Instant Pot Yogurt – my newest passion

A year ago a good friend gave us an Instant Pot and we’ve been using it for cooking things quickly or making them tender. However, all the forums I watch kept talking about making yogurt. Being a skeptical sort, I thought it’d be too much work.

However, necessity is the mother of invention and I was down to my last bit of yogurt and by mistake I had bought another gallon of milk not knowing there was one in the fridge. Hm, what to do with so much milk. I didn’t want to create something fattening like custards, so I decided to give yogurt making a try.

Well, I haven’t looked back. Now, every Sunday I make a batch of yogurt. I use the “boil” method since I’m not using the fancy expensive milks that people recommend. It only adds an additional hour but saves me big dollars.

Half of it I keep “regular” style for my mom and half I strain to make really amazing Greek style yogurt. It is so creamy it doesn’t even need sugar or seasoning. I then get creative all week long looking for ways to use my yogurt.

The left over whey from straining the yogurt gets frozen in an ice cube tray, removed, placed in a freezer bag and then used in recipes that call for milk or buttermilk.

I always reserve a 1/4 cup of the yogurt to use as my starter for the next batch. All I need to do is buy milk but I am no longer buying yogurt of any kind. Kind of cool and I know what goes into my yogurt now.

You can add any additional flavoring you want “after” it has been made. Sometimes I’ll add Agave (instead of sugar) or homemade fruit jams – this batch has blueberries from my last year’s crop. My mom likes it better with vanilla or fruit.

You can search for various recipes on Google for Instant Pot Yogurt but even though they say use special milk, I just use regular whole milk.

My initial starter was some good Greek yogurt that wasn’t too old. I have yet to have it fail. Plus I have a pot that does so much more.

Addendum.

Several people asked me to add my recipe/instructions so here you go.

1/2 gallon whole milk
3 tablespoons fresh greek yogurt

Add milk to Instant Pot.
Click Yogurt button
Click Adjust button to boil
When boil turns off and converts to yogurt, remove inner pot
Cool until temperature of milk is 110 degrees
Add in yogurt and stir until completely incorporated – NOTE (this is your starter – after you make your first batch freeze 3 tablespoons for the next batch)
Reinsert into Instant Pot
Make sure it still says Yogurt – if it doesn’t click the Yogurt button
Click the adjust button – it may say 24 hours – click it again until it says 8 then click the + button and move it to 10 hours. I like 10 hours because it makes the yogurt tangy. Keep it at 8 if you don’t like tangy.

After 10 hours, remove the inner pot and put in the refrigerator for 6 hours. This “sets” the yogurt.  After that you can strain it like I showed above to make “the best creamy, Greek style yogurt” you’ve ever tasted. Really!

Enjoy

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Ever feel like the world is against you? Stand in line.

My poor blog has reached out and said “feed me, Patty.” Well, blog, here you go. Most of my posts have been on hobbies and cooking. This one will be a bit different.

My life has taken on a lot of additional stress. There is increased new business which is good but is generating a lot of work. There are elderly mothers who seem to grow ever more needy. Sometimes it feels like all I do is work – for someone else, not myself. Which is interesting as I own my own business.

Being the rainmaker and key decision maker in both my business and my home means being stressed all the time. My family and business associates suffer because of this. It’s not my intention to be overly grumpy but at times there is no way around it.

The biggest issue for me is not having adequate support to shore me up when I feel especially downtrodden. A friend that I had hoped would be that support is more critical than helpful. My belief is they have their own demons and there is no room for me and my problems.

My family has their own issues and I, as the matriarch, should be giving support rather than asking for it.

That’s when it hit me – I am the maker of my own destiny and therefore should be the provider of my own support. I need to focus on handling the stress and finding ways to manage it rather than hoping the support will come from elsewhere.

Over the last year I have fallen in love with yoga and meditation. Looking back, I realize that when I am my most content and relaxed is during those times. That means I need to remember those feelings at the moments when I feel the most overwhelmed. Sit back. Close my eyes. Breathe. Chuckle – right.

Writing these words now is actually helping. It is up to me to manage the stress and how I handle it. People around me have their own stressful lives and are struggling to manage their own issues. If someone is overly critical or negative, I need to listen, but not absorb that negativity. I also need to make sure I am not the reason for the negativity – I need to channel my stress elsewhere.

Life is challenging. We live in a stressful world. That’s not going to change. What has to change is my reactions to them. And when a person is over stressed, trying to deal with things outside of our control is hard. However, that is the key thing – they are outside of our control. It’s our own inner peace that will rule the day.

Norman Vincent Peale said “The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence”. Now I just need to figure out how to live that life.

