Cooking with Goat Milk – Homemade Yogurt

My second endeavor in cooking with goat milk was making homemade yogurt. It was actually amazingly simple. I normally eat plain Greek yogurt with honey or fruit.  The kids prefer a thinner yogurt with fruit.  They also love smoothies made with yogurt. Most of the recipes note that the yogurt will be a thinner yogurt than what you would typically find in a store unless you thicken it with gelatin or powdered milk, but this one didn’t use  either and ended up being plenty thick.

The recipe that I used was from Money Saving Mom.

Homemade Yogurt

Ingredients:

½ gallon whole milk (I used goat milk)

½ c. plain unflavored yogurt (to be used as the starter)

Directions:

Pour ½ gallon of milk in Crockpot and cook on low 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Turn Crockpot off and leave set for 3 hours.

Mix ½ cup yogurt starter in a bowl with some of your warm milk until smooth.  Add back into Crockpot and stir well.  Wrap Crockpot in a beach towel to help regulate how quickly the yogurt cools down.  (Yes, this part is important.) Leave yogurt develop for 8-12 hours or overnight.

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My yogurt turned out luscious, thick and creamy. I poured half of the yogurt into a colander lined with cheesecloth to let in drain a little more and it came out beautifully.

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Unfortunately, there was only one problem; it still tastes like goat milk….not good.  This recipe is so simple I can’t image why I have never made my own yogurt before.  I am looking forward to trying this recipe again with cow’s milk because I am certain that it will be fantastic!

Score for project Cooking with Goats Milk  1 (we love goat milk)-1(not so much)

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Homemade Grape-Nut Cereal Recipe

While the Handyman and I were away for a few days, the children stayed with my mom, where they discovered her homemade Grape-Nuts.  All three fell in love with it and insisted they must eat a bowl for breakfast every morning. Since it has been such a hit at our house, I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

Homemade Grape-Nut Cereal

Ingredients:

2 c. old fashioned oats

2 c. whole wheat flour

2 c. white flour

2 c. cornmeal

1 c. brown sugar or Sucanat

2 c. buttermilk

1 c. molasses

2 tsp. baking soda

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.  Mix buttermilk and molasses, then combine with dry ingredients.

ImagePress into a greased baking pan.  I use a large 11 X 15 lasagna pan.

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Bake at 300* for 1 hour.  Remove from oven. (This is when you break off a chunk of hot steamy goodness and enjoy it with a cold glass of milk!  This is also a good time to have something else ready to pop in the oven and cook.  It takes a lot of energy to heat an oven up, so why not make good use of our resources and get some other baking done while we wait for our cereal to cool.)

Cool for one hour.  Break “cake” into chunks.  Depending how fine you want your cereal you can crumble by hand or chop in the food processor.  Spread cereal out on a large baking sheet (or two).  Bake at 300*, stirring every 10 minutes until crunchy.  (I bake mine about 30 minutes; they will get crunchier as they dry.)  Spread cereal out to cool.  I usually bake late at night so I just throw a thin towel over them and leave them dry over night.  If you like your cereal finer yet, you can put in back through the food processor.

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This cereal is good in a bowl with milk (as my children will tell you) or sprinkled on homemade yogurt.  We have also found that if you process it very fine in your food processor you can substitute it in recipes that call for graham cracker crumbs such as for the crust of a cheesecake.

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Cooking with Goat Milk – Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe

I have been anxious to get my hands on some goat milk to help me decide if we want to try milking our  3 Nubian does when they kid this fall.  At this point I’m leaning toward foregoing milking and letting the does raise their kids on their own, or doing a once per day milking. However, I should say that I don’t have a great deal of experience with goat milk. A few months ago I bought some goat cheese from out local food co-op.  It did not go over well with the family.  Then I got a jar of fresh goat milk from our neighbor….much better. This week I was lucky enough to be the recipient of 4 gallons of goat milk, so this weekend I have had lots fun making different recipes for the family to try.  I have made a few different kinds of cheese, yogurt, healthy pudding and a healthy hot chocolate recipe. I figure if all else fails, I have a little Nubian bottle baby who will be more than happy to make quick work of any extra milk.

The first thing I made was…

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients

  2 quarts whole milk ( I used goat milk)

  1 cup heavy cream

  1/2 teaspoon salt (I used cheese salt from Hoegger Supply Co.)

