More Yogurt! And Bagels!

I just put my yogurt in the fridge. It may be a little early to tell but I think it turned out great! It had a nice consistency and smelled wonderful. I let it sit for about 7 1/2 hours but it probably would have been done at about 5. It depends on how tangy and thick you like it. It will only get so thick, but it can get pretty tangy!

I used Alton Brown's recipe with these variations:
I only used 1 tbsp honey
I added a bit of vanilla (I never measure) because I really like vanilla
I poured it into two yogurt containers and incubated it in the oven - I heated the oven for a min. or two and then left the light on - I just kept checking the thermomiter I had put into one of them and made sure it stayed between 100 and 120 degrees
I had to take it out a few times as I made bagels and pizza but it still did fine! 

Ok, so bagels. Wow. I used this recipe and it was really easy! (Well, maybe the shaping wasn't so easy but Suzanne did that as I had an errand to run - thanks Suzanne!)
So with our powers combined we made bagels and they turned out great! They're sweet and moist and tender and you can make them any size you want! I'm going to make another batch later this week with blueberries because they're on sale at Sprouts. I plan to but blueberries in everything the next few weeks. Pancakes, muffins, bagels, bread, salads, smoothies... am I forgetting anything?

I didn't do a cost analysis but you can find one here. I'm sure they're cheaper (and better for you) because they've only got flour, sugar, yeast, salt and water in them. I should probably get to bed now... It's just so exciting, though!

I'll do a quick photo shoot with the bagels and latest batch of yogurt in the morning as I plan to eat them both for breakfast. See you later - and happy staples making!


I was both excited and skeptical when it came to making yogurt. I've been eating a lot lately and although Ruby doesn't like the tangy taste of the plain she likes smoothie pops (I got Popsicle molds from Ikea that are great!) and will probably eat it sweetened with fruit more often as she gets older.
I read a blog post about a woman making yogurt in her oven quite a while ago but never got around to it because for one our oven was broken and also I liked the store bought stuff OK and just wasn't sure if it was worth the trouble.
It was when I got into my making basics at home kick and mastered tortillas that I got brave enough to try yogurt. That and I found a recipe for it that used a crockpot! I'm going to try another recipe today that doesn't take as long and incubates in the oven - rather like a bun... - you can get the link for that at the bottom of this post.

Skip the next few paragraphs if you don't care to read about my mishaps and want to get right to the recipe and how to.

I messed up the first batch beyond eating. I had read a few places that adding powdered milk makes it thicker but forgot to mix it in when I mixed in the culture (I'll explain later) so I mixed it in about an hour later and it was already starting to set. One key to yogurt making is that you mix in the culture and then leave it. ANY kind of jostling, mixing, etc. messes it up. Trust me. It didn't set up and was not edible. Well, I probably could have used the whey for baking but at that point in my journey I didn't even think of that.
So... round number two turned out perfectly but I didn't know it. Remember, I had never made yogurt before. I didn't have any idea what it was really supposed to look like. I was comparing it to store bought which is like comparing oranges to clementines. They're similar but if you think a clementine is supposed to be as large as a navel then you'll think it's messed up when in fact it's just fine!
So I put that second batch in the fridge and Chuck suggested straining it the next day so I did. I had been straining my store bought yogurt for about a month (and so I'm not sure why I didn't think about straining it before) and it makes it thicker and richer tasting. I, however, didn't taste it after I strained it, I just put it back in the fridge and the next day gave it to my friend, because I was going to try a third batch that day.

Okay... The third batch... Here's where you pay attention if you'd like to try this at home...
Before I get into it I'd like to add that this week I'm going to try another recipe and an alternate incubation method. While the crockpot worked alright it does take a long time and I don't think it needs to sit for 8 hours, I think mine was set after about 5 which agrees with other recipes that I found. So tune in soon for an update on yogurt making. If in the meantime you'd like to whip some up in your crockpot, feel free, it works and is delicious!

I got this recipe from Stephanie over at A Year of Crockpotting but have made a few modifications. First you'll need a crock-pot, 1/2 gallon (8 cups) of milk and 1/2 cups of plain yogurt as a starter
I read that 2% and skim work but I used whole - the higher the milk fat the richer the taste
I used Dannon the second and third time because it doesn't have any extra stuff in it that might have been another factor in my first batch not turning out as I used a different kind that contained preservatives and thickeners and stuff

First you place your milk into the crockpot. Then turn the crockpot on low and let it sit for 2 1/2 hours. In my research I've discovered this is the stage that gets rid of any other bacteria and such in the milk (conditions it if you will). Then you turn it off and let it sit for 3 hours, covered with a heavy bath towel. As best as I can figure this just gets it down to the right temperature. After 3 hours you take out about a 1/2 cup of milk and add your yogurt to that. Mix it really well and then SLOWLY and gently stir it into the rest of the milk. Then you leave it sit. Stephanie left it overnight and her recipe calls to leave it for 8 hours (which I did each time) but I think it would be done sooner.
If you'd like to add powered milk add it when you mix in the yogurt before adding that mixture to the crockpot. I don't think it made much of a difference but then again I strained mine.
When your yogurt is set it will be pretty solid on top but not completely solid throughout. It won't be seperated, but it will be thinner than store bought. Put into containers (I found that store bought yogurt containers work well) and place it into the fridge overnight (or for a few hours) to chill and further solidify. At this point you may eat your yogurt, put it into smoothies, etc. or you can strain it.

