Nov 4, 2009

My Cooking Day!

As I mentioned previously, my freezer is nearly full.  I have just enough room to put muffins and cookies for lunches in the door, and that's it!  Since I only have the standard refrigerator freezer to work with, OAMC (Once A Month Cooking) is not an option for me right now.  Hopefully in the future!  I do bake for Ben's breakfasts and lunches for the month, and that is what I did today as well as a couple other tasks.

I started my baking day making yogurt.  I was able to score some thick Oikos Greek yogurt that I had wanted to get for a while, but was waiting for a coupon and a sale. Originally $2 each, I was able to get 2 for $.67 each.  I have made much yogurt in the past, but I have always felt it was a bit runny.  I though I would modify in two ways: one, try a better quality starter, and two, incubate differently.

I made 1 qt. of yogurt to test my new methods.  To get started, you will need milk, yogurt starter, powdered milk (optional), a pot, a candy thermometer, and an incubator of sorts.  This can be as simple as a thermos, which is my usual method.  You could also use a heating pad, a warm oven,  a heater vent, or as I plan to test, a crockpot.
 Set out 3 tablespoons of yogurt starter to bring to room temperature.  You can use any brand you like; I always start with the plain variety, but I have seen others report success using flavored varieties.  To make yogurt, scald 1 qt. of milk (approximately 180 degrees with a candy thermometer), stirring constantly to avoid scorching.  For richer tasting yogurt, add 1/2 cup of powdered milk.  I didn't have this, so I obviously I couldn't add any.
Once it has reached 180 degrees, take the pot off the burner and allow the milk to cool to 105-115 degrees. The milk will begin to form bubbles along the edge of the pot, and start to look very creamy.  That's a good indication that you're close to the scalding point.  This is the longest step, so make sure you have about 30 minutes for this entire part.

Yogurt cultures between these temperatures, so it is critical that you know when the milk reaches this range.  Add 1/2 cup of warmed milk to your yogurt starter to thin the yogurt and make it easier to mix with the rest of the milk.  Add the yogurt to the milk until thoroughly combined.

Next, prepare the milk to incubate.  I am using a new method this time, but normally, I just pour the mixture into a 2 qt. drinking thermos, place a couple of kitchen towels around it, and let it sit for 3-5 hours.  The important part of this step is keeping the milk at an even temperature no less than 105 degrees to allow the culture to spread and multiply through the milk.

Here's my tools. If possible, I would test your crockpot to see what temperature it heats up to.  An easy way to do this would be to add water and let it warm it up for a couple of hours and then use your candy thermometer to check the temperature of the water.  I wish I would have done this.   I have a Lil' Dipper crock pot, a 1 qt. canning jar, and my canning funnel to make pouring easy. 

I put the lid on my jar, set it in the crockpot, and I would then pour water around the jar in the crockpot to keep things cozy.  I put a towel over top to keep the temperature consistent.  Allow this to sit for 3-5 hours, and then check to see if the mixture pulls away as a solid when tipped (think Jello).  If it does, then you're done.  Place in the refrigerator to cool.  You can flavor your yogurt with jam, maple syrup, Kool-aid mix, sugar, and whatever else you think sounds good.  I add a touch of vanilla and honey to mine.

Confessions:  the Lil' Dipper got too hot, thus the whey and culture separated in a big way.  It did form the yogurt, and I will be mixing the whey back in to form a more "liquidy" yogurt.  Right now, it is almost yogurt cheese, it is so thick, so I will definitely be trying something different next time.  Not yet sure what.

I had leftover starter, so I poured it in 1 tbsp. portions into an ice cube tray and placed it in the freezer.  I have read in various places that the starter will still perform even after frozen.  Just thaw and use like you usually do.  I'm testing it to see if that's true.

I then moved on to muffins. I use the red gingham Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook recipe for basic muffins and modify according to what I have to work with.  I made a double batch of blueberry oatmeal muffins, using blueberries for last year's haul.  I had forgotten that I still had a  couple of cups leftover from last year, so I wanted to use them up.  Ben likes the blueberry muffins, as he says they are especially moist.  I almost always add oatmeal to my muffins, as it seems to keep the muffins soft and moist as well.

The ingredients, minus the blueberries.

Getting ready to add the wet ingredients to the dry.

They ended up very moist, chock-full of blueberries!

I started on apple cinnamon muffins next, so I began by coring, peeling, and quartering apples.  Then I used my food processor to dice the apples into fine pieces, as shown below.  I had just enough baking powder for one batch, so that's all I made.

Adding the wet to the dry ingredients....

Apple cinnamon oatmeal muffins... very fragrant!

I had prepared too much diced apples, so I ended up making a loaf of apple cinnamon bread to use up the apples.  I made a baking powder substitute of cream of tartar and baking soda, and the bread was a little denser than normal.

Here's my stack of dirty dishes at the end of this foray into baking:

After lunch I cleaned up the mess, did the dishes, and then started on my other tasks. 

A friend shared the simplest recipe for Italian beef ever, and the flavor is out of this world, so I prepared the beef for Thursday's dinner.  Ben really likes a "manly man" meal on Thursday nights, so I figured it doesn't get much manlier than Italian beef.

Take 3-4 lbs. of beef and cut 4 slits in the meat.  I bought 2 spencer cut beef roasts (whatever that means) that were 1.5 lbs. a piece, so I cut 2 slits in each, deep and long.

Fill each slit with 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp. of salt, and 1/2 tsp. of Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle oregano (I used my garden-grown oregano!) over the top.

Put your prepared roast and a 12 oz. can of beef broth in your slow cooker, and cook for 8-10 hours on low, or 4-6 hours on high.  This seriously has to be about the best Italian beef I have ever had.

My last task was chocolate chip cookies.  Ben loves them, and complains if I ever put store-bought cookies in his lunch.  I try to make two batches a time and put them in individual lunch-size portions in the freezer so I never run out.  I do the same with the muffins for his breakfast.
I didn't quite finish before I had to fix supper (Parmesan chicken fingers-yummy!) and go to Ben's grandfather's wake, so I finished after we got back late that evening.

Here's the summary of my baking day:
1 qt. of yogurt
frozen portions of yogurt starter
1 loaf of apple cinnamon bread
12 day supply of blueberry oatmeal muffins
6 day supply of apple cinnamon oatmeal muffins
30 day supply of chocolate chip cookies
Thursday's Italian beef dinner

5 lovely comments:

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

WOW!!! what a BUSY!!! bee. THANKS!!! for sharing.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Great Job!!! I'm impressed!

Alisa said... Best Blogger Tips

Those chocolate chip cookies look super yummy! I'm with Ben on store bought cookies. They are just not the same!!! :) Good Work!

Julia said... Best Blogger Tips

That is amazing! I wish I could pull that off!

Lisa@BlessedwithGrace said... Best Blogger Tips

It all looks good. Thanks for linking to TMTT.