Homemade Greek Yogurt with Dash Greek Yogurt Maker

Greek yogurt seems to be all the rage these days and I have become addicted to it! I eat it literally every day for a quick healthy breakfast. I prefer the thick, creamy texture to regular yogurt and also appreciate the double amount of protein! Greek yogurt also has approximately half the amount of carbohydrates and half the sodium as regular yogurt as well, but also half as much calcium. So what is it about Greek yogurt that makes it different than regular? Well, this Christmas I found out!

My boyfriend bought me the most thoughtful cool present, a Greek yogurt maker by Dash. It is this cute little blue and white contraption that boasts it makes easy and healthy Greek yogurt all for the fraction of the cost of the store-bought kind. All you need to get started is a half a cup of what they call “starter yogurt,” any milk of your choice, and a food thermometer. Oh, and anything you may want to flavor the yogurt with. For my first batch I attempted a blueberry flavored version. I couldn’t wait to taste my own yogurt, but unfortunately I had to wait a while because the whole process takes approximately 12 hours or more.

Dash Greek Yogurt Maker
Dash Greek Yogurt Maker
http://www.bydash.com

What you need:

Ingredients for blueberry Greek yogurt
Ingredients for blueberry Greek yogurt

DASH Greek Yogurt Maker
5 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup plain yogurt for “starter” (I used Chobani plain Greek)
1 cup frozen blueberries (thawed)
Lemon juice
Light agave nectar
Vanilla extract

What to do:

The first step is the hardest part. You have to heat your milk to exactly 185 degrees via a double boiler.

"Double boiler:" boiling water in pot with glass bowl on top
“Double boiler:” boiling water in pot with glass bowl on top

This. Takes. FOREVER. Well over an hour. It seemed like my milk got up to 150 degrees pretty easily but had trouble getting any warmer from there. Make sure you have enough water in the pot that you are boiling–I got about 40 minutes in and realized all of my water had evaporated. You can also use the microwave to heat your milk but you have to stir it after each minute, which gets old pretty quickly. Once the milk is at 185 degrees, take it off the boiler and cool to between 100-110 degrees, but not below 90. Then whisk in your starter yogurt so that there are no clumps.

Stir in your starter yogurt
Stir in your starter yogurt

I have to admit the heating process was quite a pain in the ass. Since it has to be such a particular temperature, you can’t very well let the milk on the heat and go about other things around the house. You have to consistently stir and check the temperature so that is just so. But this will likely get easier after I try it out several times. Then, after the milk heating/cooling, all is smooth sailing and the machine does the rest of the work.

yogurt 7
Pour mixture into small container and place in yogurt maker.

From here, pour your milk/yogurt mixture into the small yogurt container. Then place in the Dash yogurt maker and set the timer. For 2% milk, the company recommends cooking the yogurt for 9 hours. The machine will automatically turn off after time is up.

After the 9 hours is up, you now have regular yogurt! You’ll see some yellow-ish liquid on top, which apparently is the “whey” and is packed with protein. You can use this in smoothies and other recipes. Or you can just stir it back into the yogurt like I did. If you want regular yogurt, just add your flavoring and pop this into the fridge for a few hours and you’re ready to go!

Strainer with yogurt
Strainer with yogurt
Regular yogurt
Regular yogurt

If you want Greek yogurt, you need to strain out the majority of the remaining whey. So, pour your yogurt mixture into the strainer and place in the large white container. You will immediately see the whey pouring out into the reserve. Place your yogurt in the fridge so it can cool while it strains for approximately 2 hours. Shorter if you like thinner yogurt, longer if you like thicker.

Now voila, you have plain Greek yogurt!

Greek yogurt before flavoring
Greek yogurt before flavoring

Here is the gross looking whey leftover!

Yuck!
Yuck!

Now it’s time to add your flavoring. For the blueberry flavor, I pureed 1 cup of blueberries with agave nectar, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir into your yogurt and add additional agave and vanilla to taste. Place back in the fridge for several hours to cool before eating. Enjoy!

yogurt 11
Garnish with additional blueberries.
yogurt 14
Finished product. Delicious!

What a fun project and cool machine! You can certainly make Greek yogurt without the Dash machine, but I love the mess-free, convenient process that Dash provides. My first attempt turned out tasting awesome! However, it was a little rich for my liking. Next time I plan to use skim milk instead, or even try with soy milk. What a great way to make a homemade, healthy, all natural snack!

Have you ever tried making your own yogurt?

Muddy Buddies

One of my favorite Christmas snacks is Muddy Buddies, also known as “Puppy Chow.”

Muddy Buddies
Muddy Buddies

I bought a bag of the Chex Mix pre-made kind the other day and it just wasn’t quite the same as the homemade kind. I’ve never made this myself, but decided to try it out tonight. Very easy and turned out great!

What you need:

I forgot the vanilla extract!
I forgot the vanilla extract!

1 large box Rice Chex Cereal (you can use the chocolate kind, I used plain because it was on sale for $2)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels or chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar (the recipe I used called for 1 1/2 cups but I ended up using a lot more than that.

What to do:

1. Melt chocolate, butter and peanut butter in large bowl in the microwave. Stir approximately every 30 seconds.

2. Stir in vanilla extract.

3. Stir in Chex cereal until all the way coated.

4. Transfer cereal mixture into large plastic bag. (I used the bag the cereal came in.)

5. Pour in powdered sugar and shake until coated.

6. Lay on wax paper or foil to cool and set.

muddy buddies 2

What I learned:

It might be easier to coat the powered sugar a little at a time. For example, pour about 1/4 of the cereal mixture into the bag and then toss with 1/4 your powdered sugar. Repeat in small batches. My bag was too small to allow ample room for the cereal to mix with the sugar. Also, make the peanut butter to chocolate ratio to your liking. I ended up melting in a bit more chocolate because I found the peanut butter taste to be a bit too strong.

muddy buddies 4

This turned out great! Very simple; I will be using this as a snack on Christmas Eve when we host my boyfriend’s family at our house. I anticipate it won’t last long! Much better than the store-bought version.

