Thursday, September 27, 2012

Salmon with Fennel, Lemon, Lemon Thyme and Onion

In our house we try to have fish for dinner at least once a week. Salmon has been our go-to favorite this Summer, and we've really enjoyed having it on the grill, especially in a foil packet. We've had foil packets simply with lemon, salt and pepper but one day I wanted to try something new. I especially wanted to try something with fennel. Off to Pinterest I went, like I usually do :) 

I came across this recipe, and it's now one of my new favorites for salmon! It's so easy, it's practically impossible to mess up, and the flavors of lemon thyme, lemon, onion and fennel are perfect and amazing. Since it's early Fall there's still time to grill if you want to, but the oven directions will make this a fresh tasting, year-round favorite!

4 salmon portions/fillets or 1 whole salmon
Olive oil or vegetable oil for coating
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
4 or 5 fresh lemon thyme, or thyme sprigs, or 1 Tbs. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium-high heat. Or preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

If using a salmon fillet, remove any pin bones with sturdy tweezers. Coat the salmon with oil. Cut a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil large enough to wrap the salmon. If using a whole salmon, place it in the center of the foil and score it 4 or 5 times diagonally through the skin. Put half of the lemon, onion, fennel bulb and tarragon inside the fish and arrange the rest on top. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. If using a salmon fillet, place it, skin side down, in the center of the foil and arrange the lemon, onion, fennel and tarragon down the center. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Fold the foil over the salmon and crimp the edges to seal.

To Grill:
Place the foil-wrapped salmon on the unheated portion of the grill, cover the grill and cook. After 35 minutes for a whole salmon and 25 minutes for a fillet, open the foil and check for doneness by cutting into the fish or testing with an instant-read thermometer. The salmon should be opaque throughout and flake easily when prodded with a fork, or register 125°F on an instant-read thermometer. Continue to cook as needed with the foil opened and the grill covered, 10 to 25 minutes more for the whole salmon, 5 to 15 minutes more for the fillet. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the fish, the heat of the fire and the desired degree of doneness. Do not overcook. Transfer the foil and fish to a large platter. Lift the fish gently with a long spatula and slide the foil out from underneath.

To Bake:
Place the foil packet on a heavy large baking sheet. Bake until the salmon is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the foil packets to plates and serve.

Garnish with the reserved fennel tops and serve immediately. Whole salmon serves 8 to 10; salmon fillet serves 4 to 6.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Freezer to Crock Pot Chicken and Corn Soup

Since becoming pregnant this Spring, I've had just about zero energy and motivation to do anything. On top of having all-day-sickness, cooking dinner has been the last thing I've wanted to do lately. Thank goodness for Pinterest! Meals that go from the freezer to the crock pot are all the rage right now, and with good reason!

Most recipes I've seen will make you two dinners, serving 4-6 people and they take minutes to put together. The most time consuming part is chopping veggies, but that's not really hard to do anyway. So last weekend, I picked three different freezer to crock pot recipes (which makes 6 dinners!), and they took me less than an hour to put together. It probably would have taken me even less time had I not been nursing a tweaked lower back... I was pretty slow movin. Anyway, we had this lovely for dinner last night, and it was fantastic!

Something about this soup screamed, "Season me with Old Bay!". So I did, and the flavors meshed together perfectly!! As you can see in the picture I used shredded chicken breast, because I already had some cooked and frozen. So I'm thinking you can use any type of chicken you want here. The next time I make this, I'm going to add more veggies. The soup was great on it's own, but some carrots and zucchini would be great in here, and fresh celery added the day of b/c celery doesn't freeze well. Some freshly torn kale would also be great thrown in the last 30 minutes of cooking also. You might need to add more broth if you add more veggies, just keep that in mind. I also decided to add four cups (instead of two cups) of chicken broth because it didn't have enough liquid in my opinion.

One more thing I want to mention is to make sure you're using the proper size of crock pot for cooking. If you've ever had an issue with cooking in the crock pot, you might be using the wrong size for your recipe. Did you know your crock pot should be at least 2/3 full? I must have forgotten that, because I tried another freezer to crock pot meal, and it barely filled my crock pot 1/3 of the way and at the end of cooking, all I had was a pot of mush. I don't prefer to eat mush for dinner. It makes me sad. So, for recipes like this, that maybe come half way up a larger crock pot (mine is a 6 quart), you might want to invest in a smaller 3 quart crock pot. They're about $15, so thankfully it's not a big ticket item! I don't have a small one yet, so I've been checking my recipes about half way through cooking time, and it's worked OK, but I do plan on picking up a small crock pot this week.

