Saturday, May 25, 2013

Homemade Yogurt

I love yogurt, but the ones you buy in the store are either full of sugar or full of fat, depending on if you buy low fat or low sugar... Low fat is high in carbs... Low sugar is high in fat... The fruit in the yogurt is also full of sugar.. Since my husband is a diabetic, and also a yogurt lover, I wanted to figure out how to make yogurt at home with Stevia as the sweetener.

I didn't have a clue how to make it from scratch..I started searching the Internet for answers and found information on yogurt starters, probiotics, and a lot of other things that seemed a bit foreign to me..

I found a yogurt starter on Amazon, which claimed one packet would turn a gallon of milk into yogurt.. Amazon didn't actually sell it.. it came from a vendor in Canada (which I wasn't aware of at the time of purchase).. It was advertised as two packets of starter, but I only received one packet and it took 5 weeks to get here... I followed the directions to a T, but ended up with very runny, nasty smelling something I wouldn't call yogurt... What a waste of money and time....

I decided making yogurt wasn't easy at all and gave up on the idea...

About a year later I decided to try again. This time when I did a search on Google, I found an u-tube video showing an easy way to make yogurt... I tried it, it worked, I was amazed and have been making it ever since..

However, the recipe I found online called for honey as the sweetener and the yogurt wasn't very thick.. Honey is too high in carbs for diabetics and I really like thick yogurt, so I played around until I found the perfect combination.

What you'll need:
One gallon of Whole Milk
4 packets of Knox Unsweetened Gelatine
2 1/2 cups Stevia in the Raw
3 Tbs Vanilla (I use Tahitian Vanilla)
1 small single serving container plain Yogurt
Large Pot
Thermometer (candy/deep fry)
5 Quart Canning Jars Sterilized 
Thermal Cooler Bag
Heating pad

First, you'll want to sterilize your canning jars. You can do this easily in your dishwasher, or wash them in really hot soapy water, rinse them, then either pour boiling hot water in them or heat them in the microwave for 1 minute. 

I find it's super easy to run them through the dishwasher before I start making the yogurt, then leave them inside until I'm ready to fill them.

Pour the gallon of milk into your large pot. Using a whisk, add the four packs of Knox Unsweetened Gelatine. It's important to do this before heating the milk.. In my mind, it should be easier to mix the gelatin in warm milk, but not so.. It just turns to lumps in warm milk, but dissolves pretty easily in cold milk.. 
After the Gelatine is dissolved, add the 2 1/2 cups of Stevia in the Raw.. You can add more or less based on your preference. 
Whisk until the Stevia is dissolved.
Place your pan on a burner set at medium heat. 
Place your candy/deep fry thermometer in the milk.. Make sure to whisk often to keep milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.. Once the temp reaches 160 degrees, add the 3 Tablespoons of Vanilla. Whisk until blended.. 
Keep whisking until you reach 180 degrees... This happens pretty quickly once you hit 160 degrees, so whisk continually. 

Remove the pan from the heat and let sit until the temp of the milk mixture cools to 110 degrees. 
This normally takes about an hour.  
Every time I walk by it, I give it a good whisk.. Whisking while it cools isn't necessary, but seems to help produce a really creamy yogurt. 

Once the mixture has cooled to 110 degrees, it's time to add the yogurt.. If this is your first time, use the entire single serving container of  plain yogurt.. After adding it, whisk it really good until the yogurt is well blended. Once you've made yogurt, you can use about 4 heaping tablespoons of yogurt from your previous batch for this step. You can continue to do this indefinitely.

Once it's cooled to 110 degrees and you've added the yogurt, you'll need to get your 5 jars ready. Place the funnel in a jar and use the ladle to fill it to the bottom line of the neck. Cap it with your lid, then proceed to the next jar. You'll end up with 4 3/4 quart jars. 

 Now it's time to incubate your yogurt. 
I use a simple zippered thermal cooler bag, heating pad and towel. 

Place the heating pad in the bottom of the cooler and set it on low.  I have an older heating pad that doesn't shut itself off. The newer ones shut off automatically after a programmed time, so you may need to turn it back on from time to time.. 

Place the towel on top of the heating pad, leaving enough free to wrap around your jars. 

You just want to keep them warm.. It's kind of like tucking them into bed :o)

Cover the tops of the jars with the rest of the towel, then zip the cooler shut. Make sure you heating pad is still on and set at low.. 

Your basically done at this point.. Leave your yogurt alone for 6-8 hours, depending on how tangy you want it. I leave mine in the bag for 8 hours.. 
I either make my yogurt in the morning and let it incubate all day, or I make it in the evening and let it incubate over night.. 

