what should we make with all these peaches?!?

 

Tiramisu Napoletana

IMG_0375

This is my new favorite dessert!

I made this recipe for this month’s Facebook Cookbook Club’s theme – Italian dishes.  I was so excited for this theme because of my love for all things Italian – well, most things. 😉
IMG_0366

In the summer of 2006, I was blessed with the chance to intern at a University in Naples, Italy.  While I was there I took a cooking class where we made this Tiramisu recipe.  I remember thinking how the chef made everything look so simple – simple ingredients, simple methods.  Well, when I got the cookbook from the class and opened it up back in the US, it didn’t look quite as simple.  The measurements were all in grams (what?!?) and espresso is tricky to locate in American grocery stores let alone make in this foreign coffee maker I now owned (see above).

IMG_0378

Well, finally in 2013, I decided it was time I tackle this recipe.  Thanks to google and a scale, I was able to make quick work of converting and measuring out the ingredients.  When the recipe was all said and done, the only thing that didn’t feel “simple” was the part where I had to brew espresso in my little espresso maker 6 times in order to have enough for the recipe….need a bigger espresso maker!  Does anyone know if you can use the keurig for espresso? If so, I’m an idiot.

Here’s a photo of the sponge cake…it blows my mind that it just used eggs, flour, and sugar! See…so simple.

IMG_0367

IMG_0370

Brandon tried some of the espresso in the little cups I brought back from Italy.  He was very dainty about it. 🙂

IMG_0371

IMG_0372

Assembling the layers of sponge cake and cream filling…

IMG_0373

IMG_0374

YUM…we totally had passive aggressive discussions about who got the last piece.

IMG_0375

TIRAMISU NAPOLETANA

(Adapted from Mami Camilla’s La Cucina Napoletana cookbook by Chef Longo Biagio)

 Active Work Time 45 minutes; Total Prep Time 1 hour, 30 minutes (Serves 8)

 SPONGE CAKE

  • 5 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups (500 grams) white sugar
  • 4 cups (500 grams) flour, plus extra
  • Butter
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C).
  2. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar together on high speed 20 minutes or until creamy and fluffy.
  3. Gradually add flour to mixture, continuing to beat, until batter is completely mixed.
  4. Butter and flour 9×13 pan (or 10” round pan or 2 small round pans). Pour batter into pan.
  5. Bake 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.
  6. Turn out of pan.  Using a large knife, cut cake into two layers.  Then, cut cake into smaller rectangular pieces.

FILLING

  • 1 cup (250 grams) whipping cream
  • 1 cup (250 grams) mascarpone cheese
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 5 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 4 ½ tsp. (25 grams) vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp. San Marzano liqueur – I used a coffee liqueur bc I couldn’t find San Marzano
  1. Using electric mixer, beat cream on high speed until stiff peaks form; set aside.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar on high speed until well blended.
  3. Add mascarpone cheese and whipped cream; continue to blend.
  4. Add vanilla and liqueur; mix well.

ASSEMBLY

  • Sponge Cake
  • 2 cups brewed coffee, black – I used espresso
  • Cream filling
  • 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  1. Spread a thin layer of cream filling.
  2. Soak cake pieces in coffee until saturated, but still hold together.
  3. Put down a cake layer.  Top with 1/3 of remaining cream filling. Repeat until three layers have been used.  Top final layer with remaining cream.
  4. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.  Sprinkle with cocoa powder before serving.

Linking to…

Blissfully Ever After

Grilled Cheese & Avacado Sandwich

IMG_0357

I’ve been enjoying this stint as a sneaky mom.  🙂

Last week, I slipped an avocado into B’s grilled cheese.  He gobbled up the first half, then must have seen the “green stuff” in the second half and became the wiser.  Oh, well…I was just glad to see him eat and honestly, I didn’t mind eating these leftovers one bit.

GRILLED CHEESE & AVACADO SANDWICH

  • 1/4 of an avacado
  • Slice of White American cheese
  • 2 slices bread
  • Butter

Enjoy!

