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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Another way to make Homemade Yogurt!

Freshly made yogurt in jar

Freshly made yogurt in jar

We eat a lot of plain yogurt and use it in a lot in recipes too.  Sometimes, rarely, I make my own yogurt.  Since we use so much, it is a bit of a mess to make it every other day.   So, we usually just buy Dannon or Stoneyfield or Brown Cow.

I posted a recipe a while back for making yogurt in a Slow Cooker (AKA CrockPot).  Up until then, that was the easiest method I had found.  But, I recently came across one even easier that may inspire me to make my own yogurt more regularly. It is from Daisy at Our Growing Family.

Basically to make yogurt, you have to:

  1. Heat the milk to 180 degrees F to kill any bacteria that may already be lurking in it (probably not any if you open a new container of already pasteurized milk, but we will do it to be extra careful) and to improve the texture of the finished yogurt.
  2. Let the milk cool to the 110-115 degree F range and add your yogurt culture either as a packet of yogurt starter such as “Yogourmet” freeze-dried yogurt starter or by using some already made yogurt, either your own or some store-bought plain yogurt with living cultures in it.
  3. Let the bacteria eating all the milk sugar over time in a warm environment.  Depending on how much lactose (if any) you want left determines the time.  Normally, it is anywhere from 6-12 hours, but some folks who are on special diets restricting sugars go even longer to get rid of almost all the lactose.

My problem is with the third step.  Room temperature here is not warm enough to keep the yogurt in the range for the culture to grow. I have an electric oven, so no warm gas oven with a pilot light to store it in.  In the old days, my grandmother used to put her yogurt to make on top of her hot water heater.  Also, I don’t want to deal with coolers and wrapping things in layers of towels…too much mess and hassle, especially if you have to do it every other day.

With this new method, after you mix yogurt culture into your warm milk, you jar it, put lids on very tight, put back in pot you heated milk in originally, cover with very hot water, put on lid and wait 8 hours. The hot water and the insulation of the pot keep it warm enough. Plus, the pot soaking with water in it gets rid of any milk residue stuck to the bottom.

The only problem was finding jars short enough to sit in my pot with the lid on. Used peanut butter jars worked, but just barely.  Depending on the height of your pot, mason jars may be the best option.
Another Homemade Yogurt Method
Based on one from Our Growing Family
Ingredients: Whole Milk, small amount of leftover Plain Yogurt
Tools: Large pot with lid, candy thermometer, glass containers with lids that will fit inside your pot with the lid on
  1. Use whole milk.  It will give you thick yogurt without having to add gelatin or dried milk powder. 
    Yogurt in jars in pot with hot water

    Yogurt in jars in pot with hot water

    Many folks think that the industrial process for drying milk does bad things to the proteins. 

  2. The way I determined how much milk to use was this:  I found the big pot I wanted to use.  Then I found three glass containers with lids that would all fit in it with the pot’s lid on.  I filled each container up with milk to about 1.5 inches from the top (leaves room for the yogurt culture), and that is my measurement.  Later, you will also  need about 2 Tbsp of plain yogurt for each jar.
  3. Heat milk in your pot (not in the jars) to about 180 degrees F – watch for it to start to bubble or frothe around the edges (but not boiling). Take the milk off the heat and let it cool to about 115 degrees F.  Keep checking on it as you don’t want it too cool too much.
  4. Once the milk has cooled, put about a cup or so of the warm milk in a one of your jars and gently stir in the yogurt or starter. Don’t stir too much if using actual yogurt – just enough to gently incorporate the yogurt. Then, pour that back into the milk and swirl it around.
  5. Pour the milk into jars, place lid on tightly. Place the jars into the pan you used to heat the milk, less dishes to wash that way. It doesn’t matter if you’ve cleaned out the pan or if there is a bit of milk left at the bottom. 
  6. Pour HOT water over the jars, up to the rims. I used almost boiling water from my countertop electric kettle.
  7. Put the lid on the pot and let it sit undisturbed for at least 8 hours or overnight.  If you are nervous about it staying warm enough, you can drape a towel over the pot to help keep the heat in, but I didn’t.
  8. After the wait is over, check your yogurt to see if it’s about the right consistency and thickness. Put it in the fridge for a few hours to stop the process and cool the yogurt.

If you want Greek Yogurt, then as I talked about in my previous post, all you have to do is strain it. Simply put a strainer lined with cheese cloth over a container, pour the yogurt in the strainer, and let sit for a few hours or overnight.  I use a container I can put in the fridge. You can use the liquid that collects in the lower container, the whey in other things such as baking or for soaking oats, other grains, or beans.

