Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Daring Cooks' July 2013 Challenge: Get Your Yogurt On!

The lovely Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler was our July Daring Cooks’ hostess and she asked us to create homemade yogurt in our own kitchens! No incubators needed, no expensive equipment or ingredients, just a few items and we had delicious yogurt for a fraction of the cost and a whole lot healthier than what you buy in the stores!
Coconut Yogurt with honey, blueberries, and homemade granola
I encourage you to stop by Cher's website to see more options for making yogurt from milk or milk substitutes using other thickening agents and cultures.  CLICK HERE for the full challenge and a lot more helpful information.

As I have to completely cut dairy out of my diet, this challenge arrived at the perfect time.  I miss yogurt and hate spending nearly $2.00 on 6 oz. of coconut yogurt.  This method took some time, but was not horribly difficult.  And the coconut flavor and creamy smooth texture of this yogurt far surpassed the expensive coconut yogurts I bought at the store.

Coconut Milk Yogurt

My Ingredient Choices:
1. "Milk": 2 13.5-oz. cans organic coconut milk (not to be mistaken with the beverage in a carton)

2. Culture:  PB8 Pro-biotic Acidophilus for Life Vegetarian Capsules.  I used 6 capsules but should have used 4 (I overestimated the amount of yogurt this would make.)

3. Thickening Agent: 1 packet Knox Unflavored Gelatin  (I wanted to use Agar-Agar Flakes, as I read they thicken the yogurt a bit better; however, the stores I went to did not carry this product and I had the gelatin on-hand.)

4. Sweetener: None (although non-dairy milks will turn out thicker with a sweetener for the pro-biotics to feed on.)

Equipment You Will Need:
• A double boiler or a bowl that can be nested in a pot without touching the bottom or a microwavable glass bowl*
• A whisk, for stirring together ingredients*
• Food thermometer
• A large bowl (or other container) for an ice bath (2-4 cups of ice and 1-2 cups of water – depending on the size of your bowl. You want to be able to cool the bottom and sides of the bowl you cooked your milk in)
• A smaller bowl non-glass bowl that will hold at least one quart if you do not want to put the hot glass bowl into the ice cold water.* 
• A heat source for incubating yogurt - I used my crock-pot
• Glass jars (five to six ½-pint (400 ml) jars) or a glass bowl for culturing yogurt*
• Liquid measuring cup*
• Measuring spoons*
• Pot holders

*IMPORTANT NOTE:  All equipment that will come in direct contact with the yogurt should be thoroughly washed before using, to mitigate the potential of any non-beneficial bacteria entering the equation. I run my equipment through the dishwasher and use the heated dry cycle. Some sources recommend sterilizing in boiling water.

  • 2 13.5-oz cans organic coconut milk (not the beverage in a carton)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp Sweetener (if using)
  • 4 PB* Pro-biotic Acidophilus for Life Vegetarian Capsules (or read the label of your pro-biotic capsules and use enough to have about 25-30 billion pro-biotics for this quart-sized batch of yogurt.)
  • 1 packet Knox Unflavored Gelatin
  1. Place the coconut milk, ½ cup (120ml) of water and sweetener in a bowl and stir until well blended.
  2. Combine 2 Tbsp boiling water with 2 teaspoons (1 packet is a smidge over this) Unflavored Gelatin.  Stir until gelatin has dissolved.
  3. Prepare the ice bath - combine 2-4 cups of ice in 1-2 cups of water, depending upon the size of your bowl.
  4.  BE CAUTIOUS USING THIS STEP!  Using the microwave to boil liquid can be tricky.  The liquid may not appear to be boiling until it moves around, when it may bubble and splatter up and out.  I used a larger bowl than I needed and carefully placed it on the counter after each minute to stir it with a rubber spatula.  When it was done, the liquid erupted into bubbles as the spatula entered the liquid.  Place the bowl in the microwave and heat in one minute intervals until the mixture comes to a boil. (After each minute, remove bowl from microwave and stir). Depending on the strength of your microwave, this may take 4-7 minutes. (Alternately, you can heat the mixture using the double boiler method).
  5. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the microwave and place the bowl in an ice bath. (NOTE: I poured the mixture into a clean non-glass bowl and then set it into the ice bath, as I recently had a coffee cup sitting on a cool tile counter crack in half when I added hot water for tea...) Stir until the temperature of the mixture drops 90°F/32°C if you are using a pro-biotic starter. 
  6. When the liquid cools to 110°F/43°C, stir in the starter. (If you are using a freeze-dried culture or pro-biotic capsules, make sure the liquid has cooled to the temperature recommended for that particular culture).  NOTE: my culture did not specify, so I cooled to 110 degrees.
  7. Ladle the yogurt mixture into ½ pint glass jars (should be ~5-6 jars depending on how full you fill them), secure the cover.  
  8. Incubation:  I chose to use the crockpot method.  Our directions read: Slow cooker – This is the method that I use the most. To use a slow cooker, place the cooker on its “warm” setting and pour in enough hot water to come half way off the jars. Place the cover on the cooker and check the temperature of the water every ½ hour to hour to make sure it isn’t getting too hot (actual temperature range will depend on the starter type you chose). If the water starts to get too hot, unplug the machine and wrap the crock pot in a large towel to hold the temperature for the rest of the incubation period. However, my hot water was WAY too hot, so I removed the jars and cooled the with cold water until it reached 105.  Then, I returned the jars to the crockpot, making sure the water level was about mid-way up the jars.  My crockpot's warm setting was too warm, so I turned it off, unplugged it and wrapped it with a towel.  I checked the temperature every half hour and turned it on warm briefly if it began to drop.
  9. Incubate the yogurt for about 5-8 hours. Longer incubating times will result in a tangier yogurt. The optimal incubating temperature is ~122°F/50°C for yogurt starters (if you are using a freeze-dried starter or pro-biotic capsules, follow the recommended temperatures for those starters). Ideally, you want to keep the temperature as close to that as possible for the incubating period. Realizing that may not be possible – I try to target keeping the mixture between 115°F/46°C and 125°F/52°C (95°F/35°C to 105°F/41°C if using pro-biotic capsules).
  10. Once the yogurt is done incubating, carefully transfer the containers to the refrigerator and chill for at least 8 hours. This step helps to thicken the yogurt and lulls those ravenous friendly bacteria back to their sluggish state.  Note: To avoid putting the hot jars onto the cold glass shelf in my refrigerator, I folded a kitchen towel in half and put on the shelf first. 
  11. After the cooling period, the yogurt is ready to be enjoyed.  

    Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
    Once processed & tightly sealed, most yogurts will keep, refrigerated for one to two weeks. I have had success with some yogurts keeping for longer, but it usually doesn’t last long enough for me to test that theory.
This is how my yogurt looked after the incubation stage, I panicked until I read on another site that this can sometimes happen.  So, I stirred each jar prior to refrigerating, and they turned out fine!
Even without a sweetener, I loved the smooth texture and amazing coconut flavor!

It was even better with about a Tbsp. honey and 1/4 cup frozen blueberries blended in.
Homemade granola made the perfect addition!

As for my pickiest eater?  He is not a huge coconut fan, and felt the coconut flavor was a bit too much for him; however, with the addition of blueberries, honey and granola, he said he would eat it anyway.

Just for my picky eater, I attempted making yogurt with regular milk, but my warm setting on my crockpot took the temperature over 150 degrees within a half hour.  It must have killed the culture.  It ended up as a liquid with a tad of thickness at the bottom.  I plan to try it again with Lactaid for the non-coconut lovers in my home and with almond milk as another dairy-free option for myself.  (Hmmm... maybe I will make that today...)

Cher, thank you for this amazing challenge!  I was absolutely giddy with excitement about how yummy and relatively easy (thanks to your amazing information) this was to make.

All other readers, I strongly encourage you to use the Daring Cooks July '13 Challenge: Yogurt! post at The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler if you plan to make your own yogurt.  Cher has oodles of information, links to other resources and options to choose from!

To see more fun yogurt creations, visit The Daring Kitchen.  I was amazed at the creativity.

Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

June 2013 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Life of Pie

Crostata di Marmellata - dairy free crust & blueberry honey jam filling

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie!

Of our four choices, I chose the Crostata di Marmellata; although I am very late in posting!  Better late than never?  My boys certainly thought so!  It was devoured.

To read the full challenge and see all four yummy choices and their recipes, please CLICK HERE and visit Rachael at pizzarossa. 

I faced several challenges with this recipe (and found myself very thankful for the Internet and blogs!)

First, I needed a dairy-free crust (preferably without resorting to shortening.)
Second, I wanted to avoid using white flour.
Third, I wanted to avoid using refined sugar.

I was so happy to stumble upon Rosalie's Never Fail (Dairy-Free) Pie Crust recipe at The Joyful Baker!  The recipe uses coconut oil instead of butter - brilliant!

I made a couple of modifications to the crust (one of which likely made my work more challenging than it should have been.)  I substituted King Arthur Unbleached White Whole Wheat Flour for the unbleached all-purpose flour.  Bad idea.  Substituting 1/3 cup would have worked better.  I learned my something new!  Whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid than all-purpose flour.  I also substituted 1/4 tsp vanilla for 1/4 tsp of the water.  Yum!  Next time, I will try Rosalie's way of making this crust.  Although I had to put a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough to prevent it from falling apart (likely due to my flour exchange), the dough turned out and tasted really great!