 

 

Sneaky Smoothies for Toddlers

Does anyone have a toddler that loves vegetables? If so, what is your secret?!? My little guy is not a fan at all.

Green beans – no way.

Carrots – yeah right.

Sweet potatoes – okay, maybe…but probably not.

What I’ve been doing lately to get his veggies in him is sneaking them into a smoothie.  Hehehe. 😉

Just like when I made his baby food, I pureed some veggies and froze them in ice cube trays (about 1 oz. each).  Wholesomebabyfood.com is a great resource for how to prepare all the different types of veggies, fruits, grains, and proteins for babes/kids.

I had these cubes of butternut squash in the freezer, so I used a few of them.  I’ve used pureed cubes of broccoli or green beans before too…Little B never knew! 🙂

IMG_0359

Next, I stuck all the frozen items (squash cubes, blueberries, a banana) in our Magic Bullet container and microwaved them for about 30 second to soften them up a bit.  I didn’t want everything too frozen for the sake of our little blender…it’s not the most powerful blender on the block, that’s for sure!

Then, I added some yogurt, stuck the cap on, and blended her up.

IMG_0358

This is the result.  You’d never guess there were veggies in there!

IMG_0360

IMG_0361

Then, give it to your toddler to enjoy! The semi-frozen state of the smoothie is great for teething toddlers!  Little B got a little too excited and dropped the cup on the floor.

“Uh-oh,” he says.

IMG_0362

So we put it into a bowl and gave him a spoon. Apparently, he likes it!  🙂 {As I reread this, I’m realizing it sounds like we gave him smoothie off the floor. haha! Don’t worry, we only gave him what was left in the cup…I feel like I should clarify that. 🙂 }

IMG_0364

As you can see, we’re not afraid of messes at this house.

IMG_0363

Sneaky Smoothie Recipe

  • 3 ice cubes (about 3 oz. or 1/3 cup) of pureed veggies (we used butternut squash)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (we get the big bag from Costco)
  • 1 small frozen ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (we used Stonyfield Banilla flavor)

Microwave frozen ingredients for about 30 seconds to soften up a bit.  Add the frozen ingredients and yogurt to a blender.  Blend. Serve. Enjoy!

Apple Crisp Recipe

God Bless my Grandmother.  She always has the best recipes. 🙂

This one was, of course, awesome too.  I made this for our Lancaster County Cookbook Club April meeting.  Like our Facebook Cookbook Club, our theme was to make a dish with your favorite spice.  Again, I chose nutmeg (like I did for this Sweet Potato Pie recipe). The beauty of our Lancaster County Cookbook Club is that we actually get together and taste test all the recipes.  It is a beautiful thing, people.  I highly recommend it.

IMG_0504

The filling

**The filling amounts on the original recipe actually gave me enough filling to do two apple crisps with the sizes of pans I was using! One for cookbook club and one for us to eat at home…yay!

IMG_0506

The topping

**From the original recipe, I doubled the topping because of the extra surface area from doing two pans.

IMG_0508

IMG_0510

This is how you wrap the foil around the edges.  Take a long piece of foil, fold it in half, and wrap it around the edge of the pans.  Fold it down around the edges of the pan to prevent crisping.

IMG_0512

Served with a scoop of Butter Pecan ice cream or Vanilla Bean ice cream.

IMG_0514

APPLE CRISP

Makes a Deep 9”x13”x 2” Stoneware Dish (or (2) 3 Qt. Pans**)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Using softened Butter generously grease deep 9”x13”x 2” Stoneware Dish (or Two 3 Qt. Pans**).

10 Cups Peeled Cored, Sliced, Rome or McIntosh (slice Apples  into thick slices) (about 11 big Apples)

  • 1 ½ Tbs. Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

Combine Apples and Lemon Juice in a large bowl; set aside.

  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ Tsp. Salt
  • 1 ½ Tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ Tsp. Freshly Grated Nutmeg

Using a whisk, combine Sugar, Flour, Salt, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg; mix with Apples, to evenly coat. Spread Apples evenly in bottom of Dish; set aside.

