Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Glitter Glitter Everywhere! Personalized Christmas Box

Merry Christmas everyone!  It's Heather from The Beating Hearth and I am so excited to be apart of Adele's 24 Days to Christmas.  Like her, I have my own Christmas series going on, Holiday Cookie Extravaganza!  Every Monday and Wednesday until Christmas I will have a tasty treat for you, so please stop by. 

Today I'm going to show you one of my favorite Christmas traditions.  My beloved Grandpa Ralph is the originator of this project.  If the internet had been around fifty years ago, he would have been in heaven.  He loves adding a classy touch to each of his grandkids' Christmas gifts.

Christmas day we received several gifts from our grandparents, but for each grandchild, one present was different.  It wasn't wrapped, and yet we knew it was the best of the bunch.  It was simple, a white box, with a bow, and our name written in her beautiful hand, coated in glitter.   I always opened that one last.  So, start this tradition at your house, anyone who gets this present will feel special, indeed.

I love a project that has minimal supplies.  You need a white box, glitter, good old Elmer's Glue and a pencil.  And, the pencil is optional.

Write the name of the recipient on the box.  If your bad enough, you can just free-hand it with the glue.  I am clearly not as bad ass as my image may portray, as I used a pencil...and a ruler so the name would be straight.

Using a heavy hand, trace the name with glue.  Go slowly, with a thick and steady stream of glue.  If you have any gaps, just carefully fill them in.  You don't want the glue to be too thin, you really want the name to stand out.

While the glue is still wet.  Coat with glitter.  I have girls.  They only like pink.  Let settle for a few minutes and then gently shake the glitter off into a bowl so that you can reuse the excess for another project.

Set aside and let dry completely.  Then shake off the extra glitter again.

And be prepared for glitter to do what glitter does best...get everywhere!!!

You could also get flashy and do a design.  Grandpa Ralph knew though, that less is more.  We just had our name...and the occasional glue dollop....glitter coated, of course.

Throw on a festive bow, and place under your tree.  An easy craft, but one that's sure to make an impression.  Who doesn't like to see their name in glitter?

Thanks again Adele for letting me hang out here today!  And remember, check out the Beating Hearth all month for the tastiest treats!!


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Surviving summer

Kids, man.

Mine in particular need to be constantly doing something or they get the dreaded B word, which sends me into spasms.

Luckily this year I have a plan to keep them busy. This also means I stay busy keeping them busy, but it's better than hearing Mom, I'm bored.


Here's how we're handling summer:

Morning: Free time unless it's Monday, Wednesday, and Friday which means we're at water polo lessons.

10 am until about noon: French camp (my kids go to a dual immersion school, learning French). French camp consists of my children talking to each other in French and playing games. Sometimes we put on a movie in French, and sometimes it's solo games on the computer for my youngest who needs French camp the most.

Noon: Lunch

Afternoon and evening: Free time. This means: reading books from the library (they have to get a historical fiction, whatever looks good, a book in French, and a craft book of some sort). Fun to note, my baby got a book on how to make mosaics and my oldest got a book on how to draw anime-people.

There's also lots of playing in the misters on the trampoline or sprinkles. Hanging with friends. Watching TV. Computer games. Legos. Learning new card games. Learning how to shuffle cards. Arts and crafts. Sewing (they have free access to my scraps bucket). Swimming at the rec center. Playing at park. Roller skating. Scooting. Bike riding. Sidewalk Chalk. Water balloon fights. Learning how to comb hair via YouTube videos. Any fests in the area. And whatever chores I deem necessary!!

But the best thing we're doing this summer is each girl has to take a day to menu plan and cook. Unfortunately at this stage, this means I am still actively involved so it's not giving me a break, but it is giving them valuable knowledge and is fun for them.

Yesterday, there was learning how to dice an onion and green pepper. Gulp. No thumbs were lost in the process, but it sure sends my blood pressure soaring to watch that wobbly knife in close proximity to precious digits.

