Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Garden Penne

I was looking for a recipe to use with my first summer squash of the season. I modified this one from allrecipes.com and it was a hit. If only my red onions and peppers were ready! I'd have had all the ingredients from my own garden. While this was delicious fresh, I bet you could freeze it as well.

1 (16 ounce) package penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 (28 ounce) can Italian diced tomatoes, drained
1 (28 ounce) jar pasta sauce
1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn,drained (or 1 cup frozen corn)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the penne, and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 11 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink, place the pasta in a large bowl, and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook and stir the zucchini, squash, onion, red and green peppers, and garlic until the vegetables are tender, for about 10 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, pasta sauce, and corn, and stir to mix. Sprinkle with red and black pepper to taste, and bring the mixture back to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
4. Pour the vegetable mixture into the bowl with the cooked penne pasta, stir to mix well, and spoon into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top, and bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

Servings: 6

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Crock Pot Yogurt

So I've been reading online about making yogurt in a crock pot and decided to give it a go. My girls and I all love yogurt. The kids are a little picky, though, and won't eat "chunky" yogurt. They like those kiddie yogurt flavors with bright colors. I found a site that suggested using Jello to flavor homemade yogurt. I prefer Greek yogurt, and also found multiple tips on how to make that. Both recipes were a huge success!

While it is not difficult, crock pot yogurt does require some "babysitting," so start this when you will be home for a while. To time it right, I suggest you start it in the afternoon and it should be ready for you the following morning. Make sure to reserve a cup of the plain yogurt to serve as starter for your next batch. You can put it in the freezer.


  • 1/2 gallon milk (I used whole milk)
  • Crock pot
  • 1/2 - 1 cup plain yogurt with active cultures
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk
  • 1 box of Jello - I like Better Bowls gelatin or Jel Dessert (for kid yogurt)
  • Large coffee filter or cheese cloth & fine strainer (for Greek yogurt)

  • Pour 1/2 gallon milk into crock pot. Set on high until milk reaches 180 degrees F. (I used my Hamilton Beach crockpot with probe - perfect for this!) Expect it to take a couple hours, at least.
  • Turn crock pot off and let sit until temperature cools to 115 degrees F. I found that if I take the lid off, this goes faster, but you'll have to skim off a layer of film that forms on the top of the milk. With lid on, it takes about 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
  • Scoop out 2 cups of the lukewarm milk into a bowl and add the plain yogurt & powdered milk to it. Mix well and return the milk/yogurt mixture to the crock pot. Stir to combine.
  • Remove the "crock" from the pot and put the lid back on. Wrap the crock in a towel for added insulation and set in an unheated, closed oven.
  • Let sit for 8 hours in the oven (this is when it's nice to time it so that it sits overnight). Make sure to put a note on the oven so that you don't accidentally turn it on! :)
  • After 8 hours, the milk will be transformed into yogurt.
Kid Yogurt:
  • Dissolve 3 oz box of Jello into 1 cup boiling water. Let sit to cool a bit. For a more natural/healthy option, try Jel Dessert (found at Whole Foods). It doesn't contain gelatin, so it won't have the same consistency as Jello. But, it is perfect for yogurt drinks! And it makes great frozen "go-gurts" when I freeze it in silcone pop molds. UPDATE: I have found Better Bowls gelatin on Amazon which does contain gelatin and has a great texture. My kids LOVE this!
  • Scoop out 2 cups of plain yogurt into a bowl. Whisk the Jello into the yogurt well. It will turn to liquid - this is okay. Just pour it into lidded containers and put in the fridge to set up. A few hours later you will have "Jogurt," as we call it. Looks and tastes very much like the store-bought kiddie yogurt!
Greek Yogurt: 
  • Place a fine strainer over a sturdy bowl. 
  • Set a large coffee filter (or cheese cloth) into the strainer and fill with as much plain yogurt as it will hold.
  • Sit in the refrigerator overnight. The whey will drip out into the bowl below and you will be left with amazing, rich, creamy Greek yogurt!
  • Flavor with honey or fruit syrup/jam for a sweet and delicious treat.

Update: I have calculated the yield and cost of this recipe.

1/2 gallon milk yields 7 cups yogurt 

With some Manager's Special Organic Milk and a cup of vanilla starter yogurt, it cost me $0.24/cup yogurt

Jogurt = 2 cups yogurt ($0.48) + natural jello pkg ($1.49) = $1.97/16 oz  or $0.12/oz (my VERY best sale price on GoGurt is $0.16/oz)

Greek yogurt = 2 cups yogurt ($0.48) = $0.48/8 oz or $0.06/oz  ($0.17/oz for Chobani Greek yogurt) 

2 cups of  yogurt = 1 cup Greek yogurt & 1 cup whey

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Chocolate cake (from scratch)

This simple one bowl cake recipe is easy, super moist and delicious. The buttercream icing recipe makes *just* enough to cover. If you want a thicker icing, make 1 + 1/2 recipe of icing.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two nine inch round pans.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

1/4 cup butter (softened)
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Mix together all ingredients. May need to add more milk (slowly) until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency.