Category Archives: Recipes

Homemade Hot Chocolate

World's Best Hot Chocolate Recipe

World's Best Hot Chocolate Recipe!What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods these days? We have been iced and snowed in for nearly a week here are our house. This kind of weather is very unusual around here, so we’ve enjoyed the chance to slow down a little. The kids have spent so much time out sledding and playing that they are falling into bed at night and sleeping in late in the mornings. As homeschoolers, we could press on with a normal school schedule if we chose, but all of the children that live near us have schedules dictated by one school system or another and they’ve all been off and itching to play. I’ve also been “snowed under” with the tax returns I do at this time of year, so it’s been a good time to let the kids have a break and enjoy the type of play that just isn’t possible around here on a regular basis!

As a result, I’ve had piles of boots and coats and hats and gloves at my back door on and off all week (when my children haven’t been off piling up their boots and coats at a neighbor’s door) and I have served up lots of homemade hot chocolate. My sweet husband finally had to explain to some of the children yesterday that we were going to have to cut everyone off before we ran out of milk. The children who don’t live here were fascinated to learn that we buy our milk directly from a farm and won’t be picking any more up until Saturday. So, when we’re out, we’re out! This was very disappointing, because apparently, I make the “World’s Best Hot Chocolate!” Who knew?

So, just in case you need an excellent (and easy!) recipe for Hot Chocolate, here you go!

 Homemade Hot Chocolate

(makes about 36 cups)

1 1/2 Cup Cocoa (or raw Cacao Powder)

3 Cups Sugar (or Organic Cane Sugar)

3/4 tsp Salt (or Himalayan Salt)

Mix these together. I like to run them through the blender or the food processor so they are more finely ground and dissolve more easily, but it’s not a must. Store in an airtight container.

When you’re ready to make some hot chocolate, measure out 2 Tablespoons of the mix into a cup. Add 1 Tablespoon of boiling water to the cup and mix. Then add:

1 Cup Milk

1/4 tsp vanilla

And, of course, if you really want to treat yourself, be sure and add marshmallows!!

Yummmmm!

By the way, I’ve run the nutritional information on this, and it’s about 220 calories if made with fresh, raw milk. If you want to make it with less sugar, you can. I’ve made it with 1 teaspoon of powdered stevia in place of one of the cups of sugar. It’s still delicious! Since the sugar is bulky, you’d only need about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the mix to make a cup.

Gluten Free Applesauce Bread

Applesauce Bread Gluten Free Quick Bread

There’s just something about applesauce bread. It’s warm and comforting. It smells FANTASTIC while it’s baking. It’s wonderful plain, it’s delectable with butter, and I love it with peanut butter! It even makes a great sandwich for lunch with peanut butter and possibly a little bit of honey. Yum!

Now that I’ve typed all this, I need to go and make some more.  NOW.

Gluten Free Applesauce Bread

Gluten Free Applesauce BreadIngredients

1 1/2 cups Gluten Free All Purpose Flour*

3/4 cup Rapadura or Sucanat (or 1/2 cup honey**)

1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 cup applesauce

2 eggs

1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients.
  3. Add wet ingredients and mix well.
  4. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or top looks set and toothpick comes out clean.

* You can buy yours pre-mixed, or there’s a great tutorial by Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, or here’s what’s currently in mine (we like a whole-grain-type flour):

  • 4 Cups Sorghum Flour
  • 3 Cups Brown Rice Flour
  • 2 Cups Potato Starch
  • 1 Cup Tapioca Starch

Basically, you’re shooting for a mixture that’s about 70% whole grains and 30% starches.

** If you choose to use honey, you’ll want to watch it closely. Honey browns more quickly than the other sugars.

Applesauce Bread Peanut Butter

We love Applesauce Bread with peanut butter SO much, that it was impossible for me to take a picture without someone taking a bite out of it first!

Applesauce Bread

And, if you don’t move quickly around here, little hands will suddenly appear in your pictures helping themselves to the subject of your photography. We aren’t the most patient bunch.

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Gluten Free Biscuits Recipe

Gluten Free Biscuit Recipe

This is our family’s FAVORITE recipe for Gluten Free Biscuits! It goes together quickly and easily and the recipe can be adapted to use more than one starch or flour, so you can tailor it to what you have on hand.

So, with no further adieu, I offer you (drum roll, please!) . . .