  4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

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Add lemon juice, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles. This should happen fairly quickly.

Pour the mixture into a colander lined with a high quality, fine weave cheese cloth. (This is different than cheese cloth you find the local discount store, mine comes from Hoegger Supply Company) Let the curds drain 1 hour.

ImageRemove cheese from colander, you can mix in additional salt or herbs if desired.  Cover and store ricotta cheese in refrigerator for up to a week. I understand it can also be frozen although I haven’t tried it.

Whey (the liquid that drains out of the curds) can be used in a variety of ways. I will be feeding it to our pigs.

This recipe should yield about 2 cups of ricotta cheese.  I am planning to use it to make lasagna this week.

I like this ricotta cheese recipe because it is easy to follow, doesn’t require any special equipment and of course turns out delicious!

 

**Linking to Nomday Monday

Our First Azure Standard delivery

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Yesterday the Azure Standard delivery truck rolled into Northern Ohio for the first time and we were lucky enough to be there to pick up our first order.
I am pleased to report that we are more than satisfied with the process and the products. Although they arrived in the middle of a horrible thunderstorm, everyone made quick work of getting the truck unloaded.
I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Azure, but this being our first order I placed a modest sized order just to see how it went. I am pleased to report that what was to be frozen ( 10# of cranberries) were indeed frozen, what was to be cold ( Organic Valley French vanilla half and half) was indeed cold. … My coffee cup is still singing with joy from this new find btw….my cocoa was strong and flavorful and my oats, coconut, sucanat and Mighty Tasty cereal are dry and in good shape. I am looking forward to putting in a larger order next month including produce.
Grocery shopping for me is primarily a monthly event, and my preference is still to buy local as much as possible. I can see that ordering from Azure, especially in bulk, is one more tool I can use to purchase high quality healthy food for my family at a reasonable price. Now what to do with 25# of rolled oats since all my Tupperware is currently in use??? Guess I need to order those gamma lids after all!

Rethinking the Conventional Playset

The Back Story:

playground

When we moved into our current home our oldest daughter had just turned three. We had our landscape designed to look much like that of our friends in their suburban neighborhoods. The landscape design was created by a local landscape company. Because my parents owned a garden center at the time and he has experience in the landscape industry, The Handyman installed most of it himself. The landscape was designed purely for esthetic value not taking into consideration our lives, habits or schedules. Even purchasing much of the plant material at wholesale cost, we spent a *ton* of money. At that time we both worked fulltime outside of the home. I was commuting 90 miles each way to work every day. The Handyman’s commute was nearly as long in the opposite direction. Because we did not hire a landscape company to come and take care of said landscaping and we didn’t have the time to do it ourselves, within the first two years most of it was dead. Ouch! Our back yard was largely empty with the exception on a deck out the backdoor and the large wooden playset we put up the first summer we were here. A few years after we put up the playset it was damaged in a windstorm. We were able to salvage part of it but last year The Handyman decided it was time for it to come down. Initially we planned on putting up a new playset by Lifetime, but after further thought and research I am looking to change the traditional yard set up and do something different. Not that a swingset is bad, on the contrary I think every kid needs a swing. I’m just not convinced that the swingset is the best or the only way to encourage both play and outdoor learning. (I know it unconventionally…who would have thought?)

The Theory:

Because we homeschool, our kids are home a lot so it is very important to me that they have the opportunity to engage in outdoor play that is not only fun and entertaining but that encourages them to be creative and to connect with nature in a real and tangible way. I want them to be able to explore and investigate the world around them on their own terms and in their own time. The thought is that the children will get more out of the outdoor enviroment that is designed more as a natural playscape.

There are a few fantastic books that have been written about creating natural play areas that I have found to be really helpful.

Natural Playscapes by Rusty Keeler

A Child’s Garden, Enchanting Outdoor Spaces for Children and Parents by Molly Dannenmaier

Backyards for Kids by Sunset

Plants for Play by Robin Moore

The way it is now:

We currently have just less than 8 acres on our little farm. The dairy farm down the road rents the front 4 acres to raise corn, beans and hay. Last year we put up a barn and a new chicken coop in our back yard. The barn houses dairy goats, meat goats and 2 pigs. There are 30ish laying hens that call the coop and chicken pasture their home. (I love that the kids are able to interact with the animals on a daily basis. They have so much fun helping feed and care for the animals.) Behind the barn and pasture there is a wooded area with a ravine that will be a great place for the kids to play and explore as they get older. Our garden is on the west side of the house and pretty much takes up the whole side yard. Last year we planted a few dozen raspberry, blueberry and grape plants on the east side of the house.