Weekends in the kitchen are my salvation

It’s the weekend.  The weekend before Thanksgiving.  That means braving the crowds in the markets to get ingredients for the coming Thursday dinner.

Walking down the aisles, gathering all my ingredients also means I get to see what’s fresh and different in the vegetables.  Today it was gorgeous leeks and butternut squash.  I immediately thought of a Butternut squash, leek, coconut and ginger soup to start the week off right.

We opted for a fresh turkey this year and it’s a nice small one.  I always prefer smaller turkeys.  They typically are moister.  If you have a large crowd coming, just buy two.  You won’t regret it.

Tonight I had some french lentils so I made the wonderful Warm French Lentil recipe by Ina Garten.  It’s got some unusual ingredients – you cook the lentils with an onion stuck with cloves and a turnip.  There is something about that combination that gives the lentils a lovely flavor.

A container of fresh Greek Yogurt came home as well and it inspired Greek Grilled Chicken with Dill and Yogurt sauce.  That will go great with the lentils.

Finally, I made the cranberry and orange relish along with a traditional cranberry sauce.  This will give them both time to age nicely in the fridge.

Helping me in the kitchen is a glass of Silk from Menage a Trois.  This is the first time we tried it and it won’t be the last.  It’s luscious and smooth. The name fits it.

After a tough week dealing with all kinds of crisis situations, the kitchen is my savior.  The smells are amazing. I already feel better.  Now, if only my sons could be here for the holidays all would be good in the world.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Take the time to enjoy good food, family and hug everyone you can while you can.

The Dinner Stars were in Alignment

Tonight my husband and I had a wonderful dinner. While traveling. That we cooked ourselves. And we sat back and realized that this dinner was part of a wonderful food journey we’ve been on now for several years.

My husband came from a long line of old fashioned, meat and potatoes cooks. I came from a family of amazing cooks. He has said I have dragged him into a new world of food adventures. I don’t think any dragging occurred at all. What happened is he discovered flavors. He discovered food passion. He found out it is possible to be utterly amazed at the smallest thing in the food world.

Tonight was an example. We are out of town staying at a timeshare while we work and learn. It has a nice kitchen and I always bring my “vacation cooking bag” with essential spices (in little packages that I learned to make from my friend Lindsay Garrison), olive oil, vinegar, etc.

When we went shopping for items to make lunches and a couple of dinners is when the fun began. Meat is so expensive any more that it was really fun to find some nice little lamb chops at a really reasonable price.

Then he and I walked around planning out the menu based on what nice fresh ingredients we found.

I passed the fresh pasta area and saw Roasted Mushroom Ravioli which looked simple and sounded like a good match for the lamb.

Garlic jumped in the cart – well because it was garlic.

A lovely French red wine joined the party because it looked nice enough to stand up to a nice piece of lamb.

I needed some fruit and there were fresh slices of watermelon. For me now, watermelon is not just the fruit – it’s also the the rind, which I turn into Chutney. And that also sounded like a good foil for the lamb.

Ok, fast forward to dinner. With the chutney now made and in the fridge, it was time to start the dinner.

We love to watch food TV shows and as I browned the lamb chops I thought of a show by Alton Brown where he pontificated about the Maillard Reaction – which to old cooks like me meant what happens when you brown meat. There is a fine line between browned to perfection (where you get the wonderful sugars and caramelization) and burnt. This lamb along with the four cloves of crushed garlic were close to that perfection.

While the lamb was in the oven to finish them off to a nice medium rare, I put on the ravioli and deglazed the pan drippings from the lamb browning with the lovely French wine we found for dinner.

Once it was all done, we sat down to eat and we both stopped after a few bites and realized we had created a perfect dinner. Everything went together. There was harmony in the tastes. Each bite demanded more.

We stopped. We looked at each other. And started smiling and laughing. It was a perfect moment. Just the two of us. A perfect dinner we created together. Amazing flavors that blended so well as to give you goosebumps.

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There are several good lessons here. 1.You can create an amazing dinner anywhere. 2. Half the fun of cooking is sharing it with someone who loves it as much as you. 3. Sometimes the high price of one ingredient pushes you to another which turns out to be magnificent.

It was so perfect I had to blog about it.

Watermelon rind – I may never throw it away again

2016-06-19 17.25.142016-06-25 17.28.50When I was growing up in the south, we used to visit our cousins in Alabama and when we ate watermelon, we threw it into the pasture for the cows to eat. I actually never heard of watermelon rind pickles until I was a grown woman.  It appears to be a southern thing.

