Making Cheese out of Yogurt

This is a wonderfully easy basic technique for making creamy cheese out of yogurt.
Use kefir, homemade yogurt, or store bought. I start out with 2 cups of yogurt/kefir

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Add about 1/2 a tbsp of salt, mix well, and pour into a cheesecloth, lining a strainer, sitting in a bowl.

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Now there are two options. Ideally you’d keep the whey that drips into the bowl, as it’s very nutritious. Add it to smoothies, cook with it, or drink it the way it is. I find that I end up with many jars of whey in my fridge that I just end up throwing out, so I skipped that stage this time, and tied the cheesecloth above my sink to drip

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I leave it there for a few hours, depending on the temperature in your house, and how thick you want your cheese. The longer you leave it, the “drier” it gets. We live in a hot and dry climate, so it took about 4 hours to reach the consistency that I wanted. I then scooped the contents into a bowl and refrigerate till ready to use.

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When I am ready to serve, I will sprinkle za’atar, which is a middle eastern spice-dried wild oregano, salt and sesame seeds, and paprika, then drizzle olive oil. Serve with fresh pita.

Low Fat Apple Crumble

I discovered this dish one year when looking for an easy coffee cake. All I had in hand was a few apples, an egg and some flour. I loved the simplicity of the recipe, and the “magic trick”. I’ve modified it a bit to suit my style, and it has been a hit ever since.

The trick is to let the apples (pears work well, too…), sit for an hour or preferably longer, soaked in a marinade of sugar and spices. For sugar you can use brown sugar, honey, or my favorite, which is Silan, a date honey. The marinade does two things. First, it allows the flavor to soak into the fruit, intensifying the natural flavors. Second, and here’s the magic, the apples will release their own liquid and sweetness, and will add to the marinade. This allows you to use less sugar, almost no oil at all, and only one egg for the batch. I love experimenting with different fruits (hard fruits, such as apples and pears work best, but I’ve added in addition to these plums, peaches or anything I have on hand), dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins, dried organic apricots, and different nuts such as almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts or anything else you have on hand.

Apple Marinade

3 c peeled, cored and diced apples
1 c sugar/silan/honey
1tsp spice mixture

Crust

1 egg
1/4 c cold butter, cubed
1c Whole wheat flour
1c oats
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp baking soda
1/2 c nuts (brazil, walnuts, almonds, etc..)
1/2 c dried cranberries

Spice mixture

I throw my favorite spices into my heavy stone mortar and pestle, and grind to a fine powder. The spices that I normally use are: cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cardamom, star anise, fresh ginger and nutmeg.

Place fruit in baking dish, sprinkle sugar and spice, and let sit till bottom of dish is covered with syrup. Stir occasionally.

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Mix egg and butter into apple mixture.
In separate bowl mix dry ingredients and mix this into apple mixture slowly, mixing well with wooden spoon, till all flour is wet. Mix in nuts and cranberries.

Bake at 200 c for 30 minutes, or until top is golden. Don’th over bake, this cake is supposed to be quite moist!

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Homemade yogurt

This is one of those things that I wish I had discovered 10 years ago. Homemade yogurt. So easy I feel embarrassed telling you how to do it.. And yet, most people still spend so much money on the store bought stuff. This is not only a money saver, but of course is much better for you, as you know that your yogurt has live, active bacteria. I make Kefir, as well, and will explain that process too. Kefir is even better than yogurt but the taste is quite strong, yeasty and sour. I need to disguise mine in a smoothie, or in baking (mmm buttermilk pancakes, anyone?). For either process you can use any milk you like, the best is goat milk.

For regular yogurt, start with 1liter of milk. Pour it into a saucepan and heat to 85 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a thermometer, you’ll know it’s ready when it forms a nice thick crust on top. Don’t let it boil!

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When it reaches the right temp, take it off the stove and let cool to 43 degrees Celsius, which is a little higher than body temp. You want it to be a little warm to the touch, but not hot enough so it burns your finger. While cooling, take your last batch of yogurt (or a good store bought kind to start with) out of the fridge, and set on counter. You don’t want it to be straight out of the fridge when adding to the milk.

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I add a coupla tablespoons of yogurt to the cooled milk, whisk it well, then pour into a ceramic jug and let sit on the counter for 7 hours or so. The longer it sits the creamier it will get.

And Voila! Like magic, you have a pitcher full of fresh creamy yogurt! Make homemade granola to go with it, add fruit to blend into a smoothie, make frozen yogurt, the possibilities are endless. And so cheap!

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I also want to show my Kefir grains, though I haven’t mastered this art yet. These are the grains:

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I like the flavor to be mild, so I cover with milk, in a glass jar, and leave in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also leave it uncovered (or with a cheesecloth) up to 24 hours on your counter top if you know you’ll want it the next day. I never know when I’ll be in the mood for it, so I leave it in the fridge. Then you will want to strain it through a mesh sieve:

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As it is live bacteria, stay away from metal utensils, this is why I use my baby’s plastic spoon to squeeze the liquid through the sieve, into a ceramic jug. Normally I add fruit to this and blend with my hand blender, or use in baking. It also makes really nice homemade Labane cheese, as this cheese is supposed to be sour. This is a good way to get good bacteria into my family’s tummies..

Vegan Lentil Burgers

I am always searching for nutritious foods that are easily stored and easy to make that I can pull out of the freezer and either dress up into a fabulous meal, or serve simply with a bowl of ketchup for my Two. These burgers are that and so much more. Packed with all the right ingredients for a full protein meal, this is a great way to hide veggies, brown rice, quinoa and lentils. Even my 9month old loves to nibble on these… I love eating them with a green salad and tahini salad dressing. I’ve also cooked them in a tomato based sauce and served over brown rice for a dinner. Since these don’t have eggs in them you don’t have to worry about them going bad quickly, which makes them perfect for a car snack or picnic.
I used brown rice in these, cause I had some leftover. I’ve also used quinoa and they were delicious. if you have time to sprout the lentils, do so!
Oh, and have I mentioned that the prep is a breeze? So quick and easy, throw everything in a food processor, scoop spoonfuls unto a cookie sheet, and bake.

Here we go…

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Ingredients

1 cup brown lentils, soaked (or better yet, sprouted!)
1/2 cup cooked grain such as brown rice, quinoa, millet or even buckwheat
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
3 tbsp raw tahini
Any good mix of spice you have on hand. I use cumin, turmeric, coriander seeds, bharat, paprika
S&P
A little water

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Throw all ingredients in a food processor, pulse, adding just as much water as you need for the ingredients to come together. Scoop onto a prepared cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden, on medium heat

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