Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Using Whatcha Got. And make.

Every once in a while I am suddenly struck by how DIFFERENT my life is now compared to a year ago. Just moments ago I was chatting with a friend about how much of a struggle it is for me to get up and to work by 8AM now. Less than a year ago I was out of bed and at Curves by 6AM most mornings, and on the bus by 7:25AM or I was late! My current jobs offer me very little consistency, but one thing that has happened is that I'm now used to work second shifts. I am a counselor at a 24 hour residential community for teenagers, and the majority of my shifts are 3:30PM-12:30AM. When we switch shifts, I often end up donating 15-30 minutes (or more) to get the next worker caught up on what is going on with the students, and since I live about 15 minutes outside of Houghton, I consider it a job well done if I'm in bed and sleeping before 2. On the other hand, I work in infant/toddler and preschool classrooms that are open from 8-6. Whenever I am scheduled to be in at 8 (or the super painful 7:45!) I inwardly cringe JUST a bit. But I've become a machine, and I can work almost any shift without much trouble now, so huzzah. This week I happen to be tapped to work Tuesday through Friday at 8, and even though I am able to get to bed earlier on the days I'm not working with the teenagers, I find it's very difficult for me to fall asleep, which is a bummer.

I've found that having something to look forward to can help me get out of bed, and my new favorite breakfast is overnight oatmeal, sometimes called summer porridge. I've mentioned that Martin and I have started to make greek yogurt at home, and this recipe is the main reason we looked into making it ourselves in the first place! This is the recipe for greek yogurt that we have been using, but there are a lot of great recipes out there! I liked this one the most because I'm obsessed with my slow cooker, and also because I don't have a candy thermometer and I'm not confident that I will know what 200 degrees looks like by sight! :) 

Our first batch was a total bust in terms of thickness. We managed to make yogurt, but it was quite thin and never got thicker. We are not sure if it is because we used skim milk or if the yogurt that was used as starter cultures wasn't fresh enough, so we tried a slightly different approach the second time. I know that there are a LOT of yogurt makers out there that swear that whole milk is the way to go, but I'm not one of them! I declared that I would never use anything more than 1% milkfat, so 1% it was!

Investing in our local dairy products! 

I had a typically ridiculous yooper experience when I went to the closest grocery store to our house to get the milk and a single starter yogurt, of course! A store clerk was stocking yogurts when I came by to grab a plain greek yogurt. I scanned the rows of Fage, Okios, Greek Gods, and Chobani, and much to my dismay I did not see a SINGLE plain yogurt! How could this be?? I scanned again and also checked for vanilla, since someone specifically asked if vanilla would work in the comment section of the recipe I use. Surely there would be vanilla. No vanilla. No lemon. Not a single variety that didn't say "fruit on the bottom" or had artificial flavors or dyes in it. By now the store clerk had noticed (and probably heard) my distress, and asked if I was looking for something in particular. When I told him what I was looking for, he glanced at his cart of Yoplait Lights, and told me that they didn't have what I was looking for. Not one to accept defeat, I decided that I would make do with what I DID have, and took a peach fruit on the bottom yogurt with the plan that I would scrape the half cup of plain greek yogurt I needed off the top. That's "Yopper Genius" in action people! I grabbed a half gallon of the local dairy, Jilbert's, 1% milk and headed home to create yogurt. Upon suggestion of fellow yogurt makers, I did NOT crank the heat as I had planned, but rather increased the cooking time of the milk by an hour, so I was whisking my scraped yogurt and milk combo by 10PM. I had to work at 8 the next morning, so I started the draining process (we use paper towels rather than cheesecloth) and Martin filled our tubs with four perfect cups of greek yogurt the next day! And we all lived happily ever after. 

The first recipe I linked to, the summer porridge, really WAS the genesis of this yogurt making adventure. Not to make me sound like a crunchy, granola, yogurt making, co-op owning backwoods person, but this oatmeal is SO healthy, and SO easy, and SO satisfying, but SOOOO expensive! Every jar has a quarter cup of greek yogurt, a third of a cup of milk, and one and a half teaspoons of chia seeds in it! Not to mention the produce costs... we love this stuff, but were looking for a way to cut back on costs. A two cup tub of greek yogurt costs around $5 here, and we can now make four cups of yogurt for the cost of milk, which is less than $2. We got the chia seeds on sale at the co-op, so we stocked up and are set for a while! 

The oatmeal is positively wonderful, and stored in the cutest like half pint mason jars this side of ever. We even whipped up some oatmeal for my mom and dad when they visited a few weeks ago, and they liked it so much my mom left with half pint jars of their own to try this at home! We are particularly partial to the rasperry vanilla variety, but we really do love them all. We were blessed with a haphazard garden when we bought our house, and last year we had more raspberries than you could shake your fist at! We're just PRAYING that will happen this year! We also had the sweetest strawberries I've ever tasted, and plan on making our own recipe for summer porridge! I'll let you know what we come up with! 

YUM! Raspberry Vanilla Overnight Oatmeal!
Believe it or not, OURS are even CUTER! 
We have these squat square half pints! SQUEE!

Speaking of our garden, I've strong armed... no, forced... no, ASKED Martin to be a guest blogger on here to talk about one of the ways we are using our overabundance of rhubarb tomorrow! It will be an all things rhubarb extravaganza! I know you can hardly wait, right?

Yooper love! 

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