Last week we got a nice small watermelon and I decided I wanted to try to make the pickles. But it meant soaking them in brine over night and patience is not one of my virtues so I started poking around for other recipes for the rind.

The Chinese and Japanese use them quite a bit and like them very crunchy.  Since I love foods from both cultures, I headed in the direction on Google searching for the right recipe.  In my travels, I discovered one for Chutney – which I love almost as much as Oriental cuisine.

This is the recipe I found and except for adding a bit more heat – in the form of more pepper corns and some little green chilies from my garden,  I pretty much followed it to the T.

Watermelon Rind Chutney

  1. 5 cups watermelon rind, tough green skin removed and cut into small pieces – or grated.
  2. 1 cup Coconut Sugar. (I used plain sugar)
  3. ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar. (I used plain white vinegar)
  4. 2 inch ginger, minced or grated.
  5. 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated. (I used 6 cloves – there are vampires you know)
  6. ½ serrano pepper, remove seeds, minced. (I used two small ones from my garden)
  7. ½ tsp Fine Sea Salt.
  8. This wasn’t in the recipe, but I added a tablespoon of peppercorns.

Put all the ingredients together,  bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until the rinds are soft – about 2 to 3 hours.

Put up in jars and can, or keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.  The jar I put in the fridge didn’t make it to one week. Just ‘sayin.

Enjoy!

Recipe source: http://myheartbeets.com/watermelon-rind-chutney/

Spring Rolls – during Spring. Duh!

My husband and I dearly adore spring rolls. No cooking involved. Just assembly. Quite of bit of it in fact. But so worth the effort.  A friend asked me how we make ours, so I thought I’d post the process here.  Don’t really have a recipe so will try to make up one and post later.

First off, spring rolls are eaten by several oriental cultures – Chinese, Vietnam, Korea and Indonesia.  I guess the ones I make are probably more Vietnamese in nature – with a little southern twist occasionally.  Today’s demo has no southern influence except for the f2016-06-06 18.02.21act the mint came from my very southern garden.

Note – at least for me, the kitchen becomes a very busy place with everything set up to make the rolls.

Next, I quickly boil some shrimp and reserve the hot water to soften the spring rolls – which come in a package and feel like course paper.2016-06-06 18.02.26 They are very delicate so some people double them up when making the rolls.  2016-06-06 18.03.24The photo shows a package of them next to lettuce which I use to help hold the rice noodles.

Before I get started, I take a handful of rice noodles and cover them with boiling water to soften them. 2016-06-06 18.02.35-2 I drain them before placing them in the rolls.

I shred some carrots and find some mint from the garden.  I also add in bean sprouts because I like the crunch.  2016-06-06 18.02.29

 

Next I start assembly. I put the shrimp up at the top of the roll on top of the mint. The idea is to have the stuff all show through the transparent rice paper. I think you get the idea.2016-06-06 18.11.31

I then make a peanut sauce – there are bunches of recipes out there – but peanut butter is the key ingredient.

Spring rolls, yum!

Spring rolls, yum!

The finished product is then served with the sauce – no cooking, very fresh tasting and you can experiment with what you build in your creation.

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Recipes with “hm” directions

First off, it’s been a while and I promised my very few readers I’d start blogging on my cooking and crafts site again. So, here we go, the first article for 2016.

A friend of mine asked me for my lamb dressing recipe and when it came to the part of putting in the cinnamon, I said “till the rice turns brown.”  Or in other recipes, as my friend Anne says, “until it looks right.”  One of my favorites is sprinkle the salt starting from the back of the pot towards the front, keeping your hand level to the pot, and jiggling it just a bit.  Yes, really. That’s how my grandma taught me to add salt to a pot roast.  LOL.

Now I am trying to put together a cookbook for my family and I realize many many of my recipes are done a certain way, that I remember and was taught, and are not written down.  It’s going to take me hours of trying these recipes I’ve made for years, making  note of how much I am using, so I can put together a recipe for someone not near enough for me to show the “shake from the back to the front” technique and others as well.

This made me wonder how many other recipes have been lost to families because we were distributed all over the place and no one was left to show us just the right motion, just the right amount of seasoning, just the right touch.

The same applies to how long something cooks.  For me, many recipes are when it “smells right.” You know, those of you who bake, that the oven emits just the right smell at just the right time, and even if you have set a timer, that has not gone off yet, you know, and your nose knows, that the tasty item is done. You just know.

For those of you who cook “the way grandma or your mom taught you” my challenge to you is to go put those recipes down on paper. Especially if you are the last one standing who knows the secret wiggle of the hips, or motion of the arms, that make that traditional recipe come out right.  Your family will thank you!