Sunday, June 5, 2016

Foolproof homemade yogurt

I attempted to make yogurt several times last year, and it never worked. All of the recipes swore it was "incredibly easy" and "fail-proof!" but I managed to somehow mess it up. It wasn't until I read The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz (amazing book btw) that I realized my house is too cold. Many of the blogs I read seem to be located in warmer climates, so for them, setting something on the counter and allowing it to ferment is super easy and works. However I am in Maine, where you can easily use your AC and your heater in the same day- the temps aren't high enough and they aren't consistent. So I decided to make a sort of incubator using my big pasta pot, which holds in the heat well and fits several mason jars inside of it. I filled it with water that was approximately 110 degrees and used it to incubate the yogurt- and it worked perfectly!! If you have had bad luck with yogurt in the past, try this method- the consistent temperature of the homemade "incubator" creates the perfect environment for a truly fail-proof yogurt. This also works with soy milk!

You will need:

- whole milk (1/2 gallon makes 2 quarts of yogurt)
- starter yogurt at room temperature, a few tablespoons per quart (this can either be yogurt from your last batch or store bought plain yogurt)
- thermometer
- mason jars with lids (I used 2, quart sized jars)
- large pot with lid (make sure the lid fits with the jars inside of the pot)

Heat the milk over medium heat, whisking occasionally to prevent it from burning on the bottom.

Once it reaches 180 degrees, remove from the heat and pour into your mason jars. Allow to sit uncovered at room temperature until the milk reaches 120 degrees. Add a few tablespoons of your starter yogurt to each jar, gently stirring to incorporate the yogurt into the milk. Make sure you don't get impatient and add the yogurt sooner- it kills the cultures and the yogurt won't thicken.

Fill the pot with enough warm water (no warmer than 120 degrees) to cover the jars up to the neck. Put the lid on and cover the pot with a thick tea towel. Let sit for 3 hours. Remove the jars from the pot and transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

ready for the fridge!
 If you prefer thinner yogurt, you are done! If you like your yogurt thicker, wait until the yogurt is completely cool. The trick is to not stir it before putting it in the fridge. You will notice that the whey has risen to the top of the container. You can carefully pour off some of the whey or strain the yogurt. I prefer to just pour off the liquid, and voila- delicious yogurt!We love ours topped with homemade granola and fruit. And best of all, it is waste free if you buy your milk in returnable jars!

after pouring off the whey

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Follow me on Instagram!

Hey guys- I've caught the Instagram bug. Come follow me at waste.not_want.not, I follow back similar pages/blogs for waste free inspiration!

An ode to cloth diapers

So cloth diapers are amazing. We had to use disposables for a few days as the cloth was not allowing his umbilical cord to air out and heal, and we HATED them. They leaked because the sizing on them wasn't the best for him, plus they irritated his bottom almost immediately (once we switched from pampers to Seventh Generation this went away). Once his cord fell out, we've been cloth diapers and wipes all the way. Here is a picture of our setup:

I crocheted the hanging baskets out of yarn I had in my stash. The one on the left holds cloth wipes (6x6 inch squares I cut from flannel and serged) and the one on the right holds our waterproof covers (a few Best Bottoms I scored at a second hand store, and a few I broke down and ordered off of Amazon). Then all of our cloth diapers (I got the Gerber brand ones as a gift, love them), my homemade baby wipe spray, and some cloth diaper friendly butt paste (I will be making my own once we run out). Our diaper pail is lined with a reusable and washable liner. This whole setup works really well for us. I wash diapers every other day with detergent I buy in bulk at the co-op. We use a Snappi to close the prefolds- this does a great job and really helps the diaper fit snugly and keep leaks in. And no messing with pins, which makes me nervous with one very squirmy baby! Is anyone else loving the cloth diapers? 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Baby bottom spray

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I began pinning ALL OF THE THINGS on Pinterest. I knew I wanted to use cloth diapers, and there was tons of pins on using cloth wipes. I remembered a family friend making her own wipe solution, so I reached out to her and got the recipe. After some tweaking to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand, I made a batch and tested it on my inner forearm, an area which tends to be very sensitive to products on me. It was great! It cleaned without drying, and the small amount of oil went a long way in moisturizing my skin. We've been using this on baby (after testing it on a small area of his skin) and it works incredibly well with our cloth wipes.

