Saturday, December 20, 2014

Crazy Easy Homemade Yogurt

I make my own yogurt now. I thought doing so would require the hassle of wrapping canning jars in towels and putting them in a cooler overnight, but I found a much easier way online that has given me good results every time.

Here are the steps:
1) Heat a gallon of milk* in a pot to the point that it starts to have little bubbles around side and forms a skin on top.
2) Discard the milk skin and pour the milk into a cold crockpot liner (the ceramic part).
3) Let the milk cool down for a while. It should be warm but not burn your finger.
4) Mix in about a cup of yogurt starter.
5) Put the glass lid on the crockpot liner.
6) Put the crockpot liner, milk, and lid (all together, of course) in the oven.
7) Turn on the oven light (must be an incandescent bulb because you need its heat).
8) Let the yogurt incubate overnight in the warm oven. (DON'T TURN ON THE OVEN. Just the oven light.)

Voilà!. Yummy homemade yogurt for minimal cost. It's going to be runnier than the stuff from the store because you don't add pectin, but who needs solid yogurt when you're going to be mixing it with muesli or granola or using it in recipes like naan?

By the way, I make no guarantee that this will work in everyone else's kitchen. If your oven light isn't warm enough, if your crockpot liner is thicker than mine, etc., you might just end up with gross milk in the morning.

* I like to use whole milk. It makes thicker and tastier yogurt.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Reading Progress

Dd5 and I took a break for a couple of weeks or so from reading lessons. They weren't much fun, for she wasn't remembering some simple things such as the word "the." This afternoon, we finally had a formal lesson (#43 from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), and she did much, much better than either she or I anticipated. Where did this pleasant progress come from?

I think we owe it mostly to the Leapfrog Letter/Talking Word/Storybook Factory videos. Those are a terrific resource for children just figuring out the letter-sound code and how to apply their new knowledge. We own some Leapfrog letter fridge magnets, so dd5 and dd2 have been playing with them after watching the videos.

The concept of digraphs has started to really sink in for dd5. Previously she would see "sh" and say "ssss""hhh" nearly every time no matter how often I reminded her that "sh" says "sh." I suspect a few minutes of looking at this old toy, which we just had sitting around in a toybox, helped her realize that it's OK not to break the letters apart when looking at certain letter combinations:

Kiddicraft alphabet toy with 4 of most common English digraphs
The technical name for two letters representing one sound is "digraph." The most common consonant digraphs in English are "ch," "sh," "th," "ph," and "wh," per this phonics website. Note that four of those five digraphs are presented to the children on the Kiddicraft toy pictured above. How great is that! And it's not a fancy-schmancy electronic toy, so I don't have to worry about it running out of battery power. Even the hornbooks used for centuries didn't explicitly teach digraphs.

Traditional hornbook example, sold by Plimouth Plantation
Sadly, the Kiddicraft Flip-up Learning Center is only available used, but if you want one, it appears on eBay sometimes for a reasonable price. I think I found ours at a local thrift store a few years ago.

(I make no money from product placement in my blog posts. I'm just sharing things that I've found helpful.)