So far summer has been amazing. I've yet to hear the B word which makes me and the girls happy.

I might've thought it was funny when I asked my youngest to choose a soda for me from the free soda bin at the fest and she brought this. Snort. Pictures were required.

Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Instant Pot beans trial and error page

p.s. I never soak my beans. I can't be expected to plan that far in advance.

Black beans: 1 lb. beans. 6 cup water. Cook 21 minutes using bean setting, low pressure. Release pressure after 20 minutes. Results: Just about perfect.

Black beans: 1 lb beans. 6 cups water. Cook 23 minutes using high pressure. Release pressure after 25 minutes. Results: Too mushy.

Chick Peas: 1 lb. beans. 6 cups of water. Cook 22 minutes using bean setting, low pressure. Release pressure after 20 minutes. Results: Just a touch toothsome. Will cook for 24 next time

Chick Peas: 1 lb. beans. 6 cups water. Cook 24 minutes using bean setting, low pressure. Release pressure after 20 minutes. Results: Still too toothsome but almost perfect for a salad. Next time will cook for 24 minutes and allow to release naturally.

Pinto Beans: 1 lb beans. 6 cups water. Cook 25 minutes using Pressure Cook setting, high pressure for 25 minutes. Natural release. Added 1 tsp salt, 1 Tbl. garlic powder, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 Tbl. chili powder, and 1 tsp. oregano for Mexican restaurant-style beans. Results: Practically perfect in every way. The beans aren't too mushy or toothsome. They hold together but aren't hard. And the flavor is good if you want a Mexican-style bean.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who has bought my book Betrayal and Yearning.

And if you haven't picked up a copy, what's taking you? You like romance, right? Adventure? A little taste of magic? Come on! This book has everything you want and more. Click on the link above and buy it. It's only $2.99 for a Kindle copy and if you have Kindle Unlimited... go get it, already! Sorry, didn't mean to shout.

But speaking of shouting, let me give a special shout out to everyone who has LEFT A REVIEW on Amazon. Oh. My. Heck. THANK YOU.

A review might not seem like much, but to the indie author, it is everything. So to those of you who leave reviews, you are the best.

I have one review in the U.S., one review in Australia, and one review in Canada. Wow, burning up the charts, here. But, that's okay. I loved writing Betrayal and Yearning, and I get to say I'm an author. And I've just gotten started, baby. There's a whole series of stories that needs to be told.

And, I'm going to do a giveaway here, soon. That is, as soon as I get my actual, physical, paperback copies. Yeah, everyone I know of who ordered a paperback has gotten it. Except me. The actual author.

Again, thanks to everyone who made this possible. Especially my cute husband who wasn't sure I could write myself out of a paper bag when I first began but is now a bigger believer in me than me.

And because I love it, here's another gratuitous shot of the cover.

Monday, April 23, 2018

So close I can taste it.

This has been a long time coming. I first started plotting when I was 18. And all I had to show for it was notebooks upon notebooks of ideas, half-formed story lines, and characters. Until now.

April 24, 2018 is my day.

And Betrayal and Yearning is my book.

Click here if you want to check it out.

I'd love for you to read it. It's new and different but at the same time something you can immerse yourself in. If you like fantasy, this is your book. If you like romance, this is your book. If you just like a good story with characters you can fall in love with, this is your book.

Thanks again to everyone for your support.

p.s. If you read it, please leave a review. Indie novels live and die by the review.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Big, huge, exciting news!

I've got some big news and I can't wait to share it with everyone.

I'm just going to put this here and you can guess what it is...

Okay, I'll tell you, it's my book cover!

Christian at Covers by Christian designed it and he did such a wonderful job. I couldn't be happier.

There's the magic trailing her down her dress. The forest ambiance. The font! I mean, that's one beautiful font.

Also, in another bit of exciting news, Betrayal and Yearning is up for pre order on Amazon. Click here to see it in all its glory and pre order if you want! It'll also be available on Kindle Unlimited on April 24th. Eeks!

