Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Never Fail - Slow Cooker - Overnight Oven Yogurt

About a year ago I tried making yogurt in the slow cooker and then wrapping it in towels on  the counter overnight.  After two failed attempts I gave up.  Recently, I found another recipe using the oven as the incubator so I gave it a shot.  It worked!  It is such an amazing feeling to check on what was simply warm milk the night before and find yogurt in the morning!  I have had success five times in a row with this homemade, slow cooker yogurt, so I figured it was time to share.  I can make plain or greek yogurt, skim milk or full fat and it's worked every time.  I've even had success making it without a thermometer, just by learning how long it would take to heat and cool the milk.  Making this yogurt at home is so simple and half the cost of store bought!  You can flavour it yourself (a drizzle of honey is my favourite), and avoid all the crazy amount of added sugar and additives in the store bought varieties.  Plus, making it from home has a longer fermentation process, and eating fermented foods is good for you!  (Try reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.)

I usually eat this yogurt with my Quinoa Applesauce Granola for breakfast, use it in smoothies, or make dressings  and sauces.  It's a great sour cream substitute.  My husband is slowly adjusting to it's tart taste, but the kids' palates haven't adjusted yet.  I will keep buying their favourite store bought flavours (Yami Vanilla and Yami Orange Cream) and do a gradual mixing of the two.

Thanks so much to Mindy, from Creating Naturally for posting the recipe that finally worked for me.
I've copied her recipe onto here, because she did such a great job making it so simple!

P.S.  If you want to make greek yogurt, simply strain it with a cheesecloth (or paper towel) lined colander.  Strain it over a bowl and save the whey to use as a liquid substitute in bread, other baking, or in your smoothies.  More whey uses here!

Homemade Slow Cooker Yogurt
Yield: 1 gallon of yogurt
Check out the notes at the bottom of the recipe for extra tips and tricks.
  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (full fat)
  1. Pour the gallon of milk in a 6 qt. slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker on low.
  2. Allow the milk to heat up to 180 degrees F. In my slow cooker this takes about 5 hrs. Every slow cooker is different though, so use a candy thermometer to check the temperature of your milk until it hits 180.
  3. Turn the slow cooker off and allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees F. Again, use a candy thermometer to determine when it has hit the correct temperature.  (Lynn's Note:  If you are in a hurry, take out your slow cooker insert and cool it in a sink filled with ice water.  Stir gently, occasionally.)
  4. Once the milk has cooled off to 110 degrees, preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. Remove some of the warm milk into a small glass bowl. Gently whisk the 1/2 cup plain yogurt into the warm milk in the small bowl until there are no lumps left. Gently whisk the yogurt/milk mixture back into the rest of the warm milk.
  5. Pour the warm yogurt/milk into sterilized glass jars. (Lynn's Note:  I  just place the entire crock pot insert in the oven and then store it into containers later.) A funnel helps with this. Put lids on the jars and place them in the oven. Turn the oven off and allow the jars to sit in there for 8-12 hours (or overnight). This is the incubation phase when the yogurt cultures the rest of the milk and turns all of it into yogurt. If your oven has a light in it, leave it on while the jars are in there. This will help to keep the oven the right temperature.
  6. After the jars have set in the oven for 8-12 hours, remove them and place them in the refrigerator to chill completely before using.