Gluten Free Biscuits

Gluten Free Biscuits Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Starch (Potato, Tapioca, or Cornstarch . . . I typically use a combination of Potato and Tapioca)
  • 3/4 Cup Flour (Brown Rice or Sorguhm)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, whey from making yogurt, or milk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F Spray a baking sheet or stone with cooking spray, or use parchment paper.
  2. Place the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Process for a few seconds until mixed.
  3. Sprinkle the butter chunks evenly over the flour mixture, cover, and process with until the mixture resemble coarse crumbs (about 15 seconds).
  4. Pour the liquid evenly over the mixture. Process for 8 1-second pulses, or until the dough gathers into a moist clump (you can also move dough back to the mixing bowl at this point and mix it by hand).
  5. Using your bare hands, quickly gather a clump of dough, lightly form it into a biscuit shape, and drop it onto the cookie sheet. Repeat this for all the remaining dough, trying to handle the dough as little as possible (it’s sticky).
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  7. Makes 6-8 biscuits (I often double the recipe).

You can make these without the food processor and just cut the butter in with a pastry cutter. They’re still delicious. They don’t turn out looking quite as pretty because the texture of the dough tends to be chunkier, but don’t let that stop you from trying them! You don’t want to miss out on a good thing just because you don’t want to use a food processor! Mmmmmmm!

Gluten Free Biscuit Recipe

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Quick Dinner Recipes: Egg Drop Soup and Tuna Fried Rice

Quick Dinner Fried Rice

One night this past week, I went to the freezer to pull out the salmon to make for dinner, per the Menu Plan, only to discover there was no salmon there. ACTUALLY, there WAS salmon there, but I couldn’t SEE the salmon because it was buried in the chaos of my freezer . . . and that should be the subject of a whole blog series in and of itself: creating order from chaos in the freezer. I’ll get right on top of that.

In the meantime, here are the “save the day” quick dinner recipes that got us through that evening:

Quick Dinner Recipes –
Egg Drop Soup and Tuna Fried Rice

 

Pin-Quick-Dinner--Recipes Egg-Drop-Soup

Egg Drop Soup

Ingredients:

5 cups chicken broth
3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
3/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon vietnamese fish sauce (or substitute miso)
3 eggs
salt
Optional: sliced green onions

Directions:

Heat chicken broth over medium-high heat until boiling.

Stir in the spinach leaves, sesame oil, and fish sauce  (or miso) and cook until the spinach begins to wilt.

Beat eggs well.

Stir broth mixture with one hand, so it moves in a circle around the pan, while slowly pouring in the eggs with your other hand.  Swirling motion and heat will cook and create thin ribbons of eggs.

Spoon into individual bowls and top with green onion if desired.

Tuna Fried Rice

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 tbsp. milk

olive oil

4 cups cooked brown rice
1 5-oz. canned tuna, drained and flaked with fork
3/4 cup corn
3/4 cup peas
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. soy sauce
Optional: 3 tbsp. cup finely chopped green onions (green part only)
Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to pan to coat.  Whisk together milk and eggs. Add to skillet, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until eggs are set. Remove from heat. Fold eggs into quarters and chop finely. Hold eggs on plate.

Recoat pan with olive oil, and place over medium high heat again.  Add green onion, if desired, stirring for about 2 minutes.  Add rice, corn, peas, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and soy sauce.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  Add tuna and eggs, gently stirring for another 2 minutes, until heated through.  Serve.

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Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

Mmmmm . . . Fall and pumpkin . . . they just go hand in hand. Truthfully, I like pumpkin just about anytime, which is why I keep a lot in my freezer year-round. I like to decorate with pumpkins that roast well and look good – Fairy Tale and Cinderella Pumpkins have been my favorites over the years. Using my decor for food later makes me feel SO much better about spending money in the fall on some pumpkins to sit around the house. And, as long as you don’t make them into Jack-o-lanterns, they usually last the full season and leave you plenty of time to roast them and get them in the freezer. This year, I’m trying a cushaw squash, as recommended by the farmer at the market this year. It’s a totally a different look, but he says they’re delicious! We shall see!

Gluten Free Pumpkin MuffinsThis morning, we tried out a new recipe. We’re always trying out new recipes. My husband says I have a very difficult time leaving well enough alone. True. Why settle for “well enough” when you can shoot for “AMAZING!”???? I try something new and then tweak it and tweak it and tweak it. I prefer to think of recipes as a “suggestion.”

