Friday, July 29, 2011

Crockpot Yogurt

Yes I realize that crockpot yogurt sounds gross but it's not.  It's not hard, you can do it in your sleep and it tastes like no other.  Other good reasons to make your own yogurt is that it's cheaper and you can control the ingredients.  I'm big on the last one and would still do it even if it wasn't cheaper.  Our family eats a lot of yogurt and I do mean a lot!  My youngest, AJ would seriously eat yogurt all day every day.  Since I don't buy foods with chemicals or additives or preservatives or anything I can't pronounce, the yogurt I buy is expensive.  Plus, sometimes I can't get it at my local grocery store. 

I had no idea that you could even make yogurt at home until one day I was chatting with Sister Chef and telling her about my breadmaking.  She then told me how she had been making her own yogurt.  WHAT???  You can do that?  It took me about a month, but I was all over that.  She bought a yogurt machine to incubate hers in but it doesn't hold a lot which is fine for her since it's just her.  I needed to make larger batches so I started scouring the Internet to see how I could do it.  After reading eleventy billion (yes that's a real number in my house) sites I finally came up with something I could do. 

 Here's what you need..... a crockpot.  If you have one with a built in thermometer that's perfect, if yours doesn't, like mine, you'll need a thermometer.  You also need milk, this recipe will use half gallon but you can increase/decrease as desired.  I've had the best luck with 2% but have used non fat and it works fine.  You also need a cup of plain yogurt with live cultures.  You can buy a little container at the store or save a little from your last batch. 
 Heat the milk until it reaches 180 degrees.  You want to kill off the nasty things but not the good stuff.  Then cool it to 110 - 115 degrees.  This is the optimal temperature for those little enzymes to get to work.
 When your milk has cooled to 110, put a 1/2 cup of your plain yogurt to a bowl. 
 Add a cup of the warmed milk
 Give it a stir.
 Until it's nice and blended.
 Add the yogurt/milk mixture back into the crockpot.
 Give that a stir.  (never fails, I always get a sideways picture or 3)
 Then let it sit for 5-7 hours.  You need to keep the temperature around 110 degrees.  I wrapped my crockpot in a towel and after 2 hours I turned it on for 5 minutes and then back off.  I've heard of people putting the crock in the oven with the light on, or leaving it on the counter overnight. (see you can do it in your sleep!)
 When you open the lid you'll be delighted to find this!  Don't worry about that liquid stuff you see.  That's the whey.  You can stir it into your yogurt OR
 You can put it in a strainer and strain some of the whey out and make greek style yogurt.  Greek style is our preferred yogurt and is even more expensive than regular.  (don't toss your whey you can do lots of stuff with it.  I use it in my breadmaking instead of water.  Whey has a lot of protein in it.  It also has the lactose, so don't use it if you have an intolerance.  Put your yogurt in a container and back in the fridge to chill.
The next morning (or sooner if you like warm yogurt) you have a delicious and nutritious breakfast.  I spooned a little homemade vanilla syrup over it and added a few organic boysenberries.  Don't worry about that little black spot in my yogurt, it's a piece of vanilla bean scraping.  It was delicious.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Red Chile Sauce aka Chile Colorado

TGIM was on a special project for his job and it took us to Las Cruces, New Mexico for about a year.  Chile's are serious business in New Mexico and New Mexico Mexican cooking is different than other regions.  Personally, it's my favorite way to eat Mexican.  There is a very heavy chile influence, perfect for the chile lover that I am.     I could ramble on for hours about chiles, the different types of chiles, debate the use of the word chile  vs  chili (quick difference is that chile is a sauce made from either red or green chiles and chili is a stew with meat and and beans)  Traditionally you never NEVER put tomatoes in your red chile sauce.  I mean NEVER!!!!!!!!  If you can't handle the heat of the chile, try a dollop of sour cream on your dish to help smooth out the heat.

