Alina Sewing and Design

How to: Make Greek Yogurt

I’ve been making my own greek yogurt for almost a year now. I make a new batch every week, so I always have it on hand for breakfast (with homemade granola, yum!) or can use it as a base for dips, sauces, soups, smoothies, etc. I love having it…especially since I know it’s as pure as the milk I use and it only costs as much as a half-gallon of milk. I’ve had a myriad of friends and family ask me how it’s done, so after sharing it via e-mails and facebook messages, I decided I should just post it here and share it with all! 

You’ll need:

  • 8-cup glass bowl (Pyrex makes an 8-cup batter bowl with a lid–it works perfectly for this if you have one)
  • 8 cups (half-gallon) of milk of your choice (I prefer 2% because it doesn’t taste sour and is creamier, but you can do skim milk and you end up with 0% fat yogurt)
  • kitchen thermometer that goes up to at least 180 degrees
  • fine-mesh metal strainer (the bigger the weave of your strainer, the more milk solids will slip through, which you don’t want)
  • 1 Tbs. of plain yogurt (store-bought or you can use some from your last batch, once you get started, if it’s less than a week old)

Start by pouring the milk into your glass bowl. It’s not necessary to cover it, but I place the lid over the bowl (I don’t push it down and seal it) so that it heats up faster. (You can heat your milk over the stove, but you have to continually stir it, so I just like to put mine in the microwave and leave it.) Regardless of how you heat your milk, heat it to 180 degrees. This takes 13 minutes in my microwave, but microwaves can vary a lot, so you’ll have to check yours every couple of minutes the first time to make sure you’re not over-heating it…then, once you know, you know. You are denaturing the proteins in the milk, which opens them up to grow live cultures later in the process. 
Once it reaches 180, let it cool back down on your counter to 110-120 degrees. 
*Note: while your milk is cooling, it will likely develop a “skin” on the surface. Don’t mix this in or else you’ll have small pieces of it in your yogurt. Rather, just pull it to the side and scoop it off with a a spoon.
Stir in your Tbs. of yogurt–this is your live culture starter, so if the temp is above 120 degrees, you will effectively kill the culture and have to start all over. 
Now, you need to incubate it for 12-14 hours. I’ve done this in both the crock pot and in the oven and the oven works best for me. You need to keep it around 100-110 degrees the whole time, so that the bacteria can grow. Some ovens can be set as low as 100, mine cannot, so I place the lid back on my bowl, wrap it in a towel (not pictured), turn the oven on for 60 seconds to take the chill off, turn it off, turn the oven light on, place my bowl right in front of the oven light and close the oven for 12-14 hours. The light should keep it warm enough. (I always start my yogurt the day before and then it can just hang out overnight, so I don’t run the risk of needing my oven for something.)
Once it’s done incubating, it will be like one gelatinous solid (there will probably be some clear-yellowish liquid hanging out on top–that’s whey). If you just want yogurt, stop now–you have yogurt. If you want greek yogurt, proceed to strain off the whey, which is what makes greek yogurt so thick. 
Place your strainer inside of a bowl if you want to keep the whey (you can use it to make ricotta or, my favorite use, I substitute it for water in my whole-wheat bread recipes and it keeps the bread from becoming too dense!), otherwise just place it in the sink and pour your yogurt in. Try not to let it splash into the strainer, but pour it gently. Let it strain for an hour. 
Once it’s done straining, pour the yogurt into a bowl, letting it “fall” out of the strainer on its own…if you use a spatula to scrape it off, you will essentially scrape some of it through the strainer. 
(I pour my whey into a mason jar and refrigerate it until I’m ready to make bread!) 
Now you’ll whisk the yogurt until it’s smooth. Refrigerate it and once it’s cold, it’s all ready for you to add fruit, granola, honey, etc. or just eat it plain (or use it in recipes). It is SO handy to always have it in the fridge!

