Archive | August, 2013

Raw Yogurt the Lazy way

31 Aug

Well, I know that some of you were looking forward to the beyond mouth watering donuts that I posted on Facebook this morning.  I even started writing the post.

Here, I’ll just share the picture.

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I know, right?!

But, as I was writing some of the nuances of the recipe, I decided that I needed to tweek it some.  It has too many changes that could be made before it is perfect.

So, my family will get donuts a couple more times this week so I can share with you.  And today, I’ll tell you the cheater way to make Raw yogurt.

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There are lots of really amazing bloggers who have gone to the trouble of figuring out the right yogurt cultures to buy and cultivate to make the creamiest and thickest yogurt.  There are some who have even shown us how to use a yogurt maker or a crockpot.

I am not one of them.

Let me tell you a little secret about me.  I have done all that too.  But guess what, I can’t keep a starter alive for more than about 3 weeks.  Believe me, I have tried.  I have had some pretty amazing starters.  Some that have traveled across the world!

And yet, they all die in my kitchen.

It is the only thing that doesn’t get enough food in my house!

So, while you, dear reader, might be much better at growing bacteria than I, if you are here, it means you would like an easier way.  THAT, I can do.

Now, you might be wondering why we should even eat raw milk yogurt.  (I am assuming that you already know all the amazing benefits of raw milk and have assessed the risks.)   That is a good question.  Yogurt is often recommended for its cultures.  It is a probiotic in that it has active bacteria strains that have been shown in studies to provide health benefits in those who can tolerate it.  Did you know that we are mostly made up of bacteria?  Yeah, it is true.  We actually need to continuously feed our bacteria more bacteria to keep our bacterial bodies happy.  It’s like a microbial party going on all the time!

So, if yogurt has all those benefits, why should we bother with raw?

Well, at least in my family, a couple of my people are lactose intolerant.  My son is also allergic to pasteurized dairy.  And to be honest, after going raw, I don’t do so well with pasteurized dairy either.  Making this yogurt at home means that we can all partake equally.  This saves me from buying different types of yogurt for each intolerance or allergy.   Saving money and time?  Um, yes thank you!

There are actually all kinds of other reasons, not the least of which is the amount of time that most companies allow (or don’t allow) their products to culture.

So here we go.

This takes all of 10 minutes of active time.  If that.

Start with a high quality organic (preferably grass fed) WHOLE MILK PLAIN store bought yogurt.  I use Straus, although I have used Nancy’s and Trader Joe’s brand and Clover.  My favorite is Straus.  It gives me the best texture most consistently.  This is your starter.  It has all the active cultures present and it doesn’t have to be kept alive.  *Ahem*

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One quart sized container of yogurt will make 7 quarts of raw yogurt.  You don’t have to make it all at once, though I do.  It keeps for about 3-4 weeks in the back of the fridge so you can make a quart at a time, do the whole shebang like I do, or find your balance somewhere in between.  For us, it is an easy lunch and smoothie filler that the kids love so 7 quarts really only last us about 2 weeks.

The rule of thumb here is 1 rounded TBSP per CUP of raw milk.  That comes out to just over 1/4 cup of yogurt to 1 quart of raw milk.

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I just put it into the quart sized mason jar by the tablespoon and then add the raw milk to the top.  It is not an exact science.  Don’t stress it.

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If you happen to have any extra raw cream hanging around, a sneaky trick is to add extra cream before you add the milk.  This makes it…yep, you guessed it, more CREAMY!  If I have some I will usually add about 2-3 tbsp of cream per jar.  If I have a ton, (hardly ever), then I will add up to 1/2 cup more per jar.  Those are the best yogurts ever.

Once they are full of milk, you just mix them with a spoon.  I recommend wooden spoons just because of the rare possibility that stirring with a metal spoon in a glass jar can break the glass.

Um…yes.  It HAS happened to me.   Thanks for the reminder.  Sigh.

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Top it with cheese cloth or a coffee filter and the jar ring.  Or if you can’t find the rings just use a rubber band around the top.  Works just as well.

These can be left on the counter, put in a warmish cupboard, or even put in your dehydrator set at 85 degrees.  Some people have put them in the oven, with just the light on to give it warmth.  The goal is to keep it kinda warm or it will take longer to culture.  On a hot summer day, this will be ready in 12-18 hours.  During the colder months it can take anywhere from 24-72 hours to completely culture.

