1.15.2011

Homemade Yogurt - in the Crockpot!

So, a friend introduced me to this crockpot blog earlier this week and I wish I had known about this site long before now. After all, the more pregnant I become, the more I use my crockpot. :)

Anyway, I saw on the aforementioned site that you can make yogurt - that's right yogurt - in your crockpot. As I'm always interested in a new kitchen experiment, I gave the recipe a shot the day after I found it.

Before you begin: Be sure to allow plenty of time - using the crockpot to make yogurt is super easy and does not require much attention, but you should allow 14-18 hours from start to finish - the first 5 hours you'll need to check the yogurt twice at timed intervals. You will also need a large, heavy bath towel or beach towel to use as insulation for the final phase.

You only need 2 ingredients to make yogurt:
milk (whole milk is suggested in the original recipe)
all-natural plain yogurt (I used Dannon*)

Note: Homemade yogurt is thinner than store-bought yogurt. You can thicken it using unflavored gelatin.

*You only need to purchase yogurt to use for your first batch. For following batches, as long as you reserve 1/2 C of your homemade yogurt to use as starter, there is no need to purchase new yogurt.

If you are using a reduced-fat milk, you might consider adding some gelatin or milk powder. Also, using pasteurized milk is fine, but (per the crockpot blogger) do not use ultra-pasteurized milk.

The original recipe and instructions to the following recipe were originally found here.

That all having been said, here is what I did...

8 C 2% milk (I used plain old Kroger brand milk)
1/2C all-natural yogurt
1/2 packet (about 1.5t?) unflavored gelatin

1 - Take 8C milk and add to your crockpot. Add lid and turn on low (my crockpot only has timed settings, so I put it on 8 hours). Let "cook" for 2.5 hours.

2 - Once the 2 1/2 hours are up, turn crockpot off and leave lid on. Let sit a further 3 hours.

3 - At the end of the 3 hour "cooling period", take 1-2C of the semi-warm (and now somewhat sour) milk from the crock pot and put in a large bowl. Add 1/2C yogurt and whisk together. If using gelatin, add it to the yogurt-milk mix and stir well.

4 - Pour the yogurt-milk-gelatin mix back to the milk in your crockpot, place lid on top and wrap towel securely around the top and sides of the crockpot. Let sit at least 8 hours or overnight.

I started my yogurt around 2:30pm yesterday, added the yogurt and gelatin to the mix around 7:30pm and let it sit in the towel-wrapped crockpot until about 8am this morning. I was thrilled when I came down to check on my concoction and, sure enough, the smell of yogurt greeted me when I took the lid off! The mixture had thickened and it worked! Homemade yogurt is thinner than store-bought yogurt, but the flavor is the same. :) As the homemade yogurt cools, it will thicken a little more. I actually prefer a thinner yogurt, so this is an added bonus to the homemade variety!

Admittedly, I'm not a huge plain yogurt fan, but there is a lot you can do to make this more enjoyable. For the record, adding anything will change the consistency/thickness of the yogurt.

Today, Daniel and I have eaten a lot of the homemade yogurt and have tried a few different things to flavor it up a bit. We think all of them have worked well.

1 - add 1T jam to ~1C yogurt and mix well
2 - add 1/4 C (drained) crushed pineapple to 1C yogurt
3 - add 1T jam and a few drops flavored liquid stevia to 1C yogurt

My favorite is probably the jam/stevia combination. Liquid stevia mixes well with the yogurt and adds an even, mild sweetness to the yogurt without adding unnecessary sugar/calories.

You can puree frozen or fresh fruit into the yogurt, but I have not yet tried this.

Now that you've read my book on crockpot yogurt-making, you may be wondering, "Is it worth it?" In short, YES! It is easy, delicious and very cost efficient. It cost about$2 for the 8C batch of yogurt.

1.13.2011

The Crockpot is My Friend

Happy 2011 everyone! Between being the mother of 2 preschoolers AND being in my third trimester of pregnancy, finding the mental energy to post is often beyond my abilities. :-p This morning however, as I was adding ingredients to my crockpot in preparation for tonight's dinner, I realized I had stumbled across an easy blog post.

I love my crockpot - especially in the winter. Why? It allows hot, delicious dinners to be served with minimal cooking effort. AND, the fragrances permeate my house throughout the day. There is nothing quite like a home fragranced with the ingredients of a warm dinner - especially when it is cold outside.

That being said - I got the following recipe from my mom a few years ago and it has become a regular dish in my home year-round. (For the record, I have made a few modifications to the recipe as that is the way I cook and as a result, some of the measurements are not precise... I'm not much of a "follow the recipe meticulously" cook as I am a "dump until it looks/tastes right" cook.)

Creamy Italian Chicken w/ Rice
1 large can condensed cream of mushroom soup
3 cans diced tomatoes (you can use Italian Style if you like)
2-4 med-large frozen chicken breasts
2~ T rosemary, or to taste (you can also add or substitute Italian seasoning)
brown rice

Optional Ingredients:
2~ cloves minced garlic, or to taste
black pepper, to taste
1 white onion, chopped
1 small-med zucchini, chopped
shredded cheddar cheese (added when dish is served)

In a large crockpot, add the condensed cream of mushroom soup, 3 cans of tomatoes (I tend to drain a little of the liquid out as I prefer a thicker sauce, but this is not necessary), frozen chicken*, rosemary, garlic and pepper and onion. Cook 6-8 hours. If using zucchini, add in the last 1/2 of the cooking period.

*The chicken will cook fully during this time and it is perfectly safe to add it to the crockpot with the other ingredients raw and frozen.

Once the 6-8 hours is complete, remove the chicken from the sauce and shred with two forks. This should only take a few minutes as the chicken is cooked fully and nearly falls apart. Add chicken back to the sauce.

At some point toward the end of the 6-8 hours, make your rice according to the bag's directions. I use brown rice. You can also serve over whole wheat pasta (I would suggest using rotini, penne or macaroni rather than spaghetti), couscous, barley, etc. This sauce is good over about any grain.

Serve rice, top with sauce and cheese. This is a delicious, filling dinner and should make enough to serve 6-8 adults, maybe more.