To stain yogurt place a clean pillow case or flour sack dish cloth (doubled) into a colander and place the colander over a bowl deep enough so the colander doesn't touch the bottom. Pour half a container at a time into the colander. Draw the fabric up around it and twist to you can squeeze the yogurt without squeezing any out the top. Gently but firmly (is that possible?) squeeze the yogurt until it's about half the size. You can check it as you go to see how it's doing. You'll get about equal parts yogurt to whey (that's the liquid you're squeezing out). Put the yogurt into another container and continue straining. You can save the whey and use it for baking or in smoothies, it's a little tangy and have all the good stuff that the yogurt does (I think...) besides, it's a terrible waste to put it down the drain!

Alright. The last few points. Taste and is it really worth it.

I feel that it tastes much better than store bought. If you're used to eating the sugary flavored yogurt you  may find that it's no better, but add a little honey or some fruit and give it another try. My sister and I tried it side by side with store bought and it was richer, creamier and tangy rather than sour. I really think it's pretty wonderful but I've been eating it straight for months now.

Here's the math - for those of you math shy, skip to the end of this paragraph.

Regular tub of Dannon yogurt between 2.49 and 2.79
Regular tub of Store (Kroger) Brand 2.19
Regular tub of fancy organic brand usually above 3.29

That means that the cheapest you'll get from the store is .54 cents a cup

I got a gallon of store (Kroger) brand milk on sale for 1.99 (usually they're 2.99) and usually the quarts are 1.49
Fancy organic milk is way more expensive and I never buy it so I didn't do that math - let me know if you do!
Adding the price of the 1/2 cup of starter yogurt that means that a cup of my homemade yogurt is .14 cents the first time and only .12 the next few times (because you can use homemade yogurt as your starter!)
If your milk costs say 3.50 it would still only be .24 cents.

Yep, pretty awesome.

Anyway, now that you've suffered through all of that, stay tuned for the next addition to the yogurt saga! I'm going to try another recipe plus sweetening it! Here are a few more links if you're interested...

Alton Brown's recipe plus a simple variation with a good tip on putting it in the oven- I'm going to combine these recipes/methods today so I'll let you know how it goes soon!
Another recipe by another blogger and a good explanation of the process plus more links
Interesting article on Slate about the cost effectiveness of making staple food like yogurt and bagels - yup, I'm going to try bagels next too!

Baking Dinner

Some of you may know that it's been quite a while since I've used my oven. It broke several months ago and we didn't want to put any money into it because we planned to upgrade our kitchen in the near future. We wanted to go from a cabinet oven and countertop stove to an all in one unit in an island or something. We've still got big plans for the kitchen but we've scaled them back a bit and made them more practical. We also went ahead and got a new stove/oven because last Sunday our stove went out! My dear husband found me a great stove/oven and chopped my cabinets to put it in. You can see a fun picture of me baking my first batch of cookies in it here.

I have lots and lots of muffins and breads and things like that that I want to make but it's been so long since I've made dinner in the oven I don't know what to do! I'm making a meatloaf right now but it still feels so odd after using the stove and grill for so long. So please let me know your favorite oven baked dinner (include the recipe if you like) so I can get back into the groove of baking food other than sweets! Thanks!
Have a great week!

Heads up and a reminder to pray

Somehow my husband and I had the same person leave a comment on our last posts with links - I deleted the comment this morning but if you happen to get a feed or for some reason can still see the comment, don't click on any of the links! They're in characters - and they lead to, in my husband's words, "gross" websites.

This annoys me so much. I really can't understand why people do things like that. Even when you don't go looking for gross things they're out there and you can't keep others from trying to get them to you. I know I can't keep Ruby from the world completely but I can try! Of course, then I wonder if there's a balance I have to strike. If she's totally sheltered will she go looking for the world? This is one of those issues that reminds me how glad I am to know other mom's (including mine!) that have raised kids who turned out alright. Oh, and it reminds me to pray also.

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Romans 8: 26-27

I was just going to post the part of this next set of verses that says "be constant in prayer" but the section is just so good and I need to be reminded of all of it. Take a moment and consider what your life, others lives and the world would look like if we lived like this.

"9Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12: 9-21

In case you don't think you'll be able to remember to pray all the time you can leave yourself a note, get it tattooed, or send yourself an email in the future. That's right, there's a website that allows you to write yourself an email that will be sent to you in the future! Check it out at!