I've also got an author page on Amazon, which I still don't quite believe. But you can click here to read all about me!

And, if all the above wasn't enough, I'm currently in the top 2% for Kindle sales. So... that's cool. That's what's called playing it cool. To be honest, we're playing a numbers game with Amazon so people will actually see the book. The higher your ranking... you get it.

So, if you're looking for a read that has it all, romance, danger, heartbreak, steamy love scenes, then please give Betrayal and Yearning a try.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Still sticking to a budget

Not quite four months in, I'm sticking to my grocery budget of $200 per week.

Turns out, I don't hate it, and it's encouraged me to do two things; one of which I should have done twenty years ago.

1. I'm switching to the Mediterranean diet which I feel is a healthy diet. I've always felt yogurt, oats, grains, greens, and legumes were the right way to eat. Turns out, it's a thing.

2. I am also wasting less food. For example, I had par-boiled some beans the other day, to have on hand for easy cooking. Promptly forgot they were only par-boiled and when I asked The Mister to make chili for dinner... Ahem. Well, they it was some mighty toothsome chili. I might've thrown it away, before, but today, Sunday, I am cooking my chili so it's ready to go for tomorrow.

I'm also making Ham and Bean Soup (Click here for the link) with the leftover ham from The Mister's lunches, and inviting my siblings over. And making homemade bread with slightly expired bread flour. Shh, don't tell. And making yogurt! Dang! Who put a bee in my bonnet?

Add to that some writing on book two of the Changeling Desires series, grooming the dogs, and grocery shopping. Well, I'm not sure the dogs are going to get groomed. We'll see how productive I really am.

Okay, back to sticking to my budget, I've found going to the grocery store only once a week doesn't really work for me. In my effort not to waste food, I don't want it to go bad waiting for me to cook it. And as I'm not always Johnny on the spot, if the veggies are particularly perishable, I wait to buy them until the day I'm going to cook them.

Perfect example of this: I was planning on making pad Thai last week. But, I thought, bean sprouts and cilantro are very finicky and I shouldn't risk it. Turns out, pad Thai never happened. Phew. This week, though, oh, it's happening. But, if I'd bought my veggies, just look how mad I'd be at myself.

Well, that's it for now.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Chickpeas in Creamy Pink Sauce with Runny Eggs and Ham

In my quest to eat more vegetarian fare and Mediterranean-style meals, I find myself branching out more than I used to. And that's saying a lot because I've always been an adventurous eater. But the results aren't always noteworthy and this was one of those meals.

spicy cream chickpeas review
I tried something new, it was from Bon Appetit's March issue and they called it Spicy Creamy Chickpeas with Runny Eggs and Prosciutto. It's not vegetarian and not exactly Mediterranean, but I felt there were enough aspects of both that I'd give it a try. After all, I can pick the ham off.

I changed up my title as I didn't find this dish spicy in the least. I put 'creamy' after chickpeas as it wasn't the chickpeas that were creamy but the sauce. And, I used ham instead of prosciutto.

While The Mister didn't question whether this is a dish I would try, or not, he did briefly question whether he wanted to go out for a burger.

Turns out he liked it better than anyone else.

I love runny eggs. I like pink sauce on pasta. I really enjoy chickpeas. And, I like ham. But all together? It just didn't work for me. We ate it with toast instead of the flatbread the recipe suggested and that was the best part of the meal.

It burned on the bottom of the pan, so I had to avoid scooping too low. It called for a TON of cream. The eggs took a lot longer to cook to runny than the recipe suggests. Two minutes? More like 12.

So, while the husband enjoyed this meal, and my kids pondered moving in with Grandma (this normally doesn't affect whether I'll remake something), I decided this is not something I'm adding to the rotation. I did however learn something valuable from this recipe. If I need a lid for a skillet and don't have one, I can use a sheet pan. Genius!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

All because I'm a sucker

Who else is a sucker for their kids?