That leaves the front yard. We have a wonderful covered front porch that faces south and is blocked from wind and weather on both sides. The Handyman and I love sitting on the porch together late into the evening especially in the summer months. Its a great place for the the kids to play but its also a great place for me to be present and available without being right in the middle of their outdoor explorations.

The Goal:

Some of the elements I am looking to incorporate into our play scape are water, sand for digging and creating, a solid surface area for riding tricycles and scooters, secluded places for being quiet and alone, large open spaces for active group play, space for creating and enjoying music and art. I want to include space for them to grow their own plants. Sure they help out in the family garden, but they love picking out their own plants. I want the area to appeal to all of their senses. There should be elements that they can enjoy all year round, even with our crazy Ohio weather. I want it to be a place that they feel as comfortable playing alone as they do together. I want it to be a place where they can be a scientist and study the plants and bugs as well as a place that lends itself to imaginative play, where they can be princesses and pirates.

water featureplay stream

sunflowers

tic tac toe (192x192)

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The challenge then is to accomplish this with some level of visual appeal in our front yard, and on a reasonable budget, even if that means no traditional “swing set.” I’m so excited to be planning this new addition. What about you? Do you have an area around your home or yard when your family enjoys all nature has to offer. What do you love about it and how it makes you feel?

Dry Erase Crayons…A Review

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One of the supplies we use most often in our studies are Dry-Erase markers.   I adore our large dry erase boards and have found my favorite brand of Dry-Erase marker.  The problem is that the little learners also do dry-erase activities.  The little ones use laminated pages from Confessions of a Homeschoolers LOTW, draw on the big boards and various other activities on dry erase boards and books. It never fails, the minute I turn my back one of them is drawing on themselves, the tables or each other. I went to Joann Fabric in search of Washable Dry Erase markers, that’s when I came across these lovely Dry-Erase crayons. I bought a package of each brand, Crayola and Leap Frog,  to see how they worked and decided I would share my results with you.

If you shop much at Joann Fabrics you must know that if you download the Joann app, you almost always have coupons of 40-50% off available ( read…never pay full price at Joann’s! No smart phone? Sign up for their flyer.  Better yet..do both! ) If you are an educator, homeschool or otherwise, you can sign up for an Educator discount card. (Be prepared to show proof..just thought you might like to know.)  Moving along.

The Crayola Washable Dry-Erase Crayons come in regular or Bright colors. They range in price from $3.00-$6.00 for 8 crayons depending where you purchase them.

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The LeapFrog Jumbo Washable Dry-Erase Crayons seem to be priced a touch higher in the $4.00-7.00 range for the same 8 crayon box.  They were also a little more difficult to locate locally. The Crayola Crayons are readily available at most craft, office supply and big box stores.

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I allowed the kids and their friends to use the crayons for a week to see how they worked.  Here is what I liked about the crayons.

Both  the Leap Frog and Crayola Crayons are approximately the same size.  They are a bit larger than regular crayons making them easier for the toddler and preschoolers smaller hands. 

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Both brands wrote smoothly with ease and with good coverage.  If I had to choose I would say the Leap Frog Crayons were a bit smoother, but not substantially. 

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Both brands of crayons erased well.  In the sample above I used the reds and pinks as these tend to leave the most residue when erased. The Crayola Bright left the most residue but again, not a ton and it was easily removed with a bit of extra wiping on my part.   As a bonus, the packages of Crayola  crayons came with a cloth for erasing.

Both Crayola and Leap Frog brands had built-in sharpeners on the boxes which is nice.  We typically keep crayons in plastic boxes or buckets and toss boxes, so not a huge deal for us.  I would say both crayons kept their points equally well, which is not long when in the hands of little learners. 

All of the crayons were in fact washable as they claimed.  The crayons washed easily off of  hands and arms, clothing and solid surfaces.

Here is what I didn’t like about these crayons. 

