Category Archives: Cooking

Happy Turkey Day!

Just a quick reminder that my 2014 nature photography calendars (choose between five different themes) are available for sale. Look in the side sidebar of my blog for the most up-to-date discount coupon code (usually between 20 and 50% off). All calendars are made to order in the USA so you support the US economy with your purchase, and a self-employed single mom (me!). I also appreciate any referral through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and of course your blog or website.

To make this cute little turkey below, you need a red apple, big and small marshmallows, cranberries, raisins, a gummy worm and toothpicks. This is a fun craft project for the kids for Thanksgiving!

To make this cute little turkey below, you need a red apple, big and small marshmallows, cranberries, raisins, a gummy worm and toothpicks. This is a fun craft project for the kids for Thanksgiving!

I want to wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving. My sister is visiting us and she’s going to get a chance to have a real Thanksgiving meal. Well, “real” may not be exact since I do use some of the same ingredients but I change the recipes. I guess you can call it a French-American Thanksgiving meal!

I’m thankful for many things this year, but here are just a few that come to mind:

  • I’m thankful for my health.
  • I’m thankful for my kids. They are my rock and I’m so proud of them and how they’re growing up.
  • I’m thankful for my kids’ teachers, who do such an awesome job every day.
  • I’m thankful for the internet, which has opened up so many opportunities to connect with people from all over the world for work or leisure.
  • I should add I’m thankful for WiFi, especially when it’s free.
  • I’m thankful for the new work clients who gave me their trust this year.
  • I’m thankful for my camera and the great pictures it lets me take.
  • I’m thankful for PiBoIdMo 2013 (Picture Book Idea Month), which gave me the opportunity to come up with so many book ideas in just 30 days. I’m now motivated to start working on a manuscript for several of them in 2014.
  • I’m thankful for books. All sorts of books, for adults and for children, funny books, sad books, books about real stuff, books about made-up stuff…

What are you thankful for this year?

By the way, we have a white board at our house on which I draw a new picture every few days, usually something funny or unexpected. My 5-year old didn’t seem very impressed with my turkey drawing (I found the original online), which was apparently “BORING!”, so he asked if he could add some “color” to the picture. He ended up with a Thanksgiving, Fourth of July (fireworks), Christmas (snowman) and Easter (basket and Easter eggs) picture. I’m not sure what that holiday would be called, but I think it would be… amazing! Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day!

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I made my own yogurt and you can too!

A few years ago, I gave up on yogurt. Actually I didn’t give up on all yogurt, but mostly on the regular American yogurt. Coming from France, where yogurt is king (or queen, if you’re dairy), it’s been hard to adjust to the reality of American yogurt. I have to admit, the American yogurt aisle has greatly expanded since I moved to the US 20 years ago, but still it bares no comparison to the supermarket double-aisle long displays of yogurt and dairy desserts I grew up with. By the way, did you notice all yogurts seem to be the same here, by the way? Sweetened (with real or fake sugar), 0 or 1% fat, very little protein? Compare one of those nutrition labels to one for plain yogurt and you’ll notice plain is the way to go.

And there lies my problem. Plain yogurt here, unless you want to spend $6 a tub for the expensive (=good) stuff, doesn’t taste good. At all. It’s sour, pasty, not creamy (even the 2%). I think that’s why Greek yogurt is so popular today. It actually tastes great compared to that blah yogurt. So I’ve had a dilemma for years. I love yogurt. Well, good yogurt, that is. But the one at the grocery store is inedible. Oh, what to do? Every year, I’ve considered buying myself a yogurt maker and making my own yogurt. But every time I read reviews, I’ve been disappointed. Either the machine can get too hot and kill the cultures, or it is too cold and takes forever to make yogurt. I couldn’t pick one model without worrying of making the wrong choice.

Lightbulb momentAnd then, a few weeks ago, I had a lightbulb moment. How did people make yogurt before they could buy it at the store, or use a yogurt maker? Humans have been making yogurt for thousands of years. There has to be a better way! And so I googled my way through the history and science of yogurt and discovered that many people out there are making their own yogurt with no fancy yogurt making machines.

So I tried it out the first time. It came out PERFECTLY. Since then, I’ve made more, and it tastes delicious every time. I bought some freezer jam BPA-free cups to use until my yogurt cups arrive from Amazon. The new cups are tall and skinny and they’ll fit in my fridge perfectly.