  • If a whole gallon of yogurt seems like a lot to you, you can cut the recipe in half.  This will affect the heating and cooling times, but the yogurt will still need to incubate for 8-12 hours no matter how much you make.
  • I definitely recommend using whole milk for this recipe.  It makes the yogurt very thick and creamy.  I usually use raw milk, because that’s what we have on hand.  Any whole milk will work great though.
  • If the milk goes a little past 180 degrees F when you are heating it, that is fine.  However, it must get to at least 180 degrees F.
  • You can speed the cooling process along by cracking the lid on the slow cooker and/or by removing the ceramic part of the slow cooker from the part that generates the heat.  I usually don’t do this, but if you’re wanting it to be done faster it won’t hurt anything to speed it along.
  • Don’t worry if your oven doesn’t have a light in it.  Mine does not, and it still always turns out great.
  • If for some reason your oven is not available, there are other options for incubating your yogurt.  You can put the jars in a closed and sealed cooler with a pot of boiling/very hot water.  Or if you have a dehydrator with removable trays you can set the jars in the dehydrator with it set on about 115 degrees F.  No matter what you choose incubate your yogurt in, it needs to stay in the warm environment for 8-12 hours.
  • If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can still make this.  Just heat the milk up to 180 degrees F in a pan on the stove instead of in the slow cooker.  Then proceed as directed above.
  • I do not add any sweetener or flavor to my yogurt when I am making it.  If you want to sweeten it and/or flavor it, add honey, maple syrup, or jam (to taste) to the milk/yogurt mixture before putting it in the jars.  You could also add any extracts that you would like to use.
  • The reason I don’t sweeten my yogurt is because we use it in baking and eating as a buttermilk and sour cream substitute.  We also enjoy eating it plain with applesauce or frozen blueberries.  It also makes an almost daily appearance in our smoothies, which are sweetened by the fruit that we put in them.
  • This yogurt will last for several weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Make sure you save 1/2 cup of your homemade yogurt to make your next batch!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dolman Sweater to Eternity Scarf & Beannie Hat

Going through my closet the other day I pulled out an adorable sweater I had bought on sale last year.  It was one of those, "It's so cute!  It's so stylish!" moments when what seems to work in the dressing room never looks quite the same at home.  Its horizontal stripes, and baggy shape weren't exactly figure flattering.  The wide neckline kept slipping off my shoulder and I just didn't feel comfortable revealing a bra strap to the world.  I tried it on the other day to wear to church and my 12 year old plainly stated, "Uh.  Mommy.  NO."  Message received and understood!

But the stripes!  The cozy, stretchy knit!  I was having a hard time parting with it, so I decided I would upcycle it into something.  I had previously upcyled a wool sweater into slippers and made the sleeves into a pair of slipper socks for my daughter, but this sweater was a synthetic knit, and wouldn't shrink  and felt.  I thought the stripes would make a lovely scarf, so away I googled.  Here is a helpful tutorial on how to turn a sweater into an eternity/circle scarf.

Here's what I did.

1.  Lay out sweater.

2.  Cut a straight line through both layers of material.  Turning the bottom part of the sweater into a circle scarf was the simplest thing since the edges naturally rolled under and didn't need hemming.  In hindsight, I wish I would have cut the line up higher and made a wider scarf.  I didn't realize it would stretch so much and become so narrow.   But it was just the right size for my daughter!

3.  The dolman sleeves were wide enough to make a hat for my daughter.  For the beannie hat I simply cut off the cuff, and then cut the sleeve away from the body.  Then I stretched it over my daughter's head, trimmed it to the right size, flipped it inside out, stitched together the top opening and gave it back to my daughter.  
If your sweater sleeves aren't wide enough to make a beanie, then you can use other parts of the sweater, as in this tutorial.

It made me smile to see my daughter go out the door this morning with her new accessories.  I don't have to be wearing the sweater to enjoy its fun and cheerful fabric on a grey, rainy January day.

The whole project took 15 minutes tops.  Blogging about it has taken longer!

This would be a great project for a sweater you love that no longer fits, or has a stain somewhere.  Happy sweater hunting!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quinoa Applesauce Granola....aka "Mommy's Birdseed"

We've been traveling so much this summer that I've almost forgotten how to cook!  We've had some incredible trips - Sydney, Australia (our youngest daughter was granted a wish from the Children's Wish Foundation....that's a whole other amazing story in itself!), camping, CreationFest Music festival in Washington State, we ministered at a Kid's Camp in the Cypress Hills of Alberta, traveled to Yellowstone National Park, then across Idaho & Oregon states, and finally ended at Mount St Helen's in Washington.  What incredible sights we've seen!  However, I learned in Australia that eating out three times a day is actually quite tiresome, and "canned something or the other" while we're camping might be the easiest way to go, but it's not the healthiest!