So, I pass along to you my “suggestion” for Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins.  This recipe was adapted from a recipe I found at Grain Meal Wagon. Their version is dairy and egg free, so if you’d like to see their version, head on over there. My version is below.

You’ll see these are made with oat flour. The lovely thing about oat flour is that anyone with a blender or food processor can make it and you can make it in small batches, so you have just enough for a single recipe. Just blend or process oats (rolled or quick) until you have a texture you like (I like mine to still have some small identifiable oat crumbs in it, so it’s not all super fine.)

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

Dry Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly-ground oat flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca or potato starch
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 3 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups sucanat
Wet Ingredients
  • 1 TBSP Molasses
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup milk (any kind)
Optional Ingredients

Directions

1. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

2. Add wet ingredients. Mix well.

3. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top.

4. Spoon the batter into muffin cups. (I use silicone ones. I LOVE them!)

5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.

 

Empty Coffee CupI thought the pumpkin seeds (pepitas) really took these from very good to fabulous, but my children preferred to eat their muffins naked. Silly kiddos. These would also be delicious with some mini chocolate chips, if you wanted a sweeter treat. They were fantastic with a cup of coffee this morning! And, can I just show you my coffee cup? For Christmas this past year, I gave my daughter a gift certificate for a “girls’ day.” She and I painted pottery, had lunch together, and went and got manicures and pedicures. So fun! I painted this mug myself and it’s my favorite to drink from in the morning.  It just brightens up the day. Plus, it really DOES just beg to be filled. A little tip, though: if you’re right-handed and you plan to write yourself a cute note inside your coffee cup, make sure you’re holding the cup correctly.  Otherwise, you’ll be reading your message upside down, and early morning pre-coffee is just simply not the time to be reading upside down.

 

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3 Ingredient Dinner in a Flash

3-Ingredient-dinner

Okay, so you know how there are those days were absolutely nothing goes as planned and suddenly you look up and realize that in order to actually feed your family before it’s time to put the kiddos to bed that you really should have started dinner an hour ago? What? That never happens to you? Well, it happens to me.

All.the.time.

Waaaay more than I care to admit, actually. So, I won’t. I’ll just tell you that this is one of those recipes that you can throw together in a pinch with ingredients you tend to have around and no one will really know that you cannot manage your time well, and should, frankly, not be entrusted with the care and feeding of others. At all.

Dinner in a hurryEggs in Tomato Sauce

Serves 4
Ingredients

8 eggs
24 ounces of Spaghetti or Marinara sauce (homemade or store bought)

4 Tablespoons of Parmesan Cheese
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Reserve 1 cup (8 oz) of the sauce
  3. Into 4 individual oven-proof bowls or ramekins, evenly divide the remaining 2 cups (16 oz) of sauce.
  4. Crack 2 eggs into each bowl.
  5. Spoon reserved sauce evenly over the eggs.
  6. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cheese over each dish.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

This is also delicious with a little feta and fresh basil, if you’re interested in adding an ingredient or two, but they aren’t required to make it delicious. Goes well with with crusty bread (if you eat that sort of thing) and a side salad or steamed broccoli if you’d like to balance things out with something green.

I’ll admit, part of the reason that I like this recipe is that it takes advantage of something we have an abundance of . . . eggs! Our backyard flock of 5 is producing all the eggs we could possibly eat, plus some. Right this minute, there are nearly 4 dozen in my fridge, so I am ALL about a recipe that puts some to good use!

Eggs for dinner

YUMMY and Simple Gluten Free Pancakes!

Gluten Free Pancakes

We eat pancakes pretty often.  Consequently, after my husband was diagnosed with Celiac earlier this year, we spent several months on the hunt for a good gluten free pancake recipe. We ate through many a dud before finding this recipe and making some minor changes to make it really work for us.  This recipe has a good “mouth feel” and isn’t too dry.  The flavor is really nice. This is a gluten free pancake tht I will happily serve to guests who aren’t accustomed to eating gluten free because it really doesn’t taste all that different from the pancakes we used to eat.

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice flour or sorguhm flour
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1 T honey
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

Wet Ingredients:

2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/2 – 2 cups buttermilk (or a mixture of yogurt and milk or this is a great place to use the whey leftover from making yogurt) … whatever it takes to get the consistency you want.

