muesli mix with dried fruit and nuts-2

Muesli with nuts and dried fruit

I’ve been dancing around the idea of making muesli for some time now, and one recent Saturday morning I finally made it happen. A quick Wikipedia search turned up a bit of background and basic approach to the dish. I loved the idea of a grated apple making up the bulk of the ingredients.

I tossed some pantry items together and let it soak in some water for about 20 min, then added the shredded apple (not peeled), stirred it all together and topped with a little milk.

I was instantly hooked. It was so easy, simple, healthy, and refreshing. The next day I made it again for breakfast, and on the third day mixed up a couple of jars of it to have on hand.

muesli mix with dried fruit and nuts

Formula

  • 8 dried apricots, diced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1/2 c roasted unsalted pumpkin seed kernels
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1/3 c almonds, raw and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 c walnuts, toasted pieces
  • 4 c old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 c raisins

Each time I make a bowl, I stir together 1/4 c of the muesli and 1/4 c water with a dash of sea salt. I let it sit in a bowl for about 30 min., while I shower and get ready. Then I grate 1/2 of on apple and mix it in, topping it all with some milk.

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Homemade yogurt, take 5

This process worked really well, and it’s one I’ll attempt to replicate again next time.

Process notes:

  • 8 c milk
  • coat bottom of Dutch oven pot with ice cube, add milk
  • heat to 170° over medium, then turned down to low heat and continued to heat to 180°
  • held at 180° for 5 min
  • cool to 115°, a combination of letting it sit and stirring to speed things up
  • whisk 2 tbsp yogurt into 1 c 115° milk (used a new carton of Maple Hill Creamery plain yogurt)
  • add to pot, stirring gently
  • cover pot, place in oven
  • after 1 hour, turned on light and proofing function for several hours
  • pulled out at 8 hr 45 min, spooned into jars, and refrigerated

Results

I had thought that the heat in the Dutch oven would keep the incubation temperature up without the light or proofing function on, but it started to cool a little so I turned them on for most of the time.

The flavor and texture are both great!

This time, I didn’t turn any of the yogurt into Greek style. I didn’t want to have to make anything with the whey, and having the regular yogurt will give me the flexibility to make a thinned-yogurt substitute for buttermilk. I have a feeling there will be some more Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread in my near future.

HOMEMADE YOGURT POSTS

Homemade yogurt, take 4

The homemade yogurt experiments continue! I have a pretty good system down, but this time the flavor was more mild than I like. I like a more tangy yogurt — something that you taste and really know you’re eating yogurt.

Process notes:

  • 8 c milk
  • coat bottom of Dutch oven pot with ice cube, add milk, and heat to 180°
  • intended to hold at 180° for 5 min, but it actually got to 187°, which was a little warmer than my target
  • cool to 115°, a combination of letting it sit and stirring to speed things up
  • whisk 2 tbsp yogurt into 1 c 115° milk (used a new carton of Maple Hill Creamery plain yogurt)
  • add to pot, stirring gently
  • cover pot, place in oven, with light on (proofing function not used this time)
  • checked at 3 hr 45 min (it wasn’t at all thickened at this point)
  • took out of oven after 8 hours
  • scooped into (2) quart jars and refrigerated until next morning, then whisked smooth
  • strained one quart into Greek style yogurt using paper-towel-lined strainer, for 3 1/2 hours

Results

Not tangy or thick enough for my taste, so next time I’ll:

  • watch the initial heating process more closely to keep it at 180°
  • leave oven light off (I think the heated Dutch oven will provide enough warmth for incubation)
  • leave in oven for 9 hours

HOMEMADE YOGURT POSTS

Homemade yogurt, take 3

My last homemade yogurt was a happy success, and it made me really look forward to making another batch. And after 10 days and a lucky deal on milk at the grocery store, that time had come.

Process notes

  • used 1/2 gallon whole milk (as before) in a Dutch oven rubbed with an ice cube
  • heated to 188°, which was a little warm, and once it reached 188° I turned off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes (it held this high temp the whole resting period)
  • cooled for about an hour to 115° (went and showered and got ready for the day while it cooled, rather than stirring it)
  • lightly stirred in 2 tbsp of the leftover yogurt — I was originally going to use the sample I had put in the freezer last time, but the consistency was weird (chunky and runny) so I played it safe and used what was in the refrigerator instead
  • original yogurt was from Feb. 11, this batch was made Feb. 21
  • heated oven to 110° then turned off
  • placed covered pot in oven — did not need to turn on the proofing function because there was plenty of warmth from the preheat and the cast iron pot, but I did leave the light on the entire time
  • let sit in the oven for 7 hrs

Results

After sitting for 7 hours, I checked the yogurt and the texture was a little different from last time. I think it was too warm, or the incubation time was too long. It wasn’t as smooth, and it almost had a curdled quality to it.