How to know it is done:

None of my pictures would show it well enough so I will describe it carefully.

It is done when you look at the sides of the jar and can see teeny tiny little bubbles in the yogurt.  I mean tiny.  These are not big air bubbles.  Just a small indicator that the stuff is not so liquidy anymore.  Also, if you tilt the jar, the yogurt will come away from the inner side of the jar in a thicker texture, usually leaving the jar without a film.

If you let it go too long and the whey begins to separate, you have a couple of choices.

You can mix it back in.  Usually that works fine.

OR you can use a cheesecloth, at least a few layers thick, pour the yogurt into the cloth, tie it closed and hang it over a bowl overnight.  You will then have a very thick yogurt, or a nice creamy cream cheese.  Plus, you have a cultured whey which can then be used for feeding chickens, preserving fermented foods, adding to salsa to extend the life, or just using in smoothies.

The finished product is usually the consistency of the starter yogurt.  Sometimes it is thicker, sometimes more runny.

My kidlets eat this stuff just about everyday with some frozen berries or fresh fruit and a tiny bit of maple syrup, (unless I am not looking; then the maple syrup mysteriously evaporates very rapidly).  The frozen stuff is great for the runnier yogurt.  Thickens it right up!

We also use it for baking, smoothies, and once I even made it into frozen yogurt.  That was yummy too!

Let me know how it works for you!

My New Friend

29 Aug

Growing up in a family with 5 siblings, I didn’t get much alone time.  I guess it stuck, because I didn’t really like that much alone time, (until after I became a stay at home mom that is).

Before kids, I didn’t like going to the store alone.  Forget about the movies.

By myself?

Are you crazy?

Who will share the experience with me?!    Who will I laugh with?!  Or cry with?

I found that the same was true for exercise.  I liked running.  I especially liked running when someone would go with me.  In high school, I ran all the time, but that was mostly for basketball.  Then, I was always surrounded by my teammates who were just as miserable as I was.  In college, I found that my best friends were the ones who first were my running partners.  In fact, one of my college running buddies ran with me all the way up until I had my third and fourth kids.  (Twins)

About a year after they were born, I had a back injury, probably due to running.  It was a herniated disc which made running pretty impossible.  I forget sometimes, how bad it was.  But then I read the blog I wrote when I was making the decision for surgery and it reminds me.

I am better now.  Still have some numbness down my leg, even 4 years after surgery.  But it is really minor compared to what it was.  The main issue is that I am not supposed to be running.  Like, ever again.

Sigh.

Oh, and don’t forget, I homeschool and go to school (online).  Try that for making meeting up with friends to go exercise just about impossible!  And classes.  Bleck.  I mean…

I think you get now that I am what is called a buddy exerciser.  This makes it pretty challenging to be motivated to stay active without a buddy.  I mean, the kids are one thing, but they are not a buddy…

Enter my new friend.  (This is seriously not an advertisement.  I am not getting paid for this.  Though, that might not be a bad idea…)

I just got a fitbit a couple weeks ago.  Now, I don’t wear mine at night because I think we need to have at least one place in the house where we can escape the wireless electronics. (Read this link.  Worth further study, I think.) But it is set up so that you can track your sleeping habits as well.

(By the way, here is a really good article about artificial light and bad sleep.  I love Chris Kresser!)

I have to tell you, it has motivated me like a friend!  The goal is to get 10,000 steps per day.  That goal is adjustable, but that is the beginning level.  You can add people as friends on your fitbit profile page, though I have only added one so far.  Tonight, I went and did 50 minutes on my elliptical, which I normally hate.  When I was at about 30 minutes, and TIRED, I looked at my fitbit lights, (they light up based on how close you are to your goal) and realized I still had more than 20% left to go.

I swear, it was like hearing it say, “Come on!  You can keep going!  I’m not done yet!”

Um.  You are a sucky mean great friend.  So, okay.  Fine.  I’m going.

Of course, it is not a perfect friend.  It didn’t count half of my elliptical steps…um, thanks for nothing…?

But to its credit, it totally counted all my steps when I was making 6 meals on Sunday!  I did more than 3 miles in my kitchen!

So, I am taking the good with the bad.  And getting to know my friend better, as it makes me walk.  A lot.  All day.  Everyday.  With the kids.  And without the kids…

I think I need to name her.

Nutty pesto

28 Aug

Who doesn’t like a good pesto?