It sounds like an involved process, but once you do it, you’ll realize that your actual hands-on time is really minimal. If you’ve read all the way through this, you’ll have no problem. If you let yours incubate over night and think through having time to strain it when it’s done, it will be really simple to incorporate it into your weekly routine and you’ll be saving yourself a lot of money and will have pure greek yogurt!


Top Three Things I’ve Gained from Pinterest

What was life like before Pinterest? Dark? Lonely? Lacking in color?

I’m only kidding. Sort of.

I will say, though, that the world of Pinterest has connected me with other bloggers and projects and ideas I never would have otherwise known. There are some, however, that stand out more than others. So, I thought I’d round up my top three because, in my opinion, these are worth sharing.

1. Going ‘Poo-Free’

Yep. Weird, I know. Sounds weird if you don’t know what that is already…and maybe it sounds weird if you do know what it is already.

Now, I know and am prepared for you to judge me. That’s OK. But before I delve into this one, please let me defend myself on one important fact: I am not a granola-crunching, Birkenstock-wearing, save-the-environment, will-do-anything-in-the-name-of-healthy kind of person. Well, I do care about the environment and being healthy but I’m not an extremist by any means.

So, let’s carry on, shall we?

A few months ago, I was surfing around on the main page of Pinterest, looking at stuff people I don’t know had pinned. And I saw the words ‘Poo-Free’. Um, what the heck? I thought. So I clicked on it. A skeptic, I started reading about this lady who started using baking soda and vinegar in place of her store-bought shampoo and vinegar. What a weirdy…I thought. And then I got to the reasons WHY she did it. I’ll re-cap, but please read her blog for the full why and how-to.

The three reasons she (her blog is, btw) lists:

  1. Shampoo is a detergent
  2. Shampoo has all sorts of chemicals (um–read this if you want to know what kind of chemicals)
  3. Shampoo is an unnecessary cost
Then I read this one.
And then I read this one. I had just been thinking, vinegar? Stinky! when I read her recipe of a teaspoon of vanilla, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon to mask the vinegar smell. (P.S. This smells AWESOME.)
Well…those got me thinking. I have crazy oily hair…always have. And I lose approximately 28% of my hair down the drain every.single.time. For a girl with thin hair, this is NOT cool.
So I casually brought it up in conversation with Cowboy. Would he think I was crazy? Or weird and extreme? Or would he call off the wedding?

