Category Archives: Breakfast Foods

Easy Slow-Cooker Yoghurt & Good Gut Health

A protein-filled snack: Greek-style yoghurt, with walnuts and honey.

Back in the 70’s, when I was but a twinkle in my dad’s eye, my parents lived on the beautiful east coast of Canada, in the province of Newfoundland. Despite working as an engineer, my dad dreamt of being an entrepreneur. My mother made delicious homemade yoghurt, so *lightbulb*, my dad thought this could be the start of a yoghurt business empire. He called up a local hospital and asked them if they would be interested in buying yoghurt for their patients, yoghurt being a health food and all.

“Yoghurt?” asked the dietician, “Isn’t that made from bacteria? Doesn’t that stuff make you sick?”

Alas, apparently the granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing hippies that the 70’s are known for, had yet to infiltrate Newfoundland. My dad’s future yoghurt empire was shot down by a bacteria-wary dietician, intent on protecting his patients from live cultures.

But you all know better, right? Yoghurt is the stuff of gut dreams! Those live cultures are populating your gut with healthy bacteria, helping you fight off gastrointestinal nastiness.

And if that doesn’t convince you to make your own yoghurt, well, what about if I tell you that it’s delicious? Easy, inexpensive, healthy, AND delicious! What more could a foodie ask for?

EASY-PEASY SLOW-COOKER YOGHURT

  • 4 l. milk
  • 1/2 c. yoghurt with live cultures (the “live cultures” bit is crucial. Make sure the container has that labeling.)
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract

Heat milk until close to 180 degrees. (I measured it using a candy thermometer.) Be careful though, when it gets close to 180 degrees, it’s easy to forget about it and let it start boiling — which means a scorched pot. Personally, as long as the temperature is between 150 and 180 degrees, I think it’s all good. Basically, heating the milk means that you’re changing the structure of the proteins, which is necessary for the milk to be cultured into yoghurt.

Let milk cool until it reaches 120 degrees, and pour into a slow cooker. Let the mixture cool in the slow cooker until it reaches 110 degrees, and whisk in 1/2 c. of yoghurt and the vanilla extract. The heat of the cooling milk will heat up the ceramic insert in the slow cooker; this helps keep the cultures in the mixture at the ideal temperature for growing and turning that milk into yoghurt. By the way, I’ve forgotten to add the vanilla extract at times, and it doesn’t make much of a difference if you’re going to be stirring in jam anyway, but if you plan to eat it plain, definitely add the extract!

Wrap the entire slow-cooker in several towels, and leave for at least 12 hours (overnight works for me).  So, you’re not actually using the slow-cooker to cook anything; you’re using it as a heat-retaining receptable. Some people make yoghurt by wrapping a pot of milk in a heating pad, some people make hot boxes for their yoghurt. Me? An unplugged slow-cooker, a few towels, and a good nights sleep mean that I wake up to freshly cultured yoghurt!

When you open up your slow-cooker after 12 hours, you should be able to see that there is a clear, yellowish liquid around the edges of the yoghurt. That’s the whey, and can be drained off to be used in baking or for adding protein to smoothies, or just mix it back into the yoghurt! This yoghurt will be somewhat thin, depending on whether or not you drain off the whey. But this is what real yoghurt looks like, when there’s no gelatin added in like commercial yoghurt has!

That curdle, tho!

That curdle, tho!

GREEK-STYLE YOGHURT

To make thick, luscious Greek-style yoghurt, just drain the whey from the yoghurt until the desired thickness is reached. To do so, place a sieve over a bowl, and place some cheesecloth or a clean cotton dishtowel over the sieve. Pour the yoghurt into the sieve and let sit in the fridge for a few hours. Bam! Greek yoghurt, baby!

LACTOSE-INTOLERANT? HAVE NO FEAR!

I think I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m lactose-intolerant. I can eat food with lactose, but I try to reduce it as much as possible, to reduce my stomach discomfort as much as possible (Except for pizza. For pizza, I will periodically suffer!). The good news is that with this homemade yoghurt, you can make it almost lactose-free! How? Just let the yoghurt incubate for 24 hours as opposed to 12. It will be more sour (because the sugar — i.e. lactose — will have been eaten up by the good bacteria), but hey, less lactose!

A protein-filled snack: Greek-style yoghurt, with walnuts and honey.

A protein-filled snack: Greek-style yoghurt, with walnuts and honey.

I love eating this yoghurt mixed up with my clean-eating cranberry granola, or with some homemade jam to sweeten it up. Or sprinkled with walnuts and honey! I do love yoghurt…and so does my gut!

Next Post: Lentil sprouts! Also easy, also delicious. Plus, it’s fun to watch them grow!

Linking up at Meal-Plan Monday! And again!