You will need:
- 2 cups of warm water
- 2 tbsp liquid Dr Bronners (I got the unscented baby variety in bulk at my co-op)
- 1 tbsp oil (sweet almond oil works great, I used the Burts Bees baby oil someone gave me as a gift. Not waste free, but I will be reusing the container)
- spray bottle (learn how to upcycle one here)

Pour all ingredients into the bottle. Shake it up, and spray on your cloth wipes before wiping baby! Another option would be to store wipes in a container, stir up the solution, and pour it over the wipes. Just wring them out before using to avoid a sopping wet baby butt.

A new chapter

On May 13th, we welcomed our son Dexter into the world. After 2.5 days of labor, I was very happy to finally see him! I think he waited so he could be born on Friday the 13th, just like my dad. These few weeks have been so amazing- my husband saved up all of his vacation and took 3 weeks off, so it's just been the two of us trying to figure out this whole parenting thing together. It's so crazy and still a bit surreal that he is here- we are just cherishing every moment as I know how quickly they grow! Stay tuned for zero waste baby tips!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Upcycled spray bottle

My husband is in to painting miniatures. A few months ago he wanted to strip a piece, and went out and purchased a spray bottle of Green Clean. We were both fascinated and horrified by how quickly and efficiently it stripped away layers of acrylic paint! Needless to say I didn't really want to use it in our house, especially when certain kitties we own enjoy licking the tub and counters on a daily basis. I purchased some bulk cleaner from my local co-op, and wanted a pretty container to store it in. I had been saving plastic spray bottles and using a vinegar and water mixture for a while. After some digging through the recycling bin, I found several glass bottles that fit with the spray tops!! Here is how to make your own.
You will need:
1 spray top
1 glass bottle (so far the ones that fit most spray tops are: trader joes rice vinegar and trader joes raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar).

Soak the bottle in hot soapy water to remove the label.

Trim the tube on the spray top of necessary. Fill up the bottle, twist on the top and boom- pretty glass spray bottle!
Happy cleaning!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

DIY almond milk creamer

Dairy and I don't have the best relationship- I can eat a little bit, but too much and I have an upset stomach and heartburn. So for my coffee, I prefer nut based creamers. However most of these come it tetra packs (read about why these aren't a great option here) and contain ingredients I cannot pronounce. So I set out to make my own. I really enjoy almond milk as almonds are very affordable and the taste is neutral, so it can be used in many different recipes. But putting straight almond milk into my coffee was kind of gross- it just wasn't creamy enough. So I adjusted the water to almond ratio, added some delicious things, and it was perfect!!!

You will need:
- 1 cup almonds, soaked overnight and rinsed
- 1 cup water
- 1 bowl
- cheesecloth/thin dishcloth
- container for storing
- optional flavorings: cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup (bought in bulk)

Add the almonds and water to a blender and blend until smooth.

 Place the cheesecloth or thin dishcloth in he bowl, and pour the mixture over it. Gather up the sides and squeeze all of the creamer out of the almond scraps. This takes a bit of muscle- the creamer is thick!

 Add your flavorings (I used 1/4 tsp cinnamon, a few grates of nutmeg, and 1 tsp maple syrup), and voila! Delicious, waste free creamer! Taste your creamer and adjust flavorings as needed. I could honestly drink this stuff straight it is so good. I have also left this plain and used it as a substitute for cream in several recipes, and it worked like a charm. 

 Now go enjoy your delicious coffee! 

And don't forget to save those almond scraps- put them in a jar and pop them in the freezer. Once the jar is full, you can make almond flour (tutorial coming once my own jar is nice and full!!).