3.26.2008

Why Make Homemade Yogurt?

If you’re like me, you grew up eating yogurt from the supermarket. It was delicious! It was green, red, blue, or sometimes even orange. Sometimes it had “fruit on the bottom” that you could stir into the yogurt. If it was low or nonfat, you could be especially guilt free eating it. Sometimes, you could find exotic flavors such as cappuccino or black forest cherry. You were happy when you ate it for breakfast because you knew it was such a healthy thing to eat.


Until one day, you started reading the label. You saw a long list of ingredients, including High Fructose Corn Syrup, Red #40, gelatin, and pectin. And you noticed that under the Nutrition Information, your little cup of goodness was boasting over 30 grams of sugar per serving!!!!!! A Snickers bar would have been healthier from that perspective!

So, then you might have had a yogurt “conversion experience” that brought you into the lite, so to speak. You dabbled around with “sugar free versions” only to be left with that bad aspartame experience and thus you decided to search for the Real yogurt—what yogurt was meant to be.

At that point, you might have met a girl named Nancy and discovered that tart, plain goodness of “plain yogurt”. And you got all preachy about how good plain yogurt was and you added your own honey and your own blueberries and were happy…..until you read the ingredients on day, and you realized that your yogurt, while free of dyes and added sugars, still contained something more than just “milk and cultures”. You saw pectin, powdered nonfat milk, perhaps gelatin. And there it was again, that 20+ grams of sugar per serving. What’s the DEAL? You asked!!!

And then, you discovered Cream Top. Delicious, pure, unadulterated and low in sugar Cream Top. And what’s better, you discovered how to make it! Organic, grass-fed, fresh yogurt.

Stay tuned………and this treat can be yours too!

If you want to get ready, here’s what you’ll want to gather to use my ultra easy no-frills, no gagetry yogurt procecure:

A quart size mason jar
A candy thermometer (this is a must)
A warm wool blanket or a towel
A cooler (those Styrofoam kind can be purchased at Grocery Outlet for $1)
1 small carton of PLAIN Brown Cow Whole Milk Yogurt
Organic, grass-fed (or whatever you can get) milk!

You get your gear,and meet me back here for the easiest, de-mystifying procedure ever!

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3.24.2008

The True Value of Raw Milk


So begins a multi-part series on my favorite things to do with milk.

I get mine fresh from the farm (by the way, you won't find anything about the 'rm'-word on their website but know that you can call and inquire if you are interested. It's all legal, it's just not something they want to go advertising about) and it's not cheap ($5.00 per half gallon) BUT

I seek, through these next several posts to show you why it's money well spent and worth every penny because you will NEVER need to buy many filler-laden products again when you know how to properly culture your milk!

Here are just a few of the delicious, natural, grass-fed, hormone free, organic treats I regularly enjoy with my $5.00 half gallon of milk:

  • Kefir
  • Kefir cheese (very similar to feta)
  • Cream top Yogurt (with assorted flavors added)
  • Ice Cream (additive free)
  • Cream Cheese
  • Whey (for culturing vegetables)
  • Butter
  • Buttermilk

One of my goals is to add other cheeses to that list, such as raw cheddar and cottage cheese, but that's for another time! For now, I will take you through my tips on making each of the above (with colored photos included!).

Please stay tuned for my humble thoughts and tips on making the aforementioned cultured dairy products!

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3.14.2008

Meal Planning around a Theme

Happy Friday my Frugal Friends!

Forgive me for delaying to post; I am finishing up some graduate courses online so my blogging time is scarce these days. Lent is also upon us Orthodox folks, and I hope you all had a very clean week!

More thoughts on meal planning:

Thriftiness is all about using what you have, as mentioned in a previous post. As I was thinking about this concept, I realized how obsessed Americans tend to be with "variety". It's kind of like choosing what you're going to wear; you can't have chicken two nights in a row, now can you? Maybe it's just me.....

But I had an epiphany. Plan "theme weeks": Mexian week, Indian week, breakfast-for-dinner week, etc. This makes perfect sense when it comes to ingredients. For example, if I'm planning to make Mexican food on Monday, I probably need cilantro, black beans, rice, spourted corn tortillas (I mean, what am I going to do with all 50 corn tortillas I get for $1.99?), tomatoes, avocados, peppers, and mexican (cotija) cheese. Why not extend the theme and get the most out of my ingredients for the whole week, rather than have half-used cilantro rotting in my produce bin? (Please tell me I'm not the only one!)