We served this soup with a salad and some homemade whole wheat biscuits. It was delightful! I'm so happy I still have another bag of it in my freezer!!

Chicken and Corn Soup from Love, Eat, Feast

1 lb red potatoes
1 lb sweet potatoes
4 lbs chicken thighs
4 cups chicken broth, I used 8 (which I will add the morning of)
4 scallions
4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
1 bag frozen corn
2 red peppers chopped

Mix all of the ingredients for each recipe together and divide evenly into two, 1 gallon sized freezer bags per recipe. Seal, and freeze. On the day of, thaw the bag on the counter for about 30 minutes (I didn't do this, I just whacked mine on the counter a few times until all of the clumps broke up into pieces), dump into the crockpot, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Meatless Monday: No Boil Three Cheese Manicotti (Freezer Meal)

I've been loving convenience meals as of late. Some days I just don't feel like spending much time in the kitchen, but I still want to be able to feed my family a delicious and homemade meal. Now, freezer meals are a great solution to this, but this recipe is one of the easiest freezer meals I've made! You don't have to cook anything first, not even the manicotti/pasta. It's even more genius because you don't have to "spoon" the filling into the manicotti shells. Mom on a Mission suggests filling the pasta with a Ziploc bag that has a hole cut into a corner. It couldn't be any easier! I put together two nights of meals in less than ten minutes. Um, hello! That's what I'm talkin about!

The bigger bonus? These are delicious!! If you're leery of the cottage cheese, don't be. I don't like cottage cheese at all, but it melts completely, so you don't notice it's there! And, it's cheaper than ricotta, win-win. My only suggestion for future batches is more marinara sauce! I think you could add another cup (or more) of marinara on top of each dish, and it would benefit greatly. My husband and I really enjoyed these, we served them with a side salad and sauteed green beans. I hope you'll give this recipe a try. It takes minutes to put together, and it tastes like you spent hours working on it! I love these kinds of freezer meals!

No Boil Three Cheese Manicotti from Mom on a Mission
No bowl, spoon or boiling required to make this frugal, freezer-friendly meal for your family.

Filling Ingredients (Place inside a gallon size freezer bag):
2 cups cottage cheese
1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese
Add: 1 ½ teaspoons Italian Seasoning
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Remaining Ingredients:
1-8oz. package manicotti
½ cup mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Jar or can of favorite marinara sauce
cooking spray

Combine filling ingredients and gently knead until thoroughly mixed.

Clip a small corner, about 1/2", of the bag and proceed to fill manicotti according to desired tray size.

2-8x8 pans: Spread 1/4 cup sauce in each pan. Pipe 1/2 cup of cheese filling into each tray of manicotti. Top with 1/4 cup mozzarella and 1/8 Parmesan cheese.

1-9x13 pan: Spread about 1/2 cup sauce in pan. Pipe all cheese into both trays. Pour remaining sauce on top. Top with the remaining shredded cheese.

Cover shells completely with sauce.

Label and spray with foil to prevent cheese from sticking. Cover completely.

Baking Day: Thaw 24 hours. Bake covered at 375 for one hour until shells are tender. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Grilled Garlic-Rosemary Potatoes

This Summer in the Pacific Northwest we had a few really, really hot days. In a row. That's not like us. Anyway, when days like that roll around, the last thing you want to do is turn on the stove to fix dinner. So unless you're eating out, you're probably grilling. I had a hankering for potatoes during one of these hot days, and I came across this recipe on Pinterest. It doesn't require a ton of ingredients, and it takes a couple of minutes to put together. The final product is outstanding. Super flavorful, creamy potatoes with a garlicy, herby, smokey taste. The potatoes closest to the heat on the grill get a little bit crispy and brown. They're wonderful!

Grilled Garlic-Rosemary Potatoes
Makes 4-6 side dish portions.

About 2 lb. red potatoes, quartered
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 rosemary sprigs
Salt and pepper
Mix-In Ideas: Other Garden Herbs, Chives or Green Onions, Bacon Crumbles, What else?!?

