Thursday, September 8, 2011

More Yogurt!

Ok, so I've been on a kick lately about making my own yogurt. At first, I was totally daunted by it... there are timings and temperatures and important steps involved. My thermometer has some air bubbles in the mercury, so I was concerned that I wouldn't get an accurate reading when I went to add in the store-bought yogurt (the "starter), but so far so good!

Tuesday evening, I decided to keep the yogurt making going by making another batch, but using my own homemade yogurt as the starter this time. When I got home from work, I immediately plugged in the crock pot and set it on 'low.' I went about some household things and set an alarm for the 2.5 hour mark per the directions I'd been following.

Wouldn't you know it... I got caught up in doing something and didn't hear the alarm. When I finally realized what had happened, I went to check on my milk and discovered that it had gotten pretty heated, to the point that it had a 'skin' on top.

Crap.

I didn't know what the heck I was going to do with cooked milk, so I said "what the heck" and gave it a shot anyway. Scooped out two cups of the cooked milk, whisked in my homemade starter, poured the whole thing back in the crockpot and tucked it away into the stove. I said a little prayer in the hopes that my cooked milk woulnd't have to be tossed out.

The next morning I woke up like it was Christmas. I dashed into the kitchen, opened the oven, took off the crock pot lid, and...

Another successful batch!

YAY!

(I LOVE not having to throw out food!)

Since this was my third successful batch, I had become semi-pro at straining the yogurt to 'thicken' it. So I set up a couple of strainers/colanders with a thicker cloth napkin as the lining, set them in bowls, and ladled in the thin, creamy yogurt. And off to work I went!

When I got home, I had a couple pounds of peaches left over from the bourbon peach foodventure, so I chopped up what was left, got rid of bad spots, and pureed a couple of peaches to stir into the now-very-thick yogurt. Turned out pretty nicely!

Which brings us to today, when, while getting everything together to leave for work this morning, I left my fancy homemade peach yogurt on the kitchen table... at least Eric was home to put it back in the fridge for me...

Stay tuned to see what kind of luck I have in making homemade frozen yogurt!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bourboned Canned Peaches

Millions of peaches, peaches for me...


(btw, not claiming ANY photography skills in the least!)

We have what I consider to be the BEST farmers market in the DC/metro area. It's one block away from where we live (score) and open year-round (double score). I wanted to try my hand at bourbon peaches so I shopped around recently and found a great deal on a half-bushel of peaches from a local orchard. Then, the icing on the cake... pint jars were two cases for $11 at the local hardware! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Thanks to my addiction to Pinterest, I had found and saved this recipe and decided to give it a shot. Eric and I picked through and sorted out the best 20 lbs of the peaches and gave them a quick bath in boiling water before plunging them in ice water to get the skins off easily. After removing the bad spots/bruises, we sliced each peach into 8 slices, then started on the simple syrup. Following the recipe, I brought 10 cups of water to boil, then added 3 cups of my favorite brand of sugar (In the Raw), which gave the syrup a nice brownish color. I let the syrup simmer to reduce while I got dinner together.

After dinner, I put a batch of the peach slices into the syrup to soften and simmer, got my jars ready (after sanitizing them in the dishwasher), and prepared my lids and rings. After the first batch of peach slices simmered for about 10 minutes or so, I got out my jar funnel and slotted spoon and started scooping the simmered peach slices into the jars. After filling the jars to within a half inch of the rim (to allow for head space), I ladled the hot syrup over the peach slices. Then came the fun part-- adding the bourbon! The recipe stated to add about a half a shot, but I think I might have been a bit generous :)

I had to do the jars in batches of course, so I put in six to start with and processed for about 10 minutes, maybe a bit more. While the first batch cooled, I prepped and processed the second batch, until all the peach slices were accounted for. Right before processing my last batch of slices, I had a brilliant idea-- why not can and process the syrup the peaches had been simmering in? It was just a simple syrup of water and sugar, and after all that simmering, I'm sure it had a TON of peach flavor... so I filled about 3 pint jars' worth and processed those in the last batch. Can't wait to add that to iced tea/low-call sparkling lemonade/pancakes...!!

I can't wait to give these bourbon peaches to friends/family as gifts. I already promised two to the girls at the hardware store who hauled out the last two (!!!) cases of on-sale pint jars for me. One for my foodie friend at work, one for my girlfriend and her hubby... I'm thinking of shipping a few home to mom and dad too!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

After a day of cooking out, volleyball, and taking the metro home, I had a serious craving for chocolate. Hubby had the car, so I was left to my own resources to come up with something yummy. I had heard of a recipe for chocolate pudding involving the avocado, so I thought, what better time to give it a try?

