Homemade Yogurt (vegan yogurt too!)

We’ve made many changes in our home over the past few years to reduce our consumption of plastic and make things from scratch. And yet, we’ve continued to bring single serve yogurt containers into our home on a weekly basis. We are able to recycle them, but that only reduces the waste created by this tasty habit.

Folks have told me I need to buy a yogurt maker, but I am hesitant to own single use appliances (outside of the coffee maker). I don’t own a bread machine nor do I own a yogurt maker. However, I do own a crock pot, so imagine my glee when I came a across a thread on the Mary Jane Farm message board regarding making your own yogurt and then a few folks suggesting a particular simple recipe for crock pot yogurt. I was literally jumping for joy!

Now as you all know I am lactose intolerant, so I generally do not join in the yogurt eating fun at our house, except when I decide to indulge in a non dairy yogurt. These days there are a variety of non dairy yogurts, but none of them are really up to the job or for daily consumption: soy yogurt (not satisfying), a rice yogurt (spendy and weird flavor), or the newer coconut yogurt (tasty, but SPENDY).

So, I decided to try the crock pot recipe with coconut milk for a nice vegan yogurt that is also dairy, casein and lactose free! Start up costs were not cheap with cans of organic coconut milk at $1.99 each (needed 5) and a starter coconut yogurt at $1.59. This made about 10 servings of yogurt for $1.15 each, which is still more expensive than your average soy or regular dairy yogurt, but much cheaper than the $2.59 coconut yogurt sold at Whole Foods ($1.59 at my local health food store). Now I have my own starter and just need to find a more affordable source of coconut milk if I didnt use organic for example, I could further reduce costs!

The important question however is: how did the yogurt turn out? Excellent! The flavor is delicious and only very mildly coconut. The texture is smooth and creamy. The consistency is thick, although more like yoplait than some of the almost jello style yogurts. I also used a table spoon of arrowroot powder in my cooking process in hopes that it would help thicken things up and although I dont know if that helped; perhaps next time I will use two tablespoons and see if I can get it a bit thicker. Nevertheless, my experiment was a success!

And, now that I know that I can make yogurt in a crockpot, I can also start to make some at home for my son and maybe even talk the husband into taking it in his lunch to work!

Hoo! Hoo! and Meow! Crackers for the Munckin (and his Dad)

A few day ago I was finally inspired to make the cracker recipe published at the Green Phone Booth a few months ago. Baby Green Me has discovered bunny crackers and I am hesitant to not only feed him a snack on a regular basis that is lacking in nutritional value (no fiber, just carbs) and that is also quite pricey per ounce. On the flip side, who can pass up cute animal crackers?

The first time I made the recipe I followed EnviRambos recipe, except for substituting sesame seeds for rosemary. The second time I made the crackers I increased the nutritional yeast to 4 tablespoons for a cheesier flavor, increased my sesame seeds to two table spoons and I added an extra 2 tablespoons of water to make the dough work (with the extra yeast & seeds).

Both times I used my mini kitty and owl cookie cutters to make animal crackers that my son would love. Not only did the crackers work, but Baby Green Me loves themhe might eat them in exclusion of any other foods if I let him! And these crackers are filled with fiber, protein, and a little extra calcium and B vitamins thanks to the nutritional yeast and sesame seeds!

I wont recreate the recipe here as the original is a perfect starting point; however, I have included a few photos of my cracker making experience. Enjoy!

If you have a cracker fiend in your home or just need some healthy on the go snacks for your kiddos I highly recommend trying out these crackers. They were super easy to make (it took less than 10 minutes to mix up the dough), easy to handle, they cook in 15 minutes (or less) and then are ready to go!

You can eat the turnips!

This morning we made our first family trip of the Season to the Farmers Market. We loaded up on fresh greens, onions, lavendar, baby bok choy, fresh made tortilla chips and a sweet Japanese turnip (forgot the name, started with an h)! When I put the turnips in the Chariot with Baby Green Me I jokingly told him that he could eat the turnips. A few minutes later when I opened the top to get out our water bottle I discovered this:

 

 

Guess he likes turnips! Yay!

