Sunday, November 6, 2016

Turning Four

This weekend we celebrated my little bird. 
 spunky little three year old turned four and I'm a little beside myself on how to process the whole event. It's utterly unreal that time has passed by so quickly. 

With the movie Trolls coming out her birthday weekend, we thought what better way to celebrate than to see this new movie. She was so excited and loved every minute.

It's a family tradition that whoevers birthday it is gets to pick what we'll have for supper. When I was little, I would always request lasagna or spaghetti. This little lady made it even easier for me and chose grilled cheese and bbq chips. 

She tells me being four means she's a big girl now. While I agree with some of that, I'm still holding on to that itty-bitty piece of baby she has tucked behind her heart. That piece that comes out when she's tired or sad. When she wants extra snuggles in the morning. Yeah, she might be a big girl in her book, but she's always always going to be my little baby.

Happy Birthday my sweet girl!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Homemade Gluten Free Granola

A couple of days ago, I shared how we make homemade yogurt to help salvage our grocery budget. It's been a huge blessing but I couldn't leave it at that. We eat a lot of yogurt in our house, but we eat just as much granola. 

Have you ever taken a step back and looked at the price of granola. Ouch!! Have you ever paid attention to the price of Gluten Free granola. Probably not it you don't need to, but it's even worse. Since we eat yogurt and granola quite often, I knew I had to learn to make it from home.

Making granola in your own kitchen allows you to be in control of how it tastes. We like to put extra cinnamon in ours, especially around this time of year. Add in some pumpkin spice and that makes it even more special. 

Granola is so versatile. Nuts, berries, coconut...any addition makes it yummy or eat it with just the oats like we do. Totally your call. The girls and I usually make this on the weekends. Sometimes Ellie and I will make it after the girls are off to school. Here's what you'll need to whip this up:

Gluten free old fashioned oats

Raw Honey
Coconut Oil
Mixing bowl
2 baking sheets
Parchment paper

Let's get started!!!

Preheat your oven to 350. 

Combine 3 cups of oats and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Pour them onto the parchment lined baking sheets, dividing the oats between the two. Bake the oats for about 12 minutes in the oven. Stir here and there. 

Combine 3 teaspoons melted coconut oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/2 cup honey. After the oats have toasted, pull them out of the oven and drizzle the wet mixture over the oats and stir well. Make sure they're all coated. Place back in the oven and turn it off. Allow them to sit for another 8-10 minutes to finish toasting and then remove from the oven to cool. Make sure to allow them plenty of time to cool completely. 

That's it!! 
You just made granola. Easy peasy. Now you get to eat it without feeling guilty for paying an arm and a leg for it. Well, that's if you're like me. 

Store the granola in air tight jars and enjoy!! This would also be a great homemade gift for neighbors or teachers. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Homemade Yogurt in Your Crockpot

Our family is on the road to saving money. We have cut back and slashed spending in so many ways. We originally started with groceries. It was outrageous! With two girls having celiac disease, I've been forced to learn how to cut costs in areas I never really considered before to make up for the gluten free items I'm having to purchase. Gluten free foods are so crazy expensive and eat up a lot of our budget. 
My most recent action to save money was to learn to make homemade yogurt. I was very intimidated but I knew it was something I should at least try. The girls eat a lot of yogurt not only because they love it but it is one of the cheaper gluten free snack options. We went through a time where they wanted the character yogurts (frozen, ninja turtles, etc.). They eat so much yogurt though, it started to add up. When we crunched numbers for our new budget, I knew this was the place to start. It all adds up in the end. 

Making homemade yogurt is very easy. It's extremely good, and so much cheaper. Looking back I can't believe I ever hesitated. I love knowing that we're saving money in addition to knowing everything that's in our yogurt. And seriously, the crockpot makes it even easier than before.  At first, my husband was a little weary of the whole process. The incubation period sort of freaked him out, but here we are many many batches later and he's totally on board. 
Here's everything you need to get started:
  • Crockpot (This is the one I have)
  • 1/2 gallon milk (We use 2 %)
  • 1/2 cup of yogurt for your starter (after your first batch, you'll save 1/2 cup for your next batch)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sugar (it all depends on how sweet or tangy your prefer your yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Containers for storage. (I use Ball Quart jars.)
  • Optional items:  cheesecloth and colander

Let's get started!!!
The amount of time for making a batch of yogurt takes anywhere between 12-15 hours. So, I usually start our batches around 2:30 p.m. so that the last part of the process will happen while I'm asleep. It works out perfectly for us. 
Pull out your crockpot. Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into it and  turn it on. Set your timer for 2 hours and 30 minutes.
When that time is up, turn the crockpot off. Slowly stir in your sugar and vanilla. Be careful not to scrape the bottom in case some of the milk has cooked to the pot. TRUST ME! Set your timer for 2 hours and 45 minutes. 
When that time is up, take a cup of the milk from the crockpot and mix it with your yogurt starter. Mix it well and add it back to the pot. You're almost done. Put the lid on and wrap the entire crockpot with some bath towels. This is the longest part of the process. You're going to let your little incubator sit for 8-12 hours. I usually set my microwave for 9 hours just so I don't forget about it in the morning. But it's hard to miss a glob of towels on my kitchen counter. 
After that last time, you can unwrap the pot and you'll see your yogurt. The next few steps are optional and all depend on how you prefer your yogurt. I'm not a big fan of thin yogurt so I do the following to allow our yogurt to thicken up not quite like greek yogurt but somewhere in between. 

I take a big pot, a colander, and some cheesecloth. I line the colander with the cheesecloth and place those two on top of the big pot. I pour the yogurt into the lined colander. I then put in the fridge for 1 1/2 hours. You'll figure out the amount of time for the desired texture. It's a trial and error process. Once that time is up, I take it out and put the yogurt into the jars. 
I usually double this recipe. With five of us, we eat a lot of yogurt. I usually end up with 3 quart jars of yogurt which in turn lasts us about 1 1/2 weeks. Sometimes. 

Now, after you've strained your yogurt, you'll see the whey in the bottom pot. You can either get rid of it or save it like I do. There are so many things you can use that whey for. I have started using it when I'm making the girls gluten free bread. I use it in place of the milk, which helps to save even more money.  But, that's a completely different post. 
If you have any questions, please let me know. I hope this helps you. Making yogurt can seem so intense and involved, but it's really so easy. 

But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more Psalm 71:14