Slow Cooker Greek Yogurt

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and probiotics.  It’s thick and creamy even when made with skim milk.  The only problem is it can get expensive! A 48 ounce container from Costco is around $6, but I can make 64 ounces at home for the price of a gallon of milk.  This week Aldi has milk on sale for $1.65 a gallon!  It’s yogurt making time :).

I like to do a whole gallon at once, because I use yogurt for a lot of things–eating with fruit, pancake topping, sour cream substitute, to make dip and salad dressing, as a base for cream sauces etc.  It’s a fabulous high protein snack for everyone in the family. If you use less, you can cut everything in half and do just a half gallon if you use less yogurt. So here’s how I make it:

Greek Yogurt and Blackberries

Pour 1 gallon of milk in a 5 quart slow cooker.  Place on low for 2-3 hours or until it is 180 degrees. Do not let the milk boil! If you have a digital thermometer with an alarm, you can walk away and forget about it. You can use any kind of milk–skim to whole.  I prefer skim for the lower calories and we are used to it.  Whole milk yogurt is delightfully creamy  though.

Turn off the slow cooker and let the milk sit until it has cooled to 110-120 degrees. (2-3 hours)  I know heating the milk feels like an extra step if you are just going to cool it down, but it’s necessary to unravel the proteins and allows the yogurt to thicken.  I’ve made raw milk yogurt before and it doesn’t get as thick.

Take 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (reserved from your last batch or purchased) and mix it with 1 cup of the warm milk from your slow cooker.  Then stir this mixture into the rest of the warm milk.  It would seem like adding more yogurt starter would just make yogurt faster and thicker–but it doesn’t work that way.  More is not better. 1/2 cup per gallon is perfection.

Cover with the lid and wrap the whole thing in bath towels to insulate.  Keep the slow cooker turned off and allow it to sit overnight.  In the morning it will look like this:

Slow Cooker Greek yogurtYou can see the whey separated and floating on the top with the yogurt solids underneath.  If you stir all this together, you will have regular plain yogurt.

To make Greek Yogurt:  Layer a large bowl with a large colander and line with 3 layers of cheese cloth.  Pour your yogurt  into this and allow to drain without stirring until half of the volume is reduced.  Save the nutritous clear whey for baking and use it like buttermilk in pancakes, biscuits, bread etc.

Take the strained yogurt and put it in your electric mixture with the wisk attachment and whip.  If it’s too dry add a little fresh milk (or cream) until it has the moistness and consistency you like.

It should be very thick and creamy when you are done.  This recipe yields 1 gallon of plain yogurt or 1/2 gallon of Greek Yogurt for around $3.  This is roughly 1/4 the cost of buying the same amounts at Costco and requires very little hands on time.

If your yogurt doesn’t set up, you can leave it another day.  I’ve forgotten about it before and left it for 24 hours.  The yogurt was perfect and the cultures kept the milk from spoiling.  If it doesn’t work at all, it is possible the yogurt cultures weren’t alive.  This happens if the milk is too hot when they are added (high heat will kill them.)  Or if the starter was too old.  It works best if you can make yogurt once a week or every other week and use 1/2 cup from the previous batch to keep the cultures alive and happy.

 

Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

Meat and Cheese are the two most expensive categories in my grocery budget. I keep costs down by choosing less expensive proteins a few times a week like eggs.   While I’m not a fan of vegan protein alternatives like tofu and TVP,  I do enjoy fresh or dry roasted edamame.

how to prepare tofu

If someone in my home developed food allergies to all dairy and eggs I’d consider tofutti. Until then…. nope.

Eggs, on the other hand, are little compact nuggets of serious nutrition.  2 large eggs have 140 calories, 12g of protein, and everything necessary to grow a chick = lots of nutrients.   Plus at $1.50 a dozen, a serving of 2 eggs is only $.25.

Grant Slicing Eggs

We like to have hard boiled eggs on hand for snacking.  They are also great chopped on top of a chef’s salad, in egg salad, potato salad, tuna salad, creamed eggs over biscuits, deviled (stuffed) eggs….you get the idea.

Boiled eggs are easy to cook, but may not be so easy to peel.  When eggs are freshly laid, they are slightly acidic which makes the shell stick tightly to the albumin in the egg white and impossible to peel cleanly. The hen covers her eggs with a protective coating as they are laid which keeps this acidic level intact and the egg fresh outside the fridge for 10 days.

peeling eggs

Commercial eggs have the protective coating washed off.  This allows the natural CO2 trapped in the egg to dissipate through the porous shell reducing the acidity and the stickiness of the shell.  Commercial eggs will ripen in the refrigerator to be easy to peel in about 10 days. By the time they reach our homes commercial eggs are typically perfectly ripe.

