I went to Costco this weekend. Which I really didn’t want to do, because Weekend + Costco = 12-layer Crazy Cake, but, we were out of eggs, flour and sugar.
Let’s be honest here: A lot of us “peek” as shopping carts wheel past us. I too can be fascinated by the choices others make. And sometimes I wonder why somebody buys what they buy. The answer is usually really simple: Because they don’t know there’s an alternative, nor do they WISH to know, so, ZIP IT, CRAZY LADY.
But as I was charging around snagging things off the shelves and racing for the finish line, I bumped up against somebody who was stunned to discover that a) #10 cans of tomato sauce existed and b) they were significantly cheaper than the 6-packs of the same exact brand.
This week, the #10 can of S&W tomato sauce was $2.49. They also had a 12-pack of the same stuff for $6.99. A #10 can holds 106 ounces, making the cost per ounce about two cents. The 12-pack of 14.5 ounce cans comes to 174 ounces, or four cents per ounce.
Which calculations were done on my phone while a fellow mom looked on in wonder. We then discussed the various uses for “that much” tomato sauce, and how to manage what you didn’t use that very day when you opened the can.
The idea that you could simply take a few quart-sized Ziploc bags, put 2-4 cups of sauce in each one, lay it flat in the freezer, and have a minimal-footprint supply of frozen spaghetti sauce ready to go…was revolutionary.
I had a new best friend. She followed me around the warehouse watching every single thing I put in the cart, and wanting to know how I used it, how I stored it, why this not that, etc. etc. etc.
It was a stern reminder for me, actually. I tend to think of a lot of things as “obvious” that really aren’t…until somebody else points them out.
Like…yogurt. A lot of us like yogurt, as a snack or in recipes. Did you know it’s super easy to make at home? Seriously. This is all there is to it.
At the store, buy one small tub of plain, unsweetened yogurt; you want the kind with live, active cultures. I haven’t found that the starter yogurt having gelatin added hurts anything, but definitely no sweeteners or vanilla-flavoring! I generally grab the store’s generic plain yogurt, which runs about fifty cents when not on sale. (You can also buy yogurt starters if you either want different flavors or can’t find a yogurt that pleases you in the store – Cultures For Health has a variety of easy-to-use starters, both the kind you can perpetuate [e.g., make another batch from the batch you just made] or direct-set [you have to use fresh starter for each batch].)
Take the yogurt out of the fridge and set it on the counter to move toward room temperature. If you have an electric oven, turn on the oven light; if you have a gas one, the pilot light is probably enough to keep it at around 100 degrees (you can check that with an inexpensive thermometer) (I have two…because I have two malfunctioning ovens, awesome!!).
Take four cups of milk, and heat it to scalding (just starting to bubble around the edges, but not outright boiling); let it cool to between 90 and 110 degrees (you can put your [clean!!!] finger in it without yowling).
Stir the now-room-temperature yogurt into your cooled milk. Cleanliness is key here – make sure whatever container you’re using is super-clean, because what you’re going to do next is let it ferment for a good six to ten hours in your ~ 100 degree oven…prime temperature for all kinds of things to thrive, yogurt and otherwise. You do not want harmful bacteria to be joining the yogurt’s party!
Shorter fermentation results in a less-tangy end product; I usually go with ten full hours, which usually makes for a particularly tangy yogurt. Because I am a wild thing that way.
Then, carefully move it from the oven to the fridge – don’t stir, shake or otherwise agitate it! I’ve discovered through trial and error (mostly error) that if I don’t agitate it, I end up with a nice, thick, creamy yogurt. If I can’t resist the temptation to stir (or taste-test) it, I get a runnier version. It’s not bad, exactly, but I prefer the yogurt to resist the spoon a little bit when I’m using it.
You can also use a crockpot – preheat it while you’re scalding your milk, then mix the milk and yogurt in the crock, turn the crockpot off, put the lid on and wrap the whole thing in a nice warm towel for the duration.
I’ll stir in some fresh or frozen berries, homemade preserves, honey, vanilla or whatever for the ones that are snacks, and leave the rest as it is – set aside about half a cup of it for the next batch and you can be making homemade yogurt for a good long while. When you start getting “runny” or “flavorless” batches, it’s time for new starter…I generally get a good two months of weekly batches out of each $0.50 tub.
To me now…that’s so obvious.
But I was stunned when it was first pointed out to me a couple years ago that it was that easy to do.
Come right down to it, nothing I do is particularly hard, or requires skills only attainable after twenty years of meditation on the Holy Mountain.
It’s easy, practical stuff…it just takes time, and curiosity. The ability to laugh off your mistakes helps a lot, as does the ability to look at something from a variety of angles.
If you can do that, a lot becomes “obvious” that makes other people go, “Whoa, wait, what? You can do that? REALLY?!”
Which is a deeply satisfying feeling, by the way. Just sayin’.
This week’s meals are largely about getting large, bulky things out of my way in the freezer; we’re still down by one freezer and I need to clear some shelves so I can cook breakfasts and lunches ahead again!
Also, there is a lot of spinach going on right now. I just harvested thirty POUNDS of the stuff this weekend. Yoinks!!!!!
Monday: Leftover Extravaganza! (a.k.a., everybody forage, mommy is busy having a What Do You Mean I Hafta Work Tomorrow?! episode)
Tuesday: Balsamic-glazed pork roast, roasted red potatoes, spinach
Wednesday: Lamb roast, “Turkish” rice [rice with peas, slivered almonds, and other horrifying things in it] [the Denizens are not fans of ‘mixed up’ foods, but, they’ll just have to deal]
Thursday: Roast Chicken, [hopefully] Blue Nile potatoes [rogue potato plant ready to dig up – here’s hoping it actually has potatoes attached to it!], more spinach, yay!!
Friday: Beef Soup (crockpot, because I am always lazy on Fridays)
Saturday: Chicken pot pies
Sunday: Beef empanadas, Spanish rice