My baby, looking up at me with quivering blue eyes: Mama, I just love your homemade chocolates.

Me, cold-hearted and steely eyed: You mean those chocolates I only make once a year at Christmas?

My baby, now with pleading hands: You didn't even let me help you make them at Christmas. Can we please make some chocolates for Valentine's. I just really, really, really, really love them, they're the best of all the chocolates. And want to spend time with you, because I love you so much.

Me, trying to remain distant, but feeling my resolve weaken: No, it's too much work. Plus, your hands get covered in chocolate, and it makes a mess of the kitchen. Do you really want to clean up the kitchen on Valentine's?

My baby, tears glistening at the edges of her eyes, and a sly smile spreading: Mama, I always wanted to learn. Don't you always say girls can do anything they want? That we're just as good as boys? Please teach me all your wise ways.

Me, breaking down into sobs: Alright, baby, alright! Of course, we can make chocolates even though they're a huge hassle and dirty every dish in the house. For you, anything.

My baby, turning to the side and exchanging a slick high-five with her older sister,who knows I can resist her ways with greater ease: Thanks mama! You're the best.

Me: Wait, what...

In my defense, this image was what was in my head... Yes, I have photographic proof of that one time I broke my baby's heart. And if you don't follow us on Instagram you didn't get to see our chocolate making fun back when it happened. So, check out the Instagram link down below.

There she is, watching with rapt attention, directly after I'd denied her the opportunity to help make Christmas chocolates. Uggh. You can see why I caved. But, we were making these as gifts and kid hands... shudder.

Yeah, so this is how I've spent my Valentine's morning. Not luxuriating and eating already made truffles. Nope. Making homemade truffle fillings so my kids can really trash the house this evening and dip them, themselves. Here's my dark chocolate approx. 75% melted. I needed to get my chocolate and my cream mixture down to 90 degrees F at about the same time. Extremely tricky, but I got close.

 The insides of a peanut butter truffle. In case you were curious

And the insides of mint truffles. Might have broken my blender on this one. It's because my immersion blender, that I haven't used in five years, wouldn't turn on. It does taste yummy. So, that's something.

Now, wish me luck that my kitchen and I make it out in one piece after tonight. It's not just my two girls, who are blessedly older, but also my three nieces ages 5, 7, and 10. Yup. Five little girls and a big batch of melted chocolate. What could go wrong?

Click the icon to see the chocolaty aftermath on Instagram


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Who said you shouldn't make homemade puddin'

If you want an easy, but impressive, dessert, go with made from scratch chocolate pudding. Made from scratch anything has a wow factor associated with it, but facts are facts, made from scratch doesn't always translate well. See homemade cakes. Which brings me to wonder, why can't I make a cake from scratch and really love it? I dunno. I've tried. Goodness knows I've tried. Must be some chemical magic in the box mix that I can't recreate.

But, homemade chocolate pudding is another story. It tastes a million times better than store bought. Is made from only ingredients you can pronounce. And is so quick and so easy, but homemade, so you look like a culinary rock star. And who doesn't like looking like a culinary rock star?

I personally love it when my kids chant my name and declare I must open a restaurant that serves cheesy hotdogs, mac and cheese, and chocolate pudding. And yes, I know only one out of those three items are actually homemade by me. Still, I like it.

Scratch Chocolate Pudding
1/4 C cornstarch
1/3 C granulated sugar
skimpy 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
3 C whole milk
1 C good quality Semi-sweet chocolate chips. I prefer Guittard
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine cornstarch, sugar and salt into medium saucepan and stir to mix.

Pour milk into the above in a slow drizzle while whisking furiously, to avoid lumps.

Cook over medium low heat while alternating between whisking and scraping the bottom and sides of pot with a silicon spatula. You do not want to let this go too long without stirring, as the milk will potentially scorch to the bottom and not taste delicious.