Here's a quick and easy red chile sauce.  It's so stinking easy and good that you'll never buy that canned stuff again.  Of course you shouldn't eat canned food because there's all that bpa in the linings of the cans, again another post.

 You're going to need some dried chiles.  These are California Chiles.  You can also use guajillo (wa-Hee-yo) chiles.  This was a 16 oz bag and I used half for a "double" batch.  Red Chile sauce freezes well so go ahead and do the whole thing if it suits you.
 Put them in a pot or a metal bowl and cover them with boiling water to soften. 
 Make sure you get them all in the water.  You want them soft and pliable.  It takes about 10 minutes.
 The rest of the stuff.... garlic, cumin and salt
 After your chiles are soft, pull out the stem and seeds.  You don't have to get them all but the majority of the heat is in the seeds. 
 toss them in the blender
 Add 2 cloves of garlic
 a tsp of salt
 and a tsp of cumin
 cover with 2 1/2 cups of water.
 blend until smooth.  There are still going to be little chunks of skin and seeds.  Don't worry.
 because you're going to strain them out. 
 Pour the sauce into a strainer over a pot.  I used a glass dish so you could see. 
 You're going to need to work it a bit to get all the liquid out.
 You should end up with something like this, some skin and seed.  Toss that into your compost or trash.
After you get all the sauce strained and into the pot (you may need to strain it in batches if you have a lot) bring it to a boil and then turn off the heat.  That my friends is it.  You're done.

Now you have your basic red chile sauce.  You can make enchiladas, carne adovado (marinated roast pork), chile colorado or anything that calls for red sauce.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fresh Thai Spring Rolls

There is nothing more tasty that fresh spring rolls.  Oh how I love them and they were just one more thing that I never ate much because I didn't know how to make them.  Yeah that and the fact that I can't get half the ingredients at home.  San Diego on the other hand has tons of Asian Markets and I was able to get a few pantry staples. 

Hold onto your hats because this is a long post.  I'll try and arrange it in simple, logical steps.  First you make a sauce, then you get your veggies/protein (if using) ready, then assemble your rolls

For the sauce you need.... soy sauce, rice vinegar, fish sauce and sugar (oops forgot that in the picture)
 In a small bowl add 2 Tbl soy sauce
 1 Tbl Rice Vinegar
 1 Tbl Fish Sauce
 1 tsp sugar
 Give that a mix until the sugar is dissolved
 Grab some bean threads.  There are 3 "bundles" in the pack.  I only used 1.
Put them in a bowl and cover them with hot water until they're soft.
 like this
 Next your filling.  I used some thinly sliced precooked chicken, bean sprouts, grated carrot, chopped green onion, cilantro and basil.  My little prep bowls hold 1 cup.  Spring Rolls are very forgiving and you can pretty much put anything in them you want.  Have fun.

 If  you're the sort of person that needs measurements..... add 1 cup bean sprouts to the bowl with the bean threads
 3/4 cup thinly sliced cooked chicken.  Mine is boiled but you could use roasted.
 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
 1 cup grated carrot
 1 cup chopped green onion
 Mix the filling and pour the sauce over it
 Mix it all together.  You really want everything incorporated otherwise you'll get some rolls with mainly bean sprouts and some with mainly basil, etc.  You get the picture.
 Now get a bowl of hot water and place a rice paper wrapper in it to soften.  Sorry I forgot to take a picture of what I used.  The package will say "Fresh Spring Roll Wrappers" or something to that affect.
 Place your softened wrapper on a clean surface.  Put in some filling.  How much depends on how full you want your roll to be.  You do want to put it toward the bottom (the end closest to you).
 Fold the bottom and edges in tightly and roll to the top.  You may need to use a little water to seal them.  Now if only TGIM hadn't gobbled them up as I was rolling them I could have had a picture for you.
 Manage to get one on your plate before they're all gone.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.  Mine is Sweet Chili Sauce and you'd totally be able to see if if I hadn't used a red plate.