I did a quick search and found this recipe on greenlitebites.com.

Now, if I didn't mention it before, I was pretty tired. The recipe called for use of a food processor, and we happen to have a pretty nice one, but I didn't feel like getting it out and messing with the cleanup, so I thought I'd give it a whirl with our *fancy* new blender (gift from a friend, awesome!). I chunked up the avocado, then added the milk, then pressed the "blend" option.

Not much happened.

I added a little more milk and the rest of the ingredients in an attempt to thing things out a bit. Still, not much going on in there. Then, I added a TON more milk, turned on the blender, and attempted to 'gently nudge' the mixture towards the blades.

Guess how that turned out.

I bet anyone reading this wishes I'd taken a picture. Sorry, I didn't. Not because I didn't want to embarass myself with the mess I'd made... more like, the mess I'd made would have looked pretty tame compared to the mess of the kitchen as a whole. And we don't need that on the interwebz.

I cleaned up my mess, got the pudding out of my eye/eyebrow (literally), and dumped a bunch more milk in in an attempt to salvage the 'pudding' that I was about to wash down the sink. Surprisingly, the extra milk didn't thin it out too much; in the end, it had quite a pudding-like consistency.

Verdict?

Hmmm... not sure yet. Definitely chocolate, but definitely still avocado. It had a bit of a funny aftertaste that I wasn't yet sure about. You know that face that a baby makes when they're forced to eat something they find gross? That's the face my husband made when I forced him to try it. You have to give him credit for being honest, I suppose. I'll do what I can to get a picture of that up!

Welcome to my Grand Foodventure

I love food.

My apologies for the great obvious-ness of this statement, but alas, it is true. And I've always loved food. I find it comforting, energizing, satiating, celebratory, imaginative, blah blah blah... However, I have to say, my love for food has taken a different shape over the years. As a kid, I loved Happy Meals, most of what mom cooked, and fell sucker to pretty much any food item with a free toy or a cartoon character. I dabbled in what I considered 'health food' as a teenager, which, at the time, meant choosing things like 'Honey Bunches of Oats' over 'Lucky Charms.' Then came my meatless phase, which began in my mid-teens, morphed into a vegan streak of about 3 years while in college, and ended in a Whopper with Cheese at age 22. Since then, I've had a love/hate relationship with food-- I've tried diets like South Beach, Weight Watchers, and Nutrisystem in an attempt to shed the evidence of my love for food. I've experimented with raw foods. I've thought about juicing (and that's about as far as I got with it). I've thrown out a freezer's worth of meat in an attempt to go vegetarian again, only to buy Chik-Fil-A the following week. I'm sure neighbors, friends, family, and my husband have all asked 1) what is wrong with me and 2) how do I not weigh 500 lbs?

Which brings me to today. I'm 29, in fair health, and married, which means that sometimes my food choices affect someone else and not just myself. Through the years, I've become increasingly aware and concerned about what is in the food I'm eating. Thanks to a subscription to Netflix, I've seen countless documentaries on this subjects and have done some considerable self-education on topics such as the meat/dairy industry, artificial sweeteners, and organic farming. All of my studies have brought me to the conclusion that I better start paying a lot more attention to what I'm eating.

Now, I'm not perfect. I slip up and have Chik-Fil-A every now and then still. But for the most part, things like fast food and 'commercial' food products make me nauseated anymore. Now that I know what's in these items, I can't bear to put these kinds of things into my body any longer! In fact, most processed foods do too, and the more I wean myself off these kinds of foods, the more I'm able to see what effect they have on me (headaches, acid reflux, blood sugar issues, etc).

So, what's a girl to eat, then?

That's what this is for.

For some reason, in all of my battles with food through the years, it never dawned on me to try my hand at making my own food products. One day as I was perusing some popular blog entries via Pinterest, I came across Katie Kimball's blog entry about making her own yogurt. I cringed a bit as I remember how the artificial sweeteners in most yogurts gave me horrible acid reflux. I continued reading, however, and realized that she'd broken it down very simply, and I could choose to sweeten the yogurt with a natural sweetener such as honey if I chose. When I figured out that it could be done by crockpot (thanks to Stephanie O'Dea), I thought, "I could try this!" So, I did... and it was a success! It was FUN even! Almost like a new craft project! The feeling of empowerment I had could not be put into words... I no longer had to rely on the supermarket to supply my yogurt, nor would I have to pick through which brands used aspartame. I could do it MYSELF!

This blog will be my way of documenting my little foodie adventures. I have recipes and methods I want to try as I gradually move myself and my husband away from processed foods towards homemade, whole foods. And like I said, I'm not perfect, but I am learning, and having a good time doing it.

Come join me on my little foodie adventures!