Pay attention. After approximately 10 minutes, and just before your pudding comes to a simmer, the mixture will begin to thicken. Once it coats the back of a spoon and you can leave a trail with your finger, lick, it's thick enough. You really don't want this to go above a barely there simmer.

Now that it's perfectly thick, add the chocolate chips.

Whisk and spatula for about 2 minutes more to allow the chocolate chips to melt and incorporate.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. It'll look like your pudding is separating, but keep whisking and it'll all come together.

Press plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding to avoid the dreaded skim and let cool. My Grandma would've spooned it into fancy bowls and let it cool on the kitchen counter, tempting us until dinner was through. I cooled mine in the fridge this time for about an hour. It was still slightly warm when we ate it.

Most important step: top with a drizzle of cream. Yup, pure cream and prepare for old fashioned, creamy, homey, chocolaty goodness in every spoonful. Add more cream as needed.

This really brought me back to my childhood; when I licked the bowls clean. Mostly to savor every last drop of the cream. We ate a lot of desserts with a drizzle of cream over the top. Not whipped cream. Weird but good. But, now I know why my mom got after me for licking the bowls clean. Same reason I got after my kids for doing it.

Aww, love the sharing of an old-timey, family tradition. And to be clear, the tradition I'm talking about is not the licking of bowls.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Trouble shooting homemade yogurt

So, you want to make homemade yogurt, but it seems too daunting. Needing to stick to a rigid temperature schedule or all is lost, gives you heartburn. Maybe you're worried you'll give your family botulism. Or at the very least, you fear everyone who tries it will get food poisoning.

Take it from me, it'll be okay.

homemade yogurt troubleshoot
After the first time, it's easy. Not sitting on the front porch drinking a lemonade, easy. But, sitting on the front porch eating an ice cream cone that you have to lick from time to time because it's hot out, easy. But dang, the ice cream (yogurt) tastes so good, it's worth it.

I've had a time or two when it didn't work out or when I looked at it and thought... umm... I dunno, I'm just going to toss it. But, I think that comes with the fermenting territory. Go with your instincts. That one time I thought the yogurt had a pink-ish tinge to it, it probably didn't. It probably would've been fine to eat, but I'm not willing to risk it for the sake of a gallon of milk.

Then there was the time it didn't thicken, AT ALL. Who knows what went wrong. Too much starter. Too little starter. The milk didn't get hot enough, in the first place. Maybe I didn't cool it enough before adding the starter.

The point is, I've had two maybe three times where I wasted my milk and my time. That's it. And everyone who's eaten my yogurt is still alive. And now I can basically make a batch in my sleep.

It's worth it to me to know exactly what's in my yogurt, milk and starter yogurt. That means no preservatives, no thickeners, and no sugar. And no yogurt tastes as good as my yogurt.

The picture above is my most recent batch just after fermentation. See how thick it is. That's before any straining. That spoon wasn't going anywhere. I wanted to share my experience here because I made several, we'll call them, mistakes in its making.

I didn't let the milk get up to 180 F. It made it to 178 and change F. That was after I selected the yogurt/boil function on my Instant Pot and then let it slow cook low pressure for another 30 minutes. I wasn't about to wait any longer.

It cooled to under 110 F. Which is a little cooler than normal, because I wasn't exactly Johnny on the spot with my thermometer.

I did use exactly 4 Tbl. of starter. So that I got right.

But, I let it go for about 11 hours, instead of ten.

All this just goes to show, I made the perfect pot of thick, tangy homemade yogurt with an imperfect process.

If you're trying the Mediterranean diet, or just want to ditch the sugars in too many commercial yogurt brands, give homemade yogurt a try with this recipe and tutorial. You won't go back to store bought.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Perfectly cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans

Chickpea or garbanzo bean? I say chickpea. Except when I say garbanzo bean.

