People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Friday, April 30, 2010

How to make your own Carrot Cake

Here is my recipe for making a carrot cake from scratch.  So far, so good. My kids and husband don't like nuts, so I didn't make this recipe with nuts, but you can add them if you like.  I also didn't add pineapple because the kids won't eat anything that may be slimy in the cake, so you can add a can of crushed pineapple that has been well drained if you like.

4 eggs
3/4 cups vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (the real one, not artificial)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I use the lower fat one, but it doesn't taste as good)
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, applesauce, brown  sugar and vanilla. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add to wet mixture and stir just until all flour is moistened (if you stir too much, it will be dense). Stir in carrots - just until mixed  in. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake. --- Just a small fyi: It's much easier to do if the cream cheese and butter have sat out until they reach room temp.  It's almost impossible if the butter is cold, and just harder if the cream cheese is cold.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How to make your own yogurt and yogurt cheese

Okay, this is how I make our yogurt.  I'll write down the small recipe, for those who don't go through as much, then the gallon of yogurt recipe.  Also, note at the end that I show you how to make yogurt cheese, which is quite good.  ---- and Greek Yogurt, which is so popular now.

Smallish amount of yogurt:

4 cups of milk (whole milk works best, but low fat is just fine)
1/2 cup of powdered milk
1/2 cup of plain yogurt that has active cultures (this is where you get your live cultures)
Some way to insulate your yogurt for 12 hours.  I use my crock pot because it is so insulated, and wrap it in a quilt - unplugged, of course.

First, many people will pasteurize the milk before making the yogurt.  I don't, but if you prefer, you will want to bring your milk up to 185 degrees F, then let it cool down to 120.  Otherwise, pour your milk and powdered milk  in a pan on the stove and slowly (stirring constantly) bring your milk up to 120 degrees F.  You do not want your stove on high, or it will scald your milk and make it taste nasty.  Do this slowly, while stirring, with your stove on medium. Once you hit 120F, turn the stove off and stir for another minute or so.  Grab your yogurt that you are using for culture and pour it in a bowl - then pour about a cup of your warmed milk in the bowl and stir them together until your yogurt is nice and runny.  This will keep it from clumping when you pour it in your milk mixture.  At this point, you want to pour the yogurt in your milk mixture, stir well, (if you want vanilla yogurt, or sweet yogurt, now is the time to stir in vanilla - and/or a quarter of a cup of sugar.  I prefer not to sweeten it.) and insulate your entire mix.  There are different ways to insulate it, including a commercial yogurt maker, a crock pot, etc.  I pour it in my warmed crock pot (not hot, just not cold), put the lid on, and wrap the whole thing in a quilt.  --- let sit undisturbed for 12 hours or so.   If you don't like tart yogurt, let it sit for 8 hours, if you like it really tart, let it sit more than 12 hours.
After the time is up, stir your yogurt and put it in your fridge --- it's ready!  When you want to eat it, you can add a sweetener and/or some fruit compote.  Sometimes we just add some jelly to it.

The gallon recipe:
1 gallon milk (whole works best, but low fat is just fine)
1 cup of powdered milk
1 cup of yogurt

Follow directions as above!  Again, I use my crock pot to insulate it (keeping it in the base, even). -- wrap it up really well with blankets, towels, whatever works.

Greek Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese:
Once your yogurt is done, grab a strainer, a coffee filter, and a bowl.  Put the coffee filter in the strainer, and keep the strainer over the bowl.  Pour as much of your yogurt as will fit in the strainer/coffee filter, and place in the fridge (keeping it over the bowl of course).  This will strain some of the whey off so that your yogurt is thick.  In a few hours, it should be thick enough, but if not, leave it longer.

If you are making yogurt cheese, do as above but leave it there for 12 hours or more.  I've left it straining for more than 24 hours.

Throw that whey in your smoothie or something, so it's not wasted!  It's very healthy.

*It sounds harder than it is, but I can assure you that the second time around, it's super easy.  Once you get the hang of it, you don't even measure.... just eyeball it and it only takes a few minutes once your milk is heated.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How to make your own laundry detergent

I've been trying to make everything myself, and here is the laundry detergent I've been making.  It's surprisingly easy, sort of fun, and works just as good as Tide.

What you need:
You will need a bar of soap.  I smell the different soaps and decide from there.  Right now, I'm using Lever 2000, cause I liked the smell that day.
About a quarter of a bar of Fels-Naptha soap, found in the laundry detergent section of your grocery store.  I got mine at Kroger, on the top shelf.
1 cup of washing soda
1/2 cup of Borax  --- both of which can also be found in the laundry detergent section of your local grocery store.
A bucket
A pot

First, you'll want to put about 4 cups of water in the pot, on the stove, so it will start heating up while you are doing the next step.
Then, you really want a food processor for this:  Shred your bar of soap and 1/4 bar of Fels-Naptha.
Once shredded, slowly add to the water while stirring.  Keep stirring every few minutes, and watching your pot, until the soap shreds are dissolved and you have soap soup.
Add about 3.5 gallons of hot water to your bucket, then pour your soap soup, your borax, and your washing soda in the bucket.  Stir well until all is mixed.  Put a lid on it and let set for 24 hours.  At this point, it will be all gel-like and funky looking.  That's all cool.  Just use a wire whisk or something and stir it up really well.  I pour some into an old laundry detergent bottle so it's easy when I want to use it, and use 1-2 capfulls of the laundry soap mix per load.