Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oh my god...Crockpot Yogurt

I started making yogurt in my crockpot in October when I saw a post on the web by my favorite website of the year last year - "A year of Crockpotting". It tasted pretty good, however, I just couldn't get it to "gel" enough. I was using skim milk and the website did say it was more difficult to get non-fat (as opposed to whole milk) to gel. The last 2 times I did it, I added some unflavored gelatin (as suggested in another website) and all I got was thin yogurt with glops of unflavored jello (UGG!) ----Until today!!! -- turns out I was adding the gelatin at the wrong time.

Seems like a big deal - right? for yogurt right? Well, with my trying to do the WeightWatchers thing, they want you to have two 8-ounce glasses of skim milk a day. I - AM - NOT a milk drinker but I do like to have yogurt on my cereal. Well, two of those cups of yogurt a day can be pretty expensive and ... 1/2 gallon of milk is (relatively) cheap.

Here's the secret recipe...

Totally Gelled Non-Fat Yogurt

  • 1/2 gallon of nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup of powdered non fat milk
  • 1 packet of unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 c non-fat yogurt (from the store - with active cultures - this acts as your starter)
  • (optional)
  • (1/2 cup of splenda baking sweetner)
  • (1 tablespoon of vanilla)
Directions: I used a 4 qt crock pot
  • Pour milk into crock pot and turn on low for 3 hours - 3 1/2 hours (this kills bad bacteria)
  • Stir in 1/2 cup of powdered non fat milk and sprinkle package of gelatin on top
  • Once it warms up the milk, stir several times during the heating process to distribute the gelatin
  • Turn off crock pot and allow it to cool for 3 hours (or to temp of 90 degrees)
  • After it is cooled, take out approximately 2 cups and put into a clean bowl and whisk in the yogurt starter and then add it back to the crockpot
  • Stir the mixture well
  • Cover the crockpot and then unplug it and cover the entire thing with a towel +/or a blanket to keep the cultures warm while they are working
  • Leave undisturbed for 12-14 hours
  • Once the 12-14 hours are up, uncover and be amazed!!!

Once you make it, you can put it into different containers. Save 1/2 cup to use as starter for you next batch! You can use the yogurt you make as starter about 6-7 times then it gets a little stale so you will have to buy another 1/2 cup yogurt at the store.

Shopping Trip

After spending way more than I wanted on all of the supplies on Logan's b'day party this weekend, I had a great shopping trip at Kroger's today.
Many of you know that I am a closet couponer and frugal wannabe. Anyway, I read about a couple pretty good deals at Kroger and so decided to go and finish up my stocking for the next two weeks since I will be working 14 days in a row and won't be able to go shopping. I had bought fruit and milk and some other staples over the past few days but needed some cheese for pizza and some lunch meat for the boys.
Kroger is having their annual super sale...for selected items (and you can mix and match) if you buy 10 you get $5 off. so, here is what we got.
  • 10 -Kraft 2% shredded cheese packages - on sale for $1.99 (- $0.50 each) and "surprise" there was a coupon machine right by them for $0.75 off each bag - so I got each bag for $0.74
  • 3 lunch meat for $2.99 (-$0.50 each)
  • 5 Armor Meatballs for $2.99 (-0.50 each)
  • 6 Tostino Pizza Rolls for $2.99 (-0.50 each) with a surprise coupon machine for $1.00 off 2
  • 6 Steamer vegetables for $1.99 (-0.50 each) with 2 $1.00 off one coupons and 2 $0.50 off of 2 coupons which were then doubled.

So, I spent $40.41 and based on sales prices and the deals, I saved $54.11.

I am excited about it! Now I hope my freezer doesn't die!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My beautiful 4 year old...

Letter to my beautiful daughter on her 4th birthday...

Dear Logan,

I can't believe that you are turning 4 today. It seems like yesterday that I was visiting you in a Russian orphanage and couldn't get you to smile. Now you have turned into the girl with the mile-wide grin and the silliness to go with it. You have brought such a difference to my life and our house - a place that was all trains and trucks became castles and dolls. You have taught me so much about love and joy and have taught your brothers about softness and kindness.

My favorite sayings of yours are "I love my family" and "I have a silly family". You see the good in everyone.

Please don't grow up too fast, let me still have mornings like today where we carefully picked out the prettiest dress and tights you have so that you could feel special, let me stare at your beautiful face and see your inner beauty for a long long time.


your mother

Monday, January 5, 2009

The drive down...

...the presents were opened, the supplies packed in suitcases...we went out to dinner with Wendy and her mom. The plan was for her to come home with us and we would leave after she and I packed everything into the car. Unfortunately, she packed all of her stuff except she couldn't find her license - and we needed that - to get into the hotel and for her to do the rental car! Ugh! so she spent 20 minutes on hold with the Mechanicsville Wal-mart where she had taken it out to return something earlier in the day but no luck - then did the 30 minute drive back to her house with her mom worrying about all of our plans going to pot - and then she texted me that it was in her pants pocket from earlier in the day - wrapped in the Wal-mart receipt. disaster averted!