As I continue incorporating the Mediterranean ways into my way of cooking, via the Mediterranean diet, I'm becoming more familiar with these versatile legumes. Okay, who are we kidding, I am intimately familiar with hummus... and falafal. But I haven't really cooked with chickpeas myself. I just devour them at every Middle Eastern restaurant I visit.

homemade chickpeas
But not today.

Today we cook chickpeas from scratch.  And not in the Instant Pot, like I had originally planned when I bought the dang thing, because I've been burned too many times, now. Thanks Instant Pot/bean ruiner.

Chickpeas from scratch
1 lb. chickpeas
Small palmful Salt, approx. 1 teaspoon... maybe

First, sort and rinse chickpeas. Beans are packaged au natural. That means they haven't been washed and can include bits of grit. So I just pour the package into a colander and rinse while running my fingers through the beans, looking for anything unsavory. p.s. I've yet to find a rock, but I still do it.

Then, because I am not smart enough to pre-plan, quick soak the beans. If you are the type who is on top of things, you can soak your beans the night before. Or even sprout them. This is something I want to try as I'm really into fermenting. Just not, that into fermenting to have already tried it.

This means, bring eight cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 lb chickpeas to boiling water. Bring back to a boil and let boil for 3 minutes, or so. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let sit for an hour.

Now, this just gets us to soaked.  They aren't cooked yet.

Drain chickpeas.

Add enough fresh water to cover chickpeas by a couple inches and add your salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and let cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. This results in a pleasantly tender, but not mush, chickpea.

Use in any number of dishes however you want. You can leave them as is, if you are eating the chickpeas whole, or you can cook them a bit more if you're going to mush them for hummus or even, dare I say it, refried beans for the more adventurous amongst us.

Stay tuned for all the chickpea fun.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Get some culture (s)

This is not my first go round making yogurt. But it is the closest I've come to, dare I say, a consistently good product.

There's a couple reasons for this, I suppose. The main one is my Instant  Pot's yogurt function. Now, I'm not singing the Pot's praises from the rafters, just yet. Unless I'm talking about steel cut oats and yogurt. In that case, where's my ladder?

The other reason is my starter. I used Siggi's. If you haven't given Siggi's Icelandic yogurt a try yet, just, do yourself a favor and run to the store. Thick, creamy as heck, and so, so good. I started buying Siggi's because it was lowest in sugar content. It's scary how much sugar is in the other major brands. Especially considering yogurt is supposed to be healthy. Not with 22 grams of sugar per serving, it's not.

But, Siggi's costs a pretty penny, and I'm on a budget. So that means homemade yogurt for this family. Luckily, it's dang easy with the Pot.  If you don't have the Pot, Click here for how to make yogurt without an Instant Pot.

If you do have an Instant Pot, here's a simple recipe for how to make homemade yogurt. It seems like there are a lot of steps involved, and there are, but the steps are either really quick or take hours of hands-off time. So, it's not bad.

1 gallon milk (I use 2%)
4 Tbl plain or vanilla yogurt with live active cultures (I actually used vanilla and it worked fine)
That's it.

Special Equipment
8 qt Instant Pot Duo Plus (The one with the Yogurt button. If you have a smaller Instant pot, halve the ingredients)
instant read Thermometer
Silicone spatula for stirring
several vessels for straining. I use a collander, a large pot, and a mixing bowl
And a clean tea towel

How to make Yogurt in an Instant Pot 
1. Start time is important. I always start before 10 am. That way you're not waiting up until 2 in the morning or something awful.

2. Pour 1 gallon milk into Instant Pot's bowl and have your 4 Tbl of starter yogurt set aside in a bowl and ready to go.

3. Secure Pot's lid. Apparently it doesn't matter if the steam release handle is open or closed, but I always do this with it closed.

4. Push Yogurt button until BOIL, pressure amount: more, comes up, and let it do it's thing. It takes 30 minutes, maybe. I don't pay that much attention.

What's happening is you're heating the milk high enough to denature the proteins.  This allows the whey proteins to bind to water and make a desirable texture in yogurt. Thanks Google.

5. Remove lid carefully so you don't burn yourself, stir the milk gently (don't scrape the bottom in case any milk has scalded), and take the milk's temperature.

But if you're anything like me, your milk will NOT be up to 180 F. It'll be more like 170 F. I don't know if it's because I live at a higher elevation, or what, but I always have to take one more step. If yours is up to 180 Yeah! Skip step 6.

6. Turn off Instant Pot and push the Slow Cook Button, pressure amount: less. Set it for 30 minutes. Again, I keep my steam release handle in the closed position. Once the 30 minutes is up, take temperature. I'm usually up to the 180 F. If it's 179, I'd just go with it.

7. Cool the yogurt to 110 degrees. You  can leave it on your counter and let it cool naturally, but I am impatient so put it in my sink with cold water. Sometimes ice, too. Now, watch it very carefully. It'll cool faster than you think if you use cold water. Just a few minutes. Take the temperature after about 3 minutes and probably every minute after that until it's at 110 F. Always stir gently before taking the temperature.

8. When it's 110 F. set Instant Pot bowl on counter and remove 1 cup of warm milk. Pour the warm milk into the reserved 4 Tbl of starter yogurt. Stir until all lumps are gone. Pour the yogurt/milk back into the rest of the warm milk, still in the Instant Pot bowl. Stir gently to incorporate the yogurt cultures throughout.

9. Place Instant Pot bowl back in Instant Pot. Push Yogurt Button until pressure amount: normal comes up and set your timer to 10 hours. This can be a personal preference, but I find 10 hours gives me a nice, gentle tang and good thickness. You can do it more, 12 hours even, or less, 8 hours, for instance. But I've had good success with 10.

10. After the 10 hour ferment, your yogurt should be thick enough a spoon can stand upright in the middle, or pretty close to it. Remove bowl from Instant Pot, pour yogurt into a large bowl, cover, and let cool in refrigerator over night.

11. Next morning, assemble your straining equipment. Place tea towel in strainer. Place strainer in mixing bowl. Place mixing bowl in large stock pot. If you have a better method than this, please use it. Mine's pretty cobbled together. But it works and I didn't have to buy any special yogurt straining equipment.

Carefully pour yogurt into the strainer with the tea towel. Put back in refrigerator and let strain for several hours. You may need to dump out some of the whey to allow your yogurt to strain appropriately. My mixing bowl isn't tall enough, so my strainer bottom ends up in the whey. You can see how this would be a problem.

BUT DON'T THROW AWAY YOUR WHEY!! Keep it. Make pancakes and biscuits later in the week. It really is that light green color. In fact, make these fluffy, wonderful biscuits.

12. Pour strained yogurt into your Kitchen Aid and whip it, whip it good until it's light, smooth, and just a touch fluffy.

13. Store in fridge for up to two weeks, I'd say. That's about how long I let mine go and haven't died. I always put a piece of tape on the lid, and make note of the date the yogurt was made.


Update 2-12-2018 Check out the post I made on trouble shooting the yogurt making process, and don't stress it too much, it'll work out fine.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A couple of girls and SCIENCE

Lately at the Hearth we've been working on the girls' science fair projects.

The completely voluntary science fair.

That's okay. I love that my girls love science, even if it's not mandatory science. One wants to be a vet, what pre-teen girl doesn't? And the other a chemist. Okay, the be fair, she wants to be a potion-maker. But I've informed her that's a chemist. And she's completely on board with it.

Luckily, The Mister is all about science. I help the girls with their English/History/Girl Scouts stuff. He's in charge of the science/math/tech/computer stuff. It's a nice balance. Aw, love.

The Great Egg Launch
Yeah, you read that right. My Youngest wanted to make an egg tosser. The boy in The Mister was giddy over this project. The nerd proceeded to make us research free body diagrams, force, gravity, and throwing arcs. I mean, what little kid has a free body diagram on her board? This kid.

egg tosser

No neighboring houses were targeted in the name of science. It was too cold.

I don't know what to call this one... Which chemical reaction makes a car go the furthest
My Oldest wanted to make chemical reactions. The boy in The Mister also loved this because explosions. He he he. She learned that by combining baking soda and vinegar you produce carbon dioxide and that Mentos and Diet Coke isn't actually a chemical reaction, it's a physical reaction called nucleation. I dunno. Science.

Ha ha. Our first attempt. The Mister in action, carefully placing the car down and RUNNING. We thought it would be a grand, fiery explosion. He made us stand 50 feet away and wear protective eye wear. Nothing happened.

Okay, this is what happened. The vinegar only reacted with the outer layer of baking soda, hardening the inner layer. Thus, a disappointing performance.

Several Mentos and Diet Coke experiments later, and the car finally moved. But we had to crush the Mentos and shake up the car, then put it down. So much for safety regulations.

Well, the good news is both kids and dad had fun. And girls and science gets another win.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Asian Inspired Lettuce Wraps

Contrary to popular opinion, these are not Thai lettuce wraps, though that's what I've always called them. They have peanut butter, that makes them Thai, or so I thought.

Upon further research, satay and spicy peanut sauces originated further down the Malay peninsula and Indonesian archipelago. So, in an effort to give credit where credit is due, these are now called Asian inspired lettuce wraps.

eve rousseau
Lettuce wraps themselves, aren't even of Asian origin. They're either a British or American invention. So, Asian inspired seems the best way to go. Besides, I use a variety of ingredients from across Asia, so I can't pinpoint an area of origin. But be aware, they are exceptionally yummy.

Don't let the list of ingredients dissuade you from making this recipe. None are too exotic to find in your every day grocery store and many you'll already have on hand in your pantry. And, aside from some minor mincing and chopping and dicing, most everything else just gets stirred up. This is a quick-cooking recipe. You'll have dinner on the table in 30 minutes. This serves my family of four with enough left over for a couple lunches the next day.

Asian Inspired Lettuce Wraps
Bib lettuce
2 Tbl. veg oil
1.5 lb ground turkey or chicken
1 onion, diced
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced fine. This is approximately 2 heaping tsps. of ginger, I'd say
2-8 oz. cans diced water chestnuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Splash of water

4 Tbl. soy sauce
2 Tbl. creamy peanut butter
1 Tbl. honey
2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
dash of garlic powder
squirt of Sriracha
3 Tbl. Teriyaki sauce (even better if it includes sesame seeds)
Dash of sesame oil if you have it. I didn't, but it wouldn't hurt

Pickled carrots
3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 C. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbl. white sugar
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

Cucumber cut into matchsticks
Lime wedge
Green onions, diced
Extra Sriracha

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 Tbl. oil and saute diced onion until translucent. Add minced ginger and cook for a couple minutes until fragrant, but not brown. Add ground turkey or chicken and cook until cooked through and browned. Add diced water chestnuts when meat is cooked through. I love the bite water chestnuts add to this dish. You don't want to cook them, you want them crunchy. If the meat mixture is over-browning on the bottom of pan, add a splash of water, but no more than 1/4 cup, I'd say. Scrape bottom of skillet.

Meanwhile, make sauce.
Place all sauce ingredients in bowl and whisk until combined. Add to cooked meat mixture and let simmer until everything is warm.

Meanwhile, make pickled carrots
Add all ingredients in bowl and let sit until ready to eat. You can do this a couple hours in advance.

Meanwhile, prepare garnish and lettuce cups
Cut cucumber, slice limes into wedges, dice green onions, wash cilantro, and wash and break apart lettuce cups.

To serve, place a couple lettuce cups on everyone's plate, scoop out a nice serving of the meat mixture into each lettuce cup, top with garnishes of choice, and devour.

This is sure to become a staple in your dinner rotation.

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