I decided to get my "Mom Starting From Scratch" groove started again by making my favourite breakfast, "Quinoa Applesauce Granola", which the kids call, "Mommy's Birdseed".  There's no oil and no sugar added and it's amazing!  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the back deck with my beloved early this morning enjoying a bowl with Greek yogurt and blueberries.

 I adapted my recipe from a blog called Food and Whine (thank you!), but skipped on adding any sugar, honey or sweeteners.  In my opinion, it really doesn't need it!

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
1 & 1/2  cups no sugar added applesauce

This recipe is just a guide!  You can add whatever nuts, seeds, or grains you like. You can also toss in dried fruit like cranberries, apricots or raisins after it has cooked and cooled.

1.  Preheat oven to 250F.
2.  Combine ingredients and spread onto 2 baking sheets.  You can line with parchment paper if you
3.  Bake for 45 minutes, stirring granola every 10 minutes until it is golden brown. (Don't walk away
    from the kitchen and get busy doing something else!)
4.  Remove from oven and let cool on sheets. It will become more crispy as it cools.  Add dried fruit
     if you wish.
5.  Store in sealed container in cupboard.

This granola is so satisfying with some plain Greek yogurt.  Start your day with this and you won't find yourself craving a sugary mid morning snack.  It's also good cold with milk or even warmed slightly in the microwave.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Whole Wheat Applesauce Cinnamon Quinoa Pancakes

It's really hard to believe after a couple years of making pancakes from scratch, that I used to always buy the mix.  Plain, old, white pancake mix.  Buttermilk if I was feeling fancy.  Heaven forbid I wouldn't have any mix on hand on a Saturday pancakes for us!

But now, every Saturday I make my favorite  "Fluffy, Filling, Whole Wheat Pancakes"
My kids love them with syrup or warm sliced strawberries or bananas, and I enjoy them with apricot jam.  Lately though, I've been trying to experiment with Quinoa, other than as a side dish or as a salad. I did a Google search for "Quinoa Pancakes" and I found this "Whole Wheat Banana Quinoa Pancakes" recipe by Monique of Ambitious Kitchen.

I didn't have bananas on hand, since I have a houseful of monkeys that go through a bunch in about a day.  So, I tweaked Monique's recipe a bit and this is what I came up with.

Whole Wheat Applesauce Cinnamon Quinoa Pancakes
1 cup cooked quinoa
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup applesauce

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together quinoa, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, applesauce, melted butter, and honey until smooth. Add wet mixture to flour mixture and combine.  If batter is too thick simply add a bit more milk; if it's too thin add more flour.
  2. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with butter or cooking spray and heat over medium. Drop batter by 1/4 cup onto skillet. I use an ice cream scoop!  Cook until bubbles appear on top, about 2 minutes. Flip cakes and cook until golden brown on underside, 2 minutes. Wipe skillet clean and repeat with more melted butter and remaining batter.
Makes about 10 pancakes.

You can see the quinoa texture to these pancakes - but they still hold together like a fluffy wheat flour pancake.
We had these for supper the other night and I made it a treat for my girls with whipping cream, sliced strawberries, and chocolate sauce.  A bit of a splurge to balance out all that healthiness!  I really enjoyed mine with some plain yogurt & sliced strawberries.  So good!  The girls weren't fooled by the can definitely taste it and the texture is slightly different but nothing shocking.  Just like cornmeal pancakes have a different texture as well.  My eldest said they tasted "nutty" and my middle said they tasted "healthy".  My youngest didn't say much, but she didn't eat all of hers either.  However, they are VERY filling!  Before I started making whole wheat pancakes my kids would go through four.  Now they usually eat two.  They were full after only one quinoa pancake.  I'm sure the mountain of whipped cream had a lot to do with that though.

I'm hungry thinking about this now...good thing I have a few saved in the fridge...I think I'm going to have a snack!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Grape Juice Trick & Other Stomach Flu Survival Tips

I don't know about you, but since the new year there has been a bout of the stomach flu at least once a month visiting our house.  With three daughters, by the time it runs through all of them, another gastroenteritis seems ready to pounce right around the corner.  Oy!  My youngest daughter has chronic kidney disease, so a bad bout can wind her up in the hospital on an IV drip.  Over the years I've fine tuned our "Sickness Regime" so I thought I'd pass on a few tips.  And at the end of this post is the Grape Juice Trick!

