food

Homemade yogurt

If you love the taste of fresh yogurt but want to be kind to your budget, here’s an easy solution: make your own! It’s actually far simpler than you think, and you don’t need those fancy Williams & Sonoma yogurt-makers, either.

There is one method that involves a baking pan, water, and towels all in a working oven, but I have never been comfortable sticking flammable textiles into an oven overnight. I found this recipe over a year ago that just requires basic ingredients and a slow-cooker, and it works perfectly for me!

Here’s what you need, as listed in the recipe:

  • ½ gallon milk
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • crockpot/slow-cooker
  • dishtowels

Tip 1: As far as possible, avoid the “nonfat“s or you’ll end up with a really runny yogurt. The fat helps make it lovably thick.

Tip 2: When getting your “starter” yogurt from the store, it’s best to get a tub instead of those small one-serving packs, as I find the active bacteria needed to make yogurt are a lot more hip and happenin’ in tubs, compared to the smaller packs which aren’t as fresh.

Tip 3: Since it’s an overnight process, I suggest starting around 6pm, or 5 hours before going to bed. Which really isn’t saying much, as essentially all you’d be doing is turning the slow-cooker on, going off and doing your own thing, turning the slow-cooker off, going off and doing your own thing. . . .

The original recipe tells you what to do, but I’ll repeat it here so that I can get all Alton Brown on you. Put the milk in the crockpot and set it on low for 2½ hrs. This helps make it all nice and toasty for the active bacteria, but wait! (Da-daa!) It’s a li’l too toasty, if you know what I’m sayin’, so switch off the crockpot and wait three hours so that it cools off a bit. Remember, you want to provide the good bacteria a rad party, not knock ‘em dead with a Swedish sauna.

. . . Okay, I admit I get a little impatient and end up just waiting 2½ hrs for it to cool down. But that’s all right, it still works!

After the wait, use a ladle to mix one or two scoops of the warm milk with your yogurt. When bakers do this with eggs, it’s called tempering. I think of it as getting the good bacteria acclimated to the change in temps and making them happy-la-la. I also envision them skipping merrily over fields of green. Look, go with me on this, ‘kay?

This done, you pour it all back into the crockpot to join the rest of the milky brethren, then cover and swaddle the top of the crockpot with dishtowels overnight. This helps retain some of the heat and get the rest of it yogurtizin’. (Note: when I say “overnight,” I’m assuming you sleep around 8-10 hours. I’ll leave it to your experimental self if you decide to leave it sitting for a lot longer.)

So in the morning, ta-da, done! You have yogurt waiting for you to store in clean containers. Good for breakfast, like so:

Homemade yogurt with honey & granola

This is with granola and honey for added sweetness. If your cereal tastes pretty blah, I find that jazzing it up with yogurt instead of milk works wonders. That, and the fact that I really don’t drink much milk in the first place (sidenote: I’ve heard that some folks who are allergic to milk are able to have yogurt, weirdly enough. This does not apply to the lactose-intolerant, of course).

Oh, hey, you know what else tastes good with yogurt?

Homemade yogurt with local raspberries

Seasonal fruit, like so! Mmmmm, raspberries.

The fun doesn’t stop there. You can strain it overnight with cheesecloth and come away with yogurt cheese. It has the consistency of cream cheese but with a slight tang. I like it. I’m guessing you could also make paneer with this, though I haven’t tried. Also, there’s yogurt cake! Mmm!

The best part is you can save some of this homemade yogurt to start a whole new batch next time. If you choose to do so, I would advise not leaving the yogurt untouched for more than one-and-a-half weeks, certainly no more than two, otherwise the active bacteria might not be so active and won’t feel like partying in your milk. I know that last part sounds like a euphemism but it really isn’t.

So that’s it. Make and have fun!

Freshly grown strawberries, raspberry buds

Guess what I just nommed?

Freshly grown strawberries

That I just nommed! And they were so good I could have swooned. Mmmmmm!

Also check out the buds on my raspberry plant:

Buds on my raspberry plant

They are shyly hanging around there. It’s okay, li’l buds! You can bloom!

Another thing Chandri was right about: there are bees around my place, because I saw one and named it Spencer. He was buzzing around me like a lonely puppy while I plucked my strawberries. Hopefully he will pollinate to his heart’s content.

Pretty maids all in a row

If you want to check out what else I’m growing outside, click on the pic above and check out the notes!

