Thursday, March 29, 2012

Best 3-Bean Chili

In our quest to incorporate more beans into our diets we have branched out and looked for some different recipes for chili. This is one of our favorites. Our little four year old says, "Mom, this is lishous." I think that definitely describes it. We especially love the addition of Cinnamon.

1 to 2 pounds lean ground beef
3 teaspoons chili powder
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
2 (16 oz.) cans Dark Red Kidney Beans
2 (16 oz.) cans Pinto Beans
2 (16 oz.) cans Black Beans
1 (14.5 oz.) can Diced Tomatoes
1 & 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Garlic Salt
1/2 tsp. Ground Pepper
1/2 tsp. Cumin
Cinnamon, to taste - I usually put in 1 tsp.
Sour Cream

Brown ground beef in a heavy dutch oven or soup pot. Add chili powder and mix well. Add onion and pepper to meat and cook for 2 minutes. Drain off excess grease. Stir in remaining ingredients except for sour cream. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Top with sour cream.  This recipe comes from

Of course, it is always cheaper to use dry beans over canned beans. If you use canned beans, don't drain them. If you use dry beans that you cook in a pressure cooker or stock pot make sure and use some or all of your cooking liquid in your chili. The liquid in the beans makes a nice thick and rich gravy in your chili.  For an even thicker chili you can add 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste. This recipe would also be a great vegan recipe, just leave out the ground beef.  For tips on cooking dry beans:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

All Purpose Cleaner

For a Great All-Purpose Cleaner
Combine equal parts White Vinegar and Water.
White Vinegar kills most mold, bacteria and germs due to its level of acidity.
It is also non-toxic and environmentally friendly. It works great on glass, leaving no streaks. The only thing you can’t use it on is marble and most of us won’t have that problem.
Now some of you are thinking, "Do I really want my house smelling like a bunch of pickles?" Don't worry the vinegar scent quickly fades. In fact, white vinegar is a very good deodorizer. It neutralizes those odors that you really don't want lurking around your home.
Still not wanting the vinegar smell? Try this:

Heat 1 Cup of White Vinegar in the microwave. 
Steep 1 lemon scented teabag in the hot vinegar, leave it overnight. For 32 oz. of cleaner, add 1 more cup vinegar and 2 cups water to the vinegar tea. I tried this with a peppermint teabag because that is all I had. I couldn't smell the peppermint very strongly, but the vinegar smell was not nearly as strong as before. In fact, you can hardly smell it at all. You could also scent this cleaner with your favorite essential oils or try infusing the vinegar with pine needles, lavender, etc. I keep a spray bottle of this all-purpose cleaner below my kitchen sink. It also makes a great fruit wash. Whenever I wash apples I just give them a spritz of this. The vinegar helps to remove any unwanted chemicals.

To find out more great uses for white vinegar go to .

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seed Potatoes: Where to buy them?

Q - What is the difference between a seed potato and a regular potato?
A - The answer is there is no difference... sort of, sometimes seed potatoes have been treated and are not edible.  Usually the seed seller will disclose any issue. Some sell a sampler pack... to try and to plant.