1. Wash the potatoes and rosemary and pat dry.

2. Add the olive oil and crush garlic to a mixing bowl.

3. Add chopped rosemary and some salt and pepper.

4. Add in the quartered red potatoes and toss the potatoes with the oil and rosemary.

5. Place a few spoonfuls on a piece of foil.

6. Wrap the potatoes into packets.

7. Grill the potato packets for about 10-15 minutes, mine took closer to 30-40 minutes

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sloppy Sophisto Joes

Soppy Joes, a kid favorite if I've ever heard of one... But it wasn't one of mine. There's a few things about Sloppy Joes I don't like, one of those is soggy bread. It literally makes me gag. I also don't care for the flavor of Manwich, too sweet for my liking.  Unfortunately for me, every time I've had Sloppy Joes, they've been a soggy, too sweet, nasty mess. That is unitl I came across this recipe. 

I can't remember how I first found this recipe, but I was definitely intrigued. Sophisticated Sloppy Joes sounded like something right up my alley. The flavors of onions, carrots, celery, spices, red wine and Worcestershire sauce didn't sound like anything that could come out of a can of Manwich. I decided to make my own hamburger buns, and give this a try.

All I can say is that it was fantastic! Didn't taste any Sloppy Joe I'd had before, and to battle a soggy bun I toasted them first! I served these with some fresh sweet onion, pickles and a drizzle of mustard. Quite delicious if you ask me. When I make this now, I always make a double batch because as the Galley Gourmet suggested, it freeze beautifully! If you want to try a new spin on Sloppy Joes, or you're a hater like I once was, then this is a recipe for you!

Sloppy Sophisto Joes from the Galley Gourmet
makes 6 servings

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

6 buns, sliced
mayonnaise (not the salad dressing stuff)
yellow mustard
sweet onion, like Vidalia or Georgia, sliced into rings
bread and butter pickles

In a large skillet ( bigger if you are doubling the recipe) over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion and sauté until it begins to brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add the carrot, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the beef and cook until brown, breaking up any large clumps, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, remaining salt and black pepper and cook, stirring every few moments, for 2 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring for another minute.  Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar and boil, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with additional salt and black pepper if needed.

To serve
Toast your buns! Slather a bit of mayonnaise on each bun half (I didn't do this).  Spoon some of the meat sauce on the bottom of each of the buns, top with a few onion slices, some bread and butter pickles, and a drizzle of yellow mustard.  Add the top half of the bun (I ate mine open-faced). Enjoy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Meatless Monday: Three Cheese Mini Macs

Ah Macaroni and Cheese, dontcha just love it? I sure do! These little beauties are not only cute, but they are delicious!! The first time I made these was for a good friend's baby shower. They were a huge hit, and super easy to make! Cook the pasta to al dente, make a roux (flour, butter, milk) and stir in cheese! Then bake for a few minutes and you're set!

These bites are not only great as an appetizer, but how perfect are these for kids? I don't see why you couldn't freeze them either! You could probably make them in a regular sized muffin tin, but you may need to increase the baking time. Whatever size you choose, just make them, they're fantastic!

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, shaking off the excess water.

Brush four 12-cup, nonstick mini muffin tins with butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano; tap out the excess.

In a large saucepan, melt the 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until boiling, about 5 minutes. Add the cheddar and American cheeses and whisk until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolk and paprika. Fold in the macaroni.

Spoon slightly rounded tablespoons of the macaroni into the prepared muffin cups, packing them gently. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano on top.

Bake the mini macs in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using a small spoon, carefully loosen the mini macs, transfer to a platter and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The recipe can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated overnight.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Baked Green Bean Fries with Lemon Garlic Aioli and P.F. Chang's Green Bean Sauce (aka Sriracha Mayo)

If you've ever been to P.F. Changs, and you didn't order their Green Bean Fries, then you're missing out. If you've ever been to TGI Friday's, and you didn't order their Green Bean Fries, then you're missing out. The GB Fries at P.F. Changs aren't the same as the GB Fries at TGI Friday's. P.F Changs does a tempura batter on theirs and serves them with a sriracha mayo sauce, while TGI Friday's has a breadcrumb type of coating and serves them with a wasabi ranch sauce. Seriously, who doesn't like fries? Even better, who doesn't like vegetables when they taste like fries?! If you aren't one of those people, then this recipe isn't for you, sorry.

