Monday, September 30, 2013

Making Greek Yogurt

My kids eat a lot.  No really, A LOT.  The other night, I pulled out a package of hot dogs for them, and some chicken for us....between the three of them, they ate all 10 hotdogs in the package.  Brahm won with FOUR.  

We got hooked on Greek yogurt a year or so ago, and started buying it to eat for lunch.  Don't get me wrong--I rationed the yogurt--we'd share two 6 oz. Chobani's between the 5 of us.  But we were still spending anywhere from $6-10 a week on it!  One day, my friend told me how she makes her own yogurt--and she even flavors it with coffee!  I was intrigued.  That day, we bought a $40 yogurt maker on Amazon.  We'd easily pay it off in a month or two!

It took a few weeks to perfect the yogurt, but we finally figured it out.  Here is how WE make it, but I'm guessing that it may be a bit different depending on the size and model of your maker.  Also, I know there is a way to do it without--just by using your oven, but we opted for the maker because we use our oven almost every day.  Anyway--here's the process:

1.  Heat up 4 cups (for MY maker, but there are larger ones available) of milk (you can use any kind, from skim to whole.  We have found that we like Braum's the best!  Also, the higher milk fat you use, the less you need to cook it....we usually use 1% or whole, because that's what we have on hand...).  Add 1 1/2 t. gelatin (again, bought ours on Amazon) to the milk and whisk every few minutes until it reaches a temperature between 160-170 degrees F.  Don't boil it.  

2.  After it has reached that temperature, remove from heat, and add flavorings.  We always just add about 1/4 c. honey and 1 tsp. pure vanilla, and that way it is a little sweet, and we can add fruit/granola later.  Whisk milk again and then set in fridge for 2-3 hours until it has cooled down to around 50 degrees.  (If it is too hot, it will kill the live culture that you'll be adding next).

 3.  Take milk out once it's cooled and add 1/4 c. (approximately) of plain yogurt WITH live cultures.  Sometimes I have to buy a container, but usually I just reserve a little bit of whatever is leftover from our previous batch and add it in.  Whisk together. 

4.  Pour into a container, and put into the yogurt maker.  (Our maker came with individual 6-oz glass jars, but I prefer to use a large crock, that way I can strain it to make it thick, like Greek yogurt.)  Cook for 18-24 hours.  (I usually shoot for about 21 hours.)

5.  Once it has cooked, dump the yogurt into a strainer covered in a tea towel or muslin cloth to strain it.  I have a large tea towel that I fold up so that there are several layers, then pour in the yogurt to strain out the whey.  I leave that in there for 20-30 minutes.  If you want it runnier, you don't have to strain it.  If you leave it in TOO long, it will be cheese.  :-)  Once you have strained it, pour into a container and refrigerate until you're ready to eat it.  I like to put it in the fridge for at least a couple hours, that way it sets up nicely.  

It seems complicated, I know.  But really, once you do it several times, it becomes easy and seriously, saves a LOT of money!  Once recipe costs me $1 at the most.  If I had to do anything differently, I would have bought an 8-cup maker, rather than a four....but oh well.  We love the yogurt--and the extra savings!

Monday, September 9, 2013

First Days of School {2013}

Well, we are off and running in our school year.  Oliver started a few weeks back, and Lily has been in school for 3 mornings now.  They were both so excited to start this year, which makes sending them that much easier.  

Oliver is in first grade in Mrs. Bartel's class this year, along with many of his friends from kindergarten.  We LOVE this school.  Everything is hands-on, they work with animals, chore, sell things, etc.  And this year--his teacher plays guitar!!!  :-)  

 At his request, we brought back the bus cake. 


(a funny side note on this picture:  we stopped here before school on that first day.  Then, when we picked Oliver up, Brahm walked right to the sign and turned around and smiled for a picture, then did the same thing the next morning!  So funny!)