A sprouting Viking Red a great heat tolerant red potato
Q - Can I just plant potatoes from the grocery store?
A - Not typically, they are usually treated with a chemical to prevent sprouting, they may eventually sprout but may not produce any potatoes.  I have heard that if they have been treated this way and they do sprout, if planted they will not develop tubers.  I can't verify this but I plan to experiment next time we have some sprouted grocery store potatoes in the pantry.
Q - What about "organic potatoes" from the grocery store?
A - You would think they would be good to plant but I have heard first hand accounts with mixed reviews about their viability.  Some of the issue may have to do with how they were stored and if the potatoes are new this years' crop.  Potatoes have to rest along with either high heat to cold to be viable as seed.  It is worth a shot but I wouldn't trust my whole crop to them.
Q - Where did you get your potatoes for your potato bins?
Cut into pieces (least two eyes each) set out to callous over.
A - I purchased them from they have a huge variety of seed potatoes, I mean it they have countless varieties.  I also purchased from them because I can get them months early than other seed sellers.  Because I am in Zone 7b I need to plant mine far before most places ship their potatoes.
Q - Would you buy from them again?
A - Yes, they were very good to work with and I have been very satisfied with their seed potatoes.  Though next year I will order from their Long Season choices for the Potato Bins, because they will have a much large yield.
Q - Where else can I get seed potatoes?
A - I have been looking around locally for other options, I have found them at the big box stores and the farm stores like Atwoods, Tractor Supply and Calranch.  Most of what they all stocked were mid season varieties which don't work as well for Potato Bins
Q - Who had the best price?
A - Atwoods had the best price by far, only $0.69lb. Most of the other farm stores were about $1lb. The only draw back is they only had about 6-8 varieties.  The ones at the big box stores were decently priced also but their selection was also limited.
Q - What will you do next year for your seed potatoes?
A - I will buy some specialty ones(like the purple ones) from and get the regular ones (reds, yukon golds etc.) from the farm store.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Potato Bin - Grow 100lbs in 4 square feet?

Fist of many layers to the bins.
The claim is that you can grow over 100 lbs of potatoes in just 4 square feet.  You might have seen this on the internet.  Basically you plant potatoes and add soil and bin rails as the potatoes grow.  The concept is that most potatoes will continue to develop tubers if you bury the bottom portion of the plant as it grows, much like hilling your potatoes but rather than inches you are adding 3-4 feet up.  This works best with mid to long season potatoes as they are more likely to continue forming tubers.

Young potato plant
We are trying it this year.  We have three bins, one 2 foot x 2 foot and two 2'x3'.  Actually they are 27 inches to give a full 4 square feet inside.  The larger ones have an inside dimension of 24" x 32"

We planted one pound of seed potatoes in each.  We planted Yukon Gold, Purple Majesty and Viking Red.  The Yukon golds will probably not produce much as they are an early season potato and stop producing quickly.

I have salvaged a lot of scrap 2x6's from the burn piles at construction sites (with permission).  A few screws and I have my bin layers.  I will detail our progress with these bins as this early season continues. We plan to use straw/hay in place of soil/compost.  We don't have an excess of soil or compost on hand so a couple bales of hay will work great.  I also feel that 4 feet of soil may become compacted and constrain growth.  Using the hay will also make our harvest very easy.  The hay is great added to the compost pile after the season, if I can find some old moldy hay will work and often can be picked up for free.

Starting to sprout after greening.
Freshly cut, set out for 24 hrs to callous.
Steps to a Potato Bin:
  1. About 3 weeks before we planted them we "greened" our potatoes by leaving them out in the light in the warmth of our house.  This encourages good sturdy sprouting eyes.
  2. We cut our potatoes leaving at least 2 eyes per piece.
  3. Leave your cut pieces out over a day or so to develop a scab over the recent cuts
  4. We started with some well prepared soil
  5. Plant the pieces 4 inches below the soil (eyes up) about 6 inches apart
  6. Place first layer of the bin around the          planted seed potatoes I used 2x6 boards cut to 27 inches each.
  7. Keep the soil moist (not wet)  
  8. Plants will take 2-4 weeks to emerge depending on soil temperatures.
  9. As the plants reach 6-8 inches add soil, compost or straw around all but top 3 inches of plant.
  10. Continue adding soil and new rails to the crib as the plants grow.
  11. Keep adequately watered, they can get a little dry as the bin grows.
  12. When the plant dies back and has set for 2 weeks or so remove rails and harvest your potatoes

We will keep you updated as our potato experiment continues and we will weigh out our harvest at the end.... lets see if we can pull off 100 pounds...  

Our plants are coming up time to add some more rails to the bins....
Editorial UPDATE: Find out how well it worked....Harvest Update HERE

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Basic Pot of Beans

Below is a recipe that can be used as the base for a lot of bean dishes.  It is just the basics, by adding some simple additional elements you can turn this into a lot of things see below.  This recipe works with any bean, the pictures below are using pinto beans.

