Sunday, May 20, 2012

quick and easy frozen yogurt

if you can open a container of yogurt you can make this recipe.
also if you have an ice cream maker, or can borrow one.

i recently acquired an ice cream maker at a thrift store - great $8 investment - and once i started reading homemade ice cream recipes i realized i couldn't be eating that on a daily or even weekly basis without expecting to double my weight, so i went in search of some frozen yogurt recipes. this is my favorite, because it's the easiest.

now, you know i like making things myself, including homemade yogurt, but sometimes you just need a dessert fix and you don't want a long process. this is your go-to recipe for that. all you do is open a container of greek-style yogurt (the FAGE brand they sell at costco works well for this, and is inexpensive), add sugar and whatever other flavors or chunks you want, and turn on the machine.

thanks to 101 cookbooks for the recipe:
3 cups greek style yogurt (or strained yogurt - see below)
2/3 cup sugar (i like my yogurt tangy so i put in a little less)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

i made the plain version of  this yogurt and loved it. i also made a lilikoi (passion fruit) version, which was quite tasty and tangy. the only thing to keep in mind here is that you want to make only the amount you're going to eat at one sitting because it doesn't store well in the freezer - mine got rock solid.

now, if you don't have greek-style yogurt or want to make your own (greek style to me means it's just thicker than regular yogurt), you can strain regular yogurt. seeing how it halves in size makes me think this isn't a money saving option, but here's how:

for one cup strained yogurt, nest a mesh strainer over a bowl, line it with a few layers of cheesecloth, pour 2 cups plain whole milk yogurt into the cheesecloth. fold the cheesecloth over your yogurt and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

make your own microwave popcorn

did you know that you can make your own microwave popcorn by just putting popcorn kernels in a paper bag?! thanks to pinterest for pointing this out.
making your own popcorn not only saves you $$, but you can control what goes into it - those flavorings and the film left on the microwave popcorn bags you buy in the store always gave me the creeps, and a little googling on the toxicity of microwave popcorn turned up issues with the chemical diacetyl, which gives that "buttery taste and smell" in commercial microwave popcorn. it turns out that some factory workers in popcorn bagging plants suffer from "popcorn lung" - you've heard of "black lung" disease, yep this is the popcorn version, technically known as bronchiolitis obliterans, a severe scarring of the lung tissue resulting from inhalation of diacetyl. There's some concern for consumer safety as well, from heating and then inhaling the fumes associated with microwave popcorn, and it looks like several companies have stopped using it, though not all. which is all to say - i'm so glad i found out that you can just make your own. and stop relying on companies to make your food for you.

it's this easy:
take 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels.
put them in a lunch sack sized paper bag.
fold the top of the bag over twice (no staples or glue or anything needed - plus you don't want those things in the microwave anyway)
cook them on high for about 3 mins or until there are 2-3 seconds between pops (depending on the strength of your microwave).
that's it.
here are some of my favorite popcorn topping recipes.
plus lately i've been experimenting with a balsamic vinegar, rosemary, maple reduction stirred into melted butter - fabulous!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

diy vinyl decals

i got it in my head the other day that i wanted whales in my shower.
by that i mean i wanted to put whales on the wall of my bathroom. i rent, so painting them on isn't really an option - not to mention I can't really wield a paintbrush. i've been seeing these wall decals lately in decor and design blogs and i love the idea of being able to temporarily decorate my walls - they stick really well and look like they are painted on, but peel right off when you want a change.

so when i got my whale urge i stopped over at etsy to look for whale wall decals, but they were too pricey for me so i decided to make my own. i read somewhere that you can make your own vinyl stickers using regular vinyl you can buy at the grocery or hardware store (think shelf liner section). and it worked! i bought a roll of black vinyl for about $3 and made a bunch of stickers and still have a ton leftover. stoked on saving money.
here's how i did it.
first i google image searched pictures of humpback whales. did i mention i don't draw? i saved the ones i liked in a folder on my computer. images that translate well to stickers are obviously fairly simple shapes that don't require shading to tell what they are. i recommend clicking the "black and white" filter on the left sidebar of google image search to narrow down your results.
 once i had the images i liked i borrowed the projector from work, taped the vinyl onto the wall and projected the image onto it. you can adjust the size of the image on screen or by moving the projector up/back and then trace it with pencil. you can get creative with placement of the images close together on the vinyl canvas so you're utilizing the vinyl to the max and reducing waste.
after that i grabbed my trusty exacto knife and cut the shapes out. one thing to keep in mind is that the finer and skinnier your pieces the harder they are to apply to the wall without getting tangled. i had some complex shapes with one of the whales and it worked out, but good to keep in mind.

and that's it! make sure your wall surface is clean and dry, peel off the backing and stick! here's how they turned out:

i'm quite pleased. the whales make me happy every time i shower.
my little sister, aliana, came for a sister sleepover party for spring break, and we made some more stickers together.

i went a little nuts with my stickers. i wanted cattails in my kitchen, and i found an image i really liked, but it took a looong time to trace and cut out. i had intended to make the cattails span my entire counter, but after doing this one i gave up.