Friday, February 25, 2011

Homemade Yogurt in the Crock Pot!

Boy, have I learned a lot in the past 48 hours or so! First of all, I've been back and forth about whether to bother making my own yogurt or not because all the recipes that I could find that were supposed to be "easy" did not look so "easy" to me! Why? Because checking the temperature and keeping it just right for hours is something that this "global" mom would never be able to stay on top of. Yes, I always have multiple things going on at once but that level of attention to detail is beyond my ability and makes me nervous! I would have to stand there the whole time. I would never remember to check otherwise. I know that you can get a system down with trial and error and find a way to incubate yogurt without having to check, but I was dreading the trial and error and all the potential waste of milk and time in the process. I even have my mom's old yogurt maker that works really well, but we go through it SO FAST that I would have to make it so often since that makes a pretty small batch compared to what we use.

I saw a recipe once for making yogurt in the crock pot, but so many of the comments were negative, saying that it had come out runny, that it discouraged me. I lost my motivation.

Until this week. The fact that we go through yogurt so fast had gotten me thinking about really doing this some way in which I can make bigger batches.

Then I discovered, "A Year of Slow Cooking." I know, I know, I'm way behind the times, but I'm SO excited! That blog will become one of the three cookbooks I'll be using for a year starting in April. (I'll share the other two in a later post.) Stephanie's enthusiasm and results along with the many positive results shared in the comments motivated to try this, and as she would say, "It works! It really really works!"

My daughter and I enjoyed the tastiest most perfectly textured yogurt today that I have had in a long long time...if ever!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU STEPHANIE! My fingers aren't quite shaking, but I'm very very excited, which is why I'm writing this post right now when I should be doing a lot of other things!

I won't repeat all of Stephanie's recipe, you can just check it out here. I will describe how I "sorta kinda" adapted it.

1. I heated a half gallon of whole milk on low fro 2.5 hours as the recipe called for.

2. The next step was to unplug it and let it sit for three hours. I didn't exactly follow this because I have the thermometer that goes with my mom's old yogurt machine that is perfect for global folks like me and doesn't even have numbers! It just has an arrow signaling, "When the temperature is here, mix in the starter!"  Love it!

Therefore, I took off the lid and let it sit a while and checked a couple of times...not sure how much time went by, I think it was about an hour, but the temperature was just right the second time, so I scooped out two cups of it into a separate bowl and mixed in a half cup of store bought yogurt.

3. Then, since I knew it was at the perfect temperature, I put the lid on the pot and wrapped that sucker in TWO HUGE towels as airtight as I possibly could, because I knew it needed to not get any cooler.

4. Then I just forgot about it. The this morning, around 7:30, I remembered. I hadn't been in the kitchen yet because my dear husband brings me a mug of coffee as I stagger to a chair in the living room in the mornings where I remain with my coffee until Lydia wakes up and/or I remember that yogurt is incubating on the counter! For this reason, it was incubating for about 12 hours. I'd meant to leave it for only 10.

When I opened it up I saw clumpy yogurt with liquid separating it a little. I was excited because I knew this meant "not soupy." Yay! This was after stirring a tad:

This is where I reveal what a rookie I am, but it wasn't until yesterday that I learned that you call that "liquid" whey. I had tried to print out Stephanie's post, forgetting there were 400+ comments, and needless to say, it ran out of paper before even finishing the comments. I did scan the comments and that is where I learned what whey was and that you could use it for other things, like baking bread.

I did a quick search on uses of whey and got some great information really quickly. I knew I wanted to get some of that whey out for a bit thicker consistency of yogurt, so first I tried using our coffee sieve and scooping out a bit at a time and letting the whey drip off. I quickly learned that this was not going to work.

I thought I needed cheese cloth but I tried using one of our buffet style cloth napkins that we use as kitchen cloth because it is thin. I wet it, wrung it out, and laid it in a colander which I sat on a bowl. I emptied the crock pot of yogurt into the colander and sat it in the fridge for an hour or two. I know that's a broad range, but that's just how I work.

I was so excited when I pulled it out. The yogurt was just right, and I had about 2 cups of whey. Exactly the amount that I needed to substitute whey for water in my easy homemade bread recipe (which I'll be posting some tips on soon).  I learned from my earlier search that using it instead of water to prep the yeast would make the bread moister and add some protein. I'm excited about all of the potential uses of whey, a great list of which you can find in this discussion on Chow Hound. It led me on a search about how to make mozzarella cheese, which I might just try after our trip to Brazil!

So finally I had a big bowl of yogurt in the fridge and a nice bit of whey on top waiting for the bread baking, which happened to be today since we just ran out.

I was distracted and left out a couple of important steps in the bread making and we were short on yeast. It's cooling now, but I don't expect the results to be stellar. I will try again and let you know how it turns out!

