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How To Make Yogurt

4 Sep

There are a lot of yogurt tutorials out there. It’s understandable, because yogurt is much cheaper to make than buy. And in theory, it’s easy to make: heat milk, cool milk, add starter, incubate, refrigerate.

But if you screw it up, you end up with slimy sour milk. Shudder.

Most of the yogurt tutorials are either too complicated or simplified. I took a complicated recipe and pared it down to a level that I am comfortable with.


  • Double boiler, improvised is fine
  • Digital thermometer with temperature alarm
  • Stirring spoon
  • Ladle
  • Yogurt Containers, like GlassLock
  • Heating Pad
  • Towel


  • Half gallon of whole milk
  • Yogurt starter, either freeze dried or 4 Tablespoons of plain yogurt with live active cultures


  • Set up your double boiler. I use a mixing bowl over a saucepan of water. I’ve tried not using a double boiler, but I keep scorching the milk. Even worse than yogurt that tastes like burnt milk is cleaning the burnt milk out of a pot.
  • Pour the milk into the top part of your double boiler. Heat the milk to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally, and use the fancy thermometer’s alarm to warn you when it’s getting close.
  • Hold milk at a temperature between 180° and 185°F for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Adjust the stove temperature as necessary. This step is important to make the yogurt nice and thick.
  • Turn off stove and let milk cool down to 112°F. Again, the alarm on the digital thermometer is very helpful because it lets you walk away from the stove while the milk cools.
  • When the milk has cooled to 112°F, ladle some of the warm milk into a measuring cup or bowl. Mix the yogurt starter into the small bowl of warm milk. Add the small bowl of milk with yogurt starter back into the rest of the warm milk. Stir well.
  • Ladle warm milk into your yogurt containers.
  • Put lid on full yogurt container.
  • Place the full yogurt containers on your heating pad. Set heating pad to lowest setting. Cover containers and heating pad with a towel.
  • Let yogurt incubate for 5 hours, then remove it to the refrigerator. Let it set overnight.

Cake For A Few

3 Apr

The enormous success of five minute chocolate mug cake is more due to the joy of having warm cake in five minutes, rather than the overwhelming deliciousness of microwave cake. It’s good, but it’s not that good. And also, it’s really high in fat and calories – higher than regular cake. My gluten-free version of mug cake costs 30 Weight Watchers Points Plus – nearly my whole day’s allotment. Regular cake with icing – 14 Points Plus.

So I’ll just make a regular cake. But the problem with regular cake is that you end up with sixteen servings of cake. This might not seem like a problem, but when it comes to cake, I am weak. Very, very weak.

My solution to the dilemma of wanting cake, but not 30 points worth of cake, and not 16 servings of cake, is to make little cakes. But not cupcakes, because those things are fiddly and more work than regular cake and always end up smooshed looking and they are hard to eat. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t eat a cupcake without getting frosting on my face.

So I made a regular sized batch of cake batter and baked it in bread loaf pans! It’s half the size of a regular cake! And cake bricks are easy to stack in the freezer! I think this is why the frozen cakes are squares and rectangles, by the way. Here’s some pictures:

Cake in the bread pans, about to go in the oven.

Once the cake was out of the oven and had cooled on the rack for a while, I put both little cakes in the fridge to continue cooling while I made the frosting.

Cake after it’s cooled in the fridge for a bit.

Cake like this is supposed to have layers. So I very gently cut the cake into two layers with a serrated bread knife. This was a little tricky, because the cake is fragile and likes to break. But it ended up okay.

Cake that’s cut in half and ready to be frosted.

And then I frosted the cake, and I was half done, because there was a second cake to frost. For the second cake, I put it on parchment paper (before I started frosting it), because I was going to freeze this cake for later.

Frosted cake on parchment, ready to go in the freezer.

After freezing the cake overnight, I folded up the paper around the cake and taped it, and then put the whole package in a freezer bag.

Cake that is now ready to be stacked in the freezer.

Hooray! A cake that is only eight servings, and another one for later! I haven’t had coconut cake for years (part of being gluten-free), and this one was pretty fantastic. I used the coconut cake recipe in Gluten-Free Baking Classics, which is my hands-down favorite gluten-free baking cookbook.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese “Salad”

30 Mar

I tried to make a roasted beet salad this evening, using this recipe from the Food Network. Notice that the level of expertise is labeled “Easy.” Instead of making roasted beets, I ended up with beautiful beet chips. I took them out 10 minutes early, but they were definitely chips.

But it turned out happily, because beet chips with goat cheese, lemon juice, and scallions tastes remarkably like potato chips and dip. I wonder if this how the recipe was supposed to turn out. Somehow, I doubt it.

Picnic at the Park

16 Mar

The weather was in the seventies today, so Daisy & I met some other mothers and babies at Glasgow Park. This was my first time there and I think I have a new favorite park. There are separate play areas for small and big kids, porta-potties, green grass – everything you want at a park. I took a blanket and we sat down and had a picnic. Daisy ate squashed blueberries and quartered grape tomatoes and I had a PB&J.

