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I’m such a follower

I’ve been following a couple of blogs for a while and they have inspired me to step it up. Thanks Lily and Tim!

The writing prompt this time is sleepovers. I actually have a really good one for this!

When I was 13 my mom decided to throw me a big “friends” party. When you have a December birthday that doesn’t usually happen. But my dad had died a few months earlier and my mom wanted to do something fun. Plus my sister had done something similar for my niece 6 months earlier. Huh, mom was a follower too!

Anyway, I got to invite 4 friends over and we had a DIAPER PARTY. It’s not as kinky as it sounds, I promise!

It was a way to say goodbye to childhood and hello to being a teenager. My mom searched the city and found the old-fashioned diaper pins. You know, the ones with the little bunnies and ducky’s on them? Yeah, those ones. She also found receiving blankets to use as cloth diapers. Imagine 5 giggly tween girls all dressed up in diapers and t-shirts. My mom was a brave woman!

Everyone received a 4 oz. baby bottle when they got there and all liquids had to be drank from that. Carbonated soda in a baby bottle was a lot of fun. For games we played Pin the Tail on the Donkey and this one where you were blindfolded and had a big bowl of cotton balls and a spoon and had to transfer the cotton balls into a smaller container. Mom made up a bunch of finger foods and we watched little kids movies. Well, we watch The Care Bears Movie and one that was recommended by the movie store clerk called Zapped! Mom wasn’t overly impressed with that one! We also got to eat Pudding Pops! We didn’t sleep much but had a blast and all in all, it was the best birthday I ever had!

Best childhood treat EVER!

Best childhood treat EVER!

How about you? Do you have any sleepover memories?

Zebra Garden
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Greek Yogurt – my way! **Updated!**

**UPDATE 1/25/13**
I make this about once a week (I get about a gallon of yogurt every time I make it) and my most recent batch was seriously the best one yet!
**Changes**
1 quart Half and Half
1 pint Whipping Cream
4ish Cups Whole Milk (I just add enough to fill the crockpot almost all the way)
1 cup store-bought yogurt with live cultures

Pour Half and Half and Whipping Cream in crockpot. Stir. Add whole milk until almost to the top of the crockpot. Turn crockpot on high and cover. Check occasionally and stir with a plastic or rubber utensil. A digital thermometer works really great at this point. I have one that I picked up at the DollarTree that is strictly for yogurt! Bring the liquid up to 105 degrees then shut it off. (I actually let it get this hot on accident but it totally worked!) Put the store-bought yogurt in a bowl and add the warmed milk to thin it out as below. Wrap it up in the towel and heating pad as below and let sit overnight (about 12 hours). Pour into a resealable container and refrigerate until cold. It will be thick when it’s warm but will thicken even more when it’s cold.

It’s not fat-free but it doesn’t have all the extra added chemicals that store-bought stuff has. Plus it’s about $5 for everything!
Try it and let me know what you think!

I’ve been trying to make homemade yogurt. My first attempt ended badly. My second attempt was a little better but still really thin and runny. Well, today I had a major success!!!

TaDa!!! I’m very excited! Here’s the recipe I used if you’re interested…

Greek Yogurt – My Way

Ingredients: (I used a 4 cup crock-pot so if you use a bigger one you will need to adjust your liquid ingredients accordingly.)

  • 1 Pint Half and Half**
  • Enough milk to make 4 cups (2 cups I think?)**
  • 1/2 of an individual serving size store-bought yogurt with active cultures (About 2 Tbsp) You could use either plain or vanilla. I used Tillamook French Vanilla Bean. YUMMY!!!

That’s it! Seriously! Ok, now here’s the hard part… I used a plastic spoon for all of the stirring. Not sure if metal or plastic makes a huge difference but it’s what I used.

In crock pot heat Milk and Half and Half to 103 degrees. (I used a sterilized thermometer) Once the liquid reaches 103 degrees turn off the crock pot and unplug it. In a small bowl mix the store-bought yogurt (starter) with a couple of spoonfuls of warm milk until it’s really thin and runny.