All in all, I can see this EASILY becoming a weekly routine! Set milk in the crock pot  on low for a couple of hours around dinner time. Take the lid off and let it cool, keep check, but it should be ready in an hour or so to mix in a tad of last weeks yogurt. Then wrap it up in two towels and forget about it until the next morning. Save the whey and make bread for the week as well. LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scratch yogurt off my grocery list! Woo Hoo!!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tiny Tush Elite {One Size Pocket Diaper} Review and Giveaway!

I have been blessed with the opportunity to review the Tiny Tush Elite, one size cloth diaper for you!

 First off, here's a bit about the company:

Tiny Tush began with Charlene Foster, a mom who was searching for a better way to use cloth
diapers. Over the course of diapering her five children, she’d tried everything but had yet to find an
optimal cloth diapering system. With her unique flair for textiles and clear vision of her ideal diaper, she
knew she had developed a great idea that would help her - and many other moms – to successfully cloth
diaper....Tiny Tush was born!

Now a decade later, Tiny Tush, a family owned business, is fulfilling customers’ diapering needs
with excellent products and knowledgeable, courteous, and friendly service. Tiny Tush is dedicated
to providing the highest quality products (many made in the USA!) at affordable prices, and to giving
customers the best experience possible. Plus, Tiny Tush offers a generous 90 day money back guarantee
on all new products and a 30 day return on used products.

● This unique cloth diapering system is the easiest system available today. With a reverse envelope
pocket opening in the rear of the diaper, the inserts are easy to install. This opening also
prevents stool from getting caught underneath the flap, making cleanup easier and yuck-free.
● The exterior of the Tiny Tush Elite One-Size Pocket diaper is a waterproof PUL. The inner layer is
a non-piling polyester micro-fleece that keeps the diaper looking like new, even wash after wash.
This diaper is available in either snap or Aplix closures.
● Tiny Tush Elite One-Size pocket diapers are designed to fit babies from 7-35 lbs. The snap-down
system for sizing is similar to the popular Tiny Tush Trim fitted, except there is an extra fourth
row of snaps for increased adjustability. There is also an extra column of snaps to keep this
amazing diapering system secure and trim.
● The four row snap-down system (that comes with both the Aplix and snap closure diapers) allows
the rise of this diaper to be adjusted incrementally from newborn, infant, crawler, to toddler.

Let's take a closer look at the diaper:

Note the FOUR possible rise settings!

Plush micro-fleece inner fabric. Two microfiber inserts for smaller and larger settings. They can also be used together for overnight stuffing!

Notice that the flap for the pocket goes under the fleece layer. I have come to value this for spraying purposes! It helps prevent poop getting stuck or icky back splash. Also notice the extra snap on the right for crossing over for smaller babies.

First Impressions:

My first impression of this diaper was, "Wow! The material feels really sturdy!" I know that's a strange way to say it, but that is what stood out to me as unique from other diapers I've tried. It was plush, thick and it just felt sturdy!

The second thing that caught my attention was the FOUR possible rise settings. This is more than most one size diapers I've tried.

The micro-fleece seemed especially thick and soft.


It fits my baby wonderfully. No gaping around the legs which equals no leaks. It looks and seems comfortable on her. It was easy to find a perfect fit because of the many snap options (they are close together all the way across the top) and rise options. There is NO question that it will fit until potty training!!!!!!!! Great range of sizes!!!

Final Impressions:

This is a great pocket diaper. I highly recommend it for its quality. The inner fleece is really durable and effective, and is made to last. It seems very comfortable and is easy to spray off from either direction because the pocket flap is under the inner layer and will not catch anything! This diaper is on my list of those which I will put on my daughter when I'm expecting her to have a poop any minute because it is easy to spray out without making a mess.

It truly fits a very wide range of sizes and is soft but snug around the legs. The inserts are absorbent but not bulky. I definitely feel comfortable going "out and about" in this diaper. It's on the highly dependable list in that regard. There are those that I will only use around the house when I know I'll be able to change her more quickly and those that I trust while out running errands or visiting that might have to stay on a bit longer. Tiny Tush is on that list!

I honestly have nothing negative to say about this diaper. For it's quality, the price is great, especially since it includes inserts!


Tiny Tush is offering one reader their very own Tiny Tush Elite one size pocket diaper in winner's choice of color and closure!

How to Enter:

Go to Tiny Tush and leave me a comment telling  me what other product you would love to try!

(Leave a separate comment for each entry. Include your email address if it is not easily accessible through your blogger profile. You do not have to have a blogger profile to enter, as long as you leave a valid e-mail address.) 