Roasted eggplant, potatoes, carrots

Thought I’d share a super-easy recipe that I can’t get enough of. Seriously, when I say super-easy, I mean no measurements, no pre-cooking, just chuck everything into a pan and leave it. And it is delicious — I’ve been eating this all week, and it takes a remarkable effort of will to not finish it all in one go. You kinda have to remind yourself to leave leftovers (and then not always listen).

Here’s what you need:

  • 1-2 potatoes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 Chinese eggplant (i.e. the long variety, not the bulbous kind)

Slice them up and put in a well-oiled roasting pan. Add salt, pepper, and any dry spices you like (I use thyme and oregano). Stir it up so that everything’s well-coated, including in the oil (important for the eggplant).

Here’s what it looks like pre-roasting:

Roasted eggplant, potatoes, carrots

Chuck it all into the oven and leave it. That’s it. You’ll hear it sizzling and smelling good in the background.

How hot and how long? Depends on your oven and your roasting preferences, I suppose. I typically set it to 450 F and go off to draw until an internal clock (and aroma) tell me when to take it out. Roughly half an hour, maybe?

Here is a portion of the finished product with a bit of sage on top:

Roasted eggplant, potatoes, carrots

You really can’t go wrong with roasted potatoes, and carrots are healthy for you, but the soft creaminess of the eggplant brings a whole ‘nother level. I often find myself consuming the entire pan, it’s so good!

Strawberry & raspberry plants

It’s warm sunshine all over! I hereby take the opportunity to introduce you to some special somethin’s. Hello, babies:

Flowering strawberry plants

My strawberry plants are singing their hearts out! Temps were fluctuating in the chilly zone when I first put these out a couple of months ago, and I’d hoped they wouldn’t be toast (or — what’s the chilly version of toast — icicle?). After all, plants don’t usually survive long under my care. But ne’er fear, Strawberries of the Strong are here!

Flowering strawberry plants

They’re already bearing fruit, and soon they will blush themselves red and I will go nommy.

Flowering strawberry plants

Here they are coexisting happily with my walla-walla onions. I’ve got lots of walla-walla onions growing. I mean lots. I have four large planters specifically dedicated to them, and then a whole bunch in which they share space with other plants. Y’ know, like a co-op. How very British Columbian.

Flowering strawberry plants

Fresh, local-grown strawberries really do taste better than store-bought. Also, less tendency to go bad. Unless you’re into that kinda thing.

Raspberry plant

And look! My Canby raspberry plant! It’s the only thornless variety in the whole family, which was a big factor in my getting this particular kind. Please, this is me we’re talking about. I ain’t got no time for you thorns.

I bought this just 12 days ago when it consisted of three mere sticks. I had never handled raspberry plants before, and blinked when Chandri explained and reassured that they come as sticks and then suddenly explode into a bush. I mean, it’s kinda sweet in a way — it’s like she’s trying to reassure me that there really is a Santa Claus.

P.S. There is no Santa Claus.

Just 12 days and now boom! Leaves have exploded! Dude!

Not pictured are teeny tiny buds that will hopefully become nummy raspberries. I don’t know how long it takes for them to bloom. I also don’t know if I can or should continue to keep the plant in this pot, because man, I so don’t wanna do anything to it besides water it lest I jinx my good fortune. Seriously, this is not the norm.

Hello, babies!

Calamondin tree

I’ve always wanted an indoor citrus tree. This past weekend, I got one. Sweeeeeet.

My calamondin tree

It’s a calamondin tree! Kim, Corene, and Ari named it Colin. At regular intervals, we’d say, “I/you got a tree!” I still have that chanting in my head now, except to the tune of I’m On A Boat.

My calamondin tree

After I dropped the ladies off, it rustled in conversation from the backseat.

My calamondin tree

Hello, tree! It’s already budding, and originally had three fruits already ready. I’ll let you guess what happened to the third one.

My calamondin tree

I won’t let you guess for long. Kim texted me asking if I’d tried the fruit yet, so I did. I like!

I have a tree!

New Year's Eve 09

Many thanks to Ari and Corene for hosting a fantastic New Year’s Eve high tea. Grand mistresses, I salute thee.

New Year's Eve high tea

New Year's Eve high tea

New Year's Eve high tea

New Year's Eve high tea

New Year's Eve high tea

New Year's Eve high tea
Our lovely hostesses.

New Year's Eve high tea
Bunnies.
That is all.

New Year's Eve high tea
Ari, Kim, Corene, & Chantelle. After three times taking their pics and a certain someone blinking in each and every one (you know who you are), they decided to all close their eyes in solidarity.

Aaaaaand then we have to have a dog in a scarf.

Pekoe scarf

I mean, it’s a given.

Pekoe scarf