Custardy Apple Squares & How I Manage My Sweet Tooth

ready-to-be-eaten-all-up

If you’ve ever read basically ANY post on this site, you’ll know by now that I have a sweet tooth. I do looooove my sweets! I also like being healthy, so obviously I’ve got to balance the two things out: sugar vs. health — it’s a knockdown, drag-out battle! Which…health will win, because I manage my sweet tooth with one thing.

What is this magic thing that keeps my sweet tooth happy and my health at an even keel?

Fruit. That’s it. That’s the key.

Simple, yes?

The DH and I manage to eat at least 3 fruit bowls worth of fruit every week, no joke, and most of that is because of me. I wake up and eat fruit with my breakfast, often grab a piece of fruit when running out of the door to work, sometimes pack some fruit in my lunch on top of salads and definitely pack a homemade fruit salad in the DH’s lunch, come home after work and eat some fruit before dinner, and then eat looooots of fruit in the evening as snacks. High in fibre (which is important for me with my IBS), low(-ish) in calories, and full of taste and sweet, sweet sugar! Ah, fruit! How I do love thee!

Despite the strong relationship that I have with fruit, I still have a love affair with baked goods. How to marry the two? In recipes like my deeeelicious Harvest Apple Crumble (award-winning, yo’!) or in this week’s bake-a-long recipe, Custardy Apple Squares.

Those layers though!

Those layers though!

It’s autumn, and my bake-a-long group is baking an apple recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi cookbook. Basically, it’s apple slices covered in a leeeetle bit of batter (similar to crepe batter), and baked until puffy and golden.

It goes into the pan all lumpy and bumpy and comes out of the pan all layered and golden. Let it cool, slice it up, sprinkle with icing sugar, and eat with abandon! It’s surprisingly healthy, and yet surprisingly tasty — mostly due to fruit, sweet fruit!

So, there you have it. Got a sweet tooth? Satisfy it with fruit. Or baked goods containing fruit. Or…chocolate-covered fruit? Oh, yes, I think that would win!

Next Post: Homemade yoghurt, oh yeah!!! Way super-duper easier than you think. Like, seriously.

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

Clean Eating Cranberry Granola and Degrees of Crunchiness

Yum yum, in my tum! Or on top of homemade Greek yoghurt.

Yum yum, in my tum! Or on top of homemade Greek yoghurt.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pioneer. I had read all of the Little House on the Prairie books, and wanted to be living on a prairie, making my own bread, sewing, wearing a bonnet, and so on. Today I make my own bread, I sew, and…I don’t wear a bonnet.

Given that I wanted to be a pioneer, it’s no surprise that I tend to make pretty wholesome food, decadent chocolate desserts notwithstanding. That said, I’ve left my pioneer day behind and these days, am showing more of a hippy-ish streak. Quoi, you ask? Well…I’ve mastered making my own yoghurt (mostly because I wanted to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet), and my latest love-love-love-it food: granola!!! Or better yet, mixing homemade yoghurt with homemade granola! And that’s the hippy-ness I was talking about. (If I had Birkenstocks, I would be a granola-eating Birkenstock wearing stereotype. But I don’t. Down with stereotypes, people!)

I’ve tried several recipes over the course of the last few months (chocolate almond granola, anyone?) and found that they all seem to suggest too long a roasting time in the oven. My chocolate almond granola burnt after too long in the oven (which I stubbornly ate, because chocolate). So when I came across a recipe on The Prudent Homemaker website that only called for a short period of roasting, I was intrigued!

Of course, me being me, I modified the recipe. I added some things in, I changed some amounts, I threw in flax seeds because I have too much flax in my kitchen, and then I ate the entire batch within a couple of days. By myself. Just me. (I have no regrets. Was fibre-licious!)

Speaking of pioneers and hippies, check out The Prudent Homemaker website. This woman has eight kids (!) and manages to homeschool all of them, while growing a hugggge amount of food (in the desert yet), cooking from scratch, AND doing it all on a minute budget. I think she is the closest thing to superwoman I will ever come across. What I really love about the site though, besides the encouraging vibe, is her focus on making life beautiful. I think everyone could use more beauty in their lives.

And granola, because this granola is da’ BOMB! (It’s really good, is what I’m saying.) Try it out, modify it to suit your tastes, serve it to others and wait for their stunned reaction when you casually mention that you made it yourself, and pop it into canning jars with pretty labels and give it away as gifts. Which is what I plan to do for Christmas. (Only 2 1/2 months away, people!) The pepitas and dried cranberries give a nice green and red theme to the granola, perfect for Christmas.

Lookin' wholesome!

Lookin’ wholesome!

