Saturday, November 17, 2007

Around the Kitchen

Lately I've been more excited to try some new things in the kitchen. I don't know if it is because it's finally feeling like fall or because we've been needing to stretch our grocery budget farther. Whatever the reason, I'm pleased with the results.

Last week I found a sale on soon-expiring organic milk. Our kids go through A LOT of yogurt every week and that has not been helping the budget so much. I know we could reduce their yogurt consumption, but it is one of those foods they enjoy that is good for them and we don't have a battle about them eating. So when I saw half-gallons of this organic milk marked down to $1.34 I just had to bring it home and try my hand at making yogurt. I've read of a few different methods, but the method I tried was to heat the milk to nearly boiling on the stove, cool to a temperature of 110 degrees (I used a candy thermometer), then pour into containers, add a few tablespoons of plain yogurt to each container and place in the oven overnight with the oven light on for warmth. From a half-gallon of milk I filled 2-28oz. mason jars and one 4 1/2 cup pyrex dish. In the morning I put a lid on each container and refrigerated until use. One jar turned out great and the other two were a bit too runny, though they tasted great. Next time I will have the oven on warm before placing the containers inside and then shut the oven off. For the time it took and how quickly we consume yogurt, I think I will start with one gallon of milk next time. I may also experiment with a warm water bath process which you can do with a good cooler. Rest assured, none went to waste. I was able to mix the runny yogurt with baby cereal for Smiley and for smoothies for the older kids.

Last week I also tried making pumpkin puree. It worked great. I had a pie pumpkin I had purchased as a fall decoration. Unfortunately, we never got around to carving it with the kids so it was still sitting on the counter and I figured I should use it up before it went bad. I cut it in half, removed the seeds and fibers, placed it in a baking dish with a bit of water, covered and baked at 325 degrees for about 1 hour. When it was cool enough to handle I scooped the pumpkin away from the skin and put that in a blender. I now have about 5 cups of puree in the freezer for later use. The kids also enjoyed some smoothies that included the remnants left in the blender jar. This week I saw an episode of Martha Stewart and she recommended letting the puree sit over cheesecloth for an hour to remove excess moisture, but I think I'll just compensate with an extra quantity of dry ingredients when I use this for baking.

I know these are not revolutionary ideas, but I'm celebrating the small victory that comes in using what you have.

1 comment:

Jenny's Vegcafe said...

Thanks for posting about the yogurt. I've been too scared to try to make it myself but now it seems like I could do it. Great for the pocketbook too.