Let's see how many potential meals I could make out of the above ingredients:

Day 1: Black beans and rice with salsa, cilantro, and mexican cheese on top
Notes: Beans and rice can be purchased dry for pennies. Be sure to soak the beans overnight in a water with a TBS of vinegar or whey to deactivate enzyme inhibitors in the beans.

Day 2: Refried black beans (from last night) & Cheese taquitos
Notes: Heat lard or coconut oil in a skillet. Soften corn tortillas in oil, add beans and mexican cheese, roll or fold over and fry in oil. Flip carefully and enjoy your crispy, tasty treat.

Day 3: Mexican black bean salad
Notes: Toss romaine lettuce with mexican cheese, avocado chunks, cilantro, tomatoes, black beans, etc.

Day 4: Mexican tortilla soup (or black bean chili)
Notes: "Gather up the fragments" from the week, rice, tortillas, beans, tomatoes, etc and simmer them in vegetable or chicken broth that you should have in your freezer (more on broth to come!)

Day 5: Mexcian Pizza
Notes: Soften tortillas in oil as in Day 2, spread refried beans and spices of your choice between two tortillas. Top with cheese and tomatoes and anything else you want and bake in the oven until cheese is bubbly.

I'm willing to bet that all 5 of the above meal ideas can be made for a total ingredients list of $20.00. It will be more if you have a large family, but still!

A Challenge for Yourself: Plan your own "theme week" with ingredients that overlap. Use the leftovers in creative ways to make new meals. If you come up with anything worth sharing, by all means, please do!!!

Coming soon: I'll continue with my "series" on principles of oreganic thriftiness, and we'll soon be talking about the economies of milk and all the products you'll never have to buy again because you make them yourself!

Read more!

3.05.2008

How to Stretch a Chicken

1 Deo Volente Chicken = 4 Meals and then some!

Meal 1: Roasted in Crockpot and enjoyed with steamed veggies on the side.

Meal 2: Breasts diced and used in Chicken Enchilada casserole.

Meal 3: Carcass made into broth, used for Pea Soup (15 min. to make this!)

Meal 4: Broth used to make homemade tomato sauce with brown rice noodles.

Meal 5: Leftover diced chicken, brown noodles, and broth plus assorted veggies used to make Chicken Noodle Soup.

Meal 6: TBD! I still have plenty of meat left over for a chicken salad or quesadillas. What would you do?

Approximate total cost for all meals: < $30.00 Satisfaction knowing I'm feeding my family whole foods?

Priceless!

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3.01.2008

Part 2: The "Use What you Have" Principle

Plan your menus based on what you already have in your pantry:

Plan your menus, but don’t be extravagant! Use what you have. I find the biggest waste of money is when I search high and low for exotic or rare (or out of season) ingredients to try to make something that sounds good to me. I end up wasting time, gas, and money on these ingredients only to use half the package and have the other half rotting in my fridge. Sound familiar??? I’ve since tried the principle of using what I have. What a concept! I use what I have, and I buy what I know I’ll use.

Here’s are my top 10 “staples” of what I always have on hand, no matter what:

1) Organic whole grain oats

Good for a hearty breakfast when soaked overnight in whey or yogurt water.

2) Raw Milk

I use this to make my cream cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, kefir

3) Eggs from pastured chickens

Breakfast of champions!

4) Ground beef from grass-fed cows

Always good for dinner, mixed with assorted spices to make tacos, curry, burgers, etc.

5) Tomato paste

Essential for making from-scratch sauces such as spaghetti sauce and enchilada sauce (note: read the ingredients for “tomato sauce” at the store; it’s not a whole food!)

6) Stock essientials: (Chicken necks, feet, Onions, Celery, Carrots)

I have stock simmering on my stove about 6 out of the 7 days of the week. Essential for sauces, soups, cooking rice, etc.

7) Seasonal Organic Vegetables

The perfect side dish, steamed with a little butter

8) Kerrygold Irish Butter

Made with milk from grassfed cows.

9) An arsenal of spices

A penny’s worth gives a mouthful of flavor, and for mere dollars you can have a collection that will take you South of the Border or to India within seconds!

10) Almonds

For making “Crispy Almonds”, the best snack on the planet!

As you can see, some of my essentials are very cheap, and others are a little more spendy. All in all, I believe that by consolidating and purchasing whole foods that can be made into a variety of other things, I am stretching my "oreganic dollar" farther.

Please comment: What are your top ten “essentials?”

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