If you have your own hens, you’ll need to wash the eggs you hope to boil with warm water and a soft cloth before storing in the fridge.  Label them so you’ll be able to tell the date they will be ready to boil and peel (10 days ripened.)  Oiling the eggs for storage will make it impossible for them to ripen to easy peel stage.

Eggs in steamer

We enjoy steaming our eggs instead of boiling them in water.  They don’t crack since they aren’t in the rocking boiling water to knock them around.  We think they are easier to peel than boiled eggs and don’t have the grayish green line separating the yolk from the white, unless we forget about them and over do it.

I use our combo steamer/slow cooker/rice cooker to do it, because it automatically starts timing when the water comes to a boil and sets of an alarm when they are done.  I simply fill the bottom with 2 inches of water, fill the top basket with eggs, set it to steam for 15 minutes and go to something productive.

Peel eggs with a spoon

When the alarm sounds , I use oven mitts to lift out the steamer basket and plunge it into a sink of cold water to stop the cooking process.  When they are cool enough to handle, I tap and roll the eggs on a paper towel (or cloth towel) to break up the shell, then slip a spoon between the shell and the egg.  The spoon curves with the egg keeping it protected and the peel slips off pretty quickly this way. If the spoon doesn’t slide well, I oil the tip with a touch of olive oil.

How about you, does peeling eggs frustrate you? Do you have a family tradition for making eggs easy to peel?

 

 

DIY Woven Burlap Headboards

DIY Woven Burlap Headboard

Before we moved, in an effort to squeeze a lot of kids in a tiny space, I bought these beds so we could store their clothes unerneath:

south shores chocolate twin bed

It looks handy to use in the photo with the covers all tucked in.  In real life we like our covers to hang over the sides of the bed, which would get caught in the drawers.  We now store bedding in the drawers and their clothes in baskets in the closet.

Boy's closet after 1

The beds aren’t super high quality, but they’ve survived moving twice and are the perfect height off the floor for young boys.  If you consider these beds in your own home, have a plan from the start for replacing the drawer pulls.  They are sharp enough to draw blood if you bump it just right.

In an effort to use what we already have (to stay within budget) I knew I’d be keeping the beds for the room refresh.  I wanted them to have a headboard to ground the bed area, but it had to be inexpensive and short enough to fit below the window.

This headboard from Peir 1 Imports was my inspiration.  I still love it a little more than my DIY headboards, it was just out of our price range and too tall for this project.

Pier 1 Seagrass Headboard

I had originally planned to buy enough jute rope to weave a smaller headboard just like this one, but the cost was prohibitive.  Instead I purchased 5″ wide burlap ribbon with finished edges to weave with.  It was less than $10 a headboard and still gave the texture I was hoping for.

Head board frame

I used the same 1×4 pine from the picture frame in yesterday’s post to build a simple rectangle for the headboard frame and pocket hole joined it together.  It was all going to be hidden, so I didn’t worry about mitering the edges or anything fancy.

Gluing the burlap in place

Then I hot glued strips of the burlap ribbon to cover the frame.  I had to hold it in place for a few minutes until the glue set to make sure it was stretched tightly.  That was HOT!

Gluing bed frame

I figured out I could use a plastic shopping bag to protect my hand from the heat.  The bag peeled off pretty well from the glue without leaving a mark.

weaving bed frame

Then I went back the other direct with the ribbon and wove it through, securing the ends on the back side with more hot glue.

Finished Headboard

Here it is all finished.  They’ve been using it for a couple of months and the burlap has gotten a little stretched out on the edges.  If it doesn’t hold up for the long term, the frame will be easy to upholster in a more traditional fashion.

Woven burlap headboard

The original plan was to just screw the headboard to the wall, but I prefer how it looks with the curtains flowing behind it.  For now I have it propped up inside the bed frame, but am working on a hanging system that will secure it a few inches from the wall and high enough to touch the trim of the window.  I’ll update when I figure it out.

Have you ever made a headboard?  I’d love to hear how you did it.

Easy DIY Rustic Pine Picture Frame

Easy DIY Rustic Pine Picture Frame

When I was searching for inspiration for our shared boy room, I found a photo of this rustic frame and loved it instantly.  I needed a custom size to fit the canvas map I ordered from Amazon.com and to save money, I built it myself.  The map price fluctuates, I paid $29.