I’m only joking…sort of. So I sauntered through a conversation, throwing in the idea, moving on, then circling back to wonder aloud what he thought of the idea. He really 
So there I was, a month before the wedding. And I did it. And do you want to know what? I’m a believer…100%. Here’s why:
  1. It is CHEAP. I just bought a big box of baking soda for 56 cents. At a tablespoon per use, do you know how long that 56 cents is going to last me?
  2. It’s baking soda. If it’s healthy enough to be in my food (err…cookies), it will do zero harm to my skin or hair. Picture it (uh, or don’t)…your skin is wet, ready to soak in anything you give it. Hey, want to throw some laundry detergent on your head? Of course not! So why would you? 
  3. Speaking of skin–this one took me by surprise. Since I started running regularly a few years ago, I’ve gone through the worst break-outs on my shoulders and chest (sorry, tmi). When I started half-marathon and full-marathon training, you KNOW all hell broke loose. I would shower as soon as possible to get the grime off, but apparently, the shampoo was only agitating it more. When I switched to baking soda/vinegar, the break-outs stopped completely. NOT kidding.
  4. My hair is was painlessly limp, flat and thin. Now? Not at all. It has a certain healthy body to it. I can’t explain it, but it’s like my hair was depressed by shampoo (regardless of brand…you name it, I’ve tried it!) and then when I took it away, it threw a party and started doing whatever I wanted it to. 
  5. Want more proof? So I wouldn’t have to mess with it when we went on our honeymoon (uh, baking soda + squeeze bottles of water + vinegar + carry on = no thank you), I packed travel sized bottles of regular shampoo and conditioner. Big mistake. I literally undid everything. My hair freaked out and stayed freakishly close to my head, I was attacked by a static monster, and my skin went on strike in form of major break-outs. You know I kissed the baking soda when I got home.
If you want more info, let me know, but I think the three blogs I linked to above will do more to answer your questions than I ever could.
2. DIY Pore Strips
Also beauty-routine-related, this one has absolutely nothing to do with chemicals and everything to do with budget. You know those pore deep-cleansing strips? You know…the ones you pay $18 for 10 chances to rip the skin on your nose off?
Yeah…I happen to (much to my bank account’s and nose’s demise) love those.
So when I saw that you could make your own pore cleansing mask (read: not just your nose!) for a few cents, I ran to the store like a mad woman looking for unflavored gelatin. One package of unflavored gelatin + a tablespoon or 2 of milk + a few seconds in the microwave. That’s all. Read the original post here.
3. Homemade Greek Yogurt
OK, so I, like many of you, really like the idea of eating natural, non-processed foods…no fillers, no preservatives, no fake sugar. I REALLY like that idea…and more often than not, I try to hold our meals to these standards. You feel better when you eat healthy…you just do. Better enough that the thought of fast food makes my stomach churn. But, there’s a certain cost to eating healthy. And we all know, as exhibited by Whole Foods scheme to take the economy down one kale leaf at a time, that organic is usually better…but WAY more expensive. 
So when I saw this tutorial/recipe for homemade greek yogurt, I thought, you can DO that?! So I read through the directions. Meh…seemed like a lot of work to me, but thoughts of no preservatives and half-priced greek yogurt conned me into trying it. Turns out, it was actually the number of steps that had conned me. It is SUPER easy, you guys! Actual hands-on time is very minimal. I’ve done it both in a crock pot and in the oven. That means greek yogurt for the cost of a half-gallon of milk (so, usually half of what a container of store-bought greek yogurt would cost), and NO preservatives, fake sugars or  fake “fruit”! 
And then sometimes the stars align and this happens:

Yep…I made a batch of greek yogurt for 50 cents that week.
So what about you guys? What kind of tutorials/recipes/ideas/blogs has Pinterest introduced to you that has pretty much blown your mind and changed your world?

Adventures in Pinterest

On a recent weekend (OK, a few weeks ago), Krissy and I decided to try two recipes we had seen on Pinterest. You see, Krissy and Alex are currently mid-kitchen-remodel and have no working kitchen yet. No kitchen counter, no kitchen sink, no oven, no dishwasher (she’s been washing the dishes in the bathroom sink and bathtub for weeks now!)…get the picture?? So when I joined them, all we could use was the grill and bathroom counter space. The two recipes we wanted to try just happened to use both of those (OK, so I’ve never really seen a recipe that calls for a bathroom counter, but you now what I mean…right?? right.)

Here’s how it went:
Krissy decided on a margherita pizza, so she prepared the tomato, basil, garlic, spices, cheese and dough…

 Then she taught me how to test the grill’s heat (one second or less = REALLY hot, 2-3 seconds = medium and longer than that means the heat is low…heh).

 She prepped the dough, brushing one side with oil…

And then when it came time to flip it over onto the grill…it stuck. BIG TIME. We eventually managed to spread it out…of. (Did you know if you try to “spread” sticky dough onto a hot grill, it starts sinking through the grate? Yeah. It does.)

 When we tried to flip it, it turned into this:

 Even with three adults and three utensils…that bad boy was not coming up and flipping over in one piece. (Do you see all of the dough that fell through onto the coals??)

 But, when life handed us strips of dough, we made cheese bread.

 Simply put, the dough needed more flour. Attempt #1 at grilling pizza was unsuccessful, but we will conquer this…another night!

Moving onto dessert (and into the bathroom). See? Dishes drying on the bathroom counter.

We pulled out the blender, dumped our oreos in and…nothin’. Nada. Oh, it was blending alright….a bunch of air! You definitely need a food processor for this.

 It ended up being faster to crush the oreos by hand with a fork, so that’s what we did!

Once we finally got the Oreos crushed, this dessert was DELICIOUS and so easy! I will definitely be making it again.

