Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Microwave Yogurt - Yes You Can Make Yogurt In Your Microwave!

Delicious Homemade Yogurt!

If memory serves, this will be my 3rd post on making homemade yogurt. 

I started with a post on my Huffington Post Blog called Crazy Easy Homemade yogurt.  I followed those up with a post called Tips for making homemade yogurt.  So yes, I have yogurt issues.  I may well be obsessed!  Here's the things though.  Yogurt is good for you, it's simple to make and it's a fun food related science project!  What's not to love!!!!!

Because a make a new batch near every week (yes we sometimes eat THAT much yogurt) I'm always trying new tricks.  I could make larger batches.  The problem is that SOMETIMES we eat tons of it.  Sometimes not.  When we're in a big yogurt phase I make lots.  And when not, not.

This week my goal was to make extra thick (Greek style) yogurt using only my microwave.  [This mama loves a challenge]. 

Here's the recipe!

HOMEMADE YOGURT   - using only your microwave

For this recipe you will need:

3 cups milk (any kind of dairy milk is fine.  I like fat free cow milk)
2/3 cups powdered milk
2 Tablespoons of yogurt starter (more on this in a minute)

1 - 28 oz Mason jar
1 large bath towel

Yogurt Starter:  For yogurt starter you basically need live and active yogurt cultures.  You can buy freeze dried yogurt cultures online or in a health food store.  Or you can buy plain yogurt from the supermarket.  Just make sure that you buy yogurt that says "Live and Active yogurt cultures"  The good news is that you only have to buy starter once!  Each time you make yogurt you'll save a little of the completed product to start your next batch!

1.  In a clean dry mason jar combine powdered milk and liquid milk.  (I put the powdered milk first so that it mixes evenly).  Put the lid on the jar and shake until combined.  Make sure that there are no clumps of powdered milk floating around.
2.  REMOVE THE LID FROM THE JAR and microwave for approx 7 minutes or until the milk reaches 180 degrees.  I have a 900watt microwave - it takes approximately 6 1/2 - 7 minutes to get to 180 degrees.
3.  Carefully remove the hot milk from the microwave and let it cool (uncovered) to 120 degrees.  (Once the jar is cool enough to touch you can put the lid on and run it under cool water to bring the temperature down faster).
4.  Once the milk has reached 120 degrees stir in yogurt starter.
5.  Put the lid on the jar.  Wrap the jar in a towel and return it to the microwave for 8-12 hours until set.  (I prefer to make yogurt at night.  It incubates over night and you have fresh yogurt in the morning)
6.  Refrigerate finished yogurt until cool to stop the incubating process.
7.  Enjoy!

Because I'm a visual learner, here is the whole process in pictures!

Add Powdered Milk to Mason Jar

Add Milk to Mason Jar

Shake jar to mix powdered and liquid milk. 
I turn the jar upside down to make sure that
there is no powdered milk stuck on the bottom.

Microwave UNCOVERED for 6.5 - 7 minutes.
Make sure milk reaches at least 180 degrees
When the jar is cool enough to handle,
run it under a little cold water to bring the
temperature down to 120 degrees.
Add yogurt starter.
Wrap warm milk in a towel and return to microwave for incubation.


A while back I did an entire blog post about incubation and yogurt starters.   Click to read more about that.

Novice yogurt makers have reached out to me with several common problems.  Here are a few of the most popular problems and how to solve them:

Yogurt comes out too runny or doesn't set:  If your yogurt doesn't set 9 time out to 10 something went wrong in the incubation process.   If you added the starter when the milk was too hot you might have killed off the cultures in the starter.  If your milk was too cold when you added the cultures or didn't stay at 110 degrees your yogurt won't set.

The solution:  Make sure that you're using a good thermometer.  (I use a meat thermometer). Heating the milk to 180 degrees kills off unwanted bacteria.  If you go over 180, that's OK.  Just make sure that you cool the milk down to 110-120 degrees.  I add starter at 120.  Make sure that you're holding the warm milk at 110 degrees for the ENTIRE incubation period.    If your yogurt didn't set that's not a problem.  Refrigerate the unset yogurt until it's cool.  Use it in place of buttermilk in recipes! 

I'm sick of eating yogurt, what can I do with the left overs:  Sure yogurt making is fun, but maybe you're family is over you and your kitchen experiments.

The solution:  You can use yogurt in all kinds of recipes.  Blend it with fresh fruit for smoothies or churn it in the ice cream maker for frozen yogurt.  If a recipe calls for sour cream, use yogurt instead.  My family enjoys it on taco's or other spicy dishes.  You can also use it to make pound cake, pancakes and waffles.  It's also really tasty in sauces in place of milk!  Yogurt freezes beautifully and can be thawed in the refrigerator over night.  Also, don't forget to freeze a bit of starter so that you don't run out.

I keep forgetting to save starter:  This used to happen to me ALL THE TIME!  The problem in my house is that the kids eat the last of the yogurt and put the empty jar in the sink.  When it's time to make a new batch the starter in in their tummies!