Here’s a close-up of the corner detail:

boys frame closeup

Materials:

2 boards of 1x2x6 select pine $2.57 each

2 boards of 1x4x6 select pine $4.24 each

sliding compound miter saw (but a mitre box would work)

pocket hole jig

electric drill

self tapping screws

Face clamps

Wood glue

Distressing tools (a bag of screws and a rough in hammer)

Wood Stain I used minwax provincial

Picture hangers

I had everything but the pine on hand, so this project cost me $13.62

  1.  Measure your picture, leaving some room for the picture to overhang the frame on the back and decide in the INSIDE measurements of your frame.   Then cut 2 lengths of wood with 45 degree angles like this:

Mitre corners for picture frame

Cut 2 more in a similar fashion to match the measurement of the height of the frame.

2.  Drill pocket holes onto the back side of your wood.  Take your time with this.  On my last piece I drilled holes on the front of one side and the back of the other.  There was no way to fix it without buying new wood.  Since it was a rustic frame and I’m cheap, I assembled it with the holes on the front and filled it with a plug.  You’ll never see it unless you look for it….but it happened.   If you don’t want to use a pocket hole jig, you can glue and staple it together.  Tutorial here.

3.  Clamp the 45 degree edges together to a piece of scrap board and use your self-tapping screws to assemble the frame.  I didn’t use glue here.  It’s up to you.

IMG_2261

Here’s a video that was helpful to me:

4.  The top pieces are going to be glued and clamped into place.  Cut 2 pieces of 1×2 the length of your frame (red), then cut 2 pieces the inside width and 2 tiny pieces for the outside corners (blue).  I’ve outlined the wood pieces here to make it easier to understand.

Wood trim for frame

5. At this point, I recommend stopping and distressing and staining your wood now.  If during the gluing process any glue squeezes out onto the face of the wood (it always does), the wood won’t take stain there.  Even if you wipe it off before the glue dries.  I didn’t do this and have some naked spots on my frame.

To distress the wood I whacked it with a rough edge hammer and a bag of screws a few times.  Here’s a more detailed tutorial on distressing wood.

6. Now it’s time to glue your trim wood to the face of the frame.  Add a wavy bead of glue then clamp the first trim piece in place.  After 30 minutes you can remove the clamps and glue the next section.  I only had 2 clamps so this part took the longest.  The trim hid one of my mistake pocket holes completely and partially covered the other one.  Whew.

IMG_2259

7.  Typical frames have a rabbet to give an inset space to hold glass and a backing (instructions here.)  Since I wasn’t using glass or a backing, I didn’t mess with a rabbet and just duct taped my picture to the frame.

duct tape picture to frame

I used small pieces to get it stretched into place, then taped the rest of the way around for security before hanging.

8.  Nail in the picture hangers and hang it up :).

Boy's Frame

I’m pretty proud of how it turned out, considering my first try at building something turned out like this:

6a00e5549125f788330133ef9efacf970b

It took me a few years to get the nerve to try building again. I’m so glad I didn’t give up completely.  I built 4 more things from wood for the shared boy room and saved a BUNDLE in the process.  I’ll show you about them soon.

I love the frame so much I’m thinking of other places I could use one.  Like over the fireplace in Darren’s new office with a chalkboard and inspirational scripture: “Whatsoever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  I’ll have to figure out rabbets for this one.

Darren's office fireplace view tv

How about you?  Would you ever consider building a picture frame?

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Faux Magnolia Wreath

DIY Magnolia Wreath
I’m a big fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines.  So big that I paid $10 on Amazon to watch Season 2 of Fixer Upper after I saw Season 1 three times.  During the third round of season 1 Darren said, “Haven’t we seen this one before?”  I just smiled and handed him some popcorn.   Season 2 didn’t disappoint.  Chip had me screaming, laughing, and cringing and Joanna made me want to appreciate my kids a little bit more.

Greenery breathes life into a room. If I step back in a space and feel like something’s missing, a plant usually fixes it.  I’m not great at keeping plants alive, so I’m ok with using realistic looking faux.

When I saw Joanna’s Magnolia Wreath used in season 1, I loved it.  I clicked over to her site to check buying options and saw the $95 price tag. The reviews were mixed.  I added it to my Christmas list knowing it was way out of budget. After Christmas, Joanna sent out a 20% off coupon! I added the wreath to my cart and calculated the new price $76 (plus shipping). … I still couldn’t do it.  Sigh.