Well, okay, I didn’t.  I am not sure if it was the overpowering basil and garlic flavor that I didn’t like, or if it was just that I had never had FRESHLY made pesto.  Lemme tell you, freshness makes a world of difference!

Not too long ago, I was watching Lidia of Italy on the Create channel.  Yes, that is what I watch for fun.  Did I mention that I don’t have cable?  Makes for some interesting tv viewing choices, lemme tell you. But at least my kids only know the shows that are on PBS.  ANYWAY, she mentioned that pesto could be made with any nut.

Wait.  What?  Any?

Well, I have to tell you, that got me off the couch and into the kitchen almost immediately.  The possibilities are suddenly endless!  And did I mention easy?  Seriously.  This takes all of about 5 minutes to make.

So here we go:

Nutty Pesto

1-1 1/2 cups any nut (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pinenuts, cashews, etc)

3 or 4 cloves fresh garlic

2 cups basil

1 cup parsley or spinach

1/4 cup olive oil, or up to 1/2 cup (I use Chaffin Family Orchard brand)

1 tsp sea salt (or more or less to taste)

For this recipe I used raw organic pecans.  Start by grinding them up in the food processor until they are a course ground.

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Pull the skins off of the garlic.  Easy way to do this is to lay it on the chop board, lay the flat of a large knife on top and then slam it down with your hand.

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Then dump that into the food processor.

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Add the salt, basil and the parsley. (This is where the spinach should go in if it is in season.) I used these fresh from the garden.

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Start to grind and add the olive oil as it grinds up.

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When it is a nice texture, maybe 2 or 3 minutes later.  Take it out and taste it.

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Yum!  Serve over chicken, or mix into cooked rice noodles with some Parmesan cheese.  Super easy meal, in almost no time.  Kid tested.

Whole chicken to Dinner

27 Aug

 One of the ways we save money is to buy our pastured chickens whole.  That means that if we want to make a dish requiring cuts of chicken, I have to cut it myself.  Fortunately, I found a way, after watching multiple youtube videos, to cut it almost effortlessly.  Remember, this is the Lazy Chef way, which means there are not going to be gorgeous presentations at a gourmet dinner.  This is family cooking at it’s best. 

So, what better way to share my chicken cutting technique than on youtube!   This video was made a couple years ago for a friend.  I actually had her hunt it down for me from her archives so I could youtube it and share with all of you!  So thanks, Tracey! 

Just as a word of caution, this is a chicken.  And I am cutting it up.  So if you are squeamish about meat or the reality of food, you should not watch.  Seriously.  

Tomorrow, I will be sharing my pesto recipe.  This is a great way to cover the chicken we just cut…stay tuned!

 

Who is the lazy chef?

24 Aug

Let me be clear.  I consider myself a lazy chef because I just do not have time to spend three hours in the kitchen making these Cordon-Bleu-level-of-perfection masterpieces.  However, I love food, as long as it is REAL food, and I love to make things taste good.  I have a pretty good understanding of much of the science behind how foods work, both in the body and when combined in cooking.    I eat real, whole, straight from the farm foods, and that ain’t always easy!   All my recipes reflect that as a life philosophy, and I hope you can join in and enjoy the flavor life takes on when it is real.

I also have a story, just like each of you has a story.  Mine includes an amazing hubby, four kids under 12, homeschooling, multiple degrees in education and a degree in progress for Holistic Nutrition.  (Can you say over-achiever?)  It also includes growing up in the middle of the country with a great big garden and chickens, having chickens in our urban backyard on the west coast, and cooking for a kid with multiple allergies.  (Hubby wanted me to put urban “homesteading” backyard, just to make a point.  You’ll have to ask me about that for more info on the inside joke!)

Oh, and did I mention that I am very opinionated?  I don’t always share them, but I almost always have a strong opinion about any given topic.  My goal though, is to always be courteous when sharing mine, so that you can be courteous when sharing yours.

Intrigued yet?  No?  Then this blog is not for you.

My true purpose in starting this blog, (cuz I already have one that I rarely ever use), is to have a record of the recipes I make since I am always forgetting to write them down.  So, follow along, try my recipes, alter them and let me know how it worked for you!

Simple Bruschetta on Sourdough Crostini

24 Aug

Lately, we have been getting a lot of tomatoes and basil in our CSA box.  I also heard recently that basil can help deal with flies so I bought a couple plants to put in the backyard with the chickens.  It didn’t work, but that is another story.  Now we have basil coming out of our ears.