1.  Keep a bunch of old towels on hand to cover their bed and pillow.  If you have an old quilt, you may want to put that on the bed instead of their usual one.
2.  Don't even bother with jammies!
3.  Keep long hair pulled back into a ponytail.
4.  Keep a designated "barf bucket" in your house.  Don't use one of your food prep bowls!  it An old ice cream pail or even a milk jug cut in half (with handle still attached) works great.  You can toss it out without any remorse when all is said and done.
5.  Thank God for modern day washing conveniences.  Then thank Him again.  Can you imagine what our great-grandmother's went through?  At any rate, if the mess is particularly "chunky", you may want to consider swishing clothing or bedding in the toilet first or scraping it up with paper towel.  I can't believe I'm writing about this, but sometimes you just can't chuck it all in the washing machine and hope for the best!  Oh yes, and don't forget to give your washer a good disinfecting cycle.
6.  Did your furniture or carpet get hit?  Here's some clean up tips from ehow.
7.  Contrary to myth, you SHOULD CONTINUE to give a child fluids even when vomiting.  I went through the bulk of my parenting years thinking that you shouldn't give ANY fluids to a child until they've gone an hour without throwing up.  What happens to that poor child if they are vomiting multiple times an hour???  They will quickly become dehydrated, and that will make their stomach even more upset!  Pedialyte or other re-hydration drinks have electrolytes that can be absorbed quickly even if the fluid comes right back up.  Just give small sips every 10 minutes.  Drinking a large amount all at once is too hard on their sensitive tummy at that point.  If you have no pedialyte on hand, cutting fruit juice, flat gingerale, or gatorade 50/50 with water can help in a pinch.  Or here's few homemade pedialyte recipes.  I've not tried these, but a friend of mine who lived in Asia for many years says this is what they used.
9.  If you have a child that refuses to take their rehydration drink (I've got one of those!) then you will simply have to fill a medicine dropper with about 15 ml and give it to them that way.  Insert the dropper into their mouth along the side of their cheek and squirt it in.  Don't squirt it straight in to the back of their throat - they'll choke and splutter that way!
10.  Start gently if they ask for solid food.  You may want to wait till they've gone a few hours without vomiting, but their appetite is usually a pretty good guide.  The BRAT diet is simple to remember - Bananas, rice, apples, toast.  No caffeine, high sugar, dairy or greasy foods till the tummy has settled down totally.

Other than frequent hand washing, and disinfecting of things like door knobs etc, I've never heard many other ways to prevent catching the stomach flu.  Today I read a couple tips (yay Pinterest!) that said drinking three cups of 100% grape juice a day helps prevent gastroenteritis if you think you may have been exposed.  Apparently the juice changes the acidity level in your gut and will keep the bug from finding a nice cozy home in your intestinal tract.  Whether this is a internet perpetuated myth or not, I was very willing to give it a shot, especially since my husband is away and the last thing I need is more sick kids, or worse yet - mama getting sick!

It is interesting to note that I know there's lots of stomach flu going around town, and when I went to the grocery store this morning there were only a couple of bottles of Welch's Grape Juice left on the top shelf.  I had to climb onto the lower rack to reeeeach the last ones way at the back.  Seems to me like other people are buying stock in it as well.  If the whole thing is a myth, it would be a very cleverly construed one by the Welch's company, since they seem to be the only brand with the 100% grape juice!

Anyway, we're not big juice drinkers in this house - it's pretty much just milk or water to drink.  When I brought it home my elder daughter wrinkled her nose in disgust, but when I said it might help her from catching her sister's bug she decided to down it and remarked, "It's pretty good actually!"  I replied, " kind of tastes like....communion!"

Of course by glass number three at supper, we weren't so keen anymore, but still willing.  I will let you know if it seems to do the trick.  I'd love to hear if you have heard or done something similar!

