Category Archives: from scratch

Frogurt!

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Cost:  under 50 cents (for a teabag and sugar) plus some almost-expired yogurt
Success: 5/5

My Mom visited last weekend, and I had some Greek Yogurt in the fridge for her. She wasn’t able to eat it all before she left, and I forgot about it until the day it was set to expire.

I thought I might make a curry with it, but there was just so much left. Then I had a brainwave – I’d make frozen yogurt! That would also take care of the strawberries we got while she was here.

I jumped a little when I saw how mouldy the strawberries were. Blech. So I threw those out and searched around my place for something else fruitlike or fruit-esque. There were some oranges and an apple, but I figured there was good reason I had never heard of apple or orange yogurt. I spent some time weighing the pros and cons of using a fruit-flavoured tea bag, then decided to go wild and give it a try.

I brewed a small amount of tea, about equal to the amount of yogurt that was left. I added maybe 1/3 as much sugar as yogurt. I’m not really one to measure things when I’m cooking. Sometimes my free-spirited cooking philosophy leads to exciting new culinary flavours, and sometimes it just doesn’t.

This recipe was loosely based on a frozen yogurt popsicle recipe I made last year.

I mixed everything together in the chopper attachment for my kitchen wand. I LOVE that kitchen wand. (Sponsor me Cuisinart?) I stuck it in a Saskatchewan tupperware and into the freezer.

Some hours later, I sampled some. It was awesome! The tea flavour was mild but very nice, and it had a flavour and texture not to wildly different from store-bought frozen yogurt. In the photo above it looks pretty runny, but it was not all frozen at that point.

Making cheese!

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Cost: $1.70
Success:  3/5

Making my own butter got me pretty excited about the other things I could make on my own. The next thing on my list was cheese! I followed this article on Wikihow, which produces a cheese that looks absolutely nothing like the one in their photo.

What excited me most is that I could make the cheese using things I had around the house anyway; whole milk, butter, sugar, salt and lemon juice. The process was simple. I boiled the milk with some butter and sugar. Once it was bubbling, I put in a bit of lemon juice, then let it sit on the burner contemplating its fate. The acid in the lemon juice separates the curds from the whey, so when I poured it through the dish towel above a strainer, I had little clumps of cheese!

It smells very good at this point.

I let the water drain…

And was left with a miniscule amount of cheese! For scale, this is a teaspoon.

I mixed in a bunch of salt to give it some character, then put it in the fridge.

It was similar to feta, but softer. It was not as smooth as cream cheese or as disgusting as goat cheese. It mostly tastes like lemon. I could have also used vinegar to separate the curds from the whey. I imagine that would have been disgusting!

I made myself some potatoes with onions and garden herbs, and put the cheese on top with liberal amounts of salt. It was not really that exciting or tasty.

I’m curious what would happen if I used heavy cream instead…

Living in an Amish paradise…

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Cost: Around $2
Success: 4/5 (The butter was great, but not much cheaper.)

When I found out I could easily make butter in a canning jar, I was pretty excited. I have a bunch of unused canning jars from my brief stint in perfume-making (honestly, can I stick to anything???) and the only other thing I needed was some heavy cream. The idea is that you put the cream into a canning  jar and  shake until something happens. On the site it said this would take about 25 minutes. In practice, it was closer to 45.

I shook and I shook and I shook. I updated my Facebook status with my phone using only one hand. That was tricky. I wandered around. Sometimes I felt like I was using a shake-weight, and I probably was getting a similar workout. The mixture got foamier, which I later realized was the ‘whipping cream’ stage. I had to pour out some liquid (conveniently, into my coffee) so the cream had enough room to move around.

I called my Mom to ask for her expertise, because my Mom knows almost everything. She told me about the time my sister’s first husband was making whipping cream and he whipped too long and ended up with butter. While I was shaking and talking to her, suddenly there was a thump, and my solids had separated from the liquids!