P.S. This was also the night I turned into the crazy stick lady. ha! What a night.

Anyone else had any Pinterest flops lately?

Homemade Pita Bread

Pita pockets
Last week, I mentioned that Lauren pins some of the best recipes. This homemade pita bread recipe was one of them. I had hummus in the fridge, so when I saw this, I went straight to the kitchen.
Let me just say…less than an hour later, I had THE most delicious pita bread. All from items I already had in my kitchen. I love finding a recipe that uses minimal, simple, and everyday ingredients. I also love that she breaks down the cost of her recipes. This one only comes to 78 cents for the entire batch and 10 cents a serving. Even better!
Go check out her blog, Budget Bytes, and think of this recipe next time you are craving something simple!

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Happy Friday, friends!
Today I thought I would share a favorite of mine and Cowboy’s. We both prefer cooking at home over eating out. For me, it’s both a matter of saving money and knowing what’s in the food I’m eating. Not that we never eat processed foods (the BBQ sauce is, in fact, store-bought and I’m sure nowhere near healthy), but I like keeping those items to a minimum. 
One day in February, we had a massive snow storm in the Kansas City area and, when my office closed its doors for the day, I got a full-blown adult snow day. It.was.AWESOME. Since roads were bad and pretty much every business was closed (even Wal-Mart closed!), we needed to make a dinner with what we had. Luckily, I had all of the ingredients for Krissy’s from-scratch pizza dough, so I looked to see what else I had. I found mozzarella, BBQ sauce and had a bag of frozen chicken. Hence…a BBQ chicken pizza was born.
I boiled the chicken & shredded it, then layered the BBQ sauce, shredded chicken and mozzarella on top of the already-baked pizza crust. Ten minutes later (once the cheese was melted and golden), we had this beauty!
So maybe this is less a recipe and more a lesson on cooking with what you have when you get stuck inside on a snow day. (Prep for the winter that seems like it will never come, I suppose!)
What kind of foods have you guys made up on the spot?

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Sorry for the off-color picture…I only snapped a photo with my camera phone to gloat to my facebook friends. Ha!

A few years back, I took a cooking class. Women from my church brought their own recipes and then taught us how to make them. One week we made potstickers (chinese dumplings…delicious!!!), one week we made the BEST strawberry and walnut spinach salad and one week we made these amazing homemade cinnamon rolls. To.die.for. Don’t let this recipe scare you…it’s really quite simple! And don’t let the use of yeast scare you–so many times I see and hear people shy away from recipes that use yeast simply because they’re unfamiliar with it. Don’t be scared!
This recipe makes 2 dozen rolls (unless you make them a bit larger) – the rolls in the photo above are all from one batch!

Cinnamon rolls:

  • 2 packs yeast (2-1/4 tsp = 1 pack)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (not hot)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 cups warm milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2-3 cups of flour, more as needed
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (add more as needed)
  • Cinnamon & sugar
  • 2 lb. bag of powdered sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup milk, adding more as needed (more milk = thinner glaze)
  • I have also substituted just a titch of coffee before…mm-mmm!
How to do it:
  1. Mix water and yeast together. 
  2. Add sugar and salt and mix well.
  3. Add milk, eggs and mace/nutmeg.
  4. Add flour and oil and stir well. Continue to add flour until your dough is no longer sticky.
  5. Pour out onto a well-floured counter and knead.
  6. Place in well-oiled bowl, oil top of dough and cover with a warm, wet towel.
  7. Let the dough ride until it has doubled in size, punch down and let it rise for a second time.
  8. When the dough is ready, roll out into a rectangular shape. Brush your dough with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar mixture.
  9. Roll the dough into a log and slice into rolls with a dough scraper. Arrange in a pan (or two) and bake at 350 until golden.
  10. Remove from the oven and brush the tops with (more) butter.
  11. Drizzle with glaze or your favorite icing and ENJOY!
See?! Easy as pie! (Errr…rolls.)
A big thanks to Shawna Williams for sharing her recipe! She’s such a gem!


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