Magnolia Wreath 3

This room hasn’t been updated since 1972.  It features lime green sculpted carpet, a popcorn ceiling and lightly patched and stained walls.  Somehow the wreath makes it easier to wait a little bit longer for the changes to come. 

I searched Pinterest for tutorials on how to make a homemade magnolia wreath and they all started with Magnolia leaves that you pick off the tree in your yard……. Kansas City in January is a terrible place to look for fresh Magnolia in your yard.  My next stop was Hobby Lobby to see if I could buy paper Magnolia leaves.  You can’t, but they have Magnolia garlands that every few weeks go 50% off.  They also have Magnolia bushes that you can separate into leaves if you want a tidier looking wreath like Joanna’s.  I made a wild looking wreath with the garland and LOVE IT.  I love it so much I made a second smaller one for our other living space. (I used to have a moss covered C here, but the wreath is better scaled for the space.)

Magnolia wreath over fireplace

Supplies for the large wreath ($19.80):

24 inch grapevine wreath form  (40% off = $4.80)

2-6 foot Magnolia Garlands (50% off = $15)

Wire Cutters

Floral Wire

Supplies for the small wreath ($10.50):

18 inch grapevine wreath form. (40% = $3.00)

1-6 foot Magnolia Garland (50% off = $7.50)

Wire Cutters

Floral Wire

If you don’t have wire cutters and floral wire on hand Dollar Tree carries both. Their wire cutters are a little dull but get the job done.)

All you do is wire the two together.  It couldn’t be easier!  On the larger wreath, I attached one garland around the outer edge of the wreath and the smaller one towards the inner edge.  I like how it went around more than once on the inner circle and made the wreath asymmetrical.  On the smaller wreath, I attached the garland closer to the center of the wreath form.  Once it’s all attached bend the leaves so they make a pleasing shape.

If you want a less wild looking wreath ($31.80), you’ll need 3 of the magnolia bushes (50% off = $27) and a 24 inch grapevine wreath.  Use the wire cutters to snip off your leaves and hot glue them to the grapevine frame one row at a time.  The original wreath has about 75 leaves in it, 3 bushes will give you 90 leaves to work with.  When you think about the amount of time it took someone to make the wreath, the cost of raw materials, and the overhead they have, $95 starts to make more sense.  If you can afford it, it’s always nice to support a family business.

Not that you need it for something so simple, but I made a short video showing you how I made the wreath.

 

What do you think?  Do you use wreaths in your home decor?

 

 

How to Use Pinterest to Discover your Design Style

how to use pinterest to discover your design style

Do you know your design style?  Are you a little bit modern or country?  Do you like lots of decorations or prefer a minimalistic style?  White walls, dark walls, neutral or bold?  Painted trim, or stained wood? For some of us it’s hard to decide.

I can appreciate any well decorated space, so I made the mistake in our last home of combining too many styles in one room. Read more

Smart Tiles Installation and Review

Smart Tiles Installation and ReviewMix month is still going strong and I have a big line up for you next week!  But for the weekend I wanted to show you some progress I’m making in the girl’s bathroom. In July, I’ll have a whole month of house projects and frugal nesting ideas for you–this is just a sneak peek :).

Smart Tiles generously supplied the tiles for this post (after I begged them) and I honestly thought I would have it up and ready for them in April.  If you remember, the space looked like this–very green:

Girl's bathroom before

I stripped the wallpaper and the popcorn ceiling and was stuck with how to repair this:

DSC_0008

…and many areas like it.  I finally hired a drywall guy to rescue me.  He was amazing and affordable and I wish I had called him months ago.

This week, I primed and painted the space.  It is white, white, white…from the ceiling to the floor.  To keep it from being boring and cold, I have lots of gold accents and dramatic floor to ceiling curtains planned. Plus texture from faux bamboo shades, terry cloth rugs, and hexagonal tiles.  These, to be exact. #onsalenow

I chose these tiles because I want the space done quickly without messing with concrete backer board, wet saws, adhesive or grout.  Yet, I needed something to look great, be durable, and create a waterproof area.  I was not disappointed.

Here’s a before and after picture:

Smart Tiles Before and After

The sink will eventually be white too.

I made a video for you showing how they work :).

Batch Cooking Ground Beef in Your Slow Cooker

Batch Cooking Ground Beef in your Slow Cooker

I first figured out this worked on a desperate day when I didn’t have a kitchen. The no kitchen season of our lives lasted almost a year and I relied on my slow cooker and electric griddle for making almost everything.