What’s one of your favorite homemade holiday snacks?

Merry Christmas from Santa!

Yesterday we dressed Heidi up in a Santa Claus costume. She absolutely hated it. It also came with a hat with a beard attached. She hated that even more. I tried to get a picture with her in the hat, and it more or less looks like I am strangling her. After taking the costume off she proceeded to pout for the next 15 minutes and glare at us.

Heidi continues to hate Christmas. Happy holidays!

Heidi hates Christmas.
Heidi hates Christmas.
Get this off of me.
Get this off of me.

Light Banana Pudding Recipe–SO EASY!

I’m not really big on desserts. Pies, cakes, candy, I’ll pass. But I am a sucker for cold desserts like ice cream, puddings, and mousse. My cousin makes the most amazing banana pudding recipe and brings it to every family get together and I can never get enough. Actually this past Thanksgiving after my heaping eyes-are-bigger-than-my-stomach plate, it completely put me over the edge–but was so worth it. So I got a craving for it the other day but after looking up recipes I was kind of grossed out by how terrible for you banana pudding really is. With ingredients like sour cream, condensed milk, flour, sugar, eggs, etc. it seemed like too much hassle, as well as a soon to be moment-on-the-lips, forever-on-the-hips regret. So I decided to take a shot at a slightly healthier and way easier version!

I only have a household of two so this is a pretty small recipe. You may want to consider doubling or even tripling if making it to share.

What you’ll need:

Ingredients
Ingredients

2 bananas, sliced
1 package instant vanilla pudding (you can even use sugar free if you’d like)
Reduced Fat Nilla Wafers
2 cups 2% milk
1 tub fat free Cool Whip

Directions:

1. In a medium sized bowl, mix cold milk with pudding mix. Refrigerate until set and thickened.

2. Slice bananas. Spread 1/2 of the bananas and a handful of Nilla wafers in the bottom of a bowl separate from the pudding.

3. Pour half of the pudding over bananas and wafers. Repeat this step.
banana pudding 2

4. Finish by topping with softened Cool Whip.
banana pudding 3

Finished product...delicious and nutritious! (Bananas totally count for nutrition, right?)
Finished product…delicious and nutritious! (Bananas totally count for nutrition, right?)

So simple! I prefer to let the dessert set for several hours or overnight so that the cookies have a chance to soften, but I had too little patience for that this time. Some people may like to layer the ingredients just so, but I more or less just dumped everything in. It all goes down together! I’ll admit this isn’t quite as good as my cousin’s recipe, but it definitely hits the spot for way fewer calories! The Reduced Fat Nilla Wafers have 60% less fat than regular and the Fat Free Cool Whip has only 15 calories per two tablespoons!

What are some of your favorite desserts that you’ve adapted into a less sinful version?

Christmas Decorating When You’re Young and Cheap

Living on your own gives you a whole new perspective on holiday decorating. Growing up my mom had boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations–everything form tree ornaments to nativity scenes, those light up houses and candles for each window. She’d spend hours fixing up the house just right and making sure every strand of pearls was placed perfectly on the tree and the end result was always beautiful. First of all, ain’t nobody got time for that, and second and most importantly, ain’t nobody got money for that! Granted, she had several decades worth of collecting to build up her arsenal of holiday knick knacks, while I’m just starting out.

This being our third year in our townhouse, you’d think we’d have plenty of decorations all ready to go–negative. We tend to be non-committal to year after year styles (and also I have a tendency to throw things away when I have no place to put them…) so this year we found ourselves digging out what few items we still had, and hitting the stores for some more. The first thing I noticed when shopping is how God awfully expensive Christmas decorations are! Really, you want $49.99 for that gold bedazzled tree skirt? No thank you, I’ll settle for the red felt one at Dollar Tree. Heidi will likely pee on it anyway.

Heidi is not amused with Christmas. Scrooge.
Heidi is not amused with Christmas. Scrooge.

So we settled for some garland, red velour bows, on sale red green and gold ornaments, and several stockings that made it through from last year. I do have some personal tree ornaments I collected growing up, mostly ballet and Nutcracker ones. Oh, and a lovely panda bear holding a pencil that says “extra sharp daughter.” Whose favorite animal wasn’t a panda bear in second grade?

World's Sharpest Daughter!
World’s Sharpest Daughter!
Dollar Tree stockings and Christmas Tree complete with $1 felt skirt!
Dollar Tree stockings and Christmas Tree complete with $1 felt skirt!

But of course, my wreaths were my major DIY moments of the Christmas décor. I made a Santa Claus (courtesy of www.babyrabies.com) which I have to say turned out pretty adorable. Even my retiree male neighbor asked me if I made it and complimented it as “really cute!” I used a foam form and tied strips of white tulle in a square knot for the beard and on a piece of wire tied across for the mustache. Dollar Tree Santa Hat and buckle bow made the finishing touches on this cutie!

Mine vs. Pinterest
Mine vs. Pinterest

I also made a mini ribbon wreath for the inside of the door. I used a 10″ foam form instead of my usual 14″ and wrapped some red and white chevron ribbon all the way around. Two green glitter wrapper bows accented the top corner, both on sale at Hobby Lobby.

Chevron Christmas wreath

Our house may not be the most extravagant on the block (well actually, considering our neighborhood, it very well might be) or the Christmas home of my childhood, but it is festive and homey and was put together with love, which is more than enough for us this year!

What type of Christmas decorations have you thrown together on a budget?