Basic Pot of Beans
Pressure Cook Beans for 30 Minutes at 12lbs

1 lb    -  dry beans (any type) rinsed and sorted for small stones.
2 Qt.  -  of water (it tastes far better if you use stock or even add some bullion cubes)
2 Tbs.-  Bacon oil (bacon drippings) or Olive oil
1       -  Med.Onion chopped
2       -  Cloves Garlic (I like a lot of garlic I used 4-5)
1       -  Bay Leaf  
2 tsp  -  Salt
Taste -  Black pepper

Everything is in the pot ready to go.
Rinse and sort for stones and twigs
I made this in a 4 Quart pressure cooker.  Rinse your beans, sort for any small stones.  Place in pressure cooker,  pour 1/2 of water over beans.  Add Bacon Oil, onion, garlic and spices.  Top with remaining water, be sure not to fill above the "Max Fill" Line.  Lock down lid and put on high heat.  When the steam starts to escape from the pressure relief valve, turn your stove down to about medium and start your timer.  For safety always follow the manufacturers instructions for you pressure cooker.  After timer goes off, remove from heat an let sit till pressure had come down. 

How to serve:
Serve hot over rice
As a side dish.
Drain and add any recipe canned beans are called for (about 2 cups per can).
Refried, Mash and cook in hot skillet
I tend to add more salt to taste after cooking. 

Add about any spice you like, making it Italian, or Mexican etc.
"Mexican" Add Cumin, maybe some Mexican oregano and top with fresh cilantro
You can reduce the water by 1/2 for a less soupy consistency (rice soaks up allot)
Add meat to the cooking process ie: bacon, ham hocks, or sausage...
Use as the base for a soup or stew

Use stock to replace some or all of the water
The finished product.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Great Deal

Check out this great deal that Jacob found at the store!  I was so proud! We always swing by the clearance section to see what they have.  Of course, these canning supplies were bought in the winter after the peak of canning season so they were very cheap. The best time to buy anything for drastically reduced prices is when the season for that item is over.  We do this often , but only buy those things we know we will use. I will definitely use this pectin up because I love strawberry freezer jam and so do the kids.  At regular price the pectin runs about $4.50 each and the pickle crisp is about the same. The small batch pectin would be about $1.00 at regular price so if we would have bought all of this at regular prices it would have cost approximately $75.00 and he got it for the swinging deal price of  $12.74. That is a 97% savings!  That is a great Deal!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lunch Meat

Let's face it prepackaged lunch meats although tasty
and convenient are very expensive. I do buy them sometimes, but only if I catch a really good sale or I can find some for a reduced price. Check out this roast beef. I made a huge roast for Sunday dinner (which I bought for 50% off in the reduced meat section at the store) in the crock pot. It was really yummy and tender, but we could only eat about a third of it.  So we put it in the fridge and the next day I sliced it up and we had yummy roast beef sandwiches for the rest of the week. I sliced this with my bread knife and I was able to get it really thin.  The key to this is to slice it cold. Don't try and slice it while it is still warm. Stick the whole thing in the fridge overnight and then slice it. You will find that it slices much easier and you can get those nice thin slices that are just begging to be put between two slices of whole grain bread. Yum. You can do this with pork or ham to. If you take a little time you can save some money and still have a yummy deli style sandwich for lunch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Home Energy Audit

Blower Door
When it comes to Energy Audits, the old saying "you get what you pay for" definitely holds true.

I can't count the number of times I have gone into a home after the homeowners had a "free energy audit" but still have high energy bills or continued comfort issues.   Free typically meant they got crap for an audit sometimes they have had "free" improvements done too.  By the time they are fed up and call us in, they have had little to no improvement or savings from their free audit/work.  Throwing more money down the drain.  I have even found where they did improvements but were dishonest in how much they improved it, often no actual improvement was  made.  I have also been to homes where they just spent $3500 on a radiant barrier with no improvement to the home.  I have been to homes where they had a brand new 5 ton high efficiency AC unit just installed but their house is now so humid they can't stand it and their bills have actually gone up.

