Category Archives: sauces

How I Make Yogurt

There are many ways to make yogurt. Some people use yogurt machines, some people don’t. I’ve heard that some Vietnamese people make yogurt out of sweetened condensed milk. The yogurt at my favorite Indian place tastes like they steep onions in it. You can buy a powdered yogurt starter, or you can use plain yogurt as a starter. Greek yogurt is made from high fat milk and then strained.

I prefer to make yogurt with the help of a yogurt maker. The most important thing about making yogurt is getting the temperatures right. You need the milk to be the right temperature when you combine it with the yogurt starter and you need to maintain the right temperature for the 7 hours that the yogurt cultures are growing in the milk. This second part was very difficult for me before I got a yogurt maker. Our house is not insulated, has drafty windows and doesn’t have heating or air conditioning. So the inside of our house can be anywhere from 50F in the winter to 90F in the summer. That’s why I really like having a machine that keeps the yogurt at the right temperature for as many hours as I want. Continue reading

Huevos Rancheros

When I lived in New Mexico, this was one of my favorite things to order. They made it with a sauce of green chilies on top instead of a tomato salsa, but it’s pretty much the same otherwise. This is a really fast meal if you use pre-made salsa and tortillas, but it’s a special meal for us because we make both of those from scratch. I think the next time I make huevos rancheros I’ll double the salsa recipe so that I have leftover salsa to use on other things. Continue reading

You may have thought I was a vegetarian . . .

. . . but a few weeks ago we bought a cow with 2 other families and had it butchered. This was an all day project, but still a fun thing to be a part of. We can buy meat by the kilo at the market, but it’s not very appetizing because the meat just sits out on tables outside all day. If you want to get fresh meat, you have to go early in the morning, which I never feel like doing. Even if I did go early, I just don’t know if I trust that meat. So we don’t eat a lot of meat, which may have caused some of you to think I’m a vegetarian. Really I’m a former vegetarian who is lazy and inexperienced with meat.

Here’s how the day went:

Early in the morning, James and a friend went to get the cow. It was raised pretty well. Most cows here graze on whatever they can find, which isn’t much this time of year. They’re organic and grass fed, but they could be fed more . . . Our cow was actually fed and it was young, so it’s meat wasn’t so tough.

We hired a butcher to come butcher the cow, which he did very well and humanely. Then James sold the parts we didn’t want (head, guts, etc . . .) to a neighbor while a friend split the beef into types of cut. Then the kitchen crew (including me) weighed, cut, ground, and packaged the meat. I was really grossed out at the beginning of this part, but I’m proud to say I managed.

That evening we ate smoked ribs at one of the other family’s homes. They even made a meat smoker contraption! I made a barbecue sauce for the ribs that turned out really well. I had never made barbecue sauce before, but I’m always up for a cooking challenge. The sauce was good, but probably not worth the effort if you’re in the U.S., where you could just order Gates sauce from Kansas City or Rudy’s sauce from Austin, Texas. I’m sure there are good bbq sauces available at grocery stores too, I just don’t know what they’re called.

The next day I made broth from the beef scraps and bones. I learned that the longer you simmer the bones in the broth, the more goodness you get out of them – good flavor, texture, and nutrients. I simmered the broth for about 15 hours with onion, carrots, and some spices.

After you make broth, you’re supposed to let it cool so that the fat solidifies on the top and can be removed. I saved this fat, melted it, strained it, and simmered it until the water was all removed in order to make tallow. I don’t know much about using tallow, but I do know that it makes a great pie crust for chicken pot pie!

So, for the next few months, I will probably be posting a lot of recipes including beef and beef broth. I hope my vegetarian readers won’t mind. Don’ worry, there will still be vegetarian recipes in the future. Continue reading

Apple Butter

I made an apple pie for Thanksgiving and had some leftover apples, so I made apple butter. It’s so yummy on toast or pancakes. I based my recipe on this one from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The main differences are the size of the batch, the way the puree is made, and also I didn’t can my apple butter. You definitely could though. Since I made such a small batch, it wasn’t worth it to me. If you do want to can your apple butter, just follow the instructions on the webpage I linked to above. I didn’t have apple cider or apple cider vinegar, but I imagine using them could only make your apple butter more full of apple flavor!

Apple butter should be thick like this when it's finished cooking.

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Cranberry Salsa Cheese Spread

This is a special appetizer that my dad makes for Thanksgiving every year. He first learned it from his brother, my Uncle John, and then reinvented the recipe at home. So, this is a very Thanksgiving dish for us, but you could make it for Christmas too.

I do think the fresh cranberries taste better than using cranberry sauce, but it’s still pretty good the way I make it here. Isn’t it funny that the North American version has pineapple and the Asian version doesn’t? That’s because we don’t have canned pineapple and pineapple season is in the summer.

Hello to my family celebrating Thanksgiving in Kansas City! I hope you ate some of this cranberry cheese spread too. Miss you guys.

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Canning Applesauce

Is it still apple season in America? It is here. Well, apple season isn’t as exciting here as it is in Michigan. Usually we only have one variety of apples and they’re expensive compared to the other fruit, but in apple season we have two kinds! All of you who can get honeycrisp apples should – you’re so lucky!

But you don’t really need special apples for apple sauce, just lots of them. I found the recipe at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. I pretty much just followed the recipe, added some cinnamon, and pureed it at the end with a wand blender. It ended up tasting just like the Mott’s Cinnamon Applesauce that my mom always had when I was little 🙂

Hummus and Pita Bread

Hummus is something I’ve been making since college. It’s so much cheaper (and not much more difficult) to make it yourself instead of buying it. The following hummus recipe is based on one from a roommate’s mom, who is Greek I believe.
I didn’t try making my own pitas until I moved to Laos, where there aren’t any. I found that making pitas takes about as much skill as making any other bread, but the baking part takes longer because they take up a lot of room spread out in the oven. I was amazed that pita bread makes its own pocket if it’s rolled out right and baked at the right temperature. About 1/3 of mine usually end up without a pocket, but that’s okay because they’re mostly for dipping in hummus anyway. Here’s the pita recipe that I use.