Additional Entries:

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Link this post up to any Giveaway Linky and just leave me a comment with the link! (3 entries per linky entered!)

Share about this giveaway in whatever social media venue or forum you wish.  As long as you can provide a link to it, it counts!

Comment on one of my non-giveaway posts. (One entry per post commented on.)

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents 18 years of age and older until March 7, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. EST (14 DAYS)   The winner will be chosen using a random number generator. I will post and email the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond. If winner does not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen. I will post the winner when the selection has been made and confirmed by the recipient.

This is not a paid post. The opinions expressed are completely my own! I received the product reviewed free of charge.  You can see my full disclosure here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Than This Monday: Have you every been disappointed?

I have...both in big and small ways, in my heart ways and in my mind ways. Ways that irritate and ways that break...

Speaking of ways that irritate, last week we had a check up scheduled for Lydia. My very lucid and intelligent husband had called and made the appointment. The day came, he got off work, I left things undone, Lydia un-fed and napped, we got there, and lo and behold there was no such appointment in the system. I was struggling with my attitude. I thought they should have tried to work us in. I thought they should have at least apologized since it was more like that they forgot to click "save" than that my husband had imagined the whole conversation.

As we left I was acknowledging my wrong attitude to God, not quite at the place of true repentance, when my husband and I both thought and said, "Well, there may be a reason we don't know about yet."

Sure enough, a day or so later, Lydia starts running a fever, and is sick for several days. The shots that she would have had that day, coupled with the germs she already had, could have made her very very sick.

Turns out it was all mercy.

That is a minor example. Such disappointments and frustrations are quickly gotten over. Those of the heart, however, are a different matter. The loss of a loved one, the falling apart of all our hopes and plans...can "these things" be mercy too?

I've been hanging out in Luke 24 some lately. Three days after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, two very disillusioned, dejected, and dissapointed men were leaving Jerusalem and headed toward a town called Emmaus.

Things had not gone as they'd hoped, expected, or desired. This Jesus- in whom they'd placed so much hope, was dead. They had heard rumors from the women that He was no longer in the tomb...that an angel said he had risen. Obviously they did not believe it because they were packed up and heading sounded just to good to be true...and a little bit crazy.

They were talking about "these things" as they walked, and suddenly a stranger showed up and asked them what they were talking about. Dubious that anyone could have missed these headlines, they told him when he inquired further that they spoke of Jesus. When they finished, the stranger explained to them that "these things" had to happen for the word of God to be fulfilled. Jesus had to die, but why? IN ORDER TO CONQUER DEATH AND THE GRAVE FOREVER.

The very "things" that led to their abject disappointment, were the very mercies of God that would bring them a hope and a future beyond what they had ever or could have ever hoped or dreamed.

Are you disillusioned in any way, big or small? Has anyone or anything let you down? Behind the smallest to the largest hurt, misfortune or closed door...maybe...just maybe...Mercy waits.

Do you know who that "stranger" in the story was? It was Jesus himself! After he explained to them how all the scriptures pointed to these events and the fact that that Jesus would die and rise again, He revealed Himself to them, and then disappeared. Needless to say, they packed up and headed back to Jerusalem as quickly as they could to tell the others. When they got there and were still telling their story. He showed up again, and revealed Himself to everyone.

What has touched my heart more than anything in this story is that Jesus, sweet and merciful Jesus, was about to reveal Himself to his followers...but He knew that two of them, so utterly disillusioned had given up and headed home. He loved them so much...He didn't want them to miss His appearing...He went and got them, and then, almost as soon as they got back, He appeared.

Maybe, my friend...maybe Mercy isn't just waiting behind those hurts...maybe if you turn around and might just see that Mercy is following you...coming to get you...because He doesn't want you to miss Him.  He just loves you too much. Just look...He is there! Ask him to open your eyes.

Love as Strong as Death

Looking back, now I see
It was you wooing me
In the midst of everything

It was you not letting me
settle for loving anything
or being loved in any way
that would lead my heart astray

Dissapointments, weakenings
Rejection, failure, hurts, pains
Joy, sorrow, loss and gain
Everything had one sure aim.

Now I see Your sovereignty
Waiting Oh so patiently
Blocking my way so mercifully
Until the time that I could see...

Your ravished gaze so full of love
your eyes as steady as a dove's
Your love unyielding as the grave
For this joy your life you gave.

Looking back I realize
You stood with longing in your eyes
With patient love that never dies
Waiting for me to realize...

No love I could attain on earth
Could ever begin to give me worth
But your love is my life itself
Never ending, glorious wealth.

I wrote this poem when I realized that so many disappointments that I had experienced were nothing but God's mercy...that were what it took for me to see His ravished love for me...and truly...they do pale in comparison.

"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" ~Matthew16:26