I've made a fried version of this recipe before, but I had to fry too many batches because I don't have a fryer. I can't have a fryer in the house. I will literally fry everything. It's a fact. I digress... So when I came across this recipe for a baked version coated in panko, I was super excited! They were easy to make too. The first time I made these, they were served along P.F. Chang's Lettuce wraps and the copycat Green Bean Fry sauce from P.F. Changs. They were fabulous! The second time I made them I served them with a Lemon Garlic Aioli, also fabulous! Might I also add, tonight at dinner my toddler gobbled about 10 of these down, and kept asking for more. Also, this is a great way to use up all of the green beans some of you have coming out of your garden.

I've given both of the sauce recipes at the bottom of the post so you can choose one or make them both! Either way, you'll want to try these!

Baked Green Bean Fries from Prevention RD

1/2 lb green beans
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 cup skim milk
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
Kosher salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Fill a large pan with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a boil. While water comes to a boil, trim the green beans. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.

Blanch the beans for 3 minutes and immediately remove them to the ice bath.

To prepare beans, gather three bowls. In the first bowl, combine the flour and spices. In the second bowl, combine the egg and milk, whisking to combine. In the third and final bowl, place the panko and season with salt and pepper. Remove 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture and whisk into the egg/milk mixture.

Pat the beans dry and dredge in the flour mixture, then into the milk/egg mixture, and finally into the panko to coat. Arrange the beans in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil which has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Prepare all of the beans in that manner. Lightly spray beans with olive oil spray.

Bake beans at 425 F for 15 minutes, or until slightly browned.

Lemon-garlic Aioli from Heather Likes Food

3/4 C mayonnaise
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely mined
1/8 tsp black pepper

Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper and stir. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors blend.

P. F. Changs Sauce for Fried Green Beans adapted from

1 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons sirachi hot chili sauce
6 green onions, whites only, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Place ingredients in blender or food processor and mix til smooth.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Easy Garlic & Dill Pickles

We went to my parent's house in Spokane over Labor Day weekend, and ended up coming home with two giant bags of garden bounty. My parent's neighbor called and told my mom and I to come over and pick from her garden. Holy cow this garden was huge! She had zucchini, crookneck squash, two kinds of cucumbers, spaghetti squash, winter squash and green beans. My mom and I both picked to our hearts content and after we got back home, she gave me her entire bag of produce. So needless to say, I came home with more produce than I knew what to do with! I don't like eating the same thing, the same way all of the time so I decided to make a few jars of pickles out of some of the cucumbers I got. I had everything on hand, aside from the dill. These literally took minutes to throw together, and they were ready in 24 hours!

These are some of the tastiest pickles I've ever had! I prefer Claussen pickles, you can find them in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. They are super crisp and crunchy. These homemade pickles are just like the Claussen's, being perfectly crisp and crunchy. It's just the right amount of sugar, not making them overly sweet, you just get a hint of sweet. I didn't have coriander seeds called for here, but I've seen other recipes call for mustard seeds so I just used those. I also don't think the cucumbers I had were the kirby variety, but since they were so small I used them and had no problems! I imagine you could cut the cucumbers any way you want to. If I had thought about it more, I would have sliced them into planks (lengthwise). Those are perfect for sandwiches. But I suppose you could cut them into rounds as well. Totally up to you!

One more tip for you. If your cucumbers start to go limp, cut them into your desired shapes then soak them in ice water for an hour and they'll be as good as new! So if you've got cucumbers coming out of your ears and don't know what to do with them, try making some of these delicious pickles!

Easy Garlic and Dill Pickles adapted from a Couple Cooks

Recipe fills a one quart jar of pickles

What You Need
1 quart mason jar with lid
12 ounces of kirby cucumbers (about 6 small cucumbers)
3 cloves garlic
8 sprigs fresh dill
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (I used mustard seeds)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup water

What To Do

1  Wash the mason jar and lid in hot soapy water, rinse, and let air dry.

2  Quarter the cucumbers into four slices each, lengthwise. Cut the garlic cloves in half.

3  In an extra mason jar or covered container, combine 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt and 2/3 cup white vinegar. Tightly close the lid and shake vigorously until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add 1 cup water to the mixture.

4  In the clean mason jar, tightly pack the sliced cucumbers, sliced garlic, and 8 sprigs of fresh dill.

5  Pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers. Tap the jar on the counter to release any air bubbles and top off the jar with extra water if any cucumbers are exposed.