As for the filling... Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food was awesome enough to share a recipe from Ashley Eller (of Sweetie Pie Bakery) for Strawberry Honey Jam.  This jam is pectin free and does not use refined sugar.  I made some and it was delicious!  However, my eldest (Monkey) glared daggers at me for even considering the use of his favorite toast topper.   So, I picked up some blueberries at a local berry farm and made the Blueberry Honey Jam by substituting blueberries for the strawberries.  YUM!

I wanted to make my own apricot jam for the glaze, to completely avoid the use of refined sugar.  However, the only apricots I could find were expensive and not local.  So, I bought a tiny jar of apricot jam and used that for the glaze.

To create this delicious treat I made the jam the day before.

Crostata di Marmellata
1.  I made and canned Blueberry Honey Jam following the recipe at 100 Days of Real Food.
2.  I made the pie crust (mostly - see comments above) following the Never Fail (Dairy-Free) Pie Crust recipe at The Joyful Pantry.

3. Using 2/3 of the pie dough, I baked a single crust as directed in the original recipe.
Shh... pretend I did a better job with my foil and part of the edge is not too dark...

4.  I added two cups of Blueberry Honey Jam.

5. Using the last of the pie dough, I created the lattice topping.  (And cut out a few stars for the 4th of July!)

6. I baked the pie as directed in the original recipe.
7. I made the apricot glaze.
8. After removing the pie, I brushed the glaze onto the pie crust.
Did I forget to mention that my picky eater even ate the edge of the crust?!  It was not secretly disposed of in the garbage.  The magic of glaze?!

Now, to see some real works of art, check out the Life of Pie Challenge in the recipe archive at The Daring Kitchen.  And, don't forget to visit pizzarossa!

Rachael, thank you for this amazing challenge!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Strawberry-Apple Granola Cooked on the Traeger

Strawberry Apple Granola cooked on the Traeger
I have been trying to pull my family away from store-bought cereals by making and freezing pancakes (2 recipes will be posted soon!)  However, cereal is the breakfast of choice in my home.

During the winter months, I like to make homemade granola.  However, as we only have a window air conditioner, I generally avoid using our oven during the summer - unless it's a nice, cool, rainy day.

While cooking our meatballs for the June Daring Cooks' Challenge, I wondered if the Traeger would work to bake my granola.  The answer is YES!

I found my favorite granola recipe at quite some time ago.  It is listed as "Granola-4 Recipe" and was submitted by Tammy Kimbler.  Click HERE for the original recipe.  Ordinarily, I make it using pure maple syrup as the sugar and dried figs as the fruit.

This time, I wanted to make granola without the ginger.  So, I changed things up a bit.

Strawberry-Apple Granola

6 cups rolled oats (I buy them organinc in the bulk-food section for about $1.49/lb.)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup maple syrup (Costco usually has great prices.)
3 egg whites
1/4 - 1/2 cup sliced almonds - optional
1/2 cup freeze-dried apples, chopped
1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries, chopped

1. If using an oven, preheat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  If using a Traeger (I used Cherry pellets), open lid and set on smoke for about 5 minutes.  Then close the lid and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Combine oats and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix well.
Oats and cinnamon.
 3. In a smaller bowl, lightly whip egg whites.  Stir in maple syrup and vanilla.  Then, add to oats and cinnamon and mix well.
Oats, cinnamon, maple syrup, egg whites, and vanilla.

Dry and wet ingredients combined.
4.  Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  Arrange oat mixture in a single layer.

5. Place cookie sheet in Traeger.  (Or in oven.)
Granola going onto the Traeger.  See the smoke from the cherry pellets?!
6. Cook for 30 - 40 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes.  (I like my granola crunchier, so mine cooked about 40 minutes.  However, I always check it 30 minutes in to make sure it is not too dark.)

7. If you want to add almonds, they taste best toasted.  (Like how I decided that for you?!)  Place sliced almonds in a single layer in an oven-safe dish.  Place on Traeger for 5-7 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes.  Watch closely, so they do not burn.  (Or broil in oven, still watching closely so they do not burn - they will probably brown faster.)
Slivered almonds before and after toasting.
8. When cooked to your liking, remove granola from the grill and turn the Traeger off.

9. Allow granola to cool completely.  (I set the pan on a wire rack and clean up as it cools.)

10. Stir in apples, strawberries and almonds (if using).
Recipe used about 1/3 of the bag of strawberries and the full bag of apples.
11. Store in an airtight container.  (As you can see, I folded the long edges of my aluminum foil in toward the center, rolled one short end closed, and used the open end to funnel the granola into the jar.)
Easy-pour lining!

Strawberry Apple Granola cooked on the Traeger
 12. Enjoy!

We love our granola with almond milk or coconut milk for breakfast.  How do you like yours?