The Easiest Real Food You’re Not Making… Yet! Homemade Yogurt

homemade yogurt

I’m going all-out-hippie-chick on the blog today, crew. And dragging you along with me. Homemade yogurt is your ticket to high quality, affordable organic probiotic goodness. And it is so easy!! You’ll thank me when you are scooping that first luscious, creamy bite of yogurt out of your crock pot.

Of all the “it-looks-like-a-health-food, but-it-is-not” propaganda circulating out there, it seems like most people have gotten the message on conventional yogurt. It is basically a processed dessert in a little container, whether you call it breakfast or kids afternoon snack or end of soccer game treat. Each container is filled with sugars, corn syrups, coloring agents, flavoring agents, stabilizers, and other unpleasantness.

But that’s only the stuff you’ll find in the conventional dairy section of your grocery store. If you travel over to the health food aisle or a natural foods store, you can find a whole other group of options, many of which are delicious and nutritious and made from organic cow milk that was not pumped up with terrible chemicals in horrible conditions and then flavored with man-made lab fluids. Big problem here for many of us – the good stuff is expensive. Like $8.00 for a quart expensive.

Now yogurt happens to be one of very few probiotic/fermented foods that my daughter will eat. In fact, she loves it and requests it regularly. So when I heard that it was simple to make, I knew this was my ticket to happy-daughter-gut-health-without-financial-hardship.

Then I proceeded to fail completely with my first batch. And learned the number one rule of yogurt making – know your milk. And now, by teaching you this one homemade yogurt secret, you will be able to make gorgeous yogurt for your family with success right from the beginning. You can’t use ultra-pasteurized milk. It’s dead and doesn’t work. Which probably makes complete sense to you, but I hadn’t even realized my milk was ultra-pasteurized. So a failed batch later I was researching to find my family a new milk source. Just proving that there is always a next step in your real food journey!

Recipe: Homemade Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 quart organic whole milk – pasteurized. NOT ultra-pasteurized. We are clear here, yes?
  • 1/4 cup of the highest quality purest yogurt you can get. This is the only time you are buying yogurt, because after this batch you can use the remaining 1/4 cup of your homemade yogurt to make the next batch! So go crazy and buy the beautiful whole organic plain (or Greek) yogurt. It’s a worthwhile investment!

Instructions

  1. Pour the milk into your crock pot and heat on low for 2 hours. * You want the milk to hit somewhere in the 180 – 190 degree range. Use a cooking or candy thermometer to confirm your crock pot’s timing.
  2. Turn crock pot off and leave the milk in it for 3 hours (lid on). You want the milk to cool to a temperature of about 110 degrees. This is the magical yogurt temperature.
  3. When 110 degrees is reached, add 1/4 cup yogurt and whisk it around to mix. Place crock pot (with lid) in your oven (not on!!) with the oven light on for 8-12ish hours (you can go up to 24 hours if you wish to have thicker and tarter yogurt). I also wrap a towel around the crock pot to help keep the temperature stable.  photo 1 photo 2
  4. Transfer yogurt to a container and store in the refrigerator. I use old quart sized yogurt containers and just write the date made on the lid. Mine last over two weeks in the refrigerator.
  5. You can strain it through cheese cloth for a few hours if you are looking for thicker Greek style yogurt, but I’m lazy and never do. It’s a lovely consistency without straining.

After you have successfully completed your first batch, I highly recommend doubling the second batch if your family goes through yogurt the way mine does. We consume about a quart a week, so I only need to make yogurt twice a month if I double it.

My yogurt works out to about $3.50 a quart (because I buy very high quality milk – it could be made much cheaper if you have a better source for milk). Much better than the $7-8 I had been paying. We use it as sour cream on tacos, as a base for dips and dressings and as a late night treat with maple syrup, pomegranate seeds and a little granola.
It also is fantastic as the base for our Kids Clean Up! Flavored Yogurt recipe.

 

My gift to all the new homemade yogurt makers out there: a Pinterest Board full of recipes that include… YOGURT. Also pinned to the board is a recipe for making yogurt out of coconut milk for the lacto-free peeps. Might try that next.

homemade yogurt  Go get ‘em, yogurt makers!!

Recipe: Greens and Beans Soup

Greens and Beans Soup Recipe

Here is my contribution for all of you taking care of yourself and others during this cold and flu season, while still holding tight to new year’s resolutions and fresh starts. This nutrient-packed Greens and Beans Soup recipe is easy, inexpensive, vegetarian, nourishing and very satisfying. It is chock full of veggies, beans, herbs and spices. We like to enjoy it as the main meal with a loaf of rosemary sourdough from the farmers market (dipped in extra virgin olive oil), but it could be paired up with lots of things or even used as a starter. The leftovers are awesome for lunches all week-long. In fact I think, like most soups, it gets better on day two.

