Expanding Our Homemade Pantry

>> Tuesday, August 22, 2017

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen my many food adventures this month. Stephen and I are trying to continue out frugal accomplishments by making more and more of our foods from scratch. Many of you have been interested in the recipes and methods we follow, so I figured a post was in order.

Today I’ll cover the more frequent items we’ve been cooking up. But I’m sure I’ll add to this list in the future. And be sure to check the links at the end for a more comprehensive list of the things we regularly make to stock our homemade pantry.


Ah, yes. Yogurt. I waited years to try making this on my own because the idea of it was daunting to me. Thing is, you can easily make yogurt in your slow cooker. A gallon of milk costs me around $1.65 to $2 and yields 8-9 cups of the stuff.

I currently follow this recipe in my crock pot. It is for Greek-style yogurt . . . but that really just hinges on how much you strain it. I tend to do a slightly thicker than regular and thinner than Greek consistency. That’s the beauty with homemade yogurt -- it’s customizable.

Now, I am investigating a few more that might create less waste and yield even more result. I hear if you use powdered milk, it thickens the batch so little straining is necessary. I began my batch by using a cup of the Siggi’s plain yogurt as my starter. The first batch was very similar to the Siggi’s and later batches (using homemade starter) have been more sour. But you can sweeten them up with honey, maple syrup, or -- my favorite -- peanut butter.

Also: I always use non-fat milk.

// Mozzarella Cheese

Mozzarella was also on my bucket list for many years, but actually buying vegetable rennet made the whole thing feel like a production. Oh, and I suppose I should also mention that I only very recently bought a rapid-read food thermometer, which has been a game changer for making all things dairy. Oh, and cheesecloth. Lots of cheesecloth, though the less-waste in me has started experimenting with nut milk bags.

I follow this recipe for mozzarella (the image is also from this site -- I somehow deleted mine). You simply heat the milk, add in the rennet and citric acid, strain curds, knead, etc. Then you get this delightful ball in less than half an hour. I’ve made this a few times now. With practice it becomes much more automatic. There’s nothing cooler than looking at a ball of fresh cheese you’ve made from scratch.

Also: I always use whole milk.

// Paneer 

Speaking of cheese, I am addicted to paneer. One way we’ve gained some independence from takeout meals is by making our own Indian food. I buy the simmer sauce at Aldi and make the cheese a day or hour ahead of time. It’s even easier than making mozzarella. All you need to curdle the milk is something like vinegar or lemon juice.

From there, it’s all about pressing. Here’s the recipe I follow for perfect paneer. I’ll be making it tonight -- with whole milk.

// Ghee

After making paneer, ghee was a natural next step, right? It’s wonderful on homemade naan (getting there in a minute -- just you wait!). It’s also great for cooking stir-fries, eggs, etc. I’ve only made one batch so far, but it’s was super easy.

Here’s the recipe I followed. It keeps on the counter for a few weeks to a month. I used unsalted butter.

// Naan

You guys know I’ve been making my own naan-like creations for years. It all started in college when I lived with a graduate student named Aggrey. He used to roll out these unleavened dough balls and cook them on the stove-top like he did back home growing up in Africa. I slowly developed my own version of a flattened, more savory pancake.

My favorite recipes include the following. We make different kinds according to our moods.

// Sandwich Bread

I searched far and wide for a suitable sandwich bread recipe. Something reminiscent of store-bought, but oh-so much better. And about a month ago . . . I found it. The perfect white bread recipe. It turns out flawlessly every single freaking time. My only sub is that I use canola oil in place of butter inside the bread. I may start brushing the top with ghee.

I’d like to slowly modify this to include more whole grains, but bread can be tricky. I’ll report back soon.

// Jarred veggies in brine

We’ve started jarring + pickling lots of veggies in the fridge -- from zoodles to jalapeños and more -- and I basically just chop them up and pour in this brine. The instructions say to wait until the brine is cool to add it to the veggies, but I actually like it hot with things like jalapeños. It makes them so soft and delicious.

// Seitan

It had been years . . . but we dusted off the old seitan recipe.

Now we make this stuff weekly. So much less expensive than buying Field Roast. I’ll have to do an updated recipe, too. We’ve been seasoning it in all different ways. We’re still making seitan dogs, too. And the other night, Stephen made a pulled-pork-esque thing with BBQ sauce! Did you know that vital wheat gluten is full of protein? It’s true.

