16 April 2014

The Gang's all here!

I've always been the type to just try and treat people as if we've never been apart when I see them for the first time in a long time. I give hugs. Smile genuinely. And chat. With some people this is easier than with others....but when it comes to a blog...what'd you do?

I'm tempted to give you a rundown of everything I haven't blogged about. And/or just skip it all and start with the fun morning I had in the yard with the kids today- it's Spring Break! 

But I think somewhere in the middle is where I'll land.

So here's my big smiley hug to you after not having seen you in a couple of months. Much is the same and if we get some time, I'll tell you about some of the stuff that's happened since I saw you last.

Deal?

K.

So. We're all still here!

See?





So if these pictures don't convey it well enough, I've been busy taking family-selfie pics by waterfalls.  Kidding. Well. Not really, as there's actually one more from a couple days ago I didn't post. 

Oh, alright. One more.


Also since I was last here, I've started calling any "selfie"  type picture with more than one person an "Usie" {pr: "Us- EE"}   (note to self: don't be the one furthest down in the usie. Makes your face look big.)

Spread the word.

22 January 2014

Because Elizabeth is in America and needs good Yogurt

...but this can be for you too!
...and also for my Mother-in-law. Even though she's already made her own homemade yogurt. She tried it when she visited back in December and waited as long as she could for my promised blogpost about it before venturing out and doing it herself. But still. It's for her too. See Mom! I'm finally posting it!

So my friend Elizabeth.

We went to highschool together, her being a couple grades ahead of me. But her and her sisters and me and my sisters all knew each other and had good times. Those Wilson girls can be counted on for much laughter, I tell ya!

Elizabeth's path has led her and her hubby and their baby girl to live and minister in the Czech Republic. 

There were several years where we lost touch, but leaving your home country has ways of bringing people back together!

She emails about Oreos and rare-cereal finds and I reply back about the complete lack of Graham Crackers in Malaysia. (No, allrecipes.com... Digestive Biscuits are NOT a suitable substitute for the grahams. Never have been, never will be.)

Can I just say I LOVE having international friends? (how else can you stay for free when you travel?!)

Prague is now ridiculously high on my travel list and it's all because of Elizabeth.  It has a castle! And hot chocolate you eat with a spoon!

Its these friends that totally get how you can love love LOVE your home away from home...because they love theirs. And as much as I lament not having certain things here (Oh for a bowl of Lucky Charms!) there are actually things in America that you can't get that are found in other places.

Shocking, huh?

Elizabeth is in America right now.  She said before she left Prague that one thing she would miss was the thick, fatty, awesome yogurt in the Czech Republic. I have no clue if this will compare, but it'll make a nice close 2nd if it doesn't.

So. My dear friend. As you enjoy time with the grandparents and miss the Czech Republic all the same, here is a yogurt recipe that I HOPE will do until you get back home.

***Y'all this is not your store-bought sugar-laden, stuff. I offer this recipe as a chance to maybe cut out the potato chips at lunch and add a side of yogurt instead. Probably the same amount of fat...but GOOD fat, not fake fat. Fake fat has got to be bad. We eat this nearly every day. Its a great way to help fight off stomach bugs! ***

------------
Homemade Crockpot Yogurt


Ingredients:
Milk - however much you want. Whole milk works best. In these pictures I used 3 liters...which yields about 2 liters of yogurt.
Yogurt Starter with Live Cultures (I usually just get a Plain, individual sized yogurt from the cold section of the grocery store. Just make sure it has live cultures in it) I've observed that when my starter tastes mild (not tart) then the yogurt does too. When it has more of a tangy/tart taste, the yogurt does too.

A pot to heat it in
A thermometer
(a meat thermometer works fine)
Something to store it in once it's finished

1. Heat the milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
As long as you heat however much milk you're using to 180 degrees, you're good. I do this in a crockpot because I don't have to stand over it on the stovetop. But stovetop works too. Hi or Low setting on the crockpot both work.  For 3 liters of milk on High, it usually takes 2 hours for mine.

2. Let milk cool down to between 110-115 degrees.
I usually just take the pot out and let it sit on the counter. Maybe a fan on it. Sometimes with lid on, sometimes with lid off. Sometimes stirring to help it along. Some people soak their bowl in an ice bath in the sink to get it down faster. Usually for me it takes about an hour for 3 liters to cool down. I set the timer to remind me to check.


3. Scoop out 2 cups or so of the milk in a separate bowl and add about 2 tablespoons of yogurt starter. Mix well.

2 Tablespoons is what I've found to be a good amount for 3 liters of milk. If you're making less, then less is required. But I've also used up to 1/2 cup. The point of this step is to mix the yogurt starter in well so that it distributes evenly and thoroughly through the milk. Too much and I've heard it "crowds" the milk with too many live cultures, but too little starter and there's not enough cultures to get in there and do the work of spreading and making it all yogurt.