Greens and Beans Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • approximately 1-1.5 quart stock (your choice – veggie, chicken, or beef)
  • approximately 15-20oz of chopped tomatoes
  • 2-15oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (mix it up, I like using kidney and cannelloni beans)
  • 2 cups chopped kale (chopped very small)
  • 1 cup chopped chard (chopped very small)
  • 4 carrots (chopped into small rounds)
  • 4 celery stalks (chopped into small crescents)
  • 1 small head of broccoli (chopped small)
  • 3 small potatoes (medium dice)
  • 1 medium onion (small dice)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/2 jalapeño (minced)
  • 1T butter or EVOO
  • 1T dried thyme
  • 1T dried oregano
  • 2T fresh parsley or basil (chopped fine)
  • 2t sea salt (more to taste)
  • 1t pepper (more to taste)
  • 2T red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (more to taste)
  • Parm cheese (grated) – optional topper

Instructions

  1. Saute onion, garlic, jalapeño in olive oil or butter to soften.
  2. Add carrots and celery and sauté until onions become translucent.
  3. Add in all other ingredients except vinegar and bring to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until potatoes and carrots are soft.
  5. Splash with vinegar and begin tasting. Using extra salt, pepper and vinegar (the amounts needed depend on what kind of stock you are using and your taste preference) taste and adjust until the soup tastes delicious and the flavors pop!
  6. Serve with a little grated Parm cheese on top or fresh herbs minced fine.

Notes: You can mix up the greens and use collards, spinach, beet tops, bok choy in any ratio. You can use dried beans, you just need to prepare them ahead of time, because the tomatoes in the soup will slow down the softening process during cooking. You can use extra jalapeño if you’d like the soup to be spicier. The amount used in this recipe adds flavor, but not much heat. You can play with the vegetables included in the soup as well. Use what you have that sounds good, such as zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Enjoy!!

Looking for other soup recipes? Check these out:
IMG_7863  Simple Squash Soup

IMG_7820  Easy Peasy Chicken Soup

IMG_7784  Crock Pot Taco Soup

IMG_5159  Summer Gumbo

IMG_4971  Minestrone

Chicken Eggplant Parm  Crock Pot Chicken and Eggplant Parmigiana

Clean Up! Elderberry Syrup Immunity Booster

final

Happy January 2014! Today we are going to dive into our first Kids Clean Up of the year, but let’s define “Kids” as anyone between the ages of 2 and 110 – kind of a broad definition, so hang with me. And I love to start these kind of posts out by declaring “I’m not a doctor! I don’t even play one on t.v.” As though you couldn’t tell. I’m just a blogger sharing some info I’ve researched and a recipe made of real food that I think you might like to try. Do what’s right for you! Talk to your health experts, whoever they may be! This is just a little information in case you haven’t heard of Elderberry Syrup before…

With cold and flu season really ripping through the cold land, taking down the big and the little with coughs and aches and worse, I have suggested to no less than 10 people this week to look into the benefits of adding Elderberry Syrup to their daily regimen to keep immunity levels boosted. They are wonderful conversations because I’ve got great answers to all their questions. Kids love the taste! A serving of a teaspoon to a tablespoon (depending on how big you are and how your immunity is holding up) a day contains big calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, betacarotene, potassium, iron, antioxidants, anthocyanins! It’s antiviral! And anti-inflammatory! It’s a beautiful color! Delish on pancakes!

On a serious note, for those of us attempting to avoid the H1N1 flu virus moving through the Sacramento region, this statement I found at Mercola.com sealed the deal that my family would be consuming Elderberry Syrup each day:

Antiviral components of elderberry fruit extract were tested and found to effectively inhibit Human Influenza A (H1N1 virus) in vitro, possibly by blocking the ability of the virus to infect host cells. The extract was so effective, that researchers compared it with the prescription medications Amantadine and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu).2

 

So off to the natural foods store, right?? Well yeah, but bring your credit card. This stuff is expensive!! And I want four people to consume it twice a day?? Oh boy. Only one thing to do… let’s clean this up and make our own!

Here’s what we are “cleaning up” – Black Elderberry Syrup. Seems funny to be cleaning it up, since I would recommend this product and have used it successfully before. But even “good” products can be made “great!”

photo 3

Ingredients: Black elderberry, acerola fruit, sugar cane, water, natural flavor from lemon juice.

ingredients

The recipe I used to make my own can be found in this completely EASY (six-minute) tutorial video put together by Mountain Rose Herbs. You owe it to yourself to watch this video and see the ease of this process. It’s called simmer stuff in water. Then stir in honey. That’s all.