It’s a magical moment when that happens. After oh-so-much shaking, there is one final shake where the fats clump on one side of the jar, separating from the liquids. From there on, it’s only a couple more minutes of shaking and draining until you have some lovely butter!

It was soft, and I easily mixed in some herbs (which were in full effect a few days later, after the flavour had worked in.).

I wanted to give it another try with my hand mixer. I filled the cup about 3/8 of the way. That’s the number my Mom gave me, and she was right on. Any more and it would have flown out when I mixed it.

There was a little incident when I absent-mindedly let go of the cup though. Whoopsie!

I mixed for about five minutes, then poured it into a canning jar and shook for a short while until it started to clump. The result was a much harder butter. I mixed it with some salt.

After refrigerating, both butters were hard. On the first day, the butter didn’t have any character, and it was obvious that I was eating pure fat. Once the flavours sunk in, it tasted like fresh store-bought butter.

After two weeks, the unsalted butter started to smell funny. I’m not sure if this is because it didn’t have any salt to keep it fresh, or because there was a bit of old liquid still in the jar.

Roasting garlic

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Cost: Under a dollar
Success: 5/5

One day while walking along Fraser street, I passed $3 bags of garlic at one of the independent grocery stores. At first I walked past, but I couldn’t get the giant bags of cheap garlic out of my mind.

I gave about half of it away to co-workers and friends, and I was still left with more garlic than I knew what to do with.

I decided to roast some. It was really easy, inexpensive, and had gourmet results.

I put a bunch of garlic in a bakeware dish and filled it up with oil. I added some rosemary, oregano and lavender (hey, why not?)

I quickly discovered that the oil boils over – aaak! I turned off the oven, cleaned every last bit of oil that had dripped onto the element, and tried again with a pie pan underneath.

At first I covered the dish with tinfoil, and I took it off near the end. I think I cooked it for 30 minutes on 350 Fahrenheit. It may have taken longer. When the insides are squishy, it’s done. It will look like this:

Once it cooled down, I put it into a glass jar along with the oil. Whenever I need some roasted garlic, I poke one out with a toothpick. It’s so soft that I don’t need to chop it up or put it through the garlic press.

Jen makes noodles!

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Cost: About $2.50 for 3 large servings
Success: 4/5 with the potential to be better with practice

I’ve wanted to make egg noodles for a while, and it seems especially appropriate that I made them yesterday, on what would have been my Oma’s 97th birthday. Both my Grandma in Saskatchewan and my Oma in Germany used to make their own noodles. (Not to take away from the sentimentality, but the 12 eggs sitting in my fridge with a February 24 expiry date also pushed me into action.)

Making my own noodles was not cheaper than buying them, but we’re not exactly comparing two equal things here. Fresh noodles have a quality that transcends anything from the store. They’re so tasty and so hearty that they’re a meal on their own when fried with a little bit of butter.

A German-Canadian friend gave me her recipe, which is ridiculously simple. First I put 6 eggs into a bowl and mixed them up. I added some salt, and gradually added flour and mixed the dough until it was no longer sticky.

At first I used dough hooks, which I found were a total pain in the ass. The dough got sucked upwards and into the mixer. I gave up and kneaded the dough by hand, which was not bad at all.

I rolled out the dough. I had to flip it quite often, and add more flour to the counter. Once it was about as thin as I could make it, I used a pizza cutter to cut the noodles.

I jury-rigged a drying rack with an oven rack suspended on two boxes of spaghetti. Next time I do this, I’m going to follow my friend’s advice and dry the noodles flat on towels.

Mmm!

I was really impatient, so I cooked some right away. I boiled them, then pan-fried them with butter.

They were heavenly!

Next time I make noodles, I’ll dry them flat. I’ll also try to make them a little thinner and more consistent, and do the kneading by hand. I also have exciting plans to use whole wheat flour, and to add some spinach powder and garlic. Mmm.

I should note that this is a really messy and sticky process.