4. Pour into pot and mix well.

5. Cover pot and insulate.
People do this step in different ways but they are all intrinsically the same. Some people go ahead and pour the milk+starter into separate containers and insulate. Some leave it in the crockpot but then put hotwater bags or heating pads around it.  I have found simply sticking it back in the heater of the crockpot (unplugged!) holds the heat just fine. I insulate mine with 2 bath towels. If its particularly cold where you are, you might want to put the whole thing, towels and all, in your oven (that is off!). My kitchen is year-round warm. Equator being what it is.



6. Let it sit for 12 hours.
See how it's nighttime in my picture? That's because I usually let mine sit overnight. And the whole 12 hours thing is a round-about number. But usually that amount is good. Though occasionally when I've checked it in the morning, I think its still too runny, so I wrap it back up and let it sit for a few more hours.
7. Open it up and voila! Yogurt!
 Don't forget to save some of this batch for the next! Then you don't have to buy starter next time.

You can store it and eat it just like it is, or if you are like me and Elizabeth and like your yogurt extra thick, follow these steps.

8. Strain your yogurt.
I don't have cheese cloth but apparently it works well. I have some extra fabric with bears and honeypots cut to fit. I layer it over a colander and a mixing bowl... and then pour the yogurt in it.

If you have room, stick it in the fridge. A couple times I haven't had the space and the countertop worked just fine. I've left it draining for anywhere from 2 hours to 8hours. The results are about the same.
Here's what mine looks like with whey drained out. Also a picture of the yellow whey (and a link to a recipe for pizza crust using leftover whey!) Otherwise you can toss it or pour it out in your garden. 



9. Put it in your container!
I include these pictures to let you see that this step gets easier with practice. I always have a spatula handy to scrape down the remaining yogurt off the fabric and into the container.  Most of the time it just sorta peels off clean and plops down into the container. 

***If your yogurt looks TOO thick (heaven forbid!) then just add some of the whey back in and mix to your desired consistency***

10. Suggested serving.
Below is one way, but we also sometimes flavor it with vanilla and/or honey...add any fruit, oatmeal, or granola or cereal and its total yum!

My kids come home asking for it this way...

Pineapple chunks (yeah, from a can! they'll live, I made the yogurt for crying out loud!)
Yogurt
Brown Sugar topping


Soooo good! Enjoy!

15 January 2014

Giveaway Winner!


Been waiting on pins and needles, is it?

Using the best detective skills I can muster, my guess is y'all forgot all about this little contest. (but it's ok! My feelings aren't hurt. You came back and are reading now!) 

...given the fact that no one ever asked me, "Sharon. Who the heck won that giveaway!?!"
...also given the way holidays go around here, I imagine yours are like ours...

And in your holiday ways you've had the likes of some doozies the last few weeks like:
(American) Thanksgiving
Christmas
New Year's

And as we all know, that lovely Trifecta of year-end merry making has smatterings of parties, food, events, bonfires and more food to keep you well occupied beyond the likes of this blog.

Just after making you all sign up for the giveaway, we had Thanksgiving (on the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day).  As it goes, at an international school where only like 4 or 5 kids are American, there wasn't enough heft in the student body to declare a day off from school.

And you'd think this video would be enough to make our kids question why they had to go to school that day. But no such luck. Off they went and I'm pretty sure I had rice and curry and/or peanut butter and jelly that day.

Probably the REAL reason our kids didn't notice it going by is because Grandma came to visit and we had our Thanksgiving dinner the day she arrived.

Yes, you're correct if you think I just pulled the Grandma-excuse card for my lack of blogging. There is no trump.

Though this giveaway does not rank among the "dozens" of entries of some blogs, nor did it have the best "reveal" time, it DID prove that I have at least twice as many readers as I thought making the total around 12. (baby steps y'all) Which even a math dodo like myself can figure, you're odds of winning were much better because of it! Who can complain?

So. Without a moment's more delay....

The lovely Nicole D. is the winner!

Isaiah drew your name out of the back of a Lego Duplo Cement mixer. Quite dramatically.

Ok, maybe not dramatically.

Ok, maybe I had to tear him away from Disney Jr. for like half-a-second, force his hand into the cement mixer tub, and maybe he didn't even look at me when he handed me the paper.

That's neither here nor there.

The point is little Mr. Harrison (and any more siblings that follow him) is getting a toothmonster pillow! Even if I'm the only one around here excited about it! He's just now getting his teeth, but in a few years, it'll be quite handy dandy indeed.

As per Nicole's request, it's "gender neutral."  (Hope it's ok Nicole!)

AND since Nicole is my friend, I'm also sending her a Christmas Card from our family AND a Malaysia magnet to hold it onto her fridge with.

Congratulations Nicole!

26 December 2013

It's been a busy holiday....

But better late than never (should I say "Happy Boxing Day!" just to be thorough?)