We enjoyed our freshly made yogurt for breakfast with homemade granola and a little honey on top.

– Stacey


Green Smoothies

green smoothieHere is a quick post of a recipe that can be a healthy breakfast or snack and incorporates fruits, veggies, and dairy…GREEN Smoothies.  You even get your probiotics with the yogurt.

A green smoothie is made green not by adding some icky food coloring, but by adding some yummy and healthy greens.  You can use spinach, kale, chard, etc.  

We keep raw spinach on hand for salads so that is what we usually put in.  The ratios are up to you, feel free to experiment.  Sometimes I even replace part of the milk with carrot juice.  To make it really rich, you can use coconut milk in place of the milk.

The girls like it and so do I.

Green Smoothie

  • 1 cup fresh fruit (we like bananas)
  • 1 cup frozen fruit (such as peaches, mangos, pineapple)
  • 1 cup raw spinach (packed into measuring cup) or 2 big handfuls
  • 1  cup milk
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  Serve.

– Stacey

If Eggnog were a cookie… Frosted Nutmeg Logs recipe

Frosted Nutmeg LogsOk, it is the holidays, so we still want to use real food ingredients, but white flour and sugar are going to be a part of things this time of year. 

This recipe is one that we have made just about every year since I was a kid.  I believe it originally appeared in a Pillsbury(?) Christmas Cookie Cookbook.  It is not diet, it is not gluten-free, it is not low-carb.  But, it is yummy.  Just don’t eat too many at one sitting.

The flavor to me is what eggnog would taste like if it was a cookie, thanks to the nutmeg and rum.  The original recipe used rum extract, but since that is artificial, I just use real rum…it is only a few teaspoons.  I did try this recipe substituting whole wheat pastry flour for some of the white flour and it was not as good…so don’t do it.

The cookies are supposed to look like logs with snow on them.  So, let your kids help roll them out as they are not supposed to be perfect.  They can also help “score” the frosting with a fork to make it look like bark.

The original recipe calls for rolling the dough into logs and then cutting into 2″ pieces.  This is a fun activity for kids.  But, if you are making them by yourself and want to hurry things along, just roll the dough out flat about 1/2″ thick and then cut into 1/2″ X 2″ long strips with a pizza cutter.

Frosted Nutmeg Logs

  • 1 cup real butter, softened (that is 2 sticks, or 1/2 lb.)
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoon rum
  • 3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup real butter, softened  (a bit more than half a stick)
  • 2 cup confectioners’ or powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoon rum
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and rum; mix well.
  2. In another bowl, combine the flour, nutmeg and salt; gradually add this to the creamed mixture. 
  3. Cover dough and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. (optional, kids usually won’t wait)
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into 1/2-in.-wide logs. Cut into 2-in. pieces. Place 1″ apart on greased baking sheets.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-14 minutes or until center is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
  6. For frosting, in a mixing bowl, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, rum, and enough milk to achieve a spreading consistency. Frost cooled cookies and sprinkle with a little extra nutmeg.

I am not even going to bother to do a nutritional analysis for these…just remember,the main ingredients are butter, white flour, and sugar.   Enjoy!

– Stacey

Frosted Nutmeg Logs on plate

Another Holiday Treat… Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Chocolate Peanut Butter FudgeI made this fudge last night to add to the treats box the girls gave their 1st grade teacher. The box included Sugar Plums, this Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge, and Frosted Nutmeg Logs

This fudge recipe is from Mindy at The Purposed Heart and she adapted it from Kimi’s Chocolate Fudge recipe at The Nourishing Gourmet. Kimi adapted her recipe from Sally Fallon’s recipe in Nourishing Traditions, which uses butter instead of coconut oil. So if you don’t have coconut oil or really don’t like coconut oil for whatever reason, you can try substituting butter in this recipe.  It needs to be a fat that is basically a solid at room temp, but let’s not use shortening or something like that, OK?

Mindy made her fudge cups larger than mine, as her recipe yields 10.  I used the mini-muffin papers in my mini-muffin pan and got 19, but could have squeezed out 20, if I had really scraped the bowl.  I used a 1 Tablespoon measure to pour the fudge into each paper.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
from The Purposed Heart

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not hot cocoa mix)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Prepare a mini-muffin pan with 20 mini-muffin liners.
  2. Put all ingredients except vanilla in a microwave safe bowl.
  3. Microwave bowl for like 10-15 seconds.  Stir mixture with whisk.  Microwave another 5 seconds.  Stir mixture again.  Do this until the coconut oil is melted, but not hot.  In the summer, your coconut oil may already be melted in your house depending on how cool you keep it as the melting point of coconut oil is 76 °F. 
  4. Stir with whisk until everything is smooth and nicely combined; it will be very liquidy.  Stir in vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the liquid fudge into the prepared muffin liners dividing evenly between them.  I used a 1 Tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop them out.   There will be about 1/2 inch of fudge in each mini-muffin liner.
  6. Place the muffin pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until the fudge has hardened.  Or, you can use the freezer to make it even faster.
  7. Remove the muffin liners from the pan and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
  8. Another liner-less option is to pour the fudge into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freeze it. They should pop right out when frozen!