I followed their ingredient list (elderberries, honey, cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger) with the following changes:

  • I used 2/3 cup of dried elderberries, instead of 1/2 cup.
  • I used 1t of ground cinnamon instead of the cinnamon stick.
  • I used beautiful local raw honey from my favorite honey guy at the farmers market to add in all the extra benefits of local pollen and more antioxidants.

I made two cups (16 ounces) in less than an hour. I used 2/3 cup of dried berries from the (approximately) 3.5 cups in the pound size bag. ($19.75 for a pound from Amazon). The ginger, cinnamon and cloves I had from other things, but we’ll say they cost $0.50 for those tiny amounts. The honey was more expensive than usual because my farmers market honey guy only had the small containers left, instead of the bulk jars at a much better deal. But I was desperate and at the market at the end of the day, so my bad. $12 for a pint (–no judging–) and I used half of it. Advanced math here, my batch cost $10 and some change for sixteen ounces. (And could be done even cheaper with a more reasonable priced local honey).

photo 4

At $7.33 per ounce at Whole Foods, that much would have cost me $117 regular or $82 on sale. Now that’s a clean up!!

Doesn’t take much to get this going! Here’s an affiliate link to grab those dried elderberries from Amazon: Elder Berries Whole Organic – 1 lb,(Frontier)

If you are not eating honey at this time and are still interested in the benefits of elderberries, this link to the Nourishing Herbalist is a beautiful recipe for a winter immunity tincture that highlights elderberry. It’s another (much cheaper) option.

Let me know if you give syrup a try. Be well!!

Five Real Food Changes for 2014

green juice

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Last week I reflected on all the real food mini changes I made in 2013 that resulted in a major overall of my kitchen. The changes were slow and steady to avoid becoming overwhelmed (which is the surest way to stop me in my tracks). You can read all about it in my post, Five Real Food Changes I Made in 2013.

This is the post I’ve been excited to write, because I love new years and fresh starts and resolutions. I love that I write lists of things I’d like to do and start all of them with gusto, knowing only a few of them may stick. I ran a marathon once because of a new year’s resolution, completed a triathlon, got out of debt, ordered my first farm box, got a cat, decided it was time for a baby, went to culinary school… you see where I’m going with this. If I can use this resolution-y magic in the late December air for my personal good, where’s the harm? Notice I didn’t mention all the things on past resolution lists that I never achieved. That’s because I don’t even remember them. It, apparently, wasn’t meant to be!

My new year’s resolutions are many, so here are the five real food changes that made the list.

  1. Clean up the condiments. The refrigerator reflects all the work we’ve done to clean up our food and kick processed food out. Except when your eye shifts to the door shelves. The condiments have changed brands, gone organic even in many cases, but still are filled with too much sugar and preservatives. I made BBQ sauce for Christmas Eve dinner and it was easy and delicious, so what’s holding me back? Mayo will be the hardest, because it really can’t be made in advance. But it is the most important to me, because I cannot find a version that is made without canola or soybean oil.
  2. Eat less wheat. Choose sprouted and fermented wheat whenever possible. Even though our family doesn’t seem to have a gluten intolerance, I can’t find any reason for continuing to eat wheat as a main staple in our diet. It is hard on digestion and supports inflammation. This change is the mini step to eliminating wheat and maybe even most grains. Just beginning my research into all of this.
  3. Increase daily vegetable consumption. We are a fruit first household, and I’m surely the driving force behind this. It helps me not miss sugar so much. But reflecting back, we need to increase our vegetable intake.  The kids (and I) will happily eat veggies if they are ready to eat on a snack tray. So we need to make that a new habit. Sneak them in and keep it easy, that’s the plan. In addition, I’m going to make salads for myself for lunch ahead of time. If I could grab a salad ready to go out of the fridge, I’d be thrilled.
  4. Find a local raw milk source. This one has been challenging me for a long time. I’m really hoping 2014 is the year we find a raw milk connection that works for us. If this happens I want to make my own cheese. Now we are really shooting for the stars!!
  5. Perhaps my strangest goal for the year is to stop using harsh chemicals on my skin. I’m hoping to use my real food knowledge and pantry to overhaul my bathroom cabinet. From hair care to facial care, dental care to make-up, I’ve got lots to work on with this one. In 2013 I started making my own deodorant and began using coconut oil for lotion to support my internal detox. It opened my eyes to how many chemicals I use externally every day. Here’s to externally detoxing in 2014!

Do you have any mini real food changes on your resolution list this year? I hope you make Lean.Green.Kitchen a part of it! Happy New Year everyone. I wish for health and happiness for all of us.

Green Juice Shots all around… Cheers!