Even if you are paying for an Energy Audit they are not all the same...  This is an area where experience really counts.

What a Quality Energy Audit should Include:

Blower door installed on a house
  •  An experienced RESnet or BPI certified auditor or one with both certifications.
  • A brief initial discussion about energy usage, problem areas, comfort concerns etc.
  • Blower Door test
  • Duct blaster test
  • Thermal imaging
  • A full diagnostic of all HVAC performance
  • Combustion appliance safety testing of any gas appliance.
  • Your house should be measured including windows etc
  • The auditor spending quality time in the attic and crawlspace
  • The audit should take 3-6 hours in your home.
  • A computer energy model to evaluate the recommended improvement
  • A quality detailed lengthy report showing their findings, recommendations and payback of recommendations, my reports run 20-35 pages.
  • Improvements should include no cost and low cost improvements even simple lifestyle changes.
  • An option for a post work "test out" to verify installed components
  • Often the utility will come through after an audit and do a quality control audit, this is good thing, if they ask, let them do it.  It keeps companies honest and ensures your home was assessed correctly with correct findings.

Missing Ceiling Insulation (lots more like this in the room)
 I never recommend having an audit done by a Window company, an Insulation company or an HVAC company, it's like letting the fox into the hen house... In my company we can install anything we recommend through our circle of quality subcontractors.  We manage all of them and the improvements as a general contractor.  But we do not walk down that path till we have given the homeowner their report.

Pic of above thermal."Our Master Bedroom is always so hot"

Since we can do any and all work we suggest we are far less biased than the window guy will be or the HVAC company is.  We also write the report and work order in a manner that will allow them to get quality bids/work from any contractor and we tell the homeowners they are welcome to.  We would love to do the work but our audit is not contingent on doing the work and neither is our advice.  Our advice is based on the individual house, the occupants and their needs.  If we don't put them first, we are no better than the guys running around knocking out 6 "free" audits a day.  We (team of 2-3) will only do one audit a day, most will take 4-5 hours, plus about the equal amount of time in the office running calculations and writing the report.

So what should this Energy audit cost?  There are a lot a variables but on average nationally it is between $400-$750+.  Every home I have audited the cost of the audit was more than recovered in the first year (even in  a few months) by following our suggestions.

There are several places to find Auditors:
  • Check with your local utility for any comprehensive audit programs (utility offered "Free audits" are a waste of time) 
  • Resnet. (Residential Energy Services Network)
  • Look into Home Performance with Energy Star.
  • Internet
  • Friends and Family who have had Audit's preformed.
Shop around, ask details about what they offer, ask them for references (you are about to spend good money on them), and ask for a sample audit report.  If you catch voice mail leave a message and wait to hear back, I never have my phone on when I am in a house doing an audit, but I always return calls when I am packed up and back in the truck.  Ask them pricing and see if there are any utility company rebates or programs to offset some but not all of the cost.  Don't go the free route, the free audit will often exempt you from far better utility programs that can seriously offset the cost of your improvements.  The only exception to that may be in a low income situation with a low income program (but buyer beware some companies will make "improvements" but fail to actually improve anything).

Keeping these suggestions in mind, you should have a good experience with your energy audit.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Perennial Pepper Plants

We love using peppers in good food like; Shaun-ta's great salsa, added to dishes, or made into hot sauce for me.  Did you know that peppers (bells, jalapeno's etc.) are a perennial plant?  Well, it turns out that they are perennial(comes back each year), they are just very cold sensitive, as are tomatoes.  They are both in the same family, the Solanaceae (night shade) family, which includes: peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, egg plant, tomatillos and many flowering plants.

