Homemade Yogurt - Is it worth it?

I eat yogurt everyday and so do my kiddos. It's one of those things I feel is really good for me. Plain whole fat organic yogurt with frozen blueberries, a dollop of raw almond butter or sunflower seed butter, and a teaspoon of cinnamon is totally where it's at. So very good.

I've been a little turned off by all the big plastic yogurt containers we go through though, so I thought I'd revisit my yogurt machine, which comes with seven well proportioned glass cups. I have to use a carton of milk, either in a plastic container, a cardboard carton, or glass jug, so I am still left with waste, but sometimes I do find that glass milk bottle with the deposit charge, and sometimes I manage to bring back the bottle and get my deposit. I do like that most of the process takes place in glass cups, not plastic.

I remember making yogurt once, only once, with my mom when I was four. It was memorable and I truly appreciate the adventure in making things that we take for granted. Frankly, it's a lot of work for something that companies do a pretty good job at, but I still want to be able to make it well. In the past I've made it alright, then failed (runny and yuckyuck), then had a success. Today I will attempt it with mild expectations of success. 

All that's needed is:

  • yogurt maker
  • 6oz of favorite plain yogurt or a starting powder
  • whisk
  • ladle
  • measuring cups
  • very clean cloth towel
  • large pot
  • milk (with any fat content)
materials and tools

All you have to do:

  1. Make sure everything is clean. Rewash glass cups if they have been sitting unused for a while. 
  2. Measure 42oz of milk and bring to a boil in a very clean pot. Let the milk rise a couple inches then turn down heat and let cool to room temperature, under 110 degrees.
  3. Once cool, add 6oz of your favorite plain yogurt. Whisk into the milk until consistent.
  4. Use ladle too pour into the cups. 
  5. Place cups into the yogurt maker, place lid, and set to the correct hour - 8 hours for whole milk - and hit the start button.
  6. Wait. Consider the end time when you start this so you don't have to wake up in the middle of the night. Yes, I've woken up at 4am to put the cups in the fridge.
  7. When the yogurt maker is finished and beeps, place individual lids on each cup and put cups in the refrigerator for at least three hours before eating.
  8. Done! 
     

My results:
It was a definite improvement on previous times I made yogurt. The consistency is not perfect but it's consistently inconsistent, which makes it completely edible. The kids didn't flinch. The flavor is very close to my favorite yogurt. I'm feeling more confident than when I started, but I still don't know why it's not as creamy as the grocery store brands. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have you made yogurt? Did you get the consistency down? Would you share your secret with me?

My breakfast: Whole milk yogurt, blueberries, cinnamon, and sunflower seed butter.

My breakfast: Whole milk yogurt, blueberries, cinnamon, and sunflower seed butter.

New (School) Year Resolutions

Happy New School Year!

This year feels much different than last year. With my older son in school full day and the younger in school three days a week we really do feel the rhythm of the school schedule in a way I haven't since I was in high school. We're just getting started and, I have to say, it already feels relentless. 

As we begin this school schedule, pack lunches for the first time, dig for clean clothes, figure out new subway routes, find closed toe shoes, learn new names, forget 4"x6" photographs, I see how the next few month could go and I see room for improvement. We can make it more organized and a little calmer. While we're still feeling fresh and ready, I'm going to introduce (and impose) my ten New (School) Year Resolutions. 
 

1. Walking meditation on the way to school - I love the idea of my children learning to meditate at home, but these busy little bodies are always moving so we need a gradual approach to a sitting meditation. Walking meditation could be a good step towards sitting meditation. For one city block, probably a couple blocks from school, we will spend a week doing the following:

  • Count steps out loud. 
  • Count steps to ourselves.
  • Tap our thumb and finger together with each step.

2. Family Artwork review - Every few months we’ll review artwork then photograph, archive, frame or discard artwork. I'm not a kid's artwork hoarder, but collecting artwork is something I take seriously. As a child my father and I would make lots of artwork and irregularly but memorably we would take dozens of pieces of artwork, place them on the living room floor and, with alternating votes, narrow down the selection of artwork. We would drop off the two selected pieces at our favorite uptown New Orleans frame shop. It was great seeing my father admire my work and the process heightened my self-respect. It's a tradition worth keeping.

