Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Embracing Your Inner Granola

The title of this post is what I did yesterday. Now, it may have something to do with Mike fixing the breaks on the van. Which he did a great job on, by the way, even despite running into a few problems (which we think caused them to need to be fixed....). Anyway, Mike was running around town most of the day looking for bolts and parts and what not and I was home with the kids - without a vehicle.

First, thing that happened is I realized we were totally out of bread for sandwiches. Thankfully, I noticed this early on and had time to make bread. Of course, I was nearly out of all my whole wheat and bread flours but I did find some rye flour in the pantry. So I made rye bread, or made up my own recipe for it, since I figured I also use up the white whole wheat and the bread flours too. Abby helped and she has informed me that it is the best bread. Frankly, I think she's a little biased and she also liked the idea of of the cocoa powder we added to give it a darker color.

Then, I realized we were pretty much out of snacks. Are you sensing a theme here? So I decided to make some granola. Why? Cause it is cheap, easy, and the kids like it on yogurt. I'll get to the yogurt part soon enough. So I made some cranberry lemon flavored granola.

Now, having been inspired by several blog posts on making homemade ricotta cheese, I had picked up a gallon of full fat milk (we usually drink one percent here) last week during my weekly shopping trip. Yesterday was the "best by" date so I figured I better use it up. But what I didn't realize is that I didn't really need a full gallon of milk to make the ricotta so I also decided to make yogurt in the crockpot. Also something I hadn't done before.

Making the ricotta cheese was so fun!!! And easy! Here's what I did:

1/2 gallon (8 cups) full fat milk
1/3 cup of white distilled vinegar
1 tsp of kosher salt (I might even add more if I knew the ricotta was bound for a savory dish)

Heat the milk on the stove top in a non-reactive pot. Heat to about 180 degrees over medium heat. If you don't have a thermometer then heat it just to the point where it starts to simmer. From what I've read though, anywhere from 165 to 185 degrees is just fine. You may want to stir as it is heating if you don't have solidly built pans as you do not want the milk to scorch! Turn off the heat, gently stir in the vinegar. Stir for about a minute. You'll see curds start to form right away. Use a slotted spoon or I have a small enough wire mesh colander that I simply used that to scoop the curds out of the whey. Have a colander lined with paper towels over another bowl, and place the curds on the paper towels to drain. Oila! Ricotta cheese! It tastes whey, I mean way, better than the stuff from the store. Refrigerate and use in the next 7 days. Save the whey, there are lots of uses for that nutritional liquid (including using it like buttermilk in recipes!).

So, after making the cheese, I still had another half gallon of milk so I started making yogurt. I have no fancy yogurt machine and frankly, bacteria, for the most part scare me. But after reading this blog post, I decided I had to give it a try. It was very simple. I let it drain again in paper towel line colander in the fridge (so I have more whey!) and gave some to the kids today for a snack. I served it with homemade strawberry/rhubarb jam, topped with homemade granola. I'm feeling my "inner granola" big time. :)

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