...meanwhile at the ranch, Riley and I packed the truck and strapped it onto the trailer I have for it. She arrived at our house around 8:45 and we did some final adjustments and off we went.

...The kids were so excited they couldn't sleep. Riley was awake most of the night consistently and kept asking us what state we were in now. It brought back memories of my childhood when we would stuff 7 kids and 2 parents into a station wagon and drive 4 hours from our home in Massachusetts to our previous home in NY. "Are we there yet" was a much hated question and like the cartoons, I can remember us asking it repeatedly! Of course, I was taking pride in what I thought was his burgeoning geography knowledge until the ride home when he asked if we were back in America yet? dunno where he thought we left the country (or continent) during the trip but he clearly didn't realize that all of the states were in "America" (LOL).

...Logan and Addison slept pretty consistently and Matthew also was asleep between 11 and 4 or 5 in the morning.

...By 4:00 there was no containing Riley anymore and - by extension the others because he cannot modulate his volume well - so we decided to put in a video. It gave us the extra hour of driving we wanted to get to a good stopping place for breakfast and to fill up the gas tank.

...10:00 am we arrive ...the hotel/condo is right behind SeaWorld and even though we didn't plan on going there, the kids recognized roller coasters when they saw them and knew we were "THERE". They wanted to go to the park right away!

...We used Wendy's GPS to find the local Wal-mart and went there to buy food ...after a shopping trip that was complicated by a lot of touchy hands (I wants, can I haves?, and gimmes?) we arrived back to the hotel and Wendy tried to check in. Even though she had called earlier in the week and asked for an early check in (which they assured her we would get!)...they had allowed the people in our room to have a late check out - huh?? here we had frozen, refridgerated and other food in the car and the possibility of no check in for 4 hours. We were tired, frustrated and neither Wendy nor I were good at concealing it - especially with 4 tired kids and luggage for a week to unpack! Ultimately, one of the bell man came and took our food to their restaurant refrig and freezer, and took all of our luggage so we could go to the pool. At 2:00 (instead of the 4 we were told), Wendy got a call that our room was ready. So up we all went. They delivered our food and luggage a few minutes later

...The hotel had 2 main large pools and sprinkled around the area was a playground, a life sized chess game, ping pong table, pool table and 5 hot tubs and 2 children's pools (one a 1 foot pool and 1 a splash pool with spouting water!)

...After a dinner of (yum) spagettios...the kids were ready for bed and so was mom...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The lazy blogger...

Okay, okay...I definitely have been lax about blogging but, I can say that I have had one of the best holiday 2 weeks of my life and there really hasn't been time. I plan on blogging about the time over the next several days but here's a preview...
...12/24/08 - all of the kids woke up and we went out shopping for brother and sister gifts (at Dollar Tree)...then went home to finish up and get ready for Christmas.
12/25/08...had a wonderful Christmas complete with happy children and mom and not too much clean up...a great dinner and just enough time to relax and go to sleep.
12/26/08...did some errands and got ready to pack for the Disney started raining...pulled the trailer and back end of the truck into garage to pack but it started pouring so went out to dinner and then packed...waited for Wendy who had misplaced her license...she found it and we packed while she went home to find it...left at 9 pm...
12/27/08...arrived in Orlando FL around 10 am (after 2-3 stops and breakfast)...went to Walmart for some food supplies and then back to the hotel/condo to check in...they weren't ready so we ate lunch and then went swimming and got to check in around 2PM...everyone went to bed around 6pm...
12/28/08...first real day...went to Animal Kingdom...had a great time
12/29/08...went to Magic back started hurting on the drive in (did absolutely nothing to it!)...left mid day to pick up Denise, Elena and Nina at the airport. Made it back for a few hours at Magic Kingdom...back spasming (is that a word?)...borrowed some medicine from Wendy's friend didn't work. Slept with an ice pack on my back...
12/30/08...woke up barely able to walk...we decided to make this our day to stay around the condo...Denise and girls went to Animal Kingdom, I stayed with 6 kids at condo complex while Wendy and Tracy went shopping at Downtown Disney...back was "somewhat better in water"...made lunch after 2 hours of swimming...all kids did quiet time (mom napped) for 2 hours and went back to pool - went to bed around 11 pm after picking up some muscle relaxers at Walgreens
12/31/08...Back to Magic Kingdom...back was better - if I didn't move - or sit - stayed till around 3 pm but the kids were wiped and we left for a nap...Parks were "Closed" to new entrants so we couldn't go back (not that my back would have taken it)...Wendy and Tracy did get into Epcot for the festivities. I heard them from my bed at the condo!
1/1/09...Hollywood Studios...excellent day...pain was manageable with meds and no fast movements...driving was hard
1/2/09...Epcot...good day but we were all tired and all of the walking didn't really help my back...
1/3/09...swimming in the morning...left Orlando around 2 pm; ended up hitting traffic in Georgia so stopped at 1:00 am in NC and slept
1/4/09...home at 11:30 am with 4 kids who are tired, cranky and restless...can't wait for bed time.