strawberries, strawberries, strawberries! i feel like i have been staring at them all morning. last night we took the boys strawberry picking and today’s project is freezing them all. this is round two for us already this week, but we love having strawberries year round, so it is definitely worth a little extra time now. i will be making a strawberry rhubarb tart tonight, so i will share that recipe later.
there has been very little actual cooking in our house the last two days, because we have been spending the weekend at the splash park with the kids & at cookouts with friends. i had big plans of creating an interesting side dish to take to our cookout last night, but after spending 5 hours of our saturday meeting with a home builder, i ran out of time and energy. so needless to say, our contributions to the cookout, were last minute dijon mustard potato salad, (with the random ingredients in our house) and homemade applesauce (we are trying to eat through our pantry before we move). other than that, we have literally eaten every left-over we could find in our refrigerator and grilled applegate farms organic hot dogs. this week i will share some of the quick recipes of our weekend foods, including our organic quinoa & black bean mexican style salad (served hot or cold). but for now, here are a few pics of what we have been up to this holiday weekend!
i am far from being a germ freak. i am one that actually believes that our world is far to sanitary, kids don’t play in the dirt enough and our world’s dependence on “anti-bacterial” products is partially responsible for killing the good bacteria our bodies need.
with that said, the thought of fermenting & culturing my own food sort of freaked me out at first. my first though was something like this: “you want me to sit things out on my counter to spoil and then feed them to my precious children?’” obviously, i have lost that fear, as making yogurt, water kefir and fermented veggies are now regular staples in our household.
but when i first started, one of my big questions was, “how do you know, when fermenting actually, goes bad?” i read a ton of info on different ways to make yogurt before i began and people would always say it is common sense, obvious signs are really off smell, or visible pink or grey weird surface. curious what that, pink or grey weird surface looks like?” well, i’ll show you.
here is a good yogurt
here is a bad yogurt (with obvious growth on the surface). i know, it’s gross looking.
so what did i do to make this batch go bad? really it was an “i know better than that” mistake. i typically am pretty careful about always sanitizing my jars/tools etc. before creating any fermented food, but this last time as i got my jars ready, i noticed some, stuck on junk in the bottom of one of the jars. so i grabbed a dish sponge (so, not germ free) and wiped the residue out. sure enough, that jar got contaminated with bad bacteria as it cultured. in all of my batches of yogurt, i have only ever had 2 little jars go bad (which is pretty good odds).
i first attempted making my own yogurt about 2 years ago, when i was completely dairy free. though we have now reintroduced some dairy into our home, we have still held onto this recipe as one of our weekly favorites. at first, i was pretty intimidated at the thought of making yogurt, but honestly it is really easy and takes very few ingredients. we ferment ours typically about 18 hours, which yields a creamy, slightly sweet, slightly tart final product. if you are used to the sweet store bought yogurts, the tartness of homemade yogurt can be a slight adjustment, but it is so good!
the basic ingredients are coconut milk, honey, vanilla, a probiotic starter and some thickener (i typically use agar-agar).
thoughts on coconut milk:
we typically use native forest organic canned coconut milk. mainly because the cans are bpa free. the downside is that there is guar gum as a stabilizer and i am not a huge fan of it. this week, i am making my own coconut milk from dried organic coconut flakes and i am going to try that in our next batch of yogurt. i will let you know how that turns out!
thoughts on thickener:
we have found that agar-agar is our favorite thickener for the yogurt. i have tried tapioca starch, arrowroot & guar gum and all of them work fine also. i am planning on trying to use plain gelatin sometime, but haven’t gotten around to trying it yet.
thoughts on yogurt makers:
i have a little yogurt maker by waring, i got it for about $25 at tuesday morning (a random discount store) we have here. the one thing i did right away was toss all the plastic containers that came with it (i hate bpa) and instead it fits 7 half-pint mason jars perfectly. the nice thing about using a yogurt maker is that it keeps the temperature perfectly consistent at 105 degrees and i can just set the timer and forget about it. a lot of people use their crock-pot, or oven with light on, or excalibur dehydrator, so really it is just preference. a yogurt maker is actually not necessary to culture yogurt.
make sure you sterilize jars and utensils before beginning. this is important! (i will show in another post, how to know if your yogurt is bad)
a good yogurt starter probiotic is gi-prostart , it is dairy free and works well with nut and coconut milks
a candy thermometer is perfect for making sure you are at the right temperatures (to high of heat will kill your probiotic culture)
so i just thought i would share a quick post that our favorite almond flour is on sale today! which is a good thing, because i just finished off the last of the 25 lbs that i had in my freezer. yes, i buy it in bulk, freeze it in mason jars and always have one in the fridge ready to bake with.
hint: you always want your almond flour dethawed before you bake with it. if not, it sticks together in obnoxious clumps. i have learned this the hard way, more than a few times.
we prefer to use blanched almond flour because it bakes so much better and is so much finer than typical almond meal. anyway, the sale goes through tomorrow (tuesday at 6:00 pm) and it is for 15% off your entire order. check out honeyville’s web site here…the discount code can be found in the upper right hand corner of their page!