3. Commit to reusables and compostables. I’m really sensitive to the amount of waste we create. I cringe when the big bag of recycling goes out. It feels like too much, so I’m making an effort to decrease the waste. I’m going to only use paper towels (1 roll per month) when there’s an emergency, like poop. We’ll use cloth napkins, glass containers, reusable for wrap and compostable snack bags.

The basics: reusable food wrap, glass food containers, cloth napkins AND wax paper snack/ sandwich bags (not shown).

The basics: reusable food wrap, glass food containers, cloth napkins AND wax paper snack/ sandwich bags (not shown).

4. Compost the compost - I’m pretty good at collecting veggies, fruit peels, egg shells, egg cartons, coffee grounds, for the compost but I need to get back in the habit of walking them over to the NYC compost collection at the weekly market. I’d love to organize a compost collection in our building. 
Imagine these as week old leftover scraps. They'd make such nice new soil...

beets
IMG_0270.JPG
corn
tomato

5. Add closet hooks (at the right hight of the child) for back packs, hats, and jackets. Maybe if we make a clear “staging area” at their young age they’ll be inclined to keep up with it at later ages - yay for no lost keys later on!
6. Learn all class parents' and kids' names asap.
7. Create a family calendar and have weekly meetings with kiddos to review the activities and commitments. 
8. Give new responsibilities - Luc turns out lights and River turns off music and A/C. Every few months they're given new tasks. We've got make bed, clear dishes, put shoes away, and throw dirty clothes in hamper.
9. Ask three daily questions - What was a challenge or disappointment today? What did you learn? What are you thankful for?
10. Breathe and Smile. 

The days are long and the years are short.                                                       - Gretchen Rubin (via Lauren Kesner)

The days are long and the years are short.                                                       - Gretchen Rubin (via Lauren Kesner)

Great Kid Books (read in Brooklyn)

In our home we read books often, when we're sitting around our apt, on public transit, while out and about and waiting, and of course before bed. With a 2.8 year old and a 4.8 year old there is always a negotiation at play. These are the bedtime books we're currently reading that satisfy both kiddos. 

The Adventuring Pack (The Little Reader Series), by Kyla Ryman (Author), Case Jernigan (Artist)

Hug Time, by Patrick McDonnell

If You Want To See A Whale, by Julie Fogliano (Author, Erin E. Stead (Illustrator)

A Family of Poems, by Caroline Kennedy (Author), Jon J. Muth (Illustrator)

Alpha Bravo Charlie: The Complete Book Of Nautical Codes, by Sara Gillingham

Lightship, by Brian Floca

You Can't Take A Balloon In The Metropolitan Museum, by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman (Author), Robin Glasses (Illustrator)

Where's Warhol, by Catherine Ingram (Author), Andrew Rae (Illustrator)

This is a page from The Adventure Pack - Maps. Six small books come in the set - delicate and evocative, great conversation starters. 

This is a page from The Adventure Pack - Maps. Six small books come in the set - delicate and evocative, great conversation starters. 

Page from  Hug Time . "The polar bear asks, 'Would you like a hug?'"

Page from Hug Time. "The polar bear asks, 'Would you like a hug?'"

Pages from  Alpha Bravo Charlie . This is the Juliet flag along with the Morse Code to identify the signaled issue to other ships. Yes, we're learning Morse Code from this book, well very specific Morse Code signals (like Juliet).

Pages from Alpha Bravo Charlie. This is the Juliet flag along with the Morse Code to identify the signaled issue to other ships. Yes, we're learning Morse Code from this book, well very specific Morse Code signals (like Juliet).

I'll leave you with an excerpt from Lightship: 

You may never have
heard of a lightship.
Once, lightships
anchored on waters
across America,
on the oceans
and in the Great Lakes,
floating where lighthouses
could not be built.
Smaller than most ships,
but more steadfast, too,
they held their spots,
through calm and storm,
to guide sailors
toward safe waters...

One of my favorite new family bookstores opened this summer by a neighborhood family. Please check out Stories Bookshop + Story Telling Lab

Stories Bookshop + Story Telling Lab; (718) 369-1167458 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 

Are you able to find books that satisfy age spreads? Please let me know if you have suggestions.