We had some some Bell and Jalapeno pepper plants planted in the summer last year.  The jalapeno's were especially prolific (I made some great hot sauces and smoked/dried some as Chipotle peppers).  I had heard that these plants can over winter if put in pots and brought inside.  We didn't want to pot them so we tried to help them along over the winter where they were planted.  After the season was over Shaun-ta' pruned them back to small 18" stubs and then to help protect the roots piled up grass clippings around the base of the plants.

We didn't expect much but hoped for good results.  We live in Zone 7b/8a in East Texas and had a very mild winter though we did have some freezes and frosts.  As the winter progressed the plants regressed to dry shrived twigs, they maintained some green stem where the grass was hilled up.  Come the end of January they didn't look good all of the green was gone.

We were in the garden a couple weeks ago and Shaun-ta' took a closer look at the pepper plants.  She excitedly called me over to look.  Out of the 6 of them a couple seemed to have some green stem just below the dirt.  We almost pulled them up a couple of times, sure glad we didn't.

Green Jalapeno Plant 1 (notice the small green stem to the rt. of the stalk)
So this last Saturday we were out looking at the progress of our garden and planning some plantings and we noticed some green around the base of some of the pepper plants.  We first passed if off as weeds (weeds are okay to grow around a point).  After a closer look we realized that it was little pepper shoots emerging from the base of the old plant.  We will keep you posted on the progression of these 2 Jalapeno plants.  We planted some other pepper seeds in another bed last week.  I am excited to see how well last year's plant will do in comparison to the planted seeds.

Green Jalapeno shoots Plant 2
I anticipate they will out perform last year because of the head start since they emerged when the weather was right and because they have last years root system to grow from.  By not having to deal with shock and acclimatization like a seedling or the germination and early establishing growth of a seed.  The other benefit is we know these plants did well in our garden last year, some of the other peppers we planted did not do well.   I hope they are successful.  If this turns out to work great we will make even more effort to protect them over the winter next year.  Maybe the Tomatoes too...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Blender Wheat Pancakes

 In honor of St. Patrick's Day we tried out a new food storage recipe, "Blender Wheat Pancakes". A little green food color and baked in the shape of a shamrock and they were the perfect breakfast.

I thought they were Yummy!

1 Cup Wheat (or flour)
1 Cup Milk
2 Eggs
2 Tb. Oil
2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 Tb. Honey or Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt

Place the wheat and milk in the blender. Blend on highest speed for 4 to 5 minutes or until batter is smooth. If substituting flour for wheat, blend on low until batter is smooth. Add, and blend on low, eggs, oil, baking powder, honey or sugar, and salt. Bake on a hot griddle.

This recipe comes from the "Hard Red Winter Wheat Recipes"  Family Home Storage Pamphlet published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Kidney Bean & Turkey Meat Loaf

 I have been incorporating beans into some of our meals lately by adding them to whatever meat I am serving. This stretches the meat further, saving us money and it gives us a health boost. Below is one of my creations: Kidney Bean and Turkey Meatloaf. It turned out pretty good and the leftovers were even better.

 I started by smashing 1 can of Red Kidney Beans. Next time I might try Pinto Beans.

Then I combined my beans with 1 lb. of Ground Turkey, 1 Cup Italian Seasoned Bread crumbs, 1 Egg, 1 Tb. Worcestersire sauce, and 1 tsp. Season Salt.

Then I shaped the meat mixture into a loaf and placed it in a glass casserole dish. It was baked, covered, at 350 degrees for about and hour. The last 10 minutes of baking I uncovered the meatloaf and glazed it with BBQ sauce.

The finished product.

The kids and I ate it sliced just out of the oven and it was pretty good.
Kidney Bean & Turkey Meatloaf

Jacob got home late from work that evening so he browned his up on the stove top. It looked really yummy. Later in the week I browned up some of the leftover and ate it on a bun with hamburger fixin's. It was delicious!

Let us know what creative ways you come up with to get beans into your meals. . .