But it tasted fine, so I filled a 1-qt jar with the yogurt, and for the other half strained it in a paper-towel-lined strainer. Both went into the refrigerator, and a couple of hours later the strained portion had produced really thick, creamy Greek style yogurt. This part smoothed out nicely after vigorous stirring, and left me with a scant pint of thick yogurt + a pint of whey. The regular yogurt is on the thinner side, but that’s not unexpected since it wasn’t strained at all.

The yogurt is tasting great! And the whey is going to come in handy for a birthday cake (buttermilk layer cake with chocolate frosting) and a loaf of buttermilk bread from my favorite whole grain bread book.

HOMEMADE YOGURT POSTS

Homemade yogurt, take 2

Success! After making yogurt for the first time recently, I learned what system doesn’t work for me. This time I followed the instructions from the book Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule. And I’m still excited about the results, several days later.

Process notes

  1. Rub an ice cube along the bottom of warming Dutch oven. Pour in 1/2 gallon whole milk (just regular Kroger brand milk) and heat to 180° over medium-high heat without stirring. Once at 180° turn heat down and maintain temperature for 5 min. This process took me about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 200° for 2 min., bringing it to 110°, then turn off and turn on proofing function. Note: this was too long and the oven got too hot and I needed to let it cool some. Next time turn oven off sooner.
  3. Cool milk to 115° by stirring gently. This took about 40 min.
  4. Whisk 2 tbsp yogurt (I used Maple Hill Creamery plain yogurt) with 1 cup of the 115° milk. Add back to pot, stir gently, and cover.
  5. Place in oven, with proofing function on. After 4 hours, I turned this off because the Dutch oven had retained enough heat to keep the oven warm. Incubated for a total of 6 hr 40 min.
  6. Remove 1/4 c for next batch and freeze in a small jam jar.
  7. Transfer yogurt into two 1-quart mason jars, cover, and refrigerate. I didn’t stir my yogurt before putting it into the containers — I just spooned it in gently, and there was a little bit of whey on top. Let rest in refrigerator until next morning.

Greek style: I was going to leave both quart jars of yogurt at their regular consistency, but the next morning I got inspired to take one jar and strain it to make Greek style yogurt.

I placed my fine mesh strainer over a mixing bowl (the small bowl in this nesting set), and layered two paper towels inside. Then I poured one of the jars of regular yogurt into the paper towel-lined strainer, folded the paper towels over the top, and refrigerated the entire thing for 3 hours.

After 3 hours it was perfectly thickened. It yielded about 1/2 quart Greek yogurt and a scant 1 1/2 cups whey.

Results

It was so thrilling to pull the pot out of the oven and see it had set up properly. I really liked the method of keeping it in the Dutch oven instead of pouring the cooled milk into jars right away because the cast iron helped keep the yogurt cozy during incubation.

Seeing the wonderfully-textured, creamy, white yogurt filling up my quart-sized mason jars made me giddy. This batch tasted just like the store-bought yogurt I’m used to. I think the Greek style is even more delicious and mellow somehow. I can’t wait to make more!

In addition to the pleasure of making this myself, I’m enjoying the cost savings. Milk was on sale for $1/half gallon, which was nice. The little 6-oz container of plain yogurt for my starter was about $1.30, but I spent more there to get the high quality ingredients. My hope is that by starting with a finer starter, it will yield a finer yogurt in my kitchen.

So for about $2.30, I made just under 2 quarts of yogurt (equal to about 60 oz, or 7 1/2 c), at a cost of $.04/oz. Of course once I made it Greek style, that cost was effectively doubled, BUT I was left with the whey as a byproduct to cook with as well. So there wasn’t any waste, and it gave me a chance to make something else that called for buttermilk.

The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to only turn the oven on for a few seconds to give it a slight warming boost, because the Dutch oven will be warm when it goes in. I’ll still turn on the proofing function to help keep it at the same temperature.

HOMEMADE YOGURT POSTS

Pickled cabbage

Cabbage was on sale recently and normally I’d just get a modestly-sized one, but the only option was giant-sized. The first half went into a simple cabbage salad, and for the second half I felt like trying something new. And now that I have some nice quart-sized jars a neighbor gave me, I’m obsessed with the idea of pickling.

Recipe

Pickled Cabbage Salad from Smitten Kitchen

Process notes

  • used 1/2 large cabbage
  • included 3 shredded carrots
  • used mustard seed instead of celery seed
  • packed cabbage into (3) 32oz jars (1 quart each) + a 16-oz (1 pint) jar

Results

I can’t believe how crisp this cabbage is! I’m used to a cabbage salad that gets rather soft after a day or so.