So, would you like to make your own yogurt too? Here’s my recipe for homemade yogurt. No yogurt maker needed! You can multiply the recipe to get the amount of yogurt you want. 1 cup of milk = 1 cup of yogurt.

Prep time: 30 minutes max

Cooking time: 6 to 10 hours

Ingredients:
– 1 cup of milk (1%, 2% or whole)
– 1 tablespoon of store bought yogurt, OR 1 tablespoon of yogurt from the previous batch, OR 1 probiotic pill containing about 3 billion of several types of cultures (the more cultures, the better the taste)
– 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional) – to me, it tastes delicious this way!
– 1 teaspoon of powdered milk (optional)

Directions:
1) Scold the milk on the stove or in the microwave to reach a temperature of 170 to 180 degrees (about 5 minutes, more if you use more milk). Even if you use pasteurized milk, I recommend you scold it. It helps your yogurt not be runny.
2) Let the milk cool down (about 30 minutes), adding the optional sugar and powdered milk.
3) When the milk reaches 110 degrees, add the yogurt or probiotic pill contents.
4) Pour milk in large container or individual containers. Make sure the containers you use are filled almost to the top.

Pour the milk mixture in the yogurt containers

Pour the milk mixture in the yogurt containers

5) If using small containers, place them in a flat dish so they don’t spill when you move them around.
6) Heat up a microwaveable heating pad in the microwave. You can also use an electric heating pad you can turn on and off. Or you can use a crockpot on low and place your containers in there. Just make sure the milk doesn’t go over 110 degrees.

Use a heating pad to keep your yogurt warm

Use a heating pad to keep your yogurt warm

7) Place heating pad at bottom of the cooler bag. Place yogurt containers on top, then cover with a towel. Seal the cooler bag closed.
8) Place cooler bag by a sunny window or outside in the sun, or a warm place inside. If the inside of the bag feels cool after a few hours, warm up the heating pad again, and seal everything.

Place cooler bag in a warm place

Place cooler bag in a warm place

9) After about 8 hours (more or less), you’ll have yogurt! Refrigerate for a few hours before eating.
10) If you want Greek yogurt, you can strain this yogurt through a cheesecloth for a few hours to separate the whey.

I promise this will be the BEST yogurt you’ll ever eat! Have you tried making your own yogurt before, yogurt maker or not?

Delicious homemade yogurt!

Delicious homemade yogurt!

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Fresh

Today I’m participating in the WordPress weekly photo challenge and this week’s theme is “fresh”. I thought I’d focus on the fresh produce we grow in our garden and some of the kid-friendly fresh foods we prepare in our kitchen. Warning: if you’re hungry at the beginning of this post, you may be starving by the time you reach the end.

I love growing bright red cherry tomatoes in the garden. The only problem is, the darn squirrels love them too. And unlike me, they have no problem eating them if they’re not completely ripe. I do get lucky when I get to see cherry tomatoes get this red. Delightfully refreshing in the summer.

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Fresh cherry tomatoes

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Fresh cherry tomatoes

The squirrels will let me grow a few things without touching them too much, mostly zucchini and green chard. I love cooking the chard, then add heavy cream, garlic and salt. It just melts in your mouth!

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Fresh green chard

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Fresh green chard

When I have some time in the morning, I love to make pancakes with my youngest, who’s my sous chef in the kitchen. Don’t these fresh blueberry pancakes look yummy? That’s because they were!

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Fresh blueberry pancakes

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Fresh blueberry pancakes

A few months ago I tried making cinnamon rolls and I now understand why they’re so popular at the grocery store. Even though I used the bread machine to mix the dough and let it rise, it still took a long time and some work to make them. But you can’t beat the taste of fresh, homemade cinnamon rolls (with no frosting for us, thank you).

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Fresh homemade cinnamon rolls

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Fresh homemade cinnamon rolls

We like making pizza too, by just putting fresh tomatoes, olives and cheese on top of fresh whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. I haven’t tried making my own pizza dough yet, but I should. Can you smell that freshly baked homemade pizza?

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Freshly baked homemade pizza

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Freshly baked homemade pizza

Of course we love dessert, but in the summer one of the few baked desserts we’ll tolerate in the heat is a fresh mixed berry pie, full of berry juices. Mmmmm, I want to make one now!

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Freshly baked mixed berry pie

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Freshly baked berry piWordPress weekly photo challenge: Freshly baked mixed berry pie

What do you like to make fresh in your kitchen?