These crayons are very soft. As soon as the crayons begin to warm up, they break quite easily.  When I say “warm up”  I am talking about warming up in the fist of the three-year-old after a few minutes of use.  This was not as big of a problem with the 5-year-old, but she holds her crayons differently and has  learned to control the pressure she applies better than her younger sibling.  Both the Crayola crayons and the Leap Frog crayons had this problem.  I would say the Leap Frog crayons were quite a bit better though.  I am pretty sure if you left these crayons in a moderately warm car or even laying out in the sun on the porch on a warm day…they would be toast!

Having said that, I really do like these crayons and will continue purchasing them for the under 6 crowd in our home.  I prefer the Leap Frog crayons and as long as I can get them locally (especially at Joanns for 50% off) I will buy them.

Homemade Strawberry Yogurt Fruit Leather

One of the biggest challenges I have with keeping my family on a “real” food diet is snack time. We eat a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as cheese for snack time but sometimes we all really want something sweet. I came across a recipe for strawberry yogurt fruit leather at Honey Sweetened and was inspired to drag out the dehydrator and make some healthy snacks. I altered the recipe a little bit but used the same general idea.

Healthy Homemade Strawbery Yogurt Fruit Leather

2 – 12 oz bags of frozen strawberries

2 cups plain yogurt

1/4 cup honey

Thaw strawberries and drain excess liquid.

Add strawberries, yogurt and honey to food processor or blender.

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Pulse until smooth.

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Pour mixture on to dehydrator sheets or plastic wrap covered trays.

I poured mine in strips about 3 inches wide making them a little thicker along the edges since the outside edge will dry quicker.

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Dry at 95 degrees. Mine took about 18 hours to dry.

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Once they were done I rolled the fruit leather in plastic wrap.

The kids LOVED these and I love that they are good for them.

Preparing for Homeschool Convention

I just finished booking our room and registration for the 2013 Midwest Homeschool Convention. Yeah! I am so very excited to have the opportunity to attend again this year. Our experience at this convention last year made a huge impact on our confidence level about beginning this homeschool journey. We met so many great people and listened to so many amazing speakers.

The Handyman and I will be attending alone again while the kids have a little mini vacation of their own with grandma. We haven’t had a chance to get away by ourselves since last year so I am super excited about just hanging out together.

Ive been pouring over the curriculum catalogs trying to plan my attack for the Exhibit Hall.  Tomorrow I’ll give you a few of my favorite convention/ trade show tips. If there is a convention in your state and you have not attended, you might want to check one out. I know it was not at all what I expected. There are some great deals to be had on curriculum. If you are a book junkie like I am, you can almost hear the angels sing when you walk through the doors of the Exhibit hall!  The Midwest Homeschool Convention  is the first of 2 homeschool conventions in Ohio. As you may be able to tell… I’m getting ready!

Frugal momma strikes again!

imageI love having my littles ones help me in the kitchen. Especially now that my 5 year old has appointed herself head dishwasher! ( We will see how long that lasts.) What I don’t love is having my kitchen chairs pulled all over the kitchen and having multiple children trying to climb on one stool so they can see what moms doing and lend a helping hand. Some time ago in an effort to combat this problem I started looking for solutions and I came across The Learning Tower. While I was very impressed with the reviews I read, there was no way I was going to part with $199 to buy one. Fast forward 6 months…,imagine my surprise this evening when I popped into one of our local thrift store and saw this pushed into a corner with a sticker that read $3.99! Oh yeah! For $4.24 (including tax) this lovely stool is in my kitchen. Granted it has some wear and could benefit from a fresh coat of paint but for now, I’m just tickled with this thrift store surprise!

**Warning***The fabric buying itch may be hereditary!

Zinck's in Berlin

While the weather was still nice we took the opportunity to take a quick trip down to one of my favorite fabric outlets, Zinck’s in Berlin. They were having some great sale prices including fabric as low as $0.25 a yard when you buy by the bolt and trims for $2.50/ lb. While I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I did find some inspiration. Love that!

Sunshine is planning to take a sewing project for 4-H this year and even though she has not even touched the sewing machine yet, I think she might have the bug.  She picked out some fabric she just  *had* to have even though  she didnt know what she wanted to make with it.  Grandma ended up getting it fo her, so we will see what comes of it. Both her grandma and great grandma have more fabric then they will ever use.

As much fabric as Zinck’s has, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Vogue Fabric warehouse in Chicago. I cant wait to take the girls there this summer.  I am already getting my list ready for our next trip.