Casey: Bedside Reading

This summer I'm thinking about the spatialization of life, feelings, and associations. Often in architecture school I would consider the impact of emotions and events on the way we comprehend our environment. Un Petite Maison and Mandala are very different but both touch on this interest. The other titles are calming and reassuring. I'm always reading a parenting book of one kind or another. Recently I decided, instead of adding to my collection of parenting books to reread the ones that really resonate with me.

What are you reading this summer? Do you have a favorite summertime book?

Brooklyn Reading List 1
Here is a page I keep coming back to from  How Toddlers Thrive , by Tovah Klein.

Here is a page I keep coming back to from How Toddlers Thrive, by Tovah Klein.

Clockwise:
How To Relax, Thich Nhat Hanh - This is my pocket subway reading, my reading meditation.
Writing with Style, John R. Trimble - I'm feeling inspired to think about writing... and to start writing.  
Une Petite Maison, Le Corbusier - Who has my copy of The Little House: An Architecture of Seduction? Come forward, please. Corb's is a follow up to The Little House, by Jean-Francois de Bastide's. I love both. They take me right back to why I love architecture. 
Meeting Life, Krishna Murti - My brother loaned this to me - thank you. I really enjoy K. Murti's writings.
How Toddlers Thrive, Tovah P. Klein, PhD - This is my go to book on raising toddlers. I'm reading and rereading p.161-162, "Handling Your Own Anger and Upset." Tovah runs the Toddler Center at Barnard
The Weather & Our Tempers, by Dominique Townsend - Dominique is a dear friend. Earlier this month she moved upstate. I'm reading her poems to her the voice I miss.

Here are a few of my favorite bookstores:
Greenlight Bookstore - 686 Fulton Street (at S. Portland) Brooklyn, NY 11217; (718) 246-0200
Book Court - 163 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY; (718) 875-3677
Yes, I buy books on Amazon, but I try to find them at my local shop first. Amazon's really good for used and out of print books.

 

Blackberries and Cocoa-Cream

Claire and I took a 8-week break from sugar. Half of the time we even limited fructose, which meant no fresh or dried fruits. Cutting out sugar is a challenge, but one I recommend to everyone, and I can assure you it's worth it. After the 8-weeks was up I felt really good and completely in control of my cravings. I didn't impose it on my family, but I will, one day... 

I'm now eating fructose - hello berries! My favorite family dessert is about as simple a recipe as one can make. Blackberries with homemade whip cream and cocoa powder. As long as the berries are more sweet than tart my husband and kiddos are as happy with this as they are with the sweeter stuff. The bit of unsweetened cocoa gives a little balance to the sweet berries and adds an unexpected kick and a bit of intrigue to the straight forward classic. This is my favorite late summer treat.

We usually chill the bowl for a few minutes to keep the cream cold, which helps it to whip faster. The really hot 90 degree room meant we were whipping by hand for almost ten minutes. My friend and Luc and I took turns. 

We usually chill the bowl for a few minutes to keep the cream cold, which helps it to whip faster. The really hot 90 degree room meant we were whipping by hand for almost ten minutes. My friend and Luc and I took turns. 

The blackberries were tart so a little powdered sugar was added to Luc's serving. As long as the berries are sweet, the four ingredient recipe is delicious. I love the simplicity of this dessert.

The blackberries were tart so a little powdered sugar was added to Luc's serving. As long as the berries are sweet, the four ingredient recipe is delicious. I love the simplicity of this dessert.

Blackberries and Cocoa-Cream
1 pints (2 cups) of heavy cream
2 pints of blackberries
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of unsweetened raw cocoa    

I love Healthworks raw Cacao Powder, also great in banana almond butter smoothies and give a serious cacao buzz

The whipped cream takes a while to do by hand but I enjoy the ceremonial process. It also feels a little like magic to see the cream start to thicken. I recommend chilling the whipped cream bowl and cooling the room a little. Mix in the vanilla as your whipping. The cocoa can be stirred into the whipped cream or dusted on top. Wash the berries and plate with a generous dollop of whipped cream on top. 

Do you have a favorite late summer dessert?

One serving is an 1/8 cup of heavy cream, 1/4 cup of blackberries, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa. Feel free to have more than one serving!

One serving is an 1/8 cup of heavy cream, 1/4 cup of blackberries, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa. Feel free to have more than one serving!