The solution:
Save starter FIRST!  If you make a particularly nice batch of yogurt, scoop out a couple of tablespoons and put them in an ice tray.  Save the frozen starter cubes in a Ziploc bag.

Ice cube tray

Frozen yogurt cubes

Frozen starter

I have no place to incubate the yogurt:  There are a million theories on how to incubate yogurt.  Companies make expensive yogurt machine for just this reason.  Anyone can heat and mix the milk.  Holding it at 110 degrees for 8-12 hours is the hard part. 

The solution:  Some oven have a "warm" setting that will maintain a 110 degrees.  My oven doesn't go that low.  The microwave works great for us because it's insulated and usually not is use.  If your microwave gets a lot of action there are other ways to incubate.  Wrap the warm milk in a towel and put it in a picnic cooler with a heating pad set to med.  On hot summer days I incubate in my attic.  I leave a thermometer near by so that I can make sure that the attic doesn't get too hot.  On the hottest days temperatures in my attic reach approximately 100 degrees.  That's just perfect for incubation!  In the winter time I've been known to incubate my yogurt by sitting it next to the furnace.  The bottom line is that it needs to be in a place that will keep it warm [but not too hot] for the entire incubating period.

Good luck and please post your questions!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Refashion - Tutu Dress

The idea for this dress came to me when I saw a (kind of trampy) tutu dress at GoodWill.  I wanted to make dress up clothes for my little niece.  The problem with commercially available dress up clothes for kids are that the quality is so poor.  One wash and they're done for.  My idea was to make machine washable play dresses for little girls.  This dress is the first step on my path.

Here's the original dress.

Original Dress
It's kind of hard to tell from this picture, but the dress has a bustier top with strappy sides.  Not exactly appropriate for a 4 year old!

Original Top
The top is a cotton blend shirt from Talbots.

I'm lucky that the top was an adult size 2.  Because the dress is being made for a child, I can cut it down without too much trouble.  A larger adult size might have required me to remake the arm holes.

First I cut the bustier from the tutu.  I wanted to make sure to leave as much waist band as possible.

Tutu Without Bustier

Bustier without tutu

 Next I removed the zipper.  Carefully cut around the the zipper and save it (you can use the zipper in another project).

Tutu with no zipper
 Cut the shirt down to size.  I used a pajama shirt for the pattern.

I used a child's size 6 shirt for a pattern
 Keeping as much of the original stitching as possible in tact, I cut the shirt to the smaller size.

Shirt Cut Down
 The rest of this process is pretty easy!  Turn the shirt inside out and stitch the sides.

With the right sides together, stitch the tutu to the shirt.

This entire process took about 30 minutes.

I REALLY hope that my niece likes it!

Update:  She LOVES it!

For more reFashion ideas, click HERE!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

ReFashion - Learning To ReFashion

First Time Refashioner
Recently a friend of mine called to say that she wanted to learn to sew dresses.  She asked if I could help her learn to read a pattern.  I suggested that it might be easier to try to refashion.  Since's she's a beginner ReFashioning takes less time and costs a LOT less since you can do it using your old clothes.

Linen Shirt
Pleated Skirt
We started with something easy - turning separates into a dress.

Fold the shirt in 1/2 and cut to desired length
We cut the elastic waist band from the skirt and sewed the 2 together.

That's it!

This project is ideal for a first time refashioner.  My friend LOVES her dress and promises to send action shots when she has them.

Another super easy first time refashion project is turning pants into a skirt.  For more tips and tricks, click here!

To see all of my ReFashion projects, including refashions for pets, click HERE!

CRAFTS - Easter Basket

Easy Easter Basket
I know that Easter has passed, but I wanted to share the Shabby Chic Easter basket that I made for a friend.  This basket is made from scrap fabric and just took a few minutes to make.

Cut the fabric into strips leaving the top uncut
First I cut strips a long piece of fabric, leaving it uncut at the top.

Contrast strips

Next I cut strips of contrasting fabric.
Weave the pieces together
Now weave the pieces together.

I used a book near the top edge of the fabric to hold everything in place.

Continue weaving until you reach the end of the fabric.

Basket Weave
Place the woven fabric on a large piece of felt and stitch the strips in place.


Fold over the top edge of the felt and stitch in place.
Fold the felt in half to sew the short side to create a circle.

You basket needs a bottom.

Center the basket on a large piece of felt

Center the basket on a large piece of felt and draw a circle around the base of the basket

Making the basket bottom

Cut out the basket bottom.

Pin and sew the bottom in place.

Sew the bottom in place

To create the handle for this basket I braided pieces of scrap fabric together
Braided basket handle
Stitch the ends to keep the handle from unraveling

Stitch the handle to the basket

All Done!
Here's a shot of the basket in action!

Easter Bunny with Basket

Homemade Bunny Ears

I used the same technique to make a Spiderman basket for my boys.

Spiderman Basket