// More pantry goodies

Homemade Almond Milk
Our Go-To Pizza Dough
Homemade Ciabatta Bread
Homemade Muesli
Adventures in Cereal-Making
Homemade Bagels
White + Whole Wheat No Knead Loaf
Three Seed Crackers
Homemade Flax Crackers
Homemade Pancake/Waffle Mix
Awesome Couscous Crackers
My Favorite Hummus
Stephen’s Homemade Pickles
Homemade Applesauce
Red Curry Kimchi


Friday Rewind // Ada’s Nursery Tour

>> Friday, August 18, 2017

I was flipping through old photos the other day. I’ll try not to get too down on myself, but I feel like I was so much more together as a mom to Ada than I am to Eloise. I mean, so many factors in our lives have changed. I really should give myself more grace. But . . . we haven’t even finished painting Eloise’s nursery yet. Still, in my photos with Ada at just 11 months, I was dressed in cute dresses with boots, my house was impeccably clean, and Ada was wearing clean + adorable outfits. Everything seemed in place.

Here’s a rewind to September 2012.

(Side note: We still use this exact Woolino sleep sack! Every night!)

Was that real life? Honestly, I cannot remember. I’m sure I was projecting an image more than anything else. But at the same time, I am incapable of even trying to seem this together now. I write this as I type in my pajamas, dirty hair, and I haven’t run in a couple days. I’m definitely having an off week. I feel tired and slightly nervous for the upcoming school and cross country busy season.

Regardless. Five years ago. How times flies. We’ve been through so much since these photos were taken, but they are still a sweet glimpse into the life we used to lead. I hope to snap some photos of Eloise’s nursery soon. Maybe that’s some incentive to finish up the painting.

Happy Friday, friends! Be kind to yourselves.


Zero Waste Update

>> Thursday, August 17, 2017

It’s been a while since I wrote about our less-waste efforts. To be clear, the movement is called zero waste, but we are still very far away from declaring the 100% zero waste goal as a goal for our family. When we left off, we knew our weak spot. We had tons of packaged stuff in the pantry. While not everything was garbage, our recycling was overflowing each week. In a word, it was overwhelming.

BTW: If you’re interested, here are 12 tools to help you transition to less waste.

And here’s where we started with "zero-waste” in the spring.

To recap, here’s what we were doing right back then:

  • Bringing our own bags for grocery and other shopping. Including produce bags. (Here are more ways we've tried eliminating plastics.)
  • Buying produce from a CSA where we fill a huge bag with the foods versus getting them packaged in the store.
  • Trying to buy foods in bulk when possible.
  • Cloth diapering -- at least some of the time. 
  • Using or fixing the things we have versus always going out and buying new.
  • Carrying our own water bottles (always) and coffee mugs (when we remember).

And here’s where we’ve improved:

  • Started making even more of our own pantry items, including items we eat A LOT of, like yogurt, bread, mozzarella cheese, and jarred jalapeños, pickles, etc. Posts are coming on all of these things.
  • Stopped eating many packaged foods, like tortilla chips or gummies, and transitioned to more whole or homemade foods, like apples and homemade granola bars. I’ll be sure to post more when the school year starts about how we’re dealing with this in relation to school lunches.
  • In general, we have really changed how we eat. I’m cooking much more from bulk ingredients, like dry black beans, and freezing a lot of ingredients, like bulk picked blueberries. This area has been the hardest because it requires a lot of thought and planning.
  • Made a new batch of beeswax wrap to replace plastic wrap. We also found these nifty silicone bowl lids that we use quite frequently -- they use suction to stay on top.
  • Refreshed all our at-home cleaning supplies (links above and below) and we’ve added a few antimicrobial wood fiber cloths to our no-paper towel collection.
  • I finally purchased silicone squeeze packets -- I went with The Original Squeeze ones -- to replace all those individual baby foods and applesauces we had been buying.
  • While we never used fabric softener or dryer sheets, I did also get some wool dryer balls to use. I’m excited to see how they work with my essential oils.
  • I continue to buy 98 percent of my clothing (and Eloise’s) second-hand (here are my favorite thrift shopping tips!). Ada’s wardrobe is about 60 percent second-hand, but my mother-in-law bought her a bunch of new school clothing from Target this year. Very much appreciated.

// Fail

I am always real with you guys. No fronting here. Our current weak spot is that I have decided not to cloth diaper. After I wrote the last post on less waste, I made a concerted effort to get back into it. I tried for several weeks to get into a groove. The thing is, Eloise wasn’t a fan. I could tell she wasn’t liking being wetter than disposables made her. She was also getting rashes far more often. Then our washing machine died and we waited a few months to buy a new one (because money). I still have them folded in the drawer next to the disposable diapers.

Excuses, excuses. I know tons of people who absolutely love cloth diapering. I’ve have good and bad experiences. I don’t really know what to do. I feel guilty a lot of the time. It’s one area that should be “easy” to navigate. But for whatever reason, it just hasn’t worked for us.

Many of you have been asking about our homemade pantry items. In my next post, I’ll cover the tools we use to create things like homemade breads, yogurt, cheese, canned goods, etc.

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