TOPPING: (Double topping if using two 3 Qt. pans**)

  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour                             
  • 1 Cup Medium Brown Sugar                     
  • ½ Tsp. Ground Cinnamon                        
  • ¼ Tsp. Freshly Grated Nutmeg              
  • ¼ Tsp. Salt                                                         
  • ¼ Tsp. Baking Powder
  • ¼ Tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 Cup Quick Rolled Oats
  • 10 Tbs. Unsalted Butter (melted)
  • ½ Cup + 2 Tbs. Coarsely Chopped Pecans, Optional
  • ½ Cup + 2 Tbs. Hot Water

Combine Flour, Sugar, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Salt, Baking Powder, and Baking Soda in a large mixing Bowl; add Oats. Add melted Butter and mix, using a fork, till all is moistened with Butter.

Sprinkle the Topping evenly over the Apples; pressing and smoothing it down gently with a spoon; sprinkle Pecans over top.

Pour the ½ Cup plus 2 Tbs. Hot Water over all.

Make a collar with the foil (dull side out) bending top over somewhat (leave an opening) to almost cover top of Apple Crisp, to keep edges and top of Apple Crisp from over browning.

Bake Dish on center Oven Rack for 53 minutes (48 minutes for McIntosh Apples); remove foil and bake 17 more minutes (15 minutes for McIntosh Apples).

Remove Dish to Wire Rack to cool for about 2 hours.

Serve with Vanilla Bean or Butter Pecan Ice Cream, if desired.

Unsolicited Advice – Measuring Flour

IMG_0266

Let me just begin by saying that I am not at all an authority on flour-measuring or any form of cooking whatsoever.  I was just making up some Zucchini Bread the other day and thought, “I wonder if everyone else measures flour like I do? If not, how do they do it? Would they like to know how I do it?”

This is the kind of self-talk that comes from writing a blog now.  Thanks, blog.

So, if you are interested, here are two ways that I measure flour…without putting it through the sifter. 

Grandma, am I doing this right? 🙂

Method #1:  Three Dirty Dishes

I leave this little whisk in my flour container permanently.  Never gets washed.  Then, when I’m ready to take out some flour, I whisk all the flour in the container so it is nice and airy, rather than tightly packed or compacted as it is after storage and handling.

IMG_0264

Next, I use a large spoon to gently scoop flour into the measuring cup.  Again, the goal is to keep the flour as airy as possible.

IMG_0266

Finally, I use the side of the whisk to level off the flour.  That’s it!

IMG_0268

Method #2:  One to Two Dirty Dishes

This method definitely cuts down on the number of dishes that are dirtied while cooking, but it requires a handy little kitchen scale.  It also requires this nice little measurement converter from the  King Arthur Flour website.  It’s really awesome.

So, all you have to do here is set your bowl on the scale.

IMG_0269

Zero out the scale.

IMG_0272

Use the King Arthur Master Weight Chart to determine how much flour you will need.  For All-Purpose flour in my example here, 1 cup = 4-1/4 oz. weight.  My recipe calls for 3 cups flour, so…

4-1/4 oz. x 3 = 12-3/4 oz. weight

I can either spoon the flour into the bowl or just dump it in from the container to achieve this weight.

IMG_0270

Here’s a picture of my scale…

IMG_0276

Hope this helps someone or at least cuts down on dishes!

How do you measure flour? Is there a better way that I’m missing out on? Please let me know in the comments below!

Zucchini Bread Recipe

IMG_0227

I love this Zucchini Bread recipe.  Here’s why…

  1. Little B will eat it and he doesn’t even know there are veggies in it….score 1 for Mom!
  2. It’s easy and quick to make.
  3. It’s cheap to make it…most of the ingredients I have on hand and I just got several zucchini on sale from the grocery store.
  4. It can be frozen to use later.
  5. It’s sooooooo good! 🙂

Have I made my point? 🙂

ZUCCHINI BREAD (adapted from this recipe)

  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 small to medium zucchini)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans (OR use 6 mini loaves – I used stoneware mini loaf pans). Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes (30 to 40 minutes for mini loaf pans), or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Linking to…

Five Little Chefs

Blissfully Ever After