Katie Green's Food Blog: Yogurt and Granola
I made it back from the Canadian Prairies, where the heat and humidity were unreal. Sadly, the igloos did not make it. On the bright side, the mosquitoes certainly did. Such trip highlights included a sign in the indoor pool area of my grandmother's assisted living facility that was more detailed than your typical hotel pool rules. I wanted to include the picture of my grandmother leading my mom and aunt in an aquasize routine, but doing so would inevitably lead to me being unwelcome in their homes for all eternity.
Other highlights (though it's hard to beat the aquasize):
Visiting with my cousin's family after they stopped by on their move to Ottawa (Canada's capital - no, it's not Toronto).
And riding on my dad's boat to Fisherman's Wharf in Steveston, BC to get dinner (little sister pictured below).
I also couldn't resist purchasing some Dario's, the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders' quarterback's cereal. After sampling the cereal, its intriguing taste may explain the team and quarterback's downfall in the early part of the season, if, in fact, he is consuming his own cereal for breakfast.
Now onto the all-powerful yogurt, as it is loaded with protein, calcium, and magnesium. The reports that it improves digestion are linked to the active bacteria cultures it contains. While consuming yogurt has been linked to weight loss, store-bought flavored yogurt is often loaded with sugar. Thus, you get the health benefits, but at somewhat of a high cost. You can avoid this by buying plain yogurt or making your own. Homemade yogurt is much cheaper, tastier and also environmentally friendly as you're not buying all of those containers. (Yogurt containers are usually recyclable - if they have either a "2" or "5" on the bottom.)
The taste and texture of your homemade yogurt will depend on the starter yogurt/culture (introduces the good bacteria into the milk) and the milk that you use in addition to how long you heat the milk and ferment the yogurt for, so this is where your need to experiment comes in. I prefer Safeway's Lucerne plain fat-free yogurt as my starter as it has a good texture and isn't tangy like many other plain fat-free yogurts. If you buy a large container, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray, and place the cubes in a Ziploc bag to use as starter cultures for future batches.
Making yogurt requires keeping the concoction at about 110 deg for 6-10 hours so that the fermentation can take place as bacteria cultures reproduce most optimally at this temperature. This can be done with a yogurt maker (purchased at most kitchen stores or online for $20-30), in an oven if it goes low enough, or with a heating pad contraption (look up Alton Brown Yogurt recipe from the Food Network). If you're committed to your homemade yogurt, buying a yogurt maker is a worthwhile investment. Homemade yogurt can also be flavored (search for recipes online), although I prefer to add blueberries and walnuts to the plain yogurt rather than flavoring the yogurt itself.
Thermometer and yogurt maker/heating pad contraption required.
Slowly heat the milk in a pot on the stove over medium heat, stirring frequently as it will scorch. Once the milk reaches 185-200 deg F (will start to froth), pour into a bowl and let cool to 100-110 deg F (can place the bowl in an ice water bath to speed up this process, stirring often). To create a thicker yogurt, keep the milk at 185 deg for 30 minutes before cooling.
In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of the heated milk with the starter culture/yogurt.
Add mixture to bowl with heated milk and mix well. Whisk in milk powder if using. Divide into yogurt maker containers and ferment for 6-10 hours (8 works for me).
During this time, the bacteria will be eating the sugar in the milk (lactose), causing it to thicken. The tangy taste of yogurt is also produced in this process, resulting from the lactic acid that is created as the lactose is eaten. When finished, put the lids on the containers and place immediately into the fridge to cool. You can use the homemade yogurt 2-3 times as the starter yogurt for the next batch. Using it more than this will yield a poorer texture.
The yogurt can also be strained using cheesecloth to remove the whey. It will then have thicker consistency and can be used in place of cream cheese in dips or spreads.
This homemade granola contains no added oil or sugar (aside from molasses), and can be customized to add whatever nuts and dried fruits you like or have available.
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Spray 2 baking sheets with Pam.
In a large bowl, combine oats, wheat germ, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts, seeds, and coconut.
In a medium bowl, combine flaxseed, molasses, applesauce, maple syrup and extracts.
Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Spread evenly and as thinly as possible onto 2 baking sheets.
Bake for 45 minutes. Every 15 minutes, mix the granola in the pan and break up large chunks, while also rotating pans. This will ensure even cooking so every piece has the perfect level of crunchiness.
Monitor granola after 40 minutes as cooking times will vary. Once granola is crisp and crunchy (but not burnt!), remove from the oven and let cool on baking sheets. Once cooled, pour into a large bowl and mix with the dried fruit. Best consumed within a few days but will last 1-2 weeks in an airtight container. Tastes great on top of homemade plain yogurt.
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