Gluten Free PancakesDirections
  1. Mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Mix until lumps are gone.
  2. Heat a skillet or griddle to medium heat.
  3. Add oil to griddle (I use coconut oil).
  4. Spoon batter onto griddle (I like to use a 1/4 C measuring cup). You may need to spread the batter out with the back up a spoon or the measuring cup.
  5. Cook until surface of pancakes begin to bubble and to look a little drier.
  6. Flip carefully and cook on other side for about 2 more minutes.
  7. If you like, keep pancakes warm in a 200 degree oven. You may want to cover them with tinfoil to retain their moisture if you won’t be serving them right away.

Serve with real Maple Syrup. These are also yummy with about 1/2 C of chocolate chips or blueberries.

Makes 10-12 pancakes.

Gluten Free Pancakes, Breakfast Table

 

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Magical (Maybe) Healthy (Definitely) Chocolate Chip Oatmeal

Lizy's-Oatmeal-Feature-Photo

Once upon a time, there was a sweet little girl who loved oatmeal.  The only decent tasting oatmeal her mother knew how to cook came in a box with individual packets inside. Add water or milk and microwave. Easy cheesy. The little girl LOVED oatmeal.  She would happily eat it for breakfast every.single.day.

At first, her mother patted herself on the back, because her daughter loved oatmeal. Oatmeal just sounds so . . . healthy.  But, over time, the little girl’s mother began to be concerned about the amount of sugar in the little individual packages. And then there was the fact that the little girl would eat it EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  AND, that as the little girl grew, it was not uncommon for her to want TWO or MORE packages of the oatmeal that seemed to contain LOTS of sugar, a little bit of oats, possibly a tiny bit of chopped up dried fruit, and a good bit of artificial something-or-other.

(It actually wasn’t until MUCH later that the mother discovered that the “Strawberries” in the packets weren’t even strawberries; the “Peaches” weren’t peaches. That there were NO strawberries or peaches at all.  Thankfully, by then, the mother had moved on.)

So, the mother started exploring other healthier options.

Like this one:

And this one:Product Details

Sadly, while the mother did feel better about these alternatives, the little girl did NOT like them NEARLY as much as the packets from the box with the man with the hat on them. Come to find out, it can be a little difficult to transition from eating LOTS of sugar and fake flavors to less sugar and natural flavors. Particularly when you are 3 or 4 years-old and rather determined to have things go your way.

Then . . . MIRACLE of MIRACLES, a kind family member invited the little girl for a sleepover with her cousins (second cousins, to be precise). The little girl had a wonderful time, and after her mother (and she) survived the world’s WORST TEMPER TANTRUM EVER over having to leave the magical sleepover, AND the nap that was REQUIRED once they arrived home, the mother went to wake the little girl up. The mother told the little girl how glad she was that she had enjoyed her time there.  And the first words out of the little girl’s mouth?

“Oooh, mommy!  They had the BEST oatmeal!”

(Seriously? Her first slumber party and this is what stuck in her mind?)

So, OF COURSE, the mommy was contractually obligated to get in touch and get the recipe   . . . forever after referred to around their home as “Lizy’s Special Oatmeal” in honor of one of the cousins.  :-)

World's best oatmeal recipe. Kid's favorite oatmeal recipe! Healthy oatmeal recipe!

It’s been tweaked and tweaked and re-tweaked over the years, but HERE, ladies and gentlemen is the miracle oatmeal that changed our oatmeal habits around our home forever and allowed us to transition peacefully to a packet-free, oatmeal-filled (I kid you not, we’re eating through a 50 pound bag at the moment at a steady pace) existence.  And, you’ll be glad to know (because I’m sure you care) that we eat other flavors besides this one, as well. But this . . . with no further adieu . .  is the magical stuff that started it all:

___________________________

Magical (Maybe) Healthy (Definitely) Chocolate Chip Oatmeal
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Delicious, healthy and filling oatmeal!
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats
  • ⅔ cup water
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax
  • 1Tbsp raw almond butter
  • ½ Tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (we like it pretty cinnamon-y. You can use ¼ tsp if you do not.)
  • ½ tsp chia
  • 1 TBSP raw honey
  • A few (I usually shoot for about 12) regular sized chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Heat all ingredients (except honey and chocolate chips) on medium-low heat until oats are cooked as you prefer (about 5-7 minutes). Stir well to break up and incorporate almond butter.
  2. Remove from heat and add:
  3. Tbsp raw honey (you can add stevia if you prefer it sweeter but don’t want to add more sugars)
  4. A few chocolate chips (around here, we usually “hide” a few in the bottom of the bowl It motivates my son to do more than just eat them off the top.)
  5. A sprinkle of ground bee pollen and some cacao nibs, if you’re really the adventurous sort.