Clean Eating Cranberry Granola (adapted from The Prudent Homemaker, props yo’)

  • 3 cups oats
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or any dried fruit, but I like cranberries because of the slight chewiness. Also, I like lots of dried fruit. If you don’t, decrease the amount of dried fruit that you add.)
  • 1 c. shredded coconut
  • ½ c. pepitas
  • ¼ c. flax seeds
  • 3 tbsp. flax meal

Mix together everything but the dried fruit, and spread that mixture on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden and toasty looking. Make sure to stir the mixture once or twice during the roasting, in order to get an evenly toasted granola.

Once granola is cooked and cooled, stir in dried fruit. And enjoy!!!  Makes the equivalent of a box of (healthy) granola from the grocery store. Or, enough for me for a week. (Is delicious!)

If you make this recipe, let me know how you modified it! I’d love to get some inspiration from my blog readers!

Next Post: Apple Pie, French-Style! Or…easy-peasy homemade yoghurt. Or apple custard! So many yummy things to blog about, what’s a gal to do!

Linking up at Southern Plate this week! And this one!

Memories of Meals Past: Quesitos, A Pastry By Any Other Name

Crunchy, cream-cheesy bites of sweetness!

Crunchy, cream-cheesy bites of sweetness!

Things that go together: doughnuts and coffee, sugar and spice, cheese and crackers, me and anything chocolate, and…cooking and drag queens?!???

Apparently so! The other day I came across a funny youtube video when I was surfing the net for cooking videos. The title of the series is “Cooking with Drag Queens“, and it is, literally, a cooking show where the hosts cook with drag queens. In full drag. The dishes seem nice if not polished to a T, but the drag queens are definitely polished and then some! (I wish my hair was half as good). The show isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I did find it fun, and liked the documentary parts of each episode the best. And then of course I had to try one of the recipes!

Which recipe? Quesitos! Because they sound like a version of the Venezeulan cachitos that the DH introduced me to (my waistline will never be the same). Quesitos are a pastry filled with sweetened cream cheese; very easy to nom upon. Cachitos are sort of like mozzarella sticks covered in dough and fried, but much tastier than that description. Personally, I wonder if there are many versions of cachitos/quesitos/cheese-filled pastries-savory-sweet-or-otherwise floating around Latin America.

Whether or not there’s any relationship between the two cheese pastries, I decided to try the recipe shown in the youtube video, but with a classic me twist (substitutions, oh YEAH!). Instead of the filo dough that the hosts suggested, I used spring roll wrappers that I had sitting in my freezer. And instead of the brown sugar that they suggested to sprinkle on top, I ground up some of the cane sugar block that I had in my kitchen cupboard (courtesy of a shopping trip by the DH to a South American store).

The results? I loooooved that filling! So yum! The spring roll wrapper pastry I wasn’t super thrilled about, and the filo pastry, eh, I’m just not feeling it. I’m not sure what the best wrapper would be. Any suggestions, my cooking confreres?  Let me know in the comments!

Next Post: Buns, buns, bunnnnnnssssss…aka Dinner Roll Odyssey. I’m pretty sure. Or maybe chocolate cake.

Memories of Meals Past: Carrot Muffins & Apple-Pear Butter

Fluffy, moist, and vegelicious!

Fluffy, moist, and vegelicious!

I had some carrots in the fridge that I wanted to use up, and I was craving something sweet but healthy, so last night I made carrot muffins using this recipe. I meant to post it last night but after baking until the wee hours of the morning, I thought I should actually get some sleep, so while it’s not a tbt feature, it is technically a memory of meals past. Good enough, I say!

In terms of the recipe, I swapped the raisins for dried cranberries, since I don’t keep raisins in the house (not a big raisin fan) but I always I have dried cranberries for baking. I also stirred in about 1/3 c. ground flax seeds, because I had them in the fridge and why not add some omega-fatty-acids? Good for the brain and all that! And then I added a pinch of ground cloves.

If I made it again, I would add some additional spices, and definitely some nuts. I had this warm out of the oven with some chilled homemade apple-pear butter (I used this recipe but subbed in some pears for some apples because why not), and OMG, my mouth was in Autumnal heaven! The flavours of fall all melded together and became so drool-worthy that my mouth is watering again as I type this, no joke.

I didn’t read the comments on the recipe beforehand, and if I had, I probably would have reduced the amount of oil in the recipe, just to up the healthiness quotient, but they turned out fantastic, so maybe I wouldn’t have after all.

I packed a muffin and some apple-pear butter for lunch today, and then ate them while sitting with a couple of cool cats. I offer pictorial proof.

Not catnip-flavoured? Not interested.

Not catnip-flavoured? Not interested.

Cat was curious but not impressed. But if you make these, your mouth will be! Just be sure to add in those additional spices. And if you do, let me know what combo of spice you favour for flavour!

Next Post: Peanut butter cups! Really! And wine jelly bonbons.