Friday, December 19, 2008

How to make yogurt...

Once you've made your own yogurt, you might feel guilty ever buying it again. It's so easy it's criminal, and homemade yogurt is cheaper and far better for you than the commercial kind. What most people don't realize is that many store bought yogurts contain very little active probiotics (that's the healthy bacteria we're after). Plus, they add large amounts of sugar and preservatives which we all should avoid. The way we make yogurt ensures that all the lactose is broken down so even people that are sensitive to milk products (lactose intolerant) should be able to eat this yogurt with no problems. It contains far more good bacteria as well because it is fermented for much longer than store-bought. There are many methods to make yogurt, this is ours:


1/2 gallon of whole milk (Note: Do not use ultra pasteurized.)*
10 grams yogurt starter- I use Yogourmet brand (or 1/3 Cup store-bought unflavored, unsweetened yogurt or 1/3 Cup of last batch of yogurt)

1/2 gallon glass jar with lid
dehydrator/yogurt maker

All supplies and yogurt starter are available here (you can also find the starter in the dairy section at the health food store)

1. Bring milk up to 180 degrees in large pot, stirring often to prevent scorching. This is just under a boil and you really have to watch it to keep it from boiling over, it can happen quick. The thermometer is helpful for that.
2. Remove from heat, cover pot with a clean towel and let cool to room temperature.
3. Place yogurt starter powder (or 1/3 C yogurt) into the glass jar (you can use plastic too, I just don't like to use plastic, especially when warming liquids).
4. Add about 1/2 Cup of room temperature milk into the jar and stir with a whisk until the starter is dissolved.
5. Add remaining milk to glass jar and stir again.
6. Place the jar in a dehydrator set between 100-110 degrees for 24 to 28 hours (or into a yogurt maker to which you've added a enough water so that the yogurt jar sits in a "bath" that covers it up to just below the lid). This step is the fermenting process.
7. Remove jar and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours before consuming.

The yogurt will keep for up to 2 weeks. The directions really make it sound harder than it is, it only takes about 10 minutes of actually doing something, the rest is just waiting for the fermenting process to take place. This yogurt is thick and tart. You can add honey, fruit, etc. to sweeten it up after you've let it cool in the refrigerator.

After scooping some yogurt out for the first time, you'll notice there will start to be some clear liquid that settles in the jar. The liquid is called whey and is very healthy to consume, it's rich in minerals and aids digestion so just stir it in! You can also use this whey to ferment other items like homemade sourkraut, pickles, etc. We'll be giving you ideas for this later...

We use yogurt every day in our smoothies and in lots of other ways, substituting it for sour cream and mayo, in dips and salad dressings, etc... Jonas loves it plain, his unspoiled palette that's yet to taste sugar likes the tart flavor. Kids that are used to flavored commercial yogurts may need a little doctoring up with this one, but it's so much better for them and in a smoothie they won't know the difference!

* Feel free to use anything from non-fat to half-and-half to make the yogurt, we prefer the consistency of whole milk and find the non-fat a bit too watery. Non-fat also scorches faster when heating so you have to keep a close eye on it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Where to start? How about breakfast...

For a couple of years now, we've been starting almost every day with a smoothie. We make our own yogurt (instructions to come for those that are interested!) to use as a base. To that we add a banana for a smooth texture, frozen berries, and spinach to top it off. I know what you're thinking, "Spinach in a smoothie? Gross". Hear me out, we're always looking for ways to increase the amount of greens in our diet and this is a sneaky way to get them without even tasting it. The taste of the fruit overpowers the more subtle spinach flavor and you get all the extra vitamins and minerals. Spinach is a true 'superfood' with so many health benefits it's ridiculous. Here's our basic and fast smoothie recipe, feel free to substitute with any fruit you have on hand:

Quick & Easy Smoothie

2 Cups Yogurt
1 Banana
1 Cup Frozen Berries

Fill blender with yogurt as your base for easiest blending, then add the fruit and spinach. Start with a small handful, then increase the amount of spinach to your liking. This is a thick smoothie, if you like it thinner, add water, coconut water, hemp/almond milk, or juice. Serves 2.

This is a great way to start a healthy day. It helps us with our eating decisions the rest of the day. If we're off to a good start, we don't want to ruin our progress!