I wish I could promise that it would be magical for everyone, but I can DEFINITELY tell you that it was magical for us! Thanks Lizy!

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Granola Bars . . . or Super Swim Bars!

Granola Bar

I love a good granola bar. The kind that is a little chewy and still a little crunchy. I like them to be sweet, but not so sweet that they have that “burn” that sometimes comes from too much sugar, or especially too much honey.

This summer, we needed some snacks to take to swim meets (hence the alternate name, SUPER Swim Bars!, by which they will forever be known around our house), and I found a recipe for granola bars that I liked, but didn’t quite love.  Now, with a few tweaks, I’m really happy with it and it’s been a hit with the whole family.

Granola Bar Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter, or other seed/nut butter
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 Tbsp sucanat, rapadura, or light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax
Optional, make it even healthier, ingredients:
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp popped amaranth
Optional, make it even yummier, ingredients:
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts, dried apricots, figs, or some combination of these

Directions
  1. If you’re concerned about it sticking, you can spray a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. I’ve actually never had a problem with mine sticking to a pyrex baking dish, even when I don’t spray it.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, peanut butter, coconut oil, rapadura or sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir and cook until mixture just begins to bubble, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
  3. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients (except for chocolate chips, if you plan to add those).
  4. Pour liquid mixture over oatmeal mixture and stir gently until well combined.
  5. If you’re adding chocolate chips, stir mixture and allow to cool somewhat before adding the chocolate so it doesn’t melt instantly.
  6. Transfer to baking dish, cover with waxed or parchment paper and press firmly into dish.
  7. Allow to cool completely (will cool faster in the refrigerator). Cut into squares or bars.

These also freeze well. I individually wrap mine and usually keep them refrigerated or frozen until we take them out to take with us somewhere for a snack. I think they hold together just as well as the store bought granola bars I’ve been purchasing lately, and my family enjoys the flavor just as much or more so. And, hey, these can make you SUPER!

Making Yogurt at Home

yogurt granola

If, you’re not making your own yogurt at home . . . well, that’s okay.  I make lots of stuff from scratch, but I’m not of the mindset that you’re really falling down on the job if you choose convenience over the extra time it takes to make stuff from scratch.  We’re all trying to find a balance that works for ourselves and for our families.  I think that balance is probably different places for different people.

I like to make stuff from scratch. Partly, because I just like to know that I can, and partly because I really do like knowing more about what’s in my food. It makes me better appreciate food in general, really. Anyway . . . if you’re at all interested, making yogurt from scratch is pretty easy.  Seriously.

I like yogurt. I don’t eat it every day, generally, but I like a little yogurt and granola for breakfast every now and then. And I really like adding yogurt to smoothies, since it’s full of good probiotics. So, I consume a reasonable amount of yogurt on my own. One of my children . . . the one who would mostly prefer to eat bread and sugar . . . the one who really likes about 3 fruits and only a handful of vegetables . . . LOVES yogurt.  LOVES it. Happily eats it most days for breakfast. Sometimes with granola; sometimes without.  He’ll also eat several fruits and vegetables that he doesn’t really care for (Strawberries, Oranges, Bananas, Peaches, Spinach, Kale, etc.) if it’s in the form of a smoothie, so I make a lot of smoothies around here and I add yogurt (or the whey from making yogurt, see below) to many of them! I love knowing that by eating yogurt he’s getting some good protein and some great probiotics.

What I didn’t love about the yogurt from the store was:

1) So many of them had more than just milk and live cultures in them, and

2) The cost!

Yogurt Maker

So, about 3 years ago, I started making my own.  I really didn’t want to invest in a separate yogurt maker, although I know some folks who own them and love them. I’m sure the advantage of a yogurt maker is that you know exactly how it’s going to work, every time.  If you’re not patient or willing to spend a few extra minutes monitoring the temperature of your milk, an automatic yogurt maker might be the way to go.

