Monday, September 26, 2011

Powdered Lemonade Mix

My husband loves zero calorie bottled drinks.   First, we made the switch to powdered drink mixes, like Propel Zero and True Lemonade.  Then I thought there must be an even better and possibly cheaper way to do this without all the little packets.  Since this is an item that can’t be found in bulk, I thought I’d make some myself.  There are only two ingredients:  Truvia, and True Lemon Crystallized Lemon.  After some web searching and experimentation, I came up with this:  
You will need
1 3/4 tsp Truvia ($6.99 for 9.8 oz, or 59.25 tsp, $6.99/59.25 tsp = $.12 x 1.75 tsp = $.21)
3/4 tsp True Lemon ($19.99 for 10.7 oz, $19.99/95 3/4 tsp servings = $.21) 

Throw the powders in a pint glass.  Add ice and water, stir till dissolved.
I felt very proud, I thought it tasted fantastic… my husband didn’t like it.  Well, surely it was at least more economical, right? 
Try It:   
$.42 per glass
Buy It: 
Propel Zero $3.99 per box of 10 packets, or $.19 per glass (only 1/2 a packet used per glass)
Buy it.  Sorry to say, but I just don’t think it’s worth it economically, and you’re stuck with two plastic containers with big plastic lids if you ever get to the bottom of either powder.

**added 9/28/11**
I just wanted to say that the love of powdered drinks is actually a love of bottled drinks in our house.  Our current solution to this issue is this:  We bought a six pack of Snapple (glass bottles), I drank the tea, then my husband regularly fills them with drink powder and water and keeps them in the fridge.  Now he gets to drink his bottled lemonade, and I get a load of plastic out of our fridge and off my mind. 

Monday, September 19, 2011


Another reader request!  Okay, yes, basil is a little out of season, but I have a local supply despite the season, and I get a discount, so even better!  Pesto is like hummus in that you just throw everything in the food processor and it’s done!

You will need

1 cup local basil (about 2 oz)($3.60)

1/3 cup organic olive oil ($9.49 for 17 oz, $9.49/8 oz = $1.19 x 1/3 cup= $.39)

1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp pine nuts ($9.99 per 6 oz, $9.99/12 = $.83)

1 large and 1 tiny organic garlic clove ($.50 for a head, $.50/5 = $.10)

¼ cup parmesan cheese ($5.49 for 10 oz, $5.49/10 = $.55)
Ready to blend!
Put everything in the food processor or blender, and blend till smooth, scraping the sides as needed.

If you want to mix it up, use cilantro in place of basil.  It’s a sharper, zippier taste.  One of my favorite dishes that I make is fajitas, and I always buy cilantro to make them, but I only use a third of a bunch, so this a great way to use up the rest.
This is a small recipe, but if you have some left over, throw it in an ice cube tray in the freezer, then you can use as little or as much as you want! Plus, anytime you have leftover basil or cilantro you can add to your stash.
Cilantro on the right, basil on the left.
 Try It:

$5.47 for 5 oz, or $1.09/oz

Buy It:

$6.80 for 7 oz (from the same company that sells the basil, also discounted), or $.97/oz


I’m going to say that out of season, Buy It.  If you find yourself in the middle of summer, and you know someone with a garden (or you have a greener thumb than mine), and have a ton of basil for cheap, Try It, the basil is your main expense, and it's very tasty.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Feta Cheese

A friend of mine has been suggesting making feta for many years.  Now, what with a forum to share my experience, I decided I better get around to it!  I found this recipe on a website called the Made Manual, which is some sort of Martha Stewart for men.  But the recipe seemed solid, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

You will need

1 gallon whole milk ($5.99)

1Tbsp live culture yogurt ($1.50 for 6 oz, $1.50/12 = $.13)

½ tablet rennet ($6.50 for 10 tablets, $6.50/20 = $.33)

1 ½ cups kosher salt ($2.75 for 48 oz, $2.75/5.9 cups = $.466 x 1.5 = $.69)

I knew going into this that it would be an all day process.  I hunkered down, made a to-do list for around the house, and got to work.  I also made my yogurt at the same time, I figured I may as well for the sake of time.  I put the milk on, heated it up properly, mixed in the yogurt, then added the rennet.  My rennet is old, it came with a cheese making kit I bought in 2008, but according to the company it would keep for over 5 years as long as it was kept in the freezer (it was).  I don’t know, though.  It never got as firm as it was supposed to.  I let it sit for an extra hour, and it never got firm enough to cut cleanly.  But, assuming you have fresh rennet, “cutting cleanly” means that it can be cut with a knife without any of the white curd oozing in, just the watery whey filling the space.  Then you dice it (mine never diced, too sloppy), which means cut it straight down in lines, then at a diagonal from opposite sides.
Not too bad, but still not cutting cleanly.
Draining was interesting since it was all goopy, it didn’t do much.  I decided to hang it once it had gone down a bit to help the process (for hanging instructions, see the yogurt post).  At the bundle got smaller, I tied it tighter so it wasn’t touching the colander.  It seemed to work.  Next was just to stick it in the brine and wait 6 to 30 days.  I waited 8.
Beginning the hanging process

And ending it.  So much liquid!
Spread out in a casserole dish to set.
Today I pulled it out of the fridge, and it looked like baby spit up.  Not so appetizing, but I thought, I bet it’s really tasty.  It looked much less gloppy, the feta had a decent feel to it.  I tried a bite straight out of the brine.  Mistake.  It was so salty I nearly gagged, so I drained it, rinsed it, and tried again.  Second mistake, still too salty.  I’m not sure my cheese is edible.  It’s really disappointing to have something take up so much fridge space for a week and taste so revolting.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I would not use this recipe, and I would make sure your rennet is fresh.  Good golly that’s nasty.
Looks tasty, right?  Not so.