And Oliver's interview for the year:

Two weeks after Oliver started, Lily got to have her first day of prekindergarten.  (If you call it preschool, she will correct you!)  She was SO ready to go back, and after day one, asked when she was going to start going full day....

She requested (at Daddy's prompting) bubble bread for the morning of...
Brahm wanted his picture taken in front of his bubble bread, too!

Lily sat down to take pictures and immediately turned around.  I asked what she was doing, she said, "Take a picture of my princesses!" 

 And Lily's favorites:

Saturday, September 7, 2013


 We ended our summer here with a shaving cream fight.  One of the last days before school started, we brought out the big guns (shaving cream) and sprayed.  It was fun.  The kids loved it!  And I think we may have started a new tradition...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Summer Vacation 2013

Last month we headed north again (well, much more east than north really...) to visit Joel's family.   We had SUCH an wonderful trip!  This has been the easiest traveling in a while--the kids slept perfectly, traveled amazingly, and had so much fun with cousins with no tears from any of them!  Even Brahm, who in his short little lifetime had been proving himself to be NOT a people-person, did so well, and loved all the extra attention.  We are so thankful.

Oddly enough, Brahm played with a giant embroidery hoop more than anything else.  It's the simple things!
We borrowed a DVD player for the trip, but forgot DVD's.  Thankfully, "Elf" was included in the borrowed DVD bag, so the kids got a lesson in awesome quotes.  Even Brahm loved it!

Our hotel the first night had a king bed.  A KING!  So all 4 of them got into the bed and pretended to be asleep.  That hotel was so nice--we love finding good deals that include a pool and full breakfast!  That night, we also went for a walk to a nearby casino with large flashing lights, like any good parents would do.  :-) 

Pit stop!

First stop:  Ohio to Karla's lakehouse.  We love spending a few days there each summer!  This year we spent lots of time on the lake...


On the boat...

And Oliver tried skiing!  


We also hung out at the house relaxing and playing with cousins.


Next, we drove back to northern Indiana to visit Joel's parents and other two sisters.  Even Joel's grandma was there!  Brahm had fun playing with beads with GG...
Lily playing carpet pool....
(have I mentioned that he lines things up?)  :-)

 Indiana has tall corn.  And corn in Indiana gets GREEN!  :-)

We went out for ice cream and bowling one night, too.  Both kids beat me.  NO KIDDING.

Joel surprised me with a quick 2-day trip to Chicago for our 11th anniversary.  (or maybe our 10th, which we missed because we gave each other Brahm!)  ;-)  

We took the North Shore train, which runs from just a few miles from his parents' place right into the city.  It was PERFECT!  And the kids were just fine spending time with Grandma and Grandpa--in fact, we had to CHASE THEM DOWN when we got back to get hugs.  Silly, independent children....

We did touristy things like the Field Museum, walked along the lake, went to Navy Pier, ate at Uno's pizza (in and out in under an hour, people! WE CAN EAT.)  
(okay, so TECHNICALLY, we didn't go to the Shedd Aquarium this time....there was a two-hour line OUT THE DOOR.)

Oh, and did I mention we were on the 14th floor of the Hyatt downtown? I almost fainted when we walked in to the room (which had floor-to-ceiling windows) and saw how high up we were.  I had to close the blinds with my eyes closed to keep from freaking out.  You'll be happy to know that I did eventually adjust to it, but still.  I'm pretty sure I couldn't live in a sky scraper.


We even found a 'field' of sunflowers right downtown!

We ate breakfast with my bro and his family near Millenium Park.  It was so fun.  And somehow, Tyler got ahold of my phone.  (grrrrr.....)  


We left VERY EARLY in the morning the day we came home.  We love doing that!  The kids slept for 5 of the 12 hours home! 
 Fog.  I was the only one in the car in awe of it.  It was so cool.  But we were driving THROUGH a cloud!  

Our favorite.  The kids love crossing the Mississippi!

Another year, another wonderful trip!