I mostly like how this tastes, but if I make it again I’d like to try it with the celery seed as the recipe instructs. I do prefer this kind of salad over my typical approach.

I’m definitely going to be picking up some of the spices called for when pickling, but am trying to hold off until I see a good price on in-season veggies.

Homemade yogurt, take 1

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a hard time tossing plastic and glass containers in the recycling bin. I just think there’s so much potential there for reusing them for…something. But recently when putting away the dishes I noticed the huge stash of big 32 oz. plastic Greek yogurt containers. That was the moment I decided to finally try my hand at homemade yogurt.

To get started, I followed this guide for making homemade yogurt, and then the accompanying recipe.

Process notes

  • 4 c whole milk in a sauce pan over medium heat until it reached 185°
  • remove from heat and set pan in ice bath for a few moments until the milk was 110°
  • mixed about 1/3 c of the warm milk with 1/2 c plain Greek yogurt (whole), then whisked this into the rest of the milk
  • poured milk into three jars and loosely lidded
  • heated 2 towels in the microwave for 30 sec.
  • nestled a towel in a foam cooler, placed the jars on top of the towel, then topped with the other towel
  • placed lid on cooler and left for 6 1/2 hours, then checked and noticed it wasn’t at all warm anymore, so re-heated a towel and placed back on top of the jars for another half hour
  • after a total of 7 hours, moved tightened lids and moved to refrigerator

Results

My yogurt never thickened up, and turned out more like thick milk (or super runny yogurt). There are a few things I’ll do differently next time (essentially incorporating the instructions here):

  • use Dannon or Yoplait plain yogurt (not Greek — I read that some people have difficulty making Greek style work right)
  • use one of my new 1-quart canning jars (the 4 cups of milk should fit nicely)
  • briefly heat the oven, turn it off, then place the filled jar in the oven overnight

I refuse to let this first attempt go to waste though! I’ve got my eye on a few baking recipes that call for buttermilk that should work, like biscuits, yogurt cake, and a chocolate cake.

Update: Hurray! I discovered that my oven has a Proof setting. I did some testing and it looks like if I turn the oven on for a moment and warm it up to 110°, then turn it off and turn on Proof, it will hold the internal temperature there. Super excited to try this!

Homemade yogurt POSTS

Candied orange peel from scratch

Candied Orange Peel

While perusing Christmas baking recipes, I earmarked one that called for candied fruit, including candied orange peel. I’ve never bought candied fruit or peel, and after some poking around online to figure out what exactly candied orange peel is, saw some tutorials for making it instead. And as luck would have it, I had some oranges on hand (for a cold-buster boost to my morning green smoothies).

Recipes

Jacques Pépin: How to Make Candied Orange Peels and DIY Candied Orange Peel

Process notes

Peel off thin shavings of peel off of 4 oranges using a vegetable peeler. Leave behind the white pith. Slice into long strips.

Place peel in saucepan with cold water to come about an inch above the peel, and heat to boiling. Boil for about 10 seconds, then drain the peel and repeat.

Empty out the saucepan and mix 3/4 cup sugar and 3/8 cup water in it. Simmer for 8 minutes. Add orange peel and stir around to push all of the peel into the liquid. Simmer for about 20 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. (Note: instead of using the full amount of water and sugar called for in the DIY Candied Orange Peel recipe, I had reduced it by half since I was only using the thinnest pieces of peel. This wasn’t enough liquid, and it boiled off too quickly, leaving crusty sugary peel. I added a tablespoon of water to loosen it up before tossing in sugar and cooling.)

Remove peel from saucepan and toss in sugar on a baking sheet. Place peel on cooling rack for 5 hours, then store in airtight container in the cupboard.

Yield: 2 cups

Results

I’m a candied orange peel newbie, so not sure exactly how it ought to taste. My peels pack a punch! They’re strongly flavored, rather bitter but sweet as well. I wish I had used more water with the sugar in the saucepan, but overall I think they worked fine. Can’t wait to see how they taste in the final recipe that I made them for.

While these were drying on the rack, I was at the supermarket and checked for candied orange peel. Lots of high fructose corn syrup and preservatives in the ingredients list, so I’m really glad I went the DIY route.

Strawberry freezer jam

Strawberry Freezer Jam

I’ve been craving strawberry jam these days, and although they’re aren’t any crazy good deals on fresh strawberries right now I did find a decent enough price to pick up 2 pounds (2 lb/$5 at Sprouts).