Hoping that you don't face the yucky bug any time soon, but if you do...know that you have my sympathies!

5 days later....Well, I drank grape juice three times a day for 2 days, and my older daughter did it for three days and so far we are stomach flu free.  I don't know for sure if this worked, but I am willing to give it another try if someone else in our family ever gets sick.  I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slow Cooker Oatmeal Leftover Makeover!

Here's a guest recipe from my friend, Trisha.  She's a married mom with an adorable 3 year old boy - and she also happens to love cooking from scratch as well.  Last year she went off dairy for the most part due to a sensitivity and has had a lot of fun finding new recipes along the way.

Isn't she gorgeous?  Trisha is so full of life!
She knows I love to hear new ways to repurpose, so she sent along two scrumptious recipes - Slow Cooker Oatmeal, and Leftover Oatmeal Granola Bars.  I can't wait to try these out!  Only one of my girls enjoys eating oatmeal in the morning, so I didn't relish the thought of making a big slow cooker pot of oatmeal, only to have it go to waste.  This recipe is the perfect solution!

Slow Cooker Oatmeal
2 cups steel cut oats
6 cups water
3 cups almond milk (or soy, or dairy)
Cinnamon to taste
Raisins, almonds, dried cranberries or whatever else you think would be yummy in your breakfast oatmeal.
Slow cooker for 8 hours on low. If you can stir it - great, but who does that at night?

Now here's how you turn your leftover oatmeal into a delicious and nutritious snack!

Leftover Oatmeal Granola Bars

1.  Take whatever oatmeal is leftover from breakfast and add coconut flakes, more cranberries, nuts if you like, more cinnamon, a bit of sugar if you like (I don't think it needs it but some may), and as much quick oats or other dried grains as it needs to become sticky but hold together texture and use your hands to combine everything.
2.  Then line a baking pan with parchment paper (I used a 9 by 13 pan but obviously it depends how much substance you have an how thick you want them to be.)
3. And bake at 350. Here's the part that really has to specialize because the baking time depends on the thickness. They'll always seem a bit soft until they cool off but I bake them until they're quite dry on the top and don't squish too much when pressed with your finger or a spoon. It can sometimes take up to an hour.
4.  Let them cool completely in the pan and lift out the parchment and you're done. It takes some experimenting to get the texture the way you like. Some people prefer crunchy bars and others like chewy so it's up to you.

I love how my friend bakes these....just throw what you like in, squish it all together, and bake until done.   If you try this out, I'd love to hear how you made it work!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Felted Wool Sweater Slippers

One of the best ways to keep your heating bill down is simply by wearing slippers.  I mean think about it....when your feet are cold you just feel cold all over.  I've been pretty blessed with a mother-in-law who knits these kind for our whole family.  It's a mark of being in our family if you get a pair of these slipped in with a Christmas or birthday present!  And you might even find some money tucked inside.  :-)

However, I tend to wear mine out pretty quickly with washing them frequently and snagging them on those little doorway dividers.

I had been hanging onto one of my husband's old wool sweaters for a while with the idea that I would make something from it.  Thanks to this awesome tutorial, on how to upcycle a sweater into slippers, I decided to make my own.  Thank you to Vanessa, the blogger behind Homemade Holiday Gifts.

I ran the sweater through a hot water wash several times to get it felted nice and tight.  The kids thought it was pretty hilarious seeing a sweater that once fit daddy now in their size.  I traced the outline of my feet just the way the tutorial suggested and created the pattern.  Since I wanted my slippers to be extra warm I cut out two layers of fabric for each of the soles and sewed them together for that extra layer of insulation and comfort.  It seems like I had one sick kid after another this winter in my house, so there were lots of "in days" to work on something like this.

Anyway, I won't give you every last detail, since it's described so nicely in the tutorial.  I used the neck band of the sweater to make a nice, tight cuff and then added a couple of felt flowers with a button just for the girly factor!


They are soooo warm and fuzzy.....and way cheaper than buying a designer pair.
Free and upcycled!  Two of my favourite words!

I also made a pair of felted wool slipper socks for my 13 yr old out of the arms.  Stay tuned for that post another time...