Friday, March 16, 2012

Meat Me in the Middle

Meat is the most expensive portion of our monthly food budget. I have really had to find ways to stretch our money in this area. Here are the ways I use to make my money stretch in the meat isle:

1. Only buy meat when it is on sale or when it has been reduced for quick sale, ( I visit the store early every morning to see what meat has been put on reduced sale.)

2. Buy bone in or whole fryer chicken and utilize every part of the bird, (I can usually get three meals out of one chicken, plus depending on how I use my chicken I will make a stock that I either can or freeze, from the bones.)

3. Use less expensive protein options, like beans, in your meals, (You don’t have to become vegan, just eat one or two meatless meals every week.)

4. Don’t buy deli meat or lunch meats. Instead buy a roast (beef, turkey, pork, etc.) cook and slice it thin yourself. (It is much easier to slice the meat thin when it is cold, so refrigerate it first.)

I grew up in a meat and potatoes kind of family. We always had meat for dinner. Beans were completely foreign to me when I got married. The only time I ever remember my mom cooking beans was when she made chili. Jacob on the other hand really liked beans and wished that I would use them more.  Another thing that was foreign to me was bone- in or whole chicken. It was boneless, skinless all the way baby.  My mom is a great cook. I attribute my love for cooking and baking to her and my Grandma. There are some things that I have changed and learned throughout the years, however, and now you will rarely see boneless, skinless chicken in my home and vegan meals using various types of beans are becoming more frequent and popular with my family. Most of these changes have come about to help trim our monthly food expenses, but as a result we have found that we actually find beans and bone-in chicken very enjoyable and most often preferred over the alternative. It has taken some time and I am still learning how to utilize these things to their fullest. I am slowly learning how to use beans in everyday cooking and in our meals as both a main dish and a side dish. It really is helping reduce our monthly food costs and it is a much healthier alternative.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Frozen Hash Browns

I got a deal on potatoes this week. They were on sale at the local grocery store for $3.98 for a 15 lb. bag.  We have been paying that much for a 10 lb. bag for a while now. So I snatched up 4 bags and decided that one of the ways I would store them would be to make frozen hash browns. We love hash browns at our house, but it is time consuming to make them on the spur of the moment, frozen hash browns are very convenient and also expensive.

I started by parboiling my potatoes and then peeling them. I then put my whole tray of potatoes into the freezer to chill them quickly. You could also refrigerate them. I chilled them so that they would shred easily and not become mush. After they were chilled I shredded them. I have a salad shooter, which made the shredding quick and easy. 

I laid my shredded taters out in a single layer on a sheet pan. I put saran wrap between each layer and ended up using 2 sheet pans with about 3 layers of potatoes on each one. Then I stuck my sheet pans in the freezer overnight.

In the morning I had frozen hash browns.They came apart easily and I just broke each layer up into pieces and placed them into freezer bags. By doing a little extra work I have easy and convenient frozen hash browns. Because I froze them before putting them into the bags I have small chunks that break apart easily so I can take out whatever I need and keep the rest frozen.

Now here is the cool part.  From my 15lb. bag of potatoes I got 11.5 lbs of hash browns, which is 184 oz.  A 26 oz. bag of frozen shredded hash browns at the local grocery store costs $1.97.  So if I were to buy my hash browns at the store it would have cost me $13.98. I paid just $3.98 for my bag of potatoes and put a bit of my time in. So I was able to save us $10 this week and we are loving those frozen hash browns.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

This Week I Made. . .

This week I made Banana Bread and used half whole wheat flour and half white flour alternative. It worked great!

Check out the recipe here and here.

I also made yogurt using half breast milk and half whole milk for my 11 month old, who weaned herself over a month ago. It also worked great  She loves yogurt. I usually flavor her yogurt by mixing it with a jar of baby fruit and sometimes throw in some single grain oatmeal too.

Find out how to make your own yogurt here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Provident House

Question: How does living a provident life apply to our homes?