Trying a grape tomato for the first time.

Daisy tries a grape tomato and gazes out at the swings.

After lunch, Daisy played “with” the other babies and tried to eat the grass and leaves. There was a four-month-old there and that little guy was just so squishy and adorable and still. I’ve forgotten already what it’s like to have a little little baby.

Daisy tried out the swings for the second time in her life, and this time she loved them. Her first ride in the swing did not impress her at all. She enjoyed them so much this time that she was swinging for an hour! We followed swings with one loop of the walking trail at the park. The trail is very popular, and for good reason. It’s lovely.

This outing reminded me why I love being a stay-at-home mother so much. At any other point in my life, 2:30 on a Thursday would have found me at a desk in an office building, either staring at my computer screen or sitting through a meeting. But on this Thursday, at 2:30 I was walking with my baby in the stroller, enjoying the first warm day of the year together.

Sliced eggplant about to be roasted.

Sliced eggplant about to go in the oven.

Tonight I am making eggplant parmesan with two of the eggplants I bought yesterday. The recipe is Lighter Eggplant Parmesan. It is different from traditional eggplant parmesan recipes in that the eggplant is roasted instead of breaded and fried. I coated the tin foil with olive oil before I put the eggplant slices on it, but I still had problems with them sticking. Maybe more olive oil next time?

I also had my first experience with different oven rack heights affecting the pans differently – my bottom pan browned much more than the top pan. I fixed it by moving the top pan to the lower rack and browning it a little extra. It’s still surprising that a few inches higher or lower in the oven makes such a difference.

I served the eggplant parmesan over gluten-free noodles and it was delicious! It’s not like my father’s eggplant parmesan, which is fried eggplant drowning in cheese with a touch of tomato sauce – completely delicious and unhealthy. This version is more tomato and eggplant heavy, but I still really like it. Definitely a make-again dish.

I went a little veggie crazy

15 Mar

Daisy and I took a little trip to Produce Junction today. I call it a trip because the closest Produce Junction is 25 miles away. But even factoring in the cost of gas into my groceries, it’s an amazing deal on fresh fruits and vegetables. For $60, I got a pound of sliced mushrooms, grape tomatoes, 2 dozen eggs, 4 eggplants, an enormous bunch of kale, 6 red peppers, 8 pickling cucumbers, 6 romaine hearts, 6 grapefruit, a dozen bananas, 8 sweet onions, 4 red onions, a half pound of blueberries, 9 leeks, 2 bunches of asparagus, 3 bunches of cilantro, 3 bunches of parsley, a dozen heads of garlic, 2 pounds of potatoes, 8 gala apples, a bag of cuties, an enormous bok choi, and 6 baby bok choi. If it were closer, I’d go every week.

Produce from Produce Juction

All the food I got, stacked deep.

Now that I have all these vegetables, I need to do something with them before they go bad! I made leek and potato soup and steamed asparagus for dinner (more on this later), so a little has been consumed, but there’s a whole lot more left! The fruit is for snacking, not cooking, so I’m not going to make any plans for it.

  • grape tomatoes: cut up for the baby, and in salads
  • eggplant: eggplant parmesan! eggplant and peppers with peanut sauce!
  • kale: sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes
  • red peppers: eggplant and peppers with peanut sauce, snacking, cut up for the baby
  • cucumbers: in salads and refrigerator pickles
  • hearts of romain: salad
  • sweet onions: a supporting ingredient in most recipes
  • red onions: in salads
  • leeks: already all used up in potato and leek soup
  • asparagus: steamed with lemon and salt
  • cilantro & parsley: supporting ingredients in many recipes
  • garlic: roasted garlic!
  • potatoes: used half in the potato and leek soup, not sure about the rest. Roasted maybe?
  • bok choy: stir fry
  • baby bok choy: wilted in soy sauce, over rice

So it looks like we have food through the weekend. And for sixty dollars! Woo!

Tonight I made leek and potato soup from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, a Benedictine Monk in upstate New York. This recipe is very simple, healthy, and delicious. It doesn’t call for cream like most leek and potato soup recipes, which is great because not only did I not have cream, I didn’t even have skim milk. I’m not sure why the other recipes call for cream since the soup was superb without it.

A pot of leeks I am sautéing in butter.

Leeks sautéing in butter, a beautiful shade of spring green

The only difficulty with the soup was the nearly two hours it took me to clean and cut the leeks, and then peel and dice the potatoes. I didn’t have any of the baby’s nap time left to sit down and knit. The leeks and potatoes simmered for an hour while Daisy and I sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Daisy investigated grass with the intensity of a bomb-defuser.Then Jim came home and we all trooped inside for dinner. Jim ran the stick blender through the soup and chopped some parsley for on top.