6  Place the lid on the jar and screw on the ring until it is tight. Leave the jar in the fridge for 24 hours before tasting. The pickles last up to one month refrigerated (but they won’t stick around that long in our house).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Meatless Monday: Summer Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is a newer favorite of mine. As a child, I hated canned tomato soup! I still don't like how sweet it is. Yuck. But as an adult I've come around to tomato soup, although not canned. Tomato basil bisque is one of my favorite soups of all time, but lately I've been making quick tomato soup for lunch. I normally saute some veggies, add a can of tomatoes and simmer for awhile then blend until smooth. 

This Summer I traveled to the nearest food Co-op to our new house. It was a really pretty drive up I-5 through farm country, and you get to go 70mph, woot! While I was at the co-op, the locally grown fennel was calling my name. I wasn't entirely sure what I'd do with it, but I knew it wouldn't take too much thought as I love fennel. I ended up craving tomato soup the next day, so I came up with this lovely recipe. It's chalk full of fresh veggies, tomatoes, white wine (you can use chicken broth if you want), and fresh herbs. It's wonderful! I served this with a  sourdough grilled cheese sandwich, that's a perfect pair in my opinion. Give this soup a try, it's quick, easy and delicious!

Summer Tomato Soup by Haley
1T butter
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 sprigs lemon thyme or thyme, leaves stripped, add stalks to soup
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves stripped
1/2c dry white wine
2 cans diced tomatoes or 4-5 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock, add more while blending if you want a "thinner" soup
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of fresh basil, torn into small pieces

Melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Add fennel, celery, onion, garlic, thyme (including stalks) and rosemary. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until veggies are translucent.

Pour in wine, and scrape pot of any bits that have stuck to the bottom. Once wine has began to bubble, add in tomatoes and chicken broth. When the mixture has come to a boil, turn down to medium-low and simmer, stirring every few minutes, for 15-30 minutes. Depending on how much time you have.

Remove thyme stalks from the pot and puree using a blender, food processor or immersion blender. I like mine completely smooth, but you can blend to your preference. If you want thinner soup, add more chicken broth now. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle basil on top when serving. If you want to be fancy, drizzle on a little bit of olive oil when serving. Serve warm.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Homemade Yogurt, Part Two

Last winter, I started making my own yogurt. I love yogurt, but my daughter also loves it and those four packs of YoBaby yogurt are $2.69. That's nuts, especially because all you need to make your own yogurt is some milk, and a little bit of yogurt to get the cultures started. I started using a method I previously posted, but it only worked twice for me and after those two times I ended up with three or four epic fails. I don't know what I did wrong because I followed the recipe exactly, but I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is to wait 8+ hours for yogurt to process, and it doesn't turn out. Let me just say it's a sad, sad day.

So, I tried another recipe using a cooler, and that one was "ok". I didn't love the finished product. So, I went off to Pinterest to find another recipe. I've heard of people having great success using a crock pot, but I'm picky in the way that I like to make my yogurt in jars instead of in a big pot. Less mess, and seems easier in my opinion. Then I came across a recipe for thick and creamy yogurt from Homeland Renaissance. It looked simple and it was a method for processing yogurt in jars. So I tried it this weekend, and after 6 hours of processing, I've got my yogurt mojo back, and that makes me very happy!

A few things I thought you might like to know about my yogurt making. I bought a 12 pack of 4oz canning jars for our yogurt. It's about the same size as the YoBaby yogurts, and it's a great size for a grab-and-go snack. My batch of yogurt makes 12 4oz jars, and two 16oz jars. You can use any size jar you like, I just really loved the idea of individual servings, and not having to scoop yogurt out of a jar everyday. Another great thing about this new recipe is that you sterilize your jars in the oven, you don't have to deal with boiling water, which can be messy and painful ;) You can also use other extracts in your yogurt. Lemon, orange,coconut, raspberry or almond would all be delicious! You can also leave the sweetener and extracts out of your yogurt if you'd prefer plain yogurt. Also, 6 hours is the minimum that Heartland Renaissance gives for the yogurt to "process". The longer you let it go, the tangier it gets. I might let mine go another hour or two on the next batch.

Now, here's the fun part. My batch of yogurt makes the equivalent of 5 packs YoBaby yogurts, which would cost me $13.45 if I bought them at the store. But my batch of yogurt cost $2.50, and that's using organic milk. I didn't calculate the vanilla or sweetener because that's stuff I always have on hand anyway. That's a substantial savings, and I can feel good knowing exactly what's in the yogurt.