I have to preface this by saying I am not a huge fan of tomatoes.  (I know, I know!  But it is a texture thing!!!)  Bruschetta has never been something I look forward to eating.  Usually, I take all the massive amounts of tomatoes that come in the box and from my garden, (I know, I know, but they grow so well!!!), and cook them all down into sauce.  Mmmmm, tomato sauce.

Anyway, Hubby and I spent our 15th anniversary in Santa Barbara just a few weeks ago, WITHOUT KIDS, and had a meal at our very favorite restaurant over there, Blue Agave. Everything we have ever had there has been fantastic so I highly recommend it.  This time, after we sat down to browse the menus, our sweet server brought us a plate with two tiny bruschetta on crostinis.  I was so hungry, I didn’t care what the food was, I just needed a bite.

A. Bite.  Oh.  My.

It was UH-Mazing!  By the time Hubby looked up from his menu, I was down to only a tiny bite left.  I struggled.  Then sacrificed it to him.  Just so he could understand…

We asked for more when she took our order.

I ordered a margharita pizza just to replicate the flavors.

Then we came home.  To basil.  And tomatoes.  And my desire to re-create the incredible taste.

So I did.

And now I’m going to share it with you.  Just please, don’t complain about the terrible quality of the pictures.  I know.  You should see how badly cracked my screen has become.  Sorry.

Bruschetta on Sourdough Crostini

Bruschetta

Tomatoes, garlic (or garlic powder), sea salt, basil, olive oil, grated/shredded Parmesan cheese- preferably grass fed.
1.  Start with fresh tomatoes.  Make sure they smell like tomatoes too, strong.  I used a variety of heirloom tomatoes.

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2.  Throw about 2 cups worth into the blender.  Don’t bother peeling or de-seeding them.  You could cut out the little stem part if it is particularly tough, but my vitamix makes it all look the same.  Blend until there are no big chunks left.  I like it to be pretty much like sauce, but it is okay to leave small chunks.

3.  Put that into a saucepan over medium to low heat and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes.  Add some fresh diced garlic, maybe 2-3 cloves.  (The easy way is to have a good quality organic garlic powder on hand.  Use about 1/2 tsp. if you don’t have time to chop.)

4.  When it is just about done, prepare an ice bath and add a pan inside that.

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My bowls are old and dented.  Hopefully you don’t have that problem.

Dump that heated sauce into the bowl inside the ice bowl and let it cool for a few minutes.

5.  While that is cooling take another 2-3 tomatoes and chop them into small pieces.  Put that into a glass bowl.  Add about 1 tsp sea salt.

6.  Pick about 10-15 leaves from your basil.  Image

Stack them up nice and neat, then sort of roll them toward the middle stem.  Hold it together and then cut into thin slices with a sharp knife.  Or just randomly chop them into little slivers.

7.  Add just a touch more garlic powder to the fresh tomatoes in the bowl. Then dump the cooled tomato sauce in the same bowl.  Add the slivers of basil and about 2 tsp of olive oil.  Toss lightly with a fork or spoon.

Crostini

1.  First you need to start with a really high quality sourdough.  If you can make it yourself, great!  If not, find a bakery locally that uses wild yeast and ferments the bread for longer than 8 hours!

2.  Next you need a high quality olive oil.  I use Chaffin Family Orchards from northern CA.  They will ship it and it is really good stuff.

3.  Cut the bread slices into small 2 bite sized pieces.  Lay them on a cookie sheet.  Set the oven to 400*.  Spray or brush the olive oil onto the bread.  Bake for about 4 minutes.

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4.  Take them out of the oven, flip each piece over with a fork and brush the other side with olive oil.  Put it back in for about 5 minutes.  Then they are ready to be loaded.

5.  Using a spoon, load each piece of bread with some of the bruschetta.Image

7.  Once all the bread has been stacked with yumminess, add the final touch: shredded Parmesan cheese.  (I use the raw stuff from Trader Joe’s.  I know it is not likely from grass fed cows.  It is a compromise I make because shredding parm is hard work!  Sometimes I pick up some better quality stuff from Whole Paycheck Foods.

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Next, eat at least two pieces before you tell the troops that it is ready.  Otherwise you will be lucky to get any at all.  As you can see, I didn’t even bother wiping the cheese off my hands before sneaking the first taste.

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Mmmmm.  Just like I remember!

And the kids like it too!

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