Showing posts with label in the kitchen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label in the kitchen. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chai Cider, my fall drink of 2014

I chuckled to myself the other day when someone on facebook posted a link to the 25 Things All Basic White Girls Do During the Fall, because so many of them are hilariously true. And in years past, I've been as excited about that pumpkin spice latte as all the other basic white girls. But I have to admit that while yes, I have had one this fall....I didn't really like it this year. I'm not sure what it was, but it just wasn't doing it for me.

A few weeks ago, while on the road for work, I saw a slightly different fall offering on this little coffee shop's menu, and I gave it a try. Apple cider chai....and I'm in love. I've even asked Starbucks to make them for me, though truthfully I have no idea what that coffee shop does to make them. The Starbucks version actually wasn't quite as yummy. My home version, happily, came satisfyingly close.

And even better, it's basically not even a recipe. All I did was heat up cider...and use it to steep my chai tea. Easy, yummy. It's definitely my go-to drink this fall!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

Consider this a mini/end of season update. Things are winding down here in the Midwest. We seem to have barely started the hot, humid part of summer, and then we abruptly transitioned right into a crisp, cool fall. Strange weather, but it's been really good for my garden. I usually lose steam about, oh, June 15, so I consider the fact that I'm getting out there now and then to pick up a few ingredients for dinner to be a total win.

For example, I grew these carrots:

I grew these tomatoes:

 I grew this basil:

All of which simmered together (along with veg stock I made and froze last year!) to make this soup:

Want the details? This is my favorite tomato soup recipe, and I've been making it for several years. It's based on one I pulled out of our Sunday newspaper (and it looks like they adapted it from Ina Garten) probably....4 years ago? Pair it with grilled cheese and you basically have my favorite meal.

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Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped (or however many you are trying to use up!)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 lbs tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 5 large big boy type or 20 small roma - I prefer roma)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cups stock (veggie or chicken)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (use just a pinch if not grinding fresh)
3/4 milk (buttermilk if you have it)

(I frequently double this recipe and freeze the leftovers!)

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Saute onions and carrots for about 10 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, stock, salt and pepper, stir well. Bring to boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in milk.

Process through a food mill and discard pulp if you are fancy enough to have such a gadget. I am not, so I process batches in my blender and then run them through a sieve and discard pulp. (I push the liquid through with the back of my large ladle to make it go a little faster.) Return soup to low heat until hot enough to serve. Garnish as you wish - I prefer a nice grilled cheese sandwich with a hint of spicy mustard.

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And since I'm one of the only ones in my house who eats this, a double batch usually lasts me till spring! I'm hoping that if I pull the rest of the tomatoes that are still green on the vine I'll have enough to make one more batch this year, otherwise I'll turn them into sauce. It's funny, while tomato soup has ALWAYS been my go-to comfort meal, I really hate actual tomatoes!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Homemade yogurt without fancy equipment

According to a search of my email (don't ask why I was emailing about yogurt, because I don't know), I've been making yogurt at home since 2010. I make a gallon of milk at a time, which comes out to 4 quart sized jars, which we go through in about 2-3 weeks. In that time, I think I've only had fewer than 5 batches not turn out for one reason or another, so I feel like I have the system pretty down pat. Considering that one of those little cups of yogurt costs what, a dollar? Maybe $.50 if you get them on sale? And if they are 8 oz or so, that's 8 servings per quart, 4 quarts per gallon, which would come out to about $16-32 for the gallon of yogurt I make....for about $5. And that right there is pretty much why I do it!

I read a few tutorials, and a lot of them involved a yogurt maker or a crock pot. I didn't want to buy another kitchen appliance, so I did try the crockpot method once, and wasn't really pleased with the results as it was too runny for my tastes. So basically I stick with the same method time after time. It's pretty similar to the steps on the yogurt starter packets, however I tend to use a single serve of commercial yogurt rather than the starter because it works just as well and costs less. Technically you can use yogurt from your previous batch as your starter, but I don't do this. I don't have a scientific reason, but I feel like if I keep reusing the same starter, I might end up with not enough of the bacteria to make the recipe work, so I just use a fresh one.

This tutorial is probably about as easy as it gets, and has about 10 minutes of hands on time, including clean up! The cooking process takes about an hour and a half, but basically you just need to be around the house, not in the kitchen or anything. Then the incubation period is anywhere from 5-8 hours.

Step one: pour a gallon of milk into pot. I use my pasta pot, and I use whole milk because it makes a nice, thick yogurt, and I'm on board with a few healthy fats in my diet. Hang on to the empty gallon AND lid, as you'll use them later.

Step 2: turn heat to medium, and let simmer on medium for about 30 minutes. You don't want the milk to come to a boil, and it shouldn't over this length of time and heat level.

Step 3: Check temp. You're looking for the milk to be about 180 degrees F. I don't have a fancy candy thermometer or anything, so I just use a (clean, of course!) meat thermometer.

Step 4: remove pot from heat, and let sit for about an hour. Yep, just walk away. Go take a shower or something.

Step 5: check temp. You're looking for about 115 degrees.

Step 6: Prepare to strain. Some tutorials I've read recommend stirring constantly so you don't get any milk scalded to the bottom of the pot. I don't have time for all that, so I've found the best way to get around that and to have nice, creamy yogurt is just to strain it. I set the empty gallon of milk in my sink to catch any dribble, and I hold a sieve above a funnel. I used to need another set of hands to hold this steady, but now I can grab the pot with one hand and a potholder, and hold the sieve with the other.

Step 7: combine yogurt - either the single serve cup or powdered starter - and some (it doesn't matter how much) of the heated milk in a glass jar. I've tried using plastic gladware type containers before, and found that the yogurt didn't thicken up as nicely as when I use glass. I'm not a chemist or anything, but I'll hypothesize that the glass is a better insulator and holds the heat longer during incubation. Probably.

Step 8: Mix

Step 9: pour the yogurt + milk mixture back into the big gallon of milk and mix that together. This is where it was a good idea to have saved the lid because you can just re-cap it and give it a good shake.

Step 10: pour soon-to-be yogurt into your glass jars. I find that it fits just right into 4 quart jars because I probably spilled a little in the sink at some point.

Step 11: snuggle your jars together someplace for the next 5-8 hours. I like to use my oven because it gets it out of the way. I wrap them in a towel to help hold the heat. If I'm doing this during a time when I need my oven, I've used another towel or 2 and bundled it all into a cooler. I often try to do this during the day and just set a timer for 5 or 6 hours and then transfer them into the fridge, however I've also done the cooking just before bed and put them in the fridge in the morning. I've found that it's best to give a jar a tip to see if it has set up yet if you're on the shorter side of incubation time - mine doesn't usually get thicker in the refrigerator.

And there you have it! Lots of yogurt with just a little effort, and a couple dollars saved!