Once it's done incubating, remove the jars and put them in the fridge to chill.. In a couple of hours you'll have thick, creamy, delicious, healthy yogurt! 

This yogurt is very thick and creamy, very similar to Greek Yogurt. It's delicious alone, with fruit on it, flavored sugar free syrups, granola, used in smoothies, or my favorite, with a spoonful of melted coconut mana poured over it..
Coconut Mana is really good for you for a number of reasons, but that's for another day and another post!

Our dogs are on a raw food diet, and yogurt is very good for them, too. I make unsweetened, unflavored yogurt for them as well.... They love it! 

One batch of yogurt lasts us about 3 weeks or so.. We eat a dish of yogurt once a day, every day.. We've never had a batch of yogurt go bad.. As soon as the last jar is about half empty, I make a new batch, so we never run out.. 

It really is super easy to make and once you've made a few batches, it just becomes 2nd nature and will become a snap to make!

I added the following info to my sugar free jello post and thought it was a good idea to add it here, too.
I know some people do not approve of unsweetened gelatin products for a variety of reasons.. 
Gelatin is produced by rendering animal body parts.. Gross sounding, I know.. But these animal byproducts contain collagen, which is a natural form of protein and is very good for joint pain, which my husband and I both suffer from.. I remember my mom mixing a pack of it with her orange juice to help strengthen her fingernails when I was young. It's also used for many pharmaceutical applications and was used as a blood plasma substitute in World War II... 

There is a product called Agar that is a vegetarian alternative gelatin made from sea weed, although, I've never used it so I can't say how it works. I've read good reviews about it, though.

You can make this yogurt without the unflavored gelatine, but it won't be as thick.. 
But it will still be just as delicious! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Home Made Laundry Soap

Who Knew?
Home made Laundry Soap...

You can make your own laundry soap for a fraction of the price of store bought soap, plus it's gentler on sensitive skin like mine.. It's easy peasy to make and lasts a very long time!
All you need is a bar of Fels-Naptha Soap, Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, a box of Borax, a food grater, a large jar or other container and a scoop..
Take the bar of Fels-Napha Soap and grate the whole bar using the food grater.. You can also use a food processor for this, but it does end up sticking to the blade quite a bit.. I find it's faster and easier to just use a food grater... 
I buy my Fels-Napha Soap at Wally World... It costs about $1.79.

Add the grated soap to your glass container, or whatever you decide to use to hold your laundry soap. I bought this glass jar with lid at WalMart for about $5.

Add 4 cups of Washing Soda and 4 cups of Borax, also purchased at WalMart. 

Pour them into the container and start shaking the container. After I shake it up for a bit, I use my hand to make sure it's really mixed up.. 

I use a plastic scoop taken from a protein drink mix.. One scoop is just the right size for a normal wash load. 
I wash most of our clothes in cold water and never have a problem getting this soap to dissolve.. 

It has a fresh, clean scent... I love the smell and so does my husband.. 
It leaves our clothes clean, fresh and bright.. 

I have sensitive skin and have been buying unscented laundry soap with no perfumes or dyes added for years.. This laundry soap does not bother my skin! 

One jar lasts my husband and I about 3 months.. That's a bargain!! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sugar Free Jello With Stevia

My husband and I just started Atkins Induction a week ago.. My husband is a diabetic and Atkins is a great diet for his health needs...We had both gone on Atkins a year ago, each lost weight, but gained some of it back over the winter even though we've continued to eat low carb.. Here in Northern Michigan it's hard to get much exercise in during the winter months and our scales show it!

One of the little treats you can have on Atkins is sugar free jello...I think this means we're both kids at heart, because we love Jello! But neither one of us want to consume Aspartame, which is what boxed sugar free jello is sweetened with.. Aspartame gives both of us a wicked headache, plus it's been linked to so many health issues, it just seems a no brainer not to allow it in our bodies..

I started searching for recipes for sugar free jello from scratch. I found quite a few of them, but none of them used Stevia as the sweetener.. Many of them used sucralose and other sweeteners I'm not familiar with. I've been using Stevia in many different forms for many years, and I trust it since it is a natural product.. I even tried growing it in our greenhouse last summer, but it was such a hot summer, it ended up croaking! Better luck this year (crossing fingers).

Anyhoo....After a lot of experimenting, I finally found an easy way to make sugar free jello using Stevia in the Raw.