Answer: For most people housing is the biggest money drain on the family finances.  Making an effort to minimize those expenses is important in reducing your overall monthly expenses, which helps to prepare us for the ups and downs of life... and rainy-day emergencies"  Many people spend half a house payment each month on power, gas and water.  There are many simple things we can do to reduce these expenses.

A lot of my time at work is spent helping homeowners save money on their energy bills, very often what I encourage them to do is not what they expect.  And often what they planned on doing was either not needed or had a 40 year payback. I also spend a lot of time with homeowners trying to correct the false information they have read or the misleading ad they heard on the radio.

Thermal image showing missing insulation behind a fireplace.
In the coming weeks I will address many of these issues and how they apply to improving your home's energy use.

    • Energy Audits
    • 5 Simple Energy Tips
    • Infrared thermography 
    • Windows
    • CFL and LED lights
    •  Solar Panels
    • Solar Attic fan
    • Tankless Water heaters
    • Air Sealing 
    • Duct sealing
I would love to answer any questions, please ask anything....

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Yogurt in a Crock Pot

I have been making homemade yogurt for about 5 years now. That is when I got this handy yogurt maker. I have really loved it, yogurt making is super easy. I know you can make yogurt in the oven but you have to check it frequently and reheat it in the microwave if it falls below temperature. In order for the cultures in the yogurt to grow they have to be kept at 115 degrees. So I wanted to see if I could replicate what my yogurt maker does. It is essentially a warmer that keeps the yogurt at a constant temperature, and I thought that my crock pot might do the same thing. Almost everyone has a crock pot, right?
Are you ready to make homemade yogurt in your crock pot? Here is how it is done:

4 Cups Milk (Whole, 2%, 1% or Skim) - or you can use Nonfat dry milk that has been reconstituted, this is how I usually do it.
1/4 to 1/2 Cup Instant Non-fat dry milk powder
1/2 Cup Plain Yogurt

In a saucepan , combine milk and dry milk, heat over medium heat, stirring frequently to just below the boiling point, 190 degrees. You are scalding your milk. Be careful to not allow the milk to boil. You can also heat the milk in the microwave, but be careful to not over heat it.
Remove the milk from the heat and allow to cool until lukewarm, (between 100 and 110 degrees). I poured my milk into two pint jars and popped them into the fridge to cool.

Add your plain yogurt to the cooled milk, stirring gently to blend. Do not beat or whip it.

Make sure you use plain yogurt for your starter, and make sure that it contains active yogurt cultures. After you have made your own yogurt, you can then use your own yogurt as your starter. After using the yogurt as a starter several times the cultures may become weak and you may have to buy new yogurt and start the process over again.

Place your jars into a warmed crock pot. I have a crock pot that has three settings warm, low, and high. I initially turned my crock pot to low and allowed it to heat up then I turned it down to warm when I put the yogurt into it.

Put the lid on the crock pot and let the yogurt process for 4 to 10 hours, depending on how tart you want your yogurt.The longer it processes the more tart it becomes.


I checked the temperature of my yogurt a few times as it was processing to make sure it was staying at temperature. At one point it began to get a bit too warm and so I turned the crock pot off for about a half an hour and then turned it back on again. But for the most part the temperature of the yogurt stayed consistent.

After processing the yogurt should be mostly set. The liquid on the top is the whey, you can either pour this off or mix it into the yogurt later.  The yogurt will continue to thicken as it chilled in the refrigerator. Chill for at least 2 hours.

We like to flavor our yogurt with a little bit of fruit and a bit of sugar.  I just sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of sugar over some frozen fruit and place it in the microwave for a few seconds to thaw the fruit and allow the sugar to make a simple syrup.

Then stir some yogurt into the fruit.

Top it off with a bit of Granola and you have a very yummy fruit and  yogurt parfait. Enjoy!

 Plain yogurt is a great low fat alternative that can be used in various ways in your cooking. It can be used as a substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise and it makes a great base for dips or dressings. It also works great for making Spinach and Fruit Smoothies.