Try It:

$7.14 per 24 oz, or $.29/oz

Buy It:

$6.89 per 12 oz, or $.57/oz

 Just Buy It.  If it had been good it would have been a great deal, even with the all day process.  Unfortunately it was gross.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Frozen Yogurt

After making more yogurt than my family can eat in a week, I thought to look for a frozen yogurt recipe.  I’ve been intrigued with making frozen yogurt for a while.  What is frozen yogurt?  Could it really be just what the name implies?  Answer- yes.  I found a great if slightly vague recipe on Bay Area Bites.  It listed peach, peanut butter, and banana as options.  I didn’t feel like doing a boring vanilla anyway, and we are at the very tale end of having decent peaches around, so peach it was.  Bonus- My sister, Margaret, had the day off and came over to play in the kitchen with me!  Experimenting is so much more fun with a friend.

You will need

2 cups whole milk yogurt, COLD (I used homemade, hung, so it was actually 4 cups originally) ($1.99)

½ cup peach nectar, COLD ($.79 for 12 oz, $.79/3 = $.26)

1 ½ cups pureed peach (2 very large and somewhat pricey peaches) ($4.45)

½ cup sugar ($3.67 per 5 lb, $3.67/80oz = $.05 x 3.75 oz = $.17)
Look at the size of this thing!

(For instructions on hanging yogurt, look at the post Yogurt.)

First, peel and slice up the peaches.  Throw them in the food processor or blender till they’re liquid.  Measure out 1 cup of the puree, and heat it on the stove with the ½ cup sugar till the sugar dissolves.  Put it in the fridge till it’s COLD (yes, it will be a while). Side note- you want everything to be cold before putting it in the freezer so it will chill quickly.  In a freezer like mine, it's really important because it only has but so much chill in it to start with.
Very pink!

Ready for the freezer.
Once that’s ready, mix it together with the yogurt and the peach nectar.  Give it a taste, if you like it, great.  If you don’t, add a little more puree or nectar.  I ended up using a full 1 ½ cups of puree.  It's worth noting that when it is frozen it won't taste as sweet, so you may want to make it sweeter than you think is appropriate. 

Slowly pour the mixture into an ice cream freezer (I have the freezer bowl attachment for my Kitchen Aid, I love it!).  Let it go till it’s frozen!  Once it’s to your desired consistency, scrape out your yogurt and put it in a container in the freezer (or eat it!).
I love my Kitchen Aid!
Mmmm.  A frozen treat you can feel good about.

Try It:

$6.87 for 32 oz, or $.21/oz.

Buy It:

Hard to say, because I’ve never thought to buy any.  $6.79 for 54oz of Edy's Frozen Dairy Dessert - Slow Churned Yogurt Blends, or $.13/oz.  But I’ve never tasted it.


For me, I’d say Try It because it was delicious and fresh, and didn’t have an ingredient list that looks like this- Skim Milk, Sugar, Cream Cultured Skim Milk, Peach Puree, Corn Syrup, Maltodextrin, Whey, Citric Acid, Mono and Diglycerides, Pectin, Milk Minerals Concentrate, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Natural Flavor, Guar Gum, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Locust Bean Gum, Carrage. 
I recognize that it’s pricier, but I’m okay with that.  


A reader request!  I looked around for a while, and found a super easy recipe on Crockpot 365.  By the way- great blog!  This morning I threw the milk in the Crock Pot, let it sit and do its thing while I worked on making feta (more on that to come!).  As long as it turns out properly, this may be the easiest thing in the world to make!  Note- This recipe is for whole milk yogurt.  If you want to decrease the fat content, I know you can add powdered milk to thicken, as in this recipe from Alton Brown.

You will need

½ gallon organic whole milk ($5.99 per gallon, $5.99/2 = $2.99)

½ cup live culture yogurt (I happened to use Greek yogurt as the starter, but any live culture yogurt will do) ($1.50 per 6 oz, $1.50/6 = $.25 x 4 = $1.00)
Milk in the Crockpot, ready to go!

As long as you are around for the day, this is a cinch.  Throw the milk in the crock pot on low for 2 ½ hours.  Turn off the Crockpot and let it sit for 3 hours.  Remove 2 cups of milk, whisk the yogurt into it, then return the mixture to the Crockpot.  Wrap the Crockpot in a towel, let it sit for 8 hours.  Refrigerate.  Easy, you just have to be home.
Wrapped up tight for 8 hours.
The next morning I opened it up for a taste, hoping that it had firmed up a bit from the night before.  It hadn’t.  The taste was right, but the consistency was way too runny for my taste.  No problem, just hang it!  
Seriously thin.

To hang it you will need cheesecloth and a colander.  Line the colander with the cheesecloth.  Pour in yogurt, about 2 or 3 cups worth.  Tie up the corners and stick a spoon or other stick like object through the knots, and hang the yogurt on the colander.  Place the colander in the sink or a bowl.  Let it sit for 2 to 4 hours, until it is to the thickness desired.  Note- when you first hang it, it will look like you’re losing all your yogurt!  After a short while only the clearish liquid will come out.  I didn’t actually eat the hung yogurt, I used it to make frozen yogurt!  That post is next!
Yogurt hanging.

Try It:  

$3.99 for ½ gallon, or $.06/oz.

Buy It:

$3.99 for 32 oz, or $.12/oz

Try it!  Even if you hung it till you only had 32 oz left, it wouldn’t be more expensive than store bought, and it was very tasty.  If you are thinking “what in the world am I going to do with a ½ gallon of yogurt?”, then read on to the next post- Homemade frozen yogurt!