Alright, hopefully I've given you some inspiration to try your hand at yogurt making. It's easy, delicious and costs pennies compared to the store-bought stuff!

Homemade Yogurt, adapted from Homeland Renaissance and Trina Holden at All That Is Good

Half Gallon (8 cups) Milk, I make mine with organic whole milk
1/2 cup maple syrup, honey, or sweetener of choice (for sweet yogurt)
1T vanilla extract (for vanilla yogurt)
1/4 cup Yogurt Culture (The yogurt culture is simply a little bit of previously made yogurt, or purchased yogurt with live and active cultures. Whole milk yogurt is my choice)

A large pot
A Candy Thermometer
A small-ish bowl and spoon
Glass Jars to hold the yogurt
A funnel or large pitcher
Dish Towels or two to wrap around the jars

1. Pour milk, sweetener and vanilla (if using) into your pot and affix candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Turn heat on medium.

2.  Place jars in the oven (I place my jars on my baking stone) and turn oven to 200 degrees. As long as the oven stays on for 30 minutes at least, the jars will be sterilized from this process.

3.  Place your yogurt culture into the bowl and allow it to warm to room temperature while your milk heats.

4.  Allow milk to gradually heat until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This normally takes about half an hour. Once it reaches 180 degrees, turn off from heat but do not remove from burner.

5.  Turn off oven. Do not open doors or remove jars.

6.  Allow milk to gradually reduce in heat until it reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit (normally takes about half an hour). Discard any film that has formed on top, then remove a  cup or two of the warm milk to the bowl with the yogurt culture and whisk briskly with a spoon or fork until well-combined and there are no lumps. Return milk and yogurt culture to the pot and stir into the remaining warm milk.

7.  Remove jars from the oven and, using the funnel, pour the cultured milk into the jars before returning them to the oven. Wrap a thick dish towel around each jar and leave, uncapped in the closed, warm oven for 6 to 8 hours. Do not disturb the jars.

That’s it! After 6 to 8 hours, remove jars from oven, check to make sure they’ve set, cap and place in your fridge! I’ve also forgotten the yogurt in the oven overnight, effectively making almost 24-hour yogurt, with no ill effects. But six hours is normally my goal.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sauce for Pumpkin Spice Lattes

A funny thing happens to me four times a year. I am always ready for the new season about a month before they're set to change. So with Fall coming in a few weeks, I'm already craving cooler weather, cozy evenings at home, sweaters, leaves changing, hearty meals and pumpkin. I can make as many pumpkin recipes as I like, but one thing I really love is the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. Unfortunately for me, and many of my friends I've found, is that Starbucks doesn't carry Pumpkin Spice all year round. Boo. So what's a pregnant woman with a craving to do? Head to Pinterest of course!

I looked up a few different recipes, and I've tried two of them. This one was the winner. It's thick like the Pumpkin Spice sauce, it's not runny like a syrup. It's perfect in my opinion, and I am so happy to cure my craving for dollars less than I'd pay at Starbucks. A note to you if you don't have all of the spices listed. It can become expensive to buy entire jars of the spice, especially if you don't normally cook or bake with that spice. So instead of buying an entire jar, check to see if your grocery store has a bulk spice section. In my area, I've found them at Fred Meyer, QFC and Winco. It'll cost you pennies instead of lots of dollars :)

If you'd like to enjoy Pumpkin Spice any time of year, or if you'd like to enjoy it at home, give this recipe a try!

Pumpkin Spice Syrup for Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Baker Girl

1/3 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon cinnamon, or a couple of cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep syrup from burning.

Let mixture cook together until it becomes syrup-y and begins to coat the spoon (for about 10-15 minutes), then remove from heat.

Refrigerate in a heat-proof container. The syrup will thicken a bit in the refrigerator, but will become syrup-y again when heated.

To make pumpkin spice latte, heat syrup with milk (about 2 cups of milk and 2-3 tablespoons of syrup, depending on how much milk or creamer you want to use and how pumpkin-y sweet you want your latte. I usually use about 2 tablespoons syrup + 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream to cut down on the sugar.). Pour into a blender or whisk until frothy, for about ten seconds (to make it thick and prevent the pumpkin from settling on the bottom). Pour into cup and stir in about 1/2 cup or more of strong, hot coffee.