Pour the thinned yogurt starter back into the warm milk and stir gently to get it all mixed in.

I have a really warm place to put it (on top of the furnace) so I just wrapped the whole crock pot in a thick towel and set it on top of the furnace and left it overnight. If you don’t have a warm spot (around 90-95 degrees) you could set the crock pot on an electric heating pad on the lowest setting and wrap the whole thing in a thick towel or blanket to keep it warm. Let it sit 12 hours (I let it sit overnight). I think you could let it sit even longer if you had to and it would be ok but I’m not sure about that yet. I’ll try it next time and update then.

After 12 hours or so remove it from the warm place and pour it into a resealable plastic container (I happened to have a large Cool Whip container I’m using) Put it in the fridge for a couple of hours for it to get cold.

It should be thick when you first uncover it but it will get even thicker when it’s cold. We had some for dessert tonite and I just had it plain with a tiny bit of sugar. MiniMe added sliced strawberries and a couple of frozen blueberries with a little more sugar to hers.

It’s that easy! Seriously!!! You really should try it! I’m guessing if you had access to raw milk you wouldn’t need to use the Half and Half but I don’t so I have to improvise.

As far as making a larger batch I think the main thing you would increase is the milk. You might want to add a little more starter (store-bought yogurt) and maybe a little more Half and Half or even just a small container of whipping cream. A couple of sites I’ve seen recommend not using “Ultra-Pasturized” milk but that was all I could find and it worked out just fine.

I plan on experimenting more so I’ll update when I try some other variations.

**UPDATE**

I made this again last weekend but changed up a couple of things. I used my 5 qt crock pot so I could make a larger batch. I used 1 qt of half and half and the rest milk. I left a little space at the top but that’s up to you.  I also tried the heating pad method and it worked perfect. I just placed the whole crock pot not just the insert) on top of the heating pad and wrapped it up in a towel. I put the towel down first, then the heating pad, then put the crock pot on top of it so I could wrap the whole thing up nice and snug. I still only let it sit for 12 hours but I think I may try for a little longer next time. MiniMe is seriously loving it with frozen blueberries and strawberries! She adds about 1/2 tsp of sugar to her serving and is already telling me I need to make more!

 

Working class?

I was just reading an article and it basically gave the difference in wages and a few other things from the 50’s and compared them to todays prices. According to this article minimum wage was .75/hr. That works out to roughly $125/month before taxes. Average rent was $45. In my state, todays minimum wage is $9.04/hr which works out to $1500/ IF you are working full-time. Most employers around here are not hiring for full-time because then they also have to provide health insurance. Average rent for a 2 bed/1 bath apartment is $850. A 3 bed/2 bath apartment jumps to $1200. That’s not anything special either! Neither of those would include a pool or any other special amenities. Sometimes they don’t even have a washer and dryer. I live in a moderate sized county in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States. We have a University with enrollment of almost 15,000 students. We also have a Community College and a Technical College. The 1 bed/1 bath apartments around the university rent for at least $600 a month.

I am currently working 2 jobs making just over minimum wage at both jobs. I work 6 days a week, almost 50 hours a week. I am living with family trying to save up enough to get a small 2 bed/1 bath apartment. One of my jobs will be offering me health insurance after the first of the year. I currently spend almost $200/month in gas for “The Beast”. Hopefully that will go down very soon (like possibly tomorrow!!!) when I get a different vehicle. The apartment I’m looking at right now is a very small 2 bdrm/1 bath for $655/month and it doesn’t have a washer/dryer so I’ll have to add quarters for laundry into my budget. After rent, phone, power, gas and food are paid for, I’ll be left with about $200 a month. That doesn’t include vehicle insurance (which is required in my state) or any medical bills not covered by insurance. That doesn’t include any of the millions of things the school convinces my child she must purchase.

