Ninja Geek Mom

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dairy Free Chocolate Deadliness

There was great rejoicing at lunch today. 

My youngest daughter cannot eat dairy.  It does sadistic things to her digestive system.  While she generally has a good attitude about all the things she can’t eat, I’ve caught her looking longingly at the pudding cups at the grocery store. 

Today, I made them pudding for lunch.  You know it’s good when the kid who hasn’t been conditioned by months of drinking almond milk and other dairy free milk substitutes declares it delicious.

I honestly thought there was something unique about the way the milk itself reacts with the egg yolk when you make homemade pudding.  Turns out I was wrong.  You can make pudding without milk.

I tweaked a recipe I found online and came up with the following pudding of great joy:

IMG_1085

Decadent Dairy Free Chocolate Pudding

3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
14 ounce can coconut milk
1/3 cup coconut milk beverage (ie. So Delicious coconut milk)
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 2/3 cup – choose a dairy free brand.  I used PC Decadent)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Instructions

  1. In a medium sized saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, unsweetened cocoa powder and salt.
  2. Mix in 1/3 cup coconut milk to make a paste.
  3. Mix in the egg yolks.
  4. Pour the can of coconut milk into a microwave safe bowl and heat to boiling. Stir every minute or so.
  5. Slowly pour the heated coconut milk into the sugar mixture, stirring to combine.
  6. Transfer pot to the stove and heat on medium low, stirring constantly until it thickens.
  7. Remove from heat and mix in coconut oil, vanilla and semisweet chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate chips melt.

Can be served warm or chilled in the fridge before serving.  Makes 6-8 servings.

As you can see, this isn’t exactly diet food.  You could play with the sugar amounts, use a coconut milk beverage (ie. So Delicious) or other dairy free milk-type beverage, skip the chocolate chips and leave out the fat to make it more diet friendly.  All will affect the richness of the final product, but will still thicken and can still produce a tasty pudding.

Read More
Monday, April 18, 2011

Homemade Yogurt (Ninjas need their probiotics too!)

Greek style yogurt is my very favorite type of yogurt.  It’s thick, creamy, full of protein and so tasty that I actually don’t mind eating it plain.IMG_0755

It is, however, expensive compared to ‘regular’ yogurt.   Even at the cheaper Costco price, a litre of Greek yogurt is around 8 dollars.  Using a conservative estimate that we go through 1 litre per week, our yogurt upgrade would still add 28 dollars to our monthly grocery budget.  Ouch.

***Just so you know, we Canadians mix our metric and Imperial systems of measurement with abandon.  We buy juice and milk by the litre – until we need to buy it by the gallon.  We bake things using Fahrenheit, but the outdoor temperature is measured in Celsius (if you’re under 50 years old).  We weigh ourselves by the pound and measure our height in feet and inches. We buy fabric by the metre.  We spell things strangely too. Anyway, for reference: A litre is 4 cups.  You’re on your own for converting Fahrenheit to Celsius.  ***

Because I needed to find a way to justify my new addiction I reawakened my yogurt making skillz.

I had played with making my own yogurt in the past, but never made it a consistent habit.

It’s not difficult - The yogurt making I mean.  Good habits are another animal. A quick Google will net you tons of different recipes and methods for making your own yogurt.  You could probably find some great info on building good habits too.

All methods (for yogurt making) have these steps in common:

  1. Milk (of some kind).
  2. Heat it up to at least 185F to kill potential unwanted bacteria and, according to who you read, denature the milk proteins which makes for thicker yogurt.
  3. Let it cool to around 115F
  4. Mix in your starter (either plain yogurt or store bought starter).
  5. Cover and let it sit somewhere that stays between 90-110F
  6. After 6+ hours (depending on your preference) it’s done!
  7. Strain through coffee filter or other fine-mesh strainer to thicken if you want Greek-style.

Because you are purposely growing bacteria, you want to be sure you’re growing only the ones that make yogurt.  Make sure all your utensils are super clean, particularly your stirring spoons and the containers your yogurt is going to culture in.  If you’re going to use yogurt as your starter, you need to make sure it’s relatively fresh and has no sweeteners, thickeners or additives.  Here in Canada, all store bought yogurt has live cultures.  In other countries, you may need to check the label to make sure your starter yogurt contains live cultures. Once you make your first batch, you can freeze some in ice cube trays to defrost and use as your starter for further batches.

But really, it’s simple.  The method I use simplifies things even more.  I use powdered skim milk.  That way I can simply heat up the water to the required 185F in the microwave and then add the milk powder.  I usually end up scalding my milk when I try to heat it up on the stove (And no, it has NOTHING to do with the book I’m reading at the same time as I’m stirring because watching a pot is BORING).  This method let me skip that step.  I can also make my yogurt in the same bowl I heat the water in.  Fewer dirty dishes is a good thing.

Skim milk powder costs about the same as buying fresh, but it’s much easier to keep a bag of skim milk powder around than buy and store the extra gallons of milk required to make yogurt.

I’m lucky enough to have a warming drawer under my oven that keeps the temperature just right for making yogurt.  That said, I’ve seen instructions that use everything from your crockpot to an electric heating pad to do this.  I’ll put some links at the bottom of this post for some of them.  If I didn’t have the warming drawer, the crockpot method would be my method of choice.

