Friday, May 2, 2014

Easy "No Fuss" Yogurt

"No Fuss" Yogurt


Yogurt making is one of the simplest techniques there is to a homestead kitchen!  You don't need a bunch of fancy gear and you don't have to keep an eye on temperatures.  Making yogurt is easy, no fuss, and inexpensive.  I'm going to show you how!  

Here is what you will need:
3-4 qt. slow cooker
Milk (sour is okay) (about 1 gallon)
1 C. or Pint favorite live culture yogurt
digital meat thermometer (optional)

1.  Start by pouring your milk into the slow-cooker and turning on high.
2.  I like to put a digital meat thermometer in and set the alarm timer to go off when the milk reaches 110 degrees.  If you don't have one, you can use your finger tip.  You would heat it to a good bath water temp (warm/hot to the touch but not so it burns your skin.  You should be able to hold your finger in the milk comfortably.  
3.  Add your yogurt and stir well.  I like to use Brown Cow or Noosa!
4. Turn slow-cooker off, cover with a lid and leave it on the counter overnight.  The next morning, you should have a crock pot of yogurt.  

We usually make a plain yogurt and flavor it with jam or maple syrup.  Keep in mind the texture will be runny in comparison to a store bought yogurt because you aren't adding any thickeners.  

The measurements are only guidelines.  You can use more or less yogurt, more or less milk.  I usually do this when the milk is getting old and starting to sour or we are accumulating milk.  You can also add fruit and sugar if this is how you like your yogurt!  Get creative with it!  Oh, and don't forget to save a little for the next batch.  You can keep re-culturing without buying new cultures.  

*Note: if you still have milk by morning it's a good sign that the milk was too hot when you added your yogurt.  If you over heat the milk, simply let it cool a little before adding the yogurt.  

Happy Culturing!  




Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gingerbread

Today we wake up to thick snow falling.  The kind that builds up in blankets!  It will be another day to shovel, deice and plow.  The snow is beautiful and it makes me feel like we are in a wonderland.  After a nice hot cup of strong coffee and stoking the fire, I went to open the chicken coop and found the door was frozen shut.  The yard door is also frozen shut. 

Yesterday, our car wouldn't get through the snow and we ended up walking up the road.  A few sweeps with the plow truck cleared the road and I walked down to get our car.  Today, we have already accumulated four inches and it is only 10am.  My daughter says, "it looks like it's a Hot Chocolate day!"  It sure is!  We are quickly getting our school work done so the rest of the day can be spent in the snow. 

My mind is already jumping through the day on what will need to be accomplished and what we will make for our meals.  We will need something warm and filling to snack on between trips outdoors.  Quickly, I whip up a batch of Gingerbread.  Not the cookie, but the bread.  It smells so good as it bakes and the aroma fills the house.  I can hardly wait for it to cool. 

Gingerbread, now here is something you don't see much anymore.  I rarely see recipes for it and it isn't a common thing to make anymore.   I'm not sure why because it is the best!  The recipe I like comes from a cookbook of old-time cooks.  The recipe is from 1910 and came from a family in the Great Smoky Mountains.  It is soft and literally melts in your mouth.  I like to top ours with powdered sugar and serve it warm.  It is a very versatile recipe that can be altered according to what ingredients are on-hand.  This recipe is easy to memorize and whips up like a brownie mix to warm spicy perfection every time!  This Gingerbread will fill your home and your belly at the same time! 

GINGERBREAD

1/4 C. Butter
1/2 C. Sugar
1/2 C. Molasses
1 Egg
1/2 C. Buttermilk (yogurt)
1 tsp. Soda
1 tsp. Ginger
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 1/2 C. flour

Cream butter, sugar and molasses.  Add egg and buttermilk.  Mix well.  Add soda, ginger and cinnamon.  Mix well.  Add flour.  Pour into greased 8x8 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes. 

To make a variation of this you can use apple pie filling and bake it like an upside-down cake.  Serve with whip cream. 




Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brown Bread

December has been a rough month for all of us here.  We have spent the entire month sick with the exception of two of the kids.  Those of us who weren't sick had to take care of someone who was.  Without going into to much detail we have been on medications of all sorts.  With a little immediate progress, we seem to wind up sick again.  Out of sheer desperation to be healthy again, I pulled out all of my health, nutrition, herb and medical books and got to work looking for answers. 

Several hours later, I am armed with a treatment plan, complete with a collection of recipes for medicines and nourishing foods.  I soaked some fresh flaked oats, got beans and rice soaking, mixed up the first part of Donna's Raw Granola (my absolute favorite) to soak over night, made a cough syrup and an activator (for lack of a better term).  These are almost like a tincture, but made with a glycerin base so the kids will take them. 

Jack is sick right now and has been down for two weeks.  He doesn't want to get up at all, doesn't eat and sleeps all day.  The antibiotics have only taken his fever away.  They haven't helped anything else and he is still getting mild fevers.  He is so thin that you can see his bones and much of his muscle has withered away.  So, before bed last night he got a dose of the medicines I just made and a massage with Twysted Thystle's Garlic Salve (another of my favorites).  We rub this on the chest, back, lymph nodes and feet.  We all went to bed smelling like garlic bread! 

Today...I woke up to bright eyes and a smile.  He was ready to get up.  He didn't just get up but he stayed up for most of the day.  We repeated treatment in the morning and soon after he was ready to eat.  We needed something really nourishing because our bodies are so depleted and Brown Bread sounded so good.  This is a hearty bread and if you aren't careful it can easily turn into a brick.  Follow the tips included to keep the crumb moist and chewy as you make this. 

Mishaun's Brown Bread 

1.  Mix in the mixer: put ingredients in the mixer bowl and stir with a spoon until moistened.

1 C. Hot Water (run your tap until it feels hot)
1 Tbsp. Sucanat
2 Tbsp. Yeast

2.  Add: 

2/3 C. Molasses (blackstrap, unsulfered)
1/3 C. Sucanat
1 Tbsp. Salt
1/2 C. Bacon Grease, melted, cooled
1 Qt. Hot Water

3.  With grain grinder:  Grind into flour

2 C. 9-grain mix
7 C. Hard White Wheat

4.  With an oat flaker: Flake

1 C. Oat Groats (makes 2 C. flaked oats)

5.  Add into mixer bowl:

2 C. Flaked Oats
9 C. Fresh Flour
2-3 C. White Flour (until consistency is like soft Play-doh)

6.  Mix dough until it comes together and is not overly sticky.  Hold the last cup of flour.  Leave it slightly sticky and mix for 5 minutes to develop the gluten.  Then add the last cup kneading by hand on a floured board.  When you have the soft texture of Play-doh place in a well greased bowl to rise.  Turn the dough around in bowl so it is completely greased.  This keeps it from drying out.  If you notice it getting dry, apply more bacon grease.  

7.  Place in warm area to rise.  Rise and punch down three times always making sure the dough is not getting dry.  Don't let the bread develop a fermented smell.  If you smell it fermenting (alcohol smell) stop rising and form your loaves.  

8.  After rising, form your loaves and place in well greased pans.  Make sure you turn the loaf in the pan to grease the top of the dough.  Then it won't dry out during rising.  Rise the loaves while you are heating the oven (this will be the fourth rise).  

9.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.  When you thump the top of the loaf, it should be firm and have a hollow sound.  

*When you are mixing your dough be sure you don't over mix.  This will make the bread very tough and heavy.  It also won't rise as well.  

*The more you rise the bread, the chewier the crumb will be.  Rising really improves the texture of the bread.  

*Adding 1/3 C. of good quality yogurt will add a very velvety texture to the bread. 

*If you don't like the dark brown bread, swap the molasses for a good quality Raw Honey.  

*Making bread is a balancing act.  It is not so much about exact ingredients, as it is about knowing how the dough should feel.  How long to mix it and rise it.  How to keep the dough moist.  Bread making is also very simple.  Don't make it hard. 

When you pull this bread out of the oven, cool it on racks and while it is still warm cut a nice big slice of it.  Slather it with a good butter and enjoy the earthy flavor.  It will leave you feeling content!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sharing Our Typical Day

I have wrestled with the idea of writing this post several times and have finally made up my mind to write it.  It is a long post with many parts to it that starts with sharing our typical day.  One of the things I find helpful, something I really love, is when people let me be the fly on the wall and share how things are done in their home.  I love to draw tips, organization, tricks, get book titles, projects and tools from other home school families or just see what their day is like.  I am going to follow up this blog with other articles on how we organized our day to be this way.  So, I hope you enjoy being a fly on our wall. 

We have three kids that are at home.  Their ages are 4, 6 and 8.  Two of them are doing full time school.  Homesteading in the mountains on 35 acres has taught us to raise or grow some of our food, stock our pantry, can, freeze our own foods,  purchase from co-ops, grain warehouses and farms.  Our goal is to make everything homemade and eliminate processed foods.  Our homestead is also home to chickens, turkeys, pigs, cats, dogs, bees and a love bird.  We heat our home with wood, have a windmill and a couple solar panels.  Learning is always in progress for kids and adults and I have a love for writing, knitting, crocheting, cooking, sewing, organizing, homesteading, homemaking and making EVERYTHING! 

So now that I have painted the picture, here is a typical day! 

Between 6:00 to 8:00 AM everyone is waking up, getting dressed and starting breakfast.  We cook a good breakfast each morning. 

After breakfast we clean up, kids get ready for the day.  The boys usually head outside for some exploring, adventure, play, crafting and chores.  The girls organize our school day, gather supplies and cleanup. 

Around 10:00AM we dive into our school work.  Subjects we cover are Math, Science, Geography, history, biography, Handicraft/Life Skills, Handwriting, Arts and Music.  Whew! 

12:00 - 2:00PM at some time we eat some lunch when we can all gather for a break. 

We read books together and then everyone goes to quiet time for at least an hour.  Here we work crafts, think, sleep, read and everything is independent.  It is a time for everyone to be alone. 

By 3:00PM we are done with quiet time, we are finishing school and chores and head outside to do work.  The chores get done and the kids use this time to do any outdoor work they have been tasked to do.  They help with animals, carry firewood in, garden, etc. 

4:00 - 5:00 PM We are starting to make dinner now.  Our two youngest usually help with cooking and prep work, setting tables, cleaning off tables from projects and school work.  We eat and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we all go running together at 6:15PM. 

When we get back it is about 6:45PM - 7:00PM and everyone picks rooms to cleanup.  The whole house is picked up while I make a yummy snack for everyone.  P.J.'s are put on and everyone has a snack.  Then the kids get ready for bed and everyone gathers on the couch for reading time.  We read story books and our chapter book. 

Around 9:00PM, everyone who is still awake gets tucked in, if anyone fell asleep they get carried to bed.  We sing, tell our favorite things about the day and chat a bit with each kid.  The older kids usually turn on their reading lights and read or draw until they are sleepy. 

After kids are off to bed, I clean up the kitchen, do dishes, get coffee ready for the morning, pickup anything that got strayed from the kids clean-up time. 

THEN....I make a steaming cup of tea and something sweet to snack on.  I sit down and read, flip through magazines, work on hand craft projects and maybe watch a show and spend time with my husband.  And it's off to bed. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Crochet School

Today is the first day of school!!!  Whooo HOoooo!!!! Best time of the year.  Love it. It makes the fact that summer is over easier to bear.  We are on a schedule once again and there is a bit of peace in the house again.  I only have two in regular school right now and three at home.  I am homeschooling for the first time this year and we start today.  I am doing Charlotte Mason style homeschooling and that means teaching a handicraft.  I love the idea of kids doing handicrafts and a whole 12 weeks is devoted to one craft.  My son picked crocheting.  I don't know ANYTHING about how to crochet.  I found this website and thought I would post it here in case anyone else would like to know how to crochet.

 Click here to go to crochet school!


 I must apologize for my poor writing as of late.  I always have a baby complaing that I am on the internet and a young child talking to me.  It is a miracle that I have one complete thought let alone write a complete sentence.  Someday it will get better please bear with me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bluebell Grapes

About five years ago I bought a Concord grape plant knowing full well we were one zone too cold to grow it here.  I had heard of others out there that had success with Concord and a neighbor nearby gets bags and bags full of these blue beauties.  Mine would grow a little in the summer die back in the winter and start it's little bit of growth again in the summer.
 No grapes...ever.  I tried a second plant.  It died.  Last year I was at our local garden center and found a grape called Bluebell.  This grape was developed by the University of MN for the northern climate.  Minnesota thinks it is going to be a big wine producer someday and indeed we already have a good amount of wine coming from this state.  We have done a lot of research into cold climate grapes which have given us a lot more choices at the nursery for all kinds of different grapes. 

 Last year its first year in the ground this little plant streched it's vines quite far and gave me a few bunches of grapes.  I was delighted as I have never seen a grape plant grow before let alone get grapes from it.  So this year I bought a second to cover an arbor and that one is flourishing as well.  The best thing ever is the amount of grapes that I got from my two year old plant.  Two large bowls full!  I would have had more but every time I pass by it I grab a few to eat.  They are marvelous and very similar to Concords.

Jelly making time!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Homemade Taco Seasoing - The Best!

When we started making our own mixes at home, I quit buying taco seasoning mix.  I tried some natural ones, but they can still be expensive and I would rather mix my own fresh seasoning mixes.  The one I have been using was a mixture of herbs and not very saucy once you added it to the meat.  So after searching and trying different recipes, I thought I would save you the trouble.  This will blow your taco packet seasonings away AND it's good for you!

Taco Seasoning
1/4 C. (3T) Chili Powder
1 1/2 t. onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano (or mexican seasoning from Mountain Rose Herbs)
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. arrowroot powder (can sub. with cornstarch)

Mix well and store in a container.  This makes enough for 2 lbs. of meat.

Brown ground meat, add 2/3 c. water and 1/4 c. seasoning mix.  Simmer until reduced and slightly thickened.