Monday, July 16, 2007

Scratch-built weekend

We're loving the local food challenge so far. It's pushing us to do more, get more creative, and eat what we have instead of eating whatever we want. The food's been better despite the limits of what's in season. (Of course, just about everything is in season at the moment...)

But we have one steadfastly non-local eater: Amelia. Due to her sensory and communication issues, she has quite a limited range of textures that she'll willingly eat. We know all the food tricks and techniques and ideas for picky eaters, and as far as we can tell, she's totally immune to all of them. (Our son is a champion non-picky eater, eager to try almost anything he doesn't recognize.)

In fact with Amelia, sometimes it's even hard to get her to eat the foods she loves. Despite the fact that she 's been eating yogurt or applesauce (with medication mixed in) every single night for over half her life, the first bite is literally a struggle almost every night. Once she gets a taste, she realizes that we weren't actually trying to poison her, and (usually) happily gobbles down the rest of the bowl.

Her preferred food textures are crispy or pureed/creamy. And the latter is pretty dicey. So mostly crispy. We decided to see if we could make anything for her from scratch.

The first attempt was yogurt. I know - Make yogurt from scratch, are you crazy? Well, actually it was incredibly simple. Following instructions from Pat Meadows found here, I successfully made a quart of yogurt. (As much as I enjoyed Madcap's recipe, Pat's was the link I had on hand...)

Just to prove to you that it's easy, here are the basic steps:
1. Mix milk with dry (instant) milk
2. Heat to 180F
3. Cool to 110F
4. Mix in a little plain yogurt
5. Keep warm for 4-6 hours

Despite the simplicity, my first attempt didn't work for a variety of reasons. (I never said I was smart.) I was using whole goat's milk rather than 2% from the store, which could have affected things. I got the proportions of milk and dry milk wrong. I also accidentally grabbed the peach flavored yogurt rather than the plain, which I'm sure was the main problem. I realized my mistake as bits of peach flavored goo from the bottom appeared in my mix. I went ahead and strained them out, but I imagine even without that, the yogurt itself was probably sweetened. But I kept going, just to see what would happen. My final mistake was not keeping it warm long enough.

So for my next attempt, I made some adjustments. First, I made sure to use plain yogurt as my starter. (Powdered starter next time, probably.) Second, I let it stay warm longer. I checked it after about 5 hours and it was still liquid, so I went to bed. When I got up in the morning, it was still quite warm and had thickened to a yogurt-like consistency. It passed the taste test too.

I was using Pat's "haybox" method to keep it warm. A haybox is essentially a well-insulated box. I used a cooler with a bunch of newspaper in the bottom (to take up extra space). I lined the remaining space with foil, put a pot of warm water in, put the yogurt in the water, put the lid on the pot, and wrapped the whole thing up in a blanket to take up the remaining air space, and then closed up the cooler.

On my second attempt, I decided to make another adjustment. We use this cooler for many things, so I didn't want to use new foil every time I needed to line the inside again. So I got one of those shiny reflective windshield shades out of the garage and stuffed that in instead.

So the bottom line is that Pat's instructions, if followed work well. It looks like in adjusting for whole goat's milk, we may need a longer "warm" period, but with the haybox setup, that's trivial.

Our second Amelia replacement recipe was graham crackers. We tried a recipe from Organic To Be (where Gene Logsdon contributes from time to time). They were not a big hit. I didn't really care for them, nor did e5. Lori thought they were passable. Amelia (not surprisingly) wanted nothing to do with the unfamiliar, somewhat irregular monstrosities. We'd have to persist for a while to get her to consider even trying them. We'll probably try some different recipes before we settle on one to be persistent with.

We dug up a few other recipes for things like saltines and windmill cookies that we'll experiment with as well. The yogurt is definitely a keeper, especially since we have more milk than we can handle these days...

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At 7/16/2007 4:41 PM, Blogger Wendy said...

I love making my own yogurt. Unfotunately, my kids are incredibly picky and very hard to predict, and so I don't make it often, because more often than not, it just goes bad in the refrigerator. All that effort for naught!

I can relate to the pickiness. My ten year old will declare on Monday morning that a particular food item is her most favorite food in the world, but when served homemade for dinner on Wednesday will tell me how much she doesn't like it. Very exasperating! I always resolved not to have food wars with my kids, but if potato chips really are all she'll eat ... what's a parent to do? :)

Congrats on your yogurt success. It is fun, and easy!

At 7/16/2007 6:05 PM, Blogger maggie said...

I'm with you. I am mom to the pickiest eaters in the world and my daughter refuses to eat anything with a texture uncommon to her, no lumps, bumps, seeds etc. it can be trying. Fruit has been my saving grace. The yogurt sounds do able Good Job.

At 7/17/2007 4:21 PM, Blogger willow said...

I've tagged you for a meme, "bloggers for positive global change". Details are on my blog.

At 7/20/2007 9:43 AM, Blogger e4 said...

Thanks willow! How cool!

I'll see what I can do with it...

At 7/28/2007 7:37 AM, Blogger Deb G said...

I really like making home made yogurt-I'm having a hard time convincing friends how easy it is. One thing I do a little differently, I put my yogurt in a wide mouth thermos for it's incubation period and usually let it sit overnight.


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