Here are the nutrition stats on the fudge from’s Recipe Analyzer.  Note the low amount of carbs/sugar in a fudge.  The calories mainly come from fat, but it is what many consider good fats, coconut oil and peanuts. 

– Stacey

Visions of Sugar Plums danced in their heads…

Visions of Sugar Plums are dancing in their heads

Visions of Sugar Plums are dancing in their heads

Did you always wonder what a sugar plum was at Christmas when you read that famous poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” ?  I guess I always assumed it was some kind of candied plum similar to the yucky candied fruits you stick in a fruit cake and so I certainly never dreamed about them.  But, it turns out they are not; they are actually more like a homemade Lara Bar.

Remember that not so long ago, before the days of cheap HFCS and flying fresh fruit across the world, sweet things, especially during the winter were a rare treat.  Think back to when you got an orange in your stocking and you were excited about it.  So, some dried fruits and nuts rolled in a bit of sugar or exotic coconut was something special…one might even have visions about it.  🙂

Sugar Plums are a combination of dried fruits, such as prunes, figs, apricots or dates finely chopped and mixed with chopped nuts such as walnuts or almonds, and once exotic spices like coriander, anise, fennel, caraway, or cardamom.  This mixture is rolled into balls and often coated with sugar or shredded coconut.

The girls all love these and help me make them.  Their job is to form the balls with well washed hands. 

The first time I tried these, I used powdered sugar to roll them in.  I don’t recommend that as by the next morning, the powdered sugar layer had turned into a clear sticky layer on the sugar plums.  It was also VERY messy. The next time, I used Sugar in the Raw, a coarse minimally refined sugar and that worked a lot better.

We find them plenty sweet with all that dried fruit, but if you want them sweeter, then add a bit of honey.  Oh, they are really fast to make and require no baking.  Last Christmas, I made a “Figgy Pudding” for the first and last time.  This was a LOT easier.

Old-Fashioned Sugar PlumsMaking Sugar Plums
Based on the recipe from Nourished Kitchen
Yield: 40 sugar plums

  • 1 cup shelled walnuts (or pecans or almonds)
  • zest of 1 orange or ½ tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes (prunes are just dried plums), roughly chopped
  • Coarse granulated sugar or dried coconut, optional

Toss the nuts into a food processor with the zest of one orange, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, coriander as well as chopped dates, apricots and prunes.  Pulse the mixture three to four times to combine, then process the dried fruit, nuts and spices until a paste forms – about four or five minutes.  Depending on your food processor, you may need to do this in two batches.  My Kitchenaid food processor likes doing only half of a recipe at a time.

Transfer the paste to a mixing bowl and form the sugar plums by rolling about 1/2 tablespoon of the paste in the palms of your hands until a round ball forms.

Rolling the sugar plums in sugarDredge the Sugar Plums in either coarse granulated sugar (Sugar in the Raw works great because of its large crystals) or dried coconut.  Sugar Plums can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 1 month. If you layer the Sugar Plums, place a sheet of waxed paper between each layer.

Variations: You can substitute any nut or seed for the walnuts such as pecans or almonds or pistachios, you can useSugar Plums close-up different dried fruits such as dried apples, figs or raisins to replace some of the fruits and you can use the spices of your choice such as anise, cloves, or ground cardamom to replace the coriander.  You could even add a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder.

– Stacey

Sugar Plums in Bowl

Radish and Quinoa Salad

Radish and Quinoa Salad

The other day as often is the case, Leah wanted me to buy a bunch of radishes.  She will eat them as-is, but she is the only one of the girls that will, so I often end up throwing away radishes.  

I went looking for a salad that would make the radishes appealing to the whole family.  I found a Tomato-Mint Quinoa Salad recipe on and made a few variations on that.

The first few times I tried making quinoa I made the mistake of not washing it well in warm water.  This meant that it still contained some of the bitter-tasting saponins.  While most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating, I think that some of it must still remain based on my previous bad quinoa experiences. 

To clean the quinoa, rinse it in ample running water for several minutes in a fine strainer. Removal of the saponin not only helps the taste, but also with quinoa’s digestion.  If can’t find or don’t want to use quinoa, then I am guessing you could substitute cooked rice, couscous, or orzo pasta in this recipe. 

I will probably reduce the amount of quinoa next time I make this so that it doesn’t dominate the veggies. Do use the sesame oil as that flavor really makes the salad.

Radish and Quinoa Salad

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups quinoa (mine was the tri-color kind)
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 20 grape tomatoes, cut in halves
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 10 radishes, quartered
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp chopped dried mint
  • 2  Tbsp chopped dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • sea salt  and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1.  Bring water to boil in a small saucepan. Pour in quinoa, raisins, and a pinch of salt. Cover, and let simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, then remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature. 
  2. You will know the quinoa is cooked because it will have sprouted little white tails.  This little tail is the germ  and when the quinoa is ready the cooked germ separates from the seed and looks like a tiny curl.
  3. Toss together the tomatoes, onion, radish, cucumber, and pumpkin seeds in a large bowl. Stir in the cooled quinoa, then season with mint, parsley, cumin, lime juice, orange juice, sesame oil, and salt/pepper.
  4. Chill 1 to 2 hours before serving.

– Stacey

Sick kids, blogging, and a Tagine recipe

Beef Tagine over couscous served with fresh berries

Beef Tagine over couscous served with fresh berries

Okay, I haven’t blogged in a few weeks.  Well, I warned you about being gone for Thanksgiving, but when we got back, we were hit by illness.  First, Julia got Strep and then Leah.  They are both on meds now and recovering, and luckily the other two are still healthy.  So, while I was still cooking, I wasn’t blogging.  I did however post updates on my Feeding My Tribe Facebook page, so you might want to check that out for real-time updates.  🙂

I have spent a lot of time at the doctor’s during the last two weeks and our pediatrician actually has some pretty good magazines in his waiting room.  So, while waiting for Julia to see the doctor last week, I was leafing through the latest Bon Appetit magazine.  I came across a recipe for Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots that looked good and snapped a picture with my phone in case the recipe wasn’t on their website.  But, luckily, it was.

I have made a couple of other tagine recipes in the past and not been impressed at all.  But, I thought I would give it one last try and I am glad I did.  This turned out delicious.  And, I didn’t even use lamb, but substituted a beef tri-tip roast instead, as there were not lots of good lamb options at our local Oklahoma grocery store. 

The first thing you do is mix up the Ras-el-Hanout spice blend, which means “head of the shop” indicating it includes the best spices.  I went ahead and doubled the recipe so I would have it mixed up for next time.  It is apparently a good rub for grilled meats as well.  I also used all pre-ground spices to simplify things, but if you want to grind your own, all the better.

Ras-el-Hanout spice blend
Based on recipe from Bon Appetit

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  1. Mix all the spices together in bowl.  Makes just under 2 Tablespoons.
Again, I used beef for this dish, instead of lamb. If you have access to good lamb, then use 2-3 pounds of lamb shoulder cut into 3/4″ cubes instead of the beef.  If you don’t want to soak dried chickpeas overnight, then you can substitute one 15-oz can of chickpeas (garbanzos) and just heat it in a small pot for about 10 minutes with the cinnamon and garlic.
Beef Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots
Based on recipe from Bon Appetit
  • 3/4 cup dried chickpeas
  • 5 garlic cloves (2 crushed, 3 chopped)
  • 1 large cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 2-3 pounds beef roast cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 teaspoons Ras-el-Hanout spice blend
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peeled ginger
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juices (I used the fire-roasted ones)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • Steamed whole wheat couscous (I made mine with chicken broth)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Chickpeas and beef cooking

  1. Place dried chickpeas in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover by 2″. Let soak overnight.
  2. Drain chickpeas; return to same saucepan. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves and cinnamon stick. Add water to cover by 2″. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until chickpeas are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, remove cinnamon and garlic, and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a separate bowl.
  4. Add onion to pot; reduce heat to medium, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic, Ras-el-Hanout, and ginger. Stir for 1 minute.
  5. Add tomatoes and lamb with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Add 2 1/2 cups stock. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
  6. Stir in chickpeas and apricots; simmer until heated through, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve over prepared whole wheat couscous. Sprinkle optional cilantro over.

After we found the recipe in the magazine at the pediatrician’s, Julia and I headed to the store to get her prescription and the get the ingredients, so here is a picture of her with the finished dish.  All the girls loved this and so did Mike and me.

Julia with her Tagine and Couscous

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