The point of this whole post is that I don’t understand just who these people are talking to when they think that “being broke” means you have only have $500 a month to spend on food? Seriously? I’m lucky if I have half that amount! It would be nice if someone actually wrote articles that more accurately portray the low-income/working class lifestyle.

Success!

After 3 attempts, I finally found success making homemade yogurt! Yay me! It’s thick and creamy and way yummy!

In other news, we have officially started “Birthday Season” in my family. We have 10 birthdays between November and December. A few years ago we had a party every weekend for 4 weeks straight. My oldest is the last in that run and by the time hers came along we were all so sick of cake that she asked for “Birthday Pie” instead 🙂

People say “Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!” Heck, there’s even a song about it! But you know what? In my house we have a different “most wonderful time of the year”! BACK TO SCHOOL!!!

What’s for dinner?

So I’m going to try to add some more content to my page. What??? What I really mean is I have another idea of things to blog about. I’m going to share some of my recipe ideas with you all. All 2 of  you that read this anyway. 🙂

My goal is to only post recipes that I’ve actually tried and not just the ones that I have saved everywhere. I have determined that looking at food blogs when I’m hungry is a really bad idea. It just makes me more hungry. I’m working on getting a decent camera so I can take better pictures but for now, I’ll be using the camera on my phone. Gotta work with what I got!

If you have any recipe ideas that you’ve actually tried and your family likes them, I’m all about trying new things. Except tuna fish. I have an “allergy” to canned tuna. It makes me throw up. That counts as an allergy, right? I can honestly say I’ve never ever made Tuna Noodle Casserole and I refuse to apologize for it! My family knows that if they want tuna they better hide it from me. I have been known to throw away* cans I find hidden in my cupboards!

So if you have something you think I might like, let me know! If you have crockpot recipes that you love, let me know about those for sure! I’m also trying to get into the “freeze it” thing so I can just do a bunch of prep work one day and have it all ready to throw in the crockpot in the morning or the oven when I get home so I don’t have to think about it.

* I actually donated them to the foodbank not the garbage dump. I know SOME people actually like tuna (blech!)

I’ll start with what we had for dinner last nite.

Tangy Mustard Chicken adapted from “Worlds Best Chicken”

This was a recipe I found on Pinterest originally. The first time I made it I followed the recipe exactly. I’ve made it a couple more times since then and have changed it to suit our tastes a little more. Last night I made an extra-large batch so I’ll use the quantities I made for that but it’s easily adaptable for smaller amounts. This batch made enough to serve 8.

  • 5-7 lbs chicken (I used the hindquarters I got on sale last week. I think there were 12 pieces in the package)
  • 3 Tbsp chopped garlic (I use the kind in the big jar from Costco but you could use fresh also. Probably 3-4 cloves of fresh would do it)
  • 1 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup (I used pancake syrup simply because that’s what I had. Real Maple Syrup would probably be even better!)
  • 1/2 Cup Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp Vinegar
  • Rosemary
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Place chicken in single layer in baking dish. Salt and Pepper chicken. Mix garlic, maple syrup and mustard in bowl until blended. Spoon over chicken pieces. Top with crushed Rosemary (I just use dry and break it apart a little in my hand before sprinkling it on the top). Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked and juices run clear. Remove foil for last 15 minutes so chicken can get a little more color. The sugar in the syrup browns up very nicely and quickly without drying the chicken out.

The first time I made this I thought the Dijon mustard flavor was a little to strong. The second time I made it I mixed a smaller amount of Dijon with mayonnaise. It tasted pretty good but the mayo separated and made the sauce look weird. This time I just used more syrup to make enough sauce for the amount of chicken I was cooking and didn’t add the mayo. The chicken I used was also still partially frozen so I had to cook it much longer. I think the first time I made it I used fresh chicken breast and bone-in thighs and it only took about 40 minutes total.

This isn’t my picture. It’s from the website of the original poster of the recipe “worlds-best-chicken”

This is a recipe that I actually enjoy but my family thinks it’s just okay. I’ll keep playing with it to find just the right thing to make them love it so I can eat it more often 🙂