Since then, I’ve reused this method changing the seasoning to suit the dish.  Taco seasoning for batch taco meat. Italian seasoning for pizza or spaghetti.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 1

Place up to 6 lbs of frozen ground beef and into the slow cooker.  Add 6 cups of water. (The water is just for broth, if you don’t want broth you can reduce the water to 1 cup.)  For flavor, add 2 finely chopped onions; 1 Tbs of salt; 1 tsp of garlic salt; and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 2

If the lid won’t close.  Don’t freak out.  Wrap the gap with aluminum foil. After about an hour the lid will  push down.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 3

Cook it on low overnight, or on high for 4-5 hours. The beef won’t form crumbles as it cooks, but don’t worry.  It will be awesome in a minute.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 4

 Use a colander and bowl system to drain out the broth.  If you chill the broth, any fat will harden on the top and can be easily removed.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 5

 

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 6

Use a huge fork or a potato masher to break the meat into crumbles.   This also works if you put portions into freezer bags and mush it around with your hands–just like we did with the chicken yesterday.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 7

Ready for the freezer!

No Sew Bedskirt

When we were redoing our room last month, I was surprised how many little details make a space feel finished.  The bedskirt is one of those.

Master Bedroom After

Our previous bed had a wooden frame that hid the box springs.  We were ready for a new look, so kept the headboard only and put the bed on metal rails.  I needed a fast, frugal solution for hiding the box springs.

I found an easy answer in 2 twin flat sheets from Walmart. ($4.88 each.)  1 sheet would have done it, but then there would have been sewing involved.

Here’s a quick video, explaining how it works.  Something more permanent could be made with velcro and hot glue.  I plan to do that soon.  The pins work well, but my kids come and stand by the bed to talk to me in the night and step on the bed skirt–which pulls out the pins… Changing the sheets was easier than I thought.  Just by remembering the skirt was a little fragile I could work around it without pulling it all apart.

 

master bedroom 1

Moss Covered Monogram

In the Cozy Minimalist class, I learned that plants breathe life into the room.  My family room is land locked and light deprived.  Real plants wouldn’t survive a week in this space, so a little creativity is in order. (The plants in the picture are fake IKEA plants.  Cute…but too small for the space?  I’m looking for a frugal way to overflow that shelf with green.)

painted fireplace moss letter

After some looking around pinterest, I thought a moss covered letter  on the new painted fireplace would be perfect.  The space above my fireplace isn’t huge–22 inches total.  So I opted with a 15 inch letter.  I could have gone SUPER frugal and cut a letter out of cardboard.  In the end I paid $5 to have a ready made letter because I wanted the depth.  you can see the side of it from the front door and it looks better to be thick and sturdy.

The fireplace still looks bare, so I’m thinking about garland options. Maybe I’ll make this when we drive to Colorado. Or this.

moss letter 9

This project took me 1 hour including driving to Hobby Lobby to get the letter $5 (50% off from $9.99.) And the moss sheet $6 (40% off coupon from $9.99.)  I also used scissors and a marker.  The project would have gone faster, but those sheets are extremely sticky and I kept getting caught in it like a mouse in a sticky trap.  I regret my decision not to film it, because I think it would have gone viral for how ridiculous it was….you’ve been warned.

moss letter a

Unfold your moss sheet and place your letter in the center.  I drew the lines on it with the marker and cut along it with scissors.  Then peeled off all the paper backing.

moss letter b

I pressed the letter onto the sticky moss.  At this point, it’s good to mention that you want the RIGHT side of your letter face down.  This is pretty important if your letter is directional, like a B.  Thank goodness that C’s are good both directions because I wasn’t super careful.  As you go, SAVE YOUR SCRAPS.  You’ll need them until the very end.  Then if you want, you can throw the mess away.

moss letter c

Then I started pressing up the moss and sticking it around the outside, trimming off the excess so it would lay flat agains the wall.  Where it curved, I snipped it to the letter then folded it up overlapping the excess while keeping it smooth. The cool thing about this project is the moss is so forgiving.  If you end up with a hole you can just stick a scrap in it and no one will be able to tell.

moss letter d

To go around the inside curves I snipped it like the outside, but this time instead of overlapping it left gaps of triangles. moss letter 1

moss letter 2

I just cut little triangle scraps and stuck them in to fill in the gaps.

moss letter 3

The corner ended up with a triangle flap.  I just cut it off flush.

moss covered letter 7

TaDa!

moss covered letter 5

I went super fancy on the hanger and hot glued a paper clip to the back. It’s such a lightweight piece that a paperclip is just the right thing.

Fireplace and moss letter