After pureeing the strawberries in the food processor, I was left with 3 1/2 cups of crushed strawberries. The Ball Pectin Calculator didn’t have a conversion for that exact amount, so I upped their quantities a tiny bit to compensate. After mixing together 1 1/3 heaping cups of sugar and 4 slightly rounded tablespoons of RealFruit Instant Pectin, I stirred in the strawberries for 3 minutes. Then I poured the jam into 6 quarter-pint (4-oz) jars and the rest went into a pint jar(14 oz of a 16-oz jar) and let them sit, covered, for 30 minutes. The pint went into the refrigerator and the rest into the freezer.

The jam isn’t as firm as I’d like, but it does have a really fresh strawberry flavor which I like. After I finish this container of instant pectin, I may try cooked freezer jam to see if a different pectin acts differently. I don’t mind the extra work if it results in improved (firmer) texture. Another thing I’d consider is crushing the strawberries with a masher instead of pureeing in the food processor. It might release less liquid and the strawberry chunks would be OK by me.

Cost for this batch

2 lb fresh strawberries: $5.00
Pectin ($.17 to make quarter pint): $1.70
Sugar (1 1/3 cup at $.44 per cup): $0.59
Jars (6 at $.87 per jar)*: $5.22
Total: $12.51 for 38 oz

Compared to my favorite strawberry jam at the store which costs $3.99 for 8.8 oz, this strawberry jam cost me $2.90 per 8.8 oz to make. Savings: $1.09 per 8.8 oz.

*First time using these jars. After this batch, there won’t be the cost of the jars.

Apricot freezer jam

Apricot freezer jam

Ever since making apricot crisp, I’ve been obsessed with apricots. There not something I had purchased in the past but they were so delicious in the crisp. They’re in season right now, and one of the local grocery stores had them at a great price.

I had instant pectin on hand from my raspberry freezer jam project, and just needed to pick up some smaller jars. We had a tough time finishing the large jars of jam last time, plus the curved sides of the jars aren’t good for the freezer anyway. So I settled on the little 4-ounce size that will just go into the freezer and can be taken out as needed. This small size also allows me to feather in another fruit flavor if I find something at a great price, plus as a two-person household there’s that 1-3 week deadline for eating the jam once it’s in the refrigerator.

This jam is going to be great on the buttery croissants that are all rolled up in the freezer and ready to be baked!

Cost for this batch

14 1/2 oz fresh apricots: $0.44
Pectin ($.17 to make quarter pint): $0.77
Sugar (2/3 cup at $.23 per cup): $0.16
Jars (5 at $.87 per jar)*: $4.37
Total: $5.74 for 18 oz

Compared to my favorite strawberry jam at the store which costs $3.99 for 8.8 oz, this apricot jam cost me $2.81 for 8.8 oz to make. Savings: $1.18 per 8.8 oz.

*Since I didn’t have the jars, there was an initial cost to purchase them.

Raspberry freezer jam

Raspberry freezer jam

I love jam, but holy cow is good jam expensive! I’ve been researching what it takes to start canning fruits and vegetables, and at this point it’s still a little overwhelming and I’m not sure if the payoff would be there since I’m not currently growing my own garden.

This week raspberries are marked way down at the grocery store, and they were on my shopping list but I didn’t actually know what I’d do with them. Coincidentally, I’ve also been planning the meals for an upcoming camping trip. PB & J is on the menu, and I remembered that we actually don’t have the J part of the equation.

My path was suddenly clear — it’s time for me to make my first freezer jam! It’s a relatively small investment (instant pectin, sugar, and fruit — I already had a couple of canning jars) and very little time. It doesn’t require heating, just some mixing and pouring.

My 4 (6-oz) containers of raspberries made 3 cups of crushed fruit, so I used a multiplier of 1.8 when following the instructions on the Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin. After waiting for the instructed 30 minutes before covering and storing in the refrigerator and freezer, it wasn’t as set up as I had expected, but some quick online research confirmed that freezer jam doesn’t get as firm as canned jam.

The batch made two pints of jam, which I split into two 16-oz jars.

By the spoon, it tastes fresh and good. The refrigerated jar needs to be eaten within 3 weeks (which I’m not sure is going to happen with just the two of us), and the frozen jar within a year. Next time, I’ll get some smaller 4- or 8-oz jelly jars so a smaller amount is in the refrigerator at a time.

Cost

24 oz fresh raspberries: $3.48
Pectin (cost for this batch): $1.32
Sugar (cost for this batch): $.31
Total: $5.11 for 32 oz

Compared to my favorite strawberry jam at the store which costs $3.99 for 8.8 oz, this raspberry jam cost me $1.40 for 8.8 oz to make. Savings: $2.59 per 8.8 oz.