I make a big bowl, which lasts us for a week, but if you wanted to cut this down in half, it would be fine. My recipe, I believe, would be the same as using the big package of jello available in stores.
My recipe is:
7 3/4 cups water (this will be divided into two steps)
2 packages unsweetened Kool-Aid
4 packs Knox Unsweetened Gelatine
2 cups Stevia in the Raw

First, pour 4 cups COLD water into a pot.
Add 4 packs of the unsweetened Gelatine.
Whisk to mix the Gelatine.. 
It's important to use cold water.. In my mind, hot water would mean it would dissolve better, but I soon found it just clumps in hot water and takes forever to stir down, so make sure you mix it with cold water. 
Add the 2 packs of unsweetened Kool-Aid and 2 cups of Stevia in the Raw. Whisk again until dissolved. 

Put on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil.. I set the burner on high and whisk it until it boils.. It doesn't take long and believe me, you don't want to walk away and let it come to a boil unattended because you'll have a sticky mess all over your stove top and burner...I found this out the hard way.. 

It's quite foamy looking until just before it gets ready to boil.. It then looses the foam and becomes clear. 

Remove it from heat and pour into your bowl.. Add 3 3/4 cups of cold water and whisk to mix.. Put in your fridge for at least 6 hours and you'll have delicious sugar free jello without aspartame!

You can add 4 cups of water if you want, but I like my jello to be really thick, which is why I choose to add 3 3/4 cups of water instead.

Once it's set, I dish out a small bowl of it for each of us for dinner and add a tsp of heavy whipping cream to our little jello treat. Heavy whipping cream is allowed on Atkins and it just seems to make the jello even better... 

I know some people do not approve of unsweetened gelatin products for a variety of reasons.. 
Gelatin is produced by rendering animal body parts.. Gross sounding, I know.. But these animal byproducts contain collagen, which is a natural form of protein and is very good for joint pain, which my husband and I both suffer from.. I remember my mom mixing a pack of it with her orange juice to help strengthen her fingernails when I was young. It's also used for many pharmaceutical applications and was used as a blood plasma substitute in World War II... 

There is a product called Agar that is a vegetarian alternative gelatin made from sea weed, although, I've never used it so I can't say how it works. I've read good reviews about it, though.

One of the great things about using unsweetened Kool Aid is that it comes in so many flavors! You won't find boxed sugar free jello available with so many choices.. My favorites are Black Cherry, Cherry and Orange, but there are so many flavors to choose from! Makes a great sugar free snack and adds a little sweetness to low carb dieting..

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Recycling a TV Stand

My husband has had a heavy duty TV stand for years that his son Tony made him.. It's really sturdy and made to last, unlike a lot of affordable TV Stands available in stores today, but just kind of outdated now.

We don't really watch TV in our living room any more, though, so it's kind of just been taking up space for the last several years.. We had a TV and DVD sitting on it, but I can't even remember the last time we used them. I think it may have been when 2 of our grand kids were here for a week a couple of summers ago..

Since we've been redoing our living room, we had to decide what to do about this big ole piece of furniture.

I suggested to my hubby that he add some new shelves to it and turn it into a book shelf, which we really need.. He LOVES his books and has been storing them wherever he could find space for them.. I'm more of an audible book person, but I have quite a few books needing a dedicated shelf, too....

I'm sure this was really sharp looking when it was first built, (it was BK...before Karen) but it's gotten really rough looking after four moves and many years of use... It was built to hold a specific TV and 2 humongous speakers.. I told my husband quite a few years ago the speakers had to go but knowing the TV stand is special because it was made by Tony, it has remained..

John added 2 new shelves, and then I painted the whole thing with a dark red paint I had left over from the Candle Making room.. It's Behr paint from Home Depot, which I love, and amazingly, only took 2 coats to give it great coverage.

The wood we bought for the added shelves, also from Home Depot, cost under $12 and since I already had the paint, this project was pretty cheap!  The two shelves and mirror were brown so I painted them with the dark red, too, and then roughed them up with a sander. 

We moved it to the opposite side of the Living Room, which really opened up the room.
We were able to add books 2 and 3 rows deep on each shelf, so this is really holding a heck of a lot of books.  I decided to add all my lighted ceramic houses I've been collecting for years and years to the top with some fake snow, despite my griping about how the snow stuck around way too long this year. lol.. 
I do love snow and the way it looks and have always loved my little village...

My favorite lighted house.. My son painted in the "Karens Kottage" and gave me this for Christmas.. I love gifts that are personalized or made by hand. They're the best! 
Of course there's a big orange Tomi kitty on the porch :o)

I was just taking a picture of my little village, but realized the opposite side of the room shows in the mirror, which I thought was very cool. If you read one of my earlier postings, I had started painting the wood in the living room cottage white, but ended up not being sure I liked it and wishing I hadn't started painting. I decided to only paint the one wall and it turned out to be one of those good mistakes.. The dining room is cottage white with natural wood wainscoting, so this happy accident seems to pull the two rooms together..