A spring trip to the Farmers Market has to been one of the best activities in the book. The air and was warm with the hint of a breeze, the sky clear, the trees green. The weather was in fact perfect for our walk and it was immensely satisfying to get in a little exercise. I was also pleased as punch to use the cotton produce bags that Mr. Green Me had given me at Christmas time. Not only did we walk to the market and buy fresh produce, but we also did not consume any unnecessary plastic bags! Woohoo!

Happy Spring and Mothers Day to all the moms!

Satisfaction: Gardens, Humingbirds, and Strawberries

We bought our house in late May (3 years ago) when the foliage and flowers were at their best. We were thrilled in our dry Colorado climate that the back yard had been xeriscaped and would thus require little or no water or so we thought! Sadly, the former owners had not done their research and many of the plants required constant water or they died! They had also over landscaped and so there were clusters of trees and strange combinations of plants that looked odd in the off season.

To start we practiced elimination clearing out some unnecessary and or water hungry plants. Then we slowly started replanting with species better suited to our climate, such as yucca, pampass grass and succulents. We also chose to keep the two apple trees, which only require occasional watering, and we added a strawberry garden.

Most recently we switched out our dangerous and ugly metal edging that didnt really provide a barrier between bark and rocks and replaced it with a cedar edging that matches our fence and which according to the package was from sustainably harvested cedar and made in the USA. (We passed the old edging along via Freecycle to be used again.) And, we are very pleased with the results! I will have to water the strawberries and my small two vegetable plots (tomatoes, an eggplant, brussel sprouts, peas, a pepper, carrots, butternut squash and pie pumpkins), but everything else should be self sufficient during the summer months!

As part of our yard project I fixed up a humming bird feeder that Id bought on a whim a few years back. The flowers had faded and were no longer pink, so I took my single bottle of water based non-toxic nail polish and painted the petals the color of Desire otherwise known as a pinkish red. I then made some humming bird nectar with water and sugar (1/3 cup sugar, 2 cups boiled water) and a splash of India Tree natural food coloring. I’ve read that humming birds don’t really care if the nectar is red, but it looks so much prettier to ME. And, it is my yard after all! This time I placed the feeder in the middle of my strawberry bed and away from the window where my cat likes to drool and dream about eating birds.

I am also preparing for a bumper crop of strawberries as you can see from the below picture. Nearly every plant is covered in blooms and many are already growing fruit! This will be the third year for my patch and looks to be the best yet! Hopefully, we will have plenty to eat and bake into strawberry rhubarb pie (my rhubarb not pictured, is also huge) and some left over to make into jam!

Now, the only thing that is missing from our lovely yard is a couple of chickens

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies and my very first Apron!

Today I finally finished the apron that I started sewing back in February. Over the winter months a few girlfriends and I thought it would be fun to have sewing parties to learn from each other while sewing the same creation. In theory it was a great idea and both get togethers were fun; however, coordinating schedules for 4 gals and as many children and husbands is more complicated that it sounds! The fabric I picked out is very spring like (IMHO) and so I wanted my apron finished. This is the first real item I’ve sewn in over 10 years and it is very satisfying to be finished!

The apron was from a pattern I found through the Farmers Daughter and is reversible. I didn’t wash my hair today (haha) so no modeling, but you can still see how cute the apron is from these pictures! I love having an apron that is so me!

I’ve also been having a sweet tooth of late (I haven’t baked cupcakes since April 1st) and so I made some chocolate chip cookies. My recipe was experimental, but they turned out PERFECT. Moist with a little crunch they hold their own and don’t crumble! Not too sweet not too plain, just plain yummy!

Cream together (I used a fork):

– 1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Stick (room temp)

– 1/2 cup macadamia nut butter

– 3/4 cup sugar

– 1/4 finely ground flax seed

– 2 tsp vanilla

– 1/4 cup maple syrup

In a separate bowl mix together:

– 1 cup oats

– 1 cup whole wheat flour

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 1 tsp cinnamon

– 1 tsp baking powder

– 1 bag vegan* chocolate chips

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir well. Drop spoonfuls of batter on cookie sheet and bake (I used my 2 tbsp coffee scoop). Should make about 32 cookies. Bake at 375F for about 8 minutes until just starting to brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from tray. Ive found with vegan baking that it is REALLY super important to cool cookies for the full 10 minutes before trying to move them as they are more likely to crumble if they don’t have time to set.

* I used Sunspire vegan chocolate chips and this recipe is loosely based off of the recipe on their bag, which is probably why it worked so well!