I've learned a lot this past semester. I plan on sharing some of my newly acquired knowledge but need to get through finals this week first. I would, however, like to share with you something that Ruby has learned. How to brush her hair.
I didn't teach her. Chuck didn't teach her. We just did it and showed her how we brush our own hair a few times and 'Tah-Dah' - she knows what "brush your hair" means. I actually caught her spontaneously doing it while playing today. She stopped when I got out the camera, but I said "brush your fair!" and she did it again! I was shocked! I'm so excited and so terrified at the same time! Is she going to pick up all our bad habits? Will she learn how to drink coffee before she learns to floss? This parenting thing is starting to really freak me out.

Thankfully I'm not alone - and Chuck and I are not alone - and you are not alone.
Thankfully God's our perfect Father. I'm still learning about that too.

Before my afternoon gets away and I don't get what I need to done (namely studying and sending late Mother's Day cards!) I'd better go. I'll leave you with this sweet photo.

Not My Story

She's sleeping peacefully while I ponder the implications of kidnapping.

I read a story this morning that was really interesting. The commander of an army had an incurable disease but he was a great commander and had just won a major battle. During that battle the army kidnapped a young girl to be the commander's wife's servant. Instead of sabotaging the commander or sneaking away in the night, the girl served and even gave the commander's wife a tip on who would be able to cure the commander's disease! So the commander of course goes to see this man and he does in fact get cured. The man refuses any payment but while the commander is leaving one of the man's helpers runs out to him and lies to him, saying they do need some money. The commander of course pays him but when questioned the helper lies to the man saying he didn't go anywhere. The man then curses him and his descendants with the incurable disease that the commander had! Pretty crazy right - and that's just my quick overview!

The thing that sticks out to me the most is the young girl. The commander took her away from everything she knew and she helped improve his life! I really don't know that I would do that. I mean, come on, he kidnapped her! Of course, when I thought about it more I realized that my desire to sneak away in the night, or poison him or something dramatic stems from my belief that I have a good plan for my life and it doesn't involve being kidnapped. That and my life is all about me.

I'm grateful, however, that God knows the plan and he's way better at planning than I am. He created everything and holds it all together (Hebrews 1:3). Also, if I profess that my life isn't about me anymore then I should be honored that God would use me to bring glory to His name even if it involved circumstances that I wouldn't have picked out myself. Seriously, when I think about it now, I would be honored to be kidnapped to play a part in God's story. To be able to show the general and his wife a love that they don't know and be a part of their transformation would be so exciting! Of course it would also be heart-wrenching to have to leave my family and not know what to expect or what would happen to me but as Paul tells Timothy, "... everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..." (2 Tim. 3:12)

And Jesus also said "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:43-45
I love that last part but let's not get into that now...

To read the full story and learn about how it's God's story check out 2 Kings chapter 5.


Tortillas. They're so versatile! We could eat them for every meal of the day. (and sometimes do)
Not too long ago I was spending so much money on tortillas and hated that there was so much stuff in them. I began making my own bread when I got fed up that it contained so much sugar and preservatives making it one of the worst things Ruby was eating - and she loves bread. My sweet little carb lover, taking after me, I suppose.
One day I checked a book out from the library about legumes, beans and grains. Oddly enough, there was a tortilla recipe in it; and it was SO easy! We've made them just about constantly for the past three weeks.
So you may join in the joy of homemade tortillas, here's the recipe!

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. lard (or veggie shortening)
2/3 cup warm water

Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.
Rub in the lard with a spoon.
Stir in the water and knead lightly to form a soft dough. You'll need to knead it to get it all mixed up. Resist the temptation to add just a little more water while still stirring it. More on that later.
Divide into about 8 balls and roll out into 6-7 inch rounds. The recipe originally called for 12 but I could never get them big enough so I usually get 8 fajita sized tortillas. If you'd like them bigger you'll just get a few less!
Heat a pan on high heat and "cook" the tortillas. It's like pancakes - whenever the top bubbles, flip it over, give it about 20 seconds more and its done!

Chuck and I have both made the mistake of adding "just a bit more water" and it hasn't gone well. The dough goes through a short phase when you're stirring it when it looks too dry but that's just when you need to get in there with your hands and knead it some. Yup, you just need to knead it a little.

I've got finals next week so I've been feeling a little crazy lately trying to focus on the last bit of school but already dreaming about all the things I'm going to get done when it's over.

Ruby's got five teeth and two are on the way. She's also currently in a growth spurt so I'm a little short on sleep and energy. In fact, I'm going to make some coffee and have a snack before she gets up from her nap so I've gotta run.

For your enjoyment, here's an odd little series of photos. Ruby's trying to play and I'm trying to make her laugh by draping a blanket around her neck as well as play with the flash and manual features on my camera. She's such a hoot.

Mom, Hi, I'm going to play by you.
Oh, you think this is funny? Ok, yeah, I am pretty cute and hilarious.

Mom, what is this thing? I'm trying to play.

Have a great week!