Simple Homemade Vanilla Yogurt

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1 gallon milk: heat to 180 degrees
Cool in kettle (about 2 hours) till it’s still warm, but not too hot to touch.

1/8 teaspoon yogurt culture  (found at health food stores OR 1 cup plain yogurt with live active cultures.
1/2 teaspoon stevia
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons knox gelatin dissolved in 1/2 cup water (optional)

Put the yogurt mixture into mason jars and set inside an oven that has been preheated to 100 degrees. (Alternative method is to place inside an ice chest in 100 degree water). Let set in the oven 8-12 hours. Refrigerate.

Tips: I rarely use a thermometer anymore when making yogurt. But if you’re just starting out, you may want to! I just heat the milk til it develops that “skin” layer on top and then turn it off to cool. I also know it’s cool enough to add the culture when I can put my finger into it for a couple of seconds …. you don’t want it cooled completely, but neither do you want it too hot as it can kill the yogurt culture.

The gelatin is optional. In the early years, I always added the gelatin, but now I usually skip this step and it turns out beautifully. The richer the milk, like say Jersey cow milk for example, the thicker the yogurt! For Lancaster County locals, milk from Lapp Valley farms makes amazing yogurt!

For plain yogurt to use in cooking recipes, just omit the stevia and vanilla of course! :)

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Nothing Profound, Just Pigs & Chickens

Back when I was a little girl and was given the task of taking out the kitchen slop (or “compost” if we’re sticking with nice terms) to the farm animals, I never would have guessed that as a thirty-something woman, wife, mom to five, and mompreneur, that this small, menial task would become a favorite~even one of the looked-forward to moments of my day! Because that’s exactly me these past several weeks! I think it can be logically explained though…without assuming that I have gone off the deep end. :) It’s probably has something to do with the constant chatter of little humans around me. Maybe even more, the constant use of technology and social media for communication and business. There’s something so wonderful about leaving the kitchen behind, walking out the door with my little boy in tow, and taking all the scraps from dinner out to those hungry ladies and boys. Everybody needs an escape, quiet moments in the day, right?….and why not escape to the pigs and the chickens!? :)

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The chickens always arrive first. We call for them, and they seem to be most in-tune with their surroundings. They come clucking and picking daintily at the juicy scraps we’ve thrown on the ground. The beautiful rooster with his deep jewel tones, the less-colorful rooster that hatched from a nest full of eggs late last winter, and the hens who keep us supplied with dozens of brown speckled eggs. We lean in over the fence and watch them as they peck and scratch.
If they’re lucky, those chickens may get a few minutes to themselves, but usually, like clockwork, the big Idaho Pasture pigs come without invitation, grunting and barreling their way through to what is *obviously* a snack meant for them. The chickens scatter at first while the pigs eat like, well, pigs. The make all the undesirable noises as they slobber and slurp down everything in their path. The hens eventually settle back in among them, picking daintily at what’s left.

It’s prime teaching time for children of all sizes on why it’s better to be like a chicken than a pig when it comes to table manners and all types of relational interactions. :) Chamberlain and I watch till every piece is gone, and then the show is over. Everyone scatters off into the yard off to the shade of the trees, going back to whatever they were doing before we showed up. We amble back into the house, looking forward to tomorrow and this new-found task. It’s a simple, grounding, uncomplicated part of our day. And there you have it, for the first time in my life, though I was raised as a farm girl till I was ten, I’m officially loving the farm chore of taking out the slop. Funny how life often comes full-circle in the simplest ways.

Apples & Coconut Muesli

Last September Phil and I were gifted with a beautiful weekend at the Terranea Resort in California by Plexus. We had never stayed at anything so gorgeous on mainland USA in our entire lives! Absolutely stunning terrain and ocean views, beautiful weather, amazing food, and with wonderful people too! We were served several delicious meals during our stay, but on one of our free mornings, Phil discovered that the cafe downstairs was serving Bircher Muesli! He was so excited and came back with rave reviews, so the next morning we both got a bowl and enjoyed from our ocean-view veranda.

Now I’m sure the ocean breezes made this breakfast taste even more amazing, but I think it’s safe to say that my duplication of this recipe as best I could has brought rave reviews from our children and others back home too.

So without further adieu…..Musli Terranea // That’s the fancy name we’re giving this simple and delicious variety of muesli. Food like this isn’t easy to find in East Coast Amish country, but we’ve suggested it to our local coffee shop/cafe a few times! I’m pretty sure there are others who would love it as we do! Maybe soon we’ll see it on their menu!?

Now really, there isn’t much you can do to “mess up” muesli. Just add the following ingredients into a bowl and play around with it! For our family of six I usually start with four generous cups of oats. If making for one or two people, I start with one cup of oats.

Almond or coconut milk
Shredded Coconut
Apples finely diced (tart green apples are great, but any on hand will do!)
Favorite Sweetener ~ Honey is amazing, maple syrup is great . . . I usually do a little of either of one of those and then add extra stevia just because my family loves the sweet!
A few drops of coconut extract make this dish taste exactly as it should!

If using regular oats, you can soak at least an hour (or overnight in the refrigerator)… We sometimes use quick oats too because we enjoy the texture and eating immediately. Of course, adjust the amount of milk according to your preference. More milk added as the oats soak of course, and all depending on how “sloppy” you prefer to eat cooked oats or regular cereal.

Let me know how you like it~and if you think a local cafe would be able to see this by the pans-full as the cafe in California does! 😀

Oh, and if you are wondering just WHAT in the world muesli is, THIS ARTICLE some interesting history and recipe ideas as well!

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