Here’s what you need for my method:

Homemade Yogurt

4 cups of water
1 cup skim milk powder
1-2tbsp of fresh, plain yogurt of your choice.

Heat the water in a microwave-safe bowl for 8-10 minutes.  This really depends on your microwave, but you want it at least 185F.

Add the skim milk powder and mix well.

Cover and let it cool until it’s between 110-120F.  If you add the starter before it cools enough, you’ll kill the bacteria that makes the yogurt. 

Add yogurt starter and mix well.

Cover and put in your warming drawer.

Leave it for at least 6 hours.  Really, though, this isn’t an exact science.  If you leave it longer, your yogurt might be a little thicker and more sour.  Just make sure not to shake the yogurt around as it sets.  For some reason that disturbs the process and makes the texture all funky.

Hmm, what else?  Oh yeah, when the yogurt is culturing, it’s normal for there to be some liquid on top.  That’s just whey.  You can mix it back in or pour it off.

If you want Greek-style yogurt, put a coffee filter in a wire strainer over a bowl.  Spoon yogurt into the strainer, cover with plastic wrap and stick it the fridge for a couple of hours.

It is possible to strain the yogurt for too long.  It’ll be more like cream cheese than yogurt.  If you don’t want it this thick, I’ve found it works best to mix in some of your unstrained yogurt until you achieve the texture you want.   Don’t try and mix the liquid (whey) back in at this point.  It’ll be lumpy.

About that whey.  It’s good for you.  It’s not a crime to pour it down the sink or anything, but you can use it instead of milk or water in your bread recipes.  I just did that this week and it was super tasty.  Some people use it in their gardens.  Others use it on their faces. (Haven’t tried this myself.) Still others feed it to their pets. Some hardy souls drink it straight up. You get the idea. 

It’s just over 4 dollars for a gallon of 1 percent milk.  The powdered skim milk costs about the same.  My recipe makes about 2 cups of Greek-style yogurt.  So, not including the cost of electricity, I can make 2 cups of yogurt for 1 dollar. (!!!!)  It costs me 2 dollars to make what costs 8 dollars at Costco.  Yeah, I’d say it’s worth the effort to make my own.

I’ve used the same method (with some modifications) to make yogurt from almond milk. Because the almond milk has very little in it for the bacteria to ‘eat’, I add 2tbsp of sugar to the warmed milk before adding the starter.  I also use 1 package of Knox gelatin to thicken it because it does stay pretty runny.  The texture ends up being like mousse.

Almond Milk Yogurt

1 litre unsweetened almond milk
2tbsp sugar
1-2tbsp plain yogurt (if you can’t tolerate any dairy, use a plain non-dairy yogurt that has live cultures or a commercial starter)
1 envelope of Knox plain gelatin powder

Heat almond milk to at least 185F.  Stir in the sugar and mix well.  Let cool to between 110-120F.  Mix in plain yogurt.  Sprinkle gelatin powder on surface and then mix well.

Cover and put in the warming drawer.  Let it sit for at least 6 hours.

Like I said, it’s possible to use other methods to keep your yogurt at the right temperature while it cultures.  Here are a few links:

Slow Cooker – http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html

Cooler - http://hubpages.com/hub/How_to_make_your_own_yogurt_-_An_illustrated_guide

Heating Pad - http://www.makeyourownyogurt.com/make-yogurt/what-you-need

So what do you think?  If you do end up trying to make yogurt, let me know how it goes.  If you’re a yogurt making fiend, I’d love to hear your super-secret tips and techniques. 

Read More
Friday, January 08, 2010

I’ve been itching to pass this info along since I first read it in the January 2010 issue of Oxygen women’s fitness magazine.  The article is called ‘The Hidden Benefits of Strength Training.’

There were a few benefits I hadn't heard before.  To summarize some of them (from the article):

1. Flatter belly

Overweight participants in one study who engaged in 2x weekly strength training lost more total body fat including more abdominal fat than the control group that did only cardio. 

Up until now, we’ve been told that strength training had little effect on overall body fat composition.

2. Less risk of diabetes

Recent research has shown that strength training reduces the risk of diabetes.  The mechanism is thought to have to do with how strength training reduces the fat inside the muscles and alters fat metabolism.
 

3.  Reduction in blood pressure

A study published in 2009 confirmed that even an hour of strength training per week can reduce your blood pressure enough to cut your risk of a stroke by 25%.
 

4.  Lower risk of breast cancer

Regular strength training can reduce your risk by 20-40%.  It’s thought to be due to how strength training reduces body fat and therefore estrogen levels.   Fat cells produce estrogen.  Cut down the fat and the estrogen levels drop as well.

5.  Less sick days

Subjects in a study done in Japan in 2008 found that strength training 3-4x per week for 8 weeks increased the number of natural Killer-T cells in their bodies.

I want more of them just because the name is cool.  If I was a cell, I'd want to be the Killer kind. 

6. Healthier joints

A 2009 study found that women with stronger quadriceps and hamstrings have lower incidences of knee osteoarthritis.   The article doesn’t explain, but I’m guessing it has to do with how strong muscles can absorb some of the force that tends to cause wear on the joints.

Check out this article at sparkpeople.com for some other strength training benefits: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=636

Read More