On the other hand, I think making homemade yogurt is REALLY easy! For the first year or so, I tried the “crock pot” method. That method works really well, but my crock pot tends to get too hot and scalds the top of the milk so that I end up with a film on my yogurt that I don’t care for (and makes cleaning my crock pot more difficult).  Also, I didn’t love all the time that went into that process, even though it mostly didn’t involve a lot of work: heat milk in the crockpot for a couple of hours, come back and turn the crockpot off and let it cool for a few hours, come back and add your culture, wrap the whole crock pot in towels and let it sit for 8-12 hours. I wasn’t very good at “coming back” at the right times (I have other things to do!) and I didn’t love dragging out my big towels every time I wanted to make yogurt.

So, I’ve adapted my methodology to what works best for me.  Maybe it will be helpful to you, too!

Homemade Yogurt

  1. Heat milk to 185 degrees*. You’ll need a thermometer to monitor this (mine looks like this one. Very inexpensive.). This kills the bad bacteria so it won’t compete with the good ones you’ll be adding. Essentially, this is pasteurization. This is where I use a double boiler, although you don’t have to have one (or like me, before I owned one, you can rig one up with a metal bowl or smaller pan and a larger pot.  Use what you’ve got, right?). It’s a good idea to take your “starter”** out of the fridge while you’re doing this, so that it will warm up to room temperature and not cool the mixture down so much when you’re adding it.
  2. Cool the milk to 110 degrees (just let it cool at your leisure, put it in a cold water bath, or just whisk it to release the heat . . . whatever you’ve got the time and inclination to do).
  3. Whisk in the starter**.
  4. Put the mixture in oven-safe containers (I just use my crock pot insert since it’s large the crock insulates really well, but you could use any glass jar or dish that you can cover).
  5. Allow the mixture to incubate.  My preferred method of doing this is to put it in the oven with the oven barely on.  To make sure that my oven was maintaining a temperature of about 100 degrees when I just barely clicked it on, I put my candy thermometer in a bowl of water on the rack beside my container or yogurt and just checked in periodically the first couple of times. Now that I’m confident, I just skip that step.
  6. Let it culture for 8-12 hours.

After that, you can eat it straight from the container, if you like.  I prefer to strain mine so that it’s thicker and more solid. I save the whey that I strain off and substitute it for buttermilk, milk, yogurt, or water in all sorts of other recipes and even in smoothies (waste not, want not!).  After I’ve strained it, I usually don’t love the texture of the yogurt as much (it’s beautifully smooth before I strain, but tossing it around straining it gives it a lumpy texture), so I usually stick mine in a blender and blend it up to make is smooth again.  If it’s too thick to blend, I just add back as much whey as is necessary to get the texture I prefer. We like ours sweetened with honey (and sometimes stevia) and vanilla, so sometimes I go ahead and add those at this point. Otherwise, I just sweeten or doctor it on an as needed basis (don’t forget to set some unsweetened aside to use as a starter for future batches!). I also use the unsweetened yogurt as a substitute for sour cream, so sometimes I set aside some for that, if I know I’m going to want some.

*We use raw milk, since that’s generally what we have around. There are many discussions out there about heating the milk to a lower temperature in order to keep the enzymes and naturally occurring good bacteria intact. At some point, I may reduce the temperature that I heat mine to. For now, though, I know that I tend to use milk that’s a week old and I feel better about heating it to a higher temperature to make sure that the bad stuff has been killed before I begin the process of making yogurt.

**For my starter, I use a single container of store bought plain greek yogurt. You don’t have to use greek yogurt, it’s just my preference. I do try to look at labels and get one with more than one active culture and as few other ingredients as possible.  Afterwards, I just set aside about a cup of my batch of yogurt to use as a starter again. Eventually, your starter will weaken since this is a less controlled environment that a big industrial process, but in the meantime, you’ll have turned a lot of milk into yogurt!  :-) And, when that happens, you can just grab a single container at the store and get started again.  Usually, we’re desperate enough to eat the starter before it ever gets weak enough to be a problem.  :-)

I’m no food pathogen expert, but our homemade yogurt has lasted in the fridge for 2+ weeks easily.  I do like to label it with the date just so that I know how long it’s been in